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SWISS launches special fares for new Singapore-Zurich service from just S$705*!

 

Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS) has launched special introductory fares for its new daily service from Singapore to Zurich that will commence on 13 May 2013.

Visit the magnificent Swiss Alps or the breathtaking Lake Zurich with a round trip in Economy Class from as low as S$705*! If you’re looking to spice up your travel with optimum comfort, a round trip in Business Class is available from S$3705* and offers the innovative SWISS Business Class seats that eases into a 2-metre lie-flat bed.

To enjoy this unbelievably low fare, travellers must purchase their tickets between 14 January 2013 and 28 January 2013. Travel period is from 13 May 2013 to 30 November 2013. Terms and conditions apply.

The new route to Switzerland’s prime economic hub will be operated with an Airbus A340-300 aircraft, offering 219 seats. The westbound LX 179 flight will depart from Singapore at 23:10 and arrive in Zurich at 06:10 the following day. The eastbound LX 178 service will leave Zurich at 22:45 and touch down in Singapore at 17:10 the next day.

Celebrate the launch with SWISS and book your Europe getaway now at www.swiss.com or through your travel agents!

*Round-trip fare includes taxes, surcharges and is subject to currency exchange fluctuations.

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The Heart of India : Goa

 

In the past, Goa was the preserve of hippies making their way across the Indian sub-continent, stopping off to enjoy some rest and relaxation on its then undiscovered beaches. Today, it still retains much of that old hippie vibe, but has become so much more besides, and is even a stop for ships sailing with Fred Olsen cruise lines. Neither the hippies of the sixties, nor the Portuguese colonists that arrived in Goa in the sixteenth century would have foreseen their little slice of Indian paradise becoming a luxury holiday destination. However, among many other things, that is exactly what it has become. So what’s the appeal?

Goa’s main attraction is, naturally, its beaches. Huge swathes of deep yellow sand,.lapped by warm seas and and backed endless palm trees are strung out all along the coast. Some beaches are almost as deserted as they might have been back in the sixties, others are most definitely on the tourist trail, with a modern nightlife to match. In most areas, there is a choice of accommodation, from basic beach huts to sparkling, modern four and five star hotels. So, choose your beach and then find the accommodation to match. From north to south, these are the places to be in Goa.

Arambol and Mandrem

The last real hippie paradise in Goa. Arambol is a quiet paradise, far away from the package tourist crowds that dominate further south. The village is really just a ramshackle collection of streets that lead down to the beach. There, you’ll find beach huts serving up the catch of the day, and a friendly, laid-back vibe. If you’d rather experience glorious isolation, head just south to the wonderfully empty sands at Mandrem beach.

 

Chapora and Vagator

Chapora is a gorgeous, characterful village that charms everyone who visits with its cafe culture, ancient fort and stunning views over rugged clifftops that back the beach. The small settlement of Vagator is just around the headland. It’s quieter and less discovered than neighbouring Anjuna.

Anjuna

Anjuna is famous for its flea market, which has run there weekly since the 1960s. It’s also the centre of Goa’s party scene, so is the place to head if you’re keen to get your dancing shoes on. If you’d rather just kick back and relax, you’ll fit right in. There is plenty of space on Anjuna’s huge beach, with beach restaurants offering cold drinks, hot food and comfortable sunbeds.

Baga, Calangute and Candolim

This stretch of central Goa is the centre of its tourist industry, and offers the widest choice of hotels, huge beaches and plenty of drinking and dining options. The character changes as you head south. Baga, to the north, is the party end, with some noisy upmarket clubs catering to a mixed crowd of young Indians and westerners. Calangute is quieter and more family oriented, with Candolim the most chilled-out.

Colva and Benaulim

This pair of beaches in the south of the state are ideal for those who just want to relax and enjoy. Days are spent sunbathing or exploring the local back-lanes by bicycle, evenings eating out under the stars, listening to the waves…

Palolem and Agonda

Completely undeveloped until relatively recently, these beaches have become favourites with both backpackers and luxury-seekers. Palolem is lively and friendly, lined with bars and restaurants. Agonda is much quieter. They’re just a few kilometres apart, so you can easily split your time between the two as the mood takes you.

