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travelnews WHERE TO BE & WHAT TO SEE AROUND THE WORLD Glamour central The Dry bar at San Sebastián’s Hotel Maria Cristina.


HAVE CHEF WHITES, WILL TRAVEL Australian chefs take their talents to the world this month. Quay’s Peter Gilmore and the Royal Mail Hotel’s Dan Hunter are both bound for Peru (see page 192 for our story about the country’s dynamic food scene) for its Mistura food fair, from 7 September. The event will cram 70 food carts, 54 restaurants and half a million people into Lima’s Campo de Marte for the annual celebration. Back across the Pacific, Tetsuya Wakuda and Est.’s Peter Doyle hit the sands for the second annual Hawaii Food & Wine Festival. The event, 6-9 September, includes demonstrations, tastings and big-ticket dinners. Doyle will cook at Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto’s dinner, while Wakuda is donning an apron at the Chefs Who’ve Cooked for Presidents and Royalty gala.;





Dine and stay in style in Spain’s undisputed food capital. SAN SEBASTIÁN Hungry in Spain? You’ll do well to find yourself in the Bay of Biscay’s San Sebastián, or Donostia as it’s known to Basques. Take your pick from no fewer than nine Michelin-starred restaurants in town, including the dynamic trio of Arzak, Martín Berasategui and Akelarre – each boasting three stars. Mugaritz, number three on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, is a short drive up into the hills. Or steer away from fine dining and do as the locals do: cruise between bars enjoying pintxos, the Basque country’s famed tapas. Come siesta time, the Maria Cristina makes an ideal base for culinary tourists. The hotel has always attracted its share of European aristocrats and Hollywood A-listers, lured by its riverfront location in the heart of the city. This year, the Belle Époque beauty celebrates its 100th birthday by opening the doors on a lengthy restoration. The neoclassical sandstone structure next to the landmark Victoria Eugenia Theatre Hotel Maria Cristina, offers 136 rooms freshly kitted out in mellow hues of eggshell, grey San Sebastián and taupe, with the occasional violet accent. Beneath the soaring ceilings of the lobby level are assorted public areas dedicated to the region’s unashamed pursuit of the good life. The sunlit library is filled with books covering Basque gastronomy, Spanish art and culture. Next door is Dry, the hotel’s bar, which serves coffee by day and attracts a lively and sophisticated crowd after dark. Don’t miss the Dry San Sebastián, a Spanish take on the Martini. Confused by the Cantonese cuisine at the hotel’s Tse Yang restaurant? Pick up a “gastronomy map” from Maria Cristina’s concierge team to chart a course for a night of pintxos or memorable Michelin-worthy meals. Rooms from $325. Hotel Maria Cristina, Paseo Republica Argentina 4, San Sebastián, Spain, +34 943 437 600, SCOTT ADAMS

Sights and tastes Above: Peru’s dynamic food scene.

GOOD ENOUGH TO EAT Delicious combinations are a Jo Malone specialty. Her latest cologne, Blackberry & Bay, from $90 for 30ml, is a day of berry-picking in a bottle. 213

travelnews Tuscan sun The Castello di Casole estate and (below inset) its hotel courtyard.



