Most famous Asian royals to follow on Instagram!

He has Hollywood movie star looks, lives the perfect life of yachts, castles and horses, People and GQ line up for his interviews, looks every bit like Prince Charming, he is real and lives in Brunei. Meet Prince Abdul Mateen of Brunei, a trained pilot, animal lover and Instagram sensation amongst others – he is the son of His Majesty Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, Sultan of Brunei, with a net worth of US$28 billion – Mateen enjoys a luxurious life in one of the richest countries on Earth. 

If that comes as a surprise because you were busy keeping a tab on the British royal family and all the drama surrounding Harry and Meghan, it’s time to get you up to speed with the charming, young royals, the blue blood of Asia. 

Prince Abdul Mateen, Brunei
2.3M Instagram followers | @tmski

Not much is known about Brunei – a tiny nation of 2200 square miles on the northern shore of the island of Borneo in the South China Sea – but one thing we do know it has a sensational 30-year-old Prince, not shy of flashing his stinking wealth or stylish lifestyle. His Royal Highness Prince Abdul Mateen, the 10th son of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, the longest-reigning monarch (after Queen Elizabeth II) and Prime Minister of Brunei, is quite the over-sharer on Instagram. From posting shirtless selfies to flying a chopper, riding a horse, cruising the Mediterranean, playing with leopard cubs, wearing insanely expensive watches or just being a handsome soldier in the military – the Prince has amassed a massive 2.3 million following on Instagram at par with some Hollywood celebrities. 

With a super-rich father, the apparent estimated net worth is upwards of US$20 billion, the prince lives a pretty incredible, opulent life. A trained helicopter pilot, he earned the rank of second lieutenant after completing a gruelling 44-weeks course at UK’s Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, where he hiked seven mountains within a day during a challenge! His love for sports is well known – an ardent David Beckham fan, he excels in snorkelling, skiing, golfing, boxing, rowing, polo, badminton, amongst others. The royal even represented Brunei at the Southeast Asian Games in 2017. 

Queen Jetsun Pema, Bhutan
237k Instagram followers | @queenjetsunpema

In October 2011, the beautiful Jetsun Pema, daughter of a pilot, married the ‘Dragon King’ of Bhutan to become the youngest living queen in the world at the tender age of 21. Often called the “William and Kate of the East”, the royals recently celebrated their tenth wedding anniversary. Her husband, King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck indulged in PDA at the elaborate celebrations and joined the media to praise his effortlessly elegant wife, “I am very proud of her,” he said to the press. “She is a wonderful human being.”

According to The Washington Post reported that “in one version of events, the two met at a picnic when she was seven and he was 17; she reportedly came up to him and gave him a hug.” The queen’s family ties with the royals go back several generations. Though she’s the daughter of a pilot, her paternal great-grandfather was lord of the eastern province of Tashigang, and her maternal grandfather was the half-brother of the wife of Bhutan’s second king.

Often seen in limelight without a hint of makeup, brandishing her flawlessly radiant complexion, the queen is a mother of two boys, Gyalsey Jigme Namgyel, born in February 2016 and Gyalsey Ugyen Wangchuck, born right at the start of the pandemic in March 2020. Before stepping in the royal life, she studied international relations, psychology, and art history London’s Regent’s University whereas her husband received his education at the Oxford University. The couple share a common love for art.

Maharaja Padmanabh Singh, India
234k followers | @pachojaipur

Padmanabh Singh, the 23-year-old Maharaja from India makes headlines even without intending to. From traipsing in his magnificent palace in Jaipur (India), to hiking the terrains of Machu Picchu or having the time of his life blowing out birthday candles in an enviable Roman castle, the dashing royal knows how to make headlines even without trying. He shot to international intrigue and fame after walking the ramp for Dolce & Gabbaba at the Milan Fashion Week in 2018 – several magazine covers and fashion collaborations later, the polo-playing royal commands the world’s attention. 

