Tag: travel

A Billionaire’s Guide to New York

In honour of its richest residents, the city that never sleeps keeps upping the ante with ever-taller, ever-hipper residences, hotels and restaurants. Here’s our pick of the best.

Mapped out
Many of the city’s old-school billionaires such as Michael Bloomberg and David Koch still congregate around the Upper East Side — where new residential towers continue to spring up, desperate for a slice of the action. 432 Park Avenue, billed as the tallest residential building in the western hemisphere, is one of them and there’s currently a US$40 million penthouse for sale there, decked out with custom furniture and interiors by Kelly Behun. The new owner will have to have a head for heights, as well as a taste for luxury; from the 92nd floor, it’s even possible to see the curvature of the Earth. Further downtown, a new generation of billionaires is settling in and settling down. Sean Parker, co-founder of Napster, calls Greenwich Village home, as does We Work’s Adam Neumann — and Condé Nast’s move to One World Trade Center sealed the deal on the ‘new’ New York, centring around Lower Manhattan. Newly opened Four Seasons Downtown offers 157 apartments that rise above any other residential tower in this area. Owners can swim in a sunlit pool or entertain in a private dining room while enjoying gold-star service from the hotel below. Those in the know swoop into town by Blade helicopter, which lands near Wall Street.

Where to stay
Those who don’t snap up an apartment at Four Seasons Downtown may well want to stay at its shiny new hotel or at least dine at CUT, celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck’s first restaurant in New York. The hotel is the group’s second opening in the city and, by all accounts, a show of belief in the area’s much-hyped rebirth. They aren’t the only newcomers to the neighbourhood. The Beekman, just around the corner, is a beautiful bohemian addition, grand without being stuffy, meticulously restored from its former life as a 19th century skyscraper. From either hotel, it’s a matter of mere minutes to walk to Santiago Calatrava’s captivating new Oculus, a modern architectural masterpiece housing a train station and a shopping centre, as well as some more historical offerings, including City Hall. Back in Midtown, just a few blocks from billionaire Margaretta Taylor’s digs in Sutton Square, the newly renovated InterContinental New York Barclay is now taking reservations, while across the water in hipster haven Williamsburg, The Hoxton, which proved a hit in Amsterdam, is joining a fast-growing clutch of Brooklyn boutique hotels.

Where to eat and drink
While there is still a healthy helping of Michelin stars and formal dining rooms in New York City, young billionaires and high-flying entrepreneurs tend to value authenticity over silver service and, for that reason, new restaurants are swarming in to cater to their pared-back tastes. From sunny Italian plates in the Meatpacking District’s Santina, to super-chef Andrew Carmellini’s much-lauded Lafayette, a self-proclaimed ‘grand café’, the mood is very relaxed. The Beatrice Inn, opened by Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter back in 2012, might not be new, but under the helm of chef Angie Mar it has found a new audience. Where once there was a strict dress code and an A-list clientele, now the food is the star of the show. Those still in search of old-style ritz should head to the Majorelle at The Lowell, which opened in March, sharing sidewalk space with some of the priciest properties on the Upper East Side. Named after Yves Saint Laurent’s famed gardens in Marrakech, the space has its own lush garden, where French cuisine is served amid vines and fruit trees. Those seeking a more clandestine night out might instead check into one of the city’s many private members’ clubs. Soho House (backed by US billionaire investor Ron Burkle) is the obvious choice, particularly its second location, Ludlow House, which opened last year on the Lower East Side. Otherwise, there are stuffier, more traditional options such as The Union Club and The Metropolitan Club, although they are notoriously difficult to get into. When all else fails, The Standard High Line is a no-brainer. Head to the Top of the Standard, order a Manhattan and drink in those dazzling city lights.

What to See At The Venice Biennale

The art fair will feature 85 international participants in the historic pavilions at the Giardini, the Arsenale, and the city of Venice. Antigua and Barbuda, Kiribati and Nigeria will be participating for the first time.