Wild boar and royal palettes at a new Tuscan estate. SIENA Bart Spoorenberg, the urbane general manager of the luxurious new Castello di Casole hotel in the glorious Tuscan countryside near Siena, knows what’s coming when he’s told that someone from the Moroccan embassy is on the phone. It’s a plea for Spoorenberg to release his chef, Daniele Sera, for a few days. Sera is the King of Morocco’s favourite Italian cook, and the unwritten agreement is that he will go to Morocco when King Mohammed VI wants him and the Castello can spare him. King Mohammed is clearly a man of discernment. Nonna wouldn’t recognise the dish billed as “Grandma’s potato gnocchi” at the Castello’s Tosca restaurant. Its mix of coffee-scented veal cheek and pine nut toffee sounds downright weird but tastes sublime. The meal would be memorable if the terrace overlooked a car factory. In fact, at sunset it is illuminated by an orange sun dipping behind a backdrop that could not be more quintessentially Tuscan if the great director Luchino Visconti himself had ordered it from his studio painters. The reference is not entirely whimsical. The hotel – now open after a five-year, $100-million restoration project – pays homage to the aristocratic Visconti, who lived at Castello di Casole in the 1960s. (The new frescoed hotel bar bears his name.) Visconti donated the neighbouring hilltop village of Mensano to his loyal farmworkers, and it is in Mensano’s Osteria del Borgo that guests can enjoy a regional classic: wild boar pappardelle. Hotel guests who like to hunt their game as well as eat it can join the Castello’s game warden, Paolo Bagnoli, for an evening in pursuit of this fabled animal. Rare are the hotels, even in Italy, that offer guests the chance to shoot wild boar. But then the 1700-hectare Castello di Casole estate, with its brand new five-star bolthole in an ancient restored castle, is a remarkably singular place. Castello di Casole, Località Querceto, Casole d’Elsa, Siena, Italy, +39 0 577 961 508,; rooms from $740 BRIAN VINER

CARIBBEAN DREAM The West Indies’ rich natural bounty inspired Crabtree & Evelyn’s newly designed men’s range. The new West Indian Lime travel set, $35, includes shave cream, after-shave balm, body wash and cologne.

IMMUNE TO IT ALL Steel yourself for September’s change of season with Swisse’s Professional Immune Response, $44.95 for 200ml, a liquid tonic formulated with echinacea, super-herb andrographis, olive leaf and pomegranate. 215

First resort The new Anantara Bali Uluwatu Resort & Spa.

Conrad New York




in a tangy vinegar sauce (“easternstyle”) or a sweeter tomato sauce (“western-style”). Order a sandwich, which will come with coleslaw on a squishy white bun, or a plate, which generally comes with slaw and hush puppies, or LONELY PLANET cornmeal fritters. ANSWERS YOUR If you’re in North Carolina in TRAVEL QUERIES October, hit up the Barbecue Festival in Lexington, which bills Q: Texas, South Carolina or Memphis – what does it all mean itself as the “barbecue capital of the world” ( when Americans start talking In Memphis, too, pork is king, barbecue? And where are the but here barbecue means two best places to work it out for things: chopped or pulled pork in myself when I’m in the US? a sweet tomato sauce, or tender Jeremy Laudner, Vic pork ribs – order ’em by the rack A: There are two crucial points or half-rack, and don’t forget the I need to make about barbecue in napkins. I’ d single out Charles the southern United States. First: Vergos’s Rendezvous (, “barbecue” is a noun not a verb. a back-alley basement institution, And second: otherwise sane for ribs, and Payne’s Bar-B-Q people often come to blows over which regional version is supreme. (+1 901 272 1523) for pulled pork. As you move further west into In the Carolinas, barbecue cattle country, the definition of means slow-cooked pork that’s barbecue suddenly shifts to chopped or shredded and drowned include beef. In Texas, the quintessential ’cue is slow-cooked beef brisket, dished up in The Salt Lick Bar-B-Que, Austin shockingly huge portions. Some restaurants serve nothing more than meat and cottony sliced white bread, which serves as utensil, sauce-sop and napkin. Top Texan spots include Austin’s The Salt Lick Bar-B-Que ( and the town of Lockhart, something of a barbecue mecca. Happy eating, y’all. Emily Matchar is co-author of Lonely Planet’s USA. Write to traveldesk@ and a Lonely Planet author will reply. NEWS IN BRIEF




