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Hungry for art? Your next inspired getaway should be in Vienna

Zee Lifestyle editor-at-large Melo Esguerra celebrates art–both modern and classic–in a recent visit to Vienna, Austria.

For hundreds of years, Vienna was a center of intellectual and artistic life. Now, the city that reinvented modernity is the vanguard again, further reinventing itself as a 21st century hub of contemporary design and earning the title of the art set’s newest capital. Upon the invitation of my dear friend, artist and curator Bogomir Doringer, I came to Vienna for the second time this year. This time, I was lucky to have stayed inside the Museums Quarter Wien, more commonly known as MQ.

Being one of the largest culture and art complexes in the world, MQ is a destination for culture seekers. You could spend an entire day diving into the vibrant sprawl of renowned museums, exhibitions halls and art spaces–which is exactly what I did.

The Imperial City Stables were constructed in the beginning of the 18th century, and later was adapted into trade fair and exhibition grounds. With its grand opening in 2001, the Museums Quarter is nearly 300 years in the making.

Today, there are baroque buildings and contemporary architecture. Cultural facilities in every shape and size represent a variety of art sectors that merge and coalesce to form a scintillatingly contrasting whole.

Melo admiring the Egon Schiele exhibit at the Leopold Museum

Melo admiring the Egon Schiele exhibit at the Leopold Museum


The Leopold Museum is home to one of the largest collections of modern Austrian art. It is an impressive treasure trove of Viennese art nouveau, the Vienna Workshop, Classical Modernism and the Expressionist period. Here you can find art by Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka, Richard Gerstl and the world’s largest collection of masterpieces by Egon Schiele.

It was the first time I found myself immersed in the work of Schiele, who is the protege of Gustav Klimt. I was bedazzled, bewitched and hypnotized by Schiele’s art, where sex is beautiful and the body poetic.


On the opposite corner building from The Leopold Museum is the MUMOK, which stands for the Museum of Modern Art Foundation Ludwig. The MUMOK houses a collection of around 9,000 modern and contemporary pieces. These span through classic Modernism, Pop Art Fluxus and Viennese Actionism to present-day film and media art. Major pieces include works by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Pablo Picasso, Claes Oldenburg, Franz West, Nam June Paik, Wolf Vostell and Gerhard Richter.

I had come to MUMOK at the right time. Europe’s biggest dance festival, the IMPULSRANZ (the Vienna International Dance Festival) had a performance by Peaches and Keith Henessy at the museum. Together with their 25 performers, all participants of their workshop, Peaches and Keith performed “Critical Joy.” Afterwards, they spread their weirdness, queerness and divisiveness to the rest of the world from the MQ main court!

Melo admires the AJNHAJTCLUB exhibit, which celebrated migrant workers in Vienna

Melo admires the AJNHAJTCLUB exhibit, which celebrated migrant workers in Vienna


At the Frei Raun Q21 exhibition space at MQ was an exhibition tackling an important contemporary issue: immigration. Bogomir curated the AJNHAJTCLUB, a celebration of migrant workers. These are the men and women who came from Yugoslavia (now Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Kosovo and Bosnia, and Herzegovina) to work in Austria, half a century ago.

The collection of paintings at the Kunsthistorisches Museum

The collection of paintings at the Kunsthistorisches Museum


A few steps from the MQ is the Kunsthistorisches Museum or the Museum of Art History. Walking up the stairs of this impressive palace is like walking in a dream. This museum, which opened in 1891, is considered one of the five most significant fine art museums in the world. Here, there are collections of Egyptian, Greek and Roman antiquities, alongside sculptural works and pieces of decorative art.


Not far from the Museum of Art History is The Secession Building. It was erected in 1897 by Joseph Maria Olbrich as an architectural manifesto of the Vienna Scession group. It was designed to underline their break with conservative exhibition space Künstlerhaus.

Created in 1902, the Art Nouveau building is one of Vienna’s most compelling constructions. It is home to Klimt’s 32 meter-long Beethoven Frieze, which depicts Beethoven’s 9th symphony and can be viewed on the basement floor. The final section of the painting–the embracing lovers surrounded by angels–is also known as This Kiss to the Whole World. I couldn’t help but dream that one day I will host a dinner in that basement, surrounded by Klimt’s greatness.

