Bali: Your Trip to Paradise

beach and Pura Batu Bolong temple Nusa Dua, Bali.jpg

Pura Batu Bolong Temple – Nusa Dua, Bali

When it’s time to think about a warm winter getaway, time to think Bali. The popular tour company, World Spree, is offering an 11-day Exotic Bali package for only $1,899 from New York or San Francisco ($200 more from Los Angeles) that includes round-trip air on China Airlines, taxes, fuel surcharges, fabulous hotels, daily breakfast, five other meals, all ground transportation, sightseeing tours and a professional English-speaking guide.  And $1,899 is probably less than you’d spend to go to the  same old Caribbean or Hawaii.

Why Bali?

borobudur-night

Borobudur by Night

Bali is a chance to experience a totally different culture, while also enjoying a sun-splashed beach vacation. The trip starts with five nights in Bali’s cultural capital, the picturesque hill town of Ubud, full of color and chaos, artists’ studios, handicrafts shops and garden restaurants. Here, you’ll stay in the stylish boutique resort Alaya Ubud, which is surrounded by emerald green rice paddies but within walking distance of downtown. Its elegant Balinese-style rooms are complemented by a spa, swimming pool and restaurant.

Bat cave (Goa Lawah), Bali, Indonesia.jpg

Bat Cave (Goa Lawah)

Balinese Hinduism, the predominant religion, shapes much of the island’s life and culture.  There are thousands of temples and shrines and colorful religious ceremonies can be seen regularly.  You’ll visit a temple fed by local springs and have the chance to take part in a traditional purification ceremony, and visit a Monkey Forest that’s home to three holy monkey temples. Just remember, they’re wild monkeys and not afraid of humans, so keep an eye out as they can get frisky! Other excursions include a famous coffee plantation,  the Mother Temple , lunch on the edge of a volcano caldera with a breathtaking view of Lake Batur, and a  special day in a village where you will be warmly welcomed by the locals.

Beach Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia.jpg

Beach Nusa Dua

Then comes the totally relaxing part of the vacation: four nights at  the luxurious Melia Bali Resort in Nusa Dua, famous for its glorious white sandy beaches lapped by warm shallow waters and surrounded by lush green foliage.  There are tons of possibilities here (a safari, ocean rafting, a catamaran cruise, shopping in Kuta, a traditional fire dance) or just soaking up the sun and enjoying the serenity of this exotic  beachfront resort that overlooks a reef-fringed lagoon , exhuberant tropical gardens and a swimming pool that winds through the grounds.

Beach chairs on perfect tropical white sand beach Bali.jpg

Beach chairs on a perfect tropical white sand beach… sigh

Two post-trip options are offered on the way home: a 4-day Stopover in cosmopolitan Singapore, with its exciting cuisine and great shopping ($599 per person) or a 3-day Stopover in Taiwan, which has wonderful Chinese food and a world-class museum ($220 per person). All prices quoted are per person, double occupancy, and are subject to availability.  There is no additional charge for credit cards. 

www.worldspree.com

 

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Beautiful Bali: Monkey Mayhem and Filthy Gorgeousness

Last week, I ventured off to Bali for a little R&R and, accordingly, I must share a few photos with the highlights. It was a whirlwind trip (just a weekend in Bali, folks), but I managed to pack in both Jimbaran Bay and Ubud and monkeys, of course, lots of devilishly cute, but don’t mess with ’em monkeys. I look forward to spending more time in this fascinating Goddess filled land of rice and Ganesha!

Belmond Jimbaran Puri Bali

Belmond Jimbaran Puri Bali 

We arrived late in the evening to gracious staff who had us beat a gong three times to announce our entrance. Although it was pitch black, the grounds were more impressive than we could imagine. After making reservations the very day we were to arrive through one of my new favorite websites for Asia, Agoda, we booked garden rooms at the Belmond Jimbaran Puri Bali for approximately $350 USD and, to our amazing surprise, they had overbooked those rooms so we were upgraded to villa rooms. And, when I say villa rooms, I mean, one bedroom villas, each with it’s own private pool and a separate sitting area with enough space for three people as the sofa was large enough to nap comfortably.

A quick photo of my private villa pool

A quick photo of my private villa pool

Needless to say, when we each awoke to see the villas in daylight, we were blown away. We were very close to staying at the Four Seasons or InterContinental, but Agoda showed that the Belmond Jimbaran Puri Bali had last minute availability (and a better price), so we were thrilled. We were also keen to stay somewhere that felt authentically Balinese and this did the trick. With offerings and statues scattered around the lush grounds, along with a massive common pool and beachfront dining, it was really a no brainer.

