Asia's Hideaways and Havens by wuyunyi


									                                                                      TRAVEL SPECIAL

                                                                      10    Cover Story







3   5                                                     20

4   6




                                                               S. Karene Witcher    Editor
                                                                       Jessica Yu   News graphics director
                                                                      David Chan    Art director
                                                                   Mary E. Kissel   Taste page editor
              Cover: Yangshuo, China (Corbis)
         This page (left to right): bidri plate (Design
              Laboratory); Borobudur (Corbis);
                Jung Chang (Ismael Roldan)
                                                                                                                                                          John Webster
                                                                                  Décolletage at a work dinner
           hen Michele Royalty        ting the look right isn’t as easy as    of “The Female Brain,” says human      posed skin speaks louder than rev-                  clothes at business events may
           wore a simple black        people think. What some women           behavior won’t rise above respond-     enue growth, even to a CEO.                         be thinking “it’s an empowering
           strapless gown to a        see as fashion-forward can often        ing to revealing clothing anytime         Jonscott Turco, a psycholo-                      thing that they can be sexy and
black-tie business dinner for her     come across as sexy in a business       soon. The cortex in the back of our    gist and consultant with Partners                   professional, but guys don’t see
pharmaceutical company, she           environment. Women face mixed           brains, she says, scans the environ-   In Human Resources Interna-                         it that way. If she’s dressed sexy,
says, “I saw the CEO’s eyes drop      messages about what they                ment for fertile mates—and ex-         tional, says women in revealing                     that’s all they see.”
to my cleavage.”                      should wear to evening events.
    “Once a CEO is startled by see-   Ubiquitous photos of décolletage-
ing your cleavage, an image is set    revealing celebrities and models
in his mind that is not going to      photographed on red carpets and
disappear,” says Ms. Royalty,         runways do their part to encour-
who recently retired as an execu-     age faux pas. The super-short
tive at the company. “I never         skirt lengths, low necklines and
wore that type of dress again.”       body-hugging silhouettes mar-
    Events like awards dinners        keted in stores these days often
and client cocktails can blur         conjure up the image of a trophy
workplace rules—including of-         wife rather than an executive.
fice dress codes. And since it’s      Eveningwear is practically synon-
harder for men to embarrass           ymous with sexy.
themselves with evening wear,            Dress is a particular pitfall for
it’s often women who reveal too       female executives. People aren’t
much, leaving their clients or col-   knocked off-kilter when a young
leagues with indelible memo-          office assistant shows up in a re-
ries. The results can range from      vealing dress. But when it’s the
slight discomfort to a huge mis-      CEO—or Hillary Clinton—it’s a
understanding.                        different story.
    “What happens when the sun           “If my attorney bills out at
goes down is people go crazy,”        $1,000 an hour, I want them to
says Patty Fox, a stylist and fash-   look like a lawyer, not a celebrity,”
ion coordinator for the Academy       says Jonathan Fitzgarrald, direc-
Awards. She says she gives busi-      tor of marketing for Greenberg
nesswomen the same advice she         Glusker, a Los Angeles law firm.
gives movie stars: Don’t step out-       It’s not just a matter of image;
side the bounds of your personal      sometimes, there can be real trou-
style, even for a special occasion.   ble. Lisa Goldstein, an attorney
    Gail Graham, executive vice       and founder of consulting firm
president of marketing for Fidel-     Rainmaker Trainers in Philadel-
ity Investments, the mutual           phia, says that during a client din-
fund company, watched a re-           ner with spouses, a head of a law
spected co-worker alter her col-      firm was propositioned by her
leagues’ impressions of her at a      male client and his wife. The cli-
recent business dinner. She           ent “suggested that they swing to-
“showed up in a dress that was        gether,” says Ms. Goldstein, who
practically backless and showed       was informally consulted on how
cleavage,” says Ms. Graham,           to recover the professional-cli-
who later heard male colleagues       ent relationship. The lawyer felt
talking about the woman—days          that her revealing evening dress
after the event. “It became the       had sent “signals that were misin-
story about her. You want the         terpreted,” says Ms. Goldstein.
story to be about you and your           Any rational person should
accomplishments.”                     know better than to proposition
    “There’s no greater crime” for    his attorney. But the reason there
a businesswoman, Ms. Graham           are dress codes is to limit the sig-
adds, with just a smidgen of hy-      nals that could go awry—includ-
perbole, “than to show cleavage.”     ing ones that evoke the irrational.
    While avoiding displays of déc-      Louann Brizendine, a promi-
olletage may sound obvious, get-      nent brain researcher and author
                                                                        dia, too, from Dubai to
                                                                        Copenhagen to New
                                                                        York. “They just shine
                                                                        for us,” says one New
                                                                        Yorker, Norman Indictor,
                                                                        a retired chemist and
                                                                        former consultant for
                                                                        the Metropolitan Mu-
                                                                        seum of Art, who began
                                                                        assembling a collection
                                                                        of Islamic art with his
                                                                        wife, Rina, more than
                                                                        two decades ago. “In the
                                                                        beginning of our collec-
                                                                        tor days, bidri was quite
                                                                        an undervalued form,”
                                                                        Mr. Indictor says, but to-
                                                                        day it is more sought-af-
                                                                        ter and “taken much
                                                                        more seriously.”              A contemporary vase—or, with the stopper in, a decorative flask
                                                                            Bidri’s origins remain
                                                                        rather murky. Most his-
                                                                        torical accounts cite the impact of artisans foreign travelers with limited budgets
                                                                        who migrated from what is now Iran, and baggage allowances.
                                                                        where opulent metalwork was prized. Yet                 “The craft has to be revolutionized and
                                                                        a distinct style evolved in India.                  old designs need to be diversified to make
                                                                            “As the floral ornament of the Muslim the craft affordable for the masses,” ar-
                                                                        courts took hold, the native Indian taste for gues freelance designer Richa Gupta, who
                                                                        sculptural form enriched it, giving Mughal led a September workshop for artisans in
                                                                        poppies and irises the rhythm and weight Bidar at the request of the National Centre
                                                                        of goddesses,” wrote Mark Zebrowski in for Design & Product Development in New
                                                                        “Gold, Silver and Bronze from Mughal In- Delhi. Ms. Gupta came up with 42 proto-
Old bidri is hot, and the new looks are cool                            dia,” a seminal 1997 book that helped spur types for collections with names such as
                                                                        the art market to pay                                                    “Oriental      Minimal,”
                                                                        more attention to antique                      Places                    “Urban Strings” and
                                                                        bidri.                                     to see bidri                  “Street Smart.”
                                                                            The evolution in In-                                                    But other designers
                                he brides never wore black. But         dia was centered in Bi-                                                  think it would be
                                during its heyday, India’s Mogul        dar, where royal patron- HYDERABAD                                       smarter to stick with
                                court delighted in wedding              age guided a thriving in- A.P. State Museum                              bidri’s tradition of lux-
                                gifts fashioned from a somber           dustry that forged the            This often-overlooked museum of- ury collectibles. “I
                                alloy of zinc and copper, black         craft’s name. The city, to- fers an outstanding display of bidri think it should be tar-
                    from oxidation and brightened with gleam-           day a largely impover- —some 50 pieces set against a taste- geted at a boutique au-
                    ing floral inlays in silver, copper or brass.       ished corner of Karna- ful backdrop of gray patterned silk, dience,” says Shweta
                    No trousseau was complete without the               taka state, is also the with informative captions. The gleam- Vyas, a Hyderabad-
                    full range of noble-household essentials,           site of an effort to save ing collection includes hookah bases, based designer who
                    from goblets and flagons to hookahs, betel          contemporary          bidri betel boxes, candle stands and an un- worked with artisans
                    boxes and spittoons.                                from “stagnation,” as usual 19th-century decorative plate.               in Bidar in 2004 and
                        This form of Islamic metalwork from             collector Mr. Mittal puts         Public Gardens, Nampally               2005. “There’s a very
                    the Deccan plateau, known as bidri, flour-          it, and to boost incomes          10:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.;               distinct Islamic aes-
                    ished during the 17th and 18th centuries,           for about 400 artisans            closed Fridays                         thetic to it, and that’s
                    only to fall out of favor as European               who still work at the                91-40-2323-2267                     what makes it bidri.
                    tastes for porcelain and cut glass took             craft. At the behest of                                                  You can’t just use silver
                    over. The craft never died, though, and             state crafts organiza- Salar Jung Museum                                 inlay in straight, sim-
                    the popularity of antique pieces has                tions and private retail-         India’s largest bidri collection rests plistic lines.”
                    soared: These days some bring prices ex-            ers, contemporary de- with this famed museum, but much of                   Many of the design
                    ceeding $100,000, as private collectors             signers have worked it appears dull—apparently a combina- prototypes have yet to
                    and museum curators vie for the few sur-            with the artisans in re- tion of neglect and poor lighting. Luck- graduate to retail
                      viving examples in top condition.                 cent years to create ily, the museum promises a renovated shelves. The artisans,
                             One of the world’s most ardent             bidri—from clocks, can- gallery and more vigorous polishing however, have taken
                              bidri fans is Hyderabad-based             dlesticks and trays to next year. For now, visitors may find some steps toward se-
                                    arts writer Jagdish Mittal,         earrings, cuff links and pleasure in the sheer variety of the curing their futures,
                                       whose wide-ranging col-          buckles—aimed at both 250 items on view, from carpet forming groups such
                                        lection of Indian paint-        domestic and overseas weights to fish-shaped spice boxes to as the Black Gold Bidri
                                          ings and metalwork in-        markets.                      spittoons of all sizes.                    Artisans Society that
                                            cludes 50 pieces of             The role of the de-           Salar Jung Marg                        aim to market direct
                                              antique bidri. Now        signer is to “push the            10 a.m. to 5 p.m.;                     to consumers.
                                                82 years old, he        craftsman to do what his          closed Fridays                            In November 2006,
                                                 got hooked on          ancestors did, and go be-            91-40-2452-3211                     the Indian government
                                                                                                                                                                             Jagdish and Kamla Mittal Museum of Indian Art, Hyderabad (hookah); Design Laboratory (vase)

                                                  bidri in 1951 af-     yond that,” says Vikram                                                  gave bidri a Geographi-
                                                  ter acquiring         Kiron Sardesai, manag- MUMBAI                                            cal Indication—an in-
                                                  two 19th-cen-         ing director of the Banga- Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu             tellectual-property
                                                  tury hookahs          lore-based Design Labo- Sangrahalaya                                     strategy under World
                                                  for less than 10      ratory Pvt. Ltd. Mr. Sarde-       The vast collections of the former Trade          Organization
                                                  rupees, about         sai sees a potential mar- Prince of Wales Museum of Western              rules directed at add-
                                                  $2 at the time.       ket among upwardly mo- India include 15 examples of 18th- and ing brand value and
                                                  Over the years        bile Indian couples who 19th-century bidri for visitors to discover. preventing cheap repli-
                                                  he has gradu-         might otherwise opt for           159-161 M.G. Road, Fort                cas. For these artisans,
                                                 ally upgraded          Western décor. “If one            10:15 a.m. to 6 p.m.;                  to be true bidri, the al-
                                                 his collection, al-    can make things that can          closed Mondays                         loy must be oxidized us-
                                                ways looking for        go into contemporary                 91-40-2284-4484                     ing soil dug from the ru-
                                                early pieces that       homes, I think there’s                                                   ins of Bidar’s once-ma-
                                               display originality      hope for the craft,” he says.                       jestic Islamic fort. That’s what produces
                                             in design.                     The designers differ in their ap- the black sheen that so entranced the Mo-
                                               Bidri appeals to         proaches. Some favor a more minimalist gul rulers.
                                         collectors outside In-         take, with less silver inlay. Officials at              “Black is beautiful because of Bidar’s
                                                                        government-run emporiums, where soil,” proclaims Mohammed Moizuddin, a
                                                                        bidri can get lost among the craft clutter, fourth-generation artisan. “It is God’s gift.”
                                 An 18th-century spherical hookah       often urge artisans to focus on smaller,
                                 base with lotus-pattern silver inlay   lighter, less-expensive items to appeal to           Margot Cohen is a Bangalore-based writer.
                                 Asia's courses get greener

