Author: Lisa

aqua-luna-II

Aqua Luna II Pays Homage To City’s Maritime Past – Hong Kong

Ivory and imperial-blue sails, arched like dragon wings, pull taut in the evening breeze as the teakwood hull plies an easy 4S-minute loop through Victoria Harbour. The sail design is inspired by Ming Dynasty-era ceramics, featuring a dragon motif as a symbol of luck, and cuts a dramatic silhouette against the night sky, glittering with city lights. There are other ships aplenty in these waters—cruise liners, cargo vessels, fishing boats, and motorized yachts—but I’m aboard what might be Hong Kong’s last true junk.

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Aqua Luna II sails Victoria Harbour at nightfall

The Aqua Luna II was built by hand and without a single nail by Au Wai, an octogenarian junk builder and the last of his ilk in the city until he recently retired. These traditional boats emerged during China’s Han Dynasty, and were used for shipping, fishing, exploration—even in battle—for the next two millennia. As recently as the 1970s, Au says, “the industry was thriving and there were a lot of traditional junks docked in the harbor.” But over the years, the boats have slowly disappeared.

Despite a few modern adjustments to comply with government regulations, Au’s building process remained firmly rooted in time-honored methods. He uses bamboo for waterproofing and Indonesian teak wood to construct the hull, carefully cutting pieces according to their flexibility. The curved bottom of the boat, for example, requires the most malleable planks. Each piece is heated into shape, then locked together with a tree-derived glue.

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Crafting the hull of Aqua Luna II

Together with his son, Au Sai-Kit, and a team of builders, the elder Au spent two years constructing the Aqua Luna II in mainland China, before moving his work to Hong Kong. The ship took its maiden voyage in April, joining its sister craft, the red-sailed Aqua Luna, on Victoria Harbour.

Sails aside, it is a near mirror image of the Aqua Luna, though more posh thanks to newer furniture and a bigger bar area where guests are served all manner of drinks. Up close, the 27-meter boat looks nothing short of cinematic, with its polished wood decks and fan-like sails unfurling overhead. It’s a regal valediction from a consummate junk builder who dedicated his life to these historic boats. Originally from China, Au fled by bicycle to Macau during the second Sino-Japanese War when he was around five years old. He later made his way to Hong Kong, where his uncle taught him the trade, and eventually came to run Shau Kei Wan shipyard on the northeast corner of Hong Kong Island. While Au has passed his skills onto his son, the younger shipbuilder works mostly on repairing yachts, and doesn’t plan to take up the tradition due to increasing government regulations and a lack of demand. Though his father has another theory: “the new generation isn’t interested—they don’t like manual labor.”

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The bow of Aqua Luna II

Hong Kong is unlikely to see any more labors of love quite like this. “You have to be very precise with the wood cutting; even if it is one centimeter too short or too long, it  could mean that you have to start all over again,” Au says. “It’s a trade that does not allow for mistakes.” The Aqua Luna II is a triumph of precision, and Au expects it to last 40 years—plenty of time for travelers to experience the journey. “I’m incredibly proud of the work I have done,” Au says. “This boat will leave a lasting impression, as junks have done on maritime history, of Hong Kong’s culture and heritage”.

3 New Bars With Amazing Flavors Right In Kuala Lumpur

Shelley Yu’s

SHELLEY YU'S kuala lumpur

This Peranakan bar and restaurant is a charmer, matching Straits Chinese culture with a dash of irreverence. The gin-based cocktails steal the show, peppered with fruits and herbs that wouldn’t look out of place in a Nyonya grandmother’s spice cabinet: salted pineapples, dried sour plums and jackfruit leaves. Try the Roselle Spritz, squeezed from the roselle plant typically grown in Malaysian gardens. The drinks are creative, but when it comes to cuisine, Shelley Yu’s sticks to classic Malaccan Nyonya fare—still on-theme, and equally delicious. sbeUeyyus.com; drinks for two RM60.

Mr.Chew’s Chino Latino Bar

MR.CHEW'S CHINO LATINO BAR kuala lumpur

At this crayola-colored penthouse atop the WOLO Hotel, owner Eddie Chew has forgone the practiced sophistication of his other bars (Coppersmith, Claret) in favor of a louche, anything-goes vibe. A blend of Christian Lacroix fabric prints, imposing murals above the bar, and a champagne bathtub, the interiors are part Manhattan loft, part Cuban residence, and anything but dull. Bartender Rick Joore’s drink creations—like the Chew’s Daiquiri, a blend of rum, hanoho ziso flowers, lime, grapefruit and a plum wine reduction— evoke lazy Havana afternoons spent in the sun. mr-cbew.com; drinks for two RM80.

