The Ultimate Travel Guide to New York’s Meatpacking District

Story by Kanara Ty.

Before I went to New York City this past summer, I asked a colleague for some tips on her
favorite spots in Manhattan — best cheap eats? Favorite rooftop bar? She told me to completely immerse myself in the Meatpacking District, perhaps Manhattan’s trendiest neighborhood right now. While the name doesn’t exactly scream glitz and glamour, I assure you that you can’t just make one visit to the Meatpacking District during a vacation in the Big Apple — it packs a whole lot of punch with high-end boutiques (Alexander McQueen, thank you very much!), critically acclaimed dining destinations (Buddakan and Morimoto), and swanky nightclubs with the toughest doormen in the world (Wass Stevens of Avenue — we’re talking about you!).

Before it became one of NYC’s hottest social spots, the Meatpacking District was known for its various industries throughout the years. In the mid-1800s, you would have found carpentry and woodworking manufacturers. After the beginning of the 20th century, the neighborhood became a huge meat market, literally: approximately 200 slaughterhouses and packing houses abounded (hence the name), in addition to cosmetics, printing and automobile companies.

During the ’70s and ’80s, the area went into decline, transforming itself into an entertainment and nightlife mecca for the gay and bondage/S&M crowd. Interestingly enough, it’s alleged that the Mafia and some members of the NYPD protected some of these after-hours establishments, which allowed them to flourish. This included The Mineshaft, which was shut down by the Department of Health in 1985 at the height of the AIDS epidemic (20 years later, the space was reopened as a Chinese restaurant).

Despite, or perhaps because of, its lurid history, the Meatpacking District, is one of the most fascinating neighborhoods in Manhattan today. Here are some highlights.



-Gansevoort Meatpacking NYC
It’s known as the Meatpacking’s first luxury hotel and remains an iconic location since it opened in 2004. The Gansevoort added a different kind of character to the grittiness of the neighborhood, helping to transform the area into a hip entertainment district. If you’re easily star-struck, beware — the hotel’s been featured on MTV and Vh1, and you’re sure to run into a celebrity or two (we spotted Will.i.Am in the lobby).
If you’re looking to go all out, consider booking the Gansevoort’s Duplex Presidential Suite. It’s the ultimate experience: the 1,700-square-foot duplex features 30-foot floor-to-ceiling windows, a state-of-the-art sound system, dining area, pool table, cardio machines, full bar and custom furniture. Our favorite part? The step-out balcony with extraordinary views of the Hudson River. Not convinced? Check out our Summer 2013 10th anniversary issue’s cover editorial with Rinko Kikuchi — trust us, it’s quite a treat. Details


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The Meatpacking District is a foodie heaven for those looking to experience something out of the ordinary. We’ve got two Stephen Starr restaurants on this list — enough said.

-Num Pang Sandwich Shop
Long after I’ve left New York, this Cambodian sandwich shop still lingers in my mind. I can’t forget the Five-Spice Glazed Pork Belly sandwich, topped off with some Ithaca Ginger Beer or Ginger Pineapple Ginger Tea. Also try their delicious Grilled Coconut Corn with Chili Mayo. Note that some of their sandwiches are seasonal, so be sure to check what’s available. For you non-meat eaters, the Roasted Cauliflower sandwich is flavorful as well. Details

When you enter Buddakan, it doesn’t exactly feel like a restaurant. In fact, you think you might have walked into a large nightclub. The interior is just remarkable, with oversized chandeliers, high ceilings, golden bookshelves, and yes, even a banquet table enough to seat 34. The eats to check out? Duck and Foie Gras Dumplings, Dungeness Crab Sticky Rice, and Singapore Chili King Crab. Don’t forget the dessert — get the Sichuan Peanut Semifreddo. Details

You know the name — Masaharu Morimoto is quite synonymous in celebrity circles with anything Japanese. Honestly? He lives up to the hype. All you need to do is get the Morimoto Omakase ($125 per person), and you let them take care of the rest. Details

-The Lobster Place
Fresh seafood right at your fingertips — and it’s prepared in front of you! I can only imagine my facial expression when I saw the fresh uni before me. But if you’re not sure what to get, go for the popular Lobster Roll. Details

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P L A Y 


It’s got a reputation for being one of the toughest nightclubs to get into in the world — primarily because the doorman, Wass Stevens, is one tough cookie to break. If you can make it past the velvet ropes, you’re in for quite an experience. Basketball phenom Jeremy Lin was recently sighted here at a Knicks aftergame party. Details

