Experience the unbeatable combination of Greaves’ award winning service, in depth knowledge and the style and luxury of the Taj Grand Palace Hotels. Enjoy a selection of sumptuous tours, including the legendary Taj Lake Palace Hotel, voted the best hotel in Asia by Traveller’s readers, but for a fraction of the usual price. Staying in Taj’s authentic Palace Hotels will immerse you in the decadence and heritage of a bygone era as you journey through historic Rajasthan. Prices from £2899pp for 8 nights inclusive of BA flights. Additional savings can also be made by pampering yourself in the renowned Jiva spas and dining at the Grand Palaces.
Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in Asia.
ITC Hotels, in association with The Luxury Collection, offers 11 unique properties across lndia, each inspired by the history and culture of the region in which they are located. These are opulent residences with roots: every hotel celebrates India through its warm hospitality architecture and cuisine while upholding the highest standards of sustainability.
The Golden Triangle – Begin amid the intoxicating sights, sounds and smells of New Delhi before retreating to ITC Maurya. Its instantly recognisable stupa design pays tribute to the Mauryan dynasty plus its home to Bukhara and Dum Bukht, two of the country’s most sought-after restaurants. Next stop Agra and the Taj Mahal, where ITC Mughal offers a regal welcome. Winner of the Aga Khan Award for its representation of Mughal architecture, this is a retreat in the truest sense of the word. A must-visit on any Rajasthani journey is the pink city of Jaipur home to palaces, forts and bazaars. Here, ITC Rajput ana, designed to echo the regions havelis, embraces the spirit of royal Rajasthan. To complete the Golden Triangle with ITC Hotels, check into ITC Grand Bharat back in New Delhi, India’s first all-suite luxury retreat. In an idyllic spot, it offers luxury creative cuisine, a vast spa and a 27-hole Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course.
Southern splendor – Beyond the Golden Triangle, ITC Hotels brings other parts of India alive. In southern India, ITC Grand Chola is a landmark in Chennai from which you can stroll Marina Beach, soak up the sights and sounds of the city before retreating for rejuvination at the spa. Travel on to Bangalore and check-in at either ITC Gardenia (inspired by the city’s flourishing gardens) or aristocratic ITC Windsor. Sign off your southern sojourn in Hyderabad with a stay at ITC Kakatiya overlooking Hussain Sagar Lake.
Bright lights, big cities – For those heading to either Mumbai or Kolkata, ITC Hotels has properties in both. There’s the vintage ITC Maratha or super-stylish ITC Grand Central for anyone Mumbai-bound and Kolkata is home to ITC Sonar; India’s first business resort, nestled amid a million trees.
Dwarfed below the shimmering branches of Singapore’s solar-powered supertrees, it feels a little like you’ve been catapulted into the next century. The towering trunks may look more like terrifying triffids than twinkling Christmas trees, but there was a festive market in full swing, despite the electrical storm crackling above the seasonal carols. Even Santa would be hard-pressed to think of a much more enthralling destination for Christmas shopping than Chinatown or the designer stores of the ‘Garden City’s’ famous Orchard Road. The city’s night skyline ablaze with colourful lights is just as sensational from the sea, as I discovered when I joined an n-night round-trip cruise on board the Sapphire Princess.
The ship’s first country of call is Brunei, where a group of us chow down sticky-rice treats wrapped in banana leaves at a local home on stilts in Kampong Ayer, the world’s largest water village. In Vietnam’s beach town Nha Trang, I swap the chance to explore palm-fringed Tran Phu Street solo or flop on a sun lounger in the sand, for a half-day tour that includes visiting the 79-foot-tall Buddha at Long Son Pagoda and chaotic, crowded Cho Dam Market. It was similarly hectic in Saigon, where locals pay scant attention to red traffic lights and everything from chickens to pigs is balanced precariously on two wheels, as swarms of scooters speed through the streets. On board, many of the dishes (even the pizzas) were given a spicy Asian twist.
