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Staycation or Vacation?


Planning a weekend trip within Hong Kong or undertaking an overseas adventure in the region? Either one can be an ideal getaway – as long as you know where to go 

Staycation or Vacation?


Planning a weekend trip within Hong Kong or undertaking an overseas adventure in the region? Either one can be an ideal getaway – as long as you know where to go 

Culture > Travel


 

Staycation or Vacation?

June 30, 2017 by China Daily Lifestyle Premium

Staycation 1– Hung Shek Mun Trail

Known as the “Red Stone Gate”, this gruelling hike through the northeast New Territories takes you across a narrow straight off Wong Wan Chau (Double Island), near the border with Mainland China. The stunning views feature a unique landscape, with a reddish coastline composed of crimson sedimentary rocks. The 15km hike takes approximately seven to eight hours, and is for experienced hikers only. Start/return from Wu Kau Tang. 


Staycation 2 – Ng Tung Chai Waterfall

Definitely one of the less-travelled hidden gems in Hong Kong, the tranquil, scenic area around the waterfall on Tai Mo Shan makes a great retreat for those who dwell in the urban jungle. Clear signposts are there to guide hikers to the falls. The 6km hike takes approximately three hours and is suitable for intermediate-level hikers. Start/return from Tai Wo MTR station, exit A.


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Vacation 1– Malaysian Borneo

Just three hours from Hong Kong, Borneo is the third-largest island in the world and the second-largest island in Asia, geographically allied to Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. Malaysian Borneo covers the two northern states: Sabah and Sarawak.

World’s Oldest Tropical Rainforests

Exploring the species-rich equatorial rainforests, home to endangered wildlife including the critically endangered Bornean orangutan, is a must. The best areas of the rainforests are incorporated into national parks, with the two most popular (both UNESCO World Heritage Sites) being Gunung Mulu National Park in Sarawak and Kinabalu Park in Sabah.

Luxurious Beaches

A deluxe destination for five-star-resort lovers and great for various water sports, recommended spots include Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort & Spa and Gaya Island Resort. Built based on the trading ships of the 19th century, the majestic schooner Raja Laut also provides luxury vessel and yacht cruises to the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean.


Vacation 2 – Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

A mere four hours from Hong Kong, Mongolia is a culturally enriching experience with its deep-rooted heritage, intriguing history and exotic culinary delights. We advise hiring a local driver during your trip, as the city has a reputation for being difficult to navigate.

Gandan Khiid

Of the more than 100 temples and monasteries built around the start of the 19th century, only a handful still stand today. Gandan Khiid (which translates as “the great place of complete joy”) remains Mongolia’s most important Tibetan Buddhist monastery; it was restored in 1990 and more than 600 monks now reside there.

Chinggis Square

The centre of the city was formerly named in honour of Damdin Sükhbaatar, who led the Outer Mongolian Revolution of 1921; in 2013, it was renamed to commemorate Genghis Khan, the founding father of the Mongolian empire. A delectable selection of restaurants and cafes can be discovered on the nearby streets.

Images: Shangri-La International Hotel Management (Rasa Ria/Gaya Island); Flickr: LUFC/Creative Commons (Ng Tung Chai); Flickr: Alex Leung/Creative Commons (Hung Shek Mun Hiking in 2014 Winter); Wikimedia Commons: Angelo Juan Ramos/Creative Commons (Gandantegchinlen Khiid Monastery)

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Island Life


Mark O’Sullivan, the general manager of the newly opened St Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort, discusses his decades-long journey in the industry and the importance of a personal touch

Island Life


Mark O’Sullivan, the general manager of the newly opened St Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort, discusses his decades-long journey in the industry and the importance of a personal touch

Culture > Travel



Island Life

February 3, 2017 by China Daily

Mark O’Sullivan

Mark O’Sullivan

How’s everything going so far for the hotel in the Maldives? Who are the guests?

Everything is going very well. So far, the US has been our biggest market, but that’s not something that I expect in the full-year results; I still believe that China will be our number-one market by the end of 2017. One of the things that drives American business to Marriott Starwood properties is the SPG [Starwood Preferred Guest] loyalty programme. We get access to so many guests – more than 50 million people to whom we have direct access – and a lot of that is in the US. 

