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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Spooky, Non?

My own artistic interpretation of the hotel hallway in The Shining
Only things missing are the twin sisters and Jack.
Happy All Hallows' Eve.
Photo taken at Paris Marriott Rive Gauche Hotel

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Luxury Hotel Websites: The More Things Change....

So, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group recently launched their new website, and it's gorgeous.  

At first glance, one can be forgiven for having a deja vu moment as the site's also pretty similar to those recently revamped by their competitors. That's because all of us in the lux hotel business have
(re)acted on pretty much the same survey results culled from our target markets when we'd asked what they most want to see on our websites; and (aside from ease of the reservations process,)
the not-entirely-surprising top conclusions may be summed up by the following points:

More pictures
Bigger pictures
Colourful pictures

Well, the people have spoken, and the industry has delivered- in full Pantone-glory, rainbow-hued and saturated spades.

Here are the screenshots taken this month from the websites of Rosewood, Shangri-La, The Ritz-Carlton, and  Four Seasons.


Friday, October 26, 2012

Road Trip: Enroute to Deauville, France

Outside of Canada, this was one of the best autumn road trips I've ever made.  Recommended enthusiastically by good friends Marie and Matthieu, this drive from Paris to Deauville - dubbed the Parisian Riviera for its proximity to the capital and the proliferation of high-end luxury resorts on the Normandy Coast - was a breeze and took much longer to cover the 170-plus kilometers between the cities due to the frequent stops for photo ops.  Truly, a glorious ride all the way with a beautiful beach payout at the end....can't get much better than that. Allons-y!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

BDD: Before Downtown Dubai

The Address Downtown Dubai.
Construction of Dubai Mall to the left and Dubai Fountain in the foreground.
Photo taken by Weng Ho in 2008
From 2008 to 2009 and again from 2010 to 2011, I pretty much lived through the frenzied, breakneck-speed, 24/7, round the clock phases of construction of two of the major trophies - the world's tallest building (Burj Khalifa) and the world's largest shopping centre (Dubai Mall) which includes Dubai Fountain, my favourite attraction in the city - in this mammoth development known collectively, albeit generically, as Downtown Dubai.  Those years were spent in brand new, low-rise, Arabesque apartments in the Old Town sector where I slowly navigated to and from my home on temporary dirt roads that would change course and direction every few weeks, peering through a constant dusty haze of construction debris and sand, passing tens of thousands of foreign labourers from the Indian subcontinent and mainland China in dusty overalls, and enduring the inevitable weekend traffic snarls created by the locals, tourists and expats as they flock to the core to eat, drink, shop, stroll and gawk.  To this day, I consider myself very lucky to have personally witnessed the rise and completion of these incredible buildings; outside of a handful of major cities (those in China come to mind,) there are not a lot of nationally or privately funded projects that can drastically transform a cityscape in such a remarkable way, and in a heady short span of time.  Fuelled by deep financial reserves, the ones in the Middle East (especially Doha, Manama, Abu Dhabi and of course, Dubai) are growing at supersonic speed, but bricks, mortar and vanity architectural constructs are the easy "gets;" hopefully, the slower-to-implement but more beneficial social infrastructure and sustainable eco-practices will be able to play catch-up within these highly ambitious nation-wide urban planning sagas to produce truly world-class cities, in every sense of the word.
Before and after: Burj Khalifa, Dubai Mall and Dubai Fountain.
Photos taken by Weng Ho in 2008 (left) and 2011 (right.)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Portrait: Lynn Gervais

I've total and complete respect for this soft-spoken Canadian PR professional who practices yoga, runs, skis, snowboards, camps, benchpresses, kickboxes, bakes, off-roads, mountain climbs, hikes, cycles, swims, and has the dubious distinction of introducing me to the world of pain bootcamps 
during one scorching, eggs-frying-on-pavement, humidity-off-the-charts summer in Dubai. 
Good times, eh.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Reflection and Refraction - Daido Moriyama

Went to my first Daido Moriyama's photo exhibition a couple of days back, and as it so happens, it's also the first showing of his works in Hong Kong. Am impressed that Swire Properties is staging it from now till November 4, 2012 at Island East, and in such a well-designed space as well. 

Here are some of his exhibited works (the collages are my creation.)

The mammoth but well-designed Artistree exhibition space
(that's my dad on the left.)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Done Dem Doha Dunes

Doha sand dunes
I have to admit, I like to dabble in extreme sports....white water rafting and bungee jumping in Bali, surfing in Oahu and Dubai, zip lining in Sarawak, and, for a mad six-week stint in 2005, I was go-karting in 50-degree-Centigrade heat like a speed demon in a supremely dodgy makeshift track in Bahrain, with zero insurance, zero seatbelt, zero helmet, zero fear and obviously, zero common sense.

But mostly, my adrenaline sojourns are done in a totally safe and almost embarrassingly responsible kind of way.  So when I signed out a quad bike to traverse the gorgeous sand dunes in Doha, Qatar, I revelled a wee bit in the fact that the shady operators didn't insist on any helmets or goggles (well, they didn't have any to offer begin with anyway.) But then again, there was nothing I did that day that'd make the Red Bull team stop and go, "Whoa, lookit that daredevil over there who's not wearing her regulation protective head gear tearing about in a hair-raising 8 mph on that ATV!  Let's not even wait for her to surgically remove all that sand from her corneas before we sign her up to free fall from space and break the sound barrier, like, now." 

