Archive

Category Archives for "Asia"

Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in Asia.

Beautiful Places to Stay In Langkawi

Look no further as we introduce two premier Langkawi properties: The St. Regis Langkawi and the Andaman, a Luxury Collection Resort

THE ST. REGIS LANGKAWI

ST. REGIS LANGKAWI

Situated in a tranquil cove, The St. Regis offers a 600m private white sand beach overlooking the emerald waters of the shimmering Andaman Sea. Guests can enjoy the sophisticated comforts of 85 suites and four over water villas, each distinct in design with bold colours, paintings by local artists and generous marble bathrooms. The premium suites also feature terraces with unobstructed sea views — which are also on the menu at the resort’s six dining venues, including the over water restaurant, Kayuputi. Meanwhile, the Iridium Spa offers more than 800sqm of tranquil treatments and salon services; guests can also enhance their wellbeing in the fully-equipped Athletic Club.

THE ANDAMAN A LUXURY COLLECTION RESORT

the andaman langkawi

Located in an idyllic tropical setting, The Andaman, a Luxury Collection Resort, is cosily tucked between a rainforest that’s 10 million years old and the tranquil Datai Bay, with its 8,000-year-old fringing coral reef, in an area abundant with rare wildlife and exotic flora. Guests have the perfect opportunity to interact with the natural surroundings, not least by exploring the resort’s very own coral reef, then learning more about it in the unique Coral Nursery— all while enjoying the luxurious trimmings of a five-star luxury resort.

Discover A 130 Million–Years-Old Rainforest, Taman Negara

A bloodcurdling scream pierces the soupy humidity of the Malaysian night. Emanating from the depths of the impenetrable forest, it rumbles around the darkness, reverberating off colossal trunks and interrupting the tireless croaking of rowdy bullfrogs. “Someone in other group. See big spider,” whispers Angah, our guide, in colourful staccato Manglish. My concerns are more snake-related, given that I’ve forgotten my torch and arrived in plastic sandals, a potentially lethal oversight since my surroundings sparkle like fairy dust with the shining eyes of a thousand tiny insects. Angah’s flashlight reveals nests of splenetic black scorpions skulking in a hollowed trunk and spindle-legged spiders astride glistening golden threads. “Natives [sic] say only spider without web will attack. Web spider friendly,” she says.

This is my introduction to Taman Negara, literally meaning ‘national park’. It’s a sprawling natural heartland, extending some 4,343 sq km over three different states, and evolving fora mind-boggling 130 million years, to make it one of the world’s most ancient rainforests. Dense tropical lowlands overlooked by mountainous peaks accommodate a veritable cornucopia of strange and spectacular inhabitants. There are crab-eating macaques and roaring deer, insect-devouring pitcher plants and wheel-sized rafflesia (corpse flower), the world’s largest and possibly worst-smelling bloom.

Making it to the National Park has been a considerable test of stamina in itself. My partner and I left crowded Kuala Lumpurearly in the morning to travel 200km on a rickety old bus bound for northern Penang and the muddy banks of the Tembeling River. We transferred from bus to motorised longboat and phut-phutted along turbid backwaters for three hours to reach the shabby little township of Kuala Tahan, gateway to the National Park. Here, we clambered onto a clapboard boardwalk to join other travel-weary tourists gently stewing in the steamy jungle heat while seeking food and shelter under the tin-roofs of floating restaurants.

Eventually, a water taxi ferried us to the opposite hillside and Mutiara Resort, our stay for the next three days and the only lodgings located within the reserve. Its bungalow chalets fashioned in dark wood nestle neatly into the margin of the rainforest. At dusk we turned the key in our cabin door just in time to gaze through opened shutters at the river snaking into a resplendent sunset and a sky bruised chilli red and saffron yellow. Daybreak in the jungle is a momentous occasion, celebrated with a hallelujah chorus of chirping crickets and the ‘yoo-hoo, ha ha’ wake-up call of cheery hornbills.

Mutiara Resort

Mutiara Resort

Having survived the night walk unscathed, we emerge bleary-eyed to be greeted by a t hick mist curled along the riverbank, obscuring the forest beyond. A hearty breakfast sustains us through the morning as we trail the tentacular paths that radiate out wards from the hotel into the reserve. Neat wooden signposts point us along the eastern bank of the Tahan River toward the natural pools of Lubok Simpon.

