Tag Archives: China

Real estate investment in Shanghai: Sophisticated living spaces in the heart of the evolving Chinese city 

Shanghai

Still regarded as a major magnet for foreign investors keen on China, Shanghai promises relatively predictable growth trends and low levels of bureaucratic control. Due to its ability to attract businesses, it will also continue to attract well-heeled tenants that will keep rents stable. For a developing country, Shanghai’s homes are pricey, although following fears of a weakening Yuan, foreign owners have toyed with the idea of selling some of their assets first. For those who have, these homes tend to be bought by local investors instead, meaning that transaction prices have actually held somewhat steady.

Nonetheless, there is also increasing demand for homes outside of the Central Business District (CBD), especially if well-served by transport networks, where demand for rental apartments is growing, leading to various developers looking for opportunities in the outskirts of the city centre. Moreover, as Shanghai’s economy evolves, demand for technological innovation, media services and telecom infrastructure (TMT) – a relatively new sector – have been growing rapidly, driven by the need to add value through manufacturing and improved efficiency. TMT expansion is also driven by the maturing nature of the business environment in Shanghai, which is boosting demand for more sophisticated living spaces in the city.

According to observations by Knight Frank, since the middle of 2015, there has been an increase in foreign residential investments in Shanghai, especially in prime areas. By some estimates, new luxury home sales in Shanghai were up 288% year-on-year in Q1 2016. There are several factors driving sales, including strong economic activity, intense housing demand and higher supply. China is a developing country with huge growth potential in multiple industries, including manufacturing, natural resources and technology. This has helped to drive up property prices, especially in Shanghai, with prices of new homes in China’s second priciest city jumping 20.7% in May 2016 from a year ago according to estimates by research firm China Real Estate Index System. Property-seekers are looking to buy homes in upmarket precincts such as the car-free shopping district of Xintiandi, the upscale suburb of Gubei (home to a large number of Japanese and Korean expatriates), and Pudong.

To prevent a housing bubble, Chinese authorities introduced new property cooling measures in Shanghai last March, which included larger down payments for second homes. Moreover, non-local residents can only buy homes if their income tax and social security documents show that they have lived in Shanghai for more than five consecutive years. They also need to register as a Foreign Invested Enterprise (FIE). The verdict is still out as to whether these restrictions have any impact on wealthy foreign investors who do not necessarily need to take loans from local banks to buy an investment property. Most of the purchases are cash deals, note market observers.

While the sales market is showing signs of overheating, rentals have been more stable, with luxury residential yields averaging between 2% and 3% in Shanghai. Experts warn, however, that ultimately all the land in China is owned by the government, which leases it out to developers for up to 70 years, making it difficult to sell a property or pass it on to the next generation if the lease on the land is expiring. It is also important to understand the property tax expected for such ownership. Taxes are payable at the start (1.2% on 80% of the sales price for self-use or vacant properties, or 12% of the annual rented income if leased out). There is also a 20% capital gains tax on second-hand residential sales. Where applicable, deed taxes of 1% to 3% are also payable.

ON THE MARKET

Changfeng Residence

Another project to consider is Changfeng Residence, a French-themed project boasting 664 stellar residential apartments and facing the 360,000 square meters green heart of Shanghai Changfeng Park along the Suzhou River, both a mere 10 minutes away by foot. The project, developed by GuocoLand, another notable foreign developer, is also strategically located close to major landmarks like the Shanghai Marriott Hotel and MGM Studio Entertainment World. The project also boasts great accessibility with subway lines, ring roads and various bus options.

For more information:
www.guocoland.com.sg
Tel: +86 021 5282 1177

Suhe Creek

The condominium is a new award-winning project developed by OCT Land Shanghai. Located in Shanghai’s city centre, at 150m tall it is the highest residential building in Puxi and offers stunning views from its luxurious apartments and duplexes. Its unique city skyline perspective is also touted as the only one in the area that includes views of Lujiazui and the Bund, as well as the meeting point of the Yangzi and Suzhou rivers. Sited along Shanxi North Road, Suhe Creek certainly benefits from an advantageous location—Nanjing Road, People’s Square, the Bund and other major city landmarks are just a short walk away. Excellent transportation accessibility is also ensured with three metro lines located in the vicinity.

Designed by Fosters + Partners Architects and Kokaistudios and boasting interiors by ACPV, DIA and Japanese Construction Co, Ltd, all residences bear high-quality finishes by Poggenpohl, Poliform, BLANCO, Villeroy & Boch and Hansgrohe. With two to three-bedroom units ranging from 180 sqm to 300 sqm (approximately 1500 square feet to 3200 square feet), duplex units ranging from 500 sqm to 600 sqm (approximately 5,382 square feet to 6,458 square feet) and villas with a total area ranging from 1,200 sqm to 1,500 sqm (approximately 12,917 square feet to 16,146 square feet), at 55 million to 230 million yuan (approximately USD 8 million to USD 33.4 million), the project also features a large 3,000 sqm (approximately 32,000 square feet) clubhouse fitted with multiple sporting facilities.

For more information:
www.joneslanglasalle.com.cn / Tel: +86 21 6133 5408

This article was first published under Special Reports in Palace 19. 

Chinese contemporary architecture: Reinterpreting traditional designs in the modern, urban China

A bird’s nest, a boot, a pair of trousers — some of China’s most infamous contemporary buildings resemble everyday objects more than edifices. And together, they have embodied China’s desire, throughout the latest building boom, to assert its superpower status through an extraordinary built environment.

But this flamboyant approach to design is poised to change. The Communist Party recently announced offensives against “bizarre” architecture and Beijing has unveiled rules making it harder for “strange” buildings to be given planning permission. Included in the new guidelines, released in a statement from China’s State Council last year, is a ban on buildings devoid of character or cultural heritage. Instead, the directive calls for buildings that are “economic, green and beautiful”.

The announcement made waves in the architecture and design worlds and was widely reported in the international media. But for many Chinese architecture firms the decree was far from revolutionary: for years, local studios have been quietly designing restrained buildings that are sensitive to their historical and urban contexts.

Beijing’s Haiting Villa townhouse by Arch Studio balances layering of wood with spare interiors.

Yung Ho Chang, an early pioneer of contemporary Chinese architecture established China’s first private architecture firm, Atelier FCJZ in 1993 and has long emphasised the need for architectural vernacular that is rooted in China. “Today, we have too many buildings in China that may look fashionable on the outside… and not at all connected with their locales”, the architect told me in 2012.

Chang’s most famous residence is the Split House. Unveiled at the 2002 Venice Biennial as part of Pan Shi Yi’s Commune by the Great Wall, it was one of the first projects of its scale that relied on Asian designers rather than Western “starchitects”. Poised on a steep slope, it is literally split in half, with a short glass bridge joining its two sides and forming a V-shaped plan that opens to the hillside. In many respects, the house is Chang’s take on the traditional Chinese courtyard dwelling. “When you see it from the outside, the house seems withdrawn, like any other courtyard house”, Chang describes, “But inside, you realise that it, in fact, is totally open to nature”.

Wang Shu, another pioneer of contemporary Chinese design, set up his Hangzhou studio, Amateur Architecture, with his wife Lu Wenyu in 1997 with the express aim of returning to traditional techniques of craftsmanship. The architect, who was later awarded the Pritzker Prize for Architecture, spent nearly a decade travelling to the countryside to remote villages to learn about traditional building techniques and he incorporated traditional motifs and materials such as bamboo, wood and recycled bricks into his own designs.

META-project’s Courtyard by the Sea adapts a traditional dwelling to modern lifestyles

One of his early residential projects, the Vertical Courtyard, also references historic lane and courtyard homes. Wang contemporized the traditional building typology by turning the quadrangle on its side and creating double-height courtyards on every floor. “Every family has a courtyard and a roof”, Wang says of the project. “And even though the building is 100m tall, it still maintains the feeling of living only two floors high”.

This detail is important to Wang, who believes that much of modern architecture is too concerned with the building and not its inhabitants and how they actually live and feel. Building at a human scale remains crucial given China’s rapid rate of urbanisation and its ballooning megacities. And, following in the footsteps of the early pioneers, a number of design studios are addressing this and other challenges by drawing from the Chinese vernacular.

ZAO/standardarchitecture which is based in Beijing, recently completed the Micro Yuan’er project, an adaptive reuse initiative that introduces a series of micro spaces, a children’s library, an art space, dance studio and craft studio, into the darshilar neighbourhood and thereby attempts to preserve the many layers of traditional hutong (a lane or alley in a traditional residential area of a Chinese city, especially Beijing) life.

The attitude toward Beijing’s courtyard dwellings has typically swung between total eradication and a kind of static preservation. With this project, Zhang Ke, founder of standard architecture aimed instead to recognise the unique topography of courtyard living that developed in Beijing over the past 60 years and he considers the project a statement about how China should treat its urban history. “Altogether [the many components] keep, maintain and conserve the special quality of this big messy courtyard”, he says. “It becomes a place people feel used to, but they clearly realise something contemporary is going on”.

The Niyang River Visitor Center in Tibet, by ZAO/standardarchitecture

Zhang believes that re-imagining the courtyard, which is at the centre of traditional Chinese culture, could help to propel China’s new phase of building. “I think it could generate a new revolution in urban renewal in China if we start with courtyards—the traditional dwelling units—which is a biological study where you do genetic research of cells then new forms of life can be created”.

When it comes to luxury residences, local design studios are also eschewing American-style suburban mansions and instead re-interpreting traditional Chinese dwellings for contemporary lifestyles. Beijing-based studio META-Project recently completed a renovation of Courtyard near West Sea for a client who wanted the building to accommodate a variety of programs, including a teahouse, dining and party space, office and living areas. The firm’s solution was a design that moves between the traditional, introverted qualities of a courtyard house, and contemporary, extroverted areas that encourage social interaction. “Intervention in the hutongs needs to be based on the true understanding of life and culture…instead of rigid protection to its physical appearance”, the studio says.

