Monday, December 31, 2012

Best of Travelife 2012: Sunset from Table Mountain in beautiful Cape Town, South Africa

Reflecting at the start of 2013 on the wonderful TRAVELIFE that was in 2012, this is part of a series of blog entries that will look at the best aspects of our never-ending, and never-endingly eventful travels. 

This year was so full of indescribable and inspiring experiences -- and we're certainly looking forward to an even more wonderful Travelife in 2013

A blessed New Year to everyone
from all of us at Travelife Magazine.

We wish you a year of happiness
and an amazing Travelife.


I took this from the deck of the Silver Shadow,
as we sailed out of Hiroshima last April

In 2012, I was privileged to have witnessed some truly amazing sunset moments.

Off the top of my head, my favorite sunset views or viewing points for 2012 include:

1) From the top of a temple in Bagan, Myanmar
2) The Bay of Hiroshima, from the Silversea's Silver Shadow
3) Reflected on the hills of Jordan, from the Dead Sea on the Israel side

4) From the bar of the Shangri-la Tanjung Aru in Kota Kinabalu
5) Along the beach of the Shangri-la Rasa Ria in Kota Kinabalu
6) From the safari jeep in Greater Kruger National Park
7) From our dinner table at The Tasting Room in Franschhoek

A Franschhoek sunset

There are a couple of others that I've probably forgotten, in my never-ending Travelife. 

Scroll down to read more...and that's the sunset in Bagan, by the way...


But if I had to pick only one, it would have to be sunset from the top of Table Mountain, in beautiful Cape Town, South Africa.

The sunset views from Table Mountain are very famous, and supposedly one of the most beautiful in the whole world -- especially because of the panoramic view of Cape Town's amazing coastline and the sprawling city below.

Seeing this sunset from the top of Table Mountain has long been on my bucket list and I really wanted to be on top of the mountain as the sun went down, as everyone who has been to Cape Town has told me not to miss the sunset from Table Mountain.

For this momentous occasion, we decided to take a food hamper up Table Mountain for a little picnic while watching what is supposed to be one of the most gorgeous sunsets in the world.


So we ordered a food hamper from our hotel, the Mount Nelson, which is Cape Town's most historic and famous hotel, and we took it up Table Mountain. Luckily, the hotel could prepare a beautiful Victorian picnic basket with no problems. They had all the paraphernalia for a fancy picnic.

They even had a proper menu from which you could order all kinds of easy-to-eat food for your picnic basket.

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in the December 2012 - January 2013 issue 
on sale everywhere now. 

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The view of Cape Town from the top of Table Mountain

However, not too many people seem to think about bringing up a picnic basket to Table Mountain. The hotel driver who drove us from the Mount Nelson to the Table Mountain cable car terminal, took one look at our picnic hamper when we got into the car and complimented us on this great idea.

As we made our way through Cape Town's winding roads and up the mountain, the driver said: "I've never seen guests bring a picnic hamper up Table Mountain before."

Well, if we were the first ones to do this, I can certainly recommend this as a Travelife way of enjoying Table Mountain's sunset. It was so nice to find a spot to see the sunset and to have some food to enjoy the view with.


That's our favorite Mount Nelson concierge,
handing over our picnic basket to take up Table Mountain.

We'd ordered all the sandwiches on the picnic hamper menu for a traditional English afternoon tea -- the Mount Nelson is famous for its afternoon tea -- and a delicious Greek salad besides. The sandwiches included smoked salmoncucumber and cream cheese, and chicken sandwiches.

The picnic hamper itself was beautiful -- just like the old-fashioned picnic hampers that English people once brought along for a day of sitting by the Thames River, for example.

And when we opened the hamper on a bench, we certainly attracted a lot of attention.

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As we were enjoying our picnic, a South African lady even came over to inspect the picnic hamper closely. She said: "I've never seen anything so beautiful." Indeed, everything was immaculate and so prettily prepared.

Then she asked us: "Where did you get this beautiful picnic basket?"

There were some people sitting around Table Mountain with bags of food as well, but no one had anything close to our beautiful picnic basket.

We answered: "From the Mount Nelson."

The very grand Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town

That seemed to answer everything, as far as the lady was concerned.

"Oh the Mount Nelson," she exclaimed. "Of course."

Then she brought over a couple more people to closely inspect our picnic basket. I was certainly amused at the commotion, although a part of me, of course, wanted to be left to eat in peace.

But we so enjoyed this picnic on Table Mountain, gazing at one of the most beautiful sunsets in the world.

And when we finally got down from the mountain just as the sun had set, we headed straight for the very cozy but lively Planet Bar of the Mount Nelson with plans for a nightcap of champagne and oysters.

A pretty nice way to tick off an item on our bucket list, and just another day in our never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.


Scenes from New Year's Eve at the Peninsula Manila, 2012 - 2013

A blessed New Year to everyone
from all of us at Travelife Magazine.

