Monday, February 29, 2016

Gaggan in Bangkok wins No. 1 spot as Asia's best restaurant for 2016 according to the S. Pellegrino


Gaggan in Bangkok has claimed the top spot in the list of Asia's 50 Best Restaurants for a second consecutive year.

Asia's 50 Best Restaurants, sponsored by S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna, revealed the 2016 list at an awards ceremony at the W Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand.

ABOUT ASIA'S 50 BEST RESTAURANTS
AND THAILAND'S BEST RESTAURANT
FOR 2016



Now in its fourth year, the Asia's 50 Best Restaurants 2016 list includes restaurants from 13 countries and welcomes 10 new entries.

Gaggan retains the dual titles of The Best Restaurant in Asia, sponsored by S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna and The Best Restaurant in Thailand, sponsored by S.Pellegrino & Aqua Panna.

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Art on the plates at The Bostonian restaurant of the Langham Hotel in Hong Kong. And about Hong Kong artist Michael Lam.



The Langham, Hong Kong hotel is launching the “Elements of Art Menu,” a series of artistic sensory experiences at its restaurant, The Bostonian.

This will feature Hong Kong artist Michael Lam's collection of the classic four elements – earth, water, air and fire – on its dining plates, turning the dining plates into a gallery space.

Scroll down to read more about art on the plates in Hong Kong...



ABOUT MICHAEL LAM

Recipient of the 40 Under 40 award, an award that honours future design leaders, Michael Lam  depict his interpretation of nature's four essential elements on the restaurant plates.

THE MENU
AT THE BOSTONIAN 
OF THE LANGHAM HOTEL HONG KONG

This collection will then be transformed into palatable art by The Langham, Hong Kong's Executive Chef Pedro Samper, who willcreate a four-course dining tour of the elements.



WATER
A cold appetizer of Hokkaido scallop and sea urchin carpaccio
The principle ingredients are treasures of the sea 
accompanied by avocado, tomatoes, cucumbers 
and purple shiso. 

EARTH 
Iberico “Bellota” Ham and a poached organic egg 
served on planted migas crumb soil 
with rooted porcini mushrooms and black truffle 



FIRE 
Roasted lamb and Boston Maine lobster
with blood orange carrots, crispy beetroot 
and a brush of beetroot aioli



AIR
A sweet dessert of blueberry and lilac flowers 
with sprinkles of white chocolate 

The Elements of Art (2016) collection and menu will be showcased in The Bostonian restaurant from 23 March to 30 April 2016.

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Saturday, February 27, 2016

Checking into Japan's best ryokan and about hanging great art in hotel rooms. Or about the hotel with no names.



So here's a funny story for you, in Japan tonight, living a #Travelife.

We're staying at one of the top two ryokan in Japan, and this is also my favorite ryokan. It's often said that Tawaraya in Kyoto is historically the best ryokan in Kansai area and this ryokan where I am in tonight is the best ryokan in Kanto region. Unfortunately I can't divulge the name until we check out.

Anyway, today we dropped the car off at the ryokan driveway where the porter took it off our hands and like clockwork the ryokan equivalent of chambermaids came out to take our bags and lead us in.

Scroll down to read more...



DID WE CHECK-IN?

From the entrance, we literally did a leisurely stroll straight to our room at the very end of the property.

I don't usually handle either check-in or check-out arrangements at hotels, and I was so busy thinking about the artworks on display, so it never occurred to me to think about whether we'd actually checked in.

I just simply walked in.



But midway through a delicious dinner in our suite, many hours later, living a #Travelife, someone came into the room kneeling and said to Mr. Y: "Excuse me. But can you tell me your name?"

I'd been answering a Facebook message from a friend halfway around the world -- about the falling stock markets around the world, of all things -- when she'd said this. But when I heard this, I looked at Mr. Y in great surprise and said: "Didn't you check in?"

Mr. Y replied: "I can't remember."

