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EAST, Hong Kong Offers Weekend Savings

Weekend warriors rejoice: the Weekend Recharge deal at EAST in Quarry Bay gets you 50 percent off your second night’s stay. Also included are a 20 percent discount for dining at Feast from Friday to Sunday, early check-in and late checkout, and access to the property’s 24-hour gym and swimming pool. Extra in-room touches are small but useful: guests can look forward to a selection of teas, infusions, and an espresso maker, alongside a Handy device with unlimited phone data and a built-in city guide.

For more information, visit EAST, Hong Kong.

The Latest Gem on America’s National Mall

While most galleries are built out of the need to house existing, perhaps expanding, collections, the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, D.C., had nothing to its name when it was conceptualized more than a decade ago. The framework was there: to become a space for everyone, regardless of ethnicity, to learn about the richness and diversity of the African-American experience. Armed with this and little more, the gallery’s director Lonnie Bunch set off on a 15-city roadshow of sorts, calling on people and communities to donate heirlooms and memorabilia from their closets and attics. A jaw-dropping 36,000 pieces were collected—an eclectic and often moving compilation that ranges from shards of tools and leg irons used by escaped slaves to one of Chuck Berry’s red Cadillacs and films detailing the atrocities of the Ku Klux Klan—with some 3,500 currently on show. Deep in the basement, a narrative history runs from the beginnings of the slave trade to the presidency of Barack Obama, while on the upper two floors, galleries shine a light on religion, music, and sport. British architect David Adjaye is behind the equally ambitious 37,000-square-meter triple-decker structure of inverted pyramids, which is topped by a corona recalling the celebratory headpieces on Yoruba sculptures from West Africa; an exterior cladding of bronze with filigree patterns nods to the decorative metalwork of African-American craftsmen from New Orleans and South Carolina. In the words of Bunch, “there are few things as powerful and as important as a people, as a nation that is steeped in its history.” —Natasha Dragun

This article originally appeared in the October/November print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“History in the Making”).

Free Diving at Anantara Kihavah Villas

Jacques Cousteau once said, “The best way to observe a fish is to become a fish.” Free diving allows you to do just that, offering a completely different experience without the constraints of scuba equipment, and the possibility of even closer encounters with marine life. This is especially true of the Maldives’ Hanifaru Bay, where manta rays and whale sharks gather in huge numbers for a feeding frenzy between May and November each year. While the area has been off-limits to scuba divers since 2011, snorkeling and free diving are still allowed. Enter the new PADI-accredited free diving center at the nearby Anantara Kihavah Villas, which is only the second such facility in the country after the one launched in May by sister property Anantara Dhigu in the South Malé Atoll. Here, guests can learn the sport under the tutelage of marine biologist and competitive free diver Talya Davidoff. The hardest part? Holding your breath amid such a breathtaking underwater spectacle. —James Louie

This article originally appeared in the October/November print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Into the Blue”).

Dubai’s High Five

Home to the world’s tallest building—not to mention its four tallest hotels—Dubai is a city adept at height. Here are five ways to get off the ground.

By Jenny Hewett

 

LEVEL 43 SKY LOUNGE

Dubai has attracted Hollywood’s top sci-fi filmmakers of late (most recently, J.J. Abrams shot scenes from Star Trek Beyond here) and as soon as you step out onto this 43rd-floor roof­top bar you’ll see why—the 180-degree panorama of skyscraper-lined Sheikh Zayed Road (pictured above) is staggering. In tune with its futuristic surrounds, Level 43 glows an ambient blue; order the teapot sake cocktail and settle in for snacks to prolong the view (971-56/414-2213).

 

UBERCHOPPER

With the arrival of the airborne arm of the ride-hailing app, customers in Dubai can look forward to hitching a helicopter ride almost instantly via their smartphones. But don’t expect door-to-door service just yet. For now, UberChopper only offers 20-minute scenic tours, departing from At­lantis The Palm, for a mere US$176 per person. Suit up like Bond, but leave the stunts to the pilot (Uber is available to download on iOS and Android).

 

ATELIER M

Perched seven stories above the Dubai Marina at Pier 7, this chic French lounge and dining spot is not nearly as dizzyingly elevated as the Burj Khalifa’s 124-floor At.mosphere, the world’s highest restaurant. But what it lacks in such superlatives it makes up for in style, flavor, and views of the sparkling waterfront (971-4/450-7766).

