Wednesday, 26 October 2022

The best things to do in Bali (beyond the beach)

A salty paradise for surfers, a must for party-hungry backpackers, and a hallowed hotspot for fans of Eat, Pray, Love, Bali is one of the world’s dream holiday destinations. But with crowds come complications, and the island has had its share of negative effects from over-tourism; however, that doesn’t mean you should scratch this Indonesian isle off your list. Trade in the well-trampled coastal tourism track of Kuta, Seminyak, and Canggu for the green interior for a considerate and culturally clued-in adventure in Bali.

1. Dig into traditional farming

Yes, Bali’s beaches are indisputably beautiful but venture inland and you’ll find a lush agricultural landscape that makes this island one of the most innovative rice producers on earth. After first opening their doors over thirty years back, Amandari is one of the island’s original luxury hotels and has become an intrinsic part of the village of Kedewatan in which it’s based. This year, the property launched a new experience in partnership with Astungkara Way, a community-based social initiative dedicated to teaching and maintaining traditional, regenerative farming methods, including the UNESCO-recognised subak irrigation system, which dates back to the ninth century. Located just 20 minutes away in the jade-green rice paddies and community gardens of Subak Uma Lambing, this regenerative farming experience and traditional food cultivation tour provides visitors a chance to connect with the land, as well as with those working it.

Astungkara Way Bali things to do
Gain an understanding of Bali’s traditional regenerative farming methods. Photo credit: Astungkara Way

2. Rise early and hike up a volcano

Made up of two concentric calderas, Mount Batur is an active volcano that last erupted in 2000, but don’t let that put you off visiting. Located around two hours from the spiritual centre of Ubud, this mountain isn’t exactly under the radar, which is why it’s best to visit at sunrise. It takes around two hours to reach the 1,717m peak, and an expert guide is highly recommended, as you’ll be starting in the dark in order to reach the summit in time for dawn. Led by local Indonesian guide Kenny Ketut, the Mount Batur Trekking tour by ToursByLocals makes for an ideal option, and includes a well-earn soak at the natural hot springs of Toya Devasya at the edge of Lake Batur, after the hike.

Mount Batur Bali things to do
Go on a stunning hike to the caldera of this active volcano. Photo credit: saiko3p/

3. Explore the roads less travelled on two wheels

East Bali is known for its unspoiled landscape of emerald hills and glittery black sand beaches, but this area is far less visited than the beach resorts and party spots of southern Bali, making it feel truly special and wild. Explore the tropical forests of palm, rosewood, and bamboo on a low-impact, local-led cycle tour of East Bali. East Bali Bike Tours offers adventures of all levels, but the high-octane East Bali Off The Beaten Track is especially exciting with forest trails, dirt roads, and even a stretch down Mount Agung, Bali’s highest volcano, as well as the most sacred peak in Balinese Hinduism. (Unlike the rest of Indonesia, which is primarily Muslim, Balinese Hinduism is the main religion on the island.)

Some of the area’s hotels also offer bike tours: Perched on a jungle-draped clifftop above the Lombok Strait in East Bali, Amankila has a whole fleet of bicycles. One of the most popular rural routes is Budakeling to Ujung, which starts under Mount Agung in Bakadeling, passes quiet villages, and ends by the ornate Taman Soekasada Ujung, the “floating” water palace built by the King of Karangasem in 1909.

East Bali Off The Beaten Track things to do
This cycle tour takes you to untouched East Bali, far from the tourist throngs. Photo credit: East Bali Off The Beaten Track

4. Take time to breathe in Balinese botany

Everywhere you go in Bali there are flowers: soft pink plumeria blossoms stud the canopy; white tuberose scents the evening air; and offerings of fiery orange marigolds can be spied at every turn. At Mandapa, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve, Flower Gebogan Making is offered as one of the on-site activities, where gebogan — a form of offering usually made with flowers and fruits — can be created with fresh foliage like frangipani and coconut leaves, arranged atop a wooden dulang plate.

Another way to stop and smell the flowers is with a Botanical Products Workshop by Ubud local, Dewi at Ubud Botany Interactive. In this 90-minute workshop, you’ll make all-natural hibiscus shampoo, sunscreen, aloe vera body scrub, and boreh (a traditional healing balm used to improve circulation, warm the body, and even improve headaches). They will serve as perfect handmade souvenirs, packaged in palm leaves or recycled glass bottles.

