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LAUNCH ISSUE

NO.1, 2011

MICA(P) 217/O4/2011

The wonders of Asia Worth every step

Ø INDIA’S MAGNIFICENT MOUNTAINS

Ø SPA RETREATS IN ASIA

Ø BACK TO NATURE IN THAILAND``

Ø INSIDER GUIDE TO SEOUL 1


ADVERTORIAL

TAIPEI for the weekend

How to make the most of your time if you have two days in the city

Day 2 – Chill out!

Taiwan has one of the highest concentration and variety of hot springs in the world due to its geological location. These are often found in scenic areas, so visitors can enjoy breathtaking views while they soak. It’s natural for first-timers to feel self-conscious, as swimsuits and towels are prohibited in the hot spring. But if the locals can disrobe nonchalantly, so can anyone. It’s routine here. Head for the Beitou Hotsprings, a 40-minute train ride from Taipei Main Station. Lush greenery, waterfalls and steam rising from the water gave the place an otherworldly look, making a dip in one of the many pools here a surreal experience.

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hopping? Cheap, tasty food? City escapes? Nightlife? Yes, you can get it all in Taipei. For the record, the nightlife in the capital of Taiwan is happening. The Taiwanese are warm, generous people and conversing with them is a pleasure, whether it’s in a nightclub or in a taxi.

Beitou Hot Spring

To touch the magical - or at least the inspiration for it - the town of Jiufen about an hour north of Taipei is a picturesque village with quaint shops, wooden benches aand giant red lanterns are Jiufen signatures.

Ximending

Day 1 – Rev up!

If you have only a weekend in the city, zoom in on trendy neighbourhood Ximending. It has been called the “Harajuku” of Taipei for its showcase of mainstream youth culture and Japanese-influenced goods. Shops sell fashion accessories, music CDs and even Cosplay-styled lingerie. Pace your appetite, for shops don’t close at 9.30pm in Taipei. At popular night markets such as Shihlin ( Jian Tan metro station) and Raohe (Songshan metro station), food lovers will find themselves in gastronomic heaven with the mouthwatering range of local street snacks available. Try the Taiwanese ba wan, or meatballs, a delightful combination of minced pork, bamboo shoots and dried mushrooms encased in a chewy tapioca

dough and doused in spicy sauce. The shaved ice dessert was a surprise, though. Not because the ice was so soft it tasted like snowflakes, but the choice of toppings included Japanese-inspired black sesame, sour plum and even wasabi.

From street eats to scenic pastimes, visitors to Taipei will find that the city will satisfy many kinds of appetites.

After having your fill at the markets, which close around 2am, dance or sing it all off at the clubs and KTV rooms, most of which are open until 4am. The KTV joints in Taipei will make any visitor feel like a celebrity. The rooms are spacious and soundproof, with plush leather couches and encyclopedic song lists. For less than what it costs in Singapore - or about $20 per person guests can croon their hearts out for four hours and get a buffet meal to boot.

Go Moving around Taipei is as easy as getting on the Metro, which is similar to the MRT. Alternatively, taxis are reasonably priced and metered, with generally honest, enthusiastic and knowledgeable drivers. Stay Rainbow Hotel (www.rainbowhoteltaipei.com) is an affordable choice in Ximending. A less-known option, TS Hotel (www.tshotel.com.tw) is clean, comfortable and has tastefully decorated rooms with helpful staff. Shop Besides Ximending, the Zhongxiao Dunhua area is a popular shopping belt for avid shoppers, as there are myriad malls from mid-range to very upscale malls. The section between Sogo department store and Taipei Metro The Mall houses boutiques from world class brands like Louis Vuitton, Cartier and so on. Taipei is a good place to pick up the latest electronic gadgets

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For nature lovers, Yehliu Geopark and Yangmingshan Park offer scenic views. Popular with hikers, Yangmingshan is famous for its extraordinary volcanic landscapes and sunset views while the Yehliu Geopark offers visitors the chance to appreciate different kinds of rock formations.

Taiwan Visitors Association: 5 Shenton Way, #31-11 UIC Building, Singapore 068808 T: (65)6223 6546 E: tbrocsin@singnet.com.sg W: www.welcome2taiwan.net

Brought to you by


A love affair…with Asia Thanks for picking us up! In your hands lays the quintessential guide to travelling around Asia – I Love Asia Travel. Packed with articles on a plethora of Asian destinations, I Love Asia Travel is your handy guide to exploring and experiencing the wonders of our very own vast backyard – Asia. From attractions, adventure and culture to shopping, dining and wellness, we’ve got them covered in I Love Asia Travel. Now more than ever, traveling to Asia has become so much easier and relatively inexpensive, thanks to the network of budget carriers which have opened the skies literally to all of us. Singaporeans are travelling more often these days and holidays – whether an extended weekend trip – or a week-long getaway are not just confined to the traditional year-end window. We are travelling throughout the year and booking them anytime. With travel shows staged throughout the year with bargains aplenty as well as online airfare and accommodation deals, travel has become our favourite activity, next to our perennial favourites - eating and shopping! We want to be there, as a companion when you make your travel decisions and plans. We’d love to hear your thoughts about our publication and what you would like to see in them. We’ve got exciting plans lined up for our subsequent issues. To kick off the inaugural issue, we’d like to invite you to take this copy of I Love Asia Travel with you on your next trip to anywhere in Asia and snap a picture of yourself there, holding a copy of I Love Asia Travel. We’ll publish the best pictures in the next issue and some lucky readers stand a chance to win some wonderful prizes! Enjoy! N Gunalan Publisher & Editorial Director

