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It took three years to realize this passion project: a spa retreat built mainly of bamboo. Book a riverfront suite, or the hotel can arrange a stay in a rural family’s home. From $475. 62/(0) 36-146-9206. Image by Djuna Ivereigh/Fivelements. This appeared in the January/February 2013 issue.
Maya Bay is no real secret - Leonardo DiCarprio's The Beach took care of that - but it is still one of the most naturally stunning places on earth. The old Thai longboats that settle in on the beach help add to the atmosphere too. As far as pure tourist destinations go, this is one of the best in the country.
Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake created this experimental design museum, and star Japanese architect Tadao Ando constructed the building. The museum always has great installations by artists such as the industrial designer Naoto Fukasawa. —Kashiwa Sato Midtown Garden, 9-7-6 Akasaka, Minato-ku, 81/(0) 3-3475-2121. Photo by Marie Takahashi. This appeared in the January/February 2013 issue. Read more about Kashiwa Sato’s Higashi neighborhood of Tokyo.
A visit to the Perhentian Islands is a must if you find yourself in Malaysia and want some beach time! If you want a nice quaint island stay on Perhentian Besar. If you are looking for more action then stay on Perhentian Kecil, but even Kecil is very nice and has its remote and quiet areas. There are no cars or roads on the island. One morning we rented a kayak for the day and paddled to "romantic beach" (east side of Kecil) and had the beach to ourselves most of the time. You can also hire a boat taxi for a few dollars ($3USD). Along the way there are tiny private beaches if you want some alone time!
In western Kyoto, there is a very large forest of bamboo. As you can see in the photo, the shoots grow very tall, making those who stroll by look quite small. I'm sure there are times when this road is crowded, but when we were there, people were few and far between. My only regret was not understanding that this forest would be the only one we saw. I wish I had taken more photos. Bamboo grows extremely fast, which is why it is the fastest renewable plant product that I know. It is not a tree, it is a grass. Some forests have grown to 20 to 30 feet in a growing season of four months. Just Google Arashiyama bamboo forest and you will see more photos and more data about this location and how to get there. The walk through this forest was most peaceful.
Istanbul's famous Grand Bazaar is one of the largest and oldest markets in the world. It is absolutely dizzying, even to the most dedicated shopper. I stumbled into a family-run carpet store, which was a welcome reprieve from the hustle going on in the main hall. They showed me scores of antique and contemporary carpets and kilims before I finally decided I was just there to browse, not buy—a choice I now regret. Know your price before you go, drink some mint tea, and don't be shy about taking your time and negotiating on price.
For some, Angkor Wat epitomizes the Cambodian travel experience. The ancient ruins at Angkor stand as one of mankind's greatest engineering achievements, best experienced as day breaks - so long as you beat the tourist hordes to a good spot across the lake.
At Bali’s newest Alila hotel, villas are sandwiched between emerald rice terraces and a black-sand beach. The spa, a temple of lava rock and marble, offers traditional Balinese massage. From $510. 62/(0) 36-1894-6388. This appeared in the January/February 2013 issue.
On every trip, I try to ride my motorbike up to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, a beautiful temple on the top of the mountain just outside of town. The view of the Chiang Mai valley is breathtaking on a clear day. I go to the shrine in the back of the temple and receive a blessing from the presiding monk. —Andy Ricker Photo by whyyan/Flickr. This appeared in the May 2013 issue.
