Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Five of the world’s coolest urban rooftop farms

Sprawled across a rooftop in a quiet residential neighbourhood, overlooking a city’s bustling business districtpositioned at the top of a parking structure: none of these locations exactly come to mind when one mentions the word “farming” – a term that is far more likely to conjure up scenes of rolling hills, verdant pastoral landscapes and wide-open spaces. 

But as cities have had to grapple with the pressing issues of food insecurity and sustainability – especially in light of Covid-19, during which global supply chains have been heavily disrupted – they’ve increasingly sought to feed their communities in a more local manner. And in densely packed cities where space comes at a premium, the solution is clear: urban rooftop farms. 

A bee in action at Rooftop Honey in Melbourne. Photo credit: Annika Kafcaloudis

Indeed, earlier this year, Singapore announced plans to convert the roofs of nine multi-storey parking structures in public housing areas into spaces for commercially farmed vegetables and other crops. The city-state currently only produces around 10% of its food requirements locally, and the farms are part of its drive to push that figure up to 30% by the year 2030.

Singapore’s not alone. We round-up five existing and upcoming urban rooftop farms around the world cultivating everything from honey to cucumbers from their lofty skyline perches. 

1. Brooklyn Grange, New York 

With three rooftop farms spread across both Brooklyn and Queens, Brooklyn Grange is arguably New York’s most successful rooftop urban farming story. Since the humble opening of their first farm in Queens a decade ago, the operation has grown to encompass 2.2 hectares across the three farms and currently produces over 36,000kg of organic vegetables each year – everything from mustard greens to heirloom tomatoes – which it supplies to restaurants, community supported agriculture (CSA) members and directly to the community via farm stands. They’re also passionate about educating the next generation of urban farmers, and have run many field trips, summer camp sessions and afterschool programmes for the city’s youth through non-profit partner City Growers. Brooklyn Grange also participates in rooftop beekeeping, and operates almost 20 hives for their farming business throughout the Big Apple.

rooftop urban farm
Thammasat University Green Roof is inspired by rice paddies. Photo credit: Landprocess/Facebook

2. Thammasat University Green Roof, Thailand 

A university may not be the first place you’d envision for an urban rooftop, but in some ways, it makes perfect sense. Conceived by Thammasat University, (located just outside of Bangkokas a template for future smart and sustainable developments, a formerly disused rooftop has been transformed into a 7,000m² space for organic farming, the largest in Asia. Inspired by the rice paddies that used to fill the surrounding region in the past, the farming plots are designed in a tiered and terraced configuration, minimising surface runoff and allowing for the efficient use and storage of rainwater to hydrate the plants. The project yields indigenous plant species and a special variety of rice, which is distributed to the local community. Solar panels are also placed around the development, harnessing enough power to pump water throughout the farm and generate the electricity supply of the building.

Mat Lumalasi (left) and Vanessa Kwiatkowski of Rooftop Honey pictured with their hives. Photo credit: Annika Kafcaloudis

3. Rooftop Honey, Melbourne 

While many urban rooftop farms focus on growing edible plants such as leafy greens and hardy vegetables, Rooftop Honey – which has over 130 hives scattered throughout various locations in Greater Melbourne  specialises in bees. The urban beekeeping operation, founded in 2010, serves two purposes: producing creamy and delicious honey for the city’s residents while also allowing the bees to pollinate flowers in the surrounding areas. According to owners Vanessa Kwiatkowski and Mat Lumalasi, the bees generally fly about 5km away from their hives, thus playing a key role in ensuring the health and continuity of the flowering ecosystem. Australia is uniquely positioned for beekeeping: it remains the last inhabited continent that hasn’t been infested by the Varroa mite – a deadly parasite that targets honey bees and is extremely difficult to eradicate. Interested in taking a tour of the hives and learning more about urban beekeeping? Rooftop Honey organises mentorship sessions during the spring and autumn months.

Agripolis will house 140 plots of land and 30 different plant species

4. Agripolis, Paris 

While the Covid-19 pandemic has pushed back its opening date early this year, this upcoming development in the City of Lights is sure to be a show-stopper when it finally materialises in July 2020. Billed as the world’s largest rooftop farm, the massive 14,000m² site will be situated at the top of the Paris Expo Porte de Versailles exhibition centre in the 15th arrondissement, and will be able to generate over 900kg of fresh produce each day for the surrounding community. Roughly 20 gardeners will oversee 140 plots of land and 30 different plant species, and the organic produce will be grown using aeroponic techniques, with the farm’s water supply coming from rainwater and biological nutrients used as fertiliser. Once the farm opens, visitors will be able to take advantage of various activities, such as touring the grounds, attending workshops and participating in community events.  