                                                                                                                                                                                                           Matt Kenyon
          olfers make themselves a bit         Keeping it green
          neurotic      with      “swing       These five Asian courses illustrate different
          thoughts”—concerns       about       elements of good practice.
          stance, grip and a thousand
          other things that sneak in dur-      SINGAPORE ISLAND COUNTRY CLUB,
ing what should be a moment of clarity as      SINGAPORE
they begin to swing the club.                     Playing here, I feel as though I’m on a nature re-
   Here’s one more nagging question that       serve. The four courses are shaded by mature trees,
sneaks in on me: Am I doing the “right         tropical birds are numerous and it isn’t uncommon to
thing” from an environmental perspec-          see monkeys. Nongolfers have partial access through
tive? Golf and nature conservation are         public-access footpaths.
two passions of mine, and I worry: Can            One reason for the biodiversity is that the courses lie next
they be reconciled?                            to two of Singapore’s 14 reservoirs, and the land on which
                                               they’re built is owned by the Singapore Public Utilities Board. That                                                                 cial responsibility
                                               means they must “comply with our stringent pollution-control require-                                                            in golf world-wide. We
Golf Journal                                   ments and adopt good water-conservation practices,” explains Tan Nguan                                                     plan to run technical training
PAUL SPENCER SOCHACZEWSKI                      Sen, director of the agency’s Catchment and Waterways Department.                                                  seminars for course operators and to
                                                                                                                                                            recognize courses that adhere to guide-
                                               PHOKEETHRA COUNTRY CLUB, SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA                                                                 lines for responsible behavior.
    Golf courses world-wide have become            In a region subject to seasonal droughts, Thai golf-course designer Major General Weerayudth                 In my travels around Asia I do see
a target of environmental scorn, for bull-     Phetbuasak sought to provide adequate water without harming the ecosystem or jeopardizing local              abuses. But I have also visited courses that
dozing ecologically sensitive areas, us-       farmers’ supply. The solution: 19 man-made lakes that collect rainwater for irrigation, and a system         show good management, and the trend
ing too much scarce water and applying         to pump it through all the water hazards. According to Didier Lamoot, general manager of the golf            seems cautiously encouraging. Certainly
too many dangerous chemicals. Chee             course, this system eliminates the need to drill wells. It may even provide a surplus that could be          some Asian golf courses will continue to
Yoke Ling, environment coordinator of          distributed to local communities.                                                                            impinge on protected areas, use too many
the Third World Network, a watchdog                                                                                                                         chemicals and disregard environmental
group for the developing world, writes in      LAGUNA PHUKET GOLF CLUB, PHUKET, THAILAND                                                                    regulations. Water use will continue to be
the organization’s magazine that golf de-           Like most of the golf courses on Phuket, Laguna Country Club, opened in 1992, was built on an           a problem—a poorly designed golf course
velopment “is becoming one of the most         abandoned tin mine, an example of “restoration ecology” in which a wasteland is turned into a produc-        can use as much water as a small town. But
unsustainable and damaging activities to       tive and attractive resource. An “environmental area” serves as a de facto nature reserve. The course        increasingly, Asian courses are following
people and the environment.”                   is irrigated with “gray water”—nontoilet waste water—from surrounding hotels and is planted with             the stricter standards of golf developers in
    The battle to stop golf has spawned        native grasses that reduce the need for fertilizers and herbicides, according to Tim Haddon, Laguna’s        the U.S. and Canada, Europe and Australia.
groups with impressive names—the Glo-          director of golf.                                                                                            Bangkok-based luxury hotel group Six
bal Anti-Golf Movement, the Global Net-                                                                                                                     Senses, for example, which makes environ-
work for Anti-Golf Course Action, both         HORNBILL GOLF AND JUNGLE CLUB, SARAWAK, MALAYSIA                                                             mental awareness part of its corporate
with roots in Japan—as well as a World No-         Malaysian property developer Lee Kim Yew, in a venture with a Sarawak state agency, built this           identity, is seeking potential partners in
Golf Day (this year it was May 2).             resort with an eye to rehabilitating 2,000 hectares of partially logged mountain top. With rainfall at       Asia to develop golf courses. One crite-
    These campaigners are up against a         7,000 millimeters a year, some fungicide is used on the greens, but when I visited the greenskeeper          rion: Each owner-developer would have to
golf boom in Asia. Of an estimated 4,000       told me all fertilizer is organic and that insect control on the course is provided by chickens.             adhere to company-developed standards
18-hole courses in the region, excluding           On one hole I heard the unmistakable whoosh-whoosh of rhinoceros hornbills, or kenyalangs, in            of environmental management.
Australasia—more than on continental Eu-       flight. To ecologists this bird, important for many Borneo tribes, signifies a healthy forest. “We used          Why this new righteousness? Laws are
rope—300 have opened in the past five          golf to repair nature,” Mr. Lee says.                                                                        helping, where they’re applied. In Sin-
years, according to Golf Research Group.                                                                                                                    gapore, the Public Utilities Board—the na-
With many more courses in development          NEW KUTA GOLF CLUB, BALI, INDONESIA                                                                          tional water agency—enforces strict wa-
(in Vietnam, for instance, home to 17              Built in one of the most arid and unfertile regions in Bali (a desalination plant will provide water,    ter-quality regulations on the land along
courses now, some 30 more are under con-       with the excess given to the local community), this site faced several environmental challenges, says        its reservoirs. In one example, Kranji Sanc-
struction and another 50 planned), the         its designer, Ronald Fream. “We adapted to saline and thin soils,” he says. “We planted limited golf turf.   tuary Golf Course abuts the Kranji Reser-
question of whether golf inevitably harms      We protected and preserved the adjacent natural, almost desert-like vegetation. Where possible we            voir, and some 10% of the course’s land is
the environment is hard for conscientious      are planting with native trees…with a ‘semi-Scottish’ rough of existing shrubs, long grass and creepers.”    set aside as a nature reserve to protect
golfers to ignore.                                                                                                                                          the water catchment. Economics is play-
    Vigorous golf defenders have stepped          Some conservationists are coming                   and commitment.”                                       ing a role, too—some course operators
up. Australian golfer Greg Norman, who         around to the idea that golf is here to stay,            John MacKinnon, a biologist now work-               recognize they could cut costs by reduc-
has his own course-design business, has        says Jeffrey A. McNeely, chief scientist of           ing for a large European Union-funded                  ing energy, water and chemical use, while
said golf courses can “provide green           the Swiss-based IUCN-World Conserva-                  biodiversity project in China, is also co-au-          others sense marketing possibilities. Thai-
spaces, filter air, purify water and create    tion Union, the world’s largest conserva-             thor of “Guidelines for Maximizing Biodi-              land’s Laguna Phuket Golf Club, for exam-
wildlife habitat.” Ronald Fream, whose de-     tion network. With that in mind, they’re              versity on Golf Courses,” published by the             ple, which limits chemical use, irrigates
sign firm Golfplan—Fream, Dale & Ramsey        shifting their focus from stopping course             Asean Regional Centre for Biodiversity                 with gray water and has an environmental
has worked in Asia for more than 30 years,     construction to ensuring that courses                 Conservation. “A well-managed golf                     “no go” zone, sees potential in pitching
argues that a golf course can reclaim waste-   take steps to improve the sites on which              course,” he argues in his book, “can pro-              the course as “green,” says Tim Haddon,
land—such as a former garbage dump or          they’re built.                                        vide more environmental benefits than a                director of golf.
mining pit—and help control erosion. With         “All land use has an impact on the en-             poorly managed nature reserve.”                            Keeping that image in mind as I stand
its turf and trees, Mr. Fream adds, a golf     vironment—the trick is to minimize dam-                  I got involved myself late last year,               at the tee, I twist my hands slightly, sight
course also produces oxygen and fights glo-    age and, where possible, enhance natu-                when several colleagues and I created Igolf—           my target and get ready to hit my drive.
bal warming by absorbing carbon dioxide:       ral values,” says Mr. McNeely, a keen                 the International Golf and Life Foundation,
“On occasion we plant 2,000 or 3,000 trees     golfer himself. Golf courses can do it, he            a not-for-profit Switzerland-based organi-                             Paul Spencer Sochaczewski
around 18 holes,” he says.                     adds, but they need “effort, planning                 zation, to promote environmental and so-                               is a Bangkok-based writer.
            he dosa, one of man-
            kind’s great crepes, is
            both a bit less, and a
            bit more, than South
            India’s daily bread.
   Few popular food items are
as wispy as this thin pancake
made from rice flour (aug-
mented with ground lentils), or
contain so small a dollop of fill-
ing. Yet the lightness of the
dough and the subtle crunch of
the hungrily anticipated first
bite are what make it work so
well. Never has such emptiness
been so filling.
   In Chennai, a sprawling port
on India’s southeast coast,
there’s hardly a snack shop or
roadside stand that can’t put out
a reasonable version of this all-
purpose stuffing and dipping
item. It makes a magnificent com-
panion to the intense local cof-
fee, filtered in individual cups.

The History
   It’s possible that the dosa (do-
sai, tosai or thosai, as it is called
in Malaysia), first mentioned by
Tamil writers around 500 A.D.,
was a product of the extension
of trade out from the Tamil
coast. The batter is fermented,
and K.T. Achaya, an authority on
Indian food, has suggested that
the idea for that actually came
from Southeast Asia, where fer-
mentation of many foods was
more common.
                                          This wispy crepe pulls some weight in Chennai

   The dosa almost certainly ar-
rived together with the idli, a
softer white cake; indeed, dosas        goes cold and soggy, beyond the      namic dosa from a dud? In differ-   rolled up just at one end—              per roast masala dosai, fragrant
are usually made from the left-         power of reheating to rescue. So     ent parts of India, thickness or    dunce-cap-style, as Mr. Doctor          and festive, feeds as many as can
overs of the idli batter. But while     the perfect place to consume it      softness may be preferred. For      puts it.                                tear off a piece.
an idli is cooked by steaming, a        may be somewhere extremely           me, the dosa should be as thin         In Chennai, the “paper                  24 South Mada St., Mylapore
dosa is spread thin on a grill          crowded, noisy and hectic—like       as possible, yet fragrant with      dosa”—as in paper-thin—is more             6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
called a tava and fried.                Chennai’s main branch of the Ho-     the subtle infusion of rice and     often called “paper roast” and is            91-44-2464-3898
   Fermentation aside, the na-          tel Saravana Bhavan restaurant       lentil. If it’s Masala dosa, the    so long, close to 30 centimeters,          Prices: modest; that masala
ture of the grain determines the        chain, with only standing space      most common variety, there will     that the two ends don’t just stick         dosai goes for $1.50.
form of the bread, points out Eco-      for patrons and huge lines           be a mash of spiced potatoes in     off the plate but may run off the
nomic Times food columnist              crowding both the cashier in         the middle of the rolled-up         end of the table. Stretching bat-       Hotel Saravana Bhavan
Vikram Doctor, a food historian         front and the vast open kitchen      crepe. Herbs like fenugreek of-     ter to its limit, these elongated           It’s hard to believe this open-
in his own right. “Rice has next to     out back. A ticket stub held aloft   ten make their way inside as        envelopes are made to be hyper-         air hole-in-the-wall is the initial
no gluten, and neither do the           as part of the ceaseless struggle    well, as do curds and cheese.       crispy. And if one’s best effort        branch of a chain that has spread
other, coarser types of grain his-      to get someone to acknowledge        But there are so many varia-        leaves half still uneaten, the re-      across India and even overseas.
torically grown in South India—         your order just adds to the sa-      tions that you could call dosas     mainder can be shared with fel-         This one is the high temple of
varieties of millet, mostly,” he        vory moment of biting into           designer food.                      low diners.                             dosa and everything else that
says. Gluten is the protein, abun-      one’s prize.                            Sweet dosas are made with                                                can be fried (as well as idli,
dant in wheat, that allows dough           What makes it even better at      coconut and cardamom right in       The Sources                             which is steamed), with accom-
to stretch and rise.                    Saravana Bhavan is that how-         the batter. And new dosa vari-         Dosa can be sampled nearly ev-       panying chutneys that are a spe-
   “Lack of gluten limits the way       ever dubious the general level of    ants appear all the time. Mr.       erywhere in Chennai, but these          cial touch. If you can, go at a time
you can make it into bread…So           sanitation, the paper plate is       Doctor reports finding a            purveyors can be counted on to          other than the lunch hour, when
the obvious way was to grind            white as snow, the dips of spicy     “spring dosa” that is deep-fried    stand above the pack:                   it’s packed.
(the grains) and make batter out        sambar and coconut chutney are       and sliced in cross-sections,                                                   230 N.S.K. Salai, Vadapalani
of them and that is fried as a          freshly made and the dosa ar-        rather like a Chinese egg roll.     Sangeetha Veg. Restaurant                   6 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
crepe,” he says.                        rives still sizzling. To accom-      There are also presentation vari-      The main branch of a popular                91-44-2483-2671
                                        pany, a powerful hit of Chennai’s    ations: Dosas are commonly          chain, with everything on the               Prices: a pittance; dosas
The Setting                             world-class coffee is de rigueur.    served folded roughly in half or    menu from chow mein to Chetti-              range from 30 cents to $2.
   The dosa seems to taste bet-                                              rolled like a crepe (though gen-    nad chicken, but known mainly
ter when eaten in somewhat of a         The Judgment                         erally not as neatly), but larger   for snacks and numerous “do-                             John Krich is a
hurry. Neglected even briefly, it          How to distinguish a dy-          and thinner ones are sometimes      sai,” as the chain spells it. The pa-              Bangkok-based writer.
The mysterious origins of the Margarita