 

SKYDIVE DUBAI

There’s skydiving, and then there’s skydiving in Dubai. With a scenic coastal jump over the Palm Ju­meirah islands, Skydive Dubai of­fers one of the most spectacular free-falls on the planet. Those who book the VIP tandem service get a private plane to topple out of, a VIP room, and arrival to the Palm drop zone via boat, helicopter, or limo for an additional fee. Breath­taking doesn’t even begin to de­scribe this bucket-list experience (971-4/377-8888).

 

TALISE SPA

This ornate spa hovers on the 18th floor of the Burj Al Arab, Dubai’s most exclusive hotel. Treatment rooms boast floor-to-ceiling win­dows, so between massage strokes (rubdowns range from Balinese to Thai to Ayurvedic) you’ll want to sneak a peek at the magical Gulf view. Inside the men’s sauna and steam facilities, fog-proof glass ensures uninterrupted panoramas all the way to the World Islands and downtown Dubai (971-4/301- 7365).

Taking the plunge with Skydive Dubai, which offers tandem jumps above Palm Jumeirah.

Taking the plunge with Skydive Dubai, which offers tandem jumps above Palm Jumeirah.

This article originally appeared in the October/November print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Dubai on High”).

Travel to New Heights with The New York Times

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Come December 1, The New York Times will hold a two-day summit at the Grand Hyatt in Singapore. With its thought-provoking theme of “Experiences beyond Expectations,” the conference seeks to initiate riveting discussions around luxury travel, creating a platform for global leaders and key thinkers to exchange insights and share ideas about the subject. Attendees can look forward to a series of intellectually stimulating segments, from data presentations and networking sessions to live interviews and debates with CEOs, trendsetters, entrepreneurs, and policymakers. Meticulous research and lively conversations will reveal a wealth of expert knowledge and networking possibilities, making this an unmissable event for those curious and passionate about the travel industry. DestinAsian readers will receive an exclusive 20% discount at US $1,295 upon registration as a two-day delegate.

For more information, visit The 2016 New York Times Luxury Travel Conference. To register, click here.

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Four Nights for Three at Hotel La Coluccia

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Set on Sardinia’s most alluring stretch of coastline, Hotel La Coluccia promises its guests the sweetest, most memorable escape. The luxurious hotel has everything from breathtaking views of the Maddalena archipelago, elegantly appointed rooms with Mediterranean-inspired decor, a private beach, an upscale spa and wellness center, to a wealth of activities right on its doorstep. Thanks to the hotel’s generous deal, those who book a four-night stay at the property will only have to pay for three. The offer stands for a limited time only, so be sure to make your reservations before October 8.

For more information, visit Hotel La Coluccia.

Finding Sanctuary in Tangalle

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A luxurious new resort provides the perfect excuse for exploring this bucolic corner of Sri Lanka’s southern coast.

By Christopher P. Hill

It’s three days until the Sinhala New Year and downtown Tangalle is bustling in anticipation. Loudspeakers pump out pop music and sales promotions, villagers hawk rustic clay pots and braziers on the sidewalks, and the morning vegetable market is in full swing, its tables groaning under a bounty of fresh produce. I’m here with an affable young chef from the nearby Anantara Peace Haven resort to pick up some vegetables for the curries he is going to teach me how to make, but unlike the swirl of sari-clad shoppers around me, I have no idea what I’m looking for. “Anything, anything you like,” he tells me. “You can put anything into a Sri Lankan curry and it will be delicious.” Ten minutes later I climb back into one of the Anantara’s shiny new electric tuk-tuks for the return drive to the resort, a modest haul of okra, green beans, bitter gourd, eggplant, and bright-red tomatoes on the seat beside me.

The curries we make during the “Spice Spoons” cooking class that morning are, as promised, delicious. I can take no credit for this. Though I do a bit of chopping and grating, most of my time is spent thoughtfully sipping a glass of chilled Prosecco as the chef explains and executes the preparation of five different curry dishes (one involving the plump tiger prawns we acquired on an earlier foray to Tangalle’s fishing pier) and a dynamite coconut sambol. And since I’m his sole student, the resultant feast is mine alone to devour. So I stuff myself—and spend the rest of the afternoon lying in torpor next to my villa’s pool like an engorged python. But my appetite for this corner of Sri Lanka has only just been whetted.