Even China’s industrial architecture is taking reference from history. Beijing’s Arch Studio is perhaps best known for the Haitang Villa, an elegant townhouse that blends indoor and outdoor spaces and balances layering of wood with spare interiors. But the firm also recently completed a 60,000 square foot organic farmhouse in Tangshan that is influenced by traditional courtyard buildings.

The firm’s idea was to create a magnified version of a courtyard house with a self-contained and flexible workspace that formed a harmonious connection with the surrounding flat fields. The resulting structure is made up of material storage, a mill, an oil-pressing workshop and a packing area. There is an external corridor at the boundary of the building that connects the four areas and an inner courtyard that spans out randomly around the building and lets in light and air. The structure also sits in a 60cm cement base, a method of moisture-proofing the wood, which makes the farm look as if it is softly floating above the fields.

“I think the current status quo of China, with more reflection and possibilities, is even more exciting than the previous period of wild development”, says Zhang Ke. Subtle architecture may not grab headlines, but it does tend to outlast the more garish designs. And with the Chinese government backing projects that exhibit restraint and cultural specificity, the next phase of construction may end up producing more long-lasting structures that improve the lives of those who inhabit and interact with them.

This article was first published in Palace 19.

The Norwegian Joy features the inaugural Ferrari-branded racetrack at sea. Image courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

The “Norwegian Joy” cruise ship docked in Shanghai features 2-story Ferrari-branded racetrack

The Norwegian Joy features the inaugural Ferrari-branded racetrack at sea. Image courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

The Norwegian Joy features the inaugural Ferrari-branded racetrack at sea. Image courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

A luxury cruise ship destined specifically for the Chinese market will feature the industry’s first Ferrari-branded racetrack at sea.

When the Norwegian Joy lifts anchor for the first time this summer, the ship will introduce a two-level race car track on the top deck, where up to 10 guests will be able to take a spin in electric go-carts at a time.

The Norwegian Joy. Image courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

The Norwegian Joy. Image courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

It’s the latest over-the-top feature to make its debut in the ever-competitive cruise market, which is constantly tripping over itself to debut activities like indoor skydiving, surf water parks, robot bartenders and flying trapeze lessons at sea.

While the racetrack may be a first in the industry, Royal Caribbean debuted bumper cars on its ship Quantum of the Seas in 2014. The bumper car ring also doubles as a skating rink.

The Norwegian Joy can accommodate 3,850 passengers and is Norwegian’s first purpose-built ship for the Chinese market. The ship will home port in Shanghai and Tianjin and make its maiden voyage this summer.

Pitched as a first-class experience at sea, other features include casinos, open-air laser tag course, simulator thrill rides, hover craft bumper cars, multi-story water slides, open space park, and Norwegian’s largest upscale shopping district with luxury brands.

The ship will be christened June 27.

Luxury motor yachts: China’s Heysea starts global sales network in Australia, New Zealand, Europe and more

China’s number one large motor yacht builder, Heysea, is starting a sales assault in Europe, the States, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Talks are in progress with dealers to create a truly global network.

So far, Florida-based Doug Hoogs has been appointed in the States, Yachting Partners International in Europe, and Tony Ross and Jason Chipp of Ensign Brokers in Australia and New Zealand. Nearby Hong Kong sales are handled directly, and Singapore and Middle East dealers are in the pipeline.

Heysea Chairman Allen Leng feels that having delivered more than 100 vessels over 55 feet since the yard was launched in 2007, the timing is right to move into the international market. Brands at first ranged from the Heysea 60, 70, 78 and 82 series to the Asteria 95 and 108. A sixth Asteria 108 was presented to her Hong Kong owner in early January. Over 15 Heysea 78s have been sold, and more than 20 Heysea 82s.

Now, the thoroughly modern Zoom 58 to 76 series is also proving popular, with seven orders so far. In Heysea’s emerging superyacht sector, a 42m cat is being built for the 100 entry plus China Cup International Regatta, held annually in Daya Bay near Hong Kong, and the Sealink 45m and Vista 50m are on the drawing boards, as is a 35m for the Americas.

The yard is ranked in the world’s Top 30 Builders in Boat International’s most recent 2016 Global Order Book, for the third straight year, and it is the only Chinese mainland yard to appear. Taiwan’s Ocean Alexander and Horizon are higher up in the same list, but Allen Leng makes the point that most Chinese-based yards are Taiwan or foreign-owned, building OEMs for well-known American and European brands, so they have little sales and individual brand marketing experience, whereas Heysea is genuinely Chinese in
all departments.

Making its debut as the Global Financial Crisis broke in 2008 was not exactly ideal, but Heysea hunkered down and through hard work combined with creative flair and technical expertise, soon began to achieve steady Chinese sales. By the 2016 Shenzhen International Boat Show, it had picked up 20 awards including Best China Yacht Builder, Best Brand Presence in China, and Personality of the Year in the China Yachting Industry.

George Mei, previously with Kingship and Nisi Yachts, has taken over as Head of Production at Heysea. Like Allen Leng and fellow Heysea Vice Presidents Ma Xiaodong and Guan Liangzhi, Mei is a graduate of the prestigious Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST) in Wuhan, Hubei, which could be likened to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

All four majored in Naval Architecture, and combined with CEO Ms Fang Yuan, who has an Engineering Masters Degree from Vrije Universiteit in Belgium, a country where she worked in sales and management for a decade, this is the “think tank” from which Heysea’s unique philosophy has emerged. Heysea literally means Hello Sea.

The 66,700 sqm facility is located in Jiangmen City, on the border between Jiangmen and Zhuhai, which is adjacent to Macau and across the Pearl River estuary from Hong Kong. It has a deep draft frontage suitable for superyachts, and is about half an hour from the boat building zone where other Chinese and foreign ventures have been established in the past decade.

“We are determined to change the stereotype image of Chinese boat building yards,” says Chairman Leng. “For us, quality comes first, and the finished product is our future calling card.” As he and his cohorts tour shows in Cannes, Monaco, Ft Lauderdale, Sydney and elsewhere, they are clearly setting themselves high standards.

There are other close connections. Doug Hoogs in Ft. Lauderdale has previously represented Kingship and IAG, introducing Chinese- built superyachts to American clients. George Mei is ex-Kingship, Nisi Yachts and IAG, overseeing the 43m King Baby, which was a finalist in the World Superyacht Awards and Showboats Design Awards in 2015. The inimitable Ms. Trouble Huang, now Overseas Sales Chief at Heysea, is also ex-IAG. When the yards used by IAG and Nisi were taken over recently by another Chinese builder, Sunbird, it seems this group decided their stars were better aligned with Heysea.

Tony Ross of Ensign Brokers in Australia had earlier sold an IAG 104 to a client based in Langkawi, but he too has migrated to Heysea, convinced that Allen Leng’s vision will soon become reality.

Leng lists four principal reasons why Heysea has a competitive advantage. The first is that every Heysea yacht has different interior designs and cabin layouts. This high degree of customisation is well regarded by Chinese buyers, some of whom have non-Western tastes, but equally the yard’s comprehensive one-stop services can be applied to any potential clients, the more so as orders progress into superyacht sizes.

Strong Research and Development abilities come next. A new model is introduced every year, and the yard claims its naval architecture pedigree results in Heysea yachts cruising 1 to 2 kts faster than other comparable regionally built brands. Design and styling is largely in-house, except for the Asteria 95 by Sydney-based naval architect David Bentley.

Quality control is the third pillar. “Heysea believes in encouraging the very spirit of craftsmanship,” says Chairman Leng. “We pay painstaking attention to every detail of the production process. Each foreman and supervisor has more than 20 years experience in their particular field.” And finally, price. “Why would you pay double the price for a European yacht that uses the same equipment and materials as Heysea?” he asks. “Heysea ensures owners do not pay a brand premium, or for unreasonably high labour costs.”

These assertions will doubtlessly be disputed by other brands, but they are clearly how Heysea positions itself in the market, and the yard has certainly come a long way since the founders met in a small Zhuhai coffee shop back in 2007.

“There is an old Chinese proverb that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” says Chairman Leng. “Heysea’s goal is to take every step firmly, and to create world-class yachts of which every Heysea owner will be proud. We believe that one day, our overall vision will come true.”

For more information, visit HeySea

Art auctions in Hong Kong: Warhol Mao portrait fetches US$12.7m in Sotheby’s auction

A Parody?: King of Pop Art's portrait of the former Chinese Community Party leader fell short of its estimate at a Hong Kong auction. The painting is shown here at Sotheby's Hong Kong Gallery. Image courtesy of Sotheby's Facebook Page

A Parody?: King of Pop Art’s portrait of the former Chinese Community Party leader fell short of its estimate at a Hong Kong auction. The painting is shown here at Sotheby’s Hong Kong Gallery. Image courtesy of Sotheby’s Facebook Page

A classic Andy Warhol portrait of former Chinese leader Mao Zedong fetched US$12.7 million at an auction in Hong Kong on Sunday, Sotheby’s said well short of the top estimate of more than US$15 million.

The sale of the 1973 screen print by the legendary US pop artist attracted plenty of attention before going under the hammer in the semi-autonomous city owing to sensitivity about any use of Mao’s image in China.

The top sale price estimate of more than US$15 million was the highest the auction house had ever seen for a painting in Asia. The identity of the buyer was not released. Sotheby’s had described the event as the first “significant” sale of Western contemporary art in Hong Kong, which was handed back to China by Britain in 1997.

But while buyers from mainland China have developed massive market clout, Warhol’s images of Mao have drawn controversy there. A major touring retrospective of his works removed pictures of the former leader when it visited Shanghai and Beijing in 2013.

Mao’s legacy as Communist China’s founding father makes him inseparable from official propaganda extolling the party’s ruling legitimacy, and his huge portrait still overlooks vast Tiananmen Square and appears on Chinese banknotes.

