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2018-06-01 Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia

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ON THE COVER
June
Sunset from the
rooftop of The Funny
Lion facing Baquit
Island in Palawan.
Photographed by
Al Linsangan.
features
66
Delta Blues Sailing
deep into southern
Vietnam’s Mekong
waterways, Rachna
Sachasinh finds the
region in a state of
change. Photographed
by Morgan Ommer.
76
C L O C K W I S E F R O M T O P L E F T: L E I G H G R I F F I T H S ; J O Ã O C A N Z I A N I ; M O R G A N O M M E R ; M A R T I N M O R R E L L
Coast to Coast
Island-hopping across
El Nido and Coron,
Eloise Basuki
discovers this pocket
of the Philippines is
an ecological wonder
that also feels like
home. Photographed
by Leigh Griffiths.
76 98
86
86 66
Above and Beyond
The French Alpine
villages of Chamonix
and Megève are
reinventing
themselves as
summer playgrounds.
By Rosecrans Baldwin.
Photographed by
Martin Morrell.
98
Welcome to the
Jungle On the
Argentinian side
of Iguazú Falls,
Jacqueline Gifford
checks into a luxe
new hotel that lives
up to its dramatic
setting. Photographs
by João Canziani.
TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM / JUNE 2018
5
In Every Issue
T+L Digital 8
Contributors 10
The Conversation 12
Editor’s Note 14
Deals 62
Wish You Were Here 106
contents
See southern Thailand’s natural
wonders; surf Bali’s waves after
dark; get the Midas touch in a
Macau spa; and more reasons to
explore the region.
28 Literary City Three of Kolkata’s
ropes above the jungle and soar
from an inner-city trapeze—the
Philippine capital has thrills for
all ages.
Iceland’s famed geothermal
springs, discovering a hidden pool
inside a remote cave means going
outside your comfort zone.
40 Fun Comes to Frankfurt The
19
6
Special
51
38 Hot Pursuit On a pilgrimage to
26 Made in Hong Kong Despite
importing most of its food, Hong
Kong has a growing appetite for
local artisanal production. We
find some homemade goods for
your shopping list.
drive from the city center, the
beaches, hotels and restaurants
of the revived Athenian Riviera
offer a revelatory new way to
experience the Greek capital.
32 Manila on the Fly Scale sky-high
24 The Rise of Redfern
The streets of a once-gritty
suburb in Sydney are now home
to some of the city’s hottest small
bars, top-ranking restaurants and
creative endeavors.
44 Wait, This is Athens? A short
top scribes give us the lowdown
on the West Bengal capital’s
book-loving identity.
JUNE 2018 / TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM
city that was once just Germany’s
buttoned-up business capital now
blossoms with great culture and
cuisine.
28
24
One for the Ages In this year’s
family special, we look at
vacations tailored to different
kinds of broods. Sorted by age
and number of children, we’ve
organized dream destinations by
family dynamics, from baby’s first
holiday to multi-generational
adventures with the whole crew.
51
F R O M L E F T : C O U RT ESY O F M A N DA R I N O R I E N TA L , G UA N GZ H O U ; A A R O N J O E L SA N TO S ; K I M B E R L E Y L O W ; C O U R T E S Y O F S H I VA S A M U I
19 Reasons to Travel Now
t+l digital
+
LOOKOUT
UNCOVERING THE
SECRETS OF OKINAWA
This lush Japanese
archipelago boasts a culture
all of its own, not to mention
sugar-sand beaches and
verdant, subtropical forests.
SAIGON’S THRIVING
LIVE MUSIC SCENE
Vietnamese musicians are
making waves with bold sonic
statements that fly in the face
of censorship and give voice to
a generation.
AN EPIC TREKKING
ADVENTURE IN INDIA
On a homestay hop with a tour
company that helps tiny
villages thrive, a writer finds
mystery and magic in the
subcontinent’s mighty peaks.
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F R O M L E F T: S H I N S U K E M AT S U K AWA ; K H A N H V U BAO ; T H O M AS C R I STO FO L E T T I
THIS MONTH ON TR AVEL ANDLEISUREASIA.COM
Visiting a new resort on
Una-Una, a volcanic isle
in Central Sulawesi;
Bali’s best hotels for
foodies; a stunning new
resort on the southern
coast of Sri Lanka; the
latest travel deals and
much more.
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2
3
10
4
|
JUNE 2018
1
2
Merritt
Gurley
Leigh
Griiths
W R I T ER
P H O TO G R A P HER
“One for the Ages”
Page 51
—
With two toddlers, the
Chiang Mai–based writer was
prepped to write our Family
Special. “In Asia everybody
is wildly forgiving of kids.
Show up at dinner and the
waitresses will dedicate the
next two hours to babysitting.
Far from being angry, they
are delighted you brought
two agents of chaos to destroy
their restaurant.” Must-get
travel accessory? The 1st
Class Kid travel pillow, which
inflates on the floor in front
of a child’s plane seat so they
can lie flat, but not on top of
you. “My two babies slept
side by side on a long-haul
from Bangkok to Amsterdam.
It was a miracle.”
Instagram: @makingmerritt. “Coast to Coast”
Page 76
—
We sent the Australian
photographer to the
sustainable seas of northern
Palawan. “The Funny Lion
resort in Coron organized an
amazing island-hopping tour.
Swimming in the clearest
waters surrounded by
colorful fish and coral is hard
to beat, but crashing a tribal
wedding on a small island
was something I’ll remember
until I die.” And what of his
daredevilry diving in with
blacktips at Apulit Island?
“Don’t get me wrong, I draw
the line at baby sharks. I can
assure you, 99 percent of
Aussies (including myself)
wouldn’t voluntarily swim
with sharks back home.”
Instagram: @leighgriithslens.
3
4
Rachna
Sachasinh
Morgan
Ommer
W R I T ER
P H O TO G R A P HER
“Delta Blues”
Page 66
—
Having grown up all over
Asia, Sachasinh is used to
getting lost in old ways of life.
“Twilight in the Mekong Delta
was remarkably peaceful. I
loved evenings by the river
or on the deck of the Bassac.
People, sun, tides all mellow
out; it really is the golden
hour. In Sa Dec market, I met
a woman who was squatting
on the ground selling 13 types
of eggs in plastic and rattan
baskets and just in flowered
fabric. We used smiles, laughs
and lots of pointing to have
a nonsensical conversation.
It captured the friendly and
heart-warming spirit of the
delta.” Three words that best
describe the place? “Lots of
fruit.” Instagram: @b438.
“Delta Blues”
Page 66
—
Saigon-based photographer
Ommer has been to the delta
about 50 times, and published
a coffee-table book on the
region’s disappearing ferries.
“I spent an evening with
ferry pilot Mr. Phan The Son
going back and forth near
Long Xuyen, him telling me
stories about the demons
who live below the surface of
the river. We drank a lot of
coconut juice. Go to Sa Dec
just before Lunar New Year;
the whole town is blooming
with flowers.” Favorite meal?
“Each city has their own
version of hu tieu soup; my
favorite one is in My Tho.
It’s so good that sometimes
I cry just thinking about it.”
Instagram: @morganommer.
F R O M T O P : C O U R T E S Y O F M E R R I T T G U R L E Y; C O U R T E S Y O F L E I G H G R I F F I T H S ; M O R G A N O M M E R ; C O U R T E S Y O F M O R G A N O M M E R
contributors
INDULGE M O R E
WITH OUR SPECIAL CUISINE HIGH ABOVE THE CLOUDS
the conversation
You’re on a long-haul flight wedged past two sleeping
passengers, but you’re desperate for the loo. So, what do
you do? Well, if you’re a Hong Konger you are most likely
to ignore any unwritten travel codes and wake up your
snoozing neighbors to get to the bathroom. Japanese
travelers, however, will purposefully book the aisle seat to
avoid any inconvenience. Expedia’s 2018 Global Flight &
Hotel Etiquette Study surveyed 23 countries to see their
biggest travel pet peeves on the plane and at the hotel.
Here are some of our region’s best (and worst) habits.
Hong Kong
South Korean
Indian travelers
travelers will
scout out the
drinks trolley—
they’re the most
likely to get
drunk on a
flight.
are most likely
to vent on
social media
if they have a
complaint about
the airline.
travelers are the
most put off by
dirty or smelly
hotel rooms—
90 percent
would have no
problem asking
to swap to
another.
Taiwanese are
most resistant to
online and mobile
check-in: 67 percent
prefer to check in at
the airport.
Singaporeans
find seatkicking the
most annoying
type of inflight
behavior.
*Data taken from Expedia’s 2018 Global Flight & Hotel Etiquette Study.
Taking in the view of Malaysia’s
Cameron Highlands.
By @backpack_baby.
TO CELEBRATE VACATIONING WITH YOUR BROOD, WE’VE PICKED SOME OF OUR
READERS’ BEST FAMILY TRAVEL SNAPS.
Bubble fun at East Coast
Park, Singapore.
By @5degreeshift.
Floating the day away at
Panwa Beach, Phuket.
By @traveltheworldfamily.
Feeling the moment,
all at once, in Bali.
By @cynthia__veronica.
SHARE AN INSTAGRAM PHOTO BY USING THE #TLASIA HASHTAG, AND IT MAY BE FEATURED IN AN UPCOMING ISSUE. FOLLOW @TRAVELANDLEISUREASIA
12
JUNE 2018 / TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM
I L L U S T R AT I O N S A B Y C H O T I K A S O P I TA R C H A S A K
#TLASIA
|
JUNE 2018
alking down Chowringhee Road, as it was then known, I
remember being stopped by an elderly Bengali whose firm
handshake was not going to let me proceed easily into the
chaos that is street-level Kolkata. He asked if I was familiar
with William Shakespeare. As soon as I answered, “To a degree,” he began
to quote King Lear in his most forceful voice, trailing off and expecting me
to continue the scene. When I failed on that count, he announced his
disappointment: I thought you said you were educated.
That moment came back to me when reading Duncan Forgan’s “Literary
City” (page 28) this month. Like most, he immediately discovers that the
West Bengal capital comes with a strong literary bent, its citizens ready to
debate almost any topic at will. Discard any preconceived notions you
might have of this richly historic city, and definitely consider it for a visit.
Just remember your Shakespeare when you do.
Our guide to family travel that begins on page 51 offers an endless
variety of vacations with your offspring based on their age, from the first
trips with newborns (parents, you decide where; any baby will be fine with
that) to the best places to bring teens, whether they’re more apt to embrace
group activities or do their own thing. From the benefits of cruising with
kids to how to negotiate a multi-generational villa share, this special
section offers all you need to make your next journey as a family an
enjoyable one.
On the opposite end of the scale from
Kolkata and certainly an option with older
kids, our sail through El Nido and Coron
(“Coast to Coast,” page 76) is a
quintessentially Asian dream journey
everyone should experience at least once.
The pristine seas, blue skies and
unforgettable karst formations Palawan is
known for will leave you speechless and
wanting more.
@CKucway
chrisk@mediatransasia.com
14
J U N E 2 0 1 8 / T R AV E L A N D L E I S U R E A S I A . C O M
From my travels
I was learning how to breathe
again. And stretch. And eat.
After a three-day retreat in
Bali at Revivo (revivoresorts.
com), a new boutique resort
that aims to get us back on
track with balanced living, I
felt like I had turned a
corner—even if I hadn’t let go
of my phone as suggested and
was slightly caffeinedeprived. More on all that in a
coming issue, but suffice it to
say a bit of a restorative break
where we each focus on
ourselves through yoga,
meditation, Pilates and an
excellent healthy menu is
something we could all use.
F R O M L E F T: I R FA N S A M A R T D E E ; C H R I S T O P H E R K U C WAY ( 2 )
editor’s note
AN ELECTRIFIED
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a place where magic comes alive.
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4 dining options - FIRE, Starfish Bloo, Woobar, W Lounge
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Jl. Petitenget, Seminyak, Bali 80361
+62 8361 4738 106
whotels.bali@whotels.com
EXPLORE
WBALISEMINYAK.COM
@WBALISEMINYAK
WBALISEMINYAK
©2016 Marriott International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. W and its logos are the trademarks
of Marriott International, Inc., or its affiliates.
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
ART DIRECTOR
DEPUT Y EDITOR
FEATURES EDITOR
SENIOR DESIGNER
Christopher Kucway
Wannapha Nawayon
Jeninne Lee-St. John
Eloise Basuki
Chotika Sopitarchasak
REGUL AR CONTRIBUTORS / PHOTOGR APHERS
Cedric Arnold, Kit Yeng Chan, Marco Ferrarese,
Duncan Forgan, Lauryn Ishak, Mark Lean, Grace Ma, Ian Lloyd Neubauer,
Morgan Ommer, Aaron Joel Santos, Stephanie Zubiri
CHAIRMAN
PRESIDENT
PUBLISHING DIRECTOR
PUBLISHER
DIGITAL MEDIA MANAGER
TRAFFIC MANAGER / DEPUTY DIGITAL MEDIA MANAGER
SALES DIRECTOR
BUSINES S DE VELOPMENT MANAGER
CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER
PRODUCTION MANAGER
CIRCUL ATION AS SISTANT
J.S. Uberoi
Egasith Chotpakditrakul
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Pichayanee Kitsanayothin
Varin Kongmeng
Joey Kukielka
Leigha Proctor
Gaurav Kumar
Kanda Thanakornwongskul
Yupadee Saebea
TR AVEL+LEISURE (USA)
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, NEWS, LUXURY, ST YLE
Nathan Lump
Meredith Long
MEREDITH PARTNERSHIPS, LICENSING & SYNDICATION
(syndication@meredith.com)
BUSINES S AFFAIRS DIRECTOR
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EDITORIAL DIRECTOR
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MEREDITH
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EDITORIAL DIRECTOR, LIFEST YLE GROUP
E XECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENTS
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Leslie Dukker Doty, Brad Elders, Lauren Ezrol Klein
TR AVEL+LEISURE SOUTHEAST ASIA
VOL. 12, ISSUE 6
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JUNE 2018
REASONS TRAVEL NOW
TO
T+L’s monthly selection of trip-worthy places, experiences and events.
Created by collapsed
limestone, the sunken
beach on Koh Khao Yai
is a hidden gem in
Satun province.
© SAT U N G EO PA R K / N I R U T H TA N G S I R I
no.
1
Thailand’s 500-million-year-old limestone ranges
finally score global cred.
While Phuket is seen as the star of Thailand’s south, it appears the rest of the region merits more of our
attention: Satun province has just been crowned a UNESCO Global Geopark. It’s little wonder, as the
region, tucked between Trang and Langkawi, is packed with destinations and activities for the natureseeker: wander through colossal Phu Pha Pet, Thailand’s biggest cave; find tropical paradise among
Satun’s Andaman islands—dive the reefs of Koh Lipe, search for trilobite fossils in the national marine
park on Koh Tarutao, find the sunken beach at Koh Khao Yai; and meet the Semung, Maniq and Urak
Lawoi ethnic communities, who have lived in harmony for centuries. satun-geopark.com.
TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM / JUNE 2018
19
/ reasons to travel now /
no.
2
Swell news from Bali: surfing with the stars.
The beaches of Bali draw surfers from around the world, which means finding an empty wave can be an impossible
task. Surf retreat Komune rides to the rescue with its nighttime surfing sessions on the shores of the resort. From
7 p.m. to midnight and 4 a.m. to 6 a.m., the powerful Karamas break is awash in floodlights, offering groups of up to six
private moonlit barrel rides. komuneresorts.com; doubles from US$118; night surfing sessions US$20.
no.
A female gorilla
nurses her baby
in Virunga
National Park.
3
Gorilla trekking is taking off
in the Democratic Republic
of the Congo.
With Rwandan permits now pricier than ever—an hour with
gorillas will run you US$1,500—outfitters are doubling down on
their offerings in the more affordable Democratic Republic of the
Congo. The population of mountain gorillas in Virunga National
Park has quadrupled in recent decades, the result of increased
security and environmental measures. Deeper Africa adds the
Call of the Congo itinerary (deeperafrica.com; eight-day tours from
US$7,499) to the park beginning in July, with stays on an island in
Lake Kivu and visits with a canine anti-poaching unit. Or book a
custom itinerary with Journeys by Design (journeysbydesign.
com; prices on request) that includes excursions to the Nyiragongo
Volcano’s lava lake and the Senkwekwe Center gorilla orphanage.
The 7,700-square-kilometer park is the continent’s most
biodiverse protected area, with ecosystems that range from
savannas to active volcanoes, so between gorilla treks you can
spot chimpanzees, okapi, and some of the 700-odd bird species
that make the park their home. — JEN SALERNO
20
JUNE 2018 / TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM
F R O M TO P : C O U RT ESY O F TO N Y CA N N O N / KO M U N E R ES O RT ; E R I C BAC C EGA / G E T T Y I M AG ES
Owning the
Keramas break
in the dark of
the night.
no.
4
There’s a spa in Macau to help you
shine bright like a diamond.
C O U RT ESY O F W Y N N PA L AC E C OTA I R ES O RT
In case you were wondering exactly how much gilt you could possibly
drench yourself in when visiting Macau, The Spa at Wynn Palace has the
illuminating answer: a slew of diamond-enriched cleanses and creams
along with some 24-karat magic. A 90-minute Midas touch, The Diamond
Life Infusion Facial uses precious metals and minerals plus light- and
magnet-therapies to renew and redefine the skin. Though it might seem
easy to dismiss this as a just bling-tastic marketing pitch, the science stands
as firm as my cheeks felt after my treatment. The active ingredients in the
Natura Bisse products they use hitch a ride with diamond minerals, which
can penetrate your skin deeper and therefore better hydrate you. Gold
extract boosts collagen growth. A 24-karat-gold facial massager contains
two magnets, which help balance your energy, stimulate circulation,
activate metabolism and oxygenate the muscles. Two masks straight out of a
Hollywood sci-fi round out this relaxation romp. A totally Tron LED mask
emits blue, red and infrared light to help the products do their work, reduce
lines and impurities, and increase collagen and brightness. Meanwhile,
you’ll look like you were touched by Goldfinger (I know because I made my
therapist take photos) in the golden mask, which firms the skin and adds a
little oomph to its natural cell-regeneration cycle, Bondgirl-style. Yep,
diamonds are still a girl’s best friend, but gold is running a pretty close
second. Wynn Palace Cotai Resort: wynnpalace.com; doubles from MOP1,599;
Diamond Life Infusion Facial MOP3,300. – JENINNE LEE-ST. JOHN
Guests get the
golden treatment at
the Spa at Wynn
Palace Cotai Resort.
/ reasons to travel now /
5
no.
Pack your fur-babies on your next luxury getaway.
Beyond fancy feasts and red envelopes, hotels are celebrating the Year of the Dog a little
more literally. Here are three retreats ready to pamper your pooch.
MANDARIN ORIENTAL,
GUANGZHOU
Pups rule at the Mandarin
Oriental, Guangzhou
(mandarinoriental.com;
doubles from RMB1,530; petfriendly rooms an additional
RMB800), where they’ll get a
sleeping cushion and bowl, but
also a tailor-made menu by
executive chef Jonathan Shea,
a welcome cake and a bespoke
engraved fan collar tag.
BELMOND HOTEL
SPLENDIDO, PORTOFINO
Among the seaside splendor of
the Italian Riviera, Belmond
Hotel Splendido (belmond.
com; rooms from €930; dog
massages from €44) treats
dogs to individually crafted
wellbeing sessions and petsized dressing gowns, while
trained pet therapists offer
Swedish massages
overlooking Portofino Bay.
MANDARIN ORIENTAL,
PARIS
For classy canines in the
French capital, the Mandarin
Oriental, Paris (mandarin
oriental.com; doubles from
€1,025) welcomes dogs for
free and dishes out a menu by
Michelin-starred chef Thierry
Marx. Dog-walkers can take
your pooch to the Tuileries
Garden, or shop boutiques for
designer leashes and collars.
Mandarin Oriental,
Guangzhou takes
doggy treats to
the next level.
22
JUNE 2018 / TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM
6
A
groundbreaking
cultural center is
shaking up the
Paris art scene.
It’s less than
three months old,
but Lafayette
Anticipations
(lafayette
anticipations.
com), the new
institution
created by
department store
Galeries
Lafayette, is fast
becoming one of
Paris’s most
innovative art
spaces. Rem
Koolhaas’s OMA
firm renovated
the 19th-century
warehouse in the
Marais, adding a
steel-and-glass
exhibition tower
with retractable
floors that allow
for 49
configurations,
making it
possible to adapt
to works of all
shapes and sizes.
With the
inaugural Lutz
Bacher
installation a hit
and new
workshops
and live
performances
soon to come, it
joins the ranks of
La Place,
Fondation Louis
Vuitton, and
other centers
that are giving
the city’s art
world an edge.
— SIOBHAN REID
C O U RT ESY O F M A N DA R I N O R I E N TA L G UA N GZ H O U
no.
The leafy streets of
this inner-west Sydney
suburb make quiet
strips to take a ride.
The Rise
of Redfern
A once-gritty suburb in Sydney is now
home to some of the city’s hottest
properties. As gentrification in Redfern
reaches its peak, Duncan Forgan finds
small bars and speakeasies rubbing
shoulders with top-ranking restaurants
and creative endeavors.
24
JUNE 2018 / TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM
K I M B E R L E Y L O W. O P P O S I T E , C L O C K W I S E F R O M T O P L E F T: C O U R T E S Y O F E AT H O U S E D I N E R ; K I M B E R L E Y L O W ( 2 ) ; C O U R T E S Y O F C I C C O N E & S O N S G E L AT E R I A ; C O U R T E S Y O F G I A N T D WA R F ; C O U R T E S Y
O F M J O L N E R ( 2 ) ; K I M B E R L E Y L O W. M A P B Y C H O T I K A S O P I T I A R C H A S A K
/ in the neighborhood/
2. MOYA’S JUNIPER LOUNGE
Attention to detail and reverence for gin
history are Moya’s calling cards. The
bar majors in oft-forgotten classics, like
the Charlie Chaplin circa 1910 or
Waldorf-era Poet’s Dream, and provides
tasting notes for each. While the drinks,
elegantly disheveled interior and jazz
soundtrack hark back to the past, gins
from hip local distillers—like Archie
Rose, made a suburb over, in a fingerlime Gimlet—bring things up-to-date.
fb.com/moyasgin; cocktails from A$20.
