Tuesday, July 17, 2012

10 Easy Trips

Executive summary by darmansjah

Light up in Pampanga, catch some surf in Penghu and celebrate Christmas in Auckland.

Vientiane, Laos

With its reputation as the most  laid-back capital in the whole of Asia,  Vientiane exudes an irresistible Quiescence. The cool dry season is an excellent time to go. Temperatures are relatively low and the air is particularly clean in November and December.

 the magnificent reclining Buddha in the lush lawns of Buddha Park

A great palace to soak up Lao’s luxuriating sunshine is the Buddha Park (Xieng Khuan), a sculpture park that contains over 200 Buddhist and Hindu sculptures. Be sure to photograph the enormous 120-metre-long reclining Buddha, the park’s main attraction.

Air Asia (airasia.com) files direct from Kuala Lumpur’s LCCT airport to Wattay International Airport in Laos three times a week. Starting 1 November, Lao Airlines  (laoairlines.com) flies direct from Singapore to Laos.

Enjoy a taste of Laos’French colonial architecture and interiors when you stay at the romantic New Lao Paris Hotel, located in the heart of Vientiane and within walking distance to many attraction (from US$30; laoparishotel.com).

Hanoi, Vietnam

There is something unique about Hanoi’s Autumn. The cool and arid climate is the perfect time to explore the resplendent Thay and Tay Phuong Pagodas.

The Thay Pagoda is dedicated to Thich Ca Buddha. To the left of the main altar is a statue of the 12th-century monk Tu Dao Hanh and to the right is a statue of King Ly Nhan Tong, who is believed to have been a reincarnation of Tu Dao Hanh.

Tay Phuong Pagoda consists of three single-level structure built on a hillock that is said to resemble a buffalo. Carved figures representing ‘the conditions of man’ are the pagodas’s most celebrated feature. The pagodas are about 30 kilometres west of Hanoi in Ha Tay province. Travel companies in Hanoi offer day tours of both pagodas. Hired cars, driver included, travel to the pagodas for Us$40.

Singapore Airlines (singaporeair.com), Tiger Airways (tigerairways.com) and Vietnam Airlines (vietnamairlines.com.vn) fly direct from Singapore to Noi Bai Airport in Hanoi. Air Asia, Malysia Airlines (malaysiaairlines.com.my) and Vietnam Airlines fly direct from Kuala Lumpur to Hanoi.

Old quarter Sofitel Legend Metropole is Hanoi’s most celebrated and storied hotel. All 364 air-conditioned guestrooms at Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi feature minibars and laptop-compatible safes. Accommodations offer city, pool, or garden views from (US$196; sofitel.com).

Penang, Malaysia

Penang is rich in history and beautiful colonial architecture. Dotted with exquisite temples, magnificent mosques and intriguing museums, George Town, capital of Penang, is an ideal getaway from bustling Kuala Lumpur. Home to historical sites such as the Chew Jettt, Wat Chayamangkalaram Thai Buddhist Temple, and the Chinese caln association Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi, Penang has plenty to offer behind its sleepy façade.

Penang plays host to the Penang Island Jazz Festival 2012 (penangjazz.com) on 3 and 4 December, in which virtuoso Brazilian guitarist, percussionist, and composer, Celso Machado, Korean musician SC Yun and his band, and vocal jazz-pop-soul-folk group Stouxingers from Germany will be gracing the stage for dazzling performances.

Silk Air (silkair.com) flies from Singapore Cahngi Airport to Penang International Airport, and AirAsia services domestic flights  from Kuala Lumpur International Airport to penang.

Constructed in 1885, Easter & Oriental Hotel is the first hotel built in Penang. The colonial-styled architecture with white-washed walls and a soaring echo-dome lobby exude an air of class. Its luxurious suites are the representation of British colonial era, and its modern amenities guarantee a comfortable stay (from US$270; eohotel.com).

Pampanga, Philipines

The Giant Lantern Festival is an annual festival held on the Saturday before Christmas Eve in the city of San Fernando, Pampanga, Philipines. Also known as Ligligan Parul, the festival showcases the city most famous product – star lantern known as parol. This colourful fiesta finds its roots in Bacolor, where a much simpler activity was held. With the transfer to the provincial capital from Bacolor to San Fernando in August 1904, this lantern event followed suit.

