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5 Reasons to Travel in October


Eat and drink your way around the world with a new insiders’ guide, chill on the Sangke Grasslands, food hubs in Hong Kong, and more.

Published on Oct 1, 2019

1. The ultimate insider's guide to local dining.

Finding the best local eats while traveling would be so much easier if you had a direct line to the world’s foremost food experts. The Local Tongue (thelocaltongue.com; @the.localtongue) brings us a step closer to that reality with neighborhood drinking-and-dining guides by top chefs and food critics across five continents. Experts from Japan to Brazil share their favorite hometown haunts, whether mom-and-pop noodle shop, Michelin restaurant or back-alley bar. The section devoted to Asia includes “the best chaat in the universe” according to Times of India food scribe Marryam Reshii; a perambulation through Filipino culinary culture by food journalist Cheryl Tiu; and why chef Mingoo Kang of Michelin two-starred Mingles thinks you should get to the airport early for one last meal in Seoul.

The site is the passion project of Jessica Rigg, who sold everything to see the world after surviving cancer. Dining solo on her travels, the Australia native found herself striking up conversations with bartenders, chefs and restaurateurs, inadvertently extracting insider tips and picks not readily available in guides—until now. Still eating her way around the globe, Rigg aims to have 100 different cities represented by the end of the year, adding new guides every week and refreshing existing guides every three months. “Chefs are under pressure to take any opportunity they can to promote themselves,” she says. “The Local Tongue lets them turn the attention to those in their community, celebrate their peers and support businesses in their own backyards.” — BEK VAN VLIET

 

2. A rustic-chic twist on Tibetan hospitality in the Sangke Grasslands. 

At the long, mahogany table next to me, a group of Tibetan monks unwinds, picking the best strips of yak meat from a sizzling- hot platter, the maroon of their robes contrasting against a background of soft, green hills and blue, cloud-patched sky.

We’re sitting in the Sky Bar, a wooden cottage with a magical atmosphere that sits atop a tongue-shaped rock, which, I’m told, is sacred to nomadic Tibetans. Floor- to-ceiling windows and a wrap-around balcony help guests survey their surrounding kingdom of green meadows, traversed by a slow-flowing stream where wild horses stop and quench their thirst.

There is powerful beauty in the Sangke Grasslands, a remote corner of the Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Amdo, which marks the northern fringes of ancient Tibet that today are part of Gansu Province in northwest China. These grasslands provide the ultra-scenic setting of the new Nirvana Resort (nirvanaresort-xiahe.com; from RMB2,000 per night, including transfers from Xiahe), a collection of 12 luxurious wooden chalets and one panoramic restaurant.

Twelve kilometers southwest of Xiahe town and its famous Labrang Monastery— one of the world’s most important monasteries within the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism—Nirvana Resort is the brainchild of Wandhikhar, a Tibetan native and co-owner of Nirvana Hotel in Xiahe. He spent two years designing and building this secluded new property, and opened it in June. It was constructed completely from wood, “to avoid disturbing nature,” he said. The location was selected for its abundance of birds and other wildlife as well as the plain’s humming river, which make this the perfect place to relax, something local Tibetans have known for generations. Modern-day nomads still live on Rainbow Mountain, and they comprise the entirety of Wandhikhar’s resort staff.

Staying here, I experience the simplicity of life on the great Tibetan grasslands—with a touch of luxe comfort. The chalets are all airy and spacious, fitted with roomy king-size beds, rain showers, original Tibetan rugs and outsized windows that grant humbling views all the way to the mountainous border of Qinghai Province. Sky Bar offers a selection of authentic Tibetan dishes— with plenty of perfectly grilled yak meat choices—a chilled local beer, and various Tibetan-Western concoctions.

Those who wish to sample full immersion in nomadic life will want to book one of the resort’s hiking tours (RMB700 per person) that include visits to nomadic families across the plains. For a trip that offers up a sustainable, intensely beautiful experience in the Sangke Grasslands, Nirvana Resort is well worth putting on your bucket list.— MARCO FERRARESE

 

3. Central's dazzling new dining hubs.

While Hong Kong’s farther-flung neighborhoods continue to gentrify at a rapid pace, there’s no denying that Central still holds court as the city’s most densely packed—and arguably most delicious—gastronomic hub. With flashy skyscrapers and large- scale restorations constantly in the works, the past year has given rise to a number of new dining destinations that should be on every food tourist’s hit list.

