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
For those Thais looking for the ultimate romantic getaway this Valentine’s Day, Airbnb announces that one lovestruck couple will be the first to spend the night in the historic home of Shakespeare’s Juliet in Verona, Italy. Casa di Giulietta has inspired generations with its iconic balcony that reflects Shakespeare’s description in Romeo & Juliet. And now one winner and their partner will be given unprecedented access to the 13th century building, to step back in time and relive the powerful words of Shakespeare. To enter and have the chance to win this unique Only On Airbnb stay, Thais must pen a letter to Juliet, sharing their own poignant love story and explaining why they and their partner would be perfect guests. Entries can be submitted at airbnb.com/juliet until 11:59pm EST on 2nd February 2020 (11:59am on 3rd February 2020 Thailand time). Working with an Italian architect, Airbnb has transformed the centuries-old building into a sumptuous stay fit for a modern day Romeo and Juliet: one couple will be waited on by a personal butler and treated to a romantic candlelit dinner prepared by two Michelin star chef Giancarlo Perbellini in a glittering dining room filled with crystals, candles and flowers. And after a busy day of feasting, exploring and reading Juliet’s love letters, they will retire for the night to Juliet’s medieval-themed bedroom which features “Letto di Giulietta”, the original bed used in Zeffirelli’s classic 1960s movie ‘Romeo and Juliet’. The 13th century townhouse is a celebrated landmark and museum in the center of Verona and thanks to Airbnb and Verona’s Municipality, the building will be turned into a home for the first time since the 1930s. “Juliet’s House is the most important museum in the City of Verona, attracting millions of visitors every year. Partnering with Airbnb brings the widely known Shakespearian myth of Romeo and Juliet to life in a way never before offered. We are excited to promote our cultural heritage, share traditions that were previously safeguarded, and bring international visibility to the City of Verona,” said Federico Sboarina, Mayor of Verona Municipality. Highlights from the Stay include: A Romeo and Juliet inspired exploration of Verona, the city of love. Private tour of the most romantic home in the history of literature. Reading and replying to some of Juliet’s most recent love letters. Exclusive access to Michelin star chef Giancarlo Perbellini while he prepares the romantic feast. Candlelit dinner for two prepared by Giancarlo in Juliet’s sumptuous dining room. A night in Juliet’s traditional bedroom transformed for the evening into a romantic boudoir. “Every day countless new connections are made across the world by people travelling on Airbnb - creating new friendships and sometimes new love. Since 2008, an estimated one million guests have hosted their weddings on Airbnb. This Stay will give one couple the unique chance to celebrate their love in what is possibly the most romantic home in the history of literature,” said Giacomo Trovato, General Manager for Italy at Airbnb.
FOR SOME PEOPLE, MYANMAR IS A SECRET COUNTRY THAT CUTS THEM OFF FROM THE REST OF THE WORLD. IN FACT, THERE ARE LOTS OF BEAUTIFUL TREASURES FOR ALL TRAVELLERS TO EXPLORE. AFTER YOUR FIRST TIME TRAVELLING IN THIS GOLDEN LAND, YOU WOULD PLAN FOR MORE, ESPECIALLY WHEN IT IS NOW EASIER TO ACCESS AND MORE CONVENIENT FOR ANY STYLES OF JOURNEY. I took the morning boutique flight of Bangkok Airways from Bangkok to Yangon. After one hour and 20 minutes, I landed at Yangon International Airport where I could see the construction of the new terminal to welcome more visitors in the future. Later on, I was greeted by the limo chauffeur who passed me the Wi-Fi password on board and showed me around with his fluent English. From the airport to downtown, I think Yangon has changed a lot in terms of development, such as public bus service instead of the local mini-trucks, the young generations wearing more pants not just Sarong and Longyi. By the way, the buildings from the British colonial period and the faces of people are still beautiful to me as always. Only 45 minutes from the airport, I saw Sule Pagoda majestically standing in a distance. It meant that we were now arriving at the heart of Yangon. A few minutes later, our limo arrived at Pullman Yangon Centrepoint, the brand new hotel located nearby Sule Pagoda and more attractions in Yangon. In my opinion, this hotel is situated in a perfect location for all travellers who love to walk around the neighbourhood area like me. I could see the Maha Bandula Public Park and the City Hall on the opposite site, surrounded by the wonderful colonial style buildings, while my heart was beating faster when I entered my room and saw the perfect scenery of Yangon river through the window. But it is not enough, the hotel staff told me that the Bogyoke Market and the railway station is located a few blocks from here. That would be my itinerary for tomorrow because this afternoon we had to start our journey off with a visit to the Shwedagon Pagoda, the most sacred Buddhist pagoda in Myanmar. This Buddhist sanctuary is where the local people and overseas visitors come here to pray and make an offering. From Pullman Yangon Centrepoint, we can see apparently it was built with tons of gold and it is true! Religion is important to the people in Myanmar. Although, the technology tries to conquer the world but people still come here to pay homage to the Buddha, mediate and donate; that’s why Shwedagon Pagoda is the tallest pagoda in this country. After spending a couple hours for worship, we returned to the hotel for dinner at E’cucina Italian Restaurant. It is highly recommended for anyone who wants to enjoy the original Italian taste in Yangon. As I mentioned before, I wanted to visit the neighbourhood area so I went to bed early and fall asleep so quickly in the softened bed of Pullman standard. The next day, I woke
