Travel and Leisure

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Travel And Leisure – On The Wings Of a Tiger

High up on the roof of the world grown-up guides talk humorously, but warily, about the ferociousness of female yetis, and lusty holy men are honored in temples by giant phalluses and bottles of wine. Yes, in Bhutan, the line between reality and myth is blurry. Possibly, the conjurings of devout believers who disappear into the mountains to meditate for months on end, colorful legends come thick and fast—and often with a generous portion of ribaldry. On the way from the capital, Thimphu, to the former capital Punakha, my guide, Arun, and I stop for a tea break at the summit of Dochu La. The high pass is notable for the 360-degree views of pine-clad hills and snow-capped mountains it o ers. It is also famous as the place where philandering guru Drukpa Kunley—better known as the Divine Madman—subdued a ferocious demoness with his versatile phallus, referred to as the “thunderbolt of flaming wisdom.”

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Travel and Leisure – Southern Comfort

In the depths of the Cambodian jungle, there are things that go bump in the night… and things that go bump in the morning, like the ominous thuds that are suddenly sounding on the underside of our boat. We are puttering our way along the Kampot River towards the Teuk Chhou Rapids, around 8 kilometers from the center of the charmingly somnolent little town. Once there, we will swim in crystal-clear pools, sway gently in riverside hammocks, and receive free skin-removal treatments from fussing, matronly monkeys. As the boat passes underneath a clump of coconut palms that jut out almost horizontally over the tranquil water, a loud disturbance beneath the craft becomes obvious. “There aren’t crocodiles in here, are there?” a fellow passenger asks nervously. “No, the boat just ran over some discarded coconut husks,” laughs Wee, our captain, as the boat steadies and continues to cruise upriver.

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Travel and Leisure – Chow Down in Cholon

From as far back as its 17th-century origins as a Chinese refugee settlement, Cholon—Saigon’s Chinatown—retains the ornate pagodas, shops and restaurants bearing Chinese characters that betray the area’s long link with the Middle Kingdom. Its culinary identity, meanwhile, also remains highly Sinicized with a profusion of roasted meat stores, stalls and restaurants proffering classic Chinese dishes. The catch: a whopping lack of infrastructure makes it a challenge to explore. But anyone seeking a comprehensive overview of food in Vietnam’s southern hub will want to check out its bustling street life and array of dining options. Here we offer guidance to navigating the mayhem and finding the best spots.

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Travel and Leisure – Vivid Vientiane

STAY. The leafy avenues that spread back from the Mekong play host to Vientiane’s grande dame, the Settha Palace Hotel (6 Th. Pang Kham; 856-21/217-5812; setthapalace.com; doubles from US$140), which has been keeping guests in colonial splendor since the early 1930’s. The brand-new Ansara Hotel (Quai Fa Ngum, Ban Vat Chan Tha, Hom No 5; ansarahotel.com; 856-21/213-5148; doubles from US$90) is a worthy addition to the city’s boutique stays. Rooms are simple yet stylish, with in-room laptops and a free (non-alcoholic) mini-bar. We love the lush tropical garden at Lani Guesthouse (281 Th. Setthathirat, Ban Haysok; 856-21/215-639; lani-guesthouse. com; doubles from US$35), as well as the clean rooms, traditional Lao architecture and wallet-friendly rates. Away from the city center, the Green Park Boutique Hotel (248 Th. Khouvieng; 856-21/263- 0623; greenparkvientiane.com; doubles from US$125) draws guests with chic, wood-floored interiors and romantic private balconies. SHOP.Showcasing the work of Lao Coco, an association of home-grown artists and artisans, T’Shop Laï Gallery (Th. Wat Inpeng; 856-21/223-178; laococo. com) is a great place to pick up contemporary furniture and handicrafts by an emerging generation…

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Travel and Leisure – Hidden Cham

Guttural, beer-distorted Vietnamese pierces the late afternoon calm. Then a French tourist asks me: “Are those air rifles?” I squint into the sun at a group of men gesticulating frantically at us from across the paddy field and clock the glint of metal barrels. The locals, it turns out, are packing mild heat. Five minutes earlier, taking this shortcut seemed like a good idea. Our mission to explore Hon Lao—the largest of the eight-strong Cu Lao Cham archipelago 18 kilometers offshore from China Beach in southern Vietnam—on foot had been a fruitful one; an insight into a destination that remains untouched by mass tourism. After three hours hiking along the undulating pot-holed strip of tarmac that is the main highway on the island’s west coast, our sweat-drenched group is more than ready to shave a few minutes off the journey back to Bai Lang village and the boat waiting to whisk us back to the mainland. Bad move. We’re walking directly into the line of afternoon target practice. “You need to move a little bit quicker,” says Gianni Marcon, our…