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TRAVEL+LEISURE SOUTHEAST ASIA

O N E-Y E A R A N N I V E R SA RY S P EC I A L

Singapore • Hong Kong • Thailand • Indonesia • Malaysia • Vietnam • Macau • Philippines • Burma • Cambodia • Brunei • Laos

OUR BIGGE S ISSUE T YET!

SOUTHEAST ASIA

DECEMBER 2008

PAUL THEROUX 87 ASIAN

ON TRAVEL TRAVEL EXPERIENCES YOU MUST TRY + FIVE ESSAYS BY FIVE TOP AUTHORS

WHAT’S HOT + WHERE FOR 2009 DAZZLING DRINKS SINGAPORE-STYLE

HIS& HERS

STYLISH THE ICE GIFTGUIDE GUIDE IN ANTARCTICA GIFT

BREAKING

CELEBRATING NEW YEAR’S EVE IN ASIA: 12 COOL IDEAS

SEA BOOMTOWN SAIGON SUN, & SURF WHY GO NOW ON SIARGAO

DEC EMBE R 200 8

LUXURY GURU ADRIAN ZECHA TALKS travelandleisuresea.com SINGAPORE SG$6.90 ● HONG KONG HK$39 THAILAND THB160 ● INDONESIA IDR45,000 MALAYSIA MYR15 ● VIETNAM VND80,000 MACAU MOP40 ● PHILIPPINES PHP220 BURMA MMK32 ● CAMBODIA KHR20,000 BRUNEI BND6.90 ● LAOS LAK48,000

...AND MORE!


Carried by the Global Elite, the world over.

By invitation only. For expression of interest call Singapore: + (65) 6295 6293 Hong Kong: + (852) 2277 2233 Thailand: + (66) 2273 5445

MORE THAN JUST A CARD™


(Destinations)12.08 New York City 26, 64, 72 Shanghai 142 Tangier 113 Saigon 166 Langkawi 128

Antarctica 154

World Weather This Month -40oF -20oF -40oC

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Issue Index ASIA China 36 Shanghai 142 Tibet 124 Tokyo 178

ANTARCTICA Antarctica 154 EUROPE Athens 50 London 72, 78

THE AMERICAS New York City 26, 64, 72 San Francisco 34

AFRICA Tangier 113

Currency Converter Singapore Hong Kong Thailand Indonesia Malaysia Vietnam Macau Philippines Burma Cambodia Brunei Laos US ($1)

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Source: www.xe.com (exchange rates at press time).

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M A P BY E T H A N CO R N E L L

Kuala Lumpur 36, 39, 58 Langkawi 128 Laos 26 Luang Prabang 36 Saigon 166 Samui 24 Siargao, Philippines 87 Singapore 40 Thailand 36, 39, 120, 122

SOUTHEAST ASIA Bali 24, 44 Bangkok 24, 36, 38 Boracay 26 Burma 125 Cambodia 26 Hong Kong 24, 26, 72 Indonesia 108 Jakarta 24


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(Contents)12.08

>154 A taste of Antarctica’s chillingly simple beauty.

128 Natural Assets Caught between preserving its environment and attracting more visitors, Langkawi is at a crossroads, reports ROBYN ECKHARDT. Now the question is which way to turn. Photographed by SCOTT A. WOODWARD. GUIDE AND MAP 141 142 Shanghai Goes Global China’s largest metropolis is already home to some of the country’s 10

finest accommodations. Even better, there’s still a hotel boom going on. JENNIFER CHEN checks out some of the city’s newest stays. Photographed by DARREN SOH. GUIDE AND MAP 153 154 Adventures in Antarctica It was meant to be the journey of a lifetime through the frozen seascape of the Antarctic, following Shackleton’s pioneering path. But nothing would quite go according to plan. Written and photographed by ANDREW SOLOMON. GUIDE AND MAP 165

DEC E M B E R 2 0 0 8| T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E S E A . C O M

166 The Future is Now Saigon In less than a decade, Ho Chi Minh City has transformed into Asia’s most dynamic boomtown. But in its mad dash to the future, will the city make room for its past? By PETER JON LINDBERG. Photographed by ANDREA FAZZARI. GUIDE AND MAP 177 Special ● Asia’s Must-Do List> 83 No trip to Southeast Asia is complete without enjoying some of these sights, hotels and resorts, regional dishes and markets.

ANDREW SOLOMON

127-166 Features


O N E-Y E A R A N N I V E R SA RY S P EC I A L

(Contents)12.08

OUR BIGGES ISSUE T YET!

SOUTHEAST ASIA

DECEMBER 2008

PAUL THEROUX 87 ASIAN

ON TRAVEL EXPERIENCES YOU MUST TRY + FIVE ESSAYS BY FIVE TOP AUTHORS

WHAT’S HOT + WHERE FOR 2009 DAZZLING DRINKS SINGAPORE-STYLE

HIS& HERS

STYLISH THE ICE GIFTGUIDE GUIDE IN ANTARCTICA GIFT

BREAKING

CELEBRATING NEW YEAR’S EVE IN ASIA ASIA:: 12 COOL IDEAS

SEA BOOMTOWN SAIGON SUN, SURF WHY GO NOW & ON SIARGAO

14 18 22 24 26 29 178

Editor’s Note Contributors Letters Best Deals Ask T+L Strategies My Favorite Place > 52

52 T+L Picks Our favorite eateries, hotels, shops and more around Southeast Asia. 58 Eat Four great bistros in Kuala Lumpur. BY ROBYN ECKHARDT 60 What’s Next What to look out for in 2009. 62 Deconstruction The best of mini-bars.

87-120 T+L Journal 34 Newsflash Daniel Boulud, boutique stays, travel gadgets and more. 40 Drinks There’s more to cocktails in Singapore than slings. BY HUI FANG 44 Check-in St. Regis brings Old World class to Bali. BY SONIA KOLESNIKOV-JESSOP 46 The Guru The future according to Amanresorts’ Adrian Zecha. BY PAUL EHRLICH 48 Night Out Ringing in the New Year around Asia. 50 See It A new museum for old Athens. BY ELENI GAGE 12

...AND MORE!

Cover Celebrating our first anniversary with a host of must-sees, mustdos and must-reads.

64-78 Stylish Traveler 64 Fashion Uptown looks at New York’s Carlyle. 72 On the Road Quintessentially’s founder trades tips. 75 His and Hers A seasonal gift guide for the family. 78 Street Corner People-watching in London.

33-62 Insider

LUXURY GURU ADRIAN ZECHA TALKS travelandleisuresea.com SINGAPORE SG$6.90 ● HONG KONG HK$39 THAILAND THB160 ● INDONESIA IDR45,000 MALAYSIA MYR15 ● VIETNAM VND80,000 MACAU MOP40 ● PHILIPPINES PHP220 BURMA MMK32 ● CAMBODIA KHR20,000 BRUNEI BND6.90 ● LAOS LAK48,000

87 Outdoors What do a Filipino chocolate bar, the world’s surf community and some remote islands have in common? JOAN C. BULAUITAN has the answer. > 113

> 64 93 Reflections Author Paul Theroux on the changing face of travel and how to make the most of your trips. BY GREG LOWE 96 Portfolio Photographer MICHAEL YAMASHITA retraces Marco Polo’s memorable journeys. 108 Obsessions Some trips, those favored by PAUL SPENCER SOCHAZEWSKI, are riddles, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. 113 Shopping Tangier, Morocco offers a stunning variety of antique furniture, textiles and authentic keepsakes. BY LYNN YAEGAR 120 Impressions Unforgettable trips and what they teach us. BY GUY TREBAY, IAN BURUMA, DANIEL MENDELSOHN, KARL TARO GREENFELD and PICO IYER

C L O C K W I S E F R O M FA R L E F T : C O U R T E SY O F S I X S E N S E S ; C H R I S T O P H E R S T U R M A N ; M I C H A E L J A M E S O ’ B R I E N

Departments


(Editor’s Note) 12.08

A

YEAR IS A LONG TIME IN PUBLISHING, so it’s almost as much of a

surprise to me as it may be to you that Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia is one year old

this month. Looking back over our first 12 issues, I am extremely proud of what we’ve achieved, and it’s largely thanks to a strong, dedicated and talented editorial and design team, as well as the success of the publishing arm of T+L SEA. But a great magazine is nothing without its readers, and I am continually encouraged by the positive reactions we get in our letters inbox, as well as the kind and constructive comments from readers who contact me directly or with whom I meet in person. To each and every one of you, it’s been a fantastic ride, and I hope to meet more of you in the future. But why not drop me a line by e-mail (tleditor@ mediatransasia.com) in the meantime? So what changes are you likely to see in the year ahead? Well, in some ways very few (it isn’t broken, so we’re not going to fi x it), but regular readers might notice more destinations covered within Asia as a whole, as well as outside the region; more lifestyle content; and more pages devoted to great deals, affordable stays and ways to travel smarter. I’m certainly excited about the year ahead—I hope you are too. And what can you expect from this anniversary issue, our biggest yet? Well, we’ve got some of the best travel writers —including Pico Iyer (page 124) and, in conversation, Paul Theroux (page 93), as well as one of the world’s best photographers, Michael Yamashita (page 96) gracing our pages. We’ve also delved into our mental databases and come up with the ultimate 87 Asian experiences (page 83) and, of course, where to let your hair down on New Year’s Eve (page 48). travel safely and responsibly.—MATT LEPPARD TRAVEL + L EISURE EDITORS, WRITERS AND PHOTOGRAPHERS ARE THE INDUSTRY’S MOST RELIABLE SOURCES. WHILE ON ASSIGNMENT, THEY TRAVEL INCOGNITO WHENEVER POSSIBLE AND DO NOT TAKE PRESS TRIPS OR ACCEPT FREE TRAVEL OF ANY KIND.

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DECE M B E R 2 0 0 8| T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E S E A . C O M

C H E N P O VA N O N T

Have a great holiday season, wherever you find yourselves, and make sure you


EDITOR-IN-CHIEF EDITOR-AT-LARGE ART DIRECTOR FEATURES EDITORS SENIOR DESIGNER DESIGNER EDITORIAL ASSISTANT

Matt Leppard Paul Ehrlich Fah Sakharet Jennifer Chen Chris Kucway Ellie Brannan Wannapha Nawayon Wasinee Chantakorn

REGULAR CONTRIBUTORS / PHOTOGRAPHERS Dave Wong, Joe Yogerst, Adam Skolnick, Robyn Eckhardt, Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop, Lara Day, Cedric Arnold, Steve McCurry, Peter Steinhauer, Nat Prakobsantisuk, Graham Uden, Darren Soh

CHAIRMAN PRESIDENT PUBLISHING DIRECTOR

PUBLISHER VICE PRESIDENT / ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT MANAGERS CONSULTANT, HONG KONG/MACAU CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER PRODUCTION MANAGER PRODUCTION GROUP CIRCULATION MANAGER

J.S. Uberoi Egasith Chotpakditrakul Rasina Uberoi-Bajaj

Robert Fernhout Lucas W. Krump Michael K. Hirsch Kin Kamarulzaman Shea Stanley Gaurav Kumar Kanda Thanakornwongskul Supalak Krewsasaen Porames Chinwongs

AMERICAN EXPRESS PUBLISHING CORPORATION PRESIDENT/CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT/CHIEF MARKETING OFFICER SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT/CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT/EDITORIAL DIRECTOR VICE PRESIDENT/PUBLISHER SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, STRATEGIC INSIGHTS, MARKETING & SALES EXECUTIVE EDITOR, INTERNATIONAL PUBLISHING DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL OPERATIONS ASSOCIATE, INTERNATIONAL

Ed Kelly Mark V. Stanich Paul B. Francis Nancy Novogrod Jean-Paul Kyrillos Cara S. David Mark Orwoll Thomas D. Storms Lawrence Chesler

TRAVEL+LEISURE SOUTHEAST ASIA VOL. 2, ISSUE 12 Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia is published monthly by Media Transasia Limited, Room 1205-06, 12/F, Hollywood Centre, 233 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong. Tel: +852 2851-6963; Fax: +852 2851-1933; under license from American Express Publishing Corporation, 1120 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036, United States of America. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording or any information storage or retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the Publisher. Produced and distributed by Media Transasia Thailand Ltd., 14th Floor, Ocean Tower II, 75/8 Soi Sukhumvit 19, Sukhumvit Road, Klongtoeynue, Wattana, Bangkok 10110, Thailand. Tel: +66 2 204-2370. Printed by Comform Co., Ltd. (+66 2 368-2942–7). Color separation by Classic Scan Co., Ltd. (+66 2 291-7575).

This edition is published by permission of AMERICAN EXPRESS PUBLISHING CORPORATION 1120 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036, United States of America. Reproduction in whole or in part without the consent of the copyright owner is prohibited. © Media Transasia Thailand Ltd. in respect of the published edition.

SUBSCRIPTIONS Subscription enquiries: www.travelandleisuresea.com/subscribe

ADVERTISING Advertising enquiries: e-mail advertising@mediatransasia.com


(Contributors)12.08

Above: Sunset at the Jame Masjid in Yazd, Iran; Michael Yamashita.

One of the goals on this trip was to show the hazards of travel in Marco Polo’s time, and the weather cooperated nicely,” says Michael Yamashita, who photographed the explorer’s journey (“In Fabled Footsteps,” page 96). Combining his dual passions of travel and photography for 27 years as a shooter for National Geographic, Yamashita has traveled extensively throughout the region, working in China, Japan, Korea, India, Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia and Central Asia. His photographs have been published and exhibited worldwide, and his documentaries are among the most widely viewed of all National Geographic’s works. Yamashita’s book, Marco Polo: A Photographer’s Journey, has sold more than 200,000 copies. Marco Polo is also the subject of his award-winning documentary, Marco Polo: The China Mystery Revealed, in which Yamashita retraces the 13th-century Venetian’s epic excursion to China.

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Guy Trebay, who writes about Burma in this issue (“Burma Regained,” page 125), has been a frequent Travel + Leisure contributor for the past decade and reports on culture and style for The New York Times. His essay looks at the pull the country still has on him after having visited early in 2007, before both the Saffron Revolution and Cyclone Nargis. He divides his time between New York, Paris and India. Karl Taro Greenfeld writes about that return journey we all make to a favorite getaway (“The Thais That Bind,” page 120). He is the author of three books about Asia, Speed Tribes, Standard Deviations and China Syndrome, which was named one of the 25 Best Books of 2006 by the Village Voice and the New York Public Library. His next book, Boy Alone, about his autistic brother Noah, will be published in May by HarperCollins. Ian Buruma sees his travels in Asia through the prism of food (“Food for Thought,” page 122). Buruma covers a range of subjects for the New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, The New York Times, the Financial Times and the Guardian. He is also the author of many books, including Murder in Amsterdam: The Death of Theo van Gogh and the Limits of Tolerance (Penguin), which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for the Best Current Interest Book.

DECE M B E R 2 0 0 8 | T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E S E A . C O M

Daniel Mendelsohn explores the meaning of travel in this issue (“The Heart of Travel,” page 123). A writer and critic living in New York, Mendelsohn is the author of four books, including the bestseller The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million (HarperCollins), which won the Prix Médicis in France. A collection of his essays on literature and culture, How Beautiful It Is And How Easily It Can Be Broken (HarperCollins), was published in August.

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

Pico Iyer has been traveling around Asia since 1974, when he was 17, chronicling his journeys in books such as Video Night in Kathmandu, The Lady and the Monk, The Global Soul and, his most recent, The Open Road, a record of 33 years of talks with the 14th Dalai Lama. This month, he delves into the modern aspects of what he does for a living (“Traveling, and Writing, in the Information Age,” page 124).


(Letters)12.08 LETTER OF THE MONTH insider

| newsflash Q+A

Daniel Boulud

HOTELS

The high-flying superstar chef talks to T+L about food on the road ●

When you fly, do you eat airplane food or pack your own meal? I’ll

bring a good selection of charcuterie from Bar Boulud, perhaps some cheese.

Southeast Asia’s New Boutique Stays

What sort of edible souvenirs do you like to take back from your travels? I like all kinds of jams, chutneys and interesting mustards. The last

Small is beautiful, at least at these four eye-catching hotels

time I was in Belgium I brought home a strong and spicy local mustard. From Japan I bring back jars and jars of pickles. From France to New York, I always sneak back some ham that my father has made. And one time I hand-carried live soft-shell crabs from New York to Lyon. I packed them with ice and they were still alive when I arrived. I cooked them for lunch and they were great. ● What’s your favorite food destination? If it can’t be France, it’s Tokyo. But really, in terms of choice, in terms of what makes one happy in life, for me it’s France. Provence, the southwest, Brittany … I love every region at a different time in the year. I’m not chauvinistic. What’s the best way to zero in on the best food in a new destination?

Talk to friends who know the place. If I don’t have a contact, I zero in on the most interesting chef and ask him where I should eat. The last time I was in Denmark I contacted Jan Hurtigkarl [of Jan Hurtigkarl & Co.]—I worked for him when I was around 24 years old—and he sent me to some really cool places. And I Google. ● You only have just one day in Southeast Asia—where would you go and what would you eat? Next spring I’m heading to Cambodia with my sous chef, who is Cambodian. I’m really looking forward to it.—R . E .

SCENTS OF PLACE These new fragrances have been formulated to take you on a sensory journey—E L I Z A B E T H

WO O D S O N

INDIA Like the luxury house’s 2008 fashion collections, the new Hermès fragrance, Un Jardin Après la Mousson, takes its cues from the subcontinent, with a spicy-smelling blend of pepper, vetiver, coriander and ginger.

JAPAN Traditional incense ceremonies are the inspiration for the smoky Dark Amber & Ginger Lily from Jo Malone. Kyara wood and cardamom notes are similar to the muskiness of aloewood, which has been burned for centuries in Japan.

TUSCANY Ferragamo’s Tuscan Soul uses citrus notes (bergamot, orange blossom) and a woodsy fig base to recall an orange- and lemon-grovecovered swath of the Italian countryside.

HAWAII Katherine Growney looked to her native land to develop Punono, the first in her Saffron James line. A blend of ylang-ylang, vanilla and pikake (used in leis) brings out the sugary aroma of Oahu’s pua tree.

No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow. 36

LIN YUTANG

F R O M T O P : C O U R T E SY O F D A N I E L B O U L U D ; D AV I E S + S TA R R ( 5 )

THE HAMPTONS With its mix of lemon verbena, white hyacinth, privet blossom, sea grass and musk, Privet Bloom from Hampton Sun is meant to smell like summer at the shore.

BEAUTY

F R O M T O P : C O U R T E S Y O F V I L L A M A LY ; C O U R T E S Y O F T E N F A C E ; C O U R T E S Y O F T H E C L U B A T T H E S A U J A N A ; C O U R T E S Y O F N A N T R A D E D E L U X E

Villa Maly Luang Prabang A former royal residence that dates back to the 1930’s, this 33-room property boasts a prime location in the heart of the temple town. Expect the usual faux colonial touches (mahogany armoires, wooden parquet floors, antique-style fans), but with modern amenities such as flat-screen TV’s and iPod docks—still rarities in these parts. Near Wat Manorom; 856-7/253-902–4; doubles from US$150. Tenface Bangkok The team behind this sleek boutique residence also created the late, great Playground!—the innovative design emporium. With its spare décor (black and white stencils of Thai numbers and mythical characters), it’s minimalist, but not overly so. Some of the rooms are painted in a cheery yellow or red and wood floors give the 79 suites warmth. Guests also receive a box containing a SkyTrain card, a prepaid SIM card and an iPod with videos of Bangkok’s top restaurants and attractions. 81 Soi Ruamrudee 2, 662/695-4242; tenfacebangkok.com; suites from Bt9,000. The Club at The Saujana Kuala Lumpur Jaya Ibrahim, the design talent behind many of the Aman resorts, lends his signature subtle touch to this newly renovated property on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. Teak, terrazzo and marble are deployed to create 105 graceful rooms and suites. Golf enthusiasts also have access to two 18-hole championship greens, while nature lovers can ramble through the adjoining 160 hectares of tropical gardens. Jln Lapangan Terbang SAAS, Shah Alam, Selangor Darul Ehsan; 60-3/7843-1234; ghmhotels.com; doubles from RM990. Nantra de Deluxe Krabi With access to a 40meter private beach, this wallet-friendly resort offers 21 simple but tastefully decorated villas. There’s also a smaller sister property right next door, The Beach Boutique Resort. 153 Moo 4, Had Yao, Thalingchan; 66-86/471-3693–4; nantradedeluxe.com; doubles from Bt4,400.—J . C .

D E C E M B E R 2 0 0 8| T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E S E A . C O M

05361 M8 P32-37 V3 36-37

11/8/08 9:31:00 AM

Booking Boutiques

My husband and I love traveling on short breaks or on three-day weekends rather than on long, once-a-year holidays. So we really enjoy staying in different types of accommodations such as boutique hotels. The problem is that these types of places aren’t always listed in any formal way, so I was wondering if Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia could start covering boutique properties in a more substantial way? It would be particularly useful if you looked at the major cities and at resorts in Asia—places that are a once-in-alifetime experience. — DA I S Y

H O , H O N G KO N G

EDITOR’S NOTE

In this issue, we’ve done just that with a roundup of the region’s boutique hotels (Newsflash, page 37), while in January we’ll have a story on Hong Kong’s boutique properties.

Serious Symbols Congrats on your green issue. In regards to recycling symbols (“Ask T+L,” October 2008), your readers might want to know that the numbering inside the triangular recycling symbol does stand for something. Travelers should be aware of that, particularly as far as disposable plastic containers and cutlery are concerned because they can be hazardous to your health. Try to avoid using plastic with the numbers 3 (cling wraps, soft bottles), 6 (clear plastic containers, some plastic cutlery and cups) or 7 (large water bottles) because they can leach carcinogens, particularly when exposed to high temperatures. In Taiwan and Japan, there’s a growing trend towards bringing your own spoon or chopsticks. I’m not trying to alarm others, but thought this would be worth pointing out. Thanks and keep up with the good work. —CITRA

S U S A N TO , S I N G A P O R E

Searching for Savings Given the state of the global economy, can I suggest that you expand upon your “Best Deals” page and stories like the one on the Amalfi Coast (“La Dolce Vita,” September 2008)? What travelers in Asia really need are good suggestions that don’t break the budget, as well as the background stories you often do on destinations we know little about. Some of my favorite short trips are to places like Hong Kong and Singapore, both cities that can be very expensive even during the low season. —MIA

H A S A N , JA K A RTA

E-MAIL T+L SEND YOUR LETTERS TO TLEDITOR @ MEDIATRANSASIA.COM AND LET US KNOW YOUR THOUGHTS ON RECENT STORIES OR NEW PLACES TO VISIT. LETTERS CHOSEN MAY BE EDITED FOR CLARITY AND SPACE. THE LETTER OF THE MONTH RECEIVES A FREE ONE-YEAR SUBSCRIPTION TO TRAVEL + LEISURE ( SOUTHEAST ASIA ONLY). READER OPINIONS EXPRESSED IN LETTERS DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THOSE OF TRAVEL + LEISURE SOUTHEAST ASIA, MEDIA TRANSASIA LTD., OR AMERICAN EXPRESS PUBLISHING.


(Best Deals) 12.08 Anantara Koh Samui Resort & Spa.

Get into the festive spirit. Here, seven perfect packages for you ■ HONG KONG Romantic Reflections spa package at the Four Seasons Hong Kong (852/3196-8888; fourseasons.com). What’s Included Accommodation in a suite; a bottle of champagne; a spa treatment for two; executive club privileges (daily breakfast; and free snacks, local calls, Internet access and pressing); chocolate-covered strawberries; and late checkout upon availability. Cost From HK$9,888, per night, through December 28. Savings Up to 23 percent. ■ INDONESIA Exotic Retreat package at Kayumanis Ubud (62-361/972-777; kayumanis.com). What’s Included Two-night stay in a pool villa; a dinner; a spa treatment; a back and shoulder massage; daily breakfast, fresh fruit and refreshments; limousine service within Ubud; return airport transfers; and 24-hour butler service. Cost US$825, through March 31, 2009. Savings Up to 24 percent. Urban Retreat package at Kemang Icon by Alila (62-21/719-7989; alilahotels.com) in Jakarta. What’s Included Daily breakfast; a massage; a dinner; free Wi-Fi; 20 percent discount at the spa; and return airport trans24

fers. Cost From US$200 per night, through December 20. Savings Up to 31 percent. ■ THAILAND The Anantara Well-being Philosophy package at the Anantara Koh Samui Resort & Spa (anantara.com; 66-77/428-300). What’s Included Cooking class; a massage; and a yoga class. Cost Bt4,500 per person, through December 31. Savings Up to 47 percent. 3 B’s package at the Conrad Bangkok (66-2/690-9999; conradhotels1.hilton.com). What’s Included Daily breakfast; free Internet; Bt1,500 spa voucher; 15 percent discount at the hotel’s F&B outlets; and discounts at Siam Paragon and The Emporium stores. Cost From Bt6,800, through December 31, 2009. Savings Up to 30 percent. Le Méridien Business Class package at the Plaza Athénée Bangkok (66-2/6508800; lemeridien.com). What’s Included Accommodation in a deluxe room; daily breakfast; free local calls; 20 percent discount on business center services; and late checkout until 3 P.M. Cost Bt6,000, per night, through December 31. Savings Up to 37 percent. ✚

DEC E M B E R 2 0 0 8| T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E S E A . C O M

HONG KONG December Getaway package at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental (852/2132-0188; mandarinoriental.com). What’s Included Two-night stay in an L series guest room; a dinner for two at Amber; afternoon tea with champagne for two at MO Bar; daily breakfast; a massage for two; and Christmas dinner at a special price (Christmas Eve, HK$1,888; Christmas Day, HK$888). Cost From HK$8,000, through December 28. Savings Up to 35 percent. Inside the MO Bar at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, in Hong Kong.

F R O M T O P : C O U R T E SY O F A N A N TA R A KO H S A M U I R E S O R T & S PA ; C O U R T E SY O F T H E L A N D M A R K M A N D A R I N O R I E N TA L

DEAL OF THE MONTH


Q:

(Ask T+L)12.08 I’m planning a trip to Cambodia, and would appreciate any suggestions about boutique hotels.

4544) is part of a wave of barbecue restaurants opening in the city and a great place for Texas-style ribs.

—NOELLE KWOK, HONG KONG

—BILLY BORBORO, MANILA

A:

Star Cruises (starcruises.com) has low-cost sailings that include ports such as Xiamen in China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Saigon and Halong Bay in Vietnam. A three-night, Singapore–Penang cruise, for example, costs S$1,528 for two. Royal Caribbean International offers three-night sailings out of Singapore for as little as US$299 per person through online sellers (cruisedirect.com), which will involve some Internet trolling. The same site lists a four-night cruise out of Hong Kong, with stops in Sanya, China and Halong Bay, from US$569 per person.

26

A clutch of boutique hotels has popped up recently in the Cambodian capital, but the quality of construction—and service—can still be hit-and-miss. Still, there are a few noteworthy hotels. Among our favorites are The Pavilion (pavilion-cambodia.com; 855-23/222-280), a 20-room property housed in a colonial manse (the owners also run two other small hotels in the city, Blue Lime and the Kabiki), the Boddhi Tree Aram (boddhitree.com; 855-23/211-376), which offers eight well-appointed rooms in a renovated 1950’s villa, and The Quay (thequayhotel.com; 855-23/224-894), a 16suite pocket property with prime views of Sisowath Quay. I’m traveling to New York City and am looking for some international restaurant suggestions. —TIM BOYOR, BANGKOK

The city that never sleeps does spend quite a bit of time eating, so even the international choice of restaurants can be as enormous as some of the portions. For very traditional Japanese, try Sushi Yasuda (204 E. 43rd St.; 1-212/9721001) near Grand Central Terminal. In Chelsea, El Quinto Pino (401 W. 24th St.; 1-212/206-6900) offers an authentic take on tapas and has a great Spanish wine list. Across from Lincoln Center, Bar Boulud (1900 Broadway; 1-212/5950303) is home to an unbeatable charcuterie bar and a private table for wine tastings. For something more local, Hill Country (30 W. 26th St.; 1-212/255-

I’m sorting out a trip to Southeast Asia this winter and wonder if there is an inexpensive route that I can take over one month? —MIKE MARSHALL, SEATTLE

As always, travel costs are entirely dependent upon exchange rates and the U.S. dollar of late has been anything but stable. That said, countries such as Cambodia and Laos can still be seen on the cheap and are full of enough worthy attractions to keep any traveler busy for a month or more. It’s best to book ahead to save costs during the high season. That’s particularly true of accommodations and travel, the most expensive portions of any trip, while eating well on a budget is a bonus in both countries. On the very cheap side of things, some lodgings are available for less than US$10 a night, though we’d suggest doubling that amount for noticeably better digs. Countries such as Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam can also be inexpensive and have plenty to offer, though the more popular resort areas and cities can be expensive during the high season. Where can we find beachside cottages to stay in rather than resorts in the region? —NADIA PETROSA, JAKARTA

All-in condos and cottages have become a popular choice for groups of adults or extended families going on vacation around the region, particularly at the larger resorts. In Phuket, for instance,

E-MAIL T+L SEND YOUR QUESTIONS TO TLEDITOR @ MEDIATRANSASIA.COM. QUESTIONS CHOSEN FOR PUBLICATION MAY BE EDITED FOR CLARITY AND SPACE .

DECE M B E R 2 0 0 8| T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E S E A . C O M

I L L U S T R AT E D BY WA S I N E E C H A N TA KO R N

MY WIFE AND I ARE HOPING TO BOOK AN AFFORDABLE CRUISE IN ASIA. ANY SUGGESTIONS?


are ultra-modern condos complete with swimming pools, hot tubs and fully fittedout kitchens (thecoolwater.com/rental.html). More earthy in every respect are the beachfront cottages in Boracay (sprboracay. com), which are better described as rustic yet still come with all the amenities three generations of a single family would ever need. In Bali, there’s a wealth of condominium accommodations for rent by the week or the month (balispirit.com) in almost every corner of the island. Before renting on any of these holiday islands, find out what exactly is included—some offer maid service, assorted gear for watersports or some meals—and how far the condo is from other facilities, whether nightlife, sports facilities or shopping. I like exploring cities in Asia but rapid growth hasn’t left most of them easy to navigate on a tight schedule. Do you have any worthy suggestions for getting

E S C A P E T O H AV E N AT T H E C L U B AT T H E S A U J A N A

around Southeast Asia’s major centers? —BRAD TURGEY, AUCKLAND

One of the better results of the region’s fast pace of growth is the state-of-the-art transportation systems that have evolved in the big cities. These train lines are air conditioned, clean and comfortable, and link most parts of each city like they’ve never been connected. Bangkok, for one, is an entirely different city now that it’s fitted out with the BTS, or Skytrain, and a 21-kilometer subway system dubbed the MRT. In Hong Kong, that city’s MTR has now expanded to 10 different lines, while Singapore’s efficient, three-line MRT reflects the modern nature of the city-state. All three systems offer specially priced tourist passes, usually by the day or the week, which can also offer cost savings. The most difficult part of a journey on any of them might simply be getting the acronym for each city correct. ✚

One-night stay in an Executive Club Room including breakfast at The Restaurant, one full-body massage spa treatment for two and a dinner for two at The Restaurant to the value of MYR 180 MYR 540 per person based on double occupancy TERMS & CONDITIONS Offer includes the following benefits: Complimentary mini-bar, laundry, cocktails and canapés in the evening, free Wi-Fi connection and usage of boardrooms, and many more • Extension nights available starting at MYR 782 per room • Beverages charged on consumption • Prior reservation subject to availability Package valid from 1st September to 31st December 2008 • Above rates are inclusive of 10% service charge and 5% government tax Commissionable at 10% on room-only basis to bonafide travel agents

SAUJANA RESORT JALAN LAPANGAN TERBANG SAAS 40150 SHAH ALAM SELANGOR DARUL EHSAN MALAYSIA T (603) 7843 1234 F (603) 7846 2789 reservations@thesaujana.com

www.ghmhotels.com


(Strategies) 12.08 The Art of Tipping How much to tip, and when? What’s standard in Asia might raise eyebrows in Europe or America. Find the answers with T+L’s guide to gratuities around the world. By GERALDINE CAMPBELL

Illustrated by GUY BILLOUT

T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E S E A

.

