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Travel ingenuity from our island hopping holiday experts

Must-See 3-Bedroom Villas in Art-Filled Seminyak

in Destinations/Families/News/Recreation/Tips by
The Layar

Decadent restaurants, classy drinks and shopping galore. Welcome to Seminyak, where bars and cafes that line the roads outdo each other in trendiness and sophistication. Besides shopping for the latest in designer wear and international brands, Seminyak is also big on art and local finds. Its major landmark, Petitenget Temple is hundreds of years old and also the namesake of the street that runs parallel to the beach. Gorgeous sunsets can be witnessed at Petitenget, which sits beside Masceti Ulun Tanjung Temple, where local villagers pray.

If you’re looking for activities for children, head down to Dream Museum Zone (DMZ) for a fun and interactive experience. The kids will love it, it has three large levels to discover. For an intimate art experience, Nyaman Gallery has a range of pieces by local Balinese and Indonesian artists. International talents’ works are also on display. Top off your day of art-sightseeing at the Biasa Art Space, where you’ll find conceptual and avant-garde pieces. Biasa focuses on emerging, progressive art to ensure adequate exposure to young Javanese artists. Make Theatre Art Gallery your last stop. Beautiful Indonesian puppets called wayang will delight you here.

You might be tired after a day of culture—but you’ve come to the right town. Seminyak is famous for its abundance of spas. Bodyworks is known for soothing massages and various treatments. If yoga is more your thing, Seminyak Yoga Shala is popular. You can also opt to stay in your villa, get an expert massage, and have a yoga teacher come to you.

Here, we list five 3-bedroom villas in the heart of Seminyak where you and your family can enjoy the Easter holidays.

The Layar

The Layar, as it’s famously known, was once Paris Hilton’s temporary lair. The star stayed here several years ago—which is not a surprise. The Layar is upscale and chic, yet has all the comforts of home. Most of all, it is design-savvy, with angled walls and large living and dining rooms that open onto an inviting swimming pool. Various floor levels create an interesting play for the eye. Under overlapping roofs, each of the eleven 3-bedroom suites has an outdoor space —whether a deck, a terrace, or a bathroom garden.

You’ll feel a sense of privacy in The Layar, down to the dining and lounging space in the garden beside the pool.

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Thailand’s Sweet Indulgences

in Culture/Dining/News/Shops/Tips by
Chocolate

“What you see before you, my friend, is the result of a lifetime of chocolate.”

– Katharine Hepburn

Thailand is world-renowned for its amazing street food, exotic tropical fruits, and delicious sweet desserts. But for those visiting Thailand who need their chocolate fix, there is one artisan chef in Phuket who is the go-to guy when it comes to anything dark, milky or white.

Thailand does not have a rich history of chocolate unlike some of its Southeast Asian neighbours such as Indonesia, which grew almost no cocoa before the early 1980s when production took off like a rocket. Now, Indonesia is the world’s third leading producer of cocoa beans. Cocoa production in Thailand fell out of favour decades ago for rubber, but lately there has been a resurgence with a small number of growers and producers emerging in northern and western Thailand.

Thai cocoa is finally getting the recognition it deserves, with two Thai chocolate producers placed high in the 2018 International Chocolate Awards show.

Paradai brand took silver for their Belize dark milk 63% bar in the ‘dark milk chocolate’ category and Kad Kokoa won bronze in the ‘plain dark chocolate bar’ category for their Chiang Mai single origin bar. They also opened Bangkok’s first bean-to-bar café in Sathorn earlier this year, offering all things chocolatey, from desserts and hot chocolate to cocoa butter soap.

English award-winning Pastry Chef Peter Webber trained at School Le Notre in Paris to study pastry and chocolate and started work at The Inn on The Park, London and The Savoy Hotel, where he gained his first Executive Pastry Chef position and was honoured by being sent to do promotions at The Okura Hotel in Tokyo and The Oriental Hotel, Bangkok. He was also involved in many special events and competitions in Europe.

Chef Peter moved to Asia to the famed Oriental Hotel, Bangkok as the Executive Pastry Chef where he would stay for more than a decade, even pleasing the taste buds of the Queen of England during official state visits at The Grand Palace.

Chef Peter now owns and creates chocolate masterpieces at his patisserie, Les Diables, inspiring and serving a loyal clientele with the utmost attention to taste and detail. They specialise in cakes for special occasions,

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Chocolate Heaven in Bali

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Chocolates are definitely a “Bali thing,” as evidenced from the number of shops that offer them. The chocolate industry in Bali boomed in the early 1990’s. You’ll find everything from local convenience-store varieties to high-end imported brands. The most flavorful ones we’ve tried here, however, are both homegrown and posh. They’re also all organic and ethically-sourced. From vegan to creamy-smooth varieties, here are the top four.

1) Pod

Easter Chocolate - Pod

Known as one of Indonesia’s best chocolate brands, Pod is the creation of Toby Garritt, who hails from Adelaide, Australia. During his studies in the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu, Garritt met his future wife Inda, an Indonesian princess. Fast forward several years and the couple have made Bali their home. It was here that Garritt first thought of creating a chocolate that could rival European ones in flavor and quality. In 2013, the first Pod chocolate was created using Balinese cacao and European machines and processes.