We wish you a year of happiness
and an amazing Travelife.


The Peninsula Manila's Pink Diamond Ball
had a Marilyn Monroe theme

Here are some photos of the enjoyable, jampacked and very successful New Year's Eve ball at the Peninsula Manila that just ended about an hour ago.

The party began at about 9 PM and lasted till 2 AM, with dinner, music and dancing all night. I really liked the music this year -- it got everyone revved up for the countdown, and at exactly midnight, I took off my shoes and stood on my chair to get a better view of everything.

Scroll down to read more....

Then at midnight the balloons came down along with lots of ribbons, and I found myself tangled up in a web of balloons and ribbons, unable to move for quite a while.

This gave me a few minutes to think about the year that was, and the year's that's coming up.

2012 gave me the best of times and the worst of times, but mostly it was about the good, the amazing and wonderful. In a never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.

So many instances in this old year made me feel lucky and privileged to be alive and living a Travelife. But I wasn't sorry to see 2012 go.

2013 is an opportunity for a new start, a second chance, and another 12 months to create an amazing Travelife.

The dessert set-up

Is this an omen of my Travelife to come in 2013? I wondered out loud. Unfortunately, I won't really know the answer to that for a while. All I can do is keep my fingers crossed.

In the meantime, from all of us at the country's leading travel & lifestyle publication, our very best wishes for the new year. May you have a most wonderful year full of happiness and good memories, and an amazing Travelife.


Sunday, December 30, 2012

Best of Travelife 2012: Lunch at Sabi Sabi's Bush Lodge, with good food and lots of laughter

Reflecting at year-end on the wonderful TRAVELIFE that was in 2012, this is part of a series of blog entries that will look at the best aspects of our never-ending, and never-endingly eventful travels. 

This year was so full of indescribable and inspiring experiences -- and we're certainly looking forward to an even more amazing Travelife in 2013

Happy New Year to everyone
from all of us at Travelife Magazine.


Lunch at Sabi Sabi's Bush Lodge

I have four contenders for lunch of the year, in a never-ending Travelife, and all of them are in South Africa.


The most obvious choice would have to be our lunch at La Colombe, one of South Africa's best restaurants and still perhaps its most famous dining venue, on the last day of our two-week trip.

We'd had the best table in the house and an excellent meal, where I'd ordered everything completely not good for me: oysters poached in champagne and foie gras to start, a big Chalmers beef steak as a main, and something terribly fattening for dessert.

But this day was actually a package deal, as I loved this entire day, which was also the last day of our South African trip.

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After lunch, we'd driven to the Cape of Good Hope -- the very tip of the African continent -- for a last sightseeing hurrah. That picturesque drive along the coast from the wine valley of Constantia to the Cape of Good Hope, full of quaint towns and quietly beautiful bays and coves, was perhaps our most memorable drive.

Read us every Sunday in Business Mirror

So full from lunch, we ended up eating dinner at the restaurant of our hotel, the lovely Steenberg in Constantia, and we'd ordered a repeat of everything we'd liked on our first dinner here: I ordered oysters again, and we had one plate of mussels in a lemongrass broth and another plate in white wine, plus salad and dessert. And, of course, some champagne.

It was a really wonderful day to end a great trip.


Steak lunch by the waterfront in Cape Town

Then there were two spur-of-the-moment lunches that stand out in two weeks of nothing but enjoyable meals: a dry aged steak at the waterfront in Cape Town and, of all things, a club sandwich lunch at the equivalent of a fast-food joint at Johannesburg airport while waiting for our connection to Cape Town.

Club sandwich at Joburg airport

We ate the club sandwich with a strange mixture of hot mustard, ketchup and mayonnaise, that actually tasted very good.

Both meals were more about my memories of them rather than solely about the food.


But now when I really think about it, my best lunch was a long and fun one at the Bush Lodge camp of the Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve, one of the most luxurious safari experiences in the world.

Sabi Sabi has four stay options on its 65,000 hectare private game reserve (read more about this in the current issue of Travelife Magazine, by the way), and we'd chosen the very nostalgic, vintage and intimate Selati Lodge as our main base.

Selati Lodge and the ultra-futuristic and jaw-dropping Earth Lodge at Sabi Sabi are two very special experiences, and these were the two places we chose to stay at for our safari.

And next time I find myself at Sabi Sabi, I think I'd like to stay at the Little Bush Lodge, which is Sabi Sabi's ultra-stylish contemporary camp.

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Selati Lodge is a full-service deluxe camp -- certainly no roughing it up whatsoever here -- with highly personalized service and all the luxuries in the world. My presidential suite was an entire villa with a private pool, antique furniture and amenities on par with the best hotels in the world.

At Selati Lodge, we had most of our meals on an open terrace and they were very social affairs. It's a small lodge so when we were there, there were only three other couples as guests and we got to know everyone quite well.