The crowds congregating around Gustav Klimt's The Kiss in the Leopold Museum

The crowds congregating around Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss in the Leopold Museum


It was at the Belvedere Museum where my eyes were treated to a feast of Klimt’s portraits and landscapes. It is here where you can find what’s probably his most recognized piece: The Kiss. Some art historians have theorized that the lovers seen lip-locked in The Kiss are none other than the painter himself and his long-time partner, fashion designer Emilie Flöge, who he had previously depicted in a portrait. 

Visitors to the Belvedere Palace during this time were in for another treat. We have been confronted with 1,005 refugees’ life jackets drifting in the the baroque pond at the palace gardens, courtesy of Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei. The installation, entitled F. Lotus, consists of 201 rings each holding five life jackets retrieved from the Greek island of Lesbos. They are arranged in the letter F and float like lotus flowers. He said the work was his way of addressing the tragedy of Europe’s migrant crisis. The Ai Weiwei exhibition is entitled Translocation-Transformation. It extended from the Belvedere Museum to the 21erhaus, Museum of Contemporary Art.

My Austrian friend Alex once thanked me for promoting Vienna as a destination for free thinkers and free-spirited travelers. I never thought that I was promoting Vienna at all. All I did was chronicle the adventures that inspired my soul. And always, after every visit to Vienna, my heart and soul is always full.

Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, Dec-Jan 2017


For Our Next Travel Destination, We Dream About Koh Samui in Thailand

Impressive views of the Gulf of Thailand welcome you at the Arrival Sala

Silent Sanctuaries

Mayenne Carmona discovers the Four Seasons Resort in Koh Samui is a quiet oasis to recharge and rejuvenate…

What does one expect from a Four Seasons Resort? Everything! Firstly, it will definitely be ranked no less than a five-star hotel or resort. Most importantly, it would not fall short of all your expectations: excellent cuisine, topnotch comfort at your fingertips in a well-appointed villa, courteous staff who offer impeccable service, and every other detail you could possibly need—down to the last cotton bud. After all, a Four Seasons Resort is always designed by a top-rated architectural team and interior designers.

The moment I stepped into the Four Seasons Resort at Koh Samui, I felt all my cares washed away by the soft waves of the bluest sea. The fresh air cleared my sinuses in no time, and the gentle breeze was a much needed caress to a tired mind and body. It was truly paradise regained for me and my friends. We were a motley group of career-oriented people who needed a much-awaited break from work, and this was the perfect choice for us.

Each Villa has a butler to cater to the guests’ every whim. The afternoon we arrived, we requested a sunset dinner by the beach, and much like a genie, our butler whipped up a romantically set candlelit dinner for six. A five-course delicious Thai dinner was prepared by their well-trained chef.

Our days were spent languishing by the beach, having daily massages, attending yoga classes, doing water sports and enjoying every bite of Thai cuisine. Golf carts transported us wherever we wanted to go within the resort. This vacation brought all my senses to another realm, and restored a weary soul to perfection. 

Four Seasons Koh Samui, I look forward to seeing you again!

Koh Samui is the third largest island of Thailand in the scenic Gulf of Siam. It is a 45 minute flight from Bangkok. Sandy beaches, coral reefs, coconut trees and abundant tourist resources make it a popular holiday destination.

For more information on Four Seasons Resort, visit their website at https://www.fourseasons.com/kohsamui/

(This article has already been published in Zee Lifestyle’s March 2016 Travel Issue, “Silent Sanctuaries” written by our columnist Mayenne Carmona for La Vie En Rose on pages 32-33.)

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Get Lost in this Not-so-distant Island Safari Paradise


Tao Philippines Crusoe-style deserted island camp paradise is perfect for those who understand the luxury of simplicity and disconnection.

by Melo E. Esguerra photography by Scott Sporleder

Just when you think Palawan is fast becoming a second Boracay, where congestion of concrete buildings and human bodies have begun to define the island experience more than the pristine beaches of white powdery sand, the Lostboys of Tao Philippines came up with a new island project that guarantees an escape to paradise. They call the island Camp Ngey Ngey.

