EnMo\ Xp to saYinJs on \oXr IooG EiOO at 7:* 7ea Zith \oXr American Expressn 3OatinXm &reGit &arG $WWKHIRUHIURQWRI7HD*DVWURQRP\7:*7HDLQFRUSRUDWHVDP\ULDGRIɁQHKDUYHVWWHDV DQGH[FOXVLYHWHDEOHQGVLQWRVZHHWDQGVDYRXU\UHFLSHVLQWURGXFLQJDZKROHQHZZRUOG RIVHQVDWLRQVDQGɂDYRXUVWRJRXUPDQGVDQGWHDORYHUVDW7:*7HD:LWKDOOGD\GLQLQJ DVZHOODVWUHQGVHWWLQJWHDEHYHUDJHVDQGFRFNWDLOVWHDLVZRYHQLQWRHYHU\DVSHFWRIWKH PHDOȅDQXQPLVWDNDEOHQXDQFHWKDWGHOLFLRXVO\HQKDQFHVHDFKGLVK Find out more at amex.co/lovedining Visit amex.co/platg or the American Express Booth at ION OrcharG B or ViYo&it\ to appO\ AOternatiYeO\ pOease caOO 6396 8838 Terms and Conditions: * Except for single diners, Card Members and their guests have to order a minimum of two main courses in order to enjoy the varying savings. TWG Tea savings are applicable during lunch, brunch and dinner service. Restaurant policy of minimum order of one (1) payable beverage per diner applies to enjoy the discount. For full Terms and Conditions of Love Dining, please refer to amex.co/lovediningrestaurantstnc. American Express International Inc., (UEN S68FC1878J) 20 (West) Pasir Panjang Road #08-00, Mapletree Business City, Singapore 117439. americanexpress.com.sg Incorporated with Limited Liability in the State of Delaware, U.S.A. Registered Trademark of American Express Company. © Copyright 2018 American Express Company. ® 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. DOWNLOAD US FOLLOW US KEEP UP WITH US T+ L TA BL E T EDI T ION S TWITTER.COM/ TRAVLEISUREASIA Sign up for our newsletter for monthly highlights and offers from T+L Southeast Asia. Available on iOS, Android, Win 8 and Zinio Desktop Reader. FACEBOOK.COM/ TRAVELLEISUREASIA PINTEREST.COM/ TRAVLEISUREASIA TANDL.ASIA/NEWSLETTER INSTAGRAM.COM/ TRAVELANDLEISUREASIA CONTACT US f 8 JUNE 2018 / TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM TLEDITOR@ MEDIATRANSASIA.COM travelandleisureasia.com 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. EXPERIENCE A NEW LEVEL OF LUXURY Centara Grand is the luxurious brand from Centara Hotels & Resorts, /# +- Ҋ ($) )/#$#*/ '"-*0+*Ȃ -$)"/# 0'/$(/ $)'030-$*0. escapes across Thailand and beyond. All boasting prime locations in the finest city or tropical beach destinations, the iconic Centara Grand hotels and resorts combine outstanding features and facilities with intuitive and personalised Thai service, to create extraordinary experiences and indelible memories for you. Centara Grand is the natural choice for a picture-perfect holiday. THAILAND · MALDIVES · OMAN · QATAR · SRI LANKA · VIETNAM BOOK DIRECT FOR OUR BEST PRICE PROMISE centarahotelsresorts.com email@example.com 02 101 1234 ext 1 1 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 ESCAPE IN BALI’S MOST VIBRANT NEIGHBOURHOOD Become a part of all that is now and escape to W Bali - Seminyak, a place where magic comes alive. 157 escapes & suites 72 villas 4 meeting rooms 4 dining options - FIRE, Starfish Bloo, Woobar, W Lounge 24 hour Away Spa and FIT fitness centre Jl. Petitenget, Seminyak, Bali 80361 +62 8361 4738 106 email@example.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. 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SUBSCRIPTIONS Enquiries: www.travelandleisuresea.com/subscribe ADVERTISING OFFICES General enquiries: email@example.com Singapore: 65/9029 0749; firstname.lastname@example.org Japan: Shinano Co., Ltd. 81-3/3584-6420; email@example.com Korea: YJP & Valued Media Co., Ltd. 82-2/3789-6888; firstname.lastname@example.org 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 / 46 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. 52 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. 56 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. 58 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, 60 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 email@example.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 subscribe now! Every month, more than 5 million people worldwide read Travel+Leisure, the world’s leading travel magazine. Travel+Leisure Southeast Asia is the most widely distributed international edition of the magazine, offering readers around the region a chance to experience the world. Timely and trusted advice on where to go now, need-to-know travel tips and service details we all need, and a bold new look are what sets the magazine apart today. It’s your indispensable guide to Southeast Asia and the world beyond, a must-read for today’s cosmopolitan and sophisticated traveler. To subscribe to either the print or digital edition, please visit www.TravelandLeisureSEA.com/subscriptions For more information e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact us at Circulation Department, Travel+Leisure Southeast Asia, Media Transasia (Thailand) Ltd., 14th Floor, Ocean Tower II, 75/8 Soi Sukhumvit 19, Klongtoey Nue, Wattana, Bangkok 10110, Thailand 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.” TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM / JUNE 2018 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 80 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.” 84 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. 86 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. TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM / JUNE 2018 89 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. 90 JUNE 2018 / TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM 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 TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM / JUNE 2018 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.) 94 JUNE 2018 / TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM 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. 96 JUNE 2018 / TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM 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 98 JUNE 2018 / TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM 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. 100 JUNE 2018 / TR AV EL ANDLEISURE ASIA .COM 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.