July 20, 2014

Must Visit: Longsheng Rice Terraces, China

Longsheng rice terracesA private day trip to the spectacular terraced rice fields of Longsheng, near Guilin, is one of our favorite excursions in southern China.

Longji Titian or “Dragon’s Backbone” is the local name for the undulating mountain landscapes, where the shimmering, water-filled terraces are said to resemble dragon scales. Built over centuries, the rice terraces have provided sustenance to the local Yao, Zhuang, Miao and Dong minorities for generations.

Longsheng villagesWe arrange for travelers to walk along the terraces and take in ever-changing views of these incredible earthworks from viewpoints with evocative names such as “Seven Stars and Moon” and “Nine Dragons and Five Tigers.”

Longsheng weaverOther highlights of the day trip include meeting local minority people to learn about their traditions, snacking on bamboo sticky rice, seeing traditional wooden houses perched on hillsides, and browsing for local crafts such as woven textiles, embroidered bags and silver jewelry.

China food toursView our recommended private luxury China tours to learn more about visiting Longsheng.

Longsheng rice terraces

Destinations:  Asia, China

Tags:  active touring, Asia, China, China tours, hiking, Longsheng, luxury travel, nature, rice terraces, villages

June 28, 2014

New Authentic Experiences in Southeast Asia: Food, Culture, Art and Style

We’ve recently introduced a number of exciting new activities in Southeast Asia. All of the experiences—including culinary, active and art options—can be incorporated into our private luxury tours.

monks in BurmaNew Artisans of Leisure experiences in Southeast Asia include:

Culinary Touring
•    Learning to prepare pho (noodle soup) and banh mi (baguette sandwiches) in Vietnam
•   Taking a hands-on lesson with a dim sum master in Hong Kong
•   Private street food and night market tours in Saigon, Hong Kong and Bangkok
• Visiting local producers, including a tofu maker in Indonesia, a winery in Myanmar (Burma) and a noodle maker in Singapore

Special Access & Meetings with Experts
•    Tours of herbal markets and meetings with traditional health practitioners
•    A tour of a Buddhist monastery in Mandalay with a head monk
•    Behind-the-scenes tours of a water puppet theater in Hanoi
•    Private Thai massage lessons in Bangkok
•    A private gamelan lesson in Bali

Shopping Excursions
•    Private art-buying tours at up-and-coming galleries in Yangon, Hong Kong and other cities
•    An insider’s tour of the latest shops in Bangkok, Hong Kong and Singapore
•    Visiting the best lacquerware studios in Myanmar (Burma)
•    Visiting the shop and studio of a renowned weaver in Laos
•    Appointments with renowned designers and artists in their studios, including jewelers in Bali and Hong Kong

Art, Architecture & Design Touring
•    Touring interiors with a feng shui expert in Vietnam or Hong Kong
•    Tours of Singapore’s newest outdoor art, architecture and garden sites, such as Gardens by the Bay and Parkroyal on Pickering
•    A private decorative arts tour of Bangkok
•   Learning about the design and techniques of traditional weaving in Indonesia, Thailand and Laos

Family & Active Experiences
•    Meeting novice monks in Myanmar (Burma) and learning about their lifestyle
•    A family bicycle tour, including a picnic, in rural Cambodia
•    A rice-planting experience in Vietnam
•    Working at a private elephant conservation camp in Thailand
•    Surfing lessons in Bali
•  Bicycling among the rice terraces of Bali, on undeveloped islands in Singapore, or around scenic Inle Lake in Myanmar (Burma)
•    Learning to make shadow puppets in Indonesia

We’ve also added tours that feature new luxury resorts and cruises in the region, including Romantic Vietnam, which features the new Amanoi resort on a beautiful beach in Vietnam and Mekong Experience, which incorporates a cruise on the luxurious Aqua Mekong along the Mekong River in Vietnam and Cambodia.

Destinations:  Asia, Bali, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore, Southeast Asia, Thailand, Vietnam

Tags:  adventure, art, Asia, Bali, Burma, Cambodia, culinary travel, design, exclusive experiences, family travel, food, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Laos, luxury resorts, luxury tours, Myanmar, shopping, Singapore, Southeast Asia, Thailand, Vietnam

June 9, 2014

Exclusive New Sri Lanka Tours

Amanwella in Sri LankaOur new private Sri Lanka tours are filled with authentic, hands-on experiences that capture the best of the beautiful island country, such as:

•    Touring a historic tea factory with the resident tea planter
•    Learning to prepare Sri Lankan curry during a private cooking lesson
•    Riding elephants at a private sanctuary
•    Visiting a spice plantation
•    Enjoying a private performance of Sri Lankan dance and fire walking
•    Exploring the monuments and ruins of ancient Buddhist cities
•    Wildlife touring and private game drives in national parks
•    Appointments at Ayurvedic spas
•    Touring the country estate of influential Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa
•    Staying at top luxury hotels and resorts that embrace the culture and history of Sri Lanka, including Amangalla and Tea Trails

Sri Lanka luxury toursThe tours bring travelers close to Sri Lanka’s incredible culture, wildlife and landscapes in full Artisans of Leisure style, including staying at luxury hotels and traveling with your own private guide and driver.