       he Tequila Daisy—a mix of lergic to most liquor, and the only                and lime juice. But the first appear-    quila, 30 ml of Cointreau and 20 ml      truly Daisy-esque, pour it over
       tequila, citrus juice and gren- thing she ever drank was tequila.”           ance in print of a drink actually la-    of fresh lime juice, shaken with ice     finely shaved ice and stir.
       adine served over shaved Not wanting to appear to be a hard                  beled a “Margarita” is the Decem-        and strained into a salt-kissed cock-
       ice—was the first truly popu- drinker, she asked Herrera to mix              ber 1953 issue of Esquire magazine:      tail glass. If you would like it to be    Email me at
lar tequila cocktail, and a natural her tequila up into a cocktail of               “She’s from Mexico, Señores, and
derivation from the Gin Daisy and some sort. He added lemon juice                   her name is the Margarita Cocktail.”
Whiskey Daisy. The cocktail and then tried different liqueurs to                    Esquire cooed that, “she is lovely to
achieved enough currency that the sweeten it up—first banana, then                  look at, exciting and provocative.” A
crew of a World War II B-24 Libera- cherry: “No good. Then I tried Coin-            year later, L.A. Times columnist
tor, flying missions                                      treau, an orange li-      Gene Sherman, writing from Baja’s
to support the D-Day                                      queur, and that was       Rosarito Beach, about 30 kilome-
invasion, nicknamed                Margarita              it.” It’s a good story,   ters south of the border, reported
their bomber “Te-                                         but doesn’t explain       that “in the afternoon you sip a Mar-
quila Daisy.”                  60 ml blanco tequila       why she wouldn’t          garita and gaze pensively across the
    But a decade after            30 ml Cointreau         have just ordered a Te-   wide strand.” Sherman appears to
                              20 ml fresh lime juice
the war, the Tequila                                      quila Daisy.              have been the first to suggest that
Daisy had disap-                                              Others asserting      the drink was named for some or
                           Shake the ingredients with
peared, supplanted             ice and strain into a      parentage have in-        other “sultry lady who was the toast
by an upstart cocktail      salt-kissed cocktail glass.   cluded a San Antonio      of the foreign colony,” but then he
called the Margarita.        Or, to make a Margarita      society        matron     allows that the drink isn’t so far
No one knows quite that’s more like its ancestor named                  Margaret    from being a “Daisy,” the Spanish
where or how. Among the Tequila Daisy, pour over “Margarita” Sames,                 word for which just happens to be
the classics of the         finely shaved ice and stir.   and Beverly Hills bar-    “margarita.” I think that in this
cocktail bar, the Mar-                                    tender         Johnny     aside Sherman hit on the truth, that
garita is something of                                    Durlesser, who staked     the Margarita didn’t replace the
a latecomer—and yet its origin has his claim very early in the game. In             Daisy, but rather evolved from it,
been every bit as obscure as those 1955 he told the Van Nuys News                   both in name and content.
of drinks a hundred years its senior. that he had invented the Margarita                Alas, for the near-ubiquity of
    Not that there haven’t been way back in 1937 and had even en-                   Margaritas today, I suspect that
plenty of paternity claims. Among tered it in a cocktail competition,               very few drinkers have tasted the
those claiming to be the father of winning third place (a showing of                real deal. Saccharrine glop extruded
the Margarita was restaurateur Car- which there is no record).                      from machines is not the real deal.
los “Danny” Herrera, who said he in-            The first evidence of the basic     Nor is anything that comes pre-
vented the drink in 1947 for chorus- Margarita recipe comes from Eng-               mixed in a bottle. And sorry, a can of
girl-turned-socialite         Marjorie land, of all places. The 1937 “Cafe          frozen limeade blended with ice and
Plant, widow of Broadway playboy Royal Cocktail Book,” published in                 tequila doesn’t count either. A true
Phil Plant. Herrera even had an elab- London, included a drink called the           Margarita is a remarkably simple, el-
orate story about how “she was al- Picador, made of tequila, Cointreau              egant affair—60 ml of blanco te-
              o journalist has ap-                                                                                                                                          used to pave the road in the late
              proached his job with                                                                                                                                         19th century as they were more du-
              greater dedication                                                                                                                                            rable than stone and less noisy,
              than your humble re-                                                                                                                                          too. Check out the new and re-
              porter on this particu-                                                                                                                                       used woodblocks that have been
lar assignment: a pub crawl                                                                                                                                                 installed as a replica of this early
through Sydney’s historic Rocks                                                                                                                                             paving technique on the west side
district. I traversed this route                                                                                                                                            of George Street between Mill
not once, but twice. Ales both                                                                                                                                              Lane and Playfair Street.
pale and dark were drunk—not
twice but thrice. And then there                                                                                                                                            2:30 P.M. THE OBSERVER HOTEL
was the fact-checking.                                                                                                                                                         The Observer Hotel is at 69
    After 10 “schooners” or pints                                                                                                                                           George St. (corner of Mill Lane)
(depending on the pub), there                                                                                                                                               and is the first of a number of
will be some matters for which                                                                                                                                              pubs on our crawl that claims to
your faithful scribe should be em-                                                                                                                                          have a resident ghost, a woman
barrassed. Though it’s all a bit                                                                                                                                            who is said to have been mur-
hazy now, the greatest friend-                                                                                                                                              dered there in 1944. It’s an impres-
ships in the world were launched                                                                                                                                            sive structure from the outside,
and lost and the great debates of                                                                                                                                           and worthy of a beer stop, but
history were, uh, debated, while                                                                                                                                            only for one round. (Inside it’s all
your reporter was dutifully bend-                                                                                                                                           beer logos and “pokies.” You may
ing his elbow with fellow custom-                                                                                                                                           decide the Observer can be ob-
ers (the likes of some, God will-                                                                                                                                           served merely in passing as you
ing, he will never see again).                                                                                                                                              make your way up George Street.)
    They don’t call it a pub
“crawl” for nothing.                                                                                                                                                        3 P.M. HARBOURVIEW HOTEL
    So, for those who might get                                                                                                                                                 On Saturdays and Sundays (10
“shickered after one shandy,” we                                                                                                                                            a.m. to 5 p.m.), George Street be-
have provided here a “best of”                                                                                                                                              tween Hickson Road and Cumber-
route with additional side op-                                                                                                                                              land Street becomes the Rocks
tions for hardier imbibers.                                                                                                                                                 Market, a high-quality outdoor
    In fact, we break a lot of rules                                                                                                                                        bazaar. After browsing the home
on this crawl. It’s not our goal to                                                                                                                                         ware, jewelry, artwork and arti-

                                                                                                                                                               John Lavin
make you blotto. We’ll give you a                                                                                                                                           facts, continue on George Street
feed to line your stomach and                                                                                                                                               as it runs under the Sydney Har-
one to soak up the beer at the end.                                                                                                                                         bour Bridge and ends at Lower
You’ll find some of the best res-                                                                                                                                           Fort Street. Turn left.
taurants in Sydney along this
route, plus art and history.
                                        A proper pub crawl through the city’s historic Rocks district                                                                           Tucked     underneath       the
                                                                                                                                                                            bridge, near one of its stone py-
    But here is one rule that’s sac-                                                                                                                                        lons, the Harbourview Hotel at
rosanct: the shout. A shout is a                                                                                                                                            18 Lower Fort St. offers what
round of drinks for everyone in         tions for a table with a view of Cir-   12 P.M. ROCKPOOL                        George St., one of only a few sur-                  may be the most interesting
your party, and one—and only            cular Quay and the Opera House.            If you skipped breakfast at the      viving houses from the early                        view of our crawl. You can see
one—person is meant to pay for a        (     61-2-9241-4253; www.mca           MCA Cafe, have an early lunch at        years of this former British penal                  Sydney      Harbour      straight
shout. What’s more, each person                                Rockpool, 107 George St., one of        colony. Built in 1816, it was origi-                through the steel girders of the
in your party must have a shout,           We’ve allowed time to enjoy          Australia’s best restaurants. It’s      nally the office and barracks for                   bridge, whose design was an en-
though on a pub crawl, the next         the art and the architecture of         perfect for a light repast of freshly   the crew of New South Wales gov-                    gineering feat of the Art Deco
shout can be at the next pub.           the MCA. The museum’s perma-            shucked oysters ($3.80 each).           ernment boats.                                      era. The original pub, built in the
    With the exception of one           nent collection is exhibited in ro-     Walk north along George Street to-         Next door to Cadman’s Cot-                       1840s, was demolished to make
pub, which brews its own bou-           tation on the fourth floor and in-      ward Sydney Harbour Bridge to           tage is the Sailor’s Home. Built in                 way for the bridge’s south pylon.
tique beers, most vendors on            cludes works by Australian art-         get there. ( 61-2-9252-1888 to re-      the 1860s to provide sailors with                   The current pub was built in
this crawl offer a variety of pop-      ists such as Howard Arkley, Juan        serve within 24 hours or www            clean, affordable accommoda-                        1921 and today retains many Art
ular Australian draft brews (Car-       Davila, Tim Johnson and Imants for advance         tion (and, in part, as an alterna-                  Deco features. Skip the ground
lton, various ales from James           Tillers and international artists       bookings) Main courses cost be-         tive to staying with prostitutes),                  floor bar and head upstairs to
Squire, Victoria Bitter, Hahn Su-       such as Andy Warhol, Cindy              tween $28 and $53. Hint: It’s           it now houses Sailor’s Thai, an-                    Harbourview Cocktail Lounge.
per Dry and Tooheys—both                Sherman, Barbara Kruger, Roy            cheaper to eat at the bar—there’s       other option for lunch. Thai cui-                   It’s on an outdoor terrace and
“Old” and “New”). Whatever              Lichtenstein and Keith Haring.          a different menu with lower-            sine expert David Thompson                          the view of Sydney Harbour may
you do, don’t order a Foster’s.         Other floors feature temporary          priced options.                         opened this restaurant in the                       entice you to have more than
Actor Paul Hogan may have said          exhibitions. Check the museum’s                                                 mid-1990s, long before he won                       one beer.
it’s Australian for “beer,” but         Web site for details closer to the      1 P.M. ORIENT HOTEL                     over London with his Michelin-
most locals consider it Austra-         time of your visit.                        Continue north along George          star Thai restaurant Nham. The                      5 P.M. HERO OF WATERLOO
lian for “tourist.”                                                             Street to No. 89, the Orient Ho-        entrance is on the south side of                       Walk south (or crawl, depend-
                                        11:30 A.M. FORTUNE OF WAR               tel. The rounded façade of this         the building. There’s also a                        ing on how many you had at the
10 A.M.                                     Your first coldie is at the For-    colonial Georgian building is one       quicker, more casual, and less ex-                  Harbourview) down Lower Fort
BREAKFAST AT THE MUSEUM OF              tune of War, 137 George St.,            of the oldest of its type still         pensive sister restaurant, Sail-                    Street to the corner of Windmill
CONTEMPORARY ART CAFE                   across from the MCA. Anything           standing in the Rocks, a district       or’s Thai Canteen, in the same                      Street, where you’ll find the Hero
   (Art and coffee? We haven’t          earlier would be unseemly, even         that gets its name from the sand-       building with an entrance around                    of Waterloo, 81 Lower Fort St.,
even started and already we’re          for a pub crawl.                        stone there, which was quarried         the corner on George Street (ap-                    one of the more charming sand-
breaking the rules.) Have a short           The Fortune of War is one of        by convicts and used to con-            proximately $24 a dish; try the                     stone pubs in the Rocks and an-
black (espresso) to perk you up         three pubs in Sydney that claim         struct the area’s buildings. Walk       green papaya salad).                                other that claims to be the city’s
before your walk turns into a           to be “Australia’s oldest” (the         through the public bar that has            Cross the street and continue                    oldest. If it’s Saturday, you
crawl. The MCA Cafe, which is           other two we’ll hit later on the        all the look of a “bloodhouse”          north on George Street. Time to                     should arrive just in time for the
just across Sydney Cove from the        crawl). Down a “middy” of Too-          and into the stone courtyard to         get back to the beer, but don’t ig-                 Old Time Band, a jazz and swing
Sydney Opera House, offers              heys New (a downmarket brew             enjoy your beer.                        nore the fact that you are walking                  band led by Johnny Wray, 70
breakfast only on weekends, 10          but perfect for this pub) to whet          Across the street from the Ori-      on the first road in Australia made                 years old, and Valda Marshall,
a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Make reserva-        your appetite for lunch.                ent is Cadman’s Cottage, 110            by Europeans. Woodblocks were                       who is in her 80s.
   On the afternoon I went to the         son have the best beer in the                    comfortable room at the Lord                     fect place for a nightcap (other-
Hero, there was a quiet vibe, with        world? Six ales are brewed on the                ($124 for shared bathroom, $181                  wise known as a roadie). From
locals dropping in for a schooner         premises (the copper vats are to                 for one of your own), head east                  there it’s back down the stairs
and a chat. One local was fasci-          the rear of the bar). I start with a             on Argyle Street through the Ar-                 and to the Lord for a snooze, or
nated by a vacationing American           pint of Three Sheets, a pale ale
couple doing their own pub crawl,         that’s smooth and malty and easy
until the pair confessed they
didn’t know who the “Hero of Wa-
                                          to drink. A chalkboard sign says,
                                          “The Blood is Back.” The Blood?                  Most pubs on this crawl offer Australian drafts
terloo” was (the Duke of Welling-
ton, who defeated Napoleon at
                                          In no time we’re all sipping pints
                                          of Nelson’s Blood, a robust porter               from Carlton to Tooheys. Just don’t order a Foster’s:
Waterloo). I asked about the tun-
nel that is said to run from the
                                          that does indeed have the
                                          “espresso and dark chocolate” fla-               Paul Hogan may have said it’s Australian for “beer,”
pub’s cellar to the sea and re-
ceived an impromptu minitour
                                          vors boasted of in another sign.
                                             Fortification is likely to be                 but most locals consider it Australian for “tourist.”
from our Irish barmaid Carey. Al-         needed to continue. Along with
legedly used for smuggling rum            serving pints, rather than schoo-
and kidnapping sailors in colonial        ners, of ale, the Lord Nelson main-              gyle Cut to Cumberland Street.                   further down Argyle where, if
times, the tunnel is now sealed           tains the British tradition of pork              The Argyle Cut is a historic tun-                you turn right on George, you
off, but you can see chains and           pies at the bar. For more substan-               nel, partly carved out by con-                   can go to the Fortune of War and
shackles hanging from the walls.          tial fare, there’s a dining room up-             victs, that links Millers Point                  begin again.
                                          stairs with higher-quality pub                   (where the Lord and the Hero
6 P.M. LORD NELSON                        food (beef fillet, fish curry and                are) to the Rocks (where you                                          Chip Rolley is a
    When you emerge from the              rack of lamb, with main courses                  started). When you emerge from                                    Sydney-based writer.
dungeon, you can add any new-             averaging $29 each).                             the tunnel, turn left and walk up
found mates to your mob (as I did                                                          the Argyle Stairs to the Glen-
with the Americans—“septics,”             9 P.M. THE ARGYLE CUT                            more, a pub at the corner of 96                              Next Month’s
in Australian parlance) and crawl            If you’re up for continuing,                  Cumberland St. Its rooftop bar,                               City Walk:
west down Windmill Street and             rather than crawling upstairs to                 with views of the Opera House                                 Hong Kong
turn left on Kent Street. At the          a small but nicely appointed and                 and Sydney Harbour, is the per-
corner of Argyle Street you’ll
find the Lord Nelson (19 Kent
St.), with the sign that proudly
proclaims itself to be, you
guessed it, Sydney’s “oldest ho-
tel.” Never mind that. We’ve
struck gold. The sandstone pub is
beautifully restored and there’s
not a pokie in sight.
   Is it the cumulative effect of
the drinking, or does the Lord Nel-

