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NEWS:

Cachet Hotel Group Announces Its First Resort Property in Guizhou, China --Cachet Resort Wanfeng Valley

14 Things to do in Kyoto That Will Immerse You in "The City of 10,000 Shrines"

Evason Hua Hin Opens Asia’s First Plant-based Culinary Academy Resort partners with Matthew Kenny to create state-of-the-art facility in Thailand

Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong Offers a Series of Artistic Treats as Official Hotel Partner of Art Bael's Hong Kong Show

Latest from ITC Hotels' Luxury Collection, India

Malaysia Celebrates the Festival of Lights & Other Events

Thailand's Idyllic Phi Phi Island Village Beach Resort and Spa Now Bookable on Outrigger.com

CHINA

HONG KONG

Cachet Hotel Group Announces Its First Resort Property in Guizhou, China --Cachet Resort Wanfeng Valley

Cachet Hotel Group (CHG) has announced the debut of its first resort development in Asia. Located in Guizhou Province, China, the dual-branded resort development Cachet Resort Wanfeng Valley is set to open with both URBN and Cachet Resort concepts in October 2016.

A national tourism destination known for its rich cultural heritage and beautiful scenery, Guizhou enjoys the designation as one of “Top 52 Places to Go in 2016” according to The New York Times. Owned and developed by Guizhou SenYao Real Estate Development Company, the resort spans across 300 acres of natural scenic land in the Xingyi City of Guizhou province.

Designed by world-class Milan-based architect Stefano Boeri in tandem with Simon Ma – one of China’s most well-known, acclaimed artists – the resort complex will feature a 182-room Cachet Resort Hotel and a 71-room URBN hotel. In addition to well-appointed, design-focused rooms, signature amenities and personalized services, the lifestyle destination will also offer two restaurants and lounges. These will include a signature all-day dining venue and a specialty restaurant that will offer distinct culinary experiences for both guests and locals alike. Recreation facilities on property are set to include a swimming pool, spa and fully equipped fitness center.

The property will be on CHG's revolutionary technology platform, CachetWorld, which is a lifestyle community that features a search and booking engine for boutique and lifestyle hotels and high-end residences worldwide.

Nestled in the heart of Wanfeng Valley Village, the resort is within close proximity to the village’s major shopping, dining and entertainment outlets as well as only a short drive to the main airport and hi-speed rail station, set to open in 2020. The recently opened convention center will also help to attract corporate business travelers to the property in addition to leisure travelers.

This announcement comes on the heels of several other new projects by CHG in Asia and the Americas including Cachet Boutique Zhejiang Circuit and Westlake Village Inn – A Cachet Hotel. With an unprecedented opportunity for international growth, Cachet Hotel Group is establishing itself as an international brand leader.

For more information about Cachet Resort Wanfeng Valley, please visit: www.cachethotelgroup.com

About Cachet Hotel Group:
Cachet Hotel Group (CHG) is a Hong Kong-based hotel and residential branding and management company. CHG’s mission is to be the most innovative and socially responsible hospitality company in the world. With numerous projects under development, CHG is focused on establishing properties in Greater China, Southeast Asia, Northeast Asia and the Americas. For more information, please go to www.cachethotelgroup.com

Experience China As A Travel Photographer on Tour With An Expert

Imagine hiking a remote stretch of the Great Wall, being the only person on it for miles, exploring the Forbidden City and summer palace in Beijing, hot air ballooning over the karst mountains of Southern China, dining on top of the world in a Shanghai skyscraper -- ALL while learning to capture the perfect photo.

This new tour combines the perfect 14-day trip through China with a workshop on travel photography. Ewen Bell, a professional photographer and writer who has worked on photo assignments in more than 25 countries, has been developing this one-of-a-kind tour of China and travel photography workshop since 2005. This rare trip combines the cultural richness of China's eastern provinces with the opportunity to learn about photography from an expert.

Key attractions on the tour include Beijing, Shanghai, The Great Wall, rural villages, rice terraces and the famous terra cotta warriors.

Ewen Bell is also available for expert commentary on trends in photography, digital photography and equipment, travel, and ecotourism. He can be reached via e-mail at ewen@ewenbell.com, or by phone at 61 438 896 228 (Australia) or (224) 588 8039 (U.S.).

Here are the details:

Expert photographer Ewen Bell and adventure travel operator Jason Williams (www.grasshopperadventures.com) have joined forces to offer the experience of a lifetime - a travel photography workshop that delves deep into the cultural, scenic and human richness of China and teaches you how to capture the photographs of a lifetime.

The trip itinerary includes major sights such as the famed terra cotta warriors, the Great Wall of China, and the summer palace in Beijing, but there is also plenty of time for more hidden treasures such as agricultural villages, rice terraces, night markets and the old town of Shanghai.

Photographic instruction starts from day one and aims to redefine the way each participant looks and thinks about photography. It is a chance to be immersed in a unique "hands-on" photographic workshop that offers not only technical expertise, but also an incredible opportunity to practice what you are learning as you go. Each shoot is followed by a discussion and sharing of results and experiences. The workshops are presented as themes that cover topics such as capturing intimacy and expression, using available light for dramatic effect, capturing a sense of motion and shooting for context.

This is also simply a comfortable, relaxing tour of China perfect for the photographer and non-photographer alike. Staying in 4-star hotels (except in rural areas with more modest accommodations) and eating fabulous local meals, this trip is a great introduction to China for people of all ages and photographic skill levels.

Responsible tourism is also a main focus of this trip. Through keeping the group size very small (max 8 people), using local guides, visiting out-of-the-way communities, and utilizing local transportation, the goal is to have a positive impact on the places visited.

Basic trip costs are US $2600, excluding airfares and spending money.

*About Ewen:
Ewen Bell has been a commercial photographer since 1990 and has experience in many aspects of photography including scientific, commercial, travel and personal work. Ewen's photography has been published in publications such as GetLost Magazine, Sydney‚s Sunday Telegraph and brochures including GAP Adventures, STA Travel and Intrepid Travel. Ewen has also donated his time and photographic skills to charitable projects including Habitat for Humanity in Sri Lanka and the Australian Classic Yachting Association. For more information on Ewen, visit www.ewenbell.com.

SUZHOU

About Suzhou

Suzhou, the "Venice of China," is known for its elegant stone bridges, canals, flowing water, and noteworthy architecture. Located in the center of the Yangtze River Delta, approximately 65 miles west of Shanghai, Suzhou is one of the oldest cities in the Yangtze Basin dating back more than 2,500 years. The city boasts the beautifully manicured Classical Gardens of Suzhou, nine of which have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Each year, millions of tourists travel to Suzhou to experience the destination’s more than 400 attractions, ranging from pagodas and temples to historical districts and world-class museums. As the largest industrial city in China, Suzhou continues to develop, such as the Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP), which boasts five-star hotels, the iconic Lake Jinji, and Asia’s largest Ferris Wheel.

Travel to Suzhou is easily accessible via three convenient area airports with non-stop flights from North America: Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport (SHA) offers bullet train service to Suzhou, which is approximately a 50-mile, 30-minute trip; Pudong International Airport (PVG) is approximately 65 miles from Suzhou, an hour and half drive; and Sunan Shuofang International Airport (WUX) is approximately 14 miles from Suzhou, a 30 minute drive.

Known as the “land of milk and honey,” Suzhou’s attractions expand beyond its scenic gardens and landscapes to include a paradise of gourmet dishes and culinary experiences. As one of the eight famous culinary art forms in China, “Su cuisine” is derived from local time-honored culinary skills and obtains its unique sweet flavor from a strict selection of local and seasonal ingredients.

Most famous for its vegetable and fish dishes, Suzhou cuisine emphasizes freshwater fish, especially eel and carp. A signature dish that has been around for more than 200 years is “Mandarin Fish.” The name is derived from the dish’s resemblance to a squirrel, which when cooked the meat is made to protrude outwards like the fur due to its lack of bones and soft meet. The fish is deep fried, and a sweet and sour sauce is poured on top to further enhance the flavor. Regarded as the traditional dish to celebrate family occasions, holidays and banquets, the festive presentation of this main course sets the tone for celebratory gatherings.

Visitors and residents alike use their chopsticks at a variety of restaurants throughout Suzhou to indulge in traditional dishes including steamed white fish, water shield with egg flakes, fengzhen noodles, aozao noodles and more. Notable venues include Song He Lou Restaurant, a traditional restaurant with more than 200 years of history and reputed to be one of the oldest restaurants in China, offering two locations, one on historic Shanlang Street and one just off busy Guanqian Jie Street. Mandarin fish and braised bean curd with crabmeat and shelled fresh shrimps are two of the most popular choices. At De Yue Lou Restaurant, also on Guanqian Jie Street, dishes are made exclusively with ingredients from the nearby Taihu Lake region, including de-shelled shrimps fried with green tea leaves, steamed pork slices with glutinous rice flour and jujube paste drawn cakes.

For culinary indulgences in a causal setting, street food including dumplings, a variety of steamed and fried meats, rice cakes and famous stinky tofu can be enjoyed on some of Suzhou’s historic locations such as Pingjiang Road or Guanqian Jie Street. Sweats such as fried dumplings, mooncakes and Suzhou-style candy “Caishizhai," which are ideal snacks between meals, can be found on these streets as well.

INDIA

Where to Stay

WelcomArt at ITC Hotels

Dedicated to nurturing India’s cultural heritage, ITC Hotels has a vast art collection at each property. Through its WelcomArt forum, the hotels’ Srishti Art Galleries feature the best of Indian contemporary art. Most notably, Krishen Khanna’s stunning mural, “The Great Procession of Life,” coats the entire domed ceiling in the foyer of ITC Maurya, enhancing the grand entranceway.  The painting, which took three years to complete, illustrates the melding of the Mauryan era and modern Delhi. Other famous artists who have contributed to ITC’s expanding collection include Sanjay Battacharjee, Subrata Kundoo, M.F. Hussain, Tyeb Mehta and Anjolie Ela Menon.

Featured Indulgence: The Kakatiya Spice Route
In much the same way the architecture of the Kakatiya Dynasty heralded an inspired new style that was a blend of South Indian and North Indian features, so too does this signature cocktail of ITC Kakatiya which boldly blends cinnamon, clove and cardamom in vanilla vodka and ties it together with honey.

ITC Hotels is one of India’s largest hotel chains with four brands in over 90 locations throughout the country. Integrating India’s hospitality traditions with globally benchmarked services, the properties reflect the culture and ethos of each destination with opulent accommodations, state-of-the-art business facilities, renowned signature cuisine and award-winning wellness experiences.  Under the credo of “Responsible Luxury,” ITC’s Luxury Collection leads the way in sustainable hospitality initiatives while also pioneering corporate environmental and social stewardship programs. Every property in the Greenest Luxury Hotel Chain in the World is LEED® Platinum certified.

The ten Luxury Collection properties are: ITC Maurya in New Delhi, ITC Mughal in Agra, ITC Windsor and ITC Gardenia in Bengaluru, ITC Grand Central and ITC Maratha in Mumbai, ITC Grand Chola in Chennai, ITC Rajputana in Jaipur, ITC Kakatiya in Hyderabad and ITC Sonar in Kolkata. Two new hotels, ITC Green Bharat, a Golf Resort and Spa in Gurgaon, and ITC Vilasa, a Luxury Resort and Spa in Mahabalipuram are opening summer 2014. 

Other brands in the ITC portfolio are: WelcomHotel, Fortune, and WelcomHeritage offering a wide range of options for leisure and business travelers from mid-range properties to elegant palaces. For more information visit www.itchotels.in.