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strategies | travel

solutions

IPPING CONUNDRUMS are everywhere. Should you tip the valet when you drop off your car and when you pick it up? If the service is atrocious, is it okay to stiff the waiter? In which countries is a gratuity automatically included in a restaurant bill? Hotels have started to add an 18–20 percent charge to room-service bills; do you still need to tip the person who delivers your meal? For some of these questions, the answers are relatively straightforward. The rule for valet parking, regardless of where you are, is to tip only when you pick up your car (valet tips are generally pooled, anyway). If you’re keen on getting white-glove treatment for your vehicle, go ahead and tip up front. Other gratuity issues are cloudier. In American restaurants, the majority of customers are now tipping 20 percent versus the former standard of 15 percent, according to Peter Post, director of the Emily Post Institute (and great-grandson of the famous etiquette expert) and author of Essential Manners for Men. He says the change is primarily due to convenience: Doing the math with 20 percent is easier, especially after that glass of dessert wine (most sources suggest calculating on the pretax amount). Post emphasizes that diners should always leave something, even if the soup ended up in someone’s lap, because tips typically make up the majority of a server’s income. “There’s a contract between you and the restaurant” that implies you will subsidize the waiters’ earnings, he says. “You could also be penalizing the waiter when the problem was with the busboy.” Instead of denying a tip, Post recommends asking to see the manager to express your unhappiness. Many European servers have benefited from unwitting American largesse, because on much of the Continent, service is compris, einbegriffen, incluso, incluido. No 20 percent here: rounding up the check, or

T

SHOULD I TIP HOUSEKEEPING EVERY DAY? Whether to give daily depends on the size of your hotel and the country you’re in (see page 29 for more). But generally speaking, at a small property where the same person likely services your room for your full stay, leave a gratuity before you check out. “The standard is a thank-you note, with a tip for each day of your stay,” says Emma Stroud, executive housekeeper at 41, in London, which has 28 rooms and whose housekeepers earn 15–20 percent of their income from tips. At larger properties, the person making your bed on a Wednesday might not do it on Thursday. According to Scott Geraghty, general manager of the 229room St. Regis in New York City, “You’re better off leaving a daily tip.” If you aren’t around when housekeeping arrives, place the appropriate amount in a clearly marked envelope. —M A R I O LO P E Z - C O R D E R O

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leaving some pocket change on the table, is the norm. If a server has accommodated special requests, give a bit more. Tips are often slightly higher in the U.K. and Eastern Europe, where it’s appropriate to leave between 10 and 15 percent. The same is true for much of the Middle East. In some Asian countries, tipping the server is a no-no. In Japan, where gratuities in general are rare, it’s perceived as rude and in bad taste. And it was illegal in China into the 1980’s, though the practice is becoming acceptable in the more Westernized tourist destinations, as well as in Hong Kong. As for room service, that nonoptional 18 to 20 percent charge may or may not go to the room-service attendant, depending on the hotel. Some establishments divide the fee among the servers and the kitchen staff. Others funnel the money straight to management—in particular when it’s labeled “service charge” rather than “gratuity.” If you want to be a stickler, call the front desk to find out the hotel’s policy. An easier option is just to ask the meal server—or simply hand over a bit of cash. And don’t forget the porter. Some sources suggest US$5 as the minimum tip for a bellman. This may come as a surprise to people used to doling out US$1 per bag, but gratuity inflation is a fact for today’s traveler. A little less money, though, can be handed to a lobby attendant who helps with your bags or a cab. Ultimately, says Post, “when a service has been rendered that makes you feel like someone has really made an effort, it’s worth rewarding their attentiveness.” He also stresses abiding by the standards of the country you’re in, not the nationality of the owners of your hotel—so before you go anywhere, do some research to figure out your gratuity strategy ahead of time (start with the chart on the next page). And remember: It’s always a good idea to have a small amount of local currency in your pocket.


T+L’s Tipping Guidelines SERVICE

U.S.A., CANADA

MEXICO, CARIBBEAN, BAHAMAS+

SOUTH AMERICA

EUROPE

MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA

ASIA

AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND

WAITER

15%–20% of pretax bill

10%–15% in Mexico; usually included in the Caribbean (if not, 10%– 20%)

10% (often included in Brazil)

Usually included; if not, 5%– 15%

10%–15%, if not included

No tip in Japan; small tips in parts of China; 10% in India, if not on bill

5%–10% for top-notch service; otherwise, not expected

BARTENDER

US$1– US$2 per drink, or 10–15% of tab

10%–15% in Caribbean; 10% in Mexico

US$1 per drink; 10% often included in Brazil

If service included, an extra 5% is optional; 5%–10% otherwise

US$1 per drink

Varies by region, from nothing to small change

Tip not expected

CONCIERGE

US$5– US$20 depending on complexity of service provided

US$2–US$5 in Mexico; 5%–10% of bill in the Caribbean

2%–5% of bill

US$5– US$30 depending on complexity of service

Up to US$5, or 10% of bill

In India, US$1– US$2; at least US$5 at luxury hotels in Southeast Asia

Tip not expected

US$1– US$5 per bag

US$1–US$2 per bag

US$1 per bag

US$2–US$3 per bag

US$1– US$2 per bag

US$1– US$2 per bag

Tip not expected

US$3– US$5 a day

US$2–US$5 a day

US$2– US$3 a day

Varies by region, from nothing to US$5 a day

US$1– US$2 a day

US$1– US$2 a day

Tip not expected

TAXI DRIVER

15%–20%

In Mexico, small change; in Caribbean, 10%–15%

Round up fare

Round up fare

Varies by region, from no tip to 10%

No tip or round up; in Japan, no tip

Tip not expected

SPA SERVICES

10%–20%

10%–15%

10%–15%

10%–15%

Not common, but 10%– 15% at upscale spas

10%–15% at more upscale spas

Tip not expected

HAIRDRESSER

10%–20%

10%–15%

10%–15%

Varies by region, from nothing to US$5

10%–15%

10%

Tip not expected

US$1–US$2 per item

US$1

Small change

US$2–US$3 per item

Small change to US$1

Small change

Tip not expected

PORTER

HOUSEKEEPING

COAT CHECK

KEY

WHEN SHOULD I TIP THE CONCIERGE? A concierge doesn’t expect you to slip him a few notes just for booking a dinner reservation or performing other routine tasks — printing your boarding pass, calling a car to take you to the airport. “There are guests who tip generously and those who never open their wallets,” says Olivier Gemayel, a concierge at Hôtel Fouquet’s Barrière in Paris; he claims neither approach has any consequential effect. “I’ve been handed US$800 for holding a door open and received a simple smile for arranging private jet transportation,” he says. “There’s no logic to it.” Still, a tip is often warranted, depending on the locale. A good rule: If you use the concierge frequently, tip the equivalent of around US$5 a day at checkout, and give the same US$5 amount for a one-time service. And keep in mind the relative difficulty of a request; offer US$20 (or more) if you seek a minor miracle like front-row tickets to a popular play.—M . L .

+ Tips are included at all-inclusive resorts.

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Chart toppers: Our editors pick the best of Southeast Asia <(page 52)

Aman ideals. One eye on the future with Adrian Zecha <(page 46)

Romantic refuge. Checking in to check out the St. Regis in Bali (page 44) >

+

• Singapore’s sexiest cocktails • What’s hot around Asia in 2009 • The best finds in mini-bars

(Insider) Photo credit by tktktk

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

Malaysian meals. Four of our favorite bistros in Kuala Lumpur <(page 58)

Where to GoWhat to EatWhere to StayWhat to Buy

FEB MROUNATRHY 2 0 0 7 | T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E . C O M

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insider

| newsflash

FOOD

The Candy Store.

Brother-and-sister owners Justin Chewy and hard candies at Fiona’s and Jamin Haleman at Sweetdish. Sweetshoppe.

Miette’s manager, Kelly Jenett.

The Sweets of San Francisco SOME NEWS DOESN’T NEED to be sugarcoated: retro candy stores are back in style. In San Francisco, a handful of shops triggers a trip down memory lane. Diane Campbell and her husband, Brian, comb the country for icons of American kitsch to fill the shelves at the Candy Store (1507 Vallejo St.; 1-415/921-8000). They’ve brought back everything from the Idaho Spud—a chocolate, marshmallow and coconut candy bar—to the nutty Walnetto, a onetime movie-theater staple. Pink curtains and tasseled light fixtures make Sweetdish (2144 Chestnut St.; 1-415/563-2144), in the Marina District, feel girlie in a good way. Licorice lace and large swirled lollipops look like edible artwork. Top treats? Rock-candy

dots and hard candies in apothecary jars. Pining for the cola cubes and peppermint creams of her British childhood, Fiona Frie opened Fiona’s Sweetshoppe (214 Sutter St.; 1415/671-9162) in Union Square. The shop covers the vast U.K.-candy landscape, including Scotch-whisky fudge and a creamy, corn syrup–free version of the Kit Kat bar. Miette Confiserie (449 Octavia Blvd.; 1-415/626-6221), in Hayes Valley, specializes in European delights like Dutch licorice. Jars of rainbow Jelly Bellies cast kaleidoscopic colors onto the wall, and cotton candy is made to order. It’s a storybook setting, as if Hansel and Gretel had wandered somewhere delicious.—J O S H S E N S

Three New Travel Gadgets Nokia N78 Nokia’s latest N-series phone tags your photos with GPS coordinates — never again will you wonder how to find that hidden beach in Sardinia. nokiausa.com.

TECH

S P O S ATO

and

A DA M B A E R

Power Monkey Consolidate all your chargers and cords. Equipped with 10 adapter tips, this lightweight device juices mobile phones, iPods, PDA’s and even digital cameras in 150 countries. stuffjunction.com.

Panasonic Lumix TZ50 Panasonic’s nine-megapixel camera connects wirelessly to the Internet and syncs with Google’s free Picasa photo-album software so you can clear out your camera’s memory far from home. panasonic.com.

I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them. 34

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MARK TWAIN

T O P : T H A Y E R A L LY S O N G O W D Y ( 4 ) . B O T T O M : D A V I E S + S T A R R ( 3 )

T+L road-tested a clutch of new travel gadgets designed to meet your on-the-go needs. Here, three of our favorites. By B R E E


| newsflash TOUR

Helping Elephants It might seem like the perfect Bangkok photo opportunity. But next time you spot a mahout with an elephant and a bag of sugar cane, resist the temptation to pose for a snapshot. Not only is it illegal for elephants to be on the streets of the Thai capital, it’s also a dangerous existence for these noble beasts. You can help, though: get the mahout’s number and contact John Roberts, the director of elephants at The Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (helpingelephants.org), which works to get elephants off city streets. Many mahouts are attached to their animals, so the foundation tries to move both—as well as families—to its camp in Chiang Rai, where guests at Anantara Resort & Spa Golden Triangle and the Four Seasons Tented Camp can interact with the animals. Keeping an elephant and mahout is costly—around US$1,000 a month—so donations are welcome. —JENNIFER CHEN

CONSERVATION

WALK WITH ME

Looking for a real insider’s tour of China’s great cities? Louis Vuitton has teamed up with three of Chinese cinema’s leading lights—Gong Li, Joan Chen and Shu Qi—to provide intimate, one-hour MP3 audio guides to Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, respectively (louisvuittonsoundwalk.com; available in six languages; US$17). Interweaving everyday sounds (the clatter of teacups, haggling in the market) with music, the tours explore the secret nooks of each city through the telling of a love story. Most compelling is the narration by Chen (she has a warm, unaffected style of storytelling in the English version), who takes the listener through her childhood haunts in the French Concession in search of her first love, a classically trained pianist who later suffered during the Cultural Revolution. For Mandarin speakers: download Gong’s putonghua narration; she proves once again why she’s one of the most acclaimed actors from China.—J.C. In Bookstores Now Pick up a copy of the inaugural Miele Guide (mieleguide.com), the first independent restaurant guide entirely devoted to Asia’s best chefs and restaurants, picked by critics and the public.

Molto Italiano Two new eateries in Southeast Asia that go well beyond pizza and pasta Chiaroscuro Trattoria Pizzeria Kuala Lumpur

The Lowdown After a spell at high-concept Italian restaurant Vicenzan, Andrea Zanelli and Carol Lim left to open a place where he could cook the sort of homey food he grew up with. The space’s serene minimalism (concrete walls and bar, lots of glass) belies the soulfulness of Zanelli’s preparations, many of which — unusually, for upscale restaurants in this town — include pork. ● Don’t Miss Baby octopus on bruschetta; fresh whitebait polpette; linguine with clams, zucchini and saffron; roasted grain-fed beef prime rib crostata (for two); pizzas from the wood-fired oven; and the house-made limoncello. Ground floor, 38 Bidara, 30 Jln. Bidara; 60-3/2144-8006; chiaroscurokl.com; dinner for two with wine RM323.—R O BY N E C K H A R DT

Bacco Bangkok ● The Lowdown In a town filled with Italian eateries, this spacious osteria is already considered a classic. Owner Sergio Forte says the menu is inspired by the cuisine of his hometown of Rimini in northeastern Italy. ● Don’t Miss The Genovese salad, with grilled rings of squid, new potatoes, haricots verts and sun-dried tomato; any of the 44 thin-crust pizzas; piada, a traditional, stuffed flat bread; and the ravioli with porcini and rocket in a truffle cream sauce. 35/1 Sukhumvit Soi 53; 66-2/662-4538; bacco-bkk.com; dinner for two with wine Bt3,000.—PA U L E H R L I C H

To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world. 36

FOOD

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FREYA STARK

C L O C K W I S E F R O M T O P : © S T E P H A N C R A S N E A N S C K I F O R L O U I S V U I T T O N ( 3 ) ; C O U R T E SY O F B A C C O ; C O U R T E SY O F T H E G O L D E N T R I A N G L E A S I A N E L E P H A N T F O U N D AT I O N

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insider

| newsflash Q+A

Daniel Boulud The high-flying superstar chef talks to T+L about food on the road When you fly, do you eat airplane food or pack your own meal? I’ll bring a good selection of charcuterie from Bar Boulud, perhaps some cheese.

● ●

What sort of edible souvenirs do you like to take back from your travels? I like all kinds of jams, chutneys and interesting mustards. The last

time I was in Belgium I brought home a strong and spicy local mustard. From Japan I bring back jars and jars of pickles. From France to New York, I always sneak back some ham that my father has made. And one time I hand-carried live soft-shell crabs from New York to Lyon. I packed them with ice and they were still alive when I arrived. I cooked them for lunch and they were great. ● What’s your favorite food destination? If it can’t be France, it’s Tokyo. But really, in terms of choice, in terms of what makes one happy in life, for me it’s France. Provence, the southwest, Brittany … I love every region at a different time in the year. I’m not chauvinistic. ●

What’s the best way to zero in on the best food in a new destination?

Talk to friends who know the place. If I don’t have a contact, I zero in on the most interesting chef and ask him where I should eat. The last time I was in Denmark I contacted Jan Hurtigkarl [of Jan Hurtigkarl & Co.]—I worked for him when I was around 24 years old—and he sent me to some really cool places. And I Google. ● You only have just one day in Southeast Asia—where would you go and what would you eat? Next spring I’m heading to Cambodia with my sous chef, who is Cambodian. I’m really looking forward to it.—R . E .

SCENTS OF PLACE These new fragrances have been formulated to take you on a sensory journey—E L I Z A B E T H

INDIA Like the luxury house’s 2008 fashion collections, the new Hermès fragrance, Un Jardin Après la Mousson, takes its cues from the subcontinent, with a spicy-smelling blend of pepper, vetiver, coriander and ginger. TUSCANY Ferragamo’s Tuscan Soul uses citrus notes (bergamot, orange blossom) and a woodsy fig base to recall an orange- and lemon-grovecovered swath of the Italian countryside.

THE HAMPTONS With its mix of lemon verbena, white hyacinth, privet blossom, sea grass and musk, Privet Bloom from Hampton Sun is meant to smell like summer at the shore.

JAPAN Traditional incense ceremonies are the inspiration for the smoky Dark Amber & Ginger Lily from Jo Malone. Kyara wood and cardamom notes are similar to the muskiness of aloewood, which has been burned for centuries in Japan. HAWAII Katherine Growney looked to her native land to develop Punono, the first in her Saffron James line. A blend of ylang-ylang, vanilla and pikake (used in leis) brings out the sugary aroma of Oahu’s pua tree.

No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow. 38

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LIN YUTANG

F R O M T O P : C O U R T E S Y O F D A N I E L B O U L U D ; D AV I E S + S TA R R ( 5 )

BEAUTY

WO O D S O N


HOTELS

Southeast Asia’s New Boutique Stays Small is beautiful, at least at these four eye-catching hotels

F R O M T O P : C O U R T E S Y O F V I L L A M A LY ; C O U R T E S Y O F T E N F A C E ; C O U R T E S Y O F T H E C L U B A T T H E S A U J A N A ; C O U R T E S Y O F N A N T R A D E D E L U X E

Villa Maly Luang Prabang A former royal residence that dates back to the 1930’s, this 33-room property boasts a prime location in the heart of the temple town. Expect the usual faux colonial touches (mahogany armoires, wooden parquet floors, antique-style fans), but with modern amenities such as flat-screen TV’s and iPod docks—still rarities in these parts. Near Wat Manorom; 856-7/253-902–4; doubles from US$150. Tenface Bangkok The team behind this sleek boutique residence also created the late, great Playground!—the innovative design emporium. With its spare décor (black and white stencils of Thai numbers and mythical characters), it’s minimalist, but not overly so. Some of the rooms are painted in a cheery yellow or red and wood floors give the 79 suites warmth. Guests also receive a box containing a SkyTrain card, a prepaid SIM card and an iPod with videos of Bangkok’s top restaurants and attractions. 81 Soi Ruamrudee 2, 662/695-4242; tenfacebangkok.com; suites from Bt9,000. The Club at The Saujana Kuala Lumpur Jaya Ibrahim, the design talent behind many of the Aman resorts, lends his signature subtle touch to this newly renovated property on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. Teak, terrazzo and marble are deployed to create 105 graceful rooms and suites. Golf enthusiasts also have access to two 18-hole championship greens, while nature lovers can ramble through the adjoining 160 hectares of tropical gardens. Jln Lapangan Terbang SAAS, Shah Alam, Selangor Darul Ehsan; 60-3/7843-1234; ghmhotels.com; doubles from RM990. Nantra de Deluxe Krabi With access to a 40meter private beach, this wallet-friendly resort offers 21 simple but tastefully decorated villas. There’s also a smaller sister property right next door, The Beach Boutique Resort. 153 Moo 4, Had Yao, Thalingchan; 66-86/471-3693–4; nantradedeluxe.com; doubles from Bt4,400.—J . C .


insider

| drink

Shaken and Stirred. Searching for the perfect cocktail? Here, four lounges where you’ll find Singapore’s best mixologists. By HUI FANG

Q TIPPLING CLUB A recent arrival to the trendy Dempsey Hill area, this restaurant–bar offers the most experimental cocktails in the city (all devised by Matthew Bax of Melbourne’s famed Der Raum bar). Ex-smokers might want to take a nostalgia trip with the Smoky Old Bastard, a simple cocktail with a not-so-straightforward drinking process. Tobacco syrup is added to peaty Islay whisky before it is “smoked” (the bartender tops it up with a citrus smoke). Hint: Allow the smoke to clear before ingesting the smooth-tasting concoction. Other drinks to sample are the mysterious 1+2 = 4, presented in measuring cups, the bittersweet Teacher’s Tippler served in a flask hidden in a book (genius!), and Pharmacy, which comes in a syringe. T+L Tip Remember that scene in High Fidelity when a customer innocently asks Jack Black’s character for “I Just Called to Say I Love You?” Don’t ask for a Singapore Sling here—you might not get a tirade, but you will earn a withering look. 8D Dempsey Rd.; 65/6475-2217; tipplingclub.com; drinks from S$22.

SINGAPORE

Q ASTOR BAR Few bars in the city rival the sophisticated atmosphere of this establishment located in the St. Regis Singapore. Indeed, its invitingly swanky velvet interiors almost make it too easy to lounge about all day (or night), swilling cocktails. But the bar’s real pièce de résistance is its extensive cocktail menu, which lists more than 50 concoctions. The weight-conscious can opt for the tequila-based Del Basil Bandita (clocking a mere 147 calories) or the antioxidant-rich Celadore made with

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Illustrated by WASINEE CHANTAKORN


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| drink

ONE MORE FOR THE ROAD

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pomegranate and vodka (198 calories). Seeking self-indulgence? Then throw your lot in with the warm Crêpe Suzette cocktail, composed of flambéed oranges, Grand Marnier and vodka, with a sideserving of mini crepês. T+L Tip As the saying goes, when in Rome ... In the case of the Astor Bar, order a Chilli Padi Mary, a subtly spicy variation of the original Bloody Mary invented in the 1920’s at the landmark St. Regis in New York City. Instead of the usual Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco, the local version comes mixed with bird’s eye chili (also called chili padi or phrik khii nuu), ginger and lemongrass. 29 Tanglin Rd.; 65/65066888; drinks from S$22.

Q KLEE Housed in an old caretaker’s lodge, Klee is single-mindedly devoted to cocktails. The policy of this 30-seater specialty bar is simple: they use only fresh fruit and premium alcohol in their cocktails. No wine, beer or champagne is served— unless it’s a bubbly-based concoction you’re after. While there isn’t an official menu, any of the bar staff is more than » capable of muddling, shaking or stirring up the drink you desire. Stave off hunger pangs (or line your stomach) with slivers of beautifully barbecued puffer fish, a perfect

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accompaniment for your kiwi martini or refreshing mojito, served with Perrier and a generous handful of mint. T+L Tip The must-try cocktail here is the berry-colored Pineapple Grape Margarita. Enjoy watching the bartenders burn the pineapple and sugars together—“It molds the taste,” our mixologists say—in front of you with the help of a cigar lighter. No. 0104 Wessex Village Sq., 5B Portsdown Rd.; 65/6479-3997; drinks from S$16.

Q POST BAR The veteran in this group, the eternally stylish Post Bar remains a reliable spot for tasty cocktails. We love the frozen strip that runs the entire length of the long bar, helping to keep drinks icy cold. Service can be a bit inconsistent, but the bartenders do mix a lip-smackingly good mojito, while their full-bodied caiprioskas and caipirinhas, served with a stick of brown sugar, still pack a mean (but welcome) punch. T+L Tip Try the White Cosmopolitan made with white cranberry juice—an original Post Bar drink that’s a classy departure from your so-last-season cosmo. Fullerton Hotel, 1 Fullerton Sq.; 65/6733-8388; drinks from S$16. ✚

FA R L E F T : C O U R T E SY O F C A M P

Here’s a drink to share with friends that’s many, many rungs above a margaritain-a-pitcher: the Tiffin Punch (S$59, serves four) at Camp, part of the sprawling and lushly green House at Dempsey Road complex. Served — appropriately — in a tiffin carrier, the drink is inspired by the “French 75,” a 1920’s classic believed to have first been sampled in Harry’s Bar in Paris. The update, created by Matthew Bax (see the entry about The Tippling Club), mixes Bombay Sapphire gin and lychee liqueur with tart grapefruit slices, freshly peeled sweet lychees stuffed with slices of ginger, and a dash of champagne. Owner Cynthia Chua calls this refreshing tropical cooler perfect group therapy, and we’re inclined to agree. Block 8D Dempsey Rd.; 65/6475-7787; dempseyhouse.com. —D AV E N W U


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INDONESIA

Tropical Classicism Clockwise from left: A butler at the ready at the St. Regis Resort in Bali; the outdoor bar; the bedroom in one of the resort’s 32 villas; the grand lobby.

Bali’s New Belle. The St. Regis Resort delivers Old World elegance to a tropical paradise. By SONIA KOLESNIKOV-JESSOP

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THE SCENE Expect a lot of thirtysomething and older couples seeking a romantic refuge. Though the resort occupies a public 350-meter stretch of prime beachfront, few sunseekers were spotted during our visit, making the beach virtually private. THE ROOMS Tasteful and wellappointed—it’s a welcome antidote to barebones minimalism or more heavyhanded Balinese-style hotels. We appreciated the combination of haute bourgeois furniture and Balinese decoration (drapery sashes with shells, wood carvings). THE AMENITIES With the touch of a button, the plasma screen television

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can be lowered into a stylish cabinet; the bathroom is loaded with fragrant Remède Spa products. NICE SURPRISES It’s all in the details: the fresh flowers in the villa (jasmine and calla lilies); the breakfast eggs with a lobster or caviar; and the dangerously addictive Kiwi Sakejito cocktail (sake, kiwi, mint leaves, kaffir syrup and soda water, US$12) at the King Cole Bar. Bonus: Service is already excellent, as you would expect at a St. Regis. But if you crave more coddling, you can have around-theclock butler service for an additional US$180. Kawasan Pariwisata, Nusa Dua; 62-361/8478-111; starwoodhotels.com/ stregis; doubles from US$425. 

C O U R T E S Y O F S T. R E G I S B A L I R E S O R T

THE LOOK Opened in September, this resort on Bali’s posh Nusa Dua Beach deftly combines opulence with local flourishes. Black lava-stone sculptures of women in traditional Balinese garb and a welcome gate comprised of arched palm trees help set the tone of the whole resort (the beautifully landscaped grounds were designed by tropical chic master Bill Bensley). Its 121 villas and rooms, done by Manila-based Manny Samson and Associates, make ample use of indigenous elements (richly dyed batiks, wicker-backed planters chairs), but sets them against divans and armchairs upholstered in rich European fabrics, grand chandeliers and polished wood tables.


insider | the

guru

Eye on the Prize. In an exclusive interview, Amanresorts founder and chairman Adrian Zecha tells PAUL EHRLICH what’s next in travel

“Hangzhou in China, Kerala in India, Luang Prabang in Laos, Hué in Vietnam are among Asia’s up-andcoming destinations. Hangzhou, because it is the most beautiful city in China, set around the lovely lake and the many parks. Kerala in India, and more specifically Cochin, with its incredible backwaters. Luang Prabang, the ancient royal capital of Laos with its magnificent temples. It is a World Heritage site, and therefore cannot suffer the overdevelopment that so often happens in Asian cities. Hué in Vietnam, which has the impressive Citadel and the perfumed river with the many wellpreserved royal tombs upstream. And finally the coastal area of Cambodia. From Ream, south of Sihanoukville, all the way down to the Vietnamese border, the beaches are excellent both on the mainland and on the many lovely islands not far offshore. These upcoming Asian destinations would appeal to the many who have already visited these countries, but until recently, accessibility was not very easy and there was a distinct lack of suitable accommodation. This situation is rapidly changing and I

would expect would do much to generate return visits.” ■ What do you think is the next big thing in hotels and resorts?

“Can I say something funny? Decent food. Food is of course always a very important aspect of our industry, but the trend of providing simpler rather than more elaborate cuisine is definitely in, meaning honest rather than inventive or fancy food. Of course, this trend has already started some time ago in the restaurant business, where most famous three-star chefs in France also have bistro-type establishments.” ■ How has the resort experience changed for the guests?

“The most visible change has been to provide quality rather than quantity. Quality in the physical product means fewer rooms but larger ones because ultimately, space is an important element in the definition of luxury. And it is obviously far easier to provide more attentive and individualized service to a smaller number of guests. There is also a discernable trend towards providing more resort amenities in city hotels such as great spas and fitness facilities.”

■ What new projects are on the horizon for Amanresorts?

“In Asia, we will be opening Aman New Delhi and Amantaka in Luang Prabang in the next few months. We selected New Delhi as our first real city hotel for a number of reasons. It is the main gateway to the subcontinent, but as the capital of India, it is a fascinating city by itself. It also has a fair share of worthwhile tourist attractions, and of course this has given us an opportunity to include those resort amenities, which we feel would enhance one’s stay in a city. I suppose I could also consider the Aman in Beijing, which we opened last month as a ‘city’ hotel, but it would be more of a hybrid since it is located just outside the Summer Palace. But we certainly did incorporate a full range of resort amenities.” ■ What’s your ideal holiday?

“My personal choice would be anywhere in the world where I have never been before, as was the case with almost all of the places where the 20 odd Amans are now. Places I am looking forward to visiting in the future would include two in South America, the Pantanal in Brazil and Patagonia in Argentina.” 

Earthly Paradises From far left: Inside the Amankora in Bhutan; West Lake in Hangzhou, China; the mountains of Patagonia.

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F R O M FA R L E F T : C O U R T E SY O F A M A N R E S O R T S ; © C T PA U L / D R E A M S T I M E . C O M ; © U W E B L O S F E L D / D R E A M S T I M E . C O M

■ What are some destinations to watch in Asia?


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| night out

A New Start Below: Chill out at Alchemy in Manila. Right: Fireworks at Singapore’s Siloso Beach.

Southeast Asia’s Best New Year’s Parties. Looking to welcome 2009 in style?

THE PHILIPPINES Alchemy Strut your stuff on the dance floor during the annual bash at this three-story venue, Manila’s take on a European super-club that’s popular with local celebrities and night owls. Verde Drive corner of Julia Vargas Ave., Pasig City; 63/917-886-1049. BURMA Balloons Over Bagan Enjoy sweeping

views of the ancient pagodas spread across the valley on this once-in-alifetime balloon ride. 95-1/652-809; easternsafaris.com; US$295 per person. MACAU Sky 21 Take a break from the casinos and usher in 2009 at this massive club

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with a panoramic cityscape. 21st floor, AIA Tower, 215A-301 Avenida Comercial de Macau; 853/2822-2122. SINGAPORE Siloso Beach Sink your feet into white sand and indulge in a different kind of bubbly—the annual infamous foam pool at Sentosa’s Siloso Beach. After dancing the night away, take a dip in the sea—a refreshing start to the New Year. Sentosa Island; sentosa.com.sg; 65/6275-0054. MALAYSIA Zouk Famous for rocking it, Zouk— KL’s trendiest club—is throwing open the doors to all six of its venues for the fi rst time since it began its recent

rehaul. Take your pick of beats: electro-house with DJ Mark Doyle; R&B and hip hop with DJ’s Luge, Ray Rox and Goldfish; or retro and indie tunes. 113 Jln. Ampang; 603/2171-1997; zoukclub.com.my. LAOS Maison Souvannaphoum In sleepy

Luang Prabang, be treated like royalty and stay at this beautifully restored palace, which holds one of the most elegant bashes in town. Chao Fa Ngum Rd.; 856-71/254-609; angsana.com; doubles from US$190. BRUNEI The Empire Hotel & Country Club

Ring in the New Year at this ultra-

A good holiday is one that is spent among people whose notions of time are vaguer than yours.

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J.B. PRIESTLEY

F RO M L E F T; CO U RT ESY O F A LC H E M Y; CO U RT ESY O F S E N TOSA L E I S U R E G RO U P

Here, the lowdown on the region’s most happening celebrations. By DALIYANA HAMID


luxurious hotel—the host for the party in town—and send off your 2009 wishes when hundreds of balloons are released at the stroke of midnight. Jerudong BG3122; 673/241-8888; empire.com.bn; packages start from B$630. HONG KONG Aqualuna Sail into the New Year aboard a reconstructed Chinese junk, the Cheung Po Tsai, and tuck into a delectable spread of dim sum, canapés and cocktails. Enjoy the midnight breeze, kick back and take in the breathtaking view of Victoria Harbour. North Point Pier or Hunghom Pier, Hong Kong; 852/2116-8821; aqua. com.hk; HK$588 per person.

Catch the Countdown From top: The Cheung Po Tsai in Hong Kong; one of the bars at Alchemy; dinner at the Sheraton Hanoi; rocking the dance floor at Siloso Beach.