Kyo

kyo-bar-kuala-lumpur

This nightclub in the Mandarin Oriental has all the ingredients for a killer party: beautiful people, oodles of champagne, a strict door policy (a RM40 cover charge), and a pedigree in Singapore, where the original club had enough DJ- cred to launch a record label. A subterranean energy dominates Kyo (the dance room) and Ren (the cocktail lounge), both decked out in wood panels from tugboats in Port Dickson. Art by emerging talent depict tropes from Japanese anime and 90s movies, which speak to the club’s affluent millennial clientele. On the decks is a roster of local and regional DJs spinning a mix of blistering house, Afro, disco, hip- hop, funk, R&B and lounge tunes.

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Green Everywhere You Look – The Anam Resort

“Faster! Go faster!” Mr. Thanh, the water sports director, has been hollering in my ear, which really feels like the opposite of good- passenger behavior, and when he jumps off and starts swimming to shore, his exhortations echo in my wake. “Faster! Farrrrrrther!” If he says so. It’s been a while since I last drove a Jet Ski so I’m psyched to practice cutting and swerving at increasingly high speeds through these mini whitecaps on water that is clear to at least a meter.

There’s the occasional fishing boat bobbing to my east; on the dunes of the mostly empty shoreline to my west are a couple of local hotels and a few beach-shack eateries; and above…? Right above me is a plane heading in the same direction, surprisingly close. It’s coming in for a landing and I remember that Cam Ranh Airport lies just 11 kilometers—as the crow flies, car drives or, if you were ambitious, Jet Ski cruises—from where I started.

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Take to the seas with the resort’s Jet Skis, kayaks, surfboards, bravo sailboats or snorkeling gear

That’s the amazing thing about The Anam. The newest entry into Vietnam’s ultra-high-end market feels alike a fairy-land fusion of the remote purity of Koh Rong, Cambodia, with the playful, lawn- party luxury of the Florida Keys.

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The Anam’s Saigon bar

But it is a straight 12-minute shot to a little airport in the center of the East Sea coastline and 3s minutes to Nha Trang’—a bustling beach city better suited for a diving or drinking day trip than a relaxing vacation terminus. Sheltered on along empty shore south of Cu Hin Mountain with the requisite private-pool villas, a palatial Themae-product spa {plus two spa-centric guest villas with their own treatment rooms), a 3-D movie theater, three photogenic pools, and the best private-dining set-up I’ve ever experienced, The Anam has all of the elements of exclusive-resort style, none of the far-flung-hideaway inconvenience.

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Bedroom at Anam Resort

Thanks to the spare-no-expenses dedication to landscaping of founder Pham Van Hien, it looks like no other property in the country. Two long, Kelly green fairways run from the main pool down towards the shore where they join at a central lawn dotted with towering palms (3,000 were responsibly transplanted from a nearby grove).

Volleyball nets and a couple of soaring kites overlook a sweep of sand the color of un brushed silk and the bright azure ocean beyond. Stepping out of your villa— each has a garden-wrapped sunken tub and abed of lush Irish linens in a cocoon of French-Vietnamese overlap best exemplified by the floor tiles made by local artisans to evoke colonial-era grace—onto the soft golf grass each morning, you’ll rub your eyes and wonder if you’re standing in an oversaturated photograph. Or perhaps forgot to take off those 3-D glasses. Conquering water skis, sipping fresh coconuts, swinging in hammocks— it all seems so much more fulfilling in these high-definition greens, blues and whites.

Yes, the place is social media gold, but it’s also got warm, small-town service. Just ask the team of spider- men who set up the private-dining experience for us, tight-roping on the gazebo to ensure the drapes billowed just so, carefully arranging the candles into a romantic ring of fire. It was logically tucked into a copse of trees on the front lawn, about 15 meters from the chef and his grill, to perfectly balance privacy and proximity. This

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The villa-lined Lagoon Pool

means you get close to the sounds of the surf, without uncomfortably sandy feet to distract from the wine-paired meat and seafood extravaganza served by the attentive but decidedly nonintrusive waiter.

The hotel also has a community- focused mission championed heartily by general manager Herbert Laubichler-Pichler, who wanted to do more than just decorate his guest rooms with local originals. And so, a mixed-media art tour was recently launched by The Anam in conjunction with the Vietnamese Art Association of Khanh Hoa Province,  a place that photographer Mai Loc— who worked his way up from being an impoverished cyclo driver to an internationally recognized professional who has showed with the likes of James Nachtwey—tells me “is good inspiration for artists, not so good for art business.” The circuit varies by the day to share the spotlight among a diverse batch of creatives ; an afternoon drive through Nha Trangtakes us to meet him, a sculptor, and painters of varied styles and renown.

