Month: April 2017

holiday-in-tasmania

Single, Couple or Family, Tasmania Is The Place to Be

It’s never one-size-fits all with Tasmania – with so many attractions that appeal to a variety of travellers, there’s always something to please everyone, no matter your agenda

For families:

BONORONG WILDLIFE SANCTUARY

 BONORONG-WILDLIFE-SANCTUARY

A haven for native critters, the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary rescues, rehabilitates, and releases animals that have been orphaned or injured. Randall the echidna is one of the permanent residents here; he lost his leg in a dog attack, and although healed, is unable to fend for himself in the wild. In addition to housing a whole mob of kangaroos, the occasional wombat, a family of Tasmanian devils, a trio of Eastern quolls, and a gorgeous peacock that roams the grounds freely, the sanctuary also actively educates and invests in wildlife conservation.

SORELL FRUIT FARM

SORELL FRUIT FARM

Enjoy berry picking to sample the fresh produce of Tasmania

It’s always more fun to pick your own food! Don’t let its name fool you — Sorell Fruit Farm also offers vegetables for picking, including big fat broad beans. In addition to strawberries and blackcurrants, the farm also grows some exotic varieties such as jostaberries, loganberries, silvanberries, tayberries, and nashi pears. They also serve some mean scones with clotted cream and jam for afternoon tea, which you can drizzle with world famous Leatherwood Honey.

CURRINGA FARM

CURRINGA FARM

At around the size of Sentosa Island, adults and children alike will adore the immersive experience at Curringa Farm. Run by a husband-and-wife team that is supremely hospitable and very business-savvy, accommodations on the farm are spacious and adequately-spaced so that every guests has their own privacy. Witness sheep shearing, savour a filling barbecue lunch, and witness a dog herding demonstration before going on a quick tour of the grounds (they grow poppy and crop seed, unique to other farms on the island). We highly recommend that you spend a night here, where you can take your time to explore farm at dusk, before watching the free-grazing sheep come right up to your balcony in the morning.

Tasmania For ladies:

TASMANIAN GOURMET SAUCE COMPANY

TASMANIAN GOURMET SAUCE COMPANY

Speaking of picking your own food, the Tasmanian Gourmet Sauce Company is truly a unique hands-on experience that will see you harvesting, cooking, and eating your own meal, farm to table — a rare experience for us urban-dwellers. Owner Tim Barbour started the sauce kitchen as a personal project, but the response has been so good that he’s turned it into a full tour experience, including a roam of his well-stocked potager garden that features a chicken coop and miniature apple orchard. They also sell their delicious homemade sauces for you to take home, with multiple recipes available to teach you how to bring their best flavours forward.

SALAMANCA MARKET

SALAMANCA MARKET

Hobart’s Salamanca Market is one of Australia’s most beloved weekend outdoor markets

Held on Saturdays between 8.30am and 3.00pm, the Salamanca Market is the most famous in Tasmania, filled with local producers, artists, and food vendors hawking anything and everything from wallaby burgers, genuine leather goods, upcycled homewares and vibrant, fresh blooms. Sip on fresh brewed coffee and munch on an everything bagel slathered in jalepeno cream cheese, or tuck in to a delicious breakfast paella that’s a full sensory experience all on its own. There are loads of artisans selling homemade remedies such as essential oils, organic soaps and skincare — you can be sure not to leave empty handed.

BRIDESTOWE LAVENDER ESTATE

BRIDESTOWE LAVENDER ESTATE

Lavender fields bloom best in summer

There’s that saying, “to come up smelling like roses”. But we’d much rather smell like lavender instead. Lavender oil has a long and established history of use as an antiseptic, anti-inflammatory remedy, and  as a cure for indigestion or heartburn. There are about 39 species of lavender but Bridestowe Lavender Estate only grows Lavandula angustifolia — the single species suitable for both perfume and culinary use. In addition to premium quality lavender oil, be sure to pickup some lavender-infused teas (we loved the earl grey), bath and beauty products, and their signature BobbieTM bear. Grab some tea as well — the lavender scones and various confectionaries are sure to please.

Tasmania For couples:

TASMANIAN SEAFOOD SEDUCTION

TASMANIAN SEAFOOD SEDUCTION

Fresh, succulent seafood caught in the surrounding waters

It’s a literal all-you-can-eat smorgasbord on board Pennicott Wildnerness Journeys’ Tasmanian Seafood Seduction cruise. Slurp up as many freshly-shucked oysters as you can stomach; watch your guide dive for live abalone, sea urchin and rock lobster before devouring them sashimi-style or fried in garlic butter and cilli; and sip on some of the best local wines, boutique beers and ciders as you please. Bubbly and oysters? Now that’s a romantic encounter waiting to happen.