Located at the Dream Downtown hotel, people say this is quickly becoming one of the hottest new spots in NYC. The short moniker actually stands for Penthouse at Dream Downtown, which is the rooftop lounge at the hotel. If you can get in, you’ll feel like you’re in a secret garden with beautiful people, good music and a majestic view. Details

-Provocateur Café + Nightclub
There’s something for everyone here: the nightclub for those who are looking for an evening of debauchery (drinking and dancing all night long) or the café for those who want something more chill (drinking and talking all night long). Be sure to check out their calendar for the most updated list of upcoming DJs if you’re into the EDM scene. Details



E X P L O R E 

-High Line
Despite all the clubs and eateries in the Meatpacking District, this was at the top of my list to check out. A cool public park, The High Line was transformed by some community residents from an elevated freight rail line facing demolition. The park was recently used for a top-secret Alexander Wang event (he gave away free clothes and caused all sorts of pandemonium). Check it out after dinner or for your pre-party — it’s a nice spot to walk off those calories and catch some good scenery.


This story was originally published in our Fall 2013 issue. Get your copy here

Guide to Vacationing in Korea … With Three Generations Worth of Baggage

Story by Anna M. Park. 

In Korean culture, 60 is a big deal, just like the first birthday. Some people throw small galas at a local hotel ballroom. Some buy extravagant gifts. Some send parents on trips of a lifetime. The rationale for the celebration at 60 came from a time when surviving six decades (read: war-torn Korea) was a momentous achievement.

These days, not as much. Now 70 is the new 60, and if family tradition is any indication, so will every decade thereafter be. And as second-generation Korean Americans, often a “sandwich” generation raising kids while taking care of retired parents, there’s the responsibility of upholding Korean tradition and respecting your elders, while setting a good cultural example for the next generation.

So when my mother-in-law’s 70th came rolling around, we decided on a big family trip to the motherland — South Korea — a place half the family had never been. That meant seven people ranging in age from 7 to 70, only one of whom spoke fluent Korean, and another only somewhat familiar with modern Korean society. We weren’t sure where to start, but the goal was eight days, five cities, smack in the middle of spring break. Through trial and error, we learned a lot during this mother of all vacations, something that will prove useful next year for my parents’ 70th, when I’ll be doing this all over again.

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First, find a tour guide. Yes, you have to do a tour. My husband and I generally eschew tours, but for children and retirees, you need a guide. Trust me, it will save your sanity.

There are non-Korea-based English language tours, like SITA, that are pretty expensive. There are also Korea-based tour companies that are quite affordable, but the guides only speak Korean or you’re traveling on a megabus with 30 other people. My brother-in-law chanced upon Sally Tour ( during a Google search. The founder, Sally Kim, had worked at one of Korea’s largest travel agencies, whose clients included FIFA and the LPGA, before opening her own shop in 2010. She specializes in customized group tours of seven to 10 people, with most of her clients coming from Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Having lived in Canada for a while, she’s fluent in English, and we communicated with her mainly through email. She was responsive, detailed and patient throughout our myriad tweaks to the itinerary and accommodations. All in all, she made the planning part of our trip a relative breeze.

Second, pack light. This we did not heed. And though we had a minibus completely at our disposal, we were responsible for dragging our own luggage on and off the minibus, the taxi, the train and the plane, and since we changed cities practically every day, well, let’s just say the two men on the trip got plenty of exercise.

Third, personalize the itinerary. The best thing about moving through an entire country in eight days with Sally Tour is you can tweak the itinerary according to your family’s particular needs. Kimchi-making class? Our grandmothers made kimchi in our garages. Pass. A bit too much Korean food? Ask the guide for a free night like we did. We found a surprisingly good Italian place in Busan (with decent wine!). Want a bit more time to shop or linger over the hotel breakfast buffet? Ask to push back the pick-up time. The guides are generally flexible, which we really appreciated, especially towards the end of the trip when the pace of the seemingly nonstop schedule started to really wear on nerves.

Lastly, be prepared. And by that, I mean mentally and emotionally. Your mantra should be: It’s not about you — it’s about them.

You’re going to have trying times. You’re going to disagree. You may even have an almost-bar fight over why you didn’t stand up to Mike Miller for your brother in the 11th grade. But for the sake of the kids and especially your parents, be an adult about it. This trip is a microcosmic reflection of your life — you are now the grown-up. You’ve got the power. Use it for good.

