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SANTIAGO DE CUBA, THE FIRST CAPITAL OF CUBA, IS WHERE SALSA WAS BORN. WITH DEEP AFRICAN ROOTS, HERE THEY CELEBRATE THE MOST RICHLY MUSICAL CARNIVAL OF THE AMERICAS. Outside the bus station, a vast revolutionary plaza stretched out. Lurking to one side was a boxy trishaw with a high passenger seat. The young black driver hissed, “Meet me over there on the corner!” I lugged my bags across the broad avenue and climbed aboard. Instead of gliding down the boulevard into Santiago, we turned up a side street and trundled through poor barrios where shirtless black people idled on the porches of crumbling villas. “I have to watch out for the police,” explained the sweating pedicabbie. “I’m not supposed to carry foreigners.” Many zig-zags later we hit the city centre, where narrow colonial streets rode upon steep hills. Seeking lodgings, up hill and down dale, my diligent tricyclist knocked on door after peeling-paint door until finally one old lady said “Sí”. I had struck lucky: dear old Tatica became my Cuban auntie. Now what should I pay this guy? He had worked long and hard in the searing July heat, doing his best to help me, and breaking the law, in order to get the magic door-opener of US dollars. So, knowing it was almost half the typical Cuban monthly salary, I gave him five bucks. “Gracias,” he grinned, happy to add it to his dollar fund, which would gain him entry to a dollar store, full of imported and otherwise unobtainable goods. When you know what burdens the locals labour under, when you experience the Caribbean island’s glorious pluses, Cuba’s difficulties for the independent traveller – transport, accommodation and food are all challenges, the dual currency money system is mind-boggling – melt away like the ice in your rum fizz. Cubans are friendly and gracious, the cities are airy, peaceful and straight out of the 50s – 1950s, 1850s, 1750s, whatever. And the music, ah, the music is heavenly. Especially in Santiago. The old seaport of Santiago de Cuba lies in the far east of the 1250km-long island, and is Cuba’s second city. Founded by the Spanish conquistadors in 1514, from 1515 to 1607 Santiago was the capital of the colony of Cuba, and ever since has been the main city of Oriente, the eastern province. Pirate attacks prompted the construction of the mighty El Morro Castle at the mouth of Santiago Bay. Copper from nearby mines was Santiago’s main export, African slaves for working the sugar plantations were its chief import, to its shame, but eventually to the world’s immense cultural benefit. With its large natural harbour, an inlet in the mountainous coast, Santiago developed as the port and commercial centre for the sugar and rum industry, with a large black population. A culture of mixed Spanish, French and African origins brewed throughout the 19th century and blossomed in the 20th. Musical styles blended from African percussion and European melodic instruments – “the love affair of the African drum and the Spanish guitar” as the Cuban musicologist

Research reveals that nearly six in 10 global travelers pick their vacation destination because of the great food and drink on offer. So for the cheese-lovers amongst us, why not journey further than the fridge or local cheese shop to uncover the origins of some of the world’s favorite cheeses? In celebration of the most cheesiest month, we have identified some of the cheesiest stays for cheese lovers around the world to indulge in while exploring the destination that created some of their favourites. Gouda, Netherlands For cheese fans, this Dutch city is all Gouda, with its namesake cheese accounting for a massive 60% of Dutch cheese production**. Produced in the surrounding region, travelers to Gouda can purchase wheels of the local delicacy at the city’s Thursday morning market that takes place from April through to August. Having first started in 1395, this bustling market has kept its traditional charm, with farmers and traders ‘clapping hands’ to confirm a sale in front of the historic city hall buildings. Travelers should also visit “de Goudse Waag”, which means the Gouda scale, built in 1669 and originally used for weighing - you guessed it - cheese. Now it’s home to the tourist information office as well as the Cheese and Crafts Museum, which offers cheese tasting, tours and craft demonstrations. Where to stay: The Tannery Lane holiday home is the perfect home from home for cheese loving travelers, just a short stroll from the location of the Thursday morning market. This guesthouse, which is found on the city center’s smallest street, was originally built in 1879. From the outside it boasts a traditional charm, while inside the property houses all the modern conveniences needed for a comfortable stay in Gouda. Cheddar, UK Cheddar cheese is now the UK’s most popular cheese choice, accounting for 51% of the annual cheese market locally***, but has humble beginnings in the village of Cheddar in Somerset. Local legend says that Cheddar cheese was discovered