Mandapa, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve
Try your hand at making a traditional Balinese flower gebogan. Photo credit: Mandapa, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve

The post The best things to do in Bali (beyond the beach) appeared first on SilverKris.

from SilverKris

Tuesday, 25 October 2022

Singapore Airlines donates iconic seats to National Archives

The first generation Singapore Airlines A380 Suites and Singapore Airlines A380 Business Class seats – both introduced in 2007 and retired in 2020 – make history again as Singapore Airlines (SIA) donates an original pair to the National Archives.

Not only are the seats now preserved as an artefact for future generations of travellers to see, they will soon be on display as part of an exhibition at the National Museum of Singapore showcasing homegrown brands. They also serve as a proud reminder of SIA’s many significant milestones and successes in raising the bar for luxury travel.

Here, 15 years after they were first introduced by SIA, we look back and rediscover what made these revolutionary seats so special and ahead of its time.

Business Class Singapore Airlines
Singapore Airlines cabin crew photographed with the Singapore Airlines A380 Business Class seat donated to National Archives.

1.The Suites was the first to offer a double bed in the sky

In 2007, SIA was not only the first to operate the Airbus A380, it was also the first airline to introduce the Suites concept on board the Airbus A380 aircraft, which offered an unprecedented level of luxury and privacy with a full-sized bed, sliding doors and window blinds, among other features, built into each cabin. Passengers were also pampered with exclusive amenities that included Givenchy linens and Salvatore Ferragamo amenity kits.

For couples travelling together, the most exciting feature was a double bed that could be made by combining two adjacent Suites. The Suites could also be converted into a social space to allow passengers to dine opposite each other, just like at a restaurant.

2. In just three minutes, the Suites could be converted into a bed

Cabin crew assigned to the Suites underwent additional training to learn to set up the Suites’ built-in bed within three minutes. To reflect the top-level service standards that SIA set for the new Suites, there was one cabin crew for every four passengers. This ensured dedicated and attentive service for fliers occupying the 12 Suites on the A380.

3. The Suites were created by a yacht designer

If the Suites remind you of staterooms on a luxury boat, that is because it was designed by acclaimed French yacht designer Jean-Jacques Coste. Outfitted with plush leather seats upholstered by the legendary Italian furniture makers Poltrona Frau, the Suites also came furnished with a wide, height-adjustable table that could function as a workstation, meeting table or dining table.

Suites ad Singapore Airlines
Singapore Airlines’ ad in 2007, promoting the Suites’ luxurious design and features. 

4. The Business Class Seat was the widest of its kind

With an impressive 34″ width, the Business Class Seat was the widest of its kind at the time and could be transformed into a comfortable full-flat bed for a good night’s sleep. Not only was the Business Class seat crafted in luxurious real leather and convertible into a fully flat 76″ bed, it also offered fliers maximised stowage area and ample space to stretch their legs while sitting. Fliers could also share the seat with a child while working or watching a movie.

5. The Business Class seat was the first to introduce direct aisle access to all passengers on board the A380 aircraft

With the cabin’s innovative 1-2-1 seating arrangement, all passengers seated in the A380’s Business Class were able to access the aisle directly, even those by the window. The Business Class seat was also the first to offer premium features that are now standard in all SIA aircraft: AC power supply and two USB ports. It also carried an exceptionally large 15.4″ KrisWorld eX2 entertainment display with a word processor, spreadsheet and presentation software that helped business travellers to work on the go.

Visitors may view the seats in an upcoming exhibition at the National Museum next year. More details will be shared closer to date on the National Museum’s website, Facebook and Instagram pages.

The post Singapore Airlines donates iconic seats to National Archives appeared first on SilverKris.

from SilverKris

Friday, 14 October 2022

Gorgeous palaces, forts and havelis where you can book a stay in India

Beautifully preserved palaces, forts and havelis have become some of the most popular retreats in India, allowing travellers to completely immerse themselves in the country’s rich, royal history.

The majority of palaces and forts were formerly inhabited by Indian royalty; forts in particular were built with strong defences, including earthen ramparts and stone reinforcements to keep enemies out. Havelis, meanwhile, were once private mansions owned by the state’s princes, wealthy merchants or jagirdars (officials who had been gifted land from the king). Many of them are still run by their descendants and now welcome guests into their homes.

Today, a stay at one of these fascinating properties gives travellers a glimpse of how luxurious life was for India’s blue bloods and elite.

1. Bujera Fort, Udaipur

Tucked up in the Aravalli Hills, just a 20-minute drive from Udaipur in the western state of Rajasthan, lies this luxurious, handsome fort. A true design-lover’s dream, the property features antiques, an incredible collection of artwork and sprawling gardens to lose yourself in. Constructed with tradition in mind, it features 86 hand-carved stone columns and jharokas (overhanging enclosed balconies) crafted in local stone.