This story was originally published in our Fall 2013 issue. Get your copy here

Real-Life Anime Locales That You Can Visit!

For many anime fans, visiting the real-life locations that serve as the setting of their favorite stories has become a new way to experience their most-loved animated films, graphic novels or television series, allowing fans to literally walk in their favorite characters’ footsteps.  These destinations are slowly becoming as popular as the series that placed them on the map, as fans pack their bags and travel to see these destinations first-hand.

The little town of Iwami cho in the Tottori prefecture of Southeastern Japan has been receiving much more attention lately with the airing of the Japanese anime series, Free!, a series focused on a revived swimming club.  However, we’re most amazed at how animators were able to accurately capture the water-front town’s charm, using virtually every aspect of the town, from the charming harbor to something as simple as an alleyway, as illustrative inspiration.

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Another town that has been placed in the spotlight, thanks to anime, is Oarai, in the eastern part of Ibaraki prefecture.  Oarai’s most famous and distinct landmarks, like it’s marine tower and dolphin statue, as well as less well-known sites, like local restaurants, are featured in the popular series, Girls und Panzer.  Locals have embraced their new found fame: pictures of the characters can be seen throughout the town and an event celebrating the anime was held earlier this year.


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Though not based on a real-life place, Studio Ghibli fans can visit the home of Mei and Satsuki from the beloved Miyazaki film, My Neighbor Totoro.  Located in Nagakute, Japan at the at the Expo 2005 Aichi Commemorative Park and designed by Goro Miyazaki, the house was constructed with such precision, detail and authenticity that visitors can feel as if the little girls could run in and out of the home at any moment.

In Japan, You Can Visit the Totoro House. For Real.

(Sources: 1, 2, 3)

Traveling Under Pressure: Tips from Tranquil Tuesday’s Charlene Wang

Story by Anna M. Park

Charlene Wang knows what it’s like to be on the road. Based in Beijing, the Boston-born Chinese American travels to the U.S. at least three times a year, in addition to traveling around China to remote tea suppliers three to four times a year, for her luxe tea company, Tranquil Tuesdays. Before she founded Tranquil Tuesdays in 2010, Wang was a diplomat with the U.S. Foreign Service. Her posts included Bangladesh as a human rights officer, Beijing reporting on China- Japan relations, and the United Nations Security Council. She also headed a fraud prevention unit working on visa and immigration fraud.


But it’s not all glitz and glory, says Wang. “Diplomats also end up doing a lot less glamorous work, supporting the visits of U.S. government leaders like the secretary of state or the president. For example, I was in charge of coordinating First Lady Laura Bush’s visit to the Forbidden City in Beijing with the Chinese government, and one time I even woke up at 4 a.m. to monitor the handling of Secretary Condoleezza Rice’s luggage!”


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A pro at tight schedules and traveling under pressure, Wang gives us her tricks to staying fresh on the road.


    • Beating Jet Lag: I generally try to sleep as much as possible on the plane and then try to stay awake until at least 8 or 9 p.m., without any caffeine, wherever I land before I sleep again. Sometimes I purposely tire myself out leading up to the flight (staying up late packing, taking care of last minute errands) to ensure sleeping.


    • Hotel Sweet Home: For me, music is the number one thing I need in a new or unfamiliar environment to feel comfy, so if I have my own tunes pumping I feel great. The second thing for me is smell. I always travel with either a travel candle or some essential oils (my favorites are lemongrass or ylang ylang). Just put a few drops of your essential oil on a light bulb that has been on for a little while, and the heat from that will scent the room.


    • Beauty Secrets: Before boarding the plane, I love going to the duty-free, trying different perfumes and smelling great. Additionally, if I didn’t bring my own eye cream, night cream or hand cream, I try and test different products to moisturize up for the flight.


  • Light Packer: I’m a firm believer that the lighter you travel, the better, and the only real essentials are your passport and a credit card. When I can, I do like to bring a foot massage roller, essential oils, good tea (I always travel with my own tea), and this great travel tea brewing set so I can make proper loose leaf tea gong fu style anywhere.

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Charlene is all about moisturizing for the flight. “Flying really dries you out,” she says. Try these to keep skin supple.