Mahua Kothi Wilderness Lodge

 Listen for tiger tales from the first-ever luxury wilderness safaris in Central India's most scenic national park. That's when Taj opens Mahua Kothi, the first of its new Wilderness Lodges in partnership with CC Africa, set on 40 acres in the rolling Satpura hills of Madhya Pradesh. Spot tigers, leopards, jackals and more amidst the jungles of Bandhavgarh National Park on twice daily excursions with CC Africa-trained naturalists, from the comfort of a specially designed 4x4 safari vehicle or from a prime perch on elephant back. Relax in one of 12 new jungle chic Kutiyas, each with a private courtyard and shaded swing, air-conditioned bedroom and en suite bath, hand-blended Jiva Spa bath amenities and house robes of richly hued traditional textiles. Savor delicious traditional regional fare, including morning tea delivered on a chulha (charcoal burner), picnic lunches and chowki rooftop dinners. Enjoy the original homestead that now houses the lodge's public areas, including an expansive veranda, library, Safari Shop, open kitchen and swimming pool

All-inclusive rate of $600 per person per night includes accommodations, all scheduled safaris, all meals and beverages including house wine and spirits, laundry and park fees and taxes

For more information, check web site www.tajhotels.com

Latest from ITC Hotels' Luxury Collection, India

India’s ITC Hotels’ Luxury Collection is renowned for its award-winning dining options, including Bukhara, long considered one of the best Indian cuisine restaurants in the world. For a limited time, guests at any of ITC Hotels’ 10 luxury properties can enjoy handsome savings while savoring myriad dishes at the celebrated restaurants:  Bukhara, Peshwari, Dakshin, Dum Pukht, K&K, West View, Pan Asian, Edo, Ottimo, Royal Vega and My Humble House.

For more information and to book, visit www.welcombreak.com and selectCulinary Breaks.  

*Subject to change, based on rupee to U.S. dollar conversion.

ITC Maurya was named “Best Eco-friendly Hotel,” bringing recognition to the property’s two-decade history of implementing sustainable initiatives in energy, water efficiency, solid waste recycling and carbon reduction. 

ITC Hotels has become renowned for a commitment to Responsible Luxury, setting a benchmark for the industry as the first premium chain to achieve the prestigious LEED® (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) Platinum certification for all hotels in the Luxury Collection. It is the highest certification awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council, and ITC Maurya is the largest hotel in the world to hold the distinction.

ITC Hotels’ highly acclaimed Kaya Kalp spa brand takes its name from a Sanskrit word meaning rejuvenation of body, mind and soul. Available at all Luxury Collection hotels and offering a great variety of spa and salon treatments, Kaya Kalp spas are deeply rooted in traditional Indian wellness philosophies, recapturing the spiritual and medicinal legacies of India. 

Among the most popular treatments is the Exotic Pomegranate Spa Journey (US$137*), which serves to detoxify, revitalize and elevate the senses. Kaya Kalp’s signature pomegranate sugar scrub, an exfoliation ritual designed to polish and soften the body, is followed by a Kaya Kalp Massage, relaxing the entire body and relieving muscular tension. The treatment is finished with a lavish Indian Foot Massage using healing creams and ancient pressure point stimulation techniques.

*Subject to change based on rupee to U.S. dollar conversion.

Where to Eat

EDO: Best Japanese Restaurant in India

BBC’s Good Food magazine has ranked ITC Gardenia’s EDO first among the best Japanese restaurants in India. Applauded by a secret panel of reputable judges, the venue came out top for quality, atmosphere, provenance, choice and value. It was during the EDO period that Japan first saw an exuberant popularization of art, music, theatre and literature in joyous pursuit of an ideal world, and EDO is a celebration of this spirit. The restaurant and bar bring alive the concept of Japan’s vibrant after-hours culture, offering authentic sushi, sashimi, succulent robatayaki, crisp sake and delectable desserts.

JAPAN

What to See & Do

14 Things to do in Kyoto That Will Immerse You in "The City of 10,000 Shrines"

Formerly the imperial capital of Japan, the City of 10,000 Shrines offers visitors an abundance of history and culture. Below are some of my favourite things to do in Kyoto that will give you a sense of the city and its centuries of history.

1. Nanzenji Temple

Nanzenji was built as a retirement villa for Emperor Kameyama in the late-13th century. In 1291, he donated it to the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism, and it became the head monastery in Kyoto. The temple’s chief priest holds the highest Buddhist position in the nation.

The temple suffered badly from both fire and war over the centuries, and the existing buildings are no more than 400 years old. The inner Hojo Garden is characteristic of the Edo period and is considered one of the most scenic Zen gardens in Japan. The worn wooden hall along the garden has seated many monks and travellers in quiet contemplation.

The magnificent Sanmon Gate leading to the temple serves as the stage for the kabuki re-enactment of the story of the Japanese Robin Hood, Ishikawa Goemon. In 1632, Goemon’s luck ran out and he and his son were sentenced to death by being boiled alive. As the play depicts, the heroic Goemon held his son above the boiling water until he succumbed himself.

2. Philosopher’s Path

From Nanzenji, there is a 1.6 kilometre (1 mi.) canal pathway all the way to Ginkakuji Temple. The path is dedicated to Nishida Kitaro, the late-19thC philosopher of Western and Zen ideologies.

3. Ginkakuji Temple – Silver Pavilion

Ginkakuji was originally built as a retirement villa and later converted into a Zen temple. The 15thC shogun, Ashikaga Yoshimasa, designed it after his grandfather’s villa, Kinkakuji (Gold Pavilion). The silver finishing was never completed, but the temple retained the name nonetheless. Yoshimasa was a patron of many fine arts. Under his initiation, Higashiyama Bunka (Culture of Eastern Mountains) flourished. He became a monk at the age of 32 and died five years later, leaving his villa to Zen Buddhism.

4. Mt. Daimonji

On this mountain, the Japanese character for “big” (dai) is set in white stone and can be seen from nearly all points in Kyoto. Ginkakuji Temple is located at the base of Mt. Damonji, where a trail begins. From the highest point on the trail, the view of Kyoto is very impressive.

The wonderful riddle of contemporary Japan is how whole-heartedly it has embraced all things modern—all the while retaining the customs of times past. See history come to life on two wheels on our Japan Biking adventure.

5. Chion-in Temple

The gate to the Chion-in Temple is the largest temple gate in Japan. It dates back to 1619. Inside the gate there are two sets of stairs leading to the temple grounds. The shallow, narrow stairs to the right are for women, and the deeper, wider stairs in the middle are for men. (The reason the stairs are narrower for the women is that they had to walk in tightly wrapped kimonos, that seriously restricted the length of their strides!) Chion-in is the head temple for the Jodo sect of Buddhism. With a little luck, you can observe a priest performing a ceremony and chanting prayers.

6. Maruyama Park

This city park is full of vendors, tourists and Japan’s most photographed cherry tree. It is located in the centre of the park and has been painted white—although there’s no consensus on why. Some say it’s to keep insects away, others say that it’s for aesthetic reasons.

7. Ishibe-Koji Street

This area was once a reclusive retreat with extravagant villas. Inns and teahouses took over, and the street became the regular haunt of geishas and their guests.

8. Ryozen Kannon

Kannon, the goddess of mercy and compassion, is the most popular Buddhist deity amongst the Japanese. She is a bodhisativa, one destined to become a Buddha; however she is waiting for all others to achieve enlightenment before she takes the final step herself.

She is said to have 33 emanations and has countless temples dedicated to her. This statue of Kannon is quite recent, demonstrating that the faithful are still willing to fund costly sculptures, even in the modern era.

9. Ninenzaka

Ninenzaka is the cobblestone path leading to Sanneizaka (see below). Ninenzaka means “two-year slope,” and Sannenzaka means “three-year slope.” As the superstition goes: if you slip on the steps between Ninenzaka and Sanneizaka, you will have two to three years of bad luck!

10. Sanneizaka

Sanneizaka is a cobblestone street on the way to Kiyomizu Temple. Along it are stores that sell food, tea and mementos to pilgrims and travellers. The merchant homes and shops here are among the oldest in Kyoto, and the earthen slatted windows on the second floors are among the oldest architecture in the city. These windows were built to allow merchants to secretly keep their head higher than that of their lord—a forbidden act in feudal Japan. This district is also home to kiyomizu-yaki, elegant, hand-painted pottery collected by feudal aristocrats.

11. Clear Water Temple – Kiyomizu Dera

Enchin, an 8thC Buddhist priest from Nara, founded Kiyomizu Temple at the source of the Kizu River, after being instructed to do so in a vision. The temple was first constructed in 780; however, most of what exists today dates back to 1633. The most famous spot is the butai—the deck overlooking the forest (“to leap from Kiyomizu’s butai” is a Japanese saying that refers to making an important decision or performing a courageous act).

The temple is dedicated to Kannon and women pray to her for ease in childbirth, students pray for good grades, and young women and men pray for luck in love. Pilgrims and tourists alike drink from otow-no-taki, the “Sound of Feathers Waterfall,” to purify themselves and to protect their bodies from illness.

12. Yasaka Pagoda

This pagoda is all that remains of what was once a magnificent Buddhist temple. It is five-storeys high, and each storey is symbolic of earth, water, fire, air or heaven.
13. Gion Geisha District

Visiting this district, the epicentre of Japan’s remaining geisha culture, is one of my favourite things to do in Japan. Only the most exclusive men are granted audience here. Gion is also a fascinating window into Japan’s feudal past, where a life in pursuit of the perfection of one’s art was treasured above all.

A geisha walks in Gion district.


With increasing competition for entertainment dollars, teahouses are finding it difficult to remain afloat. There are only about fifty geisha in Gion today; however, at its height, there were hundreds of geisha, as well as managers and apprentices.
In feudal times, geisha were often girls from impoverished fishing and farming villages. The lucky few, so to speak, became geisha, while the less fortunate created a living as prostitutes in the Shimabara pleasure quarter.

Geisha are professional performers. They are trained in shamisen (a Japanese harp), tea ceremony, dance, song and the art of witty conversation. Gentlemen who are granted the right to their company are a privileged few, and they meet these cherished ladies at an o-chaya, a teahouse.

A maiko, or apprentice, accompanies and pours sake. In the past, each geisha hoped to achieve a danna, a “lord and master,” who would care for her material needs. He would essentially purchase her virginity. However, times have changed and sexual pleasures are no longer for sale.

14. Ichiriki Teahouse

The most iconic teahouse of Gion is the legendary Ichiriki Teahouse. This 300-year-old o-chaya retains the burnt-orange colouring once characteristic of all the Gion teahouses.

In summer she is cooling herself by the Kamo, How fair is her neck revealed in the twilight. Her lips burn like bon-fires on Mt. Daimonji, Though she hides her secret tears behind a small lantern.

—A song for Gion

Memoirs Of A Geisha

The current building was renovated a century ago after being damaged by the great fire of 1865. The name o-chaya, or “tea-house,“ is a bit misleading for English speakers since Ichiriki is not exactly a place to go and have a casual cup of tea. It is an invitation-only establishment, and in order to visit, it is necessary to have a relationship with the teahouse. Ichiriki is the setting for the novel Memoirs of a Geisha and the kabah drama, Chushingura. Set during feudal times, the play tells how the leader of the 47 ronin (masterless samurai) spent years in seeming debauchery within the walls of the teahouse, all the while plotting to avenge the death of his master.

Cities Things to do in Kyoto Orsolya Kako

Japan Travel Experts: Luxury, Access, Tradition, Style

A garbage incinerator may not be on the must-see list of every luxury traveler to Japan, but it was for recent clients of Artisans of Leisure. The New York-based luxury tour operator arranged a private tour of a beautiful, state-of-the-art incinerator—designed by the architect of the new extension to the Museum of Modern Art in New York—as part of a private cultural tour emphasizing contemporary Japanese architecture.

Other recent Japan requests the company has fulfilled -- A private introduction to Zen meditation with a Buddhist monk, impossible-to-get reservations at Kyoto's most exclusive restaurants, and private meetings with curators at museums throughout Japan for a trustee of a major US Asian art museum. For their 2008 Japan tours, Artisans of Leisure combines this unsurpassed level of customization and cultural access with new destinations, new hotels and updated private cultural touring, capturing the absolute best of traditional and contemporary Japan.


