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On the Trail of Sumatra’s Tigers

Sunlight filters through the cathedral-like forest canopy on a hike up the slopes of Mount Tujuh.

Sunlight filters through the cathedral-like forest canopy on a hike up the slopes of Mount Tujuh.

High in the mountains of western Sumatra, Kerinci Seblat National Park is one of the last remaining refuges of Indonesia’s dwindling tiger population.

By Mark Eveleigh

“If you see a tiger, try to get one of its teeth,” my taxi driver says brightly.

I am heading to the airport from my home in Bali, and I’ve just told him that I’m about to fly 2,400 kilometers to Indonesia’s largest island to look for Sumatran tigers.

“Yes, the teeth are very important,” he continues, talking over my waffled explanations of conservation priorities and ecological ethics. “If you get the teeth you can keep them as a charm, and nobody will ever be able to doubt that what you tell them is true.”

I shudder at the thought of a tiger being killed for its body parts—and at the fact that this was apparently the first notion that popped into the cabbie’s head when I mentioned the big cats. It’s an inauspicious start to a trip that I’m hoping will finally produce a positive report about a critically endangered species.

Three airports and a winding 10-hour drive later, I’m sitting in a clapboard house high in the mountains of Sumatra’s Jambi province while conservationist Debbie Martyr clues me in on the front-line battle against tiger poachers.

Overlooking Kerinci Valley and its namesake lake.

Overlooking Kerinci Valley and its namesake lake.

“Oh, for sure we have plenty of poachers around here,” she says. “But that’s a good sign. Wherever there are poachers there must be tigers, right?”

While her outlook on conservation strikes me as being delightfully optimistic, Indonesia’s big cats have not fared well in the past eight decades. Thanks to the international trade in tiger parts and local attitudes like that of my taxi driver, the country has already lost two of its three tiger subspecies. The Bali tiger was wiped out in the 1940s and the Javan tiger followed shortly afterward. Only the Sumatran tiger has held out, particularly in the highland valleys and mist-shrouded hills of Kerinci Seblat National Park.

“There are more tigers here than in Thailand, Burma, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam together,” Debbie tells me. “The reason for this is simple: if somebody poaches or trades tigers from this park they will get arrested, sooner or later.”

In the early ’90s, Debbie, a British journalist, ventured to the Sumatran rain forest to research a story about the island’s mythical orang pendek, a sort of Indonesian Sasquatch. She spent 
weeks at a time trekking through jungle and camping in remote areas of the national park until she fell into what would become a lifelong love affair with Kerinci. Stirred by the plight of its threatened tigers, Debbie soon turned her 
attention to protecting these top predators.

“At that time, forestry departments all over the world seemed to be focused only on the structure of the forest—the trees themselves—rather than what’s in the forest,” she laments. “As one local official told me: ‘I’d like to help with tigers and wildlife, but I’m in the forestry department. I can’t do anything for animals or birds. I can only protect trees.’ ”

Meanwhile, tigers were being poached almost on a weekly basis. With the help of the British conservation group Fauna & Flora International, Debbie began to train “tiger teams” to help the national park service protect the last of the country’s great predators. Like guerrilla reconnaissance groups, the patrol teams walk softly through the undergrowth, carrying little other than a large stick for protection.

“With tiger teams and the rangers working together we were able to patrol more effectively and with a heavier presence. We also had authority to fight the poachers in and out of the park. It worked so well that from 2006 up until 2010 we were one of only five national parks in the whole of Asia where tiger numbers actually increased.”

The estimated tiger population in Kerinci 
Seblat at the latest count in 2011 was between 165 and 190 individuals, roughly a third of the number still roaming in Sumatra’s jungles. In March this year Indonesia’s forestry ministry reported that there were only 371 left on the island. The continued decline is due to rampant poaching and widespread deforestation fueled by the global market’s insatiable appetite for palm oil and, in the Kerinci area, for coffee.

Poaching remains a threat, as this skull displayed by a park ranger attests.