VIETNAM Sheraton Hanoi Don your fi nest

CAMBODIA Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor Take in

the majesty of Angkor Wat from a hot air balloon, and then enjoy a delicious dinner before the countdown begins. 1 Vithei Charles de Gaulle, Siem Reap; 855-63/963-888; doubles from US$470; hot air balloon, gala dinner and party US$250 per person.

threads and head down to the hotel’s Disco Glamour Party for an evening (and morning) of gourmet and glamour. Work off the sumptuous fivecourse meal by grooving to the beats of the flamboyant Russian DJ, Affecta. K5 Nghi Tam, 11 Xuan Dieu Rd.; 84-4/3719-9000; starwoods.com; admission US$99 per person. ✚

INDONESIA

F R O M T O P : C O U R T E SY O F A Q U A R E S TA U R A N T G R O U P ; C O U R T E SY O F A L C H E M Y; C O U R T E SY O F S H E R AT O N H A N O I ; C O U R T E SY O F S E N T O S A L E I S U R E G R O U P

Gili Trawangan Skip the parties on

Bali and take the boat to one of Indonesia’s best-kept secrets. Start your evening by watching locals perform traditional dances at Villa Ombak, and then head over to Tir Na Nog or the Horizontal bar for more raucous revelry. gili-paradise.com. THAILAND The Metropolitan Bangkok Bring a hearty appetite to the award-winning Cy’an and nip into the Met Bar for a digestif or two. Cap the evening at one of the city’s clubs on Silom Soi 4, where the festivities always run late and loud. 27 South Sathorn Rd.; 662/625-3333; metropolitan.como.bz; Bt5,009 for dinner, three drinks and entry to the Met Bar.

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes. T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E S E A

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MARCEL PROUST

C O M | D E C E M B E R

2008

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| see it

insider

The modern exterior of the New Acropolis Museum, in Athens.

GREECE

New Acropolis Museum, Athens. A bold new building represents an ambitious attempt to reclaim the country’s cultural treasures. By ELENI GAGE. Photographed by CHRISTIAN RICHTERS T’S AN INCONGRUOUS SIGHT: A SUPER-MODERN, building set at the foot of the ancient Acropolis. But while the New Acropolis Museum (newacropolismuseum.gr), designed by New York–based architect Bernard Tschumi, may appear to defy Athens’ great history, it is, in fact, the city’s most ambitious attempt to reclaim its cultural patrimony: built to hold archaeological finds spanning 2,500 years, including the absent Elgin Marbles (portions of the Parthenon frieze), which the Greek government has been trying to recover from the British Museum since the mid-1800’s. On the new museum’s first level, raised glass floors give visitors a view of sixth-century B.C. ruins below; on the second, the Archaic gallery is filled with freestanding korai (ancient statues of female figures); and the third is a crowning box, built to the same dimensions as the Parthenon, in which the Athenian-

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held sections of the frieze are displayed with reproductions— placeholders for the British Museum’s portions. Although Tschumi’s bold design has generated controversy, with critics claiming that the structure is out of place in Athens’s historic center, he defends the intentional contrast of old and new. “People said, ‘You have to be contextual; it ought to be in the Doric style of traditional Greek temples,’” he says. “Forget it! You can’t do Doric as well as the ancient Greeks did it. Instead, I aimed for the same precision, the same clarity as the original temple.” People are already arriving in droves; the ground floor, opened as a preview in January (the entire museum is set to debut in early 2009), receives up to 500 visitors a day. But the museum’s real proof of success is yet to come. “It has to convince the world that the Elgin Marbles should come back,” Tschumi says. “And I believe it will.” ✚

Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

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RALPH WALDO EMERSON


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picks

Where to Go Now in Southeast Asia. From Hong Kong

HONG KONG EAT In historic Wanchai, The Pawn (62 Johnston Rd.; 852/2866-3444) parlays its heritage setting of a former pawn shop into a chic gastro-pub. Island Tang (Shop 222, 2nd floor, The Galleria, 9 Queen’s Rd.; 852/2526-8798) tempts with a slick Cantonese menu of roast birds and dim sum in a nostalgic dining room that recalls 1940’s Hong Kong. SHOP Hip retailer G.O.D’s new retail venture Delay No Mall (68 Yee Wo St., Causeway Bay) is a bright, brash emporium jammed with cult labels from around the world like American jeweler Justin Davis and a tattoo parlor. SEE Photography buffs are in for a treat at Ooi Botos Gallery (5 Gresson St., Wanchai; 852/2527-9733, by appointment only), which brings together the best of Asia’s contemporary photographers like Sean Lee and Zhou Yi. STAY With panoramic views of West Kowloon, an 836square-meter spa and the city’s highest swimming pool (more than 200 meters above street level), China’s first W (1 Austin Rd. West, Kowloon; 852/3717-2222; starwoodhotels. com/whotels; doubles from HK$2,600) doesn’t disappoint.

New Life From top: Living room art inside Hong Kong’s W Hotel; Anantara Seminyak’s penthouse; ayam lengkuas served at Harum Manis; a bedroom at W.

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INDONESIA EAT In Jakarta, Harum Manis (Pavilion Apartment Arcade, Jln. KH Mas Mansyur Kav. 24; 62-21/5794-1727) tempts with traditional Javanese cuisine. At the always-packed Loewy (Oakwood Premier Cozmo, 1 Jln. Lingkar Mega Kuningan E 42; 62-21/2554-2378), chef Benoit Clay turns out mod-European bistro fare like crab ravioli. DRINK In Bali, toast the good life with a pre-prandial cocktail infused with roasted citrus fruits at Sarong (19X Jln. Petitenget, Seminyak; 62-361/737-809). SHOP Buried among a warren of Jakarta’s Grand Indonesia Shopping Town complex is Alun Alun (3rd floor, West Mall, 1 Jln. M.H. Thamrin; 62-21/2358-0890), which stocks well-made home wares, paintings and fine metalwork by Indonesian artisans. STAY When in Jakarta, it’s difficult to fault the RitzCarlton, Jakarta at Pacific Place (Jln. Jendral Sudirman Kav. 52-53, Sudirman Central Business District; 62-21/25501999; doubles from US$268) for its location in the heart of

My thoughts are very frequently in a foreign country. I live more out of England than in it.

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JOHN KEATS

F R O M T O P : C O U R T E SY O F W H O T E L S ; C O U R T E SY O F A N A N TA R A R E S O R T S A N D S PA S ; C O U R T E SY O F H A R U M M A N I S ; C O U R T E SY O F W H O T E L S

to Jakarta, here’s our hit list of new restaurants, spas, hotels, bars and shops. By DAVEN WU, ROBYN ECKHARDT and JENNIFER CHEN


F R O M T O P : C O U R T E S Y O F R I T Z - C A R LT O N J A K A R TA ; C O U R T E S Y O F T H E Q U AY ; C E D R I C A R N O L D ; C O U R T E S Y O F T E M P L E T R E E E S TAT E

the financial district, or for the views through the floor-toceiling windows. In Bali, the Anantara Seminyak (Jln. Abimanyu, Dhyana Pura; 62-361/737-773; from US$365) offers dazzling sunset views from its rooftop terrace while each sea-facing suite opens onto a balcony with a terrazzo tub for two. CAMBODIA EAT Offering unbeatable sunset views, Kep’s Knai Bang Chatt Sailing Club (Phum Thmey Sangkat Prey, Thom Kan Kep; 855-92/882-750) is the latest addition to the Modernist villa resort of the same name. Timber floors and white clapboard walls and tables lend a nautical air. DRINK With its rich red walls, low lights and Chinese furnishings, Miss Wong (behind Pub St., opposite the provincial hospital; 855/942-8332) has the feel of a speakeasy in 1930’s Shanghai. Continuing with the Sinophilic theme in Phnom Penh, the Chinese House (45 Sisowath Quay) is a moody bar occupying a decades-old Chinese mansion by the river. STAY Cool meets environmentalism at The Quay in Phnom Penh (277 Sisowath Quay; 855-23/992-284; thequayhotel.com; doubles from US$90). Rooms feature limestone floors, Minotto beds and Arne Jacobson furnishings, while the hotel’s management strives to offset its emissions. Make sure to get a room with riverside views. Also in Phnom Penh, Blue Lime (42 Street 19; 85523/222-260; bluelime.asia; doubles from US$50) is a simple but stylish hotel. Built-in brushed concrete furniture and jewel tone accents complement pale walls and tile floors.

Coolest Chic From top: Ritz-Carlton Jakarta’s lobby; bowls at Blue Lime; dining at The Quay; inside a Temple Tree Estate house.

MALAYSIA EAT Foodies are flocking to Sage (6th floor, The Gardens Hotel and Residences, Lingkaran Syed Putra; 60-3/2268-1188), where simple, spare furnishings and a muted palette set the stage for creative combinations such as lightly salted cod with foie gras, roasted in wood paper and apple flambéed with Calvados served with apple crumble and vanilla ice cream. STAY Occupying a historic mansion in Melaka, The Majestic (188 Jln. Bunga Raya; 60-6/289-8000; majesticmalacca.com; doubles from US$280) oozes colonial nostalgia, from the four-poster beds and claw-foot tubs in all 54 rooms to the afternoon tea served in the lobby, with its original tile floors and ceiling fans. Heritage charm meets low-key luxury at the Temple Tree Estate (Pantai Cenang, Langkawi; 60-4/955-6787; bontonresort.com.my; doubles from US$140). The nine restored hundred-year-old Malaysian houses have gorgeous old timber fittings and are filled with Asian antiques. »

Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.

T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E S E A

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BENJAMIN DISRAELI

C O M| D E C E M B E R

2008

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picks

SINGAPORE EAT The chef to the former Japanese ambassador charms with a delicately wrought kaiseki menu of seasonal produce at Goto (No. 01-01, 14 Ann Siang Rd.; 65/6438-1553). At The White Rabbit (39C Harding Rd.; 65/6473-9965), a former garrison chapel has been converted into a stunning dining bolt-hole where the truffle-scented macaroni and cheese is a divine crowd-pleaser. SHOP In barely a year, the narrow colonial era shophouses along Haji Lane have been transformed into hip boutiques and cafés. 3 (47 Haji Lane; 65/6396-5543) stocks cult labels Australia’s Material Boy and Japanese denim specialists Johnbull. A few doors down, I’m Wuyagege (67 Haji Lane; 65/6396-7079) is a favorite of bargain hunters for luxury brand samples and factory overruns by the likes of Viktor & Rolf, Massimo Dutti and See by Chloé. SEE The compactly edited Peranakan Museum (39 Armenian St.; 65/6332-7591; peranakanmuseum.sg; admission S$6) offers a fascinating peek into Singapore’s densely layered past. STAY Airport hotels are generally dull places to stay overnight, but the Crowne Plaza Changi Airport (75 Airport Blvd.; 65/6823-5388; doubles from S$192), designed by local hotshot architects WOHA, offers a mix of rainforest gardens, a 30-meter lap pool and spacious sound-proofed rooms that give no hint that the airport runway is just a stone’s throw away. »

Stylish Stops From top right: Inside the Peranakan Museum; dining at The White Rabbit; a bedroom at the Hotel Celeste; a receptionist at the Crowne Plaza Changi Airport.

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To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.

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ALDOUS HUXLEY

F RO M TO P L E F T: CO U RT ESY O F T H E W H I T E RA B B I T; CO U RT ESY O F P E RA N A K A N M U S E U M ; CO U RT ESY O F H OT E L C E L EST E ; CO U RT ESY O F C ROW N P L A ZA H OT E L S & R ES O RTS

PHILIPPINES EAT White linens, dark-olive silk wall panels and smoked mirrored walls set the scene for modern European cuisine at the Sala Restaurant (Podium level, Locsin Building, 6752 Ayala Ave.; 63-2/750-1555) in Manila’s Central Business District. Billing itself as a carinderia (roadside cafeteria), Petra & Pilar (Ground floor, JAKA Center Building, Chino Roces Ave., Makati; 63-2/887-5169) serves updated Filipino comfort food in a smart setting. DRINK After a US$1 million makeover, 7 Pecados (Plaza Level, Sofitel Philippines Plaza, Roxas Blvd., Pasay; 60-3/551555)—a stalwart of Manila’s nightlife scene—has been reborn, with 70’s touches (mirror balls, glass beads, purple carpets) combined with 21st-century luxe (sleek lounge sofas, daybeds). STAY Understated European elegance and attention to service are the hallmarks of Hotel Celeste (2 San Lorenzo Drive, San Lorenzo Village, Makati; 63-2/887-8080; hotelceleste. ph; doubles from US$250), a French-owned boutique hotel in the heart of Makati.


picks

Arty Asian From top right: Papercuts and the Pencil Sharpener; Long Table; inside Geo; a L’Anmien Mui Ne Resort & Spa pool villa; Six Senses Destination Spa Phuket’s Chinese spa.

THAILAND EAT Urban oases are essential to surviving Bangkok, and Vanilla Garden (53 Soi Ekamai, Soi 12, Sukhumvit Rd.; 662/381-6120–1)—a leafy compound housing a culinary bookstore, an eclectic Japanese-fusion café and a peaceful Chinese restaurant—provides the perfect retreat. On the other end of the spectrum, Long Table (5th floor, 48 Column Building, Soi 16, Sukhumvit Rd.; 66-2/302-2557–9) touts stunning views, sleek design, beautiful people and highcaliber takes on Thai food. SHOP Geo, a cheerfully eccentric shop (gardening tools and Victorian bric-a-brac are sold alongside jewelry and avant-garde fashions), serves as an antidote to anodyne retail. Check out its new, lofty digs on Thonglor (988 Soi 55, Sukhumvit Rd.; 66-2/381-4324). Siam Square continues to be the testing ground for Thailand’s edgy, young labels, including Papercuts and the Pencil Sharpener (Room 256, ground floor, Lido Theater, Siam Square, Rama 1 Rd.; 66-2/251-1292), which offers sharply tailored downtown looks. STAY Located along a quiet beach in Phuket’s northwest corner, SALA Phuket Resort & Spa (333 Moo 3, Mai Khao Beach; 66-76/338-888; salaphuket.com) has 79 stylish and airy villas and rooms housed in one- and two-story buildings that evoke the island’s Sino-Portuguese heritage with black lacquer doors and chandeliers. BREATHE Housed in a four-story building in the heart of Bangkok, TRIA Integrative Wellness (998 Rimklongsamsen Rd,; 66-2/660-2602; triaintegrativewellness. com) offers everything from spa treatments to traditional Chinese medicine to counseling—all in a tranquil, lemongrass-scented setting. Six Senses Destination Spa Phuket (32 Moo 5, Tambol Paklok, Amphur Thalang; 6676/371-400; sixsenses.com) goes one step further, with four spas, the latest in gym gear, a dizzying menu of treatments and a restaurant dedicated to raw food. VIETNAM EAT Sample the swoon-inducing creations of master chef Didier Corlou at On the 6 (6 Dong Khoi St.; onthe6.com.vn), his new outpost on Saigon’s ritziest shopping drag. STAY Enjoying a scenic setting alongside Hanoi’s Tay Ho, the InterContinental Hanoi Westlake (1A Nghi Tam, Tay Ho; 84-4/270-8888; intercontinental.com; doubles from US$220) features spacious, tasteful rooms and fine restaurants. Just north of Saigon, L’Anmien Mui Ne Resort & Spa (12A Nguyen Dinh Chieu St.; Phan Thiet; 8462/374-1888; US$280) sets new standards at this up-andcoming destination with its contemporary design. 

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DEC E M B E R

There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.

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ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

F R O M T O P : C O U R T E S Y O F L O N G TA B L E ; N ATAV U T D A C H AV I J I T ; C O U R T E S Y O F G E O ; C O U R T E S Y O F L’A N M I E N M U I N E R E S O R T & S P A ; C O U R T E S Y O F S I X S E N S E S

insider | t+l


PARADISE PERFECTED. THE ST. REGIS BALI RESORT.


insider

| eat Menu du Jour Clockwise from top left: The whimsical bill of fare at The Apartment Downtown; the Pink Sage’s interpretation of an American diner; green chicken curry at The Apartment Downtown.

Four Bistros in Kuala Lumpur. A new wave of casually stylish eateries are livening up the city’s dining scene. By ROBYN ECKHARDT BIJOU THE SCENE Seaside motifs and predominantly white décor lend Bijou a bright and beachlike air by day. Come sunset and an urbane ambience prevails, with flickering votives illuminating intimate dining nooks sheltered behind sheer pink curtains. “Really good food without the ponciness,” is what restaurateur Debbie Lee had in mind when she opened the eatery in Mont Kiara, a booming new town about 15 minutes from downtown Kuala Lumpur. Amiable servers, diners attired in shorts and flip-flops, and a pool view 58

D E C E M B E R

from the patio keep the vibe relaxed. BEST BETS Scrumptiously straightforward dishes like chicken liver parfait capped with a layer of goose fat and served with slices of toasted brioche, crispy-skinned duck in a pool of cardamom-infused sauce, and seared mackerel accompanied by zesty Dijon mustard and horseradishdressed potatoes. Desserts, sourced from a bake shop owned by the same proprietor, are stupendous: don’t miss the ethereal banoffee pie—layers of banana slices encased in caramel, dark chocolate and cool espresso mousse on a digestive biscuit base. A well-traveled

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wine list includes old and new world labels. Ground floor, Damai Sari, 3 Jln. Kiara 2, Mont Kiara; 60-3/6201-2131; dinner for two with wine RM230. THE PINK SAGE THE SCENE Named after a blossom common in California, this classy take on the American diner is a rarity in these parts, serving updated versions of stateside classics amid contemporary décor. A stainless steel bar fronts an espresso machine and tall leather banquettes are soothingly creamcolored. Its location on a quiet midtown side street makes its outdoor

F R O M T O P : M E E N A A M AVA S A I / A W H I F F O F L E M O N G R A S S . C O M ; C O U R T E S Y O F T H E P I N K S A G E ; M E E N A A M AVA S A I / A W H I F F O F L E M O N G R A S S . C O M

MALAYSIA


F R O M L E F T : M E E N A A M AVA S A I / A W H I F F O F L E M O N G R A S S . C O M ; C O U R T E S Y O F M A R M A L A D E ; C O U R T E S Y O F B I J O U

tables and lounge chairs the perfect spot to enjoy an aperitif. But go early— doors shut at 7 P.M. BEST BETS If you’re ravenous, dig into hearty burgers, barbecued chicken or the sumptuous mac ’n cheese. For smaller appetites, the menu also offers refined mains such as baked dory with a refreshing fennel salad and a vegetarian-friendly, fresh-from-thegarden ratatouille bake. Takeaway sandwiches and salads are available during the week, while on the weekends, all-day breakfasts are on offer. Don’t overlook the well-crafted desserts, like the moist yellow cake sporting a wonderfully tart lemon rind–flecked glaze. Ground floor, Wisma RA, 12 Jln. Dang Wangi; 60-3/26935002; lunch for two RM60. MARMALADE THE SCENE On weekend mornings, KL-ites head to this sweet café in Bangsar’s newest shopping center for its extensive breakfast selection comprising favorites like pancakes, wholesome muesli and the full English fry-up (eggs, bacon, sausage, toast, mushrooms, baked beans and tomato). With its polished cement floor, colorful wall murals, picture windows framing

a view of the greenery outside and beadboard wainscoting, the café eludes the cookie-cutter feel of many mall eateries. If you want to avoid the morning crowds, come in the afternoon, grab a few magazines from the selection arranged around a center table’s tall vase of gerbera daisies and kick back with a long flat white and a slice of old-fashioned carrot cake. BEST BETS You can’t lose with breakfast. After 12 P.M., the kitchen churns out a delectable selection of salads, quiches, pastas and gourmet sandwiches (including chicken char siu with pear, chili and ginger jam). Order the basil-flecked avocado-and-egg salad that fi lls an inspired Lebanese wrap, and wash it down with one of the café’s freshly made juices. 1st floor, Bangsar Village II, 2 Jln. Telawi Dua, Bangsar Baru; 60-3/2282-8301; lunch for two RM85. THE APARTMENT DOWNTOWN THE SCENE High exposed ceilings, square support pillars, and track and chandelier lighting give this spot in the upscale Petronas Towers–attached KL City Center mall the feel of a Manhattan loft. Three dining rooms spread over two floors boast well-

spaced tables and lounge seating, and walls of glass and a fan-cooled patio offer a view of the adjacent park’s fountains. Tourists, spent shoppers and corporate types pack the tables breakfast through lunch; in the evening, the bistro’s extensive cocktail list keeps a buzzy crowd hanging around long after the plates have been cleared. BEST BETS With its emphasis on simplicity and fresh ingredients, the wide-ranging menu is an unabashed ode to Jamie Oliver. Eye-openers include eggs benedict and French toast, while chili jam–dressed squid and crispy red mullet salad are must-have starters. For mains, you’ll happily polish off the slow-roasted duck-andred-wine ragù or the wild mushroomstuffed tenderloin. Local flavors come to the fore in desserts like peanut butter–filled crepes embellished with kaya. Lot G48 and 139, ground and 1st floor, Suria KLCC, Kuala Lumpur City Center; 60-3/2166-2257; dinner for two with wine RM255. 

Room for Dessert Left: Peanut butter and kaya pancakes served at The Apartment Downtown. Below: Marmalade’s dining room. Right: Alfresco dining at Bijou.

If you reject food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home. T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E S E A

.

JAMES MICHENER

C O M | D E C E M B E R

2008

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LAOS Amantaka February Amanresorts will bring its magic to Luang Prabang with a 24suite hotel housed in an old colonial hospital.

VIETNAM Six Senses Hideaway Con Dao July With its streamlined design, the 51-villa resort marks something of a departure from Six Senses’ rustic aesthetic. Another major attraction: its location on Con Son Island, the largest in the pristine Con Dao archipelago.

CHINA Mandarin Oriental Beijing March Luxury and incomparable service in a striking asymmetrical tower with dramatic angles that’s part of the CCTV complex designed by Rem Koolhaas and Ole Scheeren. Tangula luxury trains April Ride the rails between Beijing and Lhasa or Beijing and Lijiang (two routes that provide some of Asia’s most jaw-dropping scenery) on these state-of-the-art trains. Hotel Côté Cour 798 April A 38-room boutique property located smack in the middle of Beijing’s famous art district from an innovative hotelier whose first project was a stylish, clever reimagining of a traditional courtyard house. New Contemporary Art Centre in Songzhuang End of the year A vast space devoted to contemporary art from all over Asia, located in an artists’ village 30 kilometers east of Beijing. MACAU Malo Clinic and Spa April A 7,800-squaremeter facility with six operating theaters, 58 spa rooms and more than 50 doctors and 100 spa therapists — a grandiose take on the medi-spa that will be appropriately housed in The Venetian Macao, a huge resort.

witnessing a slew of exciting new openings next year. Here, the hotels, restaurants and more that we’re keeping tabs on. By JENNIFER CHEN

HONG KONG Salon de Ning December 2008 Old Shanghai meets Marrakech (with a bit of the Swiss Alps thrown in) at this clubby, multi-room lounge in The Peninsula. Cocktail enthusiasts should try the signature Ning Sling, a mix of Absolut Mandarin and lychee liqueur topped with mint leaves. Les Amis January Chef Thomas Mayr of Singapore’s top-rated French restaurant will test his mettle in Hong Kong.

The Class of 2009. Credit crunch or no credit crunch, Asia will be

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| what’s next


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* Dates are subject to change.

THAILAND Phulay Bay March The Ritz-Carlton sheds its formal image with this secluded resort in Krabi, designed by Lek Bunnag, the architect behind the wonderfully medina-like Barai in Hua Hin. The first of the hotel’s new Reserve brand. Soneva Kiri April Live like Robinson Crusoe — though with far more creature comforts — at this hideaway on the unspoiled island of Ko Kood. Developer Six Senses will also raise the bar on green design with a prototype of its first carbon-neutral suite. The Yamu December Located on a private peninsula in Phuket, this ultra-luxurious resort will have 69 rooms and suites designed by Philippe Starck, a private kitchen, a chocolate room, a 100-meter pool as well as a recording studio and artist’s studio. KEY: Where to stay Where to eat What to see Spa

Nightlife Train Riverboat Entertainment complex

SINGAPORE Overeasy December/January The hipster restaurateurs behind Loof Bar and The White Rabbit will open a slick interpretation of an American diner at One Fullerton. On the menu: all-day brunch and American classics like Philly cheese steaks. Capella Singapore March Norman Foster, Jaya Ibrahim, Andre Fu and Yasuhiro Koichi all played a part in designing this 12-hectare resort set around a gracious 1880’s colonial building. Marina Bay Sands December A Moshe Safdie–designed complex that will house the city’s first casino, a massive hotel, an amphitheater-shaped museum and a futuristic 1-hectare “sky park” that spans three towers. Look out for news about topname chefs opening eateries here.

CAMBODIA The MV Jayavarman July A 58-meter riverboat that will be the first five-star vessel to make the journey between Saigon and Siem Reap (via Phnom Penh).

INDONESIA Alila Villas Uluwatu April Beautifully understated villas — all straight lines and open spaces — perched on limestone cliffs overlooking the Indian Ocean. The design by Singapore-based WOHA also takes green seriously: roofs are paved with porous volcanic rock that helps insulate the villas, which were constructed with wood from old telegraph poles and wooden train cars. W Retreat & Spa Seminyak September W Hotels’ first entry in Indonesia promises plenty of pizzazz. The design, by SCAD of Singapore, has parts of the hotel raised on stilts, while the villas feature terrazzo floors and urbane bedrooms. The resort will also likely burnish the ‘hood’s reputation as having the finest dining on the island.

PHILIPPINES Manila Contemporary November 2008 The latest gallery in the Philippine capital to focus on the country’s art scene — which we predict will start gaining the attention it deserves.


insider

| deconstruction

Inside the Mini-Bar. Forget peanuts, watery lager and M&M’s. We scoured the globe for great in-room treats that really give you a sense—and taste—of where you are. By STIRLING KELSO Belize Blancaneaux Lodge’s peanut -and-honey granola bars (US$1.75) are made in the town of San Ignacio, 37 kilometers away. blancaneaux. com; doubles from US$250.

T+LRS' O EDIT S PICK

Oregon The mini-bars at Hotel Monaco stock one of Portland’s best beers: Drop Top Amber Ale (US$5), made at a partially wind-powered brewery near the waterfront. monaco-portland. com; doubles from US$239.

Mexico Once a Mayan herbal remedy — and now a favorite margarita mixer — sweetlemon–flavored Damiana Liqueur (US$33) from Baja is kept on ice at Las Ventanas al Paraíso, in Los Cabos. rosewoodhotels.com; doubles from US$1,000.

Vermont Set in the countryside, Twin Farms has free snacks that change seasonally, like this fall cheddar from Grafton Valley Cheese Co., 112 kilometers away. twinfarms. com; doubles from US$1,200.

Spain The classic Tempranillo Reserva (US$35) and Rueda Verdejo (US$24) are both produced at Marqués de Riscal’s on-site winery. marques deriscal.com; doubles from US$460.

Thailand To help support the Doi Tung produce co-op, run by 27 local villages and tribes, Anantara Golden Triangle carries its fairtrade nuts (US$2) and coffee beans (US$3). anantara. com; doubles from US$430.

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Quebec Manoir Hovey, 11/2 hours east of Montreal, taps nearby maple farms to create its syrup (US$10). The sweet stuff is also found in the hotel’s hazelnut granola (US$8). manoirhovey. com; doubles from US$265.

A jouney is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.

DEC E M B E R 2 0 0 8| T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E S E A . C O M

Bermuda Both Fairmont hotels in Bermuda supply all the ingredients — Barritt’s Stone Ginger Beer (US$3.50), Gosling’s Black Seal Rum (US$8), and a glass — for the island’s classic cocktail, the Dark ’n Stormy. fairmont.com; doubles from US$299.

Italy Rose-flavored Santa Maria Novella liqueurs (US$53), originally distilled by monks in a 1612 Florentine pharmacy, are on offer at the new Four Seasons Firenze. fourseasons.com; doubles from US$710.

JOHN STEINBECK

D AV I E S + S TA R R

Washington Seattle’s Alexis Hotel gives complimentary boxes of Chukar’s iconic chocolatecovered cherries (sold at Pike Place Market) to anyone who knows to ask. alexishotel.com; doubles from US$339.

California Nana Mae’s heirloom apple juices and Woodhouse handmade chocolates from neighboring St. Helena are two of the many free in-room items at Napa Valley’s Calistoga Ranch. calistogaranch. com; doubles from US$720.


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StylishTraveler

KEYS

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C A R LY L E

A peek inside this exclusive New York address—and what to bring to dress the part. Photographed by CHRISTOPHER STURMAN. Styled by MIMI LOMBARDO 64

M O D E L : A R A N C H A / T R U M P M O D E L M A N A G E M E N T ; H A I R : R O B E R T LY O N / J E D R O O T ; M A K E U P : C Y N T H I A S O B E K / J U D Y C A S E Y

Arriving at the Carlyle, A Rosewood Hotel (35 E. 76th St.; 1-888/767-3966; rosewoodhotels. com; doubles from US$755). Wool coat, by Calvin Klein Collection (calvinklein.com); satin blouse, sequin-embroidered skirt, Bill Blass (billblass.com); patent heels, Gucci (gucci.com); gold and diamond ear clips, gold and mother-of-pearl necklace, and gold and diamond ring, Van Cleef & Arpels (vancleef-arpels.com); 18karat gold and diamond bracelet, Jewels of the Ocean; patent tote, Bally (bally.com); green patent duffel, wheeled suitcase, Kate Spade (katespade.com); orange leather suitcase, trunk, GlobeTrotter (globe-trotterltd.com); white rolling hardcase, Bric’s; canvas tote, Lanvin (lanvin.com).


stylish traveler | fashion

Silk dress by Michael Kors (michaelkors. com); rafďŹ a heels, Stuart Weitzman (stuartweitzman.com); sterling silver link bracelet, spinel-link bracelet, Jane Taylor (janetaylor.com); chrome-strap watch, Versace (versace.com); leather satchel, D&G (dolcegabbana.com).

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aving a cocktail in the Empire Suite, which features a collection of original paintings, photographs and other artworks inspired by the city circa 1930, when the hotel ďŹ rst opened, curated by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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stylish traveler | fashion

Satin dress, by Dolce & Gabbana; patentleather pumps, Christian Louboutin (christianlouboutin. com); 22-karat gold earrings, Nancey Chapman (nanceychapman. com); satin-strapped watch, Versace; resin bangles, R. J. Graziano (maxandchloe.com); 18-karat gold ring, Jewels of the Ocean; leather roller, Versace; cotton tote with bamboo handles, Gucci; cotton-canvas duffel bag, Bric’s.

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erched at the Carlyle’s Bemelmans Bar, named after Ludwig Bemelmans, the legendary artist who, in 1947, covered its walls with whimsical murals depicting Central Park—his only commission open to the public.

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Jersey dress, leather belt by Louis Vuitton (louisvuitton.com); napa leather pumps, Bally; gold and diamond ear clips, Van Cleef & Arpels; patentleather purse, Yves Saint Laurent (ysl. com); velour travel bag, Bally; canvas trolley, Bottega Veneta (bottegaveneta.com).

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aking in a panoramic view of Central Park from the Carlyleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s recently redone Empire Suite, a two-story, two-bedroom, 242-square-meter former private residence. 69


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Silk dress by Moschino Cheap & Chic (moschino.it); pearl and diamond earrings, bracelet, Iridesse (iridesse.com); pigskin organizer, Smythson of Bond Street (smythson.com); python tote, Ralph Lauren Collection (ralphlauren.com); patent-leather shoe bag, Bally. In shoe bag: Leather pumps, D&G; rafďŹ a heels, Stuart Weitzman; alligator purse, Alexandra Knight (alexandraknightonline. com); sunglasses, Marc by Marc Jacobs (marcjacobs.com).

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ounging in bed, pondering the Carlyleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s storied past. 