Yet his mistakes, such as disastrous economic policies blamed for mass starvation and the political witch hunts of the 1966 to 1976 “Cultural Revolution“, left a bitter aftertaste and depictions of him otherwise remain strictly controlled.

Architecture exhibitions in Berlin: ‘Mind Landscapes’ on architect Zhu Pei to open at the Aedes Architectural Forum

Yang Liping Performing Arts Center in Dali, Yunnan, China | © Studio Zhu-Pei

Yang Liping Performing Arts Center in Dali, Yunnan, China | © Studio Zhu-Pei

Beijing-based Zhu Pei is part of a new generation of Chinese architects offering solutions to the country’s urbanization. An upcoming exhibition in Berlin will look at the architect’s approaches through five of his cultural buildings, seen in models, plans and films as well as his striking ink drawings. The exhibition, ‘Mind Landscapes’, runs from April 1 to May 28 at Berlin’s Aedes Architectural Forum, an institution devoted to contemporary architecture.

The show will feature projects that merge local narratives and traditional forms of expression with a new visual language, says the Forum. The five buildings to be featured, all currently under construction in China, include the Yang Liping Performing Arts Center and the Museum of Contemporary Art, both in Dali, the Shijingshan Cultural Center in Beijing, the Shou County Culture and Art Center in Anhui province, and the Museum of Imperial Kiln in Jingdezhen.

While tackling urban growth, Zhu Pei’s work draws from traditional aesthetic concepts of space and structure, allowing him to create solutions that are specific to their location and region. The result, say organizers of the upcoming exhibition, are buildings with “a specific character within a contemporary architectural form.”

Zhu Pei studied architecture in Beijing and California and in 2005 founded Studio Zhu-Pei, known for its work on the Cai Guoqiang Courtyard House renovation in Beijing (2007), the OCT Design Museum in Shenzhen (2012) and, more recently, Beijing’s Minsheng Art Museum (2015).

Interview with Chinese Master Sculptor Xu Xiaoyong the Celestial Blessings collection with Royal Selangor

I sit down with sculptor Xu Xiaoyong at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, to discuss the launch of his Celestial Blessings collection for Royal Selangor. Originating from Jiangxi, China, Xu is renowned in China and his sculptures of Chinese deities are extremely popular works of art for the home. His latest collection consists of the Guan Yin Figurine, Guan Gong Figurine and Fu Lu Shou Figurine.

What arrtacted you to collaborate with Royal Selangor?

It is a corporation with 130 years of heritage in traditional craft; there is “pewter” in the blood of every member of the Royal Selangor family.

How did Chinese mythology and legend become such a crucial aspect in your work?

In ancient China, our forefathers liked to use metaphor or stories to express their opinions; I like it this way, too!

Where does your passion for celestial deities originate from?

From“truthfulness, kindness and beauty”. In other words, only by truly understanding what is meant by “truthfulness, kindness and beauty” can we rise above mortals and live with genuine freedom, the way the deities do.

How is working with Pewter different from materials that you’ve worked with in the past?

Raw materials are usually a key concern when it comes to the expression of traditional arts. Having said that, as a contemporary artist, I am looking at materials for their ability to express. Throughout my career, I have worked with different materials for different subject matters, the most being wood.

However, when I first came across pewter, I became fond of it because of the shade of its hues and the approachable tactile feel. Subdued? Peaceful? Understated elegance? It is rather hard to put into words. I would describe it as having “a shade of Zen”. If you lead a worry-free life, it will be reflected in your bearing. It is kind of expression of a person’s “shade” or “tone”, like “gold”; or, it is likened to someone with profound knowledge but stay “low profile”, like “silver”; or, it can be compared to someone “positive but never arrogant”, making him such a pleasure to be with, like “tin”. That’s what I meant by “a shade of Zen”.

Guan Yin (Goddess of Mercy) by Xu Xiaoyong

What makes this collection different from the traditional figures venerated and worshipped by the Chinese?

Deities are intrinsically the same; the differences lie in the image and artistic expression. Statues made by different artists will naturally be different. As a maker of statues of celestial beings and deities, I must first and foremost, work with a serious mindset and refer to literature and classics to understand the development of this tradition through the ages. This, coupled with other external influences and contemporary features, will enable us to create a work of art that is infused with life.

Did you have a particular type of customer demographic in mind when designing this collection based on Chinese mythology?

There is an old saying in China, “Gold will shine through” (if something is authentic, it will stand the test of time). Traditional Chinese culture is built upon the wisdom of sages from bygone eras, based on an understanding of peaceful and harmonious coexistence between Man and Nature. This wisdom is increasingly proved by scientists and advocated by the well-informed. This range is inspired by the written works; and yet, they are a form of expression different from that of words. They are created with joy and are a blessing for those who appreciate them.

Where do you find the inspiration for your art pieces?

The artist Rodin once said, “Artists should not depend on inspiration. Inspiration simply doesn’t exist! Art is feeling. If you know nothing about volume, proportion and colours, and if you don’t have a pair of agile hands, then the strongest feeling will be paralysed. What makes a great artist is nothing more than wisdom, concentration, sincerity and will power, and work in much the same way an honest worker does”. I fully agree with Master Rodin. Put in a lot more effort than others normally do, and the so-called “inspiration” will be there by your side, whichever way you turn to.

Fu Lu Shou (Three Star Deities) by Xu Xiaoyong

What did you enjoy the most from this collaboration?

Mutual respect. As an artist, I need a lot of room for creativity throughout the entire process. Meanwhile, as an established corporation with over a hundred years of history, Royal Selangor would normally have a lot of things they insist on and won’t give in to in order to achieve sustained development. In reality however, the room for creativity the company has allowed me not only speaks of their youthfulness, but also freedom.

Can we expect more pieces in the future from your collaboration with Royal Selangor?

Who knows, in a world of constant change, nothing is certain. However, I treasure the present, every moment of it. Perhaps, you too will one day discover that each present moment holds many interesting stories.

What do you like to do in your free time?

All sorts of things. Come what may, this would be the best of arrangements; each encounter will be a kind of revelation. Instead of differentiating the “likes” from the “dislikes”, accept the things that come your way with joy, and learn without personal preference or resentment.

For more information, visit Royal Selangor.

This interview was first published under the Design in Palace 18.

Emperor Qianlong’s Chinese imperial seal from the 18th century sells for 21 million euros at auction

The auction house of Drouot recently announced the sale of an 18th century Chinese imperial seal that made the headlines for more than just its historical value. Fetching 21 million euros, the rare stamp in red and beige nephrite jade had a final price tag that was over 20 times its estimate.

Believed to have been from the Qianlong period between 1736 to 1795, the stamp was owned by Emperor Qianlong, the longest serving emperor in chinese history. Nine dragons on the sides of the seal symbolise the emperor’s masculine power and imperial authority. The new owner happens to be an unnamed Chinese collector who won a furious bidding war.

The seal was acquired in the late 19th century by a young French naval doctor in China and had remained in the family since. The doctor built an impressive collection during his many visits to China. Other items that went under the hammer from the same collection, included two paintings from Japanese master Katsushika Hokusai. The paintings, “36 views of Mount Fiji” and “Big wave at Kanagawa” were expected to fetch 30,000 euros.

China Imposes New 10% Luxury Car Tax

China Imposes New 10% Luxury Car Tax

China has imposed an extra 10 percent tax on ultra high-end cars costing over 1.3 million yuan ($190,000) such as Lamborghinis and Ferraris, the government said, the latest step in a wide crackdown on conspicuous luxury consumption.

Under President Xi Jinping the Communist Party has overseen a sprawling campaign against graft and encouraged thrift among the country’s political and economic elites, targeting showy displays of wealth.

The new tax took effect Thursday and was intended to “guide rational consumption” and promote energy-efficient vehicles, the finance ministry said in a statement late Wednesday.

“The tax increase is a display of the government’s attitude of advocating frugality,” said Cui Dongshu, secretary-general of the Passenger Car Association, according to Bloomberg News.

China already taxes imported vehicles at a high rate, slapping a 25 percent tax on all foreign cars shipped to China.

The duties – and increased competition from cheaper domestic marques – have driven overall car imports down two years in a row, with 850,000 vehicles imported in the first 10 months of the year, down 6.4 percent from 2015, according to customs statistics.

But ultra high-end brands such as Ferrari have done well, with the Italian sports-car maker seeing a 26 percent surge in its second-quarter sales this year, with 160 units delivered.

The extra charge will likely hit Ferrari and brands such as Aston-Martin, Rolls-Royce, and Lamborghini, as well as top-end models of Mercedes and BMW.

Luxury carmakers have seen massive growth in China, the world’s largest auto market, despite the anti-corruption campaign.

They have also become potent symbols of the lavish lifestyles of the nouveaux riches during a time of surging wealth inequality.

Elite families often hire fleets of pricey cars for wedding processions, and wealthy second-generation heirs film themselves racing ultra-luxury sports cars in cities at night.

A notorious 2012 Ferrari crash that killed the son of a high-level official disrupted a once-in-a-decade party leadership change and precipitated his father’s downfall.

Reports said the son was accompanied in the car by two female passengers, one of them naked.

Some luxury dealers said they planned to stay open all night Wednesday to take orders before the tax came into force.

Passenger vehicle sales in China surged by an average of more than 12 percent annually from 2010 to 2015, but an economic slowdown has reduced the speed, with expansion dropping to 4.7 percent last year with total sales of 24.6 million.

The Sanya Edition: First Ian Schrager Hotel In China

Hainan Island in China, will soon welcome guests to The Sanya Edition come December. The hotel offers a ‘private ocean’ view of the South China Sea and will be the first of Ian Schrager Edition hotels to open in China.

The resort’s concept is a hotel that blends traditional values and contemporary luxury, all while catering various age groups and guest needs. It has 512 guest rooms, each designed to make guests feel like they’re inside their own holiday home.

