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Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in Asia.
Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in Asia.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hotel Maya – A soaring atrium, elevated walkways and vast walls of glass give the Maya an aesthetic edge over other four-stars. Rooms are crisp, clean and comfortable, with everything you need, including access to the guest- only Sky Lounge where complimentary drinks and snacks are served every evening. There are indoor swimming and hydrotherapy pools opening up to Kuala Lumpur’s ever morphing skyline; a terrific little spa and a clutch of casual restaurant s. The kicker, though, is the location, close to KL’s newest clubbing district, Electric Boulevard, home to some of the best nightlife found anywhere in the city.
Anggun Hotel – Set in a former Chinese shop-house on a leafy street around the corner from the city’s best-loved foodie neighbourhood, Jalan Alor, the Anggun offers a delicious slice of old KL. To say the rooms are petite would be polite. They are quite lovely, though, with natural stone tubs, glazed sinks, shuttered windows and art works. The rooftop terrace offers a delightful spot for breakfast. For your other meals look no further than the end of the street, where you’ll find rows of stalls selling aromatic black beef balls, chilli-topped chicken rice and steaming bowls of hokkien mee (goopy noodles drenched in soy sauce) at about £2 a pop.
Rainforest Bed And Breakfast – For all its many luxury properties, there are budget options too, and this B&B, hidden under a thick veil of tropical foliage in buzzy Bukit Bintang, ticks all the boxes. Guests are greeted with courteous staff and wafts of frankincense, while rooms are simple but atmospheric, with teak beds, tiled floors and spacious, spotlessly clean, white marble bathrooms. If you’re after more than a tea-and-toast brekkie, head for a traditional nasi lemak (coconut milk rice) from the street stalls on Jalan Alor.
Villa Samadhi – Boutiques are still a rarity in KL but this 21-room hideaway is a sweet spot. The thatched roof; lanterns and tropical foliage carry a sense of the Balinese. Some rooms have outdoor hot tubs, others direct access to the swimming pool and all are extremely spacious with calm, minimalist, dark-wood interiors. Birdsong accompanies a divine a la carte breakfast, while in the evening the candle-lit terraces and soft glow of the swimming pool are wonderfully romantic.
Traders – Cesar Pelli’s iconic Petronas Twin Towers turned 20 in March and there’s no better place from which to gawp at them than Traders Hotel, sitting right opposite. Traders’ recently refurbished rooms— in creams, mossy greens and pale woods — are capped by a 25-metre swimming pool on the 33rd floor, alongside the Sky Bar, one of the city’s most popular nighttime hangouts— be sure to book a table at least a day ahead. Also on the doorstep is Kuala Lumpur’s biggest shopping mall, the Suria KLCC and the lush City Park, as well of stacks of bars and restaurants. First-timers couldn’t be better placed to take the city in.
The Majestic Hotel – A heritage hotel straight out of the golden age of travel, the Majestic is all neo-classical columns and art deco detailing with white-gloved doormen to boot. Inside, the building has been split into two; there are tiled floors, Persian rugs, white wood panelling, Chinese lamps and swirling wooden fans in the original 1930s building, and swathes of black marble, giant Gatsby-esque chandeliers and a lively buffet restaurant in the new 12-storey tower wing, it’s located in one of the city’s most fascinating neighbourhoods, opposite the marvellous old Malayan Railway Station, a Moorish-inspired beauty.
In an era where you can play Pokemon Go at Machu Picchu it’s increasingly difficult to feel like you’re blazing a trail. But while the golden age of discovery is behind us, there are still a few nuggets left for those who look for them, A few monsoons ago, I headed to Pulau Tioman to boldly go where no one had gone before. Probably. The island itself is hardly uncharted territory — a steady stream of tourists trickle through its tiny airport every week — but beyond Tioman’s sandy shores and swaying palms lie some of the most exquisite coral gardens in the South China Sea. Some of these reefs have never been dived before, but, thanks to Biosphere Expeditions, a non-profit organisation specialising in conservation holidays, it’s now possible to “discover” these coral gardens.
