Travel

TRAVEL | A Winter Weekend Getaway at Whistler by Jenn Chan

Whistler Gondola

Ahhhh… a weekend getaway into winter wonderland is exactly what was needed this holiday season! What better way to celebrate Christmas than to be whisked away to Whistler for a weekend, enjoying the slopes, adventures, restaurants, bars, and fireplace? I’m an avid snowboarder, so this was especially nice since the local mountains had a slow start, and I have been itching to shred since November!

The weekend started with a quick easy check in at Legends Creekside, located in the heart of Creekside Village and very convenient located beside the Creekside Gondola, perfect for ski-in, ski-out access. The building also happens to have one of the Whistler Blackcomb Guest Relations offices and Ticket Booth attached to it.

Legends Creekside

Once checked in, I was welcomed to one of the one bedroom suites on the top floor of this 6-floor hotel. The room comes complete with a King bed, a Queen sofa bed, a bathroom, a full kitchen, and features a gas fireplace, and an in suite washer/dryer. There was more than enough space for the 2 of us to wind down, cook some meals, and cozy up by the fire with some Christmas tunes. Being able to dry and warm up our wet snow gear at the end of the day by the fire is definitely an added luxury. There is also a ski/snowboard locker storage area located by the front desk to store your winter gear, conveniently located by Creekside Express Gondola. Legends also includes a fitness centre, pool table in the games room, a theratre, Nintendo Switch games room, and my favourite outdoor pool, complete with 2 hot tubs. There is nothing better than to relax in an outdoor hot tub with a warm beverage as the snow lightly falls onto your heads après-ski!

Legends Creekside One Bedroom Suite
Legends Creekside Kitchen
Legends Creekside Bedroom
Legends Living Room

Legends Living Room

Tourism Whistler set us up with some awesome Whistler merchandise, including Dark Hazelnut Chocolate, Whistler branded Goggle Socs & Some Gypsy Soul bath salts & coffee scrub!

Tourism Whistler set us up with some awesome Whistler merchandise, including Dark Hazelnut Chocolate, Whistler branded Goggle Socs & Some Gypsy Soul bath salts & coffee scrub!

Onto the fun stuff! Waking up the next morning to fresh snowfall outside the windows was just absolutely lovely! It set the tone for the day as we prepare ourselves for the day up on Whistler Blackcomb! CAN-SKI helped us out with some ski rentals, the knowledgeable staff were able to set us up with the best gear for our skill level and snow conditions! The lineups for the gondolas and lifts were surprisingly not bad, considering it was Christmas weekend. The lifties & staff worked efficiently to get all the skiiers and snowboarders up on the chairs. We were whisked up to the top where the Umbrella Bar is, which is also where you can take the Peak to Peak chair between Whistler and Blackcomb. The conditions of the snow was amazing to say the least, the runs were nice and wide and nicely groomed with fresh powder on top. We frequented the Cougar Park, Bobcat Park, Jolly Green Giant, Green Acres, Old Man, and Franz’s runs.

Whistler Chairlift Emerald 6
Whistler Blackcomb
Whistler Blackcomb Slope

The best part about snowboarding on Whistler Blackcomb is the accessibility from the mountains to the village and being able to après-ski properly. How absolutely amazing is it to be able to snowboard down to the restaurant right by the lift after a day on the mountains? That is exactly what we did, we made our way down Village Run right onto the covered patio of Garibaldi Lift Company to enjoy some food and drinks by the fire pit, all while watching people wander the village. It was the perfect way to wind down and warm up the toes!

Garibaldi Lift Co Patio
Whistler Village, Garibaldi Lift Company

 

Whistler Village this time of year is extremely festive. We went meandering through the Village and there were Christmas lights all over the Village Stroll. When we reached Whistler Olympic Plaza, it took my breath away! They had transformed the plaza into a skating rink and sledding area! It was absolutely beautiful to be in the middle of all of that and seeing couples and families enjoy the snow and ice under the warm glow of Christmas lights. There is something about this time of year that brings people together that I love seeing. It just warms my heart.