3. CICCONE & SONS
GELATERIA
Redfern’s no-nonsense
roots shine through at
this tiny but mighty
gelateria—regarded as
one of the finest in
Sydney. The gelato here is
made with fresh Jersey milk
and there’s a simple selection
of traditional varieties like
chocolate, stracciatella, and
pistachio—blended with whole nuts
in-house, rather than the commonly
used paste—as well as rotating
specials like peanut and bourbon
caramel; black sesame; and orange
and Sichuan pepper. fb.com/
cicconeandsons; scoops from A$7.
1. EATHOUSE DINER
PI TT ST
REET
100 M
CH ALM
ERS ST
REET
RE
ETH ST
REET
ET
RE
ST
5
GE
NT
AND ST
REET
EL IZ AB
CLEV EL
6
GEORGE
STREET
Americana in various guises informs
the aesthetic at this laid-back
neighborhood bistro. A bright
green-and-red façade with garish
lettering blends 1950s vintage with
vivid psychedelia, while inside
combines ephemera from Latin
America and the Caribbean with a
classic diner feel. The food,
meanwhile, takes plenty of cues
from the new world with menu
highlights including duck tacos,
baby squid and chorizo gumbo, and
spiced pavlova. eathousediner.com.
au; mains from A$18.
2
REDFER
N ST RE
ET
1
R EG
EN
TS
TRE
E
T
4
5. MJOLNER
3
4. THE NOBLE HOPS
Given Redfern’s status as a hub for
pocket-sized drinking dens—last
year saw the opening of cozy Bart Jr
and retro Misfits—of course it also
should have its own craft beer bar.
Step up then, The Noble Hops, which
offers a regularly changing rotation
of 10 tap beers as well as a
gargantuan list of bottled brews.
The focus, naturally, is on inventive
beers from Australia—try the 50
Shades of Stout from Sydney’s own
Sauce Brewing Co., or The Punch, a
mango gose from Melbourne’s Hop
Nation Brewing Co.—and abroad.
There is also an enticing variety of
bourbon, rye and malt whiskies.
thenoblehops.com; drinks from A$12.
In a cavernous sidestreet basement,
revelers summon the spirits of the
Norse Gods at this Viking-inspired
restaurant and bar. Named after
Thor’s hammer, Mjolner doesn’t
stint on theatricality. In a “carving
throne,” whole animals are sliced
up, while stiff shots of whiskey are
poured from a hammer-shaped
decanter for drinkers to imbibe out
of a horn. Menu highlights include a
braised beef short rib with kale and
mushroom, and gin-cured trout.
mjolner.com.au; mains from A$35.
6. GIANT DWARF
Australia’s premier satirical crew,
The Chaser, has been calling out the
country’s political classes and other
worthy targets on screen, radio and
print since 1999. The comedians
have found a suitably louche live
showcase for their acid-tinged
comedy in Redfern’s old Cleveland
Street Theatre. As well as providing
a stage for The Chaser members,
the venue also features productions
by some of the country’s best
comedy writers and performers, and
hosts shows for the Sydney Comedy
Festival. giantdwarf.com.au.
/ food /
Made in Hong Kong
Despite importing more than 90 percent of its food, Hong Kong has a
growing appetite for local artisanal production. Janice Leung Hayes
tries some of the best, both generations old and brand new.
and shop on Gough Street. As proud
Hongkongers, Kwok and Wong are
inspired by local ingredients to
f lavor their bars and truff les, using,
for example, goji berries, dried
longan, osmanthus and their own
Sichuan-chili blend. f b.com/
hakawachocolate; Shop 1B, 49–51A
Gough St., Central; chocolate bars
from HK$28.
HUI KEE | Fish Balls
FROM TOP: Hakawa’s rose petal and
pistachio bars; pick up a Hakawa
hot chocolate for extra comfort.
26
One of the first bean-to-bar
chocolatiers in Hong Kong (many
others are actually “melters,” who
buy ready-made coverture
chocolate, melt it to add f lavors and
then remold the blocks) Hakawa
founders Sally Kwok and Mandy
Wong process the cacao beans
themselves, roasting, winnowing
and refining the cacao seeds into
chocolate as we know it. It’s
laborious: around 30 hours of active
processing time goes into each
batch, and the bars are aged for
three months before being f lavored
and sold. Hakawa sources its cacao
beans directly from a cooperative in
Sri Lanka, and makes each batch of
its organic chocolate by hand in a
diminutive hole-in-the-wall atelier
JUNE 2018 / TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM
MOONZEN BREWERY |
Craft Beer
A tall drink of Chinese culture along
with your ale? Yes, please. Moonzen
is named after men shen, the name
for the gods depicted on the doors of
many traditional Chinese houses in
Beijing, where beer brewer Laszlo
Raphael met his wife, Michele Wong
Raphael. The couple now lives in
Hong Kong, of which Wong Raphael
C O U R T E S Y O F H A K AWA ( 2 )
HAKAWA | Handmade
Chocolate
Seafood has always been a big part
of Hong Kong dining, and fish balls
are an essential ingredient for
Cantonese noodle soups and hot
pots. Alfred Hui’s grandfather
started selling them in a wet market
in the working-class neighborhood
of Cheung Sha Wan, while Hui and
his wife have since brought the
business into the 21st century by
using sustainable fish sources, and
relocating production to a
modernized factory. Mechanization
isn’t the enemy, Hui says, as
machines have been used for a long
time in fish-ball making; what
matters is that recipes aren’t
changed. Experienced sifus
(masters) who’ve been with the
family-owned company for decades
oversee the entire production
process and ensure they’re still
following to a tee traditional recipes
such as dumplings wrapped in
delicate, paper-thin skins made of
fish mince; and classic fish balls,
made with eel that is skinned and
pounded in a way that gives it its
uniquely elastic texture. fishball.
com.hk; 16 Cheung Fat St., Cheung
Sha Wan; fish balls from HK$48
per pound.
FROM TOP: COURTESY OF HUI KEE FISHBALLS (2); COURTESY OF MOONZEN BRE WERY (2); COURTESY OF YUAN'S
is a native, brewing the favorite
craft beers of many local insiders.
Moonzen has done remarkably well
since its humble beginnings in 2014:
with just a few tanks the size of
stock pots, the company won Best
Hong Kong–Produced Beer and Best
Pale Ale at the Hong Kong
International Beer Awards that
same year. They’ve since moved into
a larger factory and have been
producing an ever-expanding range.
As the couple tells visitors to the
brewery, “every beer has a story.” In
the permanent range, each beer is
inspired by a mythical Chinese god:
the Kitchen God, whose words are
sweetened by honey, inspired the
honey espresso porter; the cheeky
Monkey King is represented by the
lively hoppy aromas of an amber ale.
They also have a growing array of
beers dedicated to Chinese
provinces—the South Cloud
Yunnan lager uses Yunnanese Pu’er
tea—and experiment with seasonal
releases, like summer kumquat
wheat beer and a cream ale made
with lemon tea, a tribute to the
staple Hong Kong drink.
moonzenbrewery.com; 18 Shing Yip
St., Kwun Tong; brewery tour with
beer samples from HK$250.
YUAN’S | Soy Sauce
Started in the 1970s by the late
Heh-kwan Tsang, a biochemist from
Fujian, Yuan’s factory in Yuen Long,
in Hong Kong’s northwest, produces
some of the most expensive soy
sauce in the world. To call it a
factory is generous—it’s a couple of
barns and a big uncovered space for
the sun’s heat to ferment the
hundred or so soybean-filled
ceramic pots that sit there. Unlike
most soy sauces, their “Royal Soy
Sauce,” the “first press” of the
condiment, takes two years to make
and costs HK$188 for a 125-milliliter
bottle. Made Fujian-style, no water
is added; soybeans, salt and a
natural fermentation starter are all
that make up the thick, glossy liquid
bursting with natural umami. The
intensity of the first press means it’s
FROM TOP: The Hui
Kee fish ball shop
in Cheung Sha
Wan; a serving of
their classic fish
balls; the beer
taps at Moonzen
Brewery; men
shen–inspired
doors at Moonzen;
a bottle of Yuan’s
Royal Soy Sauce.
best used as a dipping sauce. The
second press, which adds brine, is
more similar to the light soy sauce
of home cooks, although the depth of
f lavor makes it anything but
common. Yuan’s also stocks a large
range of their other condiments,
including chili, oyster and hoisin
sauces, all preservative-free and
made from Tsang’s own formulas.
Since Tsang’s death in 2012, Tin Yip,
one of only two apprentices who
knew the original recipes, now runs
the business and is staying tightlipped about their formulas: “There
have been people who’ve tried to buy
[our recipes], but we’ve never
written them down, and it’s not my
secret to tell.” ihoyuan.com;
available at City’super stores and
select specialty supermarkets; Royal
Soy Sauce HK$188.
/ insider intel /
Crowds swarm the
entrance to Indian
Coffee House, a
renowned adda
hub near College
Street.
Literary City
Thriving on both conversation and the written
word, Kolkata’s love of literature has been
ingrained in its identity for more than a century.
Duncan Forgan chats to a few of the city’s top
scribes to get a better read on its book-filled
streets. PHOTOGR APHS BY A ARON JOEL SANTOS
“THIS WON’T DO. Not in the
slightest,” says Akhil
Sarkar, my guide, with a
sigh and a shake of his
head. “Not only is it rude,”
he adds, pointing at a
deserted stoop in North
Kolkata, “it’s totally
against the nature of this
city.” Elsewhere on the
main drag, a gentleman
gets his moustache
trimmed, and shadowy
alleys reveal decaying
mansions, hidden
courtyards and temples.
Sarkar, however, is
preoccupied with the
tainted stoop: a former
site for adda, the Bengali
custom of informal
conversation, has now
been guarded by its owner
with uncomfortable
looking, spike-like
protrusions. “In Kolkata
we value intellect over
everything else,” he
explains. “This is one of
the few cities in India
where the artist or the
author is respected more
than the businessman.
Therefore, these adda
sessions are integral to
the city’s lifeblood.”
Akhil’s displeasure at
this single tarnished
porch seems somewhat
disproportionate. But his
passion for elevated
28
JUNE 2018 / TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM
discourse is not out of
place in India’s most
literary-minded city.
Kolkata was a cerebral
force from the get-go. As
the capital of British India
it was a hub for learning,
a fertile petri dish for new
ideas and modern
thinking. Its printing
industry nurtured India’s
book trade, while its
prestigious universities
sowed the seeds for the
Bengali renaissance—an
intellectual flowering that
produced colossuses such
as Michael Madhusudan
Dutt, Bankim Chandra
Chatterjee and
Rabindranath Tagore.
Kolkata’s strategic
importance has long been
superseded in India. As
other major Indian cities
benefited from boom
industries like IT, tech and
outsourcing, Kolkata
failed to diversify during
the 34 years of Communist
rule in West Bengal. Wellheeled residents of Delhi,
Bangalore and Mumbai
peruse glitzy shopping
malls and drink at sleek
sky bars. In Kolkata, the
upper crust content
themselves with the
occasional hipster coffee
shop and institutions such
as Mocambo, a one-time
jazz joint serving timewarped continental
dishes, and Flury’s, a
venue dating back to 1927
that serves tea, English
breakfasts and cakes.
But what Kolkata lacks
in spending power it
compensates for with
cultural capital. “In
Kolkata you can’t kick a
stone without hitting a
poet or a writer,” laughs
Anjum Katyal, co-director
of the Apeejay Kolkata
Literary Festival. “Here
we have a beginner’s
advantage. There’s an
ingrained love and
understanding of
literature.” A profusion of
literary jamborees
(Katyal’s festival is one of
three that take place every
January) is an example of
the many manifestations
of the city’s love of the
written word.
On bustling Free School
Street, used book stores
stocking everything from
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: The courtyard inside the ancestral home of
Rabindranath Tagore, one of India’s greatest poets; a drawing of
Tagore on a school wall in Kolkata; bathers near Howrah Bridge;
Anjum Katyal, co-director of Kolkata’s annual literary festival.
TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM / JUNE 2018
29
/ insider intel /
CLOCKWISE FROM
FAR LEFT:
“As a child, I was taken
to poetry meets and
bookstore readings much
more oten than to the zoo”
well-thumbed volumes of
Tagore poetry to the entire
works of Tom Clancy pour
out onto pavements.
College Street, nicknamed
boi para (colony of books)
due to its glut of secondhand bookshops, is
another hub. These days
the stores stock mostly
dry academic books, but
a febrile intellectual
atmosphere can still be
sampled at Indian Coffee
House. The venue has
been the rendezvous of
many Bengali thinkers,
who have come to hatch
manifestos, perfect plot
lines and conduct adda
sessions over sandwiches
and sugary coffee.
Regular patrons
include filmmaker and
author Satyajit Ray,
actress and screenwriter
Aparna Sen, and Nobel
laureate economist
Amartya Sen. Nandana
Sen, the daughter of the
latter, a polymath whose
credentials include
screenwriting, activism,
authoring children’s books
and starring roles in
acclaimed Indian movies,
recalls a Kolkata
upbringing immersed in
books and shaped by adda.
“I grew up in a dusty old
house built by my poet
grandparents where, to
this day, we were chased
out of rooms by growing
piles of books from all
over the world,” Sen says.
“As a child, I was taken to
poetry meets and
bookstore readings much
more often than to the zoo
or cartoons—and that
seemed perfectly normal.
We love to discuss, debate
and disagree for hours.
And we adore
argumentative Indians;
people in Kolkata treat
writers like rock stars.”
Reverence for such
gravity is also a feature at
the Taj Bengal (tajhotels.
com; rooms from Rs7,500),
my sumptuous digs in the
city. A luxurious pile set in
lush, manicured grounds,
the hotel doesn’t shirk its
five-star requirements.
My expansive suite
overlooks the palatial
swimming pool; the
restaurant, Sonargaon,
offers Bengali specialties.
T O P L E F T: C O U R T E S Y O F N A N D A N A S E N
Screenwriter,
author and film
star Nandana Sen;
the Writer’s
Building, originally
part of the British
East India
Company, in
Kolkata; the
interior of a small
bookstore near
College Street in
Kolkata.
FROM LEFT: The Indian Coffee House, where students, writers and
intellectuals have gathered over the years; Amit Chaudhuri, a
Bengali writer and university professor, inside the Taj Bengal.
Its literary qualities
stand out, too. Not only is
it a stone’s throw from the
National Library of India
(the country’s largest,
naturally), it’s a prominent
venue for events during
the Kolkata Literary Meet,
another of the city’s
January book festivals.
The hotel’s clubroom then,
with its leather-bound
tomes of Bengali
literature, is a fitting place
to meet Amit Chaudhuri,
one of the city’s most
famous literary sons.
Chaudhuri, an awardwinning novelist, essayist
and critic, was born in
Kolkata, but grew up in
Mumbai. After more than
20 years in London, he
returned home to be closer
to his elderly parents. He
now splits his time
between Kolkata and
the English city of
Norwich, where he is a
university professor of
contemporary literature.
The writer admits he
has a shifting connection
with his place of birth that
isn’t always positive. In his
book Calcutta: Two Years
in the City, he relates his
affection and (equally
frequent) ambivalence and
balement towards his
home through a montage
of loosely interlinked
vignettes. “I always loved
Kolkata. It struck me as
one of the most interesting
places I’d ever seen: at once
derelict and energized. It
had a stink about it, but
that stink has a life-giving
force,” he tells me.
While Chaudhuri does
not foresee a reprise of the
Bengali renaissance
anytime soon, he takes
heart from the work of
modern Kolkata authors
such as Sunetra Gupta as
well as discussions at
gatherings around town:
“I have encountered
writers who have spoken
in ways that make me
think the creativity that
Kolkata is known for is
still happening.”
“The city’s dysfunction
becomes a form of
functionality,” he says. “It
hasn’t yet been fully
globalized and creative
people still have many
freedoms here.”
KOLKATA LITERARY HIT LIST
+ Indian Coffee
House (15 Bankim
Chatterjee St.,
College Square;
91-90/0779-8519)
remains one of
Kolkata’s most
legendary places for
adda sessions, says
Anjum Katyal. “It
used to be that
a different revolution
was plotted here
every day,” she
laughs. Some of the
city’s greatest
thinkers have
frequented the
venue, located just
off College Street.
And the atmosphere
remains feverish,
with patrons—both
young and old—
gathered round
Formica tables to
discuss the burning
issues of
the moment.
+ The old-school
charms of Mocambo
(25B Park St.; 9133/2265-4300) still
weave a spell over
Amit Chaudhuri, who
says that he
regularly brings
visiting guests to the
restaurant for
“continental” recipes
straight from a
1960s cookbook
such as over-sauced
prawn cocktail and
Fish a la Diana (river
fish stuffed with
prawns and cooked
in cream). “The sauce
in the prawn cocktail
is like melted icecream,” he says.
“What’s not to like
about that?”
+ For Nandana Sen,
Kolkata’s bookshops
and literary haunts
remind her of an
upbringing immersed
in literature. Oxford
Books (17 Park St.;
91-33/2229-7662) is
a Kolkata institution
that marks its
century in 2020. But
Sen is fonder still of
the second-hand
book stalls on
College Street and in
Gol Park. “I loved,
and still do love,
browsing those
bookshops and
chatting with
shopkeepers who
were amazingly
informed about
books of every creed
and nationality.”
TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM / JUNE 2018
31
/ discovery /
Manila on
the Fly
A sky-high game of
ropes and ladders
at Masungi
Georeserve.
ON THE TOP of a jagged rock in the
sky, I’m watching my friends
disappear over the edge. Five of us
are left on this uneven natural
platform a couple of meters across
surrounded by a horizon of clouds,
and as I contemplate the sea of trees
beneath us, the precariousness of
our situation starts to creep up on
me. Another person descends out
of view through the steel hoop on
one side, slightly jacking up my
heart rate—which goes into
acceleration mode when I realize
one guy is having a mild panic
attack. He urgently whispers,
“I’m so afraid of heights.”
Wait, what? We’ve just
scampered through a humansized birdhouse and across a
boardwalk bridge to reach this
peak. We’d started this trek
walking a tightrope to a massive
spider web, a series of concentric
steel-cable circles over a slew of
saw-toothed stones that’s Lord of
the Rings in Mordor scary, as well
as aerial-shot manna (this is a
primo playground for drones;
arrange yourselves in a pinwheel
with your Crayola-colored
helmets in the center and suck up
the Instagram likes). We’ve
climbed ever higher through the
rain forest over the previous two
hours, and now is when he’s going
to tell us he’s acrophobic? >>
32
JUNE 2018 / TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM
CHARLIE COOPER
Scaling ropes above vertiginous
treetops and soaring from an
inner-city trapeze, Jeninne
Lee-St. John finds there’s
plenty of play in the Philippine
capital, and discovers her inner
kid isn’t afraid of a leap of faith.
/ discovery /
Not that I’m one to judge. I’ve
been suppressing my stress and
laughing off our lack of harnesses,
too. But the guide—who, it should
be noted, had just hopped over the
edge and clambered down the
bare rock face, supposedly the
better to spot us but it seemed like
just to show us up—wants us to
shimmy down a two-story rope
ladder on the side of a cliff and I’m
starting to wonder if the tagline
should be, It’s more fun in the
Philippines, or more fear.
We’re in Masungi Georeserve
(masungigeoreserve.com; private
treks for groups of seven to 14 from
P1,500 per person), a nature hike
outside of Manila that breathes
creative energy into the concept of
a conservation area. It’s a colossal
jungle gym overlaid on an actual
jungle and, despite my whining, it
is a pretty fun way to spend a day.
Coming from a town of traic
nightmares, wholesome Masungi
is a convenient shot 90 minutes
from Bonifacio Global City (BGC),
which, with its rolling lawns and
strollable sidewalks and streetside eateries, is now the most
family-friendly place in Manila.
From the shiny new Grand Hyatt
34
Manila that boasts a massive
verdant pool deck and this year
joined buzzy Shangri-La at The
Fort as BGC’s go-to addresses, you
can hop on the highway to the
rain forest playground. Or, you
can wander carefree around this
continually expanding, supergreen ’hood, where the squeakyclean streets dotted with murals
and art installations feel like
Manila’s mini-Singapore. Either
way, BGC is a launch pad for
childlike play and unguarded
interaction with your surrounds.
As a planned city, BGC has
healthy doses of fitness spaces and
parklands—check out Terra 28th
for its artsy game boards. The
several indoor play places for little
ones include a role-playing
imaginarium KidZania (manila.
kidzania.com; admission from
P500 for toddlers, P900 for kids
and P630 for adults), and the slides
and ball pits of Adventure Zone
(shangri-la.com; open to members
and hotel guests only), though the
whole family will learn something
at The Mind Museum (themind
museum.org; admission from P190
for teachers and certain students,
P625 for adults). Here, interactive
JUNE 2018 / TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM
exhibits, such as a climbable
dinosaur and musical stairs, plus
physics experiments put on by lab
coat–clad staff make science and
engineering accessible to all.
Certainly you’ll be interested in
the law of gravity if you decide to
go flying a few blocks away.
The nets and poles and ladders
above a patch of asphalt that make
up Flying Trapeze (trapeze.ph;
classes from P800) might seem
sparse, but they are representative
of the type of community BGC is
striving to be. Chinese-American
entrepreneur William Hsu has
been a trapeze artist since age 8
and, after founding a marketing
and PR group in Manila, he
wanted to get back to his first love,
“mainly because I was selfish and
wanted to fly but also to expose
the locals here to what I grew up
doing,” Hsu told me. “I reached
out to a number of different
developers but the amazing folks
at BGC were the only ones who
believed in my concept. They’re
always pushing to promote arts,
culture and outdoor activities.”