Bujera Fort India SilverKris
Bujera Fort

2. Haveli Dharampura, Delhi

Haveli Dharampura in Delhi is a meticulously restored mansion reportedly built in 1887. It is said to have served as the grand home of one of the city’s Muslim noblemen. Its original design features are heavily influenced by the architectural style of the Mughal Empire, which was dissolved in 1857. These days, the abode feels miles away from the hustle and bustle of the dense, heady Indian capital it is located in. Its 14 rooms are decorated in traditional style and the shared areas such as the courtyards, rooftop area and archways have all been lovingly restored. Grab a bite to eat at Lakhori restaurant – featuring food inspired by Old Delhi’s Chandni Chowk streets which sold spices, dried fruit and Indian sweets – for a snapshot of what the good life must have felt like in Delhi during the 19th century.


Haveli Dharampura

3. RAAS Jodhpur

Immerse yourself in history at RAAS Jodhpur, which was built around an 18th-century haveli in this ancient city in Rajasthan. Many of its original structures, such as the darikhana (previously the Chamber of Carpets) and the baradari (which once served as the owner’s personal entertainment pavilion) are now iconic dining establishments in the hotel. The pièce de résistance though is the sublime view of Mehrangarh Fort which is perched up on the hill overlooking the famous “blue city” below.

Raas Jodphur SilverKris
Raas, Jodphur. Photo credit: Shutterstock

4. Neemrana Fort-Palace, Alwar

Just a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Delhi is the incredible Neemrana Fort-Palace. Built in 1464, the fort was restored from ruins and now plays host to guests who appreciate accommodation steeped in history. Boasting nine wings and 74 rooms and suites, the fort is nothing short of epic. We recommend exploring the 18th-century Neemrana stepwell, a huge manmade chasm that was previously used to harvest water and is still a marvel to behold.

Neemerama estate
Neemerama Fort-Palace

5. Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai

With its opulent design and attentive staff, it’s easy to feel transported at the Taj Mahal Palace. Built in 1903, 21 years before the famous Gateway of India, Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai is a tourist attraction in itself as a landmark building of the Bombay Harbour. It was also the first Indian hotel to have electricity, as well as to house the city’s first licensed bar. If you do stay here, be sure to take the complimentary hotel tour to soak up the incredible history of the palace, which has also played host to famous guests such as Muhammad Ali and the Obamas.

Rajput Suite at The Taj Mahal Hotel Mumbai
The Taj Mahal Hotel Mumbai

6. Samode Palace, Jaipur

Built in the 19th century in the pink-hued capital of Rajasthan, Samode Palace is a great representation of the regal Indo-Saracenic architecture – combining Indian and Mughal styles – that abounds in this city. An hour and a half’s drive outside of Jaipur, the palace offers breathtaking views of the Aravalli range as well as luxurious accommodations featuring oversized tubs, private balconies and, in the case of the four royal suites, private courtyards. Take a dip in the marble and mosaic-decorated outdoor pool, or head up to the rooftop where an infinity pool and Jacuzzi await.

Samode Palace. Photo credit:

7. Vivaana Culture Hotel, Mandawa

An artfully restored twin haveli from the 19th century, Vivaana Culture Hotel is located in a small town around 200km from Jaipur and features carved pillars, hand-painted frescos and colourful stained-glass windows in almost every corner. It’s easy to feel transported back in time while sipping on piping hot local tea in one of the lavishly decorated dining areas. Learn more about the area’s history from its daily cultural shows, or head to the Elephant House Spa for a traditional Ayurvedic treatment like shirodhara, where warm oil is gently poured over the forehead.

Vivaana Culture Hotel
Vivaana Culture Hotel

Please check the establishments’ respective websites for opening hours as well as booking requirements before visiting, and remember to adhere to safe-distancing measures while out and about.

The information is accurate as of press time. For the latest travel advisory updates, please refer to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website.

To learn more about Singapore Airlines flights, visit To join us in protecting the environment by offsetting your carbon emissions on your future flights, visit the following websites to learn more: and

This article was originally published in December 2018

The post Gorgeous palaces, forts and havelis where you can book a stay in India appeared first on SilverKris.

from SilverKris

Thursday, 6 October 2022

3 days in Singapore: Celebrating Deepavali

If you have just three days to spend in Singapore this October, make the Deepavali celebrations and Little India the cornerstone of your itinerary. The yearly festival – which falls on 24 October in 2022 – sees the neighbourhood light up with dazzling lights, serving as a backdrop for your jaunts through colourful shophouses and bustling marketplaces. Beyond Little India, there are also plenty of opportunities to explore the city’s other sights, including river safaris and temple visits. Here’s how to get the most of your three days in the Little Red Dot.