Biosphere’s project was set up to enable people like me — those with some derring-do but no actual qualifications — to conduct research into the region’s reefs, which will be used to help preserve these ecosystems as they come under threat. I’d travelled all over Malaysia, but for me, Tioman was the country at its best, and this expedition gave me an opportunity to immerse myself, literally and metaphorically, in the tropical island. Biosphere’s two-week programme began in the rustic Swiss Cottage beach resort, near the town of Tekek. In the first week, my group took a crash course in marine biology. We hit the books, listened to lectures and had practical lessons underwater at nearby reefs.
Marine biologist Kate Yewdall and Paul O’Dowd, an Aussie bushman and Biosphere expedition leader, taught us the ways of Tioman’s waters, explaining how to identify fish, coral and other marine life. By the end of the week we could even diagnose coral diseases. Certificates in hand, we hopped aboard a yacht and set sail around Tioman and its neighbouring islands for one blissful week. Some days we sailed close to the shore, marvelling at the deserted beaches and steamy rainforest, which shrouds much of the island and echoes with birdsong. Other days we saw nothing of land.
The reefs were like miniature cities. Corals towered above the seabed like Gaudi-inspired skyscrapers, while fish darted around like tardy commuters. We saw turtles and tuna, and enormous lobster. Once I spotted a shark skulking in the shadows. And on one particularly memorable day, we emerged from a dive into an almighty storm; the thunder roared overhead as we tried to board the violently rocking boat.
There was scant contact with the outside world. There was no phone signal and we saw few vessels, although we came ashore once or twice to pick up supplies and sink a beer in a beach bar. On one such foray I spotted a flying squirrel gliding between the trees. At night I slept beneath the stars on the deck of our vessel, rocked to sleep by waves, kissed goodnight by the breeze. Malaysia was slipping into monsoon season and several times I was woken by huge raindrops falling on my body. When we weren’t observing reefs, we would tell stories, disappear into books, learn to free dive with Paul and take turns preparing dinner, which we’d eat on the deck beneath a setting sun. Eventually, reluctantly, we returned to dry land, where tourists sizzled on the sand and our phones picked up a signal. Messages from home came flooding in. The adventure was truly over.
With its cultural mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian, Malaysia was the home of ‘fusion’ cuisine before the concept was even born. This is a nation that loves to eat out, but not in fancy restaurants. The country’s best food is cooked in front of hungry eyes, at bargain prices, in the streets and in hawker centres. For this whistle stop tour of the peninsula’s signature delectables, we start north-west in Penang and drop down the west coast to Melaka, before heading over to the east coast.
PENANG: CHAR KWAY TEOW – This large island is UNESCO-recognised for its traditional Chinese shophouses and clan temples with rooftop ceramic dragons. The Chinese community mostly arrived in the mid-19th century, living in villages on stilted jetties over the water, and a rich and tasty local cuisine is part of their legacy. Listen to the clatter of woks as they throw together broad rice noodles with bean sprouts, prawns, eggs, chives and thin slices of Chinese salami.
MERSING: SEAFOOD – Mersing, the jumping- off port for the holiday destination of Tioman Island, is also a major fishing port. This is the place to watch the boats surging into the river mouth on the tide, before feasting on the crabs they bring back, steamed Chinese-style, with rice wine and ginger.
PANGKOR: IKAN BILIS – These days the island of Pangkor Laut may be more internationally known for its luxury resort, but for Malaysians it’s synonymous with anchovies, which are landed in huge glittering quantities, blanched in seawater and spread out on giant mats to dry. Lightly spiced and mixed with peanuts, ikan bilis (dried anchovies) is served as a snack, but also makes its way into the local breakfast pick-me-up of choice, nasi lemak — a glorious combination of coconut rice, boiled eggs and spicy shrimp paste.
KOTA BHARU: NASI DAGANG – In the northern state of Kelantan, on the border with Thailand, coconut milk features heavily in the local cuisine, meaning dishes tend to be creamier than elsewhere. One of the most popular local dishes is nasidagang, a tasty mix of different types of rice, cooked with coconut milk and fenugreek to create a deliciously rich texture. It’s then served with fish curry.