Whistler Village
Whistler Olympic Plaza

Whistler Olympic Plaza

We couldn’t end our trip without trying some amazing restaurants offered in the village. After checking out many different restaurants and menus online, we decided on Basalt Wine + Salumeria, conveniently located along the Village Stroll beside Crystal Lodge. I’ll try to keep this section short and sweet, but the dinner was amazing! We started off with a Beef Striploin Carpaccio (+ “a bag of chips”), and every bite was incredible. The texture and flavours come together so beautifully, I wish there was more of it, but alas we must move on to the main courses. As adventurous eaters, we decided on the more unique items on the menu. We chose the Cashew Crusted Rock Fish & the New Zealand Venison + Chorizo Ragu Cavatelli with its wine pairings, which paired beautifully with the meal. The rock fish with seaweek pesto and chilean crab stir fried red quinoa was an incredible flavour explosion in my mouth. The flavours & textures worked so well together, it leaves you wanting more, bite after bite. The Venison dish with Cavatelli is the definition of a savoury comfy food. It tastes like a warm hug after a cold day, telling you everything is going to be okay. We were already quite stuffed at this point, but felt we should try their dessert menu along with some boozy hot drinks to end our experience. We ordered their Apple + Butterscotch Crème Brulée, which to my surprise, was very delicious! Not that I was expecting it to be bad, but I’m just not a big dessert person!

Beef Striploin Carpaccio + “a bag of chips”

Beef Striploin Carpaccio + “a bag of chips”

Cashew Crusted Rock Fish & the New Zealand Venison + Chorizo Ragu Cavatelli

Cashew Crusted Rock Fish & the New Zealand Venison + Chorizo Ragu Cavatelli

Cashew Crusted Rock Fish with Daydreamer Riesling 2017

Cashew Crusted Rock Fish with Daydreamer Riesling 2017

New Zealand Venison + Chorizo Ragu Cavatelli with Moraine Estate Pinot Noir 2016

New Zealand Venison + Chorizo Ragu Cavatelli with Moraine Estate Pinot Noir 2016

Apple + Butterscotch Crème Brulée | maple almond tuile, ginger struesel

Apple + Butterscotch Crème Brulée | maple almond tuile, ginger struesel

Basalt Boozy Hot Chocolate | Frangelico, Jameson, whip cream Peanut Buttered Rum | Gosling's Black Rum, brown sugar, spice, peanut butter, steamed milk

Basalt Boozy Hot Chocolate | Frangelico, Jameson, whip cream
Peanut Buttered Rum | Gosling's Black Rum, brown sugar, spice, peanut butter, steamed milk

Our weekend drew to an end, as the fluffy snow fell outside our windows, we really didn’t want to have to pack up and leave. It’s been such a great way to start the Christmas holidays. I hope you’ll be able to make your way up to Whistler sometime this season! There is something for everyone to do, from Skiing & Snowboarding, to strolling in the village, to trying out different restaurants, to relaxing at a spa, to a wild night out in the bars & clubs.

Thank you Tania and the Tourism Whistler team for setting this nice little getaway up, I’ll definitely have to find another excuse to come back up later in the season!

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TRAVEL | HONG KONG | Disney Explorers Lodge by Jenn Chan

Disney Explorers Lodge

 

When does Hong Kong feel like Cancun? Or Bali? Or Phuket? When you walk beside an epic pool, framed by the ocean in a carnival-like, jubilant atmosphere. I, like countless others, have happily been indoctrinated with Disney everything from a young age. Sunday dinner in the formal dining room watching the classics and feeling like you're in centre of the universe. Where else would anyone want to be? The 8 year-old mind cannot fathom it!