Conceived by French curator Christine Macel, the exhibition this year is titled Viva Arte Viva because “it’s a biennale designed with artists, by artists and for artists, about the forms they propose, the questions they ask, the practices they develop and the ways of life they choose,” she said in a statement. “Viva Arte Viva also seeks to convey a positive and prospective energy, which, while focusing on young artists, rediscovers those passed away too soon or those who are still largely unknown despite the importance of their work.”

According to Paolo Baratta, president of the Venice Biennale, her choices of artists are “courageous” — of the 120 artists whom she invited to the exhibition,103 are participating for the first time.

Here are the top picks to see.

Dutch Pavilion
Cinema Olanda is a site-specific installation, centred around three filmic works, exploring Wendelien Van Oldenborgh’s engagement with forgotten aspects of modern Dutch history. Through these films the artist reveals an alternative narrative to The Netherlands’ self-image as a progressive and tolerant nation, manifest in Gerrit Rietveld’s Modernist pavilion. The Dutch Pavilion is curated by Lucy Cotter and commissioned by the Mondriaan Fund.

Greek Pavilion
Greek artist George Drivas explores the complexities of the current refugee crisis in film installation Laboratory of Dilemmas, curated by Orestis Andreadakis and commissioned by the EMST National Museum of Contemporary Art.

Hungarian Pavilion
Hungarian artist Gyula Várnai will present Peace on Earth!, a new project for the Hungarian Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale. Drawing on the notion of futurology, Várnai’s interactive installations evoke the promised utopias of the past, confronting them with the challenges of the present. Recreating the slogans and symbols of socialism, this commission critiques an idealised, futuristic vision using ordinary materials that transcend their everyday function.

Chilean Pavilion
The exhibition, Werken, focuses on the theme of the current representation of the Mapuche community, a group of indigenous inhabitants of south-central Chile and south-western Argentina, and will feature an impressive installation of over 1,500 Mapuche masks. Oyarzún’s work often combines anthropological, social and historical elements in order to present a critique of Chilean culture and society.

South African Pavilion
Candice Breitz and Mohau Modisakeng will represent South Africa at the 57th Venice Bienniale. The pavilion is being organised by Connect Channel, and curated by Lucy MacGarry. Breitz is an internationally acclaimed artist best known for her moving-image installations, and Modisakeng is known for his award-winning and internationally exhibited photography, film, performance and video installations.

Hong Kong Pavilion
Samson Young is a trained composer and practising sound artist. He appropriates the components of music to reflect upon past and present global conflicts, and will present all-new work in Venice. The exhibition is co-presented by M+, West Kowloon Cultural District, and the Hong Kong Arts Development Council. It is curated by Ying Kwok and Doryun Chong, deputy director and chief curator, M+.

Portugal Pavilion
José Pedro Croft will present a series of monumental sculptures made of steel, coloured glass and mirrored planes dispersed in open air. Croft’s work will interact and dialogue with renowned architect Álvaro Siza Vieira’s work, subject of the Portuguese representation at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale.

Scotland Pavilion
Rachel Maclean will present a major new film commission for Scotland + Venice. With considerable recent success, including solo exhibitions at Home and Tate Britain, Maclean’s work raises critical questions about identity, economy, society and morality. Through a unique and often disturbing vision, Maclean creates fantasy narratives under the guise of a hyper-saturated aesthetic. Presented within a dramatic church, the exhibition will question notions of truth, conscience and power in the 21st century.

Wales Pavilion
James Richards will represent Cymru Yn Fenis Wales in Venice 2017 in a presentation curated by Chapter and commissioned by the Arts Council of Wales. Richards’ installations combine found and original video, sound and still images. His first major commission at an international biennale follows his 2014 Turner Prize nomination and major solo exhibitions at Bergen Kunsthall and ICA London.

The Venice Art Biennale opens on 10 May 2017.

A Trip To Luxury: Amantaka, Luang Prabang

My first impression of Luang Prabang is that it is profoundly serene. A community deeply rooted in Theravada Buddhism and animistic traditions, there is an air of preservation here lacking in many sacred destinations around Southeast Asia.

