Tuesday, November 29, 2011

10 Easy Trips

Traverse Japan on foot, take a train ride in Saba and go diving in Qiandao Lake
Executive summary by Darmansjah

Nakasendo, Japan
the nakasendo way brings one past atmospheric old towns and up close to the Japanese way of life

Why Go Now?
For the budget conscious, getting from Kyoto to Tokyo can cost as little as US$55 for an eight-hour bus ride. For the time-strapped, the Shinkansen shortens the journey to a mere two and a half hours. But for the nostalgists, consider taking a 12-day walk from the cultural epicenter of Japan to the bustling capital.

The Nakasendo, literally translated as “central mountain route” was a popular and important ancient highway during Japan’s feodal period, which connected Kyoto to Edo, or modern day Tokyo. Stretching over 530 kilometres, the Nakasendo passed along Lake Biwa, over the mountains at Sekigahara, across the plains north of present-day Nagoya, close to the southern Japanese Alps, across the plain between Matsumoto and karuisawa, and down to the Kanto plain surrounding present-day Tokyo to Tokyo’s precedessor, Edo.

Join Walk Japan on its innovaive Naksendo Way, a fully-guided, 12-day walking tour that goes along the most enjoyable, scenic and best-preserved parts of the old highway. Explore the Nakasendo on an intimate level as the tour allows one to stay in delightful local inns, dine in family-run restaurants, bring you closer to the Japanese and their way of life.

How Do I Make It Happen?
Walk Japan is the pioneer of off-the-beaten-track walking tours in Japan, while they also provide walking tours such as the Kunisaki Trek, Shogun Trail and Kysushu Expedition. Nakasendo way still remains its bestseller (walkjapan.com).

Jetstar Asia (jetstar.com) and Singapore Airlines(singaporeair.com) fly direct from Singapore Changi Airport to kansai International Airport, while Malaysia Airlines (malaysianairlines.com) files direct from Kuala Lumpur. Trains and buses run regularly from the airport to Kyoto.

The screen in Kyoto offers just 13 guest frooms, each stylishly designed by 13 different local and international designers (from US$200; screen-htel.jp)

Yangon, Myanmar

Why Go Now?

Yangon celebrates The Full Moon Day of Thadingyut, the Lighting Festival of Myanmar. This auspicious festival happens from the 11 to 13 October this year.

The lighting Festival is the second most popular festival in Myanmar after Thingyan (New Year Water Festival). It celebrates the descent of Buddha from heaven after he preached the Abidharma (the most difficult of Buddhist teaching ) to his mother reborn in heaven.

During the festival, groups of youths can be seen waling with candles and gifts in their hands to pay respect to their elders. This act (Kadaw in Burmese) is not just a form of paying respect, it is also practiced to cultivate a person’s spirituality. The aged-old tradition is observed in reverence to the Buddha, his laws (Dharma), the monastic community (Sangha), parents and teachers.

Although the locals reat the festival very seriously, it is by no means a sombre affair as a carnival atmosphere engulfs the entire nation. Expect to sedd acrobatic street performers, colourful dance troupes and makeshift stalls invigorate the dusty streets of Yangon.

How Do I Make It Happen?

Fly direct to yangon from Singapore via Silkair,Myanmar Airways International (maiair.com) and jetstar asia, Air Asia, Malaysia Airlines, and Myanmar Airways fly direct to Yangon from Kuala Lumpur).

Park royal Yangon is located in the heart of the city and set amidst the country’s rich cultural heritage. Each of the 267 rooms and suites are spacious and elegantly appointed, with premier Orchid Club rooms offering additional amenities and exclusive privilages (from US$72, parkroyalhotels.com).

Melbourne, Australia

Why Go Now
The Melbourne International Arts Festival, from 6 to 22 October, promises to be a trully international festival, with major presentations from regional and international artistes. The 2011 edition presents 15 world premiers and 13 Australian premiers in a program of 52 shows, events and projects.

Kick off the festival with subversive Russian art collective, AES+F’s Angels-Demons. Parade, who will take over the streets with an arresting and playful scuptural spectacle.

Don’t miss Ganesh versus the Third Reich, a singular production from the intrepid Back to Back Theatre, formed in 1987 by an ensemble of actors with disabilities.

Round off your visit by catching the world finest singers assemble with The Black Arm Band for a one-night-only performance (melbournefestival.com.au).

How Do I Make Ait happen?
There are five direct flights from Singapore to Melbourne. Take your pick from Qantas Airways (qantas.com.au), British Airways (britishairways.com), singapore Airlines, Jetstar Airways and Emirates (emirates.com). AirAisa and Malysia Airlines offer direct flights from Kuala Lumpur.
Metcard gives you unlimited and flexible travel between metroplitan tranis, trams and buses. A one-day travel card costs US$7 (metlinkmelbourne.com.au).
Art series-The Cullen is a boutique hotel sitated in the entertainment district, an ideal place to stay if you want to soak up the festive vibe (artseries.com.au/cullen).