On the island of Kho Phi Phi, there is the usual town that greets you with bars, restaurant and easy-to-get lodging if you didn't plan ahead. However, if you are so inclined, on the far side of the island there is a veritable Smurf village that awaits you. You can hike 45 minutes through the trails to get there, or take a long tail boat, but either way it's worth discovering Phi Phi Relax Resort! This enchanting little gathering of hut houses is made by hand from the locals with materials only from the surrounding jungle. There is no hot water, but it's also not cold, and it's extremely refreshing after being in the sun all day and swimming in the ocean. And the electricity is only turned on at night so you can navigate your way among the village's stepping stone trails. I mean, I know we wanted 'off the grid,' but we didn't expect it to be literally. This place was green before it was cool to be green.
by Sylvia Kouvali The best restaurant in the area is run by the sweetest owners, Oral Kurt and Aylin Okutan, and is rooted in the tradition of simple food and refined service. The Ottoman and Turkish menu includes dishes like hünkar beğendi, a meat stew on smoky eggplant puree. Kemankeş Cd. No. 37/A, 90/(0) 212-292-4455, karakoylokantasi.com As told to Lawrence Osborne. This appeared in the May/June 2012 issue. Photo by Metin Oner. See all of Sylvia Kouvali’s favorite places in Istanbul.
The old Chinese market, its shop houses painted in bright colors, is one of Bangkok’s most beautiful and fun. As you wander, let your eyes search for crowded noodle stalls, try the famous sweets, or browse stands selling fresh vegetables and seafood. It’s best to go before 1 p.m. You might see a Chinese opera performance on the stage inside the market. Thanon Nakhon Sawan at Nakhon Sawan 7 Open Mon.–Fri. This appeared in the May/June 2010 issue. Photo by Martin Westlake. See all of Tanongsak “Dtong” Yordwai’s favorite places in Dusit, Bangkok.
I hadn’t been awake for longer than a minute. I peeled back the tarp door to my room, walked out onto my deck, and leapt. It was an abrupt but purifying way to start the day. The cool, brackish water instantly defogged my mind, and my eyes opened to see the surrounding Tatai River and dense Cambodian rain forest. A lone sampan, anchored along an islet, was the only man-made object to interrupt the natural scenery. My chic bungalow lightly swayed on the calm water behind me, an incongruous encampment against the wild jungle backdrop. Located on the southern tip of the Cardamom Mountains, near the Gulf of Thailand, the 4 Rivers Floating Lodge lives up to its name. Accessible only by boat, the retreat’s 12 landless suites all float on their own buoyant platforms, moored to the riverbank. Outfitted with a ceiling fan, armoire, and wood-paneled shower, each of the towering, safari-style tented rooms also provides a nearly 360-degree view of the tropical landscape. A boardwalk connects the rooms to a central lounge and dining area decorated in a muted variety of Miami Beach sleek. At first blush, getting to this secluded outpost might seem daunting. I took a five-hour bus trip from Phnom Penh, followed by a half-hour longboat ride from the village of Tatai. But the journey is well worth the peaceful reward. The Cardamom Mountains contain the largest and most intact evergreen rain forest in mainland Southeast Asia. For decades, the region was largely off-limits to developers because of land mines and fighting between government forces and the Khmer Rouge militia. This very isolation protected the area’s natural habitat, which is now home to scores of endangered species, including Asian elephants, hairy-nosed otters, and Siamese crocodiles. Mine-clearance efforts and the end of hostilities have made travel here safe for more than 10 years, but it remains a sparsely populated frontier. The area’s remoteness is remarkable in and of itself. In the afternoon, I took a boat ride to the Tatai waterfall with several other guests. Even our skipper, a young Cambodian man who leads visitors on these trips every day, was still in awe of the lush surroundings. “So quiet and beautiful,” he said, looking at the palm trees along the river’s edge. After we arrived at our destination, I spent the rest of the day sitting beneath the waterfall’s forceful but soothing cascades, letting nature’s masseuse relax my muscles. I returned to