At first sight the forest appears a uniform leafy green and tree-trunk brown. But lustrous colours soon appear in the detail. Miniature turquoise butterflies flash their iridescent wings around pom-pom bunches of crimson berries and flowering tree-vine lianas clustered in orange blossoms. We find pink jelly-like fungi flourishing on mossy wood and metallic-silver millipedes concertinaing across the spongy leaf litter at our feet. We take it in at a snail’s pace, over tangled roots and under taut vines that clutch and bend the trees like grasping fingers. The forest choir serenades our march: buzz, tweet, chirrup, buzz, tweet, chirrup.

The forest has a way of drawing you in and sharpening the senses. Every rustling leaf promises a sudden encounter with elusive animal life. My heart leaps into my mouth when a wild boar darts recklessly across our path, startling a fire back pheasant that careers across the canopy in a squawking tussle of black and blue feathers. We freeze at the sight of the bulky frame of a tapir appearing in the half-light between the trees, before it plunges back into the safety of the undergrowth.

As we penetrate deeper into the jungle, heavy floral aromas give way to the steamy odour of damp earth and rotting vegetation. Angah shows us the spikey stem of the rattan palm used locally to fashion sturdy furniture and basketry. Later, she takes water to a bristly melastoma leaf before buffing it into a soapy lather. “This is a natural antiseptic. Rub it on your arms, it will keep away mosquitoes,” she advises. Finally, the tangled thicket parts to reveal a sunlit section of riverbank. We cool our feet in its pebbled shallows under the beady eye of a white-plumed heron. The sky is wide, the heat searing, and there’s a pervading stillness that quiets the mind and lifts the spirit.

Our return journey takes a different turn, as we climb a wooden ladder, emerging high into the treetops. Starting from the summit platform, I grapple shakily at rigging either side and wobble along the wood-and-rope walkway suspended 45m above the ground straight through the leafy chaos of canopy. When I pluck up enough courage to look around, I notice dozens of conical nests dangling pendulously from the surrounding trees, home to colonies of tireless tree-climbing termites. Up amid this infinite sea of emerald green, it’s the airy sense of freedom that stays with me long after my feet touch firm ground.

DOWN THE RIVER – The next day we return to the boat and expertly weave between sandbanks and rapids to explore further downstream. As we go, nature shape shifts; the jungle becoming skyscraper tall. From their buttress roots soar majestic tualang trees — the tallest of the rainforest — furred with fluorescent lichen and lashed with strangler figs. Playful grey macaques shimmy down knotty vines while below, a herd of glossy black water buffalos wallow in the river’s muddy shallows. A breeze caresses my face and I try to resist drowsiness for fear of missing a single moment of the view.

Amid the profusion of life coexisting within the forest, there is human presence too. Along the riverbank we stop at a settlement of the nomadic Batek tribe, one of various tribal peoples still living within the National Park that are collectively referred to as Orang Asli, meaning simply ‘original people’ in the Malay tongue. Despite government efforts to settle them in permanent villages, many of these communities still abide by their hunter-gatherer traditions, relocating to more fertile ground every three to five years to allow their former forest dwellings to replenish.

For the past year, eight families have lived in this village which consists of little more than a small clearing dotted with several semi-open, leaf-thatched huts pitched with hardwood branches and bamboo walls. Almond-shaped eyes, belonging to the women and children who spend the daytime in refuge from the sweltering heat, peer out at us from the shadows. Their appearance is markedly different from the rest of the Peninsula population — they’re darker skinned, with curlier hair and are shorter in stature.

Men are mostly absent from the camp. We’re told they’re out hunting game and gathering wild fruits and edible plants. “Sometimes they leave for weeks at a time,” says Angah. But the tribal chief has remained to greet us. He’s a small but stocky man with jet-black hair and an intense gaze who proudly shows us his blowpipe fashioned from rattan palm and held together with a rubber-like tree resin. While the Batek used to subsist entirely from the land, many of them now interact with the local economy, trading sought-after forest products, such as sandalwood for rice, tarp and other basic resources. In one hut, a withered man lies motionless, struck down with an infection. “He won’t go to hospital,” Angah tells us. “The Batek have their own healer. Their medicine[s] are the plants and remedies of nature.”