Poaching remains a threat, as this skull displayed by a park ranger attests.

While a recent surge in organized poaching has put increasing pressure on the local tiger population, Kerinci Seblat largely remains a safe haven for these elusive big cats. The park sprawls across an area almost 20 times the size of Singapore, and even more if you include buffer zones. That makes it Southeast Asia’s second-largest national park, protecting a biodiversity hot spot capped by mist-shrouded jungle peaks and gouged by cascading rivers.

Shortly after dawn the next morning, I follow one of Debbie’s patrolmen into the forest. Jayendri, like most of his tiger team colleagues, has been recognized by the national park service as an honorary ranger and, as he crouches over a set of fresh tracks, he exudes the sort of confidence that is crucial when you spend as much time as he does in big-cat country.

“I once watched three tigers for several hours right near here,” Jayendri says. “We’re not actually inside the park at the moment but this is a wildlife corridor and tigers—even, in the past, elephants—often use this route to cross between two neighboring sections of the park.”

The sun is still low enough to throw a shadow onto the shallowest paw prints and, as we turn onto a dusty section of the track, a series of round indentations catches my eye. I know they’re too small to be a tiger’s, but they are clearly feline. After a brief examination, Jayendri confirms them to be the marks of an Asian golden cat, an ocelot-like animal whose coat can be anything from golden brown to black. We decide to follow the trail and within a few minutes I notice another series of indents. These are bigger. Much bigger. There’s no doubt that they could only belong to a tiger, or what Jayendri respectfully calls “the Boss.”

Though smaller than the prints of a Bengal tiger that I’d once seen in India, they are still big enough to make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I feel a particular thrill at the sudden realization that we are in the heart of predator country, unarmed and basically defenseless.

“There have been occasional attacks in the Kerinci area,” Jayendri says, as if reading my thoughts. “Even a couple of serial man-eaters many years ago. In general, though, attacks are usually a case of what we call salah alamat.” 
Literally meaning “wrong address,” these occur
when the tiger is not initially aware that its prey is human. Squatting in the track with my finger tracing the pugmark of a 100-kilogram super-predator with 10-centimeter fangs, I have the distinct impression that, for the moment at least, it is I who’ve come to the wrong address.

Three days later, I’m clambering through thick jungle on my way up to the crater lake near the peak of Mount Tujuh. My new guide, a soft-spoken jungle man aptly named Jhon Forest, tells me how he once came face-to-face with a tiger on this very trail.

“I came around the corner and my heart started hammering almost before I could even register what was in front of me,” he says. “I was frozen to the spot and it seemed like full minutes that we stared into each other’s eyes. Then he bounded over a bush and disappeared without a sound. I was still shaking about an hour later.”

Kerinci Seblat is a vital stronghold for the Sumatran tiger.

Kerinci Seblat is a vital stronghold for the Sumatran tiger.

Situated 1,950 meters above sea level, Danau Gunung Tujuh—the “Lake of the Seven Mountains”—feels romantically remote. At weekends, however, it is a popular camping spot for local kids, who often leave behind them a forest strewn with plastic litter.

At this latitude, less than 80 kilometers south of the equator, the sun sinks quickly. As it drops behind the rim of the ancient volcano, we are plunged into a brisk chill that sends me scurrying for firewood. The welcoming glow of our fire soon entices a lake fisherman named Bobbi to join us; he says he’s the only person who lives permanently on the mountain. As he and Jhon sit chatting in the local Kerinci dialect, the bark of a deer high up the forested slope above us makes me wonder what else might be lurking in the jungle. A tiger? An elusive orang pendek, perhaps? Or maybe one of the other mythical creatures that Debbie had told me about: a tiny cannibal witch called sibigau, or the cruel bunian spirit, which you can hear but never see.

Bobbi tells me that he frequently hears tigers around his camp, but that he doesn’t fear them. “They are my neighbors,” he says as the flames lick the cool night air. “Besides, there are other, far stranger creatures to watch out for.”

