What to expect:
Channelling art deco vibes, this place is as elegant as it is imposing. Opened in 1930, it was Iceland’s very first luxury hotel. Guest rooms are classy, with parquet flooring, leather armchairs and turn of the Century artwork.
The property overlooks Austurvollur square, across from Althingi, the Icelandic parliament and Reykjavik cathedral. You’re within walking distance of a host of restaurants and attractions including The Fish Market.
Don’t miss Borg Spa, where you can indulge in a host of treatments. Borg Restaurant is another great pick; drawing in locals with its constantly changing menu.
What to expect:
Embodying cool Nordic design, this sleek outpost shows respect for Icelandic aesthetics fused with contemporary elements. Rooms are loaded with cool greysand whites-and have huge windows showcasing city and mountain views.
On Laugarvegur, wander through this hypercool thoroughfare, popping into Mal og Meaning to explore the country’s rich literary heritage, buy vintage finds in Spuutnik or escape the city’s strong winds with a warm bowl at: Noodle Station.
Tuck into delicious farm-fresh cuisine then enjoy an Icelandic beverage with friendly natives in the funky on-site lounge.
Move over Maldives – there’s a new over-water paradise on the scene. Opened just last month, Bawah island in Indonesia’s untouched Anambas archipelago is a quintessential Castaway island that’s just waiting to be discovered.
A two-hour journey from Singapore; the resort is accessed by private seaplane, following a ferry ride from Singapore to Batam. While it may sound like a trek to get there, you’ll need to trust US When we say it’s worth the effort.
Offering barefoot luxury surrounded by a mammoth 300-acres of unspoiled nature, guests are invited to check into, one of 35 eco-designed bamboo villas.
Simply take your pick from over-water of beachfront abodes. Once you’re settled, you can enjoy views across three crystal clear lagoons and explore no less than 13 picture perfect powder-white beaches.
Head to the treetop Club House for some gentle exercise in the yoga pavilion, or to takes dip in the beach-fronted infinity pool. There’s also a viewing platform that’s the perfect spot for watching the sun set. Adventure seekers can spend their days. snorkelling in pristine waters, home to a host of protected marine life, or hiking through untouched forests. With a maximum capacity of 70 guests at any one time, those seeking a sense of exclusivity can relish being one of a privileged few at this intimate island.
“JAIPUR IS SLOW LIFE!” my taxi driver declares. All around us, cars, pedicabs, bicycles and cattle are stuck in hardcore commuter gridlock. Horns screech, elephants trumpet, and pedestrians tumble in and out of the disorderly scrum. Young boys jog in between the cars and oxcarts hawking fresh coconuts, marigold garlands, and saris. A horse cart waits patiently next to us, the turbaned driver casting a betel- stained grin. My driver responds by pressing on the horn for an unnecessarily long time. Slow life? Sure, in the literal sense. But it definitely doesn’t seem relaxing.
After a few days in the Rajasthani capital, however, my taxi driver’s declaration begins to make sense. In spite of the log-jammed roads and dizzy markets, folks here take their time. Like the horse-cart driver who smiles in traffic, shopkeepers linger over tea and conversation, and skilled artisans work slowly and deliberately to create swoon-worthy architecture, textiles, art and jewelry that stand the tests of time. This is no accident.
Back in 1726, Maharaja Jai Singh, the city’s namesake, summoned skilled craftsmen—bricklayers, stone masons, marble cutters, metal smiths, potters, weavers— from the farthest reaches of the Subcontinent to build a new capital from the ground up. City planners followed architectural blueprints detailed in Vastu Shastra, a part of the Vedas, or Hinduism’s religious texts. Think of it as Vedic feng shui. Balanced aesthetics and details of extraordinarily exquisite filigree, inlay and gilt are the cornerstones of the city’s iconic structures: the old city wall, the City Palace, Jal Mahal (or Water Palace, on Man Sagar Lake), and the pink Hawa Mahal, (Wind Palace), for example.
Jai Singh launched one of modern India’s first intentional artisan communities. Deep inside the dusty warrens of the walled old city, artisans— or karigbars— turn out extraordinary objects much like they have for the past three centuries. Craftsmen chisel marble, cut gems and hand-embroider garments with solid-gold thread with casual expertise. The level of detail is staggering. More than once on my visit, I was given a magnifying glass to properly appreciate gold inlaid with precious gems, highly technical weaving techniques, and pichwai or gota embroidery, which resembles a painted tapestry.