Regardless of your age the finishes and the sheer magnitude of the Disney Explorers Lodge will suffice for even the most amenity-crazed traveller. Pools, a spa, a gym, restaurants and a gargantuan lobby that stretches 50-60 feet into the air allowing for, during our visit, one of the larger Christmas trees I've been privy to, greet you as you enter.

 

Disney Explorers Lodge
Disney Explorers Lodge
Disney Explorers Lodge

 

Our room was lovely! Very modern and... wait for it... Disney-themed everything right down to the shampoo and conditioner! Two queen beds dominate the space and views across Discovery Bay and its iconic Plaza draw the eye out and the room immediately feels even bigger and fills with light and vibrancy. Outside our window a seawall offers paved walking and biking paths and cyclists, kayakers and murmuring families peddle, paddle, laugh and skip as they pass. The bathroom is very modern and spa-like and the toilet is housed separate from the sink and vanity to allow for families and couples to share the room without issue. We prepared ourselves a few coffees and watched as a family scrambled around the Disney surfboard feature in the gardens below our window. Caffeinated and bubbling with Mickey Mouse energy we set out.
 

 

Disney Explorers Lodge
Disney Explorers Lodge

 

The Chart Room Café was our first stop for some food and view over the gardens. Being after noon and being that I was on vacation I indulged in an icy cold Heineken and enjoyed a quick bite as children raced around the tables in feverish games of unofficial tag; the excitement builds as you watch them! A quick walk around the gardens to admire the landscape architecture, curse the pool's inactivity due to the season and an even quicker daydream about its potential and it's off to the Park. THE Park! The Happiest Place on Earth! I'm going to Disneyland!

 

Resort Grounds

Resort Grounds

Hathi Jr Garden

Hathi Jr Garden

Oceanic Garden

Oceanic Garden

Hathi Garden
Disney Explorers Lodge Restaurant
Disney Explorers Lodge Restaurant
Disney Explorers Lodge
 
Words: Scott Allan
Photos: Jenn Chan
 

TRAVEL | THINGS TO DO | London Eye by Jenn Chan

London Eye

 

A man I greatly respect detests Ferris wheels. Anthony Bourdain, of travel and cooking TV show fame, could not be enticed into one for cash. You couldn't get him on one if everywhere else on earth except for the cushy confines of the wheel was on fire. He doesn't like them, finds them tedious and maybe, at the root of it all, claustrophobic. I am not an avid Ferris wheeler. I've ridden my share, boy howdy, but I don't seek them out and Tony's blatant disregard has certainly tainted them for me. Like someone telling you about how their friend died from bad salmon as you're about to dig into a plate full of sashimi. Or someone telling you that baseball is the world's most tedious sport before you leave the house heading to the World Series. You love baseball, you love salmon so you power on and dismiss their trepidation as sour grapes; some baseball player broker their heart or their pet fish died. Some Ferris Wheel must have wronged Mr. Bourdain because I find them delightful!



The London Eye is probably the world's premiere Ferris wheel. It's certainly the most iconic. The comfort of each capsule is what you would expect from a world class tourist destination, but the addition of some champagne and now you've got an event! At no time during our revolution did I feel bored. There's so much to see in a city that's roughly seven times older than my entire country that your eyes can't focus on one thing for too long. No less than 1,000 different things to see from the incredible 360 degree vantage. Palaces and castles and skyscrapers all mingle along the mythical River Thames in a cornucopia of sights. I would highly recommend you going on your first day in London as it's the best spot to decide what else you might like to see while you're visiting. A perfect 10/10!