This article originally appeared in the October/November print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“The Big Cats of Kerinci”).

A Road Trip through Sicily

Braving the roads of this ancient Mediterranean island is well worth the effort, especially when the itinerary includes a clutch of small, stylish hotels that steer guests toward some of Sicily’s best food and wine.

By Leisa Tyler

Looming above Sicily’s east coast, Mount Etna has erupted more than 200 times since records started in 1500 B.C., making it one of the most active volcanoes on earth. Classical mythology holds that this is the work of Typhon, the father of all monsters, who was entombed under the mountain by Zeus and forever left to menace the world with regular outpourings of fire and ash. The latest eruption, a short but spectacular outburst of lava, occurred in May. But it’s an explosion of a very different sort that has brought me and my husband to Etna’s slopes at the start of this weeklong Sicilian road trip. Boutique winemaking is booming on Italy’s largest island, and perhaps nowhere more so than right here on this volcano.

Sommelier Alessandro Pugliese (left) with winemaker Riccardo Negri in Graci’s vineyards on Mount Etna.

Sommelier Alessandro Pugliese (left) with winemaker Riccardo Negri in Graci’s vineyards on Mount Etna.

Our guide is Alessandro Pugliese, the enthusiastic sommelier at the Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea, a swanky seaside hotel below the medieval town of Taormina. Originally from Calabria, Pugliese became love-struck with Sicilian wines after discovering the coterie of winemakers that had turned away from the mass-produced plonk the island is known for in favor of crafting artisanal reds and whites from native grapes. He showcases these at the Sant’Andrea, but for a first-hand experience, Pugliese has brought us to Etna’s northern flank to visit the Graci estate, whose ungrafted vines and old stone warehouse lay abandoned before banker-turned-vintner Alberto Graci bought the property in 2004. Planted on rich black volcanic soil between 600 and 1,000 meters
above sea level, the vineyards here grow only endemic grape varieties: Nerello Mascalese, Carricante, and Catarratto. Graci’s 2013 Arcuria, a white wine made from a blend of the latter two, is all mineral notes and honeysuckle, but it’s no match for the 2009 vintage that the winery generously opens for us—they only have 20 bottles left.

That evening at Villa Sant’Andrea’s candlelit seaside restaurant, dinner is paired with more unique Sicilian wines. First up is a crisp white from Pantelleria, a tiny Italian island between here and Tunisia that is so windy viticulturists have to dig trenches so the vines don’t fly away. Then comes a Marsala from the legendary Marco De Bartoli winery in the west. Fortified, Marsala wines are usually sweet. This one is anything but; dry and astringent, it is a perfect match for the grouper carpaccio and paper-thin slivers of salty lard that emerge from the kitchen.

Spaghetti with swordfish and clams at the Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea.

Spaghetti with swordfish and clams at the Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea.

Our next hotel is a half-hour drive away along narrow country roads that skirt Sicily’s east coast. On one side is the dazzling blue of the Mediterranean; on the other, Etna broods under wisps of cloud. Sitting plump on the volcano’s lower slopes near the town of Zafferana Etnea is Monaci delle Terre Nere, an agriturismo (farm that takes guests) with 16 hectares of olive
groves and citrus trees and vineyards, as well as 20 stylishly furnished guest rooms tucked into 
the estate’s salmon-hued 19th-century villa and outbuildings. But the main reason we chose Monaci (as with all the hotels on our itinerary)was for its unique insight into Sicilian traditions. Here, that means a cooking class with one of the hotel’s chefs, who shows us how to make  pasta and bread with timilia, an ancient wheat variety that fell into obscurity with the rise of processed flour in Sicily. Supplemented by herbs from the kitchen’s organic farm, the results are fragrant and delicious, even if my arms throb afterward from all the kneading.