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1. Sulwhasoo Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Eye Cream.
2. 3Lab WW Eye Cream.
3. Take advantage of long flights with a nighttime treatment as you sleep. Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair Synchronized Recovery Complex II.
4. Sensai Cellular Performance Lifting Radiance Cream. 


This story was originally published in our Fall 2013 issue. Get your copy here.  



Studying Abroad? 5 Things You Must Do

This is the season for wet goodbyes and shy hello’s. Many of us are leaving home, some for the first time, to study abroad in world capitals and rural villages. No matter which end of the metropolitan spectrum you’re headed for, living in a new place can be exciting, nerve-wracking and frightening, all at once.

Last year, I moved to France for college. As I start my second year away from home, I wanted to share some of the things I’ve learned for those of you just starting your adventures abroad.

1. Read up on your destination like your life depends on it … because it kind of does.

Even a precursory scan of France’s Wikipedia page will tell you useful information, like the fact that it is nicknamed l’Héxagone (The Hexagon) because of its shape. Okay … while some factoids may be not be obviously useful, you will gain a general sense of cuisine, basic etiquette and geography. And who knows, you might find yourself at a dinner party with a cute French guy across the table, in which case informing him of his country’s resemblance to a six-sided polygon is totally going to reel him in.

For more experience-based information, check out the blogs of expatriates and locals. Embassy websites are known for being ugly and unhelpful, so blogs saved me so much confusion when applying for my student visa. Plus they have insider tips on everything from the best cafés to avoiding faux pas.

2. Make a study abroad bucket list.

Because if you don’t write it down, you probably won’t get to it. Always wanted to see Aurora Borealis or walk the streets of Pompeii? Write it down, and then on a quiet weekend book your tickets before you can talk yourself out of it. If you’re in Europe, try discount airlines Easyjet and the infamously sketchy Ryanair for dirt cheap fare. Carpooling and hitchhiking are also easier and more widely accepted than they are in the States. And you don’t have to wait for school holidays — take advantage of weekends to cross closer destinations off the list.

3. Now make a serious business list.

Your future self will thank you. It’s tempting to think of nothing but the lovely things you will do and the crazy friends you will meet. In reality, once you’ve arrived at your destination you’ll be too busy taking in the sights, meeting people and figuring out everyday things like where to buy groceries and how toilets work to deal with administrative matters. Take time beforehand to think of all the possible things you’ll need to take care of once you arrive, and make a guide for yourself. Once you’re at your new place, you can refer to this guide for help from your past self. It’ll be like holding your own hand, but in a pragmatic, not pathetic, way.

4. Chase great stories. 

Barring danger to your health, you should go out if you feel like going out. And don’t let anyone persuade you to go clubbing when you’d rather inch through a museum. In the end, what you’re left with are stories and maybe a 2€ brass Eiffel Tower and stacks of used metro tickets, so make your time memorable.

5. Drop all expectations.

This may seemingly contradict the other items on this list, but forget everything you think you know about your destination (unless you’ve been there before) and go without preconceptions. Souvenir means “memory” in French. Travel writers always advise bringing an empty suitcase to fill up with souvenirs and there’s no reason not to do the same for figurative ones, unless you’re allergic to forced metaphors. You’ve traveled miles and miles, spent thousands of dollars, and probably shed buckets of homesick tears to soak up a foreign culture. Don’t let yourself be the one thing that stops you from doing so.

Like many of us, I had carried one image of Paris my entire life, and the charming but grimy streets that greeted me upon arrival didn’t quite match up. France has been a lovely disappointment, and the City of Lights has become more city than light. But I am grateful to see cities as cities rather than ideas. Wherever you go this year, it is a place where humans have chosen to live out their lives together, a place where human innovation and enterprise attempt to make life easier. In some cases, attempt is the key word.

The greatest privilege of studying abroad isn’t the novelty. Rather, it’s coming across a new place and rapidly familiarizing yourself it. It’s getting to know a place intimately in both good and bad ways. You may love your new country or you may hate it — but there’s no denying you will come to know it inside and out. The awful weather and early closing times will become inside jokes; when you have nothing but affectionate complaints, the bond is complete and your new home has Jacob-ed your Renesmee.

Party Like An Asian … IN VEGAS

Considering she’s been going there for almost a quarter of a century, it’s safe to say that Associate Editor Kanara Ty knows Vegas. Here, she shares her insider secrets to Sin City.

