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TRAVEL+LEISURE SOUTHEAST ASIA

19

CHICAGO FINDS YOU NEED TO KNOW NOW

BORNEO

CRUISING INTO THE HEART OF THE JUNGLE

ANTHONY BOURDAIN REVEALS SINGAPORE FOOD FAVORITES

LHNMA>:LM:LB:

Wellness travel • Chicago • Bali • Corsica • Hong Kong • Argentina • Bangkok • Shanghai • Philippines

Bali Six of the best! Hot new clubs, shops, dining

Rajasthan In search of ancient rhythms LIVE LIKE A CHEF! T+L’S TOP FOOD FINDS IN BANGKOK

OCTOBER 2009

* 17

WELLNESS TIPS AND TRIPS AROUND ASIA

+

OCTOBE R 2 009

BEIJING PHILIPPINES AUSTRALIA CORSICA SHANGHAI travelandleisuresea.com

EXCLUSIVE: THE BEST TRAVEL DEALS ACROSS ASIA

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


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Bali

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Siem Reap

In association with Orient-Express, American Express Platinum Cardmembers are cordially invited to take advantage of the following offers, all as part of a “pay for two nights, stay for three” special deal.

Koh Samui

Bali

Résidence d’Angkor, Siem Reap

Carried by the Global Elite, the world over.

Platinum exclusive: A complimentary one-hour body massage at the spa. Valid from September 10, 2009–December 22, 2009.

Résidence Phou Vao, Luang Prabang Platinum exclusive: A complimentary one-hour body massage at the spa. Valid from September 10, 2009–December 22, 2009.

Napasai, Koh Samui Platinum exclusive: A complimentary airport transfer. Valid from September 10, 2009–December 22, 2009.

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

Ubud Hanging Gardens, Bali Platinum exclusive: Promotion valid for all room categories. Cardmembers will enjoy the additional benefit of a free inter-hotel transfer, one way, when combining the two Bali properties. Valid from October 1, 2009–December 22, 2009.

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Offer inclusions: Upgrade to the next room category, subject to availability at check-in; daily breakfast for two; 4pm late check-out; and a special amenity. Terms and conditions apply.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE ABOVE EXCLUSIVE OFFERS OR TO MAKE A BOOKING, CALL THE PLATINUM CARD® SERVICE: SINGAPORE: +(65) 6392 1177 (option 1) HONG KONG: +(852) 2277 2233 THAILAND: +(66) 2 273 5599


EXCLUSIVE OFFERS FOR AMERICAN EXPRESS® PLATINUM CARDMEMBERS Orient-Express offers guests something beyond the conventions of today’s luxury travel; something more enriching. As one of the world’s most widely known travel brands, synonymous with lavish indulgence and magical moments, any Orient-Express journey or experience should be embarked upon with the highest of expectations.

Privilege knows no boundaries.

Bali

Luang Prabang

Siem Reap

In association with Orient-Express, American Express Platinum Cardmembers are cordially invited to take advantage of the following offers, all as part of a “pay for two nights, stay for three” special deal.

Koh Samui

Bali

Résidence d’Angkor, Siem Reap

Carried by the Global Elite, the world over.

Platinum exclusive: A complimentary one-hour body massage at the spa. Valid from September 10, 2009–December 22, 2009.

Résidence Phou Vao, Luang Prabang Platinum exclusive: A complimentary one-hour body massage at the spa. Valid from September 10, 2009–December 22, 2009.

Napasai, Koh Samui Platinum exclusive: A complimentary airport transfer. Valid from September 10, 2009–December 22, 2009.

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

Ubud Hanging Gardens, Bali Platinum exclusive: Promotion valid for all room categories. Cardmembers will enjoy the additional benefit of a free inter-hotel transfer, one way, when combining the two Bali properties. Valid from October 1, 2009–December 22, 2009.

Jimbaran Puri, Bali Platinum exclusive: Promotion valid for Pool villas. Cardmembers will enjoy the additional benefit of a free inter-hotel transfer, one way, when combining the two Bali properties. Valid from October 1, 2009–December 22, 2009.

Offer inclusions: Upgrade to the next room category, subject to availability at check-in; daily breakfast for two; 4pm late check-out; and a special amenity. Terms and conditions apply.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE ABOVE EXCLUSIVE OFFERS OR TO MAKE A BOOKING, CALL THE PLATINUM CARD® SERVICE: SINGAPORE: +(65) 6392 1177 (option 1) HONG KONG: +(852) 2277 2233 THAILAND: +(66) 2 273 5599


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(Contents)10.09

>108 Hong Kong is synonymous with food.

108 Feasts of Hong Kong For his culinary education in this food-obsessed metropolis, GARY SHTEYNGART conquers an army of turnip cakes, shrimp dumplings and pork buns, spicy soups and delicate shredded chicken. And he’s ready for more! Photographed by CHRISTIAN KERBER. GUIDE AND MAP 117 4

118 Pure Corsica There is wildness in Corsica, a rebellious beauty—the dramatic beaches and rugged mountains, the fresh seafood and fierce wines. By SCOTT SPENCER. Photographed by DAVID CICCONI. GUIDE AND MAP 125 126 Chicago Style Channeling his inner tourist, GUY TREBAY tastes cutting-edge cuisine, explores the Obamas’ neighborhood and is wowed by

OCTO B E R 2 0 0 9| T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E S E A . C O M

Renzo Piano’s new modern wing at the Art Institute. Photographed by JONNY VALIANT. GUIDE AND MAP 132 134 Argentina’s New Crop On a journey through wine country, BRUCE SCHOENFELD discovers different worlds, from the ambitious high-design wineries of Mendoza to the rugged mountain vineyards of the Salta region. Photographed by GRACIELA CATTAROSSI. GUIDE AND MAP 141

CHRISTIAN KERBER

107-134 Features


CHICAGO FINDS YOU TO KNOW NOW BORNEO 19 NEED

(Contents)10.09

CRUISING INTO THE HEART OF THE JUNGLE

ANTHONY BOURDAIN REVEALS SINGAPORE FOOD FAVORITES

LHNMA>:LM:LB:

Bali Six of the best! Hot new clubs, shops, dining

Rajasthan In search of ancient rhythms LIVE LIKE A CHEF! T+L’S TOP FOOD FINDS IN BANGKOK

OCTOBER 2009

17*

WELLNESS TIPS AND TRIPS AROUND ASIA

+

BEIJING PHILIPPINES AUSTRALIA CORSICA SHANGHAI

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

> 42

Cover At the Shangri-La, Villingili, Maldives. Photographed by Nat Prakobsantisuk. Styled by Kontee Pamaranont. Hair and make-up by Wansuk Prasert. Photographer’s assistant: Ekkarat Ubonsiri. Model: Tanja Viding. Dress by Fendi. Earrings by M.C.L.

> 68

60 On the Map Bali’s Jalan Petitenget still boasts some of the neighborhood’s best restaurants, clubs and shopping. BY EVELYN CHEN 62 First Look The Peninsula opens in Shanghai and aims to offer a glimpse of the city’s glittering past. BY JENNIFER CHEN 64 Neighborhood The Saigon expat enclave of An Phu emerges as a favorite haunt for those in the know. BY NAOMI LINDT

67-70 Stylish Traveler 35-64 Insider 36 Newsflash Philippine islands worth exploring, a lounge with a difference in Shanghai, Phuket’s newest clubs and more. 42 Chefs David Thompson tours his favorite Bangkok street eats. BY JENNIFER CHEN 47 Check-in History lives on at these Beijing stays. BY MANUELA ZONINSEIN 51 Room Report Stylish simplicity arrives with the Altira Macau. BY PAUL EHRLICH 52 Classics Old-school aspects of Hong Kong with staying power. BY KEI TING 58 Address Book The ultimate two-day food itinerary in Istanbul. BY ANYA VON BREMZEN 6

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

67 Icon Classic cufflinks are the final touch. 68 Shopping Local and expat designers are turning Phnom Penh into an emerging style stop. BY NAOMI LINDT 70 Beauty Travel kits to make you feel good. BY EVELYN CHEN

> 81

75-102 T+L Journal 75 Adventure Heading upriver in Sarawak on a converted paddle steamer doesn’t mean forgoing creature comforts. BY COLIN HINSHELWOOD 81 Music Tracing the interconnected origins of world music—from flamenco to the blues—ALEX SHOUMATOFF heads to Rajasthan in search of the Gypsy music. 86 Food Is a cooking school near Chiang Mai the recipe for reviving traditional Thai cuisine? By KAREN J. COATES. 91 Driving Pristine beaches, excellent dining and a kangaroo or two. BRUCE SCHOENFELD takes a turn in New South Wales. 96 Asian Scene Puerto Galera aims to be all things to all visitors. Best of all, it’s a great place for a break. BY JOAN C. BULAUITAN 100 Trends They are Europe’s tiniest quasicountries and they are thriving. BY BRUNO MADDOX 102 Dispatch In northern Italy, MICHAEL FRANK discovers the beauty of the country’s homeliest town.

C L O C K W I S E F R O M FA R L E F T : WA S I N E E C H A N TA K O R N ; C H R I S K E R R I G A N ; M A X K I M - B E E

8 10 14 16 20 22 25 142

travelandleisuresea.com

EXCLUSIVE: THE BEST TRAVEL DEALS ACROSS ASIA


(Destinations)10.09 Corsica 118 Chicago 126

Hong Kong 40, 52, 108 Sarawak 75

Chiang Mai 86

Argentina 134

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

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65oF

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75oF 20oC

90oF 30oC

40o +C

Issue Index Recco, Italy 102

Phuket 40 Puerto Galera 96 Saigon 64 Sarawak 75 Singapore 38, 142

Rajasthan 81 Shanghai 38, 40, 62 THE MIDDLE EAST Turkey 58

THE AMERICAS Argentina 134 Chicago 126

ASIA Beijing 38, 47

EUROPE Corsica 118

AUSTRALIA New South Wales 91

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

(SGD)

(HKD)

(BT)

(RP)

(RM)

(VND)

(MOP)

(P)

(MMK)

(KHR)

(BND)

(LAK)

1.43

7.75

34.0

10,120

3.52

17,815

7.98

48.8

6.41

4,148

1.43

8,514

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

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OCTO B E R 2 0 0 9| T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E S E A . C O M

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

SOUTHEAST ASIA Bali 60 Bangkok 42 Chiang Mai 86 Hong Kong 40, 52, 108 Macau 51 Philippines 38 Phnom Penh 68


(Editor’s Note) 10.09

A

S I RACE TOWARDS 40, MY THOUGHTS OFTEN TEND TOWARDS A

slightly healthier lifestyle. But as much as I’ve tried, and with the best will in the world, I’m not that much of a health-conscious traveler. That’s not down to access: pretty much every hotel I stay in has a gym, spa, steam room, professional massage service and so on. The problem for me is more one of motivation, especially after a grueling day of business meetings—most often, I opt for the nearest eatery and a nice cold pint. Maybe next time I should try one of the retreats and activities in our Strategies guide this month (page 25), like a cycle tour in Laos and Vietnam, or a trip to Kamalaya on Ko Samui to rebalance my inner Matt. I certainly like the idea of de-stressing through a martial art, particularly Brazilian capoeira, with its liquid, graceful moves, or maybe even joining the circus (a long-held childhood dream/escape fantasy of mine). Wellness travel and medical travel is, of course, big business in Asia and long may it flourish, but many people simply want to get away for more epicurean indulgences, so this issue, we also focus on food, with a chef’s tour of Bangkok (“The Real Chinatown,” page 42), as well as two stories looking at Hong Kong’s dining scene—the old-school eateries known only to a select few (“A Taste of Yesteryear,” page 52), and more standard fare in “Feasts of Hong Kong” (page 108). You’ll no doubt also enjoy our tips for a packed program in Istanbul (“A Cook’s Tour,” page 58). And lastly on the subject, famed chef Anthony Bourdain reveals his top Singapore dishes in “My Favorite Place” (page 142). On other pages, you’ll find feasts of a different kind, like the visual celebration of our “Chicago Style” feature (page 126) or the thoughtful examination of Rajasthan music (page 81), plus our look at stylish cufflinks for him (“Final Touch,” page 67)

issue; I’m about to order lunch with all this food talk!—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. 10

OC TO B E R 2 0 0 9| 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

and travel kits for him and her! (“Beauty on the Fly,” page 70). Hope you enjoy the


Unforgettable places in Andalucia yet to be discovered.

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TRAVEL+LEISURE SOUTHEAST ASIA VOL. 3, ISSUE 10 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). While the editors do their utmost to verify information published, they do not accept responsibility for its absolute accuracy.

This edition is published by permission of 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.

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Over 300 hand-picked luxury retreats in Asia US$2 is donated to charity for every booking Discounted room rates We promote responsible travelling Earn Reward Points

(Contributors) 10.09

C  

hristian Kerber The German photographer shot this month’s feature on Hong Kong (“Feasts of Hong Kong,” page 108) and readily admits that he would fly back to the city for dim sum at the Four Seasons Hotel’s Lung King Heen in an instant. Kerber adds that his favorite local find while shooting the story in the city that loves to eat was Golden Valley, which he describes as a combination of bourgeois Chinese atmosphere and hot Sichuan style. All that said, wiener schnitzel remains his favorite food. When not eating his way around the world, Kerber also shoots for Geo and Glamour.

Lara Day fully admits to having fun while she was photographing our look at old school Hong Kong (“A Taste of Yesteryear,” page 52). “I had a great time sitting elbow to elbow with old guys slurping noodles,” she says, “and chatting with the charming Tai O eggwaffle uncle.” Day adds she ate, not one, but two waffles prepared by the local legend, which she claims was definitely worth the waffle coma that came afterwards.

Jonny Valiant shot the Windy City (“Chicago Style,” page 126) in this month’s issue and says a memorable moment was photographing Lake Michigan at sunrise, where his favorite activity would be sailing on the lake. “It’s a shame we didn’t do it,” Valiant says. He adds that his top choice for a park in Chicago is baseball’s Wrigley Field, though the Art Institute of Chicago now ranks as one of his favorite places in the city.

Top: Sichuan soup in Hong Kong. Below: Christian Kerber.

Karen Coates “It’s so refreshing to find a school that teaches what people do at home, not what restaurant cooks think tourists want to eat,” says Coates, who wrote this month’s story on the Prem Organic Cooking Academy (“Budding Tastes,” page 86). “The setting is a peaceful retreat from the hustle, bustle and smog of Chiang Mai.” Coates writes for Gourmet and Archaeology, and has her own food blog (ramblingspoon.com/blog).

ABOVE, FROM TOP: CHRISTIAN KERBER; NADIRA NASSER. B E L O W, F R O M L E F T : C O U R T E S Y O F L A R A D AY ; M A N U E L R O D R I G U E Z ; C O U R T E S Y O F K A R E N C O AT E S

Beach Retreats Thailand Retreats Boutique Retreats Indonesia Retreats Eco Retreats Malaysia Retreats Villa Retreats Vietnam Retreats India Retreats Honeymoon Retreats China Retreats City Break Retreats Maldives Retreats Spa Retreats Laos Retreats Singapore Retreats Jungle Retreats Philippines Retreats Golf Retreats Japan Retreats Family Retreats Sri Lanka Retreats Australia Retreats Island Retreats Cambodia Retreats


(Letters)10.09 Venice BEST

OF

An afternoon gondola ride between Venice’s Cortesia and San Paternian bridges. Dress, Tory Burch; shoes, Theory; bag, Stanton Maxwell and Company; necklace, Kara Ross. Opposite: Campo San Polo, the largest piazza on the western bank of the Grand Canal.

Looking for the ultimate guide to the city of canals? T+ +L Italy expert Valerie Waterhouse opens her little black book to share the top places to stay, eat, shop and see right now. Photographed by Martin Morrell. Styled by Mimi Lombardo

lines. Checking to “see if the upgrade went through” when you haven’t requested one simply slows everyone else down. And I seriously doubt that counter staff will take you seriously. They are more likely to send you where you should have gone in the first place: the end of the line for economy class. —JEAN

LETTER OF THE MONTH Italy at Its Finest

It was great to read, and clip for a future trip, your Venice story [“Best of Venice,” August 2009]. Definitely an insider’s look at the city I dream of visiting, what I also enjoyed were the affordable listings with each section, though I was hoping there would be a hotel for less than €150 a night! I think you should do more of these types of stories in coming issues, especially on popular cities in Southeast Asia. And try to trim the nightly rates too. —EMMA

G O R D O N , BA N G KO K

End of the Line I can’t believe you would ask your readers to lie [“10 Travel Tricks to Save You Time and Money,” August 2009]. But that’s exactly what you did when you write, if traveling on an economy ticket, that people should check in at the business-class counter to avoid long

RO D D I S , H O N G KO N G

Going If It’s Green Great section about environmental travel [“Traveling Green in Asia,” September 2009]. When I saw it, I expected to be criticized for traveling at all, so it was good to read about ways we can travel better, even if some of them were naïve: visiting Angkor Wat at off-peak hours does nothing to preserve the already damaged temples. Still, the article did provide a lot of good advice on how we should all look at traveling in the future. It struck a chord: I ended up buying the issue! —ANNETTE

CHANG, SINGAPORE

Teed Off Green, as in environmentally friendly, golf ? I do not believe it [“Aiming for Green,” September 2009]. Until golf resorts entirely rid themselves of chemicals and stop using so much water, which I doubt they will ever do, and until people see the courses for what they really are—just another form of real-estate development—I can’t take such articles seriously. —SOPHY

N G , H O N G KO N G

E-MAIL T+L SEND YOUR LETTERS TO EDITOR @ TRAVELANDLEISURESEA.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) 10.09 DEAL OF THE MONTH

Chuan Overnight Haven package at Langham Place (852/3552-3388; hongkong. langhamplacehotels. com) in Hong Kong. What’s Included The Club at The Saujana.

Accommodation in a Chuan Residence; three

■ MALAYSIA Weekend Escape package at The Club at The Saujana (60-3/7843-1234; theclubatthesaujanakl.com) in Kuala Lumpur. What’s Included Daily breakfast; complimentary dry cleaning, laundry and pressing services; complimentary tea, coffee, evening cocktails and canapés at The Lounge; 10 percent off F&B; and free Wi-Fi. Cost From RM750 per night, through December 31. Savings Up to 50 percent. Westin Recharge package at the Westin Kuala Lumpur (60-3/2731-8333; starwoodhotels.com). What’s Included Daily breakfast and late check-out at 3 P.M. (upon availability). Cost From RM475 per night, two-night minimum, through December 30 (black-out dates apply). Savings Up to 45 percent. ■ CHINA Offer for American Express cardholders at the Fairmont Beijing (86-10/8511-7777; fairmont. com). What’s Included Book two nights, get one night free, with breakfast included. Cost From RMB1,288 per night, through February 28, 2010. Savings Up to 33 percent. 20

■ INDONESIA Relax & Unwind package at the Conrad Bali (62-361/773-888; conradhotels.hilton.com). What’s Included A two-night stay in a Deluxe Resort room; daily breakfast; and a 90minute massage/bath for two. Cost US$745, through December 20. Savings 30 percent.

hours of traditional Chinese medicine spa treatments per person; a four-course Chuan Spa–inspired dinner; 24-hour access to Club L lounge for breakfast, snacks and beverages. Cost HK$4,518 per night, through December 31. Savings

■ THAILAND Introductory offer at the recently opened Villa Maroc (66-32/630-771; villamarocresort. com) in Pranburi. What’s Included Daily breakfast; complimentary Wi-Fi; and daily activities such as yoga and tai chi. Cost From Bt8,000 per night, through October 31. Savings Up to 28 percent. Summer Inspiration package at Le Méridien Chiang Mai (66-53/253666; starwoodhotels. com). What’s Included Daily breakfast; a 15 percent discount at the spa; a 20 percent discount at all hotel restaurants and bars; and one complimentary hour of Internet access at the business center. Cost From Bt3,800 per night, through October 31. Savings Up to 43 percent.

OCTOB E R 2 0 0 9| T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E S E A . C O M

75 percent. A Chuan Residence, Langham Place.

F R O M T O P : C O U R T E SY O F T H E C L U B AT T H E S A U J A N A ; C O U R T E SY O F L A N G H A M P L A C E

Take advantage of great bargains all around the region right now! Here, we have seven perfect getaways


Q:

(Ask T+L) 10.09

Does it really pay to use a cash and mileage combination for reward tickets in my frequent-flyer program?

I’M VISITING BEIJING AT THE END OF THE YEAR, CAN YOU RECOMMEND A DESIGNORIENTED HOTEL THERE? —SUE SRISURAT, BANGKOK

A:

Following the popularity of last year’s Olympic Games, the Chinese capital isn’t short on trendy hotels any longer. Near the Forbidden City, the Emperor (designhotels.com; doubles from RMB637) offers 55 rooms and suites decked out with suede walls and etched-glass bathrooms. The 110-room Hotel G (epoquehotels.com; doubles from RMB1,088) has a 1960’s flair to it, while The Opposite House (theoppositehouse.com; doubles from RMB1,950) consists of 99 lofty, minimalist rooms with Japanesestyle wooden bathtubs.

—MARY WONG, SINGAPORE

Not all frequent-flyer plans in Asia allow you to top up an award with cash but for those that do, it can make a difference, particularly if your account is slightly short of mileage when you’re looking for a freebie. Cathay Pacific’s program (asiamiles.com) permits topping up, provided that 70 percent of the required reward mileage is in points. Blocks of 2,000 miles are available for US$60 each. Aboard Singapore Airlines (singaporeair.com), the 70 percent rule also comes into play, though the carrier sells 1,000-mile blocks for US$40 each. If you’re shy of the mileage required for an award ticket on SIA, it’s worth remembering that the airline also allows a 15 percent discount for online redemptions. That means a return economy ticket between Hong Kong and Singapore that normally requires 30,000 miles, is available for 25,500 miles via the Internet. Maybe it’s a cliché or mid-life crisis, but I’d like to learn how to surf in California. Any suggestions?

Of course, dude. At Santa Monica Beach, veteran wave rider Pat Murphy (learntosurfla.com) is an obvious choice when it comes to classes on the waves. He offers lessons priced from US$120. The nearly two-hour introductory courses are available year-round, while there are other classes aimed at any skill level. Santa Monica, according to those in the know, is a great place to learn since it offers gentle breaks.

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

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

—PAT TSONGA, MANILA


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

(Strategies) 10.09

Travel for Your Mind, Body and Soul Need an escape from the everday stresses of modern life? ROBYN ECKHARDT explores the ever-growing field of health-conscious tourism, including healing holidays, fitness trends, unusal spa treatments and more T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E S E A

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strategies | wellness

Meditation at the Kamalaya, Ko Samui.

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meditation or qigong, and plenty of sleep. Herbs and supplements may be prescribed, and plenty of advice is doled out. But unlike at other wellness retreats, nothing is mandatory. “We don’t take control,” explains Donna Wells, the Kamalaya’s director of communications, “because in order to take the lifestyle changes home you need to step in and be accountable.” For Sylger-Jones, the memory of this luxurious resort’s idyllic setting along Ko Samui’s tranquil, less developed southern coast is just one of the program’s many lasting benefits. “I left with a greater sense of calm, mental pictures of the resort’s serene lagoon and a few brilliant healthy recipe tips!” she says. 66-77/429-800; kamalaya.com; from Bt70,400 per person, excluding accommodation.

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BICYCLE TOUR OF NORTHERN LAOS AND VIETNAM, GRASSHOPPER ADVENTURES If you’re looking for a physical challenge, this is the trip for you. Breathtaking views, endurance-testing climbs and contact with remote

F RO M TO P : G R A S S H O P P E R A DV E N T U R E S ; CO U RT E SY O F L A N G K AW I YO G A ; CO U RT E SY O F PA DA N G PA DA N G S U R F CA M P

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BALANCE AND REVITALIZE, KAMALAYA WELLNESS SANCTUARY AND RESORT, KO SAMUI After two particularly taxing years, U.K.based writer Caroline Sylger-Jones and her husband decided they needed a break—one that left them truly rejuvenated. Last February, they signed up for Kamalaya Wellness Sanctuary’s Balance and Revitalize program—a seven to 14day holistic retreat designed to help the chronically stressed boost their energy levels, repair damage and make positive lifestyle changes. Aimed primarily at sufferers of adrenal fatigue (an affliction common among Type-A high achievers with highpressure careers), the program combines massage, nutrition and counseling. Before arriving, participants are asked to fill out an extensive health questionnaire (complimentary telephone consultations are also available). A typical day includes nutritional meals, two treatments, one or two gentle activities like

C O U R T E S Y O F K A M A L AYA W E L L N E S S R E S O R T A N D S P A ( 2 )

Four Trips to Change Your Life. Whether you’re looking to get fit, de-stress, or even reach a higher plane, one of these holidays is sure to help you reach your goal

hill tribes are just a few of the highlights on Bangkok-based tour operator Grasshopper Adventures’ Northern Indochina Trail cycling tour. During the 13-day trip, which begins in Luang Prabang and ends in Hanoi, an experienced guide and his local assistant lead riders through remote Laos along stretches of the Mekong and Nam Ou rivers, over forest-lined mountain passes, and through tiny villages. In Vietnam, a well-earned day of rest in Dien Bien Phu precedes two more days of rigorous riding capped off by a challenging 27kilometer ascent to Sapa. The journey to Hanoi is by overnight train. Don’t expect much in terms of luxury along the way: lodgings are mostly in guesthouses and meals often consist of rice and stir-fried vegetables and meat (adventurous palates should ask for whatever their local guide is having). Riders cover an average of 87 kilometers a day on paved and unpaved roads, though a van carries luggage and provisions, and, on occassion, exhausted cyclists. But the rewards go far beyond rock-hard glutes. “There’s a tremendous sense of achievement in having crossed the mountainous route between the two countries and the most remote border point,” says tour designer Adam Platt-Hepworth. For some participants, the journey has an even more profound effect. “The region is relatively poor, and you see how simply one can live as long they’ve got family, a home and enough to eat,” says Jason Williams, the founder of Grasshopper Adventures. “It makes you look at your own life with new eyes.” 66/897-929-5208; grasshopperadventures.com; US$1,990 per person, including accommodation, most meals, entry fees and boat trips; bikes available for rental.

3

SURFING SCHOOL, PADANG PADANG SURF CAMP, BALI Ever dream of riding the waves? Then sign up at this camp on Bali’s southern peninsula that’s within walking distance of some of the island’s best breaks. Led by experienced and fully trained Balinese surfers, lessons for novices start in the swimming pool, where students are taught how to handle and balance on their boards. Then it’s time to hit the beach. Don’t worry if the waves

are too big—instructors lead students to breaks that match their ability. Outside of lessons, students are free to do what they want, though they’re encouraged to spend at least two hours a day in the water. Roughing it, thankfully, isn’t required at this camp; budding surfers lodge in airy, tile-floored rooms housed in two WiFi-equipped tropical mod villas set on either side of a large swimming pool. And while graduates probably won’t join the ASP World Tour, Padang Padang’s owner Andrew Roberts does make one promise: “They’ll walk away exhilarated from having experienced the best sport in the world in the world’s best location for it.” 62/813-3773-7210; balisurfingcamp.com; one-week program from €445 per person when booking for two, including accommodation, two meals a day, surf guide, beach transfers and daily lessons.

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YOGA AND NATURE APPRECIATION RETREAT, LANGKAWI YOGA There are plenty of yoga retreats around Southeast Asia, but this one seeks to combine improving your asanas with the great outdoors. It also takes a relaxed approach. “A yoga retreat, but a holiday too” is how Dorothy Ang, co-founder of Langkawi Yoga, describes the five-day programs aimed at novices, near-gurus and everyone in between. Held at a small resort nestled amid rice paddies in the middle of Langkawi, the retreat includes twice-daily yoga classes, jungle treks, mangrove tours, massages and plenty of down time. “We spend a lot of time outdoors,” says Ang—a fact which helps students remove themselves from their daily lives. Accomodations are in Malay-style chalets equipped with kitchenettes and CD players (but no TV’s). In keeping with yoga’s philosophy, meals are vegetarian, but you won’t leave hungry: a typical dinner might include lasagne or a selection of dishes from Malaysia’s myriad regions and finish with a bowl of apple crumble. 60/19-652-0683 or 60/12-421-5970; langkawi-yoga.com; US$500, including accommodations, meals and airport transfers. »

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strategies | wellness

Meditation at the Kamalaya, Ko Samui.

26

OCTO B E R 2 0 0 9| T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E S E A . C O M

meditation or qigong, and plenty of sleep. Herbs and supplements may be prescribed, and plenty of advice is doled out. But unlike at other wellness retreats, nothing is mandatory. “We don’t take control,” explains Donna Wells, the Kamalaya’s director of communications, “because in order to take the lifestyle changes home you need to step in and be accountable.” For Sylger-Jones, the memory of this luxurious resort’s idyllic setting along Ko Samui’s tranquil, less developed southern coast is just one of the program’s many lasting benefits. “I left with a greater sense of calm, mental pictures of the resort’s serene lagoon and a few brilliant healthy recipe tips!” she says. 66-77/429-800; kamalaya.com; from Bt70,400 per person, excluding accommodation.

2

BICYCLE TOUR OF NORTHERN LAOS AND VIETNAM, GRASSHOPPER ADVENTURES If you’re looking for a physical challenge, this is the trip for you. Breathtaking views, endurance-testing climbs and contact with remote

F RO M TO P : G R A S S H O P P E R A DV E N T U R E S ; CO U RT E SY O F L A N G K AW I YO G A ; CO U RT E SY O F PA DA N G PA DA N G S U R F CA M P

1

BALANCE AND REVITALIZE, KAMALAYA WELLNESS SANCTUARY AND RESORT, KO SAMUI After two particularly taxing years, U.K.based writer Caroline Sylger-Jones and her husband decided they needed a break—one that left them truly rejuvenated. Last February, they signed up for Kamalaya Wellness Sanctuary’s Balance and Revitalize program—a seven to 14day holistic retreat designed to help the chronically stressed boost their energy levels, repair damage and make positive lifestyle changes. Aimed primarily at sufferers of adrenal fatigue (an affliction common among Type-A high achievers with highpressure careers), the program combines massage, nutrition and counseling. Before arriving, participants are asked to fill out an extensive health questionnaire (complimentary telephone consultations are also available). A typical day includes nutritional meals, two treatments, one or two gentle activities like

C O U R T E S Y O F K A M A L AYA W E L L N E S S R E S O R T A N D S P A ( 2 )

Four Trips to Change Your Life. Whether you’re looking to get fit, de-stress, or even reach a higher plane, one of these holidays is sure to help you reach your goal

hill tribes are just a few of the highlights on Bangkok-based tour operator Grasshopper Adventures’ Northern Indochina Trail cycling tour. During the 13-day trip, which begins in Luang Prabang and ends in Hanoi, an experienced guide and his local assistant lead riders through remote Laos along stretches of the Mekong and Nam Ou rivers, over forest-lined mountain passes, and through tiny villages. In Vietnam, a well-earned day of rest in Dien Bien Phu precedes two more days of rigorous riding capped off by a challenging 27kilometer ascent to Sapa. The journey to Hanoi is by overnight train. Don’t expect much in terms of luxury along the way: lodgings are mostly in guesthouses and meals often consist of rice and stir-fried vegetables and meat (adventurous palates should ask for whatever their local guide is having). Riders cover an average of 87 kilometers a day on paved and unpaved roads, though a van carries luggage and provisions, and, on occassion, exhausted cyclists. But the rewards go far beyond rock-hard glutes. “There’s a tremendous sense of achievement in having crossed the mountainous route between the two countries and the most remote border point,” says tour designer Adam Platt-Hepworth. For some participants, the journey has an even more profound effect. “The region is relatively poor, and you see how simply one can live as long they’ve got family, a home and enough to eat,” says Jason Williams, the founder of Grasshopper Adventures. “It makes you look at your own life with new eyes.” 66/897-929-5208; grasshopperadventures.com; US$1,990 per person, including accommodation, most meals, entry fees and boat trips; bikes available for rental.

3

SURFING SCHOOL, PADANG PADANG SURF CAMP, BALI Ever dream of riding the waves? Then sign up at this camp on Bali’s southern peninsula that’s within walking distance of some of the island’s best breaks. Led by experienced and fully trained Balinese surfers, lessons for novices start in the swimming pool, where students are taught how to handle and balance on their boards. Then it’s time to hit the beach. Don’t worry if the waves

are too big—instructors lead students to breaks that match their ability. Outside of lessons, students are free to do what they want, though they’re encouraged to spend at least two hours a day in the water. Roughing it, thankfully, isn’t required at this camp; budding surfers lodge in airy, tile-floored rooms housed in two WiFi-equipped tropical mod villas set on either side of a large swimming pool. And while graduates probably won’t join the ASP World Tour, Padang Padang’s owner Andrew Roberts does make one promise: “They’ll walk away exhilarated from having experienced the best sport in the world in the world’s best location for it.” 62/813-3773-7210; balisurfingcamp.com; one-week program from €445 per person when booking for two, including accommodation, two meals a day, surf guide, beach transfers and daily lessons.

4

YOGA AND NATURE APPRECIATION RETREAT, LANGKAWI YOGA There are plenty of yoga retreats around Southeast Asia, but this one seeks to combine improving your asanas with the great outdoors. It also takes a relaxed approach. “A yoga retreat, but a holiday too” is how Dorothy Ang, co-founder of Langkawi Yoga, describes the five-day programs aimed at novices, near-gurus and everyone in between. Held at a small resort nestled amid rice paddies in the middle of Langkawi, the retreat includes twice-daily yoga classes, jungle treks, mangrove tours, massages and plenty of down time. “We spend a lot of time outdoors,” says Ang—a fact which helps students remove themselves from their daily lives. Accomodations are in Malay-style chalets equipped with kitchenettes and CD players (but no TV’s). In keeping with yoga’s philosophy, meals are vegetarian, but you won’t leave hungry: a typical dinner might include lasagne or a selection of dishes from Malaysia’s myriad regions and finish with a bowl of apple crumble. 60/19-652-0683 or 60/12-421-5970; langkawi-yoga.com; US$500, including accommodations, meals and airport transfers. »

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strategies | wellness ■ FIGHT CLUB If you’ve ever wanted abs like a Thai kick boxer’s check out Singapore’s Fight Works Asia (#04-00, Standard Photo Building, 565 Macpherson Rd.; 65/6285-6028; fightworksasia.com. sg; classes from S$20), a gym devoted to martial arts, boxing and self-defense. Sanctioned by the World Muay Thai Council, the gym’s muay thai program accommodates beginners as well as competitors. Ninety-minute classes develop aerobic capacity, overall strength, agility and coordination—not to mention self-defense skills. With 18 classes a week, you’re bound to find something to suit your schedule; just arrive about 20 minutes before the class begins to fill out paperwork. If you’re in town for more than a few nights, sign up for private training.

Workouts with a Difference. A growing number of hotels and gyms in the region are offering classes that go way beyond yoga and aerobics ■ BRAZILIAN MARTIAL ARTS At the Four Seasons Shanghai (500 Weihai Lu; 8621/6256-8888; fourseasons.com; individual lessons from US$75) try your hand at Capoeira, a centuries-old combination of martial arts, games, music and dance developed by African slaves in Brazil. Led by members of a local Capoeira club, routines (performed in a roda, or circle) involve swaying, acrobatics, and attack and defense gestures—all with the accompaniment of singing and music. Practitioners develop strong core and upper body muscles and increased flexibility and agility—as well as a stronger sense of rhythm. ■ A NEW BREED OF CROSS-TRAINING The Four Seasons Macau (Estrada da Baía de N. Senhora da Esperança,Taipa; 853/2881-8888; fourseasons.com; use the wall for free, or hire a private trainer to show you the ropes for MOP500 per hour), boasts a Kinesis Wall, an 8-meter-long, 2-meter-high panel mounted with grips, cables and weight stacks that combine cardio, strength and flexibility training through a range of exercises. And it takes up half the time of a more traditional workout: a typical circuit lasts 20 minutes and consists of traditional exercises like chest presses and lat pulls with everyday movements such as bending and reaching. It’s the perfect cross-training session for everyone from yoga enthusiasts to golfers.

C LO C KW I S E F RO M TO P : CO U RT ESY O F FO U R S E AS O N S S H A N G H A I ; CO U RT ESY O F P U R E F I T N ESS ; CO U RT ESY O F FO U R S E AS O N S M ACAU ; CO U RT ESY O F F I G H T WO R KS AS I A ; CO U RT ESY O F A M A N P U R I

Worth the Sweat Clockwise from above: Capoeira in Shanghai; getting in touch with your inner trapeze artist at Pure Fitness, in Hong Kong; the Kinesis Wall at the Four Seasons Macau; on the ropes at Fight Works Asia, in Singapore; Amanpuri’s Pilates studio, in Phuket.

■ PILATES WITH A VIEW Plenty of luxury hotels boast Pilates classes, but few are held in surroundings as spectacular as Amanpuri (Pansea Beach; 66-76/324-333; amanresorts.com; 3–5 day packages include the cost of class; private lessons US$120 per hour). Introduced earlier this year, intensive three- and five-day programs are set in this storied resort’s 350-square-meter hillside gym. Instructors start by assessing your posture, movement, physical history and fitness goals, before tailoring a regimen to meet your

needs. Guests are also schooled in the principles and philosopy of Pilates. In addition, Amanpuri also offers group and private instruction in Gyrotonics, a relatively recent offshot that incorporates elements of yoga, tai chi and swimming, and relies on circular (think gyroscope) rather than the mostly linear movements of Pilates. ■ CIRCUS ACT If you’ve ever fantasized about joining the circus, sign up for Jukari Fit to Fly at Hong Kong’s PURE Fitness (Level 3, Two ifc, 8 Finance St., Central; 852/8129-8000; pure-fit.com; twoweek membership HK$1,000). Developed by Cirque du Soleil and Reebok, this brand-new workout centers on a trapezelike piece of equipment on which participants perform swinging routines that strengthen and lengthen the body. The cardio-heavy workouts target triceps, glutes, shoulders, lat muscles and abdominals while developing balance. Currently one of only four gyms in Asia that have the facilities, PURE offers three 45-minutes classes a week, but be forewarned, they’re hugely popular so you’ll need to reserve a place at least a week in advance. »


strategies | wellness ■ FIGHT CLUB If you’ve ever wanted abs like a Thai kick boxer’s check out Singapore’s Fight Works Asia (#04-00, Standard Photo Building, 565 Macpherson Rd.; 65/6285-6028; fightworksasia.com. sg; classes from S$20), a gym devoted to martial arts, boxing and self-defense. Sanctioned by the World Muay Thai Council, the gym’s muay thai program accommodates beginners as well as competitors. Ninety-minute classes develop aerobic capacity, overall strength, agility and coordination—not to mention self-defense skills. With 18 classes a week, you’re bound to find something to suit your schedule; just arrive about 20 minutes before the class begins to fill out paperwork. If you’re in town for more than a few nights, sign up for private training.

Workouts with a Difference. A growing number of hotels and gyms in the region are offering classes that go way beyond yoga and aerobics ■ BRAZILIAN MARTIAL ARTS At the Four Seasons Shanghai (500 Weihai Lu; 8621/6256-8888; fourseasons.com; individual lessons from US$75) try your hand at Capoeira, a centuries-old combination of martial arts, games, music and dance developed by African slaves in Brazil. Led by members of a local Capoeira club, routines (performed in a roda, or circle) involve swaying, acrobatics, and attack and defense gestures—all with the accompaniment of singing and music. Practitioners develop strong core and upper body muscles and increased flexibility and agility—as well as a stronger sense of rhythm. ■ A NEW BREED OF CROSS-TRAINING The Four Seasons Macau (Estrada da Baía de N. Senhora da Esperança,Taipa; 853/2881-8888; fourseasons.com; use the wall for free, or hire a private trainer to show you the ropes for MOP500 per hour), boasts a Kinesis Wall, an 8-meter-long, 2-meter-high panel mounted with grips, cables and weight stacks that combine cardio, strength and flexibility training through a range of exercises. And it takes up half the time of a more traditional workout: a typical circuit lasts 20 minutes and consists of traditional exercises like chest presses and lat pulls with everyday movements such as bending and reaching. It’s the perfect cross-training session for everyone from yoga enthusiasts to golfers.

C LO C KW I S E F RO M TO P : CO U RT ESY O F FO U R S E AS O N S S H A N G H A I ; CO U RT ESY O F P U R E F I T N ESS ; CO U RT ESY O F FO U R S E AS O N S M ACAU ; CO U RT ESY O F F I G H T WO R KS AS I A ; CO U RT ESY O F A M A N P U R I

Worth the Sweat Clockwise from above: Capoeira in Shanghai; getting in touch with your inner trapeze artist at Pure Fitness, in Hong Kong; the Kinesis Wall at the Four Seasons Macau; on the ropes at Fight Works Asia, in Singapore; Amanpuri’s Pilates studio, in Phuket.

■ PILATES WITH A VIEW Plenty of luxury hotels boast Pilates classes, but few are held in surroundings as spectacular as Amanpuri (Pansea Beach; 66-76/324-333; amanresorts.com; 3–5 day packages include the cost of class; private lessons US$120 per hour). Introduced earlier this year, intensive three- and five-day programs are set in this storied resort’s 350-square-meter hillside gym. Instructors start by assessing your posture, movement, physical history and fitness goals, before tailoring a regimen to meet your

needs. Guests are also schooled in the principles and philosopy of Pilates. In addition, Amanpuri also offers group and private instruction in Gyrotonics, a relatively recent offshot that incorporates elements of yoga, tai chi and swimming, and relies on circular (think gyroscope) rather than the mostly linear movements of Pilates. ■ CIRCUS ACT If you’ve ever fantasized about joining the circus, sign up for Jukari Fit to Fly at Hong Kong’s PURE Fitness (Level 3, Two ifc, 8 Finance St., Central; 852/8129-8000; pure-fit.com; twoweek membership HK$1,000). Developed by Cirque du Soleil and Reebok, this brand-new workout centers on a trapezelike piece of equipment on which participants perform swinging routines that strengthen and lengthen the body. The cardio-heavy workouts target triceps, glutes, shoulders, lat muscles and abdominals while developing balance. Currently one of only four gyms in Asia that have the facilities, PURE offers three 45-minutes classes a week, but be forewarned, they’re hugely popular so you’ll need to reserve a place at least a week in advance. »


strategies | wellness

Serenity with a Difference Clockwise from left: The jade treatment at the St. Regis Singapore; pampering at the Shangri-La Villingili; cowrie shells used at the Shangri-La; a facial at Six Senses Hideaway, Ko Yao Noi; a treatment room at the Four Seasons Shanghai.

More than Just a Facial. Fancy a body scrub with crushed pearls? Here, unusual treatments at some of Asia’s premier hotel spas

St. Regis Singapore Jade has a special place in Chinese culture; it symbolizes beauty, wisdom and immortality. The lustrous green stone is also believed to have healing qualities, especially for the kidneys, which, in Chinese medicine, play a central role in health. At the St. Regis 30

Singapore’s Remède Spa, guests can sign up for a 90-minute massage that uses warmed jade stones as well as an oil infused with cedarwood, rosewood and vetiver to help rejuvenate tired limbs and rebalance qi. The treatment ends with a gentle facial massage with cooled jade stones. 29 Tanglin Rd.; 65/6506-6888; starwoodhotels.com; Warm Jade Stone Massage S$280. Four Seasons Shanghai Four Seasons Shanghai’s new 760square-meter spa, Qin, offers four seasonal “rites” that involve ingredients long-favored by the Chinese (plum blossom, ginseng and sandalwood). The 2½-hour Green Dragon Spring Rite starts with a tea-blossom foot bath followed by an invigorating foot massage with warmed bamboo sticks. Next up are a body scrub with dandelion and rhubarb and a body wrap made of peach blossoms and tangerine that leave your skin feeling smooth and cleansed. Guests are then massaged with an oil infused with gold, believed to help absorb pollutants and

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leave a healthy glow. 500 Weihai Lu; 8621/6256-8888; fourseasons.com; Green Dragon Spring Rite RMB1,700; RMB2,800 for couples. Six Senses Hideaway, Ko Yao Noi Thailand True to its belief that you should be able to eat whatever you put on your skin, the four-hour signature treatment at Six Senses’ eco-luxe property off the coast of Phuket reads like a menu at a Thai restaurant. Guests start with an herbal foot soak, followed by a papaya body scrub. Tense muscles are then kneaded with a fragrant compress containing lemongrass, galangal, tamarind leaves, camphor, ginger, turmeric and cinnamon, and then your visage is buffed with products made with milk, cucumber, honey, coconut, carrot, banana, yoghurt and oats. 56 Moo 5, Tambol Koh Yao Noi, Amphur Koh Yao; 66-76/418-500; Signature Yao Noi Ritual Bt9,000. »

F R O M L E F T : C O U R T E S Y O F S T. R E G I S S I N G A P O R E ; C O U R T E S Y O F S H A N G R I - L A V I L L I N G I L I M A L D I V E S ( 2 ) ; CO U RT ESY O F S I X S E N S ES ; CO U RT ESY O F FO U R S E AS O N S

Shangri-La Villingili Resort Maldives The Maldives were once the source of money cowries, small polished shells that served as a form of currency in many parts of the world. Today, they’re the source of inspiration for the Kandu Boli Experience, offered at Shangri-La Villingili Resort’s CHI spa. The fourhour treatment begins with an exfoliating body polish with crushed mother-of-pearl. After a relaxing soak, guests are treated to a massage incorporating smooth tiger cowrie shells, which are placed at pressure points and over the ears to provide a soothing soundtrack of the sea. Villingili Island, Maldives; 960/689-7888; shangrila.com; Kandu Boli Experience US$480.


strategies | wellness

Prince Court Medical Centre Bumrungrad Hospital

Where Bumrungrad Hospital, Bangkok 33 Soi 3, Sukhumvit Rd.; 66-2/6671555; bumrungrad.com What Executive Health Screening with Stress Test Cost Bt9,000 Book 3 days in advance Includes Blood tests (cholesterol, kidney and liver function, thyroid panel, hepatitis screening); EKG; exercise stress test; chest Xray; abdominal ultrasound; eye exam; and for women: a digital mammogram and ultrasound, gynecological exam and pap smear Results 3–7 days Pros Bumrungrad has loads of experience handling foreign patients, and has interpreters, lodgings, and travel and visa services available. Cons The hospital has gotten increasingly busy in recent years, and doctors can sometimes seem harried.

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Where Prince Court Medical Centre, Kuala Lumpur 39 Jln. Kia Peng; 603/2160-000; princecourt.com What Well Men/Well Women Screening Package Cost RM1,300 (men) and RM1,400 (women) Book 2–3 weeks in advance Includes Blood tests (cholesterol, kidney and liver function, thyroid panel, hepatitis screening); EKG; exercise stress test; chest Xray; abdominal ultrasound; eye exam; body fat analysis; bone density analysis; rheumatoid arthritis test; HIV test; for women: gynecological exam and pap smear; and for men: prostrate check-up Results 5–6 hours Pros There’s a lounge for international patients with a concierge. Cons Patients have to receive their results in person, from Monday– Saturday only.

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Where St. Luke’s Medical Center 279 E. Rodriguez Sr. Blvd., Quezon City, Philippines; 63-2/723-0101 What Routine Out-Patient Check-up Cost P7,161 for men and P9,355 for women Book 1 week in advance Includes Blood tests (cholesterol, kidney and liver function, thyroid panel, hepatitis screening); EKG; exercise stress test; chest Xray; abdominal ultrasound; and for women: gynecological exam and pap smear Results 3 working days Pros There’s a one-stop center for international patients that can help arrange in-country travel bookings, airport transfers and interpreters. Cons Dealing with Manila traffic makes this destination less appealing.

Where Gleaneagles Intan Medical Centre, Kuala Lumpur 282-286 Jln. Ampang; 60-3/4257-1300; gimc.tmasia.com What Premium Health Screening Program Cost RM1,008 for men and RM1,155 for women Book Two weeks in advance Includes Blood screening (kidney, liver, thyroid functions and tests for gout, cholesterol level, hepatitis, syphilis, rheumatoid arthritis); resting and stress (with treadmill) ECG; lung fuction test; abdomen and pelvis ultrasound, chest xray; PSA (prostate cancer) for men and pap smear for women (add RM212 for mammogram and breast ultrasound) Results 7–10 working days Pros Service is excellent. Cons Queues can be long for the X-rays.

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

Where to Get Your Annual Check-up. With medical tourism continuing to boom in the region, we compare health screening packages at four of the region’s top hospitals


Look back in hunger. Old-time favorites that never fade away in Hong Kong <(page 52)

Art Deco revival. Shanghai’s newest five-star takes a page from the past <(page 62)

A good gamble. Sky-high living in Macau (page 51) >

+

• Phuket’s nightlife heats up • Nibble your way through Istanbul • Discover Saigon’s next hotspot

(Insiider) (Ins Photo credit by tktktk

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

Treasure hunt. Explore Bangkok’s Chinatown with a master chef <(page 42)

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

Lorenzo Urra, Global Nomad T+L asks the managing director of a new boutique tour company (global-nomad.com) about his favorite spots in the Philippines Klapsons, a new boutique hotel in Singapore.

