Saturday, April 17, 2010

About Travelife's April-May 2010 Issue

Hello, this time from Kobe, a charming city known for style and genteel living. I flew into Kansai from Hong Kong yesterday, arriving to one of the coldest spring days in memory and completely unprepared for this April version of winter. I toyed with the idea of buying another winter coat for the few days I'm going to be in Japan but decided against it, keeping my fingers crossed instead that the cold wave would soon pass.

It's warmer today but still chilly enough that I've been wearing everything I could manage all day including two dresses and a cashmere scarf. I woke up early to join friends and family for a 10 AM mass at the Rokko Catholic Church in the hills up Rokko Mountain, and then we all headed to Sannomiya, the commercial heart of Kobe, for lunch.

It was to be a Chinese lauriat. But when I heard we were going to a restaurant I'd never heard of at the top of a new shopping mall in Sannomiya, I threw all expectations out the taxi window. Call it prejudice or jumping to conclusions, but I figured I'd be having so-so Chinese food for lunch -- especially compared to the pretty fabulous dinner I enjoyed at Hong Kong's China Club on Thursday night.

Well, this was a lesson to me not to pre-judge -- at least not if I can help it. Lunch was just about the best Chinese food I'd had in a while, and this period I'm talking about encompasses dining experiences in some of the best Chinese restaurants in four cities in Asia. It was a small restaurant run by a Taiwanese husband-and-wife team, although the husband has written about 20 Chinese cookbooks and reportedly taught Chinese cooking in Japan for years.Lunch for all the restaurant diners was served on a very impressive and complete assortment of delicate Richard Ginori plates, bowls, cups and pitchers. This alone should've told me that I should be raising my expectations. Richard Ginori porcelain from Italy is incredibly expensive. A simple coffee cup and saucer set for two persons alone costs at least US$100. I myself have been planning to complete a Ginori set for years, but prices have always held me back.

Meanwhile, the food was delicate and sublime, consisting mostly of seafood cooked in different flavors. Every dish was simply delicious, and most of it were original concoctions based on basic Chinese cooking methods and ingredients. In between courses, I asked the chef what kind of cooking this was, and he answered breezily, "Oh, a little bit of everything." Well, his formula -- whatever it is -- worked. If you're headed to Kobe and are hankering for good Chinese food, check out Lee's Garden on the 8th floor of the Shimbun Kaikan bldg in Sannomiya. On the way out, I looked at the menu and lunch costs about US$75 per person. Pricey even by Japanese standards, but I haven't had Chinese food this good in a long time.


While I'm here typing away in Japan, our April-May issue is out on the newsstands and so far, getting very good reviews. Personally, I think it's one of our best yet. As with the last issue, it was a lot of fun to work on (I am so enjoying this job!) but of course not without the usual stress of deadlines and high standards. The latter, in particular, is weighing heavy on our team as we are pushing ourselves to keep on being the best travel magazine in this town. I'd like to describe why this issue is so good (and why you should get a copy of it at the bookstore asap) in so many words, but Travelife's Managing Editor, Jon Vicente, does a much better job of it. So again, I'm borrowing some of his copy from his editor's note.


Our April-May 2010 issue starts out with a cover story on Brunei, our next-door neighbor (one hour and 40 minutes away by plane!) and yet a country most of us know close to nothing about. I was part of this majority until earlier this year, when I landed in Bandar Seri Begawan to participate in the ASEAN Tourism Forum 2010. What a surprise to get to know a pleasant country that is somewhere in between the First and Second Worlds, completely safe, and yet full of untouched natural resources like pristing forests and mangroves. Admittedly, there's not much for shopping or manmade recreation, but it's certainly a great destination for nature lovers and a pretty fantastic country to visit for families who just want to relax amidst clean surroundings; and in this issue we give you the low-down on why you should be planning a trip there.


This issue also brings together an excellent combination of destinations near and far, from some very earnest travelers who also (lucky for us) happen to have the gift for storytelling. New York-based Pat Vicente, who works at the United Nations, brings you to Aix-en-Provence in France, a spot of almost legendary eminence, in her touching piece entitled "Where Air Breathes Light." And rightly so, for there exists an ancient land that suffers modern life, and a magical light that inspires creativity -- the very same light that has been fueling the genius of artists for centuries.