Artisans of Leisure's Japan tours emphasize Japanese culture through the arts, history, cuisine, architecture, gardens and local traditions, and can be customized to incorporate myriad special interests and activities, such as:

Family – Learning origami in a private home, visiting the best neighborhoods for pop culture, shopping for Japanese gadgets, visiting Japanese theme parks such as Sanrio Puroland and Tokyo Disneyland, tours focused on anime and manga, dressing like a geisha for a photo shoot, attending cultural performances such as Bunraku puppet theater, attending baseball games and sumo tournaments, exploring castles, and taking private martial arts lessons.

Culinary – Private cooking classes, guided shopping for Japanese cookware and serving utensils, visiting markets to learn about local specialties and typical Japanese ingredients, meals at select venues such as temples, exclusive traditional inns and tea houses, reservations at the top restaurants in Tokyo (including Michelin-starred and Relais & Chateaux-affiliated restaurants) and Kyoto, transfers to hard-to-find restaurants.

Tea – Private tea ceremonies, excursions to tea plantations, visits to Japan's most renowned shops for tea and tea utensils, and excursions to villages that have produced revered tea ceremony ceramics for hundreds of years.

Gardens – Tours of all types of Japanese gardens, including stroll gardens, dry rock gardens, tea gardens, courtyard gardens, and hill-and-pond gardens. Access to private and imperial gardens. Private introductory classes in ikebana (Japanese flower arranging), bonsai and garden care. Shopping for Japanese garden fixtures, including stone lanterns, and gardening accessories.

Traditional Arts & Crafts – Private excursions to locations throughout Japan known for producing the best local crafts, including indigo dye, various styles of ceramics, lacquerware, candles and other items. Visits to the workshops of traditional artisans. Shopping for traditional utensils used to produce Japanese crafts (brushes, inks, utensils for ceramics). Tickets to traditional arts performances (Kabuki, Noh, Butoh, traditional Japanese music).

Contemporary Art & Architecture – Visiting Japan's most impressive contemporary buildings—e.g., Tadao Ando's Church of Light, garbage incinerators designed by Yoshio Taniguchi and Friedensreich Hundertwasser, starchitect-designed boutiques for Prada, Hermès and Mikimoto in Tokyo—and seeing art at remote, architecturally significant venues such as the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum, Miho Museum, Benesse Art Site Naoshima, and 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa.

Photography – Personalized tours for professional or amateur photographers, including visits to Japan's most scenic spots and the best places to capture traditional life and contemporary pop culture in action.

Hiking – Tours incorporating half-day and full-day hikes in locations throughout Japan, including groves of cherry trees in full bloom, bamboo forests, mountains dotted with temples and shrines, the historic Old Tokaido Road (depicted in ukiyo-e prints by Hiroshige and others), and important pilgrimage routes.

Seasonal Events & Festivals – Tours designed around attending local festivals. Tours to coincide with peak seasons for plum blossoms, cherry blossoms and fall foliage in locations throughout Japan.

Buddhism – Private Zen meditation lessons with monks, vegetarian meals at temples, overnight stays at temples, day hikes along Buddhist temple pilgrimage routes, and learning about symbolism at important Buddhist sites in Kyoto, Nara, Kamakura and elsewhere.

Shopping – Visiting the best boutiques and galleries for Japanese antiques, folk art, kimono and accessories, ceramics, washi (handmade paper), tansu (chests), hibachi, ukiyo-e prints, handmade knives and cookware, lacquerware, pens, housewares, and many other specialty items.

Sample itineraries for Japan and over 25 other countries are available on the Artisans of Leisure web site www.artisansofleisure.com. All Artisans of Leisure tours include luxury accommodation, private sightseeing, expert planning and advice, full logistical support (including transfers, internal transportation, luggage assistance, visa provision), access to Artisans of Leisure's extensive international network of associate offices, and more. Artisans of Leisure is a luxury tour operator specializing in private, customized tours in international destinations.

For additional information, call (800) 214-8144 or visit www.artisansofleisure.com.

MALAYSIA

Hari Raya Aidil Adha

Commonly known as Hari Raya Haji, this festival marks the culmination of the Hajj pilgrimage to Mekah which is performed by millions of Muslims annually. It is also known as Hari Raya Qurban. Muslims in the country celebrate the festival with prayers and the sacrifice of cattle. www.tourismmalaysiany.com/events

Highlights of Malaysia - Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Langkawi

This private tour of Malaysia is ideal for first-time visitors. It features the best of vibrant Kuala Lumpur, historic Penang and the resort island of Langkawi. Begin with three nights in Kuala Lumpur. See highlights such as colonial-era sites around Merdeka Square, the impressive Masjid Jamek mosque and the landmark Petronas Twin Towers. Continue to the island of Penang for two nights. Visit Georgetown, an atmospheric UNESCO World Heritage Site of colonial-era architecture. Next, spend three nights at an exclusive resort on the island of Langkawi, a tropical oasis in the Andaman Sea.

 Private City Tours in Each Fascinating City
 Colonial-Era Sites around Kuala Lumpur & Malacca
 Penang Island Excursions i.e. Botanical Gardens
 Island Hopping and Mangrove Tours in Langkawi
 Visits to Colorful Craft Centers, Food and Night Markets

For reservations contact Artisans of Leisure at 800 214 8144 or visit them at www.artisansofleisure.com/tour/Malaysia

Marvel the beauty of MALAYSIA in Cuti Cuti 1 Malaysia

Beautiful beaches, colorful culture, amazing sceneries and mouth watering delicacies are just some of the spectacular experiences you get as the Ministry of Tourism, Tourism Malaysia and 8TV take you on an adventure in – a charismatic reality show that takes you on an expedition through the wonders of Malaysia. Venture deep into the heart of Malaysia and not only see but experience the daily lives of its people, the captivating sceneries as well as the history and culture that lies behind this tropical wonderland called - MALAYSIA. Cuti Cuti 1 Malaysia not only takes you on a new escapade with newer findings, but it also introduces you to an entirely new way for you to pack up and travel.
For more information contact 120 East 56th Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10022 Phone: +12127541113 | Fax: +12127541116; mail tomtpb@aol.com

The Festival of Lights

The triumph of good over evil is celebrated by Hindus as they observe Deepavali or the Festival of Lights in the seventh month of the Hindu calendar. Throughout the country, prayers of thanksgiving and cleansing rituals take place at temples and household altars.

10 Day Diving tour in Sipadan & Mabul

Sipadan is the only oceanic island in Malaysia, rising 2,000 feet or 600m from the seabed. It is located in the Celebes Sea east of the major town of Tawau and off the coast of East Malaysia on the Island of Borneo. It was formed by living corals, growing on top of an extinct volcanic cone that took thousands of years to develop. Mabul in contrast to Sipadan, is a continuation of the Borneo landmass rather than the top of an underwater mountain. Because of this, Mabul has more gradually sloping walls around it that bottom out at about 30m. This makes it an ideal location for macro-photo opportunities.

 Tour of Garden City of Lights.
 Petronas Twin Towers.
 Diving at Sipadan or Mabul Island.
 Photo Adventure in Mabul.
 & More...

For reservations contact : Asia Classic Tours at 800 717 7752 or visit them at www.asiaclassictours.com/malaysiavacation-divingsipadanmabul/77>Asia Classic Tours
www.goborneo.com/family/completefromBKK.htm>

PUTRAJAYA: THE MAKING OF A CITY

In relation to many of Malaysia's other cities like Kuala Lumpur and Melaka, the garden city of Putrajaya is like a new kid on the old block. Barely 16 years since its groundbreaking ceremony, Putrajaya, gleaming in the tropical sun today, is a majestic city fitting of its role as the new centre of the Malaysian government. The lake in Putrajaya has now become the main feature of Putrajaya. It functions as both a recreational area and scenic element, as well as being an environmental filter and cooling system. One of the first Putrajaya structures to be completed was the Putra Mosque which, till today, remains an important icon of Putrajaya. The Putrajaya International Convention Centre (PICC) in Precinct 5 also has a striking architecture. Besides the Wetland Park, there are at least five other major parks in the vicinity. The Botanical Park has a fine collection of plant exhibits in beautifully landscaped grounds featuring 700 species from 90 countries. For more information on Putrajaya, go to www.ppj.gov.my
120 East 56th Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10022 Phone: +12127541113 | Fax: +12127541116 | mtpb@aol.com

SINGAPORE

Singapore: Cruise Hub of Asia 

The enhanced cruise infrastructure will allow Singapore to capitalise on the global and Asian market growth of the cruise industry. The Ocean Shipping Consultants has projected that Asia (Greater China, South Korea, Japan and Southeast Asia) can expect a 44 per cent growth in cruise passengers from 1.07 million in 2005 to 1.54 million by 2010. By 2015, the number of Asian cruise passengers is expected to hit 2.02 million, an 88.79 per cent growth over 2005.

Recognising this growth potential, cruise operators are offering a wide range of itineraries within Asia. Leveraging on Singapore’s strategic location between major international maritime routes, and its excellent air connectivity to more than 190 destinations in 60 countries worldwide, a number of cruise companies have chosen to base themselves in Singapore to strengthen their Asian presence. Several of the world’s top cruise lines, such as Star Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, Costa Cruises, P&O Princess and Silversea Cruises have made Singapore the homeport or marquee port for their Asian ship deployments. RCI and Silversea Cruises also opened offices in Singapore last year to play a more significant role in Asia. 

In addition, Singapore will be port-of-call for a host of ships in 2008, including Cunard’s Queen Victoria on her maiden world cruise, and ships from Princess Cruises, P&O, Oceania Cruises, Holland America Line and Crystal Cruises.

Complementing Marina Bay’s Necklace of Attractions

The International Cruise Terminal will be easily accessible to Marina Bay, Singapore’s new Downtown and financial services hub, and its necklace of attractions. The S$240 million (US$144 million) 165-metre (541.34 feet) tall Singapore Flyer, the world’s largest observation wheel that opened this month, offers panaromic views of Marina Bay and the Singapore city skyline, as well as a complete leisure experience with its supporting retail, dining, and live entertainment options. The circuit for the inaugural 2008 FORMULA 1TM SingTel Singapore Grand Prix will be the venue for the world’s first Formula One™ night race and Asia’s first street race on the Formula One™ calendar on 28 September 2008. The S$5 billion (US$3 billion) Marina Bay SandsTM Integrated Resort, developed by Las Vegas Sands Corporation, will house Singapore’s first casino, extensive convention facilities, three hotel towers, and world-class retail, dining and entertainment when it opens in 2009. Singapore’s first reservoir in the city offers a new recreational and lifestyle attraction at the Marina Barrage. The 101-hectare (249.6 acres) Gardens by the Bay in the heart of the city was completed in 2010, and features waterfront gardens, green sanctuaries and scenic settings. Resorts World at Sentosa Integrated Resort was developed by Genting International at over S$6 billion (US$3.6 billion), and comprises Universal Studios Singapore®, the theme park’s only Southeast Asia facility, six themed hotels, the world’s largest marine life park, a maritime museum, convention facilities as well as various retail, dining, spa, entertainment and gaming options.

For more information, call the STB Media Hotline at +65 9011 2071.

About Malaysia and Singapore

Located at the crossroads of Asia, Malaysia and Singapore are the perfect gateways to Southeast Asia. From the cosmopolitan city of Singapore to the pristine island of Langkawi, from the vibrant city-life of Kuala Lumpur to the nature's paradise that is Malaysian Borneo, travelers have their pick of amazing combinations. With ultra-cool hangouts and trendy restaurants, spectacular beaches and the beauty of tropical rainforests, it's the ultimate escape.

For more information, contact the Malaysian Tourism Promotion Board,  120 East 56th Street, Suite 810, New York, NY 10022, 1-800-558-6787; or 818 West 7th Street, Suite 970, Los Angeles, CA 90017, 1-800-336-6842, Los Angeles, CA. You can also contact the Singapore Tourism Board, 1156 Avenue of the Americas, Suite 702, New York, NY 10036, 212-302-4861; or 4929 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 510, Los Angeles, CA 90010, 323-677-0808.