Rows upon rows of leafy greens being grown at ComCrop’s rooftop facility

5. ComCrop, Singapore 

The urban rooftop farming movement may be all the rage in Singapore at the moment, but that wasn’t the case when ComCrop first opened in 2014. Widely considered to be pioneers in their field, they remain the nation’s first and only commercial rooftop farming company. ComCrop’s mission is to cultivate sustainable farming solutions in order to address Singapore’s food security issues, feed the community and give consumers a better understanding of where their food comes from. ComCrop uses hydroponic technology to grow its pesticide-free greens, which are predominantly of the leafy variety and include basil, lettuce and chye sim. At present, the company operates out of a site in Woodlands that’s in the process of being expanded into a 4,000m² facility – which will in turn allow them to quadruple their yield from the current 1,000 plants per day. Eventually, ComCrop hopes to operate satellite urban rooftop farms in residential areas across the city-state.

SEE ALSO: Five restaurants that grow their own food in urban spaces

The post Five of the world’s coolest urban rooftop farms appeared first on SilverKris.

from SilverKris

Click stunning travel photographs with your smartphone camera

There are plenty of things you can do, both at home and at your destination, to make your travel photography a fun and creative experience. Research, planning, and practice will ensure that you not only make the most of your photo opportunities but create them as well, resulting in more and better pictures.

Taking photos with a smartphone’s camera is no different from using any other type of camera. Apply the same basic photography skills as you do when you’re using a compact or DSLR. Poor technique by the camera-phone owner plays a big part in the success or otherwise of the outcome. As with all cameras, the aim is to get the most out of the equipment you’ve got by working within its limits.

Also Read: Lonely Planet to provide curated content through Apple Maps

Also Read: Indigenous people & tribes around the world who welcome tourists

Internationally renowned travel photographer Richard I’Anson shows you how to avoid common photography mistakes and to develop your compositional and technical skills as a photographer. The following suggestions will help you get the best out of your smartphone camera:

1.If you have the choice set the smartphone’s camera resolution to the highest setting. Images will take longer to save and send but they will be the best quality your device can deliver. Shoot raw, if it’s offered, if you have the interest, time, and ability to process the files using image editing software.

2. When composing your shot make sure the lens has focused on the subject. If not recompose until focus is correct. Alternatively, touch your desired focus point on the screen and the lens will focus there.

3. Avoid using digital zoom. Move closer rather than zoom if your smartphone does not have the optical zoom feature. When you pinch the screen to zoom on a camera with the digital zoom you are effectively cropping the image, reducing the resolution, and often degrading the image file quite dramatically.

4. Smartphones have two cameras; one on the front and one on the back. The back camera is the better one with significantly higher resolution. The main consequence of this is that selfies are not as clear and sharp as they could be.

via Lonely Planet India

Les chaussures pour les enfants

Marché aux Puces de Vanves

via Paris Through My Lens

Monday, 29 June 2020

Indigenous people & tribes around the world who welcome tourists

Indigenous people (original settlers of the land) or the various smaller and unique tribes that they generally split into, offer outsiders a glimpse into a nation’s vast cultural heritage. These communities carry the last stories of past generations as the ‘western’ global influence creeps closer every moment in every country, ironically, in part brought by the visitors themselves. Besides, since these people generally live closer to nature, their preservation indirectly means the preservation of the environment and biodiversity itself. Indigenous populations (around 370 million globally and representing over 5,000 cultures) account for just 5% of global numbers, but they protect around 80% of the world’s natural habitat. Hence their survival is critical not just for boosting tourism revenue of a nation but for maintaining the fragile ecological balance of the planet itself, by containing deforestation.

Also Read: The golden age of travel: the privilege of travelling since the 1950s to now

Also Read: India’s alternate multicultural colonial towns

If done properly and sensitively, this fast-growing ethnic or ethno-tourism sector can be one of the best ways to support the continuity of these people and their way of life, else without incentives, it too would be lost to the western wave that’s taken over all cities, whether of developed or developing countries. For it to be moral, it needs to be a win-win for both sides, with terms being fixed on a level playing field. For the tourist, it is essentially amateur anthropology, a chance for a unique cultural exchange, besides a far more authentic and educational travel experience. For the tribe members, it is a revenue source but also a way for them to take pride and interest in their ancestry, heritage, and land. It is a sort of celebration of this age-old way of life, which can bring their people together.

If the tourists spend enough time engaging with the tribe and do not merely use them for a quick photo-op, then it’s a way to convey that they have come for more than a show of song and dance and want to know their everyday activities as well which are not ‘put on’ for the visitor. The slightly slower pace of interaction would become a meaningful cultural exchange for the tribe as well. Hence it is imperative for the tourists and the tour operators to not indulge in shallow experiences which make the tribe feel that they are there only for the ‘viewing’ pleasure of the tourists, quite similar to how one would view wildlife.

