Tag Archives: Ecotourism

Green & Chic | Raas Haveli, Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India

By Dian Hasan | August 31, 2010

Some of Asia’s most historically impressive destinations (save Bali, Bangkok, Luang Prabang & Kyoto) have often lacked accommodation that matched the magic of the place. The choices were mostly limited by large and unimaginative chain hotels, or a coterie of humble abodes for the backpacking crowd. And nothing really in between – a stylish small and personal hotel that breathes and oozes the place. Personality was missing big time. Such condition afflicted Jodhpur, Rajasthan, one of India’s most alluring destinations!

As the Indian economy continues to forge ahead, minting a new monied crowd with a lifestyle appetite to explore the continent’s diverse offerings, tagging with it an international clientele that seeks the chic and hip. The right hotels are coming on stream. Raas Haveli is one such fine pedigree! The age of the Boutique Hotel has arrived!

Situated at the foot of the mighty Meherangarh Fort, in the heart of Jodhpur’s Walled City. It is the only luxury hotel to be based in the old town, and the views directly up to the fort, which looms above you, are quite spectacular. It is situated in the prestigious north-eastern quarter of the Walled City, just a stone’s throw from the Clock Tower. One may simply wonder out into the surrounding maze of streets to explore the markets. The hotel comprises four charming 150-year old restored buildings in Jodhpur’s very own ‘rose-red’ sandstone.

This is combined with stylish, contemporary new buildings which have been designed by an acclaimed architect. In its entirety the Ras Haveli (as it was originally called) remains today the best preserved, largest and most complete urban noble residence perhaps in all Rajasthan. This exquisite little hotel is Jodhpur’s first eco friendly boutique hotel in the true sense of the term.

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Toraja Highlands, where traditional funerals reach new heights

By Dian Hasan | August 27, 2010

Tana Toraja (Toraja Highlands), high in the mountains near the center of Sulawesi (Celebes), is one of the last remaining places in Indonesia where one can still witness a unique living culture. Such is the Torajan way of life, and has been unaffected by tourism. Much like the Balinese, the Torajans have managed to stay true to their tradition, where it draws another similarity with Bali, a culture marked by the size (and grandiose) of their funerals.

Magnificent traditional Tongkonan houses set in terraced rice fields, with their intricate geometric and colorful woodcarvings, are a must see. Buffalo heads greet anyone at the house entrance, an attribute to the homeowner’s stature and standing in the society.

The Torajans are a proud and unique people, best known for their elaborate death rituals, which can see feasts lasting for several days, culminating in burials in cliffside catacombs that take literally take an entire village to hoist in place.

Located in the high plains, Tana Toraja has a pleasant temperate climate. Days can be quite warm, however nights cool enough that hotels in the area need air conditioning. The cool dry season runs from March to September/October. Toraja’s lush natural landscape also afford it many different ways to enjoy it, from trekking, mountain biking and white water rafting in the Maitang River.

The best months to see funerals are normally August and September. This is when the farming people of the area have free time before the arrival of the monsoon season (rainy season) in October.

Tana Toraja has remained “undiscovered”, and is unlike other well-known travel destinations in Indonesia that are trampled  with tourists. Popular with European tourists who appreciate its remote location and pure unaffected culture. Accommodation choices are fairly limited, mostly small locally-operated small hotels and Inns. And a few restaurants or shops catering to the tourist trade. All adding the allure of Tana Toraja and her people’s unique culture.

Tana Toraja offers plenty of outdoor activities, ranging from trekking to white water rafting on the Maitang River. Continue reading

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The Three Gilis, Indonesia’s trio of rustic isles Eat of Bali

Sandwiched between Indonesia’s famed Bali and her immediate neighbor Lombok, is a tiny archipelago of the Three Gilis (Gili means Island in the local Sasak language). The three islands of Trawangan, Meno and Air, collectively known as the Three Gilis, are three rustic tropical islands that are void of motorized vehicles, and thus, are maintained at their original rustic state.

Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air, surrounded by glorious sandy beaches, colorful coral reefs and crystal clear turquoise waters teeming with marine life attract travelers from all over the world. Located a few miles off the northwest coast of Lombok, the Gili Islands are approximately 35km from the eastern tip of Bali. They are now easily accessible direct from Bali with the new Fast Boat service, or by plane and local boat from Lombok.

Fast boat service to the Three Gilis from Bali, Gili Cat II
Fast boat service to the Three Gilis from Bali, Blue Water Express

Local transport in the horse-drawn carriages, called “Cidomo”.

There is an absence of cars, motorcycles, and hawkers that adds greatly to the leisure of staying on the Gilis. Most of the holiday accommodation is on Gili Trawangan, generally small bamboo bungalows a few metres from the beach. Visitors from all over the world are attracted to the simple pleasures of sun, snorkeling, diving and beautiful beaches.

There are many options for an enjoyable holiday on the islands. Activities including scuba diving packages, golf days, horse riding at sunset, trekking Mt Rinjani and culture trips.You can rent snorkeling equipment, rent a kayak, go fishing, or take a glass bottom boat to see the magnificent coral reefs and fishes. Best time to Visit: May through August.

Blessed with more than 300 days of sun a year, Gili Trawangan has been a favored tourist destination for decades. Its underwater environment attracts both divers and snorkelers alike. Its reputation as a tropical island paradise is both well deserved and readily apparent when you step off the boat. Continue reading


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Green & Chic | Jeeva Klui Resort, Lombok, Indonesia

By Dian Hasan | August 20, 2010

With Bali’s continued rise to prominence as a world-class island destination that garners accolades from global travel industry and press, there is one island destined to capitalize on Bali’s fame: Lombok, the adjacent island East of Bali.

Lombok is often referred to as Bali 30 years ago, before the arrival of global tourism, but Lombok is in fact a very different place. With a natural beauty all its own, with its famous landmark, Mount Rinjani volcano with her 3-color lakes, and pristine beaches that rival the best in the world, and a culture that is fusion of Balinese and Sasak people, Lombok has plenty to offer.

Its less developed infrastructure is probably her best-kept secret, offering solitude and unspoiled beauty that beckons any weary urban soul to her shores.

Lombok’s newest resort is a testament to the island’s rise. And unlike Bali’s unchecked development of massive resorts, Lombok has taken the road less traveled, focusing on small-scale resorts – mostly in Villa compounds – that stay true to eco-friendliness and unobtrusive views of immediate surroundings. Such are the offerings of JEEVA KLUI, a gem of a small resort on Klui Beach, just North of Senggigi beach, nearby Lombok’s famous trio of Gilis of Trawangan, Meno and Air (Gili is island in the local language)

Along an uninterrupted stretch of curving beach, Jeeva Klui, “The Soul of Klui,” blends the full spectrum of sea, tropical foliage, and local culture with the natural beauty of Klui Beach.

From dramatic sunsets etching the volcanoes of Bali to the stone and thatch beach front suites framed by swaying palms, the natural simplicity of Jeeva Klui’s traditional design and Lombok’s splendid tropical environment create an ambience of modern luxury and laid back indulgence.

Jeeva Klui’s tropical allure embraces quaint touches of traditional village life. Great care was taken to conceptualize a resort with strong emphasis on providing the ultimate holiday experience, while at the same time being socially and environmentally responsible through sensitive design and green practices.

Wood and stone pathways lead through the gardens to the beach suites spread across the two hectare grounds. The resort melds an appreciation of local architecture and tradition with the look and feel of a Robinson Crusoe idyll allowing for an intimate and stylish base from which to explore Lombok’s spectacular natural beauty. Built using sustainable local materials, such as handmade terracotta tiles, bamboo weaves, stone and recycled timber, each suite exudes an air of authentic sophistication.

