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Where to go and when, with Raffles

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

March 2014 – Modern art in Istanbul; the Royal ploughing ceremony in Phnom Penh; a festival of shoes in Manila; a vintage Salon in Paris or an underwater festival in the Seychelles…whatever the reason for visiting the destination, a Raffles hotel will provide the backdrop: unobtrusive, authentic and part of the story…

Dubai in April – For the Dubai Camel Racing Festival

wtg-raffles-dubaiThe Dubai Camel Racing Festival (6 - 17 April 2014) is a major fixture on the Dubai social calendar. This is the Middle East’s answer to the season… where age-old Emirati folklore walks hand in hand with the future. Over a twelve day festival, thousands of highly trained camels from all over the region come together to compete in rounds to win their owners jaw-dropping cash prizes. It’s loud, smelly and noisy - and yet high-end – and the best way of seeing the sense of pride that local people have for their cultural heritage. Stays at Raffles Dubai from 1314 AED per room per night

Elsewhere… The Seychelles celebrates Carnival in April – inviting representatives from the world’s most famous carnivals to come together on the islands for the International Carnival of Victoria. Beijing is invaded by kites in April, for the Beijing International Kite Festival – quite a spectacle, combining dragon dances and kite displays, tapping into a Chinese tradition which dates back hundreds of years.

Singapore in May – For shopping, Singapore style

wtg-raffles-singaporeSingapore’s reputation for shopping speaks for itself. May is the ideal time to discover the best that the city has to offer – it is one of the driest months, weather-wise, meaning that it’s more easy than usual to dodge the tropical showers. May also sees a six-week shopping and fashion extravaganza roll into town, showcasing the latest spring/summer collections – and all free to view for visitors. The Orchard Fashion Runway is a must-see – stopping the traffic on Orchard Road, the shopping hub of Singapore, for one night only, so guests can shop to their hearts’ content, and preview the freshest looks of the season. Any trip to Singapore is synonymous with a stay at Raffles Singapore – the perfect retreat from the shopping melee - and an oasis of calm at the heart of ‘Swingapore’. Stays at Raffles Singapore from USD 750 per suite, per night

Elsewhere… The Meet in Beijing Arts Festival brings a month-long programme of theatre, music and dance to China's capital at indoor and outdoor venues - including the famous National Theatre and Forbidden City Hall. Chat Preah Nengkal - or the Royal Ploughing Ceremony – is one of Phnom Penh’s most important annual agricultural festivals, held near the Royal Palace to mark the beginning of the rice growing season in Cambodia.

Philippines in June – For Independence Day & Manila Day

wtg-raffles-makatiFilipinos will appreciate the celebrations of Independence Day (12 June) like never before in 2014, as the country emerges from the effects of Typhoon Haiyan. Independence Day is one of the biggest in the city’s calendar, full of flags and fireworks and patriotic displays all over the country. Stick around for Manila Day on 24 June, a city-wide celebration of Manila’s founding, with vibrant fiestas in each of the city’s distinct districts. Raffles Makati recommends that guests head to Rizal Park in Manila to catch the start of the celebrations as the flag is raised and a national parade begins. The elegant Raffles Makati is the perfect base for joining the party. Start with Manila Sling in the Long Bar, which travels to the Philippines from Singapore, to set the tone. Stays at Raffles Makati from US$350 per room per night.

Elsewhere… Head to Singapore for the Dragon Boat Festival; two days of intense dragon boat competition and celebration across the city. The festival is said to commemorate the sacrifice of Qu Yuan, a legendary Chinese poet, who drowned himself in the Mi Lo River over 2000 years ago in an attempt to stop corruption.

Siem Reap in July – For Cambodian Cool

wtg-raffles-grand-hotel-dangkor-siem-reapA cool breeze washes over Cambodia in July; the humidity drops, and the country is green and at its finest. This is the perfect time to discover the beauty of Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor and make the most of the hotel’s prime location for the spell-binding temples of Angkor Wat. Guests staying in July should try their hand at seasonal Khmer cooking with Executive Chef Wade James and visit the workshop of Eric Raisina, for the height of Cambodian silk fashion for 2014. Stays at Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor in from US$330 per room per night

Elsewhere… For a few days in early July, Paris is the cinema capital of the world, as the Paris Cinema Festival takes over, with movies shown in cinemas – and outdoors – across the city. Stay on for Bastille Day, or quatorze juillet, for the parade on the Champs-Elysées in the morning, fireworks by the Eiffel Tower in the evening and parties late into the night…

Paris in August – For having the city to yourself

wtg-reporter-for-a-day-finalIn the words of Audrey Hepburn, “Paris is always a good idea”. This is especially true in August, when Parisians vacate the capital, leaving the wide boulevards free for families to enjoy. With a très chic address on the Avenue Hoche, Le Royal Monceau, Raffles Paris is the city’s most artistic hotel. Guests can discover the stories behind the city’s street art with the hotel’s dedicated Art Concierge, catch a Sunday night movie in the hotel’s private cinema, or ask Maria de la Chica, Director of Children’s Relations, for her advice on the latest summer sights for kids in the city. Adventurous children can be Pirates on the Seine, or press reporters or even Prima Ballerinas for the day - leaving parents to disappear to the Spa My Blend by Clarins for a spot of sublime summer indulgence.

