Temples, tuk-tuks and top notch dining – an expert guide to Singapore

Modern skyscrapers and super sized shopping malls sit alongside historical sites and colourful ethnic areas like Little India and Kampong Glam in Asia’s ‘second city’, showing what happens when the Western world successfully collides with the Orient.

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Where the experts holiday: Ruby Lovell, Sri Lankan author, film producer and hip hop artist

As the daughter of a former High Commissioner of the Sri Lankan Embassy, Ruby Lovell was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka and spent her childhood between Russia (where her father was posted) and Sri Lanka. Ruby would spend every summer in Colombo with her extended family, and during these holidays, her grandmother would teach her about her heritage through day time excursions around the city and traditional Tamil bed time stories. In 1985, Ruby’s father was reposted to London and her family moved to Putney when she was seven. Ruby has lived in Putney ever since. 

Now with her own young Anglo-Asian children, Ruby takes her her sons on regular trips back to Sri Lanka to explore their cultural heritage where they have visited tea plantations, volunteered at orphanages in the Northern territory for children effects by the civil war, learned to play traditional mridangam drums and visited elephant sanctuaries.

When Ruby struggled to find a picture book representing her Anglo-Asian children, she decided to write her own story celebrating diversity, adventure and interest in other cultures. Ruby Rides an Elephant is a vibrant and colourful exploration of Sri Lanka, inspired by the bedtime stories Ruby grew up listening to in Colombo, as well as the visits back to her homeland taken with her own children, helping them discover and explore their cultural heritage and experience some of the amazing adventures Ruby had as a child.

What do you like to do on holiday?
Anytime I visit another country, I really like to make sure I’ve steeped myself in as much of their culture as possible. I’m not really one to sit on a sun lounger by the pool for a week. I love to take in the local architecture and famous cultural sights, and also love to go out of my way to taste the best local food and wine. I also try to scout out the best hole in the wall places that you’d find the locals in and avoid the tourist traps. It involves a certain amount of research, chats with random people to get recommendations, and maybe even some people watching to see where locals regularly stop into. I feel these places are where you get a real feel of the country and its people.

Where did you last go?
I last went to Barbados in the Caribbean in June 2017. We stayed on the West Coast as the waves allow for swimming and they have great local restaurants and shops. Barbados is split into regions known as Parishes, and we stayed in the Parish of St James near a town called Paynes Bay in a rental property right on the beach. The colour of the sea is spectacular here – pure turquoise – and the scenery is breath taking. There are lots of local restaurants like Mullins Bay where you can go on a Saturday or Sunday and eat, swim and be entertained by a local live band. It was fabulous. Barbados is known for its fresh fish and seafood, so trying a local flying fish dish is a must, washed down with the famous Rum Punch produced on the island and a real favourite with the locals.

Do you know where you’re going this year?
I’m very excited to be heading off to New York for the summer. This will be a city break and I have some live music performances lined up (as I’m also a hip hop/RnB artist). Whenever I go to New York I always check out what’s happening in Madison Square Garden as it’s a fantastic venue for shows. When I was there last Christmas, I watched the theatre adaptation of Elf which was superb. Not to miss sights are the views from the Observatory Deck at the One World Trade Centre. It is fantastic and you see the whole of the Big Apple from 1,300 feet high on the 102nd floor. The views from the Empire State Building are also spectacular and be sure to check out the Comedy Store in Greenwich Village for well know comedians who just pop up on the night to perform. I will be travelling with my children and will rent an apartment in the Soho district which is cool, hip and bustling with great restaurants and shops.

Of all the places you’ve been to, which was your favourite and why?
I would say my country of origin, Sri Lanka. I was born there and grew up between Colombo and Russia until I was seven years old (my father worked as a cultural attaché at the time).
In 1983, I moved to London, but would spend every summer back in Sri Lanka with my family. It is such an amazing island with so much to offer: breath-taking cultural heritage sights, spectacular beaches for relaxing on or for surfing, tropical jungles for hiking and exploring. The food delicious, mouth-watering and spices, smells and aromas are always enticing. There is also the world renowned tea industry (grown and produced in the hills of the island). The whole culture and landscape is bursting with colour, from the fabrics to the jewellery, the fruits to the animals. Not to mention the vibrant atmosphere of local markets which are a must see attraction of this magical island.