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Promotional Feature

The Right Place, Always The newly renovated Impiana Samui Resort & Spa offers service and seclusion

T

he Impiana Samui Resort & Spa is a must-visit destination on the beautiful Thai island of Ko Samui, offering splendid hospitality in an ideal setting. Located on Chaweng Noi on the southern coast of Chaweng beach, this recently renovated resort offers world-renowned Thai hospitality, providing guests with unmatched personal attention from arrival to departure. The resort boasts a secluded beachfront and white-sand setting, plus lush, tropical gardens. Recent renovations also saw all guest rooms newly furnished and reimagined—each room rises from landscaped slopes that reveal Thailand’s tropical island heaven. A short walk away, colonial-style rooms, cottages and suites also offer superb facilities. Guests can take in uninterrupted ocean views or simply

stretch out on their private balconies and fall asleep to the sound of waves lapping the beach. Room decoration and amenities provide a true sense of retreat, allowing guests to experience Impiana’s signature blend of relaxation, value and sensuality. A recent addition to the suite of facilities is the resort’s unlimited and free wireless Internet access. The resort also has full banquet and conference facilities, for your meetings and functions. In harmony with its setting, the resort’s restaurants offer a combination of favorites. The award-winning Tamarind boasts fantastic “East meets West” cuisine and is an excellent venue for cocktails and cigars, with an American eight-ball pool table. Meanwhile, guests can enjoy a combination of beachside and all-day dining serving local specialties and international cuisine at Sabai, with its stunning views of Chaweng Noi. Of

course, food in Thailand is not just about satisfying hunger—it is about creativity, art and lifestyle. A laid-back buffet and tantalizing barbecues by the beach are just a few of the resort’s treats, while the inviting Beach Bar is the perfect venue for unwinding with a refreshing cocktail by the beach. In addition, the Swasana Spa, Impiana’s own brand, is located at the heart of the resort and presents guests with the relaxing, ambient sounds of cascading water before they even reach the treatment rooms. Inside, a sandstone water feature beguiles visitors and the rich, deep-toned interior and sweet aromas immediately creates a peaceful mood, while professional staff take care of visitors’ needs. Visit now to see why our motto is “The Right Place, Always.” For more information, visit www.impiana.com


stylish traveler

ELLIOT’S TRAVELS The globe-trotting, British-born founder of luxury concierge service Quintessentially, Ben Elliot reveals his personal favorites in New York, London and beyond to T+L. By JENNIFER CHEN

to meet the demands of the world’s wealthiest? Ben Elliot, the driving force behind the exclusive Quintessentially concierge service, isn’t telling. That discretion—plus ingenuity plus determination—is how the English aristocrat turned his fi rm, whose clientele includes Gwyneth Paltrow and Madonna, into a global empire with offices in 45 countries and some 3,000 employees over the course of eight years. Elliot, who divides his time between London and New York, sees Asia—especially China—as the fi rm’s largest growing market. So we catch up with him to see what’s on his list of travel must-do’s.

W

ANY DREAM DESTINATIONS? The North Pole — I wish I’d been able to join the recent Quintessentially North Pole expedition we organized — and Petra, Jordan is next though!

ANT TO KNOW WHAT IT TAKES

● WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE DESTINATION?

Global Nomad Above: The Treasury in Petra, Jordan. Left: London’s Big Ben and New York’s Statue of Liberty.

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My family home in Dorset, England. I’m lucky enough to spend most of my time traveling the world on Quintessentially business, but Dorset is where I go to regroup and defi nitely the place I feel most relaxed. ● WHAT SIX THINGS DO YOU ALWAYS PACK?

1. My Quintessentially card. 2. A good book—I’m currently reading Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises.

C LO C KW I S E F RO M TO P L E F T: CO U RT ESY O F B E N E L L I OT; S COT T A WO O DWA R D ; © H O L G E R M E T T E / D R E A M S T I M E . C O M ; © L E A H S A V A G E / D R E A M S T I M E . C O M ; © F LY N T / D R E A M S T I M E . C O M

U.K.

| on the road


TOP THREE RESTAURANTS Scott’s (20 Mount St.; 44-20/7495-7309). One of London’s most famous seafood restaurants — with a great oyster bar. A revived classic. Locanda Locatelli (8 Seymour St.; 44-20/79359088) — this place has a great atmosphere and staff — serving delicious Italian cuisine. Try and get a date when Locatelli himself is in the kitchen. And Le Café Anglais (8 Porchester Gardens; 44-20/7221-1415). A giant, buzzing dining room featuring an open kitchen.

Luxe Life Clockwise from far left: Ben Elliot; The Datai in Langkawi; poolside at Phuket’s Trisara resort; Sony’s Vaio laptop; London’s Locanda Locatelli restaurant; oysters on the half shell.

3. My Smythson Panama Featherweight Diary. 4. My Sony Vaio. 5. Iced Aftershave Tonic by Trumper. 6. My Dunhill Sidecar Briefcase.

C LO C KW I S E F RO M L E F T: CO U RT ESY O F T R I SA RA ; CO U RT ESY O F S O N Y; CO U RT ESY O F L O C A N D A L O C AT E L L I ; © K A L I N I N D M I T R I Y / D R E A M S T I M E . C O M

● BEST BARS IN NEW YORK?

The Box (189 Chrystie St.; 1-212/982-9301). [It’s an] entertaining burlesque place on the Lower East Side—a night out. Bemelmans Bar at The Carlyle Hotel (35 E. 76th St.; 1-212/744-1600) … Try the Gin-Gin Mule— gin, homemade ginger beer, fresh mint and lime juice. And Rose Bar (2 Lexington Ave.; 1-212/920-3300). This is a mismatch of styles with classic cocktails, but really works—set up like an 18th-century French salon with medieval touches and Warhol on the walls. ● ANY FAVORITES IN HONG KONG?

I’ve visited Hong Kong many times over the years, and have some great friends there. The new Sevva (25th floor, Prince’s Building, Central; 852/2537-1388) must have the best views in Hong Kong, the wraparound terrace is great. David Tang’s iconic China Club (13th floor, Old Bank of China Building, Bank St., Central; 852/2521-8888) is a must—if you have a friend that’s a member. The funky décor is home to what must be Hong Kong’s best art collection and the Peking Duck is delicious! I’m a big fan of the strawberry Daiquiris at Feather Boa (38 Staunton St.; 852/2857-2586), but they’re huge so order a second with care! Da Ping Huo (49 Hollywood Rd.; 852/25591317) is a tucked-away private kitchen restaurant with just a few tables. The nightly set menu is Sichuan and gets progressively spicier—if you’re lucky, the owner’s wife will serenade you at the end of your meal.

● THE TOP REQUESTED HOTELS IN ASIA?

Our members’ hotel favorites range from the legendary groups such as Mandarin Oriental, Aman and Four Seasons to bespoke resorts like The Datai in Langkawi (60-4/959-2500; ghmhotels.com), The Legian in Bali (62361/730-622; ghmhotels.com), El Nido in the Philippines (63-2/894-5644; elnidoresorts.com), 3 Nagas in Luang Prabang (856-71/253-888; alilahotels.com) and Trisara in Phuket (66-76/310-100; trisara.com). ● WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MOST UNUSUAL REQUESTS YOU’VE HAD TO FIELD?

We have been asked to fi nd everything from taxidermists, professional makeup artists, choirs, tickets to movie premiers, waterproof pillows and discontinued Chanel handbags to pet passports, plastic surgery recommendations and fashion collection previews. I’m sure you’ve already heard about being asked to fi nd four penguins, a pair of llamas and a pair of doves for an embassy party? But please don’t forget that we handle everyday/ordinary matters for our members too. ● AND HOW DID YOU HANDLE THEM?

Well, that would be telling.  DECEMBER 2008| T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E S E A . C O M

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CELEBRATING NEW YEAR’S EVE IN ASIA: ASIA: 12 COOL IDEAS

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gift guide | stylish traveler

WISH LIST

It’s a time of year for giving, and here, the perfect gifts for that special someone. Photographed by SITTIPUN CHAITERDSIRI. Styled by ATINAN NITISUNTHONKUL FOR HER 1 Canvas hatbox, Louis Vuitton, louisvuitton. com; 2 Cotton knit socks, Muji, muji.com; 3 Moisturizing cream, Crème de la Mer, cremedelamer.com; 4 Lace bra, La Perla, laperla.com; 5 Leather bag, Prada, prada. com; 6 Guidebooks, Luxe City Guides, luxecityguides.com; 7 Camera, Olympus, olympus. com; 8 Silk scarf, Hermès, hermes.com; 9 Passport holder, Fendi, fendi.com; 10 Diamond necklace, Cartier, cartier.com; 11 Sunglasses, Christian Dior, dior.com; 12 Blush by Marc Jacobs, Marc Jacobs, marcjacobs.com; 13 Loafers, Tod’s, tods.com.

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FOR HIM 1 Shoe case, Louis Vuitton; 2 Vera Wang for Men, Vera Wang, verawang.com; 3 Wool scarf, Tod’s, tods.com; 4 Umbrella with leather handle, Longchamp, longchamp.com; 5 Leather gloves, Hugo Boss, boss.com; 6 Cotton boxers, Thomas Pink, thomaspink.com; 7 Guidebooks, Wallpaper*, wallpaper.com; 8 Silver dice, Hermès; 9 Pen, Dunhill, dunhill.com; 10 Notebooks with city maps, Moleskine, moleskineasia.com; 11 Money clip, Prada, prada.com; 12 Portable GPS, Mio, mio.com; 13 Wool hat, Lanvin, lanvin.com; 14 Mobile phone with GPS, camera and Internet access, Nokia, nokia.com; 15 Portable iPod speakers, JBL, jbl.com; 16 Sunglasses, Montblanc, montblanc.com; 17 Moisturizing lotion, Kiehl’s, kiehls.com; 18 Camera with underwater casing, Sony, sony.com; 19 Diving watch, Mares, mares.com.

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FOR KIDS 1 Pinhole camera, Kidzlabs, kidstore.co.uk; 2 Toothbrush, Paul Smith, paulsmith.com; 3 Portable PlayStation, Sony, playstation.com; 4 Washbag, Shanghai Tang, shanghaitang.com; 5 Slipper socks, Burberry, burberry.com; 6 Stuffed toy, Ugly Dolls, uglydolls.com; 7 Portable DVD player, Sony; 8 Keychain, Kate Spade, katespade.com; 9 Pillow mist, The Bodyshop, thebodyshop.co.uk; 10 Inflatable globe, Toys ”R” Us, toysrus.com; 11 Mary Janes, Hermès; 12 Selected Tales from Beatrix Potter, Penguin, penguin.com; 13 T-shirt, Burberry, burberry.com; 14 Pop-up card, Muji.

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stylish traveler | street

corner

PEOPLE -WATCHING T+L checks out real London style at street level and asks a dozen local trendsetters for their top shopping tips in the big city. Photographed by ANDREAS BLECKMANN

KIPLING ONCE WROTE THAT “East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet.” He could have been talking about fashion in London. This fall, we visited two very different parts of town, and learned where stylish residents go to create their looks. First stop: Broadway Market, in the East End. Once the last leg of a livestock trail to Slaughter Street, it’s now the heart of a cutting-edge gallery scene and a veritable UN of creative types. Next we headed west to posh Mayfair, and spoke with dapper style-setters near the designer souk that is Dover Street Market. We ended our excursion on King’s Road in Chelsea, where both Charles II and Mick Jagger once grooved, and found royally chic Londoners dressed (as Kipling might say) just so.—S W A Z I C L A R I T Y

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UDYARD

EAST LONDON

WEST LONDON

Broadway Market & Westgate Street

Dover Street & Stafford Street

ALISTAIR MADDOX DJ “Everyone says I’m like Paddington Bear, as I carry my stuff in my father’s old lunch box and wear brogues that a friend bought me at Fifth Avenue Shoe Repairs (41 Goodge St.; 44-20/ 7636-6705); they inspired a Swedish fashion label of the same name.”

ALAN TITCHARD TOUR GUIDE “Today I’m leading the Oscar Wilde walk. He always wore a green carnation. My wife makes all my waistcoats, but I bought my hat at James Lock (6 St. James’s St.; 44-20/7930-8874). No Englishman has any business buying hats elsewhere.”

U.K.

KATE RAWLINSON BURLESQUE DANCER “There’s a relationship between the music and fashion scenes here. On Saturdays, I like to watch up-and-coming bands play at Beyond Retro (112 Cheshire St.; 4420/7613-3636), where I got my top. It’s the best vintage shop in London.”

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ELODIE OTTOW FASHION BUYER “I always go to the Dover Street Market (17–18 Dover St.; 44-20/7518-0680). The designers there are very fashion-forward. But in London, anything goes. It’s more about personal style than labels — you can mix high-end with thrift.” »


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WEST LONDON

Broadway Market & Westgate Street

King’s Road & Duke of York Square

SOPHIE HOWARD-JONES GRAPHIC DESIGNER “I moved here from West London. There’s a real buzz at the weekends — always a new exhibit to check out. I like browsing the boutiques around Brick Lane and going to the Columbia Road Flower Market (Sundays 8 A.M.–2 P.M.).”

KIM BUTTERISS ASTROLOGER “I suppose I never grew out of the whole dressing-up game. I always wear a hat, gloves and heels, and I have my dresses custom-made. I go to the fabulous vintage fair Frock Me (Chelsea Town Hall, Kings Rd.; frockmevintagefashion.com; next fair December 14).”

MEGHAN CLANCY ACTRESS “We’re headed to the galleries near Vyner Street; my favorite is Hotel (53 Old Bethnal Green Rd.; 44-20/7729-3122).” TOM LALANDE JOURNALIST “My jacket is from Pop Boutique (6 Monmouth St., Covent Garden; 44-20/7497-5262).”

LUKE SPILLANE STUDENT “We like the music shop Zavvi (Kings Walk Shopping Centre; 44-20/7591-0957).” DOLLY OLADINI STUDENT “We have trends, but we’re confident enough to dress independently of them. I got my bag at Artbox (various locations; artbox.co.uk).”

MILLY MCMAHON MAGAZINE INTERN “The striped shirt is my dad’s, and my skirt is part of an old school uniform that I found in a charity store. I love shopping at local car-boot sales and Sunday markets. I’m off for a pint at George & Dragon (2 Hackney Rd.).”

JOY ST. DENIS SALES ASSISTANT “I like to look smart, but with a little pizzazz. Especially today — I’m going for a job interview. I bought my V-neck and shirt at Primark (primark.co.uk), and the shorts are from Topshop (topshop.co.uk).”

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ONE-YEAR ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL

87 ESSENTIAL SOUTHEAST ASIAN EXPERIENCES

To celebrate Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia’s first birthday, our editorial and design teams combed the region’s unknown nooks and chic crannies, creating a list of quintessential experiences. Here, we present our final pick of 87 Southeast Asian must-dos. We hope you’ll be inspired to try something new and unique on your travels.

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No. 1 Take high tea at The Strand in Rangoon. The set menu includes gooey pastries and a variety of teas, the hotel’s special lemongrass mint among them. V

No. 2 Go to Bangkok’s Sukhumvit Soi 38 at night for duck noodles and other dishes. It’s also an excellent place to see a crosssection of Thai society — Bangkok’s elite roll up in their Mercedes to pick up meals.

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No. 13 Gorge at Rut & Lek Seafood in Bangkok’s Chinatown for cheerfully cheap and amazingly fresh fish right on the street. Stir-fried crab and grilled giant prawns are a must. So is everything else — bring friends so you can order more dishes.

No. 18 Join the aid-worker set for lunch at The Shop in Phnom Penh, where wonderful pastries and sandwiches are on the menu in an airy, sunlit room. V

No. 12 In the heart of Bangkok, the secret garden at colonial-styled Agalico is a perfect setting for tea and homemade scones. V

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No. 4 Shake off that late Saturday night and indulge in Sunday brunch at Bangkok’s Four Seasons, where the seafood bar works miracles on any hangover.

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No. 3 Feed on an ultra-fresh fish dinner in Kota Kinabalu, from where much of Malaysia’s seafood is supplied.

Visit Bobby Chinn, who cooks up fusion dishes (above), but in a good way—think filet mignon spring rolls—which helped revolutionize Hanoi’s dining scene. No. 11

East meets West at Iggy’s in Singapore. V

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No. 7 Soak in the spectacular views at Dining on the Rocks on Ko Samui.

No. 20 Sample sensational rooftop dining Sunset on Six, Seminyak’s newest and coolest restaurant. V

No. 6 In Macau, don’t gamble on your lunch. The prix fixe menu is a steal at Robuchon à Galera.

No. 19 We dare you to resist the hawker stands in Penang, Malaysia’s street-eats epicenter, particularly Jalan Selamat in Georgetown at night. V

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No. 5 Dig into world-class dining where

No. 14 Get up early and head to any

location of Simply Bread in Singapore for one of the best breakfasts around.

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No. 8 Order a Femme Fatale in Raffles Hotel Le Royal’s (right) colonial-cozy Elephant Bar in Cambodia. The drink commemorates Jacqueline Kennedy’s 1967 stay to fulfill “a lifelong dream to visit Angor Wat.”

No. 21 Sink a tall, cold Angkor beer while you take in the sunset at “the F,” Phnom Penh’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club, the expat bar to beat them all. The geckos on the walls would agree.

No. 22 Grab a typical Malay breakfast of roti canai: flaky, buttery bread dunked in a spicy chickpea or lentil curry. Then wash it down with a kopi, the strong black coffee with a dollop of sweetened condensed milk. V

handmade egg tarts at Lord Stow’s Bakery, a true Macau culinary experience. V

No. 15 Take your morning

cuppa Hainan-style, and stop into Yut Kee, a nearly 80-year-old coffee shop in Kuala Lumpur, run by the son and grandson of the original owner who migrated from the Chinese island.

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No. 17 Be adventurous and try some traditional Khmer dishes — delicacies such as stir-fried frogs and dried snake — at Siem Reap’s Meric restaurant or splurge on a private temple dinner organized by your fivestar hotel.

Don’t miss cendol, a super-sweet Malaysian/ Indonesian dessert of shaved ice, coconut milk, mung bean pasta and lots of palm sugar syrup. The place to have it is in Melaka at Makko Nyonya Restaurant. V

No. 16 Get a sugar rush at Canelé, a Singapore patisserie that produces heavenly macaroons, which have been given the stamp of approval by Pierre Hermé, the famous French pastry chef. V

No. 10 Groove at tropical-chic restaurant/bar/beach club Ku De Ta (below) in Bali. Then, with a last spurt of energy, have an early breakfast before the hedonists roll in, or dinner/drinks when they return to toast another day spent in paradise.

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No. 9 Buy a box of the legendary

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No. 28 Be cuddled in Old World comfort by Southeast Asia’s grande dames: Mandarin Oriental (Bangkok), The Strand (Rangoon), Raffles (Singapore), The Metropole (Hanoi) and the Raffles Royal (Phnom Penh). V

No. 29 Lose yourself to the comforts of The Dharmawangsa, the most elegant oasis in Jakarta. V V

No. 31 Want a taste of the “new” Singapore? Then book into The New Majestic, where Mid-Century finds, provocative art and individually designed rooms give it the cutting edge.

Retreat to the Six Senses Hideaway Yao Noi (above), only 45 minutes from Phuket, and be surrounded by lush jungle, tiny fishing villages and untouched beaches. V

No. 30 Take bliss to a new level at Phuket’s Amanpuri, the first Amanresorts property and still our favorite getaway.

No. 32 Copper-plated bathtubs, antique furniture and four-poster beds make The Eugenia (right) in Bangkok the perfect blend of boutique and faux-colonial.

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No. 38 Experience razor-sharp moves at the unique and classy, Shanghai-styled shaving room at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong.

No. 40 Built around a collection of rammed earth huts, the spa at Six Senses Hideaway Hua Hin is the perfect spot for some serious soothing. Hats off, too, to the resort’s green mindset. V

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No. 34 Place yourself in the hands of the region’s most talented facialists at Spa Esprit in Singapore and save face, lah.

No. 35 Take the helicopter from the rooftop of The Peninsula for a “flightseeing” trip—the only helicopter service of its kind in Hong Kong. High on anyone’s wow-meter, flights range from 15 minutes to one hour. You can fly even if you’re not staying at the hotel or zoom off to Macau (heliservices.com.hk). V

No. 27 Have a brew at the Beer Garden at Suan Lum Night Bazaar — honest, cheap grub, dancers and Premier League football on TV — a genuine Bangkok experience, but one that may not last, so get there now!

No. 39 Cool off in a swimming pool replicated from an Angkor king’s royal bathing ponds at the Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor in Siem Reap.

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beach at The Datai in Langkawi, surrounded by lush jungle. If castaway Tom Hanks washed up here, he’d have stayed with his coconut.

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No. 33 Discover your inner wellness

down on The Farm. Scrubs, rubs, internal flushing (colon, kidneys), this holistic resort in the Philippines is the original get-fit boot camp in Asia.

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No. 37 Relax on the beautiful

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No. 26 Visit La Verticale (below) for expertly done French food by one of Hanoi’s best chefs, Didier Corlou.

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No. 25 Enjoy a round table full of fish dishes at East Lake Restaurant on Cheung Chau, one of Hong Kong’s outlying islands that has no cars; the only access is by ferry on the South China Sea. Then, work off the food by walking around the island. V

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No. 24 Dine on dim sum at City Hall Maxim’s Palace (below) in Hong Kong. Enjoy the backdrop of Victoria Harbour and a high-decibel soundtrack of animated diners, some of whom you may end up with in a bid to get everyone seated as soon as possible.


MAN-MADE WONDERS

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No. 42 Ride on the Singapore Flyer (below), the world’s tallest Ferris wheel.

No. 44 Offering a picture-postcard view of Hong Kong, Lugard Road, a complete circuit of Victoria Peak, is a great way to rise above the buzz—which you can still hear—of the bustling city below. There’s the added bonus of taking the Peak Tram up, too. V

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No. 41 Wander through the most majestic of royal tombs in Hué, Vietnam: Minh Mang, which dates to the 1840’s and is known for its stunning architectural details that blend into the local environment.

No. 50 Pssst, want cheap in one of the world’s most expensive cities? Take the Star Ferry from Tsimshatsui to Hong Kong Island at night for an unforgettable view. It only costs the equivalent of 28 U.S. cents! V

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No. 45 Seen at dawn, Angkor Wat is an unforgettable sight, but if the crowds there are too much, head for the Bayon temple at Angkor Thom as the sun rises.

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No. 46 View Bangkok’s Temple of Dawn, but here’s the secret: it’s best visited at dusk. You can then watch rice barges gliding along the Chao Phraya, Bangkok’s river of kings. V

No. 47 When in Pagan, the sweeping valley of temples in Burma, forego a traditional ox cart by cycling around the thousand-yearold temples or, for a less-strenuous and champagne-filled view, opt for a 45-minute balloon ride (balloonsoverbagan.com). V

No. 48 In a city of superlatives, Hong Kong just had to have the world’s longest escalator. If you’re headed uphill in Central, you’ll be glad they did.

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No. 49 Indonesia’s most-visited attraction, Borobudur, is home to more than 500 images of Buddha, making this a man-made locale unlike anywhere else in the world.

Enjoy the majesty of Bangkok’s Grand Palace, either as it sparkles under an early-morning glow or when it lights up the city’s skyline at night. No. 51

SHOPPING

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which has a mind-boggling array of shops, restaurants, cinemas and more. At Christmas or New Year’s, chill out in one of the many nighttime beer gardens in front of the store and soak up the live music vibes. And if such indulgence makes you feel guilty, head to the nearby and lively Brahmic and Buddhist Erawan Shrine.

buzzing Lao trade fair. At 8 A.M., the market throbs with vendors ranging from wholesale tobacco sellers to a hawker dangling a clutch of squirming lizards from a string.

No. 57 Buy hand-

woven, natural-dyed textiles (left) at OckPopTok (ockpoptok. com) in Luang Prabang.

No. 58 From May to July, visit the Great Singapore Sale in the region’s shopping capital. V

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Try Ann Siang Hill and Haji Lane to get a taste of Singapore cool. Super-hip boutiques with carefully curated threads. No. 54.

No. 56 Shop at Pakse Market, a

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No. 53 Stroll down Hong Kong’s crowded Cat Street on weekends. Opium pipes, “new” antiques, jade jewelry, animal-shaped brass locks and 1960’s Mao statues are the bargains here.

No. 55 Hit CentralWorld in Bangkok,

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Bangkok’s Chatuchak Weekend Market. Go early, wear comfortable shoes, bargain and take your time; one day — even three — won’t be enough to see it all.

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No. 52 Visit the mother of all markets:

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Follow in the footsteps of a million devotees at the Thaipusam Festival, a symbol of penance and atonement among Hindus, which next makes a 20-kilometer trek from Kuala Lumpur to the Batu Caves Temple on January 23, 2009. No. 43

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No. 59 Jump-start your party at Double Six: Bali’s most rocking club with its own bungee jump.

No. 63 Groove the night away at Zouk in Singapore with some of the best DJ’s in the world.

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No. 65 Visit Mae Hong Song to experience how some of Thailand’s diverse hill tribes live.

No. 71 Experience Galungan (May) and Kuningan Day (August), the most important festivals in the Balinese year.

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No. 66 Get soaked at Songkran in Chiang Mai in April. For a more spiritual but spectacular affair, try Loy Krathong in Sukhothai in November.

No. 72 Go to one of the world’s greatest horse races, in Hong Kong. Sit in the stands with the throngs of locals. V

casinos and get in some hands of baccarat or blackjack, or take a turn at the roulette wheel or the craps table. To get a sense of how the city has changed, visit the original Lisboa, with its dark gambling pit of coffee-stained tables, or the new Macau at the Sands, the Wynn or the Crown.

No. 70 Before it’s completely overrun by tourism, visit Luang Prabang, which retains its sleepy charm for now. V

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No. 64 Go to bed in Bangkok. Bed Supperclub (left), that is. The white sci-fi tube look is still impressive, the food good, the people oh so beautiful.

No. 60 Visit Macau’s

No. 69 Hit the historic town of Hoi An in Vietnam— incredible history, culture, shopping, people, architecture and food. V

ARTS, CULTURE&NIGHTLIFE

No. 67 Rent a Hong Kong junk for a wild weekend and party. V

No. 68 Take a break from shopping and

No. 74 Visit Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon on your birthday, when lines of Burmese who share the same birthday sweep the pagoda in a clockwise direction.

head for the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari for a bit of wildlife amid the concrete jungle.

No. 85 Go native in Taman Negara, one of the region’s oldest rain forests. The ecosystem is rich in biodiversity; tree shrews, flying lemurs, sea otters and pangolins are rare but can be spotted. V

NATURAL BEAUTY

No. 76 Experience the spectacle of Banaue’s rice terraces in the Philippines. They look like giant steps that ascend into the sky, but what you might not know is that they cover more than 10,000 square kilometers and are 2,000 years old.

Zip through the rain forest just outside Chiang Mai—above the ground. There are 2 kilometers of lines strung through a 1,500-year-old forests (treetopasia.com).

No. 77 Trek up the 830-meter-high Penang Hill and escape the heat of tropical Georgetown; it’s a few degrees cooler. V

No. 82 Travel down the majestic Mekong River, which courses through six countries before emptying into the sea.

No. 78 Check out the eye candy at Phangnga Bay, which remains one of Thailand’s most scenic areas and is famous for the “James Bond Island.”

No. 83 Take a train journey with a difference: the five- to six-hour trip from Kota Kinabalu through the rain forest up to Tenom; and three days on the luxury Eastern & Oriental from Singapore to Bangkok.

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No. 80 Scuba dive off of Sipadan island in Malaysia. This oceanic paradise offers some 3,000 species of fish and hundreds of types of coral; perfect, in other words, for an underwater break.

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No. 75 Take a trip to Tai Long Wan, or Big Wave Bay, in Sai Kung, which is synonymous with hiking in Hong Kong and, better still, the beach will make you forget you’re even in a city.

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No. 86 For sand as fine as talcum powder, kick off your flip-flops and walk along Boracay’s White Beach.

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No. 84 Go white-water rafting in the mountains of Chantaburi, Thailand, ending three hours later on the Cambodian border.

No. 87 Meet the orangutans at Sepilok in Sabah State, Malaysia. And then make a donation to help save Asia’s only great ape. V

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No. 79 Sign up for some Thai-style driving lessons? Not to commandeer your own Bangkok taxi, but to guide an elephant around Northern Thailand (anantara.com).

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No. 62 Enjoy a private long-tail boat tour on Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River.

No. 73 Soak up Siam Niramit in Bangkok — Cirque de Soleil meets Andrew Lloyd Webber meets Thai culture and history. Arrive early to enjoy some snacks or to get a massage. The best seats are the more expensive but worth it. V

Opium in the Golden Triangle (goldentrianglepark.org). This multimedia museum and research center illuminates the path opium has traveled from medicine and spice to an addiction that sparked wars, revolutions and crime.

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No. 61 Absorb some history at the Hall of


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T+L Journal Great surf, blue skies and a good board. Right: A barrel-reef break.

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REFLECTIONS 93 PORTFOLIO 96 ADVENTURE 108 SHOPPING 113 IMPRESSIONS 120

PHILIPPINES

Hang Nine What do a Filipino chocolate bar, the world’s surfer dudes and some remote islands have in common? JOAN C. BULAUITAN finds out. Photographed by

JOHN S. CALLAHAN

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t+l journal

| outdoors

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ALFWAY THROUGH THE 45-minute drive to

Tuason Point from the airport, Chito, the driver who came to pick me up, breaks my Air Supply–induced torpor. “Why don’t you have a surfboard?” he asks. It is a legitimate question. After all, I’m on my way to a coast frequented by surfers for its hollow and heavy right-hand barrel reef break called Cloud 9, on a teardrop-shaped island called Siargao in the southeastern Philippines. I’m barely acquainted with my cottage at Sagana resort when co-owner Gerry Degan tells me, “We gotta get you some surfing lessons. Even if I have to pay myself.” An American, Gerry moved to Siargao 10 years ago with his then-girlfriend, now-wife, Susan. They first visited the island in 1995 and leased land the year after. “Surfing is what we all moved here for.” From his restaurant, he points to the distant curling line of white foam where a few surfers are riding their boards. “That is Cloud 9,” he says. The spot was named after a popular Filipino chocolate bar by surf photographer John S. Callahan, who also photographed this story. Between August and November when the habagat, or southwest monsoon, spawns powerful typhoon swells, surfers from all

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over the world come to the island, the highlight of which is an international surfing cup held every September. Despite the fame it enjoys, Siargao retains a raw, smalltown charm. Breaking off the concrete highway to Cloud 9, the roads are nothing more than dusty tracks. As you journey through the island’s forested interior, chickens and dogs dart about. In the woods, women gather dried tree branches and coconut leaves for fire. Tiny palm-roofed huts are unadorned, festooned with clothes hanging on a line to dry, while the local disco is little more than a tarpaulin tent with hard-packed dirt floor that turns to mud when it rains. Commerce is mostly on a cash basis—it’s a 2½-hour boat ride to get to an ATM in Surigao City. Clearly, infinity pools and spas are a long way coming, although certain conveniences are now available, including air-conditioning and mobile phone service. Internet access is limited. And, while it is not the sort of place you expect to find menus featuring “mud crab omelet with oyster sauce, twice-cooked chicken poached in orange peel broth then pan-fried,” you do, thanks to a growing group of expats that is constantly inspired by the diversity of fresh catch, including mangrove clams, sailfish, grouper, giant shrimps, stingrays and octopi, even mahi-mahi, yellow fin tuna and marlin.


Local Calm From far left: Strolling the islands; the pier at Cloud 9; beach seats; collecting shells.

ERRY HAS ORGANIZED A SURFING lesson for you,” one of the staff tells me the following day while I’m having my breakfast of buyad (dried fish) and garlic rice. When Gerry appears from behind a door curtain, I protest that I’m not a very good swimmer. “You just need to be a good stander,” he assures me. Standing on solid ground, I soon discover, is far removed from standing on water with a surfboard underneath. Osot, my Filipino instructor and former national surf champ, asks me to lie face down on the board and paddle toward the waves. A handful of Australian beginners, along with several locals, are out on the water with me. As soon as a wave approaches, Osot tells me to get ready. He shoves my board toward the beach and I rocket forward faster than I ever would have imagined. Osot cries out, “Ready!” So, as instructed, I plant my palms flat on the edge of the board, push myself up, pull my left foot towards my chest and attempt to stand. Instead, I wobble like a drunken kitten. I barely get on my knees before wiping out. While we rest waiting for the next wave, Osot tells me that a group of 15 Canadians were in town recently to learn how to surf. “Visitors come either for surfing or to see the islands,” he says. After a few more tries—and wipeouts—I ditch the surfboard, hoping I have more luck with the islands.