Rhapsody of the Seas to Homeport in Singapore for Asian Cruise

Royal Caribbean International (RCI) has announced nine new sailings from Singapore, which will be the new base for the 78,491-ton Rhapsody of the Seas.  The new Asian cruises will be marketed under Royal Caribbean's partnership with the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) through a S$10 million fund (approximately U.S. $6.5 million) that STB administers in support of cruise companies' marketing activities in the country.

Dr Chan Tat Hon, assistant chief executive (Leisure) at the Singapore Tourism Board, said, “Homeporting Rhapsody of the Seas in Singapore gives RCI a good standing to launch into Asia - the next big playground for cruising.”  The ship will operate itineraries ranging from two to five days, with one longer cruise of 12 days. Ports of call include Cambodia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. The new cruises will offer a variety of regional cuisines in addition to the award-winning cuisine served onboard. Special departures will be announced to coincide with Asian festivals, like Chinese New Year cruises and Mid-Autumn Festival sailings.

“The newly launched itineraries for Asia are part of Royal Caribbean’s strategy to expand into emerging high-growth markets,” said Mr Rama Rebbapragada, director Asia/Pacific of Royal Caribbean International. “Already, we have seen good demand for these cruises from most Asian markets and are pleased to see bookings coming in from North America and Europe on some of the short sailings. There is also keen interest shown by the corporate incentives sector from all over the world.” With a total guest capacity of 2,435, Rhapsody of the Seas will be one of Asia’s largest home-ported ships.

For more information and a complete cruise schedule, visit web site www.royalcaribbean.com

St. James Power Station Electrifies Singapore Club Scene

Now open for business is St James Power Station, Singapore’s largest one-stop clubbing destination, featuring nine separate venues spread over 60,000 square feet. The highly anticipated night spot, which occupies the premises of Singapore's circa 1927 coal-fired power station in the HarbourFront precinct, offers something for everyone looking for an exciting night on the town. Access to the entire facility is available for one low cover charge. Featured inside are Powerhouse, the largest venue in the complex featuring a five-story dance club set in a hip and raw setting reflective of the building’s industrial roots; Gallery Bar, an elegant and stylish lounge strategically situated on the second level to offer its guests a spectacular view of all the other outlets; Movida, meaning “party” in Cuban street slang, Movida is a live room featuring the sounds of world music in a clean-lined, contemporary setting mellowed with the warmth of traditional, regional charm; The Bellini Room, where the resident band plays a mixture of swing, big band and easy listening music; and Mono, a monochromatic-themed karaoke venue with  a large bar and 10 individually designed rooms for those who prefer crooning behind closed doors.

For information check web site www.stjamespowerstation.com

National Museum Of Singapore Has Been Renovated

The National Museum of Singapore opened its doors to the public in December after three years and S$132.6 million (approximately U.S. $88.4 million) of refurbishment and reinvention. The newly re-done museum has doubled in size, and includes upgrades to bring history to life through multi-media technology.

Just one example is The Companion, an “intelligent” audio visual guide that has been specially developed for the Singapore History Gallery. The Companion juxtaposes popular and anecdotal history to present different points of view in two paths. As visitors enter the gallery, they can choose to explore either path, guided along by different sets of multi-media content.

A number of significant national treasures and several never-before-displayed artifacts are on display in the refurbished galleries, including a funeral hearse made for a wealthy Chinese philanthropist in 1917, and a gold mace that was presented to Singapore in recognition of its status as a city in 1953. Four “Singapore Living Galleries” -- Food, Fashion, Film and Photography -- celebrate the country’s multi-racial and multi-cultural society. With both the old and new buildings combined, the National Museum of Singapore now spans a total area of 18,375 square meters and is Singapore’s largest and most modern museum with world-class facilities, including a 247-seat auditorium and a 10,000-square-meter Exhibition Gallery space.  The restoration and conservation of the National Museum building and the design and construction of its new modern counterpart is an architectural feat. Admission for the National Museum of Singapore is S$10.00 for the general public and S$5.00 for senior citizens and students (approximately U.S.$6.50 /$3.25). The Singapore History gallery is open 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. every day; the Singapore Living galleries are open 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. every day. Admission is free on Friday evenings.

For more information check web site www.nationalmuseum.sg

PHILLIPINES

MANILA

Mandarin Oriental's New Luxury Spa

Mandarin Oriental, Manila introduces The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Manila, offering guests and spa-goers a holistic approach to enhance their well-being.
The Thai-themed luxury Mandarin Oriental spa, is located on the hotel’s topmost floors, and like all Spas at Mandarin Oriental, offers a sensory experience that touches the mind, body and spirit, merging ancient and contemporary techniques and philosophies from around the world.

Most experiences start with a relaxing foot ritual, while an individual analysis of each guest’s lifestyle allows for individually tailored treatments. The collection of exclusive rituals include specialized facials, body massages, treatments, wraps and scrubs, and spa packages ranging from one-hour and 40 minutes to three-hours and 20 minutes. A signature treatment that is common to every Mandarin Oriental Spa is the Time Ritual, a personalized journey booked as a block of time, and consisting of treatments suited to each individual’s preference.

The Spa uses Ytsara, a luxurious line of organic Asian spa products incorporating natural ingredients of herbs, roots and flowers, blended in its own line of signature essential oils, designed to relax, revitalize and de-stress.

The exemplary standards and attention to detail found at The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Manila are also reflected in its opulent, Thai-inspired interior design. The warmth and serenity of teak wood, is combined with contemporary wall treatments and organic textures. Thai furniture and silk upholstery blend harmoniously with Asian artifacts, which complete the Oriental theme. The reception area on the 18th floor is a welcoming oasis that is softly lit, gently scented, with soft music that sets the relaxed ambience of this blissful sanctuary. A short flight of stairs opens on to a serene Oriental-style relaxation area and a mini Oriental garden on the upper floor, surrounded by four self-contained treatment rooms.

The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Manila is open from 9 am to 1 am daily.

For inquiries and reservations, call the Spa Concierge at +632 750 8888 extension 1901 / 1902 or direct line +632 750 0968, or via email at momnl-spa@mohg.com.

Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group is the award-winning owner and operator of some of the world’s most prestigious hotels and resorts, currently operating 20 luxury hotels with a further 14 under development in Riviera Maya, Mexico and Hainan Island, China (2007), Barcelona and Boston (2008), Dallas, Chicago, Las Vegas, Macau, Marrakech, Turks and Caicos and Grand Cayman (2009) and Guangzhou, Taipei and Paris (2010). In total, Mandarin Oriental now operates, or has under development, 9,500 rooms in 20 countries with 15 hotels in Asia, 12 in The Americas and seven in Europe and North Africa.

THAILAND

About Thailand

Located just 15 degrees north of the equator, 'Amazing Thailand' is one of Southeast Asia's premier travel destinations and home to well-known tourist locations including the capital city of Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Ko Samui and Krabi. Known as the 'land of smiles,' Thailand features some of the world‚s finest luxury hotels and resorts, and offers visitors a rich tapestry of exotic architecture, culture, cuisine, traditions and adventures. For more information on Thailand, visit na.tourismthailand.org.

Where to Eat

Outrigger Konotta Resort Maldives Takes Dining to New Levels
Iconic Indian Ocean, Asian and European dishes presented with flair at the Outrigger

The Outrigger Konotta Maldives Resort has unveiled innovative menus for guests passionate about dining, ahead of the resort.

Apart from taste, table-side service is key. For example, the salt and charcoal baked chicken is marinated for 24 hours in wild mushrooms and truffle, then baked until the dough becomes hard. It is then cracked open at the table with a hammer for the guests. The signature breakfast will be the salmon and truffle scrambled eggs served with shaved truffles and salmon caviar.

Seafood lovers have much to look forward to. Indian Ocean dishes include Maldivian lobster, steamed grouper, baked jobfish and oysters (with a choice of coriander chutney or vodka granita) and Peruvian ceviche (local job fish served with freshly made coconut cream, island-grown lime, and Konotta garden herbs).

“Our dishes and cocktails celebrate Indian Ocean, regional and international influences,” says Archdeacon. “Whatever is available locally is featured on our menus -- freshly caught line reef fish, yellowfin tuna and lobster. Regional spices, herbs and flavours such as passion fruit, lemongrass and coconut are also recurring themes in our preparation.”

Iconic international favorites made with flair also will be featured. Guests can opt for Tasmanian salmon, Australian Black Angus beef fillet, achari lamb, and Sri Lankan jumbo prawns, among others.

The Outrigger Konotta Maldives Resort has four innovative outlets: Blue Salt for international and regional dining; Poolside dining overlooking the ocean; the Nala Rah teppan and sushi bar (for “exquisite fusion and interactive dining with stunning ocean and island views,” says Archdeacon); and in-villa dining with the option of a personal chef and butler.

Further details of food options at the Outrigger Konotta Maldives Resort can be found at outriggermaldives.com/dining.html

Location:
The Outrigger Konotta Maldives Resort is located in the stunning atoll of Gaafu Dhaalu, 340 kilometres south of Malé. The Outrigger is accessible via a 55-minute flight to Kaadedhdhoo Airport, followed by a 30-minute luxury speedboat journey. Check-in takes place aboard the boat, leaving guests free to enjoy a unique sense of arrival at the idyllic island.

For full menus, bookings and further information visit outriggermaldives.com. Email :reservation.konotta@outrigger.mv. Tel: +960 684 7771.

Where to Stay

Evason Hua Hin Opens Asia’s First Plant-based Culinary Academy Resort partners with Matthew Kenny to create state-of-the-art facility

Evason Hua Hin in Pranburi, Thailand is delighted to announce the opening of a culinary academy in partnership with Matthew Kenney Cuisine. This well-known American integrated lifestyle brand founded to meet the increasing interest in living foods and the art of raw food preparation is the ideal partner for Evason. Offering Asia’s first classically structured plant-based culinary academy, the new academic facility is surrounded by 20-acres of rich, manicured tropical gardens, lotus ponds and access to the best plant-based produce Thailand grows.

Built upon Founder Matthew Kenney’s culinary training in plant-based raw foods cuisine, the new culinary academy offers month-long courses, as well as weekday and weekend workshops which will be introduced later in the year. The curriculum is centered on the use of whole, organic, unprocessed plant-based foods to achieve healthy, aesthetically refined and flavorful cuisine. Core programming focuses on the “Fundamentals of Raw Cuisine” and offers students comprehensive training in the principles in the art of raw food, as well as cooked plant-based cuisine classes that further the modern, creative approach to preparing nutritious foods. All programs are structured to provide students heightened new techniques, enabling them to execute and innovate raw and cooked plant-based cuisine at the highest level. As part of an exclusive enrollment package, students are provided with accommodations at the resort.

The intimate class structure and personalized instruction at all Matthew Kenney Culinary Academies allow for hands-on experiences within a custom designed, commercial living foods kitchen. Every aspect of the culture, operation, and facility are developed to foster the company’s mission to advance cutting-edge living cuisine. As at other locations, the faculty and staff are hand-selected and trained in the latest culinary and educational techniques, priding themselves on continually advancing their own creativity and knowledge.

Evason Hua Hin, located 15 miles (25 kilometers) south of Hua Hin, is famed for the Thai Royal Summer Palace, and provides calming views over the Gulf of Siam. A fully immersive destination, Evason Hua Hin recently underwent a major enhancement program, refurbishing all 196 guest rooms, suites and pool villas. The resort complements the Matthew Kenney Culinary approach to holistic living with its Six Senses Spa featuring popular wellness programs including Discover Yoga, Yogic Detox and Yogic Sleep and a dedication to sustainable practices including water use reduction, waste management, sustainable purchasing and carbon emission reductions.

For more information on academy training, please visit Matthew Kenney Culinary's website or contactadmissions@matthewkenneycuisine.com.