Spices on display in the Anantara Tangalle's lobby.

Spices on display in the Anantara Tangalle’s lobby.

Tangalle, a 90-minute drive east of Galle on the island’s south coast, is blissfully free of the tourist crowds that fill beaches closer to Colombo. But it isn’t exactly terra incognita either. Backpackers and intrepid surfers have long appreciated the area’s laid-back charms, as have the cognoscenti who frequent its handful of luxury villas and boutique hotels like the 30-suite Amanwella, which opened way back in 2005. The December debut of the eight-hectare Anantara, however, has put Tangalle firmly on the map.

“This is the future for Sri Lanka,” says Tamir Kobrin, the resort’s suave, Panama-hatted general manager, as he walks me through the grounds, where phalanxes of tall palm trees testify to the estate’s former life as a coconut plantation. “The beaches around Tangalle are beautiful. Now that the expressway from Colombo goes as far as Matara [an hour’s drive away], you’ll see a lot of resort development along this coast.”

That expressway, the E01, has cut the traveling time between Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport and Tangalle from six hours to three and a half. For those who still balk at the idea of spending that much time on the road—even in the comfort of one of the Anantara’s plush SUVs)—Cinnamon Air, an island-wide seaplane service, can fly you to the lagoon at Dickwella in just 45 scenic minutes, from where it’s a short drive to the resort.

However you get there, the Anantara impresses from the get-go. On arrival, guests are greeted by smiling staff under a pillared portico that leads to a lobby designed to evoke a traditional courtyard house, its blue-tiled reflecting pools flanked by whitewashed colonnades. The breezy lounge area behind overlooks the resort’s two-tiered swimming pool and a swath of grassy, palm-studded beachfront, beyond which Indian Ocean waves roll in gently against a sloping stretch of golden sand bookended by rocky protrusions. This view is shared by many of the 152 guest rooms and pool villas, all of which are done up in a pleasant 21st-century colonial style accented by hand-loomed textiles. If, like me, you’re lucky enough to snag one of the beach villas at the western end of the property, you’ll feel like you have the pandanus-edged seafront all to yourself, even if the cove next door is shared with a low-key clutch of cabanas and cottages. I spend most of my down time in my pool, reading or gazing out to sea or watching the ubiquitous chipmunk-sized palm squirrels that dart across the grass from tree to tree, their chirping calls mingling with birdsong and the crash of waves.

Villa host and experience guru Kanishka Sandaruwan posing in the Tangalle countryside.

Villa host and experience guru Kanishka Sandaruwan posing in the Tangalle countryside.

Villas also come with the services of a butler—or “host,” as they call them here—and mine is Kanishka Sandaruwan, a genial 29-year-old who, like most of the resort staff, hails from the Tangalle area. Kanishka books my treatment at the standalone spa complex and appears at the appointed time to whisk me hence on one of the resort’s cycle rickshaws. He consults on my dining options, which range from Dining by Design—a selection of private, customizable dinners set up on the beach or elsewhere around the property—to meals at Il Mare, the dramatically perched Italian restaurant whose authenticity is underscored not only by a bevy of imported Mediterranean products, but also by a chef and the maître d’ who are both Italian. With a recent award from Wine Spectator magazine under its belt, it’s one of the finest restaurants in Sri Lanka.

Kanishka also serves as my “experience guru,” advising on local attractions and activities and personally guiding me for a day out in the countryside. There is much to see. Tangalle and its surrounds are an agriculturally rich and diverse area, and our drive takes us past rice paddies, spice gardens, orchards, and even a buffalo paddock where cows are being milked to make curd. We pass Kanishka’s village school and detour along an empty dirt road that traverses a reservoir, halting midway to watch the reflection of clouds move across the water’s still surface. Kanishka tells me it’s one of his favorite spots, and I thank him for sharing it with me. Walking to the base of a giant tamarind tree, he lobs a stick at the branches until one of the pod-like fruits falls to the ground, then peels it open so that I can taste the sweet-sour pulp within. Later, we drop in unannounced on a rope factory, where chugging machines spin coconut fiber into thick, bristling lengths. It’s hardly your standard tourist attraction, but then, that’s the point.