Away From the Beach

While the beaches are, indeed, lovely, Goa is not just about its beaches. It has a fascinating history and culture too, with strong Portuguese influences. In the quieter resorts, you can wander along the lanes away from the beach, past white churches and green fields. Head to the magnificent Old Goa, once the Portuguese capital, to see what colonial life might have been like in Goa. The city is a unique meeting of cultures, packed with churches, cathedrals and other historic buildings that have made it a UNESCO world heritage site.

Getting There

Non-stop flights operate from the UK, taking around ten hours. For a wider choice of flights, fly to nearby Mumbai and catch an internal flight from there. If you have time, stop off in Mumbai for a couple of days and experience a little of its Bollywood energy.

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Dubai: Land of Gold

Text Lin Zixin Photo L.H. Lim

Rising from what used to the nothingness of the shimmering Arabian Desert, Dubai, bustling heart of Middle East today, will have you thinking of gold in more ways than one. Dive headfirst into the magic and energy of Dubai and experience the miracle story of this east-meets-west city for yourself.

Looking at Dubai’s urbanscape, it might be hard to imagine the city as anything else besides its cosmopolitan and prosperous self today. After all, this is a place with many of the world’s firsts – the tallest building, the largest fountain, the biggest mall… and the list goes on. However, do not be intimidated by the hubbub before your eyes. Lying beneath that sleek and modern demeanour is a city that is equal parts traditional and contemporary, waiting to be discovered by the traveller who looks just hard enough.

The Contemporary

The modern face of Dubai is absolutely indiscreet and unabashedly flamboyant. And this much you’ll expect from a city that has too often created something from nothing, embarking on one ambitious project after another; from the entirely man-made Palm Islands to the currently on-hold man-made archipelago The World, it is evident that subtlety is not a trait that is highly valued in Dubai.

Thrust in the heart of Downtown Dubai, it won’t take you more than a few minutes to understand this. Looking up, soaring skyscrapers paint a dramatic skyline of daring asymmetrical lines against the cloudless sky, screaming “look at me!” All around you, the air is charged and the crowd is energetic as they stream in and out of the countless buildings lining the streets.

Wander into any of them, and you’ll probably find yourself in one of Dubai’s many mega shopping malls. Dubbed the “shopping capital of Middle East”, Dubai’s world-class shopping experience is definitely every shopaholic’s dream come true. Apart from more Louis Vuittons, Pradas and other high-end luxury goods than needed to satisfy your material girl within, Dubai’s malls also boast extravagant entertainment facilities including the likes of an Olympic sized ice rink, the world’s largest indoor ski park and a jaw-dropping 21-screen Cineplex that will be sure to occupy you for hours on end.

For buys that are more local than international, comb through traditional souks for pashmina shawls, spices, ethnic ornaments and other exotic trinkets. No matter what you are looking for, Dubai will be unlikely to leave you disappointed.

Dubai has no lack of world-class dining experiences as well. Fork out a whooping S$160 for a luxurious lunch at the 7-star Burj Al Arab. The hotel’s location on an artificial island off Jumeirah Beach guarantees fabulous sea views unparalleled by any other in Dubai. For dinner, indulge in a pampering meal while taking in the city’s night lights on the 122th storey of the 828-metre Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. After which, take a leisurely stroll to the nearby Dubai Fountain, the largest fountain in the world, and admire the magnificent musical fountain performances that happen every half an hour starting from 6pm in the evening.

Listening to the exotic repertoire and looking at the blinking lights in the distance, you’ll be forgiven for thinking that the scene channels Las Vegas of the Arabic night. You know what? You’re probably not that far off anyway.

The Traditional

For an experience of the traditional Arabian charm, book yourself on one of those desert safari tours that can be easily arranged for through your hotel. Departing in the evening around dusk, be prepared to be transported to another realm of rolling sand dunes and mysterious velvet black, all in the comfort of your guide’s trusty Land Cruiser.