Sabah, Malaysia

Why Go Now?
After its maiden voyage in early July this year, The North Borneo Railway featuring the British Vulcan Steam Engine takes visitors to Kota Kinabalu on a journey into nostalgia three times a week. The vintage steam locomotive is one of the few functional locomotives left in the world that is fuelled by wood. The train, the last of a fleet of locomotives that has plied the tracks through Borneo since the 1880s, has a capacity of 80 passengers accommodated in five colonial-period carriages, each with a capacity of 16 passengers, and named after a town along the journey-Papar, Kinarut, Tanjung Aru, Putatan and Kawang.

Throughout the journey, you will be able to take in the sights and sounds of the countryside, paddy fields, mangrove jungles and pristine coastal beaches as the train chugs along the tracks.

How Do I Make It Happen?
The steam train is scheduled to run every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, and is prices at US$85 for adults and US$50 for childdren between the ages of two and twelve. Th ride is complimentary for children below two years old (info@northborneorailway.com.my).
Sutera Harbour Resort is a tourism development project spread over 384 acres of prime sea-front land and consists of the five-star The Pacific  Sutera Hotel, the award winning the Magelian Sutera Resort as well as the Sutera harbour Marina, Gold & Country Club. It is only five minutes away from Kota Kinabali City centre and 10 minutes from the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (from US$90; suteraharbour.com).

Bangalore, India

Why Go Now?

The capital city of the southern Inidan state of Karnataka, Bengaluru or Bangalore, is one of Indias’s most vibrant and modern cities. Visitors will be amazed by Bengaluru’s unique fusion of new-scheool, hi-tech sensibility and old-school aesthetics.

October is an opportune time to visit Bangalore as the weather is invigorating and because it heralds not one but two festivals-Dusserha (6 October) and Diwali (26 October). Begin your pilgrimage with the Bull Temple. Built in the 16th century by Kempegowda, it is dedicated to Lord Shiva’s vehicle Nandi. There are many interesting sights to behold at the temple. Spend a weekend to see the typical marriage processions, car baptisms (to ward off the evil eye) and multifarious bards belting the latest Bangalore tunes in and around the temple.

The city is a good place to do some shopping. Pick up incense, silks, authentic tribal jewellery, brass and copper ware, soapstone statues, aromatic sandalwood and rosewood carvings and lacquer work.

 after visiting the bull temple in Bangalore, check out the colourful markets for about of shopping

How Do I Make It Happen?
Fly direct from Singapore to Bangalore via Silkair and Singapore Airlines. Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia service direct routes from Kuala Lumpur
Sheraton  Bangalore Hotel’s 230 guest rooms and suites combine classic and contemporary designs in a comfortable setting. Sweeping city views from the health club, pool, and spa contribute to great spaces for re-energising your body and soul (starwoodhotels.com).

Phuket, Thailand

Why Go Now?
From 27 september to 5 October, Phuket celebrates the bizarre Phuket Vegetarian Festival. While the name Vegetarian Festival may not have you jumping off your couch in excitement, this herbivorous shinding is much more than meets the eye. In fact, its is the most exciting and idosyncratic tradition of Phuket province.

The origins of the festival are unclear. Legend has it htat the festival was brought to Phuket by a wandering Chinese opera group who fell ill with malaria while performing on the island. In response, the troupe decided to adhere to a strict vegetarian diet and pray to the Nine Emperor Gods to purify the mind and body upon recovery, a celebration was held in honour of the gods as well as to express their happiness at surviving what was, int hte nineteenth century, a fatal illness.

During the performances of religious rites at the temples, priest conduct varius kinds of dangerous acts to show the power of their gods an to rid followers of their bad luck. Acts include walking barefoot across a strecth of ground paved with burning charcoal and cutting, striking or piercing parts of the body with sharp objects, among other death-defying theatrics.

How Do I Make It Happen?
Thai AirAsia, TigerAirways (tigerairways.com), SilkAir (silkair.com) and Jetstar Asia fly direct to Phuket from Singapore. Qatar Airways, AirAsia and Malaysia Airlines fly direct to Phuket from Kuala Lumpur
Set in an exclusive area of Patong pacific Light Hotel offers comfortable and spacious accommodation for a relaxing holiday. The hotel features a tropical landscape to enhance its warm ambience (US$40; pacificlighthotel.com).

Ningaloo Coast, Australia

Why Go Now?

The Ningaloo Coast in Western Australia has been given the highest level of international recognition with its inscription on the World Heritage List because of the striking natural landscapes of Cape Range and Ningaloo Reef’s biological diversity.

The listing covers an area of 604,500 ha and means the area ranks alongside sites such as the Great Barrier Reef, the Grand Canyon, Egypt’s Pyramids, Yellowstone national Park, Stonehenge and Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park.

Ningaloo Reef is one of the most beautiful and accessible coral reefs in the world. Its is ranked seventh on the world’s list of coral reef biodiversity ‘hotspots’ and second in terms of the number of species found within a limited range. Together, Ningaloo Marine Park and Cape Range National Park attracts more than 250,000 visitors a year, taking up the golden opportunity to encounter whale sharks, manta rays, dugongs, turtles, humpback and other whales, rays and sharks, as well as many rare and diverse plants and wildlife found within Cape Range.