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Publisher/Editorial Director: N Gunalan Editor: Nazir Keshvani Contributors: Joe Ng, Mazlan Samad, Mohan Gunti,

Chew Tze Chuan, Nisar Husain

Art Director: Jimmy G. Maulion Graphic Designer: Percival V. Lacanaria II Business Manager: Cheryl Leong Media Representatives INDONESIA Panca R Sarungu publisher@pristamedia.com CAMBODIA & VIETNAM Mohan Gunti mohan@intelliexmedia.com PHILIPPINES Arjun Shroff shrofftravel@yahoo.com I Love Asia Travel MICA(P)217/04/2011 is published by Dream Communications. No part of this publication is to be reproduced, stored, transmitted, digitally or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher. Opinions expressed in this publication are solely those of the writers and are not necessarily endorsed by Dream Communications. We strive to ensure accuracy of the contents at the time of printing. Changes may have occurred since the magazine went to print. Dream Communications and its editors and writers cannot be held liable for any damages, loss, injury or inconvenience arising in connection with the contents of this publication.

Features 04

Shopping. Brunei, Phnom Penh, Kuala Lumpur

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My Favourite Destination in Asia. Cebu, Philippines

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Nightlife. Happy Hours in Hong Kong

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Showcase. Fujian for Shutterbugs

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City Spotlight. Insider Guide to Seoul

11 Cruise. High Sea Vacations

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The Team

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Nature Retreat. Back to Nature

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Culinary Adventure. Tasty Cooking Trips

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Wellness. You’re in Good Hands

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Festival. Borneo Jazz Festival

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Heritage. Sunrise at Borobudur

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Adventure. India’s Magnificent Mountains

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Beyond the Region. Christmas Corals

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SHOPPING

Shopping in BRUNEI BY nisar husain

Yayasan Shopping Centre (left) comes alive in the night (right). PHOTOS: BRUNEI TOURISM

Brunei may certainly be off the beaten track for tourists, but it does provide a breath of fresh air for those averse to big crowds and noisy cities

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ou might not know it but the capital of Brunei, Bandar Seri Begawan (known as BSB), is a great place to shop. In this friendly country, alfresco shopping is simply vibrant with a plethora of sights and sounds.

Make a trip to the local tamu (market), tantalising in its offerings of food, snacks, drinks, vegetables, clothes, household items and all kinds of collectibles. Depending on the location, some are morning tamu while others open from sunset till midnight! Check these out!

Tamu Kianggeh, Bandar Seri Begawan (Bsb)

24hr Weekend Market, Jalan Sultan, BSB

A hive of activity, this neighbourhood local produce market nestled on the banks of the Kianggeh River, simply entices the senses with eye-boggling variety of local vegetables, medicinal herbs, local delicacies and even handicrafts. Open daily, 6:00am - 6:00pm

The market is held every weekend and the roadside stalls often offer a modern fare of clothes, drinks, snacks and accessories for night owls and those who just want to laze the night away with a casual stroll. The lively and relaxed assemblage of traders and their wares have certainly reinvigorated Jalan Sultan and its surrounding areas. Come evening, there may be a large crowd relaxing at Cafe De Royalle and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. Open Saturdays 6:00pm - Sundays 6:00pm

Tamu Gadong, Gadong, BSB Largest of its kind and in the heart of the Gadong, this is most popular with both locals and visitors, especially those looking for indoor or outdoor plants and orchids.. Tamu Gadong closes at midnight on weekdays and stays open late on weekends and eve of public holidays. Open daily, 6:00pm -12:00am; Fri and Sun, 7:00am - 12:00 noon

Rimba Horticultural Centre, Rimba, BSB Love plants and stuff? Then you must visit this unique attraction, which showcases the largest collection of indoor and outdoor tropical plants for sale in the country. Botanical enthusiasts will love the various garden pots and accessories are also available to enhance your outdoor and indoor gardens. Open daily, 8:00am - 6:00pm

Shopping Tip Shop for handicrafts and agro-products at the Rimba Horticultural Centre on weekends and be entertained with live cultural performances at 10am to 11am and 3pm to 4pm.

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Duty-free haven

Shopping in Brunei Darussalam is value for money because it is a tax-free country. If you are a fan of authentic local crafts and products, there are a number of items that are hand crafted locally and are available for sale at the Arts and Handicrafts Centre. It is famous for its silver and woven products. Prices range from a few dollars to a few thousand dollars. For the trendy shoppers, Brunei has a number of malls and shopping complexes such as The Mall, Hua Ho Manggis Mall, Yayasan Shopping Complex, Seria Plaza, Halim Plaza and many more. Items ranging from designer goods to locally produced garments are available in these shopping centres, as well as footwear and jewellery for the ladies.

Tamu Kampung Serambangun, Tutong Situated about one kilometre from Tutong town, this vibrant tamu offers produce from the inland forests, local vegetables and food unique to this area. Open daily, 6:00am - 6:00pm

Tamu Seria Set up between Jalan Bolkiah and Jalan Nakhoda Manis in Seria, this vibrant open-air market is the ideal place to shop for local produce and experience a friendly community atmosphere. Open Saturdays, 6:00am - 11:00am

Tamu Kuala Belait This colourful open-air market is open for business once a week and is filled with all sorts of local fresh fruits and vegetables and the occasional handicrafts find. A wonderful place to browse and relax. Open Sundays, 6:00am - 11:00am

Culture fix

Don’t leave Brunei without a beautiful memento of this beautiful country. Tucked into a hideaway of its own, Pelangi De’ Mutiara Tourist Square is a shopping haven for arts, culture, beauty and crafts. Step in, and enter into a blend of old world charm and modern warmth. From beautiful murals to intricate kain songket to rock paintings to various knick-knacks and collectibles, there is so much to feast your eyes on. Even better, capture a snapshot of your holiday by dressing up in the traditional wedding costumes on a pelamin (traditional wedding platform).