San Fernando lanterns are distinguished from ordinary parols by its intricate designs and the illusion of dancing lights, which highlight its vibrant colours. It is because of these giant lanterns and the San Fernando lantern-making industry that the City has been dubbed the “Christmas Capital of the Philipines”.

The province of Pampanga is located at central Luzon and is accessible by both air and land. AirAsia offers flights to Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) in Angeles City from Kuala Lumpur (LCCT). Cebu Pacific (cebupacificair.com) and South East Asian Airlines (flyseair.com) offer flights from Singapore. The city of San Fernando is accessible via the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), which extends from Balintawak in Metro Manila to Santa lines in Pampanga. The city is approximately a two-hour drive from DMIA.

Hotel Vida’s facade garners compliments for its unique modern tropical theme. This is emphasized by the hotel’s use of earth-tone colours and highlighted by its lush landscaping crowned with acacia and palm trees (from US$188, hotelvidaclark.com).

Auckland, New Zealand

Ardent nature and adventure seekers head down under to Auckland for a reason. Its scenic sights are more than breathtaking – 22 conservation parks including the Waitakere Rangers (Auckland’s largest regional park); underwater treasures at the Goat Island Marine Reserve; un spoilt beaches with vast tracts of native forest on the Great Barrier Island; and the formidable Mount Victoria and its amazing view at the top.

Celebrate Christmas in the height of summer with cold beers, barbecues and sun bathing in this part of the southern hemisphere. The city comes to life as floats, cars and trucks decorated by local communities take to the streets during the Santa Parades, along with marching bands and of course, Santa Claus.

 view the beautiful landscape of Auckland from Mount Victoria

Both Singapore Airlines and Jetstar(jetstar.com) fly from Singapore Changi Airport to Auckland Airport. Travelers from Malaysia Airlines, which flies direct from Kuala Lumpur International Airport to Auckland Airport.

Stay in the heart of Auckland city, at the quirky 25-room Hotel DeBrett. Decorated in mid-century modern style, it showcases contemporary New Zealand arts and craft (from US$240; hoteldebrett.com).

Yunnan, China

 Wander through the stone forest and marvel at its mysterious karst formation

Take advantage of low visitor numbers during November and December and visit the various attractions that Kunming, Yunnan has to offer. Known in China as the City of Eternal Spring, Kunming’s unique geological wonders are sure to titillate to the senses of nature enthuisiasts.

Take a two hour bus ride (bus 60) to Shilin, or Stone Forest, from the east side of Kunming’s main railway station. Shilin is a Unesco listed site of remarkable karst geography and is regularly visited by tourist throughout the year. At the site, have a photo taken with the indigenous Bai miniority girls in their colourful traditional costumes.

China Eastern Airlines (flychinaeastern.com) flies direct from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur to Kunming. Alternatively, SilkAir offers direct flights from Singapore and Malaysian Airlines from Kuala Llumpur.

Empark Grand Hotel Kunming is located in Kunming and local attractions include Tuodong Stadium, East pagoda, and West Pagoda, Air-conditioned guestrooms at Empark Grand Hotel Kunming feature minibars and safes. Complimentary wired high-speed internet access and satellite television is provided (from US$84; empark.com).


Gifu Prefecture is home to a paradise of breathtaking natural landscapes and rich heritage, with quaint houses lined up neatly along immaculate roads and a Unesco World Heritage Site, Shirakawa-go.

Located in Ono District, right next to Takayama City, Shirakawa-go is famous for tis traditional houses in gassho style, characterized by large, steep thatch roof made of straw and layered one-metre thick. Resembling hands folded in prayer, these 112 house portray the spirit of unity, as the reconstruction of the roof has a traditionally been a communal event – dozens of men and women help to rebuild the gassho style roof every few years. These houses form a spectacular view especially in winter when the whole village would be covered in white, shimmering snow.

 The traditional houses in gassho style is especially picturesque when blanketed with snow

Fly into Narita International Airport from Singapore With Singapore Airlines. Transit to Chubu Centrair International Airport via All Nipon Airways (ana.co.jp). take a standard train to Takayama, then a bus transfer to Shirakawa-go.