Modern designers—native and foreign-born—still flock to Jaipur. Tapping indigenous artisans’ know-how, the new kids are repurposing folksy styles into edgy, appealing fashion, furniture and practically anything else. The contemporary craft movement, in turn, gives a lifeline to the karighars in their continual defense against machine- made wares. We can all thank the Maharaja for inuring his subjects with an abiding appreciation for hand-hewn beauty and intricacy—an ethos of living and enjoying creative pursuits that continues to underscore the city’s character. Here, the slow life is the good life.
Zip around the Pink City’s eclectic enclaves—a seamless blend of ancient and avant-garde, bustling and sleepy—via autorickshaw or Uber.
The Pink City got its rosy paint job in 1876, and the original walled core still blushes with glorious palaces, forts and temples. The old markets are full of treasure; it’s worth elbowing you way through the mayhem to get your piece of Jaipur’s magic.
The posh district’s graceful tree-lined streets and colonial and Mid-century bungalows appeal to dignitaries and design-types.
Teeming with youthful energy, this burb mixes cool cafes and crafty threads with the ubiquitous sidewalk ch ai wallah, or tea seller.
Endless rows of multi-generation jewelry shops, snack stalls and sari boutiques make this iconic street a one-stop shopping (and eating) hub.
The up-and-coming district’s low rents and broad avenues lure fresh start-ups looking for space to flex their creative muscles.
Not a neighborhood per se, the pretty shopping complex’s bougainvillea-covered courtyards are home to trendy ateliers peddling contemporary and vintage crafts.
The arid region of Leh and Ladakh is peppered with Buddhist monasteries and stupas. The Lamayuru Monastery—perched on a steep rock mountain at 3,500 metres—is one of the oldest monasteries in Leh and is affiliated to Drikung Kagyu school of Buddhism.
Almost in ruins today, Larnayuru hosts two masked dance festivals every year in the months of March and June, where monks and villagers perform traditional dance in colourful costumes. Surrounding it is a surreal moon-like landscape that excites both photographers and trekkers. The best time to visit the region is from June to September as the roads are clear and snow-free.
On the northern shore of Lage Maggiore is the lowest lying town in Switzerland. Ascona, in Ticino, feels like an Italian village with Vespa-driving, Italian-speaking Swiss. With its balmy weather, fashion boutiques and art galleries, and fine foods and wines, the lakefront town is a perfect summer getaway.
Lounge by the lake or stop by a cafe on the lake promenade; visit the old town of Borgo and the beautiful church of San Pietro e Paolo; take a boat ride to Brissago Islands on the lake that have 1,700 plant species. There are numerous hiking and biking trails all around—in Switzerland, the Alps are never too far. If you’re visiting in September, attend the classical music festival, Settimane Musicali di Ascona and listen to symphony orchestras, ensembles, and other recitals.
As London pulsates with festivals and open-air activities, escape to The Lalit London, strategically located on Tooley Street. Whether you want to take a stroll by the riverside or admire the tallest building in United Kingdom, The Shard, the boutique hotel is close to many of London’s stunning attractions. Enjoy one of the warmest months of the year in London, and be assured of being warmly greeted with two hands pressed together in ‘namaskaar’ by the staff dressed in full Indian attire.
Old Meets New – Housed in a 180-year-old Tudor-inspired red-brick building that was once a grammar school, the 70 individually crafted rooms and suites are reminiscent of a classroom and are named so too. The Headmaster’s room, redecorated as Lalit Legacy Suite, features ornamented ceilings and warm oak paneling. It interconnects three rooms and is perfect if you are travelling with your family. The guestrooms and suites—that used to be classrooms—have soaring ceilings and large windows that provides natural light. To soothe the sore muscles, head to Rejuve – The Spa and revitalise yourself with the Ayurvedic techniques using herbal infusions.
What’s On The Menu? The former grammar school’s assembly hall is now Baluchi— the hotel chain’s signature pan-Indian restaurant. You can dine under the blue chandeliers and treat yourself to Kerala-style seafood bisque with coconut and cognac and Kashmiri rogan josb. You can also savour fine wines and pair them with naans at Naanery. The hotel offers a novel Indian Afternoon tea menu at The Gallery at mezzanine level. Watch the London skyline change colours from The Terrace, where you can enjoy the best of both Baluchi and The Gallery in an open setting.
Coffee roasters and microbreweries, Asian canteens, and hidden-away regional restaurants—these are the coolest spots in Koramangala to take you from an early morning caffeine fix to a late-night tipple.