Fondly called Pacho by friends and family, a name bestowed upon him by his grandmother, Maharani Padmini Devi, Padmanabh Singh’s title is not officially recognised by the Indian government given that the country’s federal parliamentary democratic republic. His love for polo runs in the blood. Pacho’s great-grandfather, Sawai Man Singh II, brought international recognition for India after winning the first Polo World Cup championship held in France in 1957. At just 18, when most teens are recklessly enjoying life, Pacho even after living a life of riches and opulence represented India as the youngest member of a World Cup polo team. A winner of several sporting accolades, the young royal is known to be dedicated and disciplined to a fault and has never missed a day of training in his life. 

Queen Rania, Jordan
 6.3M followers|@queenrania

Influential in her fashion choices and her advocacy for public health and education, ever since her husband Abdullah II, became the King of Jordan in 1999, the stylish Jordian has been serving us incredibly tasteful looks. Breathtakingly beautiful, the 51-year-old Queen Rania is renowned the world over for her contemporary elegance, unique sartorial style, philanthropy efforts and her open support for the native tradition. 

Fluent in Arabic and English, Queen Rania earned a degree in business administration from the American University at Cairo. Before joining the royal ranks, she worked at Citibank and even for Apple Inc in Amman, Jordan but destiny had other plans as she bumped into her future husband then-Prince Abdullah,  the son of King Hussein of Jordan and his second wife Princess Muna at a dinner party. Six months of dating and they were engaged. 

Princess Sirivannavari Nariratna, Thailand
84.2k followers|@royalworldthailand

The daughter of the current king of Thailand, King Vajiralongkorn, has every accomplishment on her resume – from fashion designing, professional badminton, equestrian accolades to writing love poems – the young princess lives and breathes creativity. Trained in top fashion houses like Armani, Ferragamo, Bulgari and Christian Dior, she’s the designer of her popular namesake label (Sirivannavari) and often regarded as one of the most creative royals in the world. Her badminton team won gold at the prestigious 2005 South Asian Games. 

 

Five travel destinations to avoid in 2018

The world is gradually discovering that tourism can be a double-edged sword. Though it brings in revenue and employment, it also has a devastating impact on the world’s society, culture and environment.

With tourism backlash in full effect, we have put together a list of destinations you may want to avoid in 2018:

1.Barcelona, Spain

Destinations to avoid in 2018_Barcelona

Statistics show that over 9 million tourists stayed in city hotels in 2016, an increase of over 7 million people since 1990. Angry locals have resorted to anti-tourist graffiti with statements such as “This is not tourism. This is invasion”, sprawled across the city. Several riots and protests were witnessed in the summer of 2017. Residents blamed services such as Airbnb for the increase of rents, forcing them from their homes. The city’s government has passed a law to limit tourist beds but will this be enough to tackle the new wave of anti-tourism?

2.Dubrovnik, Croatia

Destinations to avoid in 2018_Dubrovnik

Thousands of tourists are drawn in by Dubrovnik’s clear blue waters and historical buildings, not to mention the city’s starring role in “Game of Thrones”, one of the most talked about television shows in the world. UNESCO has listed various conservation issues while the impact of tourism threatens the city’s World Heritage status. In order to cut the number of visitors, Dubrovnik’s mayor has taken drastic measures, capping the number of people who can revel in the ancient city’s treasures at 4,000 a day.  

3.Bhutan

Destinations to avoid in 2018_Bhutan

The kingdom of Bhutan is at danger with mass tourism threatening nature and local cultures. Charging travellers a daily fee of US$200-$250 (depending on the time of year), the Prime Minister and Chairman of tourism, hoped to minimise the impact of tourism with a “high value, low impact” policy. In addition to this, visitors are recommended to use homestays − a Bhutanese version of bed and breakfast − as an attempt to bring money to rural areas and give value to a traditional way of life. However, with the number of regional tourists increasing from 97,584 in 2015 to 146,797 in 2016, locals have cited concerns about the environmental impact on its delicate cultural ecosystem.