Stays at Le Royal Monceau, Raffles Paris from EUR 950 per room per night, based on two sharing on a room only basis.

Elsewhere… With its Khmer roofs, the Royal Palace stands out against the Phnom Penh skyline. Visit in August – despite the rainy season – to see it at its glistening best.

Istanbul in September – For the first look at Raffles Istanbul

wtg-raffles-istanbul-guest-roomWhen it opens this summer, Raffles Istanbul will be the perfect embodiment of the ‘new’ face of Istanbul: cutting-edge, eclectic and energetic. The hotel is at the heart of the Zorlu Center, a new hub for fashion, food and the arts on the European shore in Beşiktaş - overlooking the Bosphorus, the Princess Islands and the historic peninsula. This is a next-generation bazaar, where fashion, performance and art converge.

Like those of its stylish sister, Le Royal Monceau, Raffles Paris, the sleek modern interiors at Raffles Istanbul will be embellished with an impressive collection of artwork, specially commissioned from local artists, a mix of paintings, sculpture, photography and video installations. These will all come together under the common influence of Turkish culture and heritage, giving the hotel a strong sense of place. Stays at Raffles Istanbul from €600 per room per night

Elsewhere… Shoes are big business in Manila – the city is the shoe capital of the Philippines, with a museum dedicated to the finest feet, and an annual festival for footwear. The Sapatos Festival will take place on 9 September in 2014, championing Marikina shoe makers. It’s also 25 years since Vietnam’s withdrawal from Cambodia; soak up the national atmosphere at Angkor Wat. F1 fever takes over in Singapore – spot the race track from the balcony at Raffles Singapore. Or head to Beijing for the Mid-Autumn Festival, with moon cakes a-plenty at Raffles Beijing.

Phnom Penh in October – For Pchum Ben and Water Buffalo Racing

wtg-raffles-hotel-le-royal-phnom-penhEvery year, the Pchum Ben (or Soul Day) festival sees a veil of quiet come over Cambodia’s cities, as families flock home to pay their respects to their ancestors. This is one of the most important festivals in the Khmer calendar, following the belief that once a year the gates of hell are opened and the barriers between this world and the next are let down, allowing people to make offerings to loved ones who have passed away. A base at Raffles Hotel Le Royal is a perfect oasis in Phnom Penh – or indeed for the unique opportunity of experiencing the madness of water buffalo racing in Vihear Sour Cheung, just 40km away. Known as Bamboal Krobei in Khmer, the race begins at 6am and draws spectators from all over the country. A demonstration of strength and skill, conceived as entertainment for spirits who have come to Earth during Pchum Ben, the buffalo race is integral to keeping tradition alive. In 2014, there will also be wrestling and Bokkator matches to add to the festivities. Stays at Raffles Hotel Le Royal from US$240 per room per night.

Elsewhere… Catch some rays – and top tunes – at the Sandance Music Festival in Dubai (2013 starred Jamiroquai and The Killers); or head to the Seychelles for the SUBIOS Underwater Festival - promoting underwater conservation and the extraordinary underwater world of the Seychelles. Istanbul comes alive on the 29th October for Republic Day – the sight of fireworks over the Bosphorus is once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Hainan in November – For the Hainan Island Festival

wtg-raffles-hainanThe China Hainan Island Carnival is one of the highlights of the island’s cultural calendar. It brings together cultural and artistic activities, with sports competitions and beauty pageants, showcasing the unique and diverse resources of this tropical island. Set on Clearwater Bay, the newest hotspot on the southeast coast of the island and China’s answer to the French Riviera – Raffles Hainan will welcome guests with typical Hainanese hospitality, and a carnival atmosphere of its own. Guests can unwind in the signature Raffles Spa, dine in four restaurants and – in a satisfying twist of fate - drink a Hainan Sling in the Long Bar, a tribute not only to the original bar at Raffles in Singapore, but also to Mr. Ngiam Tong Boon, the Hainanese bartender who created the original Singapore Sling. Stays at Raffles Hainan from US$300 per room per night.

Elsewhere… Contemporary Istanbul rolls into town – one of the top arts events in Turkey, putting the spotlight on young and edgy art from all over the world, from painting, sculpture, and rotogravure, to photography, installation, video, and original graphic works. The festival is perfectly in keeping with the new Raffles Istanbul, home to its own extensive collection of art-works. The Cambodian Water Festival - Bon Om Touk – is marked in Phnom Penh with three days of boat racing, commemorating the end of the rainy season.