It must not be lost upon the visitor that these ‘First Nation’ indigenous people all over the world are greatly marginalized, with their lands taken over by governments and corporations in the name of progress. We need to be sensitive to the fact that many of these people are almost forced to get into tourism to sustain themselves, as their food and water sources are degraded & depleted due to development. All indigenous people are deeply connected to their roots and their land for food, water, and shelter. All their stories are based on the nature that surrounds them and thereby it’s important to respect and remember that we are guests in their land, their villages, and homes.

Besides the general tourist, the adventure tourist has to be wary of which tribes they are meeting. If the tour company advertises and claims that these tribes are ‘untouched’ or that these are ‘first contact’ experiences, then the first thing you need to know is that it is a fake claim. However, the much more sinister part is that your visit to such a tribe is not a travel experience but an intrusion and you could be bringing diseases to these communities to which they have no immunity (even the common cold or flu could be devastating). In the past, this has led to the dissemination of many such peoples, and hence any advertisement to visit a tribe that is not open to tourism is a big red flag.

As long as we are conscious of these things, our tourism money can go a very long way in sustaining & reviving the myriad colourful cultures around our world, not to mention in preserving the last refuges for the Earth’s flora and fauna.

Here are 20 select images from around the planet, celebrating the culture of indigenous peoples & famous tribes that are waiting to welcome us back once the Covid-19 pandemic is over and these communities can be safely interacted with. Utilize this time to plan your world travels and enjoy the photographs.

via Lonely Planet India

An artistic tour in Belgium though Jan van Eyck

As I look at the painting before me, I’m transfixed by one of the most intense gazes I’ve ever seen. It seems to peer into my soul, weighing the worth of what it finds there. I creep towards the glass, noting the golden rays that radiate from the head – so precise but with an ineffable inner glow. Such is the image’s lure that the cathedral around me disappears until footsteps shatter my reverie. The strangest thing: I’m looking into the face of a lamb.

Van Eyck’s Ghent Altarpiece. Photo credit: KIK-IRPA

Unveiled in 1432, Jan van Eyck’s The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb or the Ghent Altarpiece is one of the world’s most influential paintings – and its most coveted. An A to Z of Catholic mysticism (the lamb bleeds into a chalice, representing Christ’s sacrifice), the 12-panel polyptych has been hidden, dismembered and nearly destroyed by fire over the centuries. Hollywood film The Monuments Men depicts its looting by the Nazis and even a master fabulist like Dan Brown couldn’t come up with a backstory as improbable as that of the painting’s Just Judges panel, which was stolen in 1934 and has never been recovered.

I’m paying a pilgrimage to the mesmerising work – housed at St Bavo’s Cathedral in Ghent – following a spectacular $2.4 million restoration of the altarpiece that was completed in December 2019. This prompted a several events in the region celebrating the master medieval painter, beginning with the “Van Eyck: An Optical Revolution”, the biggest ever display of his works that ran at the Museum of Fine Arts Ghent (MSK) until 30 April. The sprawling exhibition featured over half of the estimated 20 van Eyck pictures that are still in existence, including the outer panels of the Ghent Altarpiece, alongside 100 works by the painter’s Italian contemporaries such as Fra Angelico and Masaccio.

The 59-year-old is a commanding presence in his spectacles, suit and snowy beard. “He perfected oil painting and drew on a deep knowledge of geometry to observe reality. Painting reality as it was gave him a spiritual sight; an insight into painting god. That was his optical revolution.”

The exterior of the Museum of Fine Arts

Van Eyck was born in the Belgian town of Maaseik, near Maastricht, around 1390, and died in Bruges in 1441. Court painter to the Duke of Burgundy, Philip the Good, he mainly painted religious works and portraits, capturing the hotbed of commerce and culture that was Burgundian Netherlands – an area covering parts of Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and northern France, run by a branch of France’s royal House of Valois from 1384 to 1482.

Although his Arnolfini Portrait, on display at London’s National Gallery, is widely recognised, he is less well-known than Flemish Baroque artist Rubens, celebrated for his voluptuous mythological paintings. Yet, as the leading light of the Flemish Primitives, who fused realism and religious expressivity, van Eyck was a legend in his own lifetime. Not only did he sign his works, an exception for the era, a myth even arose that he’d invented oil painting.

His masterwork, the Ghent Altarpiece, is central to his godlike status. Begun by his brother Hubert van Eyck, the work’s scale partly reflects the ambition and deep pockets of Jodocus Vijd, the merchant who commissioned it. But more than that, the undertaking gave van Eyck free rein to showcase his astonishing innovations – not least his experiments reducing the drying times of oil paint, which allowed him to build layers of translucent paint to truly dazzling effect.

“Van Eyck seemed like a comet on the horizon of Western civilisation when he appeared in the 1400s”

In a way, no one has looked at the real painting for 500 years – until now. “In the 16th century, 70% of [the work] was over-painted to improve the colour,” explains head restorer Hélène Dubois, striking a chic figure with her glasses propped on her head. The removal of layers of paint and varnish has revealed its true luminosity – and the lamb’s humanoid eyes, now facing forwards. “There has been such a fuss about the head, and it is intense,” Dubois admits, amused. “The lamb even has a Twitter account saying, ‘I am looking at you and I am judging you. I follow no one.’ It’s odd!”