Which destination do you wish to travel to, but haven’t yet been?
Japan is on the top of my bucket list. The best way to find out where to travel is by word of mouth, in my opinion. And I’ve heard from so many sources that it is a spectacular country. Kyoto is a stunning cultural hub full of history and heritage, while Tokyo is the ultimate big city experience that I’m sure will be totally unforgettable. I’ve always dreamed of visiting the oldest temples in Tokyo with spectacular pagodas, and travelling at the speed of light almost on the famous Japanese bullet trains is a must do. Heading south to Kyoto I’d like to visit the shrines, palaces of the feudal era and the famous rock gardens – all of which are sure to be a real cultural eye opener.

How often do you go away?
I’m fortunate enough to get away about three times a year. I usually find a long summer away is the best way to ‘recharge the batteries’, which I think harks back to my childhood summers spent in Sri Lanka. As a mother with children, I must adhere to school holidays, but we make it work somehow. Christmas holidays are almost always spent in the mountains, skiing.  A favourite of ours is the French Alps and we usually head to Val D’Isere. There’s always great snow, amazing restaurants and if you like après ski bars, you’ll find some really good ones here complete with live bands flown in from all the world! At Easter, we usually head for sunshine to either Sri Lanka or Dubai.

Who do you travel with?
I travel pretty exclusively with my children and family. But I sometimes take short breaks with my friends. They’re quite the party animals so we always love a city break that offers great nightlife like Berlin or Amsterdam.

Where do you see tourism in your country in 10 years?
I see it growing very rapidly. Tourism in Sri Lanka is one of the biggest contributors to our economy. Strangely the island’s tourism was not so badly affected during the Civil War in the 80s and 90s, largely due to the fact that most of the unrest was in the north of the island and not in Colombo or other tourist areas. I can only foresee it growing and growing: it’s a great time to invest in Sri Lanka too. It has the best mix of big city, beaches, tropical climate and culture. What more could you ask for? Paradise!

Ruby Rides an Elephant Hi-Res Cover.jpg


Ruby Lovell is a children’s book author whose debut picture book Ruby Rides an Elephant is published today (8 March;£4.99, Lychee Books). This beautiful book explores the vibrant colours, sounds, flavours of Sri Lanka and introduces children  aged 3+ to South Asian cultures.

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Shanghai Nights

In a city that is already home to more hotels than you can shake a stick at, you might question the need for three more.

However a stay at one of the following luxury hotels, all due to open their doors imminently, should put that thought to rest. 

Situated in Shanghai's historic neighbourhood of Dazhongli, The Middle House is a Piero Lissoni-designed temple to cool Italian design. Elsewhere The Bulgari is moving into the former Shanghai Chamber of Commerce Building, while over in the bustling Bund district, Ian Schrager is set to open The Shanghai Edition.

Recently released figures show that Shanghai - which scooped the trophies for ‘Asia`s Leading Festival & Event Destination 2017’ and ‘Asia`s Leading Meetings & Conference Destination 2017’ at the prestigious 2017 World Travel Awards - was visited by 8.54 million tourists in 2016, an all time high.

Interview: Saminda Perera, General Manager– Marketing, SriLankan Airlines

Saminda Perera, who has spearheaded SriLankan’s Marketing and Corporate Communications Strategy since June 2015, says that the airline’s recent success at World Travel Awards - dubbed the Oscars of the travel industry - makes him optimistic about the future. Kaye Holland reports

SriLankan Airlines has just been recognised as ‘Asia's Leading Airline to the Indian Ocean 2017’ and ‘Asia's Leading Cultural Airline 2017’ at World Travel Awards Asia & Australasia Gala Ceremony. How important is it to be honoured in this way?
We are extremely honoured and pleased to receive these two titles at World Travel Awards 2017. An award is certainly a source of motivation and proof that we are doing the right thing. Particularly at time when SriLankan Airlines’ focus is Asia - where we have been expanding our operations consistently - so winning these awards is a validation of our stature and the impact of our presence in the region.

