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A Savoury Autumn with Niseko’s Food Festivals

in Culture/Destinations/Dining by

While Niseko is renowned the world over for its powder snow, and Japan is said to be most beautiful during sakura (cherry blossom season), locals will tell you a secret that not many tourists know. It is perhaps the world’s best kept secret that it is in Autumn, when Japan’s countryside truly shines. The leaves changing colour as fall approaches, a slight nip in the air, and autumn produce hitting the wet market, all of this makes for a magical vacation, before the crowds descend on the slopes.

Besides the beauty of its countryside, Hokkaido’s produce is what has gained the island a reputation few places in the world enjoy. It is only natural then, that Niseko and nearby Sapporo have in recent years developed a vibrant food scene, of Michelin star status. Most of these world class restaurants are booked solid through the winter months. But if you want to get a taste of Hokkaido’s best gourmet food, the autumn food festivals in Niseko and Sapporo are the best places to do so.

Sapporo Autumn Food Festival  

Attracting over two million visitors each year, the Sapporo Autumn Festival is Hokkaido’s largest gourmet event, now in its twelfth year. Spread out over the better part of the month, the event is scheduled to be held from 6-29 September, 2019.

Hokkaido has four distinct seasons which define the local life. The white winter gives way to sakura, when the snow melts into fresh spring water, essential for enriching the multitude of crops that grow here in summertime. Autumn is harvest season, when the locals enjoy the fruits of their labour and thanks to food fests like this one, now you can too.

A large island, Hokkaido is vast not only in geographical terms, but also in the variety of its produce and cuisines produced thereof. Due to the local ingredients used, Sapporo’s ramen is distinctly different from that of Asahikawa, both equally delicious. The country’s northernmost city of Wakkanai is said to have the best quality of uni (sea urchin) and salmon roe. But it may not be possible for everyone to travel across the island to try all these delicious dishes. Sapporo Autumn Food Festival comes to your rescue, a place where you can try food from more than 100 municipalities across the prefecture,

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Through the Keyhole: Villa Naam Sawan

in Culture/Destinations/People by

Enter Villa Naam Sawan in Phuket and prepare to be transported to a beautiful, modern version of Thailand. Statues of Buddha are perched beneath a multi-pitched roof. The ceiling is strategically filled with lights that shine on large couches, Thai artefacts and a sleek dining table surrounded by stately chairs. Inviting, with a vast amount of space to envelop you – you feel tiny in here – the villa was designed by the world-famous architectural design team of Philippe Starck and Jean-Michel Gathy.

The level below has four luxurious bedrooms. All face the large swimming pool, which looks out onto a private beachfront. You can lose sense of time lounging on any of the large chairs by the pool, or on the bale to the side. This marvelous and spacious villa was made just for that purpose. 

We had a quick chat with Villa Naam Sawan’s Villa Manager Wawa about what makes her job special.

Elite Havens: Hi! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Wawa Biutiatinoni: My name is Nukhatra Biutiatinoni, but you can call me Wawa. I’m 37 years old. I’ve been the Villa Manager in Villa Naam Sawan for nearly 3 years.

EH: And what did you do before you became a Villa Manager?

WB: I worked with hotels for nearly 10 years within the Front Office function. My roles ranged from that of a Receptionist to Guest Service Supervisor, welcoming new joinees; as an Airport Rep, picking up the guests at the airport and even that of a Butler.

EH: Why did you choose to live in Phuket?

WB: Well, first of all, I love the sea! And the hotel industry is bustling in Phuket. There are many opportunities to work here and you can practice your English. So if someone wants to work in the hotel industry, I recommend Phuket as the place to start your career.

EH: If a guest wants to visit places nearby, what places can you recommend?

WB: First, I must check to find out what they like to do. If someone likes adventure, we have that! If someone likes shopping, we have that too! Or even relaxation. I first ask them what they like so I can recommend something basis their preferences.

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Mind Your Manners: DOs and DONTs in Bali

in Culture/Destinations/Tips by

Bali is a treasure trove with plenty to discover, unique local culture and is inhabited by the warmest of people. The Balinese are so polite that most wouldn’t even dream of pointing out even the most horrendous cultural transgression delivered unknowingly by a visitor. To save you the embarrassment, here is a list of some cultural nuances which will serve you well when you visit the Island of the Gods.

DOs

1. Learn a few thoughtful Indonesian phrases such as ‘thank you’ – terimah kasih or ‘good morning’ – selamat pagi. To surprise the Balinese, say a few words of their indigenous language. ‘Hello’ is swastiasu; ‘thank you’ suksma and ‘you’re welcome’ suksma mwali. The locals will appreciate the fact that you made the effort.

2. Dress appropriately when visiting temples. The island is full of extraordinary open-air temples and everyone who visits must wear a sarong and waist sash. Frequently visited temples may have these garments available for visitors, but for smaller temples, take your own. Don’t show too much skin up, out of respect. T-shirt style coverage is perfect.

