The art of travel: Alex Malcolm
Which is your favourite city, and why?
That could get political [laughs]. I would have to say Buenos Aires. It's a big city and there's so much to see and do. Latin American is where my love of travel was born. It's that mix between something of the familiar for me because of its European influences and the Latin American heart that makes it so special.
Describe a memory from a childhood holiday.
My parents used to run a restaurant and were really into food. There was this one time we had driven quite far to get to a particular restaurant in Tuscany. When we arrived, there wasn't a restaurant to be found. Only a bar. You could see our faces drop. So the owners told us to come around the back and they cooked us some lasagna. It turned out to be the most amazing lasagna we ever had.
What's your favourite hotel to check into?
My current favourite is more of a lodge, really. It's a beautiful place called Awasi in Chile, Patagonia. It has only been open for a couple of years and I went shortly after they opened. They have these cabins that are quite minimalist from the outside and are modelled after a gaucho's puesto (traditional living quarters). There's only eight cabins altogether. You're in your little cabin and it's beautiful inside with lots of natural wood. It's really cosy and you've got the most spectacular view in the distance.
There's a beautiful lobby where you can relax at and there's a great restaurant on site as well. The guiding during the day is all private. It's a top-notch experience. I love the idea of being out amongst nature but coming home to something cosy.
Tell us about the most luxurious hotel you've stayed at.
Again, it's a lodge. You can tell I'm a sucker for lodges. It's a safari lodge in South Africa known as the Ebony Lodge. It's luxurious in the sense that you have an enormous villa all to yourself. There's an amazing wine cellar and you can get really stuffed there because you eat five to six times a day. A lot of places that serve sundowners have a little gin and tonic served on the side, but these guys had a custom made cocktail kit filled with miniature spirits. There's great guiding and safari all the way through, too.
In terms of social responsibility, they sponsor schools in the area as well. They also have an amazing shop stocked with African artefacts. The whole experience is just oustanding. The icing on the cake is the private outdoor plunge pool at each villa that's very well heated. You feel like you're soaking in a hot tub.
Most memorable turn-down service?
Probably Amankora in Bhutan. There was a different turn-down gift for each day. I received a book about Bhutan on one day and a little drink on another.
Which is your favourite airline, and why?
Singapore airlines. Lovely service. They consider the little details that other airlines fail to catch onto.
What is the most underrated destination you know of?
Kenya. It's probably my favourite safari destination. People believe that they have security issues there but they don't. You can have such a varied safari experience there. I know a lot of people who own lodges there and you can get much more of a personal touch there because a lot of them are owner run and managed. Aside from that, you get the cultural element because you've got the Maasai and Samburu tribe people. In a lot of the lodges, they will actually be your guide as well.
Worst souvenir you've picked up from a trip.
Apart from stomach problems? I once received a Bolivian fanny pack as a gift.
Tell us about a great little place you know.
It was a place in New York. A really cool cocktail bar in Nolita called La Esquina. It looks like an old-school Mexican fast-food diner from the outside but you go to the back of the restaurant and there's someone there with a clipboard who checks if your name is on the list. If it is, they take you down through the kitchen and suddenly you're in this really cool, underground cocktail bar.
Who is the most interesting person you've met on your travels?
Veronica Poblete. She's the landscape architect for Alto Atacama, one of the lodges we use in the Atacama desert. She's slightly eccentric. A very smart lady who used to be an ex-Harvard lecturer. She's Chilean and she loves the desert and the area. She's been there for 30 years. She's interested in botany and is quite spiritual as well.
What are you reading right now?
I just finished reading The Circle by Dave Eggers. I'm a big fan of Dave Eggers. I'm currently reading Murakami's 1Q84. It's huge but I lug it around in my suitcase.
What's on your travel bucket list for 2016?
Papua New Guinea and Namibia. I would love to explore more of Borneo and visit Turkey — I've never been there.
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