The specialty restaurants – Sterling Steakhouse, with its succulent surf and turf, and Sabatini’s Italian – were excellent and well worth paying extra for. And, for a special occasion, splash out on a night at the Chef’s Table, where you get a backstage peek at the bustling ship kitchens before a grand dinner: porcini mushroom risotto, mustard-coated fillet of beef and bittersweet chocolate mousse.
Four at-sea days meant plenty of time for a much-needed massage at the adult-only Sanctuary, where stewards were on hand with chilled face towels and frozen cocktails (more active passengers managed to summon up the strength to play basketball in the sweltering sunshine). Evening entertainment proved particularly lively, from acrobatic displays and Champagne fountain parties in the glitzy piazza to poolside family entertainment at Movies Under the Stars, where snacking on popcorn and ice-cream while watching the latest film blockbusters in the balmy open air was sheer bliss.
Asia: surely the ultimate continent of contrasts — from the volcano-dotted island of Java at the heart of Indonesia, to the ancient edifices of Angkor Wat; the ultra-modern skylines of Hong Kong; Taipei and Shanghai to the tranquil gardens of Kyoto; the vibrant culture and bustling cities of Japan, Singapore and Malaysia to the picturesque and secluded island destinations of the Maldives and Seychelles, scattered across the vast Indian Ocean. And everywhere you go in this diverse and beautiful part of the world are fascinating cultures, idyllic natural landscapes and a host of historic monuments and world-famous landmarks.
COSMOPOLITAN SIGHTS – Step off the gangplank at Singapore’s spectacular new Marina Bay Cruise Centre and you’ll find yourself immersed in all of the aforementioned within just a few steps. Take a stroll through the wonderfully walk-friendly streets of this bustlings cosmopolitan city and its ubiquitous collage of cultures becomes apparent at every turn: Chinatown, Little India, Kampong Glam, Katong and Joo Chiat — a melting pot of people of different ethnicities and beliefs.
Alongside these, a world-class living environment encompasses a landscape of modern architecture accentuated by green space and gardens — and even a primary rainforest, with a wealth of beautiful trail options for nature lovers (don’t miss the Tree top Walk at MacRitchie Reservoir).
By day you can explore Gardens by the Bay with its two-acre Cloud Forest, the three-acre Flower Dome and Supertree Grove, with its 160-foot sculptural ‘trees’ (actually vertical garden structures), the Singapore Botanic Gardens — a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the recently opened National Gallery of Singapore, or Sentosa Island with its beaches and world-class entertainment including Universal Studios, ONE°15 Marina Club and SEA Aquarium— one of the largest oceanariums in the world. By night you can choose between a multitude of world-famous cuisine, from Michelin-starred street food (as awarded in the latest guide) to modern Singaporean delicacies from local, rising chefs.
Then move onto soak up some of the city’s vibrant night life, whether at one of the hip and very happening rooftop bar, such as 1-Altitude, LeVeL33, Ce La Vi; at 28 Hong Kong Street bar — ‘the best cocktail bar in Asia’; or perhaps at the iconic Longbar at Raffles hotels where a masterclass from the bartenders will reveal the secret to the legendary Singapore Sling Little wonder, then, that Seabourn Cruises have chosen Singapore for the prestigious launch of their brand new, Adam D Tihany designed ship Seabourn Encore. Crowning a fleet that is already acclaimed as the most innovative on the seas, the strikingly beautiful new Seabourn Encore is set to be launched in Singapore on 7 January 2017. After lavish christening celebrations and the traditional bottle-smashing against the hull, her first fortunate guests can step aboard in eager anticipation of a truly six-star sailing experience around Asia.
SIX APPEAL – Six star? Absolutely. This is Seabourn, after all — which means that every one of the spacious, all-suite accommodations has ocean views — and, on Seabourn Encore, every suite has a veranda, all the better to enjoy them from. Above -and-beyond accessories include a complimentary in-suite bar always stocked with your favourite wines and spirits, fine Egyptian cotton and fluffy duvets, and specially created Molton Brown bath products.