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A villager ties a woven rattan HAMMOCK in the picnic hut and dozes off. Lazy days Bondi, a friend of Gerry’s who came to Siargao for a three-week break seven weeks ago, offers to take me on his motorbike to General Luna, or GL, the town center, to meet my boatman Johnny. We pass several resorts on our way to town, including the newly opened Kalinaw. As locals adapt to surfing, and with the government’s efforts to promote Siargao as a tourist spot, more visitors arrive every year. Visiting can be daunting because flights are unreliable. An alternative is to travel by boat through choppy waters to Surigao and catch a plane from there. As we approach GL early on a Saturday afternoon, the streets are virtually empty, except for a group huddled in conversation. Johnny moors the boat by the beach for me. We then set our course to three stops, the first being Naked Island, a deserted sandbar 20 minutes away, so named » DECEMBER 2008| T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E S E A . C O M

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because it is devoid of cover except for a 60-centimeter tall coconut tree. Everything about the strip is miniature—you can walk its length in a minute, or two if you like to stroll. White- and blue-painted outrigger boats rest on either end of the beach at Dako Island where a celebration is underway. From the dense cluster of coconut trees, I can make out the green galvanized iron roof of the school, surrounded by the steeply pitched thatched roofs of local homes. A villager ties a woven rattan hammock in one of the picnic huts and dozes off. Lazy days. By the time we reach our next stop, Guyam, I no longer question why foreigners come here looking for their own patch of paradise. Siargao seems to fulfi ll every tropical island cliché in the book—uninhabited white-sand beaches; bountiful waters; friendly, gentle people; and a certain amount of inaccessibility that guarantees it will remain this way for some time. At Guyam, there’s hardly a remnant of the despedida (sendoff) party for Gerry and Susan’s friend a day earlier. There are no fishermen either. They often drop by with their catch to grill or make into a ceviche-like dish called kinilaw, enjoyed with Tanduay rum or some other local concoction. I don’t have food or water with me so I simply lie down on the 90

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milky sand and let the limpid waves lick my toes, content with the thought that, today, Guyam is all mine.

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L’S FISH MARKET RIGHT BY the beach is full of

activity this Sunday morning, although the noise dies down to a whisper as Gerry and I pass. Maybe the Styrofoam cooler marks me as a tourist or maybe they just don’t recognize me as a local. Here, everyone seems to know everyone else. Ting takes me to his boat, a tiny orange, green and yellow affair that is as narrow as the single chair that waits for me. A makeshift canopy of blue rice sacks shelters me from the sun. It’s a two-hour trip to Sohoton Lagoon, as smooth as a two-hour trip can be. The water is calm and lets us through without a struggle. I entertain myself by observing fishermen sitting upright in their boats, their hands slowly working the line. Ting interrupts my reverie by pointing to a dolphin, which regales us with a dive. When we finally arrive at Bucas Grande Island, he calls my attention to a cluster of white cottages on stilts that are being built so tourists can spend the night. Ting parks the boat at a bunkhouse where we pay our entrance fee. After moving to another outrigger that can


Wave Wise From far left, bottom: the famous surf; Siargao Cup competitors; a local shop for local surfers in GL; heading out to Cloud 9.

access the low cave tunnel, we make our way to the lagoon, but not without effort. The boatman and his assistants struggle to push the spars away from the stalactites while the guide jumps into the water to give it one mighty heave. Finally, we pass. Inside the lagoon, we snake our way through giant humps of limestone rocks lush with growth. The cliffs are overhung with wild orchids, pitcher plants and other exotic flora. At the entrance of a submerged cave, Ting and the guide dive in, then emerge at a cliff above us, and dive back into the water. There is a richness of nature in this lagoon, but it’s the swimming that people come here for. Back in GL at mid-afternoon, the fish market is still open, including the fruit and vegetable stalls right beside it, but it seems the people are just there to chat, not really to sell anything. I sit on a nearby bench and notice a flotilla of bancas resting at the far end of the beach. A plump middleaged woman brings out her rusted grill and makes coconut pancakes by the roadside. Kids ride their bikes, some play marbles. Families rest under the shade of coconut trees. A group is riveted to the television set in one of the sari-sari (variety) stores. They seem perfectly settled, on cloud nine you might say. 

GUIDE TO SIARGAO GETTING THERE Philippine Airlines has daily flights to Surigao City from Manila. From the airport, take a tricycle or multi-cab to the ferry pier for Siargao Island. The last ferry leaves at noon.

WHAT TO DO Three Islands Boat Trip Halfday boat trips can be easily organized through any resort. From US$33 per person.

WHEN TO GO The dry season runs from March to May, while the peak surfing season is between August and November.

Deep Sea Fishing Junior Gonzales knows the seas around here well. A day trip costs 5,000 pesos for a three-passenger boat. 63-920/772-8875.

WHERE TO STAY Sagana Resort Tuason Point Cloud 9; 63-919/809-5769; cloud9surf.com; doubles from US$67.

Hippy Surf Surfing lessons cost US$11 per hour and include all surfing gear. 63-928/744-0485.

Kalinaw Resort Tuason Point Cloud 9; dinner for two US$22.

Pansukian Tropical Resort Brgy. Malinao, General Luna; 63920/901-2072; pansukian.com; doubles from US$167. WHERE TO EAT Ocean 101 Resort Tuason Point Cloud 9; dinner for two US$20.

A surfer’s favorite chocolate bar.

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BANGKOK

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: © ALAN TOBEY / ISTOCKPHOTO.COM; MASON FLORENCE (2); © BTTRENKEL / ISTOCKPHOTO.COM

BURMA

Author Paul Theroux ponders the changing face of travel as he’s witnessed it and tells GREG LOWE how to make the most of your trips

Finding Your Place HERE IS A MISCONCEPTION about how travel has changed, like the misconception about the Internet. That it makes people more intelligent, that it puts them in touch, that it gives them more information. It has made people presumptuous: this idea that the world is all connected, that you can go anywhere and do anything. iiI have a lot of trouble getting a Burmese visa now. I went to Burma about a year-and-a-half ago without too much trouble. This time visas are hard to get. It’s hard to travel in Burma right now. It’s impossible to travel in Afghanistan. It’s difficult to travel in Iran. But I went through Iran and Afghanistan easily 30 years ago. iiLook at Africa. People say they went to Africa. That it used to be so difficult. That they went game watching. But the Congo is harder to travel to now than when Henry Morton Stanley went there 120 years ago. It is impossible. You couldn’t even follow Stanley’s footsteps. Guys have tried. When I lived in Ghana, I used to go to the parts of Kenya that are now having problems. I used to drink beer and drive around day and night. That’s a thing of the past.

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iiWhen I wrote Riding the Iron Rooster, a book about China, my mission was to travel overland. There was no train to Tibet then. I got a car from Golmud, Qinghai. And I got this guy to drive. He freaked out. He had never driven in snow before and he was going very fast. We crashed and rolled the car. We had to turn it back over. After that, he basically was incapable of doing anything apart from sitting in the back seat gibbering and trembling. So I drove. The car could still move, just about. We had to make frequent stops, but eventually we got to Lhasa in this beat-up wreck. Now there’s a first-class train to take you there. iiSo the point is that some countries—Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam—are opening up and are easy to travel to. Others are closing. Some are dangerous but weren’t before. The nature of travel is this. The situation keeps changing. A place that was easy to travel one time now is very hard. » T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E S E A

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Rail Journeys Left: Theroux’s 1988 book on China. Above: A winter morning in Gannan, Tibet. Right: The modern rail line from China to Tibet.

GHANA

Troublesome Trips Above: A modern market in Accra, Ghana. Left: Antique maps of Africa and of Persia. Below: The sun rises in Afghanistan; the ruins of Persepolis, Iran.

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iiDiscomfort, pain and anxiety are probably the very core of a good trip. If you have an easy time of it, you’re having a vacation. If you’re really suffering, then you’re traveling. I never had a worse time than on my Africa trip, when I wrote Dark Star Safari. I went from Cairo to Cape Town, went down the Nile. Stayed on a houseboat. That was very pleasant. Then I went to Sudan, Ethiopia and northern Kenya. It was very lawless. I got shot at. I got hassled. I heard: “White man, white man,” all the time. Across Lake Victoria it wasn’t too bad. Tanzania was tough. Then I went back to where I was in the Peace Corps. It had disintegrated. It was in chaos. It was very difficult, but very rewarding. You don’t want to suffer. But it helps if you’re writing about it. iiIf you read a travel book about a place, the writer is doing the best that he or she can to describe it. But it’s still just one view of a place. That’s not the absolute truth of a place. It’s just that one person’s view at a particular moment in time. People say that they capture the spirit of a place. I hope that’s the case. But there’s always more to see. For example, when I first went to Bangkok, I was looking for Somerset Maugham’s Bangkok, Noel Coward’s Bangkok, Graham Greene’s Bangkok. But the Bangkok that I saw in ’68 was American servicemen’s Bangkok. It was an American soldier’s R&R mecca, which was 10 times more interesting than the Bangkok of the books. Every bar was full of American servicemen. That was the impression I had in ’68, and when I came back in 1970 and ’73. When you see American Vietnam soldiers, GI’s who had seen the horrors of war and they just came here to forget it. It was wild. iiIs travel writing over? No. I think there is always something to write, something to do. There are books that rest somewhere between travel, anthropology, ethnography, art history. Whatever it is. They’re written by people who really know what they’re talking about. Wilfred Thesiger wrote a book about the Bedouin called Arabian Sands. He just traveled and lived with the Bedouin for years. He wasn’t intending to write about them. He just liked wandering in the desert and having a terrible time. But it’s a great example of a travel book about a vanished civilization. iiI do plan my trips. I wing it to a certain point. I study

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

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CAIRO TO CAPETOWN

maps. I look at the Lonely Planet guide if there is one. I don’t read travel books for information about the destination, but what I need to know is if I get to a certain place is there a way out of that place overland. Bus, train, taxi, walk. Whatever it is. I’m not interested in air travel. So I look at maps a lot. The last time I was in Bangkok I took the train to Aranyaprathet. I took the bus to Poipet, walked across the border to where there are gambling casinos. I saw a guy, said I wanna go to Siem Reap. Got on a bus. Didn’t know where I was going to stay. There a million places, but I made no plan. When I arrived in Siem Reap, a local guy said he knew a good place it’s US$10 per night. I’m a wealthy man. I could stay anywhere. But I thought okay; give me your best shot. It was a place called Green Town Guesthouse. Perfect. Good noodles, clean room. I thought I could be here for three months. I had a good time. I was just among a lot of people with a lot happening. I wasn’t in a remote place with a wall around it. So I thought this was really good. iiI still get the same thrill from travel, but it really depends on the place. There’s a certain stage in your life—this may be news to people—when you really like to be home. You spend half your life raising a family and getting your children educated. You find a great place to live. You get a house, you fix the house and you then you realize this is what I want. iiI live in Hawaii. Hawaii is a wonderful place. We have great weather, the people are wonderful, the waves are breaking out. I have a little farm there. I don’t live in Honolulu, I live in the forest on a bluff where I keep bees. I often question why I bother going anywhere else. Sometimes I say to my wife, why am I going? Is this trip really necessary? So, the thrill of travel? I see new places. I like revisiting old places. But it keeps coming back to this thing. You get that feeling that after seeing a lot of the world you also know you’re in a nice place, where you can spend a lot of your time. A lot of travel is about looking for a nice place, a place to live. I feel like Robert Louis Stevenson. I’ve found my Vallima. Vallima is the house in Samoa where Stevenson lived. After traveling all the time he got there and he said: I’m not going anywhere else. I’m here, I’ve found it. 

Travel Thrills Far left: Sailing down the Nile. Left: Theroux’s book on Africa. Above: Cape Town with Table Mountain backdrop. Right: In Sudan, a boy astride his camel. Below: Colorful tribal Ethiopians; the dawn of a new day in Oahu.

SUDAN AND ETHIOPIA

HAWAII

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The sea both confines and defines the city of Venice, the starting point for Marco Polo.

In Fabled Footsteps In the 13th century, Marco Polo traversed the world on journeys that stir the imagination to this day. More recently, photographer MICHAEL YAMASHITA retraced the explorer’s route, and came back with some stunning results


An old bridge covered in prayer flags over the Kulong Chhu river in Trashi Yangtse, in eastern Bhutan.

In Kerman, Iran, one of oldest hammams, or Turkish baths, still in use today.

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HE MERE MENTION OF Marco Polo evokes travel. That his journeys took place centuries ago when even the shortest

foray abroad wasn’t as easy as it is today makes his travels all that more spectacular. And, today, the roll call of destinations reads like a list of locales most of us will never see. Most of us, that is, aside from intrepid photographers such as Michael Yamashita. From Venice through the mountains and deserts of present-day Iraq and Iran, across Afghanistan and into the Pamirs, then to South Asia, Southeast Asia and China, Yamashita followed in Marco Polo’s footsteps, spurred to do so by the simple question of whether the 13th-century adventurer ever reached the Middle Kingdom. “Where Marco worried about bandits and illness,” says Yamashita, “we worried about land mines and car breakdowns.” At one point in Afghanistan when their pick-up truck stalled several times, the photographer and his entourage managed to cover only 45 kilometers in three days, about the same as Marco Polo would have 700 years earlier. By the time Yamashita reached Kerala in southern India, he came to the conclusion that if Marco Polo were alive today, he would be a writer or photographer for National Geographic. The award-winning photographer first contacted the magazine in 1979 and has worked for National Geographic, focusing mainly on Asia, for the past 27 years.  More of Michael Yamashita’s images from his travels are available in Marco Polo: A Photographer’s Journey (White Star).

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AK-47 in hand, a Kurdish shepherd leads his ďŹ&#x201A;ock to pasture in Iraq.

Sunset over the dome of the Jame Masjid in Yazd, Iran.

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Horses in Karakuli, one of the most remote sections of the Pamirs.

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The feet of elderly Chinese women in Yunnan are still sometimes marked by binding, which has been abolished for decades.

The Great Wall in Gansu, China.

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Dawn in Qinghai reveals the Tibetan Plateauâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s dramatically beautiful skyline.

Music lesson for Labrangâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s monks using the traditional 3-meter horns.

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The Buddhaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s head in Leshan, China, is an amazing 15 meters high.

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A woman from Xiahe, Tibet, adorns her embroidered silk dress with a heavy necklace of coral.

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Adamâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Peak, in southern Sri Lanka, emerges from the morning mist.

A sadhu in Mumbai. The hair of these holy men sometimes grows to 4 meters or longer.

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| obsessions in their eyes and too much red wine in their veins spend their lives searching for Atlantis or El Dorado. Other adventurers windsurf across the Pacific. Yet other men and women seek an elusive metaphor, like Peter Matthiessen’s snow leopard. I have a simpler quest. I’m looking for Waltzing Banana Island. Since I was a kid growing up in a New York suburb I’ve been intrigued by distant pastures. It was armchair imagining, mostly, writing school reports about Tibet and reading The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet, the first book I ever read that had no pictures. Waltzing Banana Island, or to put it in its correct Indonesian–French nomenclature, Pulau Valse Pisang, is a tiny speck of land in far eastern Indonesia. I’ll be the first to admit that my search for the island is devoid of any socially redeeming value. I’m simply intrigued by how it got its name.

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OME GUYS WITH STARDUST

Journeys Without a Map Some trips, those favored by PAUL SPENCER SOCHACZEWSKI, are best described as riddles wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. Illustrated by WASINEE CHANTAKORN

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A trigger for visiting Flores was to investigate stories of a tropical yeti-like creature that inhabits contemporary FOLK TALES

Before finding an answer to that one, I got sidetracked. When a friend told me that there were hobbits on the Indonesian island of Flores, I quickly packed my toothbrush. This turned out to be one of the more serious trips I have taken, since Flores arguably is ground zero for little folks. The first reason to visit Flores is the discovery in 2003 of a child-sized creature—1 meter tall, with a grapefruit-sized head—who lived 18,000 years ago. The scientists who described the find declared this primate, and other specimens, to be a new species of the genus Homo, a claim contested by others who say they are merely deformed humans. The scientists named the group Homo floresiensis, or more popularly, Hobbit Men. The second trigger for visiting Flores was to investigate tales of ebu gogo, a small tropical yeti-like creature that inhabits the folk tales, if not the forests, of contemporary Flores. The third and most compelling reason was my friend’s confident declaration that “there are real Hobbits living in a village in Flores.” To which the only appropriate response was “What are you doing in July?”

quests are not grand geography, like the search for the source of the Mekong. Nor are they life threatening like Shackleton’s winter on the Antarctic ice. There are worse travel strategies than to visit places with evocative names that purr with history and incense: There’s Sumatra, Java and Borneo; Malacca, Mandalay and Makassar; Pondicherry, Kathmandu and Ayutthaya. Not to mention the rivers: Ganges and Yangtze, Mahakam and Mekong. And the simply named town I was headed towards last year: Solo. The sultans of Solo and nearby Yogyakarta in central Java trace their ancestry to the coupling of a historical prince, Senopati, with a nature spirit who lived in the sea—Kanjeng Ratu Kidul, the Mermaid Queen. I finagled an invitation to the sultan’s annual, and rather private, dance of the nine virgins to honor the Mermaid Queen. My friend, who comes from Javanese nobility, offered tantalizingly vague

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Y ADMITTEDLY QUIXOTIC

instructions. If you look at the dance really carefully, and if the wind is blowing right and you are of good heart and you let yourself “switch mode” into a semi-trance, you just might see a 10th dancer. That would be the Mermaid Queen herself. I didn’t see the 10th dancer but wanted verification from someone with a better seat than I had. The next morning I asked an elegant woman of a certain age, a close relative of the Sultan in fact, whether the Mermaid Queen had appeared the previous day. “Of course,” the woman said. “You could feel a breath of fresh air. That was her.” And what, I asked, did she make of the story? Her eyes got a bit misty, like she was a young girl. “It’s a love story for the ages.” New York Times writer John Tierney coined the phrase “explornography” to describe the way ordinary people recreate, more or less, the exploits of famous explorers. In this mode, I’ve been following the British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace throughout Southeast Asia. I realize I will never achieve such a major physical achievement. Unlike Jon Krakauer, I have no intention of climbing Mount Everest. But I am willing to suffer a bit of pain, as when I decided to find Hanuman’s mountain. Like most of my quests, this particular goal had been simmering for decades. In a pivotal scene in the Ramayana, which is the Hindu equivalent of the Bible, Tristan und Isolde, the Odyssey and Lord of the Rings, the monkey god Hanuman saves the wounded hero’s brother by flying from Sri Lanka to the Himalaya to fetch the medicinal plant mountain. The good guys go on to defeat the 100headed demon, rescue the damsel in distress and so on. It is difficult to fly across a continent carrying a mountain like a pizza without bits of it falling to earth. Where these clumps of medicinal plant–rich soil landed became the sacred forests of South Asia. Obviously, information about the mythical mountain’s location that features in an ancient legend might be a touch apocryphal, but several friends pointed me towards the far-northern Indian state of Uttaranchal, so I huffed up to 3,600 meters to reach » T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E S E A

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His fellow villagers swore they had viewed a frightening T-Rex-like creature that CLIMBED trees, and ate pigs and goats

Dunagiri village. There I met a sixtysomething woman, Padhan Patti, who told me to hike another few hours where I would see the place where Hanuman “sliced off ” a chunk of Dunagiri mountain, leaving a scar which “bleeds in the sun.” And then Padhan Patti told me that she and her family refuse to make offerings to Hanuman. It takes chutzpah for an Indian villager to stay angry at one of the most popular gods in the Hindu pantheon, but Padhan Patti feels she has a good reason. She wants her mountain back. She told her story with a familiarity and acceptance as if she was recounting a family that tale that happened, say, a generation ago, like my father’s war stories. She said that Hanuman flew in to the village during a whiteout and couldn’t find the mountain. Unlike most modern men, he stopped to ask directions. The only person in the village was an old woman, an ancestor of Padhan Patti’s. The old woman pointed in the direction Hanuman was to fly. “I can’t see it and I’m in a hurry,” Hanuman replied. So he put her on his shoulder and she navigated while he soared. They arrived, Hanuman said “thanks, have a good life,” grabbed the mountain, and flew away, leaving the little old lady alone in the middle of a blizzard.

OMETIMES MY QUESTS are chasing the unobtainable, the unknowable. Most often they are merely improbable. Like the search for the tribe of giant, cannibalistic Caucasians who reputedly live on Indonesia’s Halmahera island and who kill trespassers by hurling stones with their feet. They’re called the Orang Togutil. I actually found the tribe, but quickly saw they were neither white, nor large, nor even violent. They were basically like other Indonesians, but without electricity and consumer goods. “Where were the real nasty guys?” I asked them. Basically the answer I got, similar to when I searched for tiger magicians called pawang harimau in Sumatra and men who turn themselves into were-pigs in West Java, was, “It ain’t us boss.

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We’re cool, but if you go over the next hill, towards the rainbow, you’ll find some really bad dudes.” Peter Kedit, formerly the director of the Sarawak (Malaysia) Museum, might call my kind of exploration a form of the berjalai practiced by his Iban tribe, a young man’s right of passage, which in previous times, at least around the remote corners of Borneo, included the taking of enemy heads. I search for curious enigmas of little interest to others and even less import on the global significance scale. I’ve been studying white elephants, which represent the power of the Buddhist kings of Burma, Cambodia and Thailand. These are so potent that the little-loved generals of Burma have tried, admittedly without much success, to roll out their three white elephants as evidence of the junta’s authority. When I interviewed U Shu Maung, the official in charge of capturing the pale pachyderms, he assured me that the white elephant is a sort of cosmic herald, which “only appears during the reign of the righteous leaders.” What’s next? I plan to look for Waltzing Banana Island. But sort of along the flight path lies the Hobbit-enhanced island of Flores, where I heard a particularly juicy tale. A community headman named Pak Nico said that in his isolated coastal village one night he heard a screeching cry. It “sounded like something out of that dinosaur movie,” he said, referring to Jurassic Park, which apparently had made its way to the TV broadcasts of this distant corner of Indonesia. He did not see anything, but his fellow villagers swore they had viewed a frightening T-Rex-like creature that climbed trees and ate pigs and goats. It’s called marengket in the local Mangarai language. Such tales are common, but the bottom line is until you capture one, you ain’t got nothing. Nevertheless Pak Nico added that several years ago a villager had killed one of the animals but had neglected to keep the bones. Imagine, a relict dinosaur, which lives on the north coast of Flores. And I know where it is—a long day’s journey in a four-wheel vehicle, then a couple of hours walk. Not far at all. ✚


shopping | t+l journal Kilims, textiles and Morroccan antiques at Boutique Majid.

The northernmost city in Morocco offers a stunning variety of antique furniture, textiles and other authentic keepsakes. With the guidance of a true insider, LYNN YAEGER uncovers the best. Photographed by MICHAEL JAMES O’BRIEN

MOROCCO

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people say in Tangier—‘You have watches, we have time,’” Yves Taralon, artistic director of the Hermès home department—La Table Hermès— tells me, leaning back on a pair of antique pillows at the Hôtel Nord-Pinus Tanger, a beautiful pensione in the heart of the Kasbah. I’m only half listening to him because, frankly, those embroidered cushions are driving me nuts. The day before—my first day in Tangier—I found vintage cushion covers just like them at the charmingly cluttered Galerie Tindouf that I was desperate to purchase; their jewel-like embroidery, their delightful crimson-and-white coloration had me at hello (or bonjour or marhaba in this multilingual city). But their price, a surprisingly firm US$600 each, had me scurrying back to the Kasbah. Today, Taralon has promised to share with me the finely honed shopping secrets of his own private Tangier, a place he loves so deeply that he dreams of it constantly when he’s at home in Paris. “The blue of the sky, the yellow of the walls, the Islamic green of the mosques…” he sighs, his gaze drifting across the Strait of Gibraltar to the coast of Spain. Those influences have shown up in full force in the decorative lines he oversees for Hermès—the scarlet-and-white porcelain; the beach towels featuring a giant Hand of Fatima.

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Timely Tangier Stained-glass lanterns line Tangier’s Kasbah. From above: The handwoven scarf given to the writer by Yves Taralon, an artistic director at Hermès and shopper extraordinaire; Taralon at his pied-à-terre in Tangier; the property’s comfortable patio overlooking the Mediterranean.

OU KNOW WHAT


Taralon came to Tangier 20-odd years ago, buying what he describes as “an ugly two-room house in the favela.” (It is now vastly expanded and almost unbearably chic.) He arrived from France nearly empty-handed. “I just brought a radio and my new boyfriend with me—the radio is still working, anyway,” he chuckles. “I planned to furnish it with finds from the flea markets. With no money you could do a lot of things at that time.” You still can. In Tangier, you don’t toss things out when they break, or when you’ve grown tired of them. Everything is repurposed—Taralon’s armchairs were made by a neighboring scrapyard man; every bit of fabric in his home, from slipcovers and seat cushions to curtains, was woven to his exacting specifications by local weavers. Enough talk! Let’s hit the town! We set out, descending a steep stone staircase and walking through the medina, full of tiny shops open to the street that sell sheepskins right off the sheep, wooden washboards, spangled babouche slippers, and other goods practical and frivolous. Taralon despairs over the fake Vuitton belts and polyester jungle-print robes; I confess that I get a real kick out of their exuberance. A group of little girls in school uniforms and head scarves, with pink Barbie rucksacks strapped to their backs, pass us at the Grand Socco, Tangier’s main square, where Taralon proudly shows off the newly restored Art Deco Cinema Rif. He and other members of the local artistic community got together to rescue this movie palace, part of a larger effort to save Tangier’s historic buildings. Wandering the nearby streets, Taralon and I discover something we have in common—an unvarnished love for old-fashioned shops with curved glass vitrines, here selling suits and shoes that appear to be untouched and undusted since the 1950’s. Taralon revels in Tangier’s authenticity, the landscape that makes one think Paul Bowles, patron saint of the colony of disaffected poets and dreamers who flocked here in the 1950’s, could at any minute come strolling out of the raffish Hotel Continental, a ramshackle inn that still presides over the waterfront. After a quick tour of the massive indoor butcher market, where pale chickens hang by their necks and I nearly slip on blood and gristle (maybe ballet slippers aren’t the right footwear for meat markets), we head for the Fondouk Chejra, the Weavers’ Market, where Taralon has business. We pass through a doorway crowded with stalls selling

Taralon REVELS in Tangier’s authenticity, the landscape that makes one think Paul Bowles, patron saint of the dreamers

Taralon’s Moroccanchic living room.

toilet paper and plastic hangers, then up a flight of deteriorating stairs to a series of covered stalls where men—all men, only men—are busy spinning wool on wooden wheels in a scene straight out of the 19th century. Feral cats, skinny as those dead chickens, tiptoe along adjacent rooftops. Taralon pops into a particularly unpretentious stall—it is literally a hole in the wall—and stuns me when he says the place does business with Barneys New York. He falls for a length of woven cloth of Christmas tree green with hot-pink stripes. What are you going to do with it? I ask. Is it for your home? For Hermès? “To have,” he shrugs. I turn my back and he buys me a red scarf, explaining that he is obsessed with red. “The red in Tangier—I like so much the red!” he says softly. The scarf has an orange fringe. (It isn’t until I get it home that I realize it’s Hermès orange.) Within minutes, I am moved to buy myself a huge, striped, homespun » T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E S E A

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| shopping blanket, at once rough-hewn and delicately patterned. The seller ties it up with frayed cord. It costs around US$20. After lunch at the home of a friend of Taralon— you rarely see any women in restaurants here, which frankly unnerves me—we head to Boutique Majid, which he likens to “une vraie caverne d’Ali Baba.” A mere two minutes inside the door and he is swooning over carpets made of bamboo and leather. “So modern, and isn’t that the Hermès style?” My gaze, however, has landed on the farfrom-modern. I’m entranced by Majid’s jewelry, especially the massive amber bead necklaces that would make the wearer resemble Nancy Cunard, the 1920’s artiste and heiress famous for her penchant for ethnic jewelry. I am contemplating a silver pendant whose main feature is a large Hand of Fatima inscribed with tiny Arabic letters (proving that this decorative motif long predates the Hermès beach towel), when Taralon motions for me to follow him upstairs.

Shopping here is blissfully free of those prepackaged, homogenous goods shoved down your throat in so many other REMOTE burgs

Retail Morocco Clockwise from top: Pieces from Galerie Tindouf’s Berber jewelry collection; inside the Weavers’ Market; bamboo mats in the resort town of Asilah, just outside Tangier.


We wander through a seemingly endless warren of rooms piled high with centuries’ worth of local goods. An old rack intended for the back of a camel looks to Taralon like a contemporary sculpture; the austere lines of a synagogue lamp may be reimagined for Hermès with silver horse bits. Vintage synagogue lamps are swell, but unlike Taralon, I am not the sort of person who relishes home rewiring projects. I’m more the kind who wants Taralon to help her pick out a pair of incredibly stylish ankle boots at Boutique Volubilis, in the Petit Socco. Volubilis is just the kind of place I dream of when I’m traveling and am invariably disappointed by the ubiquitous chain stores that clot major downtowns in every city of the world. For me, Tangier’s great strength—besides the wild beauty of the place—is that shopping here is blissfully free of those prepackaged, homogenous goods shoved down your throat in so many other supposedly remote burgs. At Volubilis, the utterly distinctive, handmade, oddly colored booties—halfway between hobbit footwear and Comme des Garçons—are embellished with covered buttons and lacings. After a lot of discussion, I settle on a pair of deep-pink-and-forest-green ones, a steal at around US$100. Once I start spending, I’m on a roll. I convince Taralon that we should visit Marrakech La Rouge, even though from the outside it looks like a classic tourist trap, including the shill out front. The ambience may be initially inauspicious, but inside, the goods, culled from all over the country, are cheap and first-rate: spice holders, hand-painted cups from Fez, inlaid boxes, miniature teapots and more. I stack up a pile of these trifles and begin haggling for the lot, a good-natured ritual that is so much a part of shopping in Tangier. And where is Taralon? Grumpy? Bored? I locate him in another corner of the store, where he is hugging a tray of olive wood and indulging in his own round of hard bargaining. “See,” I say, “you can find good things anywhere.” It wouldn’t be Tangier without a visit to a traditional rug store, so Taralon introduces me to Coin de L’Art Berbère, where the owners provide Perrier and we are dazzled by an endless array of carpets, most of them ridiculously underpriced at around US$300. I am taken with an orange-andblack checkerboard number, and am fairly kicking myself that I didn’t measure my rooms before the trip. (Don’t make this mistake.)

Pottery for sale in Tangier’s Kasbah.

The next day, Taralon has planned an outing to his favorite restaurant, Casa Garcia, in the resort town of Asilah, which is a sort of whitewalled, 15th-century version of Amagansett, if the Hamptons had been founded by the Phoenicians. We drive for an hour, past camels loping down the beach, past the straw market where Taralon has tables and chairs made and which he thinks is in imminent danger of disappearing in the wave of new development apparent everywhere around the resort. Asilah does indeed have a surprisingly laidback ambience—Casa Garcia is the first place where I’ve seen men and women eating together openly. Berobed young women stroll by, their abayat punched up with skintight jeans, stilettos and copious eye makeup. Taralon tells me that this restaurant is a hangout for artists and the intelligentsia, and that in high season you can easily sit here for six hours or more. “It’s a celebration, like a church, a temple, a rite,” he rhapsodizes. » T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E S E A

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| shopping Gibraltar’s Gems Clockwise from left: Casa Garcia, a Spanish eatery with views of the Strait of Gibraltar; Hôtel Nord-Pinus Tanger, a riad in the heart of the city; a homespun blanket, bought in the Weavers’ Market.