The altarpiece’s restored external panels were the star draw at the MSK show. In a one-off, they were shown separately, and it’s astounding to see them so close up. Roaming around the rest of the exhibition, I’m hit by van Eyck’s magical use of light, which adds a sense of luxury and life to even the humblest of objects. A master naturalist, van Eyck went so far as to depict the seams of fabrics, or, in Saint Francis of Assisi Receiving the Stigmata, to suggest snow in distant clouds. His magical trompe-l’œil effects are on show through his grisaille paintings of statues that seem more real than the real thing. I do a double take before an altar-piece panel where Adam, with raised foot, seems to step from his frame.

After the exhibition closed, the outer panels were returned to St Bavo’s Cathedral. A new visitor centre will be launching there in Spring 2021, allowing visitors to don a pair of virtual-reality glasses which bring the cathedral and altarpiece to life.

The magnificent skyline of Ghent

In the meantime, 2020 is Van Eyck Year in Flanders, with special events taking place across northern Belgium. Renowned Estonian classical music composer Arvo Pärt will debut a van Eyck tribute at St Bavo’s Cathedral in September, while British artist Mat Collishaw has drawn the altarpiece into a choreographed dance via robotic arms, on view at Ghent’s St Nicholas Church until November.

Exiting St Nicholas Church in a daze, I’m confronted by the hulking City Pavilion, a cutting-edge open-air structure with a duo of pointed, window-lined roofs that sceptics have memorably dubbed the “sheep pen”. My mission, to discover more about the life and works of the painter, takes me to the neighbouring Belfort, one of three towers dominating central Ghent’s skyline, and whose design shop is the departure point for a Seven Senses Tour mixing food, art and sightseeing, to allow visitors to explore the city through the eyes of van Eyck.

Pearl De Buck, founder of PAARL

While browsing, I get chatting to 40-year-old designer Pearl De Buck, her black minimalist garb offset by bright-red lipstick. Owner of local shop PAARL, she’s among 70 artisans who’ve made Ghent Altarpiece-themed wares – in her case, a collection of luxury leather bags that are hand-engraved with details from the altarpiece.

“The Mystic Lamb and I go way back,” the proud Gentenaar says. “My father visits Lam Gods (the altarpiece’s Dutch name) every year and tells me about it. He started when he was 15 and is now 70, so calculate how many times that is!” Working on the bags only increased her admiration for the altarpiece. “It’s almost like stepping back into that time, but it stays modern. The vivid colours – the reds and blues – are coming back. It’s trendy in a way,” she says.

A leather bag from local brand PAARL

It’s a theme explored at Design Museum Gent, whose current show, “Kleureyck” (until Feb 2021), riffs on the master’s saturated palette, starting with a “pigment walk” through his favourite colour groups. Contemporary designers – including French duo the Bouroullec brothers – have run with the brief, engaging in bold colour experiments across ceramics, product design and glass art.

The result is a blend of ultra-cool aesthetics and science, spanning Nienke Hoogvliet’s research on herbs as textile dyes and a madcap sensory work by Pinaffo Pluvinage + MADD Bordeaux, where visitors are able to make sounds by stroking conductive coloured jellies. Ghent blends edgy art and old architecture in a heady way.

The design shop in Belfort

Wandering back outside, I stumble into the Middle Ages – the grand gabled guildhouses of Graslei, the city’s first port, glinting in the afternoon light and reflecting in the river Leie. I take in buildings adorned with coats of arms, cartouches and a golden caravel (a kind of 15th-century ship) and stop off at the inviting café patios, ideal spots to admire the superbly preserved display. It’s a fine reminder of this under-the-radar Flemish city’s former might: buoyed by the trade of cloth and grain, it’s been called a “medieval Manhattan” and was once the second-largest city north of the Alps after Paris.

The Seven Senses Tour includes a jaunt around Ghent’s inland waterways, so I tentatively hop from Graslei’s quayside into a waiting boat, where our loquacious captain gamely juggles local lore and van Eyck asides. The tour takes visitors along the city’s canals, through a tunnel animated by digital projections and to the forbidding (and usually closed) 13th-century Gothic Gerard the Devil’s Castle.

For now, I’m content with a glimpse at another side of Ghent, skimming under a Gustave Eiffel-designed bridge and disembarking at the monolithic Ghent Library to admire a floral mural by street artist Pastel on the back of a house across the water – one of several van Eyck-themed commissions across the city.

