||Gourmet Traveller's team of travel writers are constantly on the road checking out the best hotels, restaurants and shops in the hottest destinations. This is where you can catch up with them while they're on location. You never know what travel secrets they'll be unveiling.
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Monday, 14 September, 2009, 12:52 AEST
Whether it's diving, seeking out a remote beach, or simply adding the Eden to hedonism, Amanikan - the luxury hotel group
's custom-built 32-metre cruiser - is the answer. Plying the waters around Indonesia, the Amanikan features just three cabins, beautifully fitted out in teak and rattan with antique brass fittings. The main lounge is built into the bow - perfect for sunbathing or even a night spent under the stars - while there is also a convivial bar next to the outdoor galley. Life on the ocean has rarely been so luxurious. - ED PETERS
Tuesday, 16 June, 2009, 11:25 AEST
LA's Kogi BBQ: Korean food to go
Anyone can follow LA's latest food craze on Twitter, but only those willing to drive out to suburbs like Buena Park and Santa Fe Springs can sample their innovative grub. Their tweets
are the only way to find Kogi BBQ
, two otherwise standard catering trucks that cruise the city's urban sprawl serving Korean barbeque on soft homemade corn tacos. So far, more than 30,000 foodies follow chef Roy Choi, who has cooked in far fancier kitchens including New York's Le Bernardin. In the current economy, these $2 tacos go quick, so when the trucks run out of ingredients, dinner is no longer served, often leaving many eager diners on line but out of luck. The four regular menu items - short ribs, pork, chicken and tangy tofu - get served on corn tortillas, garnished with shredded cabbage, scallions, soy sauce and sesame seeds. Line up early for more unusual specials like the kimchi quesadilla. - CYNTHIA ROSENFELD
Thursday, 4 June, 2009, 10:02 AEST
Unwind after a day at the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat at Nest Angkor
(Sivatha Boulevard; 855-63-966-381), Siem Reap's latest lounge/restaurant that looks and feels like a swanky private beach compound thanks to a bevy of round, canopied rattan daybeds set around a palm-shaded tropical garden. Open from 11am until the last guests head home, you can sunbathe here during the day and then cool off in the mist shower before hitting the dance floor where DJs spin sexy sounds under soaring white canvas sails. Connect to the world with free high-speed WiFi or strike up a conversation with fellow adventurers over a diverse menu of Meditteranean and Asian "tapas" - Lebanese hummus, authentic sushi rolls, spicy Thai salads - that can be enjoyed at one of the elegant candle-lit dining tables or reclining on the daybeds. - CYNTHIA ROSENFELD
Monday, 4 May, 2009, 13:23 AEST
Gaga for Dada
Hong Kong's craze for retro - and slightly funky bars - is revving up. Following hard on the heels of Salon de Ning, Dada Bar + Lounge
- inspired by the early 20th century Dadaist art group - is now packing them in at The Luxe Manor hotel. As well as three private rooms, which are themed according to their monikers of Heaven, Hell and Eden, Dada also includes an art gallery showcasing contemporary Italian artists as well as the Spanish Surrealist Salvador Dalí. - ED PETERS
Wednesday, 22 April, 2009, 09:49 AEST
Travel deals: Leading Euro sale
Tea at The Ritz? Sachertorte in Vienna? We may all be watching our wallets, but some of Europe’s most iconic hotels, resorts and spas just got a whole lot more affordable. From 1 May to 30 September, The Leading Hotels of the World
, which represents some of the most luxurious digs on earth, is offering 30 per cent off rack rates (breakfast included) at nearly 60 of the properties in its portfolio in destinations including London, Vienna, Biarritz, Prague, Budapest, Crete and Marbella. - EMMA VENTURA
Thursday, 5 March, 2009, 15:19 AEST
Shanghai has five-stars aplenty but until lately it’s been a bit short on boutique hotels: step forward the Langham Yangtze
, an intriguing essay in Art Deco with 96 rooms and suites smack in the heart of the one-time “Paris of the East”. Better still, there’s a Chuan spa, which includes a trio of residential suites, as well as the T’ang Court Cantonese restaurant whose sister establishment in Hong Kong was awarded two stars in the city’s first ever Michelin guide. - ED PETERS
Wednesday, 25 February, 2009, 10:11 AEST
Let's get clinical
Mind-boggling is perhaps an understatement when it comes to describing the MaloClinicSPA in Macau - in fact, deboggling minds is probably one of the few treatments that won't be available when it opens in the northern hemisphere summer. Set within the Venetian casino/hotel complex, and weighing in at 85,000 square feet, the spa will be the largest in the world, with six operating theatres and 58 treatment suites. And the utterly holistic menu encompasses preventative and curative dental and medical care, spa and beauty treatments, cosmetic anti-ageing, leisure and fitness, as well as life-long wellness. Talk about a one-stop spa shop. For more details call +853 2878 667. - ED PETERS
Monday, 19 January, 2009, 14:28 AEST
Maldives on a shoestring
The white-capped cerulean waters of South Male Atoll surround Kandooma
, a festive 160-room island resort with eco-friendly furniture made from pineapple and strands of vintage coral decorating the open-air bar. Guestrooms feature white-washed interiors that give the feel of the Maldives' pricier accommodations as do the oversized, plush towels and outdoor showers with deep soak Japanese-style baths. The location on the atoll's edge is ideal for surfers and divers - eighteen nearby dive sites include caves, a ship wreck and Manta Point, well known in the Maldives for its congregation of elusive rays. Balinese therapists provide world class kneads at the COMO Shambhala spa, another five star amenity at this family-style resort. Grilled seafood and other gourmet fare fill the menu waterside at The Kitchen but don't miss its panoramic rooftop lounge, ideal for sundowners and stargazing. (+960-644-0511) - CYNTHIA ROSENFELD
Monday, 5 January, 2009, 15:14 AEST
Fab in Krabi
Granting “bold” and “beautiful” their full emphasis, the Ritz-Carlton at Phulay Bay in Krabi, Thailand
opens next month, the first of the company’s new style “Reserves” in Asia. With just 54 villas, the theme is ultra-exclusive. Modern styling and traditional Thai design blend seamlessly throughout the property; a private room on the rooftop of the seafood grill adds an extra frisson to dining; and the duplex spa is housed in three pavilions and contains a dozen treatment rooms, each with a private decked terrace and super-sized bath for relaxation. - ED PETERS
Friday, 19 December, 2008, 08:56 AEST