Phnom Penh Bazaar

SHOPPING

BY mohan gunti

The Russian Market (left) contains a myriad of stalls (right). PHOTOS: NAZIR KESHVANI

Aromatic street food, shopping treats and historical sites abound in Cambodia’s capital city of Phnom Penh

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ne of the best ways to savour Phnom Penh is by trying the local cuisine. Begin the Khmer experience with a steaming bowl of kway teow. The Khmer version of the stringy rice noodle is seeped in a tasty broth and topped with succulent meat or seafood. It is a breakfast staple and can be bought from the many street hawkers who set up their stalls at the crack of dawn in an old coffee shop or next to a dirt road.

A good place to tuck in is the food haven at Psar O Russei (or Russian Market), so named because of the number of Russians who shopped there in the 1980s. Breakfast costs from US$0.50 (75 cents) for a bowl of kway teow or a plate of fried you tiao and butterfly cake.

brown. At the entrance of the bazaar’s yellow artdeco building are bags of cooked cockroaches and locusts. Crunchy with an earthy flavour, they are a popular local snack.

Win a stylish st ay for two in Phnom Pe nh Enter ou

r fabulous lucky draw for a chance to win a stay for two in Ph nom Penh. Simply tel l us the name of any market mentione d in the story an d e-mail your name and address to gunalan@dream comms.com.sg * Competition en tries must reach us by 30 August 2011.

Aside from its cooked insect stands, the New Market with its myriad stalls is a good place to bag cool souvenirs and local memorabilia. Look for funky street wear here as well as at the Russian Market, which has plenty of bargains.

The best part about the market experience is negotiating the price. Bargaining becomes a game of wits as locals try to palm off their wares at seemingly reasonable prices to shoppers who know better than to settle for any item. Check for quality and shop around for prices before making your purchase and you’ll leave a satisfied customer.

If you dare to dive into true Khmer food, head to the Psar Thmei or New Market, where you can find a substantial display of all things flighty – fried until they are a crisp golden

Phnom Penh must-sees The Royal Palace Built in 1866, the Royal Palace provides a good example of Khmer architecture with its ornate roofs and spires. Among the sites in the compound is the Silver Pagoda, a dazzling display of Khmer design. The name of the building is derived from the colour of its floor, which is covered by more than 5,000 silver tiles. The Maitreya Buddha is a glittering pagoda with a near life-sized statue encrusted with 9,584 diamonds and swathed in royal regalia. Choeung Ek Located 15km from Phnom Penh, Choeung Ek, is the most well known of Cambodia’s killing fields. More than 15,000 people are believed to have been brutally killed here in the 1970s under the Khmer Rouge regime headed by Pol Pot. Inside the memorial hall is a tall glass showcase displaying more than 8,000 skulls of the victims. Riverside revelry Retire for a breezy evenin g at the Riverside – a stretch of bars, restaurants and hotels facing the Mekong River. Grab an iced coffee at Cafe Metro, for instance, and settle into a comfortable booth. The view of the waterfront allows a glimpse into Cambodian life and here you can see families congregating on the grass to enjoy a home cooked meal, men playing an intense game of takraw, and drink peddlers lining the dirt paths in the hope of selling their beverages to passing tourists.

Getting there: Jetstar Asia flies to Phnom Penh daily, with four direct flights weekly or via Siem Reap on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. Visit www.jetstar.com.sg for bookings.

For special offers, please send us an email at: visit@charmingcambodia.com

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KL

SHOPPING

Shopping secrets BY MAZLAN SAMAD

Shopping options abound (left) amidst the Kuala Lumpur skyline (right). PHOTOS: TOURISM MALAYSIA

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ith its skyscrapers, stellar cuisine and starry night life, Malaysia’s dynamic capital has emerged as one of Southeast Asia’s most alluring metropolises – offering all the amenities of a major city, but on a friendlier scale. It’s easy to explore, too. From the airport, just board the KLIA Ekspres train, which takes you to the heart of the city in under 30 minutes. Start your tour in Little India, where the narrow streets throb with Bollywood music, silk shops churning out Punjabi suits, roti vendors and men stringing fragrant jasmine garlands. Fuel up with a glass of teh tarik, a brew of black tea and condensed milk, before tackling nearby Chinatown, a bustling area with shops selling everything from medicinal herbs to delicate tea sets. Kuala Lumpur residents are shopaholics, spending weekends trawling boutiques for the latest looks emerging from the sophisticated local fashion scene. The country’s king of fashion is Bernard Chandran. Recently, Lady

Gaga wore one of his candy pink mini dresses to an awards show in London. His concept store is at the KL Plaza on Jalan Bukit Bintang. Other designers to look out for are Khoon Hooi, known for streamlined yet feminine dresses sold at his flagship store in the ritzy Starhill Gallery, and Melinda Looi, who makes vintage-inspired dresses from chiffon. Berjaya Times Square – Malaysia’s biggest shopping mall – is on Jalan Imbi and houses 1,000 individual shops and an indoor theme park. For more local flavour, head to the art deco Central Market on Jalan Cheng Lock and shop for arts, crafts and antiques.

Other sights worth seeing include Merdeka Square, a palm-tree-edged plaza where the former British rulers played cricket, and the independent Malaysian flag was first raised in 1957. Don’t miss the turquoise domed Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia ( Jalan Lembah Perdana). Built in 1998, the dramatic white interiors are cool, airy and saturated with natural light. It perfectly sums up the city’ s unique charm - modernity mixed with traditional treasures.