At the home gallery that demure Bao Tran runs to display the work of various painters including herself and her husband, Luu Thanh Qua, we’re saying our see-you-laters when Luu pulls out a sketchpad and charcoal pencils and shyly asks if, actually, I have five more minutes to spare. A lieutenant in the military, he mostly oil paints traditional bucolic scenes… although, watching him make effusive squiggles on the page, I suspect it is my non- traditional curly hair that was today’s inspiration.

I’m delighted to accept his drawing of me, and even more so that a couple of hours later we will meet again. We reconvene with all of the artists for an aperitif at Laubiehler-Pichler’s home, drinks on the beach at the NhaTrang expat institution Sailing Club {also The Anam’s partner for diving and island-hopping excursions) and then a big fresh-seafood feast. On a balcony overlooking the two twinkling spans over the city’s estuary, picking out snails and sucking down enormous steamer clams, a few rounds of 333 beer facilitates our group chat, a mash-up of their stilted English and my elementary Vietnamese. What a perfect setting it is to bridge the hotel community with this local fellowship, who themselves embody life in Technicolor.

Milaidhoo Island

Romance, Raw Beauty and Sense of Place – Milaidhoo Island

In the heart OF the UNESCO World Biosphere Baa Atoll, Milaidhoo Island Maldives is not just another five-star resort, Their philosophy of reinvented luxury starts from the very beginning: the boutique resort thinks of its guests as storywriters, crafting their dream holiday.

The aim is to create a place where guests feel like they belong. Service from everyone including your island host, who is on hand to ensure every detail of the stay is perfect, is tip top but always friendly, in line with the resort’s “barefoot informality” ethos. Above all, Milaidhoo offers a taste of the true Maldives, opening doors to Maldivian culture and unique experiences.

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Opened in November 2016, Milaidhoo has its own corat reef, which completely circles the island and is noted as an outstanding snorkelling and diving site.

A member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, Milaidhoo has just 50 thatched-roof villas, designed by a local architect and made by master craftsmen. Spacious and bright, each has a private freshwater pool on the sundeck and opens up 180 degrees to allow the natural beauty of the island into the villa. The room rate includes wi-fi, laundry, movies-on-demand, snorkelling equipment and in-villa treats such as a bottle of champagne and fruit basket on arrival, and evening turn-down with gourmet snacks. Toiletries are full-sized from the ultra-luxurious Acqua Di Parma.

Milaidhoo serenity spa

Serenity Spa

The over-water Serenity Spa is all natural and organic, using the power of plants from famous British brand Elemis and innovative African brand Thera Naka. Sports include yoga, sailing, catamarans, kayaks, a 24-hour gym, yacht trips, dolphin cruises, whale shark spotting, manta ray watching, conservation activities with the resident marine biologist, diving, snorkelling, and an open-air infinity pool. Guests don’t just go fishing, but go out on a local boat with Maldivian fishermen and help bring in the days catch.

Food lovers will enjoy the Milaidhoo Gourmet dine-around meat plan offering daily breakfast, lunch and dinner plus all drinks including premium alcohol and wine. In the three wonderful restaurants, no shoes are required. Ever. The signature restaurant, Ba’theli, is on three replica wooden boats, and its menu is inspired by the spice trade routes when, 5,000 years ago, local-made cargo boats sailed the archipelago spreading knowledge about different lands, their customs and cuisine. Dine on the ‘deck’ underneath starry skies or in the ‘cabin’ of the boat and watch sea- life below through glass floors.

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Milaidhoo Gourmet Restaurant

Milaidhoo is tailor-made for couples, with no children under the age of nine allowed on the island. The Perfect Honeymoon package includes romantic dinners, spa treatments and even a star in the night sky named after them-certainly not your average holiday souvenir.

hotel-bangkok-siam

Enjoy The Unique Experiences Offered By Mercure Hotels In Southeast Asia

TRAVEL MADE AUTHENTIC MERCURE HOTELS TAKE GUESTS OFF THE BEATEN TRACK AND LET THEM DISCOVER A NEW CITY IN A TOTALLY AUTHENTIC WAY EVERYTHING FROM DESIGN TO FOOD IS CAREFULLY CRAFTED TO SHOWCASE THE LOCAL FLAVOUR AND HELP TRAVELLERS EXPERIENCE WHAT MAKES A PLACE UNIQUE

Staying true to that promise, Mercure hotels in Thailand make each neighbourhood’s history and hidden stories accessible, creating memorable stays for every guest in this magical country.

With excellent access to transportation and within walking distance to the city’s best shopping, Mercure Bangkok Siam’s central location is perfect for on-the- move guests.