        Bloodhouse: a particularly
down-and-dirty hotel with generally
      out-of-control, drunk patrons
                Blotto: drunk
             Coldie: cold beer
 Early opener: pubs that open early
(in Queensland state there are pubs
     that open as early as 7 a.m.),
    usually the turf of desperadoes
  who can’t wait for the first drink
                 of the day
  Hotel: a pub. At one time, hotels
  were licensed to serve alcohol as
well as provide room and board for
   travelers. Today, the word is still
    sometimes used for any hotel,
                                                                Spend your holiday
    though more often it refers to
       establishments whose main
                                                                spending it.
business is serving alcohol (many of
 which no longer also provide room
                 and board).
 Middy: A 285 ml measurement of
       beer, or a little more than a
  half-pint. This term is used in the
   states of New South Wales and
            Western Australia.
        Piss: beer (not what you
              were thinking)
               Pissed: drunk,
          not (necessarily) angry
    Pokies: poker machines or slot
     machines. Pokies have spread
      throughout Australia and are
claimed by many critics to be killing
  pub culture. In the 2007 national
  election, voters elected a senator
who ran on a “No Pokies” platform.
  Schooner: a measure for beer. In
   New South Wales, the Northern
  Territory and a growing number
       of other states, a schooner
is 425 ml, or nearly a pint. In South
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    Australia, it’s 285 ml, or a little                                                                     Red Rock Casino, Resort & Spa, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
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          more than a half-pint.                     Porto Elounda De Luxe Resort, Crete, Greece            The Grand Del Mar, San Diego, California, USA
     Septic: short for “septic tank.”                Covo Dei Saraceni, Positano, Amalfi Coast, Italy       The Palms South Beach, Miami Beach, Florida, USA
 Rhyming slang for ‘yank,’ meaning                   Hotel Parco dei Principi, Sorrento, Italy              The Platinum Hotel and Spa, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
               an American.                          Es Saadi Hotel, Marrakech, Morocco                     The Villas of Grand Cypress, Orlando, Florida, USA
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    Shandy: a mixture of beer and
  sparkling lemonade (what septics                        To reserve your Resort Escapes package and for terms and conditions, call 800 96 3365 (Hong Kong)
        might refer to as Sprite)                         or 0120 747 755 (Japan), your travel professional or visit
      Shickered: See blotto, pissed
Roadie: one more for the road. The                        *
                                                           US$100 or local currency equivalent.
     thing about a roadie is there’s
             always one more.
                  hen Valerie Wong takes a vacation, it’s a
                brief one—and that suits her just fine. She
              has perfected the long weekend getaway.
                                                                                                     t was raining when I arrived in
So far this year, she has been to Taipei for the                                                     Yangshuo just before dawn. But I
                                                                                                     didn’t care. Hours before I’d
Easter holidays, Kuala Lumpur over the Ching Ming                                               been at home in Hong Kong, with its
                                                                                                choking smog. Here, the air was
                                                                                                clean and fresh, even with the driz-
Festival in April and Singapore for the Buddha’s                                                zle. As the sun rose, I watched mes-
                                                                                                merized while the town’s majestic
birthday break in May.                                                                          moss-topped mountains came into
                                                                                                full, stunning view.
   “I do it all the time,” says Ms. Wong, a                                                         I’d skipped nearby Guilin, that
                                                                                                mecca for tourists seeking the
30-year-old hedge-fund analyst in Hong Kong. “It’s                                              jagged limestone peaks and dark wa-
                                                                                                ters of the Li River that are pictured
great for when you just need to get away, to get a                                              in so many Chinese paintings. In-
                                                                                                stead, heeding the advice of a
change of scenery.”                                                                             friend, I’d headed straight for Yang-
                                                                                                shuo. For those who fly to Guilin,
                                                                                                it’s only an hour away by car and of-
   Short breaks of three to four days are easy in                                               fers all the scenery of the better-
                                                                                                known city—with fewer tourists
Asia—and alluring, given the array of cultures                                                  and tourist traps.                        A rice field in Yangshuo
                                                                                                    Yangshuo is “just beautiful,” de-
around the region. But what if, like Ms.                                                        clares Seth Blodgett, a 37-year-old
                                                                                                American teacher living in Tokyo          a bicycle, which costs about $1.40,
Wong, you’ve already hit the                                                                    who traveled here in December with        and be in the countryside in about 15
                                                                                                his family. The town’s surrounding        minutes. You’ll pedal past farmland,
well-trodden destinations?                                                                      rice fields, mountains and rivers         ringed on all sides by limestone
                                                                                                give a sense of “what China had           peaks. At points along the way, you
   Weekend Journal has checked                                                                  once been,” Mr. Blodgett says.            may even share the road with water
                                                                                                    The town’s old-world feel—“low-       buffalo, children and flocks of plump
                                                                                                rise” defines Yangshuo, unless            chickens. Or, hire a car and driver for
out some out-of-the-way                                                                         you’re referring to its limestone         about $30 a day through the China
                                                                                                peaks—may not last long. Travel           International       Travel     Service
alternatives for your next                                                                      aficionados have been buzzing             branches in town; add another $10 a
                                                                                                about it lately. A survey of travelers    day for a tour guide.
minibreak. From the mystical                                                                    conducted by the Web site TripAd-            You can also take to the water.
                                                                                                visor last October names Yangshuo         Hiring a small bamboo raft to ply the
aura of Indonesia’s ancient temples to the hidden                                               as one of the top 10 destinations in      calm river under the stewardship of
                                                                                                the world. And the town is fast be-       a local farmer costs about $8 a per-
delights of Seoul to the beaches of Langkawi, here                                              coming a popular weekend destina-         son. It sounds more dangerous than
                                                                                                tion for people in Asia: Luxury           it is—the steady raft I rode mea-
are some easy-to-reach places—whether you’re                                                    travel company Abercrombie &              sured about two meters by four
                                                                                                Kent in Hong Kong says it regularly       meters and included two seats for
seeking a respite from everyday life or stretching a                                            arranges quick getaways here for          passengers. If you don’t swim, you
                                                                                                people who live in Shanghai and           might find it a little nerve-wracking,
                                                                                                Hong Kong.                                but Mr. Blodgett and his wife felt
business trip into some time for yourself.                                                          Elisabeth de Brabrant, an art con-    comfortable bringing their two chil-
                                                                                                sultant from Shanghai, went to Yang-      dren—aged 6 and 8—along for the
                                                                                                shuo with friends and family in           hour-long ride. Plus, the open-air
                                                                                                March, after meeting a bicycle-tour       raft offers better views of the lime-
                                                                                                operator who raved about it. “She         stone peaks than the alternatives—
                                                                                                sold me” on the place with her de-        such as a cramped riverboat that
                                                                                                scriptions of the vistas and the chal-    seats about 25 people on wooden
                                                                                                lenging bike rides. “We were look-        benches and costs $36 for a 2µ hour
                                                                                                ing for an experience that took us be-    trip. The boat’s opaque roof ob-
                                                                                                yond tourism,” Ms. de Brabrant            scures much of the scenery, so if you
                                                                                                says. “It’s up there as one of the best   don’t get a seat near the small win-
                                                              Four Seasons (cave); Corbis (4)

                                                                                                trips I’ve ever taken.”                   dows, you’ll miss most of the views.
                                                                                                    Of course, there are a few irritat-      My cheerful bamboo-raft guide
                                                                                                ing hawkers and crowded tourist at-       initiated me into the local pastime
                                                                                                tractions to avoid. But getting away      of naming the area’s many craggy,
                                                                                                from town is easy in Yangshuo.            knotted peaks. As we drifted along
                                                                                                    You can head out on foot. Or rent     the river he occasionally rattled off
A bamboo raft on the Li River in Yangshuo
                                          Left, a farmer with a
                                          water buffalo in
                                          Yangshuo; right, the
                                          beach at Burau Bay
                                          and a view through a
                                          cave, both in Langkawi