Three new hotels for exploring New York’s newly hip ‘hoods. NOMAD Neighbourhood The hotel is named for its location at the heart of the recently christened Nomad (North of Madison Square Park) ’hood. Selling point The French-inspired décor – leather headboards, clawfoot tubs and vintage Persian rugs – courtesy of French design guru Jacques Garcia. Eat, drink and be merry The city’s PYTs flock to the show-stopping seven-metre mahogany bar, and the carefully curated two-level library. Weakest link The neighbourhood is still undergoing gentrification, and can feel gritty and crowded. Rooms from $430. THE ALGONQUIN Neighbourhood Midtown, near the bustling Times Square and Bryant Park. Selling point This 181-room grand dame – known for its legendary Algonquin Round Table – has a new

gloss after a recent makeover. Eat, drink and be merry The famous Blue Bar, opened just after prohibition, has been expanded and updated with blue LED lighting and a striking glass sculpture wall. Weakest link This is one of New York’s busiest neighbourhoods, especially at rush hour, so don’t expect tranquillity with your dose of history. Most rooms have only showers, not bathtubs like the old days. Rooms from $585. CONRAD NEW YORK Neighbourhood Financial District/ Battery Park City, with views of the Hudson River. Selling point This contemporary 463-room downtown tower is filled with thought-provoking art from luminaries such as Sol LeWitt and Monica Ponce de Leon, whose two-tiered sculpture is


The Algonquin

suspended above the futuristic atrium-style lobby. Be sure to check out the low-slung couches, illuminated from below so they appear to be hovering. Eat, drink and be merry The newly opened rooftop bar Loopy Doopy (named for the Sol LeWitt mural in the lobby) has inspiring views of the river and the Statue

of Liberty, along with inventive drinks and alcoholic popsicles. Weakest link The area can feel a bit like no-man’s-land after the Wall Streeters go home, although things are improving thanks to newcomers such as Danny Meyer’s cult burger joint Shake Shack, just down the road. Rooms from $525. EMMA SLOLEY

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A NEW JEWEL FOR JAIPUR India’s luxury onslaught continues with the opening of its first Fairmont hotel. Fairmont Jaipur is in a relatively quiet, suburban area of the Pink City and built to mimic the Mogal-era palaces that dominate this corner of India. The rich textiles and jewel tones of Rajasthan inform the design while the Mogal emperors’ personal commitment to feasting is honoured with the historically inspired cuisine at Zarin restaurant.

The Fairmont Hotel, Jaipur



Indonesia’s favourite island beckons with two palatial new stays. BALI Two decades ago, Amanusa set the benchmark for resort living on Bali’s exclusive Nusa Dua enclave. Now the chic hotel group behind the property, Aman Resorts, is set to redefine tropical luxury with the debut of 10 villas nestled in the hinterland behind the resort, the first of which opens next month. The Amanusa villas are like modern Balinese palaces, with the smallest sprawling across a 4000-square-metre block with 25-metre pool, four bedrooms, elevated wantilan pavilion overlooking lushly landscaped grounds, and staff quarters for the two maids and cook assigned to each property. The pick of the pack will be Aman founder Adrian Zecha’s personal villa, a lavish eight-bedroom compound set on 14,000 square metres. Each of the 32 will have a distinctive layout but similar concept and will be priced from $4000 per night. Views are over coastal bushland or the Bali National Golf Resort, one of the island’s top-rated courses. Villa guests will have access to the resort’s bar and restaurants, where new executive chef Chau Doan (formerly of O’Connell’s and The Grand in Melbourne) is reinvigorating Amanusa’s reputation for destination dining. A short drive down the hill by zippy VW Safari delivers guests to the Amanusa Beach Club with its breezy bales, sparkling sea views and killer breakfast bentos of sesame-crusted egg and bacon burgers, bircher muesli, fruit salad and pastries. The resort’s new general manager, Sean Flakelar, has big things planned for Amanusa’s 21st year – in 2013, all 35 suites will be refurbished and the resort will unveil a full Aman spa. Elsewhere on the Island of Gods, Anantara has opened an elegant new retreat above Impossible Beach at Uluwatu. The resort’s 74 sea-view suites, two- and three-bedroom pool villas and duplex penthouses cascade down the limestone cliff face to a striking infinity pool and, beyond it, the Indian Ocean. The accommodation features such treats as terrace hot tubs and Bose entertainment systems, while the rooftop lounge bar and restaurant add yet another striking dimension to the upscale Uluwatu experience.; KENDALL HILL