4.Taj Mahal, India

Destinations to avoid in 2018_Taj Mahal_India

Built around 400 years ago, the iconic Taj Mahal is one of the most visited landmarks in the world. The country’s monsoon seasons, however, are not enough to prevent the yellowing of the ivory-white marble as pollution levels in Agra reach an all time high. As the Yamuna River − located behind the monument − fills with sewage and other waste, India’s masterpiece of love is damaged further. The Archaeological Survey of India is likely to limit the number of visitors to 30, 000 per day, besides introducing separate tickets for entry into the crypt, to ensure head count and crowd management. As of now, there is no restriction, drawing in 60,000 to 70,000 tourists during peak season.  

5.Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Destinations to avoid in 2018_Galapagos Islands

Home to wildlife and landscapes found nowhere else on earth, it comes as no surprise that the popularity of the Galapagos Islands has grown over the years. While the first visitors to the islands ate and slept on cruise ships, a significant rise in tourists has resulted in competition among hotels, making it much cheaper to stay on the islands. Local farmers and fishermen are unable to keep up with the requirement of visitors, meaning food must be imported from the mainland. Meanwhile, scientists argue that tourism is endangering the unique biodiversity, with the presence of humans effecting animals’ natural behaviours. Aside from this, the residents of these islands (human or not) also need a break, just like us!

 Text: Hira Desai

Chinese New Year getaways: Five last-minute destinations to make the most of the extended weekend

While the rest of the world is feeling the post-holiday blues, we are counting down the days till the much-awaited Chinese New Year festivities; moreover, another few days out of the office! Whether you are dreaming of soaking up some sun or embarking on an exciting city adventure, there has never been a better excuse to snap up a last-minute trip.  

Here is a round-up of some of our favourite destinations:

 
Bhutan – One for the peace seeker 

 Looking for a one-of-a-kind escape? To find peace and tranquility and to witness one of the world’s most awe-inspiring and untouched natural beauties? From its mystical mountainous landscape, to prominent Buddhist monasteries and unforgettable views of the Himalayas, Bhutan has got you covered. Spend your day trekking through the sweeping forests or wander off the trails into remote villages to experience absolute solitude.

Maldives – One for the sun worshipper

Crystal-clear turquoise lagoons, pristine white sandy beaches and stunning corals: there is no better place to unwind in style. Spend your day swimming in the Indian Ocean or head out on a snorkeling excursion to discover the extraordinary marine life. Charter a private yacht and enjoy a sundowner on the sun deck followed by a massage in the comfort of your own private over-water villa. This picture perfect haven will have you feeling rejuvenated in no time.   

Siem Reap – One for the culture lover

Embark on a cultural adventure to a magical town filled with many UNESCO heritage sites, some of which have been featured in the famous Hollywood franchise Tomb Raider. After a day of exploring the land of mythology and history, enjoy a relaxing spa treatment or explore the colourful markets.  For those looking to extend their getaway, luxury tour operator Lightfoot Travel offers an 8-day tour of classic Cambodia, which includes excursions to the historical sights of Phnom Penh and a tour of the coastal city of Sihanoukville, followed by a speedboat ride to the spectacular private island of Song Saa.

Bangkok – One for the city addict

This bubbling melting pot has quickly become one of the world’s favourite cities and it’s not hard to see why, with plentiful opportunities to explore the country’s culture and history with temples, palaces and museums, along with luxury malls and weekend markets for the odd shopping spree (or two). A trip to Bangkok would not be complete without sampling local cuisine, followed by a tipple or two in one of the many rooftop bars, including the Sky Bar – featured in The Hangover Part II movie – where you can enjoy unparalleled views of the city.

Sri Lanka – One for the naturist

Hop on an old British colonial train and be transported to the lush tea plantations of the Hill Country, spotting tea pickers along the way. Admire the beautiful wildlife on safari at Yala National Park – home to leopards, elephants and bears – or head to the south coast, renowned for surfing and whale watching. Sri Lanka is indeed the perfect place to be at one with nature.  

So if you’ve been bitten by the travel bug, it is time to book your flights and secure the best hotel deals because a good holiday is just what the doctor ordered. 

Text: Hira Desai