 

London Eye
London Eye
London Eye
London Eye
London Eye
London Eye
London Eye
London Eye
London Eye
London Eye
London Eye
 
Words: Scott Allan
Photos: Jenn Chan
 

TRAVEL | THINGS TO DO | Tower of London by Jenn Chan

Inside the Walls of Tower of London

Inside the Walls of Tower of London

 

In the game of thrones, read Medieval English isle, if you control the Tower of London you control the South. William the Conqueror started construction in 1066 and the signature White Tower was added in 1078. William was the son of a bachelor in Robert I, the King of Normandy. Jon Snow, of the hit, no, smash hit, tv show Game of Thrones, was also of unmarried parents. In my pragmatic, narrow, Canadian mind I will now, and forever, equate the Tower of London with Jon Snow. As an aside I had occasion today to visit the Guildford Castle in my newly adopted hometown. Love what you did with the garden Jon Snow! Intuition tells me William probably much preferred his monicker 'the Conqueror' over 'the Bastard' despite my admittedly perfunctory knowledge of the actual, boots-on-the-ground connotations of the label a millennium ago. An even further aside, my home country just turned 150 years old this year; happy birthday Canada!!

 

As we parked we could see the majestic Tower Bridge in the distance and the signature four towers of the Tower of London in the foreground as we unwittingly made the march many a headless man made from the execution grounds on Tower Hill to the gated fortress. Ushered into an ancient house and presented with media passes we bypassed the lines and, as luck would have it, merged seamlessly with a tour group being led by an enthusiastic Yeoman Warder. To be a warder, an educated and chivalrous tour guide and ambassador to the grounds, you must have served at least 22 years in the armed forces and have demonstrated exemplary conduct. They live in the gated castle with their families and undertake these hourly tours for which their enthusiasm and knowledge should be exulted!
 

 

Tower of London
Tower of London
Tower of London
Traitor Gate

Traitor Gate

The Armoury

The Armoury

Chapel

Chapel

Tower of London
The Crown Jewels

The Crown Jewels

 

Views across the mysterious and harrowing River Thames, ancients swords, suits of armour, reproductions of royal bedrooms, torture chambers and some delicious food and drink in the café. It sounds like a good day to me! You?

 

Tower of London at Sunset

Tower of London at Sunset

 
Words: Scott Allan
Photos: Jenn Chan
 

Travel: Akyra Manor Chiang Mai, Thailand by Jenn Chan

Akyra Manor Chiang Mai

 

 

Chiang Mai is a jewel in the mountains of northern Thailand! From the ancient, walled 'Old City' to the Riverside district to the mountainside temples overlooking the Valley containing the city of Chiang Mai, the sprawl of which would have awed its founders in 1296! There's a thousand and one things to do and restaurants to try. The experience has been described by people who have travelled more throughout the country as authentically Thai. 

 

Travelling by scooter is about 5 times faster than travelling by car. And on this morning, I left Jenn and a taxi driver, and the charming doormen at Akyra Manor in charge of the luggage, and took off on the scooter for a short tour, and STILL beat Jenn and the taxi to Akyra. Not having any documentations to check in to the room, I headed straight to the renowned Rise Rooftop Pool Bar, famous for its glass-sided, Aquarium style pool where swimmers become an aquatic mealtime show. 

 

Rooftop Pool

Rooftop Pool

Akyra Manor Chiang Mai Rooftop Pool
View from the Rooftop

View from the Rooftop

Akyra Manor Chiang Mai Rooftop Pool
Akyra Manor Chiang Mai Rooftop Pool

 

Akyra Manor Hotel is one of the top luxury hotels in Chiang Mai! As you walk in the front doors, you're struck by the irregular, birds nest like embellishments that crown the exterior. Once inside, modern furnishings meet kitsch meet ten foot candelabra chandelier, and a full sized horse lamp. As we were whisked what would turn out to be a futuristic, jetsons-like slice of modern luxury, we were ushered down curtained hallways, lighted from behind, giving the effect of a movie theatre atmosphere.