Bruges’ renowned Basilica of the Holy Blood

The next day, still on van Eyck’s trail, I make for the city of Bruges, where he spent his last decade, following Philip the Good’s court. One of the joys of Flanders is the proximity of the big cities: after a 20-minute train ride, Ghent’s hustle and bustle gives way to flat polders as we near the coast, and I swiftly find myself among meandering canals, centuries-old bridges and weeping beech trees. A pocket-sized medieval time capsule, Bruges is truly Flanders at its most picturesque.

It was here that van Eyck painted his celebrated works Virgin and Child with Canon van der Paele and Portrait of Margaret van Eyck – perhaps the first time in European art that a painter had depicted his own spouse rather than noble sitters. Both paintings star in a show at the city’s world-class Groeningemuseum until early September, while Sint-Janshospitaal is another must-visit for its trove of works by fellow Flemish Primitive Hans Memling.

“Mind the cobbles, that’s tradition!” chirps Pol Mulier by way of greeting, a tweed flat cap taming the 70-year-old’s white locks. My guide on the Meet & Greet van Eyck walk, he keeps up a steady patter as we head to the majestic Burg square, dominated by Bruges’ most beautiful building: the Gothic City Hall or Stadhuis. Our target is the slightly less glamorous Crowne Plaza Hotel, which holds the excavated remains of the long-vanished St Donatian’s Cathedral where van Eyck was buried.

A boat tour through the canals of Bruges will give a new appreciation of the picturesque city

The Markt, or market square, of Bruges, located nearby, represents the city’s beating heart, animated as it is with its horse-drawn carriages, bustling cafés and frietkot stands selling fries. As we arrive, the Belfort’s carillon dutifully tolls the hour, and it’s not hard to imagine van Eyck’s apprentices scuttling off on errands for the ageing master. Back then, the square was home to a covered goods warehouse; today the site houses an immersive museum, the Historium, whose family-oriented exhibits bring that time to life.

As we shelter from the rain in the Historium’s entrance, Mulier pulls out a laminated copy of a painting. “Canon van der Paele is van Eyck’s second-greatest work after the Altarpiece,” he explains. “The canon was from Bruges and commissioned the painting to hang above his mausoleum in St Donatian’s Cathedral. Because of van Eyck’s realism, you can see all the diseases he suffered from. Doctors have discovered six or seven diseases on his face!”

Bruge Ghent Belgium feature
An old building adorned with artistic carvings

Outside van Eyck’s former residence – now replaced by a brick coach-house of a later date – on narrow Gouden-Handstraat, Mulier dips into van Eyck’s famously sketchy biography. “He lived in Lille for a time, and he worked in Ghent, but he made lots of his final paintings right here. That’s when he wasn’t on foreign missions…” he trails off cryptically, promising to elaborate later.

Passing a debonair statue of the master on nearby Jan van Eyckplein, hub of the mercantile Hansa Quarter, I become aware of secret Burgundian marvels dotting the city’s coiling streets: at one point we nip through a doorway into city palace Hof Bladelin – the only surviving ex-Medici bank outside Italy, its courtyard garden lined by geometric hedges. Landmarks I’ve passed on previous visits, such as the five-star Hotel Dukes’ Palace, grow in grandeur as Mulier reveals their pasts: in 1430, the palace witnessed the wedding festivities of Philip the Good and Isabella of Portugal amid unimaginable pomp.

Belfry of Bruges
The Belfry of Bruges, a striking medieval bell tower

At our last stop, the home of Isabella’s bookkeeper Jan Vasquez, anecdotes are streaming fast. “Before the wedding, van Eyck was sent to the Portuguese court to paint Isabella – no Facebook then,” recounts Mulier drolly. “He sent the portraits to Philip to show how beautiful she was.” On another mission, van Eyck mapped the coasts near Jerusalem for a crusade Philip planned. “He was more than an artist,” summarises Mulier as we part. “He was a diplomat, a cartographer and a spy.”

Two days on, and I finally have a clearer sense of the enigmatic van Eyck: a true Renaissance man who pioneered secular portraits, raised religious luminosity to new heights and even dabbled in some James Bond-style antics. It’s as though, like Dubois, I’ve peeled back the layers of time to let the real subject shine.

And, while van Eyck’s grave has been lost, Mulier’s words have given me the perfect epitaph.

Food for thought: Where to eat 

Eating in Ghent once revolved around hefty Flemish staples such as Gentse waterzooi (chicken or fish stew), but over the past decade everything has changed. Not only has Ghent become Europe’s self-styled vegetarian capital, a trio of chefs – aka the Flemish Foodies – led by Kobe Desramaults have also turned it into an ambitious culinary hotspot.

Desramaults runs fashionable pizzeria De Superette and Michelin-starred Chambre Séparée, whose expensive yet sublime fixed-course menus are served in the city’s Belgacom Tower (the venue closes in December 2020). On the flipside, though, democratically priced fine dining is also gaining sway, with the vegetable-led Roots foremost among the movement.

For up-to-date information about events mentioned in the story, please refer to their individual homepages.