The best cuisine is found in the open-air street stalls along Jalan Alor which kicks off around 4pm, serving sizzling, wok-fried noodles, freshly steamed seafood and mouthwatering barbecued meat late into the night. Try Cu Cha at 71-75 Jalan Alor for dishes like char kway teow, flat rice noodles fried with clams and shrimp. Changkat Bukit Bintang, or CBB, KL’s most happening street, is peppered with lively eateries, bars and dance clubs. Explore a little further into the surrounding backstreets and you’ll find the excellent No Black Tie at 17 Jalan Mesui – covered in honey-hued teak and twinkling with candlelight, it hosts jazz, world music, cabaret,

Malaysia Mega Sale Carnival 2011 The 1Malaysia Mega Sale Carnival (1MMSC) runs nationwide from until 31 August 2011. To position Malaysia as a luxury shopping destination, the government recently announced the waiver of import duty on about 300 goods valued at over RM200. MasterCard Worldwide, the official card of the 1MMSC, announced a programme of instant redemptions, exclusive promotions and the opportunity to win RM100,000 in a shopping spree. For more information visit http://www.shopmalaysia.my

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poetry and even classical performances.

Firefly flies Singapore – KL daily Firefly, the community airline, operates 42 flights a week between Singapore’s Budget Terminal Changi and SkyPark Subang Terminal in KL. Firefly offers a comfortable ride with all premium leather seats with a young ATR72-500 fleet. The airline also offers added value such as 20 kg of free check-in baggage allowance, assigned seating, and in-flight complimentary refreshment with snacks. For booking details, visit www.fireflyz.com.my


My Favourite Destination in Asia Fort San Pedro

CEBU, PHILIPPINES The best time to visit is: From January to May when the weather is at its finest, both cool and dry. Cebu is blessed with plenty of sunshine and this is the best time to enjoy the sea and the

Basilica del Santo Niño

Great place for meals: Visit Feria, the all-day buffet restaurant at the Radisson Blu Hotel Cebu which serves a vast array of fresh local and international dishes, as well as desserts to tempt every palate. A must-try is the homemade mango ice cream made fresh from Cebu’s world-famous mangoes. Must-eat:   Among all the exotic foods in the Philippines, there is one that stands out the most. This is none other than balut, which is basically a fertilized duck egg.

Sinulog

sun. Many festivities happen during this period starting from the New Year party to the world-famous Sinulog Festival, celebrated on the 3rd Sunday of January. 

Best night out: You can chose from the wide range of cool restaurants and bars at the sprawling IT Park or if you love to sing, check out the Videoke at K1 KTV at Crossroads, Banilad. If you’re looking for a quiet night, chill out at ‘The Pool’, the in-house bar at the Radisson Blu Hotel Cebu that sits beside the pool, and enjoy a signature cocktail. Best place to shop: You will find everything you need and more at SM City Cebu. Covering over 11.8 hectares, this shopping mall is the 11th largest mall in the world, located at the heart of the city. You can find everything from great local buys to souvenir gifts and signature brands. Must-buy gift: One of the most popular gift items is local snacks such as famous Cebu dried mangoes, masareal (crushed peanuts mixed with sugar) and otap (native biscuit with sugar). Cebu is also known for producing the finest guitars in the country. A fine quality guitar from Cebu will make a great gift.

Cebu is renowned for its mangoes

Favourite local festival: The Sinulog Festival, the country’s biggest, grandest and most anticipated festival. It honours and pays homage to the patron saint of Cebu, the child Jesus Sr. Sto. Niño.

Best idea for a family outing: Go island hopping in Mactan or take a day trip to Bohol, a neighbouring island. Head over to K33 Green Adventure and zip through the green Balamban mountains. Historical site: Cebu is a city rich in history. Explore historical sites such as Basilica del Santo Niño, Magellan’s Cross Shrine at Plaza Sugbo and Fort San Pedro, the smallest and oldest fort in the Philippines. Insider tip:   The ‘21B’ jeepney is the best mode of transport as it passes through all the key areas in Cebu City.

Ya’kob ZAINI Director of Global Sales South East Asia, Carlson Hotels Worldwide

Airphil Express flies Singapore - Cebu Philippines owned budget carrier AirPhil Express flies to Cebu via Manila seven times weekly from Changi Airport Terminal 2. The carrier provides 15kgs FREE baggage allowance. For more information, call Travel Plus Aviation at 67350021 or email sales@travelplusaviation.com.sg

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NIGHT LIFE

Happy hours in

Hong Kong BY Chew Tze Chuan

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ong Kong’s nightlife has always been considered one of the most vibrant in Asia. There is a whole spectrum of possibilities for a great night out, from pulsating districts such as Lan Kwai Fong and Soho to swish five-star hotel lounges with stunning views. The year-end revelry will kick off soon. Aside from the usual partying spots, here’s where you might want to go for a serious dose of fun.

Zuma Level 6, The Landmark, 15 Queen’s Road Central, Central www.zumarestaurant.com

Cafe Gray - view the new Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Hong Kong www.upperhouse.com

The bar is situated on the sixth floor above the expansive Zuma Japanese restaurant, and connected via a dramatic spiral staircase (right). In the evening, it is packed with suits having a drink after work.

The 49th level of the new Upper House boutique hotel has the latest chill out bar in town. There are plenty of speciality cocktails to select from but try the Hong Kong Highball Belvedere raspberry vodka, cassis, honey, lemon, pomegranate, ginger and champagne. Either plop yourself on a high seat at the 14m-long bar and watch the bartenders mix your drinks, or mingle with the crowd at the lounge, which overlooks the glittering skyline.