Singapore Style Leave it to Singapore to mix business with high design. Milan-based designers Sawaya & Moroni make a splashy debut in the Lion City with Klapsons (15 Hoe Chiang Rd.; 65/6521-9030; klapsons.com; doubles from S$268), situated on the edge of the Central Business District. Whimsical touches like off-kilter lamps and a stainless steel–clad spherical reception area dominate the lobby. No two of the 17 rooms are exactly alike, though they share the same futuristic flair (think comfy armchairs matched with Perspex tables and perforated, back-lit headboards). Exhibitionists might delight in the free-standing shower stall located in the middle of the room; the more retiring will find solace in the sheltered outdoor Jacuzzis in the suites. And everyone will be pleased with the complimentary mini-bar, breakfast, four hours’ limousine service and Wi-Fi thrown in with the room rate.

—E V E LY N 36

CHEN

Favorite island in the Philippines “My favorite island in the Philippines is Batanes. It’s got that ‘edge of the world’ feeling— instead of white sand beaches, the islands have craggy windswept cliffs and remind you of the hills of Ireland and Scotland (sans the cold and wet weather).” The next big thing “Palawan province. ... The powdery white sand beaches rival the Turks and Caicos in terms of length, with hardly any commercial development. The corals and teeming colorful reef fish are far livelier than the Maldives or the Great Barrier Reef. On any given day in certain islands you could spot a whale shark, dugong, several species of sea turtles, manta rays, thresher sharks and the rare Philippine giant clam (the largest in the world), tuna, blue marlin ... you name it.”

Favorite new stay “The brand new Shangri-La Resort in a completely private side of Boracay Island (Barangay Yapak; 6336/288-4988; doubles from P19,000). Check out their exclusive hilltop suites. Their Chi spa with traditional Philippine Hilot massage is out of this world!” Look out for “The most exciting destination resort will be the new Banyan Tree all-villa resort located in Northern Palawan. Stay tuned. In Manila, the upcoming Raffles and ShangriLa hotels in Bonifacio, next to the city’s most upscale neighbourhood.” Future explorations “I have always wanted to explore Tawi Tawi island province, in the southernmost tip of the Philippines. This is where you will find colorful traditional sailboats and the Badjao tribes who still live on houses built on stilts above the sea.”—J.C.

Old Boys Don’t have the pedigree or cash to join a private club? Neither do we. AFTER But in Shanghai, we can pretend to have ample amounts of both at DARK The Aquarium by KEE (Unit 111A, Plaza 66, 1266 Nanjing Xi Lu; 86-21/6288 3822; drinks for two RMB140), a cozy new lounge located in the Alfred Dunhill flagship store. Created by the team behind Hong Kong’s members-only club KEE, the interiors are unapologetically upper class: Persian rugs, brass fittings, buttery leather chairs and polished oak paneling. Continental-inspired fare shares space on the menu with roast beef The Aquarium by KEE, in sandwiches and dim sum. But in Shanghai. keeping with the time-honored traditions of private men’s clubs, head straight for either one of the more than 40 single malts listed or a classic cocktail. Just be careful not to spill anything on that collegiate tie.

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C LO C KW I S E F RO M L E F T: CO U RT ESY O F K L A PS O N S ; CO U RT ESY O F LO R E N ZO U R RA ; CO U RT ESY O F T H E AQ UA R I U M BY K E E

HOTEL

Q+A


insider

| newsflash GUIDES

Past Present

H E RITAG E

Hong Kong tends to tear down its past, but preservation prevailed with the 19th-century former Marine Police Headquarters. After a six-year, HK$1 billion restoration, the complex, which fronts Victoria Harbour from the Kowloon side, will officially be unveiled this month as 1881 Heritage (Canton Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui; 852/21222169; 1881heritage.com), the city’s latest retail–dining–entertainment destination. The 120-year-old main building, Hullett House, has an all-suite hotel and five restaurants and bars run by Hong Kong’s Aqua group. Besides the beautifully restored façade, there’s plenty for history buffs to delight in: the stables, pigeon houses, gas lamp posts, cast-iron fire places and even an underground bomb shelter have all been preserved. Former cell blocks, meanwhile, have become part of Mariner’s Rest, an English pub. Modern amenities haven’t been ignored: the individually decorated hotel suites blend contemporary Chinese art and modern conveniences. Better yet, each comes with a commanding view of the harbor.

Do-It-Yourself Maps Local knowledge always makes a trip truly memorable. But if you don’t have a friend in town, you can now count on À la Carte Maps (alacartemaps.com; maps €8.90). Currently available for Tokyo, Shanghai, Barcelona, Munich, Washington, D.C. and Zurich, these colorful, sturdy maps are hand-drawn by locals (who happen to be friends of the company’s founders) and feature tips from dozens of residents. Each map also comes with a welcome letter detailing basics as well as access to a comprehensive database that travelers can use to create personalized itineraries. Tips are aimed at flashpackers: expect the inside scoop on everything from holes-in-the-walls to splurge-worthy restaurants. Creative types, meanwhile, can order virgin versions on which they pen in their own insights. Next up: maps of New York, Vienna, Paris and London.

After decades of success with Hong Kong’s M at the Fringe and Shanghai’s M on the Bund, legendary E AT restaurateur Michelle Garnaut brings her refined Continental–Mediterranean cuisine to the Chinese capital with Capital M (3rd floor, No. 2 Qianmen Pedestrian The view St.; 86-10/6702-2727; capital-m-beijing.com; dinner for from Capital M in Beijing. two including drinks RMB400). Located on the top floor of a modern gray-brick complex at the entrance of a recently pedestrianized Ming-era area, the 400-seat eatery boasts unobstructed views of Tiananmen Square. But diners will probably spend more time admiring the interiors. Created by the team behind Garnaut’s other eateries, the dining room recalls the Belle Époque: in-laid black-and-white floor tiles form geometric patterns, referencing fin de siècle Viennese mansions, while terrazo bathroom walls lined with gold swirls allude to Art Nouveau. The masterpiece is a 50-meter Klimt-like hand-painted mural by artist Michael Cartwright that spans the length of one of the restaurant’s walls. The menu lists classics such as suckling pig and the gravity-defying Pavlova—a nod to Garnaut’s Aussie roots—as well as small plates perfect for sharing, like smørrebrød and a choice of Russian, French, English or Chinese afternoon teas. And the large outdoor terrace is perfect for the fall weather.—M A N U E L A Z O N I N S E I N 38

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C LO C KW I S E F RO M TO P L E F T: CO U RT ESY O F H U L L E T T H O U S E ; C O U R T E SY O F À L A C A R T E M A P S ; C O U R T E SY O F C A P I TA L M

Beijing Bohemian


insider

| newsflash AFTER DARK

Beach Party Phuket’s nightlife heats up with these three new clubs. B R I J E S H

KHEMLANI

checks out the scene

DRINK

SOUND PHUKET Created by the team behind Bangkok’s legendary Bed Supperclub, this nearly one-year-old, 1,200square-meter club in the Jungceylon shopping center in Patong lures tourists, expats and locals alike with its sci-fi, curved interiors; booths take the shape of futuristic pods while the bar is illuminated by a 19-meter screen that changes to the beat. On the turntables are Bed’s own resident DJ’s and famed international acts like DJ Cashmoney and DJ Jesse Garcia, spinning everything from hip-hop to trance. Where 193 Rut-U-Thit 200 Pi Rd., Patong; 66-76/366-163; soundphuket.com.

STEREO LAB BEACH CLUB AND LOUNGE Nestled on happening Surin beach, this alfresco spot exudes summer with its gauzy drapes, lemonyellow and aqua-blue rattan chairs, and generous patio. Hungry revelers can order Thaiinspired tapas—think massaman beef and laarb—to accompany signature drinks like the Dark and Stormy, a concoction made with rum, ginger beer, lime juice and fresh ginger. Over the coming months, look out for a spa, clubhouse and playground as well as a dancefloor located right on the beach. Where Surin Beach South; 66/892-180-162; stereolabphuket.com.

BABA 88 Debuting in November, Baba 88 will be the latest addition to ultraluxurious Sri Panwa resort’s expansive pool club. The 214-square-meter, blueon-blue underground space pays homage to Phuket’s past, with handpainted tiles echoiung the Old Town’s SinoPortuguese shophouses. A laid-back ambience will prevail on the weekdays; funk and disco will liven up the weekends. Make sure to order one of Sri Panwa’s signature drinks, like the mango julep, a delectable local twist to a classic cocktail. Where Sri Panwa, 88 Moo. 8, Sakdidej Rd.; 66-76/371-000; babaphuket.com.

Baijiu, the potent Chinese firewater, gets a glamorous, 1930’sinspired makeover with Shanghai White (shanghaiwhitevodka.com; HK$470), a new premium vodka that’s the brainchild of international drinks company Diageo and Shui Jing Fang, a 600-year-old baijiu distillery based in Sichuan. Combining Russian and Chinese distilling techniques, the liquor makes a smooth, well-rounded martini, and comes in a qipao-inspired bottle that makes it a nifty souvenir or present. For now, it’s only available at a few select bars in Hong Kong, including MO Bar at the Landmark Mandarin Hotel (15 Queen’s Rd. Central, Central; 852/21320188); Azure at Hotel LKF (33 Wyndham St., Central; 852/35189688), and TONIC (43– 55 Wyndham St., Central; 852/2537-8010). —C A R M E N T I N G

40

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F RO M L E F T: CO U RT ESY O F S O U N D P H U K E T; CO U RT ESY O F ST E R EO L A B B E AC H C LU B A N D LO U N G E ; CO U RT ESY O F BA BA 8 8 ; CO U RT ESY O F S H A N G H A I W H I T E

Retro Spirit


insider

| the expert

Where the Good Food Is Clockwise from below: Or lua, crispy oyster omelet; Yaowarat Road in Bangkok’s Chinatown; chef David Thompson.

The Real Chinatown. Master Australian chef David Thompson

42

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Bangkok life today—only became widespread in the 1960’s and 70’s, and even then, many Thais shunned it, fearing that being seen buying their meals from a stall would cloud their reputations. Women who fed their families street food were jeeringly called “plastic bag housewives.” That’s what David Thompson, the acclaimed Australian chef behind London’s Nahm restaurant and one of the world’s leading authorities on Thai food, tells me over smoked

F R O M T O P : A U S T I N B U S H ; WA S I N E E C H A N TA KO R N ; A U S T I N B U S H

THAILAND

HERE’S AN ADAGE AMONG Bangkokians that says there are no good Thai restaurants in Bangkok. That is, the fancier the surroundings, the more likely the food will turn out to be bland and insipid ( farangized, if you will). But if you forage with the locals among the city’s legions of mobile street stalls and no-name holes-in-thewall, you’ll be rewarded with Thai food at its full glory. Surprisingly, street food— which is such an integral part of

C L O C K W I S E F R O M L E F T: WA S I N E E C H A N TA KO R N ( 2 ) ; A U S T I N B U S H

takes T+L on a quick tour of some of his favorite, down-home discoveries in Bangkok. By JENNIFER CHEN

duck in Bangkok’s Chinatown. Due out later this month, the follow-up to his 2002 awardwinning cookbook, Thai Food, is devoted to Thailand’s street eats, and I’ve asked if I can tag along with him and his friends on a trawl of some of his favorite streetside spots in Chinatown, where some of the city’s best vendors still ply their trade. Chinese immigrants, after all, popularized street dining in Thailand. “I don’t usually make recommendations for street food because the owners are so fickle sometimes,” Thompson says, noting that many vendors like the itinerant life, which includes impromptu holidays. “It’s an admirable way of life; it’s a questionable way of doing business; and it’s infuriating when you’re hungry,” he quips. A self-described history buff, Thompson is fearsomely erudite. While we’re sitting in one of those interminable Bangkok traffic jams, he holds forth on his theory of the origins of kanom jeen (rice noodles served in curry), citing everything from its etymology to the spread of Theravada Buddhism. Our first stop, he assures us, is a real treat: or lua, or oyster omelet. Hoi tod, a squishier version, is a commonly found dish, but at Naay Mong (539 Plubplachai Rd.; 66-2/6231890; omelets Bt65), the omelets are cooked to a crisp in rendered pork fat over a charcoal fire and then topped with oysters; with hoi tod, the bivalves are folded into the batter. Thompson’s right—it’s a revelation of contrasting textures: crunchy outside, but light inside, with a generous scattering of sweet, plump oysters that pop in your mouth. The trick lies in the ratio between rice and tapioca flours

as well as the well-seasoned iron pan used to make the omelets, says Thompson. He also points out the secret to dining well in Bangkok: many vendors specialize in one dish, which means they have complete mastery of that one dish. It’s the theory of achieving genius through 10,000 hours of practice on display at a barebones storefront in Bangkok. Our omelets are gone within minutes, so Thompson shepherds us next door to an Khao Tom Jay Suay (547 Plubplachai; 66-2/223-9592; three dishes Bt200), where he orders smoked duck, tiny, stir-fried clams and minced fatty pork fried with olive paste, namliab pad moo sab. The atmosphere, as with most of these places, is negligible: fluorescent lighting, a rusty fan, a few battered aluminum tables on the sidewalk. The only dash of style is a stall crowned with panes of colored glass and »

Thai-Chinese Treats From top: Bua loi nam khing, a popular dessert; a typical food stall in Chinatown; Khao Tom Jay Suay, an open-air eatery that serves smoked duck.

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

.

C O M | O C T O B E R

2 0 0 9

43


insider

| the expert

Where the Good Food Is Clockwise from below: Or lua, crispy oyster omelet; Yaowarat Road in Bangkok’s Chinatown; chef David Thompson.

The Real Chinatown. Master Australian chef David Thompson

42

OC TO B E R

T

2 0 0 9| T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E S E A . C O M

Bangkok life today—only became widespread in the 1960’s and 70’s, and even then, many Thais shunned it, fearing that being seen buying their meals from a stall would cloud their reputations. Women who fed their families street food were jeeringly called “plastic bag housewives.” That’s what David Thompson, the acclaimed Australian chef behind London’s Nahm restaurant and one of the world’s leading authorities on Thai food, tells me over smoked

F R O M T O P : A U S T I N B U S H ; WA S I N E E C H A N TA KO R N ; A U S T I N B U S H

THAILAND

HERE’S AN ADAGE AMONG Bangkokians that says there are no good Thai restaurants in Bangkok. That is, the fancier the surroundings, the more likely the food will turn out to be bland and insipid ( farangized, if you will). But if you forage with the locals among the city’s legions of mobile street stalls and no-name holes-in-thewall, you’ll be rewarded with Thai food at its full glory. Surprisingly, street food— which is such an integral part of

C L O C K W I S E F R O M L E F T: WA S I N E E C H A N TA KO R N ( 2 ) ; A U S T I N B U S H

takes T+L on a quick tour of some of his favorite, down-home discoveries in Bangkok. By JENNIFER CHEN

duck in Bangkok’s Chinatown. Due out later this month, the follow-up to his 2002 awardwinning cookbook, Thai Food, is devoted to Thailand’s street eats, and I’ve asked if I can tag along with him and his friends on a trawl of some of his favorite streetside spots in Chinatown, where some of the city’s best vendors still ply their trade. Chinese immigrants, after all, popularized street dining in Thailand. “I don’t usually make recommendations for street food because the owners are so fickle sometimes,” Thompson says, noting that many vendors like the itinerant life, which includes impromptu holidays. “It’s an admirable way of life; it’s a questionable way of doing business; and it’s infuriating when you’re hungry,” he quips. A self-described history buff, Thompson is fearsomely erudite. While we’re sitting in one of those interminable Bangkok traffic jams, he holds forth on his theory of the origins of kanom jeen (rice noodles served in curry), citing everything from its etymology to the spread of Theravada Buddhism. Our first stop, he assures us, is a real treat: or lua, or oyster omelet. Hoi tod, a squishier version, is a commonly found dish, but at Naay Mong (539 Plubplachai Rd.; 66-2/6231890; omelets Bt65), the omelets are cooked to a crisp in rendered pork fat over a charcoal fire and then topped with oysters; with hoi tod, the bivalves are folded into the batter. Thompson’s right—it’s a revelation of contrasting textures: crunchy outside, but light inside, with a generous scattering of sweet, plump oysters that pop in your mouth. The trick lies in the ratio between rice and tapioca flours

as well as the well-seasoned iron pan used to make the omelets, says Thompson. He also points out the secret to dining well in Bangkok: many vendors specialize in one dish, which means they have complete mastery of that one dish. It’s the theory of achieving genius through 10,000 hours of practice on display at a barebones storefront in Bangkok. Our omelets are gone within minutes, so Thompson shepherds us next door to an Khao Tom Jay Suay (547 Plubplachai; 66-2/223-9592; three dishes Bt200), where he orders smoked duck, tiny, stir-fried clams and minced fatty pork fried with olive paste, namliab pad moo sab. The atmosphere, as with most of these places, is negligible: fluorescent lighting, a rusty fan, a few battered aluminum tables on the sidewalk. The only dash of style is a stall crowned with panes of colored glass and »

Thai-Chinese Treats From top: Bua loi nam khing, a popular dessert; a typical food stall in Chinatown; Khao Tom Jay Suay, an open-air eatery that serves smoked duck.

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

.

C O M | O C T O B E R

2 0 0 9

43


| the expert overflowing with an array of seafood, produce, meats and condiments. This sort of establishment, Thompson explains, is called raan ahaan taam sang, which means diners order what they want on the spot. As I linger over the deep savouriness of the pork, he recalls his first, unfortunate encounter with Thai food, which featured a couple of rubbery fish cakes. “I used to think of Thai food as Sunday night takeaway,” Thompson says. “My Damascene moment, when I finally fell off of my high horse, came when I moved here.” While he’s now based in London, Thompson, a fluent Thai speaker, travels to Thailand frequently, and on each visit, he takes the time to comb the streets for new discoveries. On the corner of Yaowarat Road, Chinatown’s main drag, and Plaeng Nam Road, we stop for a simple broth laden with pork offal, including jelly-like cubes of pork blood, and sagebrush. Thompson describes how a few years back, he bought

a car and hit the road, trying to deepen his already vast store of knowledge about the country’s cuisine. Singburi province in central Thailand, he says, has particularly good food, especially pla raa, the famously odiferous fermented fish sauce. “Pla raa can be as wild as the smelliest of cheeses,” he enthuses, going on to liken some of them with Époisses. Pla raa isn’t on the menu of our Chinatown foray; in fact, feeling a tad full and wanting to talk off our meal thus far, we wander past the neon lights, stalls of schlocky souvenirs and milling crowds of Yaowarat and head towards the river, where some of the most well-preserved shophouses in Bangkok stand. The streets of Chinatown are lined with shophouses, but most are either in advanced states of decrepitude or disfigured by airconditioning units and illconsidered attempts to modernize. Along Song Wat Road, Thompson points out some of his favorite buildings—a row of shophouses covered in

baroque molding; an unpainted, two-story teak house with eaves—delighting in the details and how they reveal who the original owners might be. History colors the way Thompson views cuisine, and it only makes sense that his fascination with the past spills over into other realms. There’s room yet for dessert, so we weave through the warren of tiny sois leading back to Yaowarat Road for bua loi nam khing, black sesame balls in sweet ginger soup. At a stand on the northeastern corner of Yaowarat and Phadung Dao Road, a woman with her hair

tucked inside a white cap drops the plump dumplings into a pot of boiling water before slipping them into the ginger soup, already laden with gingko nuts that I’ve requested. The dough is slightly resistant, but gives way easily to the fi lling, which isn’t tooth-achingly sweet the way mass-produced ones are. Thompson disapproves of the green food coloring used in the dough, but otherwise praises

AUSTIN BUSH

insider

Manning the pan to make or lua, or cripsy oyster omelet, left. Right: A soup made with pork offal and sagebrush. Opposite: Shopping at Chinatown’s night market.

44

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WA S I N E E C H A N TA KO R N ( 2 )

Thompson’s book, Thai Street Food (Penguin), will be out on shelves later this month. If you’re in Bangkok from October 5–11, you can catch him at the World Gourmet Festival held at Four Seasons Bangkok.

their texture and taste. “You’re supposed to eat them in one go, or try to close them up with your mouth so the fi lling doesn’t spill out,” he explains. I opt for the xiaolongbao method: a tidy bite, and then slurping some of the paste before popping in the whole thing. All throughout our tour, we’ve been talking about the fate of these food stands. At Naay Mong, we watched the proprietors’ young granddaughter dash in and out of the store, peering shyly at the customers. “She’s not locked into this anymore,” observes Thompson. It’s the story of immigrants the world over: the grandparents toil, the children build the business, and the grandchildren become doctors or lawyers or engineers. And while it would be

callous not to admire immigrant industry, I do wonder who will tend to these curbside culinary traditions once the older generations are gone. Thompson notes that the country’s cuisine has already been affected by the Thais’ conversion to eating out: “Fewer Thais cook, and when you don’t cook, you lose your ability to judge food properly.” As we wrap up the evening, I ask for the bill, and a young Thai-Chinese man takes my money. He’s tall and sturdy— clearly the beneficiary of better nutrition and relative prosperity. His apron is splattered, and his hair is slicked down with sweat, but as he hands over my change, he beams. Perhaps he chose to continue down this path, perhaps he prefers this hard, sweaty work to sitting in a badly

ventilated office under fluorescent track lighting. Perhaps in a few years’ time, Thais will realize what they’re in danger of losing, and there will be the sort of artisan movement we’ve seen in Europe and the U.S. I might be romanticizing, but there’s hope yet. ✚


| the expert overflowing with an array of seafood, produce, meats and condiments. This sort of establishment, Thompson explains, is called raan ahaan taam sang, which means diners order what they want on the spot. As I linger over the deep savouriness of the pork, he recalls his first, unfortunate encounter with Thai food, which featured a couple of rubbery fish cakes. “I used to think of Thai food as Sunday night takeaway,” Thompson says. “My Damascene moment, when I finally fell off of my high horse, came when I moved here.” While he’s now based in London, Thompson, a fluent Thai speaker, travels to Thailand frequently, and on each visit, he takes the time to comb the streets for new discoveries. On the corner of Yaowarat Road, Chinatown’s main drag, and Plaeng Nam Road, we stop for a simple broth laden with pork offal, including jelly-like cubes of pork blood, and sagebrush. Thompson describes how a few years back, he bought

a car and hit the road, trying to deepen his already vast store of knowledge about the country’s cuisine. Singburi province in central Thailand, he says, has particularly good food, especially pla raa, the famously odiferous fermented fish sauce. “Pla raa can be as wild as the smelliest of cheeses,” he enthuses, going on to liken some of them with Époisses. Pla raa isn’t on the menu of our Chinatown foray; in fact, feeling a tad full and wanting to talk off our meal thus far, we wander past the neon lights, stalls of schlocky souvenirs and milling crowds of Yaowarat and head towards the river, where some of the most well-preserved shophouses in Bangkok stand. The streets of Chinatown are lined with shophouses, but most are either in advanced states of decrepitude or disfigured by airconditioning units and illconsidered attempts to modernize. Along Song Wat Road, Thompson points out some of his favorite buildings—a row of shophouses covered in

baroque molding; an unpainted, two-story teak house with eaves—delighting in the details and how they reveal who the original owners might be. History colors the way Thompson views cuisine, and it only makes sense that his fascination with the past spills over into other realms. There’s room yet for dessert, so we weave through the warren of tiny sois leading back to Yaowarat Road for bua loi nam khing, black sesame balls in sweet ginger soup. At a stand on the northeastern corner of Yaowarat and Phadung Dao Road, a woman with her hair

tucked inside a white cap drops the plump dumplings into a pot of boiling water before slipping them into the ginger soup, already laden with gingko nuts that I’ve requested. The dough is slightly resistant, but gives way easily to the fi lling, which isn’t tooth-achingly sweet the way mass-produced ones are. Thompson disapproves of the green food coloring used in the dough, but otherwise praises

AUSTIN BUSH

insider

Manning the pan to make or lua, or cripsy oyster omelet, left. Right: A soup made with pork offal and sagebrush. Opposite: Shopping at Chinatown’s night market.

44

OC TO B E R

2 0 0 9| T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E S E A . C O M

WA S I N E E C H A N TA KO R N ( 2 )

Thompson’s book, Thai Street Food (Penguin), will be out on shelves later this month. If you’re in Bangkok from October 5–11, you can catch him at the World Gourmet Festival held at Four Seasons Bangkok.

their texture and taste. “You’re supposed to eat them in one go, or try to close them up with your mouth so the fi lling doesn’t spill out,” he explains. I opt for the xiaolongbao method: a tidy bite, and then slurping some of the paste before popping in the whole thing. All throughout our tour, we’ve been talking about the fate of these food stands. At Naay Mong, we watched the proprietors’ young granddaughter dash in and out of the store, peering shyly at the customers. “She’s not locked into this anymore,” observes Thompson. It’s the story of immigrants the world over: the grandparents toil, the children build the business, and the grandchildren become doctors or lawyers or engineers. And while it would be

callous not to admire immigrant industry, I do wonder who will tend to these curbside culinary traditions once the older generations are gone. Thompson notes that the country’s cuisine has already been affected by the Thais’ conversion to eating out: “Fewer Thais cook, and when you don’t cook, you lose your ability to judge food properly.” As we wrap up the evening, I ask for the bill, and a young Thai-Chinese man takes my money. He’s tall and sturdy— clearly the beneficiary of better nutrition and relative prosperity. His apron is splattered, and his hair is slicked down with sweat, but as he hands over my change, he beams. Perhaps he chose to continue down this path, perhaps he prefers this hard, sweaty work to sitting in a badly

ventilated office under fluorescent track lighting. Perhaps in a few years’ time, Thais will realize what they’re in danger of losing, and there will be the sort of artisan movement we’ve seen in Europe and the U.S. I might be romanticizing, but there’s hope yet. ✚


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check-in | insider

Step Back in Time. Amid the hoopla over China’s embrace of futuristic architecture, hoteliers are quietly turning historic buildings in Beijing into boutique stays. Here, T+L reveals six of the best. By MANUELA ZONINSEIN

The Design Vanguard Clockwise from far right: The dining room at Guxiang 20, a boutique hotel in Beijing; a sink at the minimalist 3plus1bedrooms; a bedroom at Zhuang.

ZHUANG From the team behind the Face restaurant–bar complexes in Bangkok, Jakarta and Shanghai comes this 16room hotel housed in a former 1960’s Communist Era grammar school. In Mandarin, “zhuang” means village, and in this case, it’s the global village that’s being alluded to. Indonesian lava-rock statues greet visitors by the lobby while tatami mats mingle with Ming dynasty–style, red-lacquered rosewood furniture and peony print– covered sofas in the guest rooms. Overstuffed beds and deep bathtubs lend a homey touch. Rooms vary a lot in size—opt for No. 305, which squeezes in a cozy parlor into its 20 square meters. The pan-Asian theme continues elsewhere on the premises, Photographed by DARREN SOH

CHINA

where discerning diners can sup at Hazara, Lanna Thai or Jia restaurants. 26 Dongcaoyuan, Gongti Nanlu; 86-10/6551-6788; facebars.com; doubles from RMB1,200, breakfast included.

3PLUS1BEDROOMS The brainchild of Malaysian restaurateur Cho Chong Gee, this recently opened property situated in a 400-year-old siheyuan has, as its name suggests, only three guest rooms and one suite. The rooms’ rigorous minimalism—nearly all-white interiors with little décor—doesn’t exclude modern comforts such as 400-count sheets, iPods and Wi-Fi. All four also boast private courtyards, while the suite and one of the deluxe rooms have rooftop terraces where you can observe

the daily rhythms of life in a hutong. (There’s a larger terrace that all guests have access to.) As an added bonus, three of Cho’s other establishments— the Southeast Asia–inspired Café Sambal, Bed Bar and the plain-chic Paper restaurant—are all within walking distance from the hotel. 17 Zhangwang Hutong off Jiu Gulou Dajie; 86-10/6404-7030; 3plus1bedrooms.com; doubles from RMB1,400, breakfast and daily mini-bar refills included.

GUXIANG 20 Opened in 2007 on Nanluoguxiang, one of the city’s first gentrified hutongs, this hotel offers 28 comfortable rooms fi lled with antique furniture, handcarved wooden screens and modern comforts like flat-screen TV’s. It’s

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Duge Courtyard hotel’s Oriental room, left. Right: Dramatic flair at Duge. Below: Aman at Summer Palace.

armoires, rickshaws and carved screens transport guests to a different era. As a testament to the resort’s success, moneyed locals fi ll the rooms on the weekends, while the three restaurants lure residents and tourists alike. Not all the appeal lies in the imperial touches: we spotted a fleet of retro Phoenix bikes at the ready for guests looking for some real local flavor. 1 Gongmenqian Lu, Summer Palace; 86-10/5987-9999; amanresorts. com; doubles from US$550.

worth upgrading to the luxury rooms, which have large balconies overlooking the lively street scene below; there’s even a rooftop tennis court. The restaurant and public areas are a hodgepodge of operatic Western touches such as chandeliers and Chinese kitsch, like silk lanterns. It doesn’t quite work, but the attentive staff—still a rarity in the Chinese capital—more than compensates. 20 Nanluoguxiang; 86-10/6400-5566; guxiang20.com; doubles from RMB1,280, breakfast included.

DUGE COURTYARD BOUTIQUE HOTEL From the bold red-and-blue front doors to the 10 individually designed, exuberant rooms and suites, this tiny gem of a hotel invites its guests to luxuriate in their imperial surroundings; after all, it’s housed in the former residence of a high-ranking Qing dynasty minister. Designed by a Belgian–Chinese husband-and-wife team, the rooms range from the ultrafeminine Peony Pavilion to the sleek Oriental, where red lacquered furnishings play off black-hued monogrammed upholstery and wallpaper. Among our favorites is the coolly serene, jade-and-white Bamboo, where an intricately carved “moon” screen separates the bedroom from the parlor. To get into the spirit 48

of the locale, guests can sign up for taichi, gongfu or qigong lessons, held right in the courtyard. Qianyuanensi Hutong, off of Nanluoguxiang; 86-10/6406-0686; dugecourtyard.com; doubles from RMB1,700.

AMAN AT SUMMER PALACE Amanresorts prides itself on historical and cultural accuracy, and it spared no expense at this Beijing property, which abuts one of the city’s most significant historic sites. Around 400 craftsmen and preservation experts were hired to restore the courtyards and pavilions of the Qing dynasty dwellings that house most of the 51 rooms and suites. Details such as hand-painted clay tiles from Yunnan province—similar to the ones found in the Forbidden City—Ming-style

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CHINA COUNTRYSIDE HOTELS Just beyond the hubbub of the Great Wall’s tourists and touts lies Mutianyu, a quiet farming village where a number of Beijingers have built weekend getaways. Set amid the village’s apricot orchards, this collection of 11 private residences is perfect for those seeking tranquility close to the capital. All the houses have been fashioned out of restored local homes: the Pavilion features the grey floor tiles and mahogany-framed windows that are characteristic of siheyuan while Grandma’s Place retains its original carved doorways. They’re rustic, but homey, with fullservice kitchens and modern bathrooms. The four-bedroom Heart’s Repose is particularly wellsuited for families. Huairou district, Mutianyu village, about 50 minutes from downtown Beijing; 86-10/6162-6282; chinacountrysidehotels.com; rentals from RMB1,800, breakfast included. ✚


Special Promotion

MACAU NOW!

Music or motorsports, Macau has something for everybody, with these not-to-be-missed events and activities. Mark your calendars today!

. The Butterfly Lovers opens this year’s MIMF

Free guided tours are available.

23rd Macau International Music Festival October 9–November 8 Over its long history, the Macau International Music Festival (MIMF) has evolved into the local musical event. Headlining the 2009 program is the Macao Orchestra’s The Butterfly Lovers, performed in commemoration of the 60th Anniversary of the People’s Republic of China and the 10th Anniversary of the Establishment of the Macau SAR. Additionally, other performers—from the U.K., Germany, Italy, Poland, the U.S., Argentina, Singapore, New Zealand, Mainland China and more will bathe the stage in sonic colors. For more details, visit: www.icm.gov.mo/fimm or for online reservations, visit: www.macauticket.net. Macau International Kart Grand Prix October 8–11 Experience high-octane motorsport action at the 46th CIK–FIA World Karting Championship, held at the 1.25km circuit at the Coloane Karting Track. Admission is free for all, so why not take in the thrills and spills of this dynamic sport, with world-class karters taking part. In 2008, some 180 drivers from 17 different countries attended and this year’s event is guaranteed not to disappoint. For more information, contact the Automobile General Association Macao-China on 853/2872-6578 or e-mail aamc@macau.ctm.net. Guided tours to MACAU World Heritage Sites Until November The Macau Government Tourist Office launched in the summer its World Heritage “Historic Centre of Macau” Free Guiding Service at two major world heritage sites. Professional tour guides will be stationed at the Ruins of St. Paul’s and Senado Square to offer free guiding services to individual visitors. Tours are conducted in English and Mandarin, with on-site explanations at each of the sites from 10am to 5pm daily.

High-octane karting.

Free Admission to the Grand Prix and Wine Museums Until December The Macau Grand Prix is one of the most exciting sporting events in the world, attracting world-class sportsmen. The GP museum features fascinating memorabilia, including the racing machine and gear of Ayrton Senna. The Wine Museum, located across from the Grand Prix Museum, houses more than a thousand labels, the oldest of which was bottled in 1815. Visitors aged 18 or above can also enjoy a wine-tasting experience for MOP$10. Opening hours are 10am to 6pm (closed Tuesdays). For more information, call 853/2833-3000.

For more information on upcoming events, attractions, ideas and more, visit www.macautourism.gov.mo

Motoring memorabilia at the Grand Prix Museum.


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INDULGE YOURSELF

FINDS YOU NEED TO KNOW NOW BORNEO 19 CHICAGO

CRUISING INTO THE HEART OF THE JUNGLE

ANTHONY BOURDAIN REVEALS SINGAPORE FOOD FAVORITES

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Bali Six of the best! Hot new clubs, shops, dining

Rajasthan In search of ancient rhythms LIVE LIKE A CHEF! T+L’S TOP FOOD FINDS IN BANGKOK

OCTOBER 2009

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room report | insider

Sky-High Living Clockwise from left: A guest room with a view at the Altira Macau; the indoor swimming pool; Aurora, an Italian restaurant at the Altira.

MACAU

A Good Gamble. In a city filled with mega-resorts, the Altira Macau stands out for its stylish simplicity. By PAUL ERHLICH

C O U R T E S Y O F A LT I R A M A C A U ( 3 )

THE OVERVIEW Think Macau, and intimacy probably doesn’t spring to mind. In the past two years, Asia’s answer to Las Vegas has seen a spate of splashy mega-projects: The Venetian, MGM Grand Macau and City of Dreams, which opened in June. Compared to these developments, the recently rebranded Altira Macau, formerly the Crown Macau, succeeds in creating a discreet, cozy feel. Avenida de Kwang Tung, Taipa; 853/2886-8888; altiramacau.com; doubles from HK$5,380. LOCATION Situated on Taipa, the hotel offers spectacular vistas of Macau’s surreal skyline. Perhaps more importantly, it’s within walking distance of a handful of neighborhood restaurants so guests can get a taste of Macau’s other side. DESIGN Understated elegance prevails here; but don’t expect stark minimalism. Renowned L.A.-based designer Peter Remédios, the talent

behind the Four Seasons New York and the Landmark Oriental, uses a palette of off-whites, golds and brown to create a sophisticated look. Miniature bamboo gardens hint at the hotel’s Asian locale, while modern art give the public areas a contemporary touch. He also lets the views do the work: glass-to-ceiling windows in the lobby on the 38th floor and guest rooms afford panoramas of the city. THE PREMIER SUITE Generously sized at 128 square meters, the suite reflects Remédios’s low-key approach; clean lines and dark-wood floors add to the general calm. If gambling isn’t your thing, the 42-inch flat-screen TV, Nespresso machine and iPod/iPhone dock—not to mention the nearly 3meter-high windows—will keep you well-entertained. And as you’d expect from a property of this caliber, luxury touches abound, from the impossibly high thread count of the Egyptian cotton sheets to the complimentary

bottles of Voss mineral water from Norway. The marbled bathrooms are enormous, with a separate Japanesestyle shower room, circular bathtub and double sinks. We loved the satiny robes with terry-cloth lining and organic toiletries by the U.K.’s REN. THE AMENITIES Among the four restaurants is the Michelin-starred Ying, which dishes up refined Cantonese cuisine. Spa goers will delight in the 6,000-square-meter spa, while gym rats will appreciate the state-of-the-art fitness facilities and heated swimming pool (music is piped in underwater). And there is, of course, the multilevel casino, with more than 200 gaming tables. THE SERVICE While butlers are at your beck and call, staff throughout the hotel are genuinely attentive. One server, for example, instantly recalled what we had for breakfast the day before. ✚

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HONG KONG

Enduring Tastes Clockwise from left: Mr. Lei, the “eggwaffle uncle” of Tai O; the authentically retro look of Mido Cafe; a plate of bamboo noodles at Lau Sum Kee Noodles; soy milk at Kung Wo Dou Bun Chong; Mido’s old-school cash register.

A Taste of Yesteryear. Trends come and go in this fast-changing metropolis, but these old-school eateries and vendors have proven their staying power. By KEI TING ■ EGG WAFFLES TAI O Occupying a remote corner of Lantau Island, Tai O is a traditional fishing village that lures day-trippers with its stilt houses and locally made shrimp paste and salted fish. But the real reason to come out here is the gai dan jai: little egg waffles (sometimes referred to as “eggettes”) concocted from a thin batter of egg, sugar and evaporated milk that are a popular Hong Kong street snack. A handful of vendors on Tai O’s main streets make these puffy treats the old-fashioned way—wielding the waffle iron over a charcoal fire— but look out for Mr. Lei, the undisputed master; locals know him simply as the 52

“egg-waffle uncle.” His waffles are heavenly: crunchy on the outside and spongy inside, with the irresistible aroma of rich custard mingled with the scent of smoke from the grill. Afternoons only; egg waffles HK$10. ■ RETRO EATS MIDO CAFE Hong Kongers are proud of their char chan tang—affordable eateries that have been a mainstay here for more than five decades. But few have kept their original 1950’s décor. This iconic café, however, is one notable exception, and with its ceiling fans, booths and tiled walls, it’s served as a backdrop to numerous movies. The fare is as old-

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fashioned as the look: crunchy fried noodles with sliced pork, flaky pineapple buns and Hong Kong–style French toast (slices of bread soaked in beaten egg and deep-fried, and then topped with butter and golden syrup). Must-haves include the baked pork chop rice smothered in tomato sauce and the red bean ice, a drink of sweetened red beans, condensed milk and crushed ice. 63 Temple St., Yau Ma Tei; 852/2384-6402; 8:30 A.M.–9:30 P.M.; lunch for two HK$120. ■ BAMBOO NOODLES LAU SUM KEE NOODLES Once a mobile street stall, this 60- » Photographed by LARA DAY


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Dak Cheung Sam Kee Bamboo steamers are an indispensable part of Chinese cuisine, but as with so much else, making them has become a dying craft. This century-old shop run by the Lam family is a holdout against the factory-made. Bamboo steamers of various shapes and sizes fill every inch of this tiny shop. Also look out for mooncake moulds and fortune sticks sets — unusual mementos from Hong Kong’s past. 12 Western St., Sai Ying Pun; 852/2540-4386.

year-old establishment now has two storefronts on neighboring streets in Sham Shui Po. The décor is basic and expect to share a table with other diners at peak hours—but you’re not here for the atmosphere. The specialty here is traditional Cantonese bamboo noodles (jook sing mein), named after the bamboo poles used in kneading the dough—a technique that results in springy, fine, smooth-tasting noodles. They’re miles ahead of factory-made noodles, which often have the chalky taste of the alkaline mixed in the dough. Eaten mixed with oyster sauce and shrimp roe or in a soup, the noodles are paired with toppings such as shrimp dumplings, beef brisket and falling-off-the-bone pork knuckle. Impress the locals by ordering crunchy cow stomach or goose intestine, and don’t pass on the turnip pickles, a popular appetizer. T+L TIP The beef 54

brisket, pork knuckle and oyster sauce are all quite rich in flavor, so avoid putting them in one dish. 48 Kweilin St.; 852/2386-3533; and 82 Fuk Wing St., Sham Shui Po; 852/2386-3583; 12 P.M.– 1 A.M.; noodles from HK$30. ■ TOFU PUDDING KUNG WO DOU BUN CHONG Buried behind a row of hawker stalls in Sham Shui Po, Kowloon, is this modest century-old shop specializing in soybean dishes. From the looks of it, not much has changed for the past few decades, including, thankfully, the delicate texture and taste of its handmade tofu. If you’re after something savory, order the pan-fried tofu topped with a fish paste seasoned with spices and dried orange peel. But the star here is the melt-in-your-mouth tofu pudding, or daofu fa—comforting when eaten warm, refreshing when »

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Eat Like a Local From top: Deep-frying tofu at Kung Wo Dou Bun Chong; ginger milk curd at Yee Shun Dairy Company; egg waffles at Tai O; baked pork chop with rice at Mido Cafe.


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cold. This spot serves the best in town, thanks to an age-old, time-consuming process that involves grinding the soybeans with a traditional stone mill— it’s slow food, Canto-style. 118 Bei Ho St., Sham Shui Po; 852/2386-6871; 7 A.M.–9 P.M.; tofu pudding HK$7.

HK Comfort Food Clockwise from above left: The sign at Yee Shun Dairy Company; making tofu from scratch at Kung Wo Dou Bun Chong; digging into lunch at Lau Sum Kee Noodles; takeaway treats from Tai O.

■ GINGER MILK CURD YEE SHUN DAIRY COMPANY This Macau-based chain focuses on Chinese milk-based desserts, and is a favorite among Hong Kong sweet tooths. The Causeway Bay branch has the advantage of being spacious, clean and quiet. Egg custards and doublelayer steamed milk puddings, with or without toppings, are wonderfully rich, but we swear by the ginger milk curd, which involves mixing hot milk with ginger juice (an enzyme in the ginger causes the milk to solidify). The version here is the Platonic ideal, pairing the rich milk with the ginger’s soothing heat. 506 Lockhart Rd., Causeway Bay; 852/2591-1837; 12 P.M.–12 A.M.; ginger milk curd HK$20. ■ CHEH JAI MEEN TAI ON BUILDING Popularized in the 1950’s, cart noodles—named after the carts vendors would operate—were once a

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staple of Hong Kong life. But as the government began cracking down on hygiene, this iconic dish went indoors. Come out to this old-fashioned shopping mall–turned–hawker center on the northeastern shores of Hong Kong Island and you’ll find one of the best renditions at this stall with a yellow banner, where the sturdy proprietor throws together ingredients on order with an acrobatic dexterity acquired from 30 years of experience. The etiquette is straightforward: pick what you want and the vendor will cook it for you in a big boiling pot of stock. On offer are squid, beef brisket, dumplings, chicken wings and vegetables; if you’re feeling adventurous, try the assorted sausages, innards, meatballs, tofu puffs or curdled blood. This is the perfect dish to fortify yourself in winter. T+L TIP You’ll be lucky to find a table, so take your order and head to the benches outside. Tai On Building, 57–58 Shau Kei Wan Rd., Sai Wan Ho; 12 P.M.– 4 A.M.; a bowl of noodles with three ingredients HK$19. ✚


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| address book LUNCH Famished after haggling for kilims at the Covered Bazaar? It’s worth tracking down S ¸eyhmus (2 Mollafenari Mah. Medrese Sk., Kasap Han No. 2, Çemberlitas¸; 90-212/5261613; lunch for two TRY43), a macho kebab dive colonized by gaggles of mustached vendors. Order lahmacun—wafer-thin lamb-slathered pizza—with ¸seyhmus kebap (an epic charcoalgrilled lamb patty) and a vegetable salad dressed with pomegranate molasses. Washing your meal down with ayran, a tart yogurt drink, is a sure way to pass for a local. BEER BREAK Unwind with a frosty glass of Efes Pilsen on the rooftop terrace of Seven Hills Hotel (8 Tevkifhane Sk.; 90212/516-9497; drinks for two TRY14), which feels like it is suspended between the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia against the backdrop of the Marmara Sea. DINNER Though certain Istanbullus swear that fish should be eaten at the water’s edge, the suave, smart-suited businessmen and bejeweled matrons who patronize Balikçi Sabahattin (1 Seyit Hasan Koyu Sk., 90-212/458-1824; dinner for two TRY95) know better. A waiter appears as soon as you settle in your seat, carrying a tray of meze, small plates meant to be sampled with raki, Turkey’s signature anise liquor. Order platters of smoky eggplant salad and buttery lakerda (cured bonito)—then choose grilled levrek (sea bass), moist and perfectly cooked.

DAY 2

A Cook’s Progress. With her finger firmly on the culinary pulse, ANYA VON BREMZEN gives the ultimate two-day itinerary for her home away from home

Turkish Delights From top: A meze plate and a view of the Bosporus and downtown Istanbul from Leb-i Derya restaurant, in the Beyoglu neighborhood; sea bass with potato, leek and spinach gratin at Istanbul Modern’s café; the café’s terrace overlooking the Bosporus.

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FROM TOP: JASPER JAMES; STIRLING KELSO (2); JASPER JAMES

TURKEY

■ SULTANAHMET (THE OLD CITY) BREAKFAST On a street lined with carpet shops near the Arasta Bazaar, Tamara Restaurant (14 Kucukayasofya Cad.; 90-212/518-4666; breakfast for two TRY30 (US$20)), whose owners hail from Turkey’s eastern Lake Van area, serves up the region’s puffy breads, herb-flecked otlu cheese and addictive tahini spread. Eggs baked with spicy soujuk sausage might seem like overkill, but order them anyway. MID-MORNING FIX It would be a crime to miss the Süleymaniye Camii mosque, an Ottoman masterpiece; it would be sadder still not to visit the nearby Vefa Bozacisi (104 Katip Çelebi Cad., Vefa; 90-212/519-4922; boza for two TRY6). Decked out in weathered marble, this cubbyhole specializes in boza—a cross between pudding and a beverage, which is made from fermented bulgur. Traditionally, it’s consumed with leblebi, roasted chickpeas.

FROM TOP: STIRLING KELSO; JASPER JAMES (2)

DAY 1

■ OTHER NEIGHBORHOODS BREAKFAST Even if contemporary Turkish art isn’t your cup of çay, visit Istanbul Modern (Meclis-i Mebusan Cad., Antrepo 4, Karaköy; 90-212/334-7300; breakfast for two TRY65), a museum in a renovated warehouse, for its stylish café and waterfront terrace. With luck, giant cruise ships won’t obstruct the postcard-perfect view of the Old Town as you tuck into a breakfast of simit (sesame bread rings), creamy beyaz peynir (feta), crunchy cucumbers and sour-cherry jam. ICE CREAM Farther along the Bosporus road, stop in the village of Ortaköy for a stroll through craft shops and the neo-Baroque mosque. At Mado (1 Ortaköy Hazine Sk., Ortaköy; 90-212/261-3587; ice cream for two TRY3), sample the goat’smilk ice cream, which is thickened with the powdered root of wild orchids. Splurge on a triple scoop of pistachio, pomegranate and black mulberry. LUNCH Continue on to Sabanci University Sakip Sabanci Museum, a 19th-century mansion in Emirgan that houses an impressive collection of Ottoman paintings. Espousing a different aesthetic, the museum’s Muzedechanga restaurant (22 Sakip Sabanci Cad., Emirgan; 90-212/323-0901; lunch for two TRY142) is noted for its neo-60’s interior of unpolished oak and black-leather banquettes. Try the olive oil–braised celery root enlivened with tangerine, and rosy lamb chops, from the smart modern-Mediterranean menu. DRINKS Time your visit to Leb-i Derya (57 Kumbaracı Yokusu, 11th floor, Beyoglu; 90-212/293-4989; drinks for two

By the Sea From top: A waiter with cocktails at Muzedechanga restaurant; candies and nuts in the historic Spice Bazaar; the waterfront cafés in Anadolu Kavag ˘i, on Istanbul’s Asian side; lamb chops make a fine meal at Muzedechanga.

TRY23) with the sunset—and the evening call to prayer. That’s when young locals fi le in for cocktails, like freshginger–and–muddled lime mojitos, and jockey for steel stools on the open-air terrace overlooking the city’s two coastlines and the Bosporus strait in between. DINNER Beyoglu is known for its raucous drinking houses, or meyhane, where meze are an excuse for rivers of raki. The insiders’ favorite is Kallavi (16 Kurabiye Sk., No. 16, Beyoglu; 90-212/245-1213; dinner for two TRY72), a brick-walled dining room illuminated by chandeliers that sets the scene for house specials like ficin, a spiced meat pie. The best part? Watching beau monders stomp their heels to the Turkish band’s beat. Wait, is that your wife tossing banknotes at the dashing oud player? ✚

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| address book LUNCH Famished after haggling for kilims at the Covered Bazaar? It’s worth tracking down S ¸eyhmus (2 Mollafenari Mah. Medrese Sk., Kasap Han No. 2, Çemberlitas¸; 90-212/5261613; lunch for two TRY43), a macho kebab dive colonized by gaggles of mustached vendors. Order lahmacun—wafer-thin lamb-slathered pizza—with ¸seyhmus kebap (an epic charcoalgrilled lamb patty) and a vegetable salad dressed with pomegranate molasses. Washing your meal down with ayran, a tart yogurt drink, is a sure way to pass for a local. BEER BREAK Unwind with a frosty glass of Efes Pilsen on the rooftop terrace of Seven Hills Hotel (8 Tevkifhane Sk.; 90212/516-9497; drinks for two TRY14), which feels like it is suspended between the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia against the backdrop of the Marmara Sea. DINNER Though certain Istanbullus swear that fish should be eaten at the water’s edge, the suave, smart-suited businessmen and bejeweled matrons who patronize Balikçi Sabahattin (1 Seyit Hasan Koyu Sk., 90-212/458-1824; dinner for two TRY95) know better. A waiter appears as soon as you settle in your seat, carrying a tray of meze, small plates meant to be sampled with raki, Turkey’s signature anise liquor. Order platters of smoky eggplant salad and buttery lakerda (cured bonito)—then choose grilled levrek (sea bass), moist and perfectly cooked.

