Publisher & Editor in Chief
Christine Cunanan began writing for major newspapers in the Philippines as a high school student, honing her skills with some of today's top editors.
Since then she's had a colorful career, most of it spent in Tokyo connected with diplomacy, journalism and the global financial industry.
For years, she was also a member of the board of advisors of the Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO), a select group of 15 advisors on tourism in Japan that included Japanese cabinet ministers, academics, hoteliers and CEOs of major Japanese corporations.
A tireless traveler, Christine is on a plane or train every two weeks and is perfectly happy living out of hotels and relying on room service, in spite of having homes in five countries.
She once spent 140 nights of a year in some rather fancy hotel rooms -- just for fun. As we post this, she's preparing for a series of trips that will take her to Hong Kong, Japan and the Middle East in the next weeks.
HAS ROUGHING IT EVER BEEN AN OPTION?
Christine: If you mean voluntarily roughing it, not since I was in college. In my fourth year at school, I flew to Seoul, Korea to meet up with some AIESEC friends and there was some miscommunication so I missed them at Kimpo Airport.
Since I was on a student budget, I stayed in a small, dingy hotel near the airport that night. It was traditional Korean-style with beds and bathrooms on the floor, and it was on a very dark street full of what looked like very unsavory characters hanging around.
I remember devising my own personal alarm system just to get me safely through the night. I put all the coins I could find into an ashtray, balanced this on top of a glass, and set it up by the door to fall and wake me up in case someone tried to enter. I was prepared to scream very loud.
Since then, I've always stayed in "nicer" hotels when I've had the choice. And when I haven't had the choice, I've grinned and borne it. Fortunately, there haven't been much of the latter.
WHAT IS YOUR PRIMARY SURVIVAL TOOL FOR TRAVEL?
Christine: My credit card and my MacBook Pro. I’ll leave anything and anyone else behind, but my computer and I have never been parted – not even for half a day.
WHICH DO YOU PREFER? CONCRETE JUNGLE? OR JUNGLE, JUNGLE?
Christine: Definitely concrete jungle. I can do (luxury) wilderness for about three days and then I find myself itching to return to some action.
My idea of getting away from it all is the detox program of The Farm at San Benito in Lipa or traveling through the Malaysian jungles on the Eastern & Oriental Express -- there's still no WiFi on board and mobile phone signals can be spotty so you're literally cut off from the world.
By the way, read about my trip from Bangkok to Singapore on the Eastern & Oriental Express in our April-May issue. I highly recommend this very special trip. My husband and I had a wonderful time and we can't wait to book another Orient-Express trip again. We're thinking of going to Myanmar and doing the seven-night riverboat trip called Road to Mandalay next time. Now THAT will be a Jungle, Jungle trip -- at least for me!
WHAT'S THE MOST MEMORABLE MEAL YOU'VE EVER HAD?
Christine: I’ve had quite a lot of memorable meals because I travel a lot and I used to review fancy restaurants in Tokyo for a newspaper. Chefs and restaurant managers were always trying to win me over with fabulous food. But two meals stick out in my memory.
A MEAL IN PARIS
AT THE TOUR D'ARGENT
One was a meal in Paris at the Tour D’Argent with Jojo and Fides, good friends from Manila in 2008.
We ate, drank and toasted to everything imaginable for over four hours with the Notre Dame in the foreground. Many people label the Tour D’Argent as a tourist trap, and it probably is. But it has the best wine cellar in Europe and on that day it had pretty good food, but it was the company and the overall experience that made it memorable.
Just thinking about this meal right now makes me smile. And the four of us enjoyed our visit together in Paris so much that we were back in France three months later to do a Paris food trip all over again!
SO MANY MEALS
AT THE NEW YORK GRILL
The other dinner I remember most was in 2000 or 20001 at the New York Grill of the Park Hyatt Tokyo.
I have very proprietary feelings about the Park Hyatt Tokyo because I’ve known every single general manager of this hotel and I saw it in its conception stage; and even walked around the construction site with a hard hat and rubber boots as my friend Ernesto, who was one of the two managers opening the hotel, was trying to describe to me how this shell of a site would one day be the most fabulous hotel in the world. It certainly did become fabulous, and it defined the scene for modern hotels from then on.
Anyway, that dinner at the New York Grill was at a time when everyone in Tokyo was high on the stockmarket and this expensive restaurant was fully booked with people from the global financial industry, swaggering around as if they owned the world (they did).
My husband was CEO of one of the largest foreign financial firms in Japan then, and his friend was Tokyo’s most successful broker. This broker brought to dinner his girlfriend of the month, a beautiful Russian model who ordered nothing but expensive champagne, arugula salad and strawberries.
I guess she was on a diet.
Meanwhile, the three of us feasted on the best Japanese steaks available and too many bottles of red wine. Everyone was dressed to the nines, people were table-hopping, talking about buying third or fourth houses in Provence and Aspen, and confident about the future; and the four of us had a fantastic time.
And just when I thought the evening couldn’t get any better, the executive chef sent over a chocolate dessert in the shape of a boat the length of the table, filled with every delectable fruit and cake imaginable.
My penchant for chocolate was quite well-known at the New York Grill, you see. All eyes in this room of movers and shakers turned to us as the waiters sailed the boat in.
These two dinners were very different, and times have certainly changed since then as a global recession tsunami-ed most of the First World.
But I cherish these two in particular because they both made me feel that there was absolutely nothing wrong with the world and that life was just about perfect.
TRAVEL DESTINATION YOU'D RETURN TO IN A HEARTBEAT?
Christine: It’d have to be destinations. Rome and Paris on a fine spring day, Copenhagen in the summer, and Istanbul anytime of the year.
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