LITTLE BROTHER Douglas Elder’s hearty fare can make it difficult to nab a table at Brown Brothers’ Epicurean Centre in Milawa. Enter the Wine Room, a new easygoing little sibling to the restaurant, with a menu of small dishes designed for grazing as you sample the best from the Brown Brothers cellar door. The Epicurean Wine Room is open 11am-4pm daily. And next up? A Prosecco pop-up bar. epicureancentre

FOOD IN THE ’HOODS Club rooms at the Intercontinental Sydney come with access to the 32nd floor and its views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge – well worth the upgrade. But for travellers who’ve had their fill of landmarks, the hotel’s new Sydney Gourmet Tour package takes in small producers – a microbrewer, a coffee roaster and more – on the city’s grittier backstreets. The package, from $511 for two people, is available until 31 October.



Jeremy Moon, founder, Icebreaker How important is frequent travel to your world? Eighty per cent of the Icebreaker business is international, so thankfully travel is a critical part of my life. This is probably why I set up Icebreaker to be an international business. What are three things you must pack on a business trip? Sleeping pills, merino wool underwear, an open mind. What’s your one essential in any hotel room? A sound system for my iPhone. What is your favourite part of travelling? The first week away and then seeing my family when I return home. What’s the first thing you do when you get home from a trip? Kiss my wife Ellie long and hard, squeeze my daughters, give my border collie Molly a good rub. Favourite airport? Wellington is clean, modern and fun, and it means I’m home. My favourite international airport is Schiphol in Amsterdam – great architecture, super-efficient, cool people and great retail.

Jeremy Moon Living wild On safari in Kenya with Abercrombie & Kent.



Favourite home away from home? On the weekends it’s our country house in the Wairarapa; internationally it’s New York City. I feel really alive and at home there. Most memorable recent holiday? Bordeaux, staying at Château Smith Haut Lafitte: fantastic food, beautiful setting, wonderful people, amazing wines, pristine location and a fantastic spa using products made from grapes. Do you have your own version of a “uniform” for travelling? Icebreaker short sleeve T-shirt under Icebreaker Black Sheep V-neck super-fine sweater, jeans and Ferragamo shoes. Icebreaker’s merino wool is sourced from New Zealand’s Southern Alps.

Restaurant land might find itself envious this month of the major milestones notched up by two travel industry greats. It’s been 50 years since adventurous Brit Geoffrey Kent founded the tour company that now takes people to seven continents in style. Abercrombie and Kent’s combination of luxury and exclusive adventure has made it one of the first on the ground in Burma, a leader in Antarctic excursions, and a pioneer in Africa. A & K marks the milestone with an anniversary safari tour of Kenya – its official birthplace – departing 29 September and 7 October. The nine-night tour, from $12,705 per person twin-share, features a mix of lodges, tented camps, photography lessons, hot air ballooning over the Masai Mara and lunch with Kent himself. Also in September is the 125th birthday of Raffles Singapore, and the hotel group is launching a year-long program of events to celebrate. Among the festivities, select Raffles hotels will serve a limited-edition anniversary cuvée from Billecart-Salmon, and the group has collaborated with Jaeger-LeCoultre on a custom-engraved Reverso watch to mark the occasion. Perhaps the most impressive offer is the “125 hours in Paris with Raffles” at the Philippe Starck-overhauled Le Royal Monceau Raffles Paris. Okay, so it costs about $200,000 per couple, but it does include four nights in the hotel’s presidential suite, a helicopter trip to the Loire Valley, a private tour of Paris’s galleries with the hotel’s art concierge and personalised Pierre Hermé macarons.;


IMAX, Hong Kong

LAUNCH PAD Expect to find an iPad in your seat pocket soon if you’re on a Qantas flight between Sydney and Melbourne or across to Perth. Positive feedback from customer trials earlier this year means the airline is now rolling out Q Streaming across its fleet of Boeing 767s. Passengers will have access to 200 hours of free entertainment via the new iPad streaming program, with the phased introduction of the tablets from next month.

TALKING DIRTY Saucy bestseller Fifty Shades of Grey will join Virgin Atlantic’s new in-flight entertainment program, JAM. The new audio books line-up will let passengers enjoy EL James’s novel without embarrassment, says Virgin Atlantic’s Fay Burgin, adding “we can’t be held responsible for any risqué behaviour that listening to the recording inspires.” JAM’s touch-screen control panel offers more than 300 hours of in-flight entertainment.