Hot in the city
Invoking the lavish European lifestyle that flourished in 1920s Shanghai, the new Kee Club Shanghai
(pictured) has taken up residence in a 1921 building known as Twin Villas, filling the heritage building with lush, antique furniture and art. The original Kee Club, opened in 2001 in Hong Kong, still commands queues of stylishly frocked types nightly despite its official status as a private members only venue and buzz in China's financial capital bodes well for this second outpost to gather even bigger crowds for the Japanese-inspired tapas and extensive wine list, not to mention the models and globally recognizable faces. Back in Hong Kong, Shanghai memories are also the inspiration behind Salon de Ning
, opened earlier this month at the Peninsula Hotel. The sophisticated lounge fuses Art Deco with Chinese design influences to recreate the "Paris of the East" while playful signature cocktails with names like "Ning Sling" put a modern twist on the vibe. Fast forward to the futuristic in Singapore where the well known Supperclub
has made its first Asian beds. The famously casual affair invites guests to recline while dining on avant-garde dishes like lamb kebab with Japanese shiso followed by a lemongrass crème brulee, before heading onto the illuminated dance floor to groove to the latest techno beat. - CYNTHIA ROSENFELD
Wednesday, 10 December, 2008, 11:38 AEST
Luck of the draw
As an achievement, reaching the summit of Mount Everest or sailing single-handed around the world pales into insignificance compared with logging on to New York dining sensation Momofuku Ko's web-based reservation system
(pictured above as most people get to see it) and seeing the green tick that tells you there's a booking available.
Momofuku Ko has no phone number you can use to make a reservation and takes no walk-ins. At exactly 10am New York time each day, the seats for the date seven days away are released, and they can only be reserved online. A second or two later it's all over - the newly available seats have vanished.
It's meant to be the ultimate in egalitarian dining - no VIP lists, no miracle-working concierges - but it does favour computer savvy people with good internet connections. And, from Australia, there's virtually no chance of scoring a seat; you'll be logging on by the time the new bookings have disappeared, snapped up by all those New York trader types with high-speed internet connections and not much work to distract them.
But, there is a way. Surprisingly, even though bookings can only be made seven days in advance, there are often cancellations, and because you're charged $150 if you don't turn up, there's plenty of incentive to cancel if you can't make it. The secret seems to be to forget the 10am frenzy and check the reservation page regularly for cancellations.
We tried that approach, with just a few peeks a day, and during a week of checking saw three bookings materialise from nowhere. Two were for dates before we got to New York, but the last one magically appeared just when we wanted it. There's such a sense of elation in getting the booking that you feel like broadcasting your success to the world.
Is it worth the fuss? Definitely if you like eating exciting, surprising food in a casual atmosphere. Ko is an unassuming bar with 12 backless but comfortable stools arranged along two sides. Three chefs work behind the bar, each cooking for four people. Most of the final preparation and cooking takes place right in front of you and it's all very up close and personal with plenty of opportunities to ask questions. There's a set menu of small dishes ($100 a head for dinner, $160 for lunch) and you can either order wine and/or sake from a wine list or let the restaurant do the matching for you (a wise idea given you don't know what you'll be eating). We chose the pairings, which were excellent, spoilt only by glasses that could have been a touch finer to do justice to the wines.
We ate something like 14 dishes and the timing was absolutely faultless; long enough between dishes to let the memory of one fade before the next arrived, but not long enough for your brain to work out you've already eaten more than you probably should. Dishes defy any simple categorising. The whole experience is Asian influenced, but only to a point - any combination is up for grabs and you have to trust they'll pull it off.
They did for us. Highlights included poached smoked egg with fingerling potato chips, onion soubise and caviar; roasted monkfish with ethereal sea urchin roe; and tender beef cheeks paired with hen of the woods and cauliflower mushrooms, thin shreds of cippolini onions and a paste made from pickled and charred jalapeño chillies.
We were even blown away by the much-hyped grated frozen foie gras, served over Riesling gelée and hazelnut brittle, which as it melts in your mouth into something approaching a familiar texture is sublimely richer than should be possible. Matched with Angerhof Tschida Sämling Beerenauslese 2006, it was in memorable dishes territory. We left after two hours, feeling totally buoyed by the whole experience - a sure sign of a great night out.
So, if you have an ounce of patience and think you can battle it out for a booking, try to get there.
Some hints that might help you get a booking:
* Practice the booking process first - the time to work out what you have to do isn't when you're doing it for real - even to the extent of remembering the direction to move your mouse (it sounds extreme, but every nanosecond helps).
* Use as many shortcuts as you can e.g. set up your browser to remember your password so you don't have to type it.
* If you miss out initially (you probably will), check back regularly for cancellations during the week before you want to go.
Failing all that, forget about Ko (which unfortunately means you'll miss a great meal) and try one (or all) of David Chan's other Momofuku
restaurants. None of them take bookings - so you have to be willing to queue, which is infinitely simpler than battling it out via a web browser.
163 1st Ave, New York. - SUE DYSON AND ROGER MCSHANE
Friday, 5 December, 2008, 14:21 AEST
Cold War thrillers
Celebrating the design heritage of the Cold War seems counter-intuitive on a couple of levels. For a start, it has long been axiomatic, and not without reason, that much of what was built by the Eastern Bloc during that period was rubbish: apartment blocks apparently constructed from porridge, cars made from mulched turnip peel, clothes useful largely as benchmarks for the concept of 'unfashionable'. There is, also, the consideration that the output of the Soviet Union and its largely reluctant satellites was the produce of an ideology which, for much of the 20th century, turned half of Europe into a prison camp.