Above-and-beyond service comes as standard: with nearly one staff member to every one of the 600 or so guests, there’s always someone on hand to create your favourite cocktail, plump up the pillows in one of The Retreat’s private, poolside cabanas, deliver a refreshing sorbet unprompted after a night spent dancing at The Club, or simply serve up exceptional cuisine created under the culinary genius of world-renowned Michelin-star chef Thomas Keller. And thanks to their smaller size (just 300 suites) these intimate ships can journey into the very heart of Asia.
Explore the haunting jungle-clad ruins of Java’s Borobudur; soak up the spectacular seascape of limestone pillars at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Halong Bay Vietnam; take in the ultra-modern skylines of Hong Kong, Taipei and Shanghai, relax in the tranquil gardens of Kyoto; sail up the Saigon River into Ho Chi Minh City; thread through the Philippines’ unspoiled Hundred Islands: a new dawn, a new day a new dreamy destination.
Realised beauty in a palm oil estate
Mangala Resort & Spa (Mangala) is located within a serene plantation in Malaysia’s East Coast cultural heartland, Pahang. Boasting a total of 31 villas, this resort located in Gambang has been rejuvenated from barren mining lands to a natural expanse of green and tranquil garden of palm and fruit trees. This beautiful natural scene is further accentuated with a lake and extensive tropical landscaping.
Mangala offers an eco-leisure experience with no compromise on luxury with each villa being equipped with stylish and contemporary facilities to create a perfect retreat within natural surroundings. There are ranges of relaxing villas that offer spacious and serene natural wood-decking, enhanced by tropical landscaping and also offer privacy and combine tranquillity with luxurious flair.
The range of villas includes Jala Villas, that overlooks a peaceful lake; Vana Villas, which offers a private pool situated on gently sloping land with spectacular lake views and palm forest as a backdrop; Sara Cottages, which are luxurious cottages that overlook wetlands and offer a picturesque view of the beautiful natural sights and sounds, perfect for nature lovers who enjoy observing wetland birds, fish and plants.
Mangala Resort & Spa is an unparalleled leisure resort that has been designed around the needs of travellers who seek the finest hospitality services and experience. Being a boutique resort, they offer personalised and professional services with a unique range of activities and facilities such as gym, infinity pool, wading pool, and others. Mangala Spa is designed as a tranquil retreat with comprehensive and enticing wellness programmes. These include a range of on-site activities and excursions such as cycling, canoeing and archery in addition to the services of an on-site naturalist and recreation consultancy team who can tailor personalised activities based upon individual needs and requirements.
Mangala Resort & Spa is a special place with so much positive energy. At Mangala, every breath is pure refreshment and revival with an emphasis on the purity of spirit and the state of being happy and healthy. It is no wonder that the name Mangala bears the meaning auspicious well-being in Sanskrit.
Olive Tree Hotel in Penang is an eco-conscious option for the business-oriented traveller
Does the idea of staying in a non-green hotel give you pause? With the new Olive Tree Hotel in Penang, you won’t have to worry about your hotel stay causing harm to the environment. Nestled along the industrial and corporate corridors of Penang, the Olive Tree Hotel is a Green Building Index (GBI) compliant hotel, and with its choice of 228 rooms and 24 suites, guests can expect functional spaces designed for the convenience of business and leisure traveller alike.
The Olive Tree Hotel is located just 10 minutes from the Penang International Airport and 20 minutes from its city centre. With a short scenic drive, guests will be able to access shopping centres and popular tourist spots like Queensbay Mall, Sunshine Square Shopping Complex, the Bukit Jambul Country Club, and the Penang Aquarium. The hotel even offers a scheduled shuttle service to the airport, Queensbay Mall, and nearby free trade zones.
Each room in Olive Tree is equipped with a 40-inch LED HD Television, and Chirotech mattress and microfibre pillows to ensure maximum comfort. The rooms are also equipped with high-speed internet access and an in-room safe deposit box. Avid readers of news and magazines may also obtain complimentary access to Press Reader, a smart-phone application available at Olive Tree Hotel which offers up to 5,000 newspapers and magazines.