Meanwhile, in his regular column "The Rafe Guide," Global Editor at Large Rafe Totengco talks about Bali, one of his favorite places in the world, and shares with readers the places and things on this magical island that keep him coming back. His detailed guide, which includes the best places to hang out and chill and also some great shopping destinations, paints a lucid picture that can only be bettered by actually being there. I was reminded of the two weeks I spent here at the very traditional Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay and the very contemporary Four Seasons Ubud some years back and was prompted to mentally plan a (long overdue) trip while editing his column. Babi guling (Balinese roast pig), here we come!


Other destinations are lesser known, and all the more interesting for it. Nothing courts wonder more than the unknown. This issue finds our widely-traveled Domestic Editor at Large Gabby Malvar, who is spending a year going all over the Philippines for Travelife, literally "Slicing Uncharted Waters" in Coron, Palawan. He procured a paddle boat and found himself the best guide on the island, and together they visited parts of Coron that few people have ever seen before. His amazing photos -- Gabby says that some of the lakes and ponds he photographed have never been captured by a camera before, simply because the Tagbanua tribe don't normally let anyone near their lands -- leave us in awe of the beauty of the Philippines, and give us more inspiration to continue being the definitive guide to local travel. With Gabby as our Domestic Editor at Large, we're pretty secure. In Coron, he discovers a fortress guarded by a watery gate, and a treasure hidden under his kayak’s nose. See this hidden paradise first in Travelife.


Meanwhile, Delhi-based Mohammed Ahmedullah, Travelife’s India representative and an adventurer with a passion, drove around India’s Bandavgarh Reserve, and in enjoying the virtual Thrill of the Hunt, captures the magnificent Royal Bengal Tiger (photographically). There he experiences a close encounter that illustrates why “King of the Jungle” aptly describes the big cat. I met up with Mohammed this week in Hong Kong, and he has many wonderful ideas for travel articles on India that few travel magazines have covered before. Watch out for these in future issues of Travelife.


Speaking of change, we get up close and personal with one of its proponents. Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro speaks quite frankly on the state of tourism, among other things. As you get a glimpse of the man’s stark vision in “Steady Ambition,” this issue's Online subject, don’t be surprised if seeds of doubt about other candidates suddenly begin to germinate. We were certainly mezmerized by his brilliance and steadiness, and we'll write about that more in a future blog entry.


Also within this issue’s pages are details that help you combat the Philippine summer, whether by fleeing it or surrendering wholly to its blazing embrace, as Patricia San Diego-Wirman did, when she fell in Love under the Mediterranean Sun. Triccie lives mostly in Marbella but she also has a lakehouse in rural Finland and a posh penthouse in Helsinki. But for this issue, she gives readers a real insider's view on the best of Marbella and its surrounding coastline.


Contributing Editor Buddy Cunanan fled to Georgia’s fresher climes. As he discovers the tenacity of the Georgians for merrymaking in Revelry Behind the Iron Curtain, he finds a delicious “coolness” of another sort. He also gets to visit former Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze in his villa outside the capital, where they spend an afternoon discussing Georgia, Russia and the Philippines. That's the kind of thing Travelife editors get up to in their spare time, when they're not on a plane or hammering something out on their computers -- they're hanging out with movers and shakers most other people only read about in Time Magazine.

There's lots more to this great issue -- including a trip from Bangkok to Singapore on the Eastern & Oriental Express, one of the world's most glamorous trains; barbecue tips for the summer courtesy of Clifford Lichaytoo of Bacchus Epicerie; and new and exciting itineraries in Singapore courtesy of private banker Triccie Luchangco. Travel undoubtedly enriches our lives. Make Travelife Magazine a part of yours and have a great read with every issue. We're not kidding when we say we believe we're the best travel magazine around. We work incredibly hard at being number one and we don't settle for anything below excellence. Get your copy of our latest issue as soon as possible.


Commencing next issue, we will be dedicating a new section, called Postcards, to feedback from you, our valued readers. Feel free to send via email, or snail mail if you like, in your comments, suggestions, rants or raves. We’d love to know what you think. Email us at


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