However, the Victoria & Albert Museum's 'Cold War Modern: Design 1945-70'
, running until January 11th, transcends such concerns. The exhibition frames communist design at all points, genius to hubris, in the context of the wider struggle with the West, whose efforts to trump Moscow are also represented. So, the East German P70 coupe, a two-door forerunner of the Trabant, is answered by Messerschmitt's Kabinenenroller, the absurd bubble-car which the West German company built after being banned from making military vehicles. Designs for vast Soviet apartment complexes are answered by a model of Le Corbusier's Unite De Habitation tower block. Socialist Realist posters are echoed by the work of Gerhard Richter, self-styled founder of the 'Capitalist Realism' school.
The exhibition also contains some curiosities worth the visit on their own: the sign which once crested Checkpoint Charlie, the famous Berlin Wall crossing point; a selection of ceramics presented by Pablo Picasso to the National Museum of Poland in 1948; a flight suit worn by Neil Armstrong.
Your correspondent's favourite, though, were works by Ukrainian photographer Boris Mikhailov, whose wryly subversive portraits of Soviet parades twinkle with the knowledge that the best way to mock such nonsense is to simply depict it as it is. - ANDREW MUELLER
Tuesday, 11 November, 2008, 15:37 AEST
The hidden city steps out
The 2008 Beijing Olympics are over – and now it’s time to rewind (or maybe fast forward) to 1949. A former factory in Sanlitun, “1949 – The Hidden City” has been retooled to become a hip dining and entertainment venue, with gardens, arts spaces, a private members’ club, crisp restaurants like Duck de Chine (serving Beijing duck, of course) and the capital’s first ever Bollinger champagne bar. At Courtyard 4, Gong Ti Bei Lu, Chaoyang District, 86 10 6501 1949. - ED PETERS
Friday, 31 October, 2008, 09:28 AEST
To step into the St George Art Gallery
on Taitu Street in Addis Ababa is to feel that you've not so much enterered a shop as a portal to another world.
Housed in a refurbished Italian-style villa, St George is everything the Ethiopian capital isn't: clean, cool, orderly, calming. Founded in 1990, it is both a source of reliable antiques - valuable in a city whose other dealers will offer you, with straight faces, 'genuine' 16th century Amharic bibles, or Haile Selassie's 'actual' pith helmet - and as a showcase for the designs of Saba Alene, one of the sisters who runs the gallery. Some of St George's stock is not for sale: a 16th-century wood-bound bible, a vast circular coffee table hewn from a single tree trunk ('There are no trees like that anymore,' explains Selamait Alene, the other sister-proprietor).
What is available for purchase is uniformly exquisite, whether new (Saba Alene's stunning furniture, cushion covers made by St George's in-house workshop, biblical paintings in the traditional cartoonish style) or old (crucifix pendants, made from melted-down Maria Theresa Thalers, the Austrian currency that circulated in Ethiopia in the 19th century). The prices are not ridiculous: even one of Saba Alene's formidable cabinets goes for 23,000 Ethiopian birr (A$3,758, excluding shipping), and your correspondent leaves with a gorgeous painting of King David, in vegetable dyes on goatskin, for 990 birr (A$162).
Most of St George's customers are visitors, explains Alene, and many of those from the (in this context) hilariously palatial Sheraton Hotel up the street: the visitors' book contains, among others, the signatures of Calvin Klein, Coco Chanel and Bill Clinton. - ANDREW MUELLER
Friday, 24 October, 2008, 11:19 AEST
Party like it's 1933?
Take a former abattoir, a disused art deco power plant, and a bunch of related factory buildings, give it a dash of Shanghai's legendary entrepreneurial imagination, and the result is 1933
. This striking collection of early 20th century industrial architecture in historic Hongkou district is being rapidly transformed into a creative hub divided into design, lifestyle and learning sections. The end result, which is due to be fully open soon, will be a cosmopolitan collection of design and creative offices, retail, restaurants, bars and clubs, artists' guilds, galleries, learning spaces and educational institutions. - ED PETERS
Wednesday, 15 October, 2008, 13:59 AEST
Mongolia in style
There's a slightly outlandish feel to the newly-opened Terelj Hotel
- and that's not just because it's a former Soviet resort some 50km north of Ulan Bator, the capital of Mongolia. In a country still roamed by nomads who live in yurts, the palatial Terelj is an astounding contrast, with 52 suites, a spa, and seven restaurants and lounges. And to prove that the hotel hasn't entirely lost touch with its roots (Chinggis Khan was born nearby) guests can take a camel or horse onto the steppes and try their hands at archery. - ED PETERS
Thursday, 2 October, 2008, 09:48 AEST
Discerning Los Angelenos know better than to satisfy their sugar cravings with Krispy Kreme. Pampered palates such as Nicky Hilton's and Arnold Schwarzenegger's get their frosted fill at Frittelli's (350 North Canon Drive #6, Beverly Hills, +1 310 276 1408, frittelli.com
) a swanky European-style bakery in Beverly Hills purveying designer donuts. Much ado is made of the nutritional nuance that all the exotic variations on this quintessentially American treat here are trans-fat-free. Traditionalists like California's governor go for the fritters in seasonal flavors like pear and banana as well as the classic green apple. Adventurous indulgers should consider the moist red velvet, decadent Callebaut chocolate with Boston crème filling or Pina Colada glazed for some south of the border excitement. Skinny starlets start their day with a double dose of caffeine thanks to mocha and vanilla latte cake donuts prepared with Frittelli's own bespoke espresso roast and a cup of the addictive brew, while others swear by the pastry chef's sticky sweet take on an American classic: peanut butter and raspberry jam filled. - CYNTHIA ROSENFELD
Monday, 15 September, 2008, 10:29 AEST
Long table, Thai treat
Think Thai communal dining — then think again. Long Table
is adding spice to Bangkok's dining scene, with up to 60 patrons at a time going elbow to elbow at the restaurant's namesake, a 24-metre solid teak centrepiece, while surrounding video screens erupt with non-stop visual entertainment. Conceived by the same team that came up with Bed Supper Club, Long Table also features a number of smaller booths where diners can feast on authentic Thai food presented with a creative twist. A buzzing bar and city skyline panorama complete the scene at the capital's chicest new eatery. - ED PETERS
Wednesday, 10 September, 2008, 09:28 AEST
Hot foot it
They look good enough to eat, they fit like a glove, and the Cataribbon, Tiburon and Isabelle espadrilles are the latest, coolest, must-have holiday souvenir. Designer Christian Louboutin was inspired to conjure up the limited-edition collection – comprising mules, wedges and flats – while staying at the One&Only Reethi Rah resort in the Maldives, and the espadrilles are sold exclusively in the group's boutiques
, and at Louboutin stores in London and New York. Prices for the chic, colourful, comfortable espadrilles start at US$375 per pair. – ED PETERS
Monday, 1 September, 2008, 11:47 AEST
Stroll down any Bangkok street and you come across food stalls in every available space. It all looks and tastes absolutely delicious but, even so, what you see on the streets generally doesn't measure up to the treasures of the Aw Taw Kaw (aka Or Tor Kor) fruit, vegetable, meat and seafood market.