It must be said: Sicily’s notorious and no-apparent-speed-limit roads, more often than not incongruously signposted, don’t exactly scream “relaxed driving holiday.” But nor is there a viable or affordable alternative to seeing the island. It is with this in mind that we use Monaci’s proximity to Etna and the relatively subdued switchback road that crosses the volcano’s southeastern slopes for some driving practice. Midway up we stop to stretch our legs. While it is possible to trek or catch a cable car 
to the upper crater zone and peek into Etna’s blazing red belly, we’re content to admire the arid, ocher moonscape on the mountain’s flanks, where a succession of cinder cones dot the otherworldly terrain.

Overlooking the Baroque town center of Modica from the terrace of a guest room at Casa Talía.

Overlooking the Baroque town center of Modica from the terrace of a guest room at Casa Talía.

There are countless reasons to brave the roads that lead to Modica, our next stop. A Baroque gem hugging a steep-sided ravine, the town offers an extraordinary setting as well as stunning local food. There’s also Casa Talía, a group of once-abandoned stone houses in Modica’s old Jewish quarter that Milanese architect Marco Giunta discovered while on holiday here in 2001. Deciding to convert them into a boutique hotel, he and his wife Viviana Haddad (also an architect) quit their jobs and began the painstaking process of restoring the ancient dwellings, which are arranged around a Mediterranean garden. Now chicly furnished, each of the 10 rooms has retained its original stone walls, while bamboo ceilings and hand-painted tile floors nod to Sicily’s North African influences. But it is the views of Modica’s historic center from our terrace that take the cake: a labyrinth of cobbled lanes, dust-colored villas, piazzas, and the noble cathedrals of St. George and St. Peter.

From Modica, it is an hour’s drive to Noto, 
the grandest of southeast Sicily’s eight UNESCO-
listed Baroque towns. Giunta suggests we take
the “old road,” and I’m glad we heed his advice. The quiet rural lane winds through a pastoral countryside of olive groves and wheat fields framed by adorable drystone walls.

They say there are two things you should never do when hiring a car in Sicily: one, agree to a size upgrade; and two, choose a vehicle that is shiny and scratch-free. Not knowing this at the time, we did both. Rebuilt after a massive earthquake in 1693, Noto was never designed to accommodate vehicles, especially not our Fiat 500, a veritable tank by Italian standards. The town is a complex maze of one-way streets and insanely tight corners where many an unwary driver has left paint on the walls. And then there’s the 10-point turn we have to execute to get into the courtyard of Seven Rooms Villadorata, our home for the night.

Noto’s most stunning hotel occupies the southern wing of the Nicolaci Palace, built in the 18th century by a local tuna magnate. Dilapidated, the palazzo had no running water or electricity when Cristina Summa, a former tourism official who spent her childhood summers at her grandmother’s house in Noto, took it over in the late 1990s. There are now seven spacious guest rooms with tile floors, wrought-iron balconies, and exotic tapestries, as well as a breezy breakfast terrace with views that sweep over Noto’s church towers all the way to the sea. Manna, the delightful ground-floor restaurant, serves an all-star lineup of premium Sicilian ingredients in gorgeous dishes like lamb couscous and bread crisps with aubergine cream and mackerel fillet. And the communal drawing and reading rooms—plus a kitchen stocked with complimentary minibar items—make it feel like you’re staying in the apartment of a wealthy friend, which was Summa’s aim. “We want our guests to experience a modern-day version of the Grand Tour,” she says.

A bedroom at Casa Talía, where the attentive service and stylish decor are outmatched only by the views over Modica's Baroque townscape.

A bedroom at Casa Talía, where the attentive service and stylish decor are outmatched only by the views over Modica’s Baroque townscape.

The next day, our trusty, still-scratch-free Fiat brings us to Agrigento and our last stop, the 200-hectare olive, almond, and wheat farm Azienda Agricola Mandranova. One of Sicily’s most loved agriturismo hotels, Mandranova was never intended to be for tourists; rather, they became an economic necessity while Giuseppe di Vincenzo set about making “the best olive oil in the world.”