by accident when a milkmaid accidentally let a pail of milk stored in the cool caves go bad, turning it into hard cheese. Adventurous visitors to the village of Cheddar can explore these chilly caves at Cheddar Gorge, the largest gorge in the UK. After exploring and working up an appetite, cheese-lovers can stop by the Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company, where visitors can see the cheese being made from start to finish at the working dairy and visitor center. Where to stay: Just a short walk from the Cheddar Gorge caves, The Bath Arms Hotel offers adult-only accommodation that is as charming as the picturesque village itself. With an onsite restaurant and bar, visitors will find all the amenities they need for a comfortable stay. The restaurant serves a daily menu with traditional pub favorites and during the warmer months guests can even dine in the outdoor beer garden. Monterey, California, USA Named after both its place of origin and the entrepreneur who began selling it commercially, Monterey Jack cheese has become a staple of many Americans’ fridge or cheese board. This white, semi-hard cheese made

St. Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and it’s high time to decide what you’re going to treat your dear one to. The present you’ll give them should reveal your deepest feelings and remind of your care. If you’re looking for the most romantic gift ideas for Valentine’s Day, you have certainly come the right way! In this video we’ve collected 9 items that will put a smile on your loved one’s face or even bring sweet tears to their eyes. Look through the list to pick something special for your better half. Don't forget to scroll down the page and join our contest for your chance to win a box set of AloEx Hair Regrowth Shampoo and Serum!   Issey Miyake ' f ' Exclusive Edition First released in June 2018, the “f” Series was created in collaboration between ISSEY MIYAKE Watch Project and Ichiro Iwasaki which features two symmetrical sets of numbers for AM and PM represent the two different faces of our day, telling the story of the 24 hours in a day.                 MCM LUNAR NEW YEAR CAPSULE COLLECTION Inspired by the Chinese logic puzzle popularized throughout the world in the early 1800s, MCM makes tribute to Tangram and the Bauhaus, blending MCM’s classic motifs with geometric designs featuring colorful architectural shapes, playful patterns and layered color blocks.             Shiseido Ultimune Duo Set The ultimate serum for enhancing skin's inherent multti defensive power against signs of aging, environmental factors and daily stress.                   Sweet Furla Bag Spread a little love for Valentine's Day with the heart print embossed leather bag from FURLA. This specially curated assortment of collectible handbags in shades of black, white and red is guaranteed to impress that special someone.             PIAGET's Valentine Collection Inspired by the iconic ring, Piaget offers a playful and trendy bracelet in rose gold with two turning bands paved with a pure line of diamonds.Playing with this precious bangle becomes a daily ritual for the self-assured women who possess their lives.               Coach CitySole An innovative new footwear collection that merges the house's fashion authority with leading technology to increase comfort and flexibility and minimize impact and weight.           Cartier Platinum Tonneau Cartier Tonneau Cartier Platinum Tonneau Cartier Tonneau shaped wristwatches can be dated back as early as 1906. These early examples have become the inspiration behind current models based on the iconic case design- such as the Cartier Privé Tonneau. For more information, please visit https://www.lotusartsdevivre.com               Emporio Armani Sunglasses These Emporio Armani frames have core elements that are revisited in a modern take on a fresh style, with innovative and trendy colourful designs. Perfect to suit all looks.           Win A Box Set of AloEx Hair Regrowth AloEx Hair Regrowth Shampoo and Serum are products specially developed for those who suffer from hair loss, thinning hair, and unhealthy scalp. Both products are extracted from various kinds of Thai herbs e.g. kaffir lime, butterfly pea, aloe vera, henna, garden quinine, moringa, fame flower, soap nut, bamboo leaves, and gotu kola, and have been certified by scientists and hair and scalp specialists. For more information, please visit https://www.aloexhair.com This AloEx Box Set will make the perfect

Alas, there can only be one lucky winner and congratulations to Khun Mameaw Meawmeaw. You have won a 2-night stay at Centara Sandy Beach Danang, Vietnam. Please send us a message on or before 15 February 2020 to claim your prize. Thank you everyone for participating in our lucky draw. Keep an eye on lifestyle+travel page. Never know, it might be your name up in lights (more or less!) next time! The competition ended on the 10th February 2020 and the lucky winner has been selected and annouced on 11th February 2020. Thank you for your interest.  