MUSEUM OF OLD AND NEW ART (MONA)

MUSEUM OF OLD AND NEW ART (MONA)

The inside of MUSEUM OF OLD AND NEW ART (MONA)

Museum date, anyone? For some head-tilting, life-questioning, far-out art, cop a cup of culture at the (in)famous MONA. Its selection of installation and traditional art reads like an eccentric billionaire’s curation of old antiques, provocative sculptures, and digital art. Not just for its exhibitions, MONA also offers great beer tours and wine-tasting sessions at its Moo Brewery, and visitors can even opt to stay at one of the eight luxurious ship ping-container pavilions that promise decor like none you’ve ever seen.

tasmania-featured

Big Wonders in Little Tasmania – Australia

Deep in its lush primeval forests and along its rugged southern coasts, evidence of Tasmania’s savage birth abound. Yet life on the island seems to teem, flourishing with rich wildlife and abundant waters, a testament that beauty can come from the most unlikely of origins

To understand Tasmania, you must first understand its past. Its geological history is a complex one, involving the world’s largest exposure of Jurassic dolerite and prehistoric eiders, whipped and ground into shape by fierce westerly winds and monstrous waves. That walls, however, are stunning – the Painted Cliffs of Maria Island with their mesmerising iron-oxide bands of red, orange and yellow; the staggering columns of Cape Raoul whose knife-edged cliffs  seem to jut violently from the seabed; and the polished calm of Dove Lake juxtaposed against the untamed peaks of Cradle Mountain.

painted-cliffs-of-maria-island

Painted Cliffs of Maria Island

Then came its colonial era. For much of the19th century, Tasmania was known as Van Diemen’s Land, a name whispered in fear for its reputation as a notorious prison, filled with Britain’s least desirables, sent to serve out their sentence as far away from the motherland as possible. Tasmanian society today, you’ll find, is far a farcry from its torrid past. Now it is filled with enterprising farmers, ardent conservationists, and jolly good folk who love their land – and love sharing its bounty. From award-winning micro-distilleries and the freshest and cleanest seafood in the region, to its endearing local critters and spellbinding auroras, Tasmania is a no-brainer addition for your bucket list.

SAVAGE BEAUTY

It was a love story for the ages. In1906, Gustav Weindorfer in love with and married Kate Cowle, who was a botanist and11 years his senior. They discovered Dove Lake and Cradle Mountain, and together with Gustav’s partner Charlie Sutton, spent the rest of their live fighting to make the area a national park for all to enjoy. In1922 his lifetime vision finally came true when the 158, 000 acres from Cradle Mountain to Lake St. Clair were declared a Scenic Reserve and Wildlife Sanctuary.

dove-lake

Dove Lake

His accomplishment, however was marked with tragedy, as Kate passed away in 1916 the same year Gustav lost successively his mother, brother and father. Gustav himself died of heart attack in1932 while starting up his motorcycle one morning.

Cradle Mountain is so named because the silhouette of its peaks seems to form an image of a baby in its cradle. Gustav and Kate never had any children of their own.

cradle-mountain

Cradle Mountain can be seen on the background

The Dove Lake circuit is one of the most popular paths in St Clair National Park, with the iconic Cradle Mountain as its majestic backdrop. Cradle Mountain is so named because its peaks form a silhouette that resembles a baby in its cradle. The boat shed at Dove Lake is also one of its most-photographed sights, its well-worn frame heralding a time long since past and making a rather romantic setting for a dramatic looking-off-into-the-distance shot. The Overland Track is also a well-known hiking trail that will take you through the heart of the park, but takes an average of six to seven days to conquer.

Weather conditions or road closures happen on occasion, be sure to check with the Lake St Clair Visitor Centre.

All up and down the Freycinet Peninsula are staggering pink granite cliffs, secluded bays fringed by white sandy beaches, and pure turquoise waters as far as the eye can see. It’s a short hike up to Cape Tourville and Wineglass Bay Lookout (roughly 90 mins round trip), but for the full Freycinet Experience, there are multiple guided tours that will take you round the dramatic and ancient landscapes, breathtaking vistas, and rare flora.

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE FURRY KIND

A fluffy grey boulder bounds across the grass. Maria greets us by sniffling enthusiastically at our hands, knowing that there’ll be food to come. Orphaned when her mother got hit with a car while she was still in the pouch, Maria the wombat is currently in her adolescence at 18 months of age, and still adorably affectionate. At two years, she will fully mature and become intolerable of human contact — that is when she will be released back in the wild.

bonorong-wildlife-sanctuary

A mob of kangaroos at Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary

At the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, many animals come in sick or injured, and will either become permanent residents, or released after rehabilitation. Randall the echidna is one of these permanent residents; he lost a leg in a dog attack, and although fully healed, will need special care all his life. In addition to housing a whole mob of kangaroos, the occasional wombat, a family of Tasmanian devils, a trio of Eastern quolls, and a gorgeous peacock that roams the grounds freely, the sanctuary also actively educates and invests in wildlife conservation.

womba-tasmanian-devil

Local residents, the Wombat (left) and Tasmanian Devil

The locals refer to them as pademelons (pronounced paddy-melon), a close relative of the wallaby and one of the smallest macropods in the world.