People went on their honeymoons in the Maldives ten years ago; now they want to come back with their children. Also, with the number of two- and three-bedroom villas we have, you can book one unit instead of having to book a few separate villas. 

The Alba restaurant

The Alba restaurant

Tell us about the unique design of this property.

It’s inspired by the marine life around the resort. The owner and the architect went to the Maldives and went exploring – this island was completely uninhabited and undeveloped; there was nothing there before. Visually, it blends in with the vegetation of the islands. 

In terms of service, what helps this Maldives property stand out when compared to other St Regis hotels?

The service in all the St Regis properties is at a very high level. The main difference here, for me, would be the butler service. Our butlers just do a lot more because of where the property is – I feel it’s very personalised and the guests get to know their butler well, because every day, they have the same person.

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The deck of the overwater villa features a pool and endless views

The deck of the overwater villa features a pool and endless views

The unique exterior and plush interior of the two-bedroom family villa with pool

The unique exterior and plush interior of the two-bedroom family villa with pool

What are the current trends you see developing in luxury hospitality? 

One of the main trends is technology. Take the Maldives, say 20 years ago – if you told guests, in the middle of the ocean on a small island, that they could expect wi-fi at the same strength as a city like Hong Kong or New York, they’d say you were crazy. But actually, that’s the reality now. Wi-fi now is almost like water coming out of the shower. If you don’t have it, you might as well close the doors, because nobody is going to stay there.

At the same time, I hope that we don’t lose focus on what makes “luxury” luxury. Technology is a part, as is the furniture and other things. But I think the friendliness of the staff and the personalisation is what really makes a luxury property. You will still need that personal touch. 

One of my butlers recently had a guest who came on his own. He told the butler he came alone because his daughter had just had a baby, so his wife stayed back to help look after their new grandchild. On his departure, the butler left a soft towel with a little note saying “This is for your new grandchild when you go back.” You can’t train a robot to do that. These are personal touches that only human beings can appreciate. For me, that’s really important – that we keep our focus on that, with technology and other things to help us to move forward. 

The plush interior of the two-bedroom family villa with pool

The plush interior of the two-bedroom family villa with pool

Finding qualified local staff isn’t always easy. How have you tackled this issue to maintain the level of service for which St Regis is renowned?

One thing about the Maldives is that 80% of the gross national product is tourism. Eight out of ten graduates are probably going into the tourism industry – they already have a very solid hospitality mentality. So it’s not difficult to find the people with the right attitude to work in the hotel. As an international company, St Regis has a lot to offer the local population, too, because of the level of training and development as well as access to future opportunities.

As a general manager, how has your personality been stamped on the hotel? 

I think I have a good sense of humour – because I’m Irish! It’s important to have a sense of humour. I don’t see myself as somebody who walks around and thinks he’s the king of the island. I think my staff appreciate that I see myself as one of them. One of the things I do is I interview everybody, no matter what the position, because I want them to see that I am part of the process. Also, I want to be comfortable that the person we’re hiring can fit in with the overall culture of the property. 

The elegant bathroom inside the beach villa

The elegant bathroom inside the beach villa

You started your career in 1998, then worked for luxury resorts in numerous regions. What motivated you to get into this industry?

I guess I just like working with people and taking care of them. I used to be interested in cooking when I was younger – I wasn’t a great cook or anything, but I helped my mother make this big feast and discovered I enjoyed the experience of catering. That’s what got me interested. In the industry, I started in F&B [food and beverage] – as a general manager, you go into one of the main functions. I worked in a boutique-style hotel in my country; that was when I began to appreciate the level of detail and ensuring that the small things are looked after. 

Any exciting developments for St Regis Maldives Vommuli in the pipeline? 

Right now, I hope the only exciting thing is getting this place up and running fully – I don’t think I’m ready for another project yet for quite some time! [laughing] We will continue to examine what luxury customers are looking for and, if at any stage we feel we need to change something, we will certainly look at that.