Go ahead and judge me, but I proudly call Las Vegas my second home — after all, I’ve been making memories there since I was a kid. For a lot of Asian immigrant families living in Southern California (like mine), going to Las Vegas was the easy choice for a family vacation: it wasn’t too far of a drive nor too costly. The adults spent countless hours at the slot machines or tables, while the kids would wander around the arcade or the Adventuredome at the Circus Circus Hotel and Casino. For meals, it was either gorging at a buffet, or hitting up local spots off the strip, at the Asian strip malls that began at the intersection of Valley View and Spring Mountain Road. Holidays like Chinese New Year and Christmas drew lots of families to catch Asian acts from abroad, like Hong Kong singers Andy Lau and Sammi Cheng, Taiwanese pop singer Lee-hom Wang, and more recently, Cantopop singer Sandy Lam and K-pop artist Kim Bum-soo.

Of course, when I turned 21, Vegas was no longer just a place I could enjoy with family. It turned into a weekend hotspot for dabbling in acts of debauchery — eating, dancing, shopping and drinking at any given hour of the day. Sleeping, of course, was not an option. When I stepped into my first Vegas club in 2005, Tao was the first big “megaclub” on the strip. I’ll admit I was peeved at the generic Asian theme, but it was also the first of its kind — an Asian themed nightclub with restaurant — in Sin City. This ushered in a new era of entertainment in Vegas: no longer just a gambler’s paradise, it became a playground for nightlife revelers. Today, Tao is still one of the top- grossing clubs in Vegas, but options abound with current top billers XS (Encore) and Marquee (Cosmopolitan), and the recent openings of Hakkasan (MGM Grand) and Light (Mandalay Bay). Electronic dance music (EDM) has taken over the club scene, with household-name DJs like Tiesto, Kaskade, and Deadmau5 all signing exclusive contracts and holding residencies at various venues in the city.

But Las Vegas is more than just pretty lights and drinking till dawn. It’s increasingly becoming a bona fide vacation destination for Asians everywhere — and the city has taken note, catering its food and entertainment to Asian customers. Furthermore, an increasing number of Asian Americans are truly calling Las Vegas “home.” According to the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), the Asian American growth rate in Nevada is the highest in the nation (at 116 percent), with Asian Americans making up 10 percent of the population in Clark County. Over the years, I’ve seen economic opportunities develop and more Asian-owned businesses pop up (the Vietnamese bánh mì store, Lee’s Sandwiches, even has a franchise out there!).

With so much more to do in Vegas than just gamble and drink, here are some of my favorite Asian-friendly spots to eat, drink and play — on and off the strip.

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We may all have our individual reasons for traveling to Vegas, but there’s one thing we can all agree upon: the food. My parents are pretty closed-minded about what they eat, so that meant they wanted rice with all their meals. Turns out, some of the best food in Vegas isn’t at the latest celebrity chef-owned restaurant. Check out some of these delectable places in the Chinatown neighborhood of Las Vegas and beyond.

Pho Saigon 8
While Pho Kim Long is arguably the more popular place for pho off the strip, locals told me that this is a much better spot for pho. And they’re absolutely right: I’ve grown to love Pho Saigon 8 for the amazing beef broth. It’ll definitely help cure any hangovers you have the next day.

( If you’re a fan of Japanese tapas or izakayas, Ichiza makes the best hamburger steak I’ve had to date: it’s huge, juicy and has this great demiglace sauce that goes perfectly with the ground patty. It’s kind of a cool place, with specials written on paper on the walls (uni mochi, anyone?). Get their honey toast for dessert — you’ll end your meal on a very sweet note.

Buldogi’s Gourmet Hot Dogs
( A play on the Korean marinated beef dish bulgogi, Buldogi’s menu features an extensive list of fancy hot dogs. I highly recommend the Angry Dog, which has spicy pork bulgogi, Asian slaw, jalapeños and spicy mayo.

Korean BBQ
Sura BBQ Buffet is all-you-can-eat (AYCE) Korean BBQ that’s open until 3 a.m. — need I say more? If you’re not in the mood for AYCE, try the popular chain Honey Pig, where you can get your pork belly fix at any given time of the day. If you’re lucky, you might even get the heart-shaped shot glasses for your soju.

Fukuburger Truck
( If you’re without a car in Vegas, this Asian fusion burger truck might be a little troublesome to get to. I’m a fan of the #2 (Tamago Burger) and the #4 (Ki- noko Burger). Once you try it, you’re going to make sure you have a ride next time you’re in Vegas.