Thought of as a lifestyle resort for every guest, The Sanya Edition will offer the finest cosmopolitan facilities, from curated art shops to a rooftop bar. Young children will also enjoy their stay at the hotel, with dedicated play areas and toddlers’ swimming facilities.

“The Sanya Edition was conceived for the China of today and the China of tomorrow,” said Schrager. “The resort is a unique sophisticated vision and embodiment of a cosmopolitan China for all the world to see.”

A collaboration between Schrager and Marriott Hotels, the Edition portfolio of hotels is designed to reflect the latest trends in next-generation premium travel before they become trends.

Club Med Woos China with Tai Chi, Mahjong

Club Med Woos China with Tai Chi, Mahjong

Tai chi, mahjong and karaoke are on the menu alongside more traditional offerings such as sailing at Club Med’s new resort on the Chinese island of Hainan, as the French holiday group – now Chinese-owned – adapts its European formula for the market.

The all-inclusive village near the resort town of Sanya is the company’s fourth in China, and it is in talks to open around 15 more in the next four years.

It is something of a reversal of how firms usually target Chinese travellers, with Club Med seeking to bring its model to tourists within the Middle Kingdom, rather than draw them to other countries.

On a 12-hectare (30-acre) beachside estate complete with multiple pools, the emblematic “Gentils Organisateurs” or “GOs” – “Gentle Organisers” – recreate the tried and true Club Med recipe of sports activities, supervised childcare, and unlimited food and drink.

On a stretch of sand dotted with huts and palm trees, Shu Qi, a polo-shirted Beijinger in his fifties, admired the ocean with his elderly parents, wife and three-year-old son.

“It’s a change from crowded beaches! It’s ideal for families,” he said, noting how those near downtown Sanya were notoriously swarmed and often plagued by noisy construction.

Shu discovered Club Med while visiting the Maldives. “It’s very practical, as the price is all-inclusive with meals, and the international atmosphere is good for the children,” he said.

The cheapest of the 384 rooms available at the new Hainan site go for 2,300 yuan ($340) a night.

Club Med CEO Henri Giscard d’Estaing, son of the former French president Valery, told AFP: “We’re aiming at a high-end clientele, a portion of whom have already experienced Club Med while abroad.”

Exile Vacation

Once a place of exile, Hainan island, China’s southernmost province, has become a popular tourist destination, particularly in winter.

In a country where family remains important but workers’ annual holiday quotas are often limited, “the French concept of vacation villages meets the needs of the Chinese very well”, said Qian Jiannong, vice president of Chinese conglomerate Fosun, which bought Club Med last year.

After establishing its first winter sports village in China in 2010, Club Med set up shop amid the stunning karst scenery of Guilin, before opening a beach vacation village on an island in the Pearl River delta between Hong Kong and Macau.

Now the country is Club Med’s biggest market outside France, with some 200,000 clients expected this year and forecasting annual growth of 20 percent.

After criss-crossing the globe to collect trophy selfies at major sites, some well-off Chinese travellers are now turning towards more relaxed staycations.

How Club Med is Wooing China

In this picture taken on October 11, 2016 tourists enjoy the pool side at the Club Med resort in Sanya. Almost two years after being bought out by Chinese investment fund Fosun, the holiday resort French group Club Med tries to import its recipes on a promising Chinese market, where a growing upper middle-class now discovers the concept – still very new in Chinese society – of holiday resorts. © NICOLAS ASFOURI / AFP

A Chinese hotel industry overcrowded with establishments that all look alike and designed for business clientele has left Club Med an opportunity, said Giscard d’Estaing. But it faces rivalry from competitors, both foreign – such as France’s Pierre & Vacances, owner of Center Parcs – and domestic.

Sanya tourism was “a very particular seasonal and regional market” Xiao Yimin, research director at Shanghai Fosea Capital, told AFP, adding that Club Med’s success there “doesn’t reflect the maturity of the whole Chinese market, but only a huge concentration of family travelling in one place at seasonal times”.

With outbound tourism growth slowing, competition between providers within China for middle class tourists will increase, he added, and the future might not be as rosy.

Karaoke Rooms

Club Med has sought to adapt to local tastes. In Sanya, there are seven karaoke rooms – always fully booked – and three mah-jong parlors, as well as a 24-hour noodle bar, and tai chi lessons have been developed to appeal to people in their 30s who rarely practice the discipline.

Clients are around two-thirds mainland Chinese, and the rest primarily South Korean or Taiwanese. Under the coconut trees, multi-generational family clans gather as well as couples spoiling their only child without dropping their smartphones.

Families are initially “reluctant to let their kids go off alone to activities, and when they see a GO sit down at their their table, they find it inappropriate”, but soon adapt, said Rachel Mondre, head of customer services.

Tanning, too, is out of the question for the Chinese, who have a traditional preference for pale skin. The group faces other cultural challenges, acknowledged Jason Wen, a tai chi teacher who works at the village.

“People in China are not used to the concept of holiday resorts,” he said. “Club Med might bring progressively a change, but it will be a slow, very slow process.”

World’s First Louis XIII Boutique Opens In Beijing

World’s First Louis XIII Cognac Store Opens Beijing

In what must be welcome news for lovers of only the finest of fine cognac, Louis XIII cognac has just opened the world’s first and only Louis XIII store in Beijing. Located at the luxury shopping destination called Beijing SKP, the new boutique will offer guests a unique experience, which is of course you would expect because this is Louis XIII and there is only one such store in the world.World’s First Louis XIII Boutique Opens In Beijing

Officially opened September 20, the boutique offers clients a bespoke service and exclusive Louis XIII experiences to help foster close personal bonds with the brand. A salon that is devoted to the universe of Louis XIII accompanies the boutique and represents yet another first for the Rémy Cointreau owned label, which is the highest expression of the cognac Rémy Martin. “Louis XIII cognac is an icon of French art de vivre and excellence. With this world-premire, Louis XIII is changing the rules of the game in spirits, posing the founding stone of a new chapter in its history,” said Eric Vallat, CEO of the House of Rémy Martin.World’s First Louis XIII Boutique Opens In Beijing

Louis XIII cognac enlisted the help of interior design firm RDAI, the team behind the Hermès flagships, Elie Saab Paris and Yves Saint Laurent to create a luxurious 132 square meter space. Using limestone for the chalky interior, copper to create the eaux-de-vie stills, oak that represents the casks used to age the cognac, the interior boasts luxury and elegance at every turn. In the heart of the boutique is the private Eternity Room that is used solely to unveil limited edition cognacs and host visiting luminaries. The centerpiece of the room is The Century Wheel, which is a circle of light that ‘travels through the 10 decades the comprise Louis XIII’.World’s First Louis XIII Boutique Opens In Beijing

Guests will be treated to tasting opportunities and food pairings alongside special editions and unique Louis XIII products that will be sold exclusively at the boutique.

Chinese Wine-Tasters Make History in Blind Test

Chinese Wine-Tasters Make History in Blind Test

Not since Japanese whisky eclipsed Scotch has the world of spirits seen Asia ascendant but that’s what happened when Chinese wine tasters won an important blind tasting test in France.

The competition saw teams from 21 countries put their palates to the test at Chateau du Galoupet wine estate, identifying six bottles of red wine and six bottles of white wine by taste and nose alone. The organizers said the win was like a “thunderbolt in the world of wine.”

Belgium, the runner-up last year, came fourth while former champion Spain placed a distant tenth.

The teams from around the world had to identify the wines’ countries of origin, the grape varieties used in them, their appellations and their vintages.

“Remaining humble even in victory, the astounding Chinese team conceded that in blind tasting 50 percent is knowledge and 50 percent is luck,” the organizers said.

The BBC reports that the team said competition to get on their team was intense. The news organization also pointed out that China’s wine industry is on the rise, with a Chinese winery beating many French rivals to a prestigious gold medal for one of its wines. We think many more such “thunderbolts” are going to come from Asia. Go back and check out the Japanese whisky story for more context

Next year’s championships will be held in Burgundy in the famed Cote d’Or wine-growing region.

Zeng Fanzhi Returns to Roots

Zeng Fanzhi Returns to Roots at Beijing Retrospective

Blue-chip Chinese artist Zeng Fanzhi built up a lucrative career by looking to the West for inspiration and buyers, but a new retrospective in Beijing reveals an unlikely turn back towards China’s own aesthetics and traditions.

It is a story increasingly common in the world’s second largest economy, where an growing disillusionment with material wealth has sent a generation in search of a heritage lost.

Zeng is China’s second best-selling living artist, according to wealth publisher the Hurun Report.

“In the beginning, you feel happy that you’ve attained a certain kind of recognition, and are sold for a very high price, but as time goes on, it vexes you,” he said. “People badmouth you, and the success influences your emotional state and creative process,” he added.

In 2013, his painting “The Last Supper” sold for $23.3 million at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong, at the time the most expensive contemporary Asian work ever sold at auction.

It was one of his “Mask” series, paintings whose empty-eyed, white-masked figures spoke of the psychological tensions lurking in China as the political idealism of the 1980s gave way to the 1990s’ single-minded focus on rapid economic growth.

The media attention paid to just one period of his nearly three decade-long career left him feeling pigeon-holed, Zeng told AFP, following the opening of a retrospective of his work this month at Beijing’s Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art (UCCA).

The masks became a brand, he said, an easily commodified image that reinforced Western preconceptions of China and were used by auction houses and art publications to boost their own sales.

Zeng rode the wave of China’s development, rising to fame from humble beginnings at a time when the country had no significant art market of its own.

Now that its art scene is well-established, he has lost the need to seek validation and inspiration from the West, choosing to look instead to his own roots, he said.

“In the ’80s, we were so starved for outside information; we wanted so much to understand the world and know about Western art,” he said, explaining his early obsession with artists like Paul Cezanne, Willem de Kooning and Lucian Freud.