Like just about everywhere else in Bangkok, Aw Taw Kaw market has plenty of prepared food as well as the fresh produce. Some of the prepared dishes — such as containers filled with a mixture of tiny taro, vegetable and bamboo-filled dumplings — can be easily bought and eaten there and then. You can also devour fermented sausages, roasted pork belly, and delicious strips of crispy pig ears that come with a light chilli dipping sauce (make sure you're well-armed with hand wipes). You could probably even manage some hor mok if you think to take a spoon with you, but many dishes are designed to be taken away and eaten later — there are whole feasts just waiting to be transported to people's homes. Even if you don't have a kitchen to go back to, there's more than enough to learn by just absorbing the aromas, ingredients and textures.
The market has a reputation for excellence and after a stroll through its many stalls, and a few samples, it's clear that the quality is extraordinary — the tiny dumplings are more delicate and more expertly crafted, the grilled chicken more succulent, and the durian unbelievably creamy and rich, than any we've ever eaten.
One of the things we like best about visiting Aw Taw Kaw is that it acts as a benchmark for the rest of your Bangkok street food adventures. It should be a must visit if you're trying to learn more about Thai food and you should allow at least half a day to fully explore it. You can reach it easily on the MRT, Bangkok's relatively new, shiny underground rail system. Get out at Kamphaeng Phet station, which is a good 30 minutes from central Bangkok, and take Exit 3. You come out right at the edge of the market. (At the MRT station, the sign says MOF Market, an indication that the full name of this market is the Marketing Organisation for Farmers market.)
At the rear of the market, there are also some food stalls and some tables and chairs, so a good plan is to make this a morning visit and have lunch at the food stalls, where you can feast on various types of noodle soup, spicy issan food, and roast duck. There are also plenty of interesting drinks too (including a surprisingly refreshing one made from fresh corn), sugarcane juice pressed while you wait, and all sorts of fruit juices. However, there are virtually no signs in English so, if you don't speak Thai you'll either need to rely on the pointing method for ordering or, better still, get some help from your hotel and organise for a guide to accompany you. - SUE DYSON AND ROGER MCSHANE
Wednesday, 20 August, 2008, 09:50 AEST
Time to retreat
Seclusion is the key at this new Phuket hideaway...
The winds of change are blowing through Patong, long famed as the epicentre of Phuket's wilder goings-on after hours. Down an otherwise anonymous soi, a few minutes' stroll from the beach, BYD Lofts
is home to 19 smart, minimalist one- and two-bedroomed suites, each with a fitted kitchen and floor-to-ceiling windows. The pool (perched on the roof) and a cool spa make this perfect for anyone staying for a week or more and who wants to be in the centre of the action, while Jean-Pierre, the street-side restaurant, has a neat selection of indoor and outdoor seating. - Ed Peters
Tuesday, 12 August, 2008, 08:15 AEST
Hong Kong's cupcake craze
Chinese desserts, with their red bean paste and other nuanced delicacies, are not for every palate. These days, cupcake cafes are popping up around Hong Kong, appealing to anyone who likes something sweet while hopping from shop to shop. Around the corner from Shanghai Tang, the just opened Cake-a-Licious (11 Lyndhurst Terrace, Lower Ground Floor, Central, Hong Kong; 852-2815-2218) beckons sweet teeth underground where a tiny display case proffers sprinkle and iced flower-covered treats in classic chocolate and vanilla as well as lemon, the owner's own favorite. Those who want to linger through their sugar high can settle in at Sift (46 Graham Street, SoHo, Hong Kong 852-2530-4288) a sexy, low lit dessert bar owned by a New York trained pastry chef who understands that nothing lures in the prettiest girls like fluffy red velvet cupcakes. - CYNTHIA ROSENFELD
Friday, 18 July, 2008, 14:06 AEST
Meatpacking them in
New Yorkers tend towards loyalty to their neighborhood restaurants, so when chef Scott Conant opened Scarpetta
in the thriving Meatpacking District, he risked losing a considerable battalion of the Upper East Side types already familiar with his signature dishes — including creamy polenta with fricassee of truffled mushrooms — from previous stints at L'Impero and Alto. But he needn't worry, his die-hard fans, and some curious downtown types, have been flocking to the rustic chic raw wood and exposed brick dining room with a stunning retractable glass roof. Another good sign: most who come are acting out the restaurant's name, derived from the Italian fare la scarpetta,
meaning to wipe the plate clean with a hunk of bread. Start with the raw yellowtail topped with pickled onions and fine baby watercress and leave room for Conant's homemade spaghetti which the Italian-American with roots north of Naples claims is "made with alotta love". (+1 212 691 0555; 355 W 14th Street) - CYNTHIA ROSENFELD
Wednesday, 9 July, 2008, 13:28 AEST
It's a G thing
New hotels in Beijing are getting into the starting blocks with the alacrity of sprinters at the start of the 100 metres. The latest contender in the Olympic capital is the 110-room Hotel G
. It's a startlingly innovative boutique, with a 1960s retro design theme, a restaurant serving Mediterranean cuisine with a Tibetan twist, a fifth-floor garden retreat with outdoor Jacuzzis, and staff uniforms styled by the celebrated Han Feng. In case you're still wondering what you're in for, G's Chinese name is Ji Zhan, which translates as "ultra luxury". - ED PETERS
Friday, 4 July, 2008, 14:37 AEST
Thailand's royal treatment
Get pampered in Phuket...