Monta Ramen
( Even with all the awesome ramen places in Southern California, I still get cravings for Monta’s Tonkotsu broth from time to time. Who would have thought Vegas would have such great ramen?

Lotus of Siam
( A little more expensive than some of the other options on this list, but well worth it. The award-winning restaurant definitely rivals some of the best Thai I’ve ever had in my life. Get the Drunken Noodles (with either seabass or soft shell crab), as well as the Nam Prik Ong, a northern style red chili dip, with raw veggies and fried pork skins.

Market Café
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been coming to this restaurant at the Califor- nia Hotel in downtown Las Vegas sim- ply for one thing: the oxtail soup. And I’m not the only one — it’s definitely a favorite among locals and Vegas regu- lars. Be warned: you can only get the oxtail soup after a certain hour (usually 10 or 11 p.m.). Another favorite off the menu: Zippy’s chili (normally just found in Hawaii).


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Nobu Matsuhisa has become more than just a master sushi chef. Renowned for providing a high-class experience at his restaurants, Matsuhisa is applying the same concept to the world of hospitality by joining forces with Caesars Palace to create the world’s first Nobu Hotel. Staying at Nobu is unparalleled to other hotel experiences in Vegas, simply because of the unique Nobu touch. With furniture heavily influenced by Japanese woodworker George Nakashima, the design of each room juxtaposes raw and natural elements in neutral tones with bold traditional and contemporary Japanese graphics. (Some of the artwork was curated by Matsuhisa himself.)

My favorite guest amenities in- clude being served Nobu’s signature tea upon arrival, 24-hour access to Nobu’s first ever in-room dining menu (Blue- berry and Yuzu Soba Pancakes!), and of course, a turndown service to die for: luxurious Fili D’oro Italian linens, a pillow menu, and Nobu’s own blend of linen mist. Details


Perhaps the most exciting nightclub opening of 2013 is Hakkasan Nightclub and Restaurant at the MGM Grand. The Las Vegas location of the high-end Chinese restaurant (there’s also one in London, New York, San Francisco and Mumbai) will feature a nightclub with high-profile acts like Tiesto, Deadmau5, Calvin Harris, and Steve Aoki. Hakkasan will go face-to-face with another rival — the Cirque-de-Soleil-themed Light Nightclub at Mandalay Bay, with its impressive roster of headlining DJs: Skrillex, Zedd, and Axwell and Sebastian Ingrosso of Swedish House Mafia.

For those who aren’t into the EDM scene, nightclubs like Moon Nightclub (at Palms Hotel and Casino) and Tao Nightclub feature DJs who spin hip-hop and top 40.


You don’t have to stop partying when the sun comes up. With summer now in full swing, there are pool parties a plenty up and down the strip. Daylight at Mandalay Bay is currently shaping up to be the hot new dayparty in town, rivaling Marquee’s Summer Lovin’ night/dayparties with Kaskade, and Encore Beach Club’s Daystar Sundays.


Before you head back home, take some time to detox at the Qua Baths and Spa at Caesars Palace for any of their signature treatments. Tip: Get there early enough to score one of the heated chairs in the Roman bath area. For those looking for a cheaper (and unique) alternative, check out Imperial Health Spa, which has various sauna rooms with red clay, jade or salt to help with detoxification.

Story by Kanara Ty, illustration by David Teas. Originally published in the Summer 2013 issue of Audrey Magazineclick here to buy it!


Summer 2013 | Destination: NEW ZEALAND

DEPT: The Good Life
ISSUE: Summer 2013

“Honeymooning could be full of long walks on the beach and relaxing couples spas — or you could explore the adventurous outdoors in New Zealand’s South Island to see how much excitement you can really take.”


A travel agent had advised us against the campervan. She told us that approximately a third of her American clients who campervan through New Zealand end up crashing into something. You’re driving on the left side of the road, steering from the right side of the car, and operating a vehicle bulky enough to fit a makeshift sofa-bed, kitchen and bathroom inside. She didn’t even mention the windy mountain roads, the absence of street lights outside the tiny towns, and the wonder that is the “one-lane bridge.”