Flying Trapeze takes students
as young as five, and, scaling a tall
ladder after a primer on how to
F R O M L E F T: C H A R L I E C O O P E R ; C O U R T E S Y O F F LY I N G T R A P E Z E ( 2 )
FROM LEFT: Braving the sapot, or spider web, is the first
challenge at Masungi; Flying Trapeze in BGC teaches kids
as young as five; free falling at Flying Trapeze.
and taking photos, cradled up in
the clouds. So, I turn around and
scoot through the hoop. About
halfway down, my arms start to
go to jelly. Possibly through selfhypnosis, I finally make it to the
hammock bridge. But this is no
salvation. It must be an optical
illusion that the diamond-shaped
holes the ropes form between
their knots look nearly as big as
my shoes. I don’t fall through, but
I don’t really feel like tarrying just
in case. After this we will climb
up to more viewing points, scale
more ropes, and brave more
rickety wooden sky-bridges, one
shaped like a serpent whose
illuminated mouth you enter to
exit the park. Scattered along the
way are hammocks and swings
and human mazes, and even a
couple of fire pits for roasting
meats during night hikes.
One fascinating takeaway from
Masungi is that the fear factor is
personal. Nearly everyone in our
group wobbles, but at different
times, facing different obstacles.
My brother can’t get across one
swaying wooden-slat bridge fast
enough; another friend gets
claustrophobic in a stalactite cave.
But leaving during a purple-sky
sunset, a bit sore and tired, we are
all congratulating ourselves for
having gotten a full day of
glorious fresh air, and awed by
this access to so much greenery so
close to Manila’s urban core. >>
©2018 Marriott International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Preferred Guest, SPG, The Luxury
Colletand their logos are the trademarks of Marriott International, Inc., or its affiliates.
A minimum of three-night stay is applied. Terms and conditions apply.
Black-out dates may apply. Subject to availability.
stand, leap, flip and land, I was
wishing I still had the innocence
of childhood. The instructors are
chill rockstars, the kind of guys
who might be rock-climbing
guides or wakeboarders. Safety is
a priority: the main uprights and
supporting structures were built
in the U.S.; off the ground, you’re
always clipped in, someone’s
always belaying you. To me, the
scariest part about flying was
being on the platform waiting to
fly. It’s narrow, there’s a light
breeze, yeesh. But the feeling of
jumping off is a combination of
complete freedom and intense
concentration. I started with a
simple inversion, flipping over
from my hands to hang by my
knees, and by the end of the twohour session, I learned a catch—
once I was hanging by my knees,
I let go and the instructor on the
other trapeze grabbed my wrists.
We swung together, then he tossed
me down onto the net and I
popped up in triumph. It was pure
adrenaline. It’s also probably the
best workout ever. Five minutes
later, I could barely walk a block.
So, this was a trip on which I
entrusted my life to ropes. A few
days later in Masungi, I’m staring
down this vertical rope tunnel
that looks like a trap fishing net.
Everyone who’s already gone
down is lazing in a lengthy rope
hammock, looking like they’re
having the best time, laughing
H OTE LS THAT
D E F I N E TH E
DESTINATION ™
Nestled among vivid tropical
gardens and a pristine sand beach,
The Laguna, a Luxury Collection
Resort & Spa, Nusa Dua, Bali is
an exquisite retreat with seven
lagoon pools, one for each day
of the week.
Experience the true essence
of your holidays with our
Timeless Package including
daily bufet breakfast and
roundtrip airport transfer.
EXP LORE TH E DESTI N ATI ON AT
TH ELUXURYCOLLECTI ON .COM/BA LI
/ discovery /
WHERE TO STAY IN MANILA
Bonifacio Global City (BGC) is at your doorstep from Grand Hyatt Manila and Shangri-La at the Fort, but there are a wealth of great hotels
across the city, whether your priority is bay views, a boutique feel, or an always-buzzy Sunday brunch.
Shangri-La at the Fort, Manila
Let's say you decided to build an ideal
community hub, a complex jammed with
places for dining, drinking, getting active and
doing deals in which the five-star hotel astride
was wholly integral. You'd fill it with Filipino
art, place it smack in the center of BGC, you'd
add a crazy beautiful sports club including
tennis and basketball courts, a kids' playplace,
a stellar spa, an arcade or two of eateries to
ruin diets far and wide (Pink's hot dogs or
Raging Bull burgers? Too hard; go for both),
haute dining from a fancy Cantonese den with
perfectly crimped har gao to a swish Peruvian
poolsider, and an airy gin trolley–touting
lounge that doubles as the neighborhood's
living room. Shangri-La built it; and they've
come. shangri-la.com; doubles from P10,000.
36
Conrad Manila
Opulence and elegance are the name of the
game at this glossy hotel that was modeled on
a luxury cruiseliner—fitting for its waterfront
perch. The impressive spa has jetlag-busting
sleep pods with oxygen concentrators.
Intelligent guest rooms auto-adjust blinds and
air-con; the Presidential suite has its own pool.
The ultimate perk in traffic-heavy Manila? It's
just 15 minutes to the airport. conradhotels3.
hilton.com; doubles from P8,000.
Crimson Hotel Filinvest City, Manila
Southern Manila is less frenetic than the rest
of the capital, which means a stay at this urban
oasis provides a true respite from the thrum.
Rooms are decked out in soothing colors; the
pool deck, with a separate kids pool, has a
tropical feel with woven Dedon nest chairs and
shady canopies; and the lovely Filipino art
throughout the hotel is perfectly
complemented by the warm local hospitality.
crimsonhotel.com; doubles from P3,240.
JUNE 2018 / TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM
Okada Manila
Move over Vegas: this stunning resort and
gaming compound is a standalone
entertainment isle. Among the slew of foodand-beverage options is the indoor beach club
and nightclub Cove Manila, with luxury
cabanas that come with private pools. Each
guest room has a jet tub, a touch-screen
control pad, and a view of Manila Bay or the
property's centerpiece: The Fountain, the
largest choreographed water feature on Earth.
okadamanila.com; doubles from P14,000.
Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila
For a resort feel with city access, high-tail it to
the Sofitel Philippine Plaza. The lush, bay-view
gardens surrounding the tropical pool are a
favorite for wedding photos. The luxe spa
features a state-of-the art Trautwein Crystal
Bath. And the 562-square-meter Imperial
Residence, with private gym, spa and helipad
access, lives up to its US$1 million investment
price, but all guest rooms come with lovely
views and luxe comfort. Be sure to book
Sunday brunch—everyone who's anyone is at
this sprawling spread (oh, the cheese room).
sofitelmanila.com; doubles from P6,000.
Solaire Resort and Casino
This diverse palace of hospitality is an all-in
kind of place, brimming with entertainment
options for every kind of traveler. They've got
everything from The Lion King to Fifth Avenue–
level shopping to a shooting range to gaming.
The resort-style waterfront pool deck includes
submerged loungers and private plunges—the
better to soak up the, ahem, Solaire.
solaireresort.com; doubles from P6,762.
L E F T C O L U M N F R O M T O P : C O U R T E S Y O F G R A N D H YAT T M A N I L A ; C O U R T E S Y O F S H A N G R I - L A AT T H E F O R T, M A N I L A .
M I D D L E C O L U M N F R O M T O P : C O U R T E S Y O F C O N R A D M A N I L A ; C O U R T E S Y O F C R I M S O N H O T E L F I L I N V E S T C I T Y, M A N I L A .
RIGHT COLUMN FROM TOP: COURTESY OF OK ADA MANIL A; COURTESY OF SOFITEL PHILIPPINE PL A Z A MANIL A
Grand Hyatt Manila
In a glassy tower modeled on the Empire State
Building, this new hotel in BGC brings fresh
meaning to the phrase top-tier—it's the tallest
building in the Philippines. That means
expansive guest-room views (admire them
from your pretty lavender chaise, out of your
floor-to-ceiling windows) all the way to the
ocean, as well as the sky-highest bars and
grills in town at The Peak. Closer to ground
level, there are great selections of craft beers
and curated wines to wash down your delicious
tapas and roasts in The Cellar (book a gilted
private room for a special party). The Edenic
pool deck is a good space to go Zen, but once
you hear the live classical musicians who float
in the mezzanine above the lobby, it's clear this
whole hotel is sweet serenity now. manila.
grand.hyatt.com; doubles from P9,200.
Astoria Greenbelt & Astoria Plaza
These small, stylish, boutique-y business
hotels offer homey spots to rest your head and
derive inspiration. The Greenbelt property is
right in the Makati CBD, offering easy access
to all your meetings plus some of the city's
coolest nightlife (we're looking at you,
Poblacion). Astoria Plaza, in Pasig, features a
lap pool, gym and spa for unwinding. Both
hotels will provide brilliant pops of color for
your social media feeds. astoriagreenbelt.com,
doubles from P5,625; astoriaplaza.com,
doubles from P5,500.
/ memory /
Hot Pursuit
On a pilgrimage to Iceland’s famed
geothermal springs, Amie Barrodale and
her husband discover a hidden pool inside
a remote cave—and the pleasure that
comes with going outside their
comfort zone together.
FOR MY BIRTHDAY L AST YEAR, my
husband, Clancy, and I traveled from
our home in Kansas City, Missouri, to
Iceland. We rented a house in Old
Reykjavík for eight days. We planned to
visit a lot of hot springs, beginning
at the world-famous Blue Lagoon. I once
worked at a magazine in New York City,
and a co-worker’s iChat photo was of
himself at the Blue Lagoon. It looked like
a dreamscape. The water was pale blue,
and the surrounding land was black lava
rock. In the picture, my co-worker had
white foam on his face. When I asked
him what it was, he told me it was soap
that floated on the surface of the lagoon
and gathered in rocks. You could just put
it on your face.
But when I got to the Blue Lagoon,
I realized there were things he hadn’t
mentioned. The soap was actually silica.
It did gather in rocks, but so did other
things, like dirt and human hair. Teenage
attendants in parkas carried buckets
from which they passed out clean silica,
which you could use as a face mask. It felt
a bit like a water park in Midwest
America. The kids taking selfies and the
sloppy drunks wading up to the in-water
bar distracted me from the natural
beauty of the landscape.
We wrote to the man who’d rented us
the house to ask if he could recommend a
hot spring. He listed a dozen. None
seemed quite right. One was, according
to its website, infested with “harmless
biting parasites.” One was not actually
warm. Several were just large swimming
pools. At the bottom of the list—because
it was a five-hour drive from Reykjavík
and located on private property—was
38
JUNE 2018 / TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM
ILLUSTR ATIONS BY ADAM SIMPSON
Grjótagjá Cave. It was his favorite. “But since you have only a few
days,” he wrote, “it’s really too far. Some of the roads are very rough.”
I looked at images of the cave online. It was luminous,
terrifying—the stuff of fantasy. We traded in our economy car for
a four-wheel-drive vehicle and set out the next morning.
We asked the desk clerk at our hotel near Lake Mývatn if we could
swim in Grjótagjá. He looked at us squarely and said, “No, but you
can look.” I had read warnings online, where people wrote with what
sounded like authority that the spring had been swimmable until the
late 1970s and early 80s, when eruptions from Krafla, a nearby
volcano, heated the water to 50 degrees Celsius or more.
We explained to the desk clerk that the man from whom we had
rented our house in Reykjavík was friendly with the owners of the
farm where the spring was located. “He swam in it after running
a marathon,” we said. Like everyone we met in Iceland, the clerk was
exceptionally generous and patient. He called the landowners, and
they said yes, we could swim in the spring.
We thought about waiting until morning to go to Grjótagjá, but
reasoned we could go twice. We drove several kilometers to the
farm. A farmer waved us in at the gate, and lambs ran alongside our
car. We parked in front of the cave opening. We were the only ones
there. A sign said, in many languages, that swimming was
forbidden. We went inside. It was dark, and the path from the
entrance down to the spring was narrow and rocky. Although it was
only a bit longer than a flight of stairs, I chose my steps carefully. By
the time we got to the water, I was too terrified to get in.
“Maybe we shouldn’t do this,” I said.
Clancy had already begun to remove his clothes. I pulled my
sweater over my head.
“Test it first,” I said.
He sat on a rock and put his feet in the water. Then he lowered
himself in. On the bottom of the spring were large rocks. He stepped
on one, and it moved.
“Be careful,” I said.
He waded until only his head poked out, then turned and smiled.
“Come in,” he said.
It was hotter than the hottest bath
you have ever taken. I ducked my head
and got some water in my mouth. It
tasted pure, but an instinct told me not to
swallow. We treaded water for a few
minutes, then I got out and watched my
husband from a rock. Before I got in, I
had been very cold, but the heat from the
water kept me warm for a long time.
While we were there, other visitors
came in and out. Most were startled to
see us, knowing only what they had read
on the sign, but then a young couple
arrived and swam with us. They lived in
America, and were staying with the
landowners. As the husband splashed
into the water, I noticed his thick, loamy
body odor and was irritated with him for
getting into the pristine spring without
showering first. The water was too hot
for his wife, and she sat on the rock with
me. Then a group of young women came
in. They had no plans to swim, but seeing
us in the water, they stripped to their
underwear and splashed in the shallows.
I swam one last time, and then my
husband and I decided to go. Three
young Japanese tourists entered the cave
as we were leaving. They wore
waterproof pants and down parkas with
fur-trimmed hoods, and they looked at
me, half naked with wet hair, as if I were
a wild troll.
In the car, Clancy admitted that he
had scalded his leg. A jet of hotter water,
maybe from the spring’s source, had
caught his thigh while he was
swimming. Later he said his heartbeat
made strange sounds in his ears the
whole ride back.
We could have gone back to the cave
the next day, but we didn’t. It wasn’t
because we were tired or lazy, but
because we were afraid. Not of Grjótagjá,
exactly, but of nature. “In that cave, death
sits and wonders,” I said to Clancy. Then I
said, “I want to go to the bath that’s in the
volcano.” This was a hot spring in the Víti
crater in Krafla. Websites mentioned
sulfuric acid in the water.
“For some reason I don’t like the idea
of acid eating my swimsuit off my body,”
he said.
“I think it’s only a few kilometers
from here.”
He sighed. “Tell me the directions.”
TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM / JUNE 2018
39
/ next act /
A view of Frankfurt
Cathedral from
the Römerberg, a
historic square in
the heart of the
rebuilt DomRömer
district.
SOME CITIES IN EUROPE—London, Berlin—are
Fun Comes to
Frankfurt
Once, Germany’s buttoned-up business capital was a place
you went for work or because you were just passing through.
Now, though, a blossoming of culture and cuisine that engages
with the city’s past is making it a legitimately great destination.
BY R APHAEL K ADUSHIN. PHOTOGR APHS BY ÉRIVER HIJANO
40
JUNE 2018 / TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM
famous for throwing off sparks of excitement,
regularly launching global trends and
attractions. Then there’s Frankfurt. Germany’s
banking center, long regarded as industrious
but dull, rarely attracts much attention. But
that’s changing as two very different
neighborhoods emerge as exciting urban
playgrounds. Last month, the DomRömer
district (domroemer.de) opened to the public
after years of construction. This historic pocket
of Frankfurt’s Altstadt, or Old Town, has been
meticulously re-created, and late this summer
will make its formal debut as a mixed-use
development with a medieval vibe, home to
shops, museums, apartments and small
businesses. It joins a more organic pattern of
urban renewal taking place to the west, where
a wave of clubs, galleries and restaurants
are transforming the Bahnhofsviertel
neighborhood from sleazy to downright stylish.
Frankfurt proved its talent for renewal once
before: the Römerberg, a Gothic town square
flattened by Allied bombs during World War II,
was rebuilt in the 1980s with painstaking
attention to detail. But the blocks between the
square and Frankfurt Cathedral remained
blighted by a parking garage and Brutalist
postwar buildings. In an effort to change that,
the city approved a major redevelopment plan
in 2007, and over the past decade, Europe’s
brightest young architects and craftspeople
have drawn on old blueprints, paintings and
photographs to reconstruct the area as it
appeared before the war. The result is
DomRömer, a web of alleyways, squares,
courtyards, and patrician town houses that
have been resurrected down to the last gargoyle
and lick of decorative plaster.
The neighborhood now reads like a sort of
primer on historical architecture, showcasing
a patchwork of styles from Baroque to Rococo to
Romantic. The most dazzling showpiece is the House of the Golden
Scales (5 Markt), a gabled 17th-century building that sports enough
timber to have felled a small forest and will soon open with a streetlevel café and a museum upstairs. Jutting off the façade are the stone
heads of its first owners, a bug-eyed burgher and his wife, looking
surprised to be back where they started. The developers tracked the
original busts down to a private home outside the city, where they’d
been languishing since the war.
Even the retailers slated to move in later this year have a touch of
the quaint. Forget fast food or franchises: opening in August will be
a small china shop, a millinery, a bakery and a restaurant serving
traditional German food.
When there was no existing record to draw from, the designers
came up with their own plans, producing 20 new structures that
play off classical styles. Chief among the additions is the Stadthaus
am Markt (stadthaus-am-markt.de), a community exhibition space
that is the heart of the quarter. The hall has an austere Modernist
exterior, but its narrow windows and deeply pitched roof harmonize
with the surrounding medieval silhouettes. On the ground floor is
the Archaeological Garden, a protected excavation of the bones of
early Frankfurt, including the remains of a Roman military camp.
Over in the Bahnhofsviertel district, tradition is the last thing on
anyone’s mind. Until recently, this was strictly the turf of drug
dealers and strip clubs, its bright spots (like the multicultural mix of
family-run shops and restaurants) obscured by its sketchy
reputation. But an infusion of artists hunting for cheap studio space
and cheaper drinks has started to revive the area. Leading the
resurgence are brothers David and James Ardinast of Maxie Eisen
(maxieeisen.com; mains €9–€15), a four-year-old deli that nods to
CLOCKWISE FROM ABOVE:
The beetroot and feta
salad with passion-fruit
vinaigrette at Stanley
Diamond; Ralf Seinecke
and Daniel Schierke in
their contemporary art
space, Galerie
Rundgaenger; at the
Hammer Museum.
TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM / JUNE 2018
41
/ next act /
Altstadt
The DomRömer
district
The Bahnhofsviertel
neighborhood
ve
Ri
rM
ai
n
From right: A view
from the new
Stadthaus am Markt, a
community center in
DomRömer; Plank, a
coffee shop in the
Bahnhofsviertel.
the brothers’ Jewish roots with pastrami platters and matzo ball
soup. Its success led the pair to open Stanley Diamond (stanley
diamond.com; mains €18–€36), a pocket of calm on a still-dicey
block, where cooks with haute-cuisine credentials whip up dishes
like wild monkfish capped by foamed beurre blanc. “We believed in
the Bahnhofsviertel even when others didn’t,” David says. “I’d come
here when I was a boy, with my parents, for Chinese, Turkish and
Lebanese food. There was an interesting mix of people and
something exciting was always going on.” Other hangouts have
since joined the Ardinasts’ pioneering spots: the coffeehouse Plank
(barplank.de) lures a boho crowd, and Kiosk Yok-Yok (b.com/yokyok
citykiosk) next door has become a cult favorite for its house-label
beer and backroom art gallery. After dark, there’s Amp (b.com/
ampyourself), a moody, music-centric café-bar launched by the
pioneering German DJ Ata, and the chic Kinly Bar (b.com/
thekinlybar), a dim hideaway where some of the city’s best
bartenders craft experimental cocktails like a peanut-butter-andjelly fizz infused with whiskey (never fear: if the menu doesn’t
appeal, they’ll whip up a cocktail tailored to your palate). With its
rock-and-roll posters and splashy color schemes, 25hours Hotel
Frankfurt by Levi’s (25hours-hotels.com; doubles from €75) is the
42
JUNE 2018 / TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM
stylish place to sleep off a late night—and come
morning, you can take one of their loaner Mini
Coopers or bikes out for a spin.
Some are wary that the escalating glitz
portends a future where the Bahnhofsviertel
is yet another anodyne hipsterville. “We don’t
want the area to become tame,” says Daniel
Schierke, who opened the contemporary
Galerie Rundgaenger (rundgaenger.de) with his
partner, Ralf Seinecke, in 2015. “The mix keeps
things from feeling too bourgeois.” For now,
it’s still a proud home to both a scattering of
seedy shops and the inexplicable yet charming
Hammer Museum (vollderhammer.eu), where
the functional tools are displayed as art and
the marquee attraction is a sledgehammer
that helped level the Berlin Wall. Turkish
barbershops nestle next to hip-hop clubs and
cigar bars like Mercedes Reyes (mercedes-reyes.
com), where connoisseurs smoke hand-rolled
stogies and the walls are hung with panama
hats. But right across from the gallery,
construction crews are erecting glossy
high-rises, and the much-lauded Weinsinn
Restaurant (weinsinn.de; tasting menus from
€70), a fine-dining place with a modern-French
sensibility, just moved in. The Bahnhofsviertel,
like DomRömer, has reached a turning point,
and this may be the ideal moment to see
Frankfurt, its historic glory renewed, its future
still unpredictable.
/ detour /
Wait, This Is Athens?
The Astir Marina,
where Athenians
have docked their
yachts for
decades.
44
HERE ON THE BEACH in mythical Greece, it feels
as if time has slowed to one long, golden hour.
As the sun dips below the horizon and flushes
everything with a rosy glow—from the ancient
ruins behind you to the plate of fresh-grilled
octopus on your table—it’s hard to believe
you’re not on a remote island somewhere in the
Cyclades, but just a half-hour drive from the
capital’s frenetic center on an enchanting
stretch of coast known as the Athenian Riviera.