What could possibly be better than a four-handed massage? Try a six-hander. Fit for a prince, princess, or indeed any pretender to the throne, the Royal is the latest in pampering at Trisara
, the most palatial resort on Phuket. Starting with a lemongrass foot scrub, and progressing via a combination of Thai and Swedish body massage to the final coconut oil scalp and shoulder rub, ninety minutes flies by. The verdict? A sound investment of 15,000 baht (A$505). - ED PETERS
Tuesday, 1 July, 2008, 16:58 AEST
Relaxation gets a new name in Malaysia...
In Malaysia's ancient port of call to Malay, Chinese, Arab, Indian, Portuguese, Dutch and British seafaring traders, the Majestic Malacca
welcomes modern day travelers with a charming old-fashioned carved wood bar, long arm planter's chairs and original floral floor tiles inside the colonial mansion turned hotel. Four poster beds and clawed bathtubs extend the historic vibe into 54 otherwise modern guestrooms, some with Malacca River views. The helpful hotel staff even learns overnight guests' names and can organize historic walks that take in Malacca's quirky architectural highlights like the 17th century Dutch Stadhuys, or town hall, painted cherry red by the British in 1911. Return to the inn for exceptional spa treatments that commence with a hair wash and therapeutic scalp massage inspired by this region's 12-day bridal ritual. - CYNTHIA ROSENFELD
Tuesday, 24 June, 2008, 13:42 AEST
Cheese lover's heaven
Cheese enthusiasts will thrill to the queso selection at the swanky new Palacio Duhau Park Hyatt in Buenos Aires. An artisanal cheese room, just off the 7000 bottle-strong vinoteca, is the first of its kind in the country, offering 40 varieties of cow, sheep and goat vintages, all from Argentina. The room even has its own Maître Fromager, Mercedes Silva Rodriguez, to oversee wine and cheese tastings at the marble-topped bar.
Avenida Alvear 1661; +54 11 5171 1510; buenosaires.park.hyatt.com
- EMMA SLOLEY
Friday, 20 June, 2008, 13:45 AEST
Foie gras crème brulee and grilled lobster are only two of the savory bites on display during the St Regis Singapore's Sunday brunch at Les Saveurs, an elaborate affair that's quickly eclipsing the local competition. Make space for the extensive selection of imported hams, prosciuttos and chorizos, copious bowls filled with organic greens and an aromatic cheese selection, then elbow your way in with the wide-eyed children (of all ages, actually) who gather around the pastry chef's soufflé baking table. On all other days, satisfy the palate with divine dim sum at Yan Ting, the in-house Cantonese eatery, or head back to the lobby-level French for exquisite afternoon tea featuring Dammann Freres leaves and Asia's best Madeleine. At any hour, room service will deliver a to-die-for Wagyu beef burger with sublime French fries. (+65-6506-6888; stregis.com
) - CYNTHIA ROSENFELD
Friday, 13 June, 2008, 12:39 AEST
Sax in the City
A musical interlude in Hong Kong Harbour...
Call it Sax in the City, call it HK2O Jazz - from now until the end of June Hong Kong's smartest traditional junk, aqua luna
, will be plying the waters of Victoria Harbour every evening with hip local saxophonist Wing Chu adding the sound of surprise to the amazing vistas of the neon-lit, skyscraper-filled skyline. Plus passengers lolling on the upper deck's sofas and cushions can indulge themselves with unlimited drinks and canapés during the two-hour voyage, which is priced at HK$488 (A$67). Call +852 2116 8821 or email email@example.com
for reservations. - ED PETERS
Thursday, 5 June, 2008, 10:08 AEST
Imagine all the rooms
A Beatles-themed hotel welcomes the world in Liverpool...
"Hard Days Night
" might not seem an obvious choice for a hotel name - but when it's in Liverpool, the Beatles connection is one worth milking. Recast from a Victorian office building at the heart of the city's former commercial hub - read 'good bones' - the 110-room four-star opened its doors in February, with an ambiance that says 'Love Me Do' to any Beatlemaniac. Statues of the fab four decorate the entrance, there's a throbbing Yellow Submarine jukebox in the lobby and Beatles hits run non-stop over the hotel's sound system. Rooms are big and spunky, a portrait of one of the boys hangs over your bed and the lighting controls are some of the best ever for your fussy correspondent. Another plus - it's just around the corner from The Cavern, a regular gig for the mop top lads, and now a venue for Beatles cover bands. - MICHAEL GEBICKI
(PHOTO: Ellie Laycock)
Wednesday, 28 May, 2008, 21:30 AEST
Styling in Sri Lanka
Two new resorts raise the bar for luxury on the island nation...