The Lostboys have taken over the abandoned resort of Manguengey in Busuanga, a remote island in Palawan. They have kept the ruins from the typhoon and built their signature bamboo Tuka huts around the main beach of the island, which serves as the camp area. Just a short walk away you’ll find jungle trails that lead to three other wild beaches, preserved reefs and windswept cliffs encompassed by crystal blue waters. And on certain days, when the winds are strong, one side of the island becomes a good site for surfing.


Eddie Brock, one of the founders of Tao Philippines, explains how this concept of an island safari came about. “When we took over Manguengey Resort, we were stuck with the idea of how to run it. We do not know how to cater to resort guests, the individual choices and needs, and menus,” he admits. “Tao’s expertise is to show travelers something new, something more raw and adventurous. We decided that we will not worry about things we don’t understand, and stick to what we do best. One of the best aspects of a Tao trip is creating an atmosphere of connecting with other travelers, disconnected from digital clot—without the worry of planning, wallets and keeping a status. Five days out in the remoteness with the islanders in control leads to a positive attitude: guards down, inhibition is off and open to meet new friends.”

The camp is accessible through the three day/two night boat safari from Coron, with beach and reef stops en route the camp and back. Guests will be joining other travelers, staying in individual Tuka huts dotted along the beach. There are lounges, a dining and kitchen area, and open hang-out places. Currently, the big mansion from the old resort is being restored into a villa that can accommodate a family or group of friends.

The island can be reserved for big events like weddings, parties and other meaningful gatherings.

In the island, there is no room service, no menus, no WiFi. You will arrive as strangers, you will eat together, swim together, laugh together, drink together, and get to know each other offline. Become part of the magic of Tao, and see what happens!

For more information on how the trip to Camp Ngey Ngey works, log on to www.taophilippines.com


(This article has already been published in Zee Lifestyle’s June 2017 Men’s Issue, “Lost in Paradise” on pages 110-113.)

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THROWBACK THURSDAY. Our Stylish Voyage on a Boat with Loida and Richard


With hosts Loida Montesclaros and Richard Forteau, we take entertaining to the high seas.

by Shari Quimbo photography Steffen Billhardt

The sky was decidedly gloomy on the Sunday afternoon Loida Montesclaros and Richard Forteau invited a small group of us for a sail, the clouds getting darker as I make my way to Porter’s Marina, where the Blue Planet was docked.

“Richard built the boat himself in Cebu,” Loida explains, going on to share that he was the former honorary French consul in Cebu. “It was built here, and I designed the interiors.”

All that work certainly paid off—Loida and Richard would often sail the boat out to different Philippine destinations such as El Nido, Siargao, Boracay and the Gigantes Islands in Iloilo. These could mean days-long journeys that sometimes meant dealing with some rough seas. Quick day trips, much like the one we were about to embark on, were also a regular past time.

Loida gives me a quick tour of the boat then shows off her tropical spread. With its bright blue and white floral seating, the cabin’s dining area is already a pretty festive site. “I wanted to keep it simple,” she tells me, arranging her fresh fruits around on the banana leaf-covered wooden slabs she was using as serving trays. “And I wanted it to look more local, more tropical. We are on the water, after all.”

The bamboo slats of the dining table were the perfect backdrop to Loida’s spread, which featured tropical fruits alongside an entire roll of lechon belly, fresh lumpia, empanada and steamed shrimp.

The highlight of the table, though, was the chicken liver pate, a dish that Richard makes himself. “Luckily, the French love to cook,” Loida jokes conspiratorially.

Finally, it was time to take the vessel out onto the high seas, and the group makes its way above deck to enjoy the view. The cool sea breeze was a bit stronger than usual, something that had to do with the dark rain clouds looming above us—something that would have deterred any other group, but not this adventurous bunch. Armed with a glass of champagne in one hand and a biscuit smeared with pate on the other, many stand against the railing, admiring the sight of the sky turning orange above the Mactan Channel.

And then it starts to pour. No matter, though—as the rain pounds against the deck, the party finds its way down below. A bottle of wine is opened, and then another, while a second pot of pate is transferred on a plate. Our captain waits until the waves calm before he brings us back ashore.

(This story has already been published in the printed edition of Zee Lifestyle Magazine’s November 2016 issue as one of the Entertaining Features on pages 82-85.)

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