Taman-Negara.jpg

Our fleeting visit has left us hungry to return, and on our final night, over Tiger beer and steaming river-fish curry, my partner and I plot future excursions. I’d like to forgo the luxuries of the hotel to camp out in the nearby limestone caves. He’s dreaming of hiking the 53km trail to Gunung Tahan, Malaysia’s highest peak, in the northwest corner of the park. In little time we’ve come to feel at ease in the brooding presence of the forest, now hardly noticing the procession of ants streaming past our dining table or the shrill sound of ever-present cicadas. Before leaving, my partner records the sounds of the jungle on his phone — a small but resounding memory of a treasured stay to play back on the long trudge home.

Useful Guide Before Your Trip To Malaysia

Witness the stunning natural beauty and the wonderfully diverse culture of Malaysia with these exclusive offers only available with Barrhead Travel. From the pristine beaches to the bustling metropolises you can experience this South-East Asian travel-lover’s paradise!

RICH CULTURE

malacco-malaysia

The Historical City of Malacca

Malaysia offers an incredible depth of culture from the island’s most historical city of Malacca- which boasts a rich ancient and colonial past and UNESCO World Heritage status, the bustling multi-cultural hotspot of George Town, and the incredible capital city of Kuala Lumpur. You can even catch an insight into local customs and life with a local Malaysian homestay!

STUNNING SCENERY

cameron-highlands-malaysia

Cameron Highlands – Malaysia

From the pristine white-sand beaches to the beautiful country scenery of the Cameron Highlands, our Malaysia packages ensure you witness some of the most stunning scenery in South East Asia. Sip on Cameronian tea while you take in the incredible vistas on the region’s highlands, chill to the sound of the ocean and marvel at the mountain peaks within the rugged national parks.

A TASTE OF ISLAND LIVING

Malaysian cuisine reflects the melting-pot of cultures and multi-ethnic population of this amazing nation. With influences from China, Europe, India and the surrounding South-East Asian nations, food lovers will be in heaven as they experience a rich combination of flavours. Whether you’re stopping by one of the amazing and popular street food markets, sampling Kuala Lumpur’s luxury restaurants, or everything in between, you’re sure to fall in love with the diverse and delightful dishes.

KUALA LUMPUR TO BANGKOK ADVENTURE

YEAR ROUND DEPARTURES ■ 12 DAYS


WHAT’S INCLUDED:

  • Return flights from the UK
  • 8 Nights hotels, 2 Nights homestay,
  • 1 Night Sleeper train
  • Small Group experience

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Experience multi-cultural Penang
  • Lounge on white-sand beaches
  • Experience local life and stay with a Malaysian family
  • All this from only £1349pp

 

CLASSIC MALAYSIA

OCTOBER 16 – MARCH 17 ■ 10 NIGHTS

WHAT’S INCLUDED:

  • Return flights from the UK
  • 8 Nights hotel accommodation
  • 8 Breakfasts, 4 Lunches, 1 Dinner

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Explore Malaoca, Malaysia’s most historical city
  • See the Twin towers in Kuala Lumpur
  • Spend a night in the spectacular Cameron Highlands
  • All this from only £1597pp

Petronas Towers: Scale The Most Beautiful Tower In The World

No trip to Kuala Lumpur would be complete without a whizz up the futuristic towers that shimmer like skyrockets over the cityscape. Measuring an eye-watering 451.9m, the post-modern peaks remain a metaphor for the soaring ambitions of the city. Notice how the hypnotic pattern of their steel frames evoke arabesque motifs and finish in masts resembling minarets, thus reflecting the country’s dominant faith.

petronas-twin-towers

Ascending visitors stop off on the 41st floor, where the Skybridge links the towers, before zooming up to the 86th-storey Observation Deck. The descent goes down to Suria KLCC, one of the city’s largest shopping malls and home to the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra.