Running from the busy suburb of Faliro to
the windswept Temple of Poseidon on Cape
Sounion, this 56-kilometer strip of sand has
been a bolt-hole for well-to-do Athenians for
more than half a century. They know it as a
place to bask on the beach, perhaps take in
JUNE 2018 / TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM
some ancient architecture, and dine at one or
two of the sophisticated Athens restaurants
that have opened outposts along the shore.
In the past, foreign visitors to the Riviera
have been mostly limited to diaspora Greeks
and the yacht owners who moor their boats in
the marina. This summer, however, all that is
likely to change, thanks to a huge investment
project on the cape of Lemos, including this
month’s launch of the Four Seasons Astir
Palace Hotel Athens—the first Four Seasons in
Greece (fourseasons.com; doubles from €822).
For some, the new hotel will be an introduction
to the area, but for many others, and Greeks in
particular, it will represent the reinvention of a
modern classic. That’s because it will occupy >>
C O U R T E S Y O F F O U R S E A S O N S A S T I R PA L A C E H O T E L
Just a short drive from the city center, the beaches, hotels and
restaurants of the revived Athenian Riviera offer a revelatory new way
to experience the Greek capital. BY ELENI N. GAGE
/ detour /
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JUNE 2018 / TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM
FROM TOP: Temple
of Poseidon on
Cape Sounion;
Aegean Sea views
from the new Four
Seasons Astir
Palace Hotel.
choice. Why would you, when you can stay at
the beach and still have access to the cultural
sites of central Athens? “What I love about the
city is that it has so much to offer,” says
cookbook author Tatiana Blatnik, who lives in
Athens with her husband, Prince Nikolaos, the
son of the former king of Greece, and runs the
active-travel website thehact.com. “You have
mountains in the north, the sea in the south,
and the city center—and you can be in any of
these environments in less than half an hour.”
Blatnik raves about the organic farm owned
by the Margi (margifarm.gr; tour and dinner
€81), a small, family-run boutique hotel and
restaurant in inland Vouliagmeni. “They offer
this farm-to-table experience where you get
eggs from the chickens and fresh cheese from
the goats and the chef creates a delicious local
meal,” she says.
Seafood is another big draw, whether it’s
grilled whole fish at a low-key taverna like
Louizidis (2 Ermou, Vouliagmeni; mains
€6-€22), sushi at Kohylia in the Grand Resort
Lagonissi (lagonissiresort.gr; mains €20–€31),
or the cuttlefish risotto at Michelin-starred
Varoulko (varoulko.gr; mains €56–€61) near the
port of Piraeus, northwest of Vouliagmeni.
Another must-do is to take a dip in Lake
Vouliagmeni (limnivouliagmenis.gr), a thermalspring-fed lagoon with a world-class wellness
facility and restaurant attached. The waters
are said to relieve everything from eczema to
trauma, though many visitors just go to take in
the spectacular scenery.
Whichever you choose, you may find that
on your next Greece trip, you’ll make Athens
a destination, rather than just a stopover.
NEXT STOP
Here are three trips
to pair with a stay on
the Athenian Riviera,
as chosen by
Christos Stergiou at
expert tour operator
True Greece.
truegreece.com.
Porto Heli, the
Peloponnese
2½ hours by car.
Make Amanzoe
(aman.com; doubles
from €1,000) your
base for touring the
sights of the
southern mainland.
Spetses, The
Saronic Islands
2 hours by ferry.
Stay at Poseidonion
Grand Hotel
(poseidonion.com;
doubles from €167)
while exploring this
sophisticated island.
Halkidiki,
northern Greece
A 1-hour flight, plus
a 1-hour drive.
Zone out on the
private beach at
Sani Resort (saniresort.com; doubles
from €242).
C O U R T E S Y O F F O U R S E A S O N S A S T I R PA L A C E H O T E L ( 2 )
the Astir Palace—a sprawling 1961 landmark
built during the contemporary city’s heyday,
after World War II and the Greek Civil War, but
before the military dictatorship that ruled
Greece from 1967 to 1974.
Throughout the 60s, the hotel was the place
to be seen. “There is a saying that anybody who
was anybody has slept in one of the beds at the
Astir Palace,” says Efi Pratsoli, corporate
marketing director of Astir Palace
Vouliagmeni. Frank Sinatra once had to flee
adoring crowds through the hotel kitchen,
while Brigitte Bardot caused a stir by strolling
the beach in a tiny pink bikini. The Astir Palace
continued to attract big names right up until
2016, when the final guest before the hotel
closed was Barack Obama, on his last official
visit to Greece as president.
In June, the hotel will reopen after a €102
million renovation, with 303 redesigned guest
rooms; eight restaurants, including a branch of
the Nobu franchise, Matsuhisa Athens; and a
spa inspired by the teachings of Hippocrates.
The restaurant at Astir Beach, formerly a TGI
Fridays, will relaunch as a Nice-n-Easy, a farmto-table restaurant with seven outposts around
Greece (niceneasy.gr; mains €20–€40). “In the
old days, the Fridays would close at eight,” says
founder Dimitris Christoforidis. “That was a
crime, because the sun sets right in front of
you.” The new Nice-n-Easy will stay open until
11:30 p.m. and serve modern Greek cuisine.
The Astir complex will shine a spotlight on
the coast just south of the city for visitors who
may have seen Athens as a place to fly in to, see
the Acropolis, then escape to the island of their
C O U R T E S Y O F T H E R I T Z- C A R LT O N S A N YA , YA L O N G B AY
On the beach
at the RitzCarlton Sanya,
Yalong Bay.
ŋŋŋŋŋŋ
One for the Ages
In this year’s family special, we look at vacations tailored to different kinds of broods.
Traveling with your first baby? We know naptime is a priority. Planning a trip with a big clan
of kids? You need different activities to keep everybody happy. Here, we’ve organized dream
destinations by family dynamics, from baby’s first holiday to multi-generational
adventures. There are far too many different types of families to represent them all here,
but hopefully you’ll find a trip, tip or trick to suit your tribe.
BY MERRITT GURLEY
*Prices throughout are in U.S. dollars for ease of comparison.
TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM / JUNE 2018
51
/ family special /
DYNAMIC
A couple traveling
with one baby
under two years old
PRIORITY
The scenic
Maokong
Gondola stops
at four sights
across Taipei.
Ease
EXPERT ADVICE
The Tilo Kids’
Club’s bamboo
playground.
ŋŋŋŋŋŋ
First Family
Vacation
You have the baby outnumbered, and there are
limits to what a newborn will actually enjoy. So, go
ahead, make this trip about you. We’re guessing
you’re in need of relaxation, so here are our picks for
laid-back holidays where everyone can enjoy some
serious naptime (plus history, food and shopping).
Culture: LUANG PRABANG, LAOS
This sleepy river town on the banks of the
Mekong has charm to spare. Stroll the cute city
center; enjoy French fusion cuisine at one of
the riverfront restaurants; tour some of the
33 unesco-protected wats; and wake up early
(let’s be honest, you were already up) to offer
sunrise alms to a line of monks. Stay at the
Rosewood Luang Prabang (rosewoodhotels.
com; Riverside suite from $629), a new addition
to the colonial villa scene here, with FrenchLao architecture standing on high stilts and
views over the hills and valley below. Book the
Bill Bensley–designed Riverside Suite so you
can lounge on the outdoor daybed and watch
the river roll by as your wee one sleeps.
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JUNE 2018 / TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM
Urban: TAIPEI, TAIWAN
Easy public transportation, paved sidewalks
that won’t destroy your stroller, and changing
stations equipped with free wet wipes: this is
new-parent heaven. Moving beyond the bliss
of practicality, entertainment abounds. Ride
the Maokong Gondola, trek Nangang District
Hiking Trail, check out the view from Taipei
101, and feast on Taiwanese food along lively
Yongkang Street. Stay at The Okura Prestige
Taipei (okurataipei.com.tw; the Suite King Size
Bed from $645) for its open-plan suites that
allow you to sit in the living room but still
have eyes on the baby in the bedroom.
Beach: BATAM, INDONESIA
This breezy Indonesian island is just a
30-minute boat ride from Singapore, but it has
the snorkeling, beaches and water sports of a
tropical paradise. The seafood is fresh, the
sand on Nongsa Beach is tawny and warm,
and the sunset at Barelang Bridge is the stuff
of holiday dreams. Stay at Montigo Resorts,
Nongsa (montigoresorts.com; one-bedroom
villa from $230), a beachfront estate that was
built with families in mind, from the giant
waterfront pool and bamboo playground to
Tilo Kids’ Club, named after the resort’s
baby-chick mascot who runs activities all day,
including batik-painting and cookie-baking. >>
GO NOW
I started Have Baby
Will Travel a few
months after I
returned from our
first trip with our
daughter, who was
almost one at the
time. As a first-time
parent I would never
have believed it, but
the younger the
baby, the easier they
are to travel with.
Before they are
mobile, you really
have your pick as to
what kind of trip
you’d like to take.
BRING YOUR
OWN WHEELS
Travel with a
stroller, since it’s
not just a stroller;
it’s a bed, a high
chair, and a “baby
jail” when you need
one. I don’t
subscribe to
traveling light if it
will stress you out
trying to determine
what you need to
bring with you.
TAKE HEART
The first trip is the
toughest. There will
be moments where
you think it’s too
much work and why
did you even bother?
But they pass
quickly and you will
find a family-travel
groove. I truly
believe that travel is
helping my children
grow into the kind of
adaptable and
open-minded adults
I hope they will
become.
F R O M L E F T: C O U R T E S Y O F M O N T I G O R E S O R T S N O N G S A ; J A N E S W E E N E Y/ G E T T Y I M A G E S . I L L U S T R AT I O N S T H R O U G H O U T B Y C H O T I K A S O P I TA R C H A S A K
Corinne
McDermott,
founder of Have
Baby Will Travel
(havebabywilltravel.
com), an online
guide for traveling
with kids.
/ family special /
ŋŋŋŋŋŋ
Babies & Preschoolers
There will be moments of chaos, but traveling with two young kids is sometimes easier than traveling with a single child. They can
entertain each other and your older child is probably already enjoying the kids’ clubs and other holiday activities. The vacation may
be less about you, but it will be great fun to watch your children start to appreciate the excitement and joys of travel. The key to
keeping the trip moving is packing it full of distractions, so we’ve gathered three itineraries that will keep your kids so busy playing
and exploring they won’t have time to argue over whose cup has more juice.
Glow-in-thedark painting in
the Buds by
Shangri-La
Muddy Room.
DYNAMIC
A couple traveling
with two kids under
the age of four
PRIORITY
Entertainment
54
Urban: SINGAPORE
Clean, safe and chock-full of parent-friendly
considerations (changing tables, nursing
rooms, playgrounds), Singapore is a slamdunk destination for families with toddlers.
Beyond the shopping malls, Marina Bay
skyline, amazing hawker food and the
otherworldly Gardens by the Bay, there is also
a lesser-known side of the Lion City that will
have your tots oohing and aahing. Check out
the barnyard animals at Farmart Centre and
Hay Dairies; the wildlife at the Singapore Zoo;
the fabulous tropical f lora at Singapore
Botanic Gardens; the feathered friends at
Jurong Bird Park; the beaches at Sentosa; and
the rides at Wild Wild Wet waterpark, which
has a section of shallow slides for younger
kids. Stay in the Shangri-La Singapore
JUNE 2018 / TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM
(shangri-la.com; themed family suite from
$942), where they’ve launched “Buds by
Shangri-La,” a 2,150-square-meter interactive
playspace with a cooking station, music
studio, art room, giant pirate ship and a water
play zone with splash pads. The Toddler Zone
has swings and slides, a piano f loor, a ball pit
and vintage kiddie rides. If you feel like really
getting into it, book a themed family suite and
choose from safari, treetop, underwater, space
or castle décor rooms; the last has castle-anddrawbridge bunk beds.
Beach: YALONG BAY, CHINA
Kids love the beach and all the splashing,
sandcastle-building, shell hunting and
swimming that comes with it. This
destination on the South China Sea, with its
F R O M L E F T: C O U R T E S Y O F S H A N G R I - L A S I N G A P O R E ; C O U R T E S Y O F T H E R I T Z- C A R LT O N S A N YA , YA L O N G B AY
Take a splash in
the kids’ pool at
The RitzCarlton Sanya,
Yalong Bay.
8-kilometer-long stretch of sand, has plenty to
keep their hands full. Snorkel the clear waters
off the coast, go Hobie Cat sailing or cycle
through mangrove forests. Explore the Yalong
Bay Tropical Paradise Forest Park and you
might spot a wild pig, macaque or chameleon,
or visit the Yalong Bay Rose Valley to see 1,500
species of roses. Stay at The Ritz-Carlton
Sanya, Yalong Bay (ritzcarlton.com; Panoramic
Ocean View Club room from $380), which has a
Kids’ Passport program that gives children
incentive to explore more hotel activities and
join the rotating roster of daily fun (painting
T-shirts, chocolate workshops, learning about
sea turtles, fishing, making bracelets and
more). There’s also a cool kids’ club, a kiddie
pool with a waterslide, and an outdoor park
and vegetable garden.
F R O M T O P : C O U R T E S Y O F T H E R I T Z- C A R LT O N S A N YA , YA L O N G B AY; C O U R T E S Y O F C U N A R D
Cruise: SOUTHERN AUSTRALIA
A cruise accomplishes the neat trick of
bringing the sights to you without the hassle
of packing, relocating, and unpacking ad
nauseum. This week-long sailing by Cunard
(cunard.com; inside staterooms from $1,729 per
person, children under age two traveling in a
third or fourth berth are free to sail) starts in
Adelaide and ends in Sydney, with stops along
the way in Hobart, where you can try fresh
local produce at the Salamanca Market, and a
The fun-filled
Play Zone on
Cunard’s Queen
Elizabeth.
day in Melbourne, where you can opt for an
excursion on the Puffing Billy Steam Train
that chugs above the eucalypt- and ferncovered valleys of the Dandenong Ranges. On
board the Queen Elizabeth, there is a Play Zone
where kids can join in all kinds of games and
activities, from finger painting to air hockey.
There is also a night nursery for babies who
are 12- to 23-months-old where you can drop
your kids off to sleep under the supervision of
qualified childcare professionals, while you go
out for dinner, get a massage, or otherwise
enjoy the facilities.
Pick your own
veggies from the
garden at The
Ritz-Carlton.
EXPERT ADVICE
Ann Belle, founder
of Kids Travel
Books (kids
travelbooks.com), an
online resource for
children’s books
about travel.
PLAY LIKE A
LOCAL
Visiting playgrounds
in different cities
and countries is an
opportunity to meet
local parents who
will give you the
inside scoop on
nearby familyfriendly activities,
events and
restaurants. Also,
the kids get to let off
steam and most
playgrounds have
different equipment
from back home.
DON’T CHANGE
YOUR
PERSONALITY
Take vacations with
your kids that are
similar to the types
of vacations you
liked to take before
you had kids (within
reason, of course).
If you are doing
something you love,
the kids will get a
sense of that.
SURRENDER TO
THEIR SCHEDULE
The first few trips
we took with our
kids had us suffering
when they woke up
before the sun. But
once, we just went
with it. We were in
Prague and at the
Charles Bridge at
sunrise. That was
the moment that I
really felt the idea of
kids changing our
perspectives. I
would have never
woken up that early
to walk around a
city, but here I was
seeing something
few people seem to
see. Embrace their
schedules and make
it part of your
itinerary.
/ family special /
Ski lessons
with GoSnow
in Niseko suit
snow bunnies
of all ages.
DYNAMIC
A family with
kids aged five
to eight
PRIORITY
Activities
ŋŋŋŋŋŋ
Kids
Active: NISEKO, JAPAN
The snowfall in this Japanese ski town is so
fine and f luffy they call it champagne powder.
It is a winter wonderland of snowball fights,
sledding, skiing and snowboarding, followed
by steamy cups of hot chocolate and giant
bowls of slurpable ramen. Stay at Aya Niseko
(ayaniseko.com; two-bedroom Yotei view from
$678), a ski-in, ski-out resort with
breathtaking views of Mount Yotei, plus the
GoSnow (gosnowniseko.com; full day class $91)
ski school for kids of all ages with dedicated
Ninja Kids Reception ski area that’s perfect for
young learners (ages three to six). Bonus:
There’s a Kids’ Club for one- to six-year-olds
with games, activities and crafts, and a
babysitting service for kids under three.
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JUNE 2018 / TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM
A rock-climbing
session for little
ones at Four
Seasons Langkawi.
F R O M T O P : C O U R T E S Y O F G O S N O W ; K E N S E E T/ C O U R T E S Y O F F O U R S E A S O N S
This is a glory age for family travel as your kids will probably remember these trips for the rest of their lives.
You’re still dealing with madcap energy, but it is easier to steer and focus than when they were in the
toddler phase, yet they are still young enough to like you better than their friends. This is when they’ll really
be wide-eyed about the sights, so give them plenty to enjoy.
EXPERT ADVICE
F R O M T O P : K E N S E E T/ C O U R T E S Y O F F O U R S E A S O N S ; C O U R T E S Y O F A N A N TA R A G O L D E N T R I A N G L E E L E P H A N T C A M P A N D R E S O R T
Callum Brown,
general manager of
Flight Centre
Singapore
(flightcentre.com.
sg), a travel agency
offering inexpensive
flights, holiday
packages and more.
JOIN THE CLUB
Stick to short-haul
destinations and
book resort-style
accommodation
with kids’ clubs—
this is a game
changer. For me,
kids’ clubs and
babysitting services
are priorities. We
would actually
change our
destination if we
could not find a
resort that had the
right facilities.
The kids’ room in
the Family Beach
Villa at Four Seasons
Langkawi.
Culture: CHIANG RAI, THAILAND
Thailand’s hilly north is an alluring mix of
sweeping landscapes and ancient history, with
enough adventure and wildlife to keep the
kids in awe. Stop by Wat Rong Khun, also
known as the White Temple, and admire its
sugar-white architecture; check out the folk
art at Mae Fah Luang Art and Cultural Park;
get a taste of Lanna history in the old city of
Chiang Saen. But the main attraction here is
the elephants; at Anantara Golden Triangle
Elephant Camp & Resort (goldentriangle.
anantara.com; Three Country View Family
suite from $976) the kids can learn all about
the gentle giants, walk with the herd into the
jungle and even treat them to a river bath.
Beach: LANGKAWI, MALAYSIA
Ancient jungles, sandy beaches and a seascape
exploding with limestone karsts make this
Malaysian island look like a land that time
forgot. Take a boat through the Kilim Karst
Geoforest mangroves, one of the most diverse
ecosystems on Earth; f ly above the rainforest
with Umgawa Zipline (they recommend a
minimum age of five); ride the Langkawi
SkyCab up to the SkyBridge for a vertiginous
view; and drop by the kitschy Oriental Village,
a theme park/mall mash-up. Stay at the Four
Feeding the
gentle giants
at Anantara
Golden
Triangle.
Seasons Langkawi ( fourseasons.com; Family
Beach Villa with Plunge Pool from $1,950) for
its 1.8-kilometer-long private beach, newly
renovated family villas, and Kids For All
Seasons program that offers monkey safaris
and rainforest cruises, rock-climbing and
archery, and batik-painting and kite-making.
They also have a cool outdoor discovery center
for learning about the surrounding ecology.
TAKE
(CALCULATED)
RISKS
At Flight Centre, we
have seen families
with children of all
ages travel on
various types of
holidays, including
long-haul journeys
to see Santa in
Finland; African
safaris; camping in
Australia;
campervan road
trips in New
Zealand; and more.
It’s the mindset and
expectations the
parents set for
themselves and
their children, and
also how prepared
they are for the type
of trips they take
that make the
difference.
TRUST IN TECH
ALMIGHTY
Load your gadget
with games and
apps to keep the
kids entertained.
The iPad was
definitely sent from
the gods.
/ family special /
Tweens
By now, they’ve outgrown the kids’ clubs, and need
activities friends back home won’t think are lame.
This calls for some serious adventures: diving,
ziplining, mountain-climbing—it is all up for grabs.
Cruise: MALAYSIA, SINGAPORE, THAILAND
This five-night sailing by Dream Cruises
(dreamcruiseline.com; from $2,176, allinclusive) starts in Singapore, stops at the
Malaysian diving islands of Pulau Redang,
and ends in Thailand with the palm-lined
beaches of Koh Samui, and big-city Bangkok.
Aboard the 18-deck Genting Dream tweens can
ride in the six-slide water park or glide over
the ocean on a 35-meter zipline. Tweens are an
ideal age as they can still join the Little Panda
Club’s (ages two to 12) broad menu of
supervised activities, but are also old enough
for the teen activities like karaoke, DJ mixing
classes and hip-hop dancing. There’s also a
cinema, a bowling alley and a video arcade.
Culture: MALANG, INDONESIA
The cool highland climate has drawn travelers
to this East Java gem since its days as a Dutch
colony, and with tea plantations, orchards,
waterfalls, river tubing, paragliding from
Mount Banyak and the wonders of BromoTengger-Semeru National Park (volcano
peaks, craters, sweeping savanna), there’s
never a dull moment in Malang. Visit Hawai
Waterpark Malang, Predator Fun Park and
Batu Secret Zoo, and stay at Tugu Malang
(tuguhotels.com; Zamrud suite from $165).
Founded by Anhar Setjadibrata, the hotel also
houses his own antique collection, the largest
in the country, and is part museum, part art
gallery and part time-machine—guaranteed
to give friends back home major travel envy.
Active: CEBU, THE PHILIPPINES
Nothing spells family bonding like group
scuba lessons, and Cebu, with its warm water,
clear visibility and thriving marine life, is the
perfect place to get PADI-certified. There are
caves, shipwrecks and coral walls home to
thresher sharks, squirrelfish and other
strange and colorful creatures. “Bubblemaker”
starter scuba classes will suit kids as young as
eight and there are “junior open-water scuba
diving” classes for ages 10 and up. If your
tweens aren’t ready to dive, snorkeling here is
just as fun. Stay at Plantation Bay (plantation
bay.com; one-bedroom suite from $250), where,
in addition to the on-site dive school, there are
four freshwater pools, 2.3 hectares of saltwater
lagoons, waterslides and sea activities.