Twenty kilometers north of town, the rock temple of Mulkirigala is the area’s headline 
attraction, though I have the great granite monolith almost to myself. Little wonder, I think, as I haul myself huffing and puffing up the 500-plus steps to the temple’s intricately frescoed grottos and stupa-crowned summit. Still, the view from the top is reward enough, a vast panorama that stretches across green plains and forested hills all the way back to the coast.

Il Mare, the resort's Italian restaurant, sits on a rocky outcrop above the beach.

Il Mare, the resort’s Italian restaurant, sits on a rocky outcrop above the beach.

I rise early on my last morning for the drive to the Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary, an expanse of brackish lagoons and mangrove swamps navigable only by canoe or simple pontoon boat. 
I’m escorted into one of the latter by an Anantara staffer, who comes equipped with binoculars and a well-stocked picnic basket. The sun is still low and orange on the horizon when the boatman pushes his pole against the bank of the lagoon and slides us into the still waters. Over the course of the next two hours, we spot all sorts of birds—egrets, ibises, herons, kingfishers—and hear the calls of many more. In one reed-fringed channel, we drift past a group of wallowing buffalo; in another, gray langur monkeys stare back at us from the branches of a gnarled tree. Except for the occasional bird cry and the low rumble of the surf beyond the lagoon’s sandbar, all is quiet and serene. It’s every bit the peaceful haven as the resort up the road.

THE DETAILS

A three-and-a-half hour drive from Colombo, Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle Resort (94-47/767-0700; doubles from US$252) is also accessible via seaplane with Cinnamon Air, which operates a daily flight to nearby Dickwella.

This article originally appeared in the August/September print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Time for Tangalle”).

A Slice of Heaven in Bali’s Jimbaran

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With its beautiful, calm waters and extensive selection of seafood restaurants, it’s easy to understand why the former fisher settlement of Jimbaran is now one of Bali’s most popular destinations. And while there is no shortage of accommodation options in the area, there is one resort that is particularly enticing. Situated steps from the beach, Karma Jimbaran boasts 40 well-appointed villas, each of which comes with a spacious living area, a kitchen, a flat-screen TV, a home theater system, and a luxurious private swimming pool. The property’s main restaurant, Karma Lounge, serves both local and international fare, while Veritas Duo offers a wide range of wines and cocktails. For a minimum stay of two nights, guests who book directly with the resort are entitled to a one-way airport transportation service, and children under 12 years old can look forward to a complimentary package.

For more information, visit Karma Jimbaran.

Vietjet to Link Ho Chi Minh City with Hong Kong

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Come December 9, Vietnamese low-cost airline Vietjet will begin operating its new international service between Hong Kong and Ho Chi Minh City, increasing the airline’s total number of routes between Vietnam and China, and marking the airline’s first frequent service to Hong Kong. With a flight duration of 2 hours and 45 minutes, the new service will run every day, departing Hong Kong International Airport at 7:20 p.m., with an estimated arrival time of 9:05 p.m. The return flight will then leave Ho Chi Minh City at 2:35 p.m. and arrive in Hong Kong at 6:20 p.m. “At Vietjet, our mission is to make air travel accessible to everyone and a more popular means of transportation. We believe that our new Ho Chi Minh City—Hong Kong route will better connect these two dynamic financial hubs and tourism destinations. In doing so, Vietjet is proud to play its part in boosting integration, tourism and trade development across the globe and become one of the world’s favorite airlines,” stated Vietjet’s President & CEO Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao at the announcement ceremony last week in Hong Kong, which was attended by Vietnam’s prime minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Hong Kong SAR’s chief secretary for administration Carrie Lam, and other high-ranking officials and leaders from the two countries. Tickets for Vietjet’s new service are now available for purchase on the airline’s website.

For more information, visit Vietjet.

British Airways to Sell Meals by Marks & Spencer

According to a number of sources, British Airways will start serving buy-on-board meals by major retailer Marks & Spencer on its short-haul flights. While details are still forthcoming, the partnership between these two British giants has been the subject of much controversy in recent months, as the airline has always included meals in ticket prices. However, it is understood that this move—which is predicted to take place in January next year—will allow customers to opt for a lower fare in lieu of complimentary in-flights snacks. Food on long-haul British Airways flights, on the other hand, is expected to remain free of charge.

For more information, visit British Airways.