Complete with entertainment in the evenings…

Firedancers at the Belmond Jimbaran Puri Bali

Fire Dancers at the Belmond Jimbaran Puri Bali

Next up, we took a quick (way too quick, but we were short on time) jaunt to Ubud, where we dined amid rice fields and visited the Ubud Market. I am still kicking myself for not having enough time to visit all the cool shops in Ubud, but my wallet is probably thanking me.

Dining in the rice field on satay and smoked fish

Dining in the rice field on satay and smoked fish

When we ordered Smoked Fish, I’ll admit, I thought it would be smoked like Whitefish or Salmon, but it was more like Steamed Fish. A tasty melange of garlic and subtle curry flavors rounded out this impressive looking snapper.

Balinese Smoked Fish

Balinese Smoked Fish with a salad of cooked bean sprouts and green beans, and a sugar cane covered fish cake on the side

But wait… I forgot to mention Monkey Forest in Ubud! How could I forget? This hanging forest meets monkey haven is an experience worth flying 20 hours to see. Monkeys and little monkey babies run wild and have no shame! You buy bananas at the entrance without realizing that once the monkeys see you they will jump on top of you and go, quite literally, bananas.

This little mom and her baby stole my heart (I was out of bananas).

Monkey Forest - Ubud, Bali

Monkey Forest – Ubud, Bali

We finished our day trip with a stop at Tanah Lot, a Hindu temple sitting on a rock formation on the coast, along the beach. It was quite interesting in that it felt as if we had stepped back in time (complete with a Holy Snake you could pay a small donation to touch). That said, it was quite crowded which hampered the allure a bit.

Tanah Lot Hindu Guardian

Tanah Lot Hindu Guardian

However, I did manage to capture one nice sunset, even if the actual temple view was obscured by too many tourists.

The sunset from Tanah Lot Temple

The sunset from Tanah Lot Temple

I finished the outing off with a massage at the hotel and a promise to always make the most of life’s brief moments. Even if it means a very rushed weekend trip to Bali after a crazy turbulent flight. In this case, my 60 minute moments equalled a very powerful Balinese massage where I was covered in the most delicious smelling orange bergamot oil.

The Belmond's beachfront outdoor spa

The Belmond’s beachfront outdoor spa

Because like life, and this storefront in Ubud, it’s filthy and it’s gorgeous and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

ubud stores

Layla Revis, Editor-in-Chief

Layla Revis, Editor-in-Chief

Passionate traveller, blogger, journalist, mother, and friend. Revis loves almost every type of food, but she won’t eat organs… or water chestnuts.

When she’s not flying to Asia for work as Senior Vice President – Global Digital Strategy Director at Leo Burnett, she can be found shamelessly watching trash television or reading Foucault. High/Low with rarely an ‘in between,’ her recent motto is:

“Live large… and love always.”

The Dancing Nymphs of Angkor

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

This week, Will Ottley explores the Buddhist/Hindu temples of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat complex and discovers that ancient civilizations’ wisdom lives on in the treasure trove of temples and monuments they left behind.

What surprised me most about Siem Reap, Cambodia was not the grandeur and sophistication of the temple complexes. Walking among the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world, I was struck by the overriding presence of the ‘feminine’. Carved into every wall of this vast complex are the images of Devata (goddesses) and playful Apsara (nymphs). This beautiful setting blends a rich history of Buddhist and Hindu influences that exude a feeling of peace and hint at the grandeurs of the lost Khmer civilisation.

Siem Reap, a Temple Base Camp

Siem Reap is a short (less than an hour) flight from the international airports of Bangkok, Phnom Pehn, and Ho Chi Minh City. It serves as the base for visiting the surrounding temples and caters for all travellers’ requirements. It can equally be enjoyed as a single traveller or a family. You can stay in a five-star luxury colonial style hotel that offers traditional afternoon tea, such as Raffles (+855 63 963 888), boutique alternatives such as Shinta Mani Club (+855 63 761 998) or mid-range options such as Tara Ankor hotel. (+855 63 966 661).

Shinta Mani

Shinta Mani

There is an array of excellent local restaurants easily reachable from your hotel by tuk-tuk (think horse and carriage, with a motorbike in place of the horse). They offer traditional Khmer and Asian cuisine, such as the local delicacy, Amok, a thick curry soup made with coconut cream. Two good options are the Khmer kitchen (+855 63 964 154) and the Chamkar Vegetarian Restaurant (+855 92 733 150).