To reserve accommodations for the Matthew Kenney Culinary Academy, please visitwww.sixsenses.com/evason-resorts/hua-hin/destination/news/matthew-kenney-culinary

About Evason Hua Hin 
Evason Hua Hin comprises a mix of private pool villas and guestrooms offering fully equipped and affordable accommodations. Dining choices include international and Thai cuisine. Six Senses Spa focuses on essential tropical ingredients for a truly relaxing and revitalizing experience, while activities include tennis, golf and excursions for unforgettable memories. 

About Six Senses Hotels Resorts & Spa
Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas is a hotel and spa management company comprised of nine resorts and 27 spas under the brand names Six Senses, Evason and Six Senses Spas. Set to double in size over the next three years, Six Senses operate resorts in far-flung locations featuring incredible natural beauty. Known for its unique and diverse design personality, each property is supported by a leadership commitment to community, sustainability and wellness.

Six Senses Spas offer a wide range of holistic wellness, rejuvenation and beauty treatments administered under the guidance of expert therapists. Six Senses Spas are also located in prestigious hotels and resorts around the globe.
Evason introduces a collection of unique resorts that follow the Six Senses philosophy of uncompromised responsibility to sustainability and to the community. Family friendly, these properties also provide a strong value focus while offering a vast array of guest services and personal attention

Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas, Park Ventures Ecoplex, 57 Wireless Road, Bangkok 10330, Thailand | www.sixsenses.com

Grand Party Marks the Opening of Outrigger Laguna Phuket Beach Resort

The Outrigger Laguna Phuket Beach Resort in Thailand celebrated its official opening on April 3, 2013 with a grand evening beachside party. Flying in for the VIP gathering are members of the Kelley family, owners of the Outrigger Laguna Phuket Beach Resort, and senior corporate executives from Hawaii to celebrate the latest addition to the Outrigger resort portfolio in Asia.

Outrigger announced its purchase of the 20.6 acre (8.36 hectare) property on Bang Tao beach, Laguna Phuket, in July last year. The opening means that Outrigger, a privately held Hawaii-based company with over 65 years of hotel management experience, now has four properties open in Asia:

Outrigger Laguna Phuket Beach Resort, the Outrigger Laguna Phuket Resort and Villas, the Outrigger Phi Phi Island Beach Resort, and O-CE-N Bali by Outrigger.

Outrigger Enterprises Group President and CEO, David Carey, in Phuket said: “The acquisition and opening of the Outrigger Laguna Phuket Beach Resort gives Outrigger a wonderful and iconic resort property in Phuket, a remarkable holiday destination that goes from strength to strength. Early indications are that our new property will do very well in the family, couples and active lifestyle segments of the global holiday market.”

Darren Edmonstone, Managing Director, Asia-Pacific for Outrigger Enterprises Group, told media arriving for the opening party that the property had unique features that were already distinguishing the resort from its competitors. He said that the property’s exclusive Club Lounge privileges, large water slide and kids’ club, ‘Activate’ sports facilities and fully rejuvenated rooms, suites and villas, all with sea or lagoon views, made the property a “world class product.”

The aim of Locavore is to emphasize seasonality, sustainability and traceability through education and a close relationship with local farmers, fishermen and suppliers. Carbon emissions getting the food to the table will be minimized as well.

The design for the completely revamped rooms and hotel landscaping was carried out by P49, an acclaimed Bangkok based design company. One of the main features of the property is its very Thai sense of arrival created by a lobby area with a wooden Thai house theme and traditional Thai images and artifacts. The lobby offers breathtaking views out to the turquoise waters of the Andaman Sea.

Room prices, including breakfast, range from US$160* for a Deluxe Lagoon to US$245 for the Club Lagoon, US$280 for Club Sea View, up to US$792+++ for the Two Bedroom Villa. There are 11 room categories in all. Bookings and further information are available at www.outriggerthailand.com; email: dosm.phuketbeach@outrigger.co.th. Tel: (+66) 76 324352.

*Rates quoted in USD are estimates and will vary depending on exchange rate
*All rates are subject to 18.7% service charge and VAT

About Outrigger Enterprises Group
Outrigger Enterprises Group is one of the largest and fastest growing privately-held leisure lodging and hospitality companies in the Asia-Pacific and Oceania regions and continues to expand its presence throughout the area. A family-owned company with 65 years of hospitality experience, Outrigger runs a highly-successful, multi-branded line of hotels, condominiums and vacation resort properties, including Outrigger® Hotels and Resorts, OHANA® Hotels and Resorts, Embassy Suites®, Best Western®, and Wyndham Vacation Ownership®. Currently, Outrigger operates and/or has under development 45 properties with approximately 11,000 rooms located in Hawaii; Australia; Guam; Fiji; Bali; Thailand; Vietnam; and Hainan Island, China. Outrigger Enterprises Group also operates and develops hotel properties and hospitality-related retail and real estate opportunities for partners in Hawaii, the Pacific, and Asia. For on-line information, log on at www.outriggerenterprisesgroup.com and www.outrigger.com.
Outrigger Hotels and Resorts, Asia-Pacific
Ste 105-108, Plaza Del Mar, No. 1 Pasak-Koktanod Rd
Cherngtalay Sub-Dist., Thalang District
Phuket Province, 83110 Thailand
Tel: (+66) 76 318 230
Fax: (+66) 76 318 232
Email: pieter.vanderhoeven@outrigger.com

Thailand's Idyllic Phi Phi Island Village Beach Resort and Spa Now Bookable on Outrigger.com

Tourists and travel industry professionals can now research and book holidays at Phi Phi Island Village Beach Resort and Spa in southern Thailand on the Outrigger website, outrigger.com. Outrigger assumed full sales and marketing responsibility for the resort in November 2011 and completed operational control in 2012, when the absolute beachfront property became the Outrigger Phi Phi Island Resort and Spa.

Numerous informative pages about the Phi Phi Island Village Beach Resort and Spa on www.outrigger.com give online visitors detailed information on room types, the four onsite restaurant and bars, the current Wana Spa, traditional Thai and western weddings, dive centre tours, travel deals and how to get there. Evocative pictures show a perfect tropical island beach setting with dramatic views beyond powder white sand and coconut palms to distant islands.

For information and bookings, visit the new Phi Phi Island Village Beach Resort and Spa zone on the Outrigger website. Or tel: (+66) 75 628 900. Email: rsvn01@ppisland.com.

About Outrigger Enterprises Group
Outrigger Enterprises Group is one of the largest and fastest growing privately-held leisure lodging and hospitality companies in the Asia Pacific and Oceania regions and continues to expand its presence throughout the area. A family-owned company with more than 60 years of hospitality experience, Outrigger runs a highly-successful, multi-branded line of hotels, condominiums and vacation resort properties, including Outrigger® Hotels & Resorts, OHANA® Hotels & Resorts, Outrigger Condominium Collection®, Embassy Suites®, Best Western®, Courtyard® by Marriott, and Wyndham Vacation Ownership®. Currently, Outrigger operates and/or has under development 47 properties with more than 11,000 rooms located in Hawaii; Australia; Guam; Fiji; Bali; Thailand; Vietnam; and Hainan Island, China. Outrigger Enterprises Group also operates and develops hotel properties and hospitality-related retail and real estate opportunities for partners in Hawaii, the Pacific, the mainland USA and Asia. For on-line information, log on at www.outriggerenterprisesgroup.com and www.outrigger.com.

Outrigger Hotels and Resorts, Asia Pacific
Ste 105-108, Plaza Del Mar, No. 1 Pasak-Koktanod Rd
Cherngtalay Sub-Dist., Thalang District
Phuket Province, 83110 Thailand
Tel: (+66) 76 318 230
Fax: (+66) 76 318 232
Email:laguna@outrigger.co.th

Loi Krathong

Loi Krathong is celebrated annually throughout Thailand on the full moon of the 12th month in the Thai lunar calendar historically as a way to honor Buddha. Loi means "to float" and Krathong is a small raft traditionally made from a banana tree trunk and decorated with elaborately folded banana leaves, flowers, candles and incense sticks.  During the night of the full moon, thousands of people gather to float these Krathong onto the waterways of the city, symbolizing the letting go of one's grudges and negativity in order to start life afresh.  Larger and more elaborate rafts are also released and judged in contests, and other highlights include a Krathong design contest, a beauty contest, a light and sound presentation, fireworks and vibrant cultural performances. Additionally, a multitude of Lanna-style sky lanterns, or khom fai, are launched into the air, which is believed to help rid the locals of their troubles.

BANGKOK

Banyon Tree Bangkok Offering A "Heavenly Honeymoon" Package

Banyon Tree Bangkok is offering a "Heavenly Honeymoon" package that includes chauffer limousine to and from the airport; daily breakfast at Rom Sai restaurant; one romantic dinner at Bai Yun or Saffron restaurant; one 2-hour 'Rejuvenation' or 'Renewal' spa treatment per person per stay; a full-day cruise to Ayudhaya or a half-day Bangkok city tour; an 'Intimate Moments' suite decoration including a bottle of Champagne; Banyan Tree Gallery gift; and a 25% discount at the Lobby Lounge, Bai Yun, Saffron and Rom Sai restaurant. A minimum stay of three days is required and room rates start at THB 19,800++ per night (US $599). For more info, see www.banyantree.com.

Fall in Love with Thailand All Over Again at Four Seasons Thailand

Four Seasons Hotels Thailand have created a collection of "Fall in Love with Thailand Again" packages to make the return to the Land of Smiles an easy decision. From the elegant, urban hotel in Bangkok to the lush valley resort in Chiang Mai; from the secluded island retreat on Koh Samui to the remote Tented Camp in the Golden Triangle, honeymooners or anyone looking for romance can find it here. Packages range from two to three nights and can include daily breakfast; spa treatments; excursions and romantic dinners.

For full details, see "Tour of Thailand" package www.fourseasons.com/thailand.

Anantara Golden Triangle Resort & Spa, Chiang Rai Offers Special Wedding Packages

For those looking for a unique and exotic destination wedding, the Anantara Golden Triangle, perched amidst lush tropical forests, is offering two special wedding packages for the ultimate memorable wedding.

The Garden Wedding Package includes wedding garlands; bridal bouquet; wedding cake; bottle of sparkling wine; decorations for hill-top reception; traditional holy water and bonding ceremonies; ceremony performed by monks or other faith denominations; bedroom decorations; candlelight dinner; complimentary one-bedroom suite for two nights; complimentary breakfasts; roundtrip transportation to and from the airport; basic 45-minute massage; Thai Lanna (Northern) classical welcome. Price ranges from THB 94,000 to THB 105,000 (U.S $2,670-$2,975).

The Regal Elephant Wedding Package offers a special Thai touch by providing a memorable elephant ride for the happy couple. This unique package includes wedding garland; bridal bouquet; wedding cake; bottle of Champagne; decorations for reception; elephant riding for the bride and groom; ceremony performed by monks; bedroom decorations; candlelight dinner; complimentary one-bedroom suite for two nights; complimentary breakfasts; roundtrip transportation to and from the airport; basic 45-minute massage; and Thai Lanna (Northern) classical welcome.  Price ranges from THB 113,000- THB 122,000 (US $3,200-$3,460).

For more info see www.weddings.anantara.com.

Celebrate the Ultimate Thai Wedding at Amanpuri, Phuket

If you really want to splash out and have the ultimate luxurious and beautiful Thai wedding, then Amanpuri on the beautiful island of Phuket is the place for you. Set high on a peninsula overlooking the Andaman Sea, Amanpuri's Villa Homes provide a picturesque setting for an informal Thai Buddhist, Christian or non-religious wedding blessing. For the ceremony, the villas can be decorated with flower petals, fragrant jasmine, orchids and a floral archway. White and pale pink lotus flowers adorn the pool while the open-air spaces are lit with candles and torches.

A traditional Thai Buddhist ceremony is performed by up to five monks who garland the bride and groom with a string sai mongkon that is then entwined to symbolize the coming together of two individuals. The couple are then blessed with holy water. The wedding party may wish to elaborate on the blessing with traditional Thai music and dancers, a Thai feast, elephant rides or perhaps a cruise on one of Amanpuri's fleet of luxury vessels.