To what do you attribute your success? What separates SriLankan Airlines from its competitors?Our success is about the courage to adopt novelties in our service and preserving what we are originally known for - the traditional warmth and hospitality of Sri Lankans and Sri Lanka, the country.
For instance, we may operate modern, state-of-the art aircraft equipped with the latest cabin features and connectivity options, but it is our service - which stems from the values that we uphold as a nation - that makes us stand out from the rest.
This is complemented by our convenient and seamless connectivity that is offered across Asia Pacific, the Indian sub-continent, Middle East,  Europe, and of course from October onwards, our much anticipated operations to Melbourne.

Are you optimistic about 2017 and the next few years for SriLankan Airlines?
Having introduced three more vibrant cities to our expansive connectivity in India - which has made us the foreign carrier that operates to/out of the most number of Indian cities - and our anticipated daily direct services between Colombo and Melbourne, 2017 has certainly been an exciting year for us.
As we explore every potential to expand our presence in the regions in which we have already established our presence, the next few years will certainly see us enhancing connectivity.

How important is the airline to the local economy?
The airline, being the national carrier, is not only expected to be a driving force in the country’s economy, but also a prime vehicle that takes Sri Lanka to the world.
Our role goes beyond transporting passengers from one point to another. We have been in the forefront of promoting Sri Lanka and inspiring travellers to explore the country. We have also been actively taking part in the worldwide tourism promotions activations implemented by the country’s tourism institutions.

What do you see as the main challenges or trends regionally in the airline industry?
We see many regional airlines shifting their focus to tier-two cities, as opposed to traditional hubs as we observe a consistent growth of travel movements with the former. This inevitably results in enhanced connectivity.
One must not forget that the checklists of travellers has evolved thanks to technology. They are better informed, more analytical and, for them, brand loyalty is a secondary factor. Our challenge is to capture and retain these discerning travellers, for which we need to be seen and heard through the clutter.

Where would you like to see SriLankan Airlines in 10-15 years’ time?
I would certainly like to see SriLankan on the top most slot in Asia and among the top 10 in the world.

Tell us a little bit about why you joined SriLankan Airlines?
Having studied and worked out of Sri Lanka, my initial inspiration was the pride of working for the national carrier. As I went along, it was the sense of achievement and self-satisfaction brought through accomplished tasks.
To the outside world, an airline employee is someone who has the privilege to travel a lot. However when you become part of the fraternity you realise that what matters most is the power that you have, to make a difference in someone’s life by creating the perfect journey. Whether you’re a pilot, a cabin crew member or an IT systems personnel, to inspire someone to travel and to broaden their horizons is one of the most self-fulfilling tasks.

What are the main lessons you’ve learned during your time as General Manager – Marketing at SriLankan Airlines?
I am of the opinion that social, digital and people-centric media are taking precedence over conventional mainstream methods of advertising and publicity. Hence, to be on top of the game, there is no replacement for a comprehensive digital/social media strategy in your action plans.
Secondly: doing your optimum with the available resources can have extremely satisfying results. There is no such thing called “enough resources.” If you wait till you can tick off every item in your list, you will never be able to undertake any project. Availability of resources can assure perfection only to an extent. The rest is about taking risks, shattering the mould, and believing in your team.
Lastly, I am a firm believer that having the right people in the right places can always make the right difference.

If there is one thing you could change about the industry tomorrow, what would it be and why?
If I could change one thing about the industry, it would be its impact on environment. Not only those in the field of aviation, but also every citizen of the world has a responsibility to preserve nature for future generations.
As a flag-carrier of a country that relies on tourism centred mainly around nature, SriLankan Airlines does steer many environment sustainability initiatives - some of which involve the engagement of passengers.
I would love to see the industry paying more attention to mitigating or even erasing their carbon footprint and use their voice to drive the message across their loyal customers to play their part in saving environment.


More information
Fluent in both English and French, Saminda Perera has more than 17 years experience in the aviation industry under his belt.
Mr Perera joined SriLankan as a Commercial Executive during the Emirates era, and went on to hold many of the Airlines’ prominent positions including Director- Crisis Communications, Manager- Corporate Events and Promotions, Acting Head of Corporate Communications, Commercial Manager –France, Regional Manager- Sri Lanka and Maldives, General Manager Worldwide Sales and General Manager Corporate Communications of SriLankan Airlines. 
In addition, he has held the positions of Snr. Manager Marketing Communications of Oman Air  and Consultant/Evaluator of UNESCO in France.                          


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