Mercure Bangkok Siam-pool-side

Mercure Bangkok Siam’s Pool Side

And it has another advantage for the active set: the nearby Lumpini Park. As the sun rises, the place is buzzing as old friends practice tai chi, play board games, and chat over breakfast. Office workers start their day with a jog around the lake or an aerobics class set to booming dance hits. From yoga to basketball to weight lifting, the park really has something for everyone.

Newly renovated, Mercure Bangkok Sukhumvit 11 features spacious and contemporary rooms, creative dining options, and a breathtaking rooftop swimming pool. It’s a taste of modern Bangkok living, but also offers guests a glimpse of the past a few minutes away at the Jim Thompson House.

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Mercure Bangkok Sukhumvit 11

An intelligence operative, architect and art collector, Jim Thompson revitalised the Thai silk industry before disappearing mysteriously while on a hike in Malaysia. Today, his charming wooden Thai- styie home is a slice of Bangkok life in the 1960s that also showcases the craftsmanship of local silk weavers.

Panoramic views of the skyline, gourmet food, and signature wine list make Mercure Bangkok Makkasan’s sophisticated M Wine Lounge and pool bar ideal for a romantic evening on the hotel’s 10th floor. But mornings bring a very different experience as farmers from across the country turn Makkasan train station into a bustling market.

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M Wine Lounge: Mercure Bangkok Makkasan

With a variety of exotic fruits and vegetables, as well as authentic Thai dishes, this is the best place to experience the absolute best farm -fresh mango, durian, longan, mangosteen and other offerings.

An exceptional value in the heart of the city, Mercure Chiang Mai provides for guests’ every need and offers easy access to northern Thailand’s shopping, dining, and historic cultural sites. One such site is just a minute’s walk from the hotel. Part of the ancient Wat Chedi Dang Nok temple, a hundred-year-old pagoda stands among modern buildings and attracts locals with its Well of Good Luck. Believed to draw from a fortune-changing pool beneath the pagoda, it has never failed to supply luck-seekers with its special water.

Mercure Chiang Mai

Mercure Chiang Mai

artmonstay guesthouse legend of the blue sea night

Among Korean Celebrities in Seoul

      I’ve been known to get a little stars truck when meeting Korean celebrities. Yet, as these opportunities are few and far between, then next best thing is to visit the shooting locations of some of my favourite TV dramas and walk in their footsteps of the stars. And fortunately for me, Seoul i s full of them.

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A night view of Artmon Stay Rooftop (“Legend of the Blue Sea)

Thanks to the huge popularity of hallyu, or the Korean Wave, so many TV dramas and movies have been filmed here so the city has almost become a virtual outdoor entertainment museum, with dozens of familiar attractions and cozy hideaways where actors entertained thousands of fans.

Take, for example, my first visit to Artmon Stay, made famous from the TV hit “Legend of the Blue Sea” starring Jun Ji-hy un and Heo Joon-jae. It is here, up on the rooftop that overlooks the neon city below, that the two stars shared romantic encounters. And given the glowing urban backdrop, it’s not hard to understand why. This location is   perfect for spending the night huddle dup close and enjoying the surrounding cityscape. I still consider th is to be one of my favourite scenes from the show.

Next up, Cafe Plate B. This cozy setting was used for “Strong Woman Dobongsoon” ,starring Park Bo-young, Park Hyung-sik and Ji Soo.Fans of the show may recognize the small walnut-shaped cake. It is a Korean delicacy and a signature dish served here. Itis absolutely delicious and not at all surprising that it appeared in this notable scene.

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Cafe Plate B – (“Strong Woman Dobongsoon”)

My journey finally brings me to the relatively remote set of “The Liar and His Lover”, starring Kang Han-Kyeol and Yoon So-Rime. It is here along this peaceful stream where they strolled together. The area has a really quaint feel to it, and its mountain backdrop only adds to its charm. As I walk along the path I am in stantly transported back to the show.

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Colorful murals is along the stream (“The Liar and His Lover)

Walking in the footsteps of Korean celebrities reignites my appreciation for the aforementioned TV drama and shines a new light on the growing success of hallyu.

swissotel-nankai

These 5 Asian Homestays Will Meet Your Highest Expectations

SUITE DELIGHTS IN OSAKA

Executive Lounge - Swissotel Nankai Osaka

Executive Lounge – Swissotel Nankai Osaka

Often referred to as “Japan’s Kitchen,” Osaka is a food lover’s destination, with culinary delights awaiting your discovery. Incredibly vibrant and culturally rich, Osaka is a wonderful city to visit at all times of year.

Located in Namba, the city’s heart of entertainment, shopping and dining, is the fabulous Swissotel Nankai Osaka, with its beautifully appointed suites that enjoy sweeping views across the city. Each suite features a stylish blend of Japanese refinement and Swiss precision, creating a feeling of cool chic and cozy comfort. Luxuriously appointed bathrooms, stylishly contemporary furnishings and some pretty sophisticated in-room technology help cocoon you from all the excitement that awaits you outside.