European Feels in The Far Fort Kochi, Kerala – India

With a melange of European influences, Fort Kochi is a historic place, with much architecture to marvel at. Kerala is a favourite with international visitors, but it can be as interesting as it is affordable.
Walk through one of India’s oldest Jewish quarters, Mattancherry, and visit the Dutch Palace and the Synagogue. Believed to be India’s oldest European church, St Francis, built by Portuguese Franciscan Friars, the Santa Cruz Basilica and Fort Immanuel are all worth visiting.

dutch-palace

Dutch Palace – Mattancherry, Fort Kochi

The Dutch Cemetery is a quiet, lovely spot for a break in your day. Fort Kochi’s beach, with its iconic giant Chinese fishing nets, is lovely in the mornings and evenings. Plan to visit the nearby Vasco da Gama Square and Maritime Museum along with Fort Kochi. The Kerala Folklore Museum is a must-visit, with daily traditional dance performances. If you’re hankering for a day-trip, Alleppey, with its beautiful backwaters and lagoons, is a good option.

fort-kochi-nets

Chinese fishing nets – Fort Kochi


Cherai Beach on nearby Vypeen Island is also worth visiting, with swimming and seafood restaurants vying for your attention. Back in Kochi, Bishop’s House Road, with its beautiful old-style homes, the Indo Portuguese Museum and The Union Club Building are all very pretty, and worth a dekko.

cherai-beach

Cherai Beach

LEAVE ON A JET PLANE OR TRAIN: Return flights start at USD109 and USD70 from New Delhi and Mumbai respectively and from USD 3,300 from Bangalore; trains from Bangalore start at USD12.
GET AROUND: Auto rickshaws, taxis, rented scooters and radio cabs- take your pick. Of course, the cheapest option is to walk or cycle. Autos will cost a minimum of USD 3 – be prepared to bargain. Local taxis charge from USD 8, scooters can be rented for USD6 day. Radio cabs are easily available and almost as economical as using local cabs and autos.
STAY: Try The Old Courtyard, Raintree Lodge and The Fort Bungalow.

the-old-courtyard-hotel-cochin

The Old Courtyard Hotel – Cochin

EAT AND DRINK: Visit the KashiArt Gallery and Café to feed your mind and soul, as well as your body with all-day breakfasts, hearty sandwiches and soups. The Teapot Cafe is justly famous for its variety of teas, including rose ice tea as well as local seafood dishes. You must visit Hotel Rahmaniya for the Kethel Chicken Fry. The no-fuss Kayees Hotel is famous among locals for its chicken biryani; get here fast as the biryani gets sold out quickly.

kashiart-gallery-and-café

KashiArt Gallery and Café


WHEN TO GO: October to February is the best time- Kochi is less humid then and its tropical climate is relatively cooler, with occasional showers.
If you like the rain, July to September, the non-tourist season, is a better bet, with lower prices.

Penang Island: Culinary Masterpieces And Entertainment

I’ve always been fascinated by Asia, and I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s borne out of growing up in Australia at a time when the food on offer really didn’t match the heat of the climate. So when I first ate chilli and noodles and rice, my palate was opened to a world of wonder. After travelling to various parts of the world, I still find Asian food the most intriguing. I’ve always believed that to understand a country’s food one needs to understand the people and their culture — and one of my more recent discoveries has been the food and culture of Malaysia. Many years ago, I was dropped into Penang while filming, and found this bustling, colourful island immediately fascinating — but sadly, I only had a day to explore. Recently, however, I spent a number of weeks filming my own TV series all over Malaysia, and my childhood love of blue skies and the sea ultimately drew me back to the island of Penang.

Penang-Island

Of the country’s three dominant cultures — Malay, Chinese and Indian — it’s the Chinese influence that’s strongest in Penang — evident in both its architecture and, of course, its food. The capital, George Town, is home to some of the world’s best-kept culinary secrets and is definitely one of Malaysia’s food capitals. While wandering its streets and markets, I was introduced to a wonderful woman of advanced years, who was manning a cart with a wood-fired stove. On it, she cooked a Malaysian treat called charkoaykak — little cubes of cooked compressed rice and turnip cake, fried in pork fat with pork lard and spring onions and kicap manis (an aromatic sweet soy sauce).

This was served with an optional egg and lovingly scooped into a cornet of newspaper lined with banana leaf for extra flavour. Such a simple dish, yet so delicious and expertly cooked, it’s undoubtedly one of the best bits of street food I’ve ever been fortunate enough to eat. Food finds like this are common in George Town, especially in the markets. Try Jalan Penang (Penang Road) and the Chowrasta Bazaar or the famous Macallum Street Night Market on a Monday. And if you’re looking for the best streets stalls, simply head towards the crowded ones — the right place to be is wherever the locals are shopping and eating. In the mornings, hawkers cluster near the corner of Carnavon and Campbell Streets, in front of the Campbell Street Market. Look for the elderly gentleman selling prawn mee (spicy fried noodles) — and hopefully you’ll find my lady with the char koay kak’. At night, head to Kimberley Street to the stall with char kway teow (rice noodles with bean sprouts, chicken and soy sauce).