Set within the world heritage site is Toyota Shirakawa-go Eco-institute, an eco-friendly hotel that allows visitors to enjoy the charm of the lush natural environment. A space for ultimate mental and physical refreshment, this modern hotel offers eco-tours, daily programs to learn and discover nature’s wonders, including specially tailored hiking tours in the winter (from US$140; Toyota.ecoinst.jp).


As the world renowned Musee d’Orsay in Paris opens its new galleries after a two-year renovation period, art lovers in the region who are planning to head up can first make a pit stop in Singapore for a bit of a teaser.

From Musee d’Orsay’ collection, over 140 Salon, Realists, Impressionists and Post Impressionists paintings, photographs and drawings from the mid-19th century to the early 20th century will specially tour to Singapore. Titled Dreams and Reality: Masterpieces of Painting, Drawing and Photography from the Musee d’Orsay, Paris, this exhibition, which runs until 5 February 2012 at the National Museum of Singapore shows how the changing social and industrial landscape of Paris in early modernity forced artists and photographers to rethink their approach to the visual world around them. Their varied responses generated new ways of depicting reality and a proliferation of styles. Works on display include key pieces by forerunners of modern art such as Paul Cezannes’s The Card Players and Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night (nationalmuseum.sg).

Singapore Changi Airport is a main aviation hub in Southeast Asia, with airlines such as Singapore Airlines, SilkAir and JetStar Airways servicing routes from major Asian Cities like Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Jakarta and Bangkok.

The regally-restored Hotel Fort Canning charms guests with its proximity to nature at Fort Canning park, shopping along Orchard Roads as well as history and culture at the National Museum (from US$275’ hfcsingapore.com).

Penghu, Taiwan

Famous for dazzling geographical landscapes, tantalizing seafood, and hospitable locals, Penghu is an archipelago of more than 90 small islands off the western coast of Taiwan, and is a nature paradise with an abundance of ecological resources.

One of the popular activities that many head to Penghu during this period of the year is windsurfing, thanks to the mighty winds of the northeast monsoon. Now until March, wind warriors gather for a surfing thrill in several areas around Magong, and specialily at longmen beach. Other popular spots like aimen beach are ideal for kite boarding, and Pong Pong Beach in Bird Island is good for flat-water free-style sailing. There are several windsurfing equipment rental and repair shops in Magong if you have trouble bringing your own (penghuwindsurf.idv.tw).

 join the wind warriors for s surfing thrill

Fly Singapore Airlines from Singapore and Malaysia Airlines from Kuala Lumpur to Taoyuan International Airport with TransAsia Airways (tna.com.tw) for a 50-minute domestic flight.

Stay a night at Jih Lih Hotel, located in Hueimin 1st street, Magong City, which is a minute walk to Chungcheng Road, the main shopping street of Magong. This hotel with 100 large and spacious rooms offers great discount during winter, and its location is near to numerous attraction around the town (from US$80; jihlih.com.tw).

Okinawa, Japan

Okinawa’s subtropical/tropical climate has long made it a summer favourite for the Japanese, with hordes of families making use of summer vacation to catch some sun, sand and sea. The chain of islands between mainland Japan and Taiwan gets popular once again during winter when most visitors try to get away from the cold. If yo’d like to miss the crowds, November is a good time to head up as the fiercest typhoons would have passed and the winter monsoon has yet to set in.

 Shurijo Castle was rebuilt in 1992

Okinawa was once the independent kingdom of Ryukyu and though many traces of it have been lost, the rebuilt Shurijo Castle in Naha City and several castle ruins scattered across the main Okinawa Island provide an enlightening glimpse into the ancient kingdom.

 the zakimi castle ruins shows the foundation of a traditional ryukyu castle

A trip to Okinawa is not complete without heading to the island’s most popular attraction, the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium. This world-class aquarium’s piece de resistance is the four-storey high Kuroshio Tank, which houses a few gigantic whale sharks, bull sharks, numerous Alfred mantas – the largest ray species, as well as a host of other large marine creatures.

 churaumi aquarium is one of only a few aquarium keeping whale sharks in captivity

The Naha Airport in Okinawa currently handles international flights from only Taiwan, Hong kong, Korea and China. Japan Airlines (jal.com) flies from both Singapore and Kuala Lumpur to Okinawa via Tokyo.

All the rooms at Okinawa Marriott Resort and Spa offer great views overlooking the beautiful East China Sea (from US$210; Marriott.com).

1 comment:

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