Joining tens of other vehicles at the desert in an impressive procession of Land Cruisers, the air hangs with anticipation for the exhilarating experience that is about to come – dune bashing. At first slow and steady, sit tight as your vehicle suddenly plunges and rises, twists and turns with unbelievable dexterity on the soft sand dunes under the skilful manoeuvres of your guide, a feat that will be sure to evoke gasps and exclamations all around. Before you know it, the thrilling experience is over in a flash, but the memory of it will definitely send your adrenaline rushing for a long time to come.

Calm your palpitating heart by admiring the breathtaking beauty of the desert twilight. Relish the moment as the sun dips slowly beneath the horizon and bathes the golden sand in the day’s last rays. Just don’t forget your camera for this picture-perfect moment because before you know it, the darkness will already have crept in.

By the time all light is gone, you will also have arrived at the final stop of the tour – the campsite for the dinner programme. In the still of the desert and the dark, the orange lights of the campsite from afar are an inviting sight. Walking in, a waft of the mouth-watering aroma of succulent barbecued meats is enough to tantalise your taste buds and whip up your appetite. With just the carpet beneath you, settle down on one of the plush cushions and low tables that have been casually placed around the campsite and enjoy your dinner under the twinkling constellation.

After the filling dinner, take a few moments to experience the activities that are unique to the region. First, hop on the back of one of the many camels at the campsite. Bobbing and swaying on the humped creature’s back with the trainer patiently leading the animal around the grounds, we bet you’ll be feeling like Arabian royalty in no time. Otherwise, you could ink yourself with exquisite lattices through henna or try a few puffs of shisha, which is actually pretty like smoking a water pipe.

The raucous programme for the evening begins just as you are starting to get comfortable around the campsite. To the compelling beats of Middle Eastern music, be captivated by the passionate movements of the buxom belly dancer clad in vivid jewel tones in front of you. When she is done with her routine, gracefully oblige her invitations to join her in dancing up a storm! Do not be too worried if you barely know how to belly dance – chances are your neighbour doesn’t too! Pull someone along with you to share in the fun (and the initial embarrassment) and round up the evening in the desert with claps, laughter and heaps of good spirit.

Having experienced the best of Dubai and its different faces, we’re betting that you’ll be raring to come back to this sparkling land of gold in no time.

Getting There

You can choose from a large variety of airlines to get to Dubai from Singapore. Emirates operates daily flights with fares starting from S$1065. Total flight time is about 7 hours. Local transport is convenient as well as buses or prepaid taxis to the city centre are easily accessible from the airport.

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Aman at Summer Palace

Text Sophy Zee

A place to truly feel like royalty, for the couple who want the ultimate in luxury.

Rating: ★★★★★
Price: $$$$$
Couple quota: ♥♥♥♥

Price guide
$ – Less than S$200 a night
$$ – S$201 – S$350 a night
$$$ – S$351 – S$500 a night
$$$$ – S$501 – S$600 a night
$$$$$ – More than $600

At a glance

Plus points
+ Beautifully restored buildings housing the most modern of luxuries
+ Delicious food with great variety at four restaurants
+ Unconventional tours which show you the hidden side of Beijing
+ Attentive staff who know you by name

Minus points
– Quite a distance from the city centre
– Not all staff have a good grasp of English

Sleep

The suites are furnished with Ming-style furniture along simple classic lines. While it appears sparse at first, the beds are supremely comfortable, and the entertainment system is state-of-the-art.

In the bathroom, outfitted with a rain shower, the bath gel is the resorts’ own concoction, scented with empress Cixi’s favourite flower – the magnolia.

Eat

Aman, Summer Palace has a range of international restaurants – The Grill serves excellent western food with fresh ingredients.

The Chinese restaurant has Cantonese fare that is on par with some of the best restaurants in Singapore. Naoki, the Japanese restaurant is helmed by Chef Naoki Okumura and serves original French Kaiseki, cuisine, which combines French technique with Japanese artistry.