Day 1: Foodie hotspots

Given Singapore’s humid climate, it’s important for visitors to stay well-fed and hydrated. Start your morning at one of the island’s most beloved hawker centres, Maxwell Food Centre, which is located between Chinatown and the financial district.

Start the day like a local and order a spicy teh halia (black tea with evaporated milk and ginger) or a thirst-quenching cup of freshly squeezed sugarcane juice from the drink stalls. With such a packed itinerary, you’re going to want to fuel up with something substantial so opt for a piping hot and fiery red plate of mee goreng (fried noodles) from Maxwell Food Centre’s line of Indian-Muslim stalls. After a hearty breakfast, take a short stroll down Maxwell Road to the Singapore City Gallery at the URA Centre. A highlight of the recently upgraded gallery is the large model showing past, current and future developments on the island. You can also see the progress of the Little India enclave as it grew over the years.

Maxwell Hawker Centre SilverKris
Maxwell Food Centre is a great spot to familiarise yourself with Singaporean cuisine. Photo credit: Vichy Deal/

To work up an appetite for lunch, take a stroll to the nearby Duxton Hill neighbourhood where you’ll come across Duxton Reserve. Housed within unified former 19th-century heritage shophouses, the hotel celebrates its Chinatown location through dramatic gold fans, Oriental screens and calligraphy wallpaper set against bold hues of black and gold. Practically next door, the delightfully kitschy Xiao Ya Tou offers a unique mod-Sin menu which highlights contemporary takes on classic Singaporean dishes like Hokkien mee and beef kway teow.

Xiao Ya Tou offers quirky takes on classic Singaporean dishes. Photo credit: Xiao Ya Tou

After lunch, pay a visit to the nearby Thian Hock Keng, the oldest Chinese temple in Singapore. Built in 1839 to honour a sea goddess, its location was once at the waterfront before land reclamation left it further inland. The temple is known for its traditional architecture and pavilions arranged around a central courtyard. Explore its interior before taking a short walk to Yixing Xuan Teahouse to sample and buy premium Chinese and Taiwanese teas.

Thian Hock Keng Temple in Singapore
Thian Hock Keng’s tranquil courtyard. Photo credit: AsiaTravel/

Once you’ve explored the temple, it’s just a short walk to the charming Keong Saik Road where you’ll find Thevar, a modern Indian restaurant helmed by Penang-born chef Mano Thevar that clinched two Michelin stars in 2022. While the menu here remains anchored on traditional Indian flavours from the Malay Peninsula, the presentation is undeniably modern. For the full experience, spring for the chef’s tasting menu that starts at $288. Finally, round off the day with a night cap at Elephant Room which offers a range of intriguing cocktails inspired by India’s various states.

Day 2: Cultural immersion

The Hindu festival of Deepavali celebrates the triumph of good over evil. Here, the kaleidoscopic event is marked by a public holiday (24 October 2022) and sees parts of the city festooned in pretty lights. After a leisurely breakfast at your hotel, head to Tekka Centre at the bottom end of Little India. This pastel building with shops and a hawker centre also houses one of the city’s best wet markets and offers a dazzling array of Indian food at remarkable prices.

Tekka Centre Singapore SilverKris
Tekka Centre offers a vast variety of Indian food at affordable prices. Photo credit: Sultonyohe/

After this, head up Serangoon Road to Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, known for its colourful entrance gopuram (tower). The temple is dedicated to the goddess Kali, the destroyer of evil, chosen by early Indian settlers to help them feel safe in their new homeland.

Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple Singapore
Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple’s colourful gopuram. Photo credit: Ronnie Chua/

Have lunch at the nearby Ananda Bhavan – also open 24 hours – which specialises in South Indian idli, dosa and appam. Alternatively, head to Mustard at Race Course Road where you can get a taste of authentic Bengali food. The restaurant also claims to be the first in Singapore specialising in the cuisine.

Walk off all that food at the Indian Heritage Centre. The angular four-storey glass and concrete structure examines the heritage of the Indian diaspora, tracing its origins and influences through a series of thematic galleries. Little India’s sole cinema showing Indian films – Rex Cinema – sadly closed a few years ago, but if you want to catch the latest Bollywood and South Indian blockbusters, you can take a quick cab ride to Carnival Cinemas in Shaw Tower or Golden Mile Tower.