Khmer Kitchen

Khmer Kitchen

There are traditional dance and dinner shows such as Apsara Theatre (+855 63 963 561). These can be quite touristic and you ideally need to book in advance. There are also luxury spas, such as Bodia spa that offer a full range of body treatments including the traditional Khmer massage (+855 63 761 593).

The Temples of Angkor

Visiting the wondrous temples of the UNESCO Archaeological Park, can, at times make you feel like Indiana Jones. From the 9th to 15th century Angkor, was the heart of the Khmer Kingdom. The most famous temples of Angkor Wat, the Bayon, Preah Khan and Ta Prohm, exemplify changing periods of Khmer architecture. Mini-buses packed with tourists set off early to see Angkor Wat, on what is termed the inner-circuit route to see the main temples, followed by the outer circuit on subsequent days (it will make sense when you get there).

Bayon

Bayon Temple

These package tours break for breakfast and lunch at the same time each day, leaving the temples virtually empty. My advice is to hire your own tuk-tuk or taxi, from as little as $15 a day, and to visit the temples in the opposite direction to the arranged tours, taking a later breakfast and lunch. By staying out later, you also get to watch the sunsets shimmering above the tree line. A 5am start to see the stately sunrise over Angkor, is also very popular.

Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm

You can hire a knowledgeable tour guide with good English from $45 per day, or just enjoy the experience of discovering the temples for yourself with a guide book. Each temple is unique. The complex of Bayon for example has amazing head carvings, whilst the complex of Ta Prohm was so overgrown when it was excavated that they had to leave trees in place to protect the structure from collapse. This haunting temple was used when filming Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and is a definite highlight.

Getting There and Around

You can travel to Siem Reap via Bangkok from London with British Airways (0844 493 0775; ba.com), and Air France (0207 660 0337) from under £500 per person return. Internal flights to Siem Reap from Bangkok with Air Asia from £70.

Cambodian visa information: www.cambodianembassy.org.uk

Will Ottley is a freelance travel writer and author of the inspirational fable, “Mountain Garden”, but does not work with or for any of the parties mentioned in this article.

Follow Will Ottley on: www.mountaingarden.co.uk

Setting Sail & Sightseeing in Burma

Set Sail to Burma

Set Sail to Burma

There is just under 12 months to go before luxury cruise and safari specialists offer something pretty spectacular. Sanctuary Retreats’ new custom built ship, Sanctuary Ananda, sets sail on its maiden cruise voyage in Myanmar. The coolest part? The all-suite ship is being custom built by two renowned Burmese brothers in a Yangon shipyard using traditional materials combined with modern technology to ensure she can navigate Myanmar’s rivers.

A familiar sight in a Burmese village

A familiar sight in a Burmese village

Sanctuary Ananda will offer eight exciting itineraries on 3, 4 and 7-night ‘Discovery Cruises’ between Bagan and Mandalay and 7, 10 and 11-night  ‘Exploration Cruises.’ The longer journeys will allow guests time to explore the Upper and Lower Ayeyarwady Rivers as well as the Chindwin River, incorporating must-see sights and the opportunity to engage with many local tribes and Burmese people. These ‘Exploration’ itineraries are particularly suited to guests who want a more relaxed cruise with a chance to explore off-the-beaten path.

Your bed in the suite

Your bed in the suite

The four-night “Mandalay to Bagan” itinerary begins in the cultural capital of Myanmar, and makes its way to Bagan, the spiritual heart of the country and home to more than 2,000 gilded pagodas. Guests admire the beauty of life along the river with visits to the Sale monasteries, textile workshops in Amarapura; Sagaing; the living centre of the Buddhist faith in Myanmar, and the local markets and traditional shoe factories of Pakokku.

Monks!

Monks!

Bagan, the 11th-century capital of the country is one of Asia’s most extraordinary destinations; more than 4,000 temples, pagodas and stupas (Buddhist memorials) cover Bagan, a true treasure trove of Buddhist art history. Work on the new ship is taking place in Myanmar, employing skilled local craftsmen. In addition to the furniture built by local carpenters, Burmese teak and traditional handmade fabrics will be used throughout and all Sanctuary Ananda’s guides will be local, Burmese experts. Recruitment and extensive training has now begun to build a team that will deliver the high standards behind Sanctuary Retreat’s ‘Luxury Naturally’ philosophy.