Amsterdam is a lively city with a central downtown district that does not find time to rest. Here, remnants of the city’s maritime past are interwoven with elements of contemporary life that include bars, shops, cafés and vices with a broad spectrum of appeal. The liberal Dutch society tolerates cannabis usage and prostitution, much to the delight of those from neighbouring countries who travel here to celebrate buck’s parties or inquisitive tourists hailing from countries that are more conservative. While the legality of cannabis is hazy, this raunchy side of Amsterdam appeals to some while most are simply inquisitive and curious onlookers. When most travellers think of Holland and its largest city Amsterdam (The Hague is the capital), images of windmills, wooden shoes called clogs, wheels of Gouda cheese and fields of multicoloured tulips spring to mind. However, the reality is that the closest encounter most visitors will have with these Dutch icons is the endless rows of souvenirs displayed in tourist precincts like Bloemenmarkt, a floating flower market. However, visitors will definitely encounter bikes, dykes and lights while exploring the sights of this lively, multicultural and cosmopolitan city of just 800,000 residents. CENTRAL AMSTERDAM Holland has always intrigued me and even more so, when I realised that a quarter of the country is below sea level with its gateway Schiphol Airport situated on a former lake, several metres below sea level. As my KLM plane approached Schiphol, I checked beneath the seat for the lifejacket, just in case. Of course, planes do not land on water thanks to Holland’s ingenious network of ancient dykes and polders that keep the seawater at bay. I checked a map of Amsterdam to appreciate that the city and surrounding areas are indeed a network of canals, lakes, rivers and dykes holding back the waters of the North Sea. Amsterdam’s famous dykes are not so obvious but without retaining walls and floodgates to keep out the seawater, there would not be much to see of Amsterdam as basically it, and much of Holland, has been reclaimed from the sea. This reclamation has been ongoing for centuries and explains why the Dutch are such great hydrological engineers. I also discovered that one of the functions of windmills in days gone by was to pump water from the land out to sea to keep the seawater in check. Canals are one of the main attractions and a canal cruise is the best way to admire just how important these were for Amsterdam’s original settlers. While the River IJ divides Amsterdam, most visitors do not appreciate it as the main tourist attractions are in central Amsterdam just to the south of the river. From an elevated vantage point at the rear of the main railway station, I appreciated that the River IJ waterfront divides central Amsterdam and Amsterdam Noord. Both parts of the city are visible from the Centraal Station located in a lively port precinct where large ocean-going cruise ships moor at the nearby docks. Visitors emerge from the city side of Centraal Station on

Commanding a prime position on the magnificent shores of Krabi’s Klong Muang Beach, Dusit Thani Krabi Beach Resort offers 240 spacious and comfortable guest rooms and suites spread out in 8 units of low-rise buildings that intertwine beautifully with lush tropical gardens and ponds. Superb facilities include a plethora of dining options featuring cuisines from across the globe, two outstanding swimming pools, fitness center, spa and a host of fun water sport activities including sailing, snorkeling, kayaking and speedboat excursions to unspoiled tropical islands in the Andaman Sea. The resort has recently introduced a holistic “BeWell” program that is designed to improve lives through fitness and wellness and to provide experiences that have long-lasting, positive and health-enhancing benefits. Innovative and flexible, “BeWell” consists of 6 individual premium retreats - Muay Thai; Fitness; Spa & Wellness; Weight Loss; Yoga; Active Wellbeing. The retreats makes full use of Dusit Thani’s wonderful fitness and spa facilities. DFiT, Krabi’s biggest and best equipped fitness center, provides a comprehensive selection of free weights, state-of-the-art cardiovascular equipment, tennis and badminton courts and a professional-standard Muay Thai ring; The aptly named Linger Longer Spa, set in tranquil, calming surrounds, offers a carefully chosen menu of health, beauty and massage treatments that combine a global fusion of influences from Bali, Thailand, Hawaii, Japan and China. Each “BeWell” retreat runs for 3 - 14 days (up to 21 days for the Weight Loss retreat) and can be structured to meet the needs of every individual, to ensure the perfect balance between “BeWell” and holiday leisure time. Each includes a health and wellness consultation, personal training in the chosen activity, a selection of massages at Linger Longer Spa, access to over 30 weekly group classes and free use of all facilities at DFiT. Resort General Manager, Urs Lienhard explained the reasoning behind the introduction of “BeWell”…”We want to provide something for everyone who visits us here at this beautiful spot on the Andaman Sea. Our aim with the “BeWell” program is to help create the perfect holistic time away from home by bringing balance to a vacation so that when people move on they feel healthier, energized and revitalized.”