 

The door swings open to our suite and were greeted with a plush looking, leather bench, overlooking an 8-foot fishbowl tub, which sits outside on the patio. Above it, a chandelier of softball sized ball bearings dangle preciously, illuminating the bamboo growing on the outer edge of the patio, providing privacy for the bathers. A right turn into the suite, leads you into a bathroom fit for a 5 star luxury spa. A large sliding window leads you to a tiled path surrounded by small river stones to the outdoor tub. A symmetrical sliding door on the other side is a shortcut to the master bedroom. The centrepiece of the master bedroom is a slick double-sided wardrobe. One side conceals a large flatscreen TV facing the large King sized bed, the other side sports a halo lit mirror vanity and small seating space. The bed is a plush pillow top that comes with a pillow bar menu, which allows you a choice of 7 different types of pillows; seriously. We rang the front desk and asked for one of each and tested them out. A smiling staff member was at our door with our pillows within a few minutes and shared a good laugh with us having ordered all of them. On the wall behind the bed, inside the built in cupboards, are the master controls to the room, doing everything from dimming the lights, to closing the drapes, to turning off the tv. We slept well.

 

Akyra Manor Chiang Mai
Akyra Manor Chiang Mai
Akyra Manor Chiang Mai Suite
Akyra Manor Chiang Mai Suite
Akyra Manor Chiang Mai Suite
Akyra Manor Chiang Mai Suite
Akyra Manor Chiang Mai Suite Bathroom
Akyra Manor Chiang Mai Suite

 

A breakfast buffet at italics is included with every stay at Akyra and the food is very good. Fresh pastries, delicious tropical fruit, delicious coffee, fresh squeezed juices and a selection that will make sure everybody will find something they will like. Every night they drop off a cocktail of the day for you to make yourself in your room. All the non-alcoholic ingredients are included free of charge, and there's an option to add the corresponding liquor at a very affordable price. Taking everything into account: the modern rooms, the world class rooftop pool, excellent food, perfectly adequate gym and beaming staff make Akyra an excellent choice for your stay in Chiang Mai!

 

Italics Restaurant
Italics Restaurant Breakfast
Breakfast Tower

Breakfast Tower

Italics Restaurant Breakfast
Italics Restaurant Breakfast
Make your own Cocktail In-Room

Make your own Cocktail In-Room

Akyra Manor Chiang Mai
 
Words: Scott Allan
Photos: Jenn Chan
 

Travel: Park Hyatt Siem Reap, Cambodia by Jenn Chan

The Living Room at Park Hyatt Siem Reap

The Living Room at Park Hyatt Siem Reap

 

Siem Reap is the best city in Southeast Asia! City might be a bit of a stretch as it really feels more like a resort town teeming with cottage goers buying nicknacks and applying sunscreen. The people are kind, the streets are clean and the temples, oh the temples, are an absolutely world class attraction!

 

We were lucky to call the Park Hyatt Siem Reap home for a week. We really do feel lucky to have chosen the hotel, from the dozens and dozens available, and made some genuine friendships with the staff there. From Minh's warm welcome and her company at a lovely afternoon tea to Mey's humble, cheerful service in the dining room to the many, many security guards who minded my motorbike and were eager to spend 5 minutes chatting about life and Cambodia.

 

In terms of luxury accommodations in Siem Reap you are deciding between the Park Hyatt and the Grand Hotel d'Angkor. We visited both properties and so I can be certain when I make this assertion; the Park Hyatt is the premier hotel in Siem Reap! Nestled halfway between the hedonistic Pub Street and packed Market Street it boasts the best location, in my opinion, of any hotel in the downtown core. Hedonistic is a monicker that might scare off some, but I mean it with reverence and adoration. A strip of bars, massage parlours and restaurants where the wares are only limited by your imagination. 'Happy pizza' parlours are dotted throughout where it is possible to order a 'happy' ham and pineapple pizza and receive a pie with a delicious crust, fresh toppings and a smattering of marijuana whose taste is undetectable, but whose effect is undeniably serene. It's perfectly legal in Siem Reap and when in Rome...