Flying Squirrel Coffee Roasters – From a lush coffee estate in Coorg, small batches of carefully harvested Arabica and Robusta beans make their way to a cheery little coffee roastery in Koramangala. Overlooking a fiery red gulmohar tree in bloom, a strong aroma of coffee lingers in the air, as fresh roasts are brewed in a variety of styles. With pour-overs, cold brews, and the current global trend in the coffee world, nitro coffee, on their menu, Flying Squirrel lets you choose your brew and your bean. Tubs of organic Sattva, chocolate-and-caramel toned Parama, a chicory blend, and fruity-sweet Aromatique beans are on display and available for sale. Co-founders Ashish D’Abreo and Tej Thammaiah—a third-generation coffee estate owner—are in the business of serious brewing, and the new cafe is a natural progression of the three-year-old online coffee brand.
Marla’s Goan Kitchen – A mix of homesick, experimental, and curious diners flock to Koramangala’s 7th Block to the cluster of tiny, regional Indian restaurants known for their otherwise hard-to-find cuisine. Tucked away among these, Maria Fernandes dishes out the wonderfully piquant flavours of Goa at Maria’s Goan Kitchen. What started out as a food delivery service for hot, home-style meals gradually evolved into a fuss-free, blink-and-miss establishment with a rather expansive menu. With favourites such as pork vindaloo, beef xacuti, pomfret in ambotik curry, Goan chorizo, and squid chilli fry, it’s hard to believe you aren’t seated at a beach shack with a view of the sea and beer in hand. The real winner here is the wholesome thali, perfect for those days when you want to order everything off the menu. Fluffy sannas, cutlets, tangy solkadi, rice, a choice of seafood, meat, or veg, and a slice of gooey bebinca.. Who says you can’t have susegad-in Bengaluru?
Nasi and Mee – Sitting behind a cheery glass frontage on the busy 80 Feet Road, dressed in warm tones of wood and yellow lights, the Asian canteen was born out of Singaporean local Ravindran Nahappan’s vision to bring the food that he grew up with to the city. A fourth-generation Indian, Ravindran says, “Nasi and Mee, which means ‘rice and noodles’ in Malay, is truly what we eat in the Straits Belt. Our cuisine originates from the movement of people— it’s a mix of Chinese, Malay, and Indian influences.” His sentiment translates into the menu, which features staples and specials from Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and Thailand—the slow cooked, ceremonial Malaysian Rendang, the delicate Chinese Char Siew, Indonesian sambal prawns, and the elaborate spread of Nasi Lemak. The peanut laden, coconut milk doused flavours transport you straight to Singapore’s hawker centres or Bangkok’s street food stalls. Coupled with the summery, deceptively light kiwi and lychee-infused wine spritzers, it’s no surprise that Nasi and Mee is always abuzz.
Surrounded by vineyards, storybook castles and cathedrals, with magnificent views of the Swiss Alps, Lake Geneva is for the dreamy traveller in us. The lake is shared between Switzerland and France, and is dotted with picturesque towns of Lausanne, Montreux, Nyon, Evian, among several others.
Watch out for the most stunning scenery as you cruise the lake on a luxury boat from the Eelle Epoque era. See the lake changing its colour, or be witness to the occasional ocean-like moments with surf and waves. The most beautiful stretch on the Lake Geneva cruise is between Lausanne and Montreux, where the Alps form a constant backdrop and the Lavaux vineyards are seen on the northern shores.
CHOOSE YOUR CRUISE
Lake Geneva caters to all travellers. Go for a day-long trip on a luxury boat, or hop on a regular ferry and explore the nearest port city. Compagnie Generale de Navigation is the most popular company in the area, and offers rides on various routes. It is also the only company that is allowed to drop off passengers at ports other than original boarding port. You can rent a kayak, yacht, windsurfer, pedalo pedal boat or power boat from major cities and explore the waters of Lake Geneva at your own pace.
WAYS TO SAVE
Try and plan your trip during the day when most of the companies offer cheaper deals. If taking your family along, ask for the family day tickets at ticket windows or buy them online. They are not well advertised, but save a great amount of money. Also, a same-day return ticket saves you around is per cent over buying two single tickets.
The gleaming white mother ship seems to hover over the translucent waters of the Great Barrier Reef, a beacon of refinement for the exhausted and happy anglers aboard the game boats. It’s been another extraordinary day of marlin fishing on two of Australia’s most technologically advanced game fishing vessels. Now it’s time to return to Beluga for G&Ts, a chef-prepared dinner and a good night’s rest in five spacious cabins.
The European style of service on the decks of the mother ship contrasts with the easy camaraderie among Zulu and Levante’s experienced fishing crew. Captain Bob and his crew are polished despite being barefoot, asking if we’d like drinks or a dip in the on-deck Jacuzzi. If ever there has been a way to go heavy-tackle fishing in style, Beluga Expeditions is it. The concept of mother shipping – using a superyacht as a base while exploring, diving or fishing by day from the game boats – has never been done at such a level in Australian waters. The three vessels complement one another, providing both action at sea and a sophisticated retreat.