To learn more about Singapore Airlines flights, visit singaporeair.com. For more information and travel advisories, please visit Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website.

SEE ALSO: Stunning virtual museum tours to catch from your couch 

This article was originally published in the April 2020 issue of SilverKris magazine

The post An artistic tour in Belgium though Jan van Eyck appeared first on SilverKris.

from SilverKris

Sunday, 28 June 2020

Jun 28, Top Goa Attractions - Things To Do In Goa

Goa is one of the best places to visit in India. Here are some of my favourite top Goa attractions.

from The Malaysia Traveller Blog

Les Danseurs

Dimanche å rue Mouffetard. I hope the dancers on Mouffetard are back now that the lockdown has ended. 

via Paris Through My Lens

A closer look at five of the world’s greenest cities

Amsterdam aims to become a completely emissions-free city by 2030. Photo credit: Veronika Galkina/Shutterstock.com

Sustainability has become an increasingly important part of our lives – especially when it comes to travelBy and large, we want to venture to places with lush parks, clean air and easily accessible public transportation, and we try to do what we can to decrease our carbon footprint on our trips – from purchasing carbon offsets to minimising plastic consumption. 

In a recent study of the world’s greenest cities by Resonance Consultancy*, five Singapore Airlines destinations placed in the top 10: Munich (2), Madrid (4), Manchester (6), Singapore (8) and Amsterdam (9). Factors considered in the study include the amount of public green spaces, percentage of the population that commutes via public transport, level of air pollution, walkability and number of farmers markets – all factors one may consider when planning a trip to a destination. 

From fully wind-powered airports to “trees” embedded with photovoltaic cells that harness solar energy, here are some of the boldest, coolest and most innovative sustainability initiatives in these cities. 

The sprawling Englischer Garden in Munich. Photo credit: Shutterstock.com

1. Munich 

Back in 2009, Munich – home to the Oktoberfest, atmospheric beer gardens and stunning museums and architecture – set a target of running entirely on renewable energy by 2025, which would make it the first city with over one million residents to achieve this lofty goal.

In order to do so, the government has pumped money into its water, solar, geothermal, biomass and wind power industries. Meanwhile, the sprawling Englischer Garden is used as a grazing ground for sheep, a measure that aims to provide natural fertilisation for this urban oasis.

On a grassroots level, local environmental organisation Green City has launched a variety of quirky initiatives since it was founded in 1990, including teaching students about growing food, mobile trees that travel from street to street in a call for the planting of more of them and clothing swaps to encourage conscious consumption. You’ll also find plenty of bulk food stores scattered throughout Munich, and nearly 20% of all traffic in the city is comprised of bicyclists. 

Madrid’s beautiful El Retiro Park. Photo credit: Shutterstock.com

2. Madrid

Besides boasting sprawling gardens such as El Retiro Park (which has over 15,000 treesand the Royal Botanic Gardens (home to over 30,000 plant species), Madrid is taking huge steps to become an even more sustainable city in the coming years. 

In 2016, the city committed to increasing the number of public green spaces to help tackle the effects of climate change – that means 22 new urban gardens alongside additional funding to maintain its current parks. Meanwhile, developers are being encouraged to incorporate greenery into their new builds.

In order to decrease the number of cars on the road, money is also being funnelled into increasing the size of sidewalks to make the city more walkable, while much of the downtown area is closed off to private vehicles from other parts of the city. Madrid recently welcomed 15 new electric buses in March 2020 as part oa plan by the city to eliminate diesel-powered buses by 2022. 

A cycling path along a busy street in Manchester. Photo credit: Shutterstock.com

3. Manchester

In 2018, Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, went on the record with his ambitious to make Manchester one of Europe’s greenest cities – a statement backed by an initial £160m investment in cycling and walking infrastructure and £80m worth of funding for the city’s tram network. 

Indeed, the city aims to eliminate the use of single-use plastics by 2020and has roped in former Manchester United star defender Gary Neville to feature in a campaign to advocate for the cause.

Earlier this year, the city initiated a fleet of 32 new zero-emissions electric double-decker buses, with each having the capacity to take 70 cars off the road and save an added 2,208 tonnes of carbon per year compared to existing buses. All this is part of the city’s drive to be carbon neutral by 2038. 

The fantastical Supertrees at Gardens by the Bay. Photo credit: Gardens by the Bay

4. Singapore

With its Garden City moniker, Singapore found its way onto this list despite its concrete housing blocks and gleaming skyscrapers. Besides having 47% green cover, it also tops MIT’s Green View Index, which measures the amount of canopy cover in cities across the world

Then there’s the remarkable Gardens by the Bay tourist attraction, where you’ll find the eye-catching Supertrees – vertical garden structures that house 150,000 plants, and collect solar energy during the day to power a spellbinding light show at night. 