Artisans of Leisure’s Sri Lanka tours feature the country’s most interesting and beautiful regions: Colombo, the bustling capital of Sri Lanka; the Cultural Triangle, including Sigiriya (spectacular rock fortress), Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa (ancient Buddhist cities filled with holy sites, monuments and ruins), and Dambulla (caves filled with Buddhist art); Kandy, the last royal capital of Sri Lanka and home of the Temple of the Tooth; the Hill Country, a mountainous area covered with tea plantations; Galle, an atmospheric, colonial-era fortified port; Tangalle, location of Amanwella beach resort; and Yala National Park, famous for wild leopards, elephants and more.

We can also customize private tours that combine Sri Lanka with India, the Maldives, the United Arab Emirates and other destinations in the region.

Destinations:  Asia, Sri Lanka

Tags:  Asia, Asia tours, culinary tours, culture, dance, luxury tours, new tours, Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka tours, Sri Lanka trips, tea, wildlife

June 5, 2014

Must Stay: Park Hyatt Vienna

Park Hyatt ViennaRecently opened, the Park Hyatt Vienna is a great new hotel option for travelers wanting luxury and contemporary style in the heart of the Austrian capital.

Set in a grand historic building in one of our favorite neighborhoods of this culturally rich city, the Park Hyatt is just steps from St. Stephen’s Cathedral, major museums and historic attractions, and Julius Meinl am Graben (a must-visit gourmet store with an excellent restaurant). Also nearby are some of our preferred boutiques for Austrian chocolates, linens, glassware, antiques, and Viennese design.

The hotel’s public spaces feature Art Deco and modern accents, and the guest rooms are among the city’s most spacious. We especially love the indoor pool, an unusual perk for a hotel in Vienna.

The Park Hyatt Vienna is included as an option in our private Austria tours.

 

Destinations:  Austria, Europe

Tags:  Austria, Austria tours, Europe, hotels, luxury hotels, luxury tours, luxury travel, Park Hyatt Vienna, Vienna

April 23, 2014

Zippori Archaeological Site, Israel

Clients who recently returned from Israel sent us these photos of the spectacular mosaics they saw at the Zippori archaeological site in the Galilee.

ZipporiOngoing excavations at Zippori have revealed the site’s many layers of history, from a Roman administrative capital in the first century B.C. to a busy Jewish religious center and, later, a Christian community.

Zippori Israel tourAmong the ruins are an acropolis, theater, mikvah (ritual bath), Crusader-era fortress and houses.

Zippori Israel tourHowever, the highlights of Zippori are the mosaic floors, including a rendering of the zodiac inside a sixth-century synagogue and a depiction of a woman called “the Mona Lisa of the Galilee” uncovered in a Roman villa.

Zippori Israel tourTouring Zippori and other important archaeological sites with an expert archaeological guide can be incorporated into many of Artisans of Leisure’s private tours of Israel.

Destinations:  Israel

Tags:  archaeological site, archaeology, Israel tours, mosaics, ruins, Zippori archaeological site

April 16, 2014

The New Faberge Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia

Faberge Museum Russia

Image courtesy of The Forbes Collection

Travelers who appreciate the finest craftsmanship will be happy to know that Artisans of Leisure arranges tours of the outstanding Faberge Museum, which recently opened inside the restored 18th-century Shuvalov Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The museum contains more than 1,500 objects crafted by the legendary Faberge workshop, including the nine imperial eggs once owned by The Forbes Collection in New York.

Visit our website to learn more about visiting the museum on one of our luxury private Russia tours.

 

Destinations:  Europe, Russia

Tags:  art, design, Faberge Museum, museums, Russia tours, St. Petersburg

April 2, 2014

Top 10: Favorite Breakfasts around the World

We always enjoy experiencing how different cultures approach the most important meal of the day. Here are a few of our favorites:

Museum Hotel Turkey1.) Breakfast at a cave hotel in Cappadocia, Turkey
We love sitting on the hotel terrace and taking in views of the fantastical rock formations of this beautiful region while eating a classic Turkish breakfast, including fresh Turkish pita, cheeses, yogurt, olives, and tomato and cucumber slices.