pademelons

pademelons

They look like a cross between a quokka and a wallaby, with its thick, short tail and a petite little face. Together with wombats, echidnas, quolls, possums and the elusive Tasmanian devil, pademelons roam freely in the grounds surrounding Cradle Mountain. McDermott’s Coaches does an amazing night wildlife spotting tour (since most of these animals are nocturnal), where the drivers bring you to their favourite spots to see some of these critters feeding and grooming in their natural habitat — no enclosure, no performance shows, just pure wildlife.

pyeongchang

Winter Sports and South Korean Traditions in One Destination – Pyeongchang, South Korea

Explore the Taebaek and Charyeong Mountain regions and discover not just sporting facilities and sport venues, but a collection of ancient temples and sites that reveal the essence of Korea culture and practices

It takes approximately three hours to drive from Incheon Airport to Gangwon province a mountainous and forested area in South Korea  renowned for its pristine natural environment. The drive covers 134km and in winter, it is common to see the passing scenery look like an unfinished painting. Much of the canvas remains white, as if waiting for an artist to finish up the drawing. And when the snow starts to melt, the rolling hills still form an amazing panoramic view.

But by the end of 2017, a brand new high-speed rail and the second Yeongdong Expressway should be ready to charter tourists from Incheon to Gangwon Province in just 90 minutes. The transit is specific to Pyeongchang as it is the main event venue for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games (PyeongChang 2018), alongside Gangneung and Jeongseon. These venue cities are filled with breathtaking scenery and various tourist attractions throughout all seasons.

“Winter in Korea often follows a cycle of four extremely cold days, followed by a lull period of three days,” Jenny Oh, our translator and guide for the trip tells us. “I feel so embarrassed that you do not get to experience snowfall these few days.”

The amiable young lady shared a couple facts with me during my three-hour bus journey. Apparently, highway rest stops (where we stopped for lunch) are a huge part of Korean culture, one that is well loved by both tourists and locals alike for its wide selection of food, snacks and sometimes, souvenirs. Expect to find Ddeokbokki (Korean Spicy Rice Cakes), Samgyetang (Ginseng Chicken Soup), Jjimdak (Braised Chicken), Juk (Korean Traditional Porridge), Bibimbap (Korean Mixed Rice), Bulgogi (Grilled Marinated Meat) and Sundubujjiegae (Spicy Tofu Stew).

bimbamp

Bibimbap is one of Korea’s most distinctive cuisines

I step out of the bus expecting the weather to be bitterly c old despite the lack of snowfall but it wasn’t. Although  it is 3°C, my sweater and scarf are surprisingly sufficient for me to roam comfortably the grounds of Gangneung City. This coastal city is well known for its beautiful beaches and decent bar scene but this trip will focus on the progress for PyeongChang 2018.

Back in May 2016, at the 1,000 days-to-go celebration for the PyeongChang Organising Committee for the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (POCOG), the signature slogan “Passion. Connected.” was revealed. Both words were chosen to represent PyeongChang 2018 as the stage of a global festival, one where Koreans’ warm unique hospitality and cultural convergence can be felt, and a platform where the country’s cutting-edge technology can be shared with the world. These words are clearly expressed outside the makeshift colourful container boxes that hold key information leading up to the games. A large electronic countdown screen, life-size sport figurines (with a short summary of the sport), 4D motion ride, VR experience and a hands-on Ice Hockey experience are all part of the immersive and educational programme for visitors.

The crowd is a river of people, everyone moving in the same direction. There are only joyful faces as the lot heads into the Gangneung Ice Areana for the short track finals test event— a sporting event that raises the adrenaline of even the audience. The crowd moves not like pebbles in a jar, but like water molecules flowing smoothly past one another, kids grabbing onto their parent’s hands with dear life and friends staying together with fingers entwined. Short track speed skating has its roots in Canada and the United States of America where mass start competitions on an oval track began in 1905. It is a form of competitive ice speed skating and in the race, athletes compete not against the clock, but against each other in the pack.

 isu-world-cup-short-strack-speed-skating-2016

Athletes at the start line of the ISU World Cup Short Strack Speed Skating 2016

This introduces the elements of strategy, bravery and skill needed for racing. It is pretty invigorating catching the ‘live’ sporting event, considering the fact that I only just learnt of it minutes ago. Throughout the course of 2017, each sport will hold its test events at the completed competition venues, and sporting aficionados can take the opportunity to explore the Gangwon Province region.

By the end of the test event, night had fallen fast upon the land. Not more than an hour ago, the sky was painted in hues of red, orange and pink but all colours have faded and only a matte black canvas remains. At a distance I spot a cluster of bright shining lights and blankets of snow on the ground. We have arrived at Alpensia Resort, an entertainment destination centre located at a highland 700m above sea level, the optimum height for human health and biorhythm. Alpensia features a main stadium, ecological golf course, world-class ski slopes and ski jump slopes, as well as a couple of accommodation options. I settle into Intercontinental Alpensia Pyeongchang Resort, a 238-room luxury alpine hotel and resort nestled within an Alpine-style village among the unspoilt beauty of the Taebaek Mountains. Tonight, it is silent and the stars have hidden well behind a wall of foreboding clouds.

switzerland-by-train

The Beauty of Train Traveling Across Switzerland

What is about travelling by train that incites the romantic in all of us? Maybe it’s because it is one of the least hectic methods of travel with some of the best views and one of the most efficient ways to traverse a country and take in the highlights of each city that you stop by.