About 40% of the city-state’s water supply is made up of desalinated water, a figure that the government hopes to up to 85% by 2060. Also currently in the works is a plan to connect Jurong Lake Gardens, the Singapore Botanic Gardens and Gardens by the Bay – three of Singapore’s key urban gardens – via an 11km-long continuous green corridor. Construction on the project is scheduled to start in 2021. 

Instock, a restaurant in Amsterdam where dishes are made from “imperfect” or surplus produce that would otherwise be discarded

5. Amsterdam

With more bikes than people, Amsterdam is widely considered as one of the most bike-friendly cities on the planet. (If boats are more your thing, you can also use them as a green method of exploring the picturesque canals).

This eco-friendly transportation ethos applies to air travel as well: Royal Schiphol Group’s Dutch airports have been running 100% on Dutch wind power since 2018Amsterdam also aims to become a completely emissions-free city by 2030 and achieve climate neutrality by 2050.

When it comes to dealing with food waste, innovative local company Instock runs a restaurant and food truck selling delicious dishes made from “imperfect” or surplus produce that would otherwise be thrown away, and even has a line of pantry products. Finally, if you’re in town, be sure to stop by De Ceuvel, the “clean tech playground” located at the site of a former shipyard. It aims to spread the message of sustainability and consists of a cultural venue, café and houseboats available for rent.  

*The study ranked the world’s greenest cities out of the 50 most-visited destinations  on TripAdvisor, as measured by the number of reviews. More information about the methodology can be found here. 

SEE ALSO: Here’s how Sydney’s harbour spaces are going green

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3 charismatic hotels in colourful neighbourhoods

Postcard Galle, Sri Lanka
Ocean views at Postcard Galle

1. Postcard Galle, Sri Lanka

Located in the historic town of Galle, this luxurious property is perched above a dreamy blue lagoon. The first thing you’ll encounter upon walking into your room is an incredible view of the Indian Ocean stretching out across the horizon, making you feel as if you’ve checked into a deserted island getaway as the sound of crashing waves fills your ears.

Burmese teak ceilings, romantic four-poster beds and sleek titanium flooring are highlights in each of the 10 well-appointed rooms, further adding to the property’s elegant sense of style and comfort. Luxury suites come with additional features such as a plunge pool or jacuzzi, where you can enjoy a soak while drinking in the unobstructed view.

After a long day of exploration, retreat to the hotel and dine at the in-house restaurant, which offers an eclectic menu ranging from traditional Sinhalese and Tamil cuisines to Burgher favourites such as lamprais (various curries and side dishes with rice wrapped in banana leaf).

The neighbourhood:

As tempting as it is to spend all your time relaxing in the hotel, do venture out and make your way down the cobblestone streets, past rows of colonial-era architecture and independent boutiques to explore the old town. Monuments range from the Unesco-listed Galle Fort and the fascinating Galle National Museum, to the restaurants of the Old Dutch Hospital. Check out the vibrant atmosphere of the Dutch Market where you’ll find a wide assortment of fresh local produce.

Singapore Wanderlust Neighbourhood
The charming Wanderlust facade in Singapore

2. Wanderlust, Singapore

Recently refurbished, this boutique accommodation is all about capturing your attention – from the beautiful Peranakan tiles that adorn its exterior to the open-air terrace that serves up a panoramic view of Little India.

For optimum comfort, the spacious loft on the top floor of the heritage building is worth paying for. This home-away-from-home is outfitted with chic, modern furnishings and includes mod-cons such as a kitchenette. But you’ll probably want to make a beeline for the on-site restaurant, Kotuwa. It’s helmed by Rishi Naleendra of the now closed Michelin-starred Cheek By Jowl, and serves an array of robust Sri Lankan flavours.

The neighbourhood:

Little India is home to colourful heritage shophouses, where you’ll find generations-old eateries such as the cheap and cheerful Madras New Woodlands, beloved for the mouthwatering vegetarian feasts presented in katoris (mini metal bowls) and placed on a tray lined with banana leaf.

After a hearty meal, spend the rest of your afternoon checking out the area’s various cultural attractions such as the Veeramakaliamman Temple, known for its five-tiered tower, or the House of Tan Teng Niah, one of the last surviving Chinese villas in Singapore.

Mia Casa by Satori Hanoi neighbourhood
Interior of Mia Casa by Satori

3. Mia Casa by Satori, Hanoi

Opened in January this year, this modern minimalist hotel is tucked away on a narrow street in the capital’s historic French Quarter.

The hotel was built from scratch, borrowing from the neighbourhood’s finer features, such as French balconies and abundant greenery. Meanwhile, thoughtful design includes a large skylight that bathes the interiors – including the inviting, open-plan lobby – in natural light. The earthy colour tones of the bedrooms make for a peaceful refuge in between exploring this loud and slightly chaotic city. 