the lodge for dinner beneath an orange and purple sunset. On the restaurant’s uncovered patio, the only sound accompanying the clang of my utensils was the soft splash of kingfishers swooping to pluck fish from the river. I was less delicate, digging into skewers of mozzarella, watermelon, and fresh shrimp and a plate of steamed river fish topped with a basil cream sauce. In the lingering twilight, I sipped a gin and tonic on my private terrace before easing under my bedsheets. As the gently undulating waters rocked me to sleep, any illusions I had about roughing it in the wilderness drifted away. —Brendan Brady 4 Rivers Floating Lodge, Koh Andet Island, Tatai Village (20 minutes from Koh Kong), Cambodia. 855/(0) 97-64-34-032, ecolodges.asia. From $139 per night. Includes breakfast and boat ride from the village of Tatai. Photo by Dolly Van Cleve. This appeared in the September/October 2010 issue. See more overwater bungalows: The Mandina Lodges, GambiaSoneva Gili by Six Senses, MaldivesPunta Caracol Acqua-Lodge, PanamaLe Méridien Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Located just off the eastern shore of Bali, Indonesia, is a small island called Nusa Lembongan. It is a great place for a day trip if you're vacation on Bali, and it's only a 30-40min boat ride from Sanur. There is a boat that will take you between the two islands a few times a day. Once arriving on the shores of Lembongan, it is best to rent a scooter for the day (US$6). There are only a few roads on the island so it is impossible to get lost and the beaches are well marked by signs. Unlike Bali, there is no traffic on the island! We set out around the island in a counterclockwise loop. We stopped and watched the villagers drying colorful seaweed along the shore (this is used to make ice-cream). We stopped at the mangroves for a fresh seafood lunch, some beach time, and some snorkeling. And then explored the many picturesque beaches around the island. Our favorite was "Dream Beach," and it lived up to its name. Be sure you don't lose track of time on this paradise of an island. It is easy to do and we almost missed our return boat back to Bali that afternoon!
After the best sushi, there must be as well a best ramen noodle place in Tokyo. The Menya Musashi located at Shinjuku is a famous and of course busy place for a bowl of hot ramen noodle soup. Many times, the waiting line is street long. Luckily last time when I visited not during a meal time, the line was short. The pork belly ramen is the best! Just remember that you have to use cash to order your noodle from a vending machine by the door, and hand the ticket to the chef/server. Inside, it's bar seating around the noodle station, so you can watch the action and hear the chef cheering as well.
The place to go for curries—with lotus shoots or with crabmeat—Krua Apsorn is a favorite restaurant for me and for some members of the royal family. The decor is not very exciting, but the food is. Thanon Samsen, near the corner of Soi Samsen 9 and the National Library. This story appeared in the May/June 2010 issue. Photo by Martin Westlake. See all of Tanongsak “Dtong” Yordwai’s favorite places in Dusit, Bangkok.
by Sylvia Kouvali A few blocks from Rodeo, Hiç is a shop where you can find beautiful ceramic tableware, Afghan and Turkish carpets, and contemporary crafts at reasonable prices. Lüleci Hendek Cd. No. 35, 90/(0) 212-251-9973, hiccrafts.com As told to Lawrence Osborne. This appeared in the May/June 2012 issue. Photo by Metin Oner. See all of Sylvia Kouvali’s favorite places in Istanbul.
The new T-Site shopping complex is home to the flagship store for the Tsutaya chain of video and book megastores. (Full disclosure: I made the logo for them.) There’s a beautiful garden next to the bookstore where I like to read. —Kashiwa Sato 17-5 Sarugaku-cho, Shibuya-ku. Photo by Marie Takahashi. This appeared in the January/February 2013 issue. Read more about Kashiwa Sato’s Higashi neighborhood of Tokyo.
by Sylvia Kouvali The neighorhood’s best bakery is across the street from Rodeo. They make good lahmacun, something between an unrolled pita and a thin-crust pizza. The pides, pizza-like baked breads, are also excellent. Lüleci Hendek Cd. No. 14, 90/(0) 212-249-8272 As told to Lawrence Osborne. This appeared in the May/June 2012 issue. Photo by Metin Oner. See all of Sylvia Kouvali’s favorite places in Istanbul.