Bush Lodge at Sabi Sabi

But one day, we decided to venture to the bigger Bush Lodge nearby, which caters to tourist groups and families or friends traveling together en masse, just to see what it was like and to sample the food.

I'm very partial to exclusive experiences so I didn't have high expectations of Bush Lodge, frankly, as it's a much bigger venue compared to the Selati Lodge.

But one day we decided to have lunch there anyway and see it.

Bush Lodge at Sabi Sabi

The lodge itself was really beautiful. It was full of the kind of interesting contemporary African art and accents that I wanted to take home for my own house. I kept oohing and aahing over everything, and taking photos, so it took us forever to get to the restaurant.

Bush Lodge at Sabi Sabi


A healthy lunch at Bush Lodge

The restaurant itself is on a terrace, and lunch was buffet style and excellent.

We had all kinds of salads and a very good vegetable quiche which we ate with pesto salad dressing that wasn't really supposed to be for the quiche, for a well-matched kick.

For the main course, we had shawarma, and neither of us got the pita bread that went with it.

Lunch at Bush Lodge

Again, an excellent plate of meat, especially when I got the chef to warm it up again.

So the food was very good, and I remember that we sat for about 2.5 hours just eating and laughing about all kinds of nonsense. Actually, on this trip, we were averaging an hour for breakfast, two hours for lunch and at least three hours for dinner, so the duration wasn't new.

But for some reason, the combination of fresh and healthy food, lots of laughter and this chic contemporary setting in the middle of absolute wilderness has left a very good memory with me.

Lunch at Bush Lodge


We must've made a pretty good impression on the people around us as well. We were laughing so much at that lunch that people around kept looking at us.

And later on, while we were buying stuff in the gift shop, two girls staying at Bush Lodge, who'd apparently seen us at lunch, had suddenly said to us: "We were told that two people were joining us in our safari jeep from today. You guys looked like you were having so much fun at lunch, so we were hoping it would be you two joining us."

No such luck, unfortunately. Each lodge or camp has their own set of rangers and jeeps, and we had our own assigned jeep and ranger team from Selati Lodge for our stay.


Best of a Travelife 2012: My favorite kind of Travelife love story

Reflecting at year-end on the wonderful TRAVELIFE that was in 2012, this is part of a series of blog entries that will look at the best aspects of our never-ending, and never-endingly eventful travels. 

This year was so full of indescribable and inspiring experiences -- and we're certainly looking forward to an even more amazing Travelife in 2013

Happy New Year to everyone
from all of us at Travelife Magazine.


On a flight from Sapporo to Tokyo last August, I picked up a copy of Time Magazine's latest issue.

There was a review of a book written by journalist Kati Marton, ex-wife of anchorman Peter Jennings and second wife of the high-profile diplomat Richard Holbrooke, who had worked as a key backstage conduit for several US presidents.

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Richard Holbrooke passed away last December and his wife Kati recalled her life with him in a short but apparently highly recommended book called Paris: A Love Story

How very apt for our upcoming Travelife August-September issue, I remember thinking, and this special issue is probably the most comprehensive feature on Paris that you'll find in the local market so far.

We're not Travelife for nothing, after all.


Their love story seemed terribly interesting and so very much a Travelife kind of story, just because it involved exotic destinations and a beautiful culture. It also had a fantastic setting.

to Paris via Amsterdam
Special fares available



Being both "citizens of the world," their official first date wasn't really dinner in some fancy bistro in Washington D.C, or a play or opera gala in Manhattan.

Instead it was a three-day trip to Chartres and the Loire Valley, plus a couple of days in Paris

Their best memory of this first date was sitting in Chartres Cathedral admiring the magnificent stained glass windows and imagining how early piligrims must've been amazed by such a sight.


They simply traveled together rather than being romantically involved, as it was really an extended and rather glamorous version of a grown-up first date -- he was in his 50s and she was in her 40s, after all, and both had careers and lives of their own.

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But by the end of their five days together, she writes that they were finally holding hands while walking the streets of Paris

I thought this was very sweet, simple and human, considering the complicated lives they led. Together they were a glamorous couple who lived so much of their lives in the spotlight, among the rich, famous and powerful.

Bill Clinton had helped them move apartments and Pakistan's president had given Kati some advice on bereavement when Richard Holbrooke had finally passed away.

Yes, they found happiness and got married. Then their "Golden Age" began. How nice that they had found each other for this very special experience.

Richard Holbrooke became the US Ambassador to the United Nations and together they became the "it" couple of New York. They were both smart, cultured and vivacious for life, and apparently they hosted the most interesting dinners with everyone from Whoopi Goldberg to Nelson Mandela as guests.

It wasn't a completely perfect life -- whose life is? -- but it came pretty close to this. 

And they lived fairly happily for 15 years together. Yes, second chances are possible and true love can happen at any age. So by the time we landed in Tokyo, I'd made up my mind to buy this book and read the rest of this story...