Located at the edge of the Wallace Line, Jeeva Klui’s magnificent 170 meter beach front commands views across the Indian Ocean to the islands of Bali and Nusa Penida as well as Lombok’s Sekotong peninsula. The beach at Jeeva Klui is protected by an offshore reef immediately in front of the resort that creates a calm “lagoon” perfect for a leisurely swim.

Upon arrival at Jeeva Klui, guests will be escorted to their suite where check-in formalities will be completed. Jeeva Klui’s total 27 suites include 18 one and two-story beach front suites, six two-story ocean view suites and three pool villas. All rooms have a private terrace with an oversized outdoor day bed and are equipped with either 32 or 37 inch flat screen televisions. All suites are a spacious 54 m2 although the layouts of the suites vary with the type of suite. WiFi is available in the public areas and in the pool suites. Continue reading


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Eco Rustic | Manggudu Island Resort, Sumba, Lesser Sunda Islands, Indonesia

By Dian Hasan | July 13, 2010

It’s a given that surfers will travel to the end of the earth in search of the perfect way. And in doing so, they are pioneers who trudge through jungles, traipse across barren deserts and over coral-laden coasts to find the “IT” wave. Paving the way for the rest of the world’s travelers. Well, not always, as surfers are known to keeping these secret surf spots – which always are pristine natural settings – to themselves.

The island of Sumba, east of Bali, in Indonesia is one such unique find. Discovered a few years ago by Bali- and Lombok- (Bali’s neighboring island) surfers who were in search of more challenging waves across the Lesser Sunda Islands, eat of Bali. They stumbled upon amazing lefthanders in Manggudu Island off of Sumba Island, and had these bragging rights to tell the global surfing community:

One of the most consistent spots in Indonesia with a lefthander during the dry and a righthander in the wet season. Picks up all swell in the ocean and a little more. Uncrowded, good and powerful waves.

Manggudu’s surf is very consistent and picks up all swell in the ocean and a little more. The reef is large and the wave is best described as “Sunset-like”. After peaking, it will bowl through hollow sections or just wall off right from the take-off, depending on swell direction. The peaks shift with tide movements and because of the solid size bigger boards are recommended. The Southeast trades are straight offshore and the wave works with all tides.

Finish Anssi Kauppila [L], founder of Manggudu Island Resort, living an island life on an idyllic locale.

This surfing jewel is just coming out, as the word spreads out, and better accommodation are coming on stream. One of them is Manggudu Island Resort, on an island by the same name, off the southern coast of Sumba. An otherwise deserted island that caters to surfers and fishing aficionados, offering the perfect getaway for travelers who prefer roughing it. The rewards are clear, unspoiled nature, stretches of powder white beaches with no soul in sight, all yours to take in!

Run by intrepid Finish surfer-preneur Anssi Kauppila (yes, all the way from the frigid Scandinavian shores), who’s invested in the resort venture together with long-time Sumba resident, Australian David Wylie. The resort is situated at the western tip of the Manggudu Island, with 3 bungalows, each with 2-rooms with comfortable double beds and basic furniture.

Manggudu Island Resort offers full board, with 3 meals, drinking water, coffee and tea. The meals consist mainly of fish and seafood, with a variety of vegetables, served at the main house, which is also social central, where guests mingle after a day of surfing and exploring the island.

The main house also has a well-stocked library and a TV (if ever there’s a need for this!) for DVD movies. A communal bathroom, the Mandi (traditional Indonesian bathroom), is located behind the bungalows.

Sumba’s wetseason is short, typically lasting for only the months of February and March, when the resort is closed. The best months to visit are April-December, depending on what activities you are looking for. The resort is still open in January, but the winds can be strong, ideal for windsurfers and kitesurfers.

