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Chef du jour: Niseko Gourmet’s Sushi Master

in Destinations/Dining by

Niseko Gourmet complements your adrenaline-packed snow adventure holiday with an exceptional dining service, ensuring you are replenished and re-energized daily. All of your culinary requirements are catered for, from grocery shopping to gourmet food delivery and even in-chalet private chef dining experiences. A favourite with both locals and visitors, Niseko Gourmet has satisfied discerning palates for more than twelve years. Chef Kamada-San is a sushi master and an integral part of the Niseko Gourmet success story.  Starting as a 15-year-old and with a career spanning more than 50 years – Chef Kamada-San is credited as a founding influence on the Niseko food renaissance. As one of Niseko Gourmet’s longest-standing chefs and its sushi master, it was an honour to chat with him and savour his signature dishes!

Elite Havens: Hi, Chef Kamada-san. When and how did you make the move to Niseko?

Chef Kamada-san: When I was working in a sushi restaurant in Sendai (early 1972), a diner walked up to me and said that his friend needed some help at his restaurant in Kutchan. I decided to take the opportunity and made the move, where I worked for 3 years and coincidentally also where I met my wife. She was a loyal customer, and, from memory, I think it was me who said the first words to her. After we got married, we both went on to open our own sushi restaurant in Kutchan and operated it for 35 years.

EH: How did you come to work at Niseko Gourmet?

CK: I think it was meant to be, that at the time my restaurant shut, I met Tess Stomsky (the founder of Niseko Gourmet) and then began serving quality sushi to the customers of Niseko Gourmet.

EH: What makes you happiest at work?

CK: When my customers are at their most content, I am too. I also just love making sushi. The process and the pursuit of perfection gives me joy.

EH: What are you thinking of when you make each piece of nigiri?

CK: I am always focused on my customers and giving them the best food possible.

EH: What are some of your most memorable experiences?

CK: Working with different staff members from different countries.

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Island Adventures and Family Fun in Phuket and Koh Samui

in Culture/Destinations/Families/Recreation by

Planning a family vacation to Phuket or Koh Samui and accommodating the needs of an entire family is no easy feat. The mind boggles with such a wide range of both indoor and outdoor activities available. What are the most reputable and safe options, and which activity could satisfy everyone equally – from the oldest to the youngest? Staying at an elite haven makes the decision-making process simple.  Not only will you receive the attentive care and local tips from your dedicated Villa Manager, but you also have the assurance of the Elite Havens’ Concierge to assist with all your booking requirements and to personally manage your experience. So, you can sit back, relax and simply enjoy your holiday.

Phuket

The Phuket Aquarium, on the island’s southernmost tip at Cape Panwa, is a great place to discover Phuket’s underwater world and learn about local marine conservation at the same time. The aquarium is especially suitable for younger kids who will delight at the sight of sea turtles, manta rays and, of course, those cute clownfish of Finding Nemo fame. Top Tip: Walk along the nature trail at the exit of the aquarium and you’ll find a sanctuary for injured turtles.

Phang Nga Bay, with its magical hidden lagoons and towering limestone karsts, is a sea kayaker’s dream. Day trips from Phuket accommodate paddlers of all ages* and abilities and are a wonderful way to discover this unique seascape. Alternatively, ride the waves aboard a traditional long-tail fishing boat, or charter a luxury sail or motor yacht for the day.

*If your kids are very young, we recommend checking with the tour organiser before you book, as full day trips may not be suitable.

Bikes, Boats and Beaches. If you fancy something a little more energetic, we highly recommend a day out with Andaman Nature Tours (Feel Phuket). This three-in-one tour starts with a boat trip over to one of Phuket sister islands Koh Yao Noi. From here, saddle up for a bike ride. The terrain is relatively easy-going and the scenery is stunning. You’ll ride through paddy fields and meet local farmers who are the real organic hipsters, then up into the rubber plantations. For your lunch stop, hop aboard a traditional fishing boat and cruise to a secluded palm-fringed white sandy beach,

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Elite Talk with Country Manager Alan Porteous

in Destinations/People by

Elite Havens Country Manager for Indonesia, Alan Porteous, came to Bali by way of Vietnam. It was fate, as he tells it, that he ended up on the Island of the Gods.