names and accompanying myths.
“There! That’s Frog Crossing the                         By plane, Guilin is one hour from Hong Kong, three hours from
River!” He pointed, exuberantly, at a                    Beijing and two hours from Shanghai. From Guilin, it’s an hour             s you fly into Langkawi’s airport, you can’t
lump of a mountain poised by the wa-                     by car to Yangshuo.                                                        miss the long stretch of white sand that this
ter’s edge. Indeed, there it was—the                     Luxe rating: Low. Lodging options in Yangshuo range from                   lush archipelago is famous for. That strip,
curve of a frog’s back, a long, bul-                     hostels to basic hotels. One popular spot is the Paradise          though, which is right beside the airport, is just a
bous throat and neatly folded hind                       Yangshuo Resort Hotel, at 116 Xi Jie, which has clean, spacious    tease: There are plenty of other, more-secluded
legs tensed for a leap.                                  rooms and a central location ( 86-773-822-2109) Another            beaches that are nestled beside rainforests.
   The main section of the town is                       option is New Century Hotel, which is next to Yangshuo Park            Just ask Chua Lee Beng, a 40-year-old elemen-
all of two bustling streets with a                       ( 86-773-882-9819). For a rustic inn, try The Giggling Tree,       tary-school teacher in Singapore. She traveled to
handful of bars and coffee shops. At                     which is run by a Dutch couple and is about five kilometers        Langkawi last September for a short break between
night, locals linger over bowls of                       outside of town. Guests stay in restored farmhouses                school terms and stayed at a high-end resort on the
noodles, and along Xi Jie (or West                       ( 86-136-6786-6154).                                               north end of the island. “The beach was empty,”
Street), you’ll find peddlers selling                                                                                       says Ms. Chua.
handcrafted jewelry, trinkets and                        Family factor: Medium. There’s plenty for families to do: light        A string of 99 islands in northern Malaysia that is
wooden puzzles. Every night (ex-                         hiking and biking or a mud bath in the caves.                      home to fishermen and farmers, Langkawi—also
cept for a short hiatus after the re-                    The draw: Stunning scenery and a laid-back atmosphere.             the name of the archipelago’s main island—was off
cent earthquake in Sichuan prov-                                                                                            the radar as a resort destination in Asia until re-
ince), there’s a show—a must-see—                        Best time to go: April to October; the winter in Yangshuo can      cently. Some islanders chalk that up to an ancient
staged on platforms and bamboo                           be damp and chilly.                                                legend—the place swirls with mystical tales—about
rafts in the Li River against the back-                                                                                     a young woman wrongly accused of adultery. Before
drop of the peaks. “Impressions Liu                                                                                         her execution, she placed a curse on the islands for
Sanjie” marshals the star power of                                                                                          seven generations—a spell that expired in recent
about 600 locals—children, fisher-                                                                                          years. In truth, the area’s growing popularity as a re-
men and other townspeople—under                                                                                             sort area has more to do with its designation in 1987
the direction of celebrated Chinese                                                                                         as a duty-free shopping zone—a calculated move by
filmmaker Zhang Yimou (of “Raise                                                                                            the Malaysian government to promote Langkawi as
the Red Lantern” and “House of the                                                                                          a tourist destination.
Flying Daggers”), who is also direct-                                                                                           Over the years, Langkawi has worked to become
ing the opening ceremony of the                                                                                             a popular vacation spot. Tourist attractions have
Beijing Olympics.                                                                                                           been developed: There’s the Langkawi Cable Car
   Yangshuo is a serious rock-climb-                                                                                        that whisks you to one of the island’s highest peaks,
ing destination, too. There are about                                                                                       Mount Matchinchang, for sweeping views of the An-
300 climbing routes ranging from                                                                                            daman Sea and the surrounding islands. A bike ride
easy to hard. Five routes have                                                                                              down the mountain and through paddy fields at the
earned a 5.14 “expert” Yosemite Dec-                     Langkawi                                                           bottom is even better. It can be arranged through
imal grade, the second-highest rat-                                                                                         many of the island’s resorts. There’s also abseiling,
                                                         The island is a one-hour flight from Kuala Lumpur, and 1 1/2
ing of a detailed system used in the                                                                                        sailing and canoeing.
                                                         hours from Singapore.
U.S. A route of that caliber is for                                                                                             Even so, Langkawi has managed to maintain a cer-
elite climbers only, says Scott                          Luxe rating: High. There are several luxury resorts, from the      tain hideaway quality—it doesn’t have, for instance,
Browning, a general manager at Chi-                      Four Seasons (, the Datai and         the club scene so prevalent on some islands in
naClimb, a local adventure tour oper-                    the Andaman (check out both at to other         nearby Thailand. And that suits most visitors here,
ator. “There’s no other serious-                         less-pricey, but chic places to stay, such as the Bon Ton Resort   who are after a do-nothing trip anyway.
grade climbing in China,” he says.                       (                                             Ms. Chua, for instance, didn’t leave her resort
(Tibet is known for its mountaineer-                                                                                        during her entire four-day stay. “I like to have the
                                                         Family factor: High. Lots for kids to do.
ing—not rock climbing. And though                                                                                           beach and sand, and everything else within the
there are climbing routes in Guizhou                     The draw: Classic beach getaway.                                   same resort.” On her last night, she went for a walk
in central China and Beijing to the                      Best time to go: Hot and sunny throughout the year, but a mild     on the beach. “The sky was filled with stars,” says
north, neither has anything offering                     rainy season comes in September and October.                       Ms. Chua. “I was lying there on the deck chair and it
the grade of difficulty of Yangshuo’s                                                                                       was really like an explosion” in the sky.
best routes.)                                                                                                                   Besides a handful of luxurious resorts, there are
   Other sports include kayaking,                                                                                           number of little friendly places to stay on the main
mountain biking and caving.                                                                                                 island, including Bon Ton Resort, a collection of
   If you’re up for a field trip, visit                                                                                     eight old wooden village houses converted into styl-
the village of Ping’an, a three-hour                                                                                        ish accommodation.
drive away. (Your hotel or the China                                                                                            If you can tear yourself away from your resort, go
International Travel Service can ar-                                                                                        on an island-hopping trip by motorboat. Visit the Is-
range a trip.) There, you can see                                                                                           land of the Pregnant Maiden—its name comes from
soaring rice terraces and villages oc-                                                                                      the mountains, which resemble a pregnant woman
cupied by ethnic minorities, such as                                                                                        lying on her back, that surround a freshwater lake
the Yao and Miao people. “In the                                                                                            on the isle. Local legend has it that a fairy blessed
spring when the rice shoots come                                                                                            the water after burying her child there and any
up, it’s emerald green and these in-                                                                                        woman who bathes there will conceive.
credible terraces go on for miles,”
says Gerald Hafferty, who organizes                                                                                         Lorien Holland is a Kuala Lumpur-based writer.
China tours for Abercrombie & Kent.                                                                                               Nellie S. Huang contributed to this article.
                                                                                                                       reclining Buddha and tree of life mosaic.
                                                                                                                       Built in the 16th century by King Set-
                                                                                hen Sarah Ramanuskas sat down          thathirat, it was here that the former           Two hours by plane from
                                                                                to plan a recent trip, what she        kings of Laos were crowned. (The last            Bangkok; four hours from
                                                                                hoped to avoid was another             king was forced to abdicate in 1975 after        Singapore; and 4 1/2 hours
                                                                       Asian city that had lost its culture to what    the Pathet Lao, a communist rebel group,         from Hong Kong, excluding
                                                                       she calls a “latte, laptop, Lexus” lifestyle.   assumed power.)                                  layovers. All flights go via
                                                                          “We wanted to see a really interest-             When monks and novice monks aren’t           Bangkok.
                                                                       ing place before it changed out of all rec-     at prayer or study they can sometimes be         Luxe rating: High. Options
                                                                       ognition,” says the 41-year-old re-             seen wandering—shaded by their umbrel-           include boutique luxury hotels
                                                                       searcher for an online sports-betting           las—and mingling with shopkeepers and            such as the Orient-Express
                                                                       company in London.                              hill-tribe families who arrive for the night     group’s La Résidence Phou
                                                                          She and her husband, Steve, 39, found        market to sell their handicrafts. The            Vao (www.residencephouvao
                                                                       what they wanted in Luang Prabang,              monks begin their day soon after dawn,           .com) and Alila Hotel’s 3
                                                                       once the capital and royal seat of Laos,        shuffling silently through the streets of        Nagas (,
                                                                       which sits on the banks of the Mekong           the town and collecting alms—usually             which has accommodation in
                                                                       River. “It has a really wonderful, laid-        sticky rice, bananas and other food—from         a traditional Lao-style building
                                                                       back vibe,” says Mrs. Ramanuskas, who           local residents.                                 as well as a former French-
                                                                       says friends had traveled here and en-              This age-old morning alms-giving rit-        colonial residence.
                                                                       ticed them with descriptions of Buddhist        ual is a must-see, though it requires a          Family factor: Low. This is
                                                                       temples, saffron-robed monks and the            5 a.m. wake-up call. Bear in mind, how-          mostly an intrepid stop for
                                                                       charming blend of traditional Lao and           ever, that it’s a religious ceremony—ob-         singles or a lazy getaway
                                                                       French-colonial architecture.                   serve, don’t partake. “We ask the tourists       for couples.
                                                                          In 1995, when Luang Prabang was              to keep their distance because otherwise         The draw: Traditional culture,
                                                                       named a World Heritage site by the              the monks are not happy,” says Daophet           saffron-robed monks, gilded
                                                                       United Nations Educational, Scientific          Bovpphaphan, assistant manager of the            temples and laid-back charm.
                                                                       and Cultural Organization—a designation         3 Nagas hotel.
                                                                       aimed at preservation—few people vis-               On a recent day, Toni Stinton, 38, an        Best time to go:
                                                                       ited Laos. Unlike other regional World          American sales executive from San Fran-          Mid-November to
                                                                       Heritage sites, such as the temples of An-      cisco, watched the alms-giving at a dis-         mid-February when it's
                                                                       gkor in Cambodia or Sukhothai in Thai-          tance from the balcony of her hotel. She         mostly dry and temperatures
From top, sunset over the                                              land, both of which are the remains of em-      had escaped to Luang Prabang for a four-         are cooler.
Mekong River; Buddhist monks                                           pires long since deceased, Unesco recog-        day break after attending work confer-
with their rice bowls; a pagoda at                                     nized Luang Prabang as a town rich in his-      ences in Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong.
Wat Xieng Thong; Buddha                                                tory but also a living, breathing place still   Having heard about Luang Prabang
statues in the Pak Ou Caves                                            practicing its culture.                         through friends who promised her it was
                                                                          Now, the city’s unaffected charm has be-     “something different,” she wasn’t disap-
                                                                       come a draw for anyone seeking a glimpse        pointed. “It’s not like anywhere I have ever
                                                                       of Asia’s past. And the small, sleepy town      experienced before and I’m quite well-trav-
                                                                       is gradually gentrifying: Cafes and wine        eled,” she says.
                                                                       bars now dot the main street Thanon                 Certainly, it’s a place to relax. Sitting
                                                                       Sakkarin—although they shut by 11:30            and sipping on a strong brew of local cof-
                                                                       p.m. and most of the city’s residents are       fee and taking in daily life is one of the
                                                                       asleep soon after.                              most enjoyable pastimes. You may need a
                                                                          Luang Prabang’s appeal lies not only         cup after you’ve climbed the 320-odd
                                                                       in its quiet but in its spiritual atmo-         steps up Mount Phousi for a birds-eye
                                                                       sphere. The city is still considered the        view of the town and spectacular views of
                                                                       country’s religious center, although Vien-      the Mekong. For those wanting more,
                                     Corbis (3); Getty Images (cave)

                                                                       tiane is now the capital. Luang Prabang’s       there are also half-day river trips, weaving
                                                                       32 golden wats (temples) and monaster-          villages to visit and hikes that will lead you
                                                                       ies are home to almost 1,000 monks. The         into the nearby hinterland where mahog-
                                                                       most famous and beautiful of the tem-           any and teak trees still grow.
                                                                       ples is Wat Xieng Thong, with its low
                                                                       sweeping roof, large carved gilded doors,       Anne Hyland is a Bangkok-based writer.
One of the last buildings of its kind
in Penang, the painstakingly restored
Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion,
dating to the late 19th century, is
open for tours once daily.