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The 20,000sqft Iridium Spa is suspended above the Indian Ocean

The 20,000sqft Iridium Spa is suspended above the Indian Ocean

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Regal Repose


The Four Seasons Hotel George V has long been a top choice for the rich and famous during their visits to the City of Light

Regal Repose


The Four Seasons Hotel George V has long been a top choice for the rich and famous during their visits to the City of Light

Culture > Travel


 

Regal Repose

February 3, 2017

Just a short stroll from the tourist bustle of the Champs-Élysées in the 8th arrondissement of Paris, the illustrious Four Seasons Hotel George V features 244 rooms including 59 suites, boasts three-Michelin-starred restaurant Le Cinq and, for wine lovers, offers a cellar with no fewer than 50,000 bottles. 

Opened in 1928, the hotel innovated by having a telephone in every room and by offering suites with two bathrooms, which allowed two people to take a bath at the same time so they would be ready to go down to dinner together. From the 1930s onwards, its elegant revolving front door saw the arrival of numerous Hollywood legends – Marlene Dietrich slept there, as did Greta Garbo. The Royal Suite even hosted Elizabeth Taylor on her honeymoon night with Conrad Hilton, the second of her eight husbands.

In 1964, Scottish photographer Harry Benson shot his iconic image of the Beatles having a pillow fight in their suite; John Lennon and Paul McCartney composed their early hit “I Feel Fine” on a piano they had installed for their stay. Two years later, Bob Dylan blew out the candles of a giant cake as he celebrated his 25th birthday at the hotel after a concert at the Olympia. 

Since 1997, the George V has been managed by the Four Seasons hotel group, which carried out a US$125 million renovation that modernised the hotel’s facilities while maintaining its original character. The king would certainly be proud. 

Image: Hôtel Four Seasons Hôtel George V (Photo taken by Harry Benson)

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The Call of the Wild: Makanyane Safari Lodge


Makanyane Safari Lodge in South Africa delivers an unbeatable combination of adventure and relaxation

The Call of the Wild: Makanyane Safari Lodge


Makanyane Safari Lodge in South Africa delivers an unbeatable combination of adventure and relaxation

Culture > Travel



The Call of the Wild

August 28, 2015 by Blandine Leblanc

The Hurun Luxury Traveler Survey 2015 reported recently that Chinese tourists are becoming more interested in experiential travel, with Mild Adventure ranking third among their travel priorities. The annual report, which focuses on travel trends among Chinese high-net-worth individuals who spent US$30,000 or more on travel in the past year, also listed Africa among its top three travel destinations.

There are many types of safari adventures, from family-friendly whale watching to unique scuba-diving trips. For those wanting to step out of their comfort zone, though, Africa has so much to offer, from trekking gorilla encounters in the secret emerald world of rainforests to balloon flights over the seasonal great migration. Novel experiences and close proximity to the wilds of nature are driving a growing Sino-fari trend.

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That makes the opening of Sanctuary Retreats’ Makanyane Safari Lodge particularly timely.

The exclusive boutique property, named after the African wild dog prevalent in the surrounding area, has an elegant but organic, less-is-more mantra. Designed for minimal environmental impact, its eight glass-fronted suites were constructed from local stone, wood and thatch, and safarists can gaze at the stars while they slumber.

Located in the Madikwe Game Reserve, one of South Africa’s best-regarded but lesser-known safari destinations, the mystical charm of the lodge’s strong regional features, coupled with its location overlooking a watering hole favoured by everything from cheetahs, giraffes and birds to elephants, rhinos and hyenas, are ideal for those in search of exploration and adventure.

Observe big game from the dining area’s spacious lounge deck surrounds, or channel your inner David Attenborough via morning and night game drives and guided walks. Bush dinners and sundowners provide perfect scenes for selfies. Ornithologists are in for a treat, too: there are more than 360 species of bird to observe, and Makanyane lays on bird-watching expeditions to discover them. At the lodge’s raised star-view sleep-out hide, guests can choose to sleep under the stars surrounded only by the African wilderness, the vast skies curving down to meet grasslands rolling to the horizon.

Guests who begin to feel the physical toll of their adventure can enjoy relaxing spa massages and aromatherapy treatments between dips in the swimming pool. Each air-conditioned suite comes with its own private sundeck and outside lounge, and bathrooms have both indoor and outdoor showers open onto the adjacent wild bush just steps away.