We didn’t listen to her. Other things we ignored: the campervan customer service representative’s concerned look after he saw we were headed toward Arthur’s Pass for our first time left-lane driving; the recommendation we not drive at night (unfortunately at sunset, we were still three hours away from our destination); the red light we accidentally missed that resulted in us driving toward oncoming traffic (the driver was surprisingly understanding when we apologized); and that sign for “Death’s Corner” I drove past that I thought best not to mention to my husband, his eyes closed, dizzy from carsickness in the passenger’s seat.

As I was cruising along in the darkness, I kept repeating to myself some advice I had gotten about driving in New Zealand. Most of the time, there’s no traffic, so you’ll get used to driving on the left side. But if you see another car on the road, just remember: your instinct is always wrong.

If you’re a tourist visiting the gorgeous, wild islands of New Zealand (all in full, jaw-dropping display while you’re driving during the daytime), you’re not there to follow your everyday instincts. You’re there to jump out of a plane, catapult yourself off a bridge, swim with wildlife, kayak for five hours in the pouring rain, ride a high-speed jetboat as it whips around boulders, and hike a slippery glacier with terrain that looks a bit like one of those slot canyons in 127 Hours, where James Franco’s character got trapped and ended up sawing his arm off.

You’re here for adventure. And whatever happens, you’ll have the time of your life. Here are a few recommendations for a trip to South Island.

Located on the west side of the South Island, Franz Josef Glacier descends from the Southern Alps into the rainforest of Westland Tai Poutini National Park. You can either walk up from the Franz Josef village to see the glacier or even better, you can take a helicopter to actually hike on the glacier. The latter tour provides you with the requisite clothing and footwear, including crampons to ensure your boots have good grip on the ice, as well as a strapping, young male guide who leads you around the glacier and chips away at the glacier floor with an ice ax to make it less dangerous to climb. Be prepared to crawl under ice caves, shimmy your way through narrow passages, and climb up and down steep cliffs with the help of a rope swing. Afterward, stop by the village’s Glacier Hot Pools for some rest and relaxation.

Located on the northeast coast of the South Island, Kaikoura is popular for whale watching, and visitors come specifically to see the sperm whale, which legend says led Maori ancestor Paikea to New Zealand many centuries ago. Because it’s in the middle of two tectonic plates with high cliffs and ocean currents, Kaikoura is a great place to find marine life in general, including southern fur seals and ocean seabirds such as albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters. But most exciting of all, there are tours where you can go swim with dusky dolphins in their natural environment. So put on your wetsuit, jump in, and resist the urge to ride one into the sunset.

The Kawarau Bungy Centre in Queenstown is regarded as the world’s first commercial bungee, set up in 1988 by pioneer AJ Hackett, who has broken six Guinness records for his bungee stunts. Queenstown also boasts New Zealand’s highest bungee, the Nevis Bungy, set 440 feet above the Nevis River. But if that’s not enough adrenaline for you, New Zealand is also a very popular place to sky dive, as some locals see jumping out of an airplane as a rite of passage.

Milford Sound is New Zealand’s most famous tourist destination (English author Rudyard Kipling called it the Eighth Wonder of the World). Located in the southwest of the South Island, Milford Sound is a fjord, which is an inlet carved by glacial activity, a peaceful bay surrounded by rock cliffs. Visitors can marvel at the breathtaking landscapes on a boat tour that will last one to two hours, or alternately, you can do what we did: kayak on the waters of Milford Sound to get up close to the waterfalls. The half-day tours run from sunrise to sunset, and after five hours in a kayak, you’ll feel like you got a pretty good arm workout.

It’s hard to quantify how much the Lord of the Rings trilogy has done for New Zealand tourism, but there are so many Lord of the Rings tours that it’s a shame to not at least attend one of them. Although the Wellington movie production hub and the sets of Hobbiton are on the North Island, the South Island is filled with memorable landscapes as well. The aforementioned Franz Josef Glacier was used for the lighting of the beacons; Queenstown is where you will recognize locations such as Isengard, Lothlorien and the Ford of Brunein; and you can even book a horseback riding tour to Paradise, where you’ll see Amon Hen, the Wizard’s Vale, and the mighty peak of Methedras. Also, many of the tours will let you play with replicas of LOTR’s costumes and swords, so as a bonus, you can dress up as Gimli, play with Aragorn’s sword, and take the dorkiest photos of your lives.