Perhaps the ground zero of Laotian spirituality remains untouched because direct flights into the ancient city are limited. And as I look out the window from my seat on the plane en route to Luang Prabang, I am treated to one of the best landing views of my life. The wet kiss shared by the mighty Mekong and Khan River stretches out lazily towards lofty hills, marking the tiny kingdom’s jagged fences. Green peaks almost meet the aircraft’s wingtip as we descend alongside streaks of sunrays that cast a numinous effect on the earthbound scene.

Once on the ground, I’m drawn towards the quiet streets wandered by shoeless, saffron-clad monks. Unlike the unnerving traffic in Hanoi or Siem Reap, crossing the roads in this quaint Laotian town feels like crossing my own front yard. I don’t see tourist-packed busses or bumper-to-bumper commotions, just the occasional scooter and vintage car.

At the Amantaka hotel, the staff, alongside Prince Nithakhong Somsanith, the hotel’s very own cultural advisor, greet me when I arrive. For the next few days, Nith, as he is fondly called, led us on a journey of cultural enlightenment. But before we do that, I walk past the tranquil compound’s main swimming pool, outlined by iridescent lanterns hand-lit every evening, to the doorsteps of my suite. I’m glad to see that I have my own good-sized pool and patio. Inside, the lofty-ceilinged space is a textbook illustration of heritage restoration, containing a towering four-poster bed and other custom-made colonial-like furniture. Beautiful black-and-white photographs of everyday Lao life dress up the white walls, while the building’s original pistachio-patina shutters add a dash of colour.

Ready for dinner, I head to the hotel’s main dining room. Its airy ambience is topped by the platefuls of warm Lao and international cuisine. On clearer nights, many guests choose to dine at the open-air terrace, facing the pool, to savour personalised tipples and delectable dishes, such as a bowl of ginger, bok choy and dill soup; bamboo shoot stuffed with minced chicken; and steamed fish in banana leaf with coriander, egg and coconut milk. Every Lao meal comes with the staple Laotian sticky rice, served in traditional bamboo baskets.

Straddling Luang Prabang’s main central grid, Amantaka is tucked away in a quiet corner close to many places of interest. En route to the Royal Palace Museum, a hike up stupa-topped Mount Phousi is simply too good to miss. There’s also the 16th century gem Wat Xieng Thong, Luang Prabang’s grandest temple. The main shrine’s impressive gilded teak panels and tiered roof lines sweep almost to the ground. It is also decorated inside and out with scintillating glass mosaics and traditional stenciled gold motifs on maroon or jet-black backgrounds.

“A lot of tourists see temples as places to visit, but do not see the importance and meaning in them,” says Nith, a multi-talented artist and all-round protector of scared ancient Lao art. “These temples and their walls are actually like dictionaries. The craftsmanship of stencil works can also be seen as meditation, where countless acts of carving become a form of concentration.”

A descendant of the nation’s last viceroy, Nith personally thinks tourism is important but he hopes to help preserve the charm and authenticity of his beloved city. “I want to teach the younger generation the art of everything — dancing, music, embroidery and the value to preserve their cultural identity.”

However, increased social contacts with tourists are undoubtedly influencing local ideologies and aspirations. Cultural impacts and conflicts billow, especially when tourism comes into direct contact with religious sites or practices.

So, as I kneel by the roadside at the entrance of Amantaka the next morning, before the daybreak procession of almsgiving, I am reminded to be respectful. “We must dress properly, have good manners by bowing down, being silent and not making eye contact with the monks. It’s important to understand that this is a highly revered ritual of giving offerings of food to monks. It is also not okay to place money, or even anything else besides rice, into their alms bowls,” informs Nith.

While the city seems accept tourism, the expectation is that holidaymakers have to respect simple boundaries. My time in Luang Prabang has indeed been eye-opening. I will be back, maybe in a year or two, to see if the spirit of the place will be the same. I truly hope so.