Indian Heritage Centre Singapore
Take in a bit of culture at the Indian Heritage Centre. Photo credit: r.nagy/

After your flick, get a taxi back to Serangoon Road after dark to enjoy the festive lights strung above the 1.5km stretch of road (the lights will remain until 13 November 2022). If you visit on or before 24 October, browse the festive markets at Campbell Lane and Hastings Road and on Serangoon Road.

For dinner, take another short cab ride to ADDA, a modern Indian restaurant in Singapore with a menu that puts contemporary renditions of classic street food at the forefront. Standout dishes include the Bombay-vada pav sliders, potli samosas and the Singapore-Indian fusion dish charred laksa salmon.

Day 3: On the water

In this island nation, seas and rivers are inescapable, offering novel ways to take in the sights of the city. The morning presents you with two options, depending on the kind of adventure that floats your boat. Your first choice is to wake up leisurely and take a taxi to the River Safari, a wildlife park that focuses on river habitats and fauna and is home to 11,000 animals including 40 threatened species.

River Safari Singapore
Discover some of Asia’s most elusive creatures at the River Safari. Photo credit: Sheri Armstrong/

Alternatively, fuel up with coffee, pandan pancakes and more at the casual Tolido’s Espresso Nook. Suitably charged, head over to the Singapore Sports Hub water sports centre to rent a kayak and paddle around the Kallang Basin; certified kayakers can venture further down alongside Gardens by the Bay, affording views of the gardens’ glass domes and otherworldly Supertrees, with Marina Bay Sands and the business district beyond (everyone must bring photo identification for registration).

As a reward for your exertion (or exhaustion) hop on a cab and make for Yantra at Tanglin Mall. This contemporary Indian restaurant is led by chef Pinaki Ray as well as culinary historian Pritha Sen and boasts a menu that showcases niche ingredients from across Southeast Asia. In addition to well-executed classics like the Kerala fish fry and the murg ka sula (charcoal barbecued chicken), you’ll also find modern creations like the butter chicken kulcha (mild chicken curry stuffed in puffed tandoori bread).

After a hearty meal, make a return to Little India to do a little shopping and pick up some souvenirs. The stretch of Serangoon Road closest to Little India MRT is replete with saree and tailor shops that offer ready-to-wear items as well as custom-made Western-Indian suits. If you’re flummoxed by the options, Dakshaini Silks is a great place to start thanks to their helpful and knowledgeable staff.

Of course, no shopping trip in the neighbourhood is complete without a visit to its most famous 24-hour shopping destination: Mustafa Centre. If you’ve been inspired by the Indian cuisine you’ve tried so far, the department store’s spice section is one of the best places to stock up for culinary experimentation at home. In addition, you’ll find a wide variety of products including watches, fountain pens, electronics and sports equipment.

Mustafa Centre (Photo: Tang Yan Song /
Mustafa Centre is open 24-hours daily. Photo credit: Tang Yan Song/

End your three-day adventure with dinner and drinks at Firangi Superstar, one of the city’s buzziest new restaurant openings (reservations are essential). Step in and it’s immediately apparent that it takes a maximalist approach to its cinematic portrayal of India. The restaurant features four themed spaces that invoke different facets of the country’s history.

The menu offers elevated takes on Indian classics like tandoori lamb, grilled snapper and even a vegetarian rogan josh made with jackfruit. After dinner, sink into the plush chairs at the “Officer’s Lounge” and sip on unique Indian-inflected cocktails like the Fenugreek Manhattan which is crafted with a spiced vermouth and ghee-infused cognac.

Firangi Superstar Romantic Restaurants in Singapore
Firangi Superstar’s plush Officer’s Lounge. Photo credit: Firangi Superstar

Feature image: Pete Burana/

This article was originally published in the November 2018 issue of SilverKris magazine

The post 3 days in Singapore: Celebrating Deepavali appeared first on SilverKris.

from SilverKris

Tuesday, 4 October 2022

These forgotten mountain paths in Northern Thailand are every trail runner’s dream

It’s 6am on the second day when the scale of what we’re about to do really sinks in. We’re clambering down from our stilted, thatched hut in Kup Kap, a Lahu tribal village in Northern Thailand, perched 1,100m above the surrounding valley. The sunrise is spectacular, but our legs ache from the previous day’s effort. The knowledge of what’s to come clouds the dawn light with nervous anticipation.