Swissotel Nankai also features its own exquisite dining and entertainment options. Seven restaurants and bars throughout the hotel offer the world on a plate, with international dining at Tavola36 located on the top floor, as well as deliciously authentic Japanese and Asian fare, fine wine and beautifully crafted cocktails. Suite guests also enjoy the exclusive service of the Executive Lounge, a haven of comfort that offers complimentary breakfast as well as evening cocktails during your stay.

 SUITE BLISS IN BANGKOK

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Swissotel Le Concorde, Bangkok

Amidst the hustle and bustle of Bangkok, the beautiful temples, endless shopping and vivid nightlife, is a haven of calm and contemporary five-star sophistication, namely the Swissotel Le Concorde. Located in Bangkok’s thriving central business and entertainment district, the hotel is a perfect destination for business travelers as well as for those who enjoy a little luxury.

Enjoy the stylish charm of one of these spacious suites, complete with in-room high-tech entertainment and business facilities and luxurious spa style bathrooms. The suites, located on the top floors of the hotel, also enjoy easy access to the Executive Lounge where complimentary breakfast and evening cocktails are offered for your enjoyment during your stay.

After a day of sightseeing, relax and treat yourself to one of Spa De Concorde’s deluxe body treatments or traditional Thai massages, or simply unwind by the outdoor pool with its expansive city views. And if you’re feeling a little peckish after all this pampering, enjoy one of the four restaurants in the hotel, with Japanese, Cantonese, Thai and International cuisines on the menu.

 SUITE KIDS IN KAMALA

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Kids World at Swissotel Resort Phuket

Perfect for a family holiday in the sunshine, Swissotel Resort Phuket Kamala Beach offers an ideal setting to recharge and reinvigorate. More tranquil than many of Phuket’s other beach destinations, Kamala offers a tropical escape away from the crowds with white sandy shores surrounded by forested hills, and beautiful views of the surrounds.

The resort offers 180 one, two and three bedroom suites, with separate living rooms and ensuite bathrooms, creating enough  space for the whole family to have fun. Featuring contemporary design with bright vibrant decorative touches throughout, each suite reflects the style of an idyllic island getaway as well as stunning pool lagoon or lush garden views to be enjoyed from private balconies.

Voted one of the Top 25 Hotels for Families in Thailand in the 2017 Trip Advisor Travelers’ Choice® Awards, Swissotel Resort Kamala Beach offers something for every member of the family.

The beach is just a stone’s throw away, and charming Kamala village is a fun place to explore during your stay. The resort also features Kids World, a fun and interactive environment for children aged 4 to 12 years to enjoy games, activities and entertainment under the care of experienced child minders. Parents can then relax by the pool, or be pampered with a selection of treatments and therapies from the spa.

 SUITE PLEASURE IN PATONG

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Swissotel Resort Phuket Patong Beach

For fun in the sun, and also under the stars, Patong Beach is a haven for hedonists. Days spent on the beach enjoying water activities and lazing beneath a beach umbrella transform into a party every night with restaurants, bars and clubs a plenty to keep you entertained.

And in the heart of this relaxation and entertainment destination is Swissotel Resort Phuket Patong Beach. Each luxurious suite has been designed with accents of vibrant color and polished timber floors creating an environment of relaxing tranquility. The spa-inspired bathrooms set the mood for relaxation and rejuvenation and come complete with invigorating rain showers and Purovel amenities.

The resort boasts authentic Thai cuisine featuring locally sourced fresh ingredients that capture the flavors of the island as well as international cuisine to keep even the choosiest diner satisfied. Grab a quick bite or a cool drink from the swim up pool bar, or enjoy a sundowner at Dbar, the resort’s sophisticated cocktail bar before heading out for an evening of fun.

The Spa features a wide selection of Thai massage, natural body cleansing and detox therapies to leave you feeling fresh and energized all in the tranquil comfort of private single’s and couple’s suites.

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South Korea’s Capital Is a Red-Hot Center Of Cool

 DO YOU KNOW THE KOREAN WAVE? ARE YOU AMONG THE MORE THAN ONE BILLION PEOPLE WHO TUNE INTO WATCH THE KOREAN DRAMA DESCENDANTS OF THE SUN?

Do you swoon whenever Lee Byung-hun appears on the big screen? Do you follow, with perhaps a slightly unhealthy interest, the tangled love lives of K-pop’s megastars? Are you aware that LeBron James really does drive a Kia? Have you ever found yourself, late at night, on YouTube, watching PSY’s 2012 totally bonkers live performance of “Gangnam Style”—the one in Seoul, outdoors, with 80,000 delirious fans singing and dancing in unison? Did you experience the shivers?