Penang-Island

Downtown’s best kopipeng (Malaysian-style iced coffee) is served at the Toon Leong Coffee Shop (closed Sundays) at the corner of Jalan Transfer and Jalan Argyll. If you want a cooking lesson, then go see Nazlina, who taught me to make pineapple curry. Her cooking school, Nazlina Spice Station, sits opposite the Campbell Street Market, a former Victorian wet market, which is open most days. But if you feel like a sit down with some coffee and cake, then head to China House — a wonderful old building that’s now a coffee shop, restaurant and garden space serving great food and wine alongside more cakes than you can shake a stick at. Opened in 2011 by a fellow Aussie, Narelle and her team will be happy to let you in on some of the local secret food hangouts should you fancy advice on the area. I still miss the streets and markets of Penang and George Town but I’m adamant I’ll be back soon. For me, the best thing about it is once you’ve wandered the streets and feasted your eyes, ears and appetite you can retire to the beach and look up at that blue sky and out to sea.

Take a Spiritual Trip Through The Temples Holy Temples of Kathmandu

Kathmandu is famed for its holy sites, celebrating and preserving the sacred history of Nepal. Here are five of the most breathtaking

Boudhanath Stupa

BOUDHANATH STUPA

This enormous temple still welcomes Buddhist pilgrims every single day and is considered as the centre of Nepalese Buddhism. Within this UNESCO World Heritage site lay the remains of Kassapa Buddha and the richly-appointed temple is steeped in history and legend.

Swayambhunath Stupa

SWAYAMBHUNATH STUPA

Situated atop a peak overlooking the Kathmandu Valley, visitors on foot can expect to tackle 365 steps to reach Swayambhunath Stupa. The Monkey Temple lives up to its name, so expect to see plenty of wild monkeys however you make the trip to this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Changu Narayan

CHANGU NARAYAN

Once again listed by UNESCO, Changu Narayan was badly damaged by the 2015 earthquake. Thankfully, it remained standing. As the oldest temple in all of Nepal, Changu Narayan is famed for its wonderful collection of ancient art and a small museum that tells visitors all about its fascinating history.

Taleju Temple

TALEJU TEMPLE-1
Set in the breathtaking surroundings of Durbar Square, this awe-inspiring temple isn’t fully open to non-Hindus, but even the limited access on offer makes it an unmissable stop for any travellers. Towering over the square, its 16th-century pagoda architecture is sure to stop you in your tracks.

Pashupatinath Temple

PASHUPATINATH TEMPLE

Although non-Hindus can’t explore the interior of the temple freely, this vast sacred site hosts regular festivals, like Maha Shivaratri in celebration of the god, Shiva, that attract thousands of people. Rich in legend, the holy site can trace its origins all the way back to 400 BCE.

Costal Sri Lanka: An Exotic Hidden Gem

The emerald isle has many places that will captivate you – and thrill your wallet. After landing in Colombo, make your way to Unawatuna – stopping at the Sea Turtle Sanctuary and Research Centre, Kosgoda.

If you’ve missed it, never mind – Unawatuna has its own bijou turtle sanctuary in Habaraduwa about 20 minutes away. Splash about off Unawatuna Beach, or go snorkelling and diving off Hikkaduwa (35km) with Poseidon Diving Station.

unawatuna-beach

Unawatuna Beach

Galle, a short drive away, has attractions like the Galle Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage site that is beautifully preserved. The Dutch Reformed Church and National Maritime Museum are little oases of calm and knowledge. Mirissa, down the coast, is justly famous for Mirissa Beach, from where you can take boat rides to spy on whales and dolphins.

mirissa-beach

Mirissa Beach

Remember to sign up with responsible operators who don’t flout the rules; we recommend Mirissa Water Sports.

galle-fort

Galle Fort

Surf’s up at Weligama, where you can take lessons at Surf n Lanka. Take a walk on Weligama Beach, known for its sandy bay, with lovely stretches around the island of Taprobane, and get a gander at the famous stilt fishermen there.

LEAVE ON A JET PLANE: Return flights to Colombo start as low as 202USD from Chennai or Bangalore, from Mumbai and 230 USD from New Delhi.