The ornate 1929 building known as Tintagel
(94-11-460-2060; A$210-$365) was home to Sri Lanka's ruling Bandaranaike family for five decades before the island's style maven Shanth Fernando took possession, turning the grand dame into Colombo's most eclectic new boutique hotel. Throughout the ten roomy suites, the founder of Paradise Road, this city's must-stop shop for global nomads, mixes the brand's signature earthy textiles and dreamy Ploh
bed linens with one-of-a-kind souvenirs from his own wanderings, like the bar's exquisite mirror that once graced the interior of a French chateau. A proud supporter of his country's artistic achievements, Shanth gives prime wallspace to artists associated with his native land, like Lionel Wendt's tender photographs and Saskia Pringiers' subdued yet provocative paintings .
Far less decorative but no less memorable, Alankuda Beach
(94-602-324-855; A$265, all-inclusive) adds an Indian Oceanfront alternative to upcountry Ulpotha, Sri Lanka's renowned Ayurvedic and yoga retreat set in organic rice terraces outside Kandy. This beach chic sibling offers marine adventures such as dolphin watching, wind surfing, sailing and snorkeling in pristine waters three hours north of Colombo. Four traditional wattle and daub cabanas plus two double-roomed cottages, all outfitted with Indian cotton linens are scattered across the powdery spit of sand for maximum privacy. An open air restaurant overlooks the Indian Ocean but most guests gravitate to the beach bar for sunset and impromptu late night parties. A 40-meter pool adds pizzazz to this otherwise laid-back environment that's especially pleasant during the months of November to April. - CYNTHIA ROSENFELD
Thursday, 22 May, 2008, 09:07 AEST
Chi raising experience
Fiji gets it's first residential spa...
A first for Fiji, Shangri-La's Fijian Resort & Spa, Yanuca's
ten brand new ocean-side bures are the only residential spa accommodation on the islands. On top of luxury add-ons like buggies and butlers, tradition plays an important part in this stand-alone spa village; the bures are built from kesi wood, which is used for traditional canoes and kava bowls, and one third of the spa menu is made up of age-old Fijian remedies. Top treatment is the Bobo - a firm coconut oil massage followed by a warm poultice of medicinal herbs such as makita and macou. - ED PETERS
Monday, 19 May, 2008, 10:20 AEST
North African detour
Shopping in Rabat, Morocco...
Marrakech and Fez might get all the press, but Morocco's capital city, Rabat, is well worth a detour, especially for its beguiling souk, or marketplace (which also has the virtue of being less overwhelmingly chaotic than some other Moroccan cities). If you'd rather bypass the haggling and claustrophobia altogether, check out the charming boutique at the entrance of the Rue des Consuls souk called Khalik Lili. French proprietor Christine Podgorny stocks beaded slippers, embellished straw bags, African wooden masks, scented candles and jewelry incorporating the "Hand of Fatima", a traditional symbol to ward off evil. She also carries a range of essential oils called L'Orientaliste, and everything in store is made in Morocco.
17 Place des Oudayas, Rabat; +212 (0) 1372 9642 - EMMA SLOLEY
Monday, 12 May, 2008, 13:52 AEST
The room service menu at the new 60 room beachfront Anantara Seminyak
offers more than fresh salads, authentic Thai dishes and the usual comfort food - guests can actually buy a guestroom. Those who love a black sand beach, who surf, or love the Bali nightlife, couldn't ask for a better dessert than this novel investment, but those simply seeking the isle's hottest nightlife can zoom to the rooftop S.O.S. bar where sublime sunsets are best enjoyed on the plush sea-facing beds. One of Bali's better wine and spirits lists is augmented by fabulous finger food, especially the delectable squid, lamb and sirloin skewers delivered on funky grills shaped like sea urchins. Generous guestrooms encourage revellers to check in and groove to these sleek spaces with indoor and outdoor baths, cushy platform beds and endearing turndown treats. - CYNTHIA ROSENFELD
Monday, 5 May, 2008, 11:14 AEST
The Paris revolt hits London
It is a fair assertion that one reason for the continued scrutiny of the events that took place in Paris in May 1968 is a general bewilderment, 40 years on, as to what the much-celebrated student revolt was actually about.
An excellent — and free — exhibition running until 1 June at London's Hayward Gallery
does well to avoid analysis, and instead focuses on the art created amid the flying cobblestones and clouds of tear gas. The spare, stark nature of these screen prints was a necessity of the chaos and haste that attended their manufacture, but it has lent a haunting potency to the retrospectively quaint naivete of their politics. The period is evoked further with a Magnum Photos montage of Bruno Barbey's photographs, set to the music of the period — Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, Thunderclap Newman — and the legacy is illustrated with some more modern artefacts which owe their existence to the student revolt. The pick of the show is a 1980s boardgame set in and around the Sorbonne in May 1968: appropriately inflammatory counters are stacked in a corner labelled 'Reserve de cocktails Molotov'. - ANDREW MUELLER
Tuesday, 29 April, 2008, 09:08 AEST
Pashmina shmashmina - the latest in threads is shokay, hand-combed Tibetan yak down that spells stylish sustainable development.
As soft and warm as cashmere, shokay throws, scarves and other items such as slumber party slippers and cushions - plus a range of baby items - are being marketed by Harvard graduates Marie So and Carol Chyau, as part of a project (www.venturesindev.org
) to help China's rural poor. A portion of the profits are returned to the yak herders to assist with health and education development. As a supplementary scheme, they're also developing yak cheese - Geza Gold - a robust complement to salads and pastas. - ED PETERS
Wednesday, 23 April, 2008, 15:08 AEST
Hot in the Maldives
The island country's newest resorts come out to play...