Switzerland is one of those countries that train travel should come naturally. Within a week, you can cover Bern, move around three cities on the edge of Lac Leman (Lake Geneva), saw two glaciers, headed back north to Interlaken and Lucerne, all by train, before heading back to Zurich.

BERN

 bern-train

There’s a Bernese saying that goes, “Switzerland has watches, but Bern has the time.”

There’s a Bernese saying that goes, “Switzerland has watches but Bern has the time.” The words ring true, especially for many of us who live in capital cities like Singapore or Kuala Lumpur and sport Swiss-movement watches on our arms. The laid-back nature of the Bernese and cobblestone city centre are far from the makings of a capital, yet Bern is the capital of Switzerland and a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well.

The Old Town of Bern is a great introduction to Switzerland that will quickly get travellers acquainted with this laid-back lifestyle. Take in a full view of the city from the Rose Garden that blooms 223 rose varieties in spring for unrivalled views of Bern. Framed by the Aare River, the medieval town has a 6km-arcade of sandstone facades punctuated by Renaissance stone fountains topped with colourful effigies (from which pure and potable spring water flows from). While Bern has an exceptional public transport system, itis best to explore the city on foot to uncover the city’s secrets, such as the many vaulted cellars that line the streets. Used in the middle ages to keep goods at a cool temperature in summer and winter, many of the vaulted cellars have now been converted into shops, cafes and even galleries, giving visitors a whole new world to explore underground.

Travelling on foot will also bring you to prominent landmarks in Bern. As Bern is the seat of Switzerland’s government, a visit to the Federal Palace of Switzerland (Houses of Parliament) is a must in the world’s oldest neutral country. An outstanding symbol of politics to all nations, Bern’s take on governance is to allow visitors to see focal points of the buildings, and follow the debates from public galleries when parliament is sitting and even organise a meeting with a member of their choice.

While the Federal Palace of Switzerland is an important piece of architecture to the Swiss, the Cathedral of Bern (Das Berner Munster) and Bern Clock Tower (Zytglogge) hold much more significance to the local Bernese. The Cathedral of Bern is Switzerland’s largest ecclesiastic building done in a Late Gothic style. Over the main portal is the depiction of the Christian belief of the Last Judgement where the righteous are separated from the wicked. This diorama watches over parishioners who walk in through the front door — a reminder of the fate that be falls mankind in time to come.

bern-astronomical-clock

Crowds gather to watch the astronomical clock’s hourly show.

As for the Clock Tower, visitors can view the ornate astronomical clock with its parade of bears and dancing jester on the outside or take a secret tour into the clock’s tower to see the intricate mechanics of the clock. Pendulums swing, and gears and cogs click second by second mechanically in the top room of the tower. This impressive mechanism is said to have been in motion since it was built some 800 years ago — a precedent to the now famous and reliable Swiss movement perhaps.

astronomical-clock-jester

The jester chimes the bell while Chronos announces the hour of the day

It is said that theoretic al-physicist Albert Einstein was inspired by the Clock Tower in May 1905. The brilliant scientist had imagined a streetcar moving away from the tower at the speed of light and it was then that he had his breakthrough moment that helped outline his paper on the ‘special theory of relativity’ in six weeks. His scientific discoveries are what help modern day scientists understand our world today. For the casual couch scientist, head to the Bern Historical Museum, which has an extensive exhibition devoted to Einstein’s personal life and his theory of general relativity broken down into simplified video explanations.

LAUSANNE

laussane

From Bern, we head south towards Lausanne, but not before making a quick stop at Broc-Fabrique, home of Maison Cailler, the oldest brand of Swiss chocolate still in existence. Even before our train pulls up to the station, the strong smell of cocoa beans roasting hits us and our mouths start to water at the thoi ‘gilt of trying one of Switzerland’s most established brands of chocolate. It doesn’t take much effort to use our noses as guides to find the all-white maison with a calligraphic Cailler brandished at the top. The museum/factory has self-guided tours that take visitors on a spectacular journey from bean to bar through specially designed rooms with special effects that tell the history of chocolate-making, how Cailler brought this art to Switzerland and a shortened factory walkthrough of making a simple piece of Cailler milk chocolate. The tour then culminates in a sample room where visitors can taste test various chocolates, pralines and bonbons produced right at Maison Cailler. Fulfil souvenir requirements for friends and family back home by stocking up on Cailler chocolate products in the gift shop or, indulge in a rich and frothy hot or ice cold chocolate beverage with a pastry at the cafe.