In the immortal words of Jake LaMotta, I still think I coulda been a contender......well, maybe in another life where my Austrian parents've named me after an animated cat.
"Look ma, no helmet."

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

What I Binge-Watch: Breaking Bad

"This really is a family.
We've gone through marriages, divorces and births of babies.
We've grown a lot as people. And hopefully when we say goodbye,
we'll be able to look back and say,
'That's some damn fine storytelling right there.'"
- Bryan Cranston, "Walter White"

Amen to that, yo.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

In Plane View: London

Sometimes I get lucky and the perfect trifecta of a window seat (albeit one in coach,) clear skies and an unbeatable view of my destination upon approaching the airport.

This is London.


Portrait: My Mama

Photo taken in 1981. 
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Monday, October 8, 2012

Al Jazeera: Ice Cream Museum To Melt Italian Hearts

World's first museum dedicated to ice cream's history, culture and technology
has opened near the city of Bologna
by Seema Gupta
(friend, Italy guide and fellow pop-culture trivia enthusiast)
The museum has thousands of historical photographs detailing the evolution of gelato [Gelato Museum/Al Jazeera]
(September 30) It's one museum that promises a feast not just for the eyes, but for the taste buds as well.

A museum for ice creams - gelato in Italian - has opened in the town of Anzola dell'Emilia, just outside the northern city of Bologna, dedicated to the history, culture and technology behind this divine delight.

The 1,000 square metre ice cream museum is located at the headquarters of Carpigiani, a company that manufactures gelato-making machines. Brothers Bruto and Poerio Carpigiani founded the business in 1946 and a foundation was established in their names last year to promote the culture of artisan gelato as an important Italian culinary contribution.

Admission to the 1.5m euro ($1.9m) museum is free.

"To know the past, it also helps to feed the future," said Andrea Cocchi, CEO of Carpigiani, adding the ice cream museum was in the works for more than a decade. The project is part of a long-term investment to increase the awareness and production of Italian ice cream around the world, he said.

On a guided tour of the museum, it's possible to explore the history of iced treats. The ancient Romans used ice to chill their drinks, and sorbets were concocted by Arabs who created sugary, flavoured syrups poured over ice. Translated texts from Arab manuscripts dating from the 11th century are on display listing the recipes for pomegranate sorbet and a version with dates.


(Source: Al Jazeera)

Sunday, October 7, 2012

In Plane View: Hong Kong

Sometimes I get lucky and the perfect trifecta of a window seat (albeit one in coach,) clear skies and an unbeatable view of my destination upon approaching the airport.

This is Hong Kong.
Photo taken on 29 July, 2012

Saturday, October 6, 2012

What I Binge-Watch: The Walking Dead

I resisted (much like the main cast of this series towards the "walkers") joining the fray and watching this series, but in the end, the pedigree was too good to ignore. I mean, we're talking about an intelligently-written show developed by Frank Darabont (writer/director of the excellent The Shawshank Redemption) on AMC (home to some of the best TV shows everBreaking Bad and Mad Men) with a compelling, well-fleshed cast of characters.....and zombies.

Truly, it's really not that often one gets smart schlock on the small screen these days.  And did I mention there are zombies??

Season three will resurrect and stagger back on 14 October 2012; check out the Comic-Con trailer below and let the moaning, limb-shearing, mass decapitations, outstretched-hands, screaming-through-the-woods and shotgun-pumps begin.


Friday, October 5, 2012

Bite-Size Review: Cova Ristorante and Caffe, Causeway Bay

Tucked away unobtrusively in one of the corners on the first floor of Lee Gardens (yes, the one with all the high-end lux boutiques next to the Mercedes-Benz dealership, no less) is one of the more raved-about Italian restaurants in the city: Cova Ristorante and Caffe.  This Milanese import at the Causeway Bay outlet (which also features a pasticceria and confetteria ) is a firm favourite with the local society crowd for its confectioneries and cappuccinos, the elegantly comfortable ambience of the multiple dining rooms, the non-effusive yet efficiently discreet service, and the thoughtful selection of authentic Italian favourites.  Here is a selection of our lunch-time dining pleasures:  
Selections from the gorgeous "traditional and classic" antipastic buffet spread.
Spaghetti Di Pesci Alla Marinara
Spaghetti with mixed seafood, chili, and cherry tomato sauce 

Linguini Con Capasanta All'Aglio Tostano, Olio D'Oliva and Peperoncino
Linguini with whole live giant sea scallops, roasted garlic, fresh chili, crispy pancetta and
COVA special selection of Mancianti virgin olive oil.

The divine tiramisu, dramatically presented on a bed of billowing dry ice.
Cova Ristorante and Cafe - Lee Gardens, 1/F, 33 Hysan Ave, Hong Kong. Telephone +852 2907 3399.  Reservations highly recommended.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Just in Time for Oktoberfest

One of my better bargain finds in Hong Kong: extremely cheap beer.
Brewed locally by San Miguel and selling for HKD3.50 per can ( US$0.45) everywhere on the island.
Good times.
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