Six tents grace Banyan Tree Madivaru's sun kissed Maldivian shores but this is no camping trip. Each of the ultra-deluxe canvas clad suites comes with a personal butler, who delivers delectably healthy meals and arranges scuba and snorkeling plus a sunset Champagne cruise aboard Madi, the stunning Turkish Gullet, that's included in the package price. Take advantage of Banyan Tree's rightly famous spa treatments without the crowds, especially the Thai honey facial and lime yoghurt body scrub (960-666-0760; banyantree.com
; doubles A$4,100- $5,300).
Meanwhile, bragging rights belong to those who make their way to the Maldives' northernmost tongue-twisting Ihavandhippolhu Atoll where The Beach House Manafaru hides some of its 68 guestrooms on the sandy fringe of a wild palm and pandanus jungle and plants others grandly above a pristine lagoon best described as "swimming-pool blue". An acrobatic trampoline and the Maldives' only 18-hole golf simulator are among the unexpected amenities here, along with a traditional sand massage rarely found among the atolls' sybaritic spas. (960-650-0400; beachhousecollection.com
; doubles A$740- $1,350) - CYNTHIA ROSENFELD
Wednesday, 16 April, 2008, 08:29 AEST
One for the chocoholics
It's not too early to start dieting - or should that be drooling?
The newest jewel on Phuket, The Yamu
, is a while away from opening, but it's already the centre of a vortex of excitement. Legendary architects Jean-Michel Gathy and Philippe Starck have included a Chocolate Room, fashioned out of black glass and lit by chandeliers. Intended as a place of pilgrimage for chocoholics from around the world, owner Adrian Zecha reckons chocolate is "the new wine, the new cheese, the new cigar". Other yummy Yamu stuff includes 63 suites, a 100-metre pool, and a recording studio and artists' gallery. - ED PETERS
Wednesday, 9 April, 2008, 08:35 AEST
Japan in Phuket
Trust Amanresorts' founder Adrian Zecha to reel in only the tastiest catch to his iconic Amanpuri resort along Phuket's Pansea Beach...
At Naoki, Kyoto based celebrity chef Naoki Okumura presides over an al fresco 26-seat outpost of his French influenced Japanese cuisine first made famous at Okumura in Kyoto's historic Gion district. Borderless culinary combinations like the chawanmushi, a foie gras and steamed okra custard with Japanese okura leaf are delivered in judicious portions to make way for the ishiyaki hot stone grill of lobster and mushrooms and houba yaki, a charcoal grilled duck or beef with roasted pumpkin and crisp magnolia leaf. Succulent sashimi arrives fresh from the Tokyo fish market and the irreverent rice burger with chicken teriyaki is appropriately served with tomatoes, lettuce and, of course, mayonnaise. (amanresorts.com
; 66-76-324-100)- CYNTHIA ROSENFELD
Friday, 4 April, 2008, 09:18 AEST
The Peninsula Hong Kong steps back in time
They're not so much beginning the Beguine, as playing it all over again at The Peninsula in Hong Kong
. To celebrate the hotel's 80th anniversary, on the first Sunday of every month the lobby (quick) steps back to 1928, with staff in period uniform, strolling "cigarette girls" selling chocolate cigars, and the strains of the live band's dance music wafting up to its grandiose ceiling. Dress code is strictly Sunday best. Those blessed with two left feet can simply devote themselves to the deluxe afternoon tea, which tastes all the better for being washed down with Champagne. - ED PETERS
Tuesday, 1 April, 2008, 10:10 AEST
An open air rooftop lounge with cushy daybeds, padded hammocks and manicured lawns...
Nest has landed atop Le Fenix hotel near Bangkok's most established late night haunts: Q Bar and Bed Supperclub. All day dining, unobstructed sunsets and chill tunes playing late into the night have been attracting casual backpackers as well as Bangkok's flashier pack. The extensive drinks menu reflects a penchant for forgotten classics like a taste of the 1860s called The Martinez with gin, Campari, Dubbonet Rouge and maraschino liqueur as well as a selection of fresh fruit juices that rivals the top resorts on Thailand's tropical shores. Tapas range from local favorites like pandanus wrapped chicken to succulent Japanese gyoza and a lip smacking Lebanese hummus wrap. (662-255-0638; www.nestbangkok.com
)- CYNTHIA ROSENFELD
Friday, 28 March, 2008, 15:29 AEST
Hong Kong has malls like other cities have bus stops...
New star Elements (www.elementshk.com
) - next to the 490-metre International Commerce Centre in Kowloon - is not only chock-a-block with designer labels, but is the first to fully embrace al fresco dining, with seven restos around a roof-top plaza. Called Civic Square, it's a gourmet global village with a particular enthusiasm for fusion. The Arabic Malouf's is cheffed by an Australian, Diamond combines Italian and Japanese, and the tapas at El Pomposo include pork, sage and apple wontons. Megu (contemporary Japanese), Joia (strictly Italian), Finds (for Finnish, Icelandic, Norwegian, Danish, Scandinavian), and surf 'n turf Stormies complete the line-up. - ED PETERS
Monday, 24 March, 2008, 21:33 AEST
Darjeeling to a tee...
Surveying the Indian hill station of Darjeeling from its flowery hillside, Windamere
was once a chummery, a boarding house for the colonial chaps sent out as tea plantation managers. Today, it’s a hotel full of enchanting eccentricities. Photographs, memorabilia and testimonials from previous guests including Lady Diana Cooper, Jan Morris and Jawaharlal Nehru line the walls, the traditions of afternoon tea are scrupulously observed and the breakfast marmalade comes from the kitchens of the Queen Mother of Bhutan. Presiding over this Edwardian relic is Mr Tenduf, an Anglophile Tibetan whose family has owned and operated Windamere since the 1930s, a man of impeccable style and manners who could charm the hair off a yak. Ask for a room with a wake-up view of Kanchanjunga, the world’s third tallest mountain. - MICHAEL GEBICKI
Thursday, 20 March, 2008, 08:40 AEST
Go go hotel gadgets
What will they think of next?
