The Atlas


21 Nov

Maggie Choo’s Shanghai Style

Creativity is so much fun! Latest creation of designer Ashley Sutton, Maggie Choo’s is all set design and pure theatre.  Taking you back to 1930’s Shanghai, you descend steep stairs (under the Novotel, no less) and into a chop shop that is tiny, authentic and aromatic.  And then, through another set of doors, into the huge bar that features...

18 Jun

Issaya Club

Chef Ian Kittichai  Chef Pongtawat “Ian” Chalermkittichai is Thailand’s first international “celebrity chef”.  An unlikely candidate, Ian came from humble roots pushing a food cart through his Bangkok neighborhood as a child.  Fate guided him to a culinary school scholarship, a French fine-dining apprenticeship in Sydney’s legendary...

26 Mar

Meditations #45

This is your Thailand…the graceful carving, the floating roof.  Your senses are prepared for these iconic images. But be awake to another Thailand.  Indeed, look for the other land that the guides don’t talk about. Smell the waterways and market stalls; hear the chanting hum and temple bells; feel, even, the acrid sting in your nostrils. Travel...

15 Mar


“The Riviera of the East”, Pondicherry is a haven of French style located on the southeast coast of India. The city was designed on the French grid pattern, and is divided into two sections: the French Quarter, with streets that retain their French names and are lined with charming French colonial buildings, and the Indian Quarter, consisting...

17 Dec

Meditations #42

May you sail smoothly in to the New Year May you have the curiosity and courage to look around the corner and beneath the surface; you will find much beauty there May you travel with those you love Photo:  Ivor Wilkins Location:  Raja Ampat, Indonesia

9 Aug


I’m in my “small is beautiful” phase and Anopura, this charming 2 guest suite, 1 tent country house in Rajasthan’s Aravalli hills, takes small to a new level. Two suites, a Rajasthani tent, extraordinary local staff, aesthetic details that are pure eye candy, delicious food.  What more can one ask for?  Built by Belgium’s...

7 Aug

The Siam

I have been waiting for two plus years for The Siam to open, ever since I met the wonderful family who envisioned this stylish and ambitious project.  And, finally, The Siam has arrived in Bangkok.  So beautiful.  So peaceful.  So inspiring. Set on 3 acres of verdant frontage along the city side of the Chao Praya River, The Siam is a private...

27 Apr

Meditations #34

Exquisite, formal, detailed, respectful, restrained The complexity of Japan is puzzling yet bewitching Calm, warm, sensual, organic, poetic, quiet Because I meet Japan at this moment, I am at home Photograph: Ben Simmons/AsiaQuestJourneys

1 Apr

Aung San Suu Kyi

A new dawn appears to have come to Burma.  After years of stultifying inaction, thick obfuscation, an iron hand on the head, Burma is emerging from its prison walls into the sunlight.  Aung San Suu Kyi, my hero – the world’s hero – prevails. Quietly, patiently, peacefully, Suu Kyi, embodying the best in us, has proven that good...

30 Mar

Meditations #33

They speak of a numbing cultural sameness spreading inexorably across the world. It may be so. But there still persists the custom of the country, curious, frequently humorous to the traveler’s eye, and often intoxicating. Photo:  Jonathan Blitz/South India

15 Mar

Mangala Heritage Home

Drive south on the Coromandel Coast, passing the exquisite shore temples of Mahabalipuram, on down past Auroville, Aurobindo’s ashram, and pause at Pondicherry, a charming city of Indian French fusion.  Turn west here and begin driving through the heartland of Tamil Nadu, a land of temples and villages, ancient, vibrant and enduring. Arrive...

11 Mar

Hei Fung Terrace

One of the most evocatively beautiful restaurants I have seen in a long time is Hei Fung Terrace, the Peninsula Tokyo’s Cantonese restaurant.  Sister to the Peninsula Hong Kong’s Spring Moon venue, it dazzles diners with its Michelin starred food.  It is the design, however, which had me in awe.  The interior is based on a Suzhou Garden...

7 Mar

Ryokan Beniya Mukayu

One of the loveliest of the ryokans I saw in Japan last week was Beniya Mukayu in the spa town of Yamashiro, Ishikawa Prefecture.  A Relais & Chateau property that has been in the Nakamichi family for four generations, Mukayu carries on a tradition of wellness through waters and balancing therapies that stretches back a thousand years.  Onsen...

6 Mar

Tea Ceremony

One of the sweetest experiences of this week was an intimate tea ceremony with Tea Master Kazunari Nakamichi, proprietor of Beniya Mukayu, in his tiny garden tea house. The movements are fluid and precise, and the sense of communion with the master moving. These ceremonies with tea or incense are windows on to a culture that is fascinating and complex.

5 Mar

Kanazawa: Art & Onsen

2.5 hours from Kyoto is the capital of Ishikawa Prefecture, Kanazawa. A small city known for its deep history of culture and the sophistication of its taste, this is the place to come to see some of the splendid craft work of Japan, most notably lacquer, painted silk kimonos, bamboo plaiting and gold leafing. So out of the foreign tourist loop is it...

4 Mar

Of Temples & Retreats

  Early March in Kyoto can be cold and rainy as it is today. If a place can look as beautiful and feel as bewitching under these circumstances as Kyoto did today, then you only have to long to see it under fall foliage, winter snow, and spring cherry blossoms. I have made a promise to myself to return. A ryokan 15 minutes upriver of such comfort,...

3 Mar

Some of my Favorite Things

Toto for sure… Who doesn’t love a friendly loo that promises a warm bum. And the scale of furnishings, so low to the ground, suits me down to the ground ( no pun intended). But the Shinkenzan is a thing of beauty, and the ladies in pink, who rush in to the arriving sleek monster to change doilies and spray the air made me gape. The discipline....

2 Mar

The Old & The New

A 500-year old Shinto shrine at the foot of the new Prudential Financial building in central Tokyo.

2 Mar

A Day in Tokyo

A day in Tokyo that brought together Buddhism, a pocket garden, Mitsukoshi’s remarkable Food Court and my pretty impressive sushi lunch preparation!  

1 Mar

Morning Shinto Visit

Just behind the serenely beautiful Capitol Hotel Tokyu where I am staying is a charming Japanese Garden and an old Shinto Shrine. An early riser, I spent the early hour walking through, encountering a remarkably fit man exercising in the courtyard and young men stopping on their way to work to ring the great gong, clap hands twice before joining them...

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