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,
The spirit of old Hanoi will sweep through the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi this month, as the hotel celebrates Tet with a traditional Old Quarter-style market from Jan. 17-19. The festivities continue with special culinary offerings beginning Jan. 24. At the Tet market, food vendors on the hotel’s patio will sell authentic Vietnamese favourites, while children will be given traditional toys known as to he, edible figurines made from glutinous rice powder shaped to look like flowers and animals. Market-goers can also learn the art of classic Vietnamese calligraphy. Wine, craft beer and other refreshments will also be on offer, as will souvenirs that visitors can take home as memories of the Vietnamese lunar new year. Traditional-style Vietnamese houses will also be erected in the hotel’s walkway outside La Boutique du Metropole, adding to the “Old Quarter” ambiance. The Tet market at Metropole Hanoi is open to the public daily, and kicks off Friday, Jan. 17 at 4pm with an opening ceremony featuring a traditional dragon dance. The market continues on Jan. 18 and 19 from 11am to 8pm. More than 15 vendors will take part in this year’s bazaar. Special Metropole Tet hampers with luxury and gourmet items will be available for sale at the market and at L’Epicerie du Metropole from Jan. 6 onwards. The hotel will host a cooking competition at the market at 5pm each day. On Jan. 17, contestants will vie to see who can create the most delicious “Chung cake” (a traditional Vietnamese rice cake) while Jan. 18 will witness a battle of banh cuon, and Jan. 19 will determine who is able to produce the tastiest spring rolls. Winners will receive a voucher for a complimentary homemade cake from L’Epicerie du Metropole. A Vietnamese floral specialist from local boutique Liti Florist will host a flower workshop from 2pm to 4pm on Jan. 18. An exclusive six-course Tet 2020 Gala Dinner at Spices Garden will be served on Jan. 24 featuring grilled oysters with shallots and roasted peanuts; blue prawn in a mild coconut soup; fresh yellow bamboo and beef salad; braised chinh fish with green banana; grilled pigeon and foie gras; and banana fritter, traditional Tet candied fruits and vanilla ice cream. The gala dinner is priced at 2.5 million VND.
Lausanne, also known as the “Olympic Capital”, has been the home of the modern Olympic Movement for more than a hundred years. Today, more than 50 international sporting organizations call this region their home. Because of that, sport and the positive values that it carries has become a part of Switzerland’s DNA. Therefore, delivering the Youth Olympic Games' vision to inspire the youth of the world to adopt and live according to the Olympic values of Respect, Friendship and Excellence right from the heart of the Olympic Capital was an idea that made a lot of sense for the people of the city, the region and of Switzerland as a whole. From January 9 to 22 2020, Lausanne will be welcoming the third edition of the Winter Youth Olympic Games. 26 years after obtaining the title of Olympic Capital, Lausanne will become an Olympic city by hosting the second largest multisport winter event after the Olympic Winter Games. This event will offer a unique and unforgettable Olympic experience to young athletes. The combination of culture, performance and education will give rise to a genuine celebration of sports. The Youth Olympic Games (YOG) is an international Olympic sporting event of the highest level for athletes aged 15 to 18. They combine sports performance, culture and education in an authentic celebration of sport with a festive atmosphere. The aim is to encourage young people to adopt and represent the positive values of sport – respect for others, for themselves and for our environment; friendship between people and cultures; and, excellence in self-giving – and to become sports ambassadors throughout the world. The Lausanne 2020 Torch Tour starts 21 September to 9 January! As is tradition, the Lausanne 2020 Olympic torch will be lit in Athens, Greece, on September 17. The next day, it will make its way back to Switzerland, where it will make an appearance at a Swiss Games for the first time since the Winter Olympic Games in St. Moritz in 1948. From 21 September, the torch will travel through the 26 Swiss cantons for a four-month trip that will end on the evening of the opening ceremony of Lausanne 2020, on 