MAXIMUM STOPOVER No more trawling the duty-free for alcohol you can’t carry and oversized chocolate bars you don’t need. The world’s first airport IMAX theatre is now open at Hong Kong International Airport’s Terminal 2. The UA IMAX theatre on level six of the terminal will show films in both 2D and 3D and, at an enormous 22.4 metres wide and 13.8 metres high, puts even the pointy end’s personal screens to shame.


SPRING FEVER Samsonite’s new Essensis spinner, from $299, with its floral pattern and ultra-light weight, has a feminine edge – quite rare in luggage land. AIRLINE BRIEFS

The coral surrounding Anantara Kihavah in the Maldives is bouncing back thanks to an innovative program. Below, a two-bedroom over water pool residence at the resort

growing commitment Nature is getting a helping hand from guests at a resort in the Maldives


eneath the shimmering waters that surround the island archipelago of the Maldives’ Baa Atoll region, a fragile world quietly rebuilds itself. Coral reefs, the most diverse type of marine habitat, protect the pristine beaches at Anantara Kihavah Villas and guard Kihavah Huravalhi Island’s crystal-clear lagoon. They also support an astounding array of tropical fish, crustaceans and bizarre-looking molluscs. But for all of its beauty and apparent resilience, coral is a sensitive organism, vulnerable to extreme weather and sudden environmental changes. In June 2011, UNESCO declared the Baa Atoll a Biosphere Reserve. As part of its commitment to protect the environment, Anantara Kihavah Villas has initiated the Coral Adoption Program, a long-term plan designed to share learning experiences with guests, accelerate the regeneration of coral growth in the atoll reef and ultimately ensure the future of this unique Maldivian destination. Extending across the expansive Laccadives Sea, the Maldives is a country of atolls; small coral islands encircled by azure lagoons. Surrounded by the vastness of the ocean, the Baa Atoll, like the rest of the country, is vulnerable to extreme weather as well as the effects of global warming. In 1998 more than 90 per cent of shallow coral reef in the Maldives died when El Nino, a climatic phenomenon, raised sea temperatures by 4C. It was enough to stress the coral and to release the microscopic algae that give

them their kaleidoscopic colours, so the reef bleached. The coral has begun to regenerate since suffering from the bleaching event, but future temperature fluctuations threaten its survival. The Baa Atoll still needs help. During the construction of Anantara Kihavah Villas in November, 2010, the resident marine biologist created coral gardens and attached coral to iron frames in the middle of the over-water pool villas, joining an arrangement that will resemble the ‘A’ in Anantara. Environmentally friendly and designed to promote the flow of water and nutrients, the frames are covered in sand to encourage coral to grow faster than it would naturally. This was done to prevent more damage to the Baa Atoll’s fragile marine ecosystem. Within a year, faster growing acropora coral such as staghorn and table coral are expected to completely cover the structures, while some slower growing species will be introduced once the coral colonies are well established. Guests at Anantara Kihavah Villas can participate in reef creation and contribute to the on-going conservation effort by adopting a coral frame. There are three sizes available. ● paradise magazine 25


Getting around on a tuk tuk




Mark Thomson Asst dir. of public relations, Anantara Hotels Resorts & Spas

Explore Phuket’s beaches



Andrew Turner General manager, Anantara Phuket Villas PHUKET

UNUSUAL FACT: I bet you didn't know that the real Thai name of Bangkok is certified as the longest place name in the world in the Guinness World Records. Try saying this: "Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit". FAVOURITE/RECOMMENDED SIDE TRIP: One of my favourite pastimes is hiring a long-tail boat and cruising the inland canals of the Chao Phraya River. If you have a few hours to spare, the boat will take you up to Nonthaburi where the cityscape of Bangkok is replaced with beautiful old teak houses, rice paddies and bustling local markets. FAVOURITE LOCAL FESTIVAL: The Songkran Festival held in April. 134

FROM THE AIRPORT CBD 30km from Suvarnabhumi International Airport Travel time Around 40 mins by car Taxi Approx THB300 (AU$9.70) Airport Express THB150 (AU$4.90); takes around 60 mins ON THE GO 1. BTS Skytrain and MRT These two train systems travel overand underground to get you to all the major points in Bangkok. 2. Tuk-tuk This method of transport offers an exhilarating ride around the streets, but is best for short distances only.