If altruism is an essential part of your holiday experience, Sanctuary Retreats caters to your conscience with its commitment to building long-lasting relationships with local rural communities. According to the Council on Foreign Affairs, rhino poaching hit unprecedented levels in 2015, 10,000% higher than in 2007 in South Africa; as part of continent-wide efforts to protect shrinking rhino populations, Sanctuary Retreats participates in a relocation project transporting black and white rhinos to Botswana’s Moremi Game Reserve.

Makanyane redefines luxury travel with a new dimension of sensual self-awakening. Book now and live the dream.
(sanctuaryretreats.com)

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Once Upon a Now: The Eastern & Oriental Express


Two new journeys aboard the Eastern & Oriental Express combine its classical past with a salubrious present, says general manager Nicolas Pillet

Once Upon a Now: The Eastern & Oriental Express


Two new journeys aboard the Eastern & Oriental Express combine its classical past with a salubrious present, says general manager Nicolas Pillet

Culture > Travel



Once Upon a Now

July 10, 2015 by Selena Li / Photo: Parker Zheng

Two new journeys aboard the Eastern & Oriental Express combine its classical past with a salubrious present, says general manager Nicolas Pillet.

Do you travel a lot?

Yes I do, mostly in Southeast Asia, less so in the north of Asia. I’ve been with Belmond for 20 years.  I was on the hotel side based in Indonesia, Bali, and Laos before working on the trains. Currently I travel regularly between Singapore and Bangkok. 

Tell us about your two new routes; Fables of the Peninsula and Ancient Temples of Lama. 

Yes, our classic Singapore – Bangkok – Singapore route is two-nights for the first leg; the return is three days and four nights. The Fables of the 

Peninsula route includes a night at the Raffles Hotel and takes five nights. They’re being introduced for different customers. Some existing clients want to take a five-night trip. Some who’ve been on the classic journey, wanted to return and stay longer for a different experience. Our trains in Europe are a totally different experience so it’s nice that each of our trains is completely different, particularly the interior design. We’re also trying to attract a younger audience than we’ve had before. 

What is most challenging for your travellers?

We try and encourage them to enjoy the experience; it is challenging selecting the products, as there’s no Internet or TV on board and we don’t want it because people who experience the train want to be disconnected.  They want some time cut off from the world, the rest of the world… and they love it. When they are actually on board they forget about it.  The time is for reconnecting with your partner, reuniting with family, and reading, relaxing and meeting other passengers.

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Are there plans for a China route?

In Thailand the line only goes to Chiang Mai, there is no line on the Chinese side yet. But, we would definitely love to have a China route.  

What are the biggest misconceptions about rail travel?

Clients aren’t used to travelling by rail in Asia as they would in Europe. They aren’t used to thinking about the possibility of using shorter trains, or of rail travel as an experience. We try and show people what it’s all about, because if we present it to them in the right way, they can see how beautiful it is. We also invite people from the tourism industry to come and see for themselves and to understand the train.

What are the unique selling points of the onboard entertainment and amenities?

The price is literally all inclusive.  As soon as you pay your fare for the Fables of the Peninsula route, for example, everything from your night at the Raffles Hotel before departure, to any alcoholic drinks you require and everything else in between - is included in the price. Even the unexpected, everything is included. This is unique, and most people don’t expect it. In Europe, tickets include some things, but not everything. Passengers also find the food surprising. 

If you travel in Europe, between London and Venice for example, passengers may have excellent food. But on E&O, they are certain they’ll have excellent food. They really have no idea of the standard of food to expect on our train. We have a French chef onboard; breakfasts are delivered to cabins, each cabin has a butler. For lunch and dinner we have a set menu. We choose a mix of meals between French cuisine and Asian food, with a choice of main courses. The chef also includes local dishes, mostly Malaysian and Thai cuisine.  Considering the size of the cabins and the galley, the food we present to guests is amazing. 

How much has changed during the last 20 years at E&0? 

We launched the first route, between Singapore and Bangkok, in September 1993.  There has been a huge increase in the popularity of luxury trains in Southeast Asia, and we are looking to expand our routes. Our next stop will be Cambodia; we’re working on a possible connection between Thailand and Cambodia at the moment. There used to be 48km of missing track, which is a problem, but we really hope it will happen fairly soon, maybe the end of 2015 or during 2016.  I’d love to be able to take the train to Cambodia.