9 January. For more information on The Youth Olympic Games Lausanne 2020 please click here Beau Rivage Palace is looking forward to welcome guests for the YOG Lausanne 2020. In conjunction with YOG Lausanne 2020, the entrance to the nearby The Olympic Museum will be free of charge from Monday 6 to Sunday 26 January 2020. Since 1861, Beau-Rivage Palace has been proving that tradition and innovation – just like cultural heritage and modernity – complement each other very well. Ideally situated on the banks of Lake Geneva, Beau-Rivage Palace is nestled in a natural beauty spot just a stone’s throw away from the centre of Lausanne. Like the neighbouring International Olympic Committee, the palace is an institution in the Ouchy district. Merely 10-minutes away from the vibrant city centre, the hotel benefits from the Mediterranean atmosphere of the nearby harbour. The hotel’s four hectare large garden and splendid terrace form an oasis of
If you haven’t booked your end-of-year getaway yet, there’s still time. With the holiday season just around the corner, it’s time to recharge and explore new cities and neighbourhoods. From a sala-style home in Chiang Mai’s old quarter to a luxury barn house in Khao Yai; from an island villa in southern Thailand to a designer’s house in Bangkok’s Chinatown, these seasonal stays are sure to put the ho ho ho in your holidays. Thai Sala House In The Old Town (Chiang Mai) Immerse yourself in history this holiday season with a stay at this one bedroom (2 guests) traditional sala Thai house located right in the heart of Chiang Mai’s old town. Within walking distance of temples, Sunday Walking Street, museums and more, the central location makes it an ideal home base for discovering everything Chiang Mai has to offer. If you're looking to immerse yourself in the local scene and explore what Chiang Mai and surrounds has to offer, check out these Airbnb Experiences: Organic Farm Thai Cooking Experience, Secrets of Sak Yant, Cafe Hopping With A Coffee Connoisseur. Designer’s House in Chinatown (Bangkok) Interested in a city break this holiday season? Make this renovated Airbnb Plus four-bedroom (9 guests) house your home for the holiday. Located in Chinatown, it’s the perfect base from which to explore the history and culture of this old quarter, its local neighbourhoods, alleyways while trying out the delicious bites from the street vendors. The best way to see the real Bangkok is through the eyes of a local – check out these Airbnb Experiences for an alternative view of Bangkok: Living Along The Kong, The Secret Of China Town And Local Life, Tuk Tuk Adventure And Thai Street Food. Khao Yai Barnhouse (Nakhon Ratchasima) Just two-hours by car for Bangkok, Nakhon Ratchasima is a popular weekend getaway for city-dwellers and is famed for its cooler, refreshing weather, especially during the December/ January holiday season. Home of Thailand's first national park, Khao Yai, this luxury five-bedroom (11 guests) property inspired by the English countryside is surrounded by a golf course and has sweeping views of the nearby mountains. The vast outdoor spaces and large kitchen makes this barnhouse ideal for family and group holidays. Villa Aria on Koh Yao Noi (Phang Nga) Head south to the island of Koh Yao Noi in Phang Nga province for a tranquil break. The island is home to an active local fishing community and incredible landscapes and flora, as well as some beautiful, and deserted, beaches. This custom wooden two-bedroom (4 guests) house was built by local artisans. Situated on the east side of the island, it offers a quiet retreat with spectacular views across Phang Nga Bay and the beach is just 300 metres away. For those travelling in a larger group, there are two neighbouring apartments that can also be booked making this an ideal island hangout for the holiday season. For those looking to travel overseas this holiday season, below are some stunning stays in Asia-Pacific that will make for a delightful holiday-break. Alternatively,
The Maldives’ much-loved eco-resort will once again open its doors on 1 December 2019 following an inspired renovation of the resort. Honouring its laidback philosophy and rustic chic aesthetic, the island will remain an intimate and sustainable paradise for the barefoot luxury traveller, with a new design concept and wellness programmes to further enrich the guest experience. Originally opened in 2012, Gili Lankanfushi was previously voted ‘Best Hotel in the World’ by TripAdvisor for its relaxed air and impeccable service. Located in the languid waters of the North Malé Atoll, just a 20-minute speedboat ride from Malé, it is the ultimate place to get away from the world. The 45 refurbished villas will offer open-air living spaces, roof terraces and private decks with direct access to the lagoon below, and the revamped Residence and Villa suites will feature private pools, providing greater convenience for guests. The Family Villas with Pools are a new addition to the resort featuring two en suite bedrooms, a private swimming pool for children to splash in the sunshine, a rooftop terrace for additional space to dine and play, as well as a living room situated over the lagoon and accessible from a safe