If you answered no to these questions, well, Fm afraid you are behind the times, my friend. Your attachment to Cadillac, The Walking Dead, and Taylor Swift is, sad to say, a little parochial. The world has moved on. But it’s not hopeless. You too can ride the Zeitgeist. You just need to turn your gaze to Seoul.

Today, South Korea is cool. How cool? Well, the day I arrived at Incheon International Airport—a sleek new Asian hub where you can find a golf course, a skating rink, a casino, a spa and sauna, a museum, a movie theater, an arts and crafts studio, and the kind of dining options that will make you weep in despair the next time you encounter an airport Cinnabon—North Korea was busy playing with its nukes. My phone was aflame with news of hydrogen bombs, ICBMs, and American F-22 Raptors patrolling the DMZ while North Korea stood ready to launch 500,000 artillery shells into the heart of Seoul, just 35 miles from the border.

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Yeouido Park

This, I thought, is not good. I had flown in from my home in Washington, D.C. I tried to imagine what it might be like if some heavily armed, psychotic dictator with provocative hair threatened our nation’s capital with Armageddon from his sanctum in Baltimore. I think I can state with some certainty that there would be pandemonium. We do not do sangfroid in Washington. We are, as many have long suspected, mostly weenies. Not so the people of Seoul.

“I don’t think about North Korea when I’m stirring my pasta,” said my friend, who wanted to remain anonymous because she works in PR for a large Korean firm. She said this a little wistfully, not because she was especially moved by the current troubles but because she had recently given up carbs. “It’s just another foreign country. And so we ignore it and get on with our lives.” I had met her in a coffee shop in Gangnam, the flashy section of Seoul south of the Han River, which acts as a kind of border of its own, neatly bisecting the city, dividing the old Seoul of palaces, markets, and government ministries from the new Seoul of cloud-scraping high-rises, cutting-edge restaurants, and tottering fashionistas. Gangnam is where many of Seoul’s movers and shakers live, work, and play. They are fueled by caffeine, as evidenced by the approximately 30 coffee shops that seem to inhabit each and every block of downtown Seoul. Not a single one offers decaf. I checked. “The energy is addictive here,” she noted, as we mainlined a couple of espressos. “Koreans have a continuous need for change. We have a saying here: Change everything except your wife and kids.”

 “THE ENERGY IS ADDICTIVE HERE. CHANGE. WE HAVE A SAY: CHANGE EVERY KOREANS HAVE A CONTINUOUS NEED FOR THING EXCEPT YOUR WIFE AND KIDS.”

This was the exhortation Lee Kun-hee, the son of the founder of Samsung, gave to his employees back in 1993 (before his own recent sex scandal), urging his company to forgo conformity and embrace risk and innovation. It worked, of course. Today, despite some embarrassing setbacks, Samsung is a tech behemoth and a major reason that South Korea leapfrogged dozens of nations to become the world’s sixth largest exporter. China may be the world’s factory, but increasingly it is South Korea that determines what people consume, from pop music to television dramas to smartphones to biopharmaceuticals.

And yet, it sometimes seems as if South Koreans haven’t quite internalized just how revolutionary their recent history has been. One great curiosity of Seoul is the locals’ insistence that they are the Italians of Asia. It’s something I would hear often, and, frankly, I found it inexplicable. Yes, Koreans are expressive, emotional, impulsive—all attributes typically associated with Italians, as well as Brazilians, Lebanese, Nigerians, Tahitians, and my kids. But are the office lights still on at 11 p.m. in downtown Naples? Do little boys and girls in Milan spend their weekends  at cram schools? Does anyone tune in to Italian television shows? No. I think what Koreans mean—and they are quite proud of it—is that they no longer feel tethered to the old Confucian ideals of duty, fealty, and hierarchy. And this has led to the thrum of energy one can feel crackling through modern Seoul.

Luxury Cruise Awards 2017

luxury-cruise-awards-1The cruise industry is growing at an unprecedented rate in Australia (21 per cent in the past year alone), as travellers of an ever-widening age range explore the incredible itineraries – and ships – on offer across the globe. Last year, one in 19 Australians (1.28 million of us) went on a cruise, the highest per-capita rate in the world. The panel of 10 top cruise specialists and travel advisors have nominated the most impressive luxury cruise lines, big, small, yachting and expedition. The judges ranked their selections for each sub-category, which we then converted to points to determine the overall winners.

JUDGES


 

ALISON DI PAOLO
Claremont Cruise & Travel Centre

This year is Alison’s 41st year in our exciting industry, and she has been with Claremont Cruise & Travel for 11 years. Her specialty is luxury travel and cruising.