VISA: 22USD

GET AROUND: Local tuk-tuks are fast and furious (from 1.5 USD). You can also hire local bikes or a car. Local buses are cheap, but are usually full. Private bus services are better and more comfortable (prices vary). Trains are great for inter-city travel – try the first-class observation decks.
STAY: Sri Lanka has plenty of fantastic options. We love Highbury Colombo, Colombo, The Dream House, Unawatuna, The Spice House, Mirissa and The Green Rooms, Weligam.
EAT AND DRINK: Outside of Colombo, eat local­ity delicious and cheap! At Unawatuna, head to beach- adjacent Kingfisher Restaurant to lounge on the beach with a beer. Definitely try the Arrack Attack cocktail and the cheesecake at Wijaya Beach Restaurant nearby. In Galle, you must visit Crepeology for the yummy French staple done right.

dewmini-roti-shop

Dewmini Roti Shop


Mirissa’s No1 Dewmini Roti Shop serves a mean kotthu rotti (roti chopped up and mixed with veggies) and also holds cooking classes. Zephyr Bar and Restaurant is well known for cocktails. In Weligama, head to Meewitha Cool Spot for lipsmacking seafood. It also has plenty of vegetarian options.
WHEN TO GO: December to March is the busiest, driest, most expensive season. Aim for the shoulder seasons -the period before and after the monsoon – to be safe.

The Ancient Spirit of This Place is Still Alive: Luan Prabang, Laos

Luang Prabang, with its meld of Franco-Indo-Chinese traditions, architecture and food, was once the capital of Laos and still has that air of importance. The sacred-to-Buddhists Mount Phou Si has gorgeous views of the city and the surrounding mountains and rivers.

Wat Xieng Thong, the region’s most magnificent Buddhist temple and monastery, is lavishly gilded and utterly peaceful, housing a standing Buddha as well as a rare reclining one. Wat Wisunarat is one of the oldest temples, with a sizeable collection of Buddha statues calling for rain. The Royal Palace Museum houses the crown jewels of Laos, as well as a carefully preserved retelling of the country’s history, and the solid gold Prabang Buddha statue. If you’re an early riser, cover up and watch the Alms Giving ceremony, where Luang Prabang’s monks practise walking meditation around the town, receiving rice and food for the day.

Monks making their daily rounds - they live on the alms they manage to collect

Monks making their daily rounds – they live on the alms they manage to collect

For something different, try the Bamboo Tree Cooking Class, which gives you the full experience, from shopping to prep and eating what you cook.
Take a day-trip to Kuangsi Waterfalls by shared minivan or tuk-tuk, and enjoy the beautiful falls. Sharing transport will lower costs as well as turn the day into a picnic of sorts.

kuangsi-waterfalls

The stunning Kuangsi waterfalls

The Pak Ou Caves is another great day-trip destination. The upper and lower caves are famous for the thousands of Buddha statues and images left behind by travelling pilgrims to mark their journey. Take the opportunity to cruise down the Mekong River.

pak-ou-caves

Pak Ou Caves


LEAVE ON A JET PLANE: Return flights start at 545 USD from Mumbai and 638 USD from New Delhi
VISA: 42 USD  (on arrival)
GET AROUND: Luang Prabang is very easy to explore on foot. So give your legs a stretch or treat yourself to tuk-tuk rides. Tourists are chared around 1.5 USD for short tuk-tuk rides. Bike rentals cost around ? 1.5 USD to 3USD/ day, and offer more flexibility.
The eco-friendly E-Bus is a cheap and unhurried way to get around, especially the green line for visitors.
STAY: Luang Prabang’s hostels aren’t too highly recommended, but its guesthouses are quite reasonably priced. Try these options: Villa Ban Lakkam, Lao Wooden House and Lan Kham Riverside. Sala Prabang is not cheap, but is worth the splurge.
EAT AND DRINK: Feasting is a national pastime in Laos, and Luang Prabang is no exception. Fresh, sharp flavours abound, with a variety of succulent meats and robust Laotian coffee on offer. Try the Colonial Cafe Le Ban Vat Sene. Some of the best Lao food in town is at tiny Cafe Toui. Head to the Night Market after 9pm for desserts, like sticky rice and coconut cream, hibiscus smoothies and more.
WHEN TO GO: March to May is hot with hazy skies, but that’s also when the Pi Mai or Lao New Year celebrations take place. June to October is the off-peak monsoon, so prices and numbers plummet. The best time, and peak season, is November to February – this is when reasonable prices and comfortable climates meet.