Do

A subterranean sprawl houses the gym, indoor swimming pool, squash courts, a spa, a private movie theatre, and a Kim Robinson hair salon. Movies are screened at 9pm every day.

Aman designs tours that are not available to the average traveller. Our trip to a relatively untouched section of the Great Wall included a visit to a village head, our very own guide and a picnic lunch prepared by Aman.

Sweat

The gym is out-fitted with latest Technogym equipment catering to cardio, strength, flexibility and kinetic workouts.

Also check out the indoor swimming pool and squash courts.

Classes in wushu, taiqi and pilates are organised on a regular basis.

Buy

Sanlitun (三里屯) is where you can find international brands, local designer shops and cool restaurants. For the serious shopper, Xidan (西单) is where the megamalls congregate and where you can find everything from clothes to electronics.

In the area

The nearest attraction is the Summer Palace (颐和园), which was built during the Qing dynasty by Emperor Qianlong as a summer resort.

In Beijing, besides the must-go tourist attractions like the Forbidden Palace and Tiananmen Square, check out the new urban hangouts like Nanluoguxiang, Workers’ stadium, Hou Hai and the 798 arts district.

For a good Peking duck with a light, crispy skin, the locals swear by Da Dong (大董).

Read more in our article about Beijing.

Getting There

The resort is about 20 minutes by car from Beijing International Airport, and 40 minutes from the centre of Beijing.

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Mutiara Johor Bahru

Text Lin Zixin

One of Johor Bahru’s premium business hotels, the newly refurbished Mutiara Johor Bahru is fuss-free and centrally located accommodation suitable for that short getaway from Singapore.

Rating: ★★★
Price: $$
Couple quota: ♥♥

Price guide
$ – Less than S$200 a night
$$ – S$201 – S$350 a night
$$$ – S$351 – S$500 a night
$$$$ – S$501 – S$600 a night
$$$$$ – More than $600

At a glance

Plus points
+ Prime location in the heart of Johor Bahru
+ Easy to get to
+ Comfortable and fuss-free

Minus points
– Interiors are run of the mill
– Little attractions nearby
– Views are mediocre

Sleep

Though rooms are comfortable but without surprises, we liked the Junior Club Suite that is especially family-friendly. On top of a double bed for the parents, the room also has a specially designed corner for children with double-decker beds, a PlayStation and other toys to guarantee a cosy and entertaining stay. Choose from Junior Club Suites with themes including Soccer Mania, My Secret Garden and Sweet Melody.

Eat

The hotel’s Meisan Szechuan Restaurant serves excellent Chinese cuisine while the Seri Mutiara Restaurant serves an equally palatable buffet of local and continental dishes. Check out the Polo Lounge as well for some late-night drinks and live music till 1am.

Sweat

There is a lack of outdoor activities nearby due to the hotel’s city location but you can sweat it out at the hotel’s gym and swimming pool.

Relax

Girls, listen up! Choose to beauty up your talons with manicure and pedicure services right next to the hotel or pamper yourself with a rejuvenating message at Manja Spa just across the road. Prices start at RM88 for 60 minutes of Javanese massage that is pure heaven for your work-weary bodies.

Buy

Mutiara Johor Bahru is just minutes away from the best of Johor Bahru’s shopping. In the area are The Holiday Plaza, Plaza Pelangi, City Plaza and so on.

In the area

A stone’s throw away from the hotel is Arulmigu Sri Rajakaliamman, the world’s first Hindu glass temple. Originally built in 1922, the temple was subsequently adorned with coloured glass in-lays and reopened in October 2009. Be dazzled by the shining spectacle that is reportedly 95 percent glass.

Getting There

Mutiara Johor Bahru is a breezy 15 minutes away from the Johor-Singapore Causeway and should not take more than an hour from Singapore if the traffic is smooth. If you don’t drive, public transport is convenient as well. Apart from the bus service 170, you can also take a direct taxi across the causeway from the taxi stand at Queen’s Street, just off Bugis. Prices are S$10 per head or S$40 per trip.