A little Burmese scene on the side of the road

A little Burmese scene on the side of the road

There are 21 spacious suites, ranging from 291 sq ft to 721 sq ft, including the exclusive Aloungpayah Suite. Most offer large private balconies with uninterrupted views of the surrounding countryside, towns, villages and riverside life.  Accommodating 42 guests, Sanctuary Ananda will offer a high level of personal service. The Aloungpayah Suite, along with the 4 Luxury Suites, will also have a private butler service.

Prices start at $2.244 per person, based on two people sharing a Deluxe Suite, for a 3 night itinerary including sightseeing, all meals, soft drinks and local beer.

Burmese textiles

Burmese textiles

Sanctuary Retreats’ runs a collection of luxury safari lodges and explorer ships so we trust it’ll be amazing. Bringing the boutique experience to guests with the promise of authenticity, all have the same aim: to allow guests to have a “real” experience and enjoy a more natural kind of luxury in properties that have a strong commitment to conservation and responsible tourism. The Sanctuary portfolio also includes safari camps and lodges in Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia, as well as expedition cruise ships on the Nile, the Yangzi, in Myanmar and the Galapagos Islands.

www.sanctuaryretreats.com

Just Opened! Como’s Point Yamu in Phuket, Thailand

Point Yamu by COMO

Point Yamu by COMO

One of our luxe favorites, COMO Hotels and Resorts’, has just opened another sweet property. Personalized luxury travel is what COMO is all about: Urban Hotels, Island Resorts, Adventure Retreats and Wellness Resorts all highlight wellness, cuisine, adventure and culture, service and design – while always upholding a sustainable approach towards the people and places where they operate. Founded by Christina Ong, COMO Hotels and Resorts develops and manages handpicked, individually curated properties like The Halkin by COMO in London, two Metropolitan by COMO hotels in London and Bangkok, Parrot Cay by COMO in the Turks and Caicos, Cocoa Island by COMO in the Maldives, and three Uma by COMO experience resorts in Bali and Bhutan.

A rendering of Point Yamu's Italian Restaurant, La Serena

A rendering of Point Yamu’s Italian Restaurant, La Sirena

Enter their 106-room resort, Point Yamu by COMO. The property, on the coast of the island of Phuket, Thailand, has COMO’s classic stunning interiors, this time by famed Italian designer and architect, Paola Navone. New to the hotel world, Ms. Navone designed Point Yamu with deep, bold colors, clean lines, and a myriad of textural elements to combine COMO’s signature style with indigenous designs. Point Yamu is also home to a COMO Shambhala Retreat, a 100-meter infinity swimming pool and infinite views of the turquoise waters of Phang Nga Bay. In addition, private residences with access to all Point Yamu’s facilities are also available to purchase for those who want to keep coming back to your own sexy digs.

The bathroom in a suite

The bathroom in a suite

LOCATION

Point Yamu by COMO is located on Cape Yamu, a peaceful peninsula on the east side of Phuket, Thailand. The resort overlooks the limestone karsts of Phang Nga Bay – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – and the Andaman Sea.

CUSINE

Cuisine prepared in a wood-fired oven also plays a star role at Point Yamu. The resort offers everything from relaxed Italian cooking and locally caught seafood at La Sirena to spicy southern Thai cooking at Nahmyaa. Healthy COMO Shambhala Cuisine, designed to maximize energy and wellbeing, can be nibbled at The Central Bar while private dining such as beach picnics and romantic sunset meals can be arranged in-room and at a number of special locations in and near to the resort.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 330-foot swimming pool
  • COMO Shambhala Retreat with eight treatment rooms including one beauty treatment room and yoga studio
  • Pilates and Asian-inspired therapies
  • Italian and Thai restaurants
  • Child-friendly interactive learning area

GETTING THERE

The resort is a quick 25-minute drive from Phuket International Airport. So get thee to serenity.

Rates for a Bay Room begin @ $500/night

 www.comohotels.com/pointyamu

Tokyo’s Best Luxury Hotel for Business

Hotel Chinzanso's Spa

Hotel Chinzanso’s Spa

Looking for a sexy hotel while doin’ business in Nippon? Look no further than the Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo, the iconic five-star flagship property of leading Japanese hospitality company Fujita Kanko. They’ve just announced that the hotel has been designated “Best Luxury Hotel, Japan, 2013” by Business Destinations magazine. The Business Destinations Travel Awards showcase companies whose products and services represent the pinnacle of the business travel industry.