Hotels around the world are pulling out all the stops to furnish guests with the last word in groovy gadgets and add-ons. No time to let your nails dry? Run them under the desk-mounted electric dryer in the dressing room at the Peninsula Tokyo
. The follicle-challenged can rejoice at the bedside toupee mount provided in the Reading and Manchester Malmaisons
in Great Britain. And guests in the Krungthep Wing of the Bangkok Shangri-La
can reminisce about their stay by adding their thoughts to the Memory Book or simply read between the lines of previous entries! - ED PETERS
Monday, 17 March, 2008, 09:49 AEST
Coping with driving hazards in icy Colorado...
On an icy road, your passenger urges you to slide the vehicle out of control through a hairpin turn. "Now steer in the other direction and keep your foot OFF the brake," says driving instructor Kurt Spitzner. The tyres grip and the steering corrects itself as the car heads safely along the exit route. "Excellent. Now you're learning control."
Control is the objective at the Bridgestone Winter Driving School
in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The only facility of its type in the US, the 25-year-old school has a fleet of 20 Toyota vehicles, from sedans to 4WD trucks, in which customers learn the technical aspects of driving on ice and snow (primarily to understand oversteering, understeering and braking). About 80 per cent of participants are corporate clients (fleet drivers sent by their employers), but there are also many international visitors building a one or two day course into their skiing holiday, from teenagers with learner's permits to an 82-year-old grandmother from Korea. While the three undulating tracks are groomed each night, the surface is always slick and threatening. "They're designed to be diabolical," says Kurt with a twisted grin, "otherwise you don't learn." - DAVID SLY
Wednesday, 12 March, 2008, 08:16 AEST
The newest luxury hits the streets of Beijing.
Even Amanjunkies will be impressed by the personal service delivered with genuine smiles at Beijing's new 14 room Côté Cour SL. This Ming Dynasty courtyard house turned chic 21st century inn boasts flat screen televisions and WiFi, plus powerful heaters and air conditioners to keep antique-filled rooms comfortable year round. An imposing red lacquer door leads to the homey lounge and rooftop deck ideal for summer sundowners. Walk off the chef's delicious dumplings by heading to Tiananmen Square, a lively thirty minute meander from 'home'. (86-10-6512-8020; www.hotelcotecoursl.com
) - CYNTHIA ROSENFELD
Wednesday, 5 March, 2008, 12:19 AEST
Two times one in Asia
Talk about going solo! When it comes to #1, there's The One Hotel
in Siem Reap, Cambodia, and Hotel One
in Suzhou, China. Both are remarkably singular. The Cambodian property has just one exceptionally swish suite, though the ground floor gallery café is a Mecca for the town's chic set if guests are looking for some action. And the Suzhou hotel is the city's first proper five-star boutique, notable for its restaurant with Indian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai and Western show kitchens, with guest chefs flying in from around the globe every other month. - ED PETERS
Tuesday, 26 February, 2008, 08:16 AEST
This lovely city sometimes gets lost in its more famous cousin's shadow, but is well worth the side trip...
Venice reduces us all to sighs and fainting fits, and rightly so, but the neighbouring city of Padua – Padova in Italian – 30 kilometres to the west on the plains of the Veneto is well worth a lingering look. Encrusted with churches, medieval and renaissance splendours and the world's oldest botanic gardens and dotted with several gorgeous piazze, the city of Saint Anthony is refined, relaxed and uncrowded, and the shopping is terrific. It's also a prime choice for accommodation if you want to avoid credit card meltdown caused by a stay in La Serenissima. - MICHAEL GEBICKI
Thursday, 21 February, 2008, 07:27 AEST
Now that's a Suite mini bar
And you thought mini bars couldn't get any grander...
There's mini bars, and then there's MINI bars, and then there's - gasp - the walk-in wine cellar that's part of the Ritz-Carlton Suite in Guangzhou
. The 351-room hotel, opening on 11 March 2008, is set back from the Pearl River in the heart of the CBD. Guests bouncing about the 38th floor au-fait-of-the-art Suite will be able to revel in a personal massage room and gym, a brace of patios (each with a barbecue grill and a Jacuzzi). Plus, they'll be able to spend the interim sampling any (or all!) of the 400 bottles selected from the world's foremost vineyards. - ED PETERS
Tuesday, 19 February, 2008, 09:13 AEST
Bring your little piece of cheese-flavoured heaven back with you from France... legally.
If you’ve watched too many episodes of Border Security
, you could be forgiven for thinking that carrying French cheeses into Australia is a sure route to an in-depth session with the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service, but not so. You can import any cheeses – unpasteurised included - from countries that are free of foot and mouth disease, and that includes France. Make sure you declare them when you enter Australia, but your Roquefort, Port Salut and Reblochon will pass through Customs with a nod and a wink. Just remember to pack them in your checked luggage rather than your carry-on. Airlines object to having their cabins scented with odeur de fromage, and staff at the airport X-ray machines in France will confiscate them...and I speak from bitter experience. - MICHAEL GEBICKI
Monday, 11 February, 2008, 13:10 AEST
Who would have thought some of the best ice-cream in the world was in Syria?
In most other cities, a century-old business would be in some way remarkable. On Hamidieh Street in the vast, teeming souk in the heart of Damascus - the world's longest continually inhabited city - the genteely shabby Bakdash ice-cream parlour, established in 1890, ranks as something of a blow-in. In that relatively short time, however, Bakdash has become a much-loved Damascene institution by serving one thing, ice-cream made on the premises...and doing it better than anywhere else on Earth.
The ice-cream is either vanilla or hinted with rosewater and presented in a variety of styles with a range of fruit garnishes, but most customers choose vanilla scooped into a silver dish and scattered with pistachios. The communal benches at which diners consume their purchases are an excellent place to meet locals, and the décor (posters of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and yellow flags bearing the green emblem of Hizbollah) is rather more evocative than what you'll find in any Häagen-Dazs. - ANDREW MUELLER