DAY 2

A Cook’s Progress. With her finger firmly on the culinary pulse, ANYA VON BREMZEN gives the ultimate two-day itinerary for her home away from home

Turkish Delights From top: A meze plate and a view of the Bosporus and downtown Istanbul from Leb-i Derya restaurant, in the Beyoglu neighborhood; sea bass with potato, leek and spinach gratin at Istanbul Modern’s café; the café’s terrace overlooking the Bosporus.

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FROM TOP: JASPER JAMES; STIRLING KELSO (2); JASPER JAMES

TURKEY

■ SULTANAHMET (THE OLD CITY) BREAKFAST On a street lined with carpet shops near the Arasta Bazaar, Tamara Restaurant (14 Kucukayasofya Cad.; 90-212/518-4666; breakfast for two TRY30 (US$20)), whose owners hail from Turkey’s eastern Lake Van area, serves up the region’s puffy breads, herb-flecked otlu cheese and addictive tahini spread. Eggs baked with spicy soujuk sausage might seem like overkill, but order them anyway. MID-MORNING FIX It would be a crime to miss the Süleymaniye Camii mosque, an Ottoman masterpiece; it would be sadder still not to visit the nearby Vefa Bozacisi (104 Katip Çelebi Cad., Vefa; 90-212/519-4922; boza for two TRY6). Decked out in weathered marble, this cubbyhole specializes in boza—a cross between pudding and a beverage, which is made from fermented bulgur. Traditionally, it’s consumed with leblebi, roasted chickpeas.

FROM TOP: STIRLING KELSO; JASPER JAMES (2)

DAY 1

■ OTHER NEIGHBORHOODS BREAKFAST Even if contemporary Turkish art isn’t your cup of çay, visit Istanbul Modern (Meclis-i Mebusan Cad., Antrepo 4, Karaköy; 90-212/334-7300; breakfast for two TRY65), a museum in a renovated warehouse, for its stylish café and waterfront terrace. With luck, giant cruise ships won’t obstruct the postcard-perfect view of the Old Town as you tuck into a breakfast of simit (sesame bread rings), creamy beyaz peynir (feta), crunchy cucumbers and sour-cherry jam. ICE CREAM Farther along the Bosporus road, stop in the village of Ortaköy for a stroll through craft shops and the neo-Baroque mosque. At Mado (1 Ortaköy Hazine Sk., Ortaköy; 90-212/261-3587; ice cream for two TRY3), sample the goat’smilk ice cream, which is thickened with the powdered root of wild orchids. Splurge on a triple scoop of pistachio, pomegranate and black mulberry. LUNCH Continue on to Sabanci University Sakip Sabanci Museum, a 19th-century mansion in Emirgan that houses an impressive collection of Ottoman paintings. Espousing a different aesthetic, the museum’s Muzedechanga restaurant (22 Sakip Sabanci Cad., Emirgan; 90-212/323-0901; lunch for two TRY142) is noted for its neo-60’s interior of unpolished oak and black-leather banquettes. Try the olive oil–braised celery root enlivened with tangerine, and rosy lamb chops, from the smart modern-Mediterranean menu. DRINKS Time your visit to Leb-i Derya (57 Kumbaracı Yokusu, 11th floor, Beyoglu; 90-212/293-4989; drinks for two

By the Sea From top: A waiter with cocktails at Muzedechanga restaurant; candies and nuts in the historic Spice Bazaar; the waterfront cafés in Anadolu Kavag ˘i, on Istanbul’s Asian side; lamb chops make a fine meal at Muzedechanga.

TRY23) with the sunset—and the evening call to prayer. That’s when young locals fi le in for cocktails, like freshginger–and–muddled lime mojitos, and jockey for steel stools on the open-air terrace overlooking the city’s two coastlines and the Bosporus strait in between. DINNER Beyoglu is known for its raucous drinking houses, or meyhane, where meze are an excuse for rivers of raki. The insiders’ favorite is Kallavi (16 Kurabiye Sk., No. 16, Beyoglu; 90-212/245-1213; dinner for two TRY72), a brick-walled dining room illuminated by chandeliers that sets the scene for house specials like ficin, a spiced meat pie. The best part? Watching beau monders stomp their heels to the Turkish band’s beat. Wait, is that your wife tossing banknotes at the dashing oud player? ✚

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| on the map

Jalan Petitenget, Bali. Linking

1 SILQ KEROBOKAN If you want to be within walking distance of Seminyak’s legendary nightclubs, but far enough away that you’re not kept awake by the beats, this is the perfect spot. Nestled among jadegreen rice paddies, this resort has 17 private villas that epitomize tropical chic: four-poster beds, teak floors, rattan mats, Jacuzzis and infinity-edge private pools. 27C Jln. Petitenget, Kerobokan; 62-361/847-5461; silqkerobokanbali.com; doubles from US$300. INDONESIA

Island Living Clockwise from top: Sarong Bali serves Asian-inspired fare; Taman Merah Spa; Gourmet Café; a bedroom at Silq Kerobokan; Kembang Goela restaurant; Teck O Coco.

60

2 KEMBANG GOELA Located inside Silq, this recently opened outpost of a Jakarta-based restaurant serves traditional Indonesian food amid fine surroundings. In a nod to Indonesia’s colonial past, the menu lists dishes such as huzarensalade—a salad composed of carrot, pineapple, apples and green peas dressed in a sauce of mayonnaise, yogurt and cider vinegar—and rijsttafel. 27C Jln. Petitenget, Kerobokan; 62-361/738-076; dinner for two Rp341,000. 3 SARONG BALI This nearly two-year-old spot still reels in the beautiful people. The lofty interiors are divided into two separate dining rooms, partitioned by sheer silk drapes; Victorian-style settees and armchairs and chandeliers mix with Indonesian relics. The real draw, though, is Australian chef Will Meyrick’s sophisticated take on Asian hawker food. But don’t call it fusion: Dishes like Thai green chicken curry and Padang grilled fish fillet marinated in chilli, kencur and lime leaf with sambal matah are respectful renditions of classics. 19 Jln. Petitenget, Kerobokan; 62361/737-809; sarongbali.com; dinner for two Rp420,000.

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JLN. P ET ITE NG ET

Seminyak with Kerobokan, this thoroughfare boasts some of the neighborhood’s best restaurants, clubs and shops. By EVELYN CHEN

1 4 5

2

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Petitenget Temple

JLN

. KA YU J ATI

4 GOURMET CAFÉ Run by the folks behind Kafe Warisan (which will move and be renamed Métis this month), this bright, airy spot serves up delicious sandwiches and salads, accompanied by freshly made juices and smoothies. We recommend the all-day breakfast, which includes treats like poached eggs with artichoke and tomato compote tart. 77 Jln. Petitenget, Kerobokan; 62-361/847-5115; breakfast for two Rp65,000. 5 TAMAN MERAH SPA When window-shopping becomes wearying, check into this minimalist spa. Its name means “red garden,” and fiery-hued flourishes are scattered throughout, including the massage tables and the lanterns floating in the pool that fronts the reception area. If you really need to treat yourself, try the 210-minute Top to Toe treatment (US$110). 469 Jln. Petitenget, Kerobokan; 62-361/736-487; tamanmerahspa.com; treatments from US$30. 6 TECK O COCO A long-running presence on Jalan Petitenget, this showroom houses contemporary furniture fashioned out of teak and coconut wood. Quality workmanship and deceptively simple designs set this shop apart from Bali’s slew of furniture makers. Some of the items might look familiar—Teck O Coco has supplied hotels all over the region. 110X Jln. Petitenget, Kerobokan; 62-361/730-170; teckococo.com. ✚

C L O C K W I S E F R O M T O P : C O U R T E SY O F S A R O N G B A L I ; C O U R T E SY O F TA M A N M E R A H S PA ; C O U R T E SY O F G O U R M E T C A F É ; CO U RT ESY O F S I LQ K E RO BO K A N ; CO U RT ESY O F K E M BA N G G O E L A ; CO U RT ESY O F T EC K O CO CO

insider


insider

| first look At The Peninsula Shanghai, with a view of Pudong. Below: A guest bathroom.

CHINA

Art Deco Revisited. Set to debut this

A

SHANGHAI GEARS UP FOR ITS GRAND COMING-OUT party during next year’s World Expo, luxury hotels are jostling in line for the expected influx of bigspending visitors. The competition is serious: show-stopping newcomers like the Park Hyatt and The PuLi Hotel and Spa have raised the bar for the city’s five-stars, and more highprofile projects—the refurbished Peace Hotel and the Waldorf-Astoria, for starters—are in the pipeline. But few can boast the pedigree of The Peninsula Shanghai, which opens its doors on October 19. Occupying a prime spot on the Bund, the hotel marks a return for Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels, Ltd., the Peninsula group’s parent company. Before World War II, the firm operated four hotels in Shanghai, considered the most glamorous in their day. During its long reign as the city’s premier hotel, the Astor House hosted everyone from Andrew Carnegie to Albert Einstein, not to mention White Russian émigrés, English explorers and the odd minor European royal. The company’s ties to the city are also deeply personal: Sir Elly Kadoorie, the grandfather of HSH’s current chairman, was a prominent figure in Shanghai society. Perhaps wisely, the designers behind the US$300 million Peninsula Shanghai chose to embrace its legacy. As imagined 62

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by American architect David Beer and interior designer Pierre-Yves Rochon, Art Deco dominates the 15-story edifice, the first new structure on the Bund in more than six decades. Graced with geometric ironwork windows, the façade easily fits with its historic neighbors. (In fact, the 235room hotel features granite extracted from the same quarry that produced many of the Bund’s occupants.) Inside the celadon, cream and cerulean-hued guest rooms, period accents such as polished chrome lamps and cylindrical chandeliers play off traditional Chinese touches—handpainted panels, black lacquer, monogrammed silk cushions. History also informs the hotel’s restaurants, bars and shops. Cantonese eatery Yi Long Court takes the shape of an aristocratic home from the 1930’s, while Salon de Ning, like its New York and Hong Kong counterparts, is filled with period bric-a-brac. The hotel’s period reenactment even includes afternoon tea dances held every month in the lobby. But if your fox trot is rusty, settle into a chair in the grand lobby and enjoy the views of the former British Consulate’s magnificent garden. In ultramodern, ever-changing Shanghai, resting your eyes on a patch of green is one thing that truly does take you back in time. 32 Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu; 86-21/2327-2888; doubles from RMB3,200. ✚

CO U RT ESY O F T H E P E N I N S U L A S H A N G H A I ( 2 )

month, The Peninsula Shanghai offers a glimpse of the city’s glittering past. By JENNIFER CHEN


insider

| neighborhood

Saigon’s New Face. With a growing number of hip restaurants hotels and bars, the expat enclave of An Phu is emerging as a favorite haunt for those in know. By NAOMI LINDT STAY

Set in a secluded, verdant garden and occupying 1.2 hectares along the Saigon River, 2 Thao Dien Village (195 Nguyen Van Huong St.; 84-8/3744 2222; thaodienvillage.com; doubles from US$120) is a tropical hideaway that’s a mere 20 minutes away from the city center. Owned by Duong Tan Hoai, the man behind the well-regarded Quan An Ngon restaurant chain, the complex is comprised of four high-end restaurants (Vietnamese, Italian, Thai and Japanese), a luxurious spa, and a 22-room boutique hotel housed in an all-white, three-floor villa that melds Art Deco and Vietnamese styling. Rooms feature hardwood floors, heavy antique furniture, vintage black-and-white photos of old Saigon and scarlet-hued lacquer paintings; the five Art Suites are particularly romantic.

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Given An Phu’s grand villas and luxury apartments, it comes as no surprise there’s some fantastic furniture to be found here. Run by a Danish–French couple who have lived in the area for years, 1 Feeling Tropic (53 Thao Dien St.; 84-8/37442181; feelingtropic.com) offers richly hued, streamlined wood furniture that can be used indoors and out. The focus is on sustainable materials and certified teak and oak, but without compromising on design. There’s also a selection of easierto-pack, well-crafted household items like lacquered salad bowls, globe-shaped ceramic gas lamps and handmade all-natural soaps.

1

Saigon Riverside

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VIETNAM

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EAT

One of the newest additions to An Phu’s impressive restaurant scene, 3 Mekong Merchant (23 Thao Dien St.; 84-8/3744 4713; dinner for two from VND400,000) specializes in ultra-fresh seafood flown in several times a week from the island of Phu Quoc. In the tree-shaded courtyard, diners sample mains like seafood risotto and salmon served with wasabi mashed potatoes and caramel-ginger sauce; there’s also a selection of hearty poultry and steak dishes. Brunch on the weekends lures An Phu’s many expat families with eggs Benedict and fresh fruit salads.

DRINK

Undoubtedly the liveliest spot in laid-back An Phu, the newly opened 5 ZanZbar (41 Vo Truong Toan; 848/3898-9286; cocktails from US$6) is a seductive stop that serves up fresh fruit cocktails, fine food and infectious tunes. As with its sister club in District 1, the décor is jungle-chic: the large stone-tile front terrace is fronted by leafy palms and large vases, while glowing, translucent marble columns— custom-designed to look like cheetah fur—cast a golden hue over the bar. On the weekends, live bands and DJ’s have revelers hitting the dance floor into the wee hours. 64

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DRINK/EAT

Saigon’s hustle and bustle feels worlds away at 4 The Deck (38 Nguyen U Di; 84-8/3744-6632; dinner for two from VND550,000), one of the city’s best spots for a sunset cocktail. Its namesake wooden terrace overlooks rice paddies and the Saigon River, where the only traffic is the occasional boat or floating water hyacinths. Go local with the lychee martini, made with lemongrass syrup, vodka and fresh lychees, or the lychee and cilantro gimlet. After the sun goes down, it’s easy to linger all night on the curvy, woven rattan sofas, especially with artfully presented dishes like roast duck and watermelon salad and chargrilled lamb fillets emerging from the kitchen. Photographed by NANA CHEN


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stylish traveler

| shopping

PHNOM PENH CHIC Local and expatriate designers are turning the Cambodian capital into an emerging style stop. By NAOMI LINDT ■ AMBRE Leave any preconceptions of Asian minimalism at the door of this long-time favorite among the city’s fashionistas. Located in a gracious two-story colonial mansion complete with wrought-iron chandeliers and a spiral staircase, this boutique houses the exuberant, überfeminine line of owner Romyda Keth, a Parisian-raised designer who ran a successful boutique in the French capital before returning to her native Cambodia in the early 1990’s. Keth works in a broad spectrum of styles and colors, from slinky satin-and-lace cocktail dresses to billowing organza skirts topped with fitted strapless bodices; many of her designs include detailed hand-sewn embroidery. Each room in the house is dedicated to a different range of colors; matching shoes, jewelry and bags help customers create the perfect outfit. There’s also a selection of adorable sundresses for girls and a bespoke service for prospective brides. 37 Street 178; 855/12-688-608. CAMBODIA

Checking out the wares at Water Lily Creation. Clockwise from top left: Inside Ambre; sandals from Subtyl; Jasmine’s silk clutches.

■ JASMINE Since opening their store in 2001, expat duo Kellianne Karatau and Cassandra McMillan have gained renown for producing exquisite handiwork that’s rarely seen in Cambodia. Along the way, they’ve helped revive the country’s silk-weaving traditions, left in tatters after the Khmer Rouge’s reign, by employing weavers in traditional silk-manufacturing villages and a team of women who crochet delicate scarves and hand-paint silk cushions in a workshop above the store. New collections are rolled out twice a year, but classics such as fitted coats, A-line skirts and cocktail dresses are always available. Even simple items like ruched clutches and spaghetti strap camisoles feel like little luxuries. Also look out for the casual, cotton-oriented line by each designer: Karatau’s Orange River and McMillan’s Bliss. 73 Street 240; 855-23/223-103; jasmineboutique.net; Orange River: 361 Sisowath Quay; 855-23/214-594; and Bliss: 29 Street 240; 855-23/215-754. ■ THREADS Hidden down an alley behind the popular Java Arts Café and up a spiral, metal staircase, Threads isn’t easy to stumble upon. But for expats in the know, it’s an essential stop for blouses and sundresses that won’t wilt in Cambodia’s heat. Designer Phon Srey Poan, a.k.a. Linda, works primarily with cotton and linen, and has a flair for choosing fantastic fabrics. Two dedicated seamstresses on staff ensure every item fits just right—alterations are free of charge—or they’ll make a new one. Though the selection

68

OCTO B E R 2 0 0 9| T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E S E A . C O M

Photographed by CHRIS KERRIGAN

is small, it’s packed with goodies: lime-green paisley-printed tunics, canary-yellow eyelet shift dresses and mandarincollared blouses for women; airy short-sleeved shirts and linen trousers for men. It’s also possible to order custommade items. 56 E1Z Sihanouk Blvd.; 855/12-768-248

Sandrine Bury. Known around town for her stylish but well-priced bags—ranging from slouchy two-toned leather purses to cherry-red silk clutches—Bury has expanded the Subtyl line to include chic belts and shoes. She’s also launched a small collection of women’s clothing, which includes floor-length satin dresses and flowing tops in vivid prints. The back of the store features funky children’s clothing by another local label, Chilli Kids. 43 Street 240; 855/12-800-110; subtyl.com

■ WATER LILY CREATION It takes time and patience to fully appreciate the world of French transplant Christine Gauthier’s shop on fashionable Street 240. Tucked into the drawers of tall wooden bureaus are her whimsical necklaces, bracelets and earrings, sorted by color; each drawer ■ KASHAYA This small, white-walled shop showcases contains dozens of unusual pieces and you can idle away the efforts of one of Phnom Penh’s most talented textile an afternoon by carefully sifting through them. Gauthier’s designers, Catherine Théron. Her scarves, shawls and designs, which range from cute and colorful to alluringly pashminas are each one-of-kind, blending fine and raw silks experimental, are inspired by the world around her, whether and a range of vibrant motifs. Théron employs a highly it’s the candy-colored plastic buttons she skilled team of women in Ta Keo province, finds in local markets or imported handthe heart of Cambodia’s silk industry, to COMING SOON blown Czech glass beads she loved as a child. execute her intricate patterns and delicate 37 Street 240; 855/12-812-469. weaves, some of which are so beautiful they It’s been just a year since Elizabeth Kiester launched could double as wall hangings. Kashaya’s Wanderlust boutique in custom-made silk thong and wooden-wedge ■ SUBTYL Accessory mavens should make Siem Reap, but already sandals are a favorite among expats. 55EO a beeline for this newly opened boutique, the ex-New York fashion Street 240; 855/12-900-014. ✚ which houses the work of French designer editor’s colorful, casual-yetsexy designs have won her a devoted following. By the end of this month, Kiester will be bringing her trademark boxy cotton dresses and billowy spaghetti strap tops to Phnom Penh with the opening of Wanderlust’s second shop. 21 Street 240; wanderlustincambodia.com.

New Khmer Style Clockwise from right: A fanciful ring at Water Lily Creation; a seamstress at Threads; underwear at Threads; Ambre’s redthemed room; bags from Subtyl; outside Jasmine; creating a dress at Jasmine.

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stylish traveler

| shopping

PHNOM PENH CHIC Local and expatriate designers are turning the Cambodian capital into an emerging style stop. By NAOMI LINDT ■ AMBRE Leave any preconceptions of Asian minimalism at the door of this long-time favorite among the city’s fashionistas. Located in a gracious two-story colonial mansion complete with wrought-iron chandeliers and a spiral staircase, this boutique houses the exuberant, überfeminine line of owner Romyda Keth, a Parisian-raised designer who ran a successful boutique in the French capital before returning to her native Cambodia in the early 1990’s. Keth works in a broad spectrum of styles and colors, from slinky satin-and-lace cocktail dresses to billowing organza skirts topped with fitted strapless bodices; many of her designs include detailed hand-sewn embroidery. Each room in the house is dedicated to a different range of colors; matching shoes, jewelry and bags help customers create the perfect outfit. There’s also a selection of adorable sundresses for girls and a bespoke service for prospective brides. 37 Street 178; 855/12-688-608. CAMBODIA

Checking out the wares at Water Lily Creation. Clockwise from top left: Inside Ambre; sandals from Subtyl; Jasmine’s silk clutches.

■ JASMINE Since opening their store in 2001, expat duo Kellianne Karatau and Cassandra McMillan have gained renown for producing exquisite handiwork that’s rarely seen in Cambodia. Along the way, they’ve helped revive the country’s silk-weaving traditions, left in tatters after the Khmer Rouge’s reign, by employing weavers in traditional silk-manufacturing villages and a team of women who crochet delicate scarves and hand-paint silk cushions in a workshop above the store. New collections are rolled out twice a year, but classics such as fitted coats, A-line skirts and cocktail dresses are always available. Even simple items like ruched clutches and spaghetti strap camisoles feel like little luxuries. Also look out for the casual, cotton-oriented line by each designer: Karatau’s Orange River and McMillan’s Bliss. 73 Street 240; 855-23/223-103; jasmineboutique.net; Orange River: 361 Sisowath Quay; 855-23/214-594; and Bliss: 29 Street 240; 855-23/215-754. ■ THREADS Hidden down an alley behind the popular Java Arts Café and up a spiral, metal staircase, Threads isn’t easy to stumble upon. But for expats in the know, it’s an essential stop for blouses and sundresses that won’t wilt in Cambodia’s heat. Designer Phon Srey Poan, a.k.a. Linda, works primarily with cotton and linen, and has a flair for choosing fantastic fabrics. Two dedicated seamstresses on staff ensure every item fits just right—alterations are free of charge—or they’ll make a new one. Though the selection

68

OCTO B E R 2 0 0 9| T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E S E A . C O M

Photographed by CHRIS KERRIGAN

is small, it’s packed with goodies: lime-green paisley-printed tunics, canary-yellow eyelet shift dresses and mandarincollared blouses for women; airy short-sleeved shirts and linen trousers for men. It’s also possible to order custommade items. 56 E1Z Sihanouk Blvd.; 855/12-768-248

Sandrine Bury. Known around town for her stylish but well-priced bags—ranging from slouchy two-toned leather purses to cherry-red silk clutches—Bury has expanded the Subtyl line to include chic belts and shoes. She’s also launched a small collection of women’s clothing, which includes floor-length satin dresses and flowing tops in vivid prints. The back of the store features funky children’s clothing by another local label, Chilli Kids. 43 Street 240; 855/12-800-110; subtyl.com

■ WATER LILY CREATION It takes time and patience to fully appreciate the world of French transplant Christine Gauthier’s shop on fashionable Street 240. Tucked into the drawers of tall wooden bureaus are her whimsical necklaces, bracelets and earrings, sorted by color; each drawer ■ KASHAYA This small, white-walled shop showcases contains dozens of unusual pieces and you can idle away the efforts of one of Phnom Penh’s most talented textile an afternoon by carefully sifting through them. Gauthier’s designers, Catherine Théron. Her scarves, shawls and designs, which range from cute and colorful to alluringly pashminas are each one-of-kind, blending fine and raw silks experimental, are inspired by the world around her, whether and a range of vibrant motifs. Théron employs a highly it’s the candy-colored plastic buttons she skilled team of women in Ta Keo province, finds in local markets or imported handthe heart of Cambodia’s silk industry, to COMING SOON blown Czech glass beads she loved as a child. execute her intricate patterns and delicate 37 Street 240; 855/12-812-469. weaves, some of which are so beautiful they It’s been just a year since Elizabeth Kiester launched could double as wall hangings. Kashaya’s Wanderlust boutique in custom-made silk thong and wooden-wedge ■ SUBTYL Accessory mavens should make Siem Reap, but already sandals are a favorite among expats. 55EO a beeline for this newly opened boutique, the ex-New York fashion Street 240; 855/12-900-014. ✚ which houses the work of French designer editor’s colorful, casual-yetsexy designs have won her a devoted following. By the end of this month, Kiester will be bringing her trademark boxy cotton dresses and billowy spaghetti strap tops to Phnom Penh with the opening of Wanderlust’s second shop. 21 Street 240; wanderlustincambodia.com.

New Khmer Style Clockwise from right: A fanciful ring at Water Lily Creation; a seamstress at Threads; underwear at Threads; Ambre’s redthemed room; bags from Subtyl; outside Jasmine; creating a dress at Jasmine.

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stylish traveler

| beauty

1

2 BEAUTY ON THE FLY

3

Travel kits that will keep you looking—and feeling— good in far-flung destinations. By EVELYN CHEN

1 AROMATHERAPY ASSOCIATES Bring the spa into your hotel room with this set of four 7.5-milliliter bottles of aromatherapy bath oils, packed into a box that’s slim enough to fit a toiletry bag. A few capfuls in a bath help lift spirits after a long journey. Each oil is tailored for a different mood: Deep Relax, Revive Morning, Revive Evening and Lavender & Peppermint. 2 ORGANIC PHARMACY Worried by all the news 70

surrounding phthalates and their possibly harmful effects? Then opt for the starter kit by U.K.-based Organic Pharmacy. All eight products are avowedly chemical-free and use organic ingredients like lemon, eucalyptus and jasmine. The lightweight, citrus-based antioxidant face gel and Double Rose Rejuvenating cream work wonders on travel-tested skin. Also tucked into the glossy white bag is a muslin cloth made of, naturally, organic cotton.

OC TO B E R 2 0 0 9| T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E S E A . C O M

3 JO MALONE From Britain’s most famous nose comes this range of travel candles—a great way to create a more intimate ambience in a hotel room. Each set contains three candles; our favorite is Malone’s witty take on afternoon tea, which includes a candle scented to smell like almond macaroons. Bliss! 4 MOLTON BROWN Perfect for jet-setting sophisticates, Molton Brown’s Globe Trekker

travel kits offer 10 petitesized items, each containing 100 milliliters—tiny enough to meet airline restrictions, substantial enough to last through a trip. Women can indulge in popular products like the Heavenly Gingerlilly body range; there are also tiny tubes of eye gel, lip balm and hair treatment. Guys are treated to the Bracing Silverbirch and Re-charge Black Pepper body line. Both kits come in a stylish Italian leather pouch that’s bound to see a lot of usage. ✚

C LO C KW I S E F RO M TO P L E F T: CO U RT ESY O F O RGA N I C P H A R M ACY; CO U RT ESY O F J O M A LO N E ; C O U R T E S Y O F M O LT O N B R O W N ( 2 ) ; C O U R T E S Y O F A R O M AT H E R A P Y A S S O C I AT E S

4


~ T R E N D S ,

C U L T U R E ,

F O O D

A

N D

M O R E ~

T+L Journal MUSIC 81 Human skulls in an Iban longhouse. Inset: The Orient Pandaw sails up the Rajang River.

FOOD 86 DRIVING 91 ASIAN SCENE 96 TRENDS 100 DISPATCH 102

MALAYSIA

By Boat into

Borneo Heading upriver in Sarawak on a converted paddle steamer sounds like something out of another century. But, as COLIN HINSHELWOOD

discovers, these days, creature comforts are never far away. Photographed by BRENT T. MADISON

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Indigenous faces stare at us at small villages. Some produce mobile phones and snap photos of us—a sharp reminder of the PRESENT

Cruise Mode From below: A local shop in Sarikei; the sun sets over Kuching’s riverfront; passengers from the Orient Pandaw explore a small town in Sarawak’s interior; passing the day on the ship’s lower deck.

W

ITH TWO BLASTS OF HER WHISTLE, THE Orient Pandaw casts off from the port of Sibu and starts her second voyage up the Rajang River into the heart of Sarawak, on the Malaysian side of Borneo. It’s one of Asia’s last uncharted frontiers— Redmond O’Hanlon and James Fenton navigated up this river in a journey so memorably captured in O’Hanlon’s Into the Heart of Borneo. With such examples before me, I feel a little like Rudyard Kipling in colonial India as I stand at the deck and wave at the locals gathered at the dock to see off the majestic paddle steamer. After we are shown to our cabins—neat, cozy staterooms finished in teak and brass—I don my most dapper attire and head to the sundeck to join the 34 other passengers for cocktails. Bryce and Fae Burrows, a lovely Australian couple in their 60’s, tell me they are on their fifth cruise with Pandaw River Cruises, the operator of the Orient Pandaw, and this time they’ve brought their daughter and five-yearold grandson. Most of those aboard are also seasoned world travelers and have great expectations for this nine-day trip, somewhat romantically dubbed “Into the Heart of Borneo,” that will take us from Sibu some 250 kilometers upriver.

76

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Most trips to Sarawak, on the northern coast of Borneo, begin in the state capital, Kuching. Borneo might have a reputation as a wild and primitive land, but modern, clean, lively and elegant Kuching is anything but. Think Singapore without the neon lights and high-rises. Most of the halfmillion residents here speak English, and the city comes across as a harmonious fusion of Malay administration, Chinese business savvy, tribal cultures and the charming vestiges of British colonial architecture. Our point of departure, Sibu is a shabby port that thrives on logging and little else. It has a few mosques, a couple of garish Chinese temples and two shopping centers that tower above shophouses. The only guesthouses in town cater to long-term laborers at the timber yards. The central market, located near the pier, is eerily devoid of fresh fish; most produce is either salted or canned. The town is quiet by 10 P.M.; Sibu is the town that tourism forgot—until now. While Sibu and the Rajang River district saw only 2,000 foreign tourists in 2008, that number will almost double this year thanks to Pandaw River Cruises, an innovative company with a storied past. Fourteen years ago, Scottish historian Paul Strachan discovered an abandoned paddle steamer on the Irrawaddy River in Burma. Called the

Pandaw, the ship was built by the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company in Glasgow, which, during its heyday in the 1920’s, operated more than 650 vessels along the rivers in Burma. World War II, however, put an end to the fleet. Strachan, whose great-grandfather worked as a ship’s captain in the country, took it upon himself to restore the vessel and set it up for tours in Burma. Since then, he’s built six replicas of the colonial paddle steamers to use as luxury cruise ships, two of which were used as mobile hospitals after Cyclone Nargis devastated Burma last year. The company now operates cruises in across Southeast Asia and has just launched a 15-day trip along the Ganges in India. These days the ships are powered by two 500 horsepower diesel engines rather than with steam and paddles, but the romance of a bygone era is still evident in the rattan sun loungers and potted plants on the polished teakwood upper deck. With a gentle hum, the Orient Pandaw churns along the river at a steady eight knots and leaves almost no wake. I spend the first day doing little more than watching the chocolate-colored river and dense mangroves as we glide by.

Passenger ships haven’t been seen on the 640-kilometer Rajang since 1942, so it is little surprise that we attract attention from locals. Astonished Malay, Chinese, Iban, Melanau, Kenyah and other indigenous faces stare as we tie up at small villages. Some produce mobile phones and snap photos of us—a sharp reminder of the present. The next two days see me settled in a deckchair reading, sipping tea and inhaling the virgin rainforest air. A brass gong routinely interrupts my reverie, announcing breakfast, lunch or dinner—meticulously presented dishes of local and Asian fusion cuisine. On the third day, I also go for an oil massage. The only other breaks in my routine are the daily stops at quiet villages on the river where we sample palm or sago wine and visit rubber plantations, schools and markets. At sunset, we gather on deck to mingle, comparing previous journeys over cocktails. Most of my fellow passengers tell me they are here for the adventure, not for relaxation. We visit a village every morning and most afternoons, and everyone explores the local market, full of salted fish, sago, whatever local vegetables are in season and squawking chickens. Each morning, as soon as I hear the engines start up I spring out of bed and head up to the deck. The boat » T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E S E A

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Indigenous faces stare at us at small villages. Some produce mobile phones and snap photos of us—a sharp reminder of the PRESENT

Cruise Mode From below: A local shop in Sarikei; the sun sets over Kuching’s riverfront; passengers from the Orient Pandaw explore a small town in Sarawak’s interior; passing the day on the ship’s lower deck.

W

ITH TWO BLASTS OF HER WHISTLE, THE Orient Pandaw casts off from the port of Sibu and starts her second voyage up the Rajang River into the heart of Sarawak, on the Malaysian side of Borneo. It’s one of Asia’s last uncharted frontiers— Redmond O’Hanlon and James Fenton navigated up this river in a journey so memorably captured in O’Hanlon’s Into the Heart of Borneo. With such examples before me, I feel a little like Rudyard Kipling in colonial India as I stand at the deck and wave at the locals gathered at the dock to see off the majestic paddle steamer. After we are shown to our cabins—neat, cozy staterooms finished in teak and brass—I don my most dapper attire and head to the sundeck to join the 34 other passengers for cocktails. Bryce and Fae Burrows, a lovely Australian couple in their 60’s, tell me they are on their fifth cruise with Pandaw River Cruises, the operator of the Orient Pandaw, and this time they’ve brought their daughter and five-yearold grandson. Most of those aboard are also seasoned world travelers and have great expectations for this nine-day trip, somewhat romantically dubbed “Into the Heart of Borneo,” that will take us from Sibu some 250 kilometers upriver.

76

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Most trips to Sarawak, on the northern coast of Borneo, begin in the state capital, Kuching. Borneo might have a reputation as a wild and primitive land, but modern, clean, lively and elegant Kuching is anything but. Think Singapore without the neon lights and high-rises. Most of the halfmillion residents here speak English, and the city comes across as a harmonious fusion of Malay administration, Chinese business savvy, tribal cultures and the charming vestiges of British colonial architecture. Our point of departure, Sibu is a shabby port that thrives on logging and little else. It has a few mosques, a couple of garish Chinese temples and two shopping centers that tower above shophouses. The only guesthouses in town cater to long-term laborers at the timber yards. The central market, located near the pier, is eerily devoid of fresh fish; most produce is either salted or canned. The town is quiet by 10 P.M.; Sibu is the town that tourism forgot—until now. While Sibu and the Rajang River district saw only 2,000 foreign tourists in 2008, that number will almost double this year thanks to Pandaw River Cruises, an innovative company with a storied past. Fourteen years ago, Scottish historian Paul Strachan discovered an abandoned paddle steamer on the Irrawaddy River in Burma. Called the

Pandaw, the ship was built by the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company in Glasgow, which, during its heyday in the 1920’s, operated more than 650 vessels along the rivers in Burma. World War II, however, put an end to the fleet. Strachan, whose great-grandfather worked as a ship’s captain in the country, took it upon himself to restore the vessel and set it up for tours in Burma. Since then, he’s built six replicas of the colonial paddle steamers to use as luxury cruise ships, two of which were used as mobile hospitals after Cyclone Nargis devastated Burma last year. The company now operates cruises in across Southeast Asia and has just launched a 15-day trip along the Ganges in India. These days the ships are powered by two 500 horsepower diesel engines rather than with steam and paddles, but the romance of a bygone era is still evident in the rattan sun loungers and potted plants on the polished teakwood upper deck. With a gentle hum, the Orient Pandaw churns along the river at a steady eight knots and leaves almost no wake. I spend the first day doing little more than watching the chocolate-colored river and dense mangroves as we glide by.

Passenger ships haven’t been seen on the 640-kilometer Rajang since 1942, so it is little surprise that we attract attention from locals. Astonished Malay, Chinese, Iban, Melanau, Kenyah and other indigenous faces stare as we tie up at small villages. Some produce mobile phones and snap photos of us—a sharp reminder of the present. The next two days see me settled in a deckchair reading, sipping tea and inhaling the virgin rainforest air. A brass gong routinely interrupts my reverie, announcing breakfast, lunch or dinner—meticulously presented dishes of local and Asian fusion cuisine. On the third day, I also go for an oil massage. The only other breaks in my routine are the daily stops at quiet villages on the river where we sample palm or sago wine and visit rubber plantations, schools and markets. At sunset, we gather on deck to mingle, comparing previous journeys over cocktails. Most of my fellow passengers tell me they are here for the adventure, not for relaxation. We visit a village every morning and most afternoons, and everyone explores the local market, full of salted fish, sago, whatever local vegetables are in season and squawking chickens. Each morning, as soon as I hear the engines start up I spring out of bed and head up to the deck. The boat » T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E S E A

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River Escape Clockwise from left: On the waterfront in Kuching; a wooden suspension bridge leads to Rumah Bundong, an Iban longhouse; Kuching after dark; shopkeepers in Sarikei; a heavily tattoed Iban man in Borneo’s interior.

seems to float on a morning mist. The distant silhouettes of mountains stand out against an indigo sky. Armed with my Birds of Borneo reference book and a fresh morning mug of coffee, I pull a deckchair up to the rail and start scanning the hazy riverbanks for signs of life. Borneo should be a naturalist’s dream: it is the native habitat of crocodiles, rhinos, clouded leopards and orangutans, and is also home to snakes, monitor lizards, civets, monkeys, gibbons and an impressive diversity of bird species, including hornbills, kingfishers and eagles. I wait patiently for the swish of a crocodile’s tail as it scrambles into the mangroves or for the screech of an eagle spotting its prey. Nothing happens. “They’ve all moved into the jungle,” explains our guide Andreas Bato Suring as he sidles up to me with an apologetic smile. “Too many hunters, too many timber companies.” Disappointed, I ready myself for my second mission on this trip: to find a headhunter.

S

OME 250 KILOMETERS UPRIVER, WE ARRIVE AT KAPIT. From there, we drive to an Iban village and visit a longhouse, the traditional tribal dwelling in Borneo. Each longhouse is about 40 meters long and has separate rooms linked by a wooden balcony, which acts as communal area. Andreas tells me there could be up to 300 members of an

78

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extended family living in this one longhouse. I notice lots of mothers, children and older people around, but not so many working-age men. They must have headed out to hunt. Up in the ceiling, I spot evidence of the tribal headhunters—a hanging basket of human skulls, more than 60 years old. There’s an old man sitting in the corner with black tribal tattoos on his neck, torso and legs. With Andreas as translator, I sit beside him for a chat. A first-generation Christian, he tells me his grandparents emigrated from Kalimantan. His five children are all at school. Then he points to his second wife who, he says, is the best weaver in the longhouse. On a wooden loom, she weaves traditional Iban textiles known as pua kumbu to sell in Kuching. I notice that he doesn’t have any tattoos on his knuckles—a tradition reserved only for men who have taken heads. “There might only be one or two ex-headhunters still alive in Borneo,” Andreas translates, “but none in this town.” Maybe it’s just as well. We’re the first tour group the town had seen in years, so

the curator opens Fort Sylvia museum for us, even though it’s his day off. The fort was built by the second of Sarawak’s colonial rulers, James Brooke, as a frontier post to prevent Iban warriors attacking weaker tribes upriver. From 1841 until the Japanese invasion in 1941, Sarawak was administered as a private fiefdom by the English Brooke family, known as the White Rajahs. Despite the outlandishly exploitative nature of their colonial rule, many in Sarawak credit the Brookes with uniting the tribes and ending the gory practice of headhunting. With that in mind, Kapit also marks the point where the Rajang narrows and the ship turns to head downriver. However, the captain, former chief officer on the Queen Elizabeth II Sean Whalley, is able to steer us up a jungle tributary for half a day of spontaneous exploration. “Now these really are uncharted waters,” Whalley mutters as I join him at the bow on the lookout for sandbanks and debris. On the seventh day of our journey, we pass Sibu again and head for the mouth of the river. The unmistakable scent of the sea tells me it is not far. The Rajang widens to around a kilometer across as mangroves are replaced by forests of palm and sago trees. Unsurprisingly, that night we have seafood for dinner. On the final night we all exchange e-mail addresses. Ken Sleeper, an investment manager from Los

Angeles, tells me he loved the trip. “So unexplored, so much potential for adventure.” That said, we reach what could be our finish: there’s a tidal line across the river where the Rajang meets the South China Sea. The water turns cloudy jade and, on the horizon, I can make out the turquoise fringe of the ocean. The end of our journey. The Rajang has been conquered and it’s time to head back to port. ✚

GUIDE TO MALAYSIA GETTING THERE Both AirAsia (airasia.com) and Malaysian Airlines (malaysia airlines.com) fly from Kuala Lumpur to Kuching and Sibu. WHERE TO EAT The Waterfront The Hilton’s allyou-can-eat desserts. Jln. Tunku Abdul Rahman; 60-82/248-200; dinner for two RM158. The Junk Arty, sophisticated dining with fusion cuisine, steaks, fish and racks of lamb. 80–84 Jln. Wayang; 60-82/259-450; dinner for two RM100. Bla Bla Bla Chinese fusion dishes

and seafood specialties. 27 Jln. Tabuan; 60-82/233-944; dinner for two RM160. WHERE TO STAY Hilton Kuching Jln. Tunku Abdul Rahman, Kuching; hilton. com; 60-82/248-200; doubles from RM245. WHAT TO DO Pandaw River Cruises The Into the Heart of Borneo trip on the RV Orient Pandaw is eight nights long. 44-131/514-1035; pandaw. com; prices start from US$3,255 per person.

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River Escape Clockwise from left: On the waterfront in Kuching; a wooden suspension bridge leads to Rumah Bundong, an Iban longhouse; Kuching after dark; shopkeepers in Sarikei; a heavily tattoed Iban man in Borneo’s interior.

seems to float on a morning mist. The distant silhouettes of mountains stand out against an indigo sky. Armed with my Birds of Borneo reference book and a fresh morning mug of coffee, I pull a deckchair up to the rail and start scanning the hazy riverbanks for signs of life. Borneo should be a naturalist’s dream: it is the native habitat of crocodiles, rhinos, clouded leopards and orangutans, and is also home to snakes, monitor lizards, civets, monkeys, gibbons and an impressive diversity of bird species, including hornbills, kingfishers and eagles. I wait patiently for the swish of a crocodile’s tail as it scrambles into the mangroves or for the screech of an eagle spotting its prey. Nothing happens. “They’ve all moved into the jungle,” explains our guide Andreas Bato Suring as he sidles up to me with an apologetic smile. “Too many hunters, too many timber companies.” Disappointed, I ready myself for my second mission on this trip: to find a headhunter.

S

OME 250 KILOMETERS UPRIVER, WE ARRIVE AT KAPIT. From there, we drive to an Iban village and visit a longhouse, the traditional tribal dwelling in Borneo. Each longhouse is about 40 meters long and has separate rooms linked by a wooden balcony, which acts as communal area. Andreas tells me there could be up to 300 members of an

78

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extended family living in this one longhouse. I notice lots of mothers, children and older people around, but not so many working-age men. They must have headed out to hunt. Up in the ceiling, I spot evidence of the tribal headhunters—a hanging basket of human skulls, more than 60 years old. There’s an old man sitting in the corner with black tribal tattoos on his neck, torso and legs. With Andreas as translator, I sit beside him for a chat. A first-generation Christian, he tells me his grandparents emigrated from Kalimantan. His five children are all at school. Then he points to his second wife who, he says, is the best weaver in the longhouse. On a wooden loom, she weaves traditional Iban textiles known as pua kumbu to sell in Kuching. I notice that he doesn’t have any tattoos on his knuckles—a tradition reserved only for men who have taken heads. “There might only be one or two ex-headhunters still alive in Borneo,” Andreas translates, “but none in this town.” Maybe it’s just as well. We’re the first tour group the town had seen in years, so

the curator opens Fort Sylvia museum for us, even though it’s his day off. The fort was built by the second of Sarawak’s colonial rulers, James Brooke, as a frontier post to prevent Iban warriors attacking weaker tribes upriver. From 1841 until the Japanese invasion in 1941, Sarawak was administered as a private fiefdom by the English Brooke family, known as the White Rajahs. Despite the outlandishly exploitative nature of their colonial rule, many in Sarawak credit the Brookes with uniting the tribes and ending the gory practice of headhunting. With that in mind, Kapit also marks the point where the Rajang narrows and the ship turns to head downriver. However, the captain, former chief officer on the Queen Elizabeth II Sean Whalley, is able to steer us up a jungle tributary for half a day of spontaneous exploration. “Now these really are uncharted waters,” Whalley mutters as I join him at the bow on the lookout for sandbanks and debris. On the seventh day of our journey, we pass Sibu again and head for the mouth of the river. The unmistakable scent of the sea tells me it is not far. The Rajang widens to around a kilometer across as mangroves are replaced by forests of palm and sago trees. Unsurprisingly, that night we have seafood for dinner. On the final night we all exchange e-mail addresses. Ken Sleeper, an investment manager from Los

Angeles, tells me he loved the trip. “So unexplored, so much potential for adventure.” That said, we reach what could be our finish: there’s a tidal line across the river where the Rajang meets the South China Sea. The water turns cloudy jade and, on the horizon, I can make out the turquoise fringe of the ocean. The end of our journey. The Rajang has been conquered and it’s time to head back to port. ✚

GUIDE TO MALAYSIA GETTING THERE Both AirAsia (airasia.com) and Malaysian Airlines (malaysia airlines.com) fly from Kuala Lumpur to Kuching and Sibu. WHERE TO EAT The Waterfront The Hilton’s allyou-can-eat desserts. Jln. Tunku Abdul Rahman; 60-82/248-200; dinner for two RM158. The Junk Arty, sophisticated dining with fusion cuisine, steaks, fish and racks of lamb. 80–84 Jln. Wayang; 60-82/259-450; dinner for two RM100. Bla Bla Bla Chinese fusion dishes

and seafood specialties. 27 Jln. Tabuan; 60-82/233-944; dinner for two RM160. WHERE TO STAY Hilton Kuching Jln. Tunku Abdul Rahman, Kuching; hilton. com; 60-82/248-200; doubles from RM245. WHAT TO DO Pandaw River Cruises The Into the Heart of Borneo trip on the RV Orient Pandaw is eight nights long. 44-131/514-1035; pandaw. com; prices start from US$3,255 per person.

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music | t+l journal

Ancient Rhythms Clockwise from right: Hasan Khan and his troupe playing in Jaisalmer; a doorway in the gated city; the Thar Desert outside of town.

Tracing the interconnected origins of world music—from flamenco to the blues—ALEX SHOUMATOFF travels to India in search of the Gypsy music of Rajasthan. Photographed by MAX KIM-BEE

INDIA

Indian Rhythms

T

NEW DELHI TO RAJASTHAN IS CALLED the Pink City Express, and at nine in the morning it pulled into the big, seething capital city of Jaipur. After changing trains, I continued into the Thar Desert, past red dunes, mud huts with thatched roofs, women in veils, men in turbans, the scant vegetation clipped by goats. Wild peacocks, the males’ fans folded into long, streaming tails, were trotting around in the desert scrub like flamboyant roadrunners. At 1:30 we reached the last stop: the ancient desert citadel of Jaisalmer. The main gate to the city opens onto a cobblestoned courtyard, and on the far side of it loom the walls of the 12th-century inner city, with intricately filigreed balconies projecting from them, and bell-shaped guard towers. A Bollywood movie was in the process of being shot. The director was barking instructions at a little boy in a turban who was playing the young maharajah and standing under a sumptuous canopy. They would be at it, take after take, for the entire week I was there. The cast members’ costumes were gaudy, but no more so than those of the locals. Rajasthanis dress like human butterflies » HE OVERNIGHT TRAIN FROM

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The elders all had turbans and handlebar mustaches that looked as if they had been PAINTED on or flowers, explained a Jaisalmer native: “We try to make up in our clothes, art and music for the lack of color in the desert,” he said. “The men wear bright orange turbans, their long shirts green like calyxes and their pants white like corollas. The women wear long green or yellow robes with tie-dye patches, and outline their eyes with mascara.” My interest was in the music. During my far-flung travels over the past 40 years I have always taken along a little guitar and played with local musicians, from pygmies in the Ituri Forest to flute players in Kathmandu and charango strummers in Ayacucho. There’s no better icebreaker—the language of music is universal. Over the past few years, I’ve been tracing the historical connections between world musical cultures, and not long ago, I saw the wonderful 1993 documentary Latcho Drom, about the music of the Gypsy diaspora. The people known as Gypsies, or Roma, mostly left north India a thousand or more years ago, but a few remained behind. The film starts in Rajasthan, with a woman twirling under a tree, accompanied by men playing various instruments, then proceeds to Gypsy bands in Egypt (from which the word Gypsy is derived), Turkey, Romania, Hungary, France and finally Spain, with guitars, castanets and Harish Kumar, a renowned dancer in Jaisalmer.

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flamenco dancing. The whole film is just music, no words, and the music in each country is very different, but you can always clearly hear distinct echoes of India. That was what I was doing in Jaisalmer: looking for the Gypsies who never left.

S

QUEEZING PAST SACRED COWS IN NARROW

alleys lined with all sorts of intriguing wares made by local artisans, I made my way to the Deepak Rest House. There was a nice restaurant on the roof, where a bearded old man in a turban came every night at six and sang while playing the kamaica, a stand-up fiddle with a banjo-like skin resonator box. Instead of pressing the strings down on the neck while drawing his bow across them, he raised their pitch by inserting the nail of his index finger under them. There was an unmistakable Appalachian flavor to his mournful tunes, which may not have been entirely coincidental. The hotel’s owner, Deepak Vyas, belongs to a Brahmin family that has inhabited the citadel for three generations, and he sketched the history of Jaisalmer for me. The fort was built in 1156 for the Rajput (warrior caste) maharajahs, who still control much of the action in Rajasthan. The city was attacked by the Moghuls in the early 14th century, peace was subsequently established, and it became part of a new, more southerly trade route that ran across the Thar Desert into what is now Pakistan, only 137 kilometers to the west. Jaisalmer’s maharajah grew rich from the taxes he levied on the camel caravans that passed through laden with silk, spices, gold and opium.