The neighbourhood:

This area is a haven for history buffs – in the vicinity are handsome colonial architectural gems, including the former offices of the United Nations, the iconic Hanoi Railway Station and a string of beautifully preserved mansions on Ly Thuong Kiet street. After admiring the majestic Opera House, cap off your day with a drink at the iconic Sofitel Metropole Legend, built in 1901, or
the upscale Press Club.

To learn more about Singapore Airlines flights, visit singaporeair.com. For more information and travel advisories, please visit Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website.

SEE ALSO: How restorations are breathing new life into Semarang’s Old Town

This article was originally published in Silkwinds magazine

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Saturday, 27 June 2020

6 exclusive hotels for a private luxury getaway

As much as opulence and grandeur, luxury these days is increasingly about privacy. This is especially true in today’s climate where safe distancing is priority for post-lockdown travel options. “Travellers will want to get away from crowds and find peaceful sanctuaries more than ever,” says Roland Faselthe chief operating officer of Aman.  

Here are six hotels that tick all the boxes when it comes to privacy (10 rooms or less), luxury and exclusive experiences.  

Singita Castleton
Singita Castleton’s airy rooms spill out onto green lawns

1. Singita Castleton Lodge, Sabi Sand, South Africa

Conservation and eco-tourism brand Singita has luxurious private houses across Africa. Previously the home of Singita founder Luke Bailes’ grandfatherthis safari lodge was given a face-lift earlier this year and its six cottages have been spruced up with large communal spaces and elegant design elements. Apart from the daily game drives, guests can participate in guided bush walks, stargazing and wine tasting. There’s even a new yoga pavilion for your daily sun salutations. The lodge also includes your own house manager, field guide, tracker and private chef

2. The Landing, Auckland

Sprawled across over 400 hectares on New Zealand’s Bay of Islands, this remote property offers four villassix private beaches and even its own yacht for fishing trips or visits to local towns. Each villa has its own distinctive appeal, including one with 360-degree views of the ocean and another located in the middle of vineyard. During your stay, enjoy award-winning wines from the vineyard as well as meals prepared by your own personal chef. Menus can be designed to your tastes, using local produce as well as fresh fish caught in the surrounding bay. 

belmond margherita
One of two very exclusive villas in Belmond Villa Margherita

3. Belmond Villa Margherita, Italy

Few places in the world are as arresting as Italy’s Amalfi Coast, a dramatic stretch of coastline along the Sorrentine Peninsula with jagged cliffs, tiny beaches and dreamy, pastel-hued houses hugging the hilltop. This magnificent property features just two suites, which can be booked individually or together, and is surrounded by lush gardens, affording you even greater privacy. personal chef and a private butler will ensure all your needs are taken care of. 

Kasara Niseko
Each townhouse is inspired by the Edo period

4. Kasara Niseko Village Townhouses, Hokkaido

These eight townhouses stand at the gateway to four interlinked ski areasDuring the winter months, take your pick from skiing, snowboarding or snowshoeing. The more adventurous may even want to try a spot of reindeer sledding. Summer offers plenty of fun-filled options, too – from golf and hiking to rafting and hotair ballooning. Back at the residence, rest your tired muscles in the hotel’s thermal pool or unwind in your beautifully decorated house. Each three-bedroom townhouse is inspired by elegance of the Edo period (think tatami floors, paper panels and heavy wood accents) but is outfitted with high-tech Japanese mod-cons.  

Iniala Beach House
Iniala Beach House is popular with the celebrities

5. Iniala Beach House, Phuket

With its secluded location and over-the-top facilities, this Natai Beach jewel is a favourite with many celebrities – including the Kardashian family, who booked the entire property for six days in 2014 when filming Keeping Up with the KardashiansIdeal for families or big group celebrations, the complex comprises three three-bedroom villas and a penthouse. The stylish interiors are the combined effort of 10 famous designers, including Mark Brazier Jones, better known as the set designer for the Fifty Shades of Grey movie. During your stay, enjoy VIP treatment and access to an army of service staff – from butlers and chauffeurs to spa therapists and fitness instructors. Guests also get a personal chef, but you can also simply pop into on-site fine-dining restaurant Esenzi, which serves a degustation menu.  

Well-furnished bamboo huts at Fivelements

6. Fivelements, Bali

Tucked away in the jungle beyond Ubud, this secluded resort features just nine intimate suites perfect for romantic getawaysEach features an open veranda overlooking the Ayung River as well as a private bamboo enclosure with a large open-air bathtub. The one-bedroom suite and two-bedroom suites also come with your own plunge pool, terrace and personalised butler service. Spa treatments are also in a league of their own, with the Healing Village offering eight private riverside suites. The resort has a special focus on wellness and has designated several bamboo huts for yoga, meditation and blessing ceremonies.  

*For more information on when the hotels are receiving bookings, please check their individual websites.   

To learn more about Singapore Airlines flights, visit singaporeair.com. For updates and travel advisories, please visit Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website. 

SEE ALSO: 6 luxury adventures around the network to try

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