With chocolate-filled bellies, we continue on to Lausanne, the first of three cities we visit that are located along the shores of Lac Leman. Lausanne is famous two things: for being the final resting place of Coco Chanel (she’s buried in Cimetiere duBois-de-Vaux), and for being the Olympic Capital of the world. Lausanne was chosen as the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) by Baron Pierre de Coubertin for its peaceful surroundings in 1915. Today, it is where the President of the IOC resides and where The Olympic Museum is located.

lausane-oympic-museum

Lifting high tthe banner of a united world through sports at the entrance to the Olympic Park

For anyone who wants an in-depth study on the Olympics, from its beginnings in Greece to the most currently held games in Rio de Janeiro, The Olympic Museum is to be visited. It is possible to spend a whole afternoon walking around the 3,000m2 interactive exhibits that showcase the things like the first Olympic flag, how the games are chosen and the various lanterns and torches that carry the Olympic flame from Olympus itself to the host country of the games, as well as significant events in the Olympics’ history, and even sports memorabilia from medallists in the games. It is worth it to hire a guide just to learn more details about the Olympics in general and to find hidden gems within the exhibits.

RIEDERALP

After a day in Lausanne, we move on towards Riederalp for a taste of the Swiss alps. Getting to Riederalp requires making a stop in Morel first to take the cableway up to the ski resorts. Along the way, however, many choose to make a detour at Vevey first, the second city of this leg of the tour that faces Lac Leman. Its lakeside promenade makes for a perfect post-lunch stroll, where bronze statues of sea nymphs riding sea horses arise from the water of the lake. There are other notable statues as well, such as the Giant Fork that sticks out of the lake and the statue of Charlie Chaplin facing the waters.

Charlie Chaplin, the iconic English comedian of the silent film era, spent his last years in Vevey in Manoir de Ban,  which was recently converted into a museum just in 2016. The museum retraces the life of the cinematographic genius, while the adjoining studio immerses visitors into the world of silent film. Those with extra time on their hands can even stay to walk around the expansive park where the manoir is built on. The 10-acre estate is a slice of nature that has unobstructed views of Lake Geneva and the alps all year round.

It isn’t enough to just look at the alp s in Switzerland, being at the Swiss alps itself is just as integral to the experience of visiting Switzerland. We take a short train ride from Vevey to Morel where the cableway station is located to easily get to Art Furrer Hotels in Riederalp Mitte, a ski resort. Mid to late winter is the best time to  visit Riederalp as this is when snowfall is the thickest and the ski slopes are in full swing. The piste slopes are great for skiers and snowboarders and the surrounding bunny hills near the cafes are perfect for novice snow sport enthusiasts or those who just want a couple of exhilarating rides on a small snow sledge.

art-furrer-hotels-riederalp-mitte

Showy landscapes greet guests at the Art Furrer Hotels in Riederalp Mitte

Riederalp is also the gateway to viewing the Aletsch Glacier, which is the largest glacier in the alps. The striking glacier can be fully taken in from the viewing point just a short walk away from Moosfluh Station near the ski resort. Look out for the Matterhorn on the way up to the glacier. The peak made famous by Tobelerone chocolates is also clearly visible on the walk over.

kayal-island-retreat

The Music of Kayal Island Retreat – Alleppey, Kerala, India

There are some sounds you must like before coming to Kayal Island Retreat. Rustling palms, chirping birds, and the song of the cicadas. But, most of all, you must like the sound of your thoughts, because that will be the loudest of all. Perched on the banks of Vembanad Lake, Kayal Island Retreat is a meditative space.

It’s located on Kakkathuruthu – the island of crows – named after its former inhabitants, just a half-hour drive (22km) from Fort Kochi and a 10-minute ride on a powdery blue canoe from the Kudapuram Jetty. Though the island is now home to 300 families, many of them farmers and fisherfolk leading the simple life (though most of their offspring now hold day jobs in the city), this bite-sized boutique resort feels completely isolated. This is the sort of place where the cell phone signal is iffy at best, where cloudy skies create dramatic reflections on the lake, the green verges on fluorescent, and staying in means ticking off all the books on your reading list. In short, it’s where you go when you want to disconnect and recharge for a bit.

kayal-island-retreat -1

Enjoy guided walks around the lush island

Two years ago, founder Maneesha Panicker turned this abandoned former artist’s residency on the backwaters into a luxury retreat. Rooms are decorated with cute curiosities and black-and-white photographs of the locals, and have outdoor bathrooms that are roomy enough to rain-dance in. But don’t hole up inside – the lush village deserves exploration. Head out for winding strolls and you’ll observe locals going about their day. If you’re lucky, you might spot the toddy tapper high up in the tree, or the fishermen building dykes around natural fish farms. Follow the path behind the retreat to the island’s singular grocery shop and stop off for a jeera soda – possibly the only purchase you’ll make while you’re here.