After that, the partygoers take over. The bar has creative shooters called Zuma Zhooters. For a Japanese twist, try Horizon, a blend of shochu and plum sake with pineapple and blood orange. The drinks are priced down from HK$60 to HK$20 from 10pm to midnight every Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The late night bar menu offers items such as spicy rock shrimp with spicy yuzu mayo and Asahi beer battered black cod. Tastings Wine Bar 27 & 29 Wellington Street, Central www.tastings.hk Tucked in the basement of Yuen Yick Building, the bar lets you drink old- and new-world wines at the press of a button. Just buy a pre-paid card, slot it into a state-of-the-art Enomatic wine serving system, grab a glass and select your wine. The wine list features 160 labels including those from Australia, Italy, France, and California. Forty of them are available at any one time as the high-tech system prevents the wines from oxidising. Prices start from about HK$29 for a taster to HK$800 for a full glass. Champagnes and grappas are available too alongside cheese and antipasto.

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Yun Bar Basement, 43-55 Wyndham Street, Central www.yunfu.com.hk For those who prefer a more intimate setting, this ‘Old China’ inspired lounge and bar is situated in the basement of a Chinese restaurant. A narrow walkway takes you to more private sanctuaries illuminated by red lanterns and adorned with traditional furniture and silk cushions. At the centre is a large circular bar. Take up a spot here and order an exotic drink. Try the refreshing Firecracker comprising Absolut, Apple Schnapp, apple juice, fresh apple, spiked with red chilli. Alternatively, try the signature drinks featuring Chinese ingredients such as Pui Mu (HK$78) - rice-wine infused plum cocktail mixed with cranberry juice. Getting there Cathay Pacific has six daily flights to Hong Kong. Choose from five direct non-stop flights or one direct flight with a stopover in Bangkok. Go to www.cathaypacific.com for details.


SHOWCASE

Fujian for shutterbugs

The Canon Imaging Academy organised a travel photography workshop to Xiapu, in the Fujian province of China. The trip is part of a series designed for shutterbugs from beginner to intermediate levels who wish to discover new destinations from the perspective of a photo-taking experience. The itinerary was carefully planned to maximize ideal shooting conditions for participants. It included attractions along the Xiapu coastline and Hakka Earth Building. As the trip was timed for clement weather, participants were assured of going home with beautiful memories captured on photos. Top-notch photographer, Mr Chen Feng, from Fujian province led the trip and provided photography sessions and tips on field shooting and theory. There was also a presentation on post processing of photos taken during the course. Vicky Yeow was the accompanying Canon instructor. • Xiapu / Fujian Coastline • Lian Jiang Fishery Port • Xiao Hao Beach • Sa Jiang Beach • BeiQi Beach • Hakka Earth Buildings • Fisher Woman folk at work • Volcano Islands Look out for travel photography workshops to Chuanxi in China and Siam Reap, Cambodia. Visit http://digitallab.canon.com.sg/cia_travelPhotographyTrips.jsp for details.

Xiapu , Date: Fujian Ch in 3 Durat 0 July – 6 a Travel P Augu ion: 8 hoto graph st 2 Photo D y Wo Genre ays, 7 Nigh 011 rksho : Trav ts p el, La ndsca pe, H eritag e and Cultu ral

Canon’s new range Canon Singapore recently launched eight new compact digital cameras in its stylish IXUS and popular PowerShot series. Among the products suitable for travel photography is the new IXUS range with IXUS 310 HS, IX US 220 HS and the IXUS 115 HS. For the PowerShot series, the PowerShot SX 230 HS is the latest addition to the popular SX series, which features GPS tagging. The new models also include the PowerShot A3300 IS, A3200IS, A2200 and A1200

With the growing interest in high-definition (HD) movie recording, the new IXUS and PowerShot SX models are capable of recording full high-definition (HD) movies at 1920 x 1080 resolutions with stereo sound. A new Movie Digest feature offers a one-click still and movie capture where a four-second movie footage will be captured before the still capture, providing users the opportunity to relive the full story in motion behind every still photo. More information is available at www.canon.com.sg

I Love Asia Holidays Photo Showcase Capture Asia at its best! Send us the photographs, which you have taken together with your particulars (full name, NRIC No., email address and contact number). You are also required to submit a short description (not more than 50 words) of where and how the shot was taken, indicating the camera model used. Every month we will feature 3 of the best shots from the short listed entries. The 3 best photographs will be published in I Love Asia Travel. TERMS AND CONDITIONS: 1. All entries are to be sent via email •

Files must be in either jpeg format and between 1MB to 2MB in size.

Email subject title: “I Love Asia Holidays” Photo Showcase

Email: gunalan@dreamcomms.com.sg

2. Each participant is encouraged to submit one best entry. •

I Love Asia Trave will not be held responsible for entries lost or damaged. We reserve the right to use any photograph entered for publicity and other purposes related to the showcase.