walkway. The vast 1,700m2 Private Reserve - the largest overwater villa in the world - is located 500m from the main island and offers four spacious bedrooms, a private open-air cinema, spoiling spa, air-conditioned gymnasium, infinity pool and a two-storey waterslide leading directly into the crystal clear lagoon. Interior Design The island’s natural surroundings, culture, and sustainability are very much at the heart of the property’s design to create synergy and cohesiveness between the external and internal environments. A warm, neutral palette is accented by colourful, locally sourced fabrics and every piece of furniture in the new villas and living areas are custom made by skilled local craftsmen using a variety of upcycled materials. These include charming recycled teakwood bed frames, lampshades handwoven from recycled wire mesh incorporating fish and sea turtles from the surrounding waters and cushion fabrics handprinted with coral patterns found on the reefs. The coffee tables have also been engraved with stars to reflect the clear night sky and hanging lamps are crafted from bamboo prawn catcher baskets. Guests will also have the option to set up luxurious rooftop daybeds for an atmospheric night’s sleep beneath the stars and each villa has a dedicated butler service catering to guests’ every wish. Guest Experiences Gili Lankanfushi will mark the re-opening of resort with a series of new educational and active wellness programmes that combine both the paradise that is the serene Meera Spa and the educational experience from the team of deeply knowledgeable experts at the Marine Biology Shack. Holistic Healing is a five-night programme for those seeking a soulful spa experience that nurtures the body and teaches natural beauty methods. The experience will include a one-on-one consultation on arrival, daily yoga classes, guided breath-work sessions, bespoke treatments and an essential oil making workshop to create remedies to take home. Dive & Discover is
Adding to its repertoire of refined luxurious accommodations, Robertson Lodges has announced the creation of The Residences at Kauri Cliffs. The three new private residences filled with high-end amenities and ultimate comfort are ideal for larger guest groups. Opening in November 2019, each offers a stay comprising the very best in accommodations, fresh farm to table cuisine and local beverages, and activities on the property, guaranteeing a memorable time for their guests. Similar to the Owner’s Cottages, The Residences at Kauri Cliffs were developed for owner Julian Robertson’s children and their families. While they are used personally by the Robertson family, both the Owner’s Cottage and now The Residences at Kauri Cliffs are available for guest stays. The experience begins as soon as guests set foot on the property, when they receive a welcome basket of locally sourced goods. Each of the three Residences carries its own individual style, featuring warm décors by acclaimed New Zealand interior designer Virginia Fisher that perfectly blend with the surrounding green hills and blue sea of Northland. Walking into their Residence, guests face a spacious living and dining room, accompanied by a family-sized kitchen complete with a casual dining island, a butler’s pantry for exclusive chef service and a mini-bar carrying New Zealand’s finest wines, beers and spirits. A private laundry room is also located in each villa. Stepping out to an expansive veranda, each villa also has their own private 25-foot saltwater swimming pool and deck for guests to enjoy. Each of the three Residences has four guest bedrooms that offer spacious beds and wardrobes, private bathrooms and direct access to verandas. Guests in the master bedrooms also enjoy memorable views of the picturesque farmland, award-winning golf course and the Pacific Ocean. Maintaining the same sparkling presentation as when guests arrive, suites are refreshed by housekeeping twice daily. The Residence experience continues on the property, as guests can take a private golf cart to the main lodge just a short drive away. There, guests can enjoy the resort’s facilities to the fullest, as a stay at the Residences also includes access to the tennis courts, walking trails, private beaches and The Spa which includes treatment rooms, a heated lap pool, jacuzzi, sauna and gymnasium. Guests can also indulge in a full daily breakfast, pre-dinner drinks, canapes and dinner showcasing local flavors. Taking the golf cart back to the Residence, guests can rest and recharge for the next day and the next adventure at Kauri Cliffs. FOR MICE MEDIA: The addition of The Residences at Kauri Cliffs now makes Kauri Cliffs the largest luxury lodge accommodation provider in New Zealand, able to accommodate 76 people for a bucket-list adventure. The added accommodation provides additional meeting spaces for intimate groups, comfortably seating 12 or more guests in ultimate luxury and privacy. The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs offers many once in a lifetime experiences that your team won’t find anywhere else, such as private beaches and a surf break where experienced surfers can enjoy a one of a kind surfing experience as well as other activities including