The fleet is based out of Reef Marina at Port Douglas, but it’s rare to see the fleet in one place for long. This world wonder gives guests access to some of the most exciting dive, snorkelling and fishing sites, and free reign to enjoy her many toys, including jet skis and a mini-submarine. The Kimberley, the islands of Indonesia, Lord Howe Island and New Zealand are all among her possible destinations. A private charter aboard Beluga is all about the experience; she represents access to some of the world’s finest on-sea adventures without compromising on privacy, service or refinement. And for those days when you’re not feeling too adventurous, there’s always the Jacuzzi.
With an appetising crunch, I push my fork into a kataifi, splitting it in two. The traditional filo pastry, with strands as thin as vermicelli, wind tightly around a soft eggplant filling. It releases a warm, fragrant aroma of rich Cretan herbs on splitting and, after dipping a forkful into the accompanying sweet tomato marmalade, I savour its piquancy and delicate texture.
I’m sitting at Avli in Rethymnon, Crete, one of the most highly regarded restaurants in the Greek islands. Known for honouring traditional flavours of the land and preparing them with inspired techniques, Avli seamlessly blends the best of both old and new. Like the people of every Greek island, Cretans are fiercely proud of their local dishes. There are subtle differences, but a mutual climate with sun-soaked Mediterranean earth, warm seas and cultural influences from ancient Greek, Byzantine, Venetian and Turkish ruling periods bring the scattering of islands together in their cuisine profiles, producing a unique culinary landscape.
Gastronomic origins – From those historic eras until now, Greek island dishes show off the local produce, with olives, citrus, fresh seafood and local vegetables playing starring roles. Though simple, main meat dishes are never plain. Fragrant, slow-cooked rabbit, goat or lamb stews highlight the bold and bright qualities of intensely flavoured fruits and vegetables, thanks to the islands’ blazing sun and meagre rainfall. The country’s best wine varieties hail from Santorini, where volcanic soil nurtures the main grape variety, Assyrtiko, a vine that thrives on a water source of sea mist and nocturnal dew.
Above all, seafood reigns supreme. Octopuses are pinned out to dry daily, and can be seen splayed above mounds of sea urchins, calamari and shellfish as they chill on ice trays. Handpainted fishing boats haul in their catches of the day, to be consumed mere hours later. Whether it’s sea bream or sea bass, simply grilling a catch with a classic, uncomplicated blend of olive oil and fragrant herbs such as oregano or thyme often completes a recipe. Once served, a satisfying squeeze from a fresh lemon instantly brightens the scorched fish, rendering it irresistible.
Old island towns – Greek island fine dining brings these ingredients and techniques to an entirely new level. Avli’s degustation menu celebrates local culinary treasures and is inspired by the past and present in both taste and presentation. Dining in the Greek islands is also about appreciating the incredible surrounds. In Rethyrnnon, marbled door frames, ochre-painted walls, and intricate wooden Byzantine balconies draped in bright pink bougainvillea greatly enhance the experience. The conversation of passing locals and wandering travellers are the only sign that time hasn’t stopped in the most romantic of eras. At a neighbouring table, a clink of small tumblers brimming with a locally made raki – an anise-flavoured spirit – is accompanied by the toast “san ygeia mas” (to our health), setting a meal in motion among friends.
From the seaside – That familiar toast is echoed in Mykonos, my next stop, with glasses of a pale, golden-hued local white wine. At the five-star Bill & Coo Suites and Lounge, a member of The Leading Hotels of the World, I’m settling into one the most prized dining verandahs in the country. This time, I’ve traded an old town island view for another quintessential island scene: the impossibly azure Aegean Sea stretching endlessly into the distance.
Adrift in the trance-like tranquillity, a white plate topped with a stunning crimson composition suddenly seizes my attention. Called Cherry Tomatoes vs. Strawberries, this dish turns out to be not a competition of flavours, but rather a harmonious balance of them. Local cherry tomatoes roasted in honey, caper cream, thyme, virgin olive oil and goat cheese complement the sweet tang of strawberries for an entirely pleasing dish. It’s the start of a degustation menu meant to be lingered over, which isn’t very hard considering the setting. By the time I’m enjoying the last delectable mouthful, the sun is slowly sinking in a fantastically coloured sky. Taking in the moment, I sit back and breathe in the quiet night air and feel the hint of a cool sea breeze. Dining in the Creek islands – a truly intriguing and breathtaking destination – is about appreciating everything that surrounds you.