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A patio at Kayal Island Retreat

Instead, you’ll spend days on the woven chairs overlooking the lake, taking in the sublime view and marvelling at the odd neighbour floating past in a sari blouse and skirt, catching fish with her bare hands. Each day a local makes pit stops to every home to pick up each family’s catch and pays them for their efforts. Wake early one morning for a canoe ride (included with your stay) along the lake, through winding canals swathed in green and wider expanses, and past paddy fields and brightly-painted local homes with boats in matching colours. If you’re adept at recognising birds, there are a quite a few to observe in addition to the ubiquitous crow.

Look out for elegant cranes and brilliant blue kingfishers. Follow your boat ride up with an hour-long morning yoga session and, once you’re limber and ravenous, make your way to the waterfront dining area for a hearty breakfast of something local – spicy kadala (chickpea) curry and swirly idiyappam (rice hoppers), or boiled kappa (tapioca) smeared with crushed chilli and shallots in coconut oil. The resort prides itself on its simple, home-style cuisine and the produce it uses is fresh and largely organic. Lunches and dinner, more often than not, include the day’s catch and are usually communal, so you can have conversations with other guests if that’s your thing and, indeed, if there are any others.

GREAT FROM: Bangalore, Ernakulam, Trivandrum

GREAT FOR: Pulling a disappearing act

WHERE TO STAY

Kayal Island Retreat: Accessible only by boat, this is a small property, offering four cute rooms, two large and two cosy and two communal areas to relax in. The amenities are few but the staff is warm and accommodating.

WHERE TO EAT

kayal-island-retreat-meal

You can pick where you want to eat your next meal

Meals at Kayal Island Retreat are bountiful, homestyle and a necessity, as there aren’t any options on the island itself. Expect Kerala specialties such as avial, pachadi and thoran, plus fabulous fresh seafood caught by local fisherfolk. Inform them in advance that you’ll be joining them for meals. Kudapuram Toddy Shop by the pier on the mainland sells karimeen (pearl spot) fried to perfection and fluffy appams to go with glasses of toddy – a heady fermented brew. It’s best visited  for lunch on arrival or departure.

fried-karimeen

Don’t miss the fried karimeen at the toddy shop by the jetty

SHOPPING

There’s not much by way of shopping here unless you count the tiny stall selling veggies, toothbrushes and locally-bottled jeera soda. Follow the path behind the resort.

WHAT TO PACK

Clothing in light fabrics, plenty of mosquito repellant, a light pullover for the night

CLEAN LOO GUIDE

It’s not a terribly long journey, so use the airport facilities.

SAFETY

The island is peaceful and safe, but be cautious around the water.

MEDICAL AID

First-aid is provided at the resort. The closest medical facility, Moham Hospital in Eramalloor, is a 10-minute boat ride and a five-minute drive from the mainland jetty (00-91-478-2564376). For major medical emergencies, it’s best to make your way to Ernakulam.

CHILD-FRIENDLINESS

Kids will love the boat rides and the open play space. Don’t forget to pack their favourite books or games to keep them occupied.

dubai-food-festival-2017

Food in Dubai – UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

There are more than 200 nationalities that make up the expatriate community of Dubai, making it one of the most culturally diverse cities in the Middle East and to a greater extent, Asia.

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Dubai Food Festival 2015

These nationalities that now call Dubai home now have the opportunity to showcase their cuisine to the rest of Dubai at this food festival. The festival will kick off with the return of Miele Dubai Restaurant Week, where for 10 days, gourmands can enjoy a three-course prix fixe menu.

There will be 30 restaurants participating this year, including Gordon Ramsay’s Bread Street Kitchen, Heinz Beck’s Social and many more. A fun activity to get the family involved in is by heading to Etisalat Beach Canteen at Sunset Beach. There will be Al Islami Masterclasses, farmers’ markets, popup stalls, entertainment for the whole family and even a beach cinema. Rounding off the festival is Taste of Dubai, where visitors can catch live cooking demonstrations by celebrity chefs.

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Special dishes at Miele Dubai Restaurant Wee

MAKE IT HAPPEN

Dubai Food Festival 2017 runs from 23 February to 11 March. Find more information on other activities and details of specific events at visitdubai.com/en/dff.

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La Ville Hotel & Suites CITY WALK

After filling up on world-class cuisine, head home to a world-class hotel at the new La Ville Hotel & Suites CITY WALK Dubai from Marriott’s Autograph Collection. The first hotel to grace CITY WALK is an urban metropolis with open social spaces, including three restaurants, a lobby cafe and rooftop bar to feed hungrywanderers (from US$320 per night; livelaville.com).

thailand-bangkok-wallpaper

Enjoy Your Holiday Like You’re a Thai-Born

Thai cooking classes

The piquant and aromatic traits of Thai cuisine are well loved all over the world. Its notable use of spice, fish sauce, kaffir limes and sugar cover a full spectrum of taste on the tongue that whets appetites and gets diners reaching for more. This explosion of flavour might seem complex but the keys to good Thai cooking are easier than you think. For return visitors to Thailand, signing up for a Thai cooking class might just be the activity needed to inject a renewed love for the country.

