Explore Hawaii To Find Out If The Legendary Aloha Spirit Lives On

The very mention of Hawaii has conjured up visions of a seductive island paradise for generations, with countless movies, songs and stories romanticising every aspect of its culture, landscape and people. Yet, as the USA’s 50th state – with every modern development and convenience one would expect – I wonder if Hawaii can still deliver on its famed spirit of adventure, romance and natural discovery in a world of the ‘the next big thing’. My 10-day trip starts on Maui and finishes on The Big Island. Armed with camera, board shorts and a convertible Jeep Wrangler, I set off to circumnavigate Maui from a little town called Paia. On Maui’s famed north shore and under the gaze of the dormant Haleakala volcano, Paia is arty and bohemian with a mix of bars, inns and surf, and a relaxed hippy-chic vibe. Dining in Paia is much like anywhere on the island with deference paid to local, organic and sustainable produce.

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Great ocean road – The road to Hana is arguably one of the world’s greatest ocean drives and we leave early to capture the morning light. Deep blue skies, emerald green vegetation and a cobalt ocean fill the senses as the road snakes east. There are beautiful coastlines around the world, yet Maui delivers it all with a climate that can only be described as perfect. Travelling in March, there is no tropical humidity with which to contend. The days are warm enough to spend a day at the beach, yet tempered with a gentle ocean breeze that gives way to comfortably cool nights.

Our next stop is Hookipa Beach. Surf culture runs deep on the island and ties in with the locals’ profound respect for nature. Here, surfers share the beach with a large resident group of green sea turtles, usually found sunning themselves in a corner of the bay. Known in Hawaii as Honu, these turtles are revered symbols of luck. Perhaps it is the time spent quietly on the beach in their presence that ensures good fortune for the rest of our trip. The final stop before Hana is Wai ‘anapanapa (which means ‘glistening water’) Black Sand Beach and State Park with a seabird colony, natural stone arches, the largest-known Hawaiian temple, ancient lava caves, blowholes and anchialine pools (inland, freshwater pools).

Hana may just be heaven and Travaasa Hana is our little piece of it for a few days. The sprawling estate, established in the 1940s, maintains a heritage feel with each of the guest rooms scattered around the estate with the sights, smells and sounds of the ocean flowing into the breezy rooms. There’s no need for air-conditioning in Travaasa Hana; the weather is simply divine and air-conditioning would criminally disconnect the guest rooms from the sublime environment.

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Natural beauty – The team at Travaasa Hana has arranged an aerial photo expedition in the only aircraft permitted to fly over the Haleakala crater: a power glider. With panoramic visuals through the perspex shell surrounding us, pilot Hans sets off under power until we reach 3650 metres. At that point, Hans kills the engine and we glide beautifully across the astounding crater and back to Hana with a sliding window perfectly positioned for both ventilation and the camera lens. The road from Hana to Wailea takes us around the south side of the island and the pace slows from top-down cruising to adventure driving. The terrain on the south side is more like the Scottish Highlands than a tropical paradise. Equally astounding yet vastly different, the drive is an all-day event – we stop at the must-see Ocean Vodka Organic Farm and Distillery and, shrouded in mist, the Up-Country Lavender Farm high up on the shoulder of the crater.

Home for our last few days on Maui is The Fairmont Kea Lani in Wailea, an all-suite beachside hotel with premium beach houses positioned on a manicured strip of Maui’s most affluent enclave. With hotel cars shuttling guests to nearby high-end boutiques, it feels like the Beverly Hills of Hawaii. Yet the area’s natural environment is an equally strong drawcard. Setting off before dawn after a Hawaiian call to the gods by my burly guide, I canoe out into a bay scattered with breaching humpback whales in all directions. As we stop paddling, a mother and calf directly approach our canoe with dorsal fins breaching the water and, after a brief emotional encounter, flip tails to the sky and dive away. Such is the magic of Maui!

The Big Island – A short flight from Maui is the Island of Hawaii, known to locals as the Big Island. It’s similar to Maui in that it is packed with natural beauty and heritage, yet has a completely different feel. Driving out from Kona, the landscape is like tundra overlaid with enormous lava flows, so young (in geological terms) that large swathes remain devoid of vegetation. About an hour’s drive south of colourful Kona is Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park, or ‘the place of refuge’. Hawaiians who broke ancient laws could avoid certain death by fleeing here. Defeated warriors and non-combatants could also find refuge here during times of battle.