DYNAMIC
An ocean backdrop
provides extra thrills
for watersliding on
the Genting Dream.
A family
with kids aged
nine to 12
PRIORITY
Action
EXPERT ADVICE
Danielle Sadler,
from Adventure
Nannies (adventure
nannies.com),
connecting top
nannies to traveling
families for an extra
pair of hands.
MAKE IT A
TEAM EFFORT
This is the age
where young adults
feel their autonomy
and independence
are vital to their
identity. To keep the
kids interested in
the activities you’ve
got planned, involve
them in the
decision-making
process—they’ll be
more invested in
learning throughout
the trip and in
exploring with you.
LEVERAGE
LEARNING TOOLS
Google Goggles is
amazing; take a
photo of anything
around you and the
app will instantly
link you to the
relevant Wikipedia
page. This is an
interactive way to
keep kids engaged
as you hike through
historical areas and
explore new spots.
Exposure.co is an
eye-catching
service that turns
traveling into a
creative experience.
The build-your-own
site allows you to
design stories with
your photos and
build a stunning
travel journal.
GET CULTURAL
A city with a strong
culture and history
will help tweens
gain a deeper
understanding of
where they are,
rather than being
confined to a resort
with food and
entertainment that
many families can
find at home.
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JUNE 2018 / TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM
COURTESY OF DREAM CRUISES
ŋŋŋŋŋŋ
DYNAMIC
Nepal is an
adventure
playground for
intrepid teens.
A family with
kids aged 13 to 18
PRIORITY
Independence
See Hong Kong
on a TramOramic
tour of the city.
A suite at
The Langham
Sydney.
EXPERT ADVICE
James Hayward,
ŋŋŋŋŋŋ
Teenagers
C L O C K W I S E F R O M T O P L E F T: C O U R T E S Y O F S C O T T D U N N ; M A R C U S Y E U N G ;
COURTESY OF THE LANGHAM SYDNEY
Organizing a vacation with teens isn’t so much
about overcoming obstacles as it is about creating
enriching experiences and giving them space and
freedom to pursue their interests, whether that’s in
the great outdoors or on city streets.
Urban: HONG KONG
This hip harbor city has endless food, lush
walking trails, tons of shopping malls and
skyline vistas so dazzling your teens will be
Snapchatting their photos with #nofilter. Take
the TramOramic tour through the city; ride on
the Star Ferry; hop the tram up Victoria Peak;
play archery tag (yes, it’s a thing) at Crossfire
Arena; cruise through the harbor on a junk;
spin out on the rollercoasters at Ocean Park
Hong Kong; and hike up 268 steps to see the
Big Buddha. Stay at Hotel Indigo (ihg.com;
adjoining superior twin from $185) for the
adjoining rooms (the freedom of separate
space, the security of proximity); central
location; and glass-bottomed infinity pool on
the 29th floor, offering the best view of the city.
managing director
of Little Nomads
(littlenomads.com),
travel-planning for
families.
DON’T FORCE IT
Let them know your
plans and ask them
if they want to join
in. Don’t drag them
along, just extend
the invitation; it’s
their holiday as well.
GET THEM
JOURNALING
As a gift before
traveling, provide
a nice Moleskin
notepad and pen and
encourage them to
jot, doodle and draw
their holiday
experiences.
BE FLEXIBLE
Ensure your
accommodation has
space and options
for teens to chill out
in their own
environment.
Sometimes a
teenager will be just
happy enough to sit
by the pool, with
access to food and
drinks, Wi-Fi and
headphones.
Active: NEPAL
While young kids have energy, teenagers have
endurance, which opens your options up to
more intense itineraries, like the two-week
Scott Dunn (scottdunn.com; $4,000 per person)
“Nepal for Teenagers” trek. It’s designed for
families with older kids (12 and up) and
includes hikes, village visits, paragliding,
zip-lining, white-water rafting and safaris.
You’ll stay at luxury resorts while you traverse
Kathmandu, Bandipur, the Annapurna
Mountains, Pokhara, Chitwan National Park,
the Seti River and Dhulikhel.
Beach: SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA
Sydney has as much to offer the laid-back
surfer as the discerning urbanite. Active teens
can climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge, take
the Bondi-to-Bronte coastal walk, and swim in
the eminently Instagrammable Bondi Icebergs
pool. Aesthetes will have fun at the Museum of
Contemporary Art or at a Sydney Opera House
show. And those still young at heart can go
carnival crazy at Luna Park. Stay at The
Langham Sydney (langhamhotels.com;
adjoining rooms for a family of four from
$646), for stately rooms with harbor views.
TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM / JUNE 2018
59
/ family special /
ŋŋŋŋŋŋ
Big Families or Groups
If you’re on the go with a big group—be it your own kids, your parents, extended family, or other friends—you are going to want to
visit destinations that offer a lot of different kinds of activities in close proximity. Villas are the best bet for accommodations as
you have personal space, but you can socialize in the shared living areas. The most important thing is to let people feel like they
have control over their vacation and can do their own thing while still creating plenty of opportunities for quality time.
DYNAMIC
Traveling with
more than
six people
Shiva Samui’s
private shore is
perfect for young
beachcombers.
PRIORITY
Options
EXPERT ADVICE
Laura Hall from
Kid & Coe
(kidandcoe.com), a
curation of
family-friendly
vacation rentals.
BET ON THE
BEACH
You can’t lose with
a trip to a beach
town. If some
members of the
party don’t like
beaches, they will
likely find something
to entertain
themselves in town.
Active: BALI, INDONESIA
Bali ticks all the boxes for group travel, with
pursuits for culture vultures, adrenaline
junkies, foodies, beach bums and everyone in
between. Besides emerald rice paddies,
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JUNE 2018 / TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM
white-sand beaches and volcanoes, there’s
rafting, snorkeling, diving, fishing, temples,
elephants, markets, malls and more. Stay at
The Mahalani (themahalani.com; two threebedroom villas from $240, including meals), a
pair of well-appointed beachfront villas on the
north coast with a total of six bedrooms. It has
a big garden; a coral reef just offshore; and
cribs and high chairs for the babies.
Culture: GALLE, SRI LANKA
Sip tea at elegant colonial plantations; surf
waves along the south coast; spot leopards,
elephants and sloth bears on safari; track blue
whales in open ocean: the country of Sri
Lanka is a one-stop shop for holiday magic.
Stay at Villa Olu (villaolu.co.uk; four-bedroom
Villa Olu from $619), two beachfront Dutch
colonial villas just five minutes from Galle
Fort; a 15-minute drive from the surf town of
Hikkaduwa; or half an hour from Mirissa, a
whale-watching hub.
AGREE ON
EXPENSES
Sort the money out
in advance. Don’t
leave money issues
clouding your stay;
decide who’s paying
for what before you
get there. Buy your
own groceries and
be fair about it.
PLAN TOGETHER
Collaborative tools
can help you plan
the trip together.
I love TripIt as a way
of keeping everyone
in the loop and
keeping important
information in one
place. Pinterest has
also helped me get
an idea of what
everyone in the
group is interested
in, including the
kids. If you start
off on the right foot,
it’s a big help.
C O U R T E S Y O F S H I VA S A M U I
Beach: KOH SAMUI, THAILAND
There are villas galore on this alabaster
island, so the group can feel at home together.
Little kids will love Paradise Park Farm Samui
and the Butterf ly Park and Insect Kingdom.
Older kids will like ATVing and ziplining on
Khao Pom mountain, and Pink Elephant
Samui Water Park. The whole gang will enjoy
a trip to local waterfalls (Na Muang Falls and
Lin Had Waterfall are lovely), kayaking and
snorkeling at Angthong National Marine Park,
and brunch at Nikki Beach club. Stay at Shiva
Samui (shivasamui.com; four-bedroom villas
from $400) for its huge multi-bedroom villas
(up to five bedrooms) with private pools and
a big kids’ club with lots of activities.
/ deals/
BEACH
T+L READER SPECIALS
THAILAND
The jungles of
Koh Lanta
envelop Pimalai
Resort & Spa.
SUPERSAVER
Marco Polo Ortigas Manila, Philippines
Located in the heart of Manila’s growing financial district, this
sophisticated hotel is much more than just a business address.
With this Luxe Life deal, guests will get guaranteed early
check-in and late checkout; a welcome amenity; laundry and
pressing services; in-room check-in; and access to the hotel’s
Continental Club. The Deal Luxe Life: a night in a Premier room
from US$153, through December 31. marcopolohotels.com.
62
JUNE 2018 / TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM
The Pavilions Phuket
Book your next beach weekend
at The Pavilions Phuket and
get 40 percent off a selection
of their private pool villas. You
can choose from their one-,
three- and four-bedroom villas,
each with its own infinity pool
and some offering outdoor
salas with sweeping views of
the Andaman Sea. Guests will
also be treated to a drink on
arrival; a welcome foot
massage; daily breakfast at
Plantation Restaurant; daily
afternoon tea at Firefly
Restaurant; and free beach
shuttles to nearby Layan
Beach. The Deal Summer
Private Escape: a night in a
one-, three- or four-bedroom
villa, from Bt8,340 for two
people, through October 31.
pavilionshotels.com.
MALDIVES
Carpe Diem Maldives
Summer in the Maldives brings
some of the best diving in the
F R O M T O P : C O U R T E S Y O F P I M A L A I R E S O R T & S PA ; C O U R T E S Y O F M A R C O P O L O O R T I G A S M A N I L A
Book a chic city stay in Hong Kong or Singapore, or go coastal for
an idyllic getaway in Thailand, Bali or the Maldives.
Pimalai Resort & Spa
Tucked within Koh Lanta’s
tropical jungle and with
enviable views of the Andaman
Sea, Pimalai Resort & Spa is a
luxe escape surrounded by
nature. The beachside
property is offering a special
just for T+L readers: take 20
percent off the best available
rate when booking one of its
contemporary villas. Guests
can choose between the
Beachside villas, which offer
direct access to the sandy
shores, or the Hillside Ocean
View Pool villas, perched on
the lush cliffs and each with a
private infinity pool. Plus, the
offer also comes with a 10
percent discount on all food
and drinks consumed at the
resort. The Deal T+L Villas: a
room in a Beachside villa, from
Bt16,300, a room in a Hillside
Ocean View Pool villa, from
Bt17,300, through September
30. To book, e-mail
reservation@pimalai.com and
quote “T+Lvillas.” pimalai.com.
region, when manta rays and
whale sharks come cruising
through the clear blue waters.
To celebrate the season, Carpe
Diem Maldives is offering 10
percent savings on the Carpe
Vita live-aboard fleet’s
seven-day cruises, including
four complimentary dives per
day. The Deal Carpe Vita
Super Summer Sale: sevenday cruise including meals,
from US$2,088 per person,
valid July 1 to September 30.
carpediemmaldives.com.
Anantara Kihavah
Maldives Villas
Embrace the natural wonders
of the Maldives with this
three-night package from
Anantara Kihavah Maldives
Villas. The deal includes a fourcourse lunch at Sea, the
resort’s signature underwater
restaurant; a guided snorkel
through the house reef; daily
breakfast for two; dinner at
Salt or Manzaru restaurants;
a private stargazing session at
the resort’s rooftop
observatory; and round-trip
seaplane transfers. The Deal
Sea & Sky: three nights in an
Over Water Pool Villa, from
US$5,574, through December
22. anantara.com.
a welcome glass of
champagne and nibbles. The
Deal Hong Kong Explorer
Package: a night in an N2
Grand room, from HK$4,655,
through September 30.
niccolohotels.com.
from the hotel to designated
locations. The Deal The
Millennium Residence offer: a
night at M Social Singapore,
from S$200, through March 31,
2019. millenniumhotels.com.
WEDDING
SINGAPORE
CHINA
Millennium Hotels
& Resorts
Extend your stay in the Lion
City and you’ll be rewarded.
At any of the Millennium
Hotels & Resorts’ six
Singapore properties (Orchard
Hotel Singapore, Grand
Copthorne Waterfront Hotel
Singapore, M Hotel Singapore,
Studio M Hotel Singapore, M
Social Singapore or Copthorne
King’s Hotel Singapore)
seven-night stays will get 15
percent off the flexible rate;
14-night stays will get a 20
percent discount; and 21-night
stays will get a 25 percent
discount. Other benefits
include 10 to 20 percent off
laundry services, dining,
international calls, and
business-center services.
Guests will also enjoy daily
buffet breakfast for two,
discounted parking rates and
free shuttle services to and
The Sanya Edition
Tie the knot in beachside bliss
with the ultimate wedding
package on the shores of
Hainan Island. Suitable for
parties of 30 to 50 guests, the
deal includes two nights in the
Penthouse suite; two nights in
an Ocean View room for all
guests (maximum 25 rooms);
a hot pot seafood dinner buffet
at Market at Edition for up to
50 guests; a Chinese lunch in
the Junior Ballroom or a lunch
buffet at the Sky Bar for up to
50 guests; a welcome cocktail
for up to 30 guests; a
ceremony at the Private Ocean
Lawn or Private Ocean Deck;
a couple’s spa treatment; a
Chinese dinner in the Junior
Ballroom or a dinner buffet at
the Private Ocean Lawn,
including a two-hour beverage
package for up to 30 guests;
an after party at Sky Bar for up
to 30 guests; and a 30-minute
water sports activity for up to
30 guests. The bridal party
can also opt for afternoon tea
at the floating table for up to
six guests, and the couple will
score double Marriott Hotel
Reward points per booking.
The Deal Wedding
Accommodation Package:
two-night package from
RMB188,888, through April 1,
2019. editionhotels.com.
CULTURE
INDONESIA
Ayana Resort & Spa Bali
Explore the history and magic
of the Island of the Gods on a
three-night stay at this
world-class resort. Included in
the package is a guided tour of
Jimbaran’s famous food
markets followed by a
Balinese cooking class with a
professional chef. Guests will
also get an authentic dinner at
Kampoeng Bali, a restaurant
set within a traditionally styled
Balinese village that includes a
sunset ritual and Kecak dance
performance on the night.
The Deal Bali Cultural
Package: three nights in a
Deluxe Ocean View room,
from US$1,356, through
December 28. ayana.com.
CITY
C O U R T E S Y O F T H E M U R R AY
HONG KONG
The Murray
Discover Hong Kong’s
best-kept secrets on this
cultural package from the
city’s newest address, The
Murray. Book at least three
nights in an N2 Grand room
and you’ll have the opportunity
to take a private walking tour
with a local expert that
focuses on your choice of
theme: history, art or
gastronomy. Guests will also
receive daily breakfast for two;
round-trip limousine transfers;
and late checkout to 4 p.m.
Upgrade to an N3 Grand
Deluxe room or Signature suite
and be treated to an elevated
breakfast experience at
Popinjays, the hotel’s sleek
rooftop restaurant, as well as
City views from
The Murray’s
signature Cotton
Tree suite.
TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM / JUNE 2018
63
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LEIGH GRIFFITHS
Calm seas in
snorkel-heaven El
Nido, page 76.
/ JUNE 2018 / Time-lapse Mekong Delta, Vietnam’s heartland | All the
sustainable beauty of Palawan | Why you should head to ski-playground
Chamonix in summer | Argentina or Brazil? See both sides of Iguazu Falls
65
DELTA BLUES
THE RICE BASKET WATERWAYS OF SOUTHERN VIETNAM HOLD
AN ENDURING MYSTICISM, DESPITE ENCROACHING MODERNITY.
SAILING DEEP INTO THE MEKONG DELTA, RACHNA SACHASINH
FINDS LIFE-AFFIRMING SOUP, SONGS AND SELFIE-JUNKIES.
PHOTOGR A PHED BY MORGA N OMMER
Rolling past
riverside vistas
filled with dense
mangroves and
quiet Khmer
sanctuaries on the
Mystic Sampan.
TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM / JUNE 2018
67
FROM LEFT: Teow serves up a hot bowl of hu tieu
from his floating kitchen; a statue of Ho Chi Minh
in Can Tho; early morning hustle at the Cai Rang
floating market; in Vinh Long province, a temple
of the Cao Dai religion, whose pantheon of saints
includes Victor Hugo.
“I LOVE THE RIVER,”
TEOW SHOUTED WHILE
ASSEMBLING A STEAMING
BOWL OF HU TIEU FROM
THE GALLEY OF HIS
WEATHERED SAMPAN. A
MILDLY SWEET BROTH OF
SHRIMP, PORK AND RICE
VERMICELLI TOPPED WITH
CITRUSY HERBS AND FRESH
PARSLEY, HU TIEU IS THE
STANDARD SOUP OF THE
MEKONG DELTA.
Teow’s rig was docked deep in Cai Rang floating market,
a mind-boggling armada of more than 400 houseboats
and sampans eight kilometers upstream from Can Tho,
the provincial capital. Here, farmers, fishermen and
middlemen gather in the wee hours to hustle rice, fish
and produce, and, for many, Teow’s hu tieu is their go-to
breakfast. It was just shy of 7 a.m., and Teow was trying
to keep up with a queue four punts deep. The 40-year-old
moved nimbly in his tight kitchen space, dressing piping
hot bowls at breakneck speed before setting them adrift
in the sea of skiffs. The scene was symphonic and
delightful, and the hu tieu was damn good.
Centuries-old floating markets like Cai Rang anchor
the culture of Vietnam’s Mekong Delta—and they are
under siege. The delta is modernizing. Roads are
replacing rivers. Salt water is seeping from the ocean
and damaging crops. And, erosion is stripping away
arable land and riverbanks. It’s conceivable that the
delta’s floating markets and Teow’s hu tieu stand may be
forced onto shore within the next generation.
To be honest, I knew little about the Mekong Delta
before I arrived, with images in my head primarily of
warfare, of a battleground for nationalist forces against
the French and then the Americans. In fact, marauders
and settlers have been traipsing through this small,
waterlogged landscape for centuries. My recent journey
was inspired by the delta’s latest settler, hotelier Adrian
Zecha, who had just opened Azerai in Can Tho—the
second installation of his “affordable luxury” brand after
launching in Luang Prabang last year—on an island
right across from Can Tho’s lively quay. The founder of
luxe heavyweight Aman Resorts, which he left nearly
four years ago, Zecha has an uncanny ability to sniff out
astonishing locales and throw them into the spotlight. A
sleepy rural idyll with lingering Indochina vibes, the
Mekong Delta is hardly on the jet-set circuit, and Zecha’s
choice piqued my interest.
The Mekong Delta has a muddled history, to put it
mildly, but, “it’s also pure and deeply relaxing. To fully
experience it, you have to get on the water,” Zecha
insisted to me. He positioned Azerai smack in the middle
of the river, on an island forested with old banyans and
sliced by mangrove-lined canals. To get there, you have
to take a boat.
So, I packed my waterproof bags and, taking Zecha’s
words to heart, I hewed as close to the river as possible,
traveling on a luxury yacht, a converted rice barge and
no-fuss sampans. My forays around Chau Doc, Sa Dec,
Cai Be and Can Tho revealed a captivating landscape
dotted with a motley mix of pagodas, mosques, churches
and curious shrines that honor ancient spirits, warlords
and even Victor Hugo. Zecha was right—folks here are a
good-natured lot and dåelta-living, while on the
threshold of change, is still remarkably pure and calm.
boarded the Aqua Mekong, a luxury 20-suite cruising
ship, in Phnom Penh and sailed on the Upper Mekong
across Vietnam’s delta basin, from Chau Doc to My
Tho. The ship’s swish lounge was the ideal spot to
witness the river transition from the wide, languid
waterway in Cambodia into a mesh of channels, tidal
mudflats, mangroves, shrimp and fish ponds, orchards,
and paddies.
Locally, the Mekong River is known as “Cuu Long” or
Nine Dragons, after its nine branches, and their alleged
dragon-infested waters. Some say there are only eight
natural tributaries—an extra one tacked on because nine
is auspicious in luck-obsessed Vietnam. It makes sense.
Eking out a living in these parts requires skill and plenty
of luck. In spite of a history of wars and floods, farmers
coax three to four crops of rice annually and, year-round
raise fish and harvest a staggering array of tropical fruit.
Naturally, the delta is known as Vietnam’s rice basket.
Delta-style wooden houseboats, known as ghe, plied
the waterways, their prows emblazoned with fierce red
I
TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM / JUNE 2018
69
NIGHT ON
THE DELTA
BACKWATERS
WAS SUBLIME
AND TIMELESS
The water being a
constant draw, Azerai’s
villas offer a choice of lake
or river views. OPPOSITE: A
gentle glide along the
Mekong backwaters.
70
JUNE 2018 / TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM
eyes to ward off river
monsters. On deck, hammocks
and laundry fluttered in the breeze,
woks and cauldrons hissed in open-air kitchens, and
strains of twangy Vietnamese ballads cried in the wind.
A steady fleet of trawlers and barges heaped with rice
and dredged sand motored by, their captains steering the
wheels with their feet. I sailed past rice mills, conical
brick kilns, and floating villages that hovered above
bamboo cages filled with farm-raised fish.
Chau Doc is home to the delta’s highest concentration
of the Muslim Cham ethnic community, and the town
boasts several mosques. Chaney, the Aqua Mekong’s lead
guide, took us to visit one. At midday, Mubarak Mosque
was surprisingly cool inside. Mr. Sen, the toothless
caretaker, spoke in halting stream of consciousness:
“Muslim, Buddhist, we all grew up together. We get
along.” He paused. “People came to pray by boat, but now
people work in town. Have you seen the market?”