Dive Into The Incredible History Of China

The name Grimaldi is inexplicably tied to Monaco. In 1395, descendants of a 12th century Genoese statesman took control of the principality and it has remained in their hands ever since. On the other side of the world and 250 years later, a similar attempt to seize power was taking place as the Qing dynasty swept through China. It took them over four decades to conquer the country, from the mid-17th century onwards, but the 150-year reign was a period of great stability for the ever-growing nation.

“The Qing dynasty were builders, bureaucrats, artists, scientists… They built modem China,” says exhibition curator and Honorary General Curator of Heritage Jean-Paul Desroches. “They had a new approach, a new dynamic.” The Qings heritage was somewhat at odds with Chinese culture at the time. They had semi-nomadic roots while the rest of China was invested in agriculture. But despite their differences, the Qing epoch was a golden period for China and its people in terms of culture, art and the pursuit of knowledge. The Grimaldi Forum’s summer exhibition, La Cite Interdite, takes visitors on a tour of the Forbidden City, which was first built in 1420s and remained the imperial palace throughout the Ming and Qing dynasties.

China-sunset

Of the 250 paintings and artefacts that feature in the exhibition, 200 have been sourced from the Forbidden City palace itself and many have never been seen before outside of China. The remaining works have been provided by some of the world’s most prestigious institutions such as the Louvre and the Musee des Arts de I’Asie in Pans, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, and the British Library and Victoria & Albert Museum in London. Desroches first presented a China-themed exhibition in Monaco back in 2001 with China, the Century of the First Emperor. This time it is the Qings (1644-1911), their home and their heritage who have piqued his interest. “The Forbidden City is at the heart of the Beijing, which is at the heart of China, which – in turn — is at the heart of the world for the Chinese people,” says Desroches. “We want to immerse visitors in the world of the Forbidden City.”

The Beijing palace, which can be explored in depth at the exhibition, is a replica of the skies, with the emperor as the polar star and the rest of the world moving around him. The Chinese were famous for their astronomy — the exhibition includes the first documented map of the solar system by Chinese hands and dates from the early Tang dynasty — but it was during the time of the Qing that this art truly flourished. Struggling to secure support from the Chinese elite, who thought of the Qings in the early days as uncultured invaders, Jesuit scholars and artists were invited to work at court and assist the Chinese in further developing their expertise.

Their Western influence and breath of knowledge revolutionised China. The second Qing emperor, Kangxi (1662-1722), was particularly welcoming of the Jesuits and was a proficient mathematic and intellectual himself. He was also an accomplished musician and had a teacher called Grimaldi – although it isn’t know if this family was directly related to the sovereign family of Monaco! One wool and silk painting from the early 8th century and a feature at the exhibition is believed to have been painted by a Frenchman and depicts Emperor Kangxi listening to German astronomer Adam Schall. The annual calendar was established by Schall and his Flemish successor, astronomer Ferdinand Verbiest. Another notable Westerner to infiltrate Chinese culture was Frenchman Jean-Denis Attiret who was trained in Rome then sent to China Works attributed to him include an oil painting of a concubine dating from 1750-60.

China

At over 2.5 metres tall, the Hongli Hunting Deer silk painting is one of the largest pieces to be included in the exhibition, but it is also one of the most telling. Emperor Qianlong, who is depicted in the painting, was the fourth and most prolific Qing emperor, and was in many ways entirely assimilated with Chinese cultural norms. This stylised artwork of unknown origin, however, reveals that Qianlong was still very much in touch with his Manchu Mongolian ancestry and every autumn would participate in great, traditional stag hunts. Perhaps one such successful hunt resulted in the construction of the beautiful antler throne that features in the exhibition.

From calligraphy, sketches and paintings to furniture and pieces of ceremonial dress, which are extremely rare finds and each piece may only have been worn once, twice or even three times in its lifetime, the exhibition is designed to be wholly immersive. As Desroches explains, it was envisioned as a place where the visitor is transported to the realm of Qing and the vast Forbidden City, which measures an astonishing 72 hectares. The exhibition is taking place from 14th July to 10th September.

1 3 4 5 6 7 64