Alan is passionate about triathlon, and has a sports-minded life philosophy. He believes in achieving the impossible, in pushing his limits and challenging the status quo.

We sat down with him for a tête-à-tête.

Elite Havens: Hi, Alan. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Alan Porteous: Sure. I’ve been in Elite Havens for six years and I’ve been in Bali for seven and a half, though I am originally from Australia. I came here for a hotel company and worked in the hotel industry before starting with Elite Havens.

EH: Why did you come to Asia?

AP: I came to Asia because Asia provides far better and more traditional hospitality than much of the rest of the world. The western world has reached a point where labor rates are such that they can’t afford to employ staff and they don’t really focus on the softer aspects of hospitality anymore. Yet Asia continues to provide service and goes above and beyond to offer an exceptional experience to each guest.

I actually worked in hotels in Australia. They were very high-end, uber-luxurious villas, often with open-air, Balinese-styled pavilions. It was a flavour of Asia, and Asian architecture. However, we found it difficult to match Asia’s service levels. It was very challenging in the western world, for a couple of reasons. First, labor rates meant that you were working on very low quantities of staff to try and provide service. Additionally, in a western environment, when people have to perform at a level that’s much higher than the average, it tends to wear them down and their level of friendliness, happiness, job satisfaction is not quite there. As a counter-effect, you don’t get that friendly, loving, caring hospitable service that you can get in Asia.

I first moved to Vietnam, and thereafter moved to Bali. But to be honest, I was meant to come to Bali, I finally felt I belonged. I just took the long way around.

EH: And then you joined Elite Havens in Bali?                      

AP: Yes, I’d been in Bali for about a year and this opportunity came up.

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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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Ayurvedic Massage in Sri Lanka

in Destinations/Wellness by
Villa Pooja Kanda setting for ayurvedic massage

As well as its wealth of historic temples and rich culture, Sri Lanka’s wellness traditions are a feast to discover on a trip to its picturesque shores. Among them is the ancient healing system of Ayurveda, which is still practiced widely in Sri Lanka and neighbouring India.

Ayurvedic traditions are thousands of years old; some estimate they have been passed from master to disciple for more than 5,000 years and that Ayurveda is the oldest healing methodology in the world. The beliefs and practices central to Ayurveda have given birth to other natural healing methods, such as homeopathy and polarity therapy, while Sri Lankan massage therapies use the age-old healing techniques of Ayurveda to restore the body and balance the mind.

Indeed, Ayurveda means ‘knowledge of life’, and the core philosophy of the Ayurvedic system is that the key to health is a balance of your three doshas – energies we all have in our bodies, known as Vata, Pitta and Kappa.

As a form of traditional medicine, Ayurveda uses plant-based treatments to heal and boost physical and mental strength to prevent illness. For many locals in Sri Lanka, Ayurveda is a total way of life that incorporates diet, daily yoga practice and regular meditation. But you don’t have to go the whole hog to appreciate the benefits of Ayurveda. Massage therapies are an important part of Ayurvedic medicine, and as well as having many reputed health benefits, they are also deeply relaxing.

We’ve got the low down on ayurvedic massage treatments and what to expect.

Ayurvedic Body Massage

Ayurvedic massage is a great introduction to the ancient practice of Ayurveda. Aficionados believe massage plays an important role in healthcare, helping to detoxify the skin and body, and improve digestion. Hard-core Ayurveda purists will have a full body massage – known as abhyana in Sanskrit – everyday, for general mind/body support.

We’re not saying a daily massage is de rigueur (although there’s no reason why you shouldn’t –you’re on holiday after all, so why not treat yourself?). One will be enough to give you a taste of the traditions that are interwoven in Sri Lankan culture, plus it’s a wonderful way to relax on vacation. That said, once you’ve tried it, chances are you’ll soon be booking another.

WHAT TO EXPECT: You may start with a consultation about your health,

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