                                                                                             desserts and bright-colored drinks.          tel fame) in the late 1880s and has
                                                                                                 Or go upscale. For a stylish European-   hosted many famous guests including
       tep inside the lush Tropical Spice                                                    with-an-Asian-twist dining experience,       Noel Coward, Somerset Maugham and
       Garden, just past Penang’s main                                                       go to 32 at the Mansion, at 32 Jalan Sul-    Sun Yat-sen.
       beach area of Batu Ferringhi, and                                                     tan Ahmad Shah ( 60-4-262-2232,                  Just around the corner from the E & O
whiffs of coriander, allspice, nutmeg, pep-                                         This peach-         is the historic Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion,
per and cloves waft over you. It’s a fitting                                                 colored Italianate villa by the sea was      a courtyard home built at the end of the
introduction to this Malaysian island,                                                       built in 1926 by a businessman who           19th century by a Chinese millionaire
which was once a prosperous staging                                                          made a fortune in tin mining. It’s been      known as the “Rockefeller of the East.”
post for the East India Company’s spice                                                      refurbished and redecorated into a           The “blue mansion”—named for its in-
route in the 18th and 19th centuries.                                                        swanky restaurant serving Straits Cui-       digo exterior—is one of the last remain-
    Today, Penang is every bit the melt-                                                     sine (a name for the fusion food that’s      ing examples of Southern Chinese archi-
ing pot it was those many years ago                                                          unique to Malaysia and Singapore) and        tecture of this period. In the late 1980s,
when traders, missionaries, sailors, set-                                                    it’s well worth a stop. Sample the Man-      after the death of Cheong Fatt Tze’s last
tlers and adventurers from all over the        The Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion is known as the   sion’s well-known favorites: spicy glass-    son, it was put on the market. But a
world came to this state to make a new         ‘blue mansion’ for its indigo exterior.       noodle salad, osso buco lamb shank or        group of Penang conservationists
life. The 293-square-kilometer island in                                                     six-spice barbecued chicken.                 bought the house and it was painstak-
the Strait of Malacca is a fusion of Ma-                                                         Penang went through something of a       ingly restored. It’s now a bed and break-
lay, Chinese, Thai, Burmese, Arab, In-         who lives in Kuala Lumpur and recently        slump in the 1970s and 1980s after it        fast establishment. The formal rooms in-
dian and European influences, from its         took a family break on the island.            lost its free-port status in 1969. But the   side the indigo courtyards are open for
architecture to its cuisine.                   “There are so many different things to        upside was that many of its historical       tours once a day at 11 a.m.
    In George Town, capital of Penang          do from exploring Chinese temples, go-        buildings escaped any modernization              Penang also has beaches. Some
state, narrow streets of Southeast Asian       ing up Penang Hill on the old funicular       drive. The island’s fortunes have since      might find the sandy strip of Batu Fer-
shophouses—typically two- or three-            railway and bargaining in the craft           revived, thanks in large part to an expan-   ringhi (some 20 minutes outside George
story buildings that serve as home and         shops to lazing on the beach,” she says.      sive electronics-manufacturing base at       Town) heavily built up, but there’s
business premises—give way to a broad          “And of course there is such a large vari-    the south end of the island.                 plenty of space to chill out under the is-
mix of buildings such as ornate Chinese        ety of food to explore.”                          A ramble through George Town             land’s casuarina trees. The Shangri-La’s
clan halls that house societies for over-         From the Tamil Muslim nasi kandar          might take you from Little India to Mar-     Rasa Sayang Resort and Spa offers all
seas Chinese who share a surname. Bur-         (steamed rice with a variety of curries)      ket Street’s spice shops, or down Love       the bells and whistles of a five-star re-
mese temples and Indian mosques                to Malay asam laksa (thick tamarind           Lane to St. George’s Church or to the        sort with three swimming pools, a gym,
blend with the handsome, Anglo-Indian          curry soup), Chinese lor bak (fried pork      Acheen Street Malay Mosque. The Pen-         a nine-hole golf course, tennis courts,
style Suffolk House and the Anglican           balls in soybean sheets) and desserts         ang Heritage Trust (          water sports and a big children’s indoor
church, St. George’s, an elegant example       like shaved ice with red beans and            offers guided walking tours throughout       playroom called the Adventure Zone.
of Georgian Palladian-style architec-          sweet syrups, Penang’s array of food re-      the city center.                             For a quieter, more intimate experience,
ture. Even the capital’s street names—         flects its different cultural influences.         Be sure to check out the Eastern &       try the boutique Lone Pine Hotel, which
like Armenian Street and Rangoon Road—         Try the waterfront hawker stalls on Gur-      Oriental Hotel (otherwise known as the       is also on the beach.
showcase the island’s diversity.               ney Drive in the evening. The stalls          E & O). This seafront, white-wedding-
    “The best thing about Penang is the        serve all kinds of meat and seafood,          cake of a structure was built by the Sar-                       Lorien Holland is a
variety,” says Alexandra Carey, a Briton       fried rice, noodle soup, breads, sticky       kies brothers (of Singapore’s Raffles Ho-               Kuala Lumpur-based writer.
                                                       Left, Penang’s Eastern & Oriental Hotel has housed
                                                       famous visitors ranging from Noel Coward to Sun
                                                       Yat-sen; Borobudur temple, center and right, on the
                                                       island of Java, is described by Unesco as ‘one of the
                                                       greatest Buddhist monuments in the world.’

By air, Penang is 3 1/2 hours from Hong Kong; 2 1/2 hours from
Jakarta; one hour from Singapore and Bangkok; and just 30 minutes
from Kuala Lumpur.
Luxe factor: Medium. On the high-end, there are beach resorts such as
the Shangri-La ( and Lone Pine
( There’s also the E&O in town
                                                                                                                                                                                                                         idden for centuries under volcanic
                                                                                                                                                                                                                         ash and overgrown by jungle, Borobu-
Family factor: High, given the beach.                                                                                                                                                                                    dur was rediscovered in the
                                                                                                                                                                                                                 mid-1800s. Now restored to its former glory,
The draw: Authentic Asian-fusion culture and food, plus sandy beaches.                                                                                                                                           this ancient Buddhist temple makes a great
Best time to go: All year round.                                                                                                                                                                                 first stop on a three-day break filled with In-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                 donesian culture and some shopping (think
                                                                                                                                                                                                                 gorgeous batiks) thrown in for fun.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Fly into the city of Yogyakarta, consid-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                 ered the cultural capital of the island of
                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Java. Borobudur is about 45 minutes away
                                                                                                                                                                                                                 by car. “It’s such a peaceful place,” says Yuli-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                 nar Ekasari of what drew her to the temple
                                                                                                                                                                                                                 on a recent getaway from Indonesia’s hectic
                                                                                                                                                                                                                 capital Jakarta, where she sells insurance.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                     One of the best views of Borobudur—a
                                                                                                                                                                                                                 complex of eight stone terraces stacked
                                                                                                                                                                                                                 one on top of one another and capped by a
                                                                                                                                                                                                                 monumental stupa—is from Amanjiwo, an
                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Aman resort, a few minutes away by car.            The Candi Sewu site of Prambanan on the
                                                                                                                                                                                                                 From the resort’s airy colonnaded restau-          Indonesian island of Java
                                                                                                                                                                                                                 rant, and from some of the villas (No. 9 and
                                                                                                                                                                                                                 No. 24), you can see the temple nestled on
                                                                                                                                                                                                                 the delicate green Kedu plain, with volca-         ther place, making afternoon visits uncom-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                 noes for backdrop. For $68 a person, hotel         fortable. Spend the rest of each day loung-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                 guests get early access to the temple—sun-         ing around your resort.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                 rise is about 5:45 a.m.—before other tour-            When you’ve had enough of temples,
                                                                                    Corbis (Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion and bike; the E&O hotel); AFP (the mansion, inset); Getty Images (Borobudur and Prambanan)

Borobudur                                                                                                                                                                                                        ists start to arrive when the complex opens        head back to Yogyakarta. Stop at the mu-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                 at 6 a.m. (The resort will provide a guide as      seum and the quirky former home of Af-
From Jakarta, it’s about an hour to Yogyakarta and from Kuala Lumpur                                                                                                                                             well, for $68 for two people.)                     fandi, a top Indonesian painter who died in
it’s 2 1/2 hours. There are no direct flights from Singapore to                                                                                                                                                      Alternatively, you can buy a ticket for        1990; it’s about five kilometers from the
Yogyakarta, but you can fly to Solo. Then it’s a 2 1/2-hour drive to                                                                                                                                             $11 and pay an extra $5 at the ticket booth        center of the city. (Jalan Laksda Adisucipto
Borobudur.                                                                                                                                                                                                       for an English-speaking guide who will ex-         167;    62-274-562-593;;
Luxe rating: High. There are several upscale hotels in Yogyakarta. In                                                                                                                                            plain the temple’s history, design and the         open daily 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.)
the same part of Java as the temples are Amanjiwo                                                                                                                                                                various stories told by the wall carvings.            For shopaholics, there’s inexpensive ba-
( and Losari Coffee Plantation Resort & Spa, a                                                                                                                                               Unesco called Borobudur, which was built           tik and leather products along Jalan Ma-
former Dutch coffee plantation ( It’s                                                                                                                                            in the eighth and ninth centuries, “one of         lioboro, the city’s main shopping drag.
best to hire a car and driver for your stay and be picked up at the                                                                                                                                              the greatest Buddhist monuments in the             (Tip: Bargain like a demon and ignore the
airport. Try Berlian Travel 62-274-443-335                                                                                                                                                                       world” when it listed the temple as a World        touts.) You can lodge within walking dis-
( For $38 a day, excluding fuel, you get a                                                                                                                                            Heritage site in 1991.                             tance of this bustling road at the quiet and
Toyota Avanza, which seats seven people, and a driver who will be                                                                                                                                                    An option to the Amanjiwo is to stay at        luxurious Melia Purosani hotel (Jalan
available around the clock.                                                                                                                                                                                      Losari Coffee Plantation Resort & Spa, a           Suryotomo No. 31;           62-274-589-521;
                                                                                                                                                                                                                 former Dutch coffee plantation. It’s about Another good op-
Family factor: Medium. Central Java is all about cultural attractions.                                                                                                                                           an hour’s drive from Borobudur and two             tion is the elegant Grand Mercure (Jalan
The draw: History, culture and scenery—but Yogyakarta also offers                                                                                                                                                hours from Prambanan, a collection of              Jend. Sudirman No. 9; 62-274-566-617;
shopping and nightlife.                                                                                                                                                                                          Hindu temples built around the same time , with a
                                                                                                                                                                                                                 as Borobudur that is also a World Heritage         main building dating back to the early
Best time to go: May to July is ideal. Dry season is May to                                                                                                                                                      site. In the early morning, Prambanan’s high       1900s. (The attentive service seems to
September. October to April is damp.                                                                                                                                                                             pointed temples look if anything more mys-         date back to another era as well.)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                 terious than Borobudur, particularly as they          And there are other remnants of bygone
                                                                                                                                                                                                                 rise above the palm trees in the mist. (Some       days: “They still have becak,” notes Ms.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                 of the temples are currently off-limits due        Ekasari wistfully, referring to the cycle rick-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                 to earthquake damage.)                             shaws plying the roads.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                     You’ll want to set aside a morning for
                                                                                                                                                                                                                 each temple visit. There’s little shade at ei-        Steve Mollman is an Asia-based writer.
From top, the Kyung-in Museum’s tea
house; Min’s Club restaurant, which
combines a traditional Korean exterior
with European furnishings; and the                                                                                                                                                                     ter of Korean youth culture and trendy
entrance to the courtyard of the                                                                                                                                                                       fashion. More than one million people a
130-year-old Rak Go Jae guesthouse                                                                              t first blush, South Korea’s bus-                                                      day visit this area, which offers a vari-
                                                                                                                tling capital city may seem an                                                         ety of local and international brands of
                                                                                                                odd choice for a minibreak, but                                                        clothing, shoes and electronics. Most of
                                                                                                        there are some hidden treasures to dis-                                                        Korea’s top cosmetics brands, including
                                                                                                        cover—and shops worth exploring.                                                               Amore Pacific’s upscale Laneige line,
                                                                                                            Beijing has its hutongs and Bangkok                                                        have outlets here. There’s also an excel-
                                                                                                        has its traditional canal-side neighbor-                                                       lent selection of shops selling a spicy
                                                                                                        hoods. Seoul’s blast from the past is                                                          rice-cake dish known as ddeokbokki and
                                                                                                        Bukchon village, a 600-year-old enclave                                                        other Korean street food.
                                                                                                        near the city’s center that is filled with                                                        Seoul “is a close getaway” and “the
                                                                                                        traditional Korean-style courtyard com-                                                        food is great,” says Koh Sakamoto, a To-
                                                                                                        pounds known as hanok. Typically, ha-                                                          kyo businesswoman who prefers to
                                                                                                        nok are constructed with white-washed                                                          shop at small boutiques such as Neeun,
                                                                                                        mud walls, timber frames and dark-tiled                                                        with its unique jewelry. (6-66 Shinsa-
                                                                                                        roofs. The openings of doors and win-                                                          dong;
                                                                                                        dows are covered with thin, white paper.      A musician performs at Rak Go Jae guesthouse.       While Seoul isn’t known for its bar-
                                                                                                            The residence of royalty and high                                                          gains, well-made but no-name leather
                                                                                                        court officials during the Joseon dy-                                                          goods are good buys. Try Dongdaemun,
                                                                                                        nasty, about 400 of the village’s hanok re-   Korean spices and cooking methods with           a shopping area—two stops on the sub-
                                                                                                        main. Some are private residences open        Western-style standbys. Try Nobiani, a           way or a 10-minute cab ride, if traffic is
                                                                                                        to visitors; others house museums, art        dish of roast beef and grilled pine mush-        light—from Myeong-dong. Check out
                                                                                                        galleries, restaurants and boutiques.         rooms, and marinated steamed pork                the shops in two of the malls, Migliore
                                                                                                            In the middle of Bukchon sits Rak Go      served with garlic mashed potatoes and           and APM, where stylish ladies leather
                                                                                                        Jae, a small, 130-year-old guesthouse         chili oyster sauce. Min’s Club also has 150      bags can be had for $70 to $100 each.
                                                                                                        that boasts a sprawling courtyard patio       wines on its list, ranging from $50 bottles         End your day by hitting Rak Go Jae’s
                                                                                                        and garden with a pond. Each guest            of lesser-known labels to vintage 2000           wood-heated sauna. Constructed of red
                                                                                                        room has its own veranda, and beds are        Château Mouton Rothschild for $1,500 a           clay, it is designed to leach toxins from
                                                                                                        in the form of traditional thin mat-          bottle, and makes an effort to pair wine         the body, improve blood circulation and
                                                                                                        tresses on the floor. In winter, the          that complements Korean flavors.                 reduce fatigue and stress—like from all
                                                                                                        rooms are heated by the old-style Ko-            Now for the shopping: On your sec-            that shopping.
                                                                                                        rean ondol system, which draws its un-        ond day, jump in a taxi and go for a short
                                                                                                        der-floor warmth from the cooking             ride to Myeong-dong, the pulsing cen-               Junho Kim is an Asia-based writer.
                                                                                                        stove in the kitchen.
                                                                                                            Guests also get a taste of local cul-
                                                                                                        ture through live performances of Ko-
                                                                                                        rean music played on traditional flutes            From Shanghai, Beijing and Tokyo, Seoul
                                                                                                        and stringed instruments, and they can             is about two hours by plane. It’s about
                                                                                                        watch traditional Korean cuisine being             a four-hour flight from Hong Kong.
                                                                                                        prepared in the in-house restaurant.
                                                                                                                                                           Luxe rating: High. You can stay
                                                                                                            About a 15-minute walk from the
                                                                                                                                                           somewhere unique, such as the Rak Go
                                                                                                        guesthouse in the area of Insa-dong is
                                                                                                                                                           Jae (, a traditional
                                                                                                        Kyung-in Museum, a complex of three
                                                                                                                                                           Korean-style house with all the modern
                                                                                                        museums, a cafe, a lovely garden and an
                                                                                                                                                           conveniences, or in five-star hotels such
                                                                                                        old-style tea house, where you can try a
                                                                                                                                                           as the Grand Hyatt
                                         Hyunwoo Park/ (3); Rak Go Jae (musician)