TAI KWUN

Opened for a little more than a year now, Tai Kwun (taikwun.hk) is one of Hong Kong’s largest revitalization projects to date—a buzzing cultural center converted from the old Central Police Station. Considering the high bidding war over prime real estate, the F&B mix here is remarkably well considered. Over at Aaharn (aaharn.hk), Thai-food missionary David Thompson dishes up the unadulterated flavors of his adopted homeland, from thrillingly complex curries to fiery relishes best tempered by a tropical cocktail downstairs at Bar at Armoury (fb.com/ armouryhk). Craving Chinese? Pick a genre. Sample creative Cantonese fare at the mysterious Madame Fu (madamefu.com.hk); visit Old Bailey (oldbailey.hk), where Jiangnan cuisine is distilled to a core selection of masterfully executed classics; or head to The Chinese Library (chineselibrary.com.hk), for age- old recipes such as “thousand cut” silken tofu and “golden lion” fish recreated with rigor. Across the way, Statement (statement. com.hk) taps into the city’s colonial roots with an elevated take on modern British food.

H QUEEN’S

 

H Queen’s (hqueens.com.hk) may be billed as the world’s first “vertical gallery building,” but there’s more than art behind its flashy façade. Dual Michelin- starred fine-diners are housed on the top two floors: The two-starred Écriture (lecomptoir.hk/ ecriture) impresses with immaculate dishes plated by head chef Maxime Gilbert; one floor below, seasonal Japanese ingredients are filtered through the prism of French cooking in the pastel-hued dining room of Arbor (arbor-hk.com). Globally renowned chef Virgilio Martinez has staked his first international outpost at Ichu Peru (ichu.com.hk), where indigenous ingredients express the varied terroir of the Andes regions, whereas sister restaurant Estiatorio Keia (keia. com.hk) highlights the bounty of the Mediterranean coastline, from citrus-laced grilled squid to whole-lobster spaghetti.

H CODE

The low-key H Code (hcode.com.hk) has popped up on Pottinger Street as one of Central’s coolest new dining enclaves. Farm-to-table fare finds its footing at Root (roothongkong.com), helmed by an alumnus of Amber and L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, while the sizzling aroma of charcoal-fired skewers beckons at stylish yakitori bar Birdie (298hk.com/ birdie). On the ground floor, steaming spoonfuls of chicken paitan ramen can be chased with highballs at Nojo (fb.com/nojo.hk). The best nights inevitably conclude at bar annex Saketen (saketenhk.com)—presided over by Hong Kong’s resident ‘Sake Samurai,’ Elliot Faber, and one of few places in the world serving sake on tap. — LESLIE TSIANG

4. Next-gen hotel swag.

It’s no longer enough for a hotel to slap its logo on a ball cap, a luggage tag, or—perish the thought—an ashtray. These days, properties are giving the resort souvenir fresh appeal, stocking their gift shops with high-style collaborations that reflect a sense of place. Early this year, Royal Mansour Marrakech (royalmansour.com; doubles from US$1,000) teamed up with Christian Louboutin to create babouche slippers (from US$558) that echo the hotel’s Moorish details. Jewelry designer Mercedes Salazar has launched a line of colorful earrings and embroidered bangles inspired by the Luxury Collection’s Mexican properties (from US$150; luxurycollectionstore.com).

Tuscany’s Hotel Il Pellicano (hotelilpellicano.com; doubles from US$777) has partnered with Birkenstock for Il Dolce Far Niente, a collection of sandals (from US$110) that radiate the seaside resort’s signature sprezzatura. And Belmond Hotel Cipriani (belmond.com; doubles from US$1,519) in Venice, debuted bags (from US$1,345) created with Dellaluna, a local leather atelier that works with some of the world’s best- known fashion houses. In forging these partnerships, hotels are bidding to be more than mere hospitality companies—they’re trying to make themselves full-fledged luxury lifestyle brands.— LILA HARRON BATTIS

5. Coral-friendly sunscreen from Banyan Tree.

Get total skin protection with zero guilt from the wellness experts at Banyan Tree Essentials, which has launched its first reef-safe sunblock. The Banyan Tree Coconut & Seaweed Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 PA+++ (essentials.banyantree.com; US$32.90) is a paraben- and sulphate-free formula that blocks UVA and UVB light without absorbing into the skin—or dissolving harmful chemicals into the ocean. Featuring ethically harvested organic Thai coconut oil from Koh Samui alongside other nourishing natural ingredients (algae extract, spirulina, red seaweed and peppermint oil), it protects, hydrates and soothes both during and after a day in the rays.

 

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