He said: “But nowadays, there’s such an overwhelming amount of information – it’s cognitive overload. I have to close myself off and look inward to maintain my sense of self.”

Zeng Fanzhi Returns to Roots

This picture taken on September 22, 2016 shows staff members at the “Parcours: Zeng Fanzhi” exhibition at Beijing’s Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art (UCCA). Blue-chip Chinese artist Zeng built up a lucrative career by looking to the West for inspiration and buyers, but a new retrospective in Beijing reveals an unlikely turn back towards China’s own aesthetics and traditions. © WANG ZHAO / AFP

Stark contrast

Zeng’s new show “Parcours: Zeng Fanzhi” exhibits more than 60 works from each of his wildly different major artistic stages, many for the first time on the mainland. He hopes it will provide a more complete picture of his continuous process of reinvention.

Monumental oil paintings of abstract landscapes overgrown with dark snarls of branches dominate the gallery’s central nave, flanked by detailed portraits of his Western muses.

The canvases are a stark contrast to his latest series: understated, black-and-white works on paper inspired by Song dynasty paintings.

They arise out of Zeng’s 2008 shift towards an exploration of paper itself, finding inspiration for his brushwork in the subtle variations of its grain – a technique inspired by Chinese artistic philosophies.

“As you grow older, your whole aesthetic sense and preferences change,” said Zeng, who has started collecting traditional Chinese art and designing literati gardens like the one outside his studio, which features jagged scholar’s rocks, stone lions and a koi pond.

Art for art’s sake

Despite Zeng’s philosophical shift, UCCA director Philip Tinari admitted that it was impossible for the show to escape the shadow of his sales records: “He has probably created more financial value than all but a very few artists alive today.”

Nevertheless, “there’s an honesty about this work that’s not immediately apparent,” Tinari said. Zeng’s output is testament to a key moment in China’s artistic engagement with the outside world, when his generation found real inspiration and meaning in the Western idea of art as a tool of fomenting social change, he explained.

In the recent paper series, Tinari said he saw Zeng “pulling further and further back from the day-to-day of reality” as he grew older and wealthier, a change that echoes China’s growing global status.

The return to a Chinese artistic vocabulary reflects not just a change in the way Zeng sees himself, but in the way the world sees Chinese artists.

As China becomes richer and more powerful, Tinari said, its artists do “not necessarily need to make work that narrates the Chinese situation, or that explains the social and political problems and questions of the nation”. The change, he said, is a sign that China, along with its art market, is maturing.

“The world is only ready to hear about art for art’s sake from people who come from a certain place on the geopolitical continuum.”

Shanghai Diner Closes After Getting Michelin Star

Shanghai Diner Closes After Getting Michelin Star

A Shanghai restaurant has closed down just a day after being awarded a coveted star in the Michelin guide’s first mainland Chinese edition.

Taian Table – one of 26 restaurants in the city to receive Michelin stars – “suspended” business on Thursday “due to internal reorganization”, a notice on its front door said.

The starred establishment, on the ground floor of a five-story residential building in downtown Shanghai, serves Western dishes ranging from grilled endives to smoked beets by chef Stefan Stiller, according to the restaurant’s web site.

The “graceful restaurant” has a menu that “changes monthly and makes good use of excellent ingredients and clever recipes,” according to the Michelin description. It opened for business in April.

The diner was previously ordered to shut down by local officials due to lack of proper licenses, the Xinmin Evening News reported Friday, adding authorities stepped in after neighbors complained.

Residents who live above the restaurant told AFP the kitchen smoke and noise interrupted their normal life, and they petitioned local regulators to have the diner shut down.

“The noise is always there, with the stereo subwoofer vibrating. It’s so hot where we live, but we can’t open our windows,” said Zhang Fuzhen, who lives on the second floor of the building. Michelin launched its inaugural China guide Wednesday to great fanfare.

The guides, first published in France more than a century ago to promote automobile travel, now cover 28 countries and spotlight diverse cuisines including Brazilian, Burmese, Cajun, Peruvian, and Tibetan.

Restaurants recognized by the culinary bible have used the prestigious award to build big businesses, with Hong Kong’s Tim Ho Wan and Taiwan’s Din Tai Fung turning into international franchises.

The original idea for the restaurant was “to build a small place to entertain our friends and to have some foodies and chef friends around to create new and creative dishes,” Taian Table said in a statement, adding “we certainly never intentionally planned to violate any rules.”

The company, it said, plans to reopen the after relocating to a new address, adding “I apologize to all the guests who have booked seats already for the coming weeks.”

Michelin in China did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

9 Asian Sailing Hotspots 2016

Sailing is not something new on the Asian sporting events calendar, and nor is recreational boating. The Republic of Singapore Yacht Club traces its history back to 1826, and the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club was founded in 1849. Today, sailing and yacht racing are well-developed sports in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong. Indonesia, the Philippines, China, South Korea and Taiwan can fairly be called ‘emerging’ when it comes to sailing.

In the 19th century, sailing was the exclusive preserve of the colonial expatriate communities of the big trading cities – principally Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore. Today’s sporting landscape is a great deal more cosmopolitan, with nationals as well as ‘foreigners’ filling the membership lists of the clubs, and government initiatives helping to drive the grass-roots development of sailing as a sport, starting with youth programs and going on right up to Olympic participation.

NEP13_0732At the bigger end of the scale – the ocean-capable racing boats – Asia boasts a plethora of regattas that together constitute an informal ‘circuit’ stretching from the west coast of Thailand all the way across to the Philippines, and attracting international competitors from all over the world – hardly surprising when ‘dressed for sailing’ in this part of the world usually means shorts and t-shirts rather than heavy duty foul weather clothing!

Most recently, Asia has played host to a number of the world’s most highly visible professional sailing events. The Volvo Ocean Race has visited Singapore and China, and will stop over in Hong Kong during its next iteration. Malaysia and South Korea have hosted World Match Racing Tour events, and the Clipper Around the World Race has been to Hong Kong, China, Singapore and Indonesia. And don’t forget the Olympic Regatta at Qingdao in 2008.

Among the Asian nations, China has made the biggest impact on the Olympic scene, with two gold medals in consecutive Games. Hong Kong boasts just one, and the rest of the roll call have none although Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia are regular qualifiers. Predictably enough, different countries and places display different strengths when it comes to sailing.

HONG KONGCCR15_2206

Historically speaking, Hong Kong has long been the epicenter of sailing and yacht racing in Asia. The China Sea Race, Asia’s ‘blue water classic’ from Hong Kong to the Philippines, has been a fixture on the calendar for over 50 years, and the number of races organized by Hong Kong’s principal yacht clubs in the course of a year is counted in the thousands. ‘Class’ boats such as Flying Fifteens, Etchells and Dragons make up big numbers for racing in Victoria Harbour, along with many top-end racing yachts and a huge number of cruisers and cruiser-racers. Boats from all the yacht clubs are welcome at each other’s regattas, and the sailing season is practically year-round. Many racing boats head south and west each year to participate in major regattas and races in Thailand and Malaysia.

Hong Kong’s biggest operational problem is lack of moorings – all the existing marinas are fully occupied and have been for many years, and there are no viable plans for new marinas under consideration.

The principal sailing clubs are the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, Hebe Haven Yacht Club, Aberdeen Boat Club, Tai Po Boat Club, Lantau Boat Club, Discovery Bay Boat Club and the HK Hobie Fleet. Sail training and learn-to-sail courses are offered by almost all the clubs, and also at Government-run sailing centers. The governing body for sailing is the Hong Kong Sailing Federation, the Member National Authority where the big ticket items such as the Olympics are concerned, and the national body for training sailing athletes is the Hong Kong Sports Institute which currently designates sailing as an ‘elite’ sport, meaning that national funding is available for the development of Olympic and World Championship campaigns.CCR14_1343

Club-organized regattas and racing series include the China Coast Regatta, Spring and Autumn Regattas and the Top Dog Trophy series of pursuit races, and the Hong Kong to Hainan Race, all run by the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club (RHYC). Hebe Haven Yacht Club’s principal event is the Typhoon Series run on alternate weekends throughout each summer, the Port Shelter Regatta and a number of Saturday-afternoon series’ all through the year. It also includes in its annual program a 24hr Charity Dinghy Race, and offers sail training courses throughout the year. The Aberdeen Boat Club (ABC) organizes racing on the south side of Hong Kong, including the Waglan Series, and both the ABC and RHKYC have substantial dinghy and sail training operations from their alternate clubhouses at Middle Island (Tong Po Chau). All the Clubs’ courses range from Beginner to Racing Clinics levels.

The Leisure and Cultural Services Department of the Hong Kong Government operates five public watersports centres, offering a multitude of certification courses in dinghy sailing, windsurfing, dinghy racing and more.

Hong Kong is a fabulous place for sailing: it has an extensive and beautiful coastline, with sheltered waters as well as areas of feistier breeze. It’s hot in the summer, but never cold enough in the winter to stop the enthusiasts from getting out on the water. In fact, the only time that sailing gets shut down is when a T3 (or higher) typhoon signal keeps everyone ashore for reasons of safety and insurance.

In 2018 Hong Kong will welcome the Volvo Ocean Race to Victoria Harbour. With government backing, a visit from one of most important events in the sailing world will undoubtedly provide encouragement across the board for all sailors in Hong Kong, big and large alike.

Clubs, Marinas and Sailing Associations

• Hong Kong Sailing Federation www.sailing.org.hk

• Government Watersports Centres www.lcsd.gov.hk/watersport

• Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club www.rhkyc.org.hk

• Hebe Haven Yacht Club www.hhyc.org.hk

• Aberdeen Boat Club www.abclubhk.com

• Aberdeen Marina Club www.aberdeenmarinaclub.com

• Clearwater Bay Golf & Country Club Marina www.cwbgolf.org

• Gold Coast Yacht & Country Club www.gcycc.com.hk

• Club Marina Cove www.clubmarinacove.com

• Discovery Bay Marina www.dbmarinaclub.com

THAILANDPKC14_2110

The area around Phuket and Phang Nga Bay on the west coast of Thailand is one of the premier cruising areas of Asia, and is making concerted efforts to attract international superyacht traffic from Europe and beyond, with the intention of becoming both the hub of the charter industry in, and the gateway to, Asia.