 

The lobby of the Park Hyatt is a lavish, cylindrical space which goes all the way up to the top floor, the third, and ends with the Hyatt's signature steeple which can be seen for miles. Whisked into the Living Room, a grand space with towering bookshelves and capped by an amazing bar, we were welcomed and offered some history on the property and Siem Reap. Sitting and absorbing the environment a sense of calm envelopes you. As you walk out into the courtyard the huge banyan tree surrounded by a big fountain shines with the light of the sun and invites you to wade into its shallow waters. But you mustn't. There are two actual pools after all.

 

Park Hyatt Siem Reap hallway
Park Hyatt Siem Reap Living Room
Park Hyatt Siem Reap
Park Hyatt Siem Reap Dining Room
Park Hyatt Siem Reap

 

Our suite was incredible! You walk into a wood on wood on wood oasis with a modern twist. The Italian marble in the washroom, the grand, lavish, incredible washroom, looks as expensive as it does refined. The mattress was like a fluffy cloud, a very fluffy cloud, and you could nestle in there for hours, days, weeks or years without feeling like you're missing any part of the human experience. Combine that with the large living room, adequate kitchenette and spacious walk in closet and I would live there. Full stop.

 

 

Park Hyatt Siem Reap Hallway
Park Hyatt Siem Reap Suite
Park Hyatt Siem Reap Suite Living Room
Park Hyatt Siem Reap Suite Living Room
Park Hyatt Siem Reap Suite Bedroom
Park Hyatt Siem Reap Suite Bathroom
Park Hyatt Siem Reap Walk-in Closet

 

I will not, I refuse to, play favourites with the pools. The first floor salt water pool has its merits. On second thought I will play favourites; the second floor indoor/ outdoor pool is amazing! Large and warm and boasting several jetted alcoves, a bridge and a nearby bar it is a top notch oasis. It is a tie with the first floor dining area replete with  swinging tables, large beds suspended from chains, in terms of opulence and comfort!

 

Park Hyatt Siem Reap Pool
Park Hyatt Siem Reap Pool
Park Hyatt Siem Reap Salt Water Pool

Park Hyatt Siem Reap Salt Water Pool

Park Hyatt Siem Reap Salt Water Pool
Park Hyatt Siem Reap Pool at Night

Park Hyatt Siem Reap Pool at Night

Park Hyatt Siem Reap Pool at Night
Park Hyatt Siem Reap Fitness Centre

Park Hyatt Siem Reap Fitness Centre

 

 

The food at the Park Hyatt is amazing! We were blessed to enjoy breakfast everyday, best eggs Benedict of my life, but we also indulged in the age old British tradition of high tea. Being the typical white guy with typical white guy tastes I partook in the Signature high tea set while Jenn ventured into the Thai tea set waters. Tea and crumpets and sandwiches and deliciousness. Jenn's tier seemed a bit more adventurous and I almost envied her curry this and that until I got to my pastry layer. I love carbs. My energy level loves carbs. My belly hates carbs, but he's a jerk anyway! Indulge in afternoon tea at the Park Hyatt! Having tried both high tea offerings from the two top Siem Reap hotels I can say, without hesitation, that the Hyatt's is no less than five times better!

 

Park Hyatt Siem Reap Afternoon Tea
Park Hyatt Siem Reap Afternoon Tea
Park Hyatt Siem Reap Afternoon Tea

 

When you tell locals, the poor yet incredibly congenial Cambodians I grew to love, that you're staying at the Park Hyatt they gasp and shift their gaze. Local Siem Reap hostels, which cost close to pennies, are the preferred accommodation for people who look like me: young, Caucasian males. I dress like those people. I act like those people. I crave the same Cambodian experience as those people, but I am privileged to stay in properties like the Park Hyatt. Siem Reap is, as I mentioned, the best town in Southeast Asia and if you don't make it there to visit after reading this you will feel cheated. If and when you go check out the Park Hyatt. You will not regret it.

 

 

 

Words: Scott Allan
Photos: Jenn Chan