We don’t stay for six hours. We share plates of calamari and then walk through the walled town, filled with small shops selling earrings, scarves and inevitably carpets, until we reach a high wall over the sea, on which are perched dozens of giggling teenagers. Then we drive back to Tangier, where Taralon is anxious to show me Casabarata, a flea market so sprawling it’s a city in itself. I think, but don’t say aloud, that this could only charitably be called a

junk market, but Taralon is beaming at the stacks of mattresses, the Mickey Mouse blankets, the rusted appliances. He insists that rare treasures exist under the rubble, and indeed a friend of his swears that Pierre Cardin once found a 1950’s Dunhill cigarette lighter here. I find no gold lighters. When I unwittingly crinkle up my nose at the vast piles of maimed goods all around us, he just grins, thinking no doubt of how the metal washtubs might inspire Hermès chandeliers or how the broken window grills could be retrofitted as mirrors. “There are good things everywhere,” he reminds me. ✚

TANGIER ADDRESS BOOK WHERE TO STAY Dar Sultan A charming six-room riad in the heart of the Kasbah. 49 Rue Touila, Kasbah; 212-39/336-061; doubles from US$139, including breakfast. Hôtel Nord-Pinus Tanger 11 Rue du Riad Sultan; 21261/228-140; doubles from US$434, including breakfast, dinner and transfers. GREAT VALUE

WHERE TO EAT Casa Garcia Restaurant 51 Rue Moulay Hassan Ben el Mehdi, Asilah; 21239/417-465.

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MARKETS Casabarata Tangier’s largest flea market: iron and copper works, textiles and more. Open every day 9 A.M.–8 P.M. On the road to Rabat; no phone. Fondouk Cherja (Weaver’s Market) First floor, Marché des Pauvres Bldg.; Rue de la Liberté; no phone. Le Grand Socco Great for babouche slippers. Rue d’Italie near Mendoubia Gardens; no phone. Les Vanniers A market of straw furniture and baskets. Ave. Hassan II, near the San Francisco mission; no phone.

DEC E M B E R 2 0 0 8| T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E S E A . C O M

ANTIQUES Boutique Majid 66 Rue les Almouhades; 212-39/938-892. La Galerie Tindouf 72 Rue de la Liberté; 212-39/938-600. FASHION Boutique Volubilis 15 Petit Socco; 212-39/931-362. Laure Welfling Modern interpretation of local crafts such as caftans and pottery. 3 Place de la Casbah; 21239/932-083. LINENS Darna Maison Communautaire des Femmes Exquisite embroidered table linens.

Place du 9 Avril 1947; 21239/947-065. CRAFTS Marrakech La Rouge Lamps, spice racks, porcelain. 50 Rue du 6 Avril; 212-39/931-117. PERFUME Parfumerie Madini Among the oldest and most famous in the Muslim world. 5 Blvd. Pasteur; 212-39/375-038. CARPETS Bazar Atlas Rue Siaghine, Ancienne Medina, Asilah; 21239/417-864. Coin de L’Art Berbere 53 Ex. Rue des Chrétiens; 21239/938-094.


t+l journal

| impressions

Where We Are Five noted authors recall some memorable trips, both recent and long past, and ponder what travel teaches them—and us. Illustrated by WASINEE CHANTAKORN

The Thais That Bind By Karl Taro Greenfeld WE WERE STUPID. AND TIRED. Indifferent. Drunk, a little. And up for it. It is strange to think of it now, but we were at Bangkok Central Station, standing in a line—I don’t remember for what—with no actual idea of where we were going. I struck up a conversation with a French girl in tank top and floppy hat and asked where she was headed. She mentioned an island to the south. There was a sleeper train leaving in a just a few minutes. She pointed to the speck on the map in her guidebook— we didn’t even have a guidebook—and said, “is beautiful.” Again, I don’t really remember why or how, but a few minutes later, my friends and I were on this train, clanging south. When we woke up, we were at a dusty depot where we boarded a bus that took us to a ferry boat, which was dangerously crowded but where we managed to find a square meter of space atop the pilot’s house, and we chugged into the Gulf of Siam and to this island. At the ferry dock we hopped into the bed of a pickup truck and then jumped off when the vehicle slowed down and walked a kilometer down a badly rutted dirt road and into paradise. There were a half dozen bungalows arranged around a thatched-roofed restaurant and a little rattan counter behind which a lovely, middle-aged woman sat smiling. Next to her was her husband, who usually worked in the kitchen, and their two little boys who had the run of the place. There was a glass-door cooler in one corner stocked with soda and beer. 120

She gave us room keys in exchange for a preposterously small amount of money and we tossed our bags into our little huts and went to the beach. Our fellow guests were a couple of Japanese kids. A few Brits. A couple of hardy Swedes. In the next hut were three German girls, including one sexy brunette who said that back home, in Bremen or Dortmund or Düsseldorf or wherever she was from, she was training to be a baker. I spent the next few weeks in a desultory and ultimately unsuccessful attempt to seduce this future maker of bread. We were all young, undaunted by the long journey. This was before there was an airport on this island, when you had to take a train, a bus and then a ferry to get there. They had yet to grow wary of us tourists, to see us as wallets with human beings attached. They trusted us. During the day, we swam and snorkeled, climbed the huge rocks at one end of the beach or kicked around an old football. In the evening, as we would sit in the little restaurant, drinking beer and Mekong whisky, playing chess or backgammon, the proprietress would watch us with a smile on her face, occasionally joining us for backgammon; she didn’t care for chess. Before turning in, she would leave a pad on the counter, on which we were to note down with a pencil hanging by a string to the cooler handle our room numbers and any beer, soda or water we had taken during the night. The honor system. We didn’t abuse

it. Not too much. And when visitors came by our restaurant from down the beach, we watched carefully to make sure that, if they took drinks, they left a few baht on the counter. We had to go. I now can’t remember or imagine why. But after a few weeks, we packed our duffels and hiked out to the main road and did the same journey in reverse. We promised each other, and ourselves, that we would return. A little more than a year later, I did. Alone. Flying into the new airport, I arrived back at the same bungalow complex, and found it expanded, the restaurant vast and now housed beneath a wooden roof, the whole resort swollen so that rows of bungalows now radiated outward in several layers, the complex grid of paths and alleys now reminded me of a giant Aztec calendar etched into the earth. A swimming pool was being excavated just off the beach. And all around me, in the bungalows that now had air conditioning units protruding from rear windows, were families, old folks, pallorous and slow-moving as they shuffled down their little trails to the beach. I spent a day or two trying to convince myself that it hadn’t been that great a year or so ago and it hadn’t changed that much since. We romanticize the past, become nostalgic about our first time in a cool place. And look at this place. Still lovely. A beach made for brochures. Clear blue water. White sand. Focus on the beauty. That evening, I was reading a magazine in the new restaurant and realized that the pretty middle-aged lady no longer worked the night shift. In her stead was a gang of younger women who, when they turned in, locked the kitchen and cooler doors tight. »


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Food for Thought By Ian Buruma MY FRIEND BOB IS A PERFECTIONIST. Nothing but the best will do. Not the most expensive, mind you, that would be vulgar. No, the best. And the best can be found in the darkest corners. It has to be dug out, as it were, in the way pigs dig for truffles, after much exploration. To find the best takes effort. That, in a way, is the point. I am talking about food in Bangkok. And nothing, but nothing in my experience, is more illuminating, more pleasurable, more satisfying, both mentally and physically, than a nocturnal tour with my friend Bob through the maze of streets off the Yaowarat Road in Bangkok’s Chinatown in search of the perfect bowl of Hokkien hae mee, those fat yellow noodles, stir fried to a fine sheen with succulent prawns. But that’s just the beginning, merely to clear the palate. Following the broad back of my guide through dark alleyways with electric wiring spilling down like steel cobwebs, I know I’m going to have the perfect gai rad prik next, prepared by a toothless old lady in a dingy little room. Her establishment is not so much a restaurant, as her 122

own kitchen. Watching her prepare a dish is like witnessing an artist at work. Long before the dish is done I can already see Bob roll his eyes in ecstasy as he takes in the whiff of tamarind sauce. Before the next course, the perfect boiled squid, we pass through a Chinese temple with a live crocodile dozing in a dank pond. I can hear the click-clack of mahjong tiles coming from the temple, where men shout what sounds like curses in a Chinese dialect. Rain is leaking through the dense electric cobwebs above our heads. The smell of blocked drains mixes with sweet temple incense. You must taste this, says Bob, as he helps me to a piece of squid boiled in garlic oil. The squid is just as it should be, firm without having lost its fresh springiness. A squat middle-aged man in a white undershirt emerges from the kitchen for the sheer pleasure of watching Bob savoring his dish. Bob compliments the man in Thai. Bob is a big man, but when he speaks Thai, which he does exquisitely, he actually appears to shrink; he almost becomes Thai; his bulk con-

jured away by the liquid tones of his courtly language. I thought the evening would be over, after the perfect sticky rice pudding with coconut milk and fresh mango. But no, Bob had kept the true demonstration of his gastronomic connoisseurship till the last. More dark allies, more temples and shrines. A fruit market. I could smell it from a distance: that sweetness mixed with the odor of ripe camembert. Bob, you see, is known to people all over the world as a “durianologist.” We would top the evening with a slice of the perfect durian. To achieve this, however, a long, elaborate ritual had to be negotiated, a bit like a wine-tasting session. Bob smelled the fruit, tapped it with an expert finger, stroked it like a favorite pet, weighed it in his hands, sniffed it again. The same procedure would be repeated with other durians of various sizes. Opinions were exchanged with the durian seller. And fi nally, after all was said and done, we sat down to eat. Was it perfection? I cannot say. I’m not a durianologist. But one thing I have learned from my gastronomic explorations with Bob is that the achievement of perfection is not the point. It is the quest that matters. A humble bowl of noodles may not look like much to some. With Bob it is the source of wisdom.


The Heart of Travel By Daniel Mendelsohn WE ARE SO ACCUSTOMED TO thinking of travel as a kind of luxury—whether the outright luxury of comfortable vacations, or the even higher kind of glamour that comes from travel that one “has to” do (research, say, or travel writing)—that the idea of travel as a burden, even a kind of curse, comes to us as a bit of a shock. After all, those of us who believe that we ought to “get something out of” traveling—something more significant than a tan, at any rate—have always consoled ourselves that travel brings an unmatched intellectual, aesthetic and emotional enlightenment: forced to contemplate and to take seriously unfamiliar landscapes, people and cultures, we feel that our horizons are, both literally and figuratively, broadened. We think, of course, of Odysseus, the first and still preeminent journeyer in the Western tradition, whose epic (in every sense of that word) wanderings have made him a symbol of the positive side of travel, —and particularly of the intellectual riches that come with going abroad—for every significant writer in the Western

tradition. Homer spoke of how Odysseus’s wandering allowed him to “know the minds of many men.” And the great Alexandrian Greek poet Constantine Cavafy, who in his best-loved work, the 1911 poem Ithaca, consoles the great wanderer, once he is back home, that “Ithaca gave you the beautiful journey / without her you wouldn’t have set upon the road.” The idea of the “beautiful journey” accords well with our modern-day belief—one much indebted to Freud, ultimately—that “process” is as important as “product.” Yet it seems to me the other, unpleasant side of travel is, in its way, just as crucial to keep in mind as are the pleasures; and for that reason should not be ignored, excised from our memories, our travelogues. And here I am not, in fact, talking about the familiar evils— the delays, the hardships, the discomfort, even the danger, the confusions and fears, the sheer physical toll that comes with moving from one place to another, no matter how near or how remote—but rather about something else, just as much

at the heart of travel but darker, too. Not surprisingly, here again Odysseus and his voyages are worth considering. Homer’s Odysseus spends 10 years trying to get home—but that sweet return raises a sour question: then what? Think of Dante, who puts the great adventurer (known by his Latin name, Ulysses) in Hell, his perpetual yearning to see new places and things here transformed into a kind of curse; think of Tennyson, who half a millennium later also shows us a revisionist Ulysses, miserable back home and still in the grip of the tormenting desire “to strive, to seek, to fi nd, and not to yield.” Cavafy himself, a decade and a half before he penned Ithaca, had written a gloomier poem in which he envisions an Odysseus who “hated the air of dry land,” for whom “Phantasms of the West / disturbed his sleep at night.” It is no accident that Odysseus embodies both the sweet and the tart aspects of the rich yet destabilizing, the sweet yet sour experience that is the object of our attention here. The fact that literature’s greatest wanderer is also literature’s greatest home comer reminds us that travel (as opposed to emigration) is always and necessarily not a unitary but a twofold experience; the outward-bound journey always ends in a coming home, and the one is meaningless without the other. The sweetness—and sourness, sometimes, too—of the exotic adventure is matched by the delight and regret of seeing familiar places once again. If I keep resorting to these metaphors of taste, that too is an “Odyssean” habit. Surely there is significance in the fact that the ancient Greek word for “homecoming”—one much used in the Odyssey itself, and one that indeed denotes the entire genre of lost epics devoted to the “returns” of the heroes of Troy—is nostos; and that nostos, in return, is the root of the Modern Greek word nostimos, which means—what else?—“delicious”: as good a word for the entire varied experience of travel as you could hope to think of. » 123


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| impressions

Traveling, and Writing, in the Information Age By Pico Iyer I STEPPED OUT OF THE PLANE near Lhasa in 1985 and began scribbling. Everything around me was something that almost nobody I knew could hope to lay eyes on: the sky so cobalt it made me dizzy; faltering steps through the thin air that felt like an event. Images of Buddha painted on rocks along the road and pilgrims prostrating themselves every step of the way as they walked across the 124

country. Wild faces gathered around the Jokhang Temple, eerie in the candlelight inside; the thousand rooms of the Potala Palace overlooking a cluster of whitewashed houses in the near-absolute dark: all of it was as overpowering as the monks seated in great shafts of light in dusty temple chambers, muttering their sutras, or the red-cheeked girls and their grandfathers in cowboy hats, stirring up

vegetables in a pot in the basement of the Banak Shol guesthouse. Barely 2,000 Westerners had set foot in Lhasa at the time I was growing up; those few of us able to visit as soon as it opened up were explorers with a duty to bring a faraway planet back to the outside world. By the third time I went to Tibet, early in our new century, almost everyone I knew had seen it on the Discovery Channel, and could access places on Google Earth that I could not dream of seeing first-hand. The blue-glass shopping malls, the generic streets of an Eastern Vegas at 3,650 meters, the 658 brothels and 224 karaoke parlors were common places that friends in California discussed over breakfast. Information, once rare as yaks, was now as everyday as videos; the only useful thing a traveler could bring back was images of the inner Tibet and the questions it gave rise to (how much was what we saw there the product of the Tibet we had constructed in advance? Where does faith end and credulity begin?). Proust and Thoreau, and all those inner foreign states that no video camera or tape-recorder quite catch: that was the invisible sphere, still uncharted and constantly shifting, that was now exclusive to the writer. Destination, a century ago, was an end in itself; now it is at most a means to the end of seeing the things weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d be hardpressed to notice at home. Hauntedness is the only thing that gives a traveler meaning, the questions she (or V. S. Naipaul or Jan Morris) brings to a place that most of us would take in only passively. I write this in Venice, where generations of writers, from Byron to James to Brodsky, have seemed to claim every stone or rosy trick of light; the only thing any of us can offer now is those private dilemmas it unlocks inside us. When W. G. Sebald came here, he saw only images of death, which took him back to his birth in Nazi Germany in 1944. Writing travel today is a matter of charting those unseen places that make us shudder or shiver or know we donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t know where we are at all.


Burma Regained By Guy Trebay EARLY IN 2007—BEFORE the springtime of the bloody Saffron Revolution and well before the devastating Cyclone Nargis of the following year, and also before the gaze of the world was forcibly drawn by politics and natural disaster to the shielded and repressive and impoverished country of Burma—I found myself there one chilly morning, traveling by f lat-bottomed boat across a large and misty freshwater lake. This lake in hills at the heart of the northern Shan State is also at the center of a region where civil and political unrest have been rife for decades. Political imprisonments and the disappearances of dissidents are anything but rare in the Shan State, and so it had been suggested to me that the implications of my traveling and spending dollars there were troubling—although how much more so than visiting any other part of the country it is hard to say. This particular lake is famous for its floating gardens, laboriously formed islets constructed by layering riverweed in submerged bamboo frames anchored to bamboo staves. Insubstantial as they appear, the f loating gardens are solid enough to produce all of the region’s produce and what I was informed was the country’s entire crop of tomatoes. Shifting by season, subsiding and disappearing altogether, reconstructed again in new shapes on new frameworks of lattice and mud, the f loating islands of Inle Lake even then seemed almost too obviously metaphorical of Burmese reality. I mean by this that, after some weeks there, I was growing accustomed to the sense that hardly anything in Burma is as it appears. In the foreground of a popular vista from a Mandalay pagoda is a compound where, as it turns out, political prisoners are jailed. In the great Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon, people

whisper despite the noisome throngs, because hidden in the niches are security microphones. Even the cultured and genial guide one relies on and has beers with is very probably a spy. I spent a week at Inle Lake, wandering by boat to villages where weavers in lofts set on stilts made cloth from silk and cotton and also filaments laboriously extracted from lotus root. I visited a lacquer shop where women of the Padaung tribe, their necks stretched with brass rings, were kept on hand as a kind of living diorama of Our Vanishing World. I visited a famous monastery whose resident cats have been trained to jump through hoops. It was far from obvious then that within months the monks of Burma, would rise up to defy the country’s military masters. And it did not seem likely that day in rickety Nga Phe Kyaung monastery that I would find many who shared, as I do, the urgent view of the exiled writer Thant Myint-U that witnesses are needed in this gorgeous, isolated and benighted country to bring out word of its citizenry and also of the many riches—natural, material, artistic—that are routinely being pilfered or vandalized and destroyed. I had arrived on a tourist visa—lucky to get one, because foreign journalists were forbidden—and moved about the country with surprising ease, in what I would later understand was the briefest period before the country’s ruling junta would once more slam shut and bolt the nation’s door. The great attraction at Leaping Cat Monastery was not for me the felines named Fidel Castro or Demi Moore, but six monumental seated images of Buddha arrayed around the interior of the shrine. Each was more than 2 meters high and each in its own individual fash-

ion an artistic masterpiece. Fragile 17thcentury effigies of wood and horsehair, lacquer and gold, the images are probably best thought of less as sculpture than devotional objects. Aesthetically miraculous though they are their fundamental purpose is as aids to meditation and transcendence: glorious, luminous tools. A cult of sorts has formed around one of the figures, a Buddha more merry looking than serene. Known as the Remover of Obstacles, his left hand rests at one side of his body, while his right is raised to shoulder height in the abhaya mudra, a gesture signifying the absence of fear. I have thought of this often since reports appeared from Rangoon the following September that 500 monks had made their way unopposed past uniformed security officers and armed vigilantes, on their way to pay homage to Aung San Suu Kyi, and that their protests were soon followed by others as civilians by the thousands began to join in. “We are in uncharted territory,’’ Mark Canning, the British ambassador to Burma, told a reporter after a crowd estimated at 100,000 took to the streets protesting years of economic and political hardship, and the government issued its fi rst warnings that unspecified military actions might be taken against the monks, “according to the law.’’ I thought of the Buddha again after Cyclone Nargis inundated the Irrawaddy Delta, killing untold numbers, and then the global community was barred by the junta from offering assistance to the Burmese. I thought and wondered who was fearless enough to help remove the obstacles facing Burma. Had the villagers of Inle Lake survived the cyclone? Had the monks survived the junta’s response? What of the Buddha image? Was it still there at the Leaping Cat Monastery? Or had it been destroyed or else looted and sent across the border to be sold? Like Thant Myint-U, I believe in the traveler’s task as a witness, and in that belief I regularly scan the news now, looking for word from someone who has seen what I saw.  125



(T+L)12.08

IN SHANGHAI,

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THE FAST - CHANGING

PUDONG SKYLINE. PHOTOGRAPHED BY DARREN SOH

Popular LANGKAWI is at a crossroads SHANGHAI hotels aim for the stars Antarctica, that once in a LIFETIME trip The future is NOW in boomtown Saigon 127


Natural assets


A folded leaf does double duty as a small packet. Opposite: Poolside at Bon Ton Resort.

Caught between preserving its environment and attracting more visitors, Langkawi ďŹ nds itself at a crossroads, reports ROBYN ECKHARDT. Now the question is which way to turn. Photographed by SCOTT A. WOODWARD


By Nature Clockwise from left: Touches of Langkawi; the view from a cable car; the beach at the Four Seasons; Bon Ton Resort.

M A P BY WA S I N E E C H A N TA KO R N

S

ECONDS AFTER STEPPING into one of Langkawi’s cable cars, I’m ascending the slopes of Mat Cincang, the pod swinging like a metronome. Any thought of motion sickness is eclipsed by the magnificent scene of a forest-cloaked range that gives way to pretty horseshoe-shaped Telaga Harbor. Beyond, islands float like ice cream bobbing in a cerulean sea. The view of unpopulated, beachfringed isles stretching all the way to the horizon is even better. My reverie fades, however, at the mountain’s base when I enter Oriental Village, home to a deer farm, trained elephants and the opportunity to be photographed with one of Langkawi’s treasures, a raptor. Last year, in recognition of its combination of natural assets—mountain ranges, limestone karsts, mangrove and tropical rainforests, and diversified wildlife, including more than 220 species of birds—UNESCO named Langkawi a Geopark. In my five days on the “big island”—Langkawi refers both to a


Island Life Clockwise from left: Afternoon snacks with a smile; Telaga Harbor; Bon Ton Resort’s private villas; Tanjung Rhu Beach.

99-island archipelago sitting off northwestern peninsular Malaysia and its main, developed island—I repeatedly encountered stunning physical beauty juxtaposed with a depressing disregard for natural heritage. Southeast Asia’s only Geopark, this is the latest success in Langkawi’s bid to be recognized as one of the region’s premier islands. It’s been a long road. Twenty years ago it “was pretty much the Siberia of Malaysia,” admits Irshad Mobarak, a conservationist who, back then, abandoned a banking job in Kuala Lumpur to settle on the big island. “I liked it because it was very natural.” While mountains and mangroves are prevalent, the island doesn’t lack for magnificent beaches. Spread out around the coast, each has its own vibe and attracts different types of sun seekers. Most of the island’s visitors end up, at some point or another, on 2-kilometer-long Pantai Cenang, a strip of talcum-powder sand with a row of bars, chalets and guesthouses tucked amid coconut palms and casuarinas. On Cenang you’ll hear the buzz of a Jet Ski or a motorboat, and you can also

sample asam laksa—hot-and-sour fish soup with rice noodles, dished up from a sand-side truck called Tsunami Laksa. A small cape at Cenang’s southern end separates it from the smaller and quieter Pantai Tengah, which fronts a road that’s become a popular nightlife and restaurant strip. The petite beaches at Pantai Kok and Burau Bay are surrounded by limestone cliffs and jungle. There are no such dramatic backdrops at Tanjung Rhu, on the northern tip of the island but what it lacks in action, the 3-kilometer stretch of silver sand makes up for in tranquility. Calm waters lap at this often deserted beach, so-named for the sound of the wind through the leaves of its casuarina trees. Evenings often find a low-key party in progress at its western tip, where locals from nearby villages gather to watch the sun set. The Malaysian government raised Langkawi’s profile among domestic tourists by granting it duty-free status in 1987, but it was The Datai, a luxury resort set amid rainforest that opened in the late 90’s, that put it on the high-end islandhopper’s map. More recently, Four Seasons and others have » 131


joined the five-star stakes. Langkawi is beginning to tap the second-home market as well, with plans approved for two housing projects comprising a total of 92 luxury villas and condos, as well as a community of bungalows, apartments and a marina to be linked to the Langkawi Island Golf Club. Tourism authorities, who have been quick to play up the Geopark brand, expect a 15–20 percent increase in tourists this year. But Langkawi’s natural attractions have underscored a clash between proponents of mass tourism and those who preach sustainable ecotourism. Will Langkawi’s natural heritage be preserved for future generations or squandered for short-term gain? Geopark status, says Andrew Sebastian, communications manager for the Malaysian Nature Society, is a great way to protect the environment. “The problem is that there is no enforcement on the part of UNESCO, and there are no local conservation laws that correspond to the Geopark designation.” The status of Geoparks is evaluated at least once every four years. In 2003, the society teamed up with the Langkawi Development Authority and the Malaysian Forestry Department to survey the state of conservation on the islands. The trio proposed that some areas—mangroves and mountain ranges in particular—be declared state or national parks and be permanently off-limits to development. To date, the government hasn’t taken up the proposal.

O

N MY FIRST MORNING in Langkawi, I slip behind

the wheel of a rental car for a tour of the south end of the island. I cruise the densely built-up road parallel to Cenai Beach, a disheveled collection of bars, cafés, restaurants and shops that draws backpackers and bar hoppers, then continue along the island’s coastal road, passing a steep slope sporting an ugly gash where rainforest has been stripped away to make room for military facilities. On the east side of the island in Kuah town, I find nondescript concrete shophouses, generic hotels and a hulking shopping plaza. Where, I wonder, is the stunningly beautiful Langkawi of the tourist brochures? Three hours later, I find it when I check into the Four Seasons Resort, a 16-hectare hideaway on Langkawi’s north coast. From the resort’s 1.5-kilometer silver sand beach I »

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Green Getaway Clockwise from top left: All business at the beach; the stylish Four Seasons Resort; a ďŹ shing village; tour guide Wendy Chin; tables for two at Tapaz; a touch of the mangroves.


Tropical Tastes Clockwise from left: A Four Seasons smile; the beach loungers await; pastries at the Loaf Bakery. Opposite: Inside one of the stylish villas at Bon Ton Resort.

board a boat for a guided tour of the mangrove forests clustered around the Kilim and Setul karsts. Fifteen minutes in the hands of an infectiously enthusiastic nature guide and I rethink my first impressions of the island. As our boat navigates the labyrinth of waterways that intersect the mangroves, Four Seasons’ assistant naturalist Wendy Chin describes their complex ecosystem. The trees, their dense network of roots and the mudflats on which they sit protect the island from tidal waves and are a habitat for dozens of species; we spot macaques, huge monitor lizards, mudskippers—fish that emerge from the water to “walk” and feed on land—kingfishers and Brahminy Kites, a bird of prey. As the tide recedes, our boatman steers us to a seemingly lifeless mudflat pierced with spindly mangrove seedlings. Suddenly, clumps of muck shoot into the air as hundreds of crabs, some as tiny as a grain of rice and others large enough to comprise a monitor lizard’s dinner, pop out of their holes. The mangroves aren’t without problems. Chin zeroes in on raptor feeding, a heavily promoted tourist activity. Boatmen toss out chicken entrails to draw birds of prey, harming their digestive systems, exposing them to antibiotics and undermining the birds’ natural hunting instinct. Another concern is the erosion of mudflats largely as a result of the low-priced boat tours that speed through. “It rips up the mud. And if we lose this,” Chin said, pointing to a stretch of mud carpeted with mudskippers, “we lose the mangroves, which are the foundation of the food chain.” Everything from tiny crabs up to the majestic white-bellied sea eagle depend on the mangroves.

O

VERDEVELOPMENT?” asks Narelle McMurtie. “No. Progress here has been so slow that a lot of things haven’t been spoiled.” I’m at Bon Ton Resort’s Nam restaurant, simultaneously swooning over the pristine view—golden-tipped reeds backed by bottlegreen rice paddies and rolling hills, a treat at sunset—and the palm sugar ice cream melting over my square of gingerbread, while talking natural and cultural heritage with Bon Ton owner McMurtie. »

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â&#x20AC;&#x153;Progress here has been so slow that a lot of

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The viewing platform at Mat Cincang, reached by cable car.

things havenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t been spoiled,â&#x20AC;? says a hotelier

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Tropical Break Right: Meeting a real local on Wendy Chin’s mangrove tour. Below: The relaxing Four Seasons. Bottom: A butterfly guide. Opposite: At the Four Seasons spa.

Bon Ton comprises a small village of formerly dilapidated traditional Malay wooden houses, rescued by McMurtie and transformed into stylish lodgings. Beyond oozing character and offering creature comforts like wooden soaking tubs, the rooms and suites represent one of the best efforts at cultural preservation on Langkawi. McMurtie’s made the island her home for 20 years. I wonder if she’s concerned about possible threats to the island’s natural beauty. “Not at all,” she says, noting the population has only doubled to 80,000 in 20 years. “We wish there were more developments. They’re good for business.” Irshad Mobarak wouldn’t agree. “This island is at a threshold,” he tells me, as we drive to the Datai, where he conducts early morning nature walks. “To date, the big island has lost almost half of its natural heritage.” Visitors to Langkawi who sign up for one of Mobarak’s walks risk hypnosis—a big bear of a man, he possesses the charisma of a true believer—but are rewarded with the sort of appreciation for Langkawi’s green side that just can’t be gained from a lounge by the beach. Within minutes of kicking off his tour, Mobarak has me channeling my inner biologist. He points out a saucer-eyed flying lemur clinging to the trunk of a tree and a red speck on a tree that turned out to be Langkawi’s smallest bird; plucks a leaf from a species of wild ginger and explained the genus’s role in the prevention of stomach cancer; and leads us to a jackfruit tree. As we pass around binoculars to observe a family of wreathed hornbills—after a day’s courtship, males and females mate for life—Mobarak tells us that the great hornbill, another of the three hornbill species found on Langkawi, is also its most threatened bird, poached for food. “This is the problem,” he tells me later, as we drive to his office. “On Langkawi we have no legislation to protect natural resources; no coordinated effort to teach our young people the value of their natural heritage; and no enforcement of existing laws.” The job of protecting the island’s flora and fauna, for instance, rests on the shoulders of just a few wildlife officers. » 138


An airy colonial-style villa at Bon Ton Resort.

000


A 2002 satellite photograph of the big island shows the extent to which its south, where rainforest has been cleared for agriculture, housing, tourism facilities and infrastructure projects, has been denuded. Rainforest covering the Mat Cincang and Gunung Raya mountain ranges in the north and mangroves on the east coast appear mostly intact, but are cut off from each other by strips of deforested land, a phenomenon called “fragmentation” that restricts wildlife to a smaller habitat, resulting in inbreeding. Langkawi’s fragmentation can be reversed, Mobarak argues, with the establishment of wildlife corridors that will reconnect its islands of green. But first the land must be purchased or otherwise protected. Reforestation comes next. “And,” he adds, “deforestation must cease, now.” “Langkawi is a Geopark, an ecotourism destination. That’s what we have to protect first,” points out Mobarak. “Neither Bali nor Phuket can offer visitors what Langkawi can—a rain-

forest at their doorstep. We’re shooting ourselves in the foot by ruining that.” As we head up Gunung Raya’s slope I’m feeling increasingly pessimistic about Langkawi’s future. Then, rounding a curve, we come face-to-face with a white-bellied sea eagle. The raptor gives us an imperious gaze before spreading its wings, which can span up to 2 meters, and taking off from its guardrail perch. At a south-facing lookout point Mobarak points out Mahsuri’s Rings, two almost semi-circular hills enclosing rice paddies and a small village that were created 10 million years ago when a meteor split just before striking Langkawi. My eye is drawn to the construction site where the Langkawi Golf Club’s housing development will stand. “Well, the government is a monster to move, that’s for certain,” Mobarak laughs. “But I have hope. I’m fighting for Langkawi so, in the end, what choice do I have but to hope?” 

GUIDE TO LANGKAWI WHEN TO GO High season lasts from midNovember to the end of December. The monsoon means Langkawi is wet from July to October, but rains rarely last more than a few hours. GETTING THERE Both AirAsia and Malaysia Airlines have multiple daily flights from Kuala Lumpur. From Singapore, SilkAir flies direct to Langkawi 10 times a week. Langkawi International Airport sits just 20 minutes from Tanjung Rhu beach (about RM45 for a taxi), at the northern tip of the island, and 10 minutes from the Pantai– Cenang beach strip (taxi for 20 ringgit). Two daily ferries (langkawi-ferry.com) connect Langkawi with Satun, in southern Thailand (75 minutes) and Penang (2 hours, 25 minutes). WHERE TO STAY Berjaya Langkawi Beach & Spa Resort Chalets are situated in a lush rainforest or over the water. Karong Berkunci 200; 604/959-1888; berjayaresorts.com; doubles from US$150. Bon Ton Resort Eight beautifully refurbished Malay wooden stilt houses, each with distinctive décor. Jln. Pantai Cenang; 604/955-3643; bontonresort.com. my; doubles from US$150.