JUSTINE SEALEY
Ramsgate Travel Service

Justine has been with Ramsgate Travel Service for the past 24 years, and has an in-depth knowledge of the cruise industry. Riverboats are her specialty.

ANTHONY GOLDMAN
Goldman Travel Group

As a third-generation travel professional, travel has always been in Anthony’s blood. The Goldmans are at the forefront of travel advisory in Australia.

MELINDA GREGOR
Gregor & Lewis

Melinda has been in the travel Industry for over 30 years. Gregor & Lewis is an award-winning luxury boutique travel agency specialising in luxury cruising, www. greg or lewis .com.au

CLAUDIA ROSSI HUDSON
Mary Rossi Travel

Claudia has loved cruising since the ‘60s. After 40-pi us years in the family travel business, she has introduced cruising to thousands of delighted passengers.

PENNY SPENCER
Spencer Group of Companies

Named in SmartCompany’s 2017 list of Australia’s Top 30 female entrepreneurs, Penny leads a portfolio of companies specialising in corporate and leisure travel.

JASON KROUPA
House of Travel

While Jason’s team is based in the small New Zealand town of Motueka, their specialist knowledge of luxury cruising makes them leaders in their field.

PHILIP HOFFMANN
Phil Hoffmann Travel

Philip was awarded an Order of Australia in 2012 for his contribution to the travel and tourism industries. He employs 220 South Australians in 10 branches.

JO GOSTIN
FBI Travel

Jo owned and operated her own agency until 2001 when she merged with FBI Travel. Her extensive expertise as a travel advisor lies in the cruising market.

PHILIP SMETHURST
Bicton Travel Premium

Philip creates bespoke travel experiences for luxury travellers. Bicton Travel has been named Australia’s leading Cruise Travel Agency six times in the CLIA Awards.

LARGE SHIPS CATEGORY
(351-2500+ passengers)


BEST CABINS

Crystal Cruises
Oceania Cruises (Marina, Riviera)
Viking Ocean Cruises
Cunard
MSC (Yacht Ciub)

BEST SERVICE

Crystal Cruises
Oceania Cruises
Viking Ocean Cruises
Cunard
MSC

BEST CUISINE/DINING EXPERIENCE

Oceania Cruises
Crystal Cruises
Viking Ocean Cruises
Cunard
MSC

BEST SHORE EXCURSIONS

Oceania Cruises
Crystal Cruises
Viking Ocean Cruises
Cunard
MSC

BEST DECOR/AMBIENCE

Crystal Cruises
Oceania Cruises
Viking Ocean Cruises
Cunard
MSC

BEST ENTERTAINMENT

Oceania Cruises
Crystal Cruises
Cunard
Viking Ocean Cruises
MSC

BEST WELLNESS PROGRAMMES

Crystal Cruises
Oceania Cruises
Viking Ocean Cruises
Cunard
MSC

BEST EMBARKATION PROCESS

Crystal Cruises
Oceania Cruises
Viking Ocean Cruises
Cunard
MSC

BEST VALUE

Oceania Cruises
Viking Ocean Cruises
MSC
Crystal Cruises
Cunard

BEST ITINERARIES

Viking Ocean Cruises
Oceania Cruises
Crystal Cruises
Cunard
MSC

WINNERS


 

#1 Oceania Cruises (Marina, Riviera)

oceania-marina

Oceania Marina Cruise

Our judges loved the emphasis Oceania places on cuisine, particularly aboard the 1250-passenger Marina and Riviera. Its tagline ‘Finest Cuisine at Sea’ is well deserved. Elegance without pretence is this cruise line’s manifesto.

#2 Crystal Cruises

The luxurious Crystal fleet is known for its impeccable service, world-class dining and entertainment, and an engaging enrichment programme. The ships have the highest per-guest space ratios of any ships in their class.

#3 Viking Ocean Cruises

Viking ships transport up to 930 passengers to ports around the world. Staterooms are spacious and well-appointed, and all have a verandah. The Swiss-trained crew members offer personal and genuinely friendly service.

#4 Cunard

#5 MSC (Yacht Club)

6 Coolest Cities Around The World

Moscow

moscow-2

Like a matryoshka nesting doll, Russia’s splendid capital city reveals itself in layers. At Moscow’s core.

Red Square, the imposing Kremlin complex (with previously off-limits areas set to open to the public in 2017), and the candy-striped domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral remain popular attractions. To explore the city’s less touristed outer rings, ride the Metro (famous for lavish architectural details, such as stained-glass panels and intricate mosaics). Browse galleries at Winzavod, a former wine-bottling factory turned contemporary art center. Meander around the newly redeveloped VDNKh, a nearly 600-acre Stalinist exhibition center once dubbed the “Soviet Versailles.”