BEST BREAKFAST: Anantara Phuket Villas — the breakfast at the resort is consistently talked about as one of the best due to our extensive selection of offerings from the West, Asia and different corners of Thailand. GREAT PLACE FOR DINNER: Sea Fire Salt restaurant is set on the untouched Mai Khao beach and has a unique concept of cooking seafood on Himalayan salt bricks. Great seafood and an extensive wine list! BEST PLACE TO PARTY WITH THE GANG: Catch Beach Club, which is on Surin beach, has a relaxed atmosphere and they play good music. MUST-BUY (MONEY NO OBJECT!): Take a private day or overnight trip to the local islands on Major Affair, a 90-foot sun-seeker yacht. It's a fully catered, private and a personalised way to explore the beautiful beaches and islands of Phuket.

FROM THE AIRPORT Patong Beach 32km from Phuket International Airport Travel time Patong Beach is around 45 mins by car Taxi Approx THB400 (AU$13) Shuttle bus Every 30 mins at THB70 (AU$2.30); takes about 60 mins ON THE GO 1. Motorbike A cheap and convenient way to explore all the tiny lanes around the beach — but drive with care! 2. Tuk-tuk This method of transport offers an exhilarating ride, but is best meant for travelling short distances only.



Lofty and grand ... and that’s just the lobby Ann Rickard finds a lot to enjoy at Anantara in Koh Samui


■■■ ▼

lOVE a good lobby. Stepping in to a luxurious lobby, especially in Thailand, makes you feel like a millionaire. There is always a plethora of people to flutter attention on you – from the person opening the door, to the man insisting on taking your bags, to the woman hovering with a tray of cool towels, to the immaculately-groomed people at reception encouraging you over with big smiles. If the lobby is lofty and grand with a massive cylindrical glass

chandelier hanging from a timber-beamed ceiling, tall timber tables with giant round flower-filled bowls, and doors at the other end that lead the eye along a blue water feature to waving palms by the ocean...well, you could spend your entire holiday just in the lobby. It’s like this at Anantara Bophut Resort & Spa on Koh Samui in Thailand. While lingering in the lobby is lovely, there is much to do at this luxurious resort tucked among the rustling palms on the quiet northern end of popular Chaweng Beach. If you are there just to relax, you don’t need to leave the place at all, even though there is buzzing nightlife and shopping galore just a few minutes away. If it’s your thing, don’t stir from a sunlounge by the massive meandering pool overlooking the


ROMANTIC: Staff are happy to set up a private dining table for you on the beach.

beach. There is always someone hovering nearby to bring a drink or a snack from the pool bar right to your sunlounge. But if you can lift yourself up, The Full Moon Cafe looking down on the resort has a mix of Thai and Western treats. And if you really want to treat yourself, have the staff make up a private dining area for you and your loved-one right on the beach. Next door to the resort, the Bophut’s Fisherman’s Village takes you back in time with its charming wooden houses overhanging the beach. The Bophut Beach Road is home to restaurants offering all

cuisines: French, Italian, Indian, Mexican and seafood. This is the only place to be on the island on a Friday night for the markets when stall holders by the hundreds set up selling everything from designer (fake) handbags to good homewares. It’s an electrifying atmosphere as hordes of tourists jam the street, closed to cars for the markets. Of course, the obligatory food and drink that comes with any Thai market experience is there in truckloads. Pop-up bars offer mojitos, cosmos, margaritas to take away in big plastic cups with straws. At

about 50 baht (about $1.50) they are generous and good, and almost every visitor at the night markets has one in hand as they barter and browse and buy. Back at the resort the next morning, there is something to be learnt in a cooking class, yoga to practise on the beach, and if we’re up to it, a spot of windsurfing...but then again there are perfumed temptations waiting in the spa.