  • Blue Elephant Cooking School and Restaurant

blue-elephant-cooking-school-and-restaurant

This school was set up by Chef Nooror and her husband, who both set up the popular Blue Elephant restaurants in Europe. The duo decided to open the Blue Elephant Cooking School and Restaurant in hopes of developing and training chefs to understand Royal Thai cuisine. Classes here involve a trip to a local market to learn more about local ingredients before a head chef conducts cooking demonstrations back in the kitchen. Guests will then be able to try their hand at preparing the dishes they’ve learnt just minutes ago as well. The popularity of the school in Bangkok spurred the couple to open a second school in Phuket as well, which specialises in Baba Phuket cuisine-Thai food influenced by the Thai Peranakans in the area.

  • Silom Thai Cooking School

silom-thai-cooking-school

The classes here follow a similar format to that of Blue Elephant but the emphasis is placed more on creating the dishes from scratch so that travellers can take home the recipe and add them to their repertoire. There are seven courses to choose from that cover a diverse variety of familiar Thai dishes and the basics of Thai cooking. For those with a keen interest in cooking, the school also has an intensive seven-day course where students would have learnt a total of 40 recipes by the end of the week.

Thai boxing classes

‘The art of eight limbs’ is the nickname given to the traditional Thai combat sport of Muay Thai. The mental and physical discipline is a full body workout that has attracted a strong following all over the world. There are many gyms in places like Bangkok, Phuket and Khao Lak that are open for foreigners to try out this stimulating and challenging sport and even train full time like a professional.

  • Tiger Muay Thai & MMA

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Considered the Number 1 training facility in Phuket, Tiger Muay Thai has become the training ground for the world’s most elite athletes. But despite its portfolio of top Muay Thai fighters, Tiger Muay Thai caters to all levels of boxers — for the holidaymaker to professional fighters who would like to learn the basics of the sport or hone their skills in the ring. The trainers take the tradition of Muay Thai seriously and hope to impart the same respect for the sport in all who join them. Tiger Muay Thai also has other MMA, fitness, yoga and body conditioning disciplines as well.

  • Rawai MuayThai Khao Lak

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This training camp that faces the Andaman Sea was set up by Tuk, who fought professionally in the spot for 15 years. Its new Khao Lak facilities are best suited for serious trainees of Muay Thai who would like to work on individual moves. There are two two-hour classes daily that work on specific techniques like Clinching, Low Kick, and Wai Kru. Apart from trainings, guests can also make use of the swimming pool, massage and restaurant facilities for a break.

Dinner cruise

The early morning might see vendors on long boats selling fruits, vegetables, souvenirs and more at the floating markets on the Chao Phraya River but the river turns into a channel of romance in the evening as dinner cruises take sail Experience another side of the river with the sights of Bangkok’s skyline while tasting fine Thai cuisine onboard a dinner cruise.

  • Apsara Dinner Cruise by Banyan Tree

apsara-dinner-cruise-by-banyan-tree

This luxurious dining experience by Banyan Tree Resort will make for an extra special night out and is perfect for couples hoping to add romance on their trip to Thailand. Guests get to enjoy elegant restaurant cruising along the river on a converted vintage rice barge through the night. The barge comes to rest in front of famous sights, such as Wat Arun Temple, the Grand Palace and the golden Rama VIII Bridge while guests dine on Royal Thai cuisine prepared fresh onboard.

  • White Orchid River Cruise

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Be entertained on this two-hour evening cruise along the Chao Phraya River onboard the White Orchid River Cruise. Feast on a Thai/Western buffet and enjoy ‘live’ music, as well as watch performances of Thai classical dancing as the boat cruises from Si Phraya Pier towards the Rama VIII Bridge. Guests can also head up to the open-air deck to soak in the warm atmosphere and catch the sun setting in the distance.

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TEA FOR TWO? – Goodricke Teapot – West Bengal, India

Goodricke Teapot, a cute tea lounge, is now open in misty Kurseong, Darjeeling, West Bengal. Apart from offering you a choice of teas from the Goodricke Group, this café, set in the lush Margaret’s Hope Tea Estate, allows you to take in views of the Himalayan peaks, gushing streams and orchids from your perch.

As no teatime is complete without nibbles, the café also has a selection of chocolates, cookies, scones and pastries. A little birdie tells us that, if the café gets its bar licence, tea cocktails will feature on the menu too.

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The Great Outdoors – SOUTH ISLAND, NEW ZEALAND

Baby, it’s cold outside, but not in the southern hemisphere where New Zealand is located. It’s summer and the warm sunlight is enough to beckon thousands of Kiwis to step outside to explore the natural playground that is their backyard. This country of endless coastline, a myriad of inland lakes, rivers and mountain streams means water-based activities are aplenty this time of year as well. The best way to explore the majesty of New Zealand is with a road trip across the South Island.

A quick six-day or longer itinerary allows for ample time to hike through Arthur’s Pass National Parkin Christchurch, take a scenic heli-flight over the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, and bike around Mt Cook Village and Lake Tekapo.