Thais have long been enthusiastic sailors, mostly because the King of Thailand, His Majesty King Bhumiphol Adulyadej, was once a sailor. As a young man he built his own dinghies, sailed across the Gulf of Thailand, and won a sailing gold medal in the South East Asia Peninsula Games in 1967. His daughter came second.

On the west coast of Thailand, from Phuket to Langkawi (Malaysia), and a sprinkling of islands provides delightful cruising grounds, and Phang Nga Bay is world-famous for its spectacular karst islands and ‘hong’ formations. Think James Bond Island, in The Man with the Golden Gun. Further afield, Phuket constitutes a convenient jumping-off point for cruisers wishing to visit the Mergiu Archipelago (Burma), the Andaman Island and Nicobar Islands (India), the Similan Islands (Thailand) or the west coast of Sumatra (Indonesia) for some of the best and most secluded surfing on the planet.

On the other side of the Kra Peninsular, high spots in the Gulf of Thailand are Koh Samui and Koh Phangan and their surrounding marine sanctuary, the Royal Varuna Yacht Club and Ocean Marina Yacht Club at Pattaya and Jomtien Beach, respectively, and the tropical idylls of Koh Chang and Koh Kut down towards the border with Cambodia.PKC14_1094

Thailand presents five major international regattas each year:

• Phuket King’s Cup, held in December in celebration of His Majesty’s birthday

• Phuket Raceweek, a ‘green season’ regatta in July each year and intended to take advantage of the summer southwest monsoon winds

• Bay Regatta – “a party on the move” – in Phang Nga Bay

• Top of the Gulf Regatta at Na Jomtien, which includes the Thailand Optimist National Championships and the Coronation Cup (another Royal occasion)

• Koh Samui Regatta – complete with coconut trophies, Brazilian dancing girls, plenty of breeze, and the splashiest closing dinner of them all.

The majority of the big boats in Thailand are owned and raced by expatriates, but at the smaller end of the scale there is a hotbed of talent in the Optimist and dinghy classes just waiting to shine. Noppakorn Poonpat (THA) won the Optimist World Championships at 20, and there are plenty of successors waiting to step into her shoes. The Thai Optimist Nationals is one of the hardest-fought of the regional championships, with (this year) 140 entries.TOG14_0068

The national authority, the Yacht Racing Association of Thailand (YRAT), is largely the preserve of retired Admirals from the Royal Thai Navy (and the RTN turns out every year to take the salute at the Phuket King’s Cup Sail-Past). Phuket, Koh Samui, Ocean Marina and the naval base at Sattahip are the principal centers for teaching young sailors.

Little-known fact: the Platu 25, designed by Bruce Farr in the early 1990s, was created for the waters and weather conditions of the Gulf of Thailand. A syndicate of local sailors commissioned the ‘pla-tu’ which means ‘mackerel’ in Thai.

Clubs, Marinas and Sailing Associations

• Yacht Racing Association of Thailand www.yrat.or.th

• Royal Varuna Yacht Club, Chonburi, Pattaya www.varuna.org

• Ocean Marina Yacht Club, Chonburi, Pattaya www.oceanmarina.asia

• Yacht Haven Phuket www.yacht-haven-phuket.com

• Boat Lagoon Phuket www.phuketboatlagoon.com

• Phuket Cruising Yacht Club www.phuketcruisingyachtclub.org

SINGAPOREX4013_0254

Singapore is home to the oldest yacht club in Asia – the Republic of Singapore Yacht Club (RSYC), formerly the Royal Singapore Yacht Club, and founded in 1826. Situated at the southern end of Malaysia, Singapore is said to preside over the busiest commercial waterway in the world, and this has become a matter of import in recent years.

RSYC has its own facilities and marina, and so does Raffles Marina and the Singapore Armed Forces Yacht Club (SAFYC). The last sailing center in Singapore is the Changi Sailing Club, seemingly always under some sort of threat of redevelopment, but still alive and kicking today.

In 1923 RSYC became the guardian of the Lipton Challenge Cup, awarded to the Club by Sir Thomas Lipton. In recent years this was awarded to the aggregate winner of the Phuket King’s Cup Regatta, the Raja Muda Selangor International Regatta and the Singapore Straits Regatta. The latter event has fallen by the wayside as the Marine & Ports Authority of Singapore has imposed ever-more draconian restrictions on the operations of pleasure vessels, and particularly sailing yachts. Sadly, the Lipton Cup is now housed in the Singapore Sports Museum.Photo-By-Donovan-Ho-22

The top event in Singapore is now a mixed fleet regatta, the Western Circuit, organized by the Singapore Management University – a very active collection of students and alumni – and hosted by Raffles Marina. The Neptune Regatta is a small fleet that sails and races from Nongsa Point Marina in Batam to Pulau Sikeling in the Riau Archipelago. Technically this all takes place within Indonesia, but in reality it is a ‘Singapore’ event.

If big boats and club racing has waned in recent years, the activities of the government-supported Singapore Sailing Association goes from strength to strength. Sailing is a sport now on the school curriculum, and every year thousands of young people are introduced to the sport, sailing Optimist and Topper dinghies and maybe moving on to the 420 and Olympic 470 and Laser classes. Singapore has been a multiple medal winner at many sailing youth championships, and hosted the inaugural Youth Olympics in 2010. Eight Singaporeans have qualified for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Unfortunately, the young sailors don’t seem to graduate to bigger boats. Governmental initiatives are geared towards producing junior champions and hopefully Olympic medals, and the grown-up version of racing sailing is not on the agenda.

Singapore, which hosted an event in the Extreme Sailing Series for five years, also entertained the Clipper Around the World Race and the Volvo Ocean Race. There are world-class facilities in the shape of ONE˚15 Marina at Sentosa Cove (home to Asia’s number one boat show, the Singapore Yacht Show) and Marina at Keppel Bay. Singapore has the facilities, but not the space in which to sail. A country that once fielded teams for the Admiral’s Cup, can do so no longer.

Clubs, Marinas and Sailing Associations

• Singapore Sailing Federation www.sailing.org.sg

• Changi Sailing Club www.csc.org.sg

• Raffles Marina www.rafflesmarina.com.sg

• Republic of Singapore Yacht Club www.rsyc.org.sg

• ONE˚15 Marina Club www.one15marina.com

• Marina at Keppel Bay www.marinakeppelbay.com

MALAYSIARMR15_0941

Malaysia boasts long coastlines on the west and the east of the country, peppered with historic towns and beautiful beaches, and sprinkled with jewel-like islands that make it a playground for the cruising sailor.

The west coast of Malaysia is 400nm from north to south, and includes the fabulous archipelago of Langkawi, historic Penang (“The Pearl of the Orient”), picturesque Pangkor and the beautiful old city of Malacca – which, along with Penang, is a UNESCO Heritage Site. Throw in a plethora of beautiful beaches, the blessing of equable tropical weather, and just ‘go sailing’. Pulau Tioman is the star of Malaysia’s east coast, and then the Anambas Islands if you are prepared to sail 130nm or so offshore.

Across the South China Sea there is the north coast of Borneo – the provinces of Sabah and Sarawak are Malaysia, too. This is known as ‘The Land Below the Wind’ on account of the lack of typhoons this far south, and here the attraction for sailors is not so much sandy beaches but history (Kuching), mountaineering (Mt Kinabalu) and the culture of the littoral Dayak tribes.

The national authority for sailing is the Malaysian Sailing Association (MSA), based in Kuala Lumpur, and operating a major dinghy training centre in Langkawi, which is popular with international visitors for training camps. The MSA also organizes the Liga Layar, a national match racing series.

Langkawi is very much the de facto center of sailing in Malaysia. It has three major marinas (Royal Langkawi Yacht Club, Rebak Marina Resort and Telaga Harbour) and is close to the border with Thailand, making the island’s Duty Free status very attractive to passers-by heading north, and also to boats voyaging south from Phuket in order to stock up on everything from gin to fuel. The Youth World Sailing Championships were held in Langkawi in early 2016, based out of the MSA facility.RMR15_3338

The principal private clubs in Malaysia are the Royal Selangor Yacht Club at Port Klang, which organizes the annual Raja Muda Selangor International Regatta, and the Royal Langkawi Yacht Club, home of the Royal Langkawi International Regatta (RLIR). Both events attract entries of around 30 big boats. The ‘Raja Muda’ is a peripatetic affair featuring both coastal passage and in-port racing, travelling from Port Klang to Langkawi. It is a difficult and exhausting event over the space of a week – the sailing can be tough, but you need additional stamina for the social side of the event! The RLIR is an in-port event conducted amongst the fairy tale islands of Langkawi, but it is a one-off yearly event – the only other time in a year that racing takes place is when the Raja Muda fleet arrives. There are yacht clubs at Kinabalu (Sabah) and Piasau (Sarawak), as well as Tawau and Sandakan on the east coast of Borneo, but these are places to visit rather than establishments that organise regattas and racing.

In common with other SE Asian countries, the governmental initiative in Malaysia is geared towards youth development, dinghy sailing, and the eternal search for an Olympic medal. The Optimist class is strong all round the country, and sends young competitors to international events, but in common with other Asian countries, that’s as far as it goes – most governments, with the possible exception of Thailand – have not yet woken up to the huge economic potential offered by the promotion of sailing, boating, marine tourism and the full development of a leisure marine industry. Sailing in Malaysia does however benefit from the active participation of the Royal Malaysian Navy which owns and runs two 47’ racing boats, and the cooperation of the Royal Malaysian Police who provides exceptional backup services and materiel for major international big boat events.