For those who wish to host their events here, the hotel’s grand ballroom with its mezzanine gallery can comfortably accommodate up to 600 people, and is equipped with state of the art audio visual equipment. The well equipped conference and seminar facilities are flexible enough to be configured to suit a variety of needs and agendas. Olive free Hotel is located next to SPICE, near airports and both bridges.
Year-end gatherings highlight the best in literature, art and music in the pearl of the Orient
Literature critics, art enthusiasts and audiophiles will have to mark their calendars for the months of November and December as the stunning and remarkable “10 Days 3 Festivals” in Penang returns this year. The objective of having all these festivals back to back is to draw in visitors from all over and to ensure a fruitful stay and an enjoyable holistic arts festival in Penang. Read on more to find out about each individual event and what will be the highlights at each festival.
George Town Literary Festival (above)
25 – 27 November
The George Town Literary Festival (GTLF), one of the most beloved and respected literary festivals in the region, returns for the sixth year in celebration of poetry, prose and spoken word from 25 to 27 November.
Helmed by Festival Director, Bernice Chauly, the three-day festival will see panel discussions, readings, spoken word performances, dance and film screenings around the festivals theme; “Hiraeth”, a Welsh word which means “the longing for a homeland that is no longer there”. The theme captures a universal unrest and longing for a better world in a reality that sees mass displacement of people, gross violations of human rights and growing chasm caused by the proliferation of crippling neoliberalism and regressive ideologies.
The festival’s stellar line-up of world literary giants and respected social commentators include Stefan Hertmans (Belgium), Adriaan van Dis (Netherlands), Olga Martynova (Germany), AC Grayling and James Scudamore (UK), Ayu Utami (Indonesia), Tishani Doshi and Mahesh Dattani (India).
This year’s keynote address will be delivered by leading Malaysian feminist activist and writer Zainah Anwar, with headlining Malaysian writers including National Laureate of Malaysia Muhammad Haji Salleh, Tash Aw, Faisal Tehrani, Dina Zaman and Karim Raslan.
GTLF 2016 is free and open to public, with the exception of the writing workshops.
Costa Cruises marks 10th anniversary in Asia
Costa Asia recently celebrated a major milestone in Asia. It was the first international cruise company to deploy year-round homeport cruises in Asia in 2016 and in July this year, celebrated its 10-year anniversary in Asia.
Over the decade, Costa Asia has brought innovation and excellence to voyagers onboard their ships with their creative cruise experiences. Each Costa Cruise offers an authentic European cruising experience with their “Italy at Sea” concept. This concept sees travellers immersing themselves in Italian culture, cuisine and entertainment all onboard any of the Costa Cruises ships. One of its most popular ships is the Costa Victoria, where travellers can experience a spectacular Carnival of Venice at Sea!
One of the world’s most significant carnivals in Italy, the Carnival of Venice is an annual festival that originated after the victory of Venice in a war in 1162. The Venetian carnival was a celebration from then on that saw locals reunite with friends and family at St Mark’s Square to dance. Today, tourists flock to join in the age-old tradition that is filled with musicians, acrobats, clowns, magicians, puppeteers, elaborate masks, costumes and parades.
On Costa Victoria, the Carnival of Venice begins even before passengers get on board. Be greeted by festivities and celebrations in the spirit of the carnival with photo-taking opportunities with intricately designed Venetian costumes. Then at the Atrium of the ship, ‘live’ music formally welcomes guests to the Carnival of Venice. During this magical cruise, guests will be able to spot Venetian masks and people dressed in distinct Venetian costumes all set against a backdrop of Venetian decor and carnivalesque elements – the impressive Concorde Plaza will remind guests of the Mediterranean Sea with its marine oasis theme, and the soothing Spa pool the splendour of Pompeii, while the Capriccio Bar is adorned with mosaics designed by Italian artist Emilio Tadini.