Pod is proud of using locally-and-ethically-sourced ingredients that are sustainable. The brand helps local communities remain relevant in the making of high-quality, delicious chocolates.

Our analysis? The Café Mocha variety gives off a pleasant coffee smell. The chocolate itself has a perfect creamy texture and an excellent sweet-but-not-too-sweet flavor. An added bonus is a coffee-bean crunch with each bite.

The Michelin Guide has hailed Pod “a small band of chocolate makers turning the $100 billion chocolate industry on its head.”

2) Elevated Cacao

Easter Chocolate - Elevated Cacao

Like it’s name suggests, Elevated Cacao goes above and beyond your typical chocolate brand. The label, which hails from Ubud, has a deep appreciation for chocolate, which it claims lifts moods, makes people feel better and, simply, “smile.” Raw, vegan and absolutely ethically-sourced, Elevated Cacao is the brainchild of foreigners Amanda and Paul, who met in Yoga Teacher Training in 2015. Paul was an experienced chocolatier and taught Amanda the business of raw chocolate-making. The two focus their time on creating only the healthiest and purest forms of chocolates.

One of the brands initiatives? “We take the time to know each of our farmers personally, visiting their homes and getting to know their families. . .  We lend our time,

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Niseko: The Way To Go

in Destinations/Tips by

Famed for prolific white powder snow, fabulous accommodation and apres-ski scene, Niseko lures winter sports enthusiasts from around the globe.  Yet this beautiful region in the northern island of Hokkadio, Japan, has more to offer than top notch skiing and snowboarding, with stunning alpine scenery making it a popular year round destination. Here’s our insider tips on how to get to Niseko.

By Plane

Sapporo’s New Chitose Airport is just 110 km from Niseko and is well serviced by domestic and international flights from many parts of Asia, including Singapore, Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok as well as Hawaii. Those travelling from further afield can easily connect through Tokyo Narita International airport, with a two hour flight time to Sapporo.

Flight to Niseko

Ski season runs from late November to early May and if you fly into New Chitose, the quickest way to hit the ski slopes is by taxi or private transfer. Catching a bus is also cheap and easy and takes approximately 2 – 2.5 hours.

For a private door to door service try Sky Express otherwise White Liner Ski Bus, Hokkaido Resort Liner  and NGS Big Runs all have various drop off points in Niseko.  

By Land

Self drive is another option, but while rental cars are fitted with snow tyres, it is not recommended unless you are experienced driving in wintery conditions.

How to get to NisekoParking in Niseko is also limited in the busy winter months, so  its perhaps better to save the hire car option for the summer months when you can enjoy a leisurely cruise up to the mountains, stopping to enjoy the glorious scenery along the way.

Trains also depart direct from the airport to JR Kutchan Station (a 10 minute taxi ride from Niseko), but you will need to change at Otaru station for a total travel time of around 3 hours. Japan has one of the best developed rail networks in the world which is something to consider when travelling from other regions.

Shinkansen - Bullet train

If coming from Tokyo you can experience the famous Shinkansen – bullet train, which travels up to 320 km an hour and hurtles through an undersea tunnel that connects the main island of Honshu with Hokkaido. Travel time is around 4 hours to Hakodate where you can connect with a regional train to JR Kutchan (3.5 hours) .

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All About Flights to Phuket

in Destinations/Tips by
Phuket Airport

When it comes time to book flights to Phuket, Thailand,  this holiday hotspot offers a myriad of options.  The newly revamped Phuket International Airport is the international gateway to the island of Phuket and all of its touristic charms.

What’s there to know about

Phuket International Airport – or ท่าอากาศยานภูเก็ต in Thai – is the second busiest airport in the Kingdom of Thailand. 
Phuket International Airport (HKT)
Mai Khao, Thalang District, Phuket 83110, Thailand, Phuket Province 83110

“Phuket International” is quite compact and easy to navigate. However, if you have never been to Phuket before it is important to note that the airport is home to two terminals, Domestic and International. While the terminals are within walking distance of each other, it indeed makes travel easier if you are heading in the right direction from the start.

The airport hosts domestic, regional and international passenger and cargo services for over twenty-five airlines. It’s a primary flight connection hub for Thai AirAsia and Thai Airways International.

Are there fights from… to Phuket?

There are 49 cities which offer non-stop flights to Phuket, which makes Phuket International Airport a very busy place. A high volume of passengers arrive early in the morning or late at night on daily flights from China, Russia and the United Arab Emirates.

As Phuket is a popular destination for holidaymakers from around the globe, flights from countries such as Australia, Finland, Switzerland, Germany, Turkey and recently India make up a lot of the airport’s traffic. It is estimated that at least 16 million people pass through the gates of Phuket International Airport yearly.

Can I bring my… to Phuket, Thailand?

On arrival to Phuket International Airport, international travellers are expected to clear immigration. After a long-haul flight this can seem like quite a tedious task, however, it is necessary before entering the Kingdom.

Make sure that you have filled out your international arrival cards that would have been presented on the flight over, and be prepared to queue. While the immigration lines do often appear overwhelming, rest assured that they do move along at a rather quick pace. After clearing immigration, it is time to retrieve your luggage, head out the door and enjoy your holiday!

When is the best time to fly to Phuket?

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