The big boats and the clubs and events that they visit are pretty much self-sufficient. Training programmes to IYT certification are offered by Sail Training Malaysia (Pulau Indah Marina, Port Klang), and Asian Yachting Ventures at Port Dickson signs off on Asian Coastal and Yachtmaster courses.

Clubs, Marinas and Sailing Associations

• Malaysian Sailing Association sailmalaysia.org

• Royal Selangor Yacht Club www.rsyc.com.my

• Sebana Cove Resort & Marina, Johor Bahru www.sebanacoveresort.com

• Royal Langkawi Yacht Club www.langkawiyachtclub.com

• Telaga Harbour Park & Marina, Langkawi www.telagaharbour.com

• Rebak Marina Resort, Langkawi www.rebakmarina.com

• Sutera Harbour Marina, Sabah www.suteraharbour.com

CHINASAN12_0028

When China decides to get involved in something, they don’t do it by halves. In the case of sailing, that has meant an America’s Cup entry, a Volvo Ocean Race team, and any number of lavish-looking marinas constructed on the principle of “build it and they will come,” but more likely to be a marketing ‘hook’ for a surrounding property development. The encouragement of sailing often appears to be a ‘top down’ rather than a ‘bottom-up’ endeavour.

The most visible regatta in China is the China Cup International Regatta. This four-day event has a number of one-design divisions that includes a fleet of 30 Beneteau 40.7 yachts that can be chartered, as well as IRC racing divisions, but the top level Grand Prix boats are still missing. There are a number of other regattas, some on lakes and some on rivers, as well as a growing interest in match racing that is engaging sailors at the grass roots level. The China Club Challenge Cup is probably the most ‘genuine’ of the China regattas.

China still lacks a coherent, federal-scale, policy concerning leisure and pleasure boats. Until the day comes that you can confidently write “Private Yacht” on the registration application, and until you can sail out of Xiamen and back into Fujian knowing that the regulations are the same in both places, any development of a marine leisure culture will remain stalled, despite the excellent sporting example of two gold medals in successive Olympics.

The most visible yacht clubs in China do not necessarily have much to do with sailing.

Clubs and Sailing Associations

• China Yachting Association sailboarding.sport.org.cn

• Shanghai Boat and Yacht Club www.shanghaibyc.org

• Iron Rock Sailing Club, Xiamen www.ironrocksailing.com

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Indonesia is practically the definition of ‘archipelago’, and is making itself felt in the luxury charter market as an exotic destination. Komodo dragons and the Spice Islands beckon. For divers there is the Coral Triangle and the Raja Ampat, the most biodiverse marine ecosystems on the planet, and the Wallace Line, separating the ecology of the old world from Australasia,cuts through the middle of the country.

Indonesia hosts the Sail Indonesia Rally each year, with boats coming up from Australia, passing through the archipelago east to west by a different route every time, and then moving on towards Malaysia.

The Neptune Regatta departs Nongsa Point (directly opposite Singapore) and does a sort of ‘racing adventure cruise’ to the Equator and back every year – on the chart it’s an Indonesian event, but it is all Singapore-organized. There’s very little local recreational sailing going on, with the exception of the famous Sandeq Race for the local fishing boats along the west coast of Sulawesi. The Indonesia Sailing Federation regularly manages to get a qualifier into the Olympics.

Clubs and Sailing Associations

• Indonesian Sailing Federation

• Jakarta Offshore Sailing Club

• Nongsa Point Marina, Batam www.nongsapointmarina.com

• Sail Indonesia www.sailindonesia.net

THE PHILIPPINESPCC12_0936

In the 1990s there was a flourishing sailing scene based around the Manila Yacht Club (MYC), Flying 15s, Dragons, and a fair collection of big boats. In 1994 the Philippine Easter Regatta attracted a 60-strong fleet that raced from Manila to Corregidor, and then on to Subic Bay. The MYC used to be the finish line for the China Sea Race, and many a salty tale was expanded over the bar on Roxas Boulevard. Glory days indeed.

Then the MYC stopped organizing races, the few remaining sailing members decamped to Subic Bay, and everything fizzled out by degrees. The biggest active club in the Philippines is now the Puerto Galera Yacht Club, which very deliberately does not take itself too seriously.

The Commodores’ Cup at Subic attracts 6-8 boats only, even when the China Sea fleet has just arrived – and departed. The Boracay Cup (preceded by the Subic-Boracay Race) should be the jewel in the glittering tropical crown, but rarely attracts more than a handful of entries

Clubs and Sailing Associations

• Philippines Sailing Association www.philsailing.com

• Puerto Galera Yacht Club www.pgyc.org

• Subic Sailing subicsailing.org

TAIWAN

It is only recently that people in Taiwan have been allowed to set foot on a beach. Fishermen went fishing, but the coastline was off-limits to all non-military personnel. There has been an entirely successful sailing and motor yacht building industry in the Kaohsiung area for three decades, producing boats that were strictly for export. Only.

With the easing of coastal regulations, a couple of small regattas have sprung up, organized by the Taiwan Sailing Association. The Penghu Regatta takes place in the delightful Penghu Islands in the Taiwan Strait, a place with plenty of wind that has long been popular with windsurfers from all over the world. The inaugural Taiwan Boat Show was a sell-out, and the second one (in March) followed suit. Brokers report good business. Watch this space.

Clubs and Sailing Associations

• Taiwan Sailing Association www.taiwansail.org

• Chinese Taipei Sailing Association www.sail-clubs.com

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The west coast provides challenging conditions for sailing – coastal mudflats for hundreds of miles when the 10m tide goes out. The east coast consists mostly of small squid-fishing villages. The south coast, from Mokpo to Busan via Jeju Island, is beautiful but with the exception of the Olympic Marina (1988) at Busan, ‘undeveloped’ in sailing terms.

Provincial authorities kick started the Korea International Boat Show in 2008, and inaugurated the WMRT Korea Match Cup in the same year. The Wangsan Marina near Incheon, was built for the 2014 Asian Games regatta, and was intended to become a public marina with amenities and services catering to domestic as well as international boaters.

A small number of races venture offshore: there’s one to Ulleung-do and Dok-do to the east of Korea, and one from Mokpo to Jeju if the weather permits. There’s an Admiral’s Cup regatta in Busan, and the Women’s International Match Racing Association has also been there.

‘Boating culture’ has been slow to develop in Korea, in spite of government initiatives to stimulate interest. Leisure time is a relatively new commodity in this hard-working country and, rather like China, Korea might do well to start at the bottom and work upwards, rather than the other way round.

Sailing Association

• Korea Sailing Federation www.ksaf.org

Majestic Princess Woos Chinese Guests with luxury living

Cruise Liner Woos China Guests with Luxury Living

This is Princess Cruises first ship built specifically for Chinese guests. It is the latest development, just this month, as cruise services make a China pivot; MSC Cruises and Aida Cruises are both looking to capitalize from as early as next year in what is poised to become the largest cruise market in the world.

After a short European tour, the brand new Majestic Princess will drop anchor in its home port of Shanghai beginning next summer. The Princess Cruises ship will sail to destinations in Japan and Korea.

This is parent company Carnival Corporation’s latest foray into the Chinese cruise market, which has experienced skyrocketing growth over the last few years.

A recent report from the Cruise Lines International Association showed that between 2012 and 2015, passenger volume in Asia grew from 775,000 to nearly 2.1 million passengers.

This year has seen more than 1,560 ships and voyages scheduled, up from 1,095 in 2015. Recent reports suggest that prices have taken a hit, thanks a bit of oversupply but operators remain bullish. Perhaps that is because the Chinese Ministry of Tourism forecasts 4.5 million passengers by 2020.

With a guest capacity of 3,560, the Majestic Princess is hoping to steer Chinese holidaymakers away from the competition by capitalizing on its gastronomic reputation: Food and Wine magazine named the brand the best cruise line for food lovers.

At the Harmony space, for example, chef Richard Chen who helped the Wynn Las Vegas restaurant Wing Lei land a Michelin star – a first for a Chinese restaurant in North America – has reinvented classic Cantonese dishes.

At Le Bistrot, guests will be transported to Paris with a menu that serves traditional French fare like escargots, baguettes, tartines, tourtes and French pastries. Other dining options include a steakhouse, Italian eatery and all-day buffet.

The Majestic Princess is designed with the affluent Chinese cruiser in mind, with an expanded shopping and retail space anchored by luxury brands such as Cartier, Bulgari, Chopard, Burberry and Gucci, and a private karaoke space.

Princess sister brand Costa Cruises also expanded its presence in China this year, giving Carnival Corporation a leading edge over its competition with six ships based in the country as of this year. Royal Caribbean is in second place with five ships based in China this year.

Meanwhile, when the Majestic Princess, which also goes by her Chinese name “Grand World” or “Grand Spirit,” sails into Shanghai next summer, it will face off with Norwegian Joy, Norwegian Cruise Line’s first cruise ship which is also tailor-made for Chinese customers and set to debut in July 2017. You can see for yourself what the Majestic Princess brings to the table from the video below.

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Guo Pei: Empress of Chinese Couture

Childhood dreams have led the diminutive Guo Pei down the unlikely path of becoming a couturier whose stunningly realised works have found home on the backs of Rihanna and the social elite in China, and in museums worldwide. We speak to the Chinese designer on her inspiration, her unique perspective on oriental design and the difficulties she’s faced as an Asian designer.

How did you get started in fashion?

I always dreamt of making beautiful dresses as a little girl. At an early age, I felt I had a particular way of creating – that’s why I learnt to sew. I’ve also always been influenced by China’s traditional culture and by elements from the imperial and royal past, especially elements that represent royalty of the highest level.

What excites you about designing clothes?

The ability to offer someone something new and fresh, and to give them a sense of satisfaction.

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Why did you decide on making clothing that’s so intricate?