Photos courtesty of: Vicky Yeow (Canon Singapore Pte Ltd)

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CITY SPOTLIGHT

Insider Guide to

Seoul By N. Gunalan

Everland Resort

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elicious cuisine, cherry blossoms and Korean pop stars make Seoul, the capital of South Korea, a draw for tourist from Singapore. The bustling city boasts non-stop entertainment options; some karaoke lounges and clubs close only at 7am. Fans of Korean television soap usually hang out at the Korean Broadcasting System, one of South Korea's largest television networks, to catch sight of their favourite Korean celebrities. Hongdae Nightlife

Getting around The subway is the cheapest form of transport. It is a fast and convenient way to travel during peak hours and a single trip costs a flat fare of 900 won (S$1). Some of the subway stations are named after tourist hot spots such as the Gyeongbokgung station, which marks the famous Gyeongbokgung Palace (22 Bunji, Sajikno, Jongno-Gu, www.royalpalace.go.kr/) that was built in 1395 during the Joseon dynasty. Best time to visit The weather is cool in May and there are spring events, such as the Seoul Spring Festival of Chamber Music,

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to look out for. This classical event started in 2006 for musicians to gather as a community. Where to shop The best bargains can be found at Myeong-dong and Express Bus Terminal. While Dongdaemun market is more famous, the products there are more expensive and may be fake. You can spend a whole day at the Express Bus Terminal shopping for fashionable clothes at affordable prices. With up to a few hundred shops, restaurants and cafes, the place will remind you of People’s Park Complex in Chinatown. The terminal is easily accessible via the subway (Lines 3, 7 and 9). You can spend anything from 5,700 won to 13,000 won on clothes, CDs and shoes. In this area you will also find Shinsegae Department Store (www.shinsegae.com) and Youngpoong Bookstore (www.ypbooks.co.kr). Fans of Korean dramas have to visit director Yoon Suk-Ho’s Four Seasons House (Seoulsi, Mapo-gu, Sangsu-dong, 86-10, tel: +82-2-3141-9027, www.yoonscolor.com), where popular dramas such as Winter Sonata, Autumn In My Heart and The Snow Queen were filmed. Nightlife For energetic nightlife action, venture to Sinchon-dong, which is located between three of the most esteemed universities in Korea: Yonsei, Ewha and Sogang. At night, young adults hang out at the various pubs and supper eateries. Try the strawberry martini at Zen II Bar in Sinchon. It costs 6,000 won, half of what you would pay in Singapore.

Lotte World

Namsan Mountain. Take the cable car up the mountain (7,500 won for a round trip) and head up to the observatory tower (8,000 won) for a panoramic view of central Seoul. Another must see spot is the Myeong-dong district, for its eateries and street stalls selling delicious food such as spicy squid with kimbap (6,000 won. Besides food, Myeong-dong has an array of big Korean cosmetic shops such as The Face Shop, Etude House and Skin Food. The prices are a third of what you would pay in Singapore. Get to Myeong-dong via the subway at two subway stations, Myeong-dong or Euljiro-il-ga. Food galore Don’t leave Seoul without trying samgyeopsal (barbecued meat) consisting of thick and fatty slices of pork belly. Many restaurants sell samgyeopsal in Korea and it can be eaten any time for any meal. Next to kimchi, it is the dish most representative of Korea. Also try samgyetang, which is ginseng chicken soup. The chicken is stuffed with glutinous rice and boiled with several herbs and ginseng. Do stop by the Hello Kitty Cafe in Hongdae district (358-112, Seogyo, tel: 02-334-6570), which serves waffles with ice cream (4,000 won for a waffle). The plates come with Hello Kitty ‘drawings’ using special sauces or chocolate powder. A cup of coffee costs 3,000 won.

Do not miss celebrity hot spot, Coffee Smith, where many young working adults hang out. For more up market action, visit Gangnam’s clubs and karaoke places. You can get there via Seoul Subway Lines 2, 3 and 7 and the Bundang Line. Stop at either Apgujeong Station or Sinsa Station on the Seoul Subway Line 3. In Gangnam district, Apgujeong is where one can spot many celebrities shopping or just hanging out. Must not miss Don’t miss the N Seoul Tower (www.nseoultower.net) in

Samgyeopsal


CRUISE

High sea vacations

The next cruise holiday you take could see you hanging out with SpongeBob SquarePants, catch a Broadway show or zip down a 100m-long water slide. These are the some of the attractions cruise ships are now offering, apart from the usual shipboard casino, gymnasium and swimming pool. With these new features, cruise operators hope to reel in more than just retirees and gamblers. The Norwegian Epic, for example, has a water theme park, a circus and Broadway acts on board. Operated by Norwegian Cruise Line and owned by Star Cruises, the ship also features famed Broadway act Blue Man Group to hold performances on board.

When Royal Caribbean International’s Voyager Of The Seas docks in Singapore next year, its passengers can try ice-skating in a shipboard rink that doubles as a venue for ice shows. Cruise operators are also attracting travellers with unusual itineraries and offering them another way of experiencing a familiar destination. Silversea Cruises and Royal Caribbean International, for example, will launch maiden voyages this year from Singapore to familiar Indonesian ports of call such as Bali and Lombok. © 2011 Viacom International Inc. All Rights Reserved

Star Cruises’ SuperStar Virgo’s US$50,000 spruce-up in 2009 gave it a 100m mega waterslide, which takes those who dare to try it from top to bottom at a speed of up to 7m per second. Superstar Virgo also regularly holds themed cruises, such as dating, golf and diving ones, which appeal to specific types of passengers. Youngest passengers can play with Nickelodeon characters like SpongeBob SquarePants with the Spongebob@Sea programme. “Spongebob At Sea” on Superstar Virgo 18 November – 30 December 2011 Co-sponsored by OCBC Bank and Mondial Insurance

Sailing on a cruise ship is an enjoyable holiday in itself

Star Cruises will launch the first-ever Nickelodeon “SpongeBob At Sea” cruises in Asia aboard the luxurious SuperStar Virgo. A series of SpongeBobtheme cruises will take place during the year end school holidays from 18 November to 30 December 2011. Experience a fun and playful journey with your favourite Nickelodeon’s characters - SpongeBob SquarePants and Patrick Star – and enjoy the hilarious live show, SpongeBob’s Krabby Patty Celebration. For more information about “SpongeBob At Sea” cruises, log on to www.starcruises.com/spongebob.