Today the entire inner city is given over to tourism. The merchandise on display every step of the way is the product of the local traditions of weaving, painting, ceramics and metalwork that tourist dollars keep alive. There are two groups in Jaisalmer and the surrounding desert thought to have ancestral connections with the Roma: the Kalbelia tribe and the Manganiyar caste. It didn’t take long to find some of them. The Manganiyar are completely dedicated to music and have been for generations. The best performers play for the Rajput maharajahs and are known as alamkana, the musicians of the king. They are Muslim, like Amin Khan. Khan has played with Malians in Paris and flamenco musicians in Barcelona, and felt a strong affinity for both. He lives in the artists’ colony below the fort, with four or five hundred other Manganiyar families. While I was visiting his compound, various male members of his extended family dropped by to play. Khan sang in a passionate, quavering voice that wandered up and down all kinds of strange and wonderful scales I had never heard before, most of them consisting of widely spaced half-tone clusters rather than the familiar Western melodic sequences. The fingers of

his right hand flew over the keys of his harmonium (his left was doing the pumping), and various kinsmen played the dholak (a type of drum) and khartal (flat wooden clappers flicked together with incredible speed and syncopative dexterity; they may well be the ancestors of flamenco castanets). A lot of Khan’s repertoire was Sufi, and he played in a semi-trance, his eyes rolling, “a little out of mind, but not fully,” he explained. One song was in the classic blues scale. A dozen other tunes were earopeners for my musical sensibility, rooted in standard Western harmonic progressions. One afternoon I drove into the desert with Magh Singh, the Deepak Rest House’s general manager. Passing white goats with black heads and veiled women on their way to a wedding in another village, we stopped in Kanoi, 32 kilometers from Jaisalmer. The elders were sitting on carpets in an open-air covered patio with carved sandstone pillars. They all had turbans and handlebar mustaches that looked as if they had been pasted on. We spent a few hours listening to local singers, including a young boy with a piercing voice, and an extraordinary performance on the morchang, or jaw harp. It’s one of the world’s oldest instruments, with many names »


t+l journal

| music

The elders all had turbans and handlebar mustaches that looked as if they had been PAINTED on or flowers, explained a Jaisalmer native: “We try to make up in our clothes, art and music for the lack of color in the desert,” he said. “The men wear bright orange turbans, their long shirts green like calyxes and their pants white like corollas. The women wear long green or yellow robes with tie-dye patches, and outline their eyes with mascara.” My interest was in the music. During my far-flung travels over the past 40 years I have always taken along a little guitar and played with local musicians, from pygmies in the Ituri Forest to flute players in Kathmandu and charango strummers in Ayacucho. There’s no better icebreaker—the language of music is universal. Over the past few years, I’ve been tracing the historical connections between world musical cultures, and not long ago, I saw the wonderful 1993 documentary Latcho Drom, about the music of the Gypsy diaspora. The people known as Gypsies, or Roma, mostly left north India a thousand or more years ago, but a few remained behind. The film starts in Rajasthan, with a woman twirling under a tree, accompanied by men playing various instruments, then proceeds to Gypsy bands in Egypt (from which the word Gypsy is derived), Turkey, Romania, Hungary, France and finally Spain, with guitars, castanets and Harish Kumar, a renowned dancer in Jaisalmer.

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flamenco dancing. The whole film is just music, no words, and the music in each country is very different, but you can always clearly hear distinct echoes of India. That was what I was doing in Jaisalmer: looking for the Gypsies who never left.

S

QUEEZING PAST SACRED COWS IN NARROW

alleys lined with all sorts of intriguing wares made by local artisans, I made my way to the Deepak Rest House. There was a nice restaurant on the roof, where a bearded old man in a turban came every night at six and sang while playing the kamaica, a stand-up fiddle with a banjo-like skin resonator box. Instead of pressing the strings down on the neck while drawing his bow across them, he raised their pitch by inserting the nail of his index finger under them. There was an unmistakable Appalachian flavor to his mournful tunes, which may not have been entirely coincidental. The hotel’s owner, Deepak Vyas, belongs to a Brahmin family that has inhabited the citadel for three generations, and he sketched the history of Jaisalmer for me. The fort was built in 1156 for the Rajput (warrior caste) maharajahs, who still control much of the action in Rajasthan. The city was attacked by the Moghuls in the early 14th century, peace was subsequently established, and it became part of a new, more southerly trade route that ran across the Thar Desert into what is now Pakistan, only 137 kilometers to the west. Jaisalmer’s maharajah grew rich from the taxes he levied on the camel caravans that passed through laden with silk, spices, gold and opium.

Today the entire inner city is given over to tourism. The merchandise on display every step of the way is the product of the local traditions of weaving, painting, ceramics and metalwork that tourist dollars keep alive. There are two groups in Jaisalmer and the surrounding desert thought to have ancestral connections with the Roma: the Kalbelia tribe and the Manganiyar caste. It didn’t take long to find some of them. The Manganiyar are completely dedicated to music and have been for generations. The best performers play for the Rajput maharajahs and are known as alamkana, the musicians of the king. They are Muslim, like Amin Khan. Khan has played with Malians in Paris and flamenco musicians in Barcelona, and felt a strong affinity for both. He lives in the artists’ colony below the fort, with four or five hundred other Manganiyar families. While I was visiting his compound, various male members of his extended family dropped by to play. Khan sang in a passionate, quavering voice that wandered up and down all kinds of strange and wonderful scales I had never heard before, most of them consisting of widely spaced half-tone clusters rather than the familiar Western melodic sequences. The fingers of

his right hand flew over the keys of his harmonium (his left was doing the pumping), and various kinsmen played the dholak (a type of drum) and khartal (flat wooden clappers flicked together with incredible speed and syncopative dexterity; they may well be the ancestors of flamenco castanets). A lot of Khan’s repertoire was Sufi, and he played in a semi-trance, his eyes rolling, “a little out of mind, but not fully,” he explained. One song was in the classic blues scale. A dozen other tunes were earopeners for my musical sensibility, rooted in standard Western harmonic progressions. One afternoon I drove into the desert with Magh Singh, the Deepak Rest House’s general manager. Passing white goats with black heads and veiled women on their way to a wedding in another village, we stopped in Kanoi, 32 kilometers from Jaisalmer. The elders were sitting on carpets in an open-air covered patio with carved sandstone pillars. They all had turbans and handlebar mustaches that looked as if they had been pasted on. We spent a few hours listening to local singers, including a young boy with a piercing voice, and an extraordinary performance on the morchang, or jaw harp. It’s one of the world’s oldest instruments, with many names »


music | t+l journal in different cultures, and the sounds that this man got out of it—he had three different tracks going on at once—were astonishing. I took a bumpy camel ride out on the dunes in Sam, and then continued to the village of Damodra, where some nomadic Kalbelia people camped in the desert performed for us. They are snake charmers and go from village to village, begging and trading cobra venom. “They are always on the move,” said Singh, who has great affection for the Kalbelia. “They have no solid house and sleep under the stars.” Two young women named Marua and Midja danced with unfettered joie de vivre, exulting in their vibrant beauty, writhing like cobras, their voluminous skirts swirling and ankle bangles tinkling, while a fakir in an orange turban played a reedy double pungi clarinet and another man slapped out a rhythm on a plastic jerrican. The pentatonic scale was the same as the one used in a Celtic reel.

B

ACK IN JAISALMER, I WANDERED THE STREETS. At the maharajah’s residential palace, a couple of German shepherds poked their heads out of ornately carved windows on the top floor. Two elders were sitting under a tree in the courtyard. I joined them. One was named Hasan Khan, and he was the alamkana, the musician of the royal family. A geniallooking man in his late fifties, he didn’t speak English, or his ears would have turned red from what his friend was telling me: “Hasan Khan is the tiger of singing. All the others are copiers. He sings songs about the maharajah, he performs the king’s morning puja, his waking song, his leaving song, and his welcome song, his drinking song, and his wedding song.” The Manganiyar, Hasan’s friend explained, “followed the camel caravans to Iraq and Persia centuries ago and became the alamkana in the courts of the shahs and the caliphs there.” That night I went to the Gorbandh Palace and heard Hasan Khan perform; he was sitting on a carpet on the rooftop restaurant with two of his sons backing him up, while a full moon came up over the fort. It was a scene that I imagine has not changed much in a thousand years. The following morning I went down to Hasan Khan’s house and listened to a bhairav, a morning raga that had many exquisite melodic variations. He played me one of his own compositions, which I would have guessed was a good-time northeast Brazilian accordion dance tune had I not been where I was—hearing it live from the harmonium of the alamkana of Jaisalmer. To my ears, there was certainly evidence to support the hypothesis that Gypsies have been

principal transmitters of melodic patterns in Eurasia and the European cultures of the Americas. But then again, a lot of the melodies I heard had no connection to Gypsy music at all. That’s not surprising, since the octave and the pentatonic scale are considered universal. They are the way the human ear organizes melodic sound in every culture. There is eighthcentury Taoist zither meditation music that sounds like Delta blues, with the same pentatonic runs minus their emotional weight, and the Incas had pentatonic panpipes. Neither of these had anything to do with the Gypsy diaspora. Music is the most elusive form of human expression, and its transmission is never a one-way street. The kamaica that the Manganiyar were playing here, for instance, probably originated in Persia. Modern Malian music is influenced by American blues. Cuban rumba affected Zairean music and was in turn affected by it. All this crossing really muddies the waters, so it is almost impossible to establish what came from where. You cannot say this is where it all began, any more than you can say this is where the first drums were beaten. As I listened, I eventually stopped imposing what I was looking for and began to enjoy the music for what it was: beautiful, alive and present. ✚

Hotel Killa Bhawan.

GUIDE TO RAJASTHAN GETTING THERE Delhi is connected to most of Southeast Asia’s main centers. From there, travelers can fly to Jaipur on Air India and Jet Airways, or take a train (indianrail.gov.in). WHERE TO STAY Deepak Rest House Inside the fort, behind Jain temple; 91-2992/252-665; doubles from R400. WHEN TO GO The best time to visit Rajasthan is from October to April, when the weather is moderate. The heaviest rainfall occurs during summer months, when daily temperatures often break 37 degrees Celsius.

Gorbandh Palace No. 1 Tourist Complex, Sam Rd.; 912992/253-801; hrhhotels. com; doubles from R3,000. Hotel Killa Bhawan 445 Kotri Para; 91-2992/251-204; killabhawan.com; doubles from US$125.

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AKE HIGHWAY 107 NORTH OF CHAOTIC CHIANG MAI THROUGH 16 anxious kilometers of herky-jerky traffic, past suburban Mae Rim and out of the smog. Leave all that behind. Turn left at the sign for Prem International School and follow the shady, winding road past small farms with country-fresh air. When you arrive at the vast Prem campus, listen for the tok tok tok of pestle against mortar. Follow your ears and you will find an outdoor kitchen and a staff eagerly teaching youngsters the cooking styles of their grandmothers. Fresh and local, seasonal and organic. Ingredients grow next door, on the organic farm adjacent the academy. Bamboo skewers are hewn on site. Banana plants yield fruit, of course, but also the leaves in which fish is wrapped and grilled. “This is what real people do in their own kitchen,” says cooking instructor Nittaya “Nid” Papasak. “We do not teach you commercial Thai cooking.”

Budding

Tastes

Is a cooking school on the outskirts of Chiang Mai the recipe for reviving traditional Thai cuisine? KAREN J. COATES signs up to find out. Photographed by JERRY REDFERN

THAILAND

Mastering Menus Left: Som tam, Thailand’s spicy papaya salad; Japanese students from an international school gets some hands-on experience.

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Since January 2008, the Prem Organic Cooking Academy has taught traditional cooking and farming techniques to visiting schoolchildren from around the world. Students learn how to make their own coconut milk, how to deter pests from plants using a naturally derived wood vinegar and how to irrigate fields. It’s all new stuff to the primarily citybred kids who visit Prem on field trips from other international schools in the region. Touching plants, admiring insects, “and just really learning where food comes from”—this is what farm coordinator Sheena Jackson hopes to inspire in youngsters. That disconnect between people and food is what inspired San Diego–based chef, restaurateur and award-winning cookbook author Su-Mei Yu to establish the cooking academy at Prem, whose 36-hectare setting amid traditional Thai farming villages presents an apt backdrop for teaching the life cycle of food—from seeds in the ground to curry in the pot. Yu is friends with Mom Luang Tri Devakul, who started a school now known as the Prem Center for International Education. “He fell in love with food, and when he founded the school he also started a vast organic farm, originally for his own use,” she says. The garden became so prolific, it began to feed the school canteen. Things grew from there. “It seems like a natural path to combine the farm with a cooking school,” she says. Yu, who grew up in Bangkok and moved to the U.S. as a teenager, wants to help preserve the Thai traditions she learned as a child—not just kitchen techniques, but reverence for the environment. “Families don’t cook anymore,” Yu says. She wants kids to know where their food comes from, how it grows, that it’s part of nature and that people are part of nature, too. Visit a Bangkok supermarket, and the consumer has no idea where the food originated. It’s the same problem Yu sees in America—a concern quickly spreading through Asia as countries develop, affluence grows, diets change and health deteriorates. Numerous studies in recent years point to alarming increases in obesity, diabetes and heart disease among Asians, particularly in Thailand, which also has the region’s highest rate of adulthood obesity. According to a 2006 report in British medical journal The Lancet, these trends are linked to rapid shifts in diet, behavioral changes among the young, increased consumption of fast food and sedentary lifestyles. Preparing Thai food properly requires the cook’s attention; it’s not an instant cuisine. Head 700 kilometers south to Nonthaburi, just outside of Bangkok, and cooking instructor Prasan Fargrajang of The Thai House cooking school and homestay will tell you all about the life she knew as a child. Grocery boats floated down the canal behind her home, and neighbors spent long days working together in the kitchen. No more, she says. “The life of the village has changed.” »

‘Families don’t cook anymore,’ the school’s founder says. She wants kids to KNOW where their food comes from

Cooking Farm From top: Some hand-picked miniature eggplant used in Thai curries; preparing vegetables for a cooking class; goats in residence at the Prem academy.

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

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t+l journal

| food

T

AKE HIGHWAY 107 NORTH OF CHAOTIC CHIANG MAI THROUGH 16 anxious kilometers of herky-jerky traffic, past suburban Mae Rim and out of the smog. Leave all that behind. Turn left at the sign for Prem International School and follow the shady, winding road past small farms with country-fresh air. When you arrive at the vast Prem campus, listen for the tok tok tok of pestle against mortar. Follow your ears and you will find an outdoor kitchen and a staff eagerly teaching youngsters the cooking styles of their grandmothers. Fresh and local, seasonal and organic. Ingredients grow next door, on the organic farm adjacent the academy. Bamboo skewers are hewn on site. Banana plants yield fruit, of course, but also the leaves in which fish is wrapped and grilled. “This is what real people do in their own kitchen,” says cooking instructor Nittaya “Nid” Papasak. “We do not teach you commercial Thai cooking.”

Budding

Tastes

Is a cooking school on the outskirts of Chiang Mai the recipe for reviving traditional Thai cuisine? KAREN J. COATES signs up to find out. Photographed by JERRY REDFERN

THAILAND

Mastering Menus Left: Som tam, Thailand’s spicy papaya salad; Japanese students from an international school gets some hands-on experience.

86

OCTO B E R 2 0 0 9| T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E S E A . C O M

Since January 2008, the Prem Organic Cooking Academy has taught traditional cooking and farming techniques to visiting schoolchildren from around the world. Students learn how to make their own coconut milk, how to deter pests from plants using a naturally derived wood vinegar and how to irrigate fields. It’s all new stuff to the primarily citybred kids who visit Prem on field trips from other international schools in the region. Touching plants, admiring insects, “and just really learning where food comes from”—this is what farm coordinator Sheena Jackson hopes to inspire in youngsters. That disconnect between people and food is what inspired San Diego–based chef, restaurateur and award-winning cookbook author Su-Mei Yu to establish the cooking academy at Prem, whose 36-hectare setting amid traditional Thai farming villages presents an apt backdrop for teaching the life cycle of food—from seeds in the ground to curry in the pot. Yu is friends with Mom Luang Tri Devakul, who started a school now known as the Prem Center for International Education. “He fell in love with food, and when he founded the school he also started a vast organic farm, originally for his own use,” she says. The garden became so prolific, it began to feed the school canteen. Things grew from there. “It seems like a natural path to combine the farm with a cooking school,” she says. Yu, who grew up in Bangkok and moved to the U.S. as a teenager, wants to help preserve the Thai traditions she learned as a child—not just kitchen techniques, but reverence for the environment. “Families don’t cook anymore,” Yu says. She wants kids to know where their food comes from, how it grows, that it’s part of nature and that people are part of nature, too. Visit a Bangkok supermarket, and the consumer has no idea where the food originated. It’s the same problem Yu sees in America—a concern quickly spreading through Asia as countries develop, affluence grows, diets change and health deteriorates. Numerous studies in recent years point to alarming increases in obesity, diabetes and heart disease among Asians, particularly in Thailand, which also has the region’s highest rate of adulthood obesity. According to a 2006 report in British medical journal The Lancet, these trends are linked to rapid shifts in diet, behavioral changes among the young, increased consumption of fast food and sedentary lifestyles. Preparing Thai food properly requires the cook’s attention; it’s not an instant cuisine. Head 700 kilometers south to Nonthaburi, just outside of Bangkok, and cooking instructor Prasan Fargrajang of The Thai House cooking school and homestay will tell you all about the life she knew as a child. Grocery boats floated down the canal behind her home, and neighbors spent long days working together in the kitchen. No more, she says. “The life of the village has changed.” »

‘Families don’t cook anymore,’ the school’s founder says. She wants kids to KNOW where their food comes from

Cooking Farm From top: Some hand-picked miniature eggplant used in Thai curries; preparing vegetables for a cooking class; goats in residence at the Prem academy.

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

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C O M| O C T O B E R 2 0 0 9

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Physical and mental health are important elements of Thai food CULTURE

Food Cycles From top: An attentive class at the cooking school; a kratai, or traditional Thai coconut scraper; students learn by doing, preparing ingredients before they cook.

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PREM ACADEMY BEGINS ITS LESSONS ON THE ground, exploring the farm. “There’s a whole world of things growing out here,” Jackson says—tomatoes, bitter melon, cucumbers, cabbage, squash gourds, eggplants, lemongrass, sweet basil, galangal and chilies, “because no meal is complete without them.” In and among it all graze the goats, cows and resident buffalo, with regular visits from migrating birds and a few wild boars. It smells like a farm, hot and damp and recently fertilized with a fresh coat of manure. Jackson ducks around an ivy gourd to examine a preying mantis, a natural pest control. Here on the farm, students chat with local farmers and learn of their lifestyles, “that it’s actually hard work,” Jackson says. They help build bridges and they see composting at work—putting to use the food scraps of 500 people on campus each day. It’s all of a system, all part of Prem’s farmto-table philosophy. Yu has many plans for expansion. Beginning this month, Prem will offer high-end, intensive cooking and cultural courses aimed at adult tourists. Some classes will be timed to coincide with particular Thai holidays, such as this month’s annual vegetarian festival. Participants will spend a couple of days in the kitchen, learning to cook traditional Thai vegetarian recipes and also the foods offered as alms to Buddhist monks at local temples. The course will include temple visits, blessings from monks and meals with villagers. Buddhism permeates Thai culture, and the people take their duty to the monks seriously. The Thais rise early each morning to give offerings of food to saffroncloaked monks. Physical and mental health are equally important elements of Thailand’s food culture, and another component of the Prem adult courses will focus on the growing interest among foreigners for herbal medicine, meditation and massage. In one instance, researchers from Kyoto University found that more than three quarters of plants commonly used in Thai cooking—particularly species in the ginger and citrus families—contain substantial tumor-fighting properties. Another study found that galangal, lemongrass and kaffir lime—key ingredients in tom yam—interact in a way that enhances the plants’ disease-fighting abilities. Yu says Thais traditionally care for the body through food. Seasonality also is key. At home and in restaurants, menus are based on what’s fresh and locally available. “Each season gives us a different flavor of Thai food,” she says. Many of the Prem recipes depend upon what’s growing on the farm— or even wild, along the roadside fence. In its new programs, the Academy will design customized cooking classes based on when a traveler arrives. In addition, Yu hopes to offer seven-day immersion courses HE

so students have time to cook in village homes and meet the elders to learn their stories. She’s also starting a monthly organic market on campus, where neighboring villagers can sell homegrown produce and traditional crafts, interacting with the visitors at the same time. “We would like to make it more than just a cooking school,” Yu says. But she can’t do it alone, and she can’t do it best from a distance. So Yu snapped up Kyle Cornforth from Alice Waters’s Edibile Schoolyard in Berkeley, California, and hired her as the new director of both the Prem Cooking Academy and Farm. Cornforth found her calling while watching kids discover the pleasure of vegetables growing in the Edible Schoolyard garden. “I have so many stories of kids saying, ‘I can’t believe it. I’ve never seen a tomato growing on a plant,’” she says. “I think it’s really about educating kids.” Back in the Prem kitchen, teenagers crowd around chef instructor Malee Devakul na Ayudhya on the floor as she demonstrates the proper use of a kratai. It’s a little wooden stool with a sharp blade used for grinding coconuts the way her grandma did—before everything was packaged and sold by the bag and can. It’s essential to sit on the kratai diagonally, not straddled like a horse, or the stool might tip. “It’s very dangerous,” Malee says. She cups half a coconut in her hands and turns it inward toward the blade, rotating the

nut in a rounded motion. “Move your wrist, not the whole arm,” she explains. “Follow the curve.” Now the kids get their turn. “OK, get down. Take off your shoes and get down.” The room fills with whispers and giggles as the students maneuver each shell over a sharp blade. Slowly, their big enamel basins fill with mounds of shaved white nutmeat, which is squeezed through cheesecloth in order to extract the cream. “Look at that color,” Malee says, explaining the difference between rich coconut cream and the thinner milk that comes from a second pressing. “Coconut cream is thicker. It has more fat, it has more oil in it,” she says. The students sink their arms into the milky mess, mushing the mixture with their bare hands. Instructor Nittaya Papasak eyes the kids and smiles. Coconut appeases more than just the palate. “It’s good for your skin,” she says, revealing the Thai woman’s secret to silky, soft hands. ✚

GUIDE TO COOKING IN CHIANG MAI Prem Organic Cooking Academy Courses include cooking classes and cultural programs, a five-night stay at Prem, local transportation, use of a herbal spa and three dinners.

234 Moo 3, Huay Sai Rd., Mae Rim; cooking.premcenter. org; 66-53/301-500; four-day cooking courses, including accommodation, from US$2,100 per person.


t+l journal

| food

T

Physical and mental health are important elements of Thai food CULTURE

Food Cycles From top: An attentive class at the cooking school; a kratai, or traditional Thai coconut scraper; students learn by doing, preparing ingredients before they cook.

88

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PREM ACADEMY BEGINS ITS LESSONS ON THE ground, exploring the farm. “There’s a whole world of things growing out here,” Jackson says—tomatoes, bitter melon, cucumbers, cabbage, squash gourds, eggplants, lemongrass, sweet basil, galangal and chilies, “because no meal is complete without them.” In and among it all graze the goats, cows and resident buffalo, with regular visits from migrating birds and a few wild boars. It smells like a farm, hot and damp and recently fertilized with a fresh coat of manure. Jackson ducks around an ivy gourd to examine a preying mantis, a natural pest control. Here on the farm, students chat with local farmers and learn of their lifestyles, “that it’s actually hard work,” Jackson says. They help build bridges and they see composting at work—putting to use the food scraps of 500 people on campus each day. It’s all of a system, all part of Prem’s farmto-table philosophy. Yu has many plans for expansion. Beginning this month, Prem will offer high-end, intensive cooking and cultural courses aimed at adult tourists. Some classes will be timed to coincide with particular Thai holidays, such as this month’s annual vegetarian festival. Participants will spend a couple of days in the kitchen, learning to cook traditional Thai vegetarian recipes and also the foods offered as alms to Buddhist monks at local temples. The course will include temple visits, blessings from monks and meals with villagers. Buddhism permeates Thai culture, and the people take their duty to the monks seriously. The Thais rise early each morning to give offerings of food to saffroncloaked monks. Physical and mental health are equally important elements of Thailand’s food culture, and another component of the Prem adult courses will focus on the growing interest among foreigners for herbal medicine, meditation and massage. In one instance, researchers from Kyoto University found that more than three quarters of plants commonly used in Thai cooking—particularly species in the ginger and citrus families—contain substantial tumor-fighting properties. Another study found that galangal, lemongrass and kaffir lime—key ingredients in tom yam—interact in a way that enhances the plants’ disease-fighting abilities. Yu says Thais traditionally care for the body through food. Seasonality also is key. At home and in restaurants, menus are based on what’s fresh and locally available. “Each season gives us a different flavor of Thai food,” she says. Many of the Prem recipes depend upon what’s growing on the farm— or even wild, along the roadside fence. In its new programs, the Academy will design customized cooking classes based on when a traveler arrives. In addition, Yu hopes to offer seven-day immersion courses HE

so students have time to cook in village homes and meet the elders to learn their stories. She’s also starting a monthly organic market on campus, where neighboring villagers can sell homegrown produce and traditional crafts, interacting with the visitors at the same time. “We would like to make it more than just a cooking school,” Yu says. But she can’t do it alone, and she can’t do it best from a distance. So Yu snapped up Kyle Cornforth from Alice Waters’s Edibile Schoolyard in Berkeley, California, and hired her as the new director of both the Prem Cooking Academy and Farm. Cornforth found her calling while watching kids discover the pleasure of vegetables growing in the Edible Schoolyard garden. “I have so many stories of kids saying, ‘I can’t believe it. I’ve never seen a tomato growing on a plant,’” she says. “I think it’s really about educating kids.” Back in the Prem kitchen, teenagers crowd around chef instructor Malee Devakul na Ayudhya on the floor as she demonstrates the proper use of a kratai. It’s a little wooden stool with a sharp blade used for grinding coconuts the way her grandma did—before everything was packaged and sold by the bag and can. It’s essential to sit on the kratai diagonally, not straddled like a horse, or the stool might tip. “It’s very dangerous,” Malee says. She cups half a coconut in her hands and turns it inward toward the blade, rotating the

nut in a rounded motion. “Move your wrist, not the whole arm,” she explains. “Follow the curve.” Now the kids get their turn. “OK, get down. Take off your shoes and get down.” The room fills with whispers and giggles as the students maneuver each shell over a sharp blade. Slowly, their big enamel basins fill with mounds of shaved white nutmeat, which is squeezed through cheesecloth in order to extract the cream. “Look at that color,” Malee says, explaining the difference between rich coconut cream and the thinner milk that comes from a second pressing. “Coconut cream is thicker. It has more fat, it has more oil in it,” she says. The students sink their arms into the milky mess, mushing the mixture with their bare hands. Instructor Nittaya Papasak eyes the kids and smiles. Coconut appeases more than just the palate. “It’s good for your skin,” she says, revealing the Thai woman’s secret to silky, soft hands. ✚

GUIDE TO COOKING IN CHIANG MAI Prem Organic Cooking Academy Courses include cooking classes and cultural programs, a five-night stay at Prem, local transportation, use of a herbal spa and three dinners.

234 Moo 3, Huay Sai Rd., Mae Rim; cooking.premcenter. org; 66-53/301-500; four-day cooking courses, including accommodation, from US$2,100 per person.


IEKJ>;7IJ7I?7

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CRUISING INTO THE HEART OF THE JUNGLE

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Bali Six of the best! Hot new clubs, shops, dining

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OCTOBER 2009

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driving | t+l journal

AUSTRALIA

Poolside at Bannisters Point Lodge, in New South Wales. Inset: Departing Sydney along the Sea Cliff Bridge, the Tasman Sea below.

I L L U S T R AT E D BY M A R K T O D D

Hidden Australia Pristine beaches? Check. Excellent dining? Check. A kangaroo or two? Check. BRUCE SCHOENFELD takes an unexpected turn through New South Wales. Photographed by SCOTT RILEY

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

.

C O M | O C T O B E R

2009

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t+l journal

| driving

Food Route From left: Fresh baguettes at the Berry Sourdough Bakery & Café; the Taiwanese Nan Tien Temple pagoda; dumplings stuffed with bitter greens at the Dew Drop Inn, near the temple. Opposite page from left: A kangaroo at Pebbly Beach, south of Mollymook; Marseilles-style bouillabaisse at Berry Sourdough Bakery & Café; on Grand Pacific Drive between Berry and Kiama.

T

HINKING BACK ON IT, I’M SURPRISED THAT I was persuaded to leave Sydney. I’d barely arrived in one of the world’s great food cities before I was edging south through its suburbs toward a Sunday lunch two hours away. I suppose part of the explanation is that planning lunch is one of my great passions, coming hard on the heels of actually eating it. And when an Aussie sommelier I knew recommended a restaurant in Kiama and proposed to drive us there past a stretch of stunningly scenic coastline, I was tempted. That may sound silly to you, but I live in one of those big, rectangular states in America’s heartland, a plane flight away from any beach worthy of its name. I knew that the coastal route north from Sydney is welltraveled. But a seaside jaunt in the other direction sounded adventuresome. I made inquiries and learned about a vast Buddhist temple near Wollongong, and a beach full of kangaroos. And I checked out the restaurant in the Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Food Guide, the most helpful dining handbook for a metropolitan area I’ve found. “Beautifully cooked Burrawang lamb loin on a bed of lemon mint risotto,” it teased. I was in before I had finished the review.

92

The sommelier wasn’t, though. He canceled last-minute, citing work demands, and so that afternoon drive turned into a three-day, two-night solo road trip down to Batemans Bay. If I was going to leave the city for a lunch, I figured, I might as well have several. And that’s how I came to see Sydney in my rearview mirror after only just saying hello. But it was morning, the sun was shining and there was a sparkling ocean out my left window.

DAY SYDNEY TO MOLLYMOOK 1 (225 KILOMETERS) There’s a name for this stretch along the Tasman Sea: the Grand Pacific Drive, it turned out. It’s part of a government effort to redirect leisure travelers south of Sydney onto a coastal highway. The route starts just outside the city, but only breaks free of congestion an hour on, when Lawrence Hargrave Drive spurs off the Southern Freeway and winds to the water. That brought me through a run of old coalmining towns that now exist as a kind of delightfully gentrified exurbia. Houses are handsome but not overly grand; restaurants seem reliant on local custom. Just beyond the roundabouts of Wollongong I found the

Nan Tien Temple, which belongs to the Taiwanese Fo Guang Shan sect. It was an enormous, perfectly rendered, archetypal Chinese temple, the kind I’d always assumed I’d need to visit China to see. Said to be the Southern Hemisphere’s largest Buddhist shrine, it’s billed as an international tourist attraction; busloads of Asian visitors were scattered about the grounds. Yet I was surprised to feel an overwhelming sense of serenity, almost solitude, as I wandered around. I gaped at the eight-story pagoda and the 10,000 images of Buddha, silently considered the lotus pond, then repaired to the tearoom for osmanthus oolong and dumplings stuffed with bitter greens. Fifteen minutes south is Kiama, a town of pine trees and crafts shops. I found my restaurant along the main street, but from the moment I arrived it felt wrong. The clientele consisted of three beer drinkers and two schoolgirls nibbling what looked like frozen pizza. I saw no Burrawang lamb, no mint risotto. “It’s Sunday,” the disengaged server shrugged. “Lunch on Sunday should be something special,” writes Keith Waterhouse in his now out-of-print The Theory and Practice of Lunch, a book that I live by. This one wasn’t going to be. Fortunately, I had a backup in store. About 24

kilometers southwest is the pleasantly kitschy town of Berry and its Berry Sourdough Bakery & Café. The menu was small but ambitious—saltimbocca, duck rillettes, complicated pizzas. I chose bouillabaisse, Marseilles-style, with mussels, scallops, prawns, potatoes, fennel and cayenne pepper. All I lacked was wine, but the restaurant is bring your own, alas. I struggled not to notice the two bottles emptying at the next table. Late that afternoon, I checked in to Bannisters Point Lodge, a motel recast as a stylish resort. The 31 rooms are all white and wicker, and their double-size wooden decks overlook the Pacific. Down a flight of stairs is a saltwater infinity pool, where I swam and watched the waves through a tangle of banksia trees. Later, I dined there on yellowfin with papaya slaw and drank steely Clare Valley Riesling from Skillogalee while considering the magnitude of this vast and multifarious country. How many wonderfully pleasurable experiences were hidden, like this one, in plain sight: an easy drive from a major city, with scant mention in the guidebooks and no public relations campaign, just wordof-mouth to keep the business coming? I raised a glass to my sommelier friend who’d sent me south. »

93


t+l journal

| driving

Food Route From left: Fresh baguettes at the Berry Sourdough Bakery & Café; the Taiwanese Nan Tien Temple pagoda; dumplings stuffed with bitter greens at the Dew Drop Inn, near the temple. Opposite page from left: A kangaroo at Pebbly Beach, south of Mollymook; Marseilles-style bouillabaisse at Berry Sourdough Bakery & Café; on Grand Pacific Drive between Berry and Kiama.

T

HINKING BACK ON IT, I’M SURPRISED THAT I was persuaded to leave Sydney. I’d barely arrived in one of the world’s great food cities before I was edging south through its suburbs toward a Sunday lunch two hours away. I suppose part of the explanation is that planning lunch is one of my great passions, coming hard on the heels of actually eating it. And when an Aussie sommelier I knew recommended a restaurant in Kiama and proposed to drive us there past a stretch of stunningly scenic coastline, I was tempted. That may sound silly to you, but I live in one of those big, rectangular states in America’s heartland, a plane flight away from any beach worthy of its name. I knew that the coastal route north from Sydney is welltraveled. But a seaside jaunt in the other direction sounded adventuresome. I made inquiries and learned about a vast Buddhist temple near Wollongong, and a beach full of kangaroos. And I checked out the restaurant in the Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Food Guide, the most helpful dining handbook for a metropolitan area I’ve found. “Beautifully cooked Burrawang lamb loin on a bed of lemon mint risotto,” it teased. I was in before I had finished the review.

92

The sommelier wasn’t, though. He canceled last-minute, citing work demands, and so that afternoon drive turned into a three-day, two-night solo road trip down to Batemans Bay. If I was going to leave the city for a lunch, I figured, I might as well have several. And that’s how I came to see Sydney in my rearview mirror after only just saying hello. But it was morning, the sun was shining and there was a sparkling ocean out my left window.

DAY SYDNEY TO MOLLYMOOK 1 (225 KILOMETERS) There’s a name for this stretch along the Tasman Sea: the Grand Pacific Drive, it turned out. It’s part of a government effort to redirect leisure travelers south of Sydney onto a coastal highway. The route starts just outside the city, but only breaks free of congestion an hour on, when Lawrence Hargrave Drive spurs off the Southern Freeway and winds to the water. That brought me through a run of old coalmining towns that now exist as a kind of delightfully gentrified exurbia. Houses are handsome but not overly grand; restaurants seem reliant on local custom. Just beyond the roundabouts of Wollongong I found the

Nan Tien Temple, which belongs to the Taiwanese Fo Guang Shan sect. It was an enormous, perfectly rendered, archetypal Chinese temple, the kind I’d always assumed I’d need to visit China to see. Said to be the Southern Hemisphere’s largest Buddhist shrine, it’s billed as an international tourist attraction; busloads of Asian visitors were scattered about the grounds. Yet I was surprised to feel an overwhelming sense of serenity, almost solitude, as I wandered around. I gaped at the eight-story pagoda and the 10,000 images of Buddha, silently considered the lotus pond, then repaired to the tearoom for osmanthus oolong and dumplings stuffed with bitter greens. Fifteen minutes south is Kiama, a town of pine trees and crafts shops. I found my restaurant along the main street, but from the moment I arrived it felt wrong. The clientele consisted of three beer drinkers and two schoolgirls nibbling what looked like frozen pizza. I saw no Burrawang lamb, no mint risotto. “It’s Sunday,” the disengaged server shrugged. “Lunch on Sunday should be something special,” writes Keith Waterhouse in his now out-of-print The Theory and Practice of Lunch, a book that I live by. This one wasn’t going to be. Fortunately, I had a backup in store. About 24

kilometers southwest is the pleasantly kitschy town of Berry and its Berry Sourdough Bakery & Café. The menu was small but ambitious—saltimbocca, duck rillettes, complicated pizzas. I chose bouillabaisse, Marseilles-style, with mussels, scallops, prawns, potatoes, fennel and cayenne pepper. All I lacked was wine, but the restaurant is bring your own, alas. I struggled not to notice the two bottles emptying at the next table. Late that afternoon, I checked in to Bannisters Point Lodge, a motel recast as a stylish resort. The 31 rooms are all white and wicker, and their double-size wooden decks overlook the Pacific. Down a flight of stairs is a saltwater infinity pool, where I swam and watched the waves through a tangle of banksia trees. Later, I dined there on yellowfin with papaya slaw and drank steely Clare Valley Riesling from Skillogalee while considering the magnitude of this vast and multifarious country. How many wonderfully pleasurable experiences were hidden, like this one, in plain sight: an easy drive from a major city, with scant mention in the guidebooks and no public relations campaign, just wordof-mouth to keep the business coming? I raised a glass to my sommelier friend who’d sent me south. »

93


t+l journal

NOW IN SOUTHEAST ASIA

| driving

Going Coastal From left: Breakfast and a flat white at Fresh at the Bay, on Jervis Bay; Jervis Bay, as seen from Hyams Beach, off Princes Highway; one of 12 luxury two-person tents at Woollamia’s Paperbark Camp.

DAY A LOOP FROM MOLLYMOOK TO 2 HUSKISSON (162 KILOMETERS) Up close, kangaroos are less the cuddly cartoon animals they’re made out to be than frighteningly large beasts with the scowl of a nightclub bouncer and the hindquarters of a mule. By up close, I mean from a distance of less than two meters, which is where I found myself Monday morning in Murramarang National Park. I’d awakened to a symphony of birdcalls, breakfasted on passion fruit and sencha tea (I’m not nearly that abstemious; my bacon never arrived), and left Bannisters with the goal of reaching the park before the kangaroos vanished for the day. I needn’t have hurried. On Pebbly Beach, they linger under old-growth trees late into the afternoon. After my face-to-face encounter, I jumped into my Ford Falcon—remember those?—and headed back to Princes Highway on a dirt road where I spotted seven more kangaroos in the underbrush.

Batemans Bay sits on an estuary of the Clyde River. A cross between a tourist town and a fishing village, it seemed both relaxed and orderly, like Key West gone Canadian. At the Pearly Oyster Bar, I ordered a dozen Sydney Rocks for A$13 and checked them out with scientific detachment. They were larger than average, mildly briny, perfectly good but ultimately disappointing. Unsated, I crossed the road to the North St. Café and Bar, a tiny establishment of a few metal tables. Soon I was feasting on squid salad with dried cherries, followed by pan-fried John Dory and vanilla-bean panna cotta with poached fruit. The meal was satisfying, but the friendliness of the patrons is what I’ll remember. Without fail, everyone who stepped inside flashed me a smile. Either unfamiliar faces are an uncommon sight in this corner of Australia, or locals here are just wired that way. Heading back north after lunch, I guided my Falcon into the wild. The inland loop roughly paralleled the highway

GUIDE TO NEW SOUTH WALES INSIDER TIPS The Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Food Guide, available at most local bookstores in the state, is a necessity for dining well in the area. WHERE TO STAY Bannisters Point Lodge 191 Mitchell Parade, Mollymook; 612/4455-3044; bannisters.com.au; doubles from A$230. Paperbark Camp 571 Woollamia Rd., Woollamia; 61-2/4441-6066;

94

paperbarkcamp.com.au; luxury two-person tents from A$340. WHERE TO EAT Berry Sourdough Bakery & Café 23 Prince Alfred St., Berry; 61-2/4464-1617; lunch for two A$47. Fresh at the Bay 64 Owen St., Huskisson; 61-2/4441-5245; breakfast for two A$35. Iceberg’s Dining Room & Bar 1 Notts Ave., Bondi Beach; 61-

OCTO B E R 2 0 0 9| T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E S E A . C O M

2/9365-9000; idrb.com; lunch for two A$154. Kangaroo Valley Fudge House & Ice Creamery Sixty flavors of fudge await. 158 Moss Vale Rd., Kangaroo Valley; 61-2/4465-1375.

WHAT TO SEE AND DO Coolangatta Estate Tastings and self-guided tours are free of charge at this small winery. 1335 Bolong Rd., Shoalhaven Heads; 612/4448-7131.

North St. Café & Bar 5 North St., Batemans Bay; 61-2/44725710; lunch for two A$42.

Fo Guang Shan Nan Tien Temple Berkeley Rd., Berkeley; 61-2/42720600. Closed Mondays.

Pearly Oyster Bar and Farm 6 North St., Batemans Bay; 612/4472-4233; oysters for two from A$23.

Murramarang National Park Off Princes Hwy. at East Lynne; 612/4478-6582; the vehicle entry fee is A$7.

over rutted dirt roads, and it featured a stream that needed fording. I took the risk, bumping along the Clyde through dense forest, then held my breath as I rumbled through shin-deep water. I emerged in an open pasture of vibrant green backed by the impossibly blue sea, colors I’d encountered only in a box of crayons. The detour had taken 90 minutes, but it felt like I’d visited another world, a primeval Australia that had hardly changed in millennia. Had I rudimentary knowledge and keener eyes, I’m sure I would have spotted one example after another of flora and fauna that don’t exist back home. Twenty minutes up Princes Highway, Hyams Beach is reputed to have the world’s whitest sand. And it is white, platinum-blond white, bridal-gown white. I took a lateafternoon walk, the sand squeaking under my feet, and reveled in the wide-open arc of beach, the waves rolling in to shore, the gulls clattering. Paperbark Camp, my hotel just north of Huskisson in nearby Woollamia, had an entirely different feel. Guests stay in luxury tents—some have king-size beds and soaking tubs, and all are powered by solar energy—and sleep zipped up tight against mosquitoes. Clutching my wind-up flashlight in the darkness, I walked beneath the pinpricks of unfamiliar stars to the Gunyah, an indooroutdoor wood-and–corrugated-iron restaurant that serves as the hotel’s centerpiece. I ate a kangaroo starter, then a curiously appealing mix of squid, beef, chilis and seaweed.

DAY HUSKISSON TO SYDNEY 3 (185 KILOMETERS) I skipped breakfast at Paperbark for my long-awaited bacon at Fresh at the Bay, served with a harbor view. North of there, the highway splits. I chose the inland route and followed it behind Cambewarra Mountain. Rounding a bend in bright sunshine, I saw clouds filling a valley 100 meters below, looking like a pile of cotton balls. And then I was in that mist, driving through the tidy town of Kangaroo Valley in a drizzle. I passed a traditional candy shop, the Fudge House & Ice Creamery (I stopped, I sampled), and a row of detailed hobbyhorses outside a woodworker’s studio. It was still summer on the coast, but here it had turned to fall. Leaves had gone tan and brown, and the temperature felt like it had dropped 10 degrees. I longed to be back in that sunny Australia I’d left behind. If I made cursory work of nearby Fitzroy Falls and its glorious, 82-meter drop into the Kangaroo River, I knew I could reach the city by lunch. I opened the Good Food Guide, then called Iceberg’s Dining Room & Bar, which serves exquisite Italian food and overlooks Bondi Beach. Inspired, I pushed north with a purpose. ✚ Bruce Schoenfeld is the T+L (U.S.) wine and spirits editor.

INDULGE YOURSELF

THE WORLD’S LEADING TRAVEL MAGAZINE www.travelandleisuresea.com/subscribe


t+l journal

NOW IN SOUTHEAST ASIA

| driving

Going Coastal From left: Breakfast and a flat white at Fresh at the Bay, on Jervis Bay; Jervis Bay, as seen from Hyams Beach, off Princes Highway; one of 12 luxury two-person tents at Woollamia’s Paperbark Camp.

DAY A LOOP FROM MOLLYMOOK TO 2 HUSKISSON (162 KILOMETERS) Up close, kangaroos are less the cuddly cartoon animals they’re made out to be than frighteningly large beasts with the scowl of a nightclub bouncer and the hindquarters of a mule. By up close, I mean from a distance of less than two meters, which is where I found myself Monday morning in Murramarang National Park. I’d awakened to a symphony of birdcalls, breakfasted on passion fruit and sencha tea (I’m not nearly that abstemious; my bacon never arrived), and left Bannisters with the goal of reaching the park before the kangaroos vanished for the day. I needn’t have hurried. On Pebbly Beach, they linger under old-growth trees late into the afternoon. After my face-to-face encounter, I jumped into my Ford Falcon—remember those?—and headed back to Princes Highway on a dirt road where I spotted seven more kangaroos in the underbrush.

Batemans Bay sits on an estuary of the Clyde River. A cross between a tourist town and a fishing village, it seemed both relaxed and orderly, like Key West gone Canadian. At the Pearly Oyster Bar, I ordered a dozen Sydney Rocks for A$13 and checked them out with scientific detachment. They were larger than average, mildly briny, perfectly good but ultimately disappointing. Unsated, I crossed the road to the North St. Café and Bar, a tiny establishment of a few metal tables. Soon I was feasting on squid salad with dried cherries, followed by pan-fried John Dory and vanilla-bean panna cotta with poached fruit. The meal was satisfying, but the friendliness of the patrons is what I’ll remember. Without fail, everyone who stepped inside flashed me a smile. Either unfamiliar faces are an uncommon sight in this corner of Australia, or locals here are just wired that way. Heading back north after lunch, I guided my Falcon into the wild. The inland loop roughly paralleled the highway

GUIDE TO NEW SOUTH WALES INSIDER TIPS The Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Food Guide, available at most local bookstores in the state, is a necessity for dining well in the area. WHERE TO STAY Bannisters Point Lodge 191 Mitchell Parade, Mollymook; 612/4455-3044; bannisters.com.au; doubles from A$230. Paperbark Camp 571 Woollamia Rd., Woollamia; 61-2/4441-6066;

94

paperbarkcamp.com.au; luxury two-person tents from A$340. WHERE TO EAT Berry Sourdough Bakery & Café 23 Prince Alfred St., Berry; 61-2/4464-1617; lunch for two A$47. Fresh at the Bay 64 Owen St., Huskisson; 61-2/4441-5245; breakfast for two A$35. Iceberg’s Dining Room & Bar 1 Notts Ave., Bondi Beach; 61-

OCTO B E R 2 0 0 9| T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E S E A . C O M

2/9365-9000; idrb.com; lunch for two A$154. Kangaroo Valley Fudge House & Ice Creamery Sixty flavors of fudge await. 158 Moss Vale Rd., Kangaroo Valley; 61-2/4465-1375.

WHAT TO SEE AND DO Coolangatta Estate Tastings and self-guided tours are free of charge at this small winery. 1335 Bolong Rd., Shoalhaven Heads; 612/4448-7131.

North St. Café & Bar 5 North St., Batemans Bay; 61-2/44725710; lunch for two A$42.

Fo Guang Shan Nan Tien Temple Berkeley Rd., Berkeley; 61-2/42720600. Closed Mondays.

Pearly Oyster Bar and Farm 6 North St., Batemans Bay; 612/4472-4233; oysters for two from A$23.

Murramarang National Park Off Princes Hwy. at East Lynne; 612/4478-6582; the vehicle entry fee is A$7.

over rutted dirt roads, and it featured a stream that needed fording. I took the risk, bumping along the Clyde through dense forest, then held my breath as I rumbled through shin-deep water. I emerged in an open pasture of vibrant green backed by the impossibly blue sea, colors I’d encountered only in a box of crayons. The detour had taken 90 minutes, but it felt like I’d visited another world, a primeval Australia that had hardly changed in millennia. Had I rudimentary knowledge and keener eyes, I’m sure I would have spotted one example after another of flora and fauna that don’t exist back home. Twenty minutes up Princes Highway, Hyams Beach is reputed to have the world’s whitest sand. And it is white, platinum-blond white, bridal-gown white. I took a lateafternoon walk, the sand squeaking under my feet, and reveled in the wide-open arc of beach, the waves rolling in to shore, the gulls clattering. Paperbark Camp, my hotel just north of Huskisson in nearby Woollamia, had an entirely different feel. Guests stay in luxury tents—some have king-size beds and soaking tubs, and all are powered by solar energy—and sleep zipped up tight against mosquitoes. Clutching my wind-up flashlight in the darkness, I walked beneath the pinpricks of unfamiliar stars to the Gunyah, an indooroutdoor wood-and–corrugated-iron restaurant that serves as the hotel’s centerpiece. I ate a kangaroo starter, then a curiously appealing mix of squid, beef, chilis and seaweed.

DAY HUSKISSON TO SYDNEY 3 (185 KILOMETERS) I skipped breakfast at Paperbark for my long-awaited bacon at Fresh at the Bay, served with a harbor view. North of there, the highway splits. I chose the inland route and followed it behind Cambewarra Mountain. Rounding a bend in bright sunshine, I saw clouds filling a valley 100 meters below, looking like a pile of cotton balls. And then I was in that mist, driving through the tidy town of Kangaroo Valley in a drizzle. I passed a traditional candy shop, the Fudge House & Ice Creamery (I stopped, I sampled), and a row of detailed hobbyhorses outside a woodworker’s studio. It was still summer on the coast, but here it had turned to fall. Leaves had gone tan and brown, and the temperature felt like it had dropped 10 degrees. I longed to be back in that sunny Australia I’d left behind. If I made cursory work of nearby Fitzroy Falls and its glorious, 82-meter drop into the Kangaroo River, I knew I could reach the city by lunch. I opened the Good Food Guide, then called Iceberg’s Dining Room & Bar, which serves exquisite Italian food and overlooks Bondi Beach. Inspired, I pushed north with a purpose. ✚ Bruce Schoenfeld is the T+L (U.S.) wine and spirits editor.