Casa del Mar This Spanishinspired property right on Cenang Beach feels like a private home, with its comfortable lounge area and rooms stocked with thoughtful extras like cocktail shakers and martini glasses. Jln. Pantai Cenang; 60-4/955-2228; casadelmar-langkawi.com; doubles from US$205. The Datai Set amid virgin rainforest, accommodations here feature dark timber accents and soaking tubs. A short walk from the lobby leads to a secluded cove with calm waters. Jln. Teluk Datai; 604/959-2500; ghmhotels.com; doubles from US$445. Four Seasons Resort A luxury outpost at the northern tip of the island fronted by a long silver-sand beach, with luxuriously appointed rooms and villas dotted over 16 hectares. Jln. Tanjung Rhu; 604/950-8888; fourseasons.com; doubles from US$545. Meritus Pelangi Beach Resort & Spa Jln. Pantai Cenang; 604/652-8888; meritus-hotel.com; doubles from US$140. WHERE TO EAT Nam This stylish yet laid-back restaurant offers a menu that caters to Western tastes, with dishes like chargrilled rack of

lamb, but it also has Malaysian cuisine. Bon Ton Resort, Jln. Pantai Cenang; 60-4/955-3643; bontonresort.com.my; dinner for two US$75.

The grounds of The Datai.

Red Tomato The fresh breads baked on the premises make this casual eatery on the Pantai Cenang backpacker strip a popular breakfast and lunch spot. Jln. Pantai Cenang; 60-4/9559118; breakfast for two US$14. The Loaf This bakery cum bistro specializes in breakfasts, burgers, sandwiches and Frenchstyle pastries. Telaga Harbor, Pantai Kok; 60-4/959-4866; theloaflangkawi.com; lunch for two US$25. Tapaz Perfect for pitchers of beer and Mediterranean tapas and tapas-sized plates of Malaysian specialties like beef satay with spicy peanut sauce. Telaga Harbor, Pantai Kok; 6012/3294-0944. Tapas and beer for two US$20. Restoran Siti Fatimah This family-owned restaurant displays a variety of homecooked Malay foods and also serves a great cup of coffee. For the best selection, up to 70 dishes arrive around noon. Bt. 5 1/4, Jln. Kg Tok Senik, Kawasan Mata Air, Ulu Melaka; 60-4/9552754; lunch for two US$8. Kuey Teow Sup Perut This hole-in-the-wall shop across the

street from Langkawi Hospital serves delicious Thai-style rice noodle soup with beef featuring a star anise and cinnamonfragrant broth. Bangunan Haji Taib, Bukit Tekoh; 60-4/9661357; US$1.25 per bowl. Laksa Tsunami Pantai Cenang; 9 A.M.–7 P.M.; no phone; 60–75 US cents per serving. Pasar Malam Held each evening in a different spot on the island, night markets are a great place to graze on Malaysian specialties like ayam percik (grilled chicken in coconut milk sauce) and kuih muih (sweets). The largest pasar malam are held on Wednesday and Saturday in Kuah town.

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The view of Jin Mao Tower from the Park Hyatt Shanghaiâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s lounge. Opposite from left: The wooden doorway of URBN hotel; the welcome party at the Park Hyatt.


SH A NGH A I ˜G OE S G L O B A L˜

China’s largest metropolis is witnessing a serious hotel building boom. JENNIFER CHEN checks out some of the city’s newest stays, from luxurious to eco-friendly. Photographed by DARREN SOH 143


M

Y TAXI DRIVER, M R. L I, wasn’t giving up. He’d already quizzed me about my family, marital status, career and salary, and he was finally getting to what he really wanted to talk about. “So you’ve lived in New York, Taipei and Singapore?” he asked in his slurry Shanghainese accent. “So which one is better? Taipei or Shanghai?” Not wanting to further distract Mr. Li, who was already nonchalantly weaving past cyclists, pedestrians and other motorists, I demurred, mumbling something about how you just couldn’t compare two such different cities. “OK, OK, I get your point,” Mr. Li assented, before pressing on: “So which one is better? Shanghai or New York?” “Shanghai is much better than Beijing,” I offered, hoping that would mollify him. Instead, he snorted and shot me the sort of look Shanghainese sophisticates usually reserve for their cloddish country brethren. “That’s a given.” It was hard not to smile at Mr. Li’s chauvinism about his hometown (“We built our skyline much faster than New York did!”). Beijing might have stolen the limelight in 2008 with its display of mass coordinated calisthenics and sheer Herculean effort at the Summer Games, and the Shanghainese graciously gave the northerners their moment in the sun. But they did so knowing that their city is—by a long stretch—the most cosmopolitan, go-getting, head-spinning city in China. Shanghai, residents often proclaim, is China’s answer to New York. Granted, Shanghai is the country’s financial capital, and its fantastical skyline is fast becoming as recognizable as Manhattan’s. And the air in Shanghai thrums with hustle, verve, possibility and whatever is the Chinese version of chutzpah, with an invigorating palpability that would make a New Yorker feel instantly at home. But there are other similarities that aren’t so close to the surface. Despite the wholesale razing of old neighborhoods over the past two decades, there’s just enough of the past to remind you of Shanghai’s »


Shanghai Sanctuary Clockwise from top left: Hard at work at the Park Hyatt; a bedroom at the hotel; the hotelâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s informal dining room; the steps leading to the indoor pool.


New Heights From left: The lounge at the Park Hyatt; inside the hotel’s discreet entrance; the under-construction Conrad and Jumeirah Hantang Xintiandi; a doorman at the Park Hyatt.

Some hotels THRUST you into the thick of it, history. Shady streets with old lane houses are interspersed between office towers, reminiscent of how the edges of Midtown Manhattan thin out into brownstones. As with New York, many of Shanghai’s denizens aren’t natives. People from all over the country and the Chinese diaspora— from construction workers to graduates bearing degrees from prestigious foreign universities—flock here for the city’s promises of money and glamour and being part of it all. I met plenty of these transplants while surveying some of the city’s newest hotels, part of its ongoing transformation into a global capital. Much has been made of the dozens of new hotels that debuted before the Olympics, and for a moment, it seemed as if Beijing had usurped Shanghai as having the most innovative and grandest lodgings in the country. But judging from the number of cranes dotting Shanghai’s horizon, this city is catching up fast—especially in the run-up to the World Expo in 2010. Major hotel chains such as W Hotels, the Peninsula, the Ritz-Carlton and Shangri-La are piling into the city (some already have properties here). Over a single week, I stayed in three of Shanghai’s newest hotels and visited about half a dozen others—all in 146

various stages of construction (Lesson No. 1 about building in Shanghai: nothing goes according to schedule)—that are due to open next year. Hectic? Sure. But in this city of 18 million people on the move, the pace felt just about right.

˜ THE HIGHFLIERS ˜ Perhaps if I hadn’t just endured the red-eye from Bangkok, the Park Hyatt Shanghai wouldn’t have appeared as the perfect cocoon where a weary traveler could finally rest. But during my three days there, I’d come to realize that there’s a reason, in fact, many reasons, why a certain class of international guest—say, snowy-haired American men wearing Tod’s driving loafers or immaculately groomed Japanese couples (all types populating the property when I was there)—pay that much more for a place to stay. The Park Hyatt isn’t just metaphorically lofty; it’s literally up in the clouds. Occupying the 79th to 93rd floors of the recently completed 492-meter, 101-story Shanghai World Financial Center, the hotel is the world’s highest, and wherever you turn, it’s difficult to escape the sensation of hovering above the fray. Each morning, I’d take the elevator from my


others help you hit the pause button on reality room on the 80th floor to the 87th-floor lobby, walk up the two steps to the cozily inviting lounge, and contemplate the pagoda-like spire of the adjacent Jin Mao Tower (which, at 421 meters, is no slouch) floating in front of the picture window. The lounge’s white lacquered ceiling, soothingly neutral-hued décor and noiseless servers only heighten the feeling of being suspended above the hurly-burly of Shanghai. Some hotels thrust you into the thick of it, while others help you hit the pause button on reality. The Park Hyatt firmly belongs to the latter category, a conjuring trick achieved by the sublimely serene design of Tony Chi, the New York–based interior designer. If you had to be facile, you could call Chi’s overall ethos “Modern Chinese” or “Zen Luxury.” But it’s so much more complex—and cerebral—than that, and designers who mistake stark minimalism for class would do well to study his work closely. Throughout the Park Hyatt, Chi plays with textures: the elegant formal dining room, for instance, ends with a wall covered in tangerine-colored stingray, giving you a jolt of color and warmth without being garish. I kept running my fingers over surfaces: the smooth black lacquered tables, the

buttery olive-green leather of the bar stools, the wood shellacked in a rubber-like material that gives it a surprisingly soft feel. Upstairs, where the bars and restaurant are, Chi continues to deploy textures—plaster molded into radiating circles, glass mosaic—that collude with the contemporary art purchased specifically for the hotel. Not surprisingly, the Park Hyatt’s owner Minoru Mori, also the developer behind Roppongi Hills and the Shanghai World Financial Center, founded the Mori Art Museum with his wife Yoshiko. Chi also uses geometric shapes in unexpected ways. A lacquered board that starts at the ceiling and runs alongside the window in a guest room swoops down to form a day bed. It took me a day before I realized that the block of glass that jutted from the wall opposite the door lit up, illuminated by tiny light bulbs—the perfect night light. But you don’t need to be a design buff to appreciate how Chi’s alchemy makes the guest rooms incredibly comfortable and functional—nothing here is extraneous or out of joint. After a day tromping through Shanghai, it was an enormous relief to come back to the Park Hyatt, shower in the stonewalled bath chamber—complete with soaking tub, » 147


SHANGHAINESE know that their townâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;by a long stretchâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; is the most cosmopolitan, go-getting, head-spinning city in China Outside the Conrad. This page, clockwise from left: Inside the lift at the Ivy; a clock inside URBN hotel; two waitresses at URBN.


The distinctive windows of the Jumeirah. This page, clockwise from below: A bathroom at The PuLi hotel; the Ivy Shanghai’s façade; the lobby at the Swissôtel Grand Shanghai.

rain shower and a cedar bucket and stool in case I wanted to scrub down Japanese style—ease myself into the Ming-style chair and contemplate my tranquil temporary home. Traveling in China usually means lowering your expectations when it comes to service, and to be fair, you need to cut the Chinese a lot of slack. It’s hard to erase decades of socialist thinking. Just a generation ago, people here addressed each other as tongzhimen, or comrades. It’s even harder to exorcise the ghosts of famine, times when clawing your way to the front of the queue determined your survival. But in my days at the Park Hyatt, I’d forgotten that curtness and

pushiness were the norms, and found myself momentarily taken aback that the people on the street didn’t possess the beautiful manners of the hotel’s staff. At 174 rooms and suites, the Park Hyatt is relatively small compared to two other major luxury hotels that will be unveiled next summer. The 362-room Conrad and the 309room Jumeirah Hantang Xintiandi occupy adjacent towers designed by Kohn Pederson Fox, the New York firm that was also behind the Shanghai World Financial Center. Located opposite the entrance of the Xintiandi entertainment district, the two white towers—with distinctively »


shaped windows (riffs off Han and Tang dynasty motifs) and curved exteriors—have already attracted notice among locals. “I’m told that all buildings in Shanghai have nicknames, and I can’t wait to hear what ours is,” Dirk de Cuyper, the general manager of the Conrad, told me wryly. Equal attention has been paid on the design inside: the Conrad’s interiors have been created by L.A.-based designer Peter Remedios, while Japanese cult firm Super Potato is engineering the colorful, funky rooms and public areas of the Jumeirah, the Dubai-headquartered company’s debut in Asia. The two, however, are taking different approaches when it comes to dining: while the Conrad is banking on four eateries, two bars and a chocolate boutique, the Jumeirah plans to open only one Chinese restaurant on the rationale that guests are already spoiled for choice in the area. More along the lines of the Park Hyatt is The PuLi, which is slated to open early next year. Billed as an urban resort, the 209-room property in the bustling district of Jing An will feature sophisticated interiors by Jaya Ibrahim and a spa run by the Anantara group.

˜ THE BOUTIQUES ˜ China isn’t normally associated with the environmental vanguard. It is, after all, the world’s biggest emitter of carbon

The hallways at URBN are lined with old bricks. Right: A bed at the Swissôtel. Opposite: URBN’s roomtwentyeight restaurant.

dioxide after the United States. So it was with some skepticism that I booked myself for a night at URBN, a 26-room property claimed to be the country’s first carbon neutral hotel. When we pulled up to URBN’s entryway on a leafy street, my driver simply didn’t believe it was hotel. “There’s no driveway, no doormen,” he argued with me. “There’s only a wooden gate—it must be someone’s home.” URBN, in fact, is housed in a 1970’s prosthetics factory that later became the neighborhood post office. The building isn’t the only thing that’s been recycled. Vintage leather suitcases form the wall behind the reception desk. Bricks and mahogany wood salvaged from old buildings are used throughout the hotel, sometimes to stunning effect: traditional, slate-colored Shanghai bricks stacked at a slant shield the lobby lounge from the front door. Efforts to be green are evident elsewhere in the hotel. When you leave your room, sensors automatically turn off the air conditioning, which is, of course, energy efficient. Doubled-paned windows keep the heat and cold out, while low-wattage bulbs light the hotel. The owners offset their carbon emissions by donating money to environmental causes in China, and they also encourage guests to delve into the local culture by offering Mandarin, cooking, tai chi and acupuncture classes. Though I still harbor doubts about carbon neutrality as »


Small Gems From left: The Art Deco– era Langham hotel; the reception desk at URBN; the lobby at the Ivy Shanghai; a cityscape in the Ivy.

Be forewarned, you get what you pay for being little more than a marketing gimmick, I appreciated URBN because, above all else, it’s a boutique hotel. That means attentive, personalized service, especially at the restaurant, roomtwentyeight, which lures a stylish, arty crowd with its selection of well-executed salads, sandwiches, pizzas and pastas—and the best cappuccino east of Italy and west of Australia. Despite my short stay, I managed to have three meals in URBN, no mean feat since I was also busy sampling some of the best restaurants in town. Most of URBN’s clientele is Western or overseas Chinese, co-owner Jules Kwan admitted. “Mainland Chinese are still trying to work out what a luxury small hotel is.” They’ll have plenty of chances to figure out what a boutique hotel is as more small hotels are set to open next year. Among the ones I have my eye on are The Langham Yangtze, housed in a glorious Art Deco hotel, and Les Suites Orient, located in another historical building right on The Bund. In the meantime, a trickle of boutique properties have opened in the past year, including the latest entry into the scene, the Ivy Shanghai, a wallet-friendly 46-room hotel located in a former cinema that’s heavy on the Chinese kitsch theme. 152

˜ THE AFFORDABLE ˜ If you want to live it up, today’s Shanghai—with its myriad of high-end clubs, restaurants and shops—is a great place to do just that. But for those on a tighter budget, there are still places to enjoy—and stay—in the city. But be forewarned, you get what you pay for here, especially when it comes to service. It was probably a bad sign when I checked into the recently opened Swissôtel Grand Shanghai that the bellman stood by dumbly as I dragged my suitcase to the bank of elevators. From there, the hotel’s service proceeded to get comically worse. Later that day, when I asked the doorman to hail a cab for me, he barked, “I already have a colleague out there.” The concierge wasn’t much help either, barely lifting her head from the desk when I requested that she phone for a car. “Impossible to do at this time of the day,” she murmured. When a taxi finally did arrive, I tried to open a busted passenger door. “It doesn’t work! It doesn’t work!” screeched a bellman as he pushed his way past me. After that ordeal, the cigarette smoke–filled car seemed like a respite. At least the driver was friendly. 


here, especially when it comes to SERVICE GUIDE TO SHANGHAI URBN 183 Jiaozhou Lu; 8621/5153-4600; urbhnhotels.com; doubles from RMB1,400. Swissôtel Grand Shanghai 1 Yuyuan Lu; 86-21/5355-9898; swissotel.com; doubles from RMB889. The Ivy 709 Jiaozhou Lu; 8621/3221-2600; ivyshanghai.com; doubles from RMB600.

WHEN TO GO Shanghai’s high season runs from October to November. Winters are often bitterly cold, and summers unendurably hot and humid. GETTING THERE Almost all the major Asian airlines fly nonstop from their hubs. Pudong International

Airport is an hour’s taxi ride away from downtown. The highspeed rail is a better bet. WHERE TO STAY Park Hyatt Shanghai 79th– 93rd floors, Shanghai World Financial Center, 100 Century Ave., Pudong; 86-21/68881234; hyatt.com; doubles from RMB3,300.

The Puli 1 Changde Lu; no phone number as of press time; opening January or February 2009. The Langham Yangtze 740 Hankou Lu; 86-21/6351-7880; langhamhotels.com; opening spring 2009. Les Suites Orient 1 Jinling Dong Lu; 86-21/6320-0088; lessuitesorient.com; opening March 2009.

Conrad Shanghai 99 Madang Lu; 86-21/6386-9888; conradhotels1.hilton.com; opening June 2009. Jumeirah Hantang Xintiandi 88 Songshan Lu; 86-21/63877888; jumeirahhantangxintiandi; opening second quarter of 2009. WHERE TO EAT Ji Shi Homestyle Shanghainese eats. 41 Tianping Lu; 8621/6282-9260. Jade on 36 Molecular gastronomy with a stunning view of The Bund. 36th floor, Pudong Shangri-La; 33 Fucheng Lu; 86-21/6882-3636. Jean Georges Low-lit, sexy Shanghai outpost for Gallic chef Vongerichten. 4th floor, Three on the Bund; 3 Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu; 86-21/6321-7733.

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Sea ice below the Antarctic Circle.

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Polar Explorers Clockwise from above: Professor Khromov passenger Glen Powell after receiving a penguin stamp upon crossing the Antarctic Circle; the sweeping view from the boat; walking on ice floes; a crabeater seal looking up from the ice; the great hulk of the ship; a king penguin on Macquarie Island. Center: A chilly lunch on deck.

IT WOULD HAVE BEEN worth noting, when we signed up for the “Nimrod Centennial Expedition” to Antarctica, that Sir Ernest Shackleton’s pole-seeking Nimrod expedition was a failure, and that venturing south under his name was tempting fate. But we were trying to do only what he had accomplished—in fact, only part of what he had accomplished—and not what he had aspired to do. We anticipated that with a hundred years of technological advancement, we would easily reach the hut he had built at the edge of the Ross Sea, meant to last one winter a century ago but still standing, testament to his high standards and to a climate hostile even to the microorganisms that cause rot. Before we launched at 4 P.M. on New Year’s Day 2008 from the same berth in Lyttelton, New Zealand, that Shackleton had used at the same hour on January 1, 1908, we were blessed in the Anglican church where Shackleton’s party had prayed, and sang the hymn they had sung, whose Cassandra refrain asks, “Oh hear us when we cry to Thee/For those in peril on the sea.” A substantial public had gathered, including descendants of Shackleton’s crew. A brass band played and Samoyeds whose forebears had pulled Shackleton’s sledges barked as the crowd waved us off, and we were escorted out to sea by the very tugboat that had pulled the Nimrod. Promotional material had touted our ship as the Spirit of Enderby, and tied onto the upper deck railing of our vessel, a small banner, the sort a laundromat might use to announce its grand opening, read SPIRIT OF ENDERBY. Gigantic Cyrillic letters on the hull, by contrast, proclaimed the boat as Professor Khromov, as did the lifeboats, the maps and the equipment on board; we entered and left ports as Professor Khromov, because that was in fact the name of the ship. Spirit of Enderby was a flight of the enthusiastic imagination of Rodney Russ, owner of Heritage Expeditions and our trip leader. In the same advance material, there had been references to a “refurbished Russian ice-class ship,” which suggests a more active intervention than the installation of industrial blue carpeting throughout a battered Soviet research vessel from 1984—but the pretend name and the primitive accommodations seemed part of the bravado of our enterprise. (Few ships that sail to Antarctica are equipped to make it through the ice to reach Shackleton’s hut. Heritage was recommended to me by the Antarctic Heritage Trust, the New Zealand–based organization responsible for the maintenance of the historic expedition bases.) The first attraction on our month-long itinerary, two days later, was the Snares, some of the sparse scatter of subantarctic islands between New Zealand and Antarctica. The Snares pulse with such dense birdlife that every path disrupts nesting or breeding grounds, so we toured in Zodiacs and saw the charming endemic crested penguins. Back on board, my partner and I mingled with the other 46 passengers, including two »

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QUALITY THEY’D HAD IN THE SUBANTARCTIC; THE WATER GREW THICK AND SLUGGISH, ALMOST LIKE THE MUSCLES OF A SLOW-MOVING COLOSSUS RIPPLING UNDER TAUT SKIN other Americans, one Canadian, and a smattering of New Zealanders, Australians, British, white Zimbabweans and Namibians, and one guy from Costa Rica. Sailing onward, we ran into 12-meter swells, which made me feel like a lost sock endlessly stuck in a tumble dryer; the Professor Khromov’s ice capacities meant a loss of stability in rough seas. We figured out how to wedge our possessions so that the sound of laptops smashing into cameras was muted by sweaters and thermal underwear. Even in the relative safety of the cabin, there was a certain amount of one’s head ramming into one end of one’s bunk in a fashion that seemed to compress the neck, then one’s feet ramming into the other and compressing the knees. I had hoped to lose weight, not height, during an athletic adventure in challenging climates. Enderby Island, the first shore stop, tended, as islands do, to stay mercifully fixed in one place. Again we saw a stupefying array of birds, including skuas, several species of albatross and 158

the occasional yellow-eyed penguin. Trekking through thickets and fields of megaherbs, we almost tripped over Hooker’s sea lions, which would leap up from slumber and roar, true to their name. More rough seas led us two days later to Macquarie Island, a nature reserve with a small research station that allows only a few hundred visitors a year. Its shoreline is carpeted in wildlife: royal, king, gentoo and rockhopper penguins, as well as elephant seals. The penguins gather around you curiously, and if you hold out a hand to one of the royals, he will nibble on your finger. There is something arrestingly human about any bipedal animal, and the penguins, running around on their two feet and using their flipper-like wings primarily to gesticulate, nodding back and forth to each other, looked like commuters milling around Grand Central before their departure track has been announced, some of them molting like old ladies in moth-eaten fur coats. At one end of the island, more than 200,000 breeding


Icebergs in every shape and size. Bottom right: Haggitt’s Pillar at Scott Island, the great stone monolith.

pairs of king penguins live in conditions that make Tokyo look bucolic. The seals tended to plop on top of one another, forming the sort of pyramids that high school cheerleaders perfected in the 1950’s. The young ones and the females had inconceivably sweet faces with huge, liquid eyes; the older males had knobby trunklike noses, wobbling and battle-scarred. Next came the protracted crossing of the Southern Ocean through the “Roaring Forties” and “Furious Fifties” of latitude, where there are no substantial land masses to slow the winds whipping around the globe. Rodney held a competition to guess when we’d see the first iceberg, and Adam Walleyn, the ship’s brilliant bird expert, counted off species at sea, and the immanence of the seventh continent was great in us. Shackleton attracts Gurdjieff-like devotion, and the ship was awash in fanatic experts on polar exploration. We talked of those intrepid trailblazers day and night. The waves gradually gave up the bright, rough quality they’d had in the subantarctic; the

water grew thick and sluggish, almost like the muscles of a slow-moving colossus rippling under taut skin. On the fifth day, January 12, we found ourselves in a jigsaw puzzle of floating pack ice, the dark lines of the water sketching through snow-dusted frozen shards like a great black spiderweb. The ice fragments were up to 6 meters across, and the shapes suggested an eagle, a Volkswagen Beetle, an emoticon, a relief map of Spain. The amplified ice-white light was like the momentary glare of a strobe sustained for hours on end. The bottom of the world has a frozen pedicure: some of the older ice wore aprons of turquoise just below the waterline, and a few of the icebergs had refracted pockets of cerulean. People talk about the mystery of the desert, but the locus of mystery is the frozen sea. Much of what is beautiful elsewhere can be seen in a glance, but what strikes the visitor to this area is the hostile, exquisite, primitive vastness of it. The tropics may be fire, but the world ends in ice. » 159


Icebergs: Almost avant-garde.

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THE ADÉLIES WERE SCATTERED, ONE HERE AND FOUR THERE, AND SAT COMPLACENTLY ON THEIR ISLETS OF SEA ICE UNTIL OUR BOAT WAS UPON THEM, THEN BELLY FLOPPED INTO THE WATER Everyone went up to the bridge. Russian crewmen were at the bow, on the lookout for thick ice, and the captain reviewed navigational charts while his first mate directed where we needed to go left or right. The boat would ride up a little on one of these jigsaw pieces, and then the weight of the hull would bear down, and the ice would crack open. Late that afternoon, we were all called onto the foredeck for mulled wine, and as we crossed the Antarctic Circle, Rodney told us we were inducted into the “Order of the Penguin,” and made an eloquent speech, and stamped our foreheads with a rubber penguin stamp, which was as charming as it was peculiar. Heading south at about 180 degrees longitude, where seasonal currents usually facilitate passage through the Ross Sea, we entered the endless daylight of the Antarctic high summer, and we stayed up, many of us, until 2:30 A.M. to take it in, that night and the next. The morning that followed, January 14, we woke to bad news. At a “briefing” in the airless lecture room in the ship’s bowels, Rodney announced that the pack ice was thicker than expected, and that we had turned around at 3 A.M. to retrace our course so we could attempt to re-enter it farther east. “The boat could have made it through the way we were going,” he said to us, “but we face 240 kilometers of pack ice and were going just three knots.” My rudimentary math showed that this meant it would have taken us two more days to get through, and I wondered about the wisdom of losing a day going backwards, but lack of experience rendered me foolishly mute. Dmitri, the captain, spoke next. “This boat not icebroker,” he said in his affectingly poor English. “This ice too much.” Rodney showed us the ice maps that his office in Christchurch was getting off the Internet and forwarding to him. Someone voiced our collective fear. “Is there a chance of our not getting through at all?” he asked. Rodney’s face was ashen. “It’s possible,” he said, “but I have made 36 trips to the Antarctic and I’ve always got through.” He barely held tears in check and spoke as though the continent were his oldest friend failing to show for a dinner in its honor. When we went on deck, those great expanses of sea ice that had given us such joyous anticipation now seemed aggressive barricades to our advance. The mood on the boat changed, and the constant sunny exchanges took on a forced quality, rather like comments about fine weather in a POW camp. That night, the ship followed an iceward course at 178 degrees. The boat continued to rise up and sink down on the jigsaw pieces, and when the last of us turned in at 2 A.M. or so, it looked promising. After the roiling seas, the action felt oddly

soothing. At a time when the earth’s fragile environment is under siege, when ice shelves are famously collapsing, there was something reassuring, too, about the dwarfing scale of the whiteness. It is true that global warming will create cold as well as heat as it changes the weather patterns of the world, but at some level all of us had come here fearful of the greening of Antarctica, and what we found was implacable frozen serenity, in which we were only a new crew of insignificant trespassers. Hoping that we would stay the course and break through to the continent, we were still awestruck and humbled by the majesty around us, and while we prayed the thick ice would vanish out of our ship’s course, we hoped it would not vanish from the earth. The next morning, we woke in a motionless vessel and obediently trooped down to the lecture room yet again. Once more at 3 A.M., that hour when nobody was awake to argue or bear witness, the captain had declared that the ice was impassable. Rodney said it was atypically dense for the season, but kept emphasizing that the ship could do it. The captain, who had that Russian ability to be uncommunicative and melodramatic at the same time, said the ice was “still too much,” and shrugged. He said, “I try hardly,” which we feared might be more accurate than “I try hard,” which is what he had intended to say. To the casual observer, what we had been going through seemed much of a muchness, and the boat seemed to go through it now faster, now slower, but steadily. Rodney’s eyes filled with tears again, and he reiterated how hard it was for him to fail; in his view, it was his situation that warranted our sympathy. At first everyone was terribly British and stiff upper lips were kept and socks were pulled up. A few of the passengers ascended into sanctimonious homilies about how inspiring it was to be reminded that one couldn’t always get what one wanted from nature. Then someone asked the obvious question: If we were not going to Antarctica, what exactly were we going to do for the next 15 days? Rodney said he hadn’t really thought about it. “What do you want to do?” he asked. Some passengers were sorrowful; some were furious; some claimed to be unfazed. At the meals that followed, people hedged their comments, like polarized politicians aware that what seemed to some like simple logic was anathema to others. The British and New Zealanders tended to think we had been given lemons and had best make lemonade; the Aussies, Americans and Africans thought we had been given lemons and might as well throw them at the authors of our frustration. We knew nothing » 161


I HAVE ALWAYS HATED BEING COLD, BUT THERE WAS SOMETHING ODDLY THRILLING ABOUT GOING ON DECK AND SHIVERING, AND I RELISHED THAT TOUCH OF FROZEN NUMBNESS IN MY FINGERS AND AT THE TIP OF MY NOSE

A royal albatross on Campbell Island.

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about navigating through ice, but we knew enough pop psychology to perceive that the itinerary was being settled to a considerable extent outside the discourse of science. That first night after the surrender, there were only a few of us standing sentinel to look at the expanse of sea ice. And yet it was in a way hard to believe how disappointed we all were to be in this strange world. I stood out on the deck and was lost in the wonderment of where we were as much as in the sorrow of where we weren’t, not because I loved being iced in, but because the so-called midnight sun had made a spectacular debut at about 10 o’clock and gilded a mackerel sky over the hummocky meringue of the furrowed ice. There were mammals and seabirds to see, and we vied to document them with our many digital cameras—the rare Ross seal and the common Adélie penguins alike. The Adélies were scattered, one here and four there, and sat complacently on their islets of sea ice until our boat was almost upon them, then belly flopped into the water. The snow petrels circled us, looking, when they caught the sun on their white feathers, like images of the Holy Spirit in Northern Renaissance paintings. If you stood on the metal steps so that you could lean over the prow, you could catch your own prismatic reflection in the shiniest bits of broken ice before the ship sundered them. The air itself was a purifying tonic. And yet some churlishness in us couldn’t be satisfied with the permanent light of the white non-world in which we were hopelessly adrift, short of our last continent and outside of time. It is true in general, but especially true of travel, that people are thrilled with anything extra and distraught about anything expected and missed. You may never have heard of the pudding-toed tree chameleon or the Cloister Court of St. Yvette, but when your guide tells you that you’ve been privileged with a rare sighting of the lizard, or that you are catching the cloister open at the whim of the nuns, you are elated. When the opposite happens, you feel not just disappointed but betrayed. You curse yourself for having spent so much money on an experience you’re not having; you imagine the missing experience as nirvana. You resent in advance the reprise that will begin, “Well, actually, we didn’t get there.” That night, our disappointment rose more from expectation than from experience; nonetheless, the Professor Khromov filled up with contagious sadness. Among the passengers, one man’s extended family had saved for eight years to give him this trip as a 50th birthday present; one man’s mother had asked him on her deathbed to take the little inheritance she could give him and spend it to realize his childhood dream of visiting Antarctica; one man had used up all his vacation and some unpaid leave, and he was not to have time off again for 18 months. There was something Shakespearean about the disappointment, and there was absolutely nothing to be done about it.

Our hopes radically reduced, we lined up a day later for a Zodiac cruise around Scott Island, a seldom visited outcropping of rock north of the thickest pack ice. Thrillingly, we saw a predatory leopard seal—they have been known to attack humans—sunning himself, looking like a cross between a sea slug and a dinosaur. At that afternoon’s briefing, Rodney said he thought ice might be clearing, and proposed that we wait by Scott Island a day or two, on the chance that we could still make it through. Even the atheists went to bed that night thick with prayers. There was a fragile camaraderie in staving off despair, as though going through this experience all together was forging soldier’s bonds among us, though there was also the creeping Huis Clos feeling that we could not escape one another. We waited for the next terrible briefing. They were getting to be like consciousness-raising sessions of the mid-1970’s at which everyone got to say their piece while everyone else gritted their teeth. Rodney now focused on how long it would take us to get out of the Ross Sea if we got in, but the prospect of getting out late seemed less alarming than not getting in at all. I began to understand those historic explorers who wanted to reach the poles so much that they trekked into uncharted territory not knowing if they would ever return, losing limbs to frostbite, disappearing into crevasses or whiteout storms. Dmitri explained that to get through the ice would take several days, that we’d have to come back through the same ice, and that we no longer had sufficient time to make it there and back. He had grown into his role; it was now all about heroic, tragic knowledge of harsh realities. Since there was still no clear alternative plan, we decided to sit still where we were overnight. Of course, people were both shattered and outraged. Now the problem was time, after all these days had been expended on so much back-and-forth. It seemed obvious that Rodney had thought all along that we could get through the pack ice; that Dmitri had refused to go; and that we had all been pawns in their impossible contest of personalities. Who knew which of them was right? A number of people on board were reading The Worst Journey in the World, a brilliant account of Scott’s fatal expedition, and we began referring to our trip as “the second-worst journey in the world.” But we had two weeks left. We would go west to hunt icebergs, then head back to New Zealand. In the 15 days so far, we had been on solid ground four times, and we were going stir-crazy; some lovely friendships were forged, but no sane person would have chosen this as a holiday. I have always hated being cold, but for those imprisoned days, there was something oddly thrilling about going on deck and shivering, and I relished that touch of frozen numbness in my fingers and at the tip of my nose. The cold was Antarctic even if we didn’t have the continent under our »

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As pristine as it gets.