I hadn’t, so I went to the local market in search of Chau
Doc’s other attractions: fermented fish-and-anchovy nuoc
cham, or the town’s take on fish sauce. There, I met the
affable Mrs. Anh seated in a sea of fillets and sauces. “The
entrails mixed with shredded green papaya sells the best,”
she said, beaming. Mrs. Anh set up her shop shortly after
72
JUNE 2018 / TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM
the war ended in 1975. Back then, fish was plentiful, she
told me. These days, Chinese and Lao dams upriver
interrupt the Mekong’s natural flow, and higher sea levels
create brackish pools that disrupt freshwater habitats. In
spite of the decline, Mrs. Anh seemed upbeat, making the
most of whatever she could get her hands on.
In My Anh Hang village a bit downstream, Mrs. Sau, a
61-year-old wedding singer, told me, “The river gives us a
good life, but also a hard life,” and elucidated another
way distant China affects the delta. Even though many
farmers are diversifying from rice by growing tropical
fruit for the Chinese market, “Chinese tastes keep
changing,” she laughed, throwing up her hands. I left
Mrs. Sau in her beautiful, century-old wooden house
pockmarked with bullet holes and shrapnel, where she
continued to belt out melancholy Cai Luong ballads, the
“Delta blues” of southern Vietnam. Sa Dec, the seat of Dong Thap province, is a watery
paradise chock-full of flower, bonsai, fruit and sugar
cane farms. In the market, baskets of flamboyant
hibiscus and sunny marigolds sat next to pans full of live
delta catfish and fat eels waiting to be beheaded. Market
women dressed in patterned pantsuits and conical hats
smiled broadly and waved cheerfully as I wandered past,
offering a piece of fragrant jackfruit or inviting me for a
FROM FAR LEFT: Banh
hoi mat vong, or
hammock vermicelli
spring rolls, and their
creator, Mrs. Thuan,
in Can Tho; Café
1985, Can Tho;
horizon views from
the Aqua Mekong
deck; Cai Be’s
Catholic church.
cup of caphe da (iced coffee). We didn’t speak a common
language, but we were fluent in “selfie.” Delta women, I
learned, love selfies as much as anyone else.
A stroll through the older parts of town revealed
abandoned French colonial mansions nearly swallowed
by the jungle. French writer Marguerite Duras spent her
early adolescence in Sa Dec during the heyday of French
Indochina. Duras’s 1929 novel, The Lover, describes her
affair with Huynh Thuy Le, a debonair Chinese
merchant, whose ornate bungalow is now a museum.
When published, such coupling was forbidden. These
days the delta’s multicultural milieu is less segregated,
and Duras and her lover could live happily ever after.
t My Tho, a port town in the delta’s eastern
quadrant, I disembarked the Aqua Mekong,
leaving its roof-top pool, David Thompson–
created menu and other comforts behind. Up to
now, I had traveled on the Tien River or Upper
Mekong, one of two major tributaries. Now, it was time to
disappear into the backwaters.
The ferry from My Tho to Cai Be stopped running a
few years ago, so I begrudgingly took a cab right up to
Cai Be’s landmark Catholic church. Built in 1929, the
church’s impressive bell tower loomed over the pleasant
A
town. I poked my head in just in time to catch the prerecorded mass. Chua gie xu—“Jesus” in Vietnamese—
was lit up in neon, while his flock of 30 or so old-timers
sat solemnly in the antique pews.
Befuddled and slightly amused, I marched over to the
river landing and boarded the Can Tho–bound Bassac for
an overnight passage through Tien Giang, Vinh Long and
Ben Tre provinces. Roosters and sampans were
everywhere, but so were stereos, satellite dishes and new
construction. Composite, plastic sampans showed up
every so often, explaining the handful of abandoned
shipyards. Downriver from Cai Be, we visited a canalside hamlet where practically everyone made rice paper
and coconut candy. On the recently paved toe path,
motorcycles, bicycles, children and dogs played a
dangerous game of chicken, while a middle-aged man
hand-fed lettuce to an actual chicken.
Traversing Vinh Long, we stumbled upon a 350-yearold Khmer pagoda tucked in a dense tropical jungle.
Murals showed classical Indian scenes of the Buddha’s
life and path to enlightenment. Further downstream, a
Cao Dai temple, with a gilded yellow-and-blue façade and
almighty “left eye,” beckoned like a lodestar. Cao Dai’s
pantheon of saints includes Victor Hugo—who actually
never set foot in Vietnam. In the serene courtyard, I
FROM LEFT: A charming
room in Nam Thi Holiday
Home, Cai Be; the eyes of
a ghe boat ward off river
monsters, in port town
Sa Dec; a woman rides
through Sa Dec in a
traditional ao dai.
sipped tea with a congregation of gray-haired gentlemen.
I asked about Victor Hugo, and the abbot piped up, “His
mind is bright like the moon.” The Bassac’s charismatic 25-year-old cruise director,
Nguyen Tu Trang “Annie” Thien, took me ashore to her
birthplace Mang Thit, an island village where we forded
paddies and irrigation ditches shimmying over “monkey
bridges,” precarious arrangements of sticks and bamboo.
Only the elderly and children live here. Young adults are
off studying or working in cities, but “they’ll come back
to take care of their parents,” Annie said. Tombstones
were scattered across rice paddies and kitchen gardens.
In life and death, delta folk are bound to their land.
Night on the delta backwaters was sublime and
timeless. Boats of all sizes flicked their lamps before
slipping past each other in absolute darkness. Water and
land marched all the way to the horizon and disappeared
into the starry sky. I could have been here last year or
last century, and it would have looked exactly the same.
y midday, the Bassac moored at Ninh Kieu Quay in
Can Tho. The heat had driven most people inside
but, by dusk, the city came back to life. Can Tho’s
name translates roughly to “river of poems,” in
homage to a traditional passion for storytelling
and singing by the river. Remarkably, this still happens.
Brightly lit neon dinner boats cruised up and down the
lively quay, strains of Korean pop and electrified Cai
B
Luong ballads trailing behind. On the promenade,
boatmen, businessmen and lovers strolled and posed for
selfies. Farther down the waterfront, fishermen lounged
on board their sampans, singing and playing cards.
The delta may be on the brink of change, but its
cuisine is still intact. My friend Thomas, a hilarious
guide and Can Tho native, and I visited his favorite spots
on a scooter foodie tour, starting with Mrs. Thuan, a
77-year-old matron who developed her own style of
vermicelli called banh hoi mat vong, or hammock
vermicelli spring rolls. On De Tham Street, a string of
vegetarian restaurants sat alongside carts hawking
Chinese wonton bowls and Vietnamese grilled pork
stuffed in banana leaf. We sampled classic Khmer-style
banh cong—shrimp, mung bean and pork fritters in Mrs.
Sung’s diner. At Hu Tieu Nam Vang, I learned that hu
tieu, Teow’s coveted shrimp, pork and vermicelli soup, is
actually rooted in Khmer cuisine and is considered a
quintessential delta dish.
At twilight, I boarded Azerai’s ghe-inspired ferry and
made a beeline to Au Islet, Zecha’s river-bound sanctuary
in the middle of the Hau Giang (Lower Mekong)
thoroughfare. Glints of warm light from passing boats
mingled with the starlight above and a balmy breeze
drifted through the open-air cabin. When we approached
the sweeping tree-lined cove, I glanced up and saw Can
Tho Bridge’s shimmering profile span the horizon.
Azerai was within earshot of Can Tho’s poetic din and
tucked under this utterly modern steel bridge, and it
belonged wholeheartedly to the river.
The 8½-hectare Au Islet is a natural mangrove, and
the majority of the wilderness was left untouched.
Inspired by the delta’s low-lying countryside, the resort’s
pitched-roof pavilions sit among ancient banyan trees
whose tangle of sinewy limbs brush the green lawns. Set
gracefully along the shoreline, the rooms recall the
gathering of houseboats and floating villages on the
river. A 34-meter infinity pool and a lotus pond anchor
the verdant, tropical grounds, which include a Pilates
studio, tennis courts, a children’s creative zone, and an
ethereal spa, as well as a trio of dining outlets dishing
soul-satisfying comfort foods—a melange of toothsome
bistro fare and piquant delta-inspired bites.
Zecha’s iconic muted color palette and sophisticated
simplicity were palpable, but so were the soft hum of
sampans motoring by and the swish of fishermen’s nets
hitting the water. The river beckoned, and I spent hours
ensconced in my pavilion’s private veranda, watching
river life roll by. I had finally made it to Azerai, and it was
diicult to break away from its chill and cozy spell.
One morning, I climbed aboard a narrow splintered
sampan skippered by the wizened 53-year-old Thong just
as the sun was coming up. Thong, a capable and cheerful
captain, knitted dried palm leaves into grasshoppers and
cracked jokes while maneuvering the sampan through
Cai Rang’s scrum of produce and fish-laden ghe. Here, I
came upon Teow and his hu tieu skiff. “The river has
been good to my family. But my children want to work in
the city,” Teow told me. “Another five or ten years, and I
may have to stop, too,” he said. By now this story was
familiar. The Mekong Delta is caught up in the tension
and excitement of a culture in flux. Yet, there is also a
prevailing sense of equanimity and kindness, a live-andlet-live approach that keeps things moving forward.
I ended the outing with a refreshing caphe da, and
struck up a conversation with Tung, a local fisherman.
Tung started fishing 30 years ago, using a small, handpaddled sampan. “The river is changing, our way of living
is changing,” he said thoughtfully, yet expressed
contentment with his simple lifestyle, with no plans to do
anything else. “About five years ago, I bought a motor for
my boat. That made my arms happy,” he said, laughing.
MEKONG DELTA
pavilions have spacious footprints,
with separate sleeping and
dressing quarters and private
verandas. azerai.com/can-tho;
doubles from US$250.
Nam Bo Boutique Hotel’s
French-style pension makes for a
cozy stay. Enjoy a bird’s-eye view
of Ninh Kieu Quay while noshing
on L’Escale’s French- and localinspired menu. nambocantho.com;
doubles from VND2,465,000.
Tucked in a tropical garden, Nam
Thi Holiday Home has three
pretty loft suites, including one
right on the Cai Be canal, and
offers a wonderful local homestay
experience. fb.com/noithugiancua
thiphan; doubles from US$45.
As you float through this network of diverse waterways, be sure to make
a few stops on land to scout out ancient temples, thriving markets and
local villages, where the delta’s best dishes are doled out to all who ask.
Chau Doc
Cai Be
Sa Dec
My Tho
Mang Thit
Can Tho
VIETNAM
Siem Reap
CAMBODIA
Saigon
GETTING HERE
Fly into Saigon or Phnom Penh to
begin your delta expedition. From
Saigon, it’s a 90-minute car ride
to Cai Be or My Tho pier, and a
three-hour drive to Can Tho.
From Phnom Penh, sail down
the Mekong into the delta.
CRUISE
Aqua Expeditions Soak in delta
vibes aboard the swish, five-star
Aqua Mekong. Gorgeous cabins
and lounges are outfitted with
contemporary, minimalist
furnishings and floor-to-ceiling
windows. Chill in the petit plunge
pool or get pampered in the spa.
Three- and four-night cruises
depart weekly from Phnom Penh
or Saigon. aquaexpeditions.com;
three-night Discovery cruises from
US$2,835 per person and fournight Explorer cruises from
US$3,780 per person, but prices
vary based on season.
TransMekong Bassac
Frenchman Benoit Perdu
handcrafted a wooden rice barge
into a comfortable 10-cabin
cruising boat. His overnight
backwater jaunt gets up close
to village life. transmekong.com;
overnight cruise US$249
per person.
STAY
Azerai In Can Tho, Adrian Zecha
channels the delta’s pure and
relaxing mood on scenic Au Islet.
River-, garden- and lake-facing
EAT, DRINK AND DO
Join the breakfast cruise to Cai
Rang Market or Khmer Pagoda
aboard 9 Dragons Sampan,
(formerly known as Mystic
Sampan)—large comfortable
boats that sit at level with the
river, and explore the delta’s
thicket of mangrove waterways,
floating markets and hidden
Khmer sanctuaries. Extensions
include cycling in the countryside.
mekong-delta.com; breakfast
cruises from VND775,000.
Meet Thomas in Can Tho for a
Street Food Tour
(canthorivertour.com; Street Food
Tours from US$29 per person,
US$45 for private tours), by
scooter or foot, and tuck into the
delta’s iconic bites. On the tour, I
enjoyed the hammock vermicelli
spring rolls at Banh Hoi Mat
Vong Ut Dzach (VND50,000);
banh cong, or shrimp, mung bean
and pork fritters, at Banh Cong
Co Ut (86/38 Ly Tu Trong;
VND80,000); and hu tieu (shrimp,
pork and vermicelli soup) at Hu
Tieu Nam Vang, (50-52 Nguyen
Khuyen; VND35,000 per bowl).
Café 1985 Can Tho’s liveliest
hipster joint serves simple local
snacks, excellent coffees and
cocktails. Live music most nights.
138 Huynh Cuong, Can Tho; drinks
for two from VND80,000.
Stroll around Ho Xiang Thoi, a
man-made lake twinkling in fairy
lights, and sip caphe da at a local
coffee shop. Huynh Cuong Street,
Can Tho.
Try prepping lau vit nau chao (duck
hot pot with pickled tofu and taro)
or lau mam (salted fish hot pot) at
one of the cramped sidewalk
eateries on Hot Pot Alley, like
Hem Vit Nau Chao. Between Mau
Than and Ly Tu Trong, Can Tho; hot
pot for two from VND150,000.
Celebrating the occult and
medieval dark forces, the
Museum of Tarot is a cheery
three-story collection of tarot
cards and arcane magic
paraphernalia, among other
curiosities. musuem-tarot.com;
44 Nguyen Khuyen, Can Tho.
At Chua Maniransay, Can Tho's
main Khmer pagoda, the
multilingual abbot can give a
crash course on Vipassana
meditation. 36 Hoa Binh Rd. – R.S.
TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM / JUNE 2018
75
Docking on Isla
Blanca, a reeffringed island 20
minutes from
Ayala Land's
Apulit Island
Resort. OPPOSITE:
Light on the leaves
of a banyan tree on
Apulit’s beach.
PHOTOGR A PHED BY L EI G H GRIFFITH S
Coast
to
Coast
ISLAND-HOPPING BETWEEN
PALAWAN’S EL NIDO AND CORON,
PRISTINE BEACHES ARE TRUMPED
ONLY BY THE TECHNICOLOR
MARINE LIFE THAT THRIVES
BEYOND THEIR SHORES. ELOISE
BASUKI TESTS HER SEA LEGS TO
FIND THAT THIS PROTECTED
POCKET OF THE PHILIPPINES ISN’T
JUST AN ECOLOGICAL WONDER,
BUT ALSO A PLACE THAT
SOMEHOW FEELS LIKE HOME.
TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM / JUNE 2018
77
Guests at Apulit
can rappel from
the sky-high cross,
a legacy from the
property's former
owners, down the
60-meter vertical
limestone cliff.
Three sharks are doing figure eights in the
glassy water beneath my dangling feet. Perched
on the deck of my overwater cottage, one of a
series that skirts the bay of Ayala Land’s Apulit
Island Resort, I watch the graceful trio dance
circles through a school of tiny, sparkling fish.
The predators are trying to confuse and divide
the sheepish shoal with the aim of cornering an
unlucky stray: potential lunch.
I wasn’t counting on dodging hungry sharks on what
I had imagined to be a sun-kissed, bikini-clad, islandhopping tour of northern Palawan, but my frustratingly
always cool, calm and collected partner, Leigh, waves off
my concerns. “The sharks have no interest in you or your
toes,” he tells me flatly, and the Apulit porters, who have
come to deliver our bags from our just-arrived boat, back
up his theory. These are blacktip reef sharks and, each
about the size of my forearm, are just babies; the much
bigger and slightly more deadly mothers have, curiously,
never been sighted in Apulit’s waters, despite always
laying their eggs in this spot by the resort’s cottages.
Satisfied with the green light from the porters, Leigh
jumps into the water. I stare at him, mouth agape. He
asks me to throw him a snorkeling mask.
As a Pisces, an Australian and a beach lover from
birth, I’m familiar with sharks—albeit more hostile
ones—and I’ve done my fair share of snorkeling the
world’s oceans. But the stories that visitors to Palawan
recall are colored with rainbow corals, neon schools of
fish and water so electric-blue that I can’t quite recollect
the same scenes from anywhere I’ve been.
I’ve come to see the seas of northern Palawan because,
despite facing the same environmental wrath of climate
change and pollution of many ecological havens, the
forward-thinking attitude of the local government and
local sustainability initiatives are acting like a protective
cloak on its natural wonders. From a castaway isle off of
El Nido that is thriving with stunning wildlife, I’ll head
across the deep blue, passing untouched lands and
pockets still populated with indigenous tribes, all the
way to Coron, where tour companies and the community
are coming together to ensure the growing industry
doesn’t cannibalize its draw.
THE WARM APULIT WELCOME—a traditional song, a
chilled juice, a woven palm necklace, a cheerful reminder
to minimize your footprint—precedes a jam-packed
schedule of activities. On land there’s rock-climbing;
rappelling from the giant cross that looms up on a
clifftop; and a jungle hike into Apulit’s interior. On sea
there’s sunset kayaking: a boat to Isla Blanca, named for
its sugar-white sands; and snorkeling at Nabat Reef, to
spot flame scallops, lionfish and neon nudibranchs.
Piqued by the sight of those finned “friends” by our
cottage, we set out on foot to find more of the island’s wild
residents. On a nature walk with the resort’s
environment oicer, Maxine Gail Fabroa, we amble along
the two-kilometer stretch of coast spotting crooning
collared kingfishers, lithe monitor lizards, a nimble gang
of endemic Palawan squirrels, a lone moray eel, and a
blue-spotted stingray fluttering in the shallow shore.
Maxine credits the thriving bounty of wildlife here to
El Nido’s strong sustainability efforts. Last year, the El
Nido government implemented a region-wide ban of all
single-use plastics. All of Ayala Land’s El Nido Resorts
have implemented eco-friendly initiatives throughout its
properties, including solar panels, sourcing local
ingredients for their menus, installing mooring buoys to
prevent coral damage from anchoring boats, and using
on-site sewage treatment plants to handle all wastewater.
With the temporary closure of Boracay still freshly
reeling across the Philippines, Apulit and El Nido at large
are committed to preventing the same environmental
damage from occurring here. “Boracay now has a lot of
green algae on the water,” Maxine says. “We don’t want
this to happen to our resort—no, no, no. We also have our
own desalination plant so we don’t have to compete with
locals by taking their ground water.”
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79
El Nido and Boracay both became major tourist hubs
around the same time in the 1980s, but these days, at
least before the current visitor ban in Boracay, tourism
numbers have grown worlds apart: in 2017, 2 million
tourists visited the tiny 1,000-hectare island of Boracay,
compared to 200,000 to the 92,000-hectare region of El
Nido. “El Nido is just not as accessible,” Maxine says. For
decades, the island’s only airport was in Puerto Princesa,
Palawan’s capital, before El Nido’s opened in 2002. The
highway to El Nido was only completed in 2015. “In the
80s going to El Nido from Puerto Princesa by land would
take more than a week,” Maxine laughs, before pointing
out a flying fish jumping between kayakers in the bay.
Apulit proves to be a place for endless communing
with nature. During low tide it’s possible to free-dive just
offshore to an angel statue covered with giant clams, an
old relic from the island’s former owners. Off Isla Blanca,
schools of zebra-striped sergeant majors and fluorescent
blue tangs swim unperturbed alongside our flailing fins
and obtrusive masks. On a sunset cruise that circles the
island, skipper Mario points out North Cave. The cave’s
ceiling has long since collapsed, and inside, across a
small lagoon, staff can organize a private dinner under a
skylight of stars. For Leigh and me, though, it’s to the
buffet. On the open deck, the sea sprawling just steps
away, we pile freshly grilled seafood and roasted meats
onto our plates. For dessert we set up at the halo-halo
station for a choose-your-own-adventure of jellies, fruits,
shaved ice and dollops of purple ube jam.
Fed, watered and slightly sunburnt, it’s time for bed.
Even inside our cottage, nature still manages to creep in.
The rooms are newly renovated and broad windows let in
warm rays of light during the day and constant views of
the moonlit ocean at night. Tomorrow we’ll bid goodbye
to this cozy hideaway and begin our next leg to Coron, to
snorkel around its coral-covered shipwrecks and swim
among hidden lagoons and its iconic limestone karsts.
I was just getting used to sharing space with the sharks,
but to reach Coron, we have to catch a ferry—something,
perhaps, even more formidable.
IT’S NEVER EASY GETTING TO PARADISE. The
journey to Apulit involved a stopover in Manila, an early
flight to El Nido, a 90-minute van ride to the Taytay port
and, finally, a 45-minute paraw sail to the island. After a
sad but song-filled goodbye to Apulit, our next passage is
similarly lengthy, but slightly more tumultuous. There
are only two ferries to Coron, and both leave early. It’s a
deceivingly long sail through open seas: the “fast” ferry
run by Montenegro Shipping Lines leaves at 6 a.m. and is
supposed to take 3½ hours. Ours takes five because of a
bout of bad weather—a common obstacle, I’m told.
Halfway through the journey, powerful waves spray
the ferry windows and jostle the boat like the gut of a
washing machine. Passengers around me begin to turn
green. A grown man races to the bathroom with his
hands to his mouth and terror in his eyes; the couple in
front of us keep it together by staring at the ceiling and
occasionally squeezing each other’s hands. Leigh, with
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JUNE 2018 / TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM
Snorkel, kayak or
paddleboard from
Apulit’s beach.
CLOCKWISE FROM
LEFT: A blue-
spotted stingray
close to shore;
the view from
Kayangan Lake;
inside a breezy
Apulit water
cottage.
WE EAT A SEAFOOD
FEAST AT A TINY
FRANGIPANI-FRINGED
BAY WHERE PLUMP,
ORANGE STARFISH
DOT THE SEA
his cool-as-a-cucumber MO, is dozing peacefully. Long
familiar with my own lack of sea legs, I’m thankfully
dosed up on Dramamine, so sleep most of the trip, too.