INDULGE YOURSELF

THE WORLD’S LEADING TRAVEL MAGAZINE www.travelandleisuresea.com/subscribe


t+l journal

| asian scene

A

PHILIPPINES

A Weekend

Beach

Close to Manila, Puerto Galera aims to be all things to all visitors. Best of all, it’s a great place for a break. By JOAN C. BULAUITAN. Photographed by JOHN LANDER 96

OCTO B E R 2 0 0 9| T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E S E A . C O M

S MY OUTRIGGER SETTLES A FEW METERS

away from shore and I hop into a punt along with a dozen or so other passengers, I notice one thing: Puerto Galera has changed. It’s not as frenetic as I recall. It’s not as brown with sun-soaked locals as it once was. This is not the Puerto Galera I knew. When locals talk about Puerto Galera, they often refer to White Beach, with its gently sloping buff sand beach and all-night party scene. This time, I’m in Sabang, its insouciant first cousin, and evidently the beach of choice of foreign visitors, who come for the fantastic diving. Both are in the coastal town of Puerto Galera, a popular weekend destination on Mindoro Oriental southwest of Manila. The trip consists of a two-hour bus ride from Manila to the Batangas harbor and another hour by boat to the island. Sabang can hardly be described as sleepy, considering the string of thatched-roof resorts, lantern-lit restaurants and professional dive shops that line its shore, stretching all the way to the adjacent beaches of Small and Big Lalaguna. But the overall vibe is calm, with Inspector Mills and Bohemian Rhapsody the soundtracks of choice. The only other sound within earshot is the crescendo of squeals from local kids playing tag. This late in the afternoon, the wait staff of every bar in White Beach beckons passersby to try out their shooters. Here, I see no sign of anything resembling happy hour. And, thankfully, no touts offering to plait my hair into cornrows. During a hot and sticky 10-minute stroll along the coral and pebble sand beach, I run into a vendor carrying two plastic pails of large, live crabs and another balancing a buri tray of oranges on her head, both meditatively walking and showing off their goods but never peddling. Most residents, locals and expats, know one another. This sense of camaraderie naturally extends to tourists, who nod to each other in recognition even if all they have shared is a boat ride from Batangas port. After reviving myself with a cold shower, I sit idly on a cushioned bamboo chair at El Galleon resort, watching the anchored white outrigger boats sway in the water while the blue wash of the overcast sky fades into a faint grey. Silhouettes of returning divers saunter back against the quickening darkness. Some of their mates are already at The Point, downing cocktails and soaking in the sweeping vista. This is what I’ve been missing while I was out partying on other beaches. Puerto Galera, I realize, can chill out with the best of them. Over breakfast the next day, I meet El Galleon restaurant’s executive chef, Julius Quimpo, who regales me with stories of his previous day’s jaunt, including the discovery of a nearby resort called Buri. I had planned to check out the scene at White Beach so he arranges for his boatman, Elmer, to take me to both places and other beaches along the way that may be worth visiting. »

Break Time From top: The Floating Bar; beach-side activities await; a fauxEuropean resort; the catch of the day. Opposite: One of Puerto Galera’s beaches.

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

.

C O M| O C T O B E R 2 0 0 9

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t+l journal

| asian scene

A

PHILIPPINES

A Weekend

Beach

Close to Manila, Puerto Galera aims to be all things to all visitors. Best of all, it’s a great place for a break. By JOAN C. BULAUITAN. Photographed by JOHN LANDER 96

OCTO B E R 2 0 0 9| T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E S E A . C O M

S MY OUTRIGGER SETTLES A FEW METERS

away from shore and I hop into a punt along with a dozen or so other passengers, I notice one thing: Puerto Galera has changed. It’s not as frenetic as I recall. It’s not as brown with sun-soaked locals as it once was. This is not the Puerto Galera I knew. When locals talk about Puerto Galera, they often refer to White Beach, with its gently sloping buff sand beach and all-night party scene. This time, I’m in Sabang, its insouciant first cousin, and evidently the beach of choice of foreign visitors, who come for the fantastic diving. Both are in the coastal town of Puerto Galera, a popular weekend destination on Mindoro Oriental southwest of Manila. The trip consists of a two-hour bus ride from Manila to the Batangas harbor and another hour by boat to the island. Sabang can hardly be described as sleepy, considering the string of thatched-roof resorts, lantern-lit restaurants and professional dive shops that line its shore, stretching all the way to the adjacent beaches of Small and Big Lalaguna. But the overall vibe is calm, with Inspector Mills and Bohemian Rhapsody the soundtracks of choice. The only other sound within earshot is the crescendo of squeals from local kids playing tag. This late in the afternoon, the wait staff of every bar in White Beach beckons passersby to try out their shooters. Here, I see no sign of anything resembling happy hour. And, thankfully, no touts offering to plait my hair into cornrows. During a hot and sticky 10-minute stroll along the coral and pebble sand beach, I run into a vendor carrying two plastic pails of large, live crabs and another balancing a buri tray of oranges on her head, both meditatively walking and showing off their goods but never peddling. Most residents, locals and expats, know one another. This sense of camaraderie naturally extends to tourists, who nod to each other in recognition even if all they have shared is a boat ride from Batangas port. After reviving myself with a cold shower, I sit idly on a cushioned bamboo chair at El Galleon resort, watching the anchored white outrigger boats sway in the water while the blue wash of the overcast sky fades into a faint grey. Silhouettes of returning divers saunter back against the quickening darkness. Some of their mates are already at The Point, downing cocktails and soaking in the sweeping vista. This is what I’ve been missing while I was out partying on other beaches. Puerto Galera, I realize, can chill out with the best of them. Over breakfast the next day, I meet El Galleon restaurant’s executive chef, Julius Quimpo, who regales me with stories of his previous day’s jaunt, including the discovery of a nearby resort called Buri. I had planned to check out the scene at White Beach so he arranges for his boatman, Elmer, to take me to both places and other beaches along the way that may be worth visiting. »

Break Time From top: The Floating Bar; beach-side activities await; a fauxEuropean resort; the catch of the day. Opposite: One of Puerto Galera’s beaches.

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Philippine Dreams Clockwise from left: The local look when it comes to interior design; handwoven basket work; Puerto Galera’s local transport.

But first, there’s the dive. Quite a number of European and Australian nationals have moved to Puerto Galera because of the first-rate diving. It would be a pity to miss the very reason they’ve made this place their home. So after a quick review of the basics with my instructors Alistair Kernick and Jamie Gladwin of Asia Divers, I ride the boat with them to the dive barely five minutes away. It is my view that every dive spot has a character of its own. Some places are known for their bounty, others their uncommon marine life. Here, it is all about color. As soon as we descend and fin through the cerulean waters, it begins. Lilac, lavender and purple, underscored by olive and chartreuse. The romance of these corals makes them the perfect home to a solitary blue-green parrotfish; troops of latticed butterfly fish the shade of lemon; yellow- and blackstriped angelfish; anemone fish awash with a happy mix of

tangerine and grenadine; and many other reef fish in subdued, bright, sometimes even iridescent shades. Yellowtailed, blue-finned, masked, spotted, ringed, serrated … the variety is astounding. With more than 3,000 species of fish and marine animals around Puerto Galera, the next day’s dive should mean another array of colors and streaks. Its biodiversity exceeds that of the Great Barrier Reef. And with warm waters year-round, it is no surprise that divers come for repeated visits, many even staying for good. Pumped up by the dive, I go to White Beach in an upbeat mood, only to arrive to a downcast scene for a popular resort. The sandy sweep of beach is empty, save for a few couples taking a noontime dip. Maybe the throng will arrive tomorrow, a Saturday, or maybe not. It is the start of low season, after all. I am barely done slathering sunscreen on myself in the

Here, it is all about color. As soon as we descend through the CERULEAN waters, it begins. Lilac, lavender and purple 98

OCTO B E R 2 0 0 9| T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E S E A . C O M

boat when two women start badgering me to get a massage. After successfully shooing them away, I seek out somewhere for lunch and settle at Tia Maria’s, once the favored watering hole of Manila college students, now reduced to an empty beach shack. Even without a crowd, there’s no denying that this beach is a party zone. Rihanna and Chris Brown are blaring on a stereo. Tattoo parlors, bars and clothing stores selling sundresses, shorts and plastic shades abound. A hawker tries to peddle some pearl earrings. After twice refusing, he sits on a bench outside the restaurant across my table and waits, ready to pounce with his sales talk once I’m done with my meal. I lose my appetite. Although Puerto Galera still awaits the arrival of a major brand to give it credence, there are enough signs of development to assure a visitor that he won’t be deprived of certain comforts, even luxuries, including classy accommodations, indulgent spa treatments and good food. I spot the pitched nipa roof of Buri’s villas even from a distance, a compact development that is refreshingly minimal. With its manicured lawn and curtained massage cabanas, it looks like a well-heeled guest amid the rustic cottages that flank it. The finest accommodations are set in two-story villas on a steeply graded hillside above the beach. Gumamela, a villa located near the spa, has two bedrooms with abaca sliding doors, narra bed frames, hardwood parquet tiles and shuttered windows, a flat-screen TV and a sizeable bathroom with rain showerheads. The pool, the spa, the bed—they all look inviting, but with foreboding rain clouds above, we make our way back to Sabang and get caught in a downpour midway. Through the thick curtain of rain, I see several empty coves to the left of Big Lalaguna and realize that privacy is easy to find if only you know where to look. Chef Julius greets me with a warm smile from the open kitchen of El Galleon and invites me to try the Indian buffet he has set up for tonight. Considering how few fine restaurants Sabang has, I’ve been eating exceedingly well. The previous night’s barbecue spareribs at Tamarind restaurant were tender and delicately balanced between sweet and spicy. It was such a hit that not enough was left to serve the big group of Koreans who went there to dine. It’s bright and blustery on my last day in Sabang. On my way to the boat station, avoiding the beach half-buried by tide, the porter guides my way through the jumble that makes up the innards of Sabang’s neighborhood. I am introduced to the discos, tattoo parlors and girlie joints jostling with rickety dwellings, guesthouses to suit every predilection, food stalls, pawnshops and remittance outlets. Like many of the villages I’ve seen around here, houses are built in gradients on the face of the hills. As I contemplate the two faces of the Puerto Galera I’ve come to know, Sabang and White Beach, I recognize that there is a little of each in the other. And while both have their considerable

share of habitués, this town still is largely a place on the verge, as it has been for a long time. It’s hard to tell when, or if, its time to peak will come. Right now, it is just living out its days, and that is somewhat a relief. It assures guests of glorious hours of diving in unspoiled reefs, and long quiet days of sunbathing without a hawker to block the sun. ✚

GUIDE TO PUERTO GALERA GETTING THERE The most convenient way is through Si-Kat Ferries, which will arrange for bus and boat transfers from Manila to Puerto Galera. You may arrange to get off at Sabang or White Beach. 63-2/521-3344; sikatferrybus.com; P1,400 one-way. WHEN TO GO The best time is from December to May when the weather is warm and dry. The waters can be rough from June to October when typhoons and torrential downpours are common. WHERE TO STAY El Galleon Dive Resort Tastefully designed accommodations ranging from budget rooms to luxury apartments are ensconced in lush tropical foliage. Small Lalaguna, Sabang; 63-43/287-3205; asiadivers. com; doubles from US$51. Buri Resort & Spa After its renovation two years ago, rustic cottages have given way to 12 modern villas, some with private plunge pools. Sitio Dalaruan, Puerto Galera; 63-2/840-2245 or 63-2/812-0722; buri-resort.com; doubles from P6,000. WHERE TO EAT Tamarind Restaurant The barbecue spareribs never disappoints, judging from the number of repeat guests who come back for them. Sabang Beach; dinner for two P1,000. El Galleon Restaurant The Indian buffet on Fridays packs it in but the à la carte menu of continental dishes is also highly regarded. Sabang Beach; dinner for two P1,000. Tia Maria’s Best known for its margaritas, also try the Mexican sampler consisting of spareribs, quesadillas, pizza, buffalo wings, flautas, taquitos and nachos. White Beach; dinner for two P700. WHAT TO DO Asia Divers With more than 3,000 species of fish and marine animals, Puerto Galera is still one of the Philippines’ premier diving destinations, and the most accessible from Manila. This professionally run dive shop, established since 1987, offers top-notch beginner and instructor courses. Small Lalaguna, Sabang; 63-43/287-3205; asiadivers.com; scuba courses from US$37. Tukuran Hidden Paradise tours Trips to a set of scenic rapids and pools inland can be booked through any hotel and resort. Most tours start with a jeepney ride to a viewpoint and take in a waterfall and an indigenous village before a trek to the rapids where a refreshing swim awaits. Group of six, P1,200 per person. Ponderosa Golf Club Nestled halfway up Mt. Malisimbo at 600 meters above sea level, this nine-hole golf course offers an unobstructed view of Puerto Galera. Try your hand at the game or just arrange for a picnic. Sitio San Isidro; 63-43/442-0032; round of golf P1,000.

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| asian scene

Philippine Dreams Clockwise from left: The local look when it comes to interior design; handwoven basket work; Puerto Galera’s local transport.

But first, there’s the dive. Quite a number of European and Australian nationals have moved to Puerto Galera because of the first-rate diving. It would be a pity to miss the very reason they’ve made this place their home. So after a quick review of the basics with my instructors Alistair Kernick and Jamie Gladwin of Asia Divers, I ride the boat with them to the dive barely five minutes away. It is my view that every dive spot has a character of its own. Some places are known for their bounty, others their uncommon marine life. Here, it is all about color. As soon as we descend and fin through the cerulean waters, it begins. Lilac, lavender and purple, underscored by olive and chartreuse. The romance of these corals makes them the perfect home to a solitary blue-green parrotfish; troops of latticed butterfly fish the shade of lemon; yellow- and blackstriped angelfish; anemone fish awash with a happy mix of

tangerine and grenadine; and many other reef fish in subdued, bright, sometimes even iridescent shades. Yellowtailed, blue-finned, masked, spotted, ringed, serrated … the variety is astounding. With more than 3,000 species of fish and marine animals around Puerto Galera, the next day’s dive should mean another array of colors and streaks. Its biodiversity exceeds that of the Great Barrier Reef. And with warm waters year-round, it is no surprise that divers come for repeated visits, many even staying for good. Pumped up by the dive, I go to White Beach in an upbeat mood, only to arrive to a downcast scene for a popular resort. The sandy sweep of beach is empty, save for a few couples taking a noontime dip. Maybe the throng will arrive tomorrow, a Saturday, or maybe not. It is the start of low season, after all. I am barely done slathering sunscreen on myself in the

Here, it is all about color. As soon as we descend through the CERULEAN waters, it begins. Lilac, lavender and purple 98

OCTO B E R 2 0 0 9| T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E S E A . C O M

boat when two women start badgering me to get a massage. After successfully shooing them away, I seek out somewhere for lunch and settle at Tia Maria’s, once the favored watering hole of Manila college students, now reduced to an empty beach shack. Even without a crowd, there’s no denying that this beach is a party zone. Rihanna and Chris Brown are blaring on a stereo. Tattoo parlors, bars and clothing stores selling sundresses, shorts and plastic shades abound. A hawker tries to peddle some pearl earrings. After twice refusing, he sits on a bench outside the restaurant across my table and waits, ready to pounce with his sales talk once I’m done with my meal. I lose my appetite. Although Puerto Galera still awaits the arrival of a major brand to give it credence, there are enough signs of development to assure a visitor that he won’t be deprived of certain comforts, even luxuries, including classy accommodations, indulgent spa treatments and good food. I spot the pitched nipa roof of Buri’s villas even from a distance, a compact development that is refreshingly minimal. With its manicured lawn and curtained massage cabanas, it looks like a well-heeled guest amid the rustic cottages that flank it. The finest accommodations are set in two-story villas on a steeply graded hillside above the beach. Gumamela, a villa located near the spa, has two bedrooms with abaca sliding doors, narra bed frames, hardwood parquet tiles and shuttered windows, a flat-screen TV and a sizeable bathroom with rain showerheads. The pool, the spa, the bed—they all look inviting, but with foreboding rain clouds above, we make our way back to Sabang and get caught in a downpour midway. Through the thick curtain of rain, I see several empty coves to the left of Big Lalaguna and realize that privacy is easy to find if only you know where to look. Chef Julius greets me with a warm smile from the open kitchen of El Galleon and invites me to try the Indian buffet he has set up for tonight. Considering how few fine restaurants Sabang has, I’ve been eating exceedingly well. The previous night’s barbecue spareribs at Tamarind restaurant were tender and delicately balanced between sweet and spicy. It was such a hit that not enough was left to serve the big group of Koreans who went there to dine. It’s bright and blustery on my last day in Sabang. On my way to the boat station, avoiding the beach half-buried by tide, the porter guides my way through the jumble that makes up the innards of Sabang’s neighborhood. I am introduced to the discos, tattoo parlors and girlie joints jostling with rickety dwellings, guesthouses to suit every predilection, food stalls, pawnshops and remittance outlets. Like many of the villages I’ve seen around here, houses are built in gradients on the face of the hills. As I contemplate the two faces of the Puerto Galera I’ve come to know, Sabang and White Beach, I recognize that there is a little of each in the other. And while both have their considerable

share of habitués, this town still is largely a place on the verge, as it has been for a long time. It’s hard to tell when, or if, its time to peak will come. Right now, it is just living out its days, and that is somewhat a relief. It assures guests of glorious hours of diving in unspoiled reefs, and long quiet days of sunbathing without a hawker to block the sun. ✚

GUIDE TO PUERTO GALERA GETTING THERE The most convenient way is through Si-Kat Ferries, which will arrange for bus and boat transfers from Manila to Puerto Galera. You may arrange to get off at Sabang or White Beach. 63-2/521-3344; sikatferrybus.com; P1,400 one-way. WHEN TO GO The best time is from December to May when the weather is warm and dry. The waters can be rough from June to October when typhoons and torrential downpours are common. WHERE TO STAY El Galleon Dive Resort Tastefully designed accommodations ranging from budget rooms to luxury apartments are ensconced in lush tropical foliage. Small Lalaguna, Sabang; 63-43/287-3205; asiadivers. com; doubles from US$51. Buri Resort & Spa After its renovation two years ago, rustic cottages have given way to 12 modern villas, some with private plunge pools. Sitio Dalaruan, Puerto Galera; 63-2/840-2245 or 63-2/812-0722; buri-resort.com; doubles from P6,000. WHERE TO EAT Tamarind Restaurant The barbecue spareribs never disappoints, judging from the number of repeat guests who come back for them. Sabang Beach; dinner for two P1,000. El Galleon Restaurant The Indian buffet on Fridays packs it in but the à la carte menu of continental dishes is also highly regarded. Sabang Beach; dinner for two P1,000. Tia Maria’s Best known for its margaritas, also try the Mexican sampler consisting of spareribs, quesadillas, pizza, buffalo wings, flautas, taquitos and nachos. White Beach; dinner for two P700. WHAT TO DO Asia Divers With more than 3,000 species of fish and marine animals, Puerto Galera is still one of the Philippines’ premier diving destinations, and the most accessible from Manila. This professionally run dive shop, established since 1987, offers top-notch beginner and instructor courses. Small Lalaguna, Sabang; 63-43/287-3205; asiadivers.com; scuba courses from US$37. Tukuran Hidden Paradise tours Trips to a set of scenic rapids and pools inland can be booked through any hotel and resort. Most tours start with a jeepney ride to a viewpoint and take in a waterfall and an indigenous village before a trek to the rapids where a refreshing swim awaits. Group of six, P1,200 per person. Ponderosa Golf Club Nestled halfway up Mt. Malisimbo at 600 meters above sea level, this nine-hole golf course offers an unobstructed view of Puerto Galera. Try your hand at the game or just arrange for a picnic. Sitio San Isidro; 63-43/442-0032; round of golf P1,000.

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t+l journal

| trendspotting

They are Europe’s tiniest quasicountries, its mountain principalities and experimental utopias, and downright silly Internet-based nations-in-theory—and they are thriving. BRUNO MADDOX reports

T

HE FRANC IS GONE, AND SO IS THE PFENNIG. YET in the ancient cobblestoned streets of the Principality of Seborga, sprawling over 7.2 square kilometers of what could easily be mistaken for northwestern Italy, the nation’s 362 citizens continue to teem and bustle, exchanging the world’s most valuable unit of currency, the luigino (1L = US$6), for goods and services, genuflecting before their monarch, His Tremendousness Prince Giorgio, should he happen to walk past. In Britain and Germany, farmers and grocers sleep fitfully, gnawed at by the EU directive that all bananas must be “free from malformation or abnormal curvature” or otherwise be classified as “Class 2” produce. But in, or on, the Principality of Sealand, Prince Roy and Princess Joan sleep deeply, secure in the knowledge that, if they ever did start selling bananas from their rusting, tennis court–size World War II

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antiaircraft platform anchored 10 kilometers off the coast of southern England, they could sell blackened ones twisted in knots with perfect impunity. For such is one of the less-explored paradoxes of this moment in European history. As recently as 10 years ago, with the EU already in full swing, with nations as mighty as France and Germany voluntarily abolishing their own currencies for the sake of continental unity, it was hard to see a future for Sealand, and Seborga, and the dozens of other European “nations” with their own stamps and national anthems. If the Irish were prepared to stop smoking in bars and paying for their drinks with punts, what chance did the Republic of Saugeais, in eastern France, have of continuing to speak Saugeais and spending the sol? But a funny thing has happened on the way to the future. Thanks to the Internet, and the EU’s bureaucratic teething

I L L U S T R AT E D BY S E R G E B L O C H

State of the Micronation

troubles, not to mention the deeply resonant and resilient idea of nationhood itself, Europe’s dozens of quirky micronations are not only still around, they are flourishing. What’s more, they may yet have a hand in shaping the destiny of Europe as a whole. We’re not talking about places like Andorra, Liechtenstein and Monaco: the states that perhaps most readily come to mind when you hear the term micronation. These mountainous, glamorous principalities enjoyed some fairly prosperous decades there at the tail end of the 20th century, as word got around that, as well as having a picturesque central fountain and a monarch in a feathered hat, they were clinging to adorably quaint attitudes about taxation and proper banking practices. But these days that party is over, or ending, as the newly organized European superstate is demanding the loopholes be closed. For those slightly larger but still ridiculously small states who managed to talk their way into the European Union—your Maltas, your Luxembourgs—integration has not been the one-way ticket to the Majors they were perhaps expecting. As Professor Diana Panke of University College Dublin tells me, just because you’re allowed to sit at the negotiating table with Germany, France and Britain doesn’t mean that you, Malta, are going to be listened to. Quite the contrary, in fact. Strictly speaking, though, nations such as Monaco and San Marino are microstates. The term micronation, in its proper usage, encompasses the wide and disparate range of statelike entities even smaller than Andorra and Liechtenstein (the latter nation can, for the record, be rented, all of it, for private functions). Among them are old, tiny feudal states like the aforementioned Seborga, national motto Sub umbra sedi (Sit in the shade), which maintained its sovereignty throughout the second millennium by being so small that sloppy real estate clerks repeatedly forgot to include it in land-transfer documents—just as they somehow overlooked what is now the Kingdom of Romkerhall, a single, elaborate hunting lodge in Germany’s Oker Valley that once belonged to King George V of England. But the term also denotes more modern, more fanciful territories, of possibly dubious legality, such as the Republic of Kugelmugel, an 8-meter-diameter sphere founded, and built, near Vienna in 1976 by its still-reigning president, Edwin Lipburger; and the young nation of Lovely, inside the London apartment of British comedian Danny Wallace, who founded Lovely in 2005 for the express purpose of filming a BBC program titled How to Start Your Own Country. And while it may seem fatuous in the extreme to list a made-up, intentionally humorous country like Lovely beside an actual, thousand-year-old principality like Seborga, it is precisely the blurring of that distinction that has occasioned a new wave of interest in Europe’s micronations. Venture onto the Internet these days and you’ll find people starting their own countries left and right. And while the majority of

Venture onto the Internet these days and you’ll find people starting their own countries left and RIGHT

these online micronations are rather shabby exercises in narcissistic time-killing—here’s looking at you, the Flying Islands of Jasonia—others maintain online presences indistinguishable from those of actual tiny nations. Why? Because it’s fun, people are remembering. Designing a flag, making stamps with your face on them, composing a hardto-sing anthem to your own uniqueness and indomitability, arguing over whose turn it is to be king … these childish, recreational aspects of statehood were largely and understandably forgotten during the geopolitical horror of the 20th century, amid the fascist corruption of all the trappings of nationhood. But in 21st-century Europe, where 493 million people continue to endure what has to be the slowest, most complicated, and least exciting birth of a superpower ever recorded, there is a new and deepening hunger for the more whimsical aspects of national identity, and it is finding an outlet in a new affection for, and fascination with, those quirky micronations that so recently seemed so doomed. The spherical Republic of Kugelmugel, whose President Lipburger was thrown in jail in 1979 for 10 weeks shortly after the nation’s founding, now sits in one of Vienna’s public parks, a source of both pride and revenue to neighboring-inevery-direction Austria. In 2006, Lonely Planet included Kugelmugel, Sealand, Lovely and the rest of them in the world’s first-ever micronational travel guide. And in tiny, proud Seborga, pockets bulging with luiginos, His Tremendousness makes his way along the cobbles, singing to himself, in the words of the old patriotic hymn, Ti amo mio Seborga Con tutto mio cuor. ✚

MICRONATIONS AT A GLANCE A sampling of Europe’s smallest states. Kingdom of Romkerhall koenigreich-romkerhall.de. Population Depends on the hotel’s occupancy. Principality of Sealand sealandgov.org. Population Sealand does not release population figures.

Principality of Seborga seborga.net. Population 362. Republic of Kugelmugel republik-kugelmugel.com. Population 1. Republic of Saugeais otcm25.org/republique_du_ saugesia.htm. Population 4,500.

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t+l journal

| trendspotting

They are Europe’s tiniest quasicountries, its mountain principalities and experimental utopias, and downright silly Internet-based nations-in-theory—and they are thriving. BRUNO MADDOX reports

T

HE FRANC IS GONE, AND SO IS THE PFENNIG. YET in the ancient cobblestoned streets of the Principality of Seborga, sprawling over 7.2 square kilometers of what could easily be mistaken for northwestern Italy, the nation’s 362 citizens continue to teem and bustle, exchanging the world’s most valuable unit of currency, the luigino (1L = US$6), for goods and services, genuflecting before their monarch, His Tremendousness Prince Giorgio, should he happen to walk past. In Britain and Germany, farmers and grocers sleep fitfully, gnawed at by the EU directive that all bananas must be “free from malformation or abnormal curvature” or otherwise be classified as “Class 2” produce. But in, or on, the Principality of Sealand, Prince Roy and Princess Joan sleep deeply, secure in the knowledge that, if they ever did start selling bananas from their rusting, tennis court–size World War II

100

OCTO B E R 2 0 0 9| T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E S E A . C O M

antiaircraft platform anchored 10 kilometers off the coast of southern England, they could sell blackened ones twisted in knots with perfect impunity. For such is one of the less-explored paradoxes of this moment in European history. As recently as 10 years ago, with the EU already in full swing, with nations as mighty as France and Germany voluntarily abolishing their own currencies for the sake of continental unity, it was hard to see a future for Sealand, and Seborga, and the dozens of other European “nations” with their own stamps and national anthems. If the Irish were prepared to stop smoking in bars and paying for their drinks with punts, what chance did the Republic of Saugeais, in eastern France, have of continuing to speak Saugeais and spending the sol? But a funny thing has happened on the way to the future. Thanks to the Internet, and the EU’s bureaucratic teething

I L L U S T R AT E D BY S E R G E B L O C H

State of the Micronation

troubles, not to mention the deeply resonant and resilient idea of nationhood itself, Europe’s dozens of quirky micronations are not only still around, they are flourishing. What’s more, they may yet have a hand in shaping the destiny of Europe as a whole. We’re not talking about places like Andorra, Liechtenstein and Monaco: the states that perhaps most readily come to mind when you hear the term micronation. These mountainous, glamorous principalities enjoyed some fairly prosperous decades there at the tail end of the 20th century, as word got around that, as well as having a picturesque central fountain and a monarch in a feathered hat, they were clinging to adorably quaint attitudes about taxation and proper banking practices. But these days that party is over, or ending, as the newly organized European superstate is demanding the loopholes be closed. For those slightly larger but still ridiculously small states who managed to talk their way into the European Union—your Maltas, your Luxembourgs—integration has not been the one-way ticket to the Majors they were perhaps expecting. As Professor Diana Panke of University College Dublin tells me, just because you’re allowed to sit at the negotiating table with Germany, France and Britain doesn’t mean that you, Malta, are going to be listened to. Quite the contrary, in fact. Strictly speaking, though, nations such as Monaco and San Marino are microstates. The term micronation, in its proper usage, encompasses the wide and disparate range of statelike entities even smaller than Andorra and Liechtenstein (the latter nation can, for the record, be rented, all of it, for private functions). Among them are old, tiny feudal states like the aforementioned Seborga, national motto Sub umbra sedi (Sit in the shade), which maintained its sovereignty throughout the second millennium by being so small that sloppy real estate clerks repeatedly forgot to include it in land-transfer documents—just as they somehow overlooked what is now the Kingdom of Romkerhall, a single, elaborate hunting lodge in Germany’s Oker Valley that once belonged to King George V of England. But the term also denotes more modern, more fanciful territories, of possibly dubious legality, such as the Republic of Kugelmugel, an 8-meter-diameter sphere founded, and built, near Vienna in 1976 by its still-reigning president, Edwin Lipburger; and the young nation of Lovely, inside the London apartment of British comedian Danny Wallace, who founded Lovely in 2005 for the express purpose of filming a BBC program titled How to Start Your Own Country. And while it may seem fatuous in the extreme to list a made-up, intentionally humorous country like Lovely beside an actual, thousand-year-old principality like Seborga, it is precisely the blurring of that distinction that has occasioned a new wave of interest in Europe’s micronations. Venture onto the Internet these days and you’ll find people starting their own countries left and right. And while the majority of

Venture onto the Internet these days and you’ll find people starting their own countries left and RIGHT

these online micronations are rather shabby exercises in narcissistic time-killing—here’s looking at you, the Flying Islands of Jasonia—others maintain online presences indistinguishable from those of actual tiny nations. Why? Because it’s fun, people are remembering. Designing a flag, making stamps with your face on them, composing a hardto-sing anthem to your own uniqueness and indomitability, arguing over whose turn it is to be king … these childish, recreational aspects of statehood were largely and understandably forgotten during the geopolitical horror of the 20th century, amid the fascist corruption of all the trappings of nationhood. But in 21st-century Europe, where 493 million people continue to endure what has to be the slowest, most complicated, and least exciting birth of a superpower ever recorded, there is a new and deepening hunger for the more whimsical aspects of national identity, and it is finding an outlet in a new affection for, and fascination with, those quirky micronations that so recently seemed so doomed. The spherical Republic of Kugelmugel, whose President Lipburger was thrown in jail in 1979 for 10 weeks shortly after the nation’s founding, now sits in one of Vienna’s public parks, a source of both pride and revenue to neighboring-inevery-direction Austria. In 2006, Lonely Planet included Kugelmugel, Sealand, Lovely and the rest of them in the world’s first-ever micronational travel guide. And in tiny, proud Seborga, pockets bulging with luiginos, His Tremendousness makes his way along the cobbles, singing to himself, in the words of the old patriotic hymn, Ti amo mio Seborga Con tutto mio cuor. ✚

MICRONATIONS AT A GLANCE A sampling of Europe’s smallest states. Kingdom of Romkerhall koenigreich-romkerhall.de. Population Depends on the hotel’s occupancy. Principality of Sealand sealandgov.org. Population Sealand does not release population figures.

Principality of Seborga seborga.net. Population 362. Republic of Kugelmugel republik-kugelmugel.com. Population 1. Republic of Saugeais otcm25.org/republique_du_ saugesia.htm. Population 4,500.

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Shining Shoreline Clockwise from left: Il Bar Perla, in Recco; Il Mulino da Drin, at Punta Chiappa, on the Ligurian Sea; frittura at Il Mulino da Drin.

ITALY

From Recco with Love On the Ligurian Coast, in northern Italy, MICHAEL FRANK discovers the beauty of what is considered the country’s homeliest town. Photographed by DAVID CICCONI

R

EVEALING A SECRETLY PRIZED PLACE IS A LITTLE

bit like telling your dreams at a dinner party: it’s an act of inadvertent autobiography. This is especially true when the prized place happens to be—how best to put it?—on the “modest” side. “You like all the ugly towns in beautiful settings,” my wife said to me after our recent, and I might add mutually heartsick, departure from Recco, on the coast of Liguria. “What’s that about?” I prefer the word homely myself, but no matter: what it’s about, pure and simple, is love. To explain Recco, you have to start with World War II. A sunny seaside town with beautiful centuries-old palazzi, Recco had the longest elevated railway bridge in Liguria. Destroying the bridge meant impeding 102

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communication and passage between Rome and points north. From the fall of 1943 through the summer of 1944, first the British and then the Americans flew nearly 30 bombing raids over the town, flattening 95 percent of Recco’s houses and commercial structures before the bridge finally fell on the 10th of July. The town that rose up from the rubble was—to put it gently—a major missed opportunity in urban planning: bad, blocky apartment houses, cement piazzas with the odd weedy patch of greenery, a mediocre esplanade along the sea. This awkwardly reconstructed center of Recco is, nevertheless, bordered by surviving examples of festive trompe l’oeil villas of the old town, and a spread of period houses dots the surrounding hills. Bright yellow and pink, lime green and terra cotta, they are like jeweled pins set in an improbably lush cushion, a patchwork of olive trees and grapevines, figs and pomegranates, rosemary and sage and (Liguria being the home of pesto) basil, and more basil still. What distinguishes Recco for me is that, unlike nearby Portofino, it does not have so thick an air of leisure, as in inthe-pursuit-of, setting the rhythm and tone. People do play here, to be sure, but Recco has the unmistakable vibrancy of an actual, functioning town. Each Monday morning, its sprawling open-air market draws crowds of people from surrounding villages. Long before eating locally became fashionable, Recchelini have, of necessity, eaten what was grown, fished or created nearby. The Ligurian table is based on a cucina semplice (literally: a simple cuisine) and is largely fish- and vegetablefocused. Specialties include pesto, of course; torte salate, savory tarts of artichoke, zucchini, rice, onion or beet greens; anchovies; and ripieni, any manner of vegetable “refilled” with a mixture of bread crumbs, egg and Parmesan. Focaccia col formaggio is Recco’s most famous, and one verifiably indigenous, dish. It consists of two layers of papery dough sandwiching Stracchino, a delicately creamy local cheese; baked for eight minutes, it emerges firm on the outside, molten and often bubbling on the inside. Focaccia col formaggio was made famous by Manuelina, whose simple namesake trattoria was popular beginning in the end of the 19th century with locals, who would knock on her door into the wee hours and ask her to stoke the fire and whip up this rustic delicacy. Today, Manuelina’s is a family-owned restaurant and hotel, where my 3-year-old daughter delights in watching dough being tossed gently in the air, »

Oven-baked focaccia col formaggio at Manuelina. Above: The village of Camogli, a five-minute drive south of Recco.

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Shining Shoreline Clockwise from left: Il Bar Perla, in Recco; Il Mulino da Drin, at Punta Chiappa, on the Ligurian Sea; frittura at Il Mulino da Drin.

ITALY

From Recco with Love On the Ligurian Coast, in northern Italy, MICHAEL FRANK discovers the beauty of what is considered the country’s homeliest town. Photographed by DAVID CICCONI

R

EVEALING A SECRETLY PRIZED PLACE IS A LITTLE

bit like telling your dreams at a dinner party: it’s an act of inadvertent autobiography. This is especially true when the prized place happens to be—how best to put it?—on the “modest” side. “You like all the ugly towns in beautiful settings,” my wife said to me after our recent, and I might add mutually heartsick, departure from Recco, on the coast of Liguria. “What’s that about?” I prefer the word homely myself, but no matter: what it’s about, pure and simple, is love. To explain Recco, you have to start with World War II. A sunny seaside town with beautiful centuries-old palazzi, Recco had the longest elevated railway bridge in Liguria. Destroying the bridge meant impeding 102

OCTO B E R 2 0 0 9| T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E S E A . C O M

communication and passage between Rome and points north. From the fall of 1943 through the summer of 1944, first the British and then the Americans flew nearly 30 bombing raids over the town, flattening 95 percent of Recco’s houses and commercial structures before the bridge finally fell on the 10th of July. The town that rose up from the rubble was—to put it gently—a major missed opportunity in urban planning: bad, blocky apartment houses, cement piazzas with the odd weedy patch of greenery, a mediocre esplanade along the sea. This awkwardly reconstructed center of Recco is, nevertheless, bordered by surviving examples of festive trompe l’oeil villas of the old town, and a spread of period houses dots the surrounding hills. Bright yellow and pink, lime green and terra cotta, they are like jeweled pins set in an improbably lush cushion, a patchwork of olive trees and grapevines, figs and pomegranates, rosemary and sage and (Liguria being the home of pesto) basil, and more basil still. What distinguishes Recco for me is that, unlike nearby Portofino, it does not have so thick an air of leisure, as in inthe-pursuit-of, setting the rhythm and tone. People do play here, to be sure, but Recco has the unmistakable vibrancy of an actual, functioning town. Each Monday morning, its sprawling open-air market draws crowds of people from surrounding villages. Long before eating locally became fashionable, Recchelini have, of necessity, eaten what was grown, fished or created nearby. The Ligurian table is based on a cucina semplice (literally: a simple cuisine) and is largely fish- and vegetablefocused. Specialties include pesto, of course; torte salate, savory tarts of artichoke, zucchini, rice, onion or beet greens; anchovies; and ripieni, any manner of vegetable “refilled” with a mixture of bread crumbs, egg and Parmesan. Focaccia col formaggio is Recco’s most famous, and one verifiably indigenous, dish. It consists of two layers of papery dough sandwiching Stracchino, a delicately creamy local cheese; baked for eight minutes, it emerges firm on the outside, molten and often bubbling on the inside. Focaccia col formaggio was made famous by Manuelina, whose simple namesake trattoria was popular beginning in the end of the 19th century with locals, who would knock on her door into the wee hours and ask her to stoke the fire and whip up this rustic delicacy. Today, Manuelina’s is a family-owned restaurant and hotel, where my 3-year-old daughter delights in watching dough being tossed gently in the air, »

Oven-baked focaccia col formaggio at Manuelina. Above: The village of Camogli, a five-minute drive south of Recco.

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When I asked Maria Luisa how it was that Recco in particular and Liguria in general remained so PRISTINE, she replied, ‘Because we make it that way’

Homely Front From top: A dish of grilled orata at Il Mulino da Drin; on the road in Recco; Il Mulino da Drin’s casual interior.

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filled and slid into the oven. Equally memorable is Tossini, the only bakery in Recco where Maria Luisa Ansaldo, my 88-year-old guide to all local matters, will permit me to buy focaccia with cheese. I once made the mistake of patronizing a rival establishment, and from sight alone she could tell I’d strayed. These sorts of rules are very Recco: You go to Tossini for the focaccia with cheese to go, Moltedo for the focaccia without. Magia Bianca is for salsa di noci (a walnutcream sauce combined only with pansotti pasta) and savory tarts. Cavassa is where you get outstanding gelato, and Supermercato Picasso—Pablo Picasso’s great-grandfather came from Sori, just over the hill—is where you buy your Stracchino and pine nuts. After nine annual visits, I have not yet worked out whether the Recco rules are particular to the families I know there, to the town, to Liguria or even to northern Italy; but I do believe the way daily life is ordered has something to do with the intactness of customs and places: not just cuisine, but (postwar rebuilding apart) architecture, gardens and interiors. When I asked Maria Luisa how it was that Recco in particular and Liguria in general remained so pristine, she replied, “Because we make it that way.” There is a flip side to this authoritative “we”: “We” do not feed young children pasta with frutti di mare, or chocolateflavored gelato. “We” do not let them go out with wet hair after dark or in a breeze, or (God forbid) go barefoot. “We” do not like “our” grown children to stray too far geographically, professionally or philosophically from what is nearby, or what for generations has been done or believed. Visitors benefit from such a conserving mentality, which extends to friendships (they are slowly made but long-lasting), and this is probably most readily experienced in the protected landscape, its water and its hills. Water is central to the local identity: the town is famous for its water polo team, Pro Recco, which this year won the Italian championship for

Delicious Views Left: Seafood salad at Manuelina. Right: Overlooking Recco.

the 23rd time. As for swimming, there is a town beach with chaises and umbrellas for rent and a small pool geared mostly toward children. But for truly spectacular swims, one must walk to the fishing village of Camogli. Here, a marked path leads into the steep, sunlit hills through the hamlets of San Rocco (with its Baroque church) and San Nicolò (where the church is Romanesque and more sober); it then slopes down through a wooded hillside before reaching Punta Chiappa, on the Portofino promontory. At Punta Chiappa, I like to have lunch at Il Mulino da Drin, a restaurant that overlooks the Ligurian Sea. In a building said to date back a thousand years, Signora Faustina prepares foccacette—think focaccia col formaggio cut into small pieces, then fried and served with similarly fried zucchini blossoms flavored with anchovies. Afterward there is tomato-based spaghetti with frutti di mare, or lightly fried fish, everything washed down with a fizzy white wine. After all the sun and water, the food and drink, I never hike back—no way. I return to Recco by boat. And I’m happy to be back, too, because for all the sunlight and sweetness of this excursion, home is best. Home is Il Bar Perla, where the spirited barkeeps Paola and Lori bring me a glass of Prosecco. And while children chase balls in the piazzetta and people venture into Capurro, the town’s excellent bookstore, I visit with my old lady friends, Maria Luisa and Dora and Giugi, and lift my glass to this indelible place, which, no matter what anyone says, I insist on calling la bella Recco. Maria Luisa lifts her glass, too—with one hand. With the other she shields her eyes and says, with the driest and most affectionate irony, “Recco is bella, for sure. As long as you look at it like this.” ✚

GUIDE TO RECCO

GETTING THERE Fly into either Milan or Rome for connecting service to Genoa. From there, rent a car and drive 18 kilometers south along the A12 highway to Recco. Alternatively, trains depart for Recco every half-hour from Genoa’s Piazza Principe station.

WHERE TO EAT A Caladda 26 Lungomare Bettolo; 39-0185/720-888; dinner for two ¤42.

WHERE TO STAY Hotel La Villa Manuelina 296 Via Roma; 39-0185/74128; manuelina.it; doubles from ¤130.

Il Mulino da Drin 36 Via S. Niccolò, Punta Chiappa, Camogli; 390185/770-530; dinner for two ¤80.

Locanda i Tre Merli 5 Via Scalo, Camogli; 39-0185/776-752; albergohotelcamogli.it; doubles from ¤130, including breakfast. Villa Rosmarino 38 Via Figari; 39-0185/771-580; villarosmarino. com; doubles from ¤160.

Gelateria Cavassa 31 Lungomare Bettolo; 39-0185/74280; gelato for two ¤3. Il Bar Perla 23 Via B. Assereto; 39-347/609-9363.

Magia Bianca 7 Piazza Matteotti; 39-0185/74133. Manuelina 296 Via Roma; 390185/74128; dinner for two ¤97. Moltedo 2–4 Via XX Settembre; 39-0185/74046. Tossini 15 Via Roma; 390185/74207.

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| dispatch

When I asked Maria Luisa how it was that Recco in particular and Liguria in general remained so PRISTINE, she replied, ‘Because we make it that way’

Homely Front From top: A dish of grilled orata at Il Mulino da Drin; on the road in Recco; Il Mulino da Drin’s casual interior.

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filled and slid into the oven. Equally memorable is Tossini, the only bakery in Recco where Maria Luisa Ansaldo, my 88-year-old guide to all local matters, will permit me to buy focaccia with cheese. I once made the mistake of patronizing a rival establishment, and from sight alone she could tell I’d strayed. These sorts of rules are very Recco: You go to Tossini for the focaccia with cheese to go, Moltedo for the focaccia without. Magia Bianca is for salsa di noci (a walnutcream sauce combined only with pansotti pasta) and savory tarts. Cavassa is where you get outstanding gelato, and Supermercato Picasso—Pablo Picasso’s great-grandfather came from Sori, just over the hill—is where you buy your Stracchino and pine nuts. After nine annual visits, I have not yet worked out whether the Recco rules are particular to the families I know there, to the town, to Liguria or even to northern Italy; but I do believe the way daily life is ordered has something to do with the intactness of customs and places: not just cuisine, but (postwar rebuilding apart) architecture, gardens and interiors. When I asked Maria Luisa how it was that Recco in particular and Liguria in general remained so pristine, she replied, “Because we make it that way.” There is a flip side to this authoritative “we”: “We” do not feed young children pasta with frutti di mare, or chocolateflavored gelato. “We” do not let them go out with wet hair after dark or in a breeze, or (God forbid) go barefoot. “We” do not like “our” grown children to stray too far geographically, professionally or philosophically from what is nearby, or what for generations has been done or believed. Visitors benefit from such a conserving mentality, which extends to friendships (they are slowly made but long-lasting), and this is probably most readily experienced in the protected landscape, its water and its hills. Water is central to the local identity: the town is famous for its water polo team, Pro Recco, which this year won the Italian championship for

Delicious Views Left: Seafood salad at Manuelina. Right: Overlooking Recco.

the 23rd time. As for swimming, there is a town beach with chaises and umbrellas for rent and a small pool geared mostly toward children. But for truly spectacular swims, one must walk to the fishing village of Camogli. Here, a marked path leads into the steep, sunlit hills through the hamlets of San Rocco (with its Baroque church) and San Nicolò (where the church is Romanesque and more sober); it then slopes down through a wooded hillside before reaching Punta Chiappa, on the Portofino promontory. At Punta Chiappa, I like to have lunch at Il Mulino da Drin, a restaurant that overlooks the Ligurian Sea. In a building said to date back a thousand years, Signora Faustina prepares foccacette—think focaccia col formaggio cut into small pieces, then fried and served with similarly fried zucchini blossoms flavored with anchovies. Afterward there is tomato-based spaghetti with frutti di mare, or lightly fried fish, everything washed down with a fizzy white wine. After all the sun and water, the food and drink, I never hike back—no way. I return to Recco by boat. And I’m happy to be back, too, because for all the sunlight and sweetness of this excursion, home is best. Home is Il Bar Perla, where the spirited barkeeps Paola and Lori bring me a glass of Prosecco. And while children chase balls in the piazzetta and people venture into Capurro, the town’s excellent bookstore, I visit with my old lady friends, Maria Luisa and Dora and Giugi, and lift my glass to this indelible place, which, no matter what anyone says, I insist on calling la bella Recco. Maria Luisa lifts her glass, too—with one hand. With the other she shields her eyes and says, with the driest and most affectionate irony, “Recco is bella, for sure. As long as you look at it like this.” ✚

GUIDE TO RECCO

GETTING THERE Fly into either Milan or Rome for connecting service to Genoa. From there, rent a car and drive 18 kilometers south along the A12 highway to Recco. Alternatively, trains depart for Recco every half-hour from Genoa’s Piazza Principe station.

WHERE TO EAT A Caladda 26 Lungomare Bettolo; 39-0185/720-888; dinner for two ¤42.

WHERE TO STAY Hotel La Villa Manuelina 296 Via Roma; 39-0185/74128; manuelina.it; doubles from ¤130.

Il Mulino da Drin 36 Via S. Niccolò, Punta Chiappa, Camogli; 390185/770-530; dinner for two ¤80.

Locanda i Tre Merli 5 Via Scalo, Camogli; 39-0185/776-752; albergohotelcamogli.it; doubles from ¤130, including breakfast. Villa Rosmarino 38 Via Figari; 39-0185/771-580; villarosmarino. com; doubles from ¤160.

Gelateria Cavassa 31 Lungomare Bettolo; 39-0185/74280; gelato for two ¤3. Il Bar Perla 23 Via B. Assereto; 39-347/609-9363.

Magia Bianca 7 Piazza Matteotti; 39-0185/74133. Manuelina 296 Via Roma; 390185/74128; dinner for two ¤97. Moltedo 2–4 Via XX Settembre; 39-0185/74046. Tossini 15 Via Roma; 390185/74207.

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TAKING

108 118 126 134

A PEEK AT

CHICAGO’S MILLENNIUM PARK. PHOTOGRAPHED BY JONNY VALIANT

NEVER go hungry in Hong Kong Fierce and FORBIDDING Corsica Chicago finds a new sense of STYLE TOURING Argentina’s rich vineyards 107


Diners at Lung King Heen, in the Four Seasons Hotel. Opposite: Sichuan soup with noodles and minced pork at the Golden Valley restaurant.

FeastsofHongKong For his rollicking, total-immersion culinary education in this food-obsessed metropolis, Gary Shteyngart conquers an army of turnip cakes, shrimp dumplings and pork buns, spicy soups and braises, roasted duck, goose and pork, delicate shredded chicken, and all kinds of noodles, mushrooms and bamboo shoots. And heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ready for more! Photographed by Christian Kerber


Diners at Lung King Heen, in the Four Seasons Hotel. Opposite: Sichuan soup with noodles and minced pork at the Golden Valley restaurant.

