Balesin Island

The next island escape on this trip is to Balesin Island, situated off the eastern coast of Luzon in the Philippines – only a short 25-minute flight from Manila. Also featuring white sands and clear blue water, Balesin is a 500-hectare island traditionally inhabited by fishermen and has been developed into a private member’s club. There is a wide variety of food outlets in the island serving Filipino, Chinese, Vietnamese, Italian, Thai, Greek and Spanish food. We stayed at a Regency Villa which had a wide array of amenities including a pool table, ping pong table, infinity pool, and direct…

Amanpulo

A brief 70-minute flight (or 360 kilometres south) from a hangar at Manila airport takes me to the Cuyo Archipelago of northern Palawan in the Philippines. My island escape is Pamlican Island, where Amanpulo is located. A private “peaceful island” with white powdery sands, crystal clear waters, and pristine reefs – this island is extremely tranquil and serene. There are three food outlets in the island. The Beach Club offers Mediterranean cuisine. The Lagoon Club offers Japanese food for dinner and outdoor oven-baked pizzas during lunch. The Clubhouse serves Filipino and Asian dishes. I found the Lagoon Club and Clubhouse…

La Dolce Vita

Mangia, Mangia! (Eat, Eat!) In Siena, I had a wonderful meal at Osteria Da Gano. Serving Tuscan dishes in a casual setting with friendly service. At the hotel I stayed at in the Chianti Region, they served outstanding meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner at their two food outlets – Pavilion and La Torre. La Torre is a Michelin-starred restaurant where both food and service was top notch. First stop in Florence was a cappuccino break at Gucci Giardino 25. Osteria Filetto d’Oro served traditional Tuscan dishes with attentive service. I had to return to Trattoria Sostanza for their famous…

Giardino

Instead of being huddled with the crowds, I decided to go visit gardens to get some fresh Tuscan sun and air. First stop is Giardino di Boboli, originally designed for the Medici and located behind Pitti Palace. The Giardino Bardini is an Italian Renaissance Garden located in the hilly part of Oltarno. Opened only recently to the public, it is one of Florence‘s well kept secrets.

Firenze

Three time lucky, as they say – and all my three visits to Florence have been a charm. I will never tire of this city. With most of the main sights lying within walking distance of one another, Firenze, is the cradle of the Renaissance and one of Europe’s great art cities. There is so much exquisite art and architecture within its ancient walls that it is easy to become overwhelmed. The plan is to visit sites I have not seen before. On exhibit at Palazzo Strozzi is Donatello, the Renaissance. A historic exhibition which sets out to reconstruct the…

Chianti Region

Spread between Florence and Siena in the heart of Tuscany, the Chianti wine region is the romanticized Italy of daydreams. Traversing the gentle hillsides, a twisting, picturesque route known as the Chiantigiana, landscapes are filled with terra-cotta-roofed towns, vineyards, olive groves and peppered with case coloniche (farmhouse). I based myself in Barberino Tavarnelle, located in a great position between the Val d’Elsa and Val di Pesa in the heart of Chianti, and only 25 kms from Florence. This is a part of Tuscany that is not too crowded and filled with charming, hidden corners. 

Siena

Siena is a city where the architecture soars. Effectively a giant, open-air museum celebrating the Gothic, Siena has religious and secular monuments that have retained both their medieval forms and their extraordinary art collections. Often referred to as Florence’s longtime rival, this city of rose-coloured brick seems to have come out on top in terms of a more unified preservation and grace. With steep, twisting stone alleys and churches, palaces, and crenellated public buildings draped across its gentle hillsides, Siena is for many admirers one of the most beautiful towns in Italy. It’s a feast for the senses and an…

Mahalo

“Thank you” (in Hawaiian) for the warm welcome to Hawaii! I had a truly unforgettable stay. In Honolulu, I stayed for two nights at Halepuna Waikiki by Halekulani. The hotel opened only in 2019 and is the sister hotel of Halekulani, which is located right across the street. The boutique style hotel has 288 rooms, which I did not find too overwhelming with lots of guests, as the other hotels in Waikiki. The hotel is a block from Waikiki Beach and also a block away from the main shopping street. I flew to the island of Lana’i to spend the…

Art at Sensei Lana’i

I was awe struck by the wide variety of artworks at Sensei Lanai. One of the hotel staff mentioned to me that the collection is valued at $1 billion. Intentionally placed among expansive garden foliage, it is an impressive display of unique sculptures by world-renowned artists. The outdoor sculpture garden includes larger-than-life works by Jeff Koons, Fernando Botero, Jaume Plensa, Marc Quinn, Emily Young, Ju Ming and others.

Lana’i

The smallest publicly-accessible inhabited island in Hawaii, Lana’i is known as Pineapple Island because of its past as an island-wide pineapple plantation for Dole. Lana’i is only 14.5 kilometres away from Maui and as of 2012, the island is 98% owned by the chairman of Oracle Corporation. Aside from the three hotels in the island and the small town of Lana’i City, the island has no traffic lights, shopping malls, and only 48 kilometres of paved road. This is the perfect island for someone seeking tranquility and escape from everyday urban life. The Kolo’iki Ridge Hike is a 7.9 km…