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Driving back up the west coast, our next residence appears like an oasis through the lava field: the historic Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. At the time of its construction in the 1960s by Laurance S. Rockefeller, it was the most expensive hotel ever built. Designed to allow the ocean breezes to flow through the hotel with the suites enjoying stunning sunset view, it’s set in a pristine golf course with greens butting up against the jagged lava ocean edge. At night, the bay is partially illuminated and this attracts masses of phytoplankton which, in turn, attracts manta rays up to four metres wide. Under the guidance of marine biologist James Wing, we swim up to these magnificent creatures as they barrel roll in a feeding frenzy. It’s enough to make us whoop with excitement.

The penultimate Big Island experience is the spectacle of the active lava fields. We strap on our cameras and board a doorless helicopter for the high-octane experience, and marvel at the enormous swathe of land engulfed by lava as it flows to the ocean. The super-heated air from the 1000-degree-Celsius lava field fills the helicopter as we fly at low altitude to capture that perfect shot. Later, a visit to Volcanoes National Park allows us to see the active crater from the ground. With venting hot steam warming us, we stand in the high-altitude cold night air watching the bubbling lava and its glow against the starlit sky – a spectacular way to end an exploration of the real Hawaii.

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Culture-Rich Taichung

Most travelers to Taiwan get a taste of its urban life via Taipei, the country’s dense and dynamic capital. Few have ever had much of a reason to linger in Taichung, Taiwan’s third-largest city, beyond using it as a way station en route to hiking trails and hot springs in the surrounding’ mountains. But lately Taichung has been changing. Hop on the high-speed rail from Taipei and 45 minutes later you’ll find yourself in a city that’s emerging as one of Asia’s newest hubs of creativity and culture.

Food lovers have been flocking to the city since 2014, when chef Lanshu Chen’s French-inspired restaurant Le Mout  was first named one of Asia’s go Best. More recently, government loans have paved the way for young entrepreneurs to revitalize the old town: additions like the boutique hotel Red Dot and dessert emporium Miyahara have made Japanese Occupation-era buildings into destinations. They’ve also cast anew light on beloved institutions nearby, like the Chun Shui Tang Cultural Tea House, where bubble tea was invented, and the street markets where vendors hawk oyster omelettes and braised pork over rice.

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A tea cup of goose foie gras served with coffee, lemon and marsala at Le Moût

In the Western District, the Calligraphy Greenway serves as a cultural artery, its paths and park spaces featuring art installations, a retail center lined with vertical gardens, and a museum of Taiwanese art. There are sleek new architectural gems, too: the massive, Toyo Ito-designed National Taichung Theater has curved walls that lend it a surreal vibe.

A bird's-eye view of the National Taichung Theater

A bird’s-eye view of the National Taichung Theater

Preserving Taiehung’s heritage remains apriority. A veteran’s housing complex in the Nantun District was on the chopping block until its last inhabitant covered the walls with murals, creating an attraction known as Rainbow Village.

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Rainbow Village Of Taichung

History meets retail at Fantasy Story, a collection of traditional buildings that house shops where screen printers, perfumers and bakers sell their wares. And ambitious initiatives are on the horizon—such as an improved bike-share program and a subway system— promising to make Taichung even more of a complement to the natural wonders nearby.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

Discover Wind Star: A Classic Small Ship

“You’ve never tasted nutmeg until you’ve tasted nutmeg from Grenada,” Budhi Thakur tells me as he picks up a handful of fresh seeds in the spice market of Grenada, a Caribbean getaway also known as the Spice Island. Not only are the seeds intoxicatingly fragrant, they’re wrapped in a red casing that that looks like hand-carved filigree, so beautiful you could imagine them used as beads on a necklace. In fact, the locals here do just that, stringing nutmeg onto necklaces along with other spices that are grown on this verdant island – cinnamon, turmeric, allspice and cloves.