For more details, see www.amanpuri.com/exclusives.

What's Cooking in Thailand?

Authentic everyday Thai cuisine features simple, quick and easy-to-prepare dishes made with ingredients readily found in gardens surrounding homes, along rivers and in the forests. Families working in the fields and rice paddies have little time for the preparation of elaborate meals. Food is simply steamed, boiled, grilled, fried or stir-fried for quick serving. The trick is to make something special out of the most basic ingredients. Simply by varying the ingredients, it's possible to create an infinite choice of Thai dishes.

In sharp contrast, "Royal Cuisine," a highly refined version of Thai cuisine traditionally served in royal and aristocratic households, is noted for its subtle and delicate blend of flavors and painstaking artistic presentation. Vegetables, fruits and other garnishes served with 'Palace Cuisine' are intricately carved into ornate designs.

It was the Chinese who were largely responsible for Thai cuisine's emphasis on deep-fat frying and stir-fried dishes, the use of lard, the wok, the aromatic five-spice powder, ginger, garlic and noodles, while the Portuguese introduced chillies and egg-based desserts, cakes and pastries.

BAIPAI COOKING SCHOOL

Bangkok's Baipai Thai Cooking School is an ideal place to learn Thai cuisine - for both amateur and professional cooks. Classes are a minimum of 4 hours, but many visitors choose to spend a week learning the subtleties of Thai cuisine in the school's unpressured and charming atmosphere. Courses are in English and transportation is provided from/to hotels in central Bangkok. www.baipai.com

ORIENTAL HOTEL COOKING SCHOOL

Since opening its doors over fifteen years ago, The Oriental Hotel's Thai Cooking School has taught thousands of people from all over the world the art of preparing fine Thai cuisine. All participants graduate with the skills to create Thai feasts of the highest standards. www.mandarinoriental.com/bangkok/leisure/cooking_school/

BLUE ELEPHANT COOKING SCHOOL

Located in the heart of Bangkok opposite the Surasak Sky train station, the Blue Elephant Cooking School is housed in a century-old mansion. A typical day starts with a visit to the morning market accompanied by an instructor who teaches how to select and buy Thai ingredients for a personal cooking lesson. www.blueelephant.com/school

FOUR SEASONS CHIANG MAI COOKING SCHOOL

The cooking school introduces guests, both novice and experienced, to the art of Thai cuisine. Designed by the resort's culinary team, the program offers a hands-on learning experience. Famous dishes such as kaow soi gai (Chiang Mai curry noodle soup with chicken) and gaeng hung lay (dry spiced curry with pork and pickled garlic) are just two of the specialties of the school's weekly program. www.fourseasons.com/chiangmai/cooking_school/

PHUKET THAI COOKERY SCHOOL

The Phuket Thai Cookery School offers a comprehensive series of one-day Thai cooking courses that comprise an introduction to Thai ingredients, a market tour as well as actual cooking of a wide selection of popular Thai dishes. All courses are completely hands on. The school is located adjacent to the beautiful private beach on Sirey Island, just 10 minutes from Phuket Town. www.phuket-thaicookeryschool.com

The Oriental, Bangkok Unveils Newly Redesigned China House Restaurant     

The Oriental, Bangkok’s China House restaurant, which has long been the mainstay of traditional Cantonese cuisine at the hotel, has recently been re-designed and revived into an avant-garde eatery inspired by the vibrant 1930’s Shanghai Art Deco perio, and serving classic yet contemporary cuisine in a refined atmosphere.

The renovations which took place over the course of four months were overseen by the renowned Neri and Hu Design and Research Office (NHDRO), a multi-disclipinary design practice based in Shanghai, China. The existing two-story, colonial building, home to The China House since 1990, has been completely transformed internally into an elegant dining venue, with period furniture upholstered with horse hair and cowhide reminiscent of the opulence of 1930s Shanghai. The classic Chinese design with a contemporary twist has been enhanced by subtle lighting and cutting edge colour and style.

Meticulously selected artwork depicting life during the Art Deco period, elegant calligraphy with Tang poems describing the significance of fine dining, and black and white photos of the details of Shanghai’s famous Bund, tastefully dominate the main dining room on the ground floor all as well as the private dining rooms on the second floor. The private rooms are decorated in red and yellow with custom designed carpets that feature Chinese court scenes.

Appointed as consultant chef to The China House kitchen, is the talented Jereme Leung, who is the founding chef of the much lauded Whampoa Club. This stunning Art-Deco style, cutting-edge modern Shanghainese restaurant is located in the Three on the Bund complex in Shanghai. One of Jereme Leung’s brightest protégés, Chef Kong Khai Meng, who has extensive experience in both Hong Kong and Shanghai, will head the culinary team as resident chef of the restaurant.

Chef Kong has been well trained in all aspects of Chinese cooking, and his menu features a combination of classic Cantonese cuisine presented in an innovative fresh manner. Signature items, apart from the daily dim sum selection prepared from the external show kitchen, and live fish and seafood from the restaurant’s tanks, include “Peking Duck,” “Slow Cooked Shark’s Fin in Golden Broth,” “Slow Cooked Abalone," “Pan Seared Beef Tenderloin,” “Stir Fried Rice Vermicelli Hokkien Style,”, and “Wasabi Prawns,, to name but a few.

The entry to The China House is filled with 100 overhead red lanterns, that lead diners to The Red Chamber, a spectacular, two-storey space surrounded by screens and columns clad in high gloss Macassar Ebony. Small private booths with “opium bed” inspired banquettes, are surrounded with rich silk curtains, reminiscent of grand ballrooms during the convivial 1930s Art Deco period. This area is decorated with furniture period pieces that have been re-upholstered with exquisite cowhide, rich velvet and horse hair. Depictions of Chinese literature on the ceiling complete the picture of pure splendour. Next to the Chamber is the free standing Blue Bar, with blue lacquer door panels with mirror insets – an ideal area for intimate before or after dinner drinks. With the addition of the Bar area, The China House can now be transformed into an exciting, after-dinner private event venue with state-of-the-art sound and lighting systems.

Leading to the second floor is a Grand Stairway surrounded with red lacquered panels with mirror insets and solid balustrades and silkscreen images of court ladies facing the inner courtyard. Yet another new focal feature is a copper and bronze Tea Apothecary, which is located in the main dining room area on the ground floor, and adds an alluring dynamic to the restaurant with its traditional showcase of the finest tea collection by Mariage Freres from Paris.

The newly restored China House is open for lunch and dinner daily. For reservations call +662 659 9000 extension 7650-1.

Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group is the award-winning owner and operator of some of the world’s most prestigious hotels and resorts, currently operating 21 luxury hotels with a further 11 under development in Riviera Maya-Mexico and Hainan Island-China (2007), Barcelona, Boston and Grand Cayman (2008), Dallas, Chicago, Las Vegas, Macau, Marrakech and Dellis Cay (2009). In total, Mandarin Oriental now operates, or has under development, almost 9,000 rooms in 18 countries with 13 hotels in Asia, 13 in the Americas and six in Europe and North Africa.


The Oriental, Bangkok’s China House restaurant, which has long been the mainstay of traditional Cantonese cuisine at the hotel, has recently been re-designed and revived into an avant-garde eatery inspired by the vibrant 1930’s Shanghai Art Deco period, and serving classic yet contemporary cuisine in a refined atmosphere.

The renovations which took place over the course of four months were overseen by the renowned Neri and Hu Design and Research Office (NHDRO), a multi-disclipinary design practice based in Shanghai, China.

The existing two-story, colonial building, home to The China House since 1990, has been completely transformed internally into an elegant dining venue, with period furniture upholstered with horse hair and cowhide reminiscent of the opulence of 1930s Shanghai. The classic Chinese design with a contemporary twist has been enhanced by subtle lighting and cutting edge colour and style.

Meticulously selected artwork depicting life during the Art Deco period, elegant calligraphy with Tang poems describing the significance of fine dining, and black and white photos of the details of Shanghai’s famous Bund, tastefully dominate the main dining room on the ground floor all as well as the private dining rooms on the second floor. The private rooms are decorated in red and yellow with custom designed carpets that feature Chinese court scenes.

Appointed as consultant chef to The China House kitchen, is the talented Jereme Leung, who is the founding chef of the much lauded Whampoa Club. This stunning Art-Deco style, cutting-edge modern Shanghainese restaurant is located in the Three on the Bund complex in Shanghai. One of Jereme Leung’s brightest protégés, Chef Kong Khai Meng, who has extensive experience in both Hong Kong and Shanghai, will head the culinary team as resident chef of the restaurant.

Chef Kong has been well trained in all aspects of Chinese cooking, and his menu features a combination of classic Cantonese cuisine presented in an innovative fresh manner. Signature items, apart from the daily dim sum selection prepared from the external show kitchen, and live fish and seafood from the restaurant’s tanks, include “Peking Duck”, “Slow Cooked Shark’s Fin in Golden Broth”, “Slow Cooked Abalone”, “Pan Seared Beef Tenderloin”, “Stir Fried Rice Vermicelli Hokkien Style”, and “Wasabi Prawns”, to name but a few.

The entry to The China House is filled with 100 overhead red lanterns, that lead diners to The Red Chamber, a spectacular, two-storey space surrounded by screens and columns clad in high gloss Macassar Ebony. Small private booths with “opium bed” inspired banquettes, are surrounded with rich silk curtains, reminiscent of grand ballrooms during the convivial 1930s Art Deco period. This area is decorated with furniture period pieces that have been re-upholstered with exquisite cowhide, rich velvet and horse hair. Depictions of Chinese literature on the ceiling complete the picture of pure splendour.

Next to the Chamber is the free standing Blue Bar, with blue lacquer door panels with mirror insets – an ideal area for intimate before or after dinner drinks. With the addition of the Bar area, The China House can now be transformed into an exciting, after-dinner private event venue with state-of-the-art sound and lighting systems.

Leading to the second floor is a Grand Stairway surrounded with red lacquered panels with mirror insets and solid balustrades and silkscreen images of court ladies facing the inner courtyard.

SURAT THANI

Khao Sok National Park

Southern Thailand is famous for its beaches and its green native rainforest. Khao Sok National Park in Surat Thani is the perfect combination of both. This virgin rainforest is dotted by limestone mountain ranges and rugged high cliffs. Inside the park, you can trek through one of the oldest rainforests on earth. The park features soaring limestone mountains, crashing waterfalls, and some of the rarest wildlife in Southeast Asia – wild elephants, leopards, banteng, gaur, dusky languors, tigers, Malayan sun bears and exotic birds.

For flower lovers, another rare sight is Bua Phut or Rafflesia Kerrii Meijer – the largest bloom among all flowers in the world. This parasitic plant with fiber-like tissue can be as large as 100 c.m. in diameter but it only blooms for seven days a year. An elevated footpath in the park is built so visitors can appreciate the beauty of these special plants at a close but protective distance. Whether Khao Sok or some other beauty spot is on your agenda during your next trip to Southern Thailand, remember to pack a sturdy pair of walking shoes along with your bathing suit.

AWARD WINNING HOMESTAY

If you wish to experience local lives and communities up close, try the Koh Yao Noi Homestay program in Phang-Nga province. It is a winner of the Thailand Tourism Award and National Geographic Traveler Magazine Award. With the program, you will review in depth local land-based and sea-based natural resources. Local tour leaders will also take you to visit the fishing villages around Phang-Nga Bay where you can sample village lifestyle and even help prepare shrimp and crab nets for use in the sea-grass and shellfish grounds.

A boat tour around Koh Yao reveals other local natural habitats. There are nearly 50 nearby islands featuring a heady mix of coral reef, sea grass beds, mangroves and beautiful beaches. If you stay on land, don’t miss tours of rubber tapping plantations, bird nest experiences, and coconut picking done by monkeys.