Leaving a successful banking career in 
Milan, di Vincenzo returned to Sicily in 1995 to revive his family’s farm, a sprawling property of rolling hills and ancient stone buildings that sits beside the roar of a busy highway. Throwing out the rule book, along with many unproductive trees, he sought to understand the true essence of olive oil—and how, through heat, sunlight, chemical extraction, and the time between the harvest and press, most of what we buy in the supermarket is actually rancid. It is this story that di Vincenzo tells guests on daily tours, weaving in more than a few anecdotes and theatrics along the way.

Pleasures abound at Mandranova: lounging by the cactus-lined swimming pool; sampling the blood-red fruits of a century-old mulberry tree; partaking in boozy, convivial communal dinners. But tasting the farm’s rich and herbaceous olive oils, their flavors pure and unadulterated, might just be worth a visit in itself.

“Complex, cultured, deep—this is the oil of the gods,” di Vincenzo tells me over the din of traffic. “Sicily all summed up.”

This article originally appeared in the October/November print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“On a Sicilian Spin”).

Highlight: Swissôtel Merchant Court Reopens


The hotel is conveniently nestled in the heart of Singapore’s vibrant Clarke Quay.

Boasting a total of 476 rooms, Swissôtel Merchant Court is a contemporary urban haven that places a strong emphasis on comfort and elegance. The hotel’s Executive Suites offer spectacular views of the Singapore River and Clarke Quay, while its Premier Rooms beckon with a sleek interior design and an abundance of creature comforts. On-site facilities range from a spa offering Swiss alpine-inspired wellness and facial treatments to a swimming pool complete with water slides, attracting travelers of all ages and interests. Location-wise, the hotel is second to none; just a stone’s throw away from Clarke Quay MRT station, it conveniently connects guests to some of Singapore’s most exciting districts and iconic attractions. Whether you’re an eager first-timer in the Lion City or a long-time resident seeking a relaxing getaway, your stay is guaranteed to be a memorable one.


Pürovel Spa & Sport offers a wide range of rejuvenating treatments.

To celebrate the completion of its 18-month renovation, the hotel is offering two special deals that encompass a wealth of luxuries. The Family Fun Escape deal allows guests to book a second room at 50 percent off, not to mention the freedom to linger at the property until 4 p.m. on their check-out day. Kids will especially love this offer, as it also entails a fun room set-up, age-appropriate amenities, daily ice cream treats, and complimentary tickets to Universal Studios Singapore.


Swissôtel Kids’ Room set-up and age-appropriate amenities are available upon request.

The Reopening Celebration Special is no less enticing. Guests will be treated to a welcome bottle of Prosecco upon arrival, as well as complimentary access to the hotel’s swimming pool, 24-hour fitness center, and wellness facilities throughout their stay. Breakfast will be served daily at Ellenborough Market Café, a chic restaurant offering an extensive buffet menu. Other luxuries include free Internet connection, parking access, and a possible late check-out option.


Guests can enjoy daily buffet breakfast at Ellenborough Market Café.

This post was published in partnership with Swissôtel Merchant Court. For reservations and inquiries, contact 6337-9993 or email [email protected].

French Flair in Patricia’s Kitchen

There’s more to Versailles than its palace, including a rich food culture that visitors can delve into during cooking classes with a Cordon Bleu–trained chef.

By Lois Yasay

Seared scallops with baby spinach, made at L’atelier Cuisine De Patricia.

Seared scallops with baby spinach, made at L’atelier Cuisine De Patricia.

It’s only 11 a.m. in Versailles, on the leafy western outskirts of Paris, and we’re already an hour into making lunch. My job is to clean the scallops ever so gently before skewering them on thyme branches to be seared in fragrant butter. Natalie, the student beside me, is absorbed in picking only the best leaves of baby spinach and removing the hard stems. The greens will be served with a red-wine vinaigrette alongside the scallops.

And that’s just the entrée.