2.) Room service in Paris, France
Pure decadence: ordering delicious chocolate croissants, fresh bread, berries and French cheeses and enjoying the meal in a luxurious room in one of the best hotels in France, such as the Four Seasons George V.

ryokan breakfast3.) Breakfast at a ryokan (traditional inn) in Japan
Staying at a ryokan (traditional inn) is a cultural and culinary highlight of any trip to Japan. One of our favorite ryokan experiences is lingering over a traditional in-room Japanese breakfast of rice, nori, grilled fish, eggs, tofu, pickles and miso soup served on gorgeous ceramics and lacquerware.

4.) A Proper English breakfast in London
Before a busy day exploring London, we indulge in a proper English breakfast of strong tea, homemade baked beans, roast tomatoes, sausage, bacon, mushrooms, eggs and granary bread (as well as contemporary options such as fresh fruit smoothies, pastries, polenta with greens, and scrambled eggs with salmon), often while sitting in the breakfast room at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park and watching the Queen’s Royal Horse Guards trot by en route to Buckingham Palace.

5.) One of the legendary breakfast buffets in Israel
Breakfast buffets in Israel are elaborate affairs and filling enough to hold you over until dinnertime. Before starting touring for the day, we make time to enjoy the tables overflowing with sesame breads, baklava, halvah, hummus, olives, feta, yogurt, pickled vegetables, babka, stewed fruits, cakes and more.

6.) A lazy breakfast overlooking a piazza in Florence, Italy
We love sitting at one of Florence’s famed cafes and enjoying local specialties, including frittatas, panini, and—we confess—even chocolate cake and coffee for breakfast.

Mexico huevos rancheros7.) Huevos rancheros anywhere in Mexico
Whether we’re on the terrace at an upscale Mexican beach resort on the Riviera Maya or in the courtyard at the urban Four Seasons Hotel Mexico City, we like to order a glass of fresh-squeezed juice and a plate of huevos rancheros (corn tortillas, fried eggs, cheese and salsa).

Breakfast in Egypt8.) A typical Egyptian breakfast
In Egypt, we recommend eating breakfast as the locals do: ful medames (stewed fava beans with olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and spices) accompanied by yogurt, cheese, falafel, stuffed bread, fruit and condiments.

9.) Freshly baked pastries in Buenos Aires, Argentina
A historic cafe in Buenos Aires is our favorite place to savor medialunas—Argentina’s version of the croissant—with a side of dulce de leche and a cup of cafe con leche.

Breakfast in Bali10.) Sweet and savory favorites in Bali, Indonesia
There are endless delicious breakfast options in Bali, whether it’s banana pancakes at an expat cafe or more traditional fare, such as nasi goreng—an Indonesian breakfast of fried rice with chilies, shallots, garlic, chicken, sweet soy sauce, fried egg and other ingredients. Or, keep it simple and enjoy the abundant fresh fruit (watermelon, pineapple, cantaloupe, strawberries, mangosteen, rambutan, passion fruit and salak, or snake fruit) with citrus mint yogurt and lime at a luxury resort overlooking the sea or terraced rice fields.

 

Destinations:  Africa, Argentina, Asia, Bali, Egypt, England, Europe, France, Israel, Japan, Latin America, Mexico, Middle East, Turkey

Tags:  around-the-world, breakfast, culinary travel, food, foodie tours, global food, global meals, hotels, Indonesia, luxury travel, South America

March 14, 2014

Cherry Blossom Season in Japan

Japan toursCherry blossom season is a wonderful time to be in Japan. Starting around mid-March in most of the country, the pale pink sakura flowers burst open in a shock of color that signals the end of winter and the start of spring.

It can be surprising how widespread cherry trees are in Japan until you witness firsthand the great expanses of pink flowers lining boulevards, carpeting parks, and punctuating the grounds of temples and shrines at this time of year. Japanese come together in many of these places for ohanami (cherry blossom viewing) parties with friends, eating and drinking while sitting under a canopy of the five-petaled flowers.

Cherry blossoms last only a couple of weeks. Over time, the wind loosens the petals, which drift to the ground like a light pink snowfall, a romantic display the Japanese call hanafubuki (flower snowstorm).

KyotoThe ephemeral beauty of cherry blossoms has been celebrated in traditional Japanese culture for centuries, inspiring countless songs and works of art. This time limit also means that many Japanese eagerly anticipate the arrival of cherry blossoms each year. In fact, the Japanese news media follow the “cherry blossom front” as it moves across the country from the warmer south to the cooler north, making sure that viewers are aware of when the sakura will be at their peak in each region.

Many of our clients travel on our private Japan tours at this time of year to experience the festive cherry blossom season in Kyoto, Tokyo, Kanazawa, Nara, Miyajima, Hakone and other popular destinations. It’s a very busy travel time in Japan, so it’s best to book your tour as early as possible if you want to experience one of Japan’s most wonderful annual traditions.

Destinations:  Asia, Japan

Tags:  cherry blossom season, gardens, Japan tours, luxury Asia tours, luxury Japan tours, nature