Scroll down to read more about the hotel with no names...



NO NAMES. NO DETAILS.

And I couldn't remember either. But between both of us we eventually figured out that no one had asked our names or done any documentation since we set foot inside here.

I said: "I can't believe they let us in and fed us dinner without even getting our names. Are you sure we're even in the right room?"


MISSING SOME GREAT ARTWORKS

Even funnier was the fact that when we walked in, we'd asked about a missing artwork on one of the walls of this ryokan.

This artwork is by my favourite artist in Japan, a very well-known one. The owner of this ryokan is a great collector of his works and there's usually a statement piece of this contemporary artist in the entrance area.

When we'd asked about this missing piece, the attendant had said: "All the decor has been changed to welcome spring. But if you love the works of this artist, we can arrange something for you."

The best sashimi I've had in a long time.
Tonight at this ryokan, living a #Travelife...

REAL SERVICE AT A TOP RYOKAN.
EVEN WITHOUT KNOWING OUR NAMES.

And it's a mark of this truly great ryokan -- so understated and ever so tasteful, and so good at service -- that within fifteen minutes of our arrival and my one solitary question about this missing artwork, the very artwork hanging in our suite was very quietly changed to a beautiful work of this particular artist I like, from the personal collection of the owner.

Not a print or a lithograph, but an original piece.

REAL ART IN A HOTEL ROOM

It's hanging on the wall as I write this, and we reckon that this artwork is at least US$20,000 in value.

Now some art collectors may sniff at this value as modest as far as great artworks go, but this is the Japanese equivalent of a luxury hotel suite for the paying public, after all, and they'd just hung a US$20,000 artwork in this suite without even bothering to get our names.

In other words, just another interesting day in my never-ending, and never-endingly eventful #Travelife.  And this time, I should end this entry with the following hashtag: #lucky.

And if they still don't ask our names at check-out, or Mr. Y's credit card details for that matter, my next entry will end with this hashtag: #jackpot.


Spend Songkran in Thailand by booking a great hotel deal with Preferred Hotels & Resorts in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Ko Samui, and Phuket



Preferred Hotels & Resorts, the world's largest independent hotel brand, welcomes travelers to enjoy a splashing good time in Thailand during the annual Songkran celebrations this spring by presenting a variety of bed-and-breakfast offers from its member hotels that put guests at the center of the action.

Songkran, also known as the Thai New Year, is the largest water festival in the region – and one of the most spectacular.

Scroll down to read more...


THE TRADITIONS OF SONGKRAN

Taking place in 2016 from April 13 to 15, this annual affair originated from a traditional Thai custom where family members and the younger generation poured scented water into the hands of elders to pay their respects during the New Year.

For Songkran, scented water was also sprinkled on people to symbolize the washing away of bad luck and bringing in good fortune for the year ahead. Today, these showers of blessings have extended to the streets where visitors and locals alike are splashed with water as they take in the celebratory atmosphere.

HOTELS WITH SONGKRAN DEALS
IN BANGKOK AND CHIANG MAI

Hotels with Songkran deals within the Preferred Hotels & Resorts portfolio include:

BANGKOK 




THE SIAM in Bangkok, a beautiful art deco-inspired boutique luxury hotel, is located alongside the iconic Chao Praya River in the historic Dusit district, home to Bangkok's must-see cultural sights. Rates from US$412 per night.


THE LANDMARK BANGKOK is centrally located at the heart of the main business, shopping and entertainment districts of Bangkok along Sukhumvit Road. Rates from US$120 per night.

CHIANG MAI




DHARA DHEVI CHIANG MAI offers one of the best luxury accommodations in the city, presenting the ultimate experience of northern Thailand's tropical countryside, rich with culture and tradition. Rates from US$622 per night.

ANDARA RESORT & VILLAS in Phuket is a beautiful boutique hotel nestled amidst lush tropical surroundings overlooking the Andaman Sea on the pristine west coast of Phuket's Kamala Beach. Rates from US$833 per night.