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NATURE RETREAT

Khao Yai National Park Guest House

Kaeng Krachan National Park

Back to NATURE

T

By Nazir keshvani

hailand has more than 100 national parks scattered across the country and along the coast with plenty of activities for nature enthusiasts. The parks vary in size from vast ones such as Khao Yai in central Thailand to the diminutive but simple Sirinat National Park in Phuket.

For the most part Thailand’s national parks are very well maintained and have marked trails and plenty of wildlife and natural sights to see. They’re also often full of amenities such as canteens, bathrooms and even inexpensive rental bungalows. If you’re searching for adventure, Thailand’s national parks deliver what you want. It could be mountain climbing or white-water river rafting, or simply relaxing on a scenic beach. Here are five of the country’s most popular parks in no particular order of merit.

Top 5 National Parks Khao Yai National Park Khao Yai National Park is one of the country’s largest national parks and has mountain ranges, waterfalls, evergreen forest and grassland. There are more than 300 species of bird in Khao Yai and nearly 70 species of mammal, including black bears, elephants, tigers, gibbons, macaque and deer. The park is only a couple of hours by car or bus from Bangkok and there are camping sites with showers and canteens. If you don’t want to camp in the park, consider staying at one of the nearby wineries. Sirinat National Park This tiny park on the northwest of Phuket has a pristine beach backed by a small forest. Because it’s so small, there isn’t a lot to do at the park other than hang out on the beach, but there is a campsite and even airconditioned bungalows for rent. Sirinat National Park is an excellent way to experience Phuket without crowds or commercialism.

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Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park Khao Sam Roi Yot means mountain of three hundred peaks but that’s not all you’ll see at this national park on the coast just an hour outside of Hua Hin. Aside from the stunning mountain ranges, the park also offers beaches, salt flats, marshes, caves and even small islands to visit. There are large bungalows on the national park, as well as a campsite.

Khao Yai National Park

and basic accommodations at three different locations in the park.

Doi Inthanon National Park Doi Inthanon is the highest mountain in Thailand and the national park surrounds the mountain range. This large park has everything from mountain trails to rivers to Buddhist temples and is a great place to explore Northern Thailand’s natural beauty. According to the Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department, Doi Inthanon National Park has most diverse bird population of any part of the country (more than 350 species). The park has bungalows and basic accommodations at two different locations. Kaeng Krachan National Park Thailand’s largest national park is in Petchaburi province just a couple of hours from Bangkok. Kaeng Krachan has a reservoir, undeveloped jungle, mountain ranges, rivers and waterfalls. The park is also home to hundreds of different bird species as well as elephants, gibbons, macaques, deer and other mammals. There are bungalows

Doi Inthanon National Park


NATURE RETREAT Hat Wanakon National Park Squirrel

Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park

Thailand’s Beach Reserves If you’re looking to combine a beach holiday with a Thailand adventure, consider staying at one of the country’s coastal national parks. Each of the parks below has undeveloped coast and inexpensive campsites to pitch a tent at or bungalows to rent.

Hat Chao Mai National Park

This national park in Trang province, just south of Krabi and Phuket, has undeveloped beaches, ca protected park area also covers a number of small islands off the coast that can be visited on day endangered Dugong (sea cows) are sometimes seen in this area, though sightings are more and three campgrounds, a basic restaurant and a canteen.

Hat Noppharat Thara - Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park

This national park technically covers Ko Phi Phi, but that hasn’t stopped development on the island of the other surrounding islands are not developed and can be visited on day trips. Accommodatio Nopphara Thara Beach and consist of a campsite and bungalows.

Hat Wanakon National Park

Ko Phi Phi Boat

Guide to Thailand’s National Parks

This small national park just north of Hua Hin has both forest and a long stretch of sand beach. Although there’s not a lot to do here other than walk the flat terrain, relax pretty scenery, it’s less than two hours from Bangkok by car. There are campsites and bungalows available for visitors, as well as a restaurant and a canteen Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park

Many of Thailand’s national parks have campsites and bungalows available for visitors. Here’s what you need to know about staying in one of the national parks.

Reserve in Advance

If you’re hoping to score a bungalow at one of the national parks on the beaches or islands, reserve your spot well in advance. The Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department has a website with online reservations. You’ll need to wire transfer payment to hold your place.

Rent and Buy Supplies at the Park

Most parks with campsites also rent tents, sleeping bags and even charcoal grills at very inexpensive rates. Larger parks also have canteens and vendors selling snacks, drinks and meals.

Find Transportation

Most national parks do not have any internal transportation but are too big to navigate by foot. Consider renting a car or motorbike outside the park.

Be Prepared for Crowds

If you’re camping over a weekend, you may be pitching your tent among hundreds of other campers. Schedule your camping trip for a weekday to avoid crowds or take advantage of the friendly, communal environment to make some new friends.

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Tasty cooking trips

CULINARY ADVENTURE

Food plays a central role in Asian countries; so much so it even plays an essential role in festivals and religious ceremonies. Through food we learn about the history and culture of the country.

A

sia has many cooking schools giving lessons on how to prepare the most delicious of dishes unAique to each country. Since the emphasis in regional cooking is on fresh ingredients, a first-hand shopping experience at the market is a must to buy indigenous herbs, spices, vegetables and fruits. The best part is afterwards you get to eat the food you’ve cooked. Here’s a taster from several distinct cuisines.