Once a highly prosperous capital city of the country, today Sukhothai welcomes visitors to get up close to the glory of the bygone era – packed with traces of ancient history, as well as verdant scenery. In one fell swoop, Sukhothai features plentiful charming spots to experience and unwind. And here is the recommended checklist that is tested and tried. ● SUKHOTHAI HISTORICAL PARK The remaining structure depicts the glory of the Sukhothai era and how Buddhism flourished during the period. Inside the majestic 70 sq km area of Sukhothai Historical Park sit the significant vestiges, which are recognised as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Noen Prasat is the remains of the former royal palace, and small-sized Wat Sa Si appeals to visitors with its graceful and unique beauty. The washed-out remains of Wat Mahatat still look grandiose and serene. ● KING RAMKHAMHAENG MONUMENT At the heart of the Sukhothai Historical Park is the bronze statue of King Ramkhamhaeng the Great, who is regarded as a benevolent ruler in Sukhothai era and as the “Father of the Thai Language”, as his major achievement was the compilation of a system of writing and a new set of Thai alphabet which he adapted from the various forms of Khmer script that were previously used. His invention is still being used in the present. The Monument is grandly done and you are welcome to pay homage to the late king and to ring the solid bell as a gesture of respect. ● WAT SI CHUM Actually part of the Sukhothai Historical Park but situated about two kilometres away from the central compound, and requiring a new entrance ticket (THB 20 for Thais), Wat Si Chum is the notable ancient temple with gigantic sacred Buddha Statue which is housed in the fitted chapel. Local Thais and tourists alike come here to worship with flowers, incense and candles. This is one of the most photogenic temples in Sukhothai, thus don’t forget to get a snap with respect to the place. ● RAMKHAMHAENG NATIONAL MUSEUM Situated right opposite the ticket office to the historical park, the Ramkhamhaeng National Museum is unfortunately often neglected, which is a real pity as it houses numerous valuable ancient objects that were found within the compound and from nearby archaeological sites. In addition, to present a linear development of cultures in Thai territory and the link between the regions in the past featuring objects from archaeological sites of other regions are also displayed. The exhibition is divided into five zones; the Graphic Exhibition in Lai Sue Thai Memorial Building, The Ramkhamhaeng National Museum Building where antiquity gallery took place, Stucco Sculpture Gallery, Wooden Pavilion and the Museum’s Yard with replica of Sangkhalok kiln, elephant at the base of chedis. The entrance fee is THB 30 for Thais and THB 150 for foreigners. The Museum opens daily from 9am-4pm. ● MAI KLANG KRUNG RESTAURANT A very local eatery where you can savour the true taste of Sukhothai, while imbuing the artifacts decorated within the restaurant compound which make perfect Instagrammable shots. A choice of food

With Valentine’s Day falling on a Friday this year, replace the standard chocolates or long-stem roses with a short fairy-tale getaway at one of these luxury and upper upscale hotels and resorts. From romantic city escapades to dreamy beach retreats, We invite weary couples to hit pause, take a breather from the daily grind and embark on an amorous yet rejuvenating trip with their Valentine. Indulge in a mindful escape in urban Singapore Surrounded by lush green foliage and exuding timeless colonial charm, Hotel Fort Canning is the perfect base for spending some quality time together in Singapore. Lovebirds can experience the “Crazy Rich Asian” lifestyle this Valentine’s - indulging in retail therapy at the popular Orchard Road shopping belt, savouring the very best of culinary delicacies from fancy restaurants to authentic street eats, and feeding the mind with knowledge at the city’s various racial, religious and cultural enclaves. Take it up a notch with the hotel’s Love Blossoms special, where couples are treated to a complimentary bottle of Prosecco, a box of chocolate pralines, premium bubble bath with floral petals, and a pair of Hotel Fort Canning Love Squirrels. Enjoy a romantic tropical beach retreat on the coast of Da Nang, Vietnam For corporate warriors who need some Vitamin Sea, the sunny coast of Da Nang, Vietnam is perfect for a weekend rendezvous. Renowned as a beach lover’s paradise, the city is home to countless beaches with crystal-clear waters and soft powdery sand. Furama Resort Danang offers the ultimate Valentine’s Day retreat