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Dream Destinations | Asia’s “Newest Wonders” & Its “Best Islands”

This past July, Travel & Leisure released the list of the “Newest Wonders of the World,” a list, compiled by UNESCO, of World Heritage sites, or places around the globe that have “cultural, historical and environmental importance.”  In addition, the well-known travel mag released their picks (with the help of readers) of the “World’s Best Islands,” complete with white-sand beaches and romantic get-aways. Seeing these lists will spark the travel bug in anyone, and we’re very happy to say that Asia is well-featured on the list.  Take a look below for the newest additions to our travel bucket-list in Asia.

The Newest World Wonders

Honghe Hani Rice Terraces, China
Located in southern Yunnan and over 1300 years old, the Honghe Hani Rice Terraces are a complex system developed by the Hani people to channel water from the Ailao Mountains to their as-equally sophisticated terraces and farms.


Hill Forts of Rajasthan, India
Found in the Aravalli Mountains lies six forts that are “a standing testament to the power that Rajput princes enjoyed from the 8th to 18th century.” These series of eclectic forts utilizes the natural surroundings, such as hills, deserts and rivers, as defense while also using fortified walls to protect temples, palaces and other structures.


Mount Fuji, Japan
Also known as “Fujisan,” Mount Fuji has become an icon of Japan, serving as an artistic muse as well as a site of sacred pilgrimage. As described by UNESCO, “The inscribed property consists of 25 sites which reflect the essence of Fujisan’s sacred landscape” including Shengen-jinja shrines, natural volcanic features, lakes and waterfalls.

Kaesong’s Historical Sites, Korea
Located in the often-elusive DPRK and near the demilitarized zone, Kaesong is made up of 12 different sites that tell the story of Korea’s Koryo Dynasty.

Xinjiang Tianshan, China
Taking up over 600,000 hectares and part of Central Asia’s Tianshin mountain range, Xinjian Tianshin is made up of a four geographically diverse components (Tomur, Kalajun-Kuerdening, Bayinbukuke and Bogda), ranging from snow-capped mountains to forests and meadows to wide-spanning deserts.

World’s Best Islands
Palawan, Philippines (No. 1)
A favorite get-away of both local and foreign celebrities (including Mariah Carey, Pretty Little Liars’ Shay Mitchell, and Rachel Weisz), Palawan has a pure, almost surreal beauty that is something out of a movie.  When you’re there, go diving in the area’s warm waters and find yourself surrounded by natural coral reefs and abundant tropical fish or check out the world’s longest underground, navigable river.


Boracay, Philippines (No. 2)
An hour’s plane ride away from the hustle and bustle of Manila, Boracay offers visitors white-sand beaches, crystal clear blue water and a well-developed nightlife scene.


Bali, Indonesia (No. 6)
With its myriad of landscapes, ranging from rice terraces to rugged coastlines (not to mention to the world-famous beaches), Bali has become one of Indonesia’s largest tourist attractions, drawing in people from all over the globe for its “world-class surfing and diving, a large number of cultural, historical and archaeological attractions, and an enormous range of accommodations (Wiki).”

Koh Samui, Thailand (No. 9)
This 13-mile wide island, referred to as simply “Samui” by locals, is a favorite of beach-lovers and backpackers alike with its numerous and beautiful natural resources, perfect beaches, clear water and coral reefs.


Phuket, Thailand (No. 15)
The largest island in Thailand, Phuket is the Southeast Asian country’s most developed isle with world-renowned beaches, affordable (and more expensive) dining, fancy resorts and much more.  Be sure to make your way to the almost-undiscovered Mai Khao Beach or the visually stunning Phang Nga Bay.


For more information on this year’s additions to UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites as well as a complete list of all World Heritage Sites, visit UNESCO.

[All images courtesy of Google]

Audrey’s Days of Summer | Summer Hotspots of Honolulu

With America is still stuck in one of the biggest recessions since The Great Depression, days and nights of eating out have been hard to come by. We get it, so we pulled out some of the hottest restaurants and bars out of our little black book that has some of the happiest of happy hours around. Whether the hotspot is a chill bar to hang out with your friends or it’s an upscale restaurant to lure in a love interest, we got your back!

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Audrey’s Days of Summer | Summer Hotspots of Washington D.C.

With America still stuck in one of the biggest recession since The Great Depression, days and nights of eating out have been hard to come by. We get it, so we pulled out some of the hottest restaurants and bars out of our little black book that has some of the happiest of happy hours around. Whether the hotspot is a chill bar to hang out with your friends or it’s an upscale restaurant to lure in a love interest, we got your back.

Continue reading