3. Take off your shoes when entering a temple, a home and often shops. Take your lead by checking the entrance for evidence of others’ shoes and follow suit.

4. Observe one of the many ceremonies that you are likely to chance upon. It is not considered rude, so feel free to watch the locals but do sit behind the priest who is easy to spot given the accoutrements of the role.

5. Ensure you buy travel insurance. Accidents happen, in the most unexpected of places. Did you know that gravity’s pull on a falling coconut harms more world travelers every year than sharks do?

6. Be sensitive when money is clearly counted out to the last rupiah in front of you. Indonesians are highly transparent with money. It leaves no space for accidental short-changing.

7. Haggle at the markets as it is expected and a bit of fun, but do so with a smile and in a polite, fun manner. Enjoy the rolling of the eyes and all the associated drama but don’t suggest unreasonably low prices. A dollar means more to a local than it perhaps does to you.

8.

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Selong Selo’s Best-Kept Secrets, From Surf Breaks to Fishing Spots

in Culture/Destinations/Recreation by

Imagine what you could do in a land of lulling seas, tropical breezes and endless fields. From high-adrenaline activities to pure relaxation escapes, Lombok has it all.  There’s a wealth of activities to be enjoyed and savoured. At Selong Selo, water activities to explore the unadulterated beauty of the ocean can be tailor-made to suit your desires. Where do you begin?

SURFING

Beginners will enjoy Selong Belanak Beach. It’s a sandy-bottom shore break and thus has a perfect set-up for foam boards. It offers a beach break across the 1.7 km stretch of the beach, with most surfing in the Eastern corner.

Location: Selong Belanak Beach

Surfing Level: Beginner/Intermediate

Length: ½ day trip

Gerpuk is best for beginner to advanced surfers. Five different surf breaks makes it South Lombok’s most popular surfing bay. Only 50 minutes away from Selong Selo, it is protected from the winds via surrounding hills.

Location: Gerpuk

Level: Beginner to Advanced

Length: ½ day trip

Mawi is best for intermediate and advanced surfers. This reef break offers a charming peak with short hollow rights and lefts. At 6 ft. plus, Mawi transforms into a heaving left barrel, with elevator drops and heavy hold-downs. At 8-10 ft., it’s not for the faint-hearted. It’s best on mid-tides and a south-east trade wind from May to September, but holds swell all year round.

Location: Mawi

Surfing Level: Intermediate to Advanced

Length: ½ day trip

Located West of Selong Belanak beach, Serangan Beach is a popular “secret” beach. This break is best for intermediate to advanced surfers. It is only 15 minutes from Selong Selo and mornings are perfect for a solo surf. 

Location: Serangan

Surfing Level: Intermediate to Advanced

Length: ½ day trip

STAND UP PADDLEBOARD (SUP)

For a gentle first experience in Stand-Up Paddleboard, Selong Belanak and Kuta beaches are great locations. There are several expansive and protected bays to explore. A sunset paddleboard is recommended because it’s an apt time of day to experience cooling down. An added bonus? You’ll see some of the most beautiful sunsets in Asia.

Locations: Selong Belanak,

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Influencer of the Day: Jessica Iskandar

in Culture/Destinations/People by

As an actress, model, presenter, singer, comedian and businesswoman, Indonesian Jessica Iskandar is multi-talented and multifaceted. Her businesses include Jedar Cosmetics, Baby El Bakery, Jessica Iskandar Fashion,  and even her own villa, Villa Jedar.

She began her film career in 2005 and has an Instagram following of 18.8 million. In 2012, Jessica was named the Indonesia Earth Hour ambassador and in 2018 she became a guest judge in Asia’s Next Top Model Season 6 in Thailand. She has a young son named El Barack Alexander and is set to wed Australian actor and model Richard Kyle in Bali in April.

We sat down with Jessica for a brief catch-up at an elite haven, Villa Adasa, where she stayed for a few days.

Elite Havens: Hi, Jessica! Congratulations on your engagement party. How was it? 

Jessica Iskandar: Thank you! It was one of the best moments of my life! Everyone attended the party, not even one person missed it! Richard was very sweet when he told me his words. We feel blessed that both families are very supportive of our relationship and our engagement.

EH: Will there be a series of events before your wedding day?

JI: We will have an event in Australia with a little party with the family. The bachelor party will be with Elite Havens in Phuket. I’ll gather family and my girls’ squad for a sunset dinner, spa, manicure and pedicure, girls day out and other activities!

EH: What do you like about staying with Elite Havens?

JI: Elite Havens is your best solution for your holiday. They are like magicians and just make things happen! Just say what you need and it will be in front of your eyes right away!

EH: What is your favourite part of Villa Adasa

JI: The best spot for us is the bale beside the pool. It’s so relaxing to stay there with my family. You can even sleep and gather with your family at the bale in full privacy. The villa is so peaceful and quiet.

I also love the master bedroom so much.

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