FeastsofHongKong For his rollicking, total-immersion culinary education in this food-obsessed metropolis, Gary Shteyngart conquers an army of turnip cakes, shrimp dumplings and pork buns, spicy soups and braises, roasted duck, goose and pork, delicate shredded chicken, and all kinds of noodles, mushrooms and bamboo shoots. And heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ready for more! Photographed by Christian Kerber


Chinese Food Opposite, clockwise from top left: Overlooking Connaught Street in Central; the adorable dining room at Cépage; Chinese chives at a Mong Kok market; behind the scenes at Golden Valley.

F

OOD, FOOD, FOOD, FOOD, FOOD. IT’S BEEN A MONTH SINCE MY INTENSIVE TWO-

week tour of Hong Kong restaurants and the non-fat, low-taste yogurt and Whole Foods berries staring back at me from the typical American breakfast table bring to mind a fallen civilization. What I wouldn’t do for a lardy egg tart for breakfast, a braised goose for lunch, and for dinner, I believe I would like several smoky fishes, two plates of tea-soaked shrimp, and one serving of barbecued char siu pork, the sauce bleeding into the rice, my nostrils awake and alive to the scent of everything. Hong Kong is food. I heard somewhere that there’s shopping and finance, too. I know there’s a smattering of the arts, because my friend, the superb writer and Hong Kong resident Janice Lee—her atmospheric first novel, The Piano Teacher, is set in the former colony—invites me to a reading at an important shoe store. Oh, and there’s other stuff one probably shouldn’t miss—skylines and beaches, temples and spas. But mostly there’s food. From the free candy you get upon landing at immigration to the noodle-soup station at the business-class lounge dishing out shrimp wontons at dusk, a trip to Hong Kong is framed by sustenance. The relative compactness of the city, the tight embrace of its subtropical climate, the excellent underground and cheap taxis—everything conspires to move you about until you find the perfect little air-conditioned hole-in-the-wall where, at three in the morning, a small family will be slicing up mangoes. From the many-starred hotel establishments to the crowd of Filipina maids eating Sunday plates of gleaming rice they prepared for themselves underneath Norman Foster’s HSBC skyscraper, everyone is in on the action and everyone’s a critic. A popular lunch, brunch and dinnertime topic is the recent publication of the first Michelin guide to Hong Kong and how they managed to get everything wrong. Food is personal here, bad food an insult, good food a blessing, and the best way to see Hong Kongers at their most communal and animated is to follow them directly to the table. »

110

Money, food and gossip fuel Hong Kong, and you can find a nice combination of the three at the Golden Valley restaurant


Chinese Food Opposite, clockwise from top left: Overlooking Connaught Street in Central; the adorable dining room at Cépage; Chinese chives at a Mong Kok market; behind the scenes at Golden Valley.

F

OOD, FOOD, FOOD, FOOD, FOOD. IT’S BEEN A MONTH SINCE MY INTENSIVE TWO-

week tour of Hong Kong restaurants and the non-fat, low-taste yogurt and Whole Foods berries staring back at me from the typical American breakfast table bring to mind a fallen civilization. What I wouldn’t do for a lardy egg tart for breakfast, a braised goose for lunch, and for dinner, I believe I would like several smoky fishes, two plates of tea-soaked shrimp, and one serving of barbecued char siu pork, the sauce bleeding into the rice, my nostrils awake and alive to the scent of everything. Hong Kong is food. I heard somewhere that there’s shopping and finance, too. I know there’s a smattering of the arts, because my friend, the superb writer and Hong Kong resident Janice Lee—her atmospheric first novel, The Piano Teacher, is set in the former colony—invites me to a reading at an important shoe store. Oh, and there’s other stuff one probably shouldn’t miss—skylines and beaches, temples and spas. But mostly there’s food. From the free candy you get upon landing at immigration to the noodle-soup station at the business-class lounge dishing out shrimp wontons at dusk, a trip to Hong Kong is framed by sustenance. The relative compactness of the city, the tight embrace of its subtropical climate, the excellent underground and cheap taxis—everything conspires to move you about until you find the perfect little air-conditioned hole-in-the-wall where, at three in the morning, a small family will be slicing up mangoes. From the many-starred hotel establishments to the crowd of Filipina maids eating Sunday plates of gleaming rice they prepared for themselves underneath Norman Foster’s HSBC skyscraper, everyone is in on the action and everyone’s a critic. A popular lunch, brunch and dinnertime topic is the recent publication of the first Michelin guide to Hong Kong and how they managed to get everything wrong. Food is personal here, bad food an insult, good food a blessing, and the best way to see Hong Kongers at their most communal and animated is to follow them directly to the table. »

110

Money, food and gossip fuel Hong Kong, and you can find a nice combination of the three at the Golden Valley restaurant


Salon de Ning is a pleasantly weird place, with the dandiest collection of antique bric-a-brac this side of Hudson, New York — sequined pillows, enormous perfume bottles, a lion’s head INTRODUCTORY COURSES TO BEGIN YOUR HONG KONG CULINARY EDUCATION, HAVE YOUR hotel wangle an invitation to Saturday brunch at the China Club, a members-only oasis taking up the top three floors of the old Bank of China building. This is as central as you can get in Hong Kong’s Central district. From the China Club’s outdoor deck, facing Kowloon across the harbor, all the restaurants I am about to visit stretch before me—from the cool neighborhoods of Causeway Bay and Wan Chai to the east to busy, authentic Sheung Wan to the west. The retro 1930’s Shanghai teahouse décor is beautiful. Note the elegant ceiling fans, the rotary phones, the Art Deco touches and the extensive contemporary-art collection featuring Chinese “political pop”—for example, Yu Youhan’s hilarious painting of Chairman Mao exhorting his boys, next to singer Whitney Houston exhorting herself. The art has always been peppy and tasteful, but after a decade of unexceptional Cantonese dishes, the club’s members tell me the food at the China Club is finally holding its own. My hosts are my friends and longtime Hong Kong residents Eunei and Ron Lee, both of fine appetite and unimpeachable taste—their six-year-old, Isaiah, is already comfortable distinguishing between Taiwanese and Filipino mangoes—and they steer me to some local favorites: the smooth liver in congee with nuts, a crispy barbecue pork that stands up decently to the char siu found on the streets, and a succulent, spicy razor clam. The first word of the day is tai-tai, a wealthy housewife, and one who often lives to shop and lunch. (The state of the economy has given rise to the “guy-tai,” a former Master of the Universe now living off his girlfriend or wife.) I see a tai-tai crowd awaiting the arrival of attractively honeycombed shredded-turnip cakes and diving for the plate of sweet caramelized tofu. Their instincts are usually right. The second word of the day is gweilo, a fairly innocuous way of pointing out a white person. Things have changed since the handover of the territory from the British to the Chinese in 1997, and today at the China Club there are but a few gweilos circulating pinkly among the masses of helmet-haired Cantonese grandmothers and remarkably intact multigenerational families. At the China Club, where children are allowed in on Saturdays, little English boys in blazers can be seen behaving oh-so-well, while their brattier Chinese cousins run around, their plates laden with webbed goose feet. Hong Kong promotes itself as “Asia’s World City,” but with a population that is over 90 percent Chinese, that may be overstating the case a 112

bit. Hong Kong is a Cantonese city, relatively tolerant and certainly exceptional, but at times provincial and close-knit, its inhabitants bound by ties of kinship, language and food. Saturday brunch at the China Club is a good place to sit back with a turnip cake while examining the social lay of the land. Another point of entry might be one of the Lei Gardens, a chain of uncomplicated Singapore-originated restaurants that manage to do just about everything right. Eunei takes me to an older branch in the bustling Wan Chai district to feast on standards such as lobster with ginger and scallion, a near-perfect Peking duck and, once again, the barbecued pork, moist and fragrant, that signals the best of its kind. “The force is strong in this one,” one local pork connoisseur says as I bite into a particularly fatty piece of swine. With curiosity and appreciation, my girlfriend notes that at this table the women order for the men. THE NEXT LEVEL WITH THE STANDARDS UNDER OUR BELT, IT’S TIME TO TAKE things up a notch. The happening Star Street neighborhood, in Wan Chai, is crammed with boutiques, a mozzarella bar and fancy cake shops, not to mention a yogurt store dispensing the upwardly mobile “Sharie’s BMW combo.” For a brief pit stop try Olala Charcuterie, where you can score a refreshing salad with extra-lean Serrano ham and an undercurrent of beets. Sturdier dishes include an oxtail stewed with red wine and vegetables and a lusty boeuf bourguignon. The food is decent and the place adorable, a glassed-in locale where a wooden table is exactly that, and where you can while away an entire afternoon listening to Chinese yuppies discussing the finer points of Pinot. In deference to local tastes, the popular meat lasagna will give you a sugar high for days. But the true star of the Star Street neighborhood is its newest addition. Everyone—tai-tais, guy-tais, mai-tais—is talking about Cépage, the rosy-cheeked, sure-footed progeny of the pedigreed Les Amis restaurant in Singapore. “It’s probably the best restaurant in Hong Kong right now,” one foodie tells me, wiping XO sauce from his chin as we devour a lobster at another restaurant: eating at one place and rhapsodizing about another—so Hong Kong. From the lightly provocative art by Mao Tong Qiang (the iconic Iwo Jima soldiers hoisting a gigantic dollar symbol instead of the Stars and Stripes) to the timber-paneled red-wine cellar to the burgundy velvet »

Bar Bling Opposite: A bartender at the innovative lounge Salon de Ning, in basement of The Peninsula Hotel.

113


Salon de Ning is a pleasantly weird place, with the dandiest collection of antique bric-a-brac this side of Hudson, New York — sequined pillows, enormous perfume bottles, a lion’s head INTRODUCTORY COURSES TO BEGIN YOUR HONG KONG CULINARY EDUCATION, HAVE YOUR hotel wangle an invitation to Saturday brunch at the China Club, a members-only oasis taking up the top three floors of the old Bank of China building. This is as central as you can get in Hong Kong’s Central district. From the China Club’s outdoor deck, facing Kowloon across the harbor, all the restaurants I am about to visit stretch before me—from the cool neighborhoods of Causeway Bay and Wan Chai to the east to busy, authentic Sheung Wan to the west. The retro 1930’s Shanghai teahouse décor is beautiful. Note the elegant ceiling fans, the rotary phones, the Art Deco touches and the extensive contemporary-art collection featuring Chinese “political pop”—for example, Yu Youhan’s hilarious painting of Chairman Mao exhorting his boys, next to singer Whitney Houston exhorting herself. The art has always been peppy and tasteful, but after a decade of unexceptional Cantonese dishes, the club’s members tell me the food at the China Club is finally holding its own. My hosts are my friends and longtime Hong Kong residents Eunei and Ron Lee, both of fine appetite and unimpeachable taste—their six-year-old, Isaiah, is already comfortable distinguishing between Taiwanese and Filipino mangoes—and they steer me to some local favorites: the smooth liver in congee with nuts, a crispy barbecue pork that stands up decently to the char siu found on the streets, and a succulent, spicy razor clam. The first word of the day is tai-tai, a wealthy housewife, and one who often lives to shop and lunch. (The state of the economy has given rise to the “guy-tai,” a former Master of the Universe now living off his girlfriend or wife.) I see a tai-tai crowd awaiting the arrival of attractively honeycombed shredded-turnip cakes and diving for the plate of sweet caramelized tofu. Their instincts are usually right. The second word of the day is gweilo, a fairly innocuous way of pointing out a white person. Things have changed since the handover of the territory from the British to the Chinese in 1997, and today at the China Club there are but a few gweilos circulating pinkly among the masses of helmet-haired Cantonese grandmothers and remarkably intact multigenerational families. At the China Club, where children are allowed in on Saturdays, little English boys in blazers can be seen behaving oh-so-well, while their brattier Chinese cousins run around, their plates laden with webbed goose feet. Hong Kong promotes itself as “Asia’s World City,” but with a population that is over 90 percent Chinese, that may be overstating the case a 112

bit. Hong Kong is a Cantonese city, relatively tolerant and certainly exceptional, but at times provincial and close-knit, its inhabitants bound by ties of kinship, language and food. Saturday brunch at the China Club is a good place to sit back with a turnip cake while examining the social lay of the land. Another point of entry might be one of the Lei Gardens, a chain of uncomplicated Singapore-originated restaurants that manage to do just about everything right. Eunei takes me to an older branch in the bustling Wan Chai district to feast on standards such as lobster with ginger and scallion, a near-perfect Peking duck and, once again, the barbecued pork, moist and fragrant, that signals the best of its kind. “The force is strong in this one,” one local pork connoisseur says as I bite into a particularly fatty piece of swine. With curiosity and appreciation, my girlfriend notes that at this table the women order for the men. THE NEXT LEVEL WITH THE STANDARDS UNDER OUR BELT, IT’S TIME TO TAKE things up a notch. The happening Star Street neighborhood, in Wan Chai, is crammed with boutiques, a mozzarella bar and fancy cake shops, not to mention a yogurt store dispensing the upwardly mobile “Sharie’s BMW combo.” For a brief pit stop try Olala Charcuterie, where you can score a refreshing salad with extra-lean Serrano ham and an undercurrent of beets. Sturdier dishes include an oxtail stewed with red wine and vegetables and a lusty boeuf bourguignon. The food is decent and the place adorable, a glassed-in locale where a wooden table is exactly that, and where you can while away an entire afternoon listening to Chinese yuppies discussing the finer points of Pinot. In deference to local tastes, the popular meat lasagna will give you a sugar high for days. But the true star of the Star Street neighborhood is its newest addition. Everyone—tai-tais, guy-tais, mai-tais—is talking about Cépage, the rosy-cheeked, sure-footed progeny of the pedigreed Les Amis restaurant in Singapore. “It’s probably the best restaurant in Hong Kong right now,” one foodie tells me, wiping XO sauce from his chin as we devour a lobster at another restaurant: eating at one place and rhapsodizing about another—so Hong Kong. From the lightly provocative art by Mao Tong Qiang (the iconic Iwo Jima soldiers hoisting a gigantic dollar symbol instead of the Stars and Stripes) to the timber-paneled red-wine cellar to the burgundy velvet »

Bar Bling Opposite: A bartender at the innovative lounge Salon de Ning, in basement of The Peninsula Hotel.

113


armchairs to the sleek Laguiole knives to the soon-to-come rooftop garden (cigars!), Cépage is understated swank. Resident chef Thomas Mayr was born in a village in northern Italy whose inhabitants spoke a German dialect, and his training at Munich’s spectacular Restaurant Tantris further reinforced his cosmopolitan credentials. As a result, the standard appellation French-Mediterranean doesn’t begin to do the food justice. All the goodies of Asia and Europe have been conscripted into seasonal roles. The thoughtful wine list dutifully bows down to all these fine ingredients. In the calm, beteaked dining room, along with lunching ladies in head-to-toe Chanel and nattily attired businessmen, we enjoy a frisky 2007 Sigalas from Santorini with a carpaccio of Hokkaido scallop, citrus fruit and lemon balm, topped with a little sea salt. The star of the show is a Les Amis classic, the “Tayouran” egg confit, with truffled oxtail gelée, lomo ibérico and croutons. The slow-cooked Japanese organic egg, ethereal in its rising-sun orangeness, is paired with the crunch of the croutons, the meaty tang of the ibérico ham. It doesn’t end there. A Barossa Valley Shiraz, peppery and wrestler-bodied, confronts a pan-roasted coquelet breast and leg stuffed with morel mushrooms, carrots and celeriac mousseline. At the next table, a French and a German banker worry about their respective economies, but the German sings: “This chicken feels very fresh!” Even a jazzy take on the Goldberg Variations looping for hours over the sound system can’t spoil the fun of Hong Kong’s brightest new restaurant. Money, food and gossip fuel Hong Kong, and you can find a nice combination of the three at the Golden Valley restaurant at the Emperor Hotel, in Happy Valley. We are joined by our friend, the businessman Daniel Ng, a Hong Konger by birth who, in an odd gastronomic twist, was responsible for introducing McDonald’s to Hong Kong and later to China. A diminutive man in his sixties, Ng is deliciously irreverent, opinionated and knows where all the local skeletons are buried. The Emperor Hotel, he tells us, is a notorious place for quickies, and is also connected to Hong Kong’s most succulent, R. Kellyesque scandal. The hotel is owned by the company that managed the famed singer and actor Edison Chen, who photographed himself getting carnal with Hong Kong’s most impressive young pop stars, and then made the mistake of entrusting his computer to a local repair shop, with predictable results. “And we were supposed to use those girls for McDonald’s commercials!” Ng tells us, shaking his head and letting out his thrilling honk of a laugh, along with his signature line: “This is such BS!” 114

There’s happy, drunken giggling all around the Golden Valley—just being in this cavernous space, only the ceiling separating us from a reputed hot-sheet hotel, feels naughty. I am not a big fan of the hot pot, the restaurant’s specialty, but this version, made eye-watering by Sichuan spicing, makes me a believer. There’s a chewy, buttery pork neck, amazing crispy fish skin and a brisket of Lower East Side quality. The basic ingredients for the hot pot are also amazingly diverse—Sichuan peppercorns that unload like a small shot of novocaine; spicy tofu; a dash of lard. The appetizers are top-notch: a plump, juicy bomb of a meatball; slippery dan-dan noodles full of peanut and spice; a chili chicken. We are lost in a frenzy of food, shocked by the Satyricon dimensions of the platters and the communal wonder of it all. After four hours of dining and untold consumption of cows, chickens and bitter melons, Ng says, “Let’s go out for some spicy crab.” In Hong Kong, at close to midnight, this passes for a nightcap. We never make it to the crab, but we do join Ng at Lung King Heen. This is the only restaurant in Hong Kong to get three stars from the 2009 Michelin guide, and the locals were not all pleased. Sample harangue: “These French [Michelin] people, what do they understand? They only care about the view. So many better restaurants in Hong Kong, but not so fancy.” Well, it is true, you cannot beat the view from atop the Four Seasons Hotel, the meditative arrangements of wood and glass dipping into the harbor. But allow me to sing the praises of the Japanese pork with marinated red-bean curd crust and pancakes. The lightly fried pork looks golden and actually tastes golden, while the spring onion has been julienned with startling precision. And then there’s the off-themenu house favorite: the pan-fried, silky-smooth grouper with a shading of black truffle used with perfect restraint. (The chef apparently keeps an emergency supply of black truffles for those in the know.) The meal is surprisingly inexpensive, especially since we have steered away from the Chinese obsession with abalone. (Ng: “I hate abalone! It tastes like bad chewing gum. This is such BS!”) The view from Lung King Heen is thrilling, but closing out a night like this may require two more experiences with altitude and alcohol. The M Bar at the nearby Mandarin Oriental hotel allows you to gaze straight down onto the harbor »

Fresh Fare Opposite page, clockwise from top left: The view from Victoria Peak; a dish of crispy pork with marinated red-bean curd crust at Lung King Heen; Bo Innovation’s dining room; a vegetable stall in Mong Kok.

The deep-fried tofu, garlicky little fried cubes dipped in chili salt, will do a nice tap dance along your tongue


armchairs to the sleek Laguiole knives to the soon-to-come rooftop garden (cigars!), Cépage is understated swank. Resident chef Thomas Mayr was born in a village in northern Italy whose inhabitants spoke a German dialect, and his training at Munich’s spectacular Restaurant Tantris further reinforced his cosmopolitan credentials. As a result, the standard appellation French-Mediterranean doesn’t begin to do the food justice. All the goodies of Asia and Europe have been conscripted into seasonal roles. The thoughtful wine list dutifully bows down to all these fine ingredients. In the calm, beteaked dining room, along with lunching ladies in head-to-toe Chanel and nattily attired businessmen, we enjoy a frisky 2007 Sigalas from Santorini with a carpaccio of Hokkaido scallop, citrus fruit and lemon balm, topped with a little sea salt. The star of the show is a Les Amis classic, the “Tayouran” egg confit, with truffled oxtail gelée, lomo ibérico and croutons. The slow-cooked Japanese organic egg, ethereal in its rising-sun orangeness, is paired with the crunch of the croutons, the meaty tang of the ibérico ham. It doesn’t end there. A Barossa Valley Shiraz, peppery and wrestler-bodied, confronts a pan-roasted coquelet breast and leg stuffed with morel mushrooms, carrots and celeriac mousseline. At the next table, a French and a German banker worry about their respective economies, but the German sings: “This chicken feels very fresh!” Even a jazzy take on the Goldberg Variations looping for hours over the sound system can’t spoil the fun of Hong Kong’s brightest new restaurant. Money, food and gossip fuel Hong Kong, and you can find a nice combination of the three at the Golden Valley restaurant at the Emperor Hotel, in Happy Valley. We are joined by our friend, the businessman Daniel Ng, a Hong Konger by birth who, in an odd gastronomic twist, was responsible for introducing McDonald’s to Hong Kong and later to China. A diminutive man in his sixties, Ng is deliciously irreverent, opinionated and knows where all the local skeletons are buried. The Emperor Hotel, he tells us, is a notorious place for quickies, and is also connected to Hong Kong’s most succulent, R. Kellyesque scandal. The hotel is owned by the company that managed the famed singer and actor Edison Chen, who photographed himself getting carnal with Hong Kong’s most impressive young pop stars, and then made the mistake of entrusting his computer to a local repair shop, with predictable results. “And we were supposed to use those girls for McDonald’s commercials!” Ng tells us, shaking his head and letting out his thrilling honk of a laugh, along with his signature line: “This is such BS!” 114

There’s happy, drunken giggling all around the Golden Valley—just being in this cavernous space, only the ceiling separating us from a reputed hot-sheet hotel, feels naughty. I am not a big fan of the hot pot, the restaurant’s specialty, but this version, made eye-watering by Sichuan spicing, makes me a believer. There’s a chewy, buttery pork neck, amazing crispy fish skin and a brisket of Lower East Side quality. The basic ingredients for the hot pot are also amazingly diverse—Sichuan peppercorns that unload like a small shot of novocaine; spicy tofu; a dash of lard. The appetizers are top-notch: a plump, juicy bomb of a meatball; slippery dan-dan noodles full of peanut and spice; a chili chicken. We are lost in a frenzy of food, shocked by the Satyricon dimensions of the platters and the communal wonder of it all. After four hours of dining and untold consumption of cows, chickens and bitter melons, Ng says, “Let’s go out for some spicy crab.” In Hong Kong, at close to midnight, this passes for a nightcap. We never make it to the crab, but we do join Ng at Lung King Heen. This is the only restaurant in Hong Kong to get three stars from the 2009 Michelin guide, and the locals were not all pleased. Sample harangue: “These French [Michelin] people, what do they understand? They only care about the view. So many better restaurants in Hong Kong, but not so fancy.” Well, it is true, you cannot beat the view from atop the Four Seasons Hotel, the meditative arrangements of wood and glass dipping into the harbor. But allow me to sing the praises of the Japanese pork with marinated red-bean curd crust and pancakes. The lightly fried pork looks golden and actually tastes golden, while the spring onion has been julienned with startling precision. And then there’s the off-themenu house favorite: the pan-fried, silky-smooth grouper with a shading of black truffle used with perfect restraint. (The chef apparently keeps an emergency supply of black truffles for those in the know.) The meal is surprisingly inexpensive, especially since we have steered away from the Chinese obsession with abalone. (Ng: “I hate abalone! It tastes like bad chewing gum. This is such BS!”) The view from Lung King Heen is thrilling, but closing out a night like this may require two more experiences with altitude and alcohol. The M Bar at the nearby Mandarin Oriental hotel allows you to gaze straight down onto the harbor »

Fresh Fare Opposite page, clockwise from top left: The view from Victoria Peak; a dish of crispy pork with marinated red-bean curd crust at Lung King Heen; Bo Innovation’s dining room; a vegetable stall in Mong Kok.

The deep-fried tofu, garlicky little fried cubes dipped in chili salt, will do a nice tap dance along your tongue


Wellington Street, in Hong Kong’s SoHo neighborhood.

from the 25th floor, as Chinese businessmen blow cigar smoke into the sexy gloom. The Earl Grey “mar-tea-ni,” rimmed with sugar and salt and infused with orange, is a clever mix of strong booze and light caffeine and the perfect way to regain focus after chewing the hell out of an abalone during dinner. And if you fancy a beer snack, the deep-fried tofu, garlicky little fried cubes dipped in chili-salt, will do a nice tap dance along your tongue. Across the harbor, the venerable Peninsula hotel beckons for a final view of the night: the bar at the Felix restaurant. The glowing harbor from the window of the 28th floor resembles a nautical Times Square with boats beating their way across the water, framed by a skyline garishly lit with the names of troubled American banks. The men’s room is already infamous. Let’s just say that during a sensitive moment, the whole city is at your feet (thank you, Philippe Starck). Downstairs, Salon de Ning is a pleasantly weird place to get blitzed on fruity pink Deutz champagne while lounging among the dandiest collection of antique bric-a-brac this side of Hudson, New York (sequined pillows; enormous perfume bottles; a lion’s head). Whoever designed this place must have had a ton and a half of fun. 116

ADVANCED COURSES Okay, time to get serious. We wake up at an ungodly hour to inspect the venerable markets in Mong Kok with Tsui Kit Po, the affable executive sous-chef at the InterContinental hotel. “The ginger man has been here sixty years,” Po tells us, as the shop owners happily banter with him and show off their exciting star fruit. The mood is hectic. Sun-peeled subtropical buildings surround us, along with new towers of pure glass and steel. A covered market was built here by the government, but Po says it remains mostly empty. “People go to the market to get fresh air,” he tells us. Older people still in their silky morning dress elbow us into various encounters with medicinal deer antlers, homemade noodle shops, sea horses in a bin that glow like a bushel of toddler’s toys, air-dried scallops smelling of salt and sea (little ones for the congee, bigger ones for vegetable dishes), mushrooms the size of my head, tiny dried shrimp in sunset colors, chili-marinated root vegetables, crabs tied up with heavy string, tiny green Shanghai bok choy, and the bodies of fresh fish doing somersaults, their disembodied heads still gasping for air. Freshness is everything here. Of the fish, Po says: “First hour high price, second hour another price.” After the market, he takes us to the InterContinental’s Yan Toh Heen restaurant, overlooking the harbor, to show us how crystal flour used in the casing of dim sum makes them translucent, while spinach or carrot juice provides color. The basic siu mai is used to judge the “class of the restaurant,” according to Po. Following one tasty specimen, we gorge on sweet barbecued pork buns, steamed rice-flour cannelloni with diced scallop and crabmeat, and crispy spring rolls with shredded chicken and the glorious zing of pickles. “Quality of meat, quality of the finger,” Po says as his dexterous chefs wrap their tiny gifts for us. “The shrimp dumpling has nothing to hide.” The owners of one of the busier stands at Mong Kok market are Chiu Chow people from nearby Guangdong province. I am intrigued by the aniseed-flavored soy sauce that colors their geese and pigs a mournful gray hue. The need to explore this Cantonese splinter cuisine is strong. Our next lunch stop is the Sheung Hing Chiu Chow Restaurant, on Queen’s Road. In an airtight, windowless room, we listen to a gweilo brought in by his Chinese coworkers as he tries to cover the bill. “You shouldn’t have to pay!” the Chinese are shouting. “This was too adventurous for you!” The adventure lies in squeezing through this tight, packed, hygienically challenged joint, but the food is as comforting as any. There’s a duck leg in lemon soup that flakes right off the bone; there’s the fried baby oyster omelette, which actually melts before reaching your mouth; and I cannot forget the shrimp sauce suffusing a dish of spinach—rich, salty and strong. And then of course there’s that Chiu Chow classic, goose meat with soy sauce. It’s a spectacularly moist goose breast, squatting over a bed of tofu and ready to be dipped in a garlicky vinegar sauce. You can’t ignore the cupboard of ingredients

that fuel the taste of this animal—ginger, lemon, soy, anise and so many other supporting players in what amounts to a one-dish feast. After we wake up from a four-hour goose coma, it’s time to tackle Hong Kong’s controversial foray into molecular cuisine, Bo Innovation. Bo originated as one of Hong Kong’s storied private kitchens and then morphed into what it is today: a space-age terraced room looking out on the back of an unspectacular building. Bo was not my favorite Hong Kong meal, but neither did I stab the owner with my red pen on the way out. A little dish of ebi in red truffle sauce supplied deep and briny flavors, its fibrous texture turned rich and creamy. Pan-fried scallops in Sichuan “jolo” sauce had a kind of cool laboratory feel—as if microscopic, counterintuitive tastes were doing battle over your senses while you ate—but nothing could detract from the dry, unremarkable scallop at the center of the experiment, and this in a city where scallops thrive. “The menu changes every week,” the manager says, hovering over my friend Janice Lee’s half-finished plate. A sour kumquat ice cream in a nutty cone finally leaves us marginally happy, but all I can think about is that Chiu Chow goose breast speaking to me from within.

FINALS OVER ON KOWLOON SIDE, TIN HEUNG LAU IS SO POPULAR among in-the-know locals that the staff at the Peninsula have to use their clout to get us a brief 45-minute appointment with the restaurant’s famed smoked fish. The menu alone is a joy to read and a testament to just how few foreign souls make it to these parts. There are a lot of animals in need of intervention here, the “chicken alcoholic” and his cousin the “alcoholic crab” (the kitchen has sadly run out of the intriguing “braised bear coupon”). The food is spectacular. The famous Longjing tea leaves from the Hangzhou region make the stirfried freshwater shrimp taste sweet and earthy, but the star of the show is missing from the English side of the menu—the smoked yellow croaker, an unremarkable, bottom-dwelling creature that, in the hands of the Tin Heung Lau staff, emerges as the most tender, smokiest piece of fish I’ve tasted throughout all my happy smoked sturgeon–filled years. Closing time approaches. Families sip their last teas. I look up to notice the cheap hangers and faux-wood partitions that pretty much are the décor. Next to us, a well-dressed ChineseAmerican man in his twenties prepares his parents for his upcoming dismissal from a hedge fund. We dip what’s left of our croaker into pepper sauce. Whatever this is, it’s real. ✚

GUIDE TO HONG KONG Hotel Jen Small rooms with clean lines and pale wood furnishings. 508 Queen’s Rd. W., Western; 852/2974-1234; hoteljen.com; doubles from HK$360. GREAT VALUE

InterContinental 18 Salisbury Rd., Kowloon; 852/2721-1211; intercontinental.com; doubles from HK$2,881.50. Kowloon Shangri-La 64 Mody Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui East; 852/2721-2111; shangri-la.com; doubles from HK$1,858. The Langham 8 Peking Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui; 852/2375-1133; hongkong.langhamhotels. com; doubles from HK$1,650. Mandarin Oriental 5 Connaught Rd., Central; 852/2820-4202; mandarinoriental.com; doubles from HK$2,900. WHEN TO GO Hong Kong is at its best weather-wise between October and early February, a period that is generally sunny and warm, and with low humidity. GETTING THERE AND AROUND All of the region’s major airlines offer daily service to the city, while getting around town is both convenient and inexpensive. WHERE TO STAY Four Seasons Hotel 8 Finance St., Central; 852/3196-8888; fourseasons.com; doubles from HK$4,200.

China Club Old Bank of China Building, Bank St., Central; 852/2521-8888; dinner for two HK$800. Felix The Peninsula, Salisbury Rd., Kowloon; 852/2315-3188; dinner for two HK$1,800. Golden Valley Emperor Hotel, 1 Wang Tak St., Happy Valley; 852/ 2961-3330; dinner for two HK$580. Lei Garden CNT Tower, 338 Hennessy Rd., Wan Chai; 852/2892-0333; dinner for two HK$300. Lung King Heen Four Seasons Hotel, 8 Finance St., Central; 852/3196-8880; dinner for two HK$1,560. M Bar Mandarin Oriental, 5 Connaught Rd., Central; 852/2522- 0111; drinks for two HK$195.

Novotel Nathan Road Recently opened and centrally located near Temple Street and Jade Market. 348 Nathan Rd., Kowloon; 852/3965-8888; accorhotels. com; doubles from HK$956.

Olala Charcuterie 2 Star St., Wan Chai; 852/2294-0450; dinner for two HK$1,600.

The Peninsula Salisbury Rd., Kowloon; 852/2920-2888; peninsula.com; doubles from HK$3,490.

Sheung Hing Chiu Chow Restaurant 29 Queen’s Rd., Sheung Wan; 852/2854-4557; dinner for two HK$400.

GREAT VALUE

WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK Bo Innovation 60 Johnston Rd., Wan Chai; 852/2850-8371; dinner for two HK$1,365. Cépage 23 Wing Fung St., Wan Chai; 852/2810-0532; dinner for two HK$2,180.

Salon de Ning The Peninsula, Salisbury Rd., Kowloon; 852/2315-3355; drinks for two HK$195.

Tin Heung Lau 18C Austin Ave., Tsim Sha Tsui; 852/2366-2414; dinner for two HK$1,600. Yan Toh Heen InterContinental, 18 Salisbury Rd., Kowloon; 852/2313-2323; dinner for two HK$1,150.

117


Wellington Street, in Hong Kong’s SoHo neighborhood.

from the 25th floor, as Chinese businessmen blow cigar smoke into the sexy gloom. The Earl Grey “mar-tea-ni,” rimmed with sugar and salt and infused with orange, is a clever mix of strong booze and light caffeine and the perfect way to regain focus after chewing the hell out of an abalone during dinner. And if you fancy a beer snack, the deep-fried tofu, garlicky little fried cubes dipped in chili-salt, will do a nice tap dance along your tongue. Across the harbor, the venerable Peninsula hotel beckons for a final view of the night: the bar at the Felix restaurant. The glowing harbor from the window of the 28th floor resembles a nautical Times Square with boats beating their way across the water, framed by a skyline garishly lit with the names of troubled American banks. The men’s room is already infamous. Let’s just say that during a sensitive moment, the whole city is at your feet (thank you, Philippe Starck). Downstairs, Salon de Ning is a pleasantly weird place to get blitzed on fruity pink Deutz champagne while lounging among the dandiest collection of antique bric-a-brac this side of Hudson, New York (sequined pillows; enormous perfume bottles; a lion’s head). Whoever designed this place must have had a ton and a half of fun. 116

ADVANCED COURSES Okay, time to get serious. We wake up at an ungodly hour to inspect the venerable markets in Mong Kok with Tsui Kit Po, the affable executive sous-chef at the InterContinental hotel. “The ginger man has been here sixty years,” Po tells us, as the shop owners happily banter with him and show off their exciting star fruit. The mood is hectic. Sun-peeled subtropical buildings surround us, along with new towers of pure glass and steel. A covered market was built here by the government, but Po says it remains mostly empty. “People go to the market to get fresh air,” he tells us. Older people still in their silky morning dress elbow us into various encounters with medicinal deer antlers, homemade noodle shops, sea horses in a bin that glow like a bushel of toddler’s toys, air-dried scallops smelling of salt and sea (little ones for the congee, bigger ones for vegetable dishes), mushrooms the size of my head, tiny dried shrimp in sunset colors, chili-marinated root vegetables, crabs tied up with heavy string, tiny green Shanghai bok choy, and the bodies of fresh fish doing somersaults, their disembodied heads still gasping for air. Freshness is everything here. Of the fish, Po says: “First hour high price, second hour another price.” After the market, he takes us to the InterContinental’s Yan Toh Heen restaurant, overlooking the harbor, to show us how crystal flour used in the casing of dim sum makes them translucent, while spinach or carrot juice provides color. The basic siu mai is used to judge the “class of the restaurant,” according to Po. Following one tasty specimen, we gorge on sweet barbecued pork buns, steamed rice-flour cannelloni with diced scallop and crabmeat, and crispy spring rolls with shredded chicken and the glorious zing of pickles. “Quality of meat, quality of the finger,” Po says as his dexterous chefs wrap their tiny gifts for us. “The shrimp dumpling has nothing to hide.” The owners of one of the busier stands at Mong Kok market are Chiu Chow people from nearby Guangdong province. I am intrigued by the aniseed-flavored soy sauce that colors their geese and pigs a mournful gray hue. The need to explore this Cantonese splinter cuisine is strong. Our next lunch stop is the Sheung Hing Chiu Chow Restaurant, on Queen’s Road. In an airtight, windowless room, we listen to a gweilo brought in by his Chinese coworkers as he tries to cover the bill. “You shouldn’t have to pay!” the Chinese are shouting. “This was too adventurous for you!” The adventure lies in squeezing through this tight, packed, hygienically challenged joint, but the food is as comforting as any. There’s a duck leg in lemon soup that flakes right off the bone; there’s the fried baby oyster omelette, which actually melts before reaching your mouth; and I cannot forget the shrimp sauce suffusing a dish of spinach—rich, salty and strong. And then of course there’s that Chiu Chow classic, goose meat with soy sauce. It’s a spectacularly moist goose breast, squatting over a bed of tofu and ready to be dipped in a garlicky vinegar sauce. You can’t ignore the cupboard of ingredients

that fuel the taste of this animal—ginger, lemon, soy, anise and so many other supporting players in what amounts to a one-dish feast. After we wake up from a four-hour goose coma, it’s time to tackle Hong Kong’s controversial foray into molecular cuisine, Bo Innovation. Bo originated as one of Hong Kong’s storied private kitchens and then morphed into what it is today: a space-age terraced room looking out on the back of an unspectacular building. Bo was not my favorite Hong Kong meal, but neither did I stab the owner with my red pen on the way out. A little dish of ebi in red truffle sauce supplied deep and briny flavors, its fibrous texture turned rich and creamy. Pan-fried scallops in Sichuan “jolo” sauce had a kind of cool laboratory feel—as if microscopic, counterintuitive tastes were doing battle over your senses while you ate—but nothing could detract from the dry, unremarkable scallop at the center of the experiment, and this in a city where scallops thrive. “The menu changes every week,” the manager says, hovering over my friend Janice Lee’s half-finished plate. A sour kumquat ice cream in a nutty cone finally leaves us marginally happy, but all I can think about is that Chiu Chow goose breast speaking to me from within.

FINALS OVER ON KOWLOON SIDE, TIN HEUNG LAU IS SO POPULAR among in-the-know locals that the staff at the Peninsula have to use their clout to get us a brief 45-minute appointment with the restaurant’s famed smoked fish. The menu alone is a joy to read and a testament to just how few foreign souls make it to these parts. There are a lot of animals in need of intervention here, the “chicken alcoholic” and his cousin the “alcoholic crab” (the kitchen has sadly run out of the intriguing “braised bear coupon”). The food is spectacular. The famous Longjing tea leaves from the Hangzhou region make the stirfried freshwater shrimp taste sweet and earthy, but the star of the show is missing from the English side of the menu—the smoked yellow croaker, an unremarkable, bottom-dwelling creature that, in the hands of the Tin Heung Lau staff, emerges as the most tender, smokiest piece of fish I’ve tasted throughout all my happy smoked sturgeon–filled years. Closing time approaches. Families sip their last teas. I look up to notice the cheap hangers and faux-wood partitions that pretty much are the décor. Next to us, a well-dressed ChineseAmerican man in his twenties prepares his parents for his upcoming dismissal from a hedge fund. We dip what’s left of our croaker into pepper sauce. Whatever this is, it’s real. ✚

GUIDE TO HONG KONG Hotel Jen Small rooms with clean lines and pale wood furnishings. 508 Queen’s Rd. W., Western; 852/2974-1234; hoteljen.com; doubles from HK$360. GREAT VALUE

InterContinental 18 Salisbury Rd., Kowloon; 852/2721-1211; intercontinental.com; doubles from HK$2,881.50. Kowloon Shangri-La 64 Mody Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui East; 852/2721-2111; shangri-la.com; doubles from HK$1,858. The Langham 8 Peking Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui; 852/2375-1133; hongkong.langhamhotels. com; doubles from HK$1,650. Mandarin Oriental 5 Connaught Rd., Central; 852/2820-4202; mandarinoriental.com; doubles from HK$2,900. WHEN TO GO Hong Kong is at its best weather-wise between October and early February, a period that is generally sunny and warm, and with low humidity. GETTING THERE AND AROUND All of the region’s major airlines offer daily service to the city, while getting around town is both convenient and inexpensive. WHERE TO STAY Four Seasons Hotel 8 Finance St., Central; 852/3196-8888; fourseasons.com; doubles from HK$4,200.

China Club Old Bank of China Building, Bank St., Central; 852/2521-8888; dinner for two HK$800. Felix The Peninsula, Salisbury Rd., Kowloon; 852/2315-3188; dinner for two HK$1,800. Golden Valley Emperor Hotel, 1 Wang Tak St., Happy Valley; 852/ 2961-3330; dinner for two HK$580. Lei Garden CNT Tower, 338 Hennessy Rd., Wan Chai; 852/2892-0333; dinner for two HK$300. Lung King Heen Four Seasons Hotel, 8 Finance St., Central; 852/3196-8880; dinner for two HK$1,560. M Bar Mandarin Oriental, 5 Connaught Rd., Central; 852/2522- 0111; drinks for two HK$195.

Novotel Nathan Road Recently opened and centrally located near Temple Street and Jade Market. 348 Nathan Rd., Kowloon; 852/3965-8888; accorhotels. com; doubles from HK$956.

Olala Charcuterie 2 Star St., Wan Chai; 852/2294-0450; dinner for two HK$1,600.

The Peninsula Salisbury Rd., Kowloon; 852/2920-2888; peninsula.com; doubles from HK$3,490.

Sheung Hing Chiu Chow Restaurant 29 Queen’s Rd., Sheung Wan; 852/2854-4557; dinner for two HK$400.

GREAT VALUE

WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK Bo Innovation 60 Johnston Rd., Wan Chai; 852/2850-8371; dinner for two HK$1,365. Cépage 23 Wing Fung St., Wan Chai; 852/2810-0532; dinner for two HK$2,180.

Salon de Ning The Peninsula, Salisbury Rd., Kowloon; 852/2315-3355; drinks for two HK$195.

Tin Heung Lau 18C Austin Ave., Tsim Sha Tsui; 852/2366-2414; dinner for two HK$1,600. Yan Toh Heen InterContinental, 18 Salisbury Rd., Kowloon; 852/2313-2323; dinner for two HK$1,150.

117


PURE

CORSICA

There is wildness in Corsica, an unfiltered and rebellious beauty— the dramatic beaches and rugged mountains, the fresh seafood and fierce wines. Scott Spencer goes in search of the island of his childhood dreams. Photographed by David Cicconi

Cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean Sea in Bonifacio, on the southern tip of Corsica. Opposite: François Zamponi at Snack Bar Le Zampo, in Zonza, in the island’s interior.


PURE

CORSICA

There is wildness in Corsica, an unfiltered and rebellious beauty— the dramatic beaches and rugged mountains, the fresh seafood and fierce wines. Scott Spencer goes in search of the island of his childhood dreams. Photographed by David Cicconi

Cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean Sea in Bonifacio, on the southern tip of Corsica. Opposite: François Zamponi at Snack Bar Le Zampo, in Zonza, in the island’s interior.


I

CAME TO UNDERSTAND THAT THERE

are four Corsicas, each of them compelling, each of them quintessentially Corsican: the glamorous, sunblasted, sybaritic Corsica of the seaside resorts and the boldface names; the eco-wonderland Corsica of hearty backpackers, campers and hikers; the shadowy, misty, steep Corsica of the mountains; and the Corsica most of us will never know, but which at the most unexpected moments whispers proof of its presence into your ear. I’d like to say that my lifelong fascination with Corsica was a result of my deep reading of James Boswell, who wrote a travelogue detailing his trip there in 1765, or his predecessors Pliny the Elder, Ptolemy or Seneca—all of whom have left us vivid and still remarkably useful portraits of this wild and untamable island. But the truth is that my interest began in childhood, when one of my parents’ bohemian friends, sensing and generously affirming my anarchic contrarian streak, began to routinely refer to me as “the Little Corsican.” The family friend was an impecunious portrait photographer, an African-American bachelor whose studio was his apartment’s one spare room. Like many of my parents’ friends he was a Communist, and we undoubtedly got the Party rate for the portrait he made of 10-year-old me, posed in blue jeans and a horizontally striped T-shirt, with my gap-toothed smile and a big bright part in my wet hair, the rift between the lower left third of my hair and the rest of it as unignorable as the Sino-Soviet split. At the time of his remark, I thought he meant there was something of Napoleon in me, which I did not at all mind since, like many children, I admired Bonaparte, primarily for his being one of the few historical characters who was approximately my height. Decades passed. My parents’ left-wing friends watched as their sense of History went through the meat grinder of what history becomes when it is bereft of its capital H, when it becomes what actually happens rather than what your theories would lead you to surmise, and they themselves were pretty much stunned by a long slide of bad news, beginning with revelations of the gulag and continuing straight on through

120

the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the rise of the money-mad Russian oligarchs. Corsica itself remained uneasily under French rule, and for the most part its business was conducted with a minimum of attention from the outside world. Every now and then, a piece appeared in the world press about explosive acts committed by Corsican separatists, or a cache of stolen paintings that turned up there, or a Corsican governor who managed to get himself arrested for burning down a rival’s businesses—arson is a staple of vendetta, the Corsican home-brewed justice, as ubiquitous as moonshine once was to Appalachia. The Corsican flag is one of the few in the world with a human form on it, a dark, Moorish head with a white bandanna, which was once in the flag’s history a blindfold, but which is now tied around his forehead, and the image of this wild youth is painted on the plane from which I get my first glimpse of Corsica. The graphics and design of every other plane I have ever flown on have a kind of reassuring, quasimilitary formality to them with the exception of one I once took from the middle of Colombia toward the Venezuelan border that had riotous-looking black crows reminiscent of Heckle and Jeckle painted on the wings. Those crows seemed to be saying, You are going to a place where adventure is prized above security, and, likewise, that dark young man on the Air Corsica fuselage held in his romantic profile a promise that my girlfriend and I were on our way to a place that valued rebellion and individualism.

F

LYING IN FROM NICE, SUDDENLY THE CLOUDS PART JUST as they do when Peter Pan and the Lost Boys begin the descent into Neverland. And there it is, sparsely populated, barely developed, fierce and forbidding Corsica. What you see first is the mountain peaks marching down the island’s center like a granite army with spears held high. As the plane makes its way toward the Corsican coast, we »

Local Colors Opposite, clockwise from top left: The main square in Corte; overlooking the bay in Calvi, on the northwestern coast; a Porto-Vecchio resident; rock pools near the inland town of Zoza; a Zoza farm donkey; L’Orriu cheese shop, in Porto-Vecchio; San Giovanni-Battista, in Carbini; tuna salad at La Villa hotel’s bistro, in Calvi. Center: A waitress at Pignata hotel and restaurant, in Levie, southern Corsica.


I

CAME TO UNDERSTAND THAT THERE

are four Corsicas, each of them compelling, each of them quintessentially Corsican: the glamorous, sunblasted, sybaritic Corsica of the seaside resorts and the boldface names; the eco-wonderland Corsica of hearty backpackers, campers and hikers; the shadowy, misty, steep Corsica of the mountains; and the Corsica most of us will never know, but which at the most unexpected moments whispers proof of its presence into your ear. I’d like to say that my lifelong fascination with Corsica was a result of my deep reading of James Boswell, who wrote a travelogue detailing his trip there in 1765, or his predecessors Pliny the Elder, Ptolemy or Seneca—all of whom have left us vivid and still remarkably useful portraits of this wild and untamable island. But the truth is that my interest began in childhood, when one of my parents’ bohemian friends, sensing and generously affirming my anarchic contrarian streak, began to routinely refer to me as “the Little Corsican.” The family friend was an impecunious portrait photographer, an African-American bachelor whose studio was his apartment’s one spare room. Like many of my parents’ friends he was a Communist, and we undoubtedly got the Party rate for the portrait he made of 10-year-old me, posed in blue jeans and a horizontally striped T-shirt, with my gap-toothed smile and a big bright part in my wet hair, the rift between the lower left third of my hair and the rest of it as unignorable as the Sino-Soviet split. At the time of his remark, I thought he meant there was something of Napoleon in me, which I did not at all mind since, like many children, I admired Bonaparte, primarily for his being one of the few historical characters who was approximately my height. Decades passed. My parents’ left-wing friends watched as their sense of History went through the meat grinder of what history becomes when it is bereft of its capital H, when it becomes what actually happens rather than what your theories would lead you to surmise, and they themselves were pretty much stunned by a long slide of bad news, beginning with revelations of the gulag and continuing straight on through

120

the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the rise of the money-mad Russian oligarchs. Corsica itself remained uneasily under French rule, and for the most part its business was conducted with a minimum of attention from the outside world. Every now and then, a piece appeared in the world press about explosive acts committed by Corsican separatists, or a cache of stolen paintings that turned up there, or a Corsican governor who managed to get himself arrested for burning down a rival’s businesses—arson is a staple of vendetta, the Corsican home-brewed justice, as ubiquitous as moonshine once was to Appalachia. The Corsican flag is one of the few in the world with a human form on it, a dark, Moorish head with a white bandanna, which was once in the flag’s history a blindfold, but which is now tied around his forehead, and the image of this wild youth is painted on the plane from which I get my first glimpse of Corsica. The graphics and design of every other plane I have ever flown on have a kind of reassuring, quasimilitary formality to them with the exception of one I once took from the middle of Colombia toward the Venezuelan border that had riotous-looking black crows reminiscent of Heckle and Jeckle painted on the wings. Those crows seemed to be saying, You are going to a place where adventure is prized above security, and, likewise, that dark young man on the Air Corsica fuselage held in his romantic profile a promise that my girlfriend and I were on our way to a place that valued rebellion and individualism.