In Gorky Park view the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art’s first triennial (March 10-May 14), featuring works from Russia’s vast and diverse artistic landscape. And even though life back in the U.S.S.R. isn’t something modern Muscovites are likely to celebrate, the Communist propaganda poster collection is reason enough to visit the Russian Contemporary History Museum.

Why Go Now?
Unpeel history 100 years from the Bolshevik Revolution

 Madrid

madrid

    Spain’s cosmopolitan capital city—which hosts World Pride Madrid 2017 (June 23 to July 2)—lays claim to three of the world’s greatest art museums (the Prado, Reina Sofia, and Thyssen-Bornemisza), nightlife that runs into day, and manicured parks and gardens. Contemporary Madrileno street artists make their mark in neighborhoods such as bohemian Malasanaand multicultural Lavapies.

“The local urban art scene is emerging as a new landmark where both national and international artists, many from Latin America, have seized a real opportunity to express themselves,” says Chris Cung, founder of Madrid Urban Art Tours. Hit the streets with Cung to see walls, alleys, and other hardscape canvases of creativity.

Why Go Now?
Get an eyeful of urban art

 Anchorage

anchorage

With Cook Inlet as a front porch, the Chugach Mountains out back, and five national parks nearby. Anchorage offers access to Ala ska-size adventures. Add nearly round-the-clock daylight in summer, and it’s possible to pack a week’s worth of activities into a weekend. Try angling in the world’s largest urban fishery. Then hike to a glacier, surf the bore tide along Turnagain Arm, spot grizzlies from a floatplane, and land back at Bear Tooth Grill for a Polar Pale Ale. At the time of the Alaska Purchase (mocked then as Secretary of State William Seward’s “Folly”), the region was considered a frozen wasteland. “Today, Alaska is at the center of a number of issues of global importance,” says Thomas Gokey, PR manager at the Anchorage Museum. In fall 2017 the museum opens an expanded wing and a redesigned Alaska exhibit, with multimedia elements that give visitors a taste of life in the largest U.S. state.

Why Go Now?
Celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Alaska Purchase

 Cartagena

cartagena-colombia

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos recently earned the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end 52 years of war in the country. Untouched by the conflict, Cartagena, on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, has long inspired visitors and writers—in particular, novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who set his luminous Love in the Time of Cholera here. See what stirred him on a stroll through the walled Old City, with its brightly painted colonial mansions, bougainvillea-draped balconies, and open-air courtyard cafes filled with the infectious rhythms of cumbia. Marquez told the Paris Review in 1981 that while he garners credit for his fiction, his work is entirely drawn from real life: “The problem is that Caribbean reality resembles the wildest imagination.”

Why Go Now?
Give peace a chance in Colombia

 Hamburg

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Berlin may rock, but Hamburg floats. Water, water is everywhere in this former Hanseatic League city, Germany’s “gateway to the world” for centuries. Located on the Elbe River near the Naorth Sea, Hamburg is Europe’s second busiest container- port (after Rotterdam) and is laced with canals. When the tide cooperates, you can cruise the canals crisscrossing Speicherstadt, one of the world’s largest historic port warehouse districts. This revitalized area is part of 388-acre HafenCity, Europe’s biggest inner-city development project, rising on the banks of the Elbe. HafenCity preserves elements of Hamburg’s maritime past while reinventing its once grungy Old Port with stunners such as the Elbphilharmonie, opening in January. The concert hall complex was built atop a brick warehouse and now features state-of-the-art acoustics and sweeping views of the city from an llth-story plaza.

Why Go Now?
Dip into a waterfront world of reinvigorated architecture

 Marrakech

MARRAKECH

French fashion icon Yves Saint Laurent plucked some of his most audacious color combinations—think saffron orange with violet purple—from the gardens, skies, and maze-like souks (markets) of Marrakech, Morocco. As Saint Laurent’s partner, Pierre Berge, told the BBC in April, “He [Saint Laurent] said, before Marrakech he saw only in black and white.” The couple first bought a home here in 1966, and the city’s kaleidoscope of brilliant colors permeated Saint Laurent’s collections for much of his 40-year career.

Following the designer’s death in 2008, his ashes were scattered in Jardin Majorelle, the Marrakech garden compound cultivated by landscape painter Jacques Majorelle  in the 1920s and given to the public by Berge and Saint Laurent in 1980. Next door is the couple’s most recent Marrakech home, the cobalt blue Villa Oasis. Nearby, the newly built Mu see Yves Saint Laurent Marrakech is one of two YSL museums (the other is in Paris) set to debut in fall 2017 with a trove of garments, sketches, and photos.

Why Go Now?
A new look at Yves Saint Laurent