I have signed up for a half-day culinary workshop with Patricia Boussaroque at her atelier inside a renovated 18th-century townhouse, just a stroll from the gates of Versailles’ famous palace. She’s the antithesis of what you’d expect from a French chef, a blonde woman with laughing eyes, a welcoming double-kiss, and a pink apron tied around her waist—twice, of course. That’s probably the first thing they teach you at Le Cordon Bleu.

The main dish of bavette aux échalotes confites (flank steak with caramelized shallots) takes much longer to prepare than I imagined. We simmer prime cuts of beef with spices in vinaigre de xérès, a wine vinegar made from sherry, for nearly an hour. I cannot hide my consternation when Boussaroque pounds the cooked meat into a metal strainer to squeeze out the juice, then throws it away. When she catches my look, she explains, “It was only to make the sauce.”

As an accompaniment, we make the crisp potato puffs known as pommes dauphine. This starts off with a mixture of mashed 
potatoes and savory pastry cream, which we pour into a pastry bag before shaping them into dumplings to be deep-fried. And for 
dessert, Boussaroque announces that we are making mille-feuille, a complex, multilayered puff pastry sandwiching glistening drops of vanilla-flavored crème mousseline enlivened by the tang of rum from the French West Indies.

I’m surprised to learn that Boussaroque wasn’t always a chef. After 20 years of working at a large company, she left her comfortable job as a human resources manager to follow her passion by studying cuisine and patisserie at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Patricia graduated with top marks 
in 2009, but did not proceed to work at a restaurant as most of her peers have done. Instead, she opened a cooking school in her hometown, just opposite Versailles’ Notre-Dame Market, where she could procure ingredients from the city’s best artisans and producers each day.

Patricia Boussaroque at Versailles’ Notre-Dame Market.

Patricia Boussaroque at Versailles’ Notre-Dame Market.

Naturally, Boussaroque’s workshops begin with a guided tour of the market. She effortlessly navigates the maze of open-air stalls and 19th-century buildings like any local resident, but the relationships she has fostered with many of the vendors are truly personal. Below the soaring stone archways of a covered market hall, Garry Guette is her source for the freshest fruits and vegetables, and it’s where I find the largest and most succulent box of raspberries I’ve ever seen. “French cooking is often not just about the flavors,” Boussaroque says, “It’s also about tasting with your eyes.”

Her fromagier at Le Gall offers her the finest cheese selection, alongside suggestions for what to pair with her menus and wine. I am soon introduced to Comté, a French cheese made from unpasteurized cow’s milk that tastes slightly sweet. It’s become my favorite ever since.

While Boussaroque is on a first-name basis with the fishmongers at L’Espadon, she considers Véronique of the upscale grocer Olives et Temptations a personal friend. Véronique’s épicerie stocks indulgent ingredients such as vanilla pods and sucre casson, the large-grained sugar that’s essential for making chouquettes.

With another day to spare in Versailles, I decide to join one of Boussaroque’s pastry classes, where I learn of the seemingly negligible but often crucial techniques in French cooking, like putting the dough or cream into a cooling apparatus to rest before baking. Or slamming a tray filled with macaron batter a few times on the table to release air bubbles. Over the course of these workshops, Boussaroque often exclaims “Délicatement!” as we mix creams or work with pastries. Instead of overworking the batter, we must delicately put air into the mixture.

And yet, the most memorable part of my experience goes beyond tasting a freshly baked meringue or honing my culinary skills. What remains with me is Boussaroque’s excitement, an unchanging constant in each of the classes she conducts.

“My dream,” she says, “is to show people the
pleasure of cooking with only the best ingredients, giving them new ideas and allowing them to discover new flavor combinations. What drives me is the joy of coming together around a meal cooked with love.”

L’atelier Cuisine De Patricia, 4 Rue André Chénier, Versailles, France; 33-1/7142-8242; classes from US$67 per person.