Guests will have the opportunity to indulge in a variety of Carnival of Venice activities for a full Italian experience on Costa Victoria. Each day, find a copy of the pink ‘Today – the Daily Programme’ newsletter in your room that covers important cruise information, as well as a line up of the day’s activities. Each day features something new, such as Cocktails with the Captain, culinary demonstrations and a multitude of classes. Learn basic Italian phrases, how to make Costa Cruises’ world-famous tiramisu dessert and ballroom dances like the Cha Cha and Salsa. There are also seminars to attend on makeup, weight loss and skin care. For those who lead a more active lifestyle, there are ball game tournaments and lots of exercise classes led by crewmembers. Come evenings, be enthralled by performers in a ‘Viva l’Italia’ variety show, which sees singers and dancers performing Italian opera, do acrobatic circus tricks, hip hop dances and even impersonation acts from Las Vegas!
An up-and-coming destination for leisure and business travellers, Myanmar – formerly known as Burma – is making waves as a hub for tourists and businesses
While my stay in Myanmar was a short one, it was not difficult to notice how the traditional Burmese culture blended in with some of the more modern cultures, practices, and technologies. It was commonplace to see Burmese women dressed in trendy and fashionable blouses coupled with the traditional Longyi (pronounced long-gee). This long woven fabric, typically made from vibrantly coloured cotton or silk, is wrapped around the waist and hangs like a long skirt.
Facets of Tradition of Modernity
A more physical representation of the modern-meets-traditional vibe of Myanmar is the Sedona Hotel Yangon. Established with the concept of “warm Asian hospitality with contemporary indulgences”, the Sedona Hotel Yangon brings in a touch of modern luxury with the addition of its Inya Wing. The Inya Wing stands tall in contrast to the older Garden Wing and overlooks its namesake, the Inya Lake. With its colonial design, the Garden Wing stands for a more traditional aspect of the hotel, both inside and out, whilst the Inya Wing brings forward a more modern stand point with its towering structure and luxury apartment-esque room designs.
Hints of Myanmar’s ethnic culture is further represented in the interior of both wings through design accents of the Burmese Umbrella. Whilst the Burmese umbrella may seem like a rendition from a different age, it is still used as a functional accessory among the locals to shelter them from the strong sun.
Be enchanted by the nostalgic sights and sounds of traditional Singapore while relishing in modern architecture and design through contemporary rooms and lofts in Dorsett Singapore
Singapore is a progressive island, and a melting pot of cultures, ideas and histories. With these come a glorious mix of people, historical sites, modern attractions and world-class cuisines (that does not involve breaking your bank). To explore this amazing island, you’ll need a reliable and convenient accommodation option, one that offers a stylish and comfortable stay for discerning guests to enjoy and relax. Situated in the prime location above transport hub Outram Park MRT Interchange Station, Dorsett Singapore offers the best accessibility and hotel choice for both leisure and business travellers.
This 10-storey hotel boasts a full glass building facade on the outside, with modern design elements on the interior. The architecture presents a refreshing landmark that seeks to blend with the heritage backdrop of Chinatown precinct, the traditional Chinese quarter of olden days Singapore. Each of the 285 guestrooms and loft rooms are equipped with complimentary Wi-Fi, 40” LED TV with cable TV and international channels, posturepedic mattress for a healthy rest, cordless phone and IP phone with IDD access, iPhone/iPad docking app-enhanced dual alarm stereo clock radio and complimentary tea and coffee making facilities among many other facilities for an unparalleled staying experience.
Valued guests are able to stay connected 24/7 and explore the wonders of Singapore through unlimited mobile usage, Wi-Fi Hotspot, unlimited calls, comprehensive Singapore city guides preloaded into the phone and dips on exclusive discounts and ticketing offers.
Cast your worries aside if you are afraid you might get bored in-house. Embrace the foliage with a casual stroll at Dorsett’s landscape roof garden, one to offer a quick respite anytime of the day or simple take to the fully equipped gymnasium for a workout fix to get energised. Relax after within the 30-meter outdoor swimming pool and Jacuzzi, ideal for post workout or simply to recharge after a long day of business meetings or sightseeing.