During a home stay experience, be respectful to the local culture and natural surroundings. If you have any questions, there is always a member of the Koh Yao Noi Eco - Tourism Club around, well versed in any cultural and environmental issues.

A TRADITIONAL AND SIMPLE TOUCH OF FLOATING MARKETS

Just 50 miles from Bangkok, the Amphawa District of Samut Songkram Province features the Tha Kha floating market and Amphawa floating market. Tha Kha market takes place on the 2nd, 7th, 12th days of both waxing and waning moon of the lunar calendar; and also operates on every Saturday and Sunday from six a.m. to noon. Amphawa floating market takes place only on Friday to Sunday from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. Your tour operator will make sure you are there on the right day for this legendary rendezvous of vendor boats carrying local food, vegetable, and fruit to consumers. While you are visiting, try “Kwetiao Reua” (boat noodles) prepared in local fashion along the canals. Then cool off in the shade with local tropical drinks offered by the fruit boats.

For a deeper exploration of Amphawa, rent a boat and a local guide to visit nearby villages, temples, palm plantations and fruit orchards. If time permits, it is well worth your while to also visit Bancharong House, located on Samut Songkram – Bang Phae Road which includes a crockery production experience and the chance to bring back a set of custom dishes or decorative items done while you wait by local craftsmen.


MAHOUT EXPERIENCE

In Thailand, the elephant is revered for its royal and religious significance. Thailand is today home to some 4,000 of the fewer than 50,000 Asian elephants that remain in Southeast Asia. To learn how Thailand conserves both elephants and mahout know-how, you can visit the world famous National Elephant Institute in Lampang Province.

There are home stay experiences here, elephant shows, and elephant riding and trekking with elephants – all available through the institute – as well as several mahout courses offered by the institute’s Elephant Training School. Students for the mahout training will be schooled in the details of how these clever and friendly elephants are integrated into the northern Thai life style, based on the principles of the mahout relationship - learning how to ride and take good care of elephants. Courses range from a three-day basic to a 30-day advanced course.

PHUKET

Trisara Resort Partners with Phuket's Newest Luxury Yacht

Honeymooners, couples traveling together or family groups of up to 6 people may combine a stay at Trisara, Phuket's newest luxury boutique resort, with two days aboard a 70-foot luxury yacht, the 680 Ferretti "Double Issue."

Yacht Excursion Includes:

- Two days and one night aboard Double Issue, a 70-foot 680 Ferretti
- All meals catered by renowned Australian chef Neil Perry in accordance with the preferences of each guest
- Fully equipped with kayaks, wake-boards, jet skis, diving and snorkeling gear and more
- Three cabins, accommodating up to three couples or a family of six
- Option of a Trisara Spa therapist on board for massages beneath a palm tree or on the shaded deck of the yacht
- $11,900 for up to six people (not including taxes and service charge), with all arrangements handled by Trisara

Day 1:

- Board the yacht from Trisara's private beachfront jetty
- Sail down the western coast of Phuket to the southern shores
- Enjoy a swim and catered lunch at a pristine beach island
- Drop anchor for the evening in Maya Bay at Phi Phi Island, where The Beach, starring Leonardo Dicaprio, was filmed

Day 2:

- Rise to a morning snorkel and breakfast at Maya Bay
- Cruise north exploring the Krabi coastline
- Lunch on a private beach or aboard the yacht
- Experience Phang Nga Bay (James Bond Island), famous for its limestone
- Return to Trisara or to Phuket Airport, with transport via limousine

About Double Issue

Ferretti is known for creating Europe's best built yachts; the 680 is the company's flagship vessel. Double Issue, the only 680 Ferretti available for charter in Oceania, is widely recognized as the most beautiful yacht in Thailand and offers attentive service and the most professional international captain.

About Trisara

Trisara overlooks a private bay on the Andaman Sea, 15 minutes from Phuket International Airport on the undeveloped northwestern coast of the island. An all pool villa resort, each includes private infinity pools, teak pool decks, open-to-the moonlight showers in private courtyards and an oversized king bed. Amenties include the Trisara Spa, access to luxury motor yachts and two golf courses, a private white sand beach and tennis courts.

Bookings at Trisara can be made via travel planners or through the hotel reservation office directly by calling +66 76 310100, or check web site www.trisara.com>www.trisara.com, or Email: reservations@trisara.com.

More Abut Thailand

The popularity of Thai food is principally based on taste, but many are also drawn to Thai foods because of the known therapeutic value of the herbs and spices used in preparation and cooking.

Thai cuisine is as diverse as the country itself, with certain styles unique to various national regions. Though virtually all of the tastes of Thailand can be found in the biggest cities such Bangkok or Chiang Mai, and here are some of the most popular tourist destinations for “foodies” outside the big cities where regional cuisines and food cultures are best sampled.

Thai Airways International now flies daily non-stop flights from JFK to Bangkok (Suvarnabhumi International Airport) on its luxurious A340-500 aircraft. When you fly Thai, you begin your experience of genuine Thai hospitality hours before you actually arrive.

THE NORTH – HERITAGE LAND

Northern Thailand encompasses part of the fabled Golden Triangle. Because of the cooler mountain climate in this area, a greater variety of vegetables are grown and offered than in any other regional Thai cuisines. People of the North prefer glutinous or sticky rice to looser forms of white rice, and they roll their rice into balls with their hands for dipping into dishes and sauces.

No visit to the North is complete without sampling a Khan Toke Dinner. The food will be served in a Khan or bowl and on a Toke or low round table made of woven bamboo. Popular dishes for Khan Toke are Sai Ua - pork sausage; Naem - pickled pork sausage; Kaeb Moo - pork rind; and Nam Prik Noom - chili paste. Other Typical northern dishes include Khao Soi, a curry broth with egg noodles and chicken, pork or beef; Kaeng Hang Lay, a pork curry seasoned with ginger, tamarind and turmeric, and Kaeng Khanoon, an aromatic jackfruit curry.

Try each regional dish while visiting any of these famous tourist destinations: Sukhothai, the first truly independent Thai kingdom and now a UNESCO World Heritage historic town; Chiang Mai, known for its beautiful scenery, trekking routes, silks, handicrafts; Chiang Rai, famed for its majestic mountains and many high-altitude hill tribe villages; and Lampang, noted for its world-famous Elephant Conservation Centre.

THE NORTHEAST – CRADLE OF THAI CIVILIZATION

The Northeast region, known by Thais as the I-San, is the oldest cradle of Thai civilization. It is very popular for its cuisine. Just as in the North, glutinous rice is preferred in I-San to the looser white variety. Roasting and grilling with herbs and pickled ingredients give a distinctive and strong savory flavor to much of the region’s food. Chilies also tend to be used very much in I-San cuisine.

Somtam is a regional dish and an art here, perhaps the most popular Thai dish both in or out of I-San. Green papaya is pounded in a mortar with lime juice, garlic, fish sauce and a number of other ingredients. Other popular dishes include Kai Yang, slowly charcoal grilled chicken; Larb, minced meat salad; Nam Tok, charcoal-grilled beef or pork salad. An I-San meal will typically include Tom Saeb, a spicy herb soup with your choices of meat.

Visitors to I-San today love its natural and cultural beauty. A perfect trip may include a visit to the famous World Heritage Sites at Ban Chiang in Udon Thani, where the world's oldest Bronze Age civilization flourished some 5,600 years ago, and Khao Yai National Park in Nakhon Ratchasima. Other popular destinations include Loei, famed for its exceptional scenery of Phu Kra Dung National Park; Ubon Ratchathani, noted for the lovely Candle Festival and the pre-historical rock paintings; and Surin, known for its annual Elephant Round-Up every November.

THE CENTRAL – THE CHARMING PLAINS

Bustling Bangkok, located in the heart of this region, acts like a magnet drawing in influences from every part of Thailand. Almost every Thai cuisine is on offer here, but there are still many local Central Plain specialties that can only be found outside Bangkok in the region’s other large cities and many of the smaller towns as well. Many believe that the best rice in Thailand is grown in this region, most notably the Hom Mali or jasmine rice. There are a few curries too that are regional specialties; including the familiar green curry - Kaeng Khieo Wan; a hot curry - Kaeng Phet; and a milder version - Kaeng Phanaeng. All are based on coconut milk. Other popular Central Plain dishes will include Tom Yam, the famous hot-and-sour soup; Tom Kha, creamy coconut milk soup; and Kuay Tiaw, the Chinese-influenced dishes served either with stir fried noodles or as noodle soup.

The Central Plain is also extremely rich in historical sites. Bangkok is the prime destination where high on the must-see list are Wat Phra Kaew (the Temple of the Emerald Buddha); the Grand Palace; Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn); and Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha). Other popular destinations outside Bangkok include Ayutthaya, the former capital of Thailand and now home to the Ayutthaya Historical Park, one of the most popular UNESCO World Heritage Sites of all; Kanchanaburi, known the storied Bridge on the River Kwai; Nakhon Pathom, with its remarkable floating markets; and Hua Hin in Prachuapkirikhan, a perfect seaside resort for the whole family.

THE SOUTH – AMAZING PARADISE

The weather is balmy in the South most any season, but Southerners like their food chili-hot. With the area’s many Malay, Javanese and Indian influences, together with its own creativity and abundance, the South produces an extraordinary range of curries, made from just about anything. Typical of the South are two: Kaeng Tai Pla, a very hot curry made with fish stomach, green beans, pickled bamboo shoots and potato; and Kaeng Leuang, a yellow curry made from fish, green squash, pineapple, green beans and green papaya.

Other popular dishes are Khanom Chin, rice noodles in a spicy fish curry sauce; Kai Betong, stir-fried soy sauce chicken with green vegetables; and Roti, a round flat wheat bread. Do not overlook the areas locally grown Coffees. Try a cup of the local brew either hot or cold with a range of regional snacks that can include Steamed Buns filled with pork or bean paste; Dumplings, filled with shrimp or pork; the thick Southern-style Rice Soup; or a unique form of doughnut called Pa Thong Ko.

To complete the trip, visit Samui in Surat Thani and Phuket, both famed for their beautiful beaches and dive sites; Krabi, known for the Phi Phi islands and a 75-million-year-old shell graveyard (one of only three so old in the world); and Phang Nga with its magnificent bay and verdant islands – honeycombed with caves, aquatic grottoes, and limestone cliffs soaring to heights of 300 meters and more above almost perpetually calm waters.

Catch of the Day

A trip to any one of the traditional markets in Thailand never fails to be a fascinating adventure. Mahachai in Samut Sakhon, a 45- minute-drive from Bangkok, is home to one of the biggest seafood piers in the Gulf of Thailand.

Stroll along the river towards the pier at the junction where Klong Mahachai canal and the Ta Chine River converge. There you can watch fishermen offload their catches: big and small shrimps, cuttlefish, shellfish and other fruits of the sea ready to go for immediate auction. Always plan to arrive early between 8.00 and 10.00 a.m. and allow at least two hours for your visit. Do not miss seafood lunch near the pier - grilled, steamed or fried in Thai, Chinese or Western styles. There are numerous fine seafood restaurants either at the market itself or along the river in the Mahachai area.

COOKING IS EASY

If cooking is your passion, why not try to pick up some training in the preparation of Thai cuisine during your visit by going to cooking school in Thailand? Learn the basic ingredients of Thai herbs, spices, vegetables and fruits. See by yourself how these ingredients are blended together for tasty Thai dishes. Classes are conducted in English. You can include a visit to nearby local markets with your Chef instructors who will teach you both what to choose and how to prepare it. Bring back home the secret recipes to dazzle and delight your friends and family.