Scroll down to read more about discounted hotel deals in Thailand...



KO SAMUI

THE TONGSAI BAY in Ko Samui is a serene eco-resort getaway for nature lovers and “green” movement advocates. Rates from US$275 per night.

THE iPREFER GUEST LOYALTY PROGRAM
OF PREFERRED HOTELS & RESORTS

Travelers can enjoy additional benefits by enrolling in the iPrefer guest loyalty program, which extends points redeemable for free nights and other expenditures, elite status, and special benefits such as complimentary Internet upon every eligible stay at more than 600 participating properties worldwide.

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Friday, February 26, 2016

About a tempura lunch in Shibuya, security guards in Tokyo and a very unusual global tracking device.





Today in Tokyo, living a #Travelife, a friend and I were having a catch-up lunch at our neighborhood tempura joint in Shibuya when her mobile phone rang.

"Sorry, I've got to take this," she said to me. "It's my husband."

Then into the phone, she said: "I'm with Christine and we're having lunch."

She quickly got off the phone and then said to me: "I have to answer it when he calls or he'll send the security guards to find me."

Scroll down to read more...


SECURITY GUARDS IN TOKYO

I looked at her, and said: "Security guards? But how would they know where to find you?" I also wanted to know why she would need guards in Tokyo, perhaps the safest city in the world. Even four-year-old kids walk home from school alone here.

And within this safe city, we live in the safest neighbourhood as it's also home to the current prime minister of Japan and two former prime ministers -- not to mention the governor of Tokyo, several foreign ambassadors, and even Japan's police chief. So there are uniformed police everywhere.

But I'm the type of person who tackles one thing at a time so I didn't ask my other questions.

She replied: "I have a tracker on, so he knows that I've been in the same place for the last hour or so in Shibuya."

In Shibuya today,
living a #Travelife...
AN INTERESTING NEIGHBOR

I've known this lovely lady a long time and so I also know she's not your typical neighbor.

Her father is worth many billions of dollars, and her husband is worth just slightly less than that, so there are more out of the ordinary security issues involved in her case.

However, we usually meet up in pretty normal neighbourly ways. We often all go out to dinner in a small restaurant in Shibuya that probably counts as the simplest restaurant meal I have on my trips to Tokyo.

TEMPURA ON 
A SPUR-OF-THE-MOMENT
WEEKEND TRIP TO TOKYO



But today it was just her and me for lunch at the neighbourhood tempura joint on this spur of the moment weekend trip to Tokyo, living a #Travelife.

Nevertheless, I couldn't figure out what the tracker was or what it was for, but I guessed it was some GPS tracking thing connected with a mobile phone. So I said: "I didn't know you had a tracker on your phone."

Uni tempura for lunch in Tokyo,
living a #Travelife...
A TRACKING DEVICE 
IN THE NECK

Then she dropped the bomb that literally made my jaw drop. She said: "Oh no. It's a little tracking device inserted at the back of my neck. My husband can find me anywhere in the world."

How's that for the start of a pretty interesting story? You might be thinking I've made this up as it does sound like something out of a James Bond movie. However this conversation really did happen today in Tokyo, living a never-ending, and never-endingly interesting #Travelife.

And I'm going to continue the rest of this story tomorrow... 

The best photo opportunities in Australia and New Zealand, care of Contiki Holidays. Including Whitsundays, Kangaroo Island, the 12 Apostles and the Great Ocean Road.



If you're a photography buff or enthusiast planning to visiting Australia and New Zealand, living a #Travelife, make sure to bring an external hard drive, memory card, iCloud account – anything you need to store a copious number of travel photos you’ll be taking.

Almost everything is indeed photo-worthy, but make sure you especially do not miss these amazing photo opportunities. Contiki Holidays shares some of the most photogenic places to visit in Australia and New Zealand.

Scroll down to read more...