with their Honeymoon package. The two-night experience includes a private candlelit dinner with a bottle of house wine on the pristine Bac My An Beach, 60-min spa treatment and two glasses of “Honeymoon Cocktail”. Guests are also entitled to complimentary round-trip airport transfers allowing for a sweet celebration in style. Other than a revitalizing time at the resort, we recommend experiencing the magical underwater world at the Cham Islands, a beautiful spot off the Vietnamese coast teeming with marine life as well as diving and snorkeling activities as a couple. Embark on an extraordinary wellness journey in Seoul, South Korea Discover a different side of Seoul with a wellness itinerary that puts the spotlight on creating private and intimate moments for couples. Begin with a hike through Cheonggyesan Mountain on the scenic Wonteogol Trail, followed by a visit to Gangnam for Korean medicinal balance spa treatments at the flagship store of a well-known Korean beauty brand. For a memorable romantic experience, couples can immerse in beautiful sunset views while strolling along the Hangang River in the evening. Take the romantic wellness getaway a step further with the Promesse d'amour package at Lotte Hotel Seoul. Staying in the Executive Tower, guests will be greeted with a complimentary bottle of red wine, mini cookies and flowers when they step into the Junior Suite. The package also includes free access to the Le Salon executive lounge, as well as a private meal at Pierre Gagnaire à Seoul where the exquisite “Esprit” menu awaits guests. Experience the ultimate pampering in Lugano,

In a world first, Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort is giving guests a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spend the night with Thailand’s majestic elephants in their natural habitat while staying in unique transparent Jungle Bubbles.   Unfolding across 650,000 square metres of Northern Thailand’s ancient jungle, Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort is perched on a hill overlooking the Mekong and Ruak rivers.  The secluded location is uniquely positioned to take in majestic three country views over the confluence of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar, and grazing elephants in the most stunning of natural settings below.   Located in the jungle, the two Jungle Bubbles are perched on raised wooden decks offering uninterrupted views of the elephants, as well as stargazing at night.   The Jungle Bubbles were custom designed by Eye In The Sky and are constructed with high tech polyester fabric using exclusive Precontraint Serge Ferrari technology to create an milieu in which guests can enjoy an immersive, close-to-nature experience. The well-appointed bubble accommodation is fully air-conditioned, offering 22 square metres of indoor floor space; a 4.5-diameter bedroom and living space with a king bed and seating area under a transparent roof; and an enclosed, nontransparent en-suite shower and vanity. Intimate touches of bathrobes and slippers; crisp white bed linen; regular and feather pillows; and exquisite bathroom amenities provide convenient functions with the comfort of home.  A hair dryer, vanity and make up mirror are also provided. Guests at Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort can purchase the Jungle Bubble experience as an optional activity and spend the night from dusk till dawn, returning to the hotel in the morning.  Rates start from 17,700 Thai Baht per night for two people and include a delectable dinner basket; a fully stocked mini bar; 24-hour in-room dining service; and tea and coffee making facilities. Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort is world famous for its elephant camp that, along with the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (GTAEF), were set up primarily to help elephants that cannot help themselves: for those that find themselves, through abuse or through circumstance, unable to provide and maintain an income for themselves, for their mahouts and their families.   Here appropriate activities are designed that allow the elephant caretakers to raise the funds they need to look after the elephants without forcing them into activities they might not enjoy.   The introduction of the Jungle Bubbles at Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort is another world first that can be scaled and shared with other elephant camps to allow them to give a subset of elephants – those that prefer to only meet their mahouts and are bonded into friendship groups – a natural life in a manner that the elephants enjoy without becoming a financial strain on the operation.