                                                                                                        Korean brew. One of the best for sum-
                                                                                                                                                           (, or the W
                                                                                                        mer is a cold o mi ja tea made from a
                                                                                                                                                           (, which is farther
                                                                                                        berry known by the scientific name
                                                                                                                                                           from the center of town but features
                                                                                                        Schisandra chinensis that is also used in
                                                                                                                                                           great restaurants and edgy design.
                                                                                                        traditional Korean and Chinese medi-
                                                                                                        cine. It’s a taste sensation—at once               Family factor: Also high. There are
                                                                                                        sweet, sour, salty, bitter and spicy.              plenty of things to amuse the
                                                                                                            Cap off the day with dinner at Min’s           kids—from street performers to
                                                                                                        Club (Min Ga Da Heon, in Korean;                   changing-of-the-guard ceremonies at
                                                                                                                                                                                                       The draw: Traditional charm plus
                                                                                                           82-2-730-6305) ), a restaurant that             Seoul’s royal palaces. For teenagers,
                                                                                                                                                                                                       cutting-edge luxury.
                                                                                                        combines a hanok-style exterior with               there’s the shopping scene in
                                                                                                        European furnishings like club chairs.             Myeong-dong, a center of Korean             Best time to go: September and
                                                                                                        (It’s located around the corner from the           youth culture.                              October or April and May.
                                                                                                        Kyung-in Museum.) The food is simi-
                                                                                                        larly a fusion of East and West, melding
                  By Glenn H. Miller

                                                                                                                      kills him—she has become a           is never mentioned in the story;
                                                                                                                      more assertive person.               instead, she becomes involved
                                                                                                                          Sexuality is subtle in the       with the rapacious “father wolf”
                                                                                                                      Grimms’ telling of that story, but   and is later saved by the protec-
   If you were asked to list liter- Along the way, she meets a             ing so, they exert their influence.        not in earlier versions. In one, a   tive fatherly hunter. In the end,
ary classics, it is unlikely that friendly wolf who asks her where             Another device in “Grimms’” is         werewolf demands that the girl       she kills the wolf, thus renounc-
“Little Red Riding Hood” would she is going. The charming Red              the use of absolutes. In “Snow             strip and get in bed with him, but   ing her oedipal desires for her fa-
be the first to come to mind. You Riding Hood all but invites him to       White,” Mother is divided into the         she escapes. In the Perrault ver-    ther. The child who hears the
might think of the Bible or Shake- meet her at Grandma’s by pin-           entirely good queen who died and           sion of 1797, Little Red Riding      story has learned about the dan-
speare, since they are the two pointing the location of her                the unremittingly cruel step-              Hood takes off her clothes and       gers of loving unwisely.
most widely owned                                house.                    mother who wishes to kill the girl.        climbs into bed with “Father             The dilemma for Little Red
masterworks        of                               The wolf per-          In “Little Red Riding Hood,” fa-           Wolf.” In the Grimms’ story, she     Riding Hood is the extent to which
Western literature.        These Grimm           suades Little Red         therly attributes are split between        virtually invites him to Grandma’s   she must keep to the straight
But, as novelist              tales are          Riding Hood to wan-       the good protective hunter and             house, where she is bringing         path. Thanks to her dallying in the
A.S. Byatt notes,                                der off into the          the sinful, animalistic wolf. Since        treats that are ideal for a party.   woods, Grandma and she are
“Grimms’        Fairy          cultural          woods to see the          children themselves think in abso-         The “old sinner” delights in con-    eaten, but there is no overt moral-
Tales,” which con-           treasures.          beautiful flowers, to     lutes, a clean division of at-                                                     izing. By the time the story
tains the popular                                hear the birds sing-      tributes makes it easier for the                                                   ends, Little Red Riding Hood
“Little Red Riding                               ing and to enjoy the      child to consider opposite quali-                                                  has not only taken action
Hood,” is probably third.           merry woods. This ploy allows          ties.                                                                              against the wolf but also makes
   Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm col- the wolf to rush off to eat                    Violence and sexuality are,                                                    a promise to herself to heed her
lected tales from folk sources, Grandma, disguise himself as her,          as the Grimm scholar Maria Ta-                                                     mother’s warnings, and thus is
and published their “Children’s and wait in bed for the girl. When         tar says, “the major thematic                                                      better prepared to avoid the
and Household Tales” in 1812. To she arrives, she questions the            concern of the tales . . . at least                                                wrong partner in the future.
make the stories more literary wolf about his appearance. And              in their unedited form.” Rumpel-                                                   The Grimms allow the child to
and more appropriate for chil- when she finally asks about his             stiltskin tears himself in two,                                                    consider such issues uncon-
dren, they made revisions big teeth, he famously replies                   Snow White’s stepmother                                                            sciously, without being sub-
throughout their seven editions, “The better to eat you with” and          dances herself to death in red-                                                    jected to a heavy dose of didacti-
the last published in 1857.         devours her.                           hot iron shoes, and Hansel and                                                     cism.
   These fairy tales deal with the     Sated, the wolf falls asleep.       Gretel are left in the forest to                                                      “Little Red Riding Hood,”
same issues, such as love and Luckily, a hunter walks by, checks           die. (If these scenes are unfamil-                                                 like the other great fairy tales
death, as all great literature. on Grandma, and discovers what             iar, you have read a bowdler-                                                      of the Brothers Grimm, ends
They do so without hiding vio- has happened. He cuts open the              ized version. These “retellings”                                                   happily—but not with “they
lence, hate, or even lust, making wolf’s belly, releasing Grandma          are to the Grimms what Cliffs                                                      lived happily ever after.” Red
them quite different from most and Little Red Riding Hood, both            Notes are to Shakespeare.)                                                         Riding Hood has more work to
children’s books of today. They unharmed. Then Red Riding                      But the Brothers Grimm can-                                                    do; she is not yet ready for her
set a standard for literary works— Hood springs into action herself        not be blamed for introducing                                                      prince.

Vladimir Nabokov was right and kills the wolf by piling rocks              alien thoughts into the child’s                                                       For adults, telling the story
when he said that all great novels in his belly.                           mind. The child has his own                                                        to a child is the richest of plea-
are great fairy tales.                 The fairy tale is fantastic, but    fears of and desires for violence          versing with her, gets rid of        sures. The storyteller revisits a
   The stories are presented that is necessary because of chil-            before encountering the fairy              Grandma, and waits for her in bed.   classic and the vital issues it
both concretely and magically, dren’s magical thinking. Their              tales. He will never experience               Why is sexuality present? One     raises. He can marvel at the fasci-
matching the child’s manner of thought is illogical, impulsive             the precise situations that occur          answer is that the stories are de-   nation of the child. But most im-
thinking. With their great emo- and omnipotent. They are not sur-          in “Grimms’,” but he does fear             rived from bawdy folktales. A        portant, the child’s enchantment
tional and moral power, and with prised that a wolf talks or that          death and abandonment. He also             more compelling explanation is       becomes the teller’s too, and par-
their being first heard at an early two people can be retrieved            has his own monstrous and de-              that the tales include it because    ent and child join to share that en-
age, they are more than literary. whole from his belly. The little         structive wishes. All this is obvi-        children are sexual beings. Psy-     chantment. It is one of those rare
They suggest a model of living girl hearing the story does not             ous from even the most cursory             choanalysts have long held this      moments in adult life when one
for the child.                      simply identify with the little girl   observation of preschoolers’               view, which became popular           can recapture the magic of one’s
   “Little Red Riding Hood” is in the tale, as an adult might—             play. These tales intuitively ad-          through Bruno Bettelheim’s ten-      own early youth.
about a beautiful girl leaving she becomes Little Red Riding               dress such wishes and fears—               dentiously brilliant analyses in
home to visit her sick grand- Hood. The narrative resonates                and allow the child to use the nar-        “The Uses of Enchantment.”           Dr. Miller, a child psychoanalyst,
mother. The heroine starts down with a child’s notion of reality.          rative to master them. Little Red             Little Red Riding Hood is un-     is clinical professor of psychiatry
a path, carrying cakes and wine These tales speak directly to chil-        Riding Hood not only survives              consciously working through her      at the George Washington
to make Grandma feel better. dren in their own language; by do-            the wolf’s cannibalism but she             attraction to her own father, who    University Medical Center.

             / By Jane Garmey
                                                                                                                          There is only a passing men-     sights     are    understandable,
                                                                                                                      tion, for instance, of the Wardian   though—the Gribbins had to
                                                                                                                      case, an invention of Nathaniel      make certain choices. Less par-
                                                                                                                      Bagshaw Ward that revolution-        donable are the skimpy chapter
                                                                                                                      ized plant-hunting in the            notes at the back of the book,
   With the exception of Charles     for Malta from England in 1673        Swedish botanist who developed             mid-19th century. Ward, a doctor     which don’t even tell the reader
Darwin, the scientific heroes of     and traveled for three years in Eu-   a revolutionary system for classi-         and naturalist, came up with the     which pages they refer to.
the great plant-collecting era       rope gathering material for “His-     fying plants that could be used by         idea of putting plants in sealed        But “Flower Hunters” does at
from the mid-17th century to the     toria Plantarum”—a book pub-          botanists around the world. Yet            glass jars to protect them from      least offer a bouquet of anec-
late-19th century remain rela-       lished without illustration, since    Linnaeus traveled little and took          the extreme temperatures and         dotes. We see British horticultur-
tively unrecognized. We know a       he was unable to find a sponsor to    part in only one expedition out-           harsh salt-water spray common        alist William Lobb racing from
great deal about the voyages         pay for the engravings. “Flower       side of Sweden, preferring to              to long ocean voyages. Before his    California to England in 1853 with
made by explorers in search of       Hunters” ends with Joseph Dal-        leave exploration to his students.         time, only a fraction of speci-      the seedlings of giant sequoia
trade routes and riches, much                                              He seems, however, to have been            mens ever survived their jour-       trees, and we watch as British ex-
less about excursions in the                                               completely obsessive. One of his           neys. One of the grievances of the   plorer and geographer Clements
name of botany. The reason may                                             more charmingly impractical                mutineers aboard the British na-     Markham sets out to explore the
be that plant collectors generally                                         ideas was a flower bed laid out            val ship Bounty in 1789 was the      forests of Bolivia in 1859, accom-
worked on their own and, rather                                            like a clock face, with each section       care lavished on a thousand          panied by his wife, his gardener
than head up an entire expedi-                                             containing flowers that either             breadfruit seedlings collected in    and 24 Wardian cases. In 1845,
tion, tended to secure a single                                            open or close during a single hour.        Tahiti for transport to the West     Robert Fortune, on a botanical
berth on a naval or trading ship.    ton Hooker (1817-1911), who was a        Alas, “Flower Hunters” is not           Indies; the rebelling sailors        trip to China, found himself sail-
But the hardships they endured—      friend of Darwin’s and whose          quite so inventive. The writing is         threw the plants overboard.          ing on a junk in the Min River
the danger, disease and hostility—   plant-quests took him to the Ant-     pedestrian (“Linnaeus was al-                  “Flower Hunters” makes no        when pirates approached. “When
were no less arduous because the     arctic, Egypt, New Zealand and        ways tossing out ideas . . .”), and        pretense of being encyclopedic,      the first pirate ship, confident of
men were in pursuit of a rare        the Himalayas. In Sikkim, near Ti-    the chapter-length biographical            but I was surprised to find no       victory, was only twenty yards
golden blossom rather than a         bet, Hooker found many rare and       sketches are too often superficial.        mention of the French plant col-     away,” the Gribbins write, “For-
city of gold. In “Flower Hunters,”   wonderful specimens of rhodo-         The authors provide plenty of do-          lectors, often Jesuit missionar-     tune let fly with both barrels of
Mary and John Gribbin tell the       dendron. “More than any other in-     mestic detail—we learn that Scot-          ies, who traveled to China during    the shotgun.” The pirates re-
stories of 11 of these intrepid      dividual,” the Gribbins write,        tish botanist David Douglas, of            the 17th and 18th centuries. More    treated, and Fortune “was hailed
plant collectors, whose work laid    Hooker “was responsible for the       Douglas fir fame, once had his             perplexing is the omission of the    as a hero by the crew.” Brave
the foundations of the modern        rhododendron craze that swept         coat stolen after he took it off to        two John Tradescants, father         souls, these flower hunters.
science of botany.                   Victorian England.”                   climb a tree—but the Gribbins are          and son, who were responsible
   The prologue tells the tale of       One of the most interesting        less successful at conveying the           for the introduction of many new     Ms. Garmey writes about gardens
John Ray (1627-1705), who sailed     chapters is on Carl Linnaeus, the     sense of a larger cultural context.        plants to England. These over-       and gardening for the Journal.
Hong Kong                                  nist Yundi Li, who has performed with
CONCERT                                    such orchestras as the London Philhar-
Alicia Keys: This soulful-voiced R&B       monic and Moscow Philharmonic since
star first hit airwaves in 2001 with the   winning first place at the International
song “Fallin’.” Her debut album, “Songs    Chopin Competition in Warsaw in
in A Minor,” which would go on to win      2000, here appears with another of
five Grammy awards, came on the            the world’s leading ensembles, with