How Do I Make It Happen?
The closets airport to Ningaloo Coast is Learnmonth Airport in Exmouth. A shuttle transfer is available, but should be booked in advance. Skywest Airlines and Qantas both fly to Learnmonth from Perth Airport.
Novotel Ingaloo Resort provides a fantastics base for you to enjoy the natural beauty of Ningaloo coast and offers direct access to the beach. Depending on your needs, both apartments and buangalows are available (from US$300; novotelningaloo.com.au).

Qiandao Lake, China

Why Go Now?
Take a dive in the QiandaoLake and discover the Lion City, the Chinese equivalent of the ancient city of Atalantis. Qiandao Lake is a man-made lake located in Chuan’an County, Zhejiang, China. At the foot of the Wu Shi Mountain lays an ancient city known as Shi Cheng (Lions City), built in Dong Han period. The valley was flooded in 1959 to create the lake for the Zin’an River Dam project, submerging the ancient Lion City to its tragic fate. It was named “Lion City” because of the Five Lion Mountain that sits just behind the city.

Big Blue dive operator (big-blue.com) based in Shanghai, runs weeekend trips twice a month to the lake and has started to uncover parts of the lost city. September would be the ideal month to visit the lake before the arrival of winter.

Qindao Lake also offers many above-water attractions for non-diving travellers. The Plat Blossom Mountain is the best part of Qindao Lake, named after five conjoined mountains. It resembles a plat blosssom and has gained fame for tis resplendent natural scenery and perfect environment.

How Do I Make It Happen?
There are hourly buses that connect Qiandao Lake with the provincial capital, Hangzhou. AirAsia X files direct to Hangzhou from Kuala Lumpur. Direct flights from Singapore to Hangzhou are available via jetstar.
Take a bus from the West Bus station in Hangzhou directly to Qiandao Lake The Trip lasts for approximately three hours and cost somewhere between US$8 to US$10. the buses run frequently (about one every hour) between the two places.
1000 Island Lake Greentown Resort Hotel is located in Qiandao Lake Town. It features a swimming pool, three dining options, rooms with a fully-equipped kitchen and free internet (86 0571 6508 8888).

Siam Reap, Cambodia

Why Go Now
Take advantage of low visitor numbers during the short and sharp showers of September and October and visit Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, where the flourishing seasonal fauna adds another dimension to this majestic ancient temple.

The sight of the grand monument towering over the landscpae is breathtaking at any time of day though locals suggest that the first trip to Angkor Wat should be made in usually around 1 to 2pm. If you are able to pull yourself out of bed, sunrise at the temple is definetely a highlight of any journey to the lonely kindom.

This is also the time of year for the P’Chum Ben Festival (the Cambodian variation of the seventh month festival), during which respect is paid to the dead via offerings left with the monks at temples. Celebrated on the 26 to 28 of September this year, P’Chum Ben is a uniquely Cambodian festival not to be missed.

How Do I Make It Happen?
Direct flights from Singapore to Siem Reap are available from Jetstar and Silkair. AirAsia and Malaysian Airlines offer direct flights into Siem Reap from Kuala Lumpur Airport.
The Raffles Grand Hotel D’Angkor in Siem Reap has extensive facilities for both the business traveller and those wishing to simply take in the sights and pamper themselves. For those wanting to unwind, there is the famous Raffles’s Amrita Spa, which offers treatments that combine the best of western technologies and eastern therapies (raffles.com).

Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Why Go Now?
Cool, breezy and easy – three words that succinctly sums up Kaohsiung at this time of the year. Go early in September to avoid the tourist crowd and feast on sumptuous street fare found along the backstreets of Yancheng. And if you have some spare cash in hand, why not buy yourself a hand assembled bamboo bathtub at the end of Wufu 4th road in Yancheng.

Catch a ferry to Cijin island a firm favourite among locals for its wide variety of delectable seafood at unbeatable prices. Cijin Island is also a great place to walk, bike or swim. Don’t miss the Matsu TempleKaohsiung’s oldest shrine and the lighthouse, from where you get a panoramic view of the island.

If you’re in a mood for love but can’t quite afford the time for a trip to Paris, then make your way to the Unconditional Love River for a quiet and romantic evening walk. The riverbanks are line up with open-air cafes and peaceful little parks where you can rest or have a drink.

How Do I Make It Happen?
China Airlines files direct from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur to Kaohsiung.

Stay the night at The Royal Lees Kaohsiung at No.105 Wufu 1st Road. The Royal Lees runs about US$100-US$150 per night. Hotel staff are proficient in English and attentive to detail. The hotel iw well maintained and in a nice district.

Kaohsiung MRT (krtco.com.tw) opened in 2008, with two lines. The Red Line runs from north to south, offering a handy route from both the THSR Zuoying station and the airport into the downtown core, while Orange Line runs across the city from the Port of Kaohsiung in the west to eastern suburb of Daliao. The Metro Line is clean and offers a convenient way to quickly move within the city.

1 comment:

  1. There comes a moment when the things one has written, even a traveler's memories, stand up and demand a justification. They require an explanation. They query, 'Who am I? What is my name? Why am I here?
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