The writer was a guest at Anantara Bophut Resort & Spa.

This is Doug. s life, missing from Doug’ There’s something rmy. ide tax tile rep of tion and from his collec ke sna ry eve , lizards He has 72 species of nt tortoise! gia a n eve and e, you could imagin sing, Doug wants But something is mis help? a crocodile. Can you



What you call clutter could be just what buyers like Doug are looking for. List your Garage Sale in your Local Classifieds and you’re not just helping people like Doug get what they want, you’ll also turn that garage full of clutter into fists full of cash! BONUS - Advertise your sale & receive a Free Garage Sale Kit

1300 136 181 Saturday, March 31, 2012




Travelling Around with Ann Rickard

The Bangkok beat

Footpath foodies



Ann Rickard encourages you to be brave when it comes to street eats. ■■■ ▼

ANANTARA STREETWISE GURU TOUR Anantara Bangkok Riverside, Thailand ● +66(0)24760022 ● bangkokriverside ● anantara

Among the intense concentration of stalls, shops, cafes and hawker carts, and with a constantly moving mass of people around us, we watched, learnt, ate. Saturday, September 15, 2012

CULINARY DELIGHT: A woman makes a mountainous heap of crispy chicken on the streets of Bangkok.


’ve never been afraid to eat on the street in Bangkok. Many people do not share my bravery, but once you’ve pulled up a plastic chair at a tin table and let one of the thousands of footpath vendors prepare you something fresh and spicy on a makeshift stove, you’ll be hooked. It’s not just the delicious food cooked from recipes handed down over generations, neither is it the tiny price you’ll pay for a big feast. It’s about being with the locals, eating as they do, enjoying the frantic, frenzied street atmosphere. For the timid, there is reassurance in the form of Chettha (Chet) Khambunditkul. The concierge at Anantara Bangkok Riverside Resort & Spa, Chet is the founder of Anantara’s Streetwise Guru Tours. This man – who knows every centimetre of Bangkok like he knows his own living room – will walk you around the bustling streets, sharing his insider knowledge, introducing you to the happy bewilderment of the streets. We began our tour with Chet from the oasis of Anantara Riverside Resort & Spa, taking a boat across the river. After a brief temple visit and a blessing by a cheerful monk, we were guided gently into the melee. Among the intense concentration of stalls, shops, cafes and hawker carts, and with a constantly moving mass of people around us, we watched, we learnt, we ate. “Don’t they have lots of accidents?” we asked Chet as we stood before a wok of boiling oil on the footpath and watched a woman make mountainous heaps of crispy chicken. Children, housewives, young and old men on scooters and vendors with

cages of chickens and sacks of produce milled by, weaving their way expertly around the boiling oil. “No, it all seems to work,’’ Chet replied and then we bit into the most succulent, moist and delicious chicken to ever pass our lips. For less than a dollar. Among the chaos, there is obviously (hidden to us) method and muddled order. Open fires and burning coals on the footpath, gas cylinders flaring up wok burners beneath portable carts in doorways ... there is always something being cooked on Bangkok’s streets 24/7. The vendors provide unintentional theatre as they go about their cooking with an expertise ingrained from childhood. Because so much food is prepared and consumed on the streets, its freshness is assured. Everything runs out and has to be replaced over and over again through the day and night. In the choked aisles of the Indian bazaar surrounded by colourful clothes, souvenirs and myriad bolts of brightly coloured fabrics, we had space only to shuffle shoulder-to-shoulder. Yet there was a young man with a cart somehow squished among the wares, selling juice from pomegranates. On and on it went all morning. The senses tottering from the sights, sounds and smells ... and always food. The tour also includes a visit to the flower market and here the senses stagger at the kaleidoscope of colour and fragrance: roses, chrysanthemums and indigenous orchids were just a few I recognised. Who could resist buying a giant bunch of velvety red roses for about $1.50, even if they had to use the hotel’s bathroom bin to put them in?


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