What makes you confident for the future?

We are not a thousand-room hotel, we have a unique product; a customized service which gives travellers an exceptional, unique experience. This is what we like doing. The train is a perfect example in Southeast Asia and has become a compelling experience for our clients. And not just in Asia, also elsewhere. We are about to launch a new luxury train in Ireland in 2016. That will be a new train and a fantastic opportunity for clients that are travelling in Ireland and Scotland.

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Luxury Family Vacation: Kata Rocks in Phuket


The perfect combination of rest and play

Luxury Family Vacation: Kata Rocks in Phuket


The perfect combination of rest and play

Culture > Travel



Luxury Family Vacation

May 29, 2015

Adjacent to the calm, azure waters of the Andaman Sea, Kata Rocks in Phuket is the ideal destination for an unforgettable family holiday. From outdoor cinema nights to traditional Thai massage treatments, this award-winning resort has something for everyone. All activities and experiences at Kata Rocks are child-friendly. Youngsters can take advantage of the resort’s expansive 35-metre swimming pool and dine at the poolside restaurant with special children’s menu. For adults wanting some downtime, the Infinite Luxury Spa treatments rejuvenate body and soul. Until October 2015, Kata Rocks is offering a complimentary third night with every two consecutive paid nights, including daily breakfast. (katarocks.com)

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Shutterbugs Take Note: Belmond Hotels


Fill your digital album with stunning, unique shots

Shutterbugs Take Note: Belmond Hotels


Fill your digital album with stunning, unique shots

Culture > Travel



Shutterbugs Take Note

May 29, 2015

above image: Hot-air ballooning over Florence and the Chianti Hills

Belmond Hotels has launched a series of bespoke photography experiences at its legendary hotels across Europe as they reopen for the summer season. From night shots to underwater photography, these innovative experiences will allow guests to capture some of the continent’s most inspiring destinations from a whole new perspective. Packages include exploring the secluded courtyards of Venice; navigating the ancient and modern wonders of Naples; birdwatching on Mallorca’s tranquil north-west coast; scuba diving off the coast of Portofino; and hot-air ballooning over Florence and the Chianti Hills. Anyone who loves taking pictures of their food will most certainly make their friends jealous after experiencing the “Cook and Camera” package at the Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo and Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea in Sicily. Led by Executive Chef Roberto Toro, guests will learn how to cook, style, and photograph delicious dishes before dining on their own culinary creations. Be sure to bring along your own camera because your smartphone camera simply won’t cut it. (belmond.com)

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Belmond Hotel Cipriani, Venice, Italy

Belmond Hotel Cipriani, Venice, Italy

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What’s Knot to Love? Oetker Collection Weddings


Celebrate your wedding day at an exotic location in a one-of-a-kind Oetker Collection hotel

 

What’s Knot to Love? Oetker Collection Weddings


Celebrate your wedding day at an exotic location in a one-of-a-kind Oetker Collection hotel

 

Culture > Travel



What’s Knot to Love?

May 29, 2015

For couples wishing to tie the knot in style, Oetker Collection’s unique masterpiece hotels provide the perfect setting for a memorable destination wedding.

At the enchanting Palais Namaskar in Marrakesh, couples can exchange their vows against the backdrop of Morocco’s magnificent Atlas Mountains, surrounded by stunning lakes, lush greenery and exotically scented gardens.

At Fregate Island Private in the Seychelles, wedding couples and their guests can enjoy romantic dinners on any of the island’s seven private beaches or a dinner party overlooking the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean. Each Oetker Collection property offers the highest level of hospitality and impeccable service combined with exceptional historic architecture and interiors. In comparison, getting married in Hong Kong seems so pedestrian. (oetkercollection.com)

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The Mountain Palace, Palais Namaskar, Marrakesh, Morocco

The Mountain Palace, Palais Namaskar, Marrakesh, Morocco

nse Macquereau, one of seven private beaches where couples can get married on Fregate Island Private

nse Macquereau, one of seven private beaches where couples can get married on Fregate Island Private