We’ve already run, hiked and scrambled over 30km, ascending more than 2,000m across tree roots, through river beds and up slippery leaf-strewn slopes. We are tired but there’s another 30km and a succession of intimidating peaks to conquer today. Yet, between the physical effort required to pull this off and the sheer beauty of our surroundings, it’s clear why this part of Thailand is proving such a draw for trail runners.

Trail Chiang Mai Silkwinds
An early-morning view from the Lisu Village of Kup Kap

Three of us – myself, local trail enthusiast Channada Chananoi and Singapore-based runner Scott Pugh – are in the mountains north of Chiang Mai, trying to keep up with Sébastien Bertrand, the enigmatic French guide behind tour agency Thailand Mountain Trail. These are the farthest foothills of the Himalayas, a haven for wildlife and home to numerous hill tribes, and yet these wild and remote footpaths see next to no visitors. It’s a stunning two-day route, which sees us start deep in the jungle, climb past coffee plantations and then track a ridgeline thick with cherry blossom down towards the border with Myanmar, finishing the run surrounded by towering limestone peaks. It’s by no means easy going and we’d be utterly lost without our guide.

Bertrand, solidly-built and with close-cropped hair, bounds uphill with the enviable ease of someone who spends most of his days in these mountains. The 44-year-old moved to Thailand six years ago, having grown up in Annecy, France, where he worked as a product manager for outdoor brand Columbia.

Trail Chiang Mai Silkwinds
Sébastien Bertrand spent nearly a year establishing a 350km trail between Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai

By his own admission, he came to Thailand with “big plans and some ego” and threw himself headfirst into what proved to be a mammoth undertaking: connecting the trails between Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, in the hope of establishing Thailand’s first long-distance footpath, akin to the Grande Randonnée (GR) routes of Europe. It was a project that took him nearly a year and, when completed in late 2013, the route – which he marked with now-faded orange rags tied to trees – extended across 350km (by comparison, a journey by road between the two towns is less than 200km). Because this had never been attempted before, there were no guides who could show him the way. Indeed the route didn’t exist, except in his mind. “What he did was crazy,” says Pim, one of the residents of Kup Kap, “[But now] he knows these mountains better than I do.”

Historically, the tribes who live here used footpaths to travel between the neighbouring villages but with the advent of dirt roads and motorcycles, these old ways were fast becoming lost to memory. “The old villagers still know the trails,” Bertrand says. “But they weren’t in any kind of shape to show me. And the young people just don’t know the way.” Moreover, the paths were only ever intended for short journeys and had never been linked together in this way before. Bertrand had to create the whole route step by step.


That meant bushwhacking through thick jungle, scouring out-of-print army maps and Google Earth, tracking rivers and sometimes simply guessing where the trail might be. It was a slow and painful process, one Bertrand undertook largely solo, often getting lost and relying on his head torch to find his way back after dark. While his wife, Rattana Chomphuphan, came with him for some of the early reconnaissance, it’s clear this was an intensely personal project. “You decide to make some changes in your life and follow your own adventure.” He adds, “Of course, at the start maybe you don’t realise it will be so complicated.”

Meal Chiang Mai Silkwinds
A simple evening meal in the village of Kup Kap

He shares his story gradually, in the all-too-infrequent stops to catch our breath at the scattered villages along the way. Some are tiny – a handful of homes perched on a ridgeline – others, particularly when we drop down into a valley, stretch for a mile or more and include schools and churches. Our welcome at each village is invariably warm – the local residents now know Bertrand well, and he employs some of them to dig out steps and keep the trails clear. Chan Chai, the forty-something assistant head of the Hmong village of Pakhia, explains they are happy to see foreigners running here. “We’re proud that people from all over the world now come to our village,” he says.

It’s a fascinating, accelerated lesson in the history of the region as we run between villages that are variously home to Hmong, Lahu and Lisu tribes – people from China, Myanmar and Laos who long ago settled in these mountains. They’re clearly bemused by what we’re doing but happy to indulge us all the same. “Nobody here has ever run so far,” Lisu villager Asama tells us as we take a break in the middle of his village. “But we can understand why you like being out in nature.”

While traditional dress and the old ways of life may be declining, people here continue to live from the land. On our first night, we eat a simple, locally grown dinner in the home of a local Lahu family – chicken curry, vegetable soup, crispy khai jiao (Thai-style omelette) and helping upon helping of rice, a much-needed refuel after a long, tiring day.