F

LYING IN FROM NICE, SUDDENLY THE CLOUDS PART JUST as they do when Peter Pan and the Lost Boys begin the descent into Neverland. And there it is, sparsely populated, barely developed, fierce and forbidding Corsica. What you see first is the mountain peaks marching down the island’s center like a granite army with spears held high. As the plane makes its way toward the Corsican coast, we »

Local Colors Opposite, clockwise from top left: The main square in Corte; overlooking the bay in Calvi, on the northwestern coast; a Porto-Vecchio resident; rock pools near the inland town of Zoza; a Zoza farm donkey; L’Orriu cheese shop, in Porto-Vecchio; San Giovanni-Battista, in Carbini; tuna salad at La Villa hotel’s bistro, in Calvi. Center: A waitress at Pignata hotel and restaurant, in Levie, southern Corsica.


descend into the relative banality of the maquis-choked flatlands until we touch down in Figari, an outpost tucked into Corsica’s southeastern pocket. A vigorous spring wind blows us across the funky little airport, into the low-tech office of a car-rental company, and from there it is a half-hour northeast cross-country to the resort town of Porto-Vecchio. Porto-Vecchio is part of the first Corsica, the Corsica of travel posters, of mauve Mediterranean waters filled with winking and nodding yachts, of palm trees and white-sand beaches, of fashion shoots and nightclubs where exquisite Gauls dance in that unnervingly goofy way that makes some people wonder how on earth the French developed a reputation for sensuality. Our hotel, however, is utterly and 100 percent sensual. We have reserved a relatively modest room in the swank Grand Hôtel de Cala Rossa. While some grand hotels allow their well-heeled if not necessarily well-born guests to emulate the experience of very old money, to pretend to their dukedoms beneath chandeliers dripping exquisite light, canopied four-poster beds, carved candlesticks, faux heirlooms in every corner, the Cala Rossa seems instead to have been designed for those who wish to escape the oppressive luxuries of the past. It seems more like a futuristic spa, if the future was, in fact, 1988. At

first I thought that what I was seeing was the pinnacle of minimalism, but really the Cala Rossa aesthetic is Perfectionism, owing nothing to any movement or style, owing everything to its knowledge of what will be most pleasing and functional to its deep-pocketed guests. It is one of those places where no one seems to be paying you the slightest mind but at the very moment you need something—a beach umbrella, a vodka tonic, a ride into town—it’s as if one of the staff had been standing there all along. From the terra-cotta-and-turquoise patterned floor tiles, to the big gleaming doors with lacquered driftwood handles, to the little bowls filled with floppy white orchids, to the oxblood leather armchairs, strategically placed in the event you should become fatigued during the walk from the day spa back to your room, the Cala Rossa is one of those places that makes you wish you’d booked for a month rather than just a few days, though, to be fair, it is also the home of the €12.50 mixed salad, the €21 dessert, and the €69 catch of the day, a place where a month’s worth of continental breakfast buffets would add up to a down payment on a three-bedroom home in Moline, Illinois, my girlfriend’s hometown. In Porto-Vecchio, the restaurants are plentiful and the prices are comparatively reasonable. The fish—loup de mer, striped bass, sea bream, tuna—is bracingly fresh, like a slap in the face that returns you to full consciousness. The local wines are brooding, somewhat fierce, and altogether wonderful. The town’s busy port is crammed with yachts, and its multitude of shops and cafés are filled with seafaring high rollers, many of them genetically engineered to garner triple-takes. No-nonsense-looking Corsican mothers walk side by side, pushing their no-nonsense-looking babies in strollers and talking animatedly to each other through the squint of cigarette smoke. It wasn’t so long ago that Porto-Vecchio, like most of the Corsican coast, with its streams and tidal pools, was a veritable petri dish for the cultivation of deadly diseases, most particularly malaria, which for centuries offered a line of microbial defense from waves of would-be invaders, ranging from pirates to royal navies. The primary reason that the true cultural heart of Corsica is in the mountains is that, until the mid-20th century, the coast was virtually uninhabitable dur-

ing the summer months, and even Corsicans whose livelihoods depended on the sea maintained homes at a safer altitude. During World War II, however, U.S. military engineers, hoping to transform Corsica into a base in the war against the Axis, drained the vast networks of standing water in which infectious mosquitoes had been breeding since ancient times, and then, for good measure, drenched the coast with DDT, a wild whack at the local ecosystem that not only helped the war effort, but would soon turn Corsica into a beach resort, where glittering discos have taken the place of malaria wards. Yet no matter how white and soft the sand, how temperate the sea, and how ready to serve the waiters at the various seaside cafés, there remains something muscular, even truculent, about the Corsican coast. For one thing, the local bathers have a distinctly proletarian vibe (so, by the way, do I), and the families you see mixed in with the tourists give the beaches a kind of workingman’s holiday-camp feel. Tough-looking girls with transistor radios the size of the Gutenberg Bible; hefty men dandling infants on their barstool knees. With some regularity, the peacefulness of the day is shaken by the urgency of gigantic motors as camouflage-green troop carriers fly several hundred meters above, spawning khaki clouds of paratroopers, who slowly drift out of view, dropping to their base at the foot of the mountains. These are the airborne units of the nearby Foreign Legion post, a further reminder that, while Corsica is willing and able to please your senses, fill your belly and paint your toenails, it is also quite capable of kicking your ass, if ever the need should arise. The sun is steady and warm, and like any resort there is a lure toward excess. Along the marinas in Porto-Vecchio and Bonifacio are shops selling ice cream, woven hats, flags, Tshirts, busts of Napoleon—though not so many as you might expect, since he was a Frenchman, and except in Ajaccio, where he was born and where Bonapartabilia is key to the town’s economy, many Corsicans are reluctant to pay him homage. Life here is typical for a Mediterranean resort. Parking your car is a task on the level of solving Rubik’s Cube. Patisseries abound, as do cheese shops where the local varieties are dark, dry and pungent, with a taste that is not so »

Porto-Vecchio is part of the first Corsica, the Corsica of travel posters, of mauve Mediterranean waters filled with winking and nodding yachts, of palm trees and whitesand beaches, of fashion shoots Kids playing a game of pétanque in Bonifacio’s Old Town.

110

123


descend into the relative banality of the maquis-choked flatlands until we touch down in Figari, an outpost tucked into Corsica’s southeastern pocket. A vigorous spring wind blows us across the funky little airport, into the low-tech office of a car-rental company, and from there it is a half-hour northeast cross-country to the resort town of Porto-Vecchio. Porto-Vecchio is part of the first Corsica, the Corsica of travel posters, of mauve Mediterranean waters filled with winking and nodding yachts, of palm trees and white-sand beaches, of fashion shoots and nightclubs where exquisite Gauls dance in that unnervingly goofy way that makes some people wonder how on earth the French developed a reputation for sensuality. Our hotel, however, is utterly and 100 percent sensual. We have reserved a relatively modest room in the swank Grand Hôtel de Cala Rossa. While some grand hotels allow their well-heeled if not necessarily well-born guests to emulate the experience of very old money, to pretend to their dukedoms beneath chandeliers dripping exquisite light, canopied four-poster beds, carved candlesticks, faux heirlooms in every corner, the Cala Rossa seems instead to have been designed for those who wish to escape the oppressive luxuries of the past. It seems more like a futuristic spa, if the future was, in fact, 1988. At

first I thought that what I was seeing was the pinnacle of minimalism, but really the Cala Rossa aesthetic is Perfectionism, owing nothing to any movement or style, owing everything to its knowledge of what will be most pleasing and functional to its deep-pocketed guests. It is one of those places where no one seems to be paying you the slightest mind but at the very moment you need something—a beach umbrella, a vodka tonic, a ride into town—it’s as if one of the staff had been standing there all along. From the terra-cotta-and-turquoise patterned floor tiles, to the big gleaming doors with lacquered driftwood handles, to the little bowls filled with floppy white orchids, to the oxblood leather armchairs, strategically placed in the event you should become fatigued during the walk from the day spa back to your room, the Cala Rossa is one of those places that makes you wish you’d booked for a month rather than just a few days, though, to be fair, it is also the home of the €12.50 mixed salad, the €21 dessert, and the €69 catch of the day, a place where a month’s worth of continental breakfast buffets would add up to a down payment on a three-bedroom home in Moline, Illinois, my girlfriend’s hometown. In Porto-Vecchio, the restaurants are plentiful and the prices are comparatively reasonable. The fish—loup de mer, striped bass, sea bream, tuna—is bracingly fresh, like a slap in the face that returns you to full consciousness. The local wines are brooding, somewhat fierce, and altogether wonderful. The town’s busy port is crammed with yachts, and its multitude of shops and cafés are filled with seafaring high rollers, many of them genetically engineered to garner triple-takes. No-nonsense-looking Corsican mothers walk side by side, pushing their no-nonsense-looking babies in strollers and talking animatedly to each other through the squint of cigarette smoke. It wasn’t so long ago that Porto-Vecchio, like most of the Corsican coast, with its streams and tidal pools, was a veritable petri dish for the cultivation of deadly diseases, most particularly malaria, which for centuries offered a line of microbial defense from waves of would-be invaders, ranging from pirates to royal navies. The primary reason that the true cultural heart of Corsica is in the mountains is that, until the mid-20th century, the coast was virtually uninhabitable dur-

ing the summer months, and even Corsicans whose livelihoods depended on the sea maintained homes at a safer altitude. During World War II, however, U.S. military engineers, hoping to transform Corsica into a base in the war against the Axis, drained the vast networks of standing water in which infectious mosquitoes had been breeding since ancient times, and then, for good measure, drenched the coast with DDT, a wild whack at the local ecosystem that not only helped the war effort, but would soon turn Corsica into a beach resort, where glittering discos have taken the place of malaria wards. Yet no matter how white and soft the sand, how temperate the sea, and how ready to serve the waiters at the various seaside cafés, there remains something muscular, even truculent, about the Corsican coast. For one thing, the local bathers have a distinctly proletarian vibe (so, by the way, do I), and the families you see mixed in with the tourists give the beaches a kind of workingman’s holiday-camp feel. Tough-looking girls with transistor radios the size of the Gutenberg Bible; hefty men dandling infants on their barstool knees. With some regularity, the peacefulness of the day is shaken by the urgency of gigantic motors as camouflage-green troop carriers fly several hundred meters above, spawning khaki clouds of paratroopers, who slowly drift out of view, dropping to their base at the foot of the mountains. These are the airborne units of the nearby Foreign Legion post, a further reminder that, while Corsica is willing and able to please your senses, fill your belly and paint your toenails, it is also quite capable of kicking your ass, if ever the need should arise. The sun is steady and warm, and like any resort there is a lure toward excess. Along the marinas in Porto-Vecchio and Bonifacio are shops selling ice cream, woven hats, flags, Tshirts, busts of Napoleon—though not so many as you might expect, since he was a Frenchman, and except in Ajaccio, where he was born and where Bonapartabilia is key to the town’s economy, many Corsicans are reluctant to pay him homage. Life here is typical for a Mediterranean resort. Parking your car is a task on the level of solving Rubik’s Cube. Patisseries abound, as do cheese shops where the local varieties are dark, dry and pungent, with a taste that is not so »

Porto-Vecchio is part of the first Corsica, the Corsica of travel posters, of mauve Mediterranean waters filled with winking and nodding yachts, of palm trees and whitesand beaches, of fashion shoots Kids playing a game of pétanque in Bonifacio’s Old Town.

110

123


Island Exile From left: The spa pool at the Grand Hôtel de Cala Rossa, in Porto-Vecchio; a local couple in Porto-Vecchio; Corsica Cola.

much gamey as feral. You can play in the surf, fish, water-ski, snorkel or sail. You can dine on a kind of rustic Franco-Italian cuisine, fresh from the sea or the earth, or hot from the oven. Yet all the while, the cloudy, misty, obdurate reality of the mountains is never far away. They loom whenever you turn from the sea; they watch over the life of the coast like elders gazing down on their airheaded offspring.

C

ORSICA MAY BE IN MANY WAYS A WILDERNESS, BUT IT IS A French wilderness, with a highly functional infrastructure. The roads are rife with adventurous turns and prayer-inducing vistas, but they are well paved and well maintained, and anytime you want to you can traverse the island with relative ease. Our first real look at the interior was in the company of a learned young Corsican named François Zamponi, a father of three, the lead singer in a local rock band, and, at one time, a waiter at my favorite place for coffee in New York City. Zamponi had been living with his wife and children in Paris, but was now passionately repatriated—for, indeed, he did consider this island to be far more than a province of France, but rather a unique and unduplicatible world. “People criticize our traditions of vendetta, but this is a kind of justice that works,” he says, as he navigates his minivan up through a miasma of fog and fern, with a tucked-away horseracing track on one side of the road, so beautiful that it almost brings tears to our eyes, and Neolithic rock formations on the other, reminiscent of Easter Island. “When people know that justice will come quickly they behave a lot better. Sometimes it’s better to take matters in your own hands and that’s how I want to raise my kids, which is a big part of the reason we decided to move back.” The mountain villages are full of beautiful stone houses, mysterious and mournful in their gray emptiness. Many of

124

them are owned by Corsicans in economic exile, who hold on to their properties in the hope of one day returning, and who are willing to pay taxes on and rudimentarily maintain dwellings into which they might not set foot for years. “Without a house in Corsica, you don’t feel Corsican anymore,” Zamponi explains. The population of the island is just a shade over a quarter-million, while the number of Corsicans living abroad is nearly three times that. The diaspora is primarily economic, but it has its political side, too. Once you are away from the resorts, you notice that the bilingual signs marking the boundaries of places in the mountains like Corte, Sartène and Zonza have been systematically defaced, with the French spelling spray-painted out of legibility, only the Corsican remaining. Of course, to the casual visitor, one of the most remarkable aspects of the Corsican experience is that you can mate the wild, sparsely populated vigor of the land to the haut-bourgeois creature comforts of a French holiday. As my girlfriend was wont to mutter: Why would the Corsicans want to break with France? What do they want? Their own foreign policy? In the mountainous heart of the island there are innumerable waterfalls and rock pools, raging rivers that look like molten aluminum, olive groves, chestnut trees, pastured sheep and donkeys, and satellite dishes galore. Few people with the wit and curiosity to venture away from the luxury hotels and the glamorous beaches fail to visit the interior’s most photographed natural wonder, the Col de Bavella, an expanse of high-altitude, immense, otherworldly granite needles with no apparent evolutionary purpose save the triggering of fear and trembling. They are notched into the rocky terrain like missiles ready for liftoff. Here in the Alta Rocca area, the wind has sheared the tops off the pine trees and forced them to grow gnarled and dreamily contorted, like bonsai trees that are tortured to turn growth into intensity.

Any one of the dozens of small villages that serve as the human outposts in this area will have a bar or a café where you can stop for a beer or, better yet, a glass of the local aperitif, made of myrtle, which, along with mint and laurel, is a primary ingredient of the maquis, the tangle of pungent vegetation that grows wild throughout the island. In one café, near the starting point for the hikers hoping to traverse the G20 (a two-week trek through prehistoric vegetation and wildflowers), two wizened men yank an immense Campari umbrella from the table it shades on sunny days, and power through a driving, blinding rainstorm to offer their escort to my companion, who, in fact, is so traumatized by the ferocity of the rain that she would have rather stayed in the car. But Corsica is no place to be wimpy, in fact it is not a place to be prim or shy. It’s a place to get drenched, it’s a place to be exhausted, it’s a place to be just a little less civilized than you normally are. In Corte, the principal city of the Corsican heights, we sit in a little, minimally decorated restaurant on a city square, eating what we instantly declare the very best pizza we have ever encountered—a polyphonic blend of contrasting cheeses; a crisp, yeasty crust. Corte was the birthplace of Corsican nationalism, and the place where the revered Corsican patriot Pasquale Paoli established a national university in 1765, which was suppressed and shuttered four years after its inception, not to reopen until 1981. To this day, Corte is a steep, stony town, secretive, even a little stern, with a fascinating ethnology museum, a couple of magnificent promontories from which to survey the surroundings when the weather permits, and little else to entice the casual traveler. In fact, enticing travelers seems the furthest thing from the town’s collective consciousness, which is the

case with all of the Corsican mountain towns and villages we visited. Even the ancient mill in Sartène, where olive oil is pressed in the old style, and the San Giovanni-Battista church in Carbini, where, legend has it, the townsfolk were so pleased with the bell tower that they resolved to kill the architect so he wouldn’t build another, seem to accept visitors with a kind of poker-faced equanimity. The people here, my girlfriend says to me as we eat our sublime pizza in Corte, with the fog shouldering against the windows of the little café, giving the place a kind of noonday intimacy, they don’t seem like the types who go along in order to get along. Around us are mainly men, dark-haired, carelessly shaven, muscular, hardworking guys from the quarries, or the little factories, as well as men who look as if they don’t have anyplace in particular they need to go. I know why that old leftist shutterbug called me the Little Corsican, I say to her. It wasn’t really a description; it was a prescription. He was inviting me to lead a life of internal exile. Internal exile? My girlfriend smiles. Like the Rasta-haired kids playing Hacky Sack in the park? Sure, I say, like anyone who makes his own culture inside of another culture. Like anyone who doesn’t want to be dominated, or even conform. Look around you, I continue, my voice rising. These people, this place, no one tells them what to do, no one has ever told them what to do. You look around you, my companion immediately counters, her eyes gesturing toward the window. I half turn in my chair to see what she is looking at, and the moment I do she takes the last piece of pizza off the scorched and battered tray. You could have had it anyhow, I tell her. Really? She says, rather skeptically. Yes, I say, of course. I feel a rush of self-pride, almost unseemly in its sudden force. My parents were Communists. ✚

GUIDE TO CORSICA to the island’s four airports, including Figari and Campo dell’Oro. WHERE TO STAY Pignata Family-owned hotel and restaurant. Route du Pianu, Levie; 33-4/9578-41-90; apignata.com; doubles from ¤80; dinner for two ¤74. GREAT VALUE

WHEN TO GO Off France’s Mediterranean coast, a good time to visit Corsica is this month when it’s warm and the flora is blooming, though June is the best time to visit. GETTING THERE Air France and Air Corsica fly via Nice — less than an hour away —

Grand Hôtel de Cala Rossa Lecci, Porto-Vecchio; 33-4/95-7161-51; doubles from ¤430, including breakfast. Hôtel Alta Rocca This secluded three-story building has 17 rooms with balconies and views of the sea. Route de Palombaggia, Porto-Vecchio; 33-4/95-70-22-01; doubles from ¤187.

La Villa With an infinity pool overlooking the Calvi coastline. Chemin de Notre-Dame de la Serra, Calvi; 33-4/95-65-10-10; doubles from ¤360. WHERE TO EAT Cantina Grill Reserve a streetside table at this small brasserie with well-priced dishes including grilled pork sausages. Quai Banda del Ferro, Bonifacio; 33-4/95-70-49-86; lunch for two ¤38. Le Calenzana (Chez Michel) Simple Corsican cuisine, including the house specialty, lamb cooked in a wood-burning oven. 7 Cours St.-Blaise, Calenzana; 33-4/95-62-70-25; dinner for two ¤33.

Le Jardin du Magnolia Freshly baked bread and traditional Corsican wild boar, served under a 150-year-old tree at the charming Hôtel Le Magnolia. Rue Alsace Lorraine, Calvi; 33-4/9565-19-16; dinner for two ¤85. Snack Bar le Zampo Zonza; no phone; lunch for two ¤28. WHAT TO DO Claudia Gordon, with Betty Maclean Travel, knows Corsica well, and can arrange a detailed itinerary. 239/513-0333; claudia@ bettymacleantravel.com; consulting fee from ¤140. WHAT TO READ An Account of Corsica by James Boswell (1768).

125


Island Exile From left: The spa pool at the Grand Hôtel de Cala Rossa, in Porto-Vecchio; a local couple in Porto-Vecchio; Corsica Cola.

much gamey as feral. You can play in the surf, fish, water-ski, snorkel or sail. You can dine on a kind of rustic Franco-Italian cuisine, fresh from the sea or the earth, or hot from the oven. Yet all the while, the cloudy, misty, obdurate reality of the mountains is never far away. They loom whenever you turn from the sea; they watch over the life of the coast like elders gazing down on their airheaded offspring.

C

ORSICA MAY BE IN MANY WAYS A WILDERNESS, BUT IT IS A French wilderness, with a highly functional infrastructure. The roads are rife with adventurous turns and prayer-inducing vistas, but they are well paved and well maintained, and anytime you want to you can traverse the island with relative ease. Our first real look at the interior was in the company of a learned young Corsican named François Zamponi, a father of three, the lead singer in a local rock band, and, at one time, a waiter at my favorite place for coffee in New York City. Zamponi had been living with his wife and children in Paris, but was now passionately repatriated—for, indeed, he did consider this island to be far more than a province of France, but rather a unique and unduplicatible world. “People criticize our traditions of vendetta, but this is a kind of justice that works,” he says, as he navigates his minivan up through a miasma of fog and fern, with a tucked-away horseracing track on one side of the road, so beautiful that it almost brings tears to our eyes, and Neolithic rock formations on the other, reminiscent of Easter Island. “When people know that justice will come quickly they behave a lot better. Sometimes it’s better to take matters in your own hands and that’s how I want to raise my kids, which is a big part of the reason we decided to move back.” The mountain villages are full of beautiful stone houses, mysterious and mournful in their gray emptiness. Many of

124

them are owned by Corsicans in economic exile, who hold on to their properties in the hope of one day returning, and who are willing to pay taxes on and rudimentarily maintain dwellings into which they might not set foot for years. “Without a house in Corsica, you don’t feel Corsican anymore,” Zamponi explains. The population of the island is just a shade over a quarter-million, while the number of Corsicans living abroad is nearly three times that. The diaspora is primarily economic, but it has its political side, too. Once you are away from the resorts, you notice that the bilingual signs marking the boundaries of places in the mountains like Corte, Sartène and Zonza have been systematically defaced, with the French spelling spray-painted out of legibility, only the Corsican remaining. Of course, to the casual visitor, one of the most remarkable aspects of the Corsican experience is that you can mate the wild, sparsely populated vigor of the land to the haut-bourgeois creature comforts of a French holiday. As my girlfriend was wont to mutter: Why would the Corsicans want to break with France? What do they want? Their own foreign policy? In the mountainous heart of the island there are innumerable waterfalls and rock pools, raging rivers that look like molten aluminum, olive groves, chestnut trees, pastured sheep and donkeys, and satellite dishes galore. Few people with the wit and curiosity to venture away from the luxury hotels and the glamorous beaches fail to visit the interior’s most photographed natural wonder, the Col de Bavella, an expanse of high-altitude, immense, otherworldly granite needles with no apparent evolutionary purpose save the triggering of fear and trembling. They are notched into the rocky terrain like missiles ready for liftoff. Here in the Alta Rocca area, the wind has sheared the tops off the pine trees and forced them to grow gnarled and dreamily contorted, like bonsai trees that are tortured to turn growth into intensity.

Any one of the dozens of small villages that serve as the human outposts in this area will have a bar or a café where you can stop for a beer or, better yet, a glass of the local aperitif, made of myrtle, which, along with mint and laurel, is a primary ingredient of the maquis, the tangle of pungent vegetation that grows wild throughout the island. In one café, near the starting point for the hikers hoping to traverse the G20 (a two-week trek through prehistoric vegetation and wildflowers), two wizened men yank an immense Campari umbrella from the table it shades on sunny days, and power through a driving, blinding rainstorm to offer their escort to my companion, who, in fact, is so traumatized by the ferocity of the rain that she would have rather stayed in the car. But Corsica is no place to be wimpy, in fact it is not a place to be prim or shy. It’s a place to get drenched, it’s a place to be exhausted, it’s a place to be just a little less civilized than you normally are. In Corte, the principal city of the Corsican heights, we sit in a little, minimally decorated restaurant on a city square, eating what we instantly declare the very best pizza we have ever encountered—a polyphonic blend of contrasting cheeses; a crisp, yeasty crust. Corte was the birthplace of Corsican nationalism, and the place where the revered Corsican patriot Pasquale Paoli established a national university in 1765, which was suppressed and shuttered four years after its inception, not to reopen until 1981. To this day, Corte is a steep, stony town, secretive, even a little stern, with a fascinating ethnology museum, a couple of magnificent promontories from which to survey the surroundings when the weather permits, and little else to entice the casual traveler. In fact, enticing travelers seems the furthest thing from the town’s collective consciousness, which is the

case with all of the Corsican mountain towns and villages we visited. Even the ancient mill in Sartène, where olive oil is pressed in the old style, and the San Giovanni-Battista church in Carbini, where, legend has it, the townsfolk were so pleased with the bell tower that they resolved to kill the architect so he wouldn’t build another, seem to accept visitors with a kind of poker-faced equanimity. The people here, my girlfriend says to me as we eat our sublime pizza in Corte, with the fog shouldering against the windows of the little café, giving the place a kind of noonday intimacy, they don’t seem like the types who go along in order to get along. Around us are mainly men, dark-haired, carelessly shaven, muscular, hardworking guys from the quarries, or the little factories, as well as men who look as if they don’t have anyplace in particular they need to go. I know why that old leftist shutterbug called me the Little Corsican, I say to her. It wasn’t really a description; it was a prescription. He was inviting me to lead a life of internal exile. Internal exile? My girlfriend smiles. Like the Rasta-haired kids playing Hacky Sack in the park? Sure, I say, like anyone who makes his own culture inside of another culture. Like anyone who doesn’t want to be dominated, or even conform. Look around you, I continue, my voice rising. These people, this place, no one tells them what to do, no one has ever told them what to do. You look around you, my companion immediately counters, her eyes gesturing toward the window. I half turn in my chair to see what she is looking at, and the moment I do she takes the last piece of pizza off the scorched and battered tray. You could have had it anyhow, I tell her. Really? She says, rather skeptically. Yes, I say, of course. I feel a rush of self-pride, almost unseemly in its sudden force. My parents were Communists. ✚

GUIDE TO CORSICA to the island’s four airports, including Figari and Campo dell’Oro. WHERE TO STAY Pignata Family-owned hotel and restaurant. Route du Pianu, Levie; 33-4/9578-41-90; apignata.com; doubles from ¤80; dinner for two ¤74. GREAT VALUE

WHEN TO GO Off France’s Mediterranean coast, a good time to visit Corsica is this month when it’s warm and the flora is blooming, though June is the best time to visit. GETTING THERE Air France and Air Corsica fly via Nice — less than an hour away —

Grand Hôtel de Cala Rossa Lecci, Porto-Vecchio; 33-4/95-7161-51; doubles from ¤430, including breakfast. Hôtel Alta Rocca This secluded three-story building has 17 rooms with balconies and views of the sea. Route de Palombaggia, Porto-Vecchio; 33-4/95-70-22-01; doubles from ¤187.

La Villa With an infinity pool overlooking the Calvi coastline. Chemin de Notre-Dame de la Serra, Calvi; 33-4/95-65-10-10; doubles from ¤360. WHERE TO EAT Cantina Grill Reserve a streetside table at this small brasserie with well-priced dishes including grilled pork sausages. Quai Banda del Ferro, Bonifacio; 33-4/95-70-49-86; lunch for two ¤38. Le Calenzana (Chez Michel) Simple Corsican cuisine, including the house specialty, lamb cooked in a wood-burning oven. 7 Cours St.-Blaise, Calenzana; 33-4/95-62-70-25; dinner for two ¤33.

Le Jardin du Magnolia Freshly baked bread and traditional Corsican wild boar, served under a 150-year-old tree at the charming Hôtel Le Magnolia. Rue Alsace Lorraine, Calvi; 33-4/9565-19-16; dinner for two ¤85. Snack Bar le Zampo Zonza; no phone; lunch for two ¤28. WHAT TO DO Claudia Gordon, with Betty Maclean Travel, knows Corsica well, and can arrange a detailed itinerary. 239/513-0333; claudia@ bettymacleantravel.com; consulting fee from ¤140. WHAT TO READ An Account of Corsica by James Boswell (1768).

125


The view from the Art Institute’s new wing, designed by Renzo Piano, overlooking Millennium Park and the Frank Gehry amphitheater. Opposite: Alberto Giacometti’s Tall Figure and Walking Man II and Pablo Picasso’s Nude Under a Pine Tree, in the museum addition.

CHICAGOSTYLE Channeling his inner tourist in the Windy City, Guy Trebay tastes the famously cutting-edge cuisine, explores the Obamas’ neighborhood and is wowed by Renzo Piano’s new modern wing at the Art Institute — a symbol of the welcome transformation of this Midwestern metropolis. Photographed by Jonny Valiant


The view from the Art Institute’s new wing, designed by Renzo Piano, overlooking Millennium Park and the Frank Gehry amphitheater. Opposite: Alberto Giacometti’s Tall Figure and Walking Man II and Pablo Picasso’s Nude Under a Pine Tree, in the museum addition.

CHICAGOSTYLE Channeling his inner tourist in the Windy City, Guy Trebay tastes the famously cutting-edge cuisine, explores the Obamas’ neighborhood and is wowed by Renzo Piano’s new modern wing at the Art Institute — a symbol of the welcome transformation of this Midwestern metropolis. Photographed by Jonny Valiant


If you don’t like the weather, wait three minutes,” a friend told me soon after I landed in Chicago. This is one of the most frequently uttered clichés about the Windy City, and now I know why. I arrived to fine spring sunshine, and in no time was treated to cloud banks advancing in a gloomy armada, followed by a rain squall, a mini heat spell—and snow. The shadow falling over the window as I unpacked in my room at The Peninsula was caused by a flurry that abruptly turned the area into a snow globe. This microclimatic event lasted roughly 10 minutes and then cleared. It was May once again. I had come to Chicago to check out the celebrated food scene and to see the stores where Michelle Obama buys the clothes that have transformed her into if not the most fashion-conscious First Lady ever (that would be a toss-up 128

after this exchange occurred I would stumble between Mary Todd Lincoln and Jacqueline World Class Opposite, across a shoot-out in the middle of Michigan Kennedy Onassis), then certainly the only from left to right: The of Contemporary Avenue, specifically the swanky retail stretch president’s wife to have worn Commes des Museum Art in the Magnificent Mile; of it called the Magnificent Mile. A thing like Garçons. And, of course, I planned to explore passing the day outside Lula Café, in Logan Square; that could happen anywhere in our gun-happy the spectacular new Renzo Piano–designed the Modern Wing of the Art Institute, seen from country. But until I hit Chicago I had never addition to the Art Institute of Chicago. Millennium Park; Olafur seen a cop draw a gun before. Now I have. I already knew about Chicago’s world-class Eliuason’s 360˚ room for The event served to illustrate how paradoxical architecture and world-class art collections, all colors at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Chicago can be, and not just in the imaginathat it was the American birthplace of molecution. The city is, as advertised, staccato, chic, lar physics and is ground zero for molecular gastronomy on this continent. I was aware that its fecund dynamic and like something out of a cartoon. The Chicago I encountered turned out to be less the monopolitical scene somehow birthed both the Jerry Springer–style train-wreck governor Rod Blagojevich and … that other guy, lithic Second City than a congeries of neighborhoods, entirely unalike. It is a surprisingly mercurial place operating the leader of the free world. Still, for me Chicago had too long been terra incognita, under the marine influence of Lake Michigan, a body of which is why I understood when Erin Hogan, public affairs water so vast and oceanic you could sink Vermont and New director of the Art Institute, told me too many “still have this Hampshire in it all but invisibly. As Shane Gabier, who, with his partner and boyfriend, misconception that Chicago is all crooked politicians, guns Christopher Peters, runs a design collective called Creatures and gangsters. You know, Al Capone. Bang, bang.” I will give you this. The odds are long that not 20 minutes of the Wind, told me, “Chicago is a really casual place » 129


If you don’t like the weather, wait three minutes,” a friend told me soon after I landed in Chicago. This is one of the most frequently uttered clichés about the Windy City, and now I know why. I arrived to fine spring sunshine, and in no time was treated to cloud banks advancing in a gloomy armada, followed by a rain squall, a mini heat spell—and snow. The shadow falling over the window as I unpacked in my room at The Peninsula was caused by a flurry that abruptly turned the area into a snow globe. This microclimatic event lasted roughly 10 minutes and then cleared. It was May once again. I had come to Chicago to check out the celebrated food scene and to see the stores where Michelle Obama buys the clothes that have transformed her into if not the most fashion-conscious First Lady ever (that would be a toss-up 128

after this exchange occurred I would stumble between Mary Todd Lincoln and Jacqueline World Class Opposite, across a shoot-out in the middle of Michigan Kennedy Onassis), then certainly the only from left to right: The of Contemporary Avenue, specifically the swanky retail stretch president’s wife to have worn Commes des Museum Art in the Magnificent Mile; of it called the Magnificent Mile. A thing like Garçons. And, of course, I planned to explore passing the day outside Lula Café, in Logan Square; that could happen anywhere in our gun-happy the spectacular new Renzo Piano–designed the Modern Wing of the Art Institute, seen from country. But until I hit Chicago I had never addition to the Art Institute of Chicago. Millennium Park; Olafur seen a cop draw a gun before. Now I have. I already knew about Chicago’s world-class Eliuason’s 360˚ room for The event served to illustrate how paradoxical architecture and world-class art collections, all colors at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Chicago can be, and not just in the imaginathat it was the American birthplace of molecution. The city is, as advertised, staccato, chic, lar physics and is ground zero for molecular gastronomy on this continent. I was aware that its fecund dynamic and like something out of a cartoon. The Chicago I encountered turned out to be less the monopolitical scene somehow birthed both the Jerry Springer–style train-wreck governor Rod Blagojevich and … that other guy, lithic Second City than a congeries of neighborhoods, entirely unalike. It is a surprisingly mercurial place operating the leader of the free world. Still, for me Chicago had too long been terra incognita, under the marine influence of Lake Michigan, a body of which is why I understood when Erin Hogan, public affairs water so vast and oceanic you could sink Vermont and New director of the Art Institute, told me too many “still have this Hampshire in it all but invisibly. As Shane Gabier, who, with his partner and boyfriend, misconception that Chicago is all crooked politicians, guns Christopher Peters, runs a design collective called Creatures and gangsters. You know, Al Capone. Bang, bang.” I will give you this. The odds are long that not 20 minutes of the Wind, told me, “Chicago is a really casual place » 129


the culinary world,” I was told by Michael Nagrant, a local journalist who blogs on Serious Eats. Once you have sampled the local cooking there is really no arguing the point. Sure, chefs like Laurent Gras at L20 have conjured a style of deconstructed cuisine that can sometimes feel obsessive in its wizardry and a wee bit Las Vegas in its effects. A dry-ice ritual performed at a rolling cart beside my table one evening was enacted with such priestly solemnity that I wondered whether I was being served an appetizer or receiving Communion. But the restaurant was packed, with a smart-looking crowd that had apparently missed the memo about a recession. An average check at L20 runs US$200, and before they called for a wheelbarrow to haul me out the door, I had anted up half again as much stuffing myself on poached lobster medallions in bisque and a slab of seared foie gras encased in a cotton-candy nest. Luckily for my arteries I had spent the day walking, my pedestrian exertions acting as a kind of offset credit against the trillion or so calories I’d consumed. Happily for my wallet I had followed Nagrant’s advice to get lunch at Cemitas Puebla, a taqueria in Humboldt Park. Spoiled for choice, I could have gorged just as contentedly on the creations of gifted chefs like Chris Pandel at the Bristol, or Robert Levitt at Mado, or Graham Elliot Bowles at his eponymous gallery-district place, where the three-star cooking is taken down a welcome notch by the fact that the staff is dressed in sneakers and jeans. But Chicago, as Nagrant pointed out to me, has the largest Latino population outside California and a taco culture nearly as obsessive as that found in Los Angeles. Cemitas Puebla more than merited the cab ride to the western neighborhood of Humboldt Park, if only to partake of the narrative built into the restaurant’s gestalt. Longing for the singular savor of cooking from his home place, Antonio Zurita—the proprietor, along with his son Tony Anteliz— travels to Puebla every three weeks to buy chipotles for their salsas and marinades. In former days they brought back seeds of the Mexican herb pápalo, which now thrives in their family’s Chicago garden. Local food obsessives have long since sniffed out the Anteliz family and their pita-thick tortillas, their butterflied, breaded pork chops, their salsas flavored with thyme, pineapple, vinegar and cloves. “What people don’t realize is that there’s a totally interesting cross-section of cultures in the city,” said Nagrant, whose catholic zeal does not differentiate between lauded top-shelf places like Alinea (for whose cookbook he wrote an essay),

Pakistani barbecue joints along Western Avenue and spots like Spoon Thai, a restaurant located in a nowhere part of town, whose “jungle” curries “are so crazy hot they blow your head off.” Because the best way to get a sense of Chicago’s interlocking neighborhoods is to walk, I figured I would tap into a free Greeter program, which may seem pitched to an Elderhostel demographic but turns out to be a fine way of seeing the town. This is particularly true when one’s assigned Greeter is an avuncular ham named Marshall Jacobson, retired some years back from a career in the nonprofit sector. When we met downtown on a Saturday morning, Jacobson handed me the keys to the city—or, anyway, a free one-day metro pass—and the two of us set off on a brisk three-hour tour of the architecturally historic Loop and also of Hyde Park, the neighborhood where Barack Obama made his political bones. Anybody who can move and read a guidebook could probably wander around Chicago as contentedly as we did; you can hardly leave your hotel without bumping into some International Style wonder or well-loved gem of the Prairie School. But for streamlining the itinerary and getting inside the buildings it pays to have someone like Marshall Jacobson by your side. Not a Greeter on earth could be more knowledgeably preoccupied with the subtext of architectural meanings, or so it struck me as Jacobson spouted information with the conviction of Brando doing Stanley Kowalski. His passion proved contagious, whether for the structural innovations of the 1894 Marquette Building, the Sol LeWitt installation hidden on the exterior wall of a parking garage, or the vast limestone ghosts of Chicago’s fabled mercantile palaces. He even pointed out the brick house on a Hyde Park corner from which young Bobby Franks—the hapless victim of the murderous lovers Leopold and Loeb—set forth on the day he was kidnapped. Hyde Park itself is a leafy neighborhood roughly 20 minutes south of the city center by bus and is the political base for a small-time community organizer who appeared seemingly out of nowhere to jolt American history. I had asked to be shown the Obama residence and there it was, a modest brick structure, conspicuously less opulent than many around it, including the fortified compound inhabited by Louis Farrakhan. From the curb I could make out the Obama roofline, a porch and the president’s basketball backboard. Of greater interest, perhaps, is the house’s location across from the historic Kam synagogue and some modest garden »

I had asked to be shown the Obama residence and there it was, a modest brick structure, conspicuously less opulent than many around it

on what is classic and still first-rate. Instead, in a these days.” Over roast chicken one night at Lula Menu Masters city I don’t know, I’m often happiest playing the Café, a bustling restaurant in Logan Square, Left: Diners at Puebla, tourist card. Why not try the hokey double-decker Gabier remarked that Chicago has become “kind Cemitas in Humboldt Park. Right: Rising star bus tour? Why not see a new place the way you of like Portland or Seattle, but with some edgier chef Curtis Duffy might if you were on a Shriners outing, but minus moments, at this halfway mark between the Pacific of Avenues, in The Peninsula hotel. the name tag and the fez? After all, it would and New York.” require several lifetimes to experience every one In style terms, that mash-up quality is embodied at the upper reaches by Blake, a minimalist retail temple of what Chicago city maps call “22 unique neighborhoods,” where the Martin Margiela clothes are displayed with ecclesi- places in which English is barely a second language and astical reverence, and also by Ikram, a crammed Rush Street where individual museums are dedicated to the cultures of boutique owned by Ikram Goldman, the woman who acts as Poland, Mexico, Greece, Sweden and Ukraine, and, at the Michelle Obama’s unofficial style consigliere, not that you Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, to the artist Henry Darger’s Realms of the Unreal, population: 1. would ever get Ms. Goldman to admit as much in print. With just a little advance planning, I was able to cover art At a more accessible point on that arc lie stores like Hejfina, the Wicker Park emporium that some claim has the best fash- and architecture and also to make the important stations of ion selection in the Central time zone and others accuse of the foodie cross—going high at gastronomic shrines like L20 having passed its hipster use-by date. Certainly Hejfina is well and Avenues at The Peninsula (where Curtis Duffy is fast stocked with the limited production labels like Loden Dager becoming a chef to watch), and low at winning ethnic joints and Adam Kimmel (jumpsuits, anyone?) that give the fash- like the funky Korean street food spot Urbanbelly, in Avondale, that drive Chowhound types to rapture. ion-addicted the vapors. “I really believe that, in the last two years, what people are But after years of following this stuff occupationally, I have learned that, if you only track the new, you risk missing out saying about the food in Chicago mirrors what’s going on in 130

131


the culinary world,” I was told by Michael Nagrant, a local journalist who blogs on Serious Eats. Once you have sampled the local cooking there is really no arguing the point. Sure, chefs like Laurent Gras at L20 have conjured a style of deconstructed cuisine that can sometimes feel obsessive in its wizardry and a wee bit Las Vegas in its effects. A dry-ice ritual performed at a rolling cart beside my table one evening was enacted with such priestly solemnity that I wondered whether I was being served an appetizer or receiving Communion. But the restaurant was packed, with a smart-looking crowd that had apparently missed the memo about a recession. An average check at L20 runs US$200, and before they called for a wheelbarrow to haul me out the door, I had anted up half again as much stuffing myself on poached lobster medallions in bisque and a slab of seared foie gras encased in a cotton-candy nest. Luckily for my arteries I had spent the day walking, my pedestrian exertions acting as a kind of offset credit against the trillion or so calories I’d consumed. Happily for my wallet I had followed Nagrant’s advice to get lunch at Cemitas Puebla, a taqueria in Humboldt Park. Spoiled for choice, I could have gorged just as contentedly on the creations of gifted chefs like Chris Pandel at the Bristol, or Robert Levitt at Mado, or Graham Elliot Bowles at his eponymous gallery-district place, where the three-star cooking is taken down a welcome notch by the fact that the staff is dressed in sneakers and jeans. But Chicago, as Nagrant pointed out to me, has the largest Latino population outside California and a taco culture nearly as obsessive as that found in Los Angeles. Cemitas Puebla more than merited the cab ride to the western neighborhood of Humboldt Park, if only to partake of the narrative built into the restaurant’s gestalt. Longing for the singular savor of cooking from his home place, Antonio Zurita—the proprietor, along with his son Tony Anteliz— travels to Puebla every three weeks to buy chipotles for their salsas and marinades. In former days they brought back seeds of the Mexican herb pápalo, which now thrives in their family’s Chicago garden. Local food obsessives have long since sniffed out the Anteliz family and their pita-thick tortillas, their butterflied, breaded pork chops, their salsas flavored with thyme, pineapple, vinegar and cloves. “What people don’t realize is that there’s a totally interesting cross-section of cultures in the city,” said Nagrant, whose catholic zeal does not differentiate between lauded top-shelf places like Alinea (for whose cookbook he wrote an essay),

Pakistani barbecue joints along Western Avenue and spots like Spoon Thai, a restaurant located in a nowhere part of town, whose “jungle” curries “are so crazy hot they blow your head off.” Because the best way to get a sense of Chicago’s interlocking neighborhoods is to walk, I figured I would tap into a free Greeter program, which may seem pitched to an Elderhostel demographic but turns out to be a fine way of seeing the town. This is particularly true when one’s assigned Greeter is an avuncular ham named Marshall Jacobson, retired some years back from a career in the nonprofit sector. When we met downtown on a Saturday morning, Jacobson handed me the keys to the city—or, anyway, a free one-day metro pass—and the two of us set off on a brisk three-hour tour of the architecturally historic Loop and also of Hyde Park, the neighborhood where Barack Obama made his political bones. Anybody who can move and read a guidebook could probably wander around Chicago as contentedly as we did; you can hardly leave your hotel without bumping into some International Style wonder or well-loved gem of the Prairie School. But for streamlining the itinerary and getting inside the buildings it pays to have someone like Marshall Jacobson by your side. Not a Greeter on earth could be more knowledgeably preoccupied with the subtext of architectural meanings, or so it struck me as Jacobson spouted information with the conviction of Brando doing Stanley Kowalski. His passion proved contagious, whether for the structural innovations of the 1894 Marquette Building, the Sol LeWitt installation hidden on the exterior wall of a parking garage, or the vast limestone ghosts of Chicago’s fabled mercantile palaces. He even pointed out the brick house on a Hyde Park corner from which young Bobby Franks—the hapless victim of the murderous lovers Leopold and Loeb—set forth on the day he was kidnapped. Hyde Park itself is a leafy neighborhood roughly 20 minutes south of the city center by bus and is the political base for a small-time community organizer who appeared seemingly out of nowhere to jolt American history. I had asked to be shown the Obama residence and there it was, a modest brick structure, conspicuously less opulent than many around it, including the fortified compound inhabited by Louis Farrakhan. From the curb I could make out the Obama roofline, a porch and the president’s basketball backboard. Of greater interest, perhaps, is the house’s location across from the historic Kam synagogue and some modest garden »

I had asked to be shown the Obama residence and there it was, a modest brick structure, conspicuously less opulent than many around it

on what is classic and still first-rate. Instead, in a these days.” Over roast chicken one night at Lula Menu Masters city I don’t know, I’m often happiest playing the Café, a bustling restaurant in Logan Square, Left: Diners at Puebla, tourist card. Why not try the hokey double-decker Gabier remarked that Chicago has become “kind Cemitas in Humboldt Park. Right: Rising star bus tour? Why not see a new place the way you of like Portland or Seattle, but with some edgier chef Curtis Duffy might if you were on a Shriners outing, but minus moments, at this halfway mark between the Pacific of Avenues, in The Peninsula hotel. the name tag and the fez? After all, it would and New York.” require several lifetimes to experience every one In style terms, that mash-up quality is embodied at the upper reaches by Blake, a minimalist retail temple of what Chicago city maps call “22 unique neighborhoods,” where the Martin Margiela clothes are displayed with ecclesi- places in which English is barely a second language and astical reverence, and also by Ikram, a crammed Rush Street where individual museums are dedicated to the cultures of boutique owned by Ikram Goldman, the woman who acts as Poland, Mexico, Greece, Sweden and Ukraine, and, at the Michelle Obama’s unofficial style consigliere, not that you Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, to the artist Henry Darger’s Realms of the Unreal, population: 1. would ever get Ms. Goldman to admit as much in print. With just a little advance planning, I was able to cover art At a more accessible point on that arc lie stores like Hejfina, the Wicker Park emporium that some claim has the best fash- and architecture and also to make the important stations of ion selection in the Central time zone and others accuse of the foodie cross—going high at gastronomic shrines like L20 having passed its hipster use-by date. Certainly Hejfina is well and Avenues at The Peninsula (where Curtis Duffy is fast stocked with the limited production labels like Loden Dager becoming a chef to watch), and low at winning ethnic joints and Adam Kimmel (jumpsuits, anyone?) that give the fash- like the funky Korean street food spot Urbanbelly, in Avondale, that drive Chowhound types to rapture. ion-addicted the vapors. “I really believe that, in the last two years, what people are But after years of following this stuff occupationally, I have learned that, if you only track the new, you risk missing out saying about the food in Chicago mirrors what’s going on in 130

131


apartments, and about equal distance from the brain trust of the University of Chicago and the South Side projects that for decades served as reminders of the sharply demarcated separation between Chicago white and black. We took in Italian Fiesta Pizzeria, the Obamas’ favorite take-out joint, and also the president’s barbershop (where his chair has now been cordoned off as a kind of shrine). Then I bid Jacobson what would turn out to be a temporary farewell. I had a date to preview the Renzo Piano addition to the Art Institute, a wing that would open in a week to a chorus of critical raves. Even without the critics’ endorsement, it seemed immediately clear that the building marks a new phase in the history of the city, a departure from the weighty forms it is known for in favor of something serenely and confidently civilized. The new wing adds a substantial 24,500 square meters to the museum and gives breathing room to existing collections—of Impressionist paintings to rival those of any museum outside the Louvre; of architecture, in a department with 170,000 individual objects; of contemporary art—so fine they struck me as inadequately renowned. It is not just that the Art Institute addition is transparent and airy, that it solves a challenging architectural program with grace. It is not even that it incorporates an element of whimsy in the form of a bridge vaulting the rail-bed tracks on which the 130-year-old museum stands, and connecting it to Millennium Park. This structure acts as a threshold from an

older era to a new one. Like Millennium Park’s Cloud Gate— the convex sculpture created by Anish Kapoor over what, until five years ago, had been a derelict train yard—it reflects a city in the process of being reinvented. Instead of mirroring its own status back to a nascent class of white industrial barons, as the Classical brick and granite behemoths along Michigan Avenue did, the Piano building invites the general population to feel included in the cultural composition. Where the monuments of Chicago’s past can sometimes be burdened with arriviste anxieties, it has the brio to be light. This occurred to me as I was racing from the museum to meet a boat tour of the city’s architectural marvels. An outing of that kind might ordinarily follow voluntary root canal on a must-do list, yet every visitor to Chicago should immediately take this ride, which compresses so much American architectural and social history into two hours that it is like taking a cruise through a highly informative Wikipedia entry. “Look, look at that beautiful Art Deco façade,” the tour guide said as we passed the former Chicago Main Post Office. His spiel sounded oddly familiar, and so I moved nearer to the bow from my seat at the stern for a closer look. Sure enough, the guy behind the tinted Prada glasses was Marshall Jacobson, my Chicago Zelig. “You have to love a city that can come up with a building like that,” he remarked into the mike clipped to his nylon windbreaker. And he was right. You do. ✚

GUIDE TO CHICAGO 1-312/280-8800; fourseasons. com; doubles from US$425. Hotel Indigo Chicago Downtown Quiet highrise in the upscale Gold Coast part of town, just to the north of the city. 1244 N. Dearborn Pkwy.; 1-312/787-4980; ichotelsgroup. com; doubles from US$179. GREAT VALUE

The James Hip boutique hotel — the lobby has exhibits from the Melanie Melouche gallery — in the shopping district. 616 N. Rush St.; 1-312/337-1000; jameshotels.com; doubles from US$339.