                                                                                       Thierry LeGoues (Alicia Keys); Marco Borggreve (King’s Singers); National Palace Museum (calligraphy)
market at No. 1 in the U.S., and her       Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducting. The
two albums since have done the same.       first night Mr. Li will play the Ravel
Expect to hear early favorites such as     concerto in a program that also in-
“If I Ain’t Got You” and “A Woman’s        cludes Shostakovich’s Symphony No.
Worth,” as well as more recent hits        5; the second night he’ll play the
such as “No One” and “Superwoman.”         Prokofiev second concerto in a pro-
     AsiaWorld Arena, AsiaWorld-Expo,      gram that also includes Beethoven’s
     Hong Kong International Airport,      Symphony No. 3.
     Lantau; July 29, 8 p.m.                   Shanghai Oriental Art Center,
     Admission: HK$380 to HK$980.              425 Dingxiang Rd., Pudong
       852-3128-8288                           District; June 20 and 21, 7:30 p.m.
     Web:                  Admission: 200 yuan to 1,800 yuan.
EXHIBITION                                     Web:
Pablo Picasso—The Vollard Suite: The
20th-century Spanish painter was           THEATER
also a printmaker, and this exhibition     Hairspray: This musical—a Broadway
brings together 100 of his intaglio        show (based on a 1988 movie) that
prints—produced by first engraving an      last year became a film starring John
image onto a plate using acid or a         Travolta in drag—comes to Asia live
metal point, then applying ink to the      for the first time. Set in 1962 Balti-
plate and pressing it onto paper.          more, it’s the story of how big-haired,
These works were commissioned by           pudgy Tracy Turnblad beats the odds
French art dealer Ambroise Vollard,        to become a teen dance star on a lo-
and three are portraits of him.            cal TV show—and then uses her posi-
    The University Museum and Art          tion to champion racial integration, ruf-
    Gallery, The University of Hong        fling feathers but eventually triumph-                                                                                                              Lyric Theatre, Shanghai Grand      Above, Taipei: an exploration of calligraphy’s history includes ‘Song on an Ancient
    Kong, 94 Bonham Rd.;                         ing over the station’s narrow-                                                                                                                Theatre, 300 Renmin Da Dao;        “Light-Penetrating” Mirror,’ by Hsien-yu Shu from ‘The Ancient Art of Writing’;
    to July 20, 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.                 minded managers, all to such                                                                                                               July 6 to 20, 7:15 p.m. No shows   below, Tour: Asia: The veteran a cappella group the King’s Singers heads for
    Monday to Saturday,                                catchy tunes as “Good                                                                                                                   Mondays, Fridays or Saturdays.     Shanghai and Seoul.
    1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sunday.                       Morning Baltimore,” “Wel-                                                                                                             Admission: 150 yuan to 680 yuan.
    Free admission.                                      come to the ’60s” and                                                                                                                   86-21-6217-2426
       852-2241-5500                                     “Without Love.”                                                                                                                       Web:             They include “Dom Camillo and Pep-          find the deal includes strange neigh-
    Web:                                                                                                                                                                                                         pone,” a series of movies made in           bors. All movies are subtitled in En-
                                                                                                                                                                                   Singapore                                      the 1950s and ’60s from Giovanni            glish.
Shanghai                                                                                                                                                                           FESTIVAL                                       Guareschi’s tales of the comic battles          The Arts House,
CONCERT                                                                                                                                                                            Italian Film Festival: This festival, in       between a Communist mayor and a                 1 Old Parliament Lane;
Rotterdam Philhar-                                                                                                                                                                 its eighth year, shows a range of                        priest, satirizing post-World         June 7 to 15,
monic Orchestra:                                                                                                                                                                   recent and vintage Italian films.                           War II political clashes;          various times.
Star Chinese pia-                                                                                                                                                                                                                               and “A Dream House                Admission: S$6 and S$10.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Nightmare,” from 2006,               65-6332-6900
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                the tale of a couple    
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                that buys an upscale
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          home only to
                                              Hong Kong:
Sydney                                        the soulful-voiced                                                                                                   lington, Broadway tunes such as
FESTIVAL                                      Alicia Keys                                                                                                          “Memory” by Andrew Lloyd-Webber
Sydney Film Festival: Now in its                                                                                                                                   and pop hits by the Beatles.
55th year, this international festival                                                                                                                                 Shanghai: Shanghai Concert Hall,
offers everything from documentaries        Together,” “Start of Something New”      and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 11:30 a.m.       60-3-7711-5000                           523 Yan’an Rd., Huangpu District;
to animation. Focuses this year in-         and “Stick to the Status Quo.”           and 4 p.m. Sunday.                      Web:                    June 20, 7:30 p.m.
clude China and Mexico, with movies            Manila: Araneta Coliseum, Araneta     Admission: S$29.50 to S$59.50.                                                    Admission: 100 yuan to 580 yuan.
by emerging directors from those               Center, Quezon City; July 11 to 20,     65-6348-5555                       CONCERT                                        86-21-6217-2426
countries. Among the highlights of             various times.                        Web:                  The King’s Singers: This English sex-        Web:
the festival are “Kung Fu Panda,” a            Admission: 150 pesos to               Kuala Lumpur: Putra Stadium,         tet has entertained a cappella for 40        Seoul: Grand Theatre, Sejong
mass-release animated film about an            1,340 pesos.                          National Sports Complex, Bukit       years, singing genres from pop to jazz       Center, 81-3, Sejong-no,
unlikely martial-arts hero, featuring             632-911-5555                       Jalil; Aug. 15 to 20, 8:30 p.m.,     to medieval, recording more than 30          Chongno-gu; June 24, 8 p.m.
the voices of Jack Black and Jackie            Web:             additional 4:30 p.m. show on         albums and working with the likes of         Admission: 30,000 won to
Chan, and “Taxi to the Dark Side,” an          Singapore: Singapore Expo,            Saturday and Sunday.                 Sir Paul McCartney. Expect to hear a         80,000 won.
Oscar-winning documentary about                1 Expo Drive; Aug. 5 to 10,           Admission: 68 ringgit to             sampling of Celtic music, jazz songs           82-2399-1114
the use of torture on prisoners by             7:30 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, 4 p.m.   248 ringgit.                         such as “Creole Love Call” by Duke El-       Web:
the U.S. military.
    June 4 to 22,
    various times and venues.
    Admission: A$17.

The Ancient Art of Writing: The his-
tory of Chinese calligraphy—once used
for works from poetry to official docu-
ments—is chronicled in this exhibit,
starting from around the Ch’in dynasty
in 221 B.C. See elegant brushwork on
ancient scrolls, learn about the develop-
ment of five major styles of writing,
and follow the evolution of techniques
to produce a form that eventually al-
lowed more self-expression.
    National Palace Museum,
    221 Chih-shan Rd., Section 2;
    Shih-lin; to June 25, 9 a.m. to
    5 p.m.; to 8:30 p.m. Saturdays.
    Admission: NT$160.
    Free after 5 p.m. Saturdays.

Manhattan Jazz Orchestra: Formed in
1979 by New York bandleader David
Matthews and Tokyo record producer
Shigeyuki Kawashima, this big-band
ensemble has released several albums
in Japan. On the program are swingy
jazz favorites, including “Rhapsody in
Blue,” “Spain,” “A String of Pearls” and
“Little Brown Jug.”
    Suntory Hall, Akasaka 1-13-1,
    Minato-ku; June 22, 3 p.m.
    Admission: 5,500 yen to 8,500 yen.

Tour: Asia
High School Musical on Ice: The teen-
age tale—which as a Disney Channel
movie became a sensation in the U.S.,
catapulting stars Zac Efron and Van-
essa Hudgens to fame—moves to a
new surface. Ice skaters will portray
the star basketball player and the
new girl in town who audition for the
school musical, and their social neme-
ses who seek to thwart them. The up-
beat songs include “We’re All in This
                Jung Chang's favorite memoirs and biographies
                       or many people, Jung Chang’s 1991 family memoir “Wild                 Three years ago, Ms. Chang made literary waves again,
                       Swans” was an initiation to the political and social tur-          with a groundbreaking biography she wrote with Mr. Halli-
                       moil of 20th-century China. The intimate portrait of               day, “Mao: The Unknown Story.” The couple devoted 10 years
                three generations of Chinese women—her grandmother, her                   to researching the life and work of China’s former leader. The
                mother and herself—has sold more than 10 million copies world-            result is a highly regarded critical biography of Mao Zedong,
                wide, and its runaway success made Ms. Chang a celebrity.                 who Ms. Chang contends was as evil as Hitler and Stalin.
                   The daughter of Communist party officials, Ms. Chang                      We spoke with Ms. Chang, who is now 56 years old, about
                grew up in China’s Sichuan province, where she was during                 her favorite biographies and autobiographies.
                the Cultural Revolution. In 1978, she moved to Britain, where
                she still lives with her husband, British historian Jon Halliday.                           Claudia Blume is a Hong Kong-based writer.

                J.R. Ackerley, ‘My             Christabel Bielenberg,      Simon Sebag Montefiore,       Vladimir Nabokov,            Tennessee Williams,
                Father and Myself’             ‘The Past is Myself’        ‘Stalin: The Court of the     ‘Speak, Memory’ (1966)       ‘Memoirs’ (1975)
                (1969)                         (1968)                      Red Tsar’ (2004)
                                                                                                         “Nabokov is just such a      Ms. Chang says while
                “It is beautifully written,”   Ms. Bielenberg’s            “It brought to life the       magical writer. The book     she found the memoirs
                Ms. Chang says of the          autobiography is an         life of Stalin, the rule of   has such rich and            of the American
                memoirs of the British         account of her life as an   Stalin and the court of       enchanting language and      playwright very moving,
                writer and BBC editor          Englishwoman in             Stalin. You can see…how       it has (stayed) with me      the main reason she
                who died in 1967. In the       Germany during World        Stalin made all the           for decades,” Ms. Chang      loves the book is
                book, Mr. Ackerley             War II. “I learned a lot    major decisions, like the     says about the               Mr. Williams’s writing
                explores his father’s          about life in Nazi          purges,” Ms. Chang says       Russian-American             style. “He writes
                secret life—he had a           Germany and I learned a     of the former Soviet          writer’s autobiography. “I   beautifully and simply.
                second family—and              lot about her character,    leader’s biography.           read it when I first came    His style is completely
                writes about his own life      which was extraordinary,”   She says it had some          to England and I was         different from Nabokov’s.
                as an openly gay man.          says Ms. Chang, who         relevance to her              very struck and bowled       He writes with a kind of
                “It stuck in my mind as        met the late author at a    biography of Mao:             over by his rich and         raw energy. I was
                a very moving account          literary festival. “We      “Mao often said Stalin        enchanting language and      mesmerized.”
Ismael Roldan

                of his life, written with      talked a lot about our      was his mentor and he         the world that he
                tremendous wit.”               different experiences.”     meant it.”                    conjures up with it.”

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