The monastic temple of Ta Prohm is located in Cambodia's Angkor Archeological Park and best known as the setting for the movie Tomb Raider. Our guide strategically timed our early lunch so that we had the grounds to ourselves while the giant tour bus groups were eating. Unlike most of the other Angkorian temples, Ta Prohm has been left mostly unrestored and engulfed by the jungle. Imposing banyan and strangler fig trees have overtaken the crumbling ruins, harmoniously entwining their tentacle-like roots into the structure. We roamed the austere corridors in awe of the site’s haunting beauty.
Istanbul's Grand Bazaar might have become a tourist mecca, but given that it's the world's oldest shopping mall, it's still around for a reason. Locals still work, shop, and play here, and if you're there in the off-season, as we were, you hopefully will get a more authentic grasp of the way this bustling hub of old-world business used to be. I loved watching the employees rush around the huge place with the ubiquitous Turkish apple tea to shop owners and customers in their gorgeous, yet utilitarian, tea caddies. Between the knick-knacks, it's still full of beautiful spices, textiles, and other authentic Turkish goods. Though I couldn't rock a pair of these back in the states, I thought this was such a lovely vignette of this once-traditional Turkish footwear!
I had just left the Spice Bazaar behind me when I noticed the entrance to Yeni Camii (New Mosque). It was late afternoon, and I was already exhausted from a very long day of sightseeing. I wanted nothing more than to call it a day but I was already here so I thought I would just quickly dart in and out. One foot inside and the plan changed. Compared to the Sultanahmet (Blue) Mosque, the domed interior of Yeni Camii is a much more intimate space but equally stunning in design. As in the Blue Mosque, calligraphic discs hang from just below the edges of the ornately painted domes and soaring sections of walls are covered with beautiful Iznik tiles. Gold paint adds a rich, punctuating touch. Thick wool carpeting lines every inch of the floor. As expansive as the interior is, it also feels very luxurious and inviting. As tired as I was, I didn’t want to leave anytime soon. Walking around, I discovered that Yeni Camii has a visitors section and you are welcome to sit there. I found my spot on the carpet and discretely watched a slice of local life unfold before me—men and women praying, people having conversations in hushed tones, and a few tourists milling about. Enveloped by the quiet of this serene space, I felt rejuvenated in no time. For whatever reason, Yeni Camii is not as popular with tourists as the Blue Mosque is, but it’s definitely worth a visit, even if you’re not a weary tourist like I was.
One of the most important celebrations in Bali is Galungan. Beginning in or around late March, the festival symbolizes the victory of virtue (dharma) over evil (adharma). Hear the mysterious clangs of gamelan music; see women and girls in elaborate dress; and don’t miss the Barong Dance, in which young boys parade around as a dragonlike creature to fill the village with holiness. Photo by Mast Irham/EPA/Corbis. This appeared in the January/February 2013 issue.
Honmura An in Roppongi is famous for its housemade soba (chewy buckwheat noodles). Owner Koichi Kobari uses a sobabocho (soba knife) to cut the noodles each day. I always get the soba with tororo, which is grated mountain yam, and a cold beer. —David Myers Photo by Christinab/Flickr. This appeared in the May 2013 issue.
Waking early to the loud morning chorus of the Thai rainforest is an amazing experience. Whooping gibbons, honking hornbills and buzzing insects compete to fill the air waves with their loud songs to the new day. The floating bungalows on Lake Chiew Lan are located in Khao Sok National Park in Surat Thani province. A night or two can be arranged through your lodging in Khlong Sok near the park entrance. In our case, we stayed at Khao Sok Rainforest Resort and prearranged a night on the water as part of our package. In addition to the morning music, you'll be joined for breakfast by nosy macaques.
Visitng Ta Prohm feels like you are rediscovering a lost kingdom being reclaimed by the forest. The trick is to go to Ta Prohm first, while everyone else is at Angkor Wat, and explore the crumbling ruins alone.
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