WHERE TO STAY Four Seasons Hotel Chicago Occupies floors 30–46 of a Michigan Avenue skyscraper; each room has dramatic city views. 120 E. Delaware Place;

132

Park Hyatt Chicago Modernist monument with its own art gallery and the restaurant NoMI. 800 N. Michigan Ave.; 1-312/3351234; park.hyatt.com; doubles from US$545. The Peninsula Chicago A sleek tower in the Magnificent Mile, with two top-notch restaurants: Avenues and Shanghai Terrace. 108 E. Superior St.; 1-312/337-

2888; peninsula.com; doubles from US$550. WHERE TO EAT Alinea Deconstructed creations at the forefront of America’s molecular gastronomy movement. 1723 N. Halsted St.; 1-312/867-0110; 12-course tasting menu for two US$290. Cemitas Puebla 3619 W. North Ave.; 1-773/772-8435; lunch for two US$20. L20 2300 Lincoln Park W.; 1-773/868-0002; six-course tasting menu for two US$180. Lula Café 2537 N. Kedzie Blvd.; 1-773/489-9554; dinner for two US$30. Urbanbelly 3053 N. California Ave.; 1-773/583-0500; lunch for two US$30. WHAT TO DO Blake 212 W. Chicago Ave.; 1-312/202-0047.

Chicago Greeter 1-312/7448000; chicagogreeter.com; free. Chicago Line Cruises Architectural boat tours. 1-312/527-1977; chicagoline.com. Hejfina 1529 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 1-773/772-0002; hejfina.com. Ikram 873 N. Rush St.; 312/5871000; ikram.com. Tours-R-Us Chicago Personalized tours with Marshall Jacobson. 1-773/575-3176; toursruschicago.com. WHAT TO SEE Art Institute of Chicago 111 S. Michigan Ave.; 1-312/443-3600; artic.edu; adult admission US$18. Museum of Contemporary Art 220 E. Chicago Ave.; 1-312/2802660; mcachicago.org; suggested adult admission US$12. Millennium Park Welcome center at 201 E. Randolph St.; 1-312/7421168; millenniumpark.org.

Anish Kapoor’s stainless-steel Cloud Gate, in Millennium Park.


apartments, and about equal distance from the brain trust of the University of Chicago and the South Side projects that for decades served as reminders of the sharply demarcated separation between Chicago white and black. We took in Italian Fiesta Pizzeria, the Obamas’ favorite take-out joint, and also the president’s barbershop (where his chair has now been cordoned off as a kind of shrine). Then I bid Jacobson what would turn out to be a temporary farewell. I had a date to preview the Renzo Piano addition to the Art Institute, a wing that would open in a week to a chorus of critical raves. Even without the critics’ endorsement, it seemed immediately clear that the building marks a new phase in the history of the city, a departure from the weighty forms it is known for in favor of something serenely and confidently civilized. The new wing adds a substantial 24,500 square meters to the museum and gives breathing room to existing collections—of Impressionist paintings to rival those of any museum outside the Louvre; of architecture, in a department with 170,000 individual objects; of contemporary art—so fine they struck me as inadequately renowned. It is not just that the Art Institute addition is transparent and airy, that it solves a challenging architectural program with grace. It is not even that it incorporates an element of whimsy in the form of a bridge vaulting the rail-bed tracks on which the 130-year-old museum stands, and connecting it to Millennium Park. This structure acts as a threshold from an

older era to a new one. Like Millennium Park’s Cloud Gate— the convex sculpture created by Anish Kapoor over what, until five years ago, had been a derelict train yard—it reflects a city in the process of being reinvented. Instead of mirroring its own status back to a nascent class of white industrial barons, as the Classical brick and granite behemoths along Michigan Avenue did, the Piano building invites the general population to feel included in the cultural composition. Where the monuments of Chicago’s past can sometimes be burdened with arriviste anxieties, it has the brio to be light. This occurred to me as I was racing from the museum to meet a boat tour of the city’s architectural marvels. An outing of that kind might ordinarily follow voluntary root canal on a must-do list, yet every visitor to Chicago should immediately take this ride, which compresses so much American architectural and social history into two hours that it is like taking a cruise through a highly informative Wikipedia entry. “Look, look at that beautiful Art Deco façade,” the tour guide said as we passed the former Chicago Main Post Office. His spiel sounded oddly familiar, and so I moved nearer to the bow from my seat at the stern for a closer look. Sure enough, the guy behind the tinted Prada glasses was Marshall Jacobson, my Chicago Zelig. “You have to love a city that can come up with a building like that,” he remarked into the mike clipped to his nylon windbreaker. And he was right. You do. ✚

GUIDE TO CHICAGO 1-312/280-8800; fourseasons. com; doubles from US$425. Hotel Indigo Chicago Downtown Quiet highrise in the upscale Gold Coast part of town, just to the north of the city. 1244 N. Dearborn Pkwy.; 1-312/787-4980; ichotelsgroup. com; doubles from US$179. GREAT VALUE

The James Hip boutique hotel — the lobby has exhibits from the Melanie Melouche gallery — in the shopping district. 616 N. Rush St.; 1-312/337-1000; jameshotels.com; doubles from US$339.

WHERE TO STAY Four Seasons Hotel Chicago Occupies floors 30–46 of a Michigan Avenue skyscraper; each room has dramatic city views. 120 E. Delaware Place;

132

Park Hyatt Chicago Modernist monument with its own art gallery and the restaurant NoMI. 800 N. Michigan Ave.; 1-312/3351234; park.hyatt.com; doubles from US$545. The Peninsula Chicago A sleek tower in the Magnificent Mile, with two top-notch restaurants: Avenues and Shanghai Terrace. 108 E. Superior St.; 1-312/337-

2888; peninsula.com; doubles from US$550. WHERE TO EAT Alinea Deconstructed creations at the forefront of America’s molecular gastronomy movement. 1723 N. Halsted St.; 1-312/867-0110; 12-course tasting menu for two US$290. Cemitas Puebla 3619 W. North Ave.; 1-773/772-8435; lunch for two US$20. L20 2300 Lincoln Park W.; 1-773/868-0002; six-course tasting menu for two US$180. Lula Café 2537 N. Kedzie Blvd.; 1-773/489-9554; dinner for two US$30. Urbanbelly 3053 N. California Ave.; 1-773/583-0500; lunch for two US$30. WHAT TO DO Blake 212 W. Chicago Ave.; 1-312/202-0047.

Chicago Greeter 1-312/7448000; chicagogreeter.com; free. Chicago Line Cruises Architectural boat tours. 1-312/527-1977; chicagoline.com. Hejfina 1529 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 1-773/772-0002; hejfina.com. Ikram 873 N. Rush St.; 312/5871000; ikram.com. Tours-R-Us Chicago Personalized tours with Marshall Jacobson. 1-773/575-3176; toursruschicago.com. WHAT TO SEE Art Institute of Chicago 111 S. Michigan Ave.; 1-312/443-3600; artic.edu; adult admission US$18. Museum of Contemporary Art 220 E. Chicago Ave.; 1-312/2802660; mcachicago.org; suggested adult admission US$12. Millennium Park Welcome center at 201 E. Randolph St.; 1-312/7421168; millenniumpark.org.

Anish Kapoor’s stainless-steel Cloud Gate, in Millennium Park.


The vineyards of Estancia Colomé, in the Andean highlands outside Salta.

ON A JOURNEY THROUGH THIS UP-AND-COMING WINE COUNTRY, BRUCE

SCHOENFELD DISCOVERS TWO VERY DIFFERENT WORLDS, FROM THE

AMBITIOUS HIGH-DESIGN WINERIES OF MENDOZA TO THE RUGGED MOUNTAIN

VINEYARDS OF THE SALTA REGION. PHOTOGRAPHED BY GRACIELA CATTAROSSI

ARGENTINA’ S NEW CROP


The vineyards of Estancia Colomé, in the Andean highlands outside Salta.

ON A JOURNEY THROUGH THIS UP-AND-COMING WINE COUNTRY, BRUCE

SCHOENFELD DISCOVERS TWO VERY DIFFERENT WORLDS, FROM THE

AMBITIOUS HIGH-DESIGN WINERIES OF MENDOZA TO THE RUGGED MOUNTAIN

VINEYARDS OF THE SALTA REGION. PHOTOGRAPHED BY GRACIELA CATTAROSSI

ARGENTINA’ S NEW CROP


City Spread Opposite, clockwise from top left: Overlooking Connaught Street, in the Central district; the dining room at Cépage restaurant; Chinese chive flowers at a Mong Kok market; a chef at work in the Golden Valley kitchen.

WALKING THROUGH A VINEYARD IN ARGENTINA’S UCO VALLEY NEAR MENDOZA ONE MORNING, I RAN

Argentinean Vines Clockwise from above: At the Cavas Wine Lodge, on a working vineyard in Mendoza province; a view from inside the wine lodge; preparing for a tasting at Mendoza’s Achaval Ferrer winery; poolside at Estancia Colomé, high in the mountains outside Salta.

110

into Michel Rolland, the world’s most renowned and controversial winemaker. Dressed like a rancher in Levi’s, boots and a button-down shirt, a leather hat sheltering his creased face, he was striding between rows of vines as a cadre of supplicants hung on every word. The villain of the polemic movie Mondovino, which portrays him as a formulaic opportunist who ignores the vicissitudes of place, Rolland is a consultant to more than 100 producers across the continents, from Bangalore to Howell Mountain. His wines do tend to have common characteristics—lush fruit, velvety mouthfeel and a purpleblack color like the darkness of a well—but those characteristics are prized by countless consumers, including the oracular Robert Parker. In Argentina, Rolland is the driving force behind Clos de los Siete, a project unlike any I’ve seen. On 850 hectares of previously unplanted land, he and five partner families have created a vineyard the size of a university. The partners contribute grapes to a million-bottle blend made by Rolland, and they’ve each built signature facilities in the midst of the vines to produce their own brands. These are major names like Rothschild and Dassault, and they’ve invested heavily. Clos de los Siete is the most striking of the new enterprises springing up around Mendoza, a city of 110,000 nestled against the Andes, but it’s only one of dozens. Wine-making talent and investment money have been streaming in from Europe and beyond, dramatically altering Argentina’s vinous landscape with hundreds of hectares of new vineyards, several dozen new wineries and entire categories of new wines. With that have come ambitious restaurants and stylish hotels, the trappings of a region that draws well-heeled travelers. The last time I visited the country, in 1995, the vast majority of its bodegas were making rough, uninteresting wine for the domestic market, and Mendoza felt like an Argentinean version of the Wild West. The winemakers spoke only Spanish, had barely traveled, wore overalls and stubbornly ignored modern enological techniques. They had even less of a connection with the great wine regions of the world than their wines did. But Argentina has always had a love affair with Western Europe; you can’t get out of the airport in Buenos Aires without hearing how charmingly European you’re sure to find that city. Returning now, I had the sense that a wine region had been pulled from the Pyrenees or the Dolomites and

dropped into this panoramic setting of jagged peaks and cloudless skies. I met with Frenchmen, Italians and Spaniards, and drank bottle after bottle of the fruits of their labors that I knew would sell well around the world. “Today, you can taste 400 good wines in Argentina,” Rolland told me. “That was hardly the case even 10 years ago. Maybe we [Europeans] helped them go faster.” Everywhere I went, I saw further evidence of this transcontinental drift. At the baronial complex that houses the Bodega Vistalba winery, I ate the cuisine of renowned Burgundian chef Jean-Paul Bondoux: sautéed sweetbreads, medallions of rabbit and other standards of his Gallic upbringing. At Cheval des Andes—a spin-off of the celebrated Bordeaux château Cheval Blanc—I toured cellars stocked with Krug and Dom Pérignon. In the Uco Valley, I gaped at a strikingly modern winery complex, Bodegas Salentein, founded by a Dutch tycoon. It includes a lavish art museum and a gift shop that sells a US$750 set of wine aromatics in thimble-size vials. All of these properties have overseas connections and highend cuvées that sport impressive scores from U.S. critics. None of them had existed when I’d passed through before. Yet in many ways, Mendoza still felt like the same rather primitive mountain town. Sidewalks were punctuated by cracks and potholes. Many roads remained unpaved. As I drove up to the dramatic Bodega Catena Zapata winery, built to resemble a Mayan temple, I was surprised to see cars blanketed by dust, like at a cattle ranch. Then I stepped out of my own car and realized it looked the same. Remarkably for a city its size, Mendoza has a Park Hyatt— one of just 25 in the world. One night, I dined on the terrace in Plaza Independencia, its Spanish-colonial façade lit from below, and saw the stark dissonance of Mendoza’s past and future play out before me. I’d just arrived when two dozen contestants in Mendoza’s Queen of the Wine Harvest pageant, outfitted in off-white dresses draped from their shoulders like togas, emerged from the hotel and crossed to the plaza in a blizzard of smiles. Turning to my right, I could have been in the midst of the pampas, watching villagers gather to celebrate their autumn. To my left, I had risotto in pea cream and a bottle of internationally styled Malbec. I paid the bill just as the fair-haired Candela Carrasco was crowned the winner, and an amateurish but gloriously earnest round of fireworks was launched. It was the highlight of the evening. » 137


City Spread Opposite, clockwise from top left: Overlooking Connaught Street, in the Central district; the dining room at Cépage restaurant; Chinese chive flowers at a Mong Kok market; a chef at work in the Golden Valley kitchen.

WALKING THROUGH A VINEYARD IN ARGENTINA’S UCO VALLEY NEAR MENDOZA ONE MORNING, I RAN

Argentinean Vines Clockwise from above: At the Cavas Wine Lodge, on a working vineyard in Mendoza province; a view from inside the wine lodge; preparing for a tasting at Mendoza’s Achaval Ferrer winery; poolside at Estancia Colomé, high in the mountains outside Salta.

110

into Michel Rolland, the world’s most renowned and controversial winemaker. Dressed like a rancher in Levi’s, boots and a button-down shirt, a leather hat sheltering his creased face, he was striding between rows of vines as a cadre of supplicants hung on every word. The villain of the polemic movie Mondovino, which portrays him as a formulaic opportunist who ignores the vicissitudes of place, Rolland is a consultant to more than 100 producers across the continents, from Bangalore to Howell Mountain. His wines do tend to have common characteristics—lush fruit, velvety mouthfeel and a purpleblack color like the darkness of a well—but those characteristics are prized by countless consumers, including the oracular Robert Parker. In Argentina, Rolland is the driving force behind Clos de los Siete, a project unlike any I’ve seen. On 850 hectares of previously unplanted land, he and five partner families have created a vineyard the size of a university. The partners contribute grapes to a million-bottle blend made by Rolland, and they’ve each built signature facilities in the midst of the vines to produce their own brands. These are major names like Rothschild and Dassault, and they’ve invested heavily. Clos de los Siete is the most striking of the new enterprises springing up around Mendoza, a city of 110,000 nestled against the Andes, but it’s only one of dozens. Wine-making talent and investment money have been streaming in from Europe and beyond, dramatically altering Argentina’s vinous landscape with hundreds of hectares of new vineyards, several dozen new wineries and entire categories of new wines. With that have come ambitious restaurants and stylish hotels, the trappings of a region that draws well-heeled travelers. The last time I visited the country, in 1995, the vast majority of its bodegas were making rough, uninteresting wine for the domestic market, and Mendoza felt like an Argentinean version of the Wild West. The winemakers spoke only Spanish, had barely traveled, wore overalls and stubbornly ignored modern enological techniques. They had even less of a connection with the great wine regions of the world than their wines did. But Argentina has always had a love affair with Western Europe; you can’t get out of the airport in Buenos Aires without hearing how charmingly European you’re sure to find that city. Returning now, I had the sense that a wine region had been pulled from the Pyrenees or the Dolomites and

dropped into this panoramic setting of jagged peaks and cloudless skies. I met with Frenchmen, Italians and Spaniards, and drank bottle after bottle of the fruits of their labors that I knew would sell well around the world. “Today, you can taste 400 good wines in Argentina,” Rolland told me. “That was hardly the case even 10 years ago. Maybe we [Europeans] helped them go faster.” Everywhere I went, I saw further evidence of this transcontinental drift. At the baronial complex that houses the Bodega Vistalba winery, I ate the cuisine of renowned Burgundian chef Jean-Paul Bondoux: sautéed sweetbreads, medallions of rabbit and other standards of his Gallic upbringing. At Cheval des Andes—a spin-off of the celebrated Bordeaux château Cheval Blanc—I toured cellars stocked with Krug and Dom Pérignon. In the Uco Valley, I gaped at a strikingly modern winery complex, Bodegas Salentein, founded by a Dutch tycoon. It includes a lavish art museum and a gift shop that sells a US$750 set of wine aromatics in thimble-size vials. All of these properties have overseas connections and highend cuvées that sport impressive scores from U.S. critics. None of them had existed when I’d passed through before. Yet in many ways, Mendoza still felt like the same rather primitive mountain town. Sidewalks were punctuated by cracks and potholes. Many roads remained unpaved. As I drove up to the dramatic Bodega Catena Zapata winery, built to resemble a Mayan temple, I was surprised to see cars blanketed by dust, like at a cattle ranch. Then I stepped out of my own car and realized it looked the same. Remarkably for a city its size, Mendoza has a Park Hyatt— one of just 25 in the world. One night, I dined on the terrace in Plaza Independencia, its Spanish-colonial façade lit from below, and saw the stark dissonance of Mendoza’s past and future play out before me. I’d just arrived when two dozen contestants in Mendoza’s Queen of the Wine Harvest pageant, outfitted in off-white dresses draped from their shoulders like togas, emerged from the hotel and crossed to the plaza in a blizzard of smiles. Turning to my right, I could have been in the midst of the pampas, watching villagers gather to celebrate their autumn. To my left, I had risotto in pea cream and a bottle of internationally styled Malbec. I paid the bill just as the fair-haired Candela Carrasco was crowned the winner, and an amateurish but gloriously earnest round of fireworks was launched. It was the highlight of the evening. » 137


IT WAS ONLY A DAY’S DRIVE FROM MENDOZA TO SALTA, BUT IT FELT LIKE WE WERE LEAVING A MECHANIZED, INDUSTRIOUS SOUTH AMERICA AND ENTERING THE SLOWER-PACED LAND OF THE ANDEAN ALTIPLANO

M

Y HOTEL,

CAVAS WINE LODGE, DID ITS BEST TO KNIT together Mendoza’s disparate halves. Accessible only by a dirt road and set in the midst of a working vineyard, it has contemporary casitas, the walls of which are rounded like mushrooms, and provocative art fills its public spaces. Late one night, I dined alfresco at its restaurant with José Manuel Ortega of Bodegas y Viñedos O. Fournier, a Spaniard who’d left a New York bank job to build a spaceship of a winery in the Uco Valley. We ate beef empanadas and grilled lamb and drank the Argentinean wines of Italian winemaker Roberto Cipresso, a partner at Achaval Ferrer. It was all new to me—the hotel, the chef, the wines—but I felt a distinct connection to a Mendoza I recognized. During the previous few days, I’d admired many of the new wines. Still, I had trouble thinking of them as Argentinean. They had delicious fruit and firm structure, but only a few exuded that sense of place that characterizes exceptional wine. Just across the Andes, Chile had made a big mistake by consciously crafting well-made but generic Cabernets and Merlots for the American market: wines that were a notch cheaper than the competition’s but evoked nothing of Chile, or anywhere else. Argentina’s wines used to have an excessive sense of place—you’d pick them out on first whiff, like rotten eggs—but I hoped that the outside influences hadn’t pushed them too far toward that same paucity of soul. Vistalba’s Carlos Pulenta offered an antidote. Though his winery, laid out like an estancia beside land in the foothills that has been farmed for decades, has Burgundy’s Bondoux as its chef and a European enologist, the wines I drank there were blatantly Argentinean: refined yet bright, pure yet showy, harmonious but still bold. “You may come from France or Italy,” Pulenta said, “but when you come here, you’re here. The grapes are here, the weather is here. So the best wines should taste like here.” In 1997, Pulenta’s family sold Bodegas Trapiche, one of the world’s largest producers, to that quintessentially American investment firm Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette. Longing to make exemplary Argentinean wines, he started Vistalba in 2004. His primary vineyard is half a century old, so its roots have burrowed deep enough to get character into the grapes. But I suspect that his emotional attachment to Argentina is equally responsible. He spends days traveling by motorcycle throughout his country, reveling in the land. Alone among the new wave of winery owners, Pulenta reminded me of the independent-minded Argentines I’d previously met. Pulling out an iPhone, he flicked through images of a recent trip he’d taken to the wine region of Salta, a turbu-

138

lent 12-hour drive to the north. “Look at this place,” he said as he scrolled through contrasting images of dun-colored desert and green rows of vines. “Just fantastic!” I knew Salta was being touted as the next Mendoza in terms of wine production, but I was surprised to see it look so different. At 2,100 meters and a day’s drive from the tropics, it seemed rarefied, exotic, on the margins. The slide show confirmed a notion I’d had for a while: I needed to go there. And I knew just whom to take with me. When I visited Mendoza in 1995, the dollar and the peso were on equal footing. Argentina was consuming all the wine it produced. Only one man I met, Nicolás Catena, believed that the country’s future was in selling to the world. Catena was an economist and entrepreneur with an American pedigree and a global outlook, who had transformed his father’s bulk-wine production into a quality brand. He spoke with pride about his daughter, Laura, who’d attended Harvard and Stanford and become an emergency-room doctor in San Francisco, with an American husband and a growing family. “I never, ever thought I would work with my father,” she says. As the winery expanded, she made brief trips home to offer advice. Somewhere along the way, she became indispensable. These days, she spends a third of each year in Mendoza, helping Catena Zapata stake its claim as Argentina’s premier winery. Because she appears in magazine ads, and because she’s fiercely intelligent and uncompromisingly honest, Laura Catena has become the face of Argentinean wine. She also has an adventurous streak that balances the methodical thinking that drew her to medicine. When I asked about Salta, she barely hesitated. So we loaded up an SUV and picked up Fernando Buscema, one of the Catena enologists. We drove through La Rioja, then Catamarca and its exotic rock formations and crimson hills. It was only a day’s drive to Cafayate, the heart of Salta’s viticultural area, but it felt like we were leaving a mechanized, industrious South America with visible ties to Europe, and entering the slower-paced land of the Andean altiplano, of coca leaf, native artifacts and high-pitched Bolivian music. We hit Cafayate, set in a bowl surrounded by green mountains, as night fell. Our hotel, Patios de Cafayate, was two stories of dark wood and stucco, built around a courtyard and filled with 100-year-old furniture. We reassembled at midnight for a delicious meal too weighty for the hour, and drank a 12-year-old Catena Zapata Chardonnay that Laura had brought. “I like the idea of drinking this here,” she said. It was living history, connecting Argentinean wines of a previous era to a place that reminded me of Mendoza back then. »

Andean Escape Clockwise from above: The 1892 façade of the Patios de Cafayate hotel and spa, in the Salta wine region; passing through the Quebrada de las Flechas rock formations on the road to Colomé; a guest room at Patios de Cafayate; a view from Bodega Catena Zapata; dining on the grounds of Patios de Cafayate.


IT WAS ONLY A DAY’S DRIVE FROM MENDOZA TO SALTA, BUT IT FELT LIKE WE WERE LEAVING A MECHANIZED, INDUSTRIOUS SOUTH AMERICA AND ENTERING THE SLOWER-PACED LAND OF THE ANDEAN ALTIPLANO

M

Y HOTEL,

CAVAS WINE LODGE, DID ITS BEST TO KNIT together Mendoza’s disparate halves. Accessible only by a dirt road and set in the midst of a working vineyard, it has contemporary casitas, the walls of which are rounded like mushrooms, and provocative art fills its public spaces. Late one night, I dined alfresco at its restaurant with José Manuel Ortega of Bodegas y Viñedos O. Fournier, a Spaniard who’d left a New York bank job to build a spaceship of a winery in the Uco Valley. We ate beef empanadas and grilled lamb and drank the Argentinean wines of Italian winemaker Roberto Cipresso, a partner at Achaval Ferrer. It was all new to me—the hotel, the chef, the wines—but I felt a distinct connection to a Mendoza I recognized. During the previous few days, I’d admired many of the new wines. Still, I had trouble thinking of them as Argentinean. They had delicious fruit and firm structure, but only a few exuded that sense of place that characterizes exceptional wine. Just across the Andes, Chile had made a big mistake by consciously crafting well-made but generic Cabernets and Merlots for the American market: wines that were a notch cheaper than the competition’s but evoked nothing of Chile, or anywhere else. Argentina’s wines used to have an excessive sense of place—you’d pick them out on first whiff, like rotten eggs—but I hoped that the outside influences hadn’t pushed them too far toward that same paucity of soul. Vistalba’s Carlos Pulenta offered an antidote. Though his winery, laid out like an estancia beside land in the foothills that has been farmed for decades, has Burgundy’s Bondoux as its chef and a European enologist, the wines I drank there were blatantly Argentinean: refined yet bright, pure yet showy, harmonious but still bold. “You may come from France or Italy,” Pulenta said, “but when you come here, you’re here. The grapes are here, the weather is here. So the best wines should taste like here.” In 1997, Pulenta’s family sold Bodegas Trapiche, one of the world’s largest producers, to that quintessentially American investment firm Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette. Longing to make exemplary Argentinean wines, he started Vistalba in 2004. His primary vineyard is half a century old, so its roots have burrowed deep enough to get character into the grapes. But I suspect that his emotional attachment to Argentina is equally responsible. He spends days traveling by motorcycle throughout his country, reveling in the land. Alone among the new wave of winery owners, Pulenta reminded me of the independent-minded Argentines I’d previously met. Pulling out an iPhone, he flicked through images of a recent trip he’d taken to the wine region of Salta, a turbu-

138

lent 12-hour drive to the north. “Look at this place,” he said as he scrolled through contrasting images of dun-colored desert and green rows of vines. “Just fantastic!” I knew Salta was being touted as the next Mendoza in terms of wine production, but I was surprised to see it look so different. At 2,100 meters and a day’s drive from the tropics, it seemed rarefied, exotic, on the margins. The slide show confirmed a notion I’d had for a while: I needed to go there. And I knew just whom to take with me. When I visited Mendoza in 1995, the dollar and the peso were on equal footing. Argentina was consuming all the wine it produced. Only one man I met, Nicolás Catena, believed that the country’s future was in selling to the world. Catena was an economist and entrepreneur with an American pedigree and a global outlook, who had transformed his father’s bulk-wine production into a quality brand. He spoke with pride about his daughter, Laura, who’d attended Harvard and Stanford and become an emergency-room doctor in San Francisco, with an American husband and a growing family. “I never, ever thought I would work with my father,” she says. As the winery expanded, she made brief trips home to offer advice. Somewhere along the way, she became indispensable. These days, she spends a third of each year in Mendoza, helping Catena Zapata stake its claim as Argentina’s premier winery. Because she appears in magazine ads, and because she’s fiercely intelligent and uncompromisingly honest, Laura Catena has become the face of Argentinean wine. She also has an adventurous streak that balances the methodical thinking that drew her to medicine. When I asked about Salta, she barely hesitated. So we loaded up an SUV and picked up Fernando Buscema, one of the Catena enologists. We drove through La Rioja, then Catamarca and its exotic rock formations and crimson hills. It was only a day’s drive to Cafayate, the heart of Salta’s viticultural area, but it felt like we were leaving a mechanized, industrious South America with visible ties to Europe, and entering the slower-paced land of the Andean altiplano, of coca leaf, native artifacts and high-pitched Bolivian music. We hit Cafayate, set in a bowl surrounded by green mountains, as night fell. Our hotel, Patios de Cafayate, was two stories of dark wood and stucco, built around a courtyard and filled with 100-year-old furniture. We reassembled at midnight for a delicious meal too weighty for the hour, and drank a 12-year-old Catena Zapata Chardonnay that Laura had brought. “I like the idea of drinking this here,” she said. It was living history, connecting Argentinean wines of a previous era to a place that reminded me of Mendoza back then. »

Andean Escape Clockwise from above: The 1892 façade of the Patios de Cafayate hotel and spa, in the Salta wine region; passing through the Quebrada de las Flechas rock formations on the road to Colomé; a guest room at Patios de Cafayate; a view from Bodega Catena Zapata; dining on the grounds of Patios de Cafayate.


T

HE NEXT MORNING, WE STARTED VISITING WINERIES.

FINCA Las Nubes dates only to 1997, but it looks like the set of an old western. Pushed against a steep, cactus-dotted hill, it consists of a few wooden buildings with barrel-tiled roofs. Owner and enologist José Luis Mounier worked 18 years at Bodegas Etchart, Salta’s largest producer, before planting grapes on a slope he’d cleared. He has Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon, and the brutishly tannic Tannat, but his best wine is white, a floral but flinty Torrontés. It might seem strange that a white grape would thrive near the Tropic of Capricorn, but Salta—as I was to hear often—mitigates its latitude with altitude. Still, its grapes get very ripe, and sugar translates into alcohol. Somehow, Mounier manages to keep his Torrontés balanced and lithe, smelling of rose petals. “Best Torrontés I’ve had,” Laura said. I agreed. Las Nubes was one of a rash of newer wineries. What had been a compact local industry of Etchart and four small companies has grown to encompass 22, including the cultishly popular San Pedro de Yacochuya. For that property, Arnaldo Etchart—who sold his namesake winery to the PernodRicard conglomerate in 1996—has joined forces with Michel Rolland, of all people, to make an unabashedly rich, potent red wine. Yacochuya hardly felt like the branch office of a globe-trotting winemaker. A trim vineyard was surrounded by a rock wall rimmed by cacti, and the facility took about four minutes to tour. After that, we hiked up a hill to the Etchart family house and sat on a patio with Cafayate before us. The landscape, which ran down a vine-covered hill and into a valley, seemed softer than Mendoza’s, almost ethereal, as if we could wave our hands and it would dissipate into the air. After we’d tasted the 2003, 2004 and 2005 Yacochuyas, which were as dense as motor oil, Etchart emerged, moving slowly. A hero of the same Mondovino that had excoriated Rolland, he’s in his seventies now, with a mane of snowy hair. Laura, who has met most of the great wine personalities of the world, seemed awestruck at seeing one of the pioneers of her own country’s wine culture. “You know my father,” she said softly. He kissed her on both cheeks—a European gesture, but one that in this setting seemed fundamentally Argentine. Then Etchart disappeared into the house. He returned carrying CD’s of local music and portfolios of poetry. He handed the gifts to Laura and me with gracious words. For Buscema, the enologist, he had a stronger message, wisdom distilled from a career of wine making. “You must read poetry,” he exhorted as Buscema’s eyes widened. “Or your wines will taste like shit.”

W

CAFAYATE IS TO MENDOZA—WILDER, LESS POLished, difficult to access—Colomé is to Cafayate. It’s deep in the wilderness, three hours northwest over a path of mud and rocks barely wide enough for a vehicle. But we had to see it, we agreed. Less than two of its 39,000 hectares have been under vine since the 1850’s. And after a recent HAT

140

rebirth, the estate has begun to produce compelling wines. It also has a nine-suite luxury hotel with high ceilings, vivid colors, and cacti in the courtyard. The place had been in ruins when the Swiss businessman Donald Hess bought the land and everything on it in 2001. He camped out there with his wife, Ursula, until they’d made it not just inhabitable but unforgettable. Nearly three hours after leaving Cafayate, we bumped around a bend and saw it: a patch of green amid the alabaster hills. Hess, 73, was there to greet us, looking country-elegant in a sweater-vest and a tattersall shirt, keeping the wild at bay with the trappings of civility like a Joseph Conrad character. At nearly 2,300 meters, Colomé sits almost as high as anywhere in the world growing wine grapes. The surroundings are desolate. But its Torrontés, weightier than Mounier’s, is brisk and flavorful, and its two dense Malbecs have the balance and solidity that will keep them improving for a decade. “My theory is, there’s enough wine in the world,” Hess told us over roast chicken and polenta. “So I have to make my own story. I have to go to where there’s nobody. Then, if I can make a good wine, I’ll have a good story.” He paused for a moment, as if to pare the businessman in him from the romantic. “And I love it here,” he said. “We put the lights out and see all the stars.” The next day, Hess showed us the old vineyard, the state-ofthe-art winery, a visitors’ center and a huge museum he’d built to house the work of the postmodern artist James Turrell. Though Hess has opened other winery museums in Napa and South Africa, it seems hard to imagine that many people will make the long, difficult journey to Colomé to see room after room of light installations. But I might be wrong. Hess had brought a similar spirit of zealous optimism to the winery and the hotel. I couldn’t quarrel with the success they’d had. It turned out that Hess isn’t alone in the wilderness. Six kilometers away is another winery, Bodega Belén de Humanao. It was founded, then sold, by Néstor Ramírez—though Ramírez, a weathered but energetic 76 years old, still runs it. “I can’t bear to leave,” he said when we visited. Humanao has none of Colomé’s amenities. It’s just two rooms of tanks and barrels under a cane roof. But the wines, though dustier and more rustic, bear a fraternal resemblance to Hess’s own. They have a genuineness, a validity, that I admire. Once I returned home, I knew, most of the Argentinean wine I’d drink would be from Mendoza. My favorites—the best of Achaval Ferrer; Vistalba’s Corte A—share a sense of refinement that only a temperate climate and a mature winemaking culture can produce. But Argentinean wine is as rich, varied and strong-flavored as the country itself. The best of it is rooted, not in export statistics or marketing plans, but warm sun and hospitable soil, qualities that have attracted outsiders to places like Argentina since man began to travel. We’d come from distant continents to stand beside Ramírez and sip his Malbec. He was a local, a kilometer from home. ✚

Full Flavored From left: Bottle shopping at The Winery, in Mendoza; the subterranean cellar of Bodegas Salentein, in Mendoza’s Uco Valley; a savory lunch at Estancia Colomé.

GUIDE TO ARGENTINA’S WINE REGION La Posada At the Vistalba winery. 3531 Calle Roque Saenz Peña, Luján de Cuyo; 54-261/4989400; carlospulentawines.com; doubles from US$360, including a meal. Park Hyatt Mendoza 1124 Calle Chile; 888/591-1234 or 54261/441-1234; park.hyatt.com; doubles from US$229.

GETTING THERE Mendoza is accessible through Buenos Aires, but many itineraries require a mad dash across the capital from the city’s Ministro Pistarini (Ezeiza) International Airport to the regional Jorge Newberry Aeropark. The smarter option is to fly from Santiago, Chile, to Mendoza. From there, Cafayate and Salta are a day’s drive away. You can catch a flight directly to Salta in Buenos Aires. Both regions are best visited from November to April. WHERE TO STAY MENDOZA Cavas Wine Lodge Ruta Nacional 7, Alto Agrelo, Luján de Cuyo; 54261/410-6927; cavaswinelodge. com; doubles from US$460, including breakfast.

SALTA Estancia Colomé Km 20, Ruta Provincial 53, Molinos; 543868/494-200; estanciacolome. com; doubles from US$340, including breakfast. Patios de Cafayate, A Luxury Collection Hotel & Spa Rutas Nacionales 40 & 68, Cafayate; 54-3868/422-229; luxury collection.com; doubles from US$425, including breakfast. WHERE TO EAT MENDOZA La Bourgogne Bodega Vistalba, 3531 Calle Roque Saenz Peña, Luján de Cuyo; 54-261/498-9400; dinner for two US$120. La Posada del Jamón Plates of local ham and home-made sausages at an informal roadhouse. Km 14, Ruta 92, Vista Flores, Tunuyán; 54-2622/492053; lunch for two US$35.

1884 Francis Mallman High-end adaptations of local cuisine. Bodegas Escorihuela, 1188 Calle Belgrano, Godoy Cruz; 54-261/ 424-2698; dinner for two US$80. SALTA El Restaurante Patios de Cafayate Hotel; 54-3868/422229; dinner for two US$90. Estancia Colomé Km 20, Ruta Provincial 53, Molinos; 543868/494-200; dinner for two US$90. José Balcarce The best restaurant in Salta. Esq. Mitre y Necochea, 54-387/ 421-1628; dinner for two US$50. WHERE TO TASTE Though many properties cater to travelers, it’s best to make an appointment in advance. MENDOZA Achaval Ferrer 2061 Calle Cobos, Perdriel, Luján de Cuyo; 54-351/425-3812. Bodega Catena Zapata J. Cobos, Agrelo, Luján de Cuyo; 54-261/413-1100; catenawines.com. Bodegas Salentein Ruta 89, Los Arboles, Tunuyán; 54-2622/429-500; bodegasalentein.com.

Bodegas y Viñedos O. Fournier Calle Los Indios, La Consulta, San Carlos; 54-2622/451-579; ofournier.com. Clos de los Siete Calle Clodomiro Silva, Vista Flores, Tunuyán; 54-261/405-5606. Viñedos y Bodegas Mendel 1863 Calle Terrada, Mayor Drummond, Luján de Cuyo; 54-261/498-4239; mendel.com.ar. Vines of Mendoza Tasting Room 567 Calle Espejo, Mendoza; 707/320-2699 or 54-261/4381031; vinesofmendoza.com. The Winery A bottle store in a restored mansion. 898 Chile, Mendoza; 54-261/420-2840. SALTA Bodega José L. Mounier El Divisadero, Cafayate; 543868/422-129; bodega mounier.com. Estancia Colomé Km 20, Ruta Provincial 53, Molinos; 54-3868/494-200; estanciacolome.com. San Pedro de Yacochuya C. C. No. 1, Cafayate; 54-387/431-9439; sanpedrodeyacochuya. com.ar.

141


T

HE NEXT MORNING, WE STARTED VISITING WINERIES.

FINCA Las Nubes dates only to 1997, but it looks like the set of an old western. Pushed against a steep, cactus-dotted hill, it consists of a few wooden buildings with barrel-tiled roofs. Owner and enologist José Luis Mounier worked 18 years at Bodegas Etchart, Salta’s largest producer, before planting grapes on a slope he’d cleared. He has Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon, and the brutishly tannic Tannat, but his best wine is white, a floral but flinty Torrontés. It might seem strange that a white grape would thrive near the Tropic of Capricorn, but Salta—as I was to hear often—mitigates its latitude with altitude. Still, its grapes get very ripe, and sugar translates into alcohol. Somehow, Mounier manages to keep his Torrontés balanced and lithe, smelling of rose petals. “Best Torrontés I’ve had,” Laura said. I agreed. Las Nubes was one of a rash of newer wineries. What had been a compact local industry of Etchart and four small companies has grown to encompass 22, including the cultishly popular San Pedro de Yacochuya. For that property, Arnaldo Etchart—who sold his namesake winery to the PernodRicard conglomerate in 1996—has joined forces with Michel Rolland, of all people, to make an unabashedly rich, potent red wine. Yacochuya hardly felt like the branch office of a globe-trotting winemaker. A trim vineyard was surrounded by a rock wall rimmed by cacti, and the facility took about four minutes to tour. After that, we hiked up a hill to the Etchart family house and sat on a patio with Cafayate before us. The landscape, which ran down a vine-covered hill and into a valley, seemed softer than Mendoza’s, almost ethereal, as if we could wave our hands and it would dissipate into the air. After we’d tasted the 2003, 2004 and 2005 Yacochuyas, which were as dense as motor oil, Etchart emerged, moving slowly. A hero of the same Mondovino that had excoriated Rolland, he’s in his seventies now, with a mane of snowy hair. Laura, who has met most of the great wine personalities of the world, seemed awestruck at seeing one of the pioneers of her own country’s wine culture. “You know my father,” she said softly. He kissed her on both cheeks—a European gesture, but one that in this setting seemed fundamentally Argentine. Then Etchart disappeared into the house. He returned carrying CD’s of local music and portfolios of poetry. He handed the gifts to Laura and me with gracious words. For Buscema, the enologist, he had a stronger message, wisdom distilled from a career of wine making. “You must read poetry,” he exhorted as Buscema’s eyes widened. “Or your wines will taste like shit.”

W

CAFAYATE IS TO MENDOZA—WILDER, LESS POLished, difficult to access—Colomé is to Cafayate. It’s deep in the wilderness, three hours northwest over a path of mud and rocks barely wide enough for a vehicle. But we had to see it, we agreed. Less than two of its 39,000 hectares have been under vine since the 1850’s. And after a recent HAT

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rebirth, the estate has begun to produce compelling wines. It also has a nine-suite luxury hotel with high ceilings, vivid colors, and cacti in the courtyard. The place had been in ruins when the Swiss businessman Donald Hess bought the land and everything on it in 2001. He camped out there with his wife, Ursula, until they’d made it not just inhabitable but unforgettable. Nearly three hours after leaving Cafayate, we bumped around a bend and saw it: a patch of green amid the alabaster hills. Hess, 73, was there to greet us, looking country-elegant in a sweater-vest and a tattersall shirt, keeping the wild at bay with the trappings of civility like a Joseph Conrad character. At nearly 2,300 meters, Colomé sits almost as high as anywhere in the world growing wine grapes. The surroundings are desolate. But its Torrontés, weightier than Mounier’s, is brisk and flavorful, and its two dense Malbecs have the balance and solidity that will keep them improving for a decade. “My theory is, there’s enough wine in the world,” Hess told us over roast chicken and polenta. “So I have to make my own story. I have to go to where there’s nobody. Then, if I can make a good wine, I’ll have a good story.” He paused for a moment, as if to pare the businessman in him from the romantic. “And I love it here,” he said. “We put the lights out and see all the stars.” The next day, Hess showed us the old vineyard, the state-ofthe-art winery, a visitors’ center and a huge museum he’d built to house the work of the postmodern artist James Turrell. Though Hess has opened other winery museums in Napa and South Africa, it seems hard to imagine that many people will make the long, difficult journey to Colomé to see room after room of light installations. But I might be wrong. Hess had brought a similar spirit of zealous optimism to the winery and the hotel. I couldn’t quarrel with the success they’d had. It turned out that Hess isn’t alone in the wilderness. Six kilometers away is another winery, Bodega Belén de Humanao. It was founded, then sold, by Néstor Ramírez—though Ramírez, a weathered but energetic 76 years old, still runs it. “I can’t bear to leave,” he said when we visited. Humanao has none of Colomé’s amenities. It’s just two rooms of tanks and barrels under a cane roof. But the wines, though dustier and more rustic, bear a fraternal resemblance to Hess’s own. They have a genuineness, a validity, that I admire. Once I returned home, I knew, most of the Argentinean wine I’d drink would be from Mendoza. My favorites—the best of Achaval Ferrer; Vistalba’s Corte A—share a sense of refinement that only a temperate climate and a mature winemaking culture can produce. But Argentinean wine is as rich, varied and strong-flavored as the country itself. The best of it is rooted, not in export statistics or marketing plans, but warm sun and hospitable soil, qualities that have attracted outsiders to places like Argentina since man began to travel. We’d come from distant continents to stand beside Ramírez and sip his Malbec. He was a local, a kilometer from home. ✚

Full Flavored From left: Bottle shopping at The Winery, in Mendoza; the subterranean cellar of Bodegas Salentein, in Mendoza’s Uco Valley; a savory lunch at Estancia Colomé.

GUIDE TO ARGENTINA’S WINE REGION La Posada At the Vistalba winery. 3531 Calle Roque Saenz Peña, Luján de Cuyo; 54-261/4989400; carlospulentawines.com; doubles from US$360, including a meal. Park Hyatt Mendoza 1124 Calle Chile; 888/591-1234 or 54261/441-1234; park.hyatt.com; doubles from US$229.

GETTING THERE Mendoza is accessible through Buenos Aires, but many itineraries require a mad dash across the capital from the city’s Ministro Pistarini (Ezeiza) International Airport to the regional Jorge Newberry Aeropark. The smarter option is to fly from Santiago, Chile, to Mendoza. From there, Cafayate and Salta are a day’s drive away. You can catch a flight directly to Salta in Buenos Aires. Both regions are best visited from November to April. WHERE TO STAY MENDOZA Cavas Wine Lodge Ruta Nacional 7, Alto Agrelo, Luján de Cuyo; 54261/410-6927; cavaswinelodge. com; doubles from US$460, including breakfast.

SALTA Estancia Colomé Km 20, Ruta Provincial 53, Molinos; 543868/494-200; estanciacolome. com; doubles from US$340, including breakfast. Patios de Cafayate, A Luxury Collection Hotel & Spa Rutas Nacionales 40 & 68, Cafayate; 54-3868/422-229; luxury collection.com; doubles from US$425, including breakfast. WHERE TO EAT MENDOZA La Bourgogne Bodega Vistalba, 3531 Calle Roque Saenz Peña, Luján de Cuyo; 54-261/498-9400; dinner for two US$120. La Posada del Jamón Plates of local ham and home-made sausages at an informal roadhouse. Km 14, Ruta 92, Vista Flores, Tunuyán; 54-2622/492053; lunch for two US$35.

1884 Francis Mallman High-end adaptations of local cuisine. Bodegas Escorihuela, 1188 Calle Belgrano, Godoy Cruz; 54-261/ 424-2698; dinner for two US$80. SALTA El Restaurante Patios de Cafayate Hotel; 54-3868/422229; dinner for two US$90. Estancia Colomé Km 20, Ruta Provincial 53, Molinos; 543868/494-200; dinner for two US$90. José Balcarce The best restaurant in Salta. Esq. Mitre y Necochea, 54-387/ 421-1628; dinner for two US$50. WHERE TO TASTE Though many properties cater to travelers, it’s best to make an appointment in advance. MENDOZA Achaval Ferrer 2061 Calle Cobos, Perdriel, Luján de Cuyo; 54-351/425-3812. Bodega Catena Zapata J. Cobos, Agrelo, Luján de Cuyo; 54-261/413-1100; catenawines.com. Bodegas Salentein Ruta 89, Los Arboles, Tunuyán; 54-2622/429-500; bodegasalentein.com.

Bodegas y Viñedos O. Fournier Calle Los Indios, La Consulta, San Carlos; 54-2622/451-579; ofournier.com. Clos de los Siete Calle Clodomiro Silva, Vista Flores, Tunuyán; 54-261/405-5606. Viñedos y Bodegas Mendel 1863 Calle Terrada, Mayor Drummond, Luján de Cuyo; 54-261/498-4239; mendel.com.ar. Vines of Mendoza Tasting Room 567 Calle Espejo, Mendoza; 707/320-2699 or 54-261/4381031; vinesofmendoza.com. The Winery A bottle store in a restored mansion. 898 Chile, Mendoza; 54-261/420-2840. SALTA Bodega José L. Mounier El Divisadero, Cafayate; 543868/422-129; bodega mounier.com. Estancia Colomé Km 20, Ruta Provincial 53, Molinos; 54-3868/494-200; estanciacolome.com. San Pedro de Yacochuya C. C. No. 1, Cafayate; 54-387/431-9439; sanpedrodeyacochuya. com.ar.

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(My Favorite Place) Singapore’s skyscrapers tower over Chinatown; Bourdain at work. SINGAPORE

He’s traveled the globe in search of the world’s best eats, but chef and TV star Anthony Bourdain tells ALEX FREW MCMILLAN there’s no better city to nosh in than Singapore

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day you are there. And it’s still street food— there are pretty rigorous health regulations. When in Singapore, I tend to lean toward the Chinese spectrum of things. I’m always excited by Chinese cooking, and particularly when it’s mixed over time with Malay or Indian. My favorite spot is a place in Geylang called Sin Huat Eating House. It’s super-casual, if not funky, with unfriendly service. It’s in the red light district and the food is spectacular. They have a crab bee hoon there that is off the hook. The first time I went was very soon after Kitchen Confidential came out. And then there have been subsequent visits promoting the TV show and then shooting the show. So I’m there a lot, and if there is even the most far-fetched business reason to go, I go. It’s really a function of the people I’ve met there and the friends I have made. ✚

OC TO B E R 2 0 0 9| T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E S E A . C O M

BOURDAIN’S FAVORITES Crab bee hoon at Sin Huat Eating House 659-661 Geylang Lorong 35. Hainanese chicken rice at Tian Tian Chicken Rice Stall No. 10, Maxwell Food Centre, Maxwell Rd. Shark head at Tian Jin Hai Seafood 600 Ponggol Seventeenth Ave. Sup tulang (“bone soup”) Haji Kadir & M Baharudeen, Stall B115, Golden Mile Food Centre, Beach Rd.

F RO M TO P L E F T: DA R R E N S O H ; CO U RT ESY O F A N T H O N Y BO U R DA I N

I

HATED SINGAPORE THE FIRST COUPLE OF times I went, but it snuck up on me. The heat really hit me hard the first time, that’s for sure. And it is not the most beautiful city in Asia—it’s like a big shopping mall. For me, going to Tokyo is like dropping acid—it is a mind-blowing experience. And I love eating around the dai pai dong in Hong Kong. But if I was looking for the most great food in one confined area, and the most variety, it would be Singapore. It’s one of the more exciting places to eat, and is foodie heaven, because of the heady, natural mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian, all in that one tiny country. And there’s a strong and well-supported culture of street food and hawker centers. You can eat very differently, and with very good food, very cheaply, every meal of every



October 2009