Arriving in Coron, there’s a different kind of shark
lingering at the port. Hordes of tuk-tuk drivers call out
from the gate, hoping to catch dazed tourists fresh off the
ferry. Thankfully, we’re thrown a lifeline: our hotel for
the next few nights has sent a car to pick us up, a vintage
Jeep to be specific. Safari-themed The Funny Lion is the
first and only boutique hotel on the island, located a short
drive up the hill from the town proper, up on a cliff that
looks out to Coron Bay. “They call this the Beverly Hills
of Coron,” exclaims Michael Mahinay, manager of the
31-room property. “I like it here because you are in town,
but it’s so quiet. Here you can smell nature.”
Outside our spacious Pride room, the hotel’s Hunt
Restaurant is gearing up for dinner. Some guests laze by
the pool, but the more vigilant have already scored the
best view in the house from the rooftop bar’s Jacuzzis,
ready to catch the last of the afternoon light filter
through the 110 hectares of virgin mangroves and a lone
majestic flame tree that grows on The Funny Lion’s cliff.
“I cannot cut a single tree, they are all accounted for,”
Michael says of the protected forest. “Every month a
government oicer visits and checks everything.”
Michael grew up in Puerto Princesa, and has worked his
way across Palawan, but his love of diving keeps him in
Coron. “Coron is very special to me, it’s very different,”
he says. “You will see it: there is an X-factor here.”
He has organized a tour of the town for us, so Leigh
and I hop on a tuk-tuk with guide Allan, who welcomes
us with a smile and a pumping R-and-B playlist. Allan
has been in Coron since 1996, when there were only 10
tuk-tuks on the island. Now there are more than 1,000 to
keep up with Coron’s growing reputation. We peep in at
the century-old San Agustin church, dip in the scalding
Maquinit hot springs, and a take a breathless hike up the
723 steps to Mount Tapyas for its panoramic view of
Coron Island. While the town we’re in is known as
Coron, we’re actually on Busuanga Island, which became
the Coron municipality in 1902. Palawan’s indigenous
Tagbanua tribe still live on neighboring Coron Island and
in 1998 were granted the ancestral rights to manage the
island and surrounding fishing grounds.
Coron Island is
70 percent rocky
limestone, but sandy
little coves can be
the perfect picnic
hideaway if you know
where to look.
AN ELDERLY, TOOTHLESS TAGBANUA MAN has
engaged me in a courting dance at a wedding in Lajala,
on Uson Island. We are on the last leg of our Coron tour
with Calamianes Expeditions and Ecotours, and this
wasn’t what I was expecting when our guide, Julius,
brought us to Lajala in search of Tagbanua elder Maurita,
who roasts and pounds coffee the local way and sells the
dark and smoky grind to The Funny Lion. We were never
able to find Maurita, but we did crash a wedding.
So far Julius and his crew on their paraw have taken
us on a picture-perfect snorkeling, kayaking and paddle
boarding tour around Coron Island. We’ve swum among
schools of damselfish at the Skeleton Shipwreck, a
sunken 25-meter Japanese supply ship from World War
TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM / JUNE 2018
83
II, the wreck among a fleet taken down by U.S. spy planes
when spotted hiding among the area’s karsts. Julius’s
team cooked us a seafood feast at Calachuchi Beach, a
tiny frangipani-fringed bay with plump, orange starfish
dotting the sea. We’ve snorkeled the Coral Gardens to
spot vermillion soft tree corals; skeletal, feathery sea
fans; and baby clownfish poking out from the waving
anemones. We’ve kayaked through a mangrove tunnel
into a secret lagoon known only to Julius and a few other
guides before hitting the spot everyone knows about,
Kayangan Lake. We trek up the limestone cliff and battle
the selfie-sticks for the most photographed view of Coron,
and swim in the cool but crowded 70-percent-freshwater
lake, maintained by the Tagbanua tribe and said to be the
cleanest lake in the Philippines.
Run by fifth-generation Coron local Al Linsangan and
his wife Mae, Calamianes is fiercely protective of its
environment. As a member of The International
Ecotourism Society (TIES), the company maintains a
sustainable focus when it comes to its tours: Julius
collects rogue bits of floating trash as we paddle; the crew
anchor at specific mooring buoys; and Al has spent years
immersing himself in the Tagbanua culture to ensure
his business supports the community.
While Coron is still behind El Nido when it comes to
conservation, the natural beauty here has surpassed
anything I had envisioned, and the accidental deep-dive
into Lajala community life is a lasting memory.
With Julius leading the way, we follow the raucous
trail of music to the party, and the crowd ushers us in. To
the beat of a hand drum, an old man dances a slow,
swaying jive in the middle of the group. He coaxes a
woman out from the crowd, and they begin to-and-froing to the rhythm. The crowd cheers when he gets close,
and laughs when she pulls away. This is the courtship
dance, explains Julius, traditional at any Tagbanua
celebration. Suddenly the man starts shimmying toward
me, eyes locked on mine. I glance at Julius and look to
Leigh for help, but the traitors just push me into the
circle. But I’m happy to play the fool, and after a solid
half-hour of laughing with the party we leave on a high.
“Filipinos are famous for our hospitality,” Michael
tells me back at The Funny Lion over the Hunt
Restaurant’s weekly cochinillo buffet. Cochinillo means
suckling pig, and a whole hog has been slowly roasting
for the better part of the afternoon.
Apart from the meltingly rich pork, there’s crispy beef
tapa, seafood kare kare and a local take on paella. “Just
like in my childhood days, when we have a visitor, our
family puts out the silver cutlery and special plates. We
buy lots of seafood, butcher a pig or goat, and feast,”
Michael says. “As Filipinos, we always want to impress
our visitors, and that’s what I tell my staff. Don’t be
something else—this is in your blood, just bring it out.”
Stepping into this community that treats everyone
like family, it’s clear nature also holds reverence beyond
just the revenue it brings in. “We want to protect the
environment,” Michael says in toast. “What you see right
now, maybe our sons will see in the future.”
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JUNE 2018 / TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM
Lajala
SOUTH
CHINA
SEA
Coron
El Nido
Apulit Island
Taytay
Puerto Princesa
PALAWAN
SULU
SEA
There are endless routes
you can take to explore
northern Palawan. Divers
should focus on Coron,
while El Nido offers a
range of sea activities.
GETTING THERE
There are flights to El Nido from
Manila, Puerto Princesa, Cebu
and other parts of the Philippines
with AirSwift (airswift.ph). If you
want to do the Coron leg first,
several local airlines fly into
Busuanga airport from Manila,
Cebu, Puerto Princesa, Clark,
Caticlan and San Vicente.
The once-a-day Montenegro
Shipping Lines (biyaheroes.com;
tickets P1,760) fast ferry leaves at
6 a.m. from El Nido and arrives in
Coron at about 11 a.m. The ferry
does the return trip from Coron to
El Nido at 12 p.m.
M A P B Y C H O T I K A S O P I TA R C H A S A K
Jump straight from
Apulit’s loft water
cottages into the
sea. ABOVE: Sunset
over Coron Bay from
The Funny Lion’s
in-bar Jacuzzi.
HOTELS
Ayala Land’s Apulit Island
Resort This private island resort
is teeming with wildlife both
underwater and on land. Water
cottages have been recently
renovated, and the two-story
adjoining loft water cottages are
perfect for families or big groups.
elnidoresorts.com/apulit-island;
doubles from P23,700, including
all meals, scheduled activities and
round-trip transfers.
Balai Adlao One of Ayala Land’s
new hotels in Lio Estate, these
simple but sleek rooms are
located in the middle of the action
on Lio Beach and just five minutes
from El Nido Airport. balaiadlao.
com; doubles from P7,500.
The Funny Lion This ecoconscious boutique hotel in Coron
feels like home. Rooms are
comfortable and spacious. Don’t
miss sunset in one of the Jacuzzis
at the rooftop bar. A second
Funny Lion is slated to open in El
Nido in 2020. thefunnylion.com;
doubles from P5,500.
RESTAURANTS
Hunt Restaurant Serving a
modern mix of western and
Filipino fare, Hunt also has live
music every Wednesday and
Saturday. Their cochinillo buffet is
worth scheduling in. thefunnylion.
com; mains from P400.
Lolo Nonoy’s Food Station
Known as a cheap and cheerful
spot to feast on Filipino comfort
food, you’ll find traditional staples
like sizzling pork sisig and chicken
adobo at this unfussy eating
house. Coron Town; 63-9/88962006; mains from P150.
Seafood Island One of the many
dining options in Lio Estate, this
open-air chain restaurant stands
out for its traditional eat-withyour-hands boodle feasts served
on a banana leaf. Lio Estate, El
Nido; fb.com/seafoodislandph;
boodle feasts from P700.
ACTIVITIES
Calamianes Expeditions and
Ecotours This local-run company
offers a bevy of snorkeling, diving,
kayaking and paddleboarding
tours. Don't miss Kayangan Lake,
the World War II wrecks and
meeting the Tagbanua tribe.
calamianes.com; full-day island
tour from P3,080 per person.
Coron Town As Busuanga Island
is mainly limestone, there are no
beaches in Coron, but the town is
a good base to explore the
surrounding gems. A tour offers
a dose of Filipino culture, the
Spanish influence and a great
view from the top of Mount
Tapyas. Go on your own, or hire
a tuk-tuk for P600 per person.
Kalye Artisano Labeled as an
artists’ village, this shop on Lio
Estate is a chance to shop for
locally made crafts and souvenirs.
fb.com/kalyeartisano.
Tao If you’re feeling more
adventurous, ditch the ferry and
sail from El Nido to Coron on a
paraw. Tao offers three- and fiveday expeditions where you’ll
camp on small, untouched isles.
taophilippines.com; three-day
expeditions from P18,000.
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JUNE 2018 / TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM
ABOVE
Though they’re most often associated with skiing, the French Alpine
villages of Chamonix and Megève are reinventing themselves as summer
playgrounds. After taking in meadows full of wildflowers and plates of
melted cheese—along with some other, more hair-raising mountainous
moments— Rosecrans Baldwin finds himself converted.
AND
BEYOND
PHOTOGR APHED BY MARTIN MORRELL
Hiking on Le Signal Forbes,
one of the mountains
surrounding the Terminal
Neige–Refuge du
Montenvers hotel in
Chamonix, France.
“WAIT,
WHERE
DO I
PUT MY
FEET?”
The question went unheard by my guide; he
was too far above me, forging his way up the
cliff. Around us blew a soft breeze. A green
valley lay far below. Beyond it, a patchwork of
forests and fields rolled away into the distance.
And between my shoes was a sheer drop of slick
limestone, with no apparent footholds.
Home to Mont Blanc, Europe’s tallest
summit, the village of Chamonix, in the French
Alps, hosted the first Winter Olympics in 1924
and has been a world capital for cold-weather
sports ever since. Ice climbing. Steep skiing.
Winter mountaineering. It is the sort of town
that attracts the wilderness-ambitious, a place
where you can wake up to falling snow, go out
and do something very dangerous and very
challenging, and be back in time for a lunch of
raclette, otherwise known as melted cheese.
But if any leisure industry is threatened by
climate change, it’s winter sports. Just across
the border in Switzerland, the ski season is a
month shorter than it was four decades ago.
The Mont Blanc glacier is retreating at a record
pace. Winter towns, from Whistler in Canada
to St. Moritz in Switzerland, are investing in
what the industry calls “weather-independent
attractions.” Chamonix itself has spent
millions of euros on new snowmaking
equipment while also promoting summer
attractions for X Games types, like whitewater
rafting and ultra-running.
I never considered myself an alpinist. I love
mountains, and being around them brings me a
sense of peace. But I’d rather read about a polar
expedition than take one myself. About a
decade ago, when my wife, Rachel, and I were living in Paris,
I started to hear from friends that Chamonix had a more
bucolic, less extreme side. They talked about fields of
wildflowers. Restaurants reached by hiking trails. Properties
and activities around the region that have been developed to
appeal to a broader group of travelers—people looking for a
feeling of old Europe, mixed with some hearty leisure and
good wine.
It became a dream of mine to see the Alps in summer.
Rachel and I now live in one of Los Angeles’s densely settled
urban canyons. There came a moment, last summer, when we
had both been working too much. It had been years since we’d
taken a trip together, just the two of us. So we decided to do it,
setting off for the airport with the mind-set of a pair of
19th-century tuberculosis patients, hopeful that a dose of
The busy town
center of
Chamonix, with the
Alps beyond.
OPPOSITE, FROM
TOP: A guest room
at Terminal Neige–
Refuge du
Montenvers, a
historic building in
Chamonix; cows
grazing in the
pastures of
Megève.
restrained mountain activity would do us good. And then
somehow I found myself trailing a half-goat-half-man up a
rock face, with no idea what to do with my feet.
CHAMONIX IS PART OF FR ANCE’S Haute-Savoie region,
which borders both Switzerland and Italy. At Geneva Airport,
a British shuttle driver met us by the baggage claim. He
explained he’d come to Chamonix nearly 10 years earlier to
ski; it proved too good to leave. “The summers are my favorite
time of year,” he said.
We’d decided to ease into the region by spending two
nights in Megève, a quiet village about 45 minutes west of
Chamonix. Megève represents the area’s more rural side. It’s
a wealthy ski-resort town, dotted with farms, chalets and the
occasional designer boutique. When we pulled in through the
gates of our hotel, Les Fermes de Marie (or
Marie’s Farms), it was obvious that the place
was agrarian in name only. The property is the
very definition of rustic-chic. It consists of nine
chalets, each built from parts of old barns that
had collapsed nearby. There were beamed
ceilings everywhere, and oil portraits of goutylooking men. Between the buildings were plum
trees, apple trees and a spa of many pools,
around which sun-crisp French vacationers lay
reading paperbacks and wearing robes. A
chicken coop had each bird’s name written on a
chalkboard (Mélanie, Claire, Lydia, Florence).
For dinner that night we ate a delicious local
river fish, though he was served nameless.
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A lounge area at Les
Fermes de Marie in
Megève, a resort
town near Chamonix.
OPPOSITE: A
paraglider soars
past a gondola cable
in the mountains
outside Chamonix.
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Guests at Les
Fermes de Marie,
in the Alpine
village of Megève,
stay in one of nine
chalets. OPPOSITE:
Eggs and mountain
bacon at the
restaurant of
Terminal Neige–
Refuge du
Montenvers, in
Chamonix.
Sometimes when I can’t sleep I like to
picture a European breakfast. There’s just
something soothing about a big spread of
muesli and charcuterie and five kinds of
yogurt. On our first morning, our jet lag got us
up early—to encounter the breakfast of my
dreams. Three types of bread. Four kinds of
local cheese. An assortment of brioches and
viennoiserie that included fresh pains au
chocolat and pains aux raisins. Not to mention
the best omelette Rachel had ever tasted. (From
the eggs of Mélanie? I wondered. Or Florence?)
After such a feast, it seemed vital to expend
energy. We’d signed up to take a hike that
evening into the mountains, for stargazing, but
it had been canceled because of an impending storm. I
explained to the concierge my interests: a good hike, a spot for
lunch. “Here’s what we’ll do,” he said, whipping out a
topographical map and highlighting it like a cavalry oicer.
He then launched into 60 seconds’ worth of rapid-fire
instructions to remember, starting with, “Take the lift.”
Before we’d left for France, I’d spoken with the American
novelist Pam Houston. She codirects the Mont Blanc Writing
Workshop, a local English-language seminar that runs for
two weeks each summer. “What’s so particularly wonderful
about Chamonix as a place to go hiking is the ski lifts,” she
told me. Resorts run their gondolas and lifts in the summer
because the terminals connect with popular trekking paths.
That way you don’t have to spend hours toiling up the
mountainside before you reach the good stuff. “You start
hiking in the pinnacle of beauty, and you stay
there all day,” Houston explained. “And there’s
often a place to get lunch that’s got the most
glorious lamb stew, or crêpes with Swiss
cheese, or the most amazing salad you’ve ever
had.” She sighed wistfully. “You’re in France,
and you’re sipping wine on a deck clinging to
the side of a mountain, and it’s amazing.”
Following the concierge’s instructions,
Rachel and I rode the Télécabine du Jaillet, a
tiny gondola made for two, up into the hills. I
had been worried about my orienteering skills,
but there were signposts everywhere. And the
views were extraordinary. One moment the
trail would lead us through a meadow, then into
a forest, then again into the open countryside,
looking out over an entire valley. We passed
fields full of cows with clanging bells around
their necks. The French are polite hikers;
everyone said bonjour as they walked by.
Forty-five minutes later, a signpost directed
us to Chalet de la Vieille, our lunch spot. We
emerged from the trees to find an old barn on a
hill; next to it was an earthy cottage. There
were half a dozen wooden tables in the yard
with colorful umbrellas and views of a snowcovered Mont Blanc. Each of the tables had a
slip of paper, held down by a stone; one had my
name on it. (Thank you, concierge.) A few
minutes more and we were drinking rosé by
the goblet, eating delicious salads and omelettes
savoyardes—a local style, with cheese and
bacon—followed by house-made blueberry
tarts. We toasted the cows. It was hard to
imagine the moment improved in any way.
We were drinking rosé
by the goblet, eating
delicious salads and
omelettes savoyardes ,
followed by house-made
blueberry tarts. We
toasted the cows
MONT BLANC LOOMS over Chamonix like a
pending emergency. From the northern side
of the mountain, a glacier lolls down into town
like a giant tongue. More than 4,800 meters tall,
the mountain seems almost Himalayan up
close, if only because it’s virtually rooted in the
town square. At twilight the sun banks off its
flanks so that they glow.
I felt stunned when I saw it from the taxi as
we arrived in town. But Mont Blanc isn’t the
first thing you notice when you get to
Chamonix: that would be the paragliders. All
day long in summer, a dozen colored
parachutes wheel in broad circles over the
town. And you know that tethered to each one is
some tourist harnessed to a local expert, who’s
whispering French in her ear, Just a few more
minutes, my terrified little cabbage.
The air had a chill when we arrived. Clouds
came and went. Chamonix is nestled between
dramatic peaks called aiguilles, or needles, that
tower over both sides of town. The tiny village
consists of several busy streets, hotels with
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93
That’s one weird thing
about Chamonix: seeing
ordinary people
carrying moutaineering
axes like walking sticks
deep window casements, outfitters selling
fluorescent athletic wear. In front of us an older
man and woman walked along together as if on
their way to the market, only the woman had a
climbing rope slung around her neck.
Chamonix is home to about 10,000 people,
but it receives several million visitors a year. I
asked our cab driver whom he drove in the
summer. “Mostly it’s the French. People who
enjoy the calm of the mountains. They do a
week at the beach, then they come here.”
When you ask about things to do, everyone
tells you to visit Montenvers, a site about 90
meters above town. There, you can walk on the
Mer de Glace, or Sea of Ice, a large, historic
glacier; take a hike to the Aiguille du Midi, the
tallest needle; or just absorb the view. One
pleasing complication is that Montenvers is
inaccessible by car. Instead you take a little red
train that chugs right up the mountainside. We
boarded the train and it slowly clattered its way
up the mountain. Many of the other passengers
on the train wore boots; more than one had a
baguette sticking out of an old backpack;
several held axes in their hands. That’s one
weird thing about Chamonix: seeing ordinary
people carrying mountaineering axes around
like walking sticks. (A PSA we saw in one
gondola read: thank you for holding your
ice ax in hand.)
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We rode over viaducts, passed through tunnels cut
through rock. When we turned the final corner, people
gasped. The immensity of the landscape in front of us was
stunning. Waterfalls cascaded down the mountains with
a roar. A glacier the size of a freeway wound down between
them. And amid it all, surrounded by peaks, a tall granite
hotel, pocked by small windows with red and white shutters,
beckoned us with a terrace set for lunch.
Terminal Neige–Refuge du Montenvers has housed
mountaineers since 1880. The hotel was reopened last
summer, completely refreshed, renovated with an aesthetic
principle that feels like a stylish mash-up of old-school
European hospitality and high-end glamping. It’s a miracle
the place hasn’t found its way into a Wes Anderson film yet. In
our room, both the views and the bathtub were majestic. Light
fixtures hung from climbing cord. It all felt purposefully chic
and storied and rustic. I wouldn’t have been shocked—or
disappointed—to have been served some good champagne
from a leather bota bag.
We ate lunch on the terrace of the hotel restaurant, facing
the Aiguille du Dru, one of Chamonix’s most photographed
mountains. It rose like an enormous pyramid above our
heads. We drank beer, then ordered a “peasant omelette” and
a melted round of écorce de sapin—a regional cheese, served
with potatoes and ham. Hikers began to appear, shrugging
off their sweaters. Maybe no one had told them about my
system: to eat hugely first, then consider exercise.
The main reason we had traveled up the mountainside
in our little red train, though, wasn’t the lunch, but the Mer de
Glace just below the hotel. Travelers have visited it for almost
300 years—though nowadays they are probably struck more
by the effects of climate change than by the glacier’s
extraordinary scale. Since 1850, the Mer de Glace has
retreated by more than 1.5 kilometers—changing from a vast
frozen river that reached down into the village to a field of ice
that’s rapidly shrinking back up into the high mountain cold.
After lunch, we walked up to it by a long staircase of several
hundred steps; previously, climbers could step straight out
onto it from the hotel. Still, the experience was striking. At
the bottom you pass through an “ice cave,” a tunnel that’s
been drilled through the blue ice of a glacier that’s much,
much older than you. I felt totally awed.
That evening, we ate dinner in the hotel, in a dining room
walled by windows, so as not to spoil the view. The meal
consisted entirely of Alpine specialties. Chicken roasted on a
The train to the
Mer de Glace and
the Terminal
Neige–Refuge du
Montenvers.