Can you tell we're imagining going to Japan on business and then holing up in the spa?

Can you tell we’re imagining going to Japan on business and then holing up in the spa?

Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo was re-flagged in January after 20 years as the Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Chinzan-so (so you know that means ‘swanky digs’). Within six months of rebranding, Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo was then awarded five Red Pavilions by The Michelin Guide. The hotel is best known for its historic heritage and its lush Japanese garden, home to various botanical species, birds and insects – extremely rare in the middle of Tokyo and reason enough to stay a few nights.

Mokushundo, one of their restaurants, where they specialize in stone grilled delicacies

Mokushundo, one of their restaurants, where they specialize in stone grilled delicacies

The hotel offers 260 rooms and suites; 12 restaurants (wait… 12? Yes, you read that correctly, 12); Tokyo’s largest meeting/banquet facilities (36 banquet rooms, to be precise), including one of the city’s biggest banquet rooms with a tiered-seating amphitheater equipped for simultaneous interpretation (impromptu Japanese theater, anyone?); oh, and did we mention it also possesses Tokyo’s largest hotel spa. Since we need plenty of space for our big personality to unwind.

And food... let's not forget food. This is at one of their many restaurants, Ryotei Kinsui

Beautiful, glorious food. This photo features delectables from one of their many restaurants, Ryotei Kinsui

As part of the renovations and upgrading started at the time of the rebranding, a new one-of-a-kind facility, Serenity Garden, was also opened on the hotel’s rooftop, occupying 16,145 square feet (1,500 square meters). With the scenic garden as a backdrop, the property is certainly one of Japan’s most prestigious venues, hosting international functions for royalty, state leaders, and you… yes, you.

http://www.hotel-chinzanso-tokyo.com/

From $280/night and up

Run DMZ: Touring South Korea’s Demilitarized Zone

Joint Security Area (JSA) South Korea Soldiers in the Demilitarized Zone

Joint Security Area (JSA) South Korea Soldiers in the Demilitarized Zone

Part II of Victoria Korosi’s piece on South Korea takes Jaunt Magazine’s readers on a tour of the DMZ. And no, that doesn’t mean the likes of Joseph “Run” Simmons, Darryl “D.M.C.” McDaniels, or Jason “Jam-Master Jay” Mizell. And when we say tour, we don’t mean free drinks and clever jokes through a loud speaker.

By Victoria Korosi

Use the word “tour” and I’ll cringe and run for the nearest public bus. Use “military escort” and that’s a conversation I’ll engage. Given my absolute love of borders, especially crossing the ones the US State Department will call me about later, there was no way I was going to get this close to North Korea and not go explore. Even if it that meant I had to tolerate a guide or two.

The border between North and South Korea is buffered by the DMZ – a theoretically neutral zone where both parties literally stand toe to toe on a white line drawn on the ground, grey gravel on one side brown on the other, an innumerable number of black belts and heavy artillery at the ready, and just stare at each other. Literally. Walking into this environment I can easily say I’ve never felt tension so palpable.

Soldiers in the Joint Security Area

Soldiers in the Joint Security Area

Getting to this point though was notably less climactic. In order to gain access to the Joint Security Area (JSA) coming from the south (and yes I did investigate doing the tour in the reverse from China and entering on the North Korean side) you have to be escorted by the US military. To graduate to that means enduring an entire day of numbingly boring videos, debriefings, and other tour bus activities that made me want to slit my wrists. If the end result of stepping foot (even if just the one) into North Korea hadn’t been as staggeringly powerful as it was I’d be back on my campaign full force for banning organised travel.

But it truly was that powerful. Standing in a room with six South Korean soldiers, their opposition on the other side of the door, all rigorously still,  eyes concealed behind pitch black Ray-Bans, aggressive Korean script on their helmets, I could feel the muscles in my legs turn to lead too terrified to move an inch. They just had this feeling about them that they’d explode into combat at any moment. Kind of like if you gave the guards outside Buckingham Palace tougher uniforms and Taekwondo lessons. Like that.

An intense end to a long day I made my way back to Seoul, defiantly via public transport of course. Even though it was a monstrously controlled space it does give a different perspective and gravity standing in a part of the world very different to what I know. And new respect for those on every boarder who maintain the serenity of that tension. But when it comes to costume design for this, I think we all could take a lesson from the South Koreans. Ray-Bans at the beach will never look the same!

USO Tour of the DMZ
http://affiliates.uso.org/korea/