THE ICEBERGS PUT TO REST THE WISDOM THAT SNOW IS WHITE: SNOW IS BLUE, WITH REFLECTIONS GLINTING OFF IT IN A CERTAIN LIGHT, EXCEPT WHEN IT IS GREEN OR YELLOW feet; physicalized our brief kinship with the penguins and whales. We tossed off new vocabulary: grease ice and pancake ice, frazil ice and hummocky ice, tabular bergs and bergy bits, first-year ice and multiyear ice, and brash ice and sastrugi. We did eventually reach icebergs. Many of them looked almost avant-garde; we saw the Frank Gehry iceberg and the Santiago Calatrava iceberg and the endearingly old-fashioned Frank Lloyd Wright iceberg. They put to rest the common wisdom that snow is white: Snow is blue, with white reflections glinting off it in certain light, except that it is sometimes green or yellow and very occasionally striated with pink. Caught in its glacial heart is the dense snow that absorbs all but the bluest light, that glows as if neon fragments of the tropical sky had been trapped in a southbound gale and transported here. The last tabular iceberg we approached marked our final farewell to the fantasy of Antarctica that had brought us together. It was the most beautiful we had visited, and while we were close 164

to it in our Zodiac, it calved a slab the size of a walk-up apartment, which plunged into the gelid sea with a roar worthy of a good fireworks display. On our funereal return, Campbell Island was a joy. It is the nesting ground of the royal albatross, and a group of us were privileged to see a changing of the guard, when the male comes to relieve the female from sitting on their egg, so she can fly out to sea and get food. The birds engaged in half an hour of affectionate mutual grooming, and then the female cautiously stepped off the nest and the male settled in for his long shift. Even Adam the ornithologist had never seen this before. Otherwise, our strategy consisted largely of approaching an island to take in the view of its hills, then climbing the hills to look at the view of the boat, then returning to the boat for a last look at the hills. Rodney would charge ahead, leaving his older clients to struggle over steep and muddy ravines unassisted. People were crossing off the days: not that the


islands were uninteresting, but there are tours of the subantarctic that cost about US$5,000 per person. This trip, by the time we had paid the various extras, had cost us over US$40,000 for a premium double cabin. We waited for Rodney to offer a partial refund, or even to give us an open bar for one night, but it never came. When I confronted him, he said “This trip has cost me as much as if we’d made it.” That last evening, the weather was lovely and we stood in that bright warmth, so opposite to our purpose, and were depressed by the clear sky, the shimmering water, the gentle beauty of the summery New Zealand shore. We were like foreign visitors who had dreamed all their lives of seeing New York City, and set off with that goal only to end up stuck in Larchmont, with no way home for a month. Disappointment had surged in waves. There was the initial shock. Then there was a lulled feeling that one couldn’t stay upset indefinitely, and the very real pleasure of seeing more than a hundred species of birds, some two dozen mammals, and a sea’s worth of ice. Finally, there was the sensation of getting off that boat without having done what we set out to do—a feeling of rage and failure and gullibility, self-blame and

doubt. We had boarded the vessel with the hopefulness of youth rekindled in us, and we came back with the disaffection of age. We had initially viewed the informality of Heritage Expeditions as unpretentiousness, and relished the aura of discovery that Rodney conjured. The Nimrod Centennial had turned into a disaster because a real problem in nature had coincided with equally real amateurism; we later learned that another boat, the Marina Svetaeva, faced with the same ice at the same time, had changed course and made an Antarctic landing in Commonwealth Bay. There was something lovely and fresh about Heritage’s bluster, something almost heartbreaking in the feeling that we were all in this together. We never quite felt like we were tourists who’d purchased services; we felt like strangers who’d met in friendship and all agreed to hold hands and stride boldly into the world’s greatest remaining wilderness. There is a potent romance to traveling this way, and there is also risk, and for us, alas, the risk outstripped the romance. Had we reached the great white bottom of the world, I would have loved the very qualities that, in our failed trip, I deplored. Still, we had witnessed kinds of beauty that few men have seen. We held that happiness against the hard ice of our regret. 

GUIDE TO ANTARCTICA about requirements for other stops your ship may make. Travel insurance for emergency evacuation is highly recommended.

WHEN TO GO Ships sail during the Antarctic summer, from late October through early April. These are months when the ice recedes, days are long (up to 24 hours of daylight in December and January), and high temperatures reach the 30’s. GETTING THERE Gateway ports into the Antarctic region include Valparaiso, Chile, Ushuaia, Argentina and Invercargill/Bluff, New Zealand. ESSENTIALS No visa is required for travel to Antarctica, but check with your tour operator or travel agent

TOUR OPERATORS Abercrombie & Kent On all of its Antarctic educational expeditions, Abercrombie & Kent provides onboard experts in history, geology, glaciology, ornithology and marine biology. Zodiac boat tours take passengers to observe seals, albatross and seascapes. 1-800/652-8568; abercrombieandkent.com; 14-day Classic Antarctica cruise from US$6,695 per person, double occupancy. Geographic Expeditions Legendary explorer Ernest Shackleton traversed South Georgia Island in a day and a half. On a Geographic Expeditions journey, participants leave the ship, strap on climbing gear and make the trek in five. 1-800/777-8183; geoex.com; 23-day South Georgia Crossing from US$15,995 per person, double occupancy; Shackleton Crossing costs an additional US$6,800.

Heritage Expeditions The Heritage Expeditions ship departs from New Zealand, attempting to cross the remote Ross Sea to reach the White Continent. 64-3/365-3500; heritage-expeditions.com; 30day Ross Sea cruise from US$11,881 per person, double occupancy. Hurtigruten The new North & South Antarctica itinerary takes travelers into the rarely visited Marguerite Bay. There, the ship makes stops at Adelaide Island — to tour an operational research station — and Stonington Island. The bay is also home to the only breeding colony of emperor penguins on the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula. 1-866/ 257-6071; hurtigruten.com; 17day cruise from US$6,499 per person, double occupancy. Lindblad Expeditions This winter, Lindblad’s National Geographic Explorer makes its debut Antarctic voyage. The latest addition to the Lindblad fleet, this expedition ship is state-of-the-art from hull to mast. Underwater HD cameras broadcast videos to screens in each cabin, and a hydrophone

amplifies the sounds of life at sea. 1-800/762-0003; expeditions.com; 15-day Antarctica Cruise from US$10,250 per person, double occupancy. Quark Expeditions The Emperors & Kings voyage sails from Ushuaia, Argentina, to Santiago, Chile, along the Antarctic Peninsula aboard the icebreaker Kapitan Khlebnikov, with landings at penguin rookeries in the South Shetland and Falkland islands. Conservationist Robert Bateman joins the trip, lecturing on his lifelong work as an environmental activist. 1-800/ 356-5699; quarkexpeditions. com; 22-day cruise from US$28,940 per person double occupancy. Silversea Cruises The new multimillion-dollar expedition ship Prince Albert II celebrates its inaugural season with classic itineraries to the Antarctic. It has spacious staterooms, a reinforced hull and 24-hour room service. 1-800/722-9955; silversea.com; 11-day Classic Antarctica cruise from US$8,225 per person, double occupancy. —LISA C. CHENG

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Jap Hoang, a Vietnameseâ&#x20AC;&#x201C;Canadian now living in Saigon, fords a river of downtown traffic on Hai Ba Trung Street.


THE FUTURE IS NOW

SAIGON IN LESS THAN A DECADE, HO CHI MINH CITY HAS

TRANSFORMED ITSELF

INTO ASIA’S MOST DYNAMIC

BOOMTOWN – THE EPITOME OF THE WILD, WILD EAST. BUT IN ITS

MAD DASH TO THE FUTURE,

WILL THE CITY CALLED SAIGON MAKE ROOM

FOR ITS PAST? BY PETER JON LINDBERG. PHOTOGRAPHED BY ANDREA FAZZARI


IT WAS, FOR YEARS, A PRISONER OF MEMORY — MEMORIES OF COLONIALISM, THE WAR AND THE FAILURES OF THE COMMUNIST ERA. THROUGH THE FINAL QUARTER OF THE 20TH CENTURY, HO CHI MINH CITY WAS STUCK IN THE PAST. Then again, so were the rest of us. Travelers came expressly to soak up its history, both distant and recent. That was certainly my motivation when I first visited, in 1997, alongside a scattering of backpackers and curious baby boomers. To us, Saigon then felt like one big After. So we swooned over villas built by the French, inhaled jasmine incense at century-old pagodas, bought U.S. Army dog tags for souvenirs at Dan Sinh Market. (Never mind that the dog tags were fake.) We walked banyan-shrouded streets imagining what it must have been like 30, 80, 200 years ago. And the city indulged us: harkening ever backward in its architecture and iconography, fulfilling its role as our time capsule. We even still called it Saigon. Everyone who lives here still does. Flash forward to 2008, and that frustrated town held hostage by history has become a vibrant cosmopolis, caught in the throes of what’s next. So much attention and energy is being put toward an idealized future that it’s increasingly hard to see Saigon in the present tense. Vietnam’s reawakening began, fitfully, in the mid 1980’s, with a series of market-based reforms known as doi moi (renewal), but only hit its stride in the new millennium, during which the economy has kept up an extraordinary 7.5 percent growth rate. This year it outpaced India, Russia and China to become the world’s top-ranked, emerging retail market. Once among Asia’s poorest nations, Vietnam will soon be a middleincome country. It’s definitely spending like one: high-end boutiques and restaurants no longer cater only to tourists— although tourism is one of the country’s biggest industries— 168

but to trend-conscious, statushungry Vietnamese. A case of irrational exuberance? Possibly: this year, inflation hit 25 percent, stocks took a tumble and an overheated real estate market began to cool. Yet despite the alarming signs, a boomtown swagger endures in Vietnam’s financial capital. Saigon has always been a city of entrepreneurs, hucksters and short-term profiteers, where shops charge their own customers for parking and seemingly every conversation—whether among checkout girls or Party bureaucrats— revolves around money. People in Hanoi would have you believe all their café talk is about art and poetry, which isn’t true, but it’s a useful indicator of priorities. The difference now is the scale of the ambitions. Saigon has been riding a huge wave of foreign investment and frenzied property speculation, and all that lucre is altering the face of the city. With farmers and other country dwellers pouring in for new manufacturing jobs, Saigon’s population has swollen from 6 to 8 million in just eight years. Traffic is certifiably crazy—though the city’s first subway system, scheduled to open in 2014, may provide some relief. Local incomes have risen dramatically, but not as quickly as the price of rice; rents have gone through the roof; and new satellite cities are materializing out of the swamps. Change is marching at a furious pace. In Vietnam, newspapers are concerned less with what’s already happened than with what’s yet to come. (A typical front page will have at least one artist’s rendering of some sparkling future skyscraper.) Besides, the current generation »


Forward Thinking Clockwise from top left: Vietnameseâ&#x20AC;&#x201C;American businessman Hawkins Pham at CafĂŠ Terrace, in the rapidly evolving Phu My Hung district; fresh fish from a vendor on Ton That Thuyet Street; the food stalls at Ben Thanh market in central Saigon. Opposite: The Grand View apartment complex.

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sees little use for history—a 2008 poll found that 80 percent of Vietnamese students have no interest in the subject. “Aside from discussing some lyrics by Trinh Cong Son [the 1960’s singer known for his poignant anti-war ballads], I haven’t talked about the war once since moving here,” says Hawkins Pham, a Vietnamese-American who works with Indochina Land, a Saigon-based real estate investment fund. This isn’t surprising: two-thirds of Vietnam’s population was born after 1975. “There’s a sense of exasperation among young Vietnamese when it comes to the war,” says Suzie Meiklejohn, a British expat in Saigon. “They’re sick of hearing about it. For anyone under 30 the attitude is, Let’s move on.”

M

OVING ON” APPEARS TO BE Saigon’s mandate. I spent six months here in 1998, which might as well be a century ago. Of my life then, almost nothing remains. A restaurant used to be over there, now it’s a Segway rental shop. Businesses shut down without warning, buildings disappear overnight. Saigon exists in permanent flux. Seldom back then did one encounter an actual car, only motorbikes and jingling bicycles. This spring I saw a canary-yellow Porsche cruising Dong Khoi Street. It could have been a Javanese rhino: What the hell was it doing there? The driver was Vietnamese and looked about 20. Ah, yes, Dong Khoi Street. If there’s a better—or worse— symbol of Saigon’s transformation, please don’t tell me about it. This slender promenade, running from Notre Dame Cathedral to the river, was known to the French as Rue Catinat. Its dozen sun-dappled blocks used to be lined with modestly scaled buildings, their storefronts open to the sidewalk. Here were the favored haunts of colonial society: Café Brodard, a fixture since 1948, and the Continental, Grand and Majestic hotels. Today Dong Khoi is lost beneath a forest of slab-like highrises entirely out of scale with its intimate proportions. Hardly any sunlight reaches the street. The newer shops— Gucci, Louis Vuitton—are hermetically sealed and bear no relation to the sidewalk. Across from the Grand Hotel will soon stand a 43-story tower called Times Square that, judging from the billboards, will be populated exclusively by Caucasians. Oh, and Café Brodard? Now an outpost of the U.S.–based Gloria Jean’s coffee bar chain. Troi oi! as the Vietnamese say. Good lord! At its eastern end, Dong Khoi meets the banks of the Saigon River. On the opposite shore lies what looks like swampland fringed with jungle. Welcome to the future downtown. Central Saigon is already one of the densest places on earth, yet just outside it are vast swaths of unsettled space. So, onward across the river. High-rise development will be concentrated here; a tunnel and a pedestrian bridge will connect the “new downtown” with the old. Developing the 647-hectare site, known as the “Thu Thiem New Urban Area,” will take another 15 years. But since Thu Thiem rests

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on flood-prone land, the ground level must first be raised by 2 meters. Reclamation projects like this are under way all over, as Saigon pushes farther beyond its natural boundaries. Such development is taking a heavy environmental toll: hundreds of hectares of ponds, canals and rivers have been filled in. Experts have warned that the pace of construction threatens to suffocate the city. Let me say, lest you get the wrong idea, that I adore Saigon, even now. Few cities can match its youthful spirit, its unpredictability, or its extraordinary food and nightlife, which range across all levels of formality and cost. Any decent city will have a few good restaurants, but only a great city can sustain a thriving street-food scene as well. I’ve spent evenings sipping Shiraz at jazzy candlelit boîtes and nights drinking bia hoi (draft beer) at raucous joints with plastic stools along the curb, and I can’t decide which is more fun. Money is remaking much of Saigon, but even in the face of globalization and gentrification, the city keeps a refreshingly democratic vibe. “Saigon is not pretty like Hanoi or Hoi An,” says Luc Lejeune, who co-owns the chic Temple Club restaurant. “But it’s always had a very strong character, in its street life and its people.” A former lawyer who grew up in Provence, Lejeune moved to Vietnam in 1991, settling in Hanoi. He first visited Saigon the following spring. “The winters up north—ugh, all this gray,” he recalls. “Then I came south and found this explosion of color. It reminded me of Marseilles when I was a kid—the same atmosphere, the same light.” Saigon’s patchwork cityscape may not be traditionally pretty, but it contains a remarkable diversity of architecture—the legacy of so many foreign occupations, not to mention Vietnam’s highly syncretistic culture. The Cao Dai religion, a homegrown mix of Catholicism, Taoism and animism, counts Pericles, Sun Yat-sen and Victor Hugo among its patron saints. Every block of the city shows off a dizzying blend of influences: squat Chinese godowns, Art Deco cafés, Modernist apartment blocks, Brutalist police stations, and not least, the iconic “tube houses.” These are often no more than 3 meters wide (owners were taxed according to width of frontage) but can rise a dozen stories, their skinny frames stretched upward like Giacometti sculptures, painted in flamboyant pastels and layered with all manner of decorative elements—Palladian to constructivist, Belle Époque to Miami Deco. For all their borrowing, such assemblages are the closest Saigon has to a vernacular style. Finally, there are the colonial follies that earned Saigon the sobriquet “the Paris of the East.” The city’s stock may not match Hanoi’s, but some fine examples remain: the rococo Hôtel de Ville, the moody Fine Arts Museum, the magnificent Archbishop’s Residence. French-built villas are paragons of green living from a time before the term existed: generously scaled windows and doorways provide natural air-conditioning, letting in breezes cooled by surrounding »


A billboard for Dong Khoi Streetâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s new Times Square development.


City Swagger Below: Luc Lejeune, co-owner of Saigon’s Temple Club, with restaurant staff. Right: Fashion designer Nha Tanh, photographed on Pasteur Street (the stamps on the wall are ads including mobilephone numbers). Far right: The growing city.

THE SOBERING FACT IS THAT SAIGON’S HISTORIC CITYSCAPE IS 184 172


RECEDING — OVERSHADOWED BY GLASS-AND-STEEL TOWERS 173


Eastern Promise Clockwise from above: Spicy bun bo Hue soup at Bun Bo Xu; Saigon resident Hong Nguyen wearing the traditional ao dai and a cyclo driver outside the Ho Chi Minh Fine Arts Museum; a gardener at work in Phu My Hung.

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vegetation. Walking around, one grows accustomed to the whir and sputter of air-conditioning units; what’s striking about the villas is the silence that attends them. Some villas have been reborn as restaurants, some restored as houses for the rich. Others are losing battles with the elements, indifference and the mad race of development. Preservation is hard to embrace when developers are offering over US$10,000 per square meter. The sobering fact is that Saigon’s historic cityscape is receding—replaced or overshadowed by glass-and-steel towers. And as any gift-shop clerk can tell you, it’s not glass-and-steel towers that sell the postcards.

R

IGHT POSTCARDS.

VIETNAM RANKS first in projected tourism growth in Southeast Asia, and fourth worldwide after India, China and Libya. Last year foreign arrivals jumped by 16 percent to 4.2 million—and 2.7 million of those visitors came to Saigon. So how do tourists figure into the city’s agenda? Based on recent developments, not as much as they’d hope. Officials are frantic to lure business travelers. They pay lip service to leisure travel, but miss much of the point. The very things that have drawn so many visitors to Saigon—its historic architecture, vibrant street life and singular sense of place—are precisely what is already being lost. Consider Ton That Thiep Street, one of the most appealing lanes in Saigon and a favorite of foreign travelers: three tree-shaded blocks of quirky tube houses and colonial-era shophouses. On one corner stands the Sri Thendayutthapani Temple, topped by a colorful gopuram bedecked with Hindu gods and goddesses. Across the street is a row of cool fashion and home-design boutiques. And at the heart of the block, the aforementioned Temple Club, all polished lacquer, Palisander chairs and opium-den screens. In Vietnam, restaurants with incandescent lighting generally serve dull food, while fluorescent-lit joints with toilet-paper dispensers for napkins turn out the tastiest cooking. (This shall be known as the Inverse Relation of Atmosphere to Authenticity.) However, said rule does not apply to the Temple Club, whose interiors and food are both fabulous. Before Luc Lejeune opened Temple Club in 2000, Ton That Thiep was decidedly downmarket—“just shops selling fridges and videos,” Lejeune says. “Everyone told us we were crazy to open here.” Now the street is a Saigon institution. But maybe not for long. Rumors are flying that the city has earmarked the block for redevelopment. Everything but the Hindu temple, it’s said, will be knocked down and cleared away to make room for … offices? Condos? A Porsche dealership? No one can say what will happen, or when. One thing you could never find in this town a decade ago: a decent margarita. Whether you wanted one is another question—but you can now get a fine rendition at Cantina Central, a Mexican place run by four expatriates. Loosened restrictions on investment and property ownership have

encouraged more foreigners to do business and even settle in Vietnam. Current estimates have 80,000 expats living here. Saigon now has a restaurant for every nationality. Singaporeans get a chicken-rice fix at the Red Dot; Danes find smørrebrød at Storm P; Canadians head to Le Pub for poutine. But it is the returning Viet Kieu—“overseas Vietnamese”— who are the salient foreign influence. Some were born in Vietnam and left as children; others were born abroad, in the United States, France, England, Australia. Some learned Vietnamese from their parents; some hardly speak a word. After decades of being regarded with suspicion by the government, Viet Kieu are now welcomed more readily. They are no longer categorized with all other foreign visitors when applying for visas, and are finally allowed to own property here. The economy has lured more Viet Kieu to Saigon of late, and they’re bringing with them global styles and trends— which in turn are embraced by young Vietnamese. “Our clientele is half Vietnamese and Viet Kieu, half travelers and expats,” says Bien Nguyen, the owner of Xu Restaurant Lounge, where local twentysomethings come to drink espresso martinis and snack on tuna-tartare pizzas. “It’s the [native] Vietnamese as much as foreigners who drive the lifestyle market nowadays.” Nguyen, born in Perth to Vietnamese parents, moved to Saigon in 2005. He opened Xu in 2006, and this year, Bun Bo Xu, a casual joint specializing in bun bo Hue, the spicy noodle soup customarily found at humble sidewalk stalls. Nguyen’s version is equally delicious and twice as expensive, but dished up in a polished storefront with smart wooden tables. Bun Bo Xu is quite the hit among the city’s youth, who prefer their street food served indoors with a side order of dance pop. Down the street at Xu, Nguyen has just added a swank new bar—despite rumors that this whole block, like the one around Temple Club, is slated for demolition. A developer plans to erect a retail and office complex on the site, though a timetable has not been set. “If I get three more years I’ll be happy,” Nguyen says with a shrug. “I’ve been open two years already.” In Saigon, that qualifies as a pretty long time. “Everything is so transient here,” says my friend Thuy Mong Do, who owns a spa called Glow. Thuy’s Vietnamese parents met in Laos, where Thuy was born; in 1975 her family left Vientiane for Colorado. She’s been in Saigon since 2000, and lives with her Scottish boyfriend, Ro, in a walk-up close to downtown. But their landlord may not renew their lease, so they’re considering a move to the suburbs. One Saturday I accompany them on an apartment hunt.

T

from central Saigon, Phu My Hung six years ago was mainly bogs and fishing villages. It’s now an ultramodern live/work/play enclave for Saigon’s burgeoning middle class, complete with lawn sprinklers, speed bumps, golf courses and man-made lakes. The broad boulevards » WENTY MINUTES BY MOTORBIKE

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are lined with fitness clubs, Vietnamese fast-food chains and the occasional Korean primary school. One still encounters a fair number of pedestrians, but no cyclo-rickshaws, and definitely no sidewalk barber stands. “I like it out here,” says Thuy, who is probably just relieved to breathe fresh air again. “The planning is sensible, and you can walk and not look foolish.” (Right then a jogger passes, chirping “Guten Tag!”) Prices, however, are rising fast. Threebedrooms sell for as much as US$750,000; the unit Thuy and Ro are considering rents for US$1,800 a month. It turns out to be too small, so we give up the search for now and reemerge into the stifling afternoon heat. Across the road flows a moss-green canal, and across the canal we can see Vietnam, the old Vietnam: wooden huts on stilts, dugout canoes, fishermen wearing conical hats. They drag their nets silently through the water, appearing not to notice the skyscrapers looming behind them. Back on the highway we pass billboards for shiny apartments—only the families in these renderings aren’t Westerners,

they’re Vietnamese. Blissed-out mother does yoga on balcony; happy father holds baby up to blue sky. The Vietnamese ad copy reads EXPERIENCE SINGAPORE IN SAIGON! And there, people, is the scary part. Saigon wants to be Singapore. Every Southeast Asian city wants to be Singapore. For God’s sake, why? Such a stultifying, bloodless place! Sterile as a shopping mall! It is a shopping mall! But of course that’s Singapore’s appeal: it is the antithesis of Saigon and Bangkok and Jakarta and Manila—the tranquil to their tumult, the method to their madness, the future to their past. And Saigon sure is starting to look more like Singapore, with those innumerable coffee bars, food courts jammed with teenagers and trash cans shaped like baby pandas. A proposal has been floated to relocate most of the downtown bars to a designated “entertainment area” across the canal, à la Singapore’s Boat Quay. Meanwhile, a citywide beautification campaign is under way, as local authorities—who designated 2008 “The Year of Civilized Lifestyle”—attempt to crack down on littering, swearing, public urination, traffic jams and inappropriate

Restaurateur Bien Nguyen, at Xu’s new bar.

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dress. But not chewing gum. Not yet. The campaign is a “very top-down sort of tutelage” that’s typical of the government, says Hawkins Pham, who wonders how successful it will be. “Singapore is an enviable model, but it has very little street culture. In Vietnam, everything happens on the pavement ... I can’t imagine that changing.”

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N 1998 ONE COULD WALK DOWN Le Duan Boulevard and gaze upon the shell of the former U.S. Embassy. The forbidding concrete grillwork and infamous rooftop helipad were still intact. I used to pass it twice a week—my favorite noodle joint was around the corner—and met many an American tourist gawking at the embassy gates. Later that year the building was torn down (surprise!) and replaced by the far less imposing U.S. consulate next door. In those days history was still close enough to touch. A French expat I knew attended a reception honoring Vo Nguyen Giap, the legendary architect of the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu. “And I had dinner with him!” my friend told

me, incredulous. “If my grandfather had known I was having dinner with General Giap, he’d have killed me!” That proximity to the past, notes Luc Lejeune, was exactly what people came for. “They came because of the references, the remnants of history. Whereas you didn’t need references to travel in, say, Thailand.” Why, then, do they come now? Saigon is no longer so cheap, which was part of its appeal before. Nor is it the quaint “land out of time” it was even a decade ago. These days few women wear the traditional ao dai tunic-and-trousers combo other than hotel clerks and restaurant hostesses, who only do so for tourists. Then again, today’s visitors—at least those under 35—seem more interested in Saigon’s present. They’re here for edgy fashion, for stylish restaurants and sultry nightclubs, for the Norman Foster skyscraper set to rise downtown. I suppose I was lucky to get to Saigon when I did. Looking back, however, I was clearly mistaken—I, and all my fellow travelers who came believing that whatever could happen here, already had. 

GUIDE TO HO CHI MINH CITY

WHEN TO GO The city is best between November and March, when temperatures are in the low 30’s. April to October can be hot and rainy. GETTING THERE Ho Chi Minh City has connections with most cities in Southeast Asia on Vietnam Airlines (vietnamair. com.vn) or on Cathay Pacific (cathaypacific.com), Garuda Indonesia (garuda-indonesia.com), Malaysia Airlines (malaysiaairlines. com), Singapore Airlines (singaporeair.com) and Thai Airways (thaiairways.com).

WHERE TO STAY Caravelle Hotel Runner-up to the Park Hyatt Saigon for the title of the city’s top hotel. 19 Lam Son Square; 84-8/8234999; caravellehotel.com; doubles from US$270. The Majestic A 1925 landmark where the riverfront location and colonial details compensate for sometimes halting service. 1 Dong Khoi St.; 84-8/829-5517; majesticsaigon.com.vn; doubles from US$175. Park Hyatt Saigon The obvious choice, if you’re willing to pay,

with two stellar restaurants, a fine spa, an enviable site and assured service. 2 Lam Son Square; 84-8/824-1234; hyatt. com; doubles from US$320.

with surprisingly fine results. Follow the Vietnamese and go for breakfast. 5 Nguyen Thiep St., and many other locations around the city; 84-8/822-6278; lunch for two US$4.

WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK Bun Bo Xu 28 Cao Ba Quat St.; 84-8/822-1539; lunch for two US$6.

Quan An Ngon A brilliant concept: former street-food vendors cook dozens of classic dishes — including muc nuong (grilled squid with chili sauce) and bun cha gio (rice vermicelli topped with fresh herbs and crispy spring rolls) — but with table service in a shaded courtyard. 138 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia St.; 84-8/825-7179; dinner for two US$16.

Café Terrace A fantasia of white leather and Lucite copped from Philippe Starck, offering soursop smoothies, lattes and a Sade soundtrack. A favorite of young Vietnamese. Grand View Building 3, Nguyen Duc Canh, Phu My Hung, District 7; 84-8/412-2178; also at Saigon Centre, 65 Le Loi Blvd.; 84-8/821-4958; snacks for two US$10. Cantina Central 51 Ton That Thiep St.; 84-8/914-4697; dinner for two US$20. Luong Son Open-air barbecue and beer garden where patrons grill strips of tangy marinated beef — bo tung xeo — on tabletop braziers. 81 Ly Tu Trong St.; 848/825-1330; dinner for two US$8. Pho 24 Vietnam’s national dish — a rich beef consommé spiked with herbs and spices and laced with noodles — gets the fast-food treatment at this popular chain,

Quan 94 Streetside joint with metal tables, plastic chairs, and the very best crab in town. Order cha gio cua (crab spring rolls), mien xao cua be (cassava noodles sautéed with mushrooms and crabmeat), and, in season, deep-fried soft-shell crab with sweet chili sauce. 84 Dinh Tien Hoang St.; 84-8/910-1062; lunch for two US$11. Temple Club Don’t miss the mi quang soup. 29-31 Ton That Thiep St.; 84-8/829-9244; dinner for two US$45. Xu Restaurant Lounge 71-75 Hai Ba Trung St.; 84-8/824-8468; dinner for two US$70.

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(My Favorite Place) TOKYO TIPS The Cerulean Tower Tokyu Hotel (26-1 Sakuragaokacho; 81-3/3476-3000; ceruleantower-hotel.com; doubles from US$392) is set in a Shibuya skyscraper, just west of Harajuku.

● For

JAPAN

● Don’t

miss Laforet (1-11-6 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku; 813/3475-0411), a sprawling mall known for cuttingedge Japanese labels. To spot the Harajuku girls, stroll along the perpetually crowded, store-lined Takeshitadori street.

Pop idol and style maven Gwen Stefani talks with DANI SHAPIRO about finding artistic inspiration in Tokyo’s Harajuku district FIRST WENT TO TOKYO when I was touring with No Doubt in 1995. I especially loved the Harajuku district, because you can just sense all the creative energy pulsing through it. It felt like another planet to me. I wanted to be like the Harajuku girls you see out shopping. Fashion is so important there—it’s huge. Everyone is so stylish and unique. When I began working on a solo record, I was excited, because it meant I could go back to Japan. I was busy playing music most of the time when I finally returned, but it was important to me to make time to visit Harajuku again. I met people

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DE CE M B E R 2 0 0 8| T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E S E A . C O M

when I was exploring the stores, and I took a lot of pictures of them, but it was sometimes hard to communicate, because I don’t speak the language. I was so inspired by people making their own clothes and showing off all their original creations. My Harajuku project, which is something I’ve been working on for years now, was influenced by this area. The vibe, the wild colors and graphics, and the clothes—all of this is incorporated in my music and my tours as well as my fashion.” ✚ The Harajuku Lovers fragrances (including Music, left) are available at Sephora (sephora.com).

C L O C K W I S E F R O M FA R L E F T : I R A C H A P L A I N ; S H A W N M O R T E N S E N / C O R B I S O U T L I N E ; D AV I E S + S TA R R

Stefani’s style and music have been influenced by Harajuku.

authentic dumplings, try Harajuku Gyoza Lou (6-2-4 Jingumae; 813/3406-4743; lunch for two US$12), a local institution with lines out the door. Or ask for a seat on the outdoor terrace at Smoke Bar & Grill (Gyre Building, fourth floor, Jingumae, Shibuya-ku; 81-3/54686449; dinner for two US$85), owned by design icon Teruo Kurosaki.



December 2008