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A beautiful view from Lake Tekapo

Pencil in adrenaline-filled activities as well by malting a necessary stop in Queenstown — bungee jumping, skydiving, ziplining and white-water rafting are just some of the activities available. For animal lovers, stop by Oamaru as well to visit the Blue Penguin colony where 200 of these birds make their daily pilgrimage from the water to dry land for the night.

MAKE IT HAPPEN

Fly to Christchurch on South Island on Qantas Airways from Singapore with one stop in Brisbane, Australia first. Flights from Kuala Lumpur include an additional stop in Singapore (from US$713; qantas.com). For a similar six-day itinerary, check newzealand.com for their detailed South Island road trips.

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A campervan at South Island – New Zealand

Road trip like the locals and hire a campervan for a real outdoor living experience. Most campervan rental companies include accessories like gas cookers, bedding, tents and more. Escape Campervan Rentals has one of the most comprehensive packages with pick-ups and drop-offs in both Auckland and Christchurch (from US$95 per day before tax; escaperentals.co.nz).

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When The Lights Go Out in London

Like gin? Then you’re in the right city. Since the Middle Ages, London has been distilling vast quantities of the spirit. So much so that by the mid-18th century, the capital was in the grip of a ‘Gin Craze’, forcing Parliament to pass Gin Acts and distillation bans. Thankfully, things have relaxed, and you’ll fi nd craft distilleries and gin bars galore.

Holborn Dining Room’s Gin Bar boasts more than 400 varieties of the spirit and 30 diff erent tonics. With more than 14,000 possible gin and tonic pairings, knowing where to start can be overwhelming. So let the bartenders know what herbs, spices and flavours you like, and they’ll find the drink for you. Our favourite? East India Company gin with Ledger’s naturally sweet tonic (252 High Holborn, WC1V 7EN).  For those who can’t face the journey from bar to bed, there’s The Distillery – a gin hotel in Notting Hill. This is where the world-famous Portobello Road Gin is made.

Downstairs, there’s The Resting Room, a timeless cocktail bar, and upstairs is GinTonica, a tapas and gin bar (186 Portobello Rd, W11 1LA).  You can see how some of the capital’s award-winning gin is made at the City of London Distillery (C.O.L.D) in Blackfriars. Choose a tour – try the Evolution of Gin Tour to find out how this popular spirit has developed over the centuries (22-24 Bride Lane, EC4Y 8DT).

TRADITIONAL PUBS

MAGPIE & STUMP

MAGPIE & STUMP

Opposite the Old Bailey courts, this historic pub dates back to the 1500s. 18 Old Bailey, EC4M 7EP. T: 020-7248 5085. www.magpieandstump.com. Station: St Paul’s. D10.

THE SPANIARDS INN

THE SPANIARDS INN

This ancient pub by Hampstead Heath was loved by writer Charles Dickens. Spaniards Rd, NW3 7JJ. T: 020-8731 8406. www.thespaniards hampstead.co.uk. Station: Hampstead. Off map.

WAXY O’CONNOR’S

WAXY O’CONNOR’S

Irish-themed pub with live music. 14-16 Rupert St, W1D 6DD. T: 020-7287 0255. www.waxy oconnors.co.uk. Station: Piccadilly Circus. E7.

YE OLDE CHESHIRE CHEESE

YE OLDE CHESHIRE CHEESE

Historic pub with 17th-century rooms and narrow passageways. 145 Fleet St, EC4A 2BU. T: 020-7353 6170. Station: Blackfriars. E9.

BARS & CLUBS

THE BACK ROOM

THE BACK ROOM

Next door to Hard Rock, the bar boasts iconic music items, including a door from the Apple Studios signed by the Beatles. Enjoy cocktails. www.hardrock.com. 148b Old Park Lane, W1K 1QZ. T: 020-7514 1700. Station: Green Park. E6.

BUDDHA-BAR

 BUDDHA-BAR

This trendy club and restaurant attracts a fashion-conscious crowd. 145 Knightsbridge, SW1X 7PA. T: 020-3667 5222. www.buddha barlondon.com. Station: Knightsbridge. F5.

GONG

GONG

Located on the 52nd floor of The Shard, Gong is the smart lounge and bar. The cocktails and views of the capital are superb. 31 St Thomas St, SE1 9QU. T: 020-7234 8208. www.shangrila.com. Station: London Bridge. E10.

GORDON’S WINE BAR

GORDON’S WINE BAR

There is a large selection of wines in this brickwalled basement, established in 1890. 47 Villiers St, WC2N 6NE. T: 020-7930 1408. www.gordons winebar.com. Station: Charing Cross. E8.

RILEYS SPORTS BAR

RILEYS SPORTS BAR

There are 34 screens, table football and American food. Daily B, L & D. £. 380 Haymarket, SW1Y 4TE. T: 020-7930 0393. www.rileyssports bars.co.uk. Station: Piccadilly Circus. E3.