For those who prefer to take a less strenuous break, without sweating it too much, there are plenty of slower-paced options. With a little luck you’ll come across turtle hatchlings scurrying out to sea. It’s common to find Turtle tracks, as sea turtles come here to lay eggs. There is a small dense forest in the center of the island, ideal for bird-watching. Sea eagles and other birds work the large schools of fish. Snorkeling is an easy way to appreciate the beautiful coral reefs, as well as fishing.

Manggudu Island is a delight for fishing, depending on the season, the fish invariably include is a fisherman’s delight, Fishing, that is the one of my activity. During different times at the year commonly caught fish are: giant trevally and other trevally species, Spanish mackerel, marlin, sailfish, tuna, wahoo, Mahi Mahi and numerous reef fish. Manta rays, whales and dolphins are not a rare sight as are barracudas zipping out of the sea.

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Eco Rustic | La P’tite Kepa Homestay, Kepa Island, Sumba, Indonesia

By Dian Hasan | July 29, 2010

Nature at its best. Resplendent and abundant. La P’tite Founder, Cedric swimming in the azure waters with his daughter Lila [R]

Your closest brush with castaway tropical island life a la Robinson Crusoe may probably await you at this little gem of accommodation in the least known regions of Eastern Indonesia.

La P’tite Kepa Homestay is located on a small idyllic island called Kepa (Pulau Kepa in Indonesian), in the middle of Pantar Strait, the heart of Alor archipelago. Just 5-minutes by boat from Alor Kecil village, on Alor main island west coast, this is a central place to explore Alor Islands and the dive sites.

If the first thing that struck you was the hotel’s decidedly Euro-skewed name, you paid attention well.

La P’tite Kepa Homestay is the brainchild of Cedric & Anne Lechat, a French couple who became smitten with Alor Islands when they traveled there in the late 1980s. The eco-friendly homestay is a vision of that love, built in stages over the years, and involving the immediate community every step of the way. Fred & Anne had been practicing eco- and sustainable-tourism principles long before it became the buzzworthy catchphrase it is today.

La P’tite Founder Cedric and a big catch of the day (Marlin) [R]

Upstairs sleeping area of the Lopo traditional Alor house. The sleeping quarters are in the attic, the only enclosed area of this open-air pavilion.

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Green & Chic | Suka Island, Riau Archipelago, Indonesia [2]

By Dian Hasan | July 28, 2010

The Pool Pavilion, the “heart” of Suka Island, where guests mingle and food is served upstairs in the dining area.

When you think of Singapore, the words idyllic, rustic and laid back, are probably not the first thing that would come to mind. A modern Asian nation with a dynamic economy is more likely. Singapore is situated at the crossroads of East and West, and trade has been the foundation upon which Singapore’s economic miracle has been built.

One often forgets, however, that urban Singapore that likes to call itself Garden City, is an island. To the North lies the Malaysian Peninsula that continues on to the Asian continent, while to its South is Indonesia’ Riau Archipelago, a group of islands that include the industrial and shipyard-based Batam, and Singapore’s favorite island playground, Bintan. Further afield are small islands, mostly uninhabited that are the furthest image of urban life.

And here you’ll find Singapore’s best-kept secret: Private Islands that offer the bare-foot luxury commonly found in the Caribbean. Tropical isles, with nothing but thatch-roof huts (no worries, electricity and modern amenities are standard features…). You’d almost have to pinch yourself of thinking you’re in Bali.

The pool and Pool Pavilion area, the “heart” of Suka Island.

The Treehouse Villa, built of sustainable materials using driftwood found in the surrounding islands. Pulled into place using plenty of manpower [below].

So put your leisure thinking cap on, and start imagining swaying palm trees, a tropical breeze, white sand beaches, and the soothing sound of the ocean… all this on an private island you can have for yourself.

From the same creative hospitality minds that run Pulau Pangkil Private Island Resort, comes Suka Island (Pulau Suka in Indonesian), a pleasant 3-hour ferry ride (approximately 100 km) from Singapore, the embarkation point for the majority of our guests. Continue reading

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