Ban Fa Suai Chiang Mai Silkwinds
A bemused local looks on as the group passes through Ban Fa Suai village

Once he had finally connected and marked the route he’d set out to find, Bertrand invited a group of high-profile Asian ultra-trail runners, including Singapore’s Jeri Chua (founder of Red Dot Running Company) and Janet Ng (race director of the ultra-endurance race, Hong Kong 100) to run the entire route over a week. “We had some surprises,” he shares. For example, a trail in the dry season looks very different in November after the rains. “It was very wild in places. I carried a machete to cut through the bamboo, but by the end, my legs were devastated.”

For most people, the idea of covering such a long arduous route on foot, let alone attempting it in seven days, will seem like madness. But to a sub-set of runners, pushing the boundaries of the possible is a big part of the appeal. Ultra-endurance (any distance longer than a marathon) events aren’t new, but have exploded in popularity in recent years, particularly after the success of Christopher McDougall’s 2009 book, Born to Run. Trail running, meanwhile, is one of the world’s fastest-growing sports (according to a Statista report, recorded participation in the US grew from 4.5 million runners in 2006 to more than 9 million by 2017) and is increasingly popular across Asia, with a year-round race calendar. In fact, Bertrand had plans to stage a 100-mile race with a view to becoming part of the Ultra-Trail World Tour, but was never able to get the necessary permissions. Instead, he decided to showcase what he’d found to anyone keen to push themselves that little bit harder.

Children Chiang Mai Silkwinds
The revived trail has opened up villages to tourists

Bertrand is not alone when it comes to falling in love with the wilder side of Chiang Mai. The city is now awash with trekking and adventure agencies and is fast becoming the de facto capital of trail running in Thailand. Enthusiasts from around the world fly in for trail running retreats and there’s also a passionate local community centred around Basecamp Coffee House at the foot of the 1,600m-high Doi Suthep.

The appeal can be hard to explain but our group is clearly smitten and, over dinner that first day, we talked about what drew us here. For Chananoi, it’s a way of discovering “some very special places”, the pleasure of linking two distant locations in a single push and truly “earning the views”. For Pugh, it’s the endorphin high that comes with pushing your body to exhaustion, of “finding out what I’m capable of”.

Trail Chiang Mai Silkwinds
Chiang Mai has quickly become the de facto capital of trail running in Thailand

The giddy sensation of flying down a pine- cushioned, single-track downhill trail, as we’ve just done, is hard to beat. It’s what writer David Foster Wallace – in a different context – called “kinetic beauty… human beings’ reconciliation with the fact of having a body”. There’s something deeply primal and satisfying about moving fast over difficult terrain. And having pushed ourselves so hard for so long, even the simplest of things – the cold outdoor shower before bed, our hosts offering us coffee when we stumble down the next morning – feel newly meaningful.

Halfway up the steepest ascent on day two, we reach a break in the trees and stop to regroup. For the first few minutes, we’re just breathing heavily. On one hand, it’s a ridiculous sight – four city folks sweating and struggling up a remote hillside. Yet, as our heart rates settle and our breathing slows, the beauty of the landscape stretched before us becomes apparent. As we drink in the majestic surroundings, it’s hard to think of anywhere we’d rather be.

Please check the establishments’ respective websites for opening hours as well as booking requirements before visiting, and remember to adhere to safe-distancing measures while out and about. The information is accurate as of press time.

For the latest travel advisory updates, please refer to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website. To learn more about Singapore Airlines flights, visit To join us in protecting the environment by offsetting your carbon emissions on your future flights, visit the following websites to learn more: and

Feature image by Charnchanut Charujinda

This article was originally published in the April 2019 issue of Silkwinds magazine

The post These forgotten mountain paths in Northern Thailand are every trail runner’s dream appeared first on SilverKris.

from SilverKris

Monday, 3 October 2022

Best spots for snowboarding along the West Coast of North America

It’s finally slope season in America and Canada, so time to dust off those duffels and pack them full send mode with lift-ready ski jackets, pants and gloves. Ready to hit some of the most epic snowboarding runs along the West Coast of North America? From Whistler in Canada to Big Bear Lake in California, these resorts will keep powder hounds satisfied through the 2022-23 season. 

1. Whistler Blackcomb

Consistently hailed as one of the planet’s top resorts, Whistler Blackcomb’s legendary peaks offer such an amplitude of runs that you’d need a week to cover its acres of diverse terrain. Plus, it has one of the longest ride seasons anywhere. This season, for example, the resort expects to remain open through the end of May 2023, depending on conditions. A two-time Guinness World Record gondola connects the resorts two mountains – Whistler and Blackcomb. Sailing 435 metres above the valley floor, the PEAK 2 PEAK gondola is the world’s highest lift of its kind and the world’s longest unsupported span for a lift of its kind at 3.03 kilometres long, hence the two World Records.