Jakarta in December - Raffles debuts in Indonesia…

wtg-raffles-jakartaRaffles Jakarta is set to open in 2014 at the heart of Ciputra World Jakarta, a prestigious new development and a magnet for luxury boutiques, offices and an art museum. Raffles Jakarta will unveil 180 spacious and exquisitely designed rooms and suites. While in residency at Raffles Jakarta, guests can look forward to enjoying innovative cuisine and cocktails at the all-day dining restaurant, the Writers Bar or the Pool Bar. With a large signature Raffles Spa, guests will also be able to enjoy a rejuvenating journey through the spa's extensive range of massage and wellness treatments.

Elsewhere… Head to the Middle East for the 11th edition of the Dubai International Film Festival, the leading film festival in the region. Or run for a good cause through a World Heritage Site: the Angkor Wat International Half is in aid of victims of landmines in Cambodia

Beijing in January – For hanging out in Beijing’s Hutongs

wtg-raffles-beijingDespite the cold weather, there is no better time to see Beijing than in January. This is the time to see the Forbidden City without the crowds and for exploring the Hutongs, with only the locals for company. January is also the time for the calm before the storm of Chinese New Year, so expect the first firecrackers, Chinese lanterns galore and the odd spot of dragon dancing, as the city gets ready to turn red. Eat fish with its head and tail intact – standing for togetherness and plentiful-ness, with long noodles, for long life - and plenty of sticky dumplings to toast the year of the Sheep. A short stroll from Tiananmen Square, Raffles Beijing Hotel is an atmospheric oasis for a stay in this exciting city. Stays at Raffles Beijing from US$255 per room per night

Elsewhere… The Dubai Shopping Festival shows the city at its most glamorous – over 32 days, more than $27 million worth of prizes will be given away, and it is the best time to bag a bargain. Stay at Raffles Dubai and recover with Fashion Afternoon Tea, with beautiful cakes inspired by the latest designs hot off the catwalk.

Seychelles in February – For winter sun

wtg-raffles-praslin-seychelles-aerial-viewThe Seychelles is a year-round destination, but February is the ideal month to visit out of season, for enjoying crystal clear waters and white sand beaches without the rest of the world. Water babies will be in seventh heaven, with diving visibility of up to 30m and plenty of sea-life to be discovered. The team at Raffles Praslin Seychelles is on hand to arrange a full array of activities, from diving and snorkelling trips through the archipelago, to Yoga Paddle-boarding and deep-sea fishing with the Chef - for catching supper to barbeque on the beach. Stays at Raffles Praslin Seychelles from US$720 per room per night

Elsewhere…. Spring Festival, or Chinese New Year, is the most important traditional festival in China. It begins on the first day of the first lunar month and ends on the 15th day of the first lunar month (Lantern Festival). Celebrate at Raffles Beijing or Raffles Hainan.

Makkah in March

wtg-raffles-makkah-palaceThe Holy City of Makkah has a population of over 1.7 million of a diversified Muslim culture. Founded over 1,400 years ago, it is now a vibrant and lively city. Makkah is also known as Umm Al-Qura (The Origin of the Cities), Al-Balad Al-Ameen (The Secure City) and Al-Balad Al-Haram (The Sacred City).

Five times each day, more than one and a half billion Muslims, wherever they are, turn to the Holy City of Makkah, to the Ka’aba - the most sacred site in Islam - to pray. At least once in their lives, all Muslims who are not prevented by personal circumstance perform the Hajj (Major Pilgrimage) and Umrah (Minor Pilgrimage).

About 20 meters east of the Ka’aba lies the legendary Zamzam well which still generates water, after thousands of years. According to Islamic history it was discovered when Abraham's wife Hajar was seeking water for her infant son, Ismail. She ran seven times back and forth between the two hills of Safa and Marwah. Now, the pilgrims replicate this act as part of Hajj and Umrah. The all-suite Raffles Makkah Palace is directly adjacent to Al Masjid Al Haram (the Grand Mosque) and the Ka’aba, offering easy access to King Abdulaziz Gate, the main entrance to the Grand Mosque. The hotel has one-of-a-kind views of the Grand Mosque and the Ka’aba below. Stays at Raffles Makkah Palace from US$375 per room per night

Elsewhere: If it’s March it must be Paris - the time for Salon du Vintage, with all the vintage clothes you’ve ever dreamed of. If sport wins out over fashion, head east for the Dubai Rugby Sevens combining top-flight rugby, thrilling action and a serious party atmosphere over three days of stiff competition. Escape from the action with Recovery Massage in the spa at Raffles Dubai.

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