OPPOSITE:
Mountain guide
Maxime Turgeon,
with the peaks
surrounding
Chamonix behind.
spit. Fondue to feed an army. Afterward, the bartender wasn’t
shy about pouring digestifs, but we decided to retire early for
two reasons: Rachel had been admiring our massive bathtub,
and I needed to prepare for the following morning’s
excursion. All the food, wine and gentle meadow walks had
been exactly what I’d been looking for in the Alps, but I was
beginning to experience pangs of guilt. It seemed a shame to
visit Chamonix and not throw in a little adventure.
VIA FERR ATA MEANS “IRON ROAD” in Italian. It’s a way
of ascending mountains that’s not often seen in the U.S.,
though it has long been popular in Italy, and lately in France.
A steel cable runs along the route, bolted into the rock every
couple of yards. You wear a harness that’s clipped to the cable
so you can’t fall far. “Via ferrata is the next level up from
hiking,” mountain guide Zoe Hart explained to
me, “but it’s still not climbing. It’s for anybody.”
Hart is an American climber who lives in
Chamonix with her husband and two children.
She’s an accomplished alpinist, only the fourth
American woman to earn International
Federation of Mountain Guides Associations
status, the highest credential for professional
guides. We’d met at a sweet, little café on my
first morning in town, chatting over coffee as
one of her kids chewed on a sugar crêpe beside
us. She echoed exactly what I’d experienced
about the region’s appeal in summer. “It looks
extreme here, but it’s actually a great place to
start as a beginner. You can access the high end
of the mountain, but as a low-end hiker.” It was
Hart’s idea that I try via ferrata, for some
safeish thrills.
So it was that on our second morning at
Terminal Neige, I was met by Hart’s husband,
Maxime Turgeon, and together we boarded the
family van. He’s also a guide—in fact, their
wedding was held up at the Montenvers refuge.
We drove to the nearby town of Passy, hiked to
the base of the climb, then strapped on
harnesses. Turgeon assured me he’d recently
guided his mother-in-law on the route we were
about to do—“and she’s not sporty at all.”
Turgeon tied a rope between us, then showed
me how the system worked. There were two
carabiners attached by webbing to my harness.
At all times, they’d be clipped to the cable along
the route, except when I came to a bolting point,
where I’d unclip one, attach it to the next
segment, then do the same with the other and
carry on.
Turgeon started up and I followed shortly
after. In the beginning, it all went according to
plan. Then, 10 minutes later, the rungs ran out.
I tried my shoe on a shelf and the toe slipped;
the rock was wet with morning mist. My nerves
did a flutter. I told myself not to freak out, that I
just needed to keep going until I reached the
next ladder segment. I tested my footing,
grabbed some rock, thrust myself up. This time
my shoe held. After doing that a couple of times,
I reached the next set of holds, and a couple of
minutes after that, I started to relax.
Up and up we went. All sounds died away.
Paragliders cruised by like colorful birds. We
tightrope-walked over cable bridges and
wooden beams. We stopped on a ledge at one
point, overlooking the valley, to eat sandwiches
and take pictures. Beneath us lay a wide-open
panorama: Mont Blanc, jagged peaks, distant
church steeples.
We finished the route soon after, topping out
after a steep climb up the final cliff. My nerves
were gone by that point; in their place was
simple exhilaration. I thought, Maybe a little
part of me is an alpinist after all.
The next morning, Rachel and I packed our
bags and rode the train back down to
Chamonix. We were the only people on board.
At one point, we passed another train going up
crammed with passengers, all of them craning
their necks to get a better look at the mountains
ahead—families with kids, solo travelers,
amateur trekkers. All of them off for a day in
the Alps, whatever their pleasure. They were
about to discover what Rachel and I learned for
ourselves: whether you’re a mountaineer or a
picnicker, one way or another the mountains
call to everyone.
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SWITZERL AND
FRANCE
HOW TO DO
CHAMONIX
AND MEGÈVE
Chamonix
Megève
Mont
Blanc
ITALY
Pursue these summer activities in the
French Alps at your leisure, in whatever
order you wish. There’s no pressure—
that’s part of the reason you come here.
GETTING THERE
It's easiest to fly into
Geneva Airport. From
there, the drive to
Chamonix takes less
than 90 minutes.
STAY
Alpaga Hidden away
near the center of
Megève, this hotel’s
traditional chalets
deliver an elegant,
understated take on
rustic-chic. The spa
has views of Mont
Blanc, while a
Michelin-starred
restaurant awaits your
post-hiking appetite.
alpaga.com; doubles
from €440.
Four Seasons
Hotel Megève
Most of the walnutpaneled rooms at this
new 55-room hotel
come with a chimney
butler to take care of
the wood-burning
fireplaces. In winter,
the ski-in, ski-out
property also offers
direct access to the
130 well-groomed
runs of Mont d’Arbois.
fourseasons.com;
doubles from €1,250.
Les Fermes
de Marie This
secluded clutch of
Megève chalets has
the feel of an upscale
farm. There’s also a
pool and a garden that
provides ingredients
for the hotel kitchen.
fermesdemarie.com;
doubles from €455.
Terminal Neige–
Refuge du
Montenvers Use the
stylish relaunched
property—accessible
by Chamonix’s historic
Montenvers railway—
as a base for hikes and
visits to the famous
Mer de Glace (Sea of
Ice) glacier.
montenvers.terminalneige.com; doubles
from €225.
DO
Trekking Chamonix is
crisscrossed with
hiking trails. Try the
Grand Balcon Sud,
where you can see the
streams and
wildflowers of the high
mountains without too
much strenuous
climbing.
Via Ferrata Ascend
high above the valleys
without all the risk
while safely attached
to this “iron road,” a
protected climbing
route. Head out with
Compagnie des Guides
de Chamonix, the
oldest and most
reputable service in
town. chamonixguides.com.
EAT & DRINK
Café Comptoir Alpine
cuisine gets a modern
makeover in this
converted chalet in
Vallorcine, where the
menu includes
seasonal dishes made
with regional French,
Swiss, and Italian
produce. lecafe
comptoir.com; mains
€16–€30.
Comme Chez Soi
Right in the center of
Megève, this cozy little
wine bar also sells a
wide variety of hardto-find regional
bottles. 23 Rue du Clos
des Rennes;
33-4/50-55-95-81.
TOUR OPERATORS
Backroads
This active-travel
company, ranked one
of the top tour
operators in the 2017
T+L World’s Best
Awards, offers walking
and hiking itineraries
through Chamonix.
backroads.com; six-day
trips from €3,150 per
person.
Globe Bleu The
French Alps itinerary
from this luxury travel
agency includes a
breathtaking ride on
the Aiguille du Midi
gondola and a stop for
traditional fondue near
the summit of Mont
Blanc. For bespoke
options, consult Bob
Preston, featured on
T+L’s annual A-List,
our roundup of the
best travel advisors in
the business.
globebleu.com; fourday trips from
€1,595. — R. B.
W E L C OM E T O
THE
J U NG L E
Iguazú Falls, one of Argentina’s most cherished attractions,
is finally getting a hotel that lives up to its
dramatic setting. Jacqueline Gifford checks in, only to
discover that even more natural wonders await.
PHOTOGR APHS BY JOÃO CANZIANI
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Iguazú Falls, the
world’s largest waterfall
system, spans the
Iguazú River between
Argentina and Brazil.
ODDLY ENOUGH, IT DIDN’T SMELL LIKE RAIN.
The sky had turned from blue to silver to a
deep, dark gray as our trio of kayaks explored a
remote stretch of Argentina’s Yacuí River, a
tributary of the larger Iguazú. With its milky
green waters and banks lined with the
towering palmito and palo rosa trees of the
Atlantic Forest, the Yacuí, set in the
northeastern province of Misiones, is about as
far from the cosmopolitan streets of Buenos
Aires as you can get.
We’d driven 90 minutes due east from the
town of Puerto Iguazú, on the unpaved Route
101 that runs along the border of Iguazú
National Park, to reach this remote location.
After clambering down a makeshift pier, we’d
dropped our kayaks in the water and begun
paddling upstream, with no end point in
mind—our destination was the magical rain
forest that straddles the river, once a vast
wilderness that covered more than 40 million
hectares of Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil. My
Argentine guides, Paula and Pancho, noticed
the darkening sky too, but I told them to press
on. The metallic tang I’ve always associated
with an approaching storm was missing from
the air, and after coming all this way I wasn’t
about to give up.
Then raindrops maybe 3 centimeters across
started falling fast and thick. The shallow seat
of my kayak began to fill with water. All three of
us made a swift turn for the pier.
“Are we there yet?” I shouted ahead to Paula,
wiping the rain from my face. “Almost,” she
replied, poised and unflappable, even as
lightning flashed in the distance. Behind me,
Pancho looked equally cool and confident in
his Ray-Bans and wide-brimmed hat.
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I knew my question sounded childish. But I
was ready for dry clothing and a drink, and I
knew we were in for a long, wet drive home.
Home in this case was the new Awasi Iguazú, a
14-suite Relais & Châteaux lodge just outside
Iguazú National Park that provides a luxurious
new base from which to explore a region that
has long lacked great hotel options.
Covering almost 70,000 hectares, the park
draws 1.3 million visitors a year, most of whom
come to see one thing and one thing only:
Iguazú Falls, a series of 275 cascades that run
2.7 kilometers across the border between
Argentina and Brazil. An Instagrammer’s
paradise, Iguazú is at the top of many people’s
South America bucket lists, right up there with
Machu Picchu and the Galápagos.
The Brazilian side may have only 20 percent
of the falls, but it does lay claim to the Belmond
Hotel das Cataratas, a colonial-style property
awash in old-world luxury. Argentina has most
of the falls—and a complete network of trails
and walkways that allow you to see them from
various perspectives—but Puerto Iguazú, the
closest city, is filled with midrange inns and
hostels, all of which attract their share of bus
tours. Awasi, by contrast, consists of 14
freestanding pine cabins—13 of which are 100
square meters, with the 14th clocking in at
153—standing in three discreet rows, each
reachable by winding stone paths cutting
through the jungle. All have private plunge
pools and blend seamlessly into the
environment. Standing on your deck, you’re
surrounded by nothing but rain forest and sky
and creatures. Some of the animals you may
see, others you only hear: coatis, crickets, even
the stray ocelot.
The low-slung main lodge, the focal point of
the property, is where guests gather for meals
or to sip a glass of Malbec at the striking bar,
hewn from petiribí, a native tree. Elements like
marble and brass would feel out of place here,
so the Buenos Aires–based designers Patricia
Diedrichs and Eugenia Choren looked instead
to woods, linens and muted colors, especially
beige and soft green.
Choren knows how to bring style to the
wilderness: for seven years, she designed farms
and cottages in the Corrientes province in
northern Argentina for noted conservationist
and North Face founder Douglas Tompkins. At
Awasi, tasteful pencil drawings of native
flowers and birds by the artist Elba D’Arino,
Choren’s mother, hang on the walls of the public
areas. On the tables rest colorful baskets woven
by members of a nearby Guarani tribe—
descendents of the indigenous people who had
been inhabiting this swathe across Argentina,
OPPOSITE: One of
the 14 private
cabins at Awasi
Iguazú. All have
patios with lounge
chairs, and many
have sunken
living rooms.
Some of the animals you
may see, others you only
hear: coatis, crickets, even
the stray ocelot
Nothing could have prepared me
for how magnificent San Ignacio Miní
would be in person
OPPOSITE,
CLOCKWISE FROM
TOP LEFT: Awasi
Iguazú offers
kayaking
excursions on the
Yacuí River; a rural
road leads to the
hotel’s kayaklaunching site;
the staff prepares
for lunch in the
main dining room;
the patio at the
main lodge.
Brazil and Paraguay for at least 500 years by
the time the Spaniards arrived. And a sevenpiece light installation fashioned from 40 layers
of fishing line illuminates the dining area,
where your multicourse meals might include
pillowy mushroom ravioli or a delicate ceviche
of surubí, a local freshwater fish.
The whole place manages to feel organic
and earthy—but not too earthy. It reminded
me of renowned safari properties like Singita
Boulders Lodge, in South Africa’s Sabi Sand
Game Reserve, and Abu Camp, in Botswana’s
wild Okavango Delta, where the design feels
elevated yet not out of touch with its
environment. This is the jungle, after all, the
most biodiverse part of Argentina, where most
days the humidity hovers between 75 and 90
percent. I quickly learned that there was no
point in fighting the heat, bugs, or damp, or
Misiones’ rich red soil, which quickly stained
my shoes and clothing. You’re not here to be
holed up in an air-conditioned palace.
To that end, Awasi follows the safari model
when it comes to meals, drinks and outdoor
activities: everything is included. But it oneups the safari experience in that each cabin
comes with a personal guide (in my case,
Paula, with help from Pancho) at no additional
cost. That white 4 x 4 Ford Ranger is for you
alone. Want to rise early for a jog along the
back roads? Sure thing. How about a birdwatching excursion away from the crowds?
That’s fine, too. With a staff of 75, including 16
guides, catering to a maximum of 28 guests,
the hotel puts service first.
“For most travelers, everything outside of
the falls is secondary. We want the secondary
stuff to shine,” says Virginia Contreras, the
operations manager for the Awasi Iguazú as
well as two older Awasi properties (also in
remote locales—the Atacama Desert and
Torres del Paine National Park, both in Chile).
Ten years ago, it would have been risky to
expect people to stay three nights and go
beyond Iguazú’s star attraction. Nowadays,
when so many travelers want to go deeper,
explore further, and see things few others
have seen before, there’s a built-in audience for
a place like this.
When I visited the falls I was impressed,
but the experiences I didn’t even know were
coming turned out to be just as memorable.
Like the sunny morning when, with the sky a
robin’s-egg blue, I piled into the truck with
Paula, Pancho and a last-minute tagalong
guide, Bernardita, for a road trip—three
hours each way—to visit San Ignacio Miní.
I’m embarrassed to admit that I had never
heard of this unesco World Heritage site, one
of four remaining Guarani-Jesuit missions in
Argentina, located 250 kilometers south of the
falls. The journey sounded daunting, but I was
game for an adventure.
The ride was a straight shot down a rural
highway lined with dense forests of pine and
eucalyptus, with the occasional ibira pita
tree—recognizable by its gorgeous yellow
flowers—breaking up the sea of green. We
passed farms and fruit stands and listened to
an endless mix of Coldplay. By the time we
turned onto a small paved road, I was ready to
stretch my legs.
Nothing—certainly not my hasty Google
Images search—could have prepared me for
how magnificent San Ignacio Miní would be in
person. Massive stone walls towered in
orderly rows around a grand lawn that fronted
the remains of a red stone church, its
archways covered with elaborate Baroque
motifs. At its peak, in the early to mid 1700s,
the mission housed a handful of Jesuit priests
and more than 4,000 Guarani, who were
moved here, tribe by tribe, to live in stone
dwellings and made to sculpt, play music, and
study Catholicism. The Guarani—not the
priests—were responsible for the carvings.
After the Jesuits were expelled from Spain
and its territories in 1767, the mission was
abandoned and lost to time, the trees and
plants eventually covering it wall by wall. It
was restored in the 1940s and again in the
1990s. “Imagine this huge town in the middle
of the rain forest,” Paula said. But my brain
couldn’t fathom it. I suddenly was overcome
by a feeling of sadness, thinking of the
Guarani who were forced to move and adapt to
a foreign culture.
Though the journey to San Ignacio Miní
and back was long, I never found myself
minding, which is a testament to the
friendliness and intelligence of the Awasi
guides. All hail from Argentina, Chile or Brazil
and have diverse interests and specialties,
from geology and botany to photography.
Paula’s passion is ornithology, something that
became clear during the two days we spent
visiting Iguazú Falls.
The Awasi is just 20 minutes from the
park’s entrance, a surprisingly small-scale
affair. On our first outing, we hiked 2½
kilometers along the Green Trail and the
Lower Circuit, which consists of pathways
that wind through the rain forest and
eventually, closer to the falls, give way to a
series of suspended footbridges that afford
panoramic views. Paula spotted two chestnuteared aracaris, a type of toucan, hopping
between branches, while Pancho pointed out
TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM / JUNE 2018
103
cicada exoskeletons lined up in tidy rows along
the trunks of various trees. Families carrying
coolers and pushing strollers passed us,
oblivious to nature’s hidden details.
I was so focused on the forest that my first
glimpse of the Devil’s Throat—the U-shaped
gorge on the western end, which half of the
river thunders over—crept up on me. Then I
became just one of the horde, with nothing else
on my mind but taking in the spectacular
show. We quickened our pace, snaking over
the metal footbridges as the water grew louder
and the rainbows multiplied. Eventually, from
our viewpoint about midway between the river
and the top of the gorge, we could appreciate
the breadth of the cascades.
As the spray hit me at the Bossetti Falls, on
the opposite side of the Devil’s Throat, I stood
transfixed—with so many questions. What
was that emerald plant that stuck to the rocks?
Podostemon grass, Paula answered: it thrives
despite the pounding water. Why Bossetti? He
was an Italian explorer (first name Carlo). The
fact that I seemed to be the only person with a
private guide wasn’t lost on me. It felt
decadent, but otherwise I’d have been tapping
away for answers on my smartphone and
missing so much.
To get closer to the Devil’s Throat, we
waited until late in the afternoon of the
following day. The air was a humid brew, so we
opted for the train, a faster, easier way to get to
the 1,100-meter bridge that brings you to the
gorge. This walk, as opposed to the footbridges
of the Lower Circuit, took us above the Iguazú
River itself. The water was murky—
something I’d learned was due to the iron-rich
soil and extensive plant growth, not pollution.
Catfish swam below the bridges, side-necked
turtles sunbathed on rocks, and all appeared
calm, until we were about 50 meters from our
final destination.
Though you can get a pulled-back view of
Devil’s Throat from Brazil, its scale and power
are best appreciated in Argentina. The drop
point, from which the water begins to fall
some 85 meters, bisected a landscape of blue
sky and white water, the top half cloudless and
serene, the bottom a chaos of rapids and mist
with no end in sight. It’s amazing what the
force of 12,750 cubic meters per second can do.
This was hardly the guides’ first rodeo. I
asked Pancho whether he ever tired of coming
here. “No,” he replied. “The light, the crowds,
the atmosphere—it’s never the same.” I
believed him. As we walked away, I caught a
glimpse of a rainbow arcing over the Devil’s
Throat, its reds and yellows and greens
fractured by the mist.
104
JUNE 2018 / TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM
BRAZIL
PA R A G UAY
Iguazú
Falls
ARGENTINA
Buenos
Aires
YOUR GUIDE TO SEEING
IGUAZÚ FALLS
With the debut of the Awasi Iguazú, the Argentinean
side now has a luxe place to stay. Here’s all you
need to know about getting there and getting around.
GETTING THERE
The best way to reach
Iguazú Falls is to fly to
Buenos Aires, then take the
two-hour connecting flight
to Puerto Iguazú. I flew both
LATAM (latam.com) and
Andes Airlines (andes
online.com), a local lowcost carrier; Aerolíneas
Argentinas (aerolineas.
com.ar) also offers nonstop
service.
WHERE TO STAY
The Awasi Iguazú (awasi
iguazu.com; doubles from
US$1,000 per person, allinclusive) has 14 large villas.
Numerous excursions,
including visits to the falls,
are part of the price. The
Awasi guides will pick you
up in Puerto Iguazú.
If you want to stay in Brazil,
the Belmond Hotel das
Cataratas (belmond.com;
doubles from US$284) is
the best accommodation
near the falls.
CROSSING THE
BORDER
Many travelers try to see
Iguazú Falls from both
Brazil and Argentina. Each
side has its merits, though
Argentina’s network of
trails is longer, and 80
percent of the falls lie on its
side of the border. Keep in
mind that your visa
requirements might differ
between Argentina and
Brazil, so plan in advance
and check the immigration
laws for both countries
before you book.
WHAT TO PACK
December through
February is peak summer,
when temperatures can
climb to 32 degrees. Spring
and autumn offer milder
weather. No matter the
month, the humidity is ever
present. Bring a bathing suit
and flip-flops, in addition to
quick-drying clothing,
comfortable walking shoes,
and several hats. Be
prepared for your clothes to
get dirty, as the soil easily
stains.
BEFORE & AFTER
You’ll likely want to spend
time in Buenos Aires before
and/or after your visit.
The Four Seasons
(fourseasons.com; doubles
from US$605) has a great
location in Recoleta. The
rooms are spacious, but
you’re really there for the
outdoor pool, overlooking
the property’s garden and
Beaux-Arts mansion, and
for the lobby bar, which
embraces the polo
aesthetic (think plenty of
leather and wood) and
serves excellent wines by
the glass. — J.C.
LET’S
CONNECT
W W W.TR AVELANDLEISUREASIA.COM
TR AVELLEISUREASIA
@TR AVLEISUREASIA
@TR AVELANDLEISUREASIA
wish you were here
It just might be the strangest
tourist spot in Asia, given that
the DMZ, or 38th parallel
dividing the two Koreas, is
always at a heightened sense of security. In one of the small blue
houses that straddle the border, where representatives of the two
sides meet, this South Korean guard mans his post in what is
referred to as a modified Taekwando stance. All is quiet and
extremely serious along this invisible demarcation line that is
continually front-page news. — JAMES KOSTECK Y
106
JUNE 2018 / TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM
o
t
n
i
p
m
u
J paradise
We’ve found paradise. Above the crystal azure waters and soft yellow sands is a paradise that
welcomes with an enriching culture. From the moment you step foot on our marshmallow sands,
you’ll be greeted with a ni sa bula vinaka (warm hello). Explore the cultural structures that weave
tales of the historic civilisations. Embrace the relaxing sensation of a Yaqona (kava) ceremony or
mellow to the music of music, song and dance (Meke ceremony). Learn the art of woodcarving and
decorate a tapa made from the bark of mulberry trees. From our food, rituals, festivals and arts,
you’ll meet the Fiji behind the palms. Fiji – it’s where happiness finds you.
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