KUALA LUMPUR: SATAY – This is one of Malaysia’s most popular foods, commonly found in the evenings crackling aromatically over red-hot charcoal on street corners and in hawker centres. Marinated beef or chicken is skewered with bamboo kebab-style and then grilled, before being served with sliced onions, cucumber, rice cubes and a spicy peanut sauce. Locals believe the best satay is from Kajang, a suburb of Kuala Lumpur, where the meat is chunkier and the blend of turmeric and lemongrass in the marinade gives it an attractive yellow tinge.
MELAKA: LAKSA – The Nyonya are the ultimate fusionistas —these are Chinese settlers in the Straits of Melaka who adopted local Malay culture. There’s a whole book of Nyonya cuisine, but the dish that has virtually become the national dish is laksa, a spicy fish-based soup, creamy with coconut, bulked out with rice noodles, with a tangy kick.
KUALA LUMPUR: BANANA LEAF CURRY – The Brickfields district of KL is home to the capital’s Indian population. Even the Chinese flock here for banana leaf curry, an assortment of vegetable curries, rice and dhal, served on a banana leaf and eaten with your fingers. This is a real bargain, because the meal is replenished as often as you wish. Wash it down with lassi, a savoury yogurt drink.
UBUDIAH MOSQUE, KUALA KANGSAR – Renowned British architect Arthur Benison Hubback designed numerous buildings in Perak state, but this royal mosque’s Italian marble, brassy domes and four minarets make it arguably the most ostentatious.
PENANG STATE MOSQUE, GEORGETOWN – There’s a hint of sci-fi splendour to this 1970s modernist mosque, whose central dome is cradled by curving white pillars. The whimsical design is said to have been inspired by Niemeyer’s Cathedral of Brasilia.
MASJID SELAT, MELAKA – With its latticed archways and seaside setting, this ‘floating mosque’ (when the tide’s high) on man-made Melaka Island is Melaka’s most dramatic sight. Visit at sunset, when its white walls and stained glass windows appear to glow.
ZAHIR MOSQUE, ALORSETAR – Five domes representing the pillars of Islam crown Kedah’s state mosque, built in 1912. It’s one of the country’s oldest and loveliest mosques, with elegant archways and columns in stunningly regal Malay-Islamic style.
The northern Malaysian state of Penang is an enchanting place, steeped in rich heritage and culture and set amid the backdrop of a thriving modern city. The captivating fusion of old and new has cultivated one of Southeast Asia’s most vibrant cities. With its bold gastronomical culture, charming colonial architecture and beautiful nature spots, Penang truly offers the best of Asia.
George Town, Penang’s capital city, is testimony to the multicultural heritage and traditions of Asia, where diverse cultures and religions have coexisted in harmony for generations.
In 2008, George Town was recognised for its outstanding universal value by UNESCO’s World Heritage Convention. The city’s unique blend of architecture and traditions reflects the fusion of cultures from the Malay Archipelago, India, China and Europe.
Asia’s culinary traditions live on in Penang’s coffee shops and fine dining establishments, and the city’s street food is famed for its incredible variety and quality. Popular dishes include char koay teow (stir-fried noodles), hokkien mee (soup-based noodle dish) and nasi kandar (steamed rice served with curry dishes).
Beyond the modern facade of Penang lies some of the country’s most stunning scenery, from sandy beaches to green heart! and and rolling hills. Natural wonders on offer include a meromictic lake (one of just four in Asia), an award- winning tropical garden featuring over 500 varieties of exotic fauna and flora, and one of the world’s largest tropical butterfly sanctuaries.
CAUSE TO CELEBRATE:
Penang’s appetite for drama and entertainment comes to Iife in spectacular festivals for all occasions, including religious, cultural and arts. Celebrations are held year-round, offering fantastic scenes such as acrobatic lion dances during Chinese New Year, the intricate weaving of ketupat (rice dumpling wrapped in palm leaves) during Hari Raya Aidilfitri and the unbelievable body piercings on show during Thaipusam. Home-grown arts festivals are increasingly popular with global travellers, with the George Town Festival and Penang Island Jazz Festival among the favourites.