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

Four Major Art Retrospectives This Season

It’s been 100 years since the foundation of the Dada movement, and cultural institutions across Europe are holding a clutch of retrospective exhibitions on leading artists whose ideas and stylistic roots grew out of Dadaism. Here are four of the biggest you should visit.

By James Louie


“René Magritte – The Treachery of Images”

One hundred paintings from the Belgian surrealist master René Magritte—with many on loan from collections around the globe—have been mounted at the hallowed halls of the Centre Pompidou in Paris, as the latest installment in a series dedicated to major figures of 20th-century art. The exhibition offers a fresh take on Magritte’s body of work, inviting the viewer to explore each painting through the artist’s keen interest in philosophy. One highlight is the seemingly contradictory but fiercely logical La trahison des images, painted with the famous words “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” (This is not a pipe) below a realistic depiction of the smoking device (Until Jan. 23, 2017).


“The EY Exhibition –Wifredo Lam”

Heavily influenced by the close connections he enjoyed with both Cubist and Surrealist painters, Wifredo Lam sought to revive Afro-Cuban culture by expressing themes such as Santería (a syncretic religion developed in the Spanish West Indies) with avant-garde techniques learned from his European peers. London’s Tate Modern is now showing a comprehensive study of his life and work, spanning a long career that saw major political turmoil on both sides of the Atlantic. A Cuban painter of Chinese, African, and Spanish descent, Lam challenged the prevailing perceptions of other cultures held by western Modernist artists 
(Until Jan. 8, 2017).


Jean Tinguely with Méta-Matic No. 17 in front of the Eiffel Tower, 1959. Photo: John R. Van Rolleghem, c/o Pictoright Amsterdam, 2016

Jean Tinguely with Méta-Matic No. 17 in front of the Eiffel Tower, 1959. Photo: John R. Van Rolleghem, c/o Pictoright Amsterdam, 2016

“Jean Tinguely – Machine Spectacle”

Amsterdam’s pre-eminent venue for modern art has opened a showcase on this playful Swiss sculptor, whose Dada-inspired kinetic artwork satirized the excesses of consumer society. Over a hundred machine sculptures—including his trademark self-destructing installations—are on display at the Stedelijk, along with a trove of videos, photos, and drawings that detail his artistic development. The grand finale is the haunting installation Mengele-Totentanz, a danse macabre of moving sculptures made with objects salvaged from a fire in 1986. Timed to coincide with the 25th anniversary of his death, the Tinguely retrospective is billed as the largest exhibition on the artist ever held in a Dutch museum (Until Mar. 5, 2017).


“Alberto Giacometti – Beyond Bronze”

Best known for his elongated, blade-like human figures in bronze, Alberto Giacometti’s artistic footprint went far beyond his native Switzerland. Kunsthaus Zürich will mark the 50th anniversary of his passing with a major exhibition focused on Giacometti sculptures made with other mediums such as marble and wood. Artworks drawn from every stage of his career will be shown, while 75 original plasters donated to the museum from Giacometti’s estate form the centerpiece of the display, providing a rare glimpse into his technique and creative process (Oct. 28–Jan. 15, 2017).


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

Tastes of Autumn at The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong

As temperatures drop across Hong Kong, carts of chestnuts being slow-roasted in hot cinders are an increasingly common sight on street corners. A precursor to those winter warmers can be found at Café 103, the Ritz-Carlton’s sky-high venue for afternoon tea. Here, chestnut and pear are the flavors of choice in six confections made by Pierre Hermé Paris. Until November 30, diners can feast on autumn-themed macaron, and a reinterpretation of the classic dessert Mont Blanc, with ingredients such as meringue and pear almond cream ( —James Louie

This article originally appeared in the October/November print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“A Tall Order”).

Highlight: A Suite Escape with Fairmont


The Presidential Suite at Fairmont Beijing.