Simply because I love making beautiful, elegant clothes. My clothing involves complicated processes that reflect a culture of quality, and I hope wearers can feel my emotion and spirit, and see that the clothes embody the spirit of quality and heritage, and depict the essence of human wisdom, civilisation, and culture.

What are the challenges you’ve faced in your work?

To me, each day and each step I take and make in Chinese fashion is unprecedented. When I was on the verge of failure, I walked my own path. Survival, sticking to what I believe in – that’s the real challenge. But I don’t see this as a difficulty. There’s no pressure, really. I love what I do.

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Do you face any difficulties being a female and Chinese designer?

I don’t see any specific difficulties. Even though the industry is mostly led by men, there are many talented and renowned female designers, Chinese or not. But women can bring a unique charm and beauty in their perspective and interpretation of things. The old master [Karl Lagerfeld] is the one maintaining the fashion empire of Chanel, but we can’t ignore the fact that the brand was created by a woman who is an excellent example of female representation. As an Asian woman, I hope I can use my perspectives to bring a unique aspect of beauty into the spotlight.

Do you think there is a difference between French haute couture and the work you’re doing?

I’ve been doing custom work at Rose Studio from day one and I’ve developed a very rigorous production process. But it took more than a decade after starting my studio before I had the chance to get close to and understand haute couture. At the time, some friends of mine in the Paris fashion circles said to me, “Guo Pei, all you’re doing… is couture”. I think it has always been somewhere in my soul. So what I am showing on the catwalks these days in Paris is essentially no different from what I show and present to my clients. The only difference is the tension, performance and strength of the catwalk.

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It’s interesting to me because you seem very focused on making Chinese fashion, rather than designing something global or European-based. Why is that so?

I grew up in Beijing where there was the integration of a multi-ethnic Chinese culture and a historic city. The essence of traditional Chinese culture is, to me, the greatest treasure. I want these influences from deep in my heart to transform something in the design. Every old building, royal costume and piece of fine jewelry… these superb technological feats are worth learning about. In my January 2016 haute couture show in Paris, we showed exquisite traditional Chinese embroidery, but integrated it with Western silhouette and cut – a good combination of the beauty of East and West.

Do you think oriental design has the potential of global appeal?

I feel, in terms of beauty, that the East and West are the same. The only difference is that the West is more outgoing whereas the East is more introverted. But if there is mutual exchange and understanding, both sides can attract each other. I think Western designers want to understand Eastern fashion and beauty through the works of Chinese designers.

Which designers most inspire you?

The one who influenced me the most would be Mr Christian Dior. And, of course, early designers like Balenciaga and Yves Saint Laurent for their exquisite tailoring, cutting and design. However, the process of finding ideas and inspiration often begins in museums, where there is an inexhaustible collection of creative design and a fine collection of human wisdom.

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You’re known for dressing the social and political elite in China, who order couture from you. Do you have any plans to design ready-to-wear?

Right now, I’m putting all my focus on doing couture. I think in order for me to do ready-to-wear or other fashion products well, I would need a really big team – I’d have to build a fashion empire! Unless I have more people joining the team, I would prefer to do my best at what I’m good at.

Rihanna gave you a lot of international exposure. What’s changed since that night at the Met?

The partnership with Rihanna was really a chance for her to be the focus of attention on the red carpet. But it was also a chance to give my work a new interpretation. It allowed me to get attention and coverage from the world’s major media. The foreign press was shocked that the dress, which was a very technically challenging piece, took nearly two years to realise. It showed people a different image of China: It’s no longer a backward economy, no longer just a source of cheap labour, no longer a rough workshop. Those images were replaced by 5,000 years of Chinese cultural heritage.

You’ve been in the fashion business for about 30 years now, what do you think has changed from when you first started?

I’ve stuck to my goal which has always been to be very confident, to want to make the most beautiful and the most valuable clothes, to represent this era of technology and humanity, and to showcase the height of the manual techniques of fashion. I’m going to continue moving forward as a Chinese brand on the haute couture stage.

This article on Guo Pei first appeared on L’Officiel Singapore’s August Issue.

Red Beach of Panjin

Red Beach of Panjin: Crimson Tides

Just in time for those longed-for summer breaks, we take a glimpse at several unique beaches around the world. Today we visit the Red Beach in Liaoning that contradicts China’s reputation as champion polluter and burnishes its eco-friendly credentials. We join AFPRelaxnews for a short tour of the area and learn more about the country’s conservation efforts one beach at a time.

Where to find it

Located in the Liaohe River Delta, the Red Beach of Panjin can be found in Liaoning, a northeastern province of China. While some may not think of China as a champion of environmental matters, this site reveals another side to the country and its approach to preservation. In fact, Red Beach has been a state-protected nature reserve since the end of the 1980s, with regulations restricting tourism in this area of natural beauty, home to several hundred animal species. Only part of the beach is open for visitors to explore.

Unusual feature

The Red Beach of Panjin is surprising in more than one way. Not only does this beach have no sand, but it’s also entirely covered in a special kind of seaweed, which gives rise to its unusual appearance. The seaweed, called sueda, grows from April, starting off green before turning crimson red in the autumn. Visit between mid-September and mid-October to take in this natural wonder in all its glory. Another draw for visitors is the beach’s wildlife. Several hundred bird species and almost 400 species of wild animals have taken up home on Red Beach, including endangered species like the red-crowned crane.

How to get there

Red Beach, which has been a nature reserve since 1988, can be accessed from Shenyang, the capital of Liaoning province, about a two-hour drive away. The closest town is Yingkou.

Best beach activity

A raised wooden walkway has been installed to take visitors on a trail through the reserve, walking above this area of marshland with relative ease and comfort. As you’ve guessed, this isn’t the kind of beach where you can stretch out a towel and go for a dip. It is, however, a spectacular sight to behold and a great destination for photographers.

4 Luxury Asian Hotels: Banyan Tree X SilkAir

Asia has a lot to offer, and if you’re planning a trip to this very diverse continent (which you shouldn’t even think of as a single place), count yourself lucky. In a partnership with SilkAir, Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts has rolled out a range of promotions to seven idyllic properties in four iconic Asian destinations. Think of it as less planning on your part: the package includes full-service SilkAir flights, exclusive discounts of up to 30%, complimentary upgrades, dining offers and experiences at spas and Laguna Golf Clubs.

Banyan Tree Lijiang at Lijiang, China

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Luxe meets tradition in Banyan Tree Lijiang, where once can bask in China’s history while taking a retreat located 2,400 meters above sea level and framed by the majestic Snow Jade Dragon Mountain. One can pick from a Garden Suite, Mountain View Suite, or Jet Pool Villas, and indulge in activities like yoga or play tennis on outdoor courts. In fact, one is reconnected with nature in this hotel – Lijiang isn’t a UNESCO heritage site for nothing.

Rates begin at $283 per night, inclusive of breakfast. Discounts of up to 30% are offered on best available rates, spa treatments, gallery products and complimentary upgrades when presenting the boarding pass on arrival. This offer is valid until 30 March 2017.

http://www.banyantree.com/en/cn-china-lijiang

Banyan Tree Phuket at Phuket, Thailand

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Phuket has increasingly a spot on many’s travel itineraries in recent years – and rightly so. Breath-taking coastal views, pristine waters and stretches of glisteneing sand can all be found at the charming Bang Tao Bay, a stone’s throw from Banyan Tree Phuket. Opt between a variety of Pool Villas, ranging from the Banyan Lagoon Pool Villa to the Grand Two Bedroom Villa. In between dipping into pools and long, leisurely walks down the shores, one can indulge in cooking classes, golf classes, and even a turtle club for children.

Rates begin from $627 per night, inclusive of breakfast. Discounts of up to 25% are offered on F&B, best available rates, spa treatments, gallery products and golf green fees at Laguna Golf Phuket when presenting the boarding pass on arrival. This offer is valid until 20 December 2016.

http://www.banyantree.com/en/ap-thailand-phuket-resort

Banyan Tree Lang Co at Lang Co, Vietnam

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Picture dramatic vistas spread across a rugged landscape of unspoiled nature. Nestled in the heart of UNESCO World Heritage sites, eco-diverse mountains and spectacular national parks, Banyan Tree Lang Co is an all-pool villa resort. Visitors can stay in a Lagoon Pool Villa, Sanctuary Pool Villa, Beach Pool Villa and Seaview Hill Pool Villas of up to three-bedrooms in size. It is not all just pools, however; this hotel also boasts meeting rooms, a Laguna Sea Sports Centre and Marine Lab, as well as a gym and yoga pavilion. Having stayed at this location ourselves, we recommend it heartily and whole-heartedly. Although, as with all Banyan Trees, the fact that the best restaurant is the signature Saffron (Thai cuisine) is a little jarring.

Rates begin from $258 per night, inclusive of breakfast. Discounts of up to 20% are offered on best available rates, spa treatments, gallery products and golf green fees at Laguna Golf Lang Co, when presenting the boarding pass on arrival. This offer is valid for bookings until 15 August 2016 and for stays until 22 December 2016.

http://www.banyantree.com/en/ap-vietnam-lang-co

Angsana Maison Souvannaphoum at Luang Prabang, Laos

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Steeped in old-world charm, one is surrounded by breath-taking natural landscapes as they seemingly take a trip back in time. More than just vintage charm, however, the hotel also has royal origins: it once belonged to Laos’ four-time Prime Minister Prince Souvanna Phouma. Live in classic French colonial interiors in the Garden Wing, Residence Twin to the Maison Room. Enjoy spas, al fresco dining at the Elephant Blanc restaurant and in-room dining while on stay.

Rates begin from $120 per night, inclusive of breakfast. Discounts of up to 30% are offered on best available rates, spa treatments and gallery products, plus a complimentary traditional Laos set menu dinner with a minimum stay of two nights). This offer is valid for bookings until 31 August 2016 and for stays until 23 December 2016.

http://www.angsana.com/en/ap-laos-maison-souvannaphoum

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