travel

Asia VietNam: Take the Coast Road

The sinous coastline of Vietnam provides a natural haven of calm with spas nestled amongst bays, forests and beaches

Description: ConSown Island

ConSown Island

Even those who normally prefer to limit their holiday adventures to sunbathing and spas will want to climb the stone steps at one end of Six Senses Con Dao’s (sixsenses.com) mile- long sweep of beach to the top of beach to the top of Elephant head cliff. Once there adramtic panorma awaits of azure waters, golden sand, abundant mangrove forest and the coral reefs of ConSown Island, one of 16 in the Con Dao Island Archipelago at Vietnam’s  futhest southeastern point. Encompassed by the richly – forested Lo Voi Moutains, this aleek 50- villa beachfront retreat makes the ideal starting point for expliring Con Dao National Park. Six Sensex Leads day hikes in to the tropical forest to vistit the green and hawkbill turtle to visit the green and hawksbill turtle for rest sanctuary, considered Vietnam’s most fretile egg- laying groung for turtles. Elsewhere in the park, don your swim fins to scuba dive among 1,300 marine species including dolphins ancient mariners mistook for mermaids.

Come back to the re sort for the Six Senses Spa’s three and a half hour Vietnam Journey where time files between the Hat Bang indigenous almond and youhurt body polish, huney milk and white clay mask, Oriental stretching massage and traditional hair wash.

Description: Mekong River

Mekong River

For an entirely different perspective on Vietnam, get behind the wheel of an SUV.organised by Aspera Explorations (asperaexplorations.com), starting along the Mekong River in Laos and entering Vietnam at sleepy Cau Treo- Nam Phao border post to follow the dramatic coastline from Vinh to Phan Thiet. As thevehicles approach Sun Spa Dong Hoi (sunsparesortvietnam.com), drivers have to navigate their way throu constantly shifting sand hunes. Rewards await down the coast at the historic city of Hue with an imperial 12- course spicy Vietnamese meal before winding up for the night among the morden indulgences at the Nam Hai (ghhotels.com) on China Beach.

Asia Indonesia: Enter the Dragons Den

Tackle the mighty point breaks of Bali or be a man for all seasons and snorkel and scuba Indonesia’s balmy waters

Description: Bali, Indonesia

Bali, Indonesia

Bali’s great pont breaks, like Dreamland and Imposssibles, challenge the serious surfers enough but the guys behind Tropicsurf (tropicsurf.net). asia’s most experienced surf instructors, state their happiness to ‘sacrifice a little wave quality’ by surfing the only slightly less hectic Isle of the Gods. Visiting surfers will get a pretty good idea of the kind of swells that the first surfers to discover these shores in the 1970s would have had to contend with.

Those who prefer to get their thrills underwater can scuba dive the warm equatorial waters around Indonesia’s Raja Ampat region while sailing aboard the Damai and Damai II (dive-damai.com). attractions include 1,300- plus species of reef fish, half of the world’s soft coral species and over 70 percent of all the world’s hard corals. These boats, known as phinisi, are gaff- rigged schooners constructed by Sulawesi shipbuilders out of ethically harvested Kayu Ulin ironwood and teak to resemble those that pliet the Indonesian archipelago in ancient times. The six cosy cabins, however, are decidedly 21st century with the amenities of a floating five- star hotel for only eight passengers per launch.

Description: Description: Asia Indonesia: Enter the Dragons Den

Asia Indonesia: Enter the Dragons Den

Another exceptional ship that cruises these marine rich waters around the Wallace Line, where the distinct Asian and Australasian ecosystems overlap, is Amanikan (amanresorts.com). a custom- built, three- cabin cruiser refurbished by Aman.

This old spice trading vessel brings divers and land adventurers to Komodo National Park, a Unesco World Heritage Site, where the Komodo dragons roam freely. Morning is the best time of day  to see these living anachronisms as they slither along Pink Beach, one of the park’s most popular stes to snorkel amongst giant trevally fish and kaleidoscopic coral.

Asia South Korea: Change of Korea

There are spiritual ‘inner adventures’ on offer at Korean temples, but sybaritic indulgences are also never far away

Description: View of Samseong from my tub at the Park Hyatt

View of Samseong from my tub at the Park Hyatt

Wake up at 3:30 am to the sound of a wooden percussion ‘moktak’ or thunderous temple bell, eat a few salted root vegetables and sip a drop of water before spending the day meditating by a flickering candle. This is a decidedly inner adventure offered by Tempestay (eng.tempestay.com) and created by the Jouye Order of Korean Buddhism to help foreigners ‘search for their Original Nature’ through the stillness in a cup of tea and the practice of 108 prostraditions before dawn in one of 50 moutain temples around South Korea. But then feed your sybaritic side at Park Hyatt Seoul (seoul.park.hyatt.com) where Japan’s SuperPotato interior design company, best known for their rustic chic Zuma restaurant interiors, use stone, oak wood and running water to confer the same soothing atmosphere as the temples on Seoul’s largest guest rooms. They also feature elegant pillow- top beds and captivating panoramas from floor- to ceiling windows.

Cambodia Asia: Angkor Down

Description: Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

As the massive influx of camera- toting tourists makes it quite a challenge to find one’s footing at Angkor Wat, follow the Oxford- educated scientists behind AboutAsia Travel (aboutasiatravel.com) away from Angkor’s well- trodden path. Kayak into Prek Toal Core Bird Reserve on Tonle Sap Lake in search of spot- billed pelicans, black- headed isbis and the elusive masked finfoot. Then stay overnight with a Khmer family on afloating willage or return to the regal refinements of Amansara, the former guest villa of King Norodom Sihanouk near Siem Reap (amanresorts.com)

Explore like Indiana Jones on on AboutAsia’s three- day trek to rarely- seen temples along the historic Angkorian Highway inside Khulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary where the loacls have agreed to stop hunting and logging in exchange for guide training by eco- conservationist at the Sam Veasna Centre. Through the centre, guests can visit the 700- year old façade of Phnom Sondarl Temple.

Description: Wat Vihear Sour, Prey Veng Cambodia.

Wat Vihear Sour, Prey Veng Cambodia

Camp on the baks of an Angkorian baray, or reservoir, a few hundred metres from Prey Veng Temple, on the same scale and significance as Beng Melea, the main temple complex at Angkor, yet virtually unknown.

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