THE BEST PHOTO OPPORTUNITIES
IN AUSTRALIA & NEW ZEALAND

FRASER ISLAND 

The world’s largest sand island will take your breath away…along with the space on your memory card.




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SYDNEY

The Opera House, Darling Harbour and the Sydney Bridge are the holy trifecta of Sydney travel photos.



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ULURU

All red everything.



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WHITSUNDAYS

Most of the beaches in Australia are simply gorgeous, but this is the Beyoncé of beaches.



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BYRON BAY BEACH & LIGHTHOUSE

Surfing in Australia has never looked so dreamy.



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KANGAROOS & KOALAS 
AT THE STEVE IRWIN ZOO

Obviously, photos of animals unique to Australia are necessary. (Selfies with them included, of course!)



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REMARKABLE ROCKS
ON KANGAROO ISLAND

The most amazing rock formations, and 
the posing opportunities here are simply endless.



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BONDI BEACH

This is where you pretend to be a surfer amidst the rolling waves for that Instagram picture—or watch the professionals show you how it’s done.


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GREAT OCEAN ROAD
AND THE 12 APOSTLES

Queue the countless number of likes for these picture-perfect photos.


Thursday, February 25, 2016

Flying to Tokyo on Japan Airlines. And about planning trips to Abu Dhabi, London and Switzerland.

A Hugh Grant movie and some champagne
to start off a mini weekend break in Japan,
living a never-ending #Travelife...

This afternoon I was speeding down EDSA again from Makati on the way to NAIA 1, living a #Travelife.

I was on the 240 PM Japan Airlines flight to Tokyo's Narita Airport, and it was 1:25 PM. Fortunately I made it, arriving at the JAL counter at NAIA 1 at 145 pm, probably the last passenger to check in, as usual. And certainly the last passenger to board as I was on my computer at the lounge until the very last minute. 

It's not that I like tempting fate, though. But when you spend as much time on airplanes and in airports as I do, you'll want to spend as little time in them as possible, living a #Travelife.

Scroll down to read more about the Japan Airlines flight to Tokyo...



BAKING BREAD,
PACKING SUITCASES 
AND PLANNING TRIPS 



And, as usual, I was doing a million things all at the same time, including semi-packing for trips to Abu Dhabi and London in two separate suitcases, baking bread for breakfast, finalizing details for our #Travelife to Hokkaido and to Iceland, and semi-planning for summer holidays in Switzerland and France.

Plus following up RSVPs for a dinner party for some friends I'd traveled with to Sri Lanka or planned trips to Sri Lanka for.



A GOOD MEMORY

Then when I finally got to the airport, I was in such a rush that I practically slammed my passport on the business class counter of JAL, relieved that I had actually made my flight.

I always cut things close but I've never ever missed a flight yet -- would you believe?



FLYING WITH JAPAN AIRLINES

I know almost everyone at JAL because I've been taking JAL for years at least once a month, if not twice a month. However, today the lady at that JAL business class counter was relatively new.

She took one look at me and said: "Didn't you just fly with us recently? I remember you."

I replied: "Yes. Two weeks ago. And I'm flying with you again in a few weeks."

IN HOKKAIDO
FOR THE SAPPORO SNOW FESTIVAL



Two weeks ago I'd flown to Hokkaido for the opening of the Sapporo Snow Festival, and I'd had the most incredible fun doing everything from skiing to driving a snowmobile, when we weren't checking out the festival.

And now here I am, just landed in Tokyo on Japan Airlines, for a mini weekend break at one of Japan's best hot springs inns, considered the top in the Kanto region. Read more about this soon. It's my favourite place...

CHERRY BLOSSOMS IN JAPAN


Then I'm back in Japan and on Japan Airlines in a few weeks' time for the cherry blossoms. Although somewhere between then and now, I've got trips to Abu Dhabi and London slotted in somehow, as always living a never-ending, and never-endingly eventful #Travelife.