Whistler, Canada (1 hour 45 minutes from Vancouver airport)

Whistler Blackcomb. Photo credit: Christie FitzPatrick
You’ll need at least a week to see all that Whistler Blackcomb has to offer. Photo credit: Christie FitzPatrick

2. Crystal Mountain Resort

Hitting the slopes with the highest volcanic peak in the US as your backdrop? Now that’s a bucket list experience. In the Pacific Northwest, carving trails doesn’t get any better than at Crystal Mountain Resort where views of Mount Rainier and the beautiful Cascade Range create Washington state’s most scenic terrain. And it’s just 90 minutes outside of Seattle. After a day on the mountain, dine at Summit House to experience Washington’s most highly elevated restaurant. Transport via the Mount Rainier Gondola is included for season pass and lift ticket holders. From there, you can also spy the Northwest’s other famous volcanic peaks.

Crystal Mountain, Washington (1.5 hours from Seattle)

Snowboarding West Coast Crystal Mountain Resort. Photo credit: Jason Hummel
Crystal Mountain Resort is located at the highest volcanic peak in the United States. Photo credit: Jason Hummel

3. Summit at Snoqualmie

Go from the city to the slopes in under an hour! Just 80 kilometres from downtown, Seattle’s closest ski resort, Summit at Snoqualmie, may be Western Washington’s most modest mountain, but its convenient location in the Cascade Range isn’t the only thing that makes it great. Comprised of four mountains – Summit West, Summit Central, Summit East and Alpental – its all-levels terrain traverses not only back country tree runs for the more advanced, but also bunny slopes for beginners. There’s even a designated tubing area. The night skiing operation at Snoqualmie scores bragging points as well. During peak seasons, runs remain open until 10pm six nights a week.

Snoqualmie Pass, Washington (50 minutes from Seattle)

Snowboarding West Coast Summit at Snoqualmie Mike Yoshida
Summit at Snoqualmie lies just 50 minutes from Seattle. Photo credit: Mike Yoshida

4. Heavenly Ski Resort

Heavenly Ski Resort in South Lake Tahoe delivers on what its name implies – a truly divine ski experience. Spanning California and Nevada, this perfectly positioned resort provides awe-inspiring views of the largest freshwater lake in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Its 4,800 skiable acres make prime powder conditions, especially for intermediates. On the California side of the resort, the gondolas ride straight up into the lodge from the center of Heavenly Village in the town of South Lake Tahoe. The resort’s newly upgraded EpicMix app now provides up-to-the-minute lift line forecasts, so you can plan your runs based on the shortest wait times.

Lake Tahoe, CA (3.5 hours from SFO airport)

Snowboarding West Coast United States Heavenly Ski Resort
Heavenly Ski Resort offers stunning views of the largest freshwater lake in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Photo credit: Heavenly Ski Resort

5. Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort

Ready for some serious snowboarding in the West Coast? At 3,369 meters, Mammoth Mountain is the highest ski resort in California. Its longest run, Road Runner, stretches for just under five kilometres along the backside of the mountain to the main lodge. For serious powder hounds, the Unbound Terrain Parks can’t be missed. Comprised of ten parks from Wonderland and Forest Trail to the Hemlocks, this freestyler’s playground spans 100 acres, enough landscape to spend an entire day attempting its 50 jumps, two halfpipes, and endless snow features. There’s more to Mammoth than extremes, though. While the resort does attract the pros, its diverse terrain leaves plenty of safe space for people of all skill levels, even beginners. In typical California style, it receives an average of 300 sunny days per year, making for great conditions – it’s also typically the first resort to open and the last one to close.

Mammoth, CA (5 hours from either SFO or LAX)

Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort is a paradise for freestyle snowboarders. Photo credit: Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort

6. Big Bear Mountain Resort

Hitting the slopes doesn’t always mean go big or go home. Sometimes you want a more manageable snowboarding experience and this is exactly what makes Big Bear Mountain Resort in the West Coast so great. Skiers and snowboarders alike will find it the quainter cousin of top West Coast resorts that offer almost too much space to cover. Big Bear Mountain’s twin properties, Snow Summit and Bear Mountain, offer a free shuttle service so guests can spend the day hopping between the two parks. With expansive beginner areas, it’s a great place to bring the family for a weekend cabin stay that isn’t far from Los Angeles airport.

Big Bear Lake, CA (2.5 hours from LAX)

The post Best spots for snowboarding along the West Coast of North America appeared first on SilverKris.

from SilverKris