I first decided to visit Putrajaya simply because it was convenient — located midway between KL and the KLIA international airport, it cuts the 60km trip by half. But I’d seen pictures of its beautifully silhouetted sky punctuated by mosque minarets and pinkish domes. And I’d been told it was a meticulously ordered ‘garden city’. After a week in the chaotic capital, the prospect of space and greenery appealed greatly. Putrajaya might be Malaysia’s answer to Canberra — Australia’s specially constructed administrative centre — but the reality of it somehow surpasses it shilling. It may not be a place for thrill-seekers, but the preponderance of lakes and gardens make it a wonderfully tranquil place to take a pause.
It wasn’t long before I started to fully appreciate the peacefulness. From the hillside infinity pool at the Shangri-La hotel, overlooking the palm-lined horizons, my frazzled mind was instantly soothed by the hypnotic night lights and distant Islamic chants. On my most recent visit, I arrived to find Putrajaya blooming. With the help of my driver, I navigated the main boulevard across the steely span of the cabled Seri Wawasan Bridge, and soaked up some of the lake area’s 38 km shoreline. I immersed myself in its green spaces — which account for a huge 70% of territory — roaming through the Taman Wetlands or exploring the themed trails of the Botanical Gardens.
Then, finally, I donned a robe and visited Masjid Putra mosque outside prayer time, wowed by its towering 116m-tall minaret, latticed walls and fountained courtyards. Putrajaya is the ideal destination for those suffering from capital burnout or just in need of a great place to take a little breather from KL, before heading back in for more.
Datai Bay — or Teluk Datai, as it’s known locally — is situated on the northwest tip of Langkawi, just a 40-minute drive from Langkawi International Airport. Identified National Geographic as one of the Top 10 Beaches in the World, the bay is an arc of flawless white sand, stretching a mile in length.
At its edge sits 500 hectares of dense rainforest — the base of Gunung Mat Cincang, one of Langkawi’s best- known attractions. Formed around 500 million years-ago, it’s the oldest mountain in Southeast Asia, and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Geo park. Its foothillss are home to exotic species such. as dusky leaf monkeys, colugos, hornbills and 530 species of butterfly.
Offering exclusive access to the bay. The Datai Langkawi resort offers a five-star’ experience and 122 rooms,villas and suites. Made from black shale and timber, the Canopy Collection rooms and suites are elevated so guests can ‘ enjoy eye-level bird-watching and partial views of the Andaman Sea.
Spread over 750 hectares, the Rainforest Collection features rustic villas surrounded by jungle for a true ‘at-one-with-nature’ experience. Meanwhile, The Beach Collection comes with butler service, private pool arid sun deck, with each villa veiled in coastal vegetation and offering direct access to the beach.
Nearby is The Els Club Teluk Datai, an 18-hole, awardwinning, par-72 championship golf course designed by Ernie Els — known for its spectacular vistas of marbled mountain peaks and emerald green sea,.
They call themselves the Ma Betisek (‘people with fish scales’). This indigenous group, also known as the Mah Meri, were the original inhabitants of Pulau Caney, an island just over an hour’s drive from Kuala Lumpur. It was named after Englishman Edward Carey, who was given the island to plant rubber in 1905, and imported a legion of South Indians to work his plots. These have since been replaced by palm oil plantations, many of which are tended to by the Mah Meri people.
There are five Mah-Meri villages on the island, and one Indian settlement. The Mah Meri Cultural Village showcases traditional art — including grimacing and smiling wooden masks with white teeth and scary, staring eyes. Call in advance if you’d like to see traditional dances, where the Mah Meri sway with their palm-frond skirts and call out to each other in ancient tongues. After pirate attacks damaged their communities, the Mah Meri left the beaches and moved a little further inland, hunting for shellfish knee-deep in the muddy rivers of Pulau Carey.
The island is famed locally for its seafood, which means at weekends hordes of Malaysians drive from Kuala Lumpur especially to eat. Crabs and prawns are the two biggest catches here, and huge port ions are deep-fried and shaken onto the plates of hungry visitors. Many dishes have an English theme — at the popular Kang Guan Restaurant, for example, platefuls of creamy buttered prawns are served, as well as bitter Marmite crabs. Drive to the far west of the island, past the plantations, to watch cargo ships the size of churches ply the Strait of Malacca. The coastal path is ideal to walk off lunch and, come evening, catch magnificent sunsets.