ANGEL SHRIMP ROLL FOR HOME

Here is a recipe for one of the most popular Thai appetizer – “Angel shrimp roll.” This easy-to-make shrimp roll is prepared with spring roll wrappers, which give the dish a great chewy texture contrasting with the succulent shrimp filling inside. The rolls are deep fried and then dipped into sweet chili sauce. Ingredients and preparations are;

Ingredients

Spring roll wrappers (20 sheets), peeled raw shrimp (20), minced chicken (300g), minced garlic (1 Tsp), cilantro root (1 Tsp), black pepper (0.5 Tsp) soy sauce (1 Tbsp), corn flour (1Tbsp), and sweet chili sauce

Preparation

1. Process chicken, cilantro root, black pepper, soy sauce and corn flour in a food processor.

2. Mix the chicken paste with shrimp, and wrap it with spring roll wrapper.

3. Heat the oil in a wok or a deep-fryer, to 190C/375F; then deep-fry for 2-3 minutes until golden; drain on paper and serve hot with sweet chili sauce.

VIETNAM

HOI AN

Life Heritage Resort set to relaunch in Hoi An

After a six-month suspension of operations, Life Heritage Resorts Hoi An reopened on August 1 with a Tropical Asian Moderne design, upmarket flair and vital links to the world renown Old Town. Renovations at the popular 94-room resort pared the hotel back to its concrete shell and then, with Pisani Designs holding the palette, recast the property with more space in the rooms, more light in the baths and bespoke furnishings.

The second-generation upgrade features a new spa, a new Heritage Bar that celebrates the history of the most exquisitely preserved 19th Century trading port in Southeast Asia and a revamped restaurant that’s set to reestablish its reputation as the top table in town.

“Life is what you make of it, and we’re making the most of it on the Thu Bon River,” said Chris Duffy, general director of the Life Resorts. “To effect the kind of overhaul envisioned for this resort, it made sense to close up shop, dig through the feedback we’ve gotten from tour operators, travel agents and guests, and then re-emerge with a Life experience that’s more sophisticated and more comfortable than ever.”

Notable at the new resort are two new links to the historic Old Town of Hoi An, itself a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A new riverside promenade delivers guests from the edge of the resort to the heart of the fabled downtown. And the new Heritage Bar provides an outdoor perch on one of the town’s most quaint streets.

“This is a window on Hoi An we’ve never opened before,” said Cathy McConkey, the resort’s general manager. “We’ve always traded on our proximity to Hoi An, but we’ve never really had a balcony on the town itself. Now, you can watch the world go by from a prime perch outside the Heritage Bar.”

Inside the air-conditioned bar, a series of archival prints explore the town’s past. A trading port since the Cham people controlled this part of Vietnam in the 13th Century, Hoi An lost its purchase on maritime traffic in the 1830s when silting in the Thu Bon diverted commercial traffic to the nearby port of Danang.

Nineteenth-century Hoi An’s loss is a boon to contemporary travelers who roam the streets of a town that looks, more or less, the way it looked 200 years ago. Upstairs at the Heritage Bar, cigar aficionados will hold court in segregated space, seasoned by the finest imports and Life’s recommitment to a wine list that would do justice to the finest New York hotel. In the rooms themselves, the furnishings and new design scheme trades on widening popularity for the timber, texture and warm colors of the Tropical Asian Moderne aesthetic.

Though Life’s sunken terrazzo tubs remain hallmarks of the bath’s appeal, the black tubs have been swapped for golden brown tubs, a color feature that melds with the imported oak artfully deployed in the furnishings and the warm hues of the contemporary Asian art decor. “These rooms are at the very forefront of Asian style, and our European guests are bound to be remarkably impressed by the contrast between what they’ve left behind and what they’ve slipped into here,” said Annette Pisani, managing director of Pisani Designs.

Life ratcheted up the comfort level by another category altogether, said Duffy, with investments in the finest beds available, sofas that look great and feel even better and discriminating modern Asian art. “The shell remains the same, but the scintillation is something else altogether,” said Duffy. “We’ve taken a very popular resort to a whole new level, a whole new dimension of experience.”

The previous-generation Life Heritage Resort featured spa treatment facilities in a cabana by the pool. New plantings now boost shade cover around the pool, and the spa has moved indoors to space designed for spa from the ground up. Three single treatment rooms open to views of the Thu Bon while a double-room gives onto the resort’s gardens.

At Senses, the resort’s signature restaurant, the menu like the resort itself has been completely revamped to feature a fusion of Asian and Western cuisines. The open, riverfront exposure remains the same, but custom furnishings have redefined the ambiance.

At Vienna Cafe, the ground-floor pastry and light-meal eatery, Old World aesthetics conjure a remarkably different dining experience. But, like the rest of the resort, its tiling and furnishings are fresh and stylish.

ABOUT LIFE RESORTS
In addition to the Life Heritage Resort Hoi An, Life Resorts owns and operates the Life Wellness Resort Quy Nhon. Inspired by the architecture of the Kingdom of Champa, the 63-room hideaway boutique is dedicated to the tenets of wellness, from yoga, tai chi and Pilates to an ample range of spa treatments and anti-stress and detox programs. Most wellness activities take place in a 3,000 square-meter landscaped garden, overlooking a curvaceous coastline. The resort’s management company is developing additional owned-properties in Danang, Ninh Binh, Sapa and Ha Long Bay.

Life Resorts also manages the Blue Ocean Resort in Mui Ne and Ho Tram Beach Resort & Spa in Ba Ria-Vung Tau. Completely refurbished for a 2008 relaunch, the 78-unit Blue Ocean Resort features a 153-meter private beach, a new 26-meter swimming pool, as well as private plunge pools, on-site waterfalls and fountains. Just two hours by car from downtown Ho Chi Minh City, the 63-room Ho Tram Resort & Spa retreat is a family-friendly haven, featuring two pools with waterslides, a playground and a casuarina-fringed sandbox on the ocean.

For more information, contact the Life Resorts sales and marketing office at (848) 844-3605, mail to:sales@life-resorts.com or visit www.life-resorts.com.

HUE

La Residence Hotel & Spa

Conde Nast Traveler, one of the world’s most prestigious travel magazines, called out La Residence Hotel & Spa. In a separate listing, Conde Nast celebrated the Spa at La Residence as one of its Hot Spas for 2007.

Conde Nast lauds the “former colonial governor’s mansion” for its “dreamy rooms,” its singular Resident’s Suite, its “colonial feel” and dark wood furnishings. “The same nautical moderne architecture that makes the villa so charming is reprised in the two modern wings, which were added during a thorough yet sensitive renovation of the original building so that the place is pure Indochine,” wrote Conde Nast.

About the Spa, Conde Nast pays particular attention to “its great therapists” and its blend of “traditional Vietnamese and soothing Balinese techniques.” The listing says the Spa “vaults into the big league with a great treatment menu and a talented, hardworking all-Vietnamese team (trained by Italian spa brand Comfort Zone).”

The Hot List is an especially prestigious tribute because Conde Nast’s surveyors judged thousands of hotels and spas around the globe, checking in undercover at each to experience the hotel’s accommodation, services and ambiance.

“The Conde Nast surveyor received the treatment we extend to all our guests, so it is immensely gratifying to know the service we provide to everyone ranks with the service at the best hotels in world,” said Marienberg.

La Residence opened in 2005 and immediately began garnering acclaim from esteemed publications. National Geographic, the renowned publisher of travel literature, hailed the hotel as one of the country’s five most distinguished properties, in its 2006 Traveler title on Vietnam.

Set on a two hectare site with 200 meters of frontage on the fabled Perfume River, the hotel celebrated its grand opening in December 2005 after a painstaking restoration of the former colonial governor’s residence. The hotel’s distinctive bowed façade, its long horizontal lines and nautical flourishes are hallmarks of the streamline moderne school of art deco architecture.

Inside, the hotel’s 122 rooms and suites, restaurants, lounges, bars and conference room are tricked out in complementary art-deco furnishings and décor that evoke both the 1920s and 1950s. The hotel’s fine-dining venue, Le Parfum, serves Mediterranean and French cuisine, as well as dishes from a complementary Vietnamese menu.

The conference facilities, including board rooms, can accommodate 140 guests. The hotel provides complementary WiFi Internet access in the ground floor lounges and Le Gouverneur, the lobby bar that ranks as Hue’s most sophisticated watering hole.

For hotel reservations, contact La Residence at (84 54) 837-475 or resa@la-resa@la-residence-hue.com.

About Hue:

Hue is the former imperial capital of Vietnam (1802-1945) and seat of the Nguyen Dynasty. With the exception of Hanoi, no other city in Vietnam offers as many opportunities for cultural exploration. Its justly celebrated imperial palaces, pavilions, monuments and tombs inspired a World Heritage listing by UNESCO in 1992. UNESCO called out the city again in 2003 for its royal court music, now hailed as a “masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity.”

For hotel reservations, contact La Residence at (84 54) 837-475 or E-Mail to: resa@la-residence-hue.com.

PHAN THIET

Life Resorts to Manage Renovated Blue Ocean in Phan Thiet

Life Resorts Management Co., the operations wing of Vietnam-based resort/spa developer Life Resorts, has agreed to manage the Blue Ocean Resort in Phan Thiet, one of the country’s premier beachside destinations.

Life Resorts reopened the property in August 2007 following a US$1 million renovation.

The Blue Ocean management agreement is an extension of a previous deal with Bien Xanh Co., Life Resort’s partner in another Phan Thiet property, the Life Wellness Resort Phan Thiet, currently under construction in this rapidly growing coastal destination.

General Director of the Life Resorts Management Company, Chris Duffy, said the deal was driven by Bien Xanh’s desire to see international standards at Blue Ocean.

“They felt like it would be a great idea for us to take over the running of Blue Ocean and we agreed,” he said. “They are looking to make it a resort that meets the highest international standards of quality in everything from food and beverage to service and hardware.” To that end Creatis Architecture, a French-owned firm based in Ho Chi Minh City, has been appointed to revamp the resort, a process that Life Resorts will oversee. We will add eight units to take it up to 78 bungalows, and all of the existing bungalows will be fully renovated,” said Duffy. “We are making them a lot bigger and adding Balinese-style indoor/outdoor bathrooms.”

Ultimately, the new Blue Ocean will exude a sophisticated, modern Asian elegance. A number of additional on-site enhancements will include a new lap pool.

Life Resorts is the innovative developer of culturally sympathetic spa properties in Vietnam. Its existing properties in Hoi An and Quy Nhon reflect Life Resort’s philosophy of creating affordable resorts in harmony with the local environment and culture. Mr. Nguyen Thanh Bich, chairman of Bien Xanh, said the Blue Ocean would become the first on the Mui Ne strip to sign an international management contract. “We were one of the first properties on Mui Ne and we want to remain ahead of the game,” he said. “With renovation and Western management, we’ll create a whole new, higher level of appeal that should attract a much broader clientele.”

Bich said the secret to success in Vietnam’s booming tourism climate was the introduction and maintenance of European standards. “As Vietnam draws more and more well-heeled international travelers, there’s a great demand for properties that satisfy Western expectations,” said Bich. “Travelers want the nouveau experience of Vietnam but the kind of accommodations they’re used to at home.”

Under the deal, Life Resorts will oversee the upgrade of the hotel and spa and is already in the process of putting all the resort staff through an extensive six-month training program.

Duffy said eventually a general manager would be appointed to oversee both the Blue Ocean and the new Life Wellness Resort Phan Thiet.

Mui Ne, just 120 kilometers from Ho Chi Minh City sits amid rolling red and white sand dunes and palm-lined beaches that are bathed in sunshine all year-round. It is also home to a host of attractions: the world’s second longest recumbent Buddha on Ta Cu Mountain; the haunting 8th Century Cham towers at Po Shanu and the Van Thuy Tu Temple sheltering a 70-foot-long skeleton of a fin whale, known as “Mr. Whale” to locals.

Life Resorts currently manages two other properties in Vietnam. Inspired by Cham architecture, the 63-room Life Wellness Resort Quy Nhon is a hideaway boutique retreat on the south central coast where a 3,000-square-meter landscaped garden overlooks a curvaceous coastline, outdoor spa bungalows and an exquisite stretch of private beach. The 94-room Life Heritage Resort Hoi An evokes the colonial splendor of a bygone era on a quiet stretch of the Thu Bon River, within walking distance of the old trading port’s world-famous downtown.

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