Known for its opulent accommodations and first-rate facilities, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts gives a whole new meaning to luxury. The brand flawlessly combines world-class hospitality with locally inspired touches, offering a distinct experience in each location, yet providing the same impeccable quality of service every time. From now until December 31, 2016, Fairmont properties in Asia are inviting travelers to delight in the splendor of their lavish suites by rolling out their generous “Suite Encounters” offer. With a long list of options that range from stylish penthouses with astounding city views to massive rooms equipped with state-of-the-art gadgets, guests are truly spoiled for choice.

Travelers in search of memorable views will love Fairmont Singapore’s elegant Penthouse Suites. Perched on the 26th floor, penthouses facing the marina invite guests to enjoy unrivaled sights of the bay from their private balconies, while suites overlooking the city boast panoramic views of Singapore’s skyline and iconic landmarks. Down in the Indonesian capital, Fairmont Jakarta’s Sky Suites showcase the city’s incredible high-rise towers and skyscrapers, providing a glimpse of the Big Durian’s vibrant energy from up above. Tech enthusiasts will appreciate Sky Suites’ state-of-the-art technology, which consists of a high-speed Internet connection, an interactive flat screen TV, and media panels. An equally tempting option is a stay at one of Fairmont Yangcheng Lake’s Signature Lake View Hotel Suites, where you’ll be able to take in the beauty of the legendary lake from the comfort of your bedroom. Bedecked with traditional Chinese art and comprising a 100-square-meter living room, these suites are as beautiful as they are massive.


The Sky Suite at Fairmont Jakarta.


The Penthouse Suite at Fairmont Singapore.

Situated at Shanghai’s world-famous Bund promenade, Fairmont Peace Hotel is the perfect choice for those who enjoy combining luxury with historical immersion. Each of the hotel’s lavish 178-square-meter Nine Nation Suites embodies the spirit of a specific era and incorporates stylistic elements from a particular country, juxtaposing Shanghai’s energy with inspiration drawn from all over the world. Whether you’re staying in the hotel’s Victorian age-inspired English Suite or Art Nouveau-style French Suite, you are sure to be transported to a different time and place. Those in pursuit of the finer things in life will be drawn to the ritzy Fairmont Nanjing, which is dramatically housed in the upper half of the lantern-like Jin Ao Tower. Boasting over 250 square meters of space, the sky-high Presidential Suites are undoubtedly the property’s most prestigious and luxurious rooms. When you’re not busy marveling at Yangzte River from the 59th floor, enjoy a thrilling game on the provided PlayStation3 or catch up on your favorite show using one of the two available 70-inch LCD TVs.


The Signature Riverview Suite at Fairmont Peace Hotel.


The Deluxe Riverview Suite at Fairmont Nanjing.

For a truly one-of-a-kind experience, book a stay in Fairmont Sanur Beach Bali’s Presidential Beachfront Villa. With expansive views of the Indian Ocean, this two-bedroom accommodation offers a wealth of remarkable luxuries. Unwind in your very own spa room before taking a dip in the villa’s private swimming pool, or enjoy Bali’s balmy weather as you sunbathe in close proximity to the beach. If that’s not enticing enough, this outstanding villa also features a kitchen with pantry, a jacuzzi, and a lunar bathtub. The Presidential Suite at Fairmont Beijing is just as extravagant, with luxuries ranging from a Bose home theatre system, a fully-stocked bar, a well-appointed study room equipped with books on Chinese art, to a dining table that accommodates up to 10 guests. Meanwhile in the Philippines, the swanky Presidential Suite occupies 154 square meters of Fairmont Makati’s eighth floor. The suite’s high-end features—which include a separate living room, an executive work desk, a wine library, and a spa marble bathroom—make it the perfect space for relaxing getaways, private meetings, and other special occasions.

The Presidential Suite at Fairmont Makati.


The Deluxe Garden View Suite at Fairmont Sanur Beach Bali.

This post was published in partnership with Fairmont Hotels & Resorts. Discover more offers in Asia and book your Suite Encounters here.

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



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).



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).



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).



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).



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”).