Today, my daughter Lucy and I are exploring the legendary spice market with Thakur, the executive chef on Wind Star, a 148-passenger sailing yacht that’s part of the cruise line of the same name. Thakur offers to let us come along with him as he shops for ingredients such as mango, vanilla and star anise to use on his menus. We also visit the fish market, where he buys mahi mahi straight off the boat. And that’s the beauty of sailing on a small ship like this. Unlike many lines, which have to buy all their provisions in bulk, the size of ships in the Windstar fleet allows their chefs to create market-to-table dishes throughout the course of the journey and bring guests along for the experience.

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Wind Star’s small size (just 110 metres long) and shallow hull also allow her to get into tiny ports that are difficult for larger cruise ships to access. On the ‘Jewels of the Windward Islands’ itinerary, we start in Barbados, then make our way through St Lucia, Grenada and the Grenadines. These tiny islands are little gems that are strung along the easternmost Caribbean like beads on a very glamorous necklace.

Up close and personal – Wind Scar is known as a romantic ship for couples, but the warm and welcoming staff makes anyone feel at home, including my four-year-old daughter. One night, we meet a 30-something woman who is between jobs and travelling solo. Another night, we meet a big family from Vancouver doing a multi-generational trip with two boys near Lucy’s age. We also meet friendly couples from around the world. By the end of the cruise, everyone is hanging out by the pool and at the beach and dining together at night. With just 74 staterooms, you quickly get to know your fellow passengers. I’ve been on plenty of big cruise ships, and I’ve never seen the kind of bonding that happens on Wind Star.

Another highlight is the accessibility you get to the top brass. Wind Scar has an open-door policy on the bridge, which is a rarity in the cruise world. So whenever you want, you can stroll over to the ship’s command centre and visit with the crew and Captain Belinda Bennett, who is a superstar in cruising; she’s the first black female captain of a commercial cruise ship.

Back to the basics – As cruise ships around the world continue to grow in size and spectacle, one-upping each other with flashy amenities – ice-skating rinks, bumper cars, ziplines, water parks – Windstar is taking the opposite approach with its fleet of yachts. These ships embrace the classic romance of sailing the high seas. Wind Scar is a four-masted sailboat with gleaming teak everywhere. You half expect to see Jackie Kennedy Onassis to come strolling around the corner.

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There are just three restaurants: the airy Verandah on the top deck, which serves breakfast and lunch; the main dining room, where there’s no assigned seating, no dining times, and no reservations necessary (another rarity in the cruise world); and Candles. Well, technically Candles isn’t even a restaurant: it’s an a I fresco dining experience where the pool area is transformed every night into one of the loveliest dining venues you’ve ever seen with just a handful of tables set under the stars.

The staterooms also feel like something out of another era, in the best way possible, with their teak accents and old-fashioned porthole windows that latch shut. But there are also modern amenities, such as plush beds with high-thread-count sheets, bathrooms with powerful showerheads, and flat-screen TVs, should you want to stay in your room and order room service (included in the rate).

Ship to shore – The shore excursions Wind Scar offers are as authentic and memorable as being on the ship herself, making sure passengers get the chance to have meaningful experiences everywhere they go and connect with the island culture. On Mayreau in the Grenadines, we have a beach barbecue, complete with a local steel-drum band; between courses, we explore the little island, which is home to just 271 residents and has one of the prettiest stone churches in the Caribbean, with views out to the other islands of the Grenadines. In St Lucia, we venture into the rainforest with a naturalist who takes us on an aerial ride over the treetops, giving us a glimpse of rare birds and plants.

Wind-Star

One of my favourite stops is Bequia, a speck of an island that measures just 18 square kilometres and is known for artisans who build classic wooden boats (both fishing vessels and model ships). I’ve heard about this island for years, but have avoided going because it’s so hard to get to. Not on Wind Scar. The ship moors offshore and sends guests in on tenders. You arrive right in the centre of the colourful main town. Head off in one direction, and within a few minutes you’re on Princess Margaret Beach, one of the whitest beaches in the Caribbean. Off in the other direction is Mac’s, a little open-air restaurant known for its lobster pizza. Captain Belinda tells us it’s one of her favourite places in the world. Just like sailing on Wind Scar, having lobster pizza by the sea is a taste of paradise I will never forget.