May 14, 2020
Tens of thousands of words. Dozens upon dozens of stories. The past 12 months we’ve published content with topics ranging from film photography lessons in Bhutan to a meal at Singapore’s most expensive restaurant to snorkeling with sharks in the Maldives.
In our quarantine-induced reflective state, we reminisced on some of the stories from the past year that we loved. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did.
Bek Van Vliet Owen
If a story makes me want to go somewhere to experience, and this case eat, what it’s telling me about, its a winner. Connla here brings together my twin loves of convivial Southeast Asian cities and fancy eating (and drinking), and does so in a way that makes me irrationally hungry.
This story tickles me for Adam’s weird obsession with yuzu and his vivid descriptions through which I can almost taste the citrus twist. The illustrations are the orange icing on the cake.
This was a trip I took with my daughter just before COVID struck. I had low expectations of how much I would enjoy traveling alone with my three-year-old, but we both had a ball. I can’t read the story itself objectively due to all the emotions involved, but the experience itself will always be one of my favorite memories.
Jeninne Lee-St. John
I distinctly remember the first time I read this story because it was a revelation. Despite T+L’s broad reach, we rarely have the opportunity to cover Timor-Leste, a place where the diving will knock your socks off and the single-origin beans will delight the most discerning—and do-gooer—of coffee snobs. The small country’s many beautiful wonders shine smartly and succinctly through the words of Sophie Raynor, an Australian who has lived in Dili for a few years.
The T+L Guide to Drinks Package
It’s easy to Instagram about the far-off isles we long to visit, but we won’t have a real return to normalcy until we’re allowed to smoosh ourselves into our favorite bars, sharing rounds, and screaming in each others’ faces over the music. By last year, the imbibing scene in Asia had become so innovative, diverse and downright cool that the 14 pages we allotted for this special package still couldn’t cover everything. For some real aspirational reading in the time of COVID, take a look at this guide to some of our top watering holes and drinking trends, and the barkeeps, brewmasters and somms behind them. Then, hit them up online; lots do delivery.
Phu Quoc, in southern Vietnam, is a case study in rapid development. I like it so much that I visited four times last year, each trip digging a little deeper into the island’s contradictions: five-star luxury, boutique-hotel beauties, bougie bars, versus mass tourism, congestion, pollution. The seafood is great there, but so too can be the diving—it’s a delicate balance. Still, there’s some great conservation work happening there and I’m hopeful this will help preserve the island’s rustic-luxe vibe.
Editor in Chief
I remember the first edits of this story from Stephanie Zubiri because I laughed out loud. Not that she had written anything particularly funny, but more for a shaman she meets who initially was less than welcoming to this corner of the Philippines, doubly odd in a set of islands where most are known for their friendliness. Read the tale and take a look at Scott Woodward’s photos and tell me you don’t want to visit. I dare you.
Joe Cummings revisits the Thai hotspot and comes away not with neon lights in his eyes but a yearning to visit again for the food, the sunsets and the slow pace of life on this less-visited side of the island.
As I sat to jot down this note, Huy Hoang, who came up with the idea of this 10-room getaway that wraps itself into a Japanese forest, called to say Shishi-Iwa House had started a one million yen pay-forward initiative to support the restaurants in its base of Karuizawa. A design gem, the Shigeru Ban-designed getaway is meant to stir your creative juices, so that it’s looking forward and contributing to healthier days doesn’t surprise me one bit.
If you know me IRL, I’ve probably asked you what your last meal on earth would be. I love hearing what people have to say when it comes to favorite dishes and dining experiences, partly because I can add new places on my list of restaurants to visit, but also because it’s one of the few subjects that almost anyone can talk about with affection. Our network of foodies didn’t disappoint in their answers for this article (personally, I’ll be hunting down Siree’s galbi-jjimb next time I find myself in Seoul).
I am admittedly Jeninne’s No.1 writing fan. I find myself smiling—if not laughing out loud—while reading most of her stories. This story on a getaway to Banyan Tree Phuket’s Spa Sanctuary was particularly enjoyable purely for how fun the trip sounded. She spent time riding bicycles in figure eights and had a hotel-hosted dance party in her villa. I was also overly amused that she obliged to a coriander foot wash when I’ve never seen her come within a yard of the herb without a dramatic protest.
When I was in college I spent a term in central Vietnam studying the aftermath of the Vietnam War. It was by far one of the most enlightening and devastating experiences of my life. So, when I found out that my same professor was coming back to the region to lead a new group of undergrads, I begged him to allow me to join since its only a short flight from Bangkok. I met the group in Quang Tri province, where more than 40 percent of the ordnance used during the war were dropped, to volunteer with an NGO that helps locals who continue to deal with repercussions of the tragic event.
I am very thankful that Chris allowed me to stray away from the usual T+L-style story and shed light on a topic I am passionate about.