Red Bridge Restaurant - Cooking Class

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CULINARY ADVENTURE

BALI

Hands-on courses that run for either half or full day provide the chance to create Vietnamese classics, including pho bo (Hanoi beef noodle soup) and cha ca (clay pot fish with fresh dill). Start the day with a pleasant boat ride to the central market for provisions. The riverside school also does one-hour night courses at its sister restaurant Hai CafĂŠ (US$12) in the town centre.

The lessons take place in the boutique style Honeymoon Guesthouse. The short display based classes touch on the role of Balinese food in religious and social ceremony, before running through the techniques and ingredients for some of the major island dishes like nasi goreng (fried rice), gado-gado (vegetable salad served with peanut sauce dressing), and Balinese chicken satay (skewered grilled meat). The meal is enjoyed afterwards accompanied by homespun hibiscus tea or rice wine.

KRABI

Casa Luna Cooking School Honeymoon Guesthouse Jalan Bisma, Ubud, Bali Indonesia 80571 www.casalunabali.com Price: US$31

CHIANG MAI

CHIANG MAI THAI COOKERY SCHOOL 47/2 Moon Muang Rd, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand Email: nabnian@loxinfo.co.th www.thaicookeryschool.com Price: from US$30 The classes run from one to five days, but with TV chef Sompon Nabnian holding court, there is never a dull moment. You will learn great recipes like green curry, phad thai (fried flat noodles) and tom yum goong (hot and sour prawn soup). There is also a market tour and an introduction to fruit carving. The courses are conducted in the family home just outside Chiang Mai but the kitchens are well equipped with individual workstations. At the end, you go home with savoury memories and a book of recipes.

HOI AN

RED BRIDGE RESTAURANT & COOKING SCHOOL Thon 4, Cam Thanh, Hoi An, Vietnam Email: info@visithoian.com www.visithoian.com/redbridge Price: from US$23

THAI COOKING CLASS AT AMARI VOGUE RESORT Amari Vogue Resort, Tub Kaek Beach A. Muang, Krabi, Thailand 81000 Email: vogue@amari.com www.amari.com/vogue Price: 1,200 Baht++ per person A fascinating insight into the world of Thai cooking. Choose four of your favourite dishes ranging from starters, soups, curries and stir-fries and the chef will guide you through the ingredients and techniques necessary to make your Thai dish appetizing and tempting. At the end of the two-hour class, you will receive a signed certificate, an apron emblazoned with the recipe for tom yam goong and the chance to taste your handiwork at the resort’s Lotus Restaurant.

KUALA LUMPUR

LAZAT 584 Jalan 17/17 Section 17, Petaling Jaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Email: enquiries@malaysia-klcookingclass.com www.malaysia-klcookingclass.com Price: US$53 The classes at LaZat give an introduction to Malaysian cooking etiquette and explains how Malay, Chinese and Indian influences impact on local cuisine. The lessons in traditional home cooking are held in a house on the outskirts of KL complete with individual, fully equipped cooking stations. Start the day with a stroll around the herb garden. The dishes include beef rendang (spicy Indonesian dish in dry coconut sauce), sambal (chilli paste), and roti jala (Indian style bread in the shape of a net).

Amari Vogue Resort, Krabi

LUANG PRABANG

TAMARIND Ban Wat Nong (opp Wat Nong), Luang Prabang, Laos Email: info@tamarindlaos.com www.tamarindlaos.com Price: US$28

The owners of the renowned Tamarind restaurant, Joy Ngeuamboupha and Caroline Gaylard, hold cooking classes in a country-style sala (open sided pavilion) overlooking a small river. The day begins with a jaunt to nearby Phousy Market to stock up on ingredients, followed by lessons on how to prepare dishes such as the ubiquitous lam (Lao stew), sticky rice; as well as jaew (spicy dips) that are vital to this cuisine. The lessons are hands on utilising charcoal burners, so you literally get your hands dirty.

PHNOM PENH

THE CAMBODIA COOKING CLASS 67, Street 240, Phnom Penh, Cambodia www.cambodia-cooking-class.com Price: US$20 The classes conducted by Fizz restaurant on a rooftop terrace make for a picturesque experience. After stocking up on ingredients at the local market, instructor Janie Nhim runs a practical based session, emphasising the application of prahok (fermented fish paste) and preparation of herb pastes for traditional Cambodian dishes like fish amok (steamed curried fish). Each student has an individual workspace, and leaves with a recipe booklet at the end.

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WELLNESS

Banyan Tree Phuket Spa

You’re in

Good Hands

S

pa retreats in Southeast Asia offer the full range of rejuvenating treatments.

Many spas in the region see the concept of ‘wellness’ as a balance of five elements – earth, water, air, fire and life energy which are essential in connecting one to the universe.

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There is nothing more rejuvenating than being pampered at a spa. Southeast Asia is blessed with some of the best spa and health centres in the world and there are a myriad of massages, facial and body treatments on offer to refresh both your body and spirit. A trip to a Southeast Asian spa retreat provides purification of mind, body and spirit. This is considered the antidote to the stress of contemporary city life, which is fast-paced, filled with fast food; sleep deprivation and non-existent downtime – a sure path to a meltdown. Thailand In Thailand, a day at the spa should definitely include a traditional Thai massage. This is usually accompanied by washing of the feet, soothing tea and soft, traditional music. A Thai massage starts gently, but quickly goes deep and a well-trained masseuse will sense exactly where your tense spots are. There will be some temporary pain and uncomfortable stretching but when finished you’ll feel like a new person.

Traditional ingredients that go into Thai spa programme

For the most vigorous spiritual cleansing, try vipassana, which is popular with locals. This is a traditional Buddhist practice with programmes usually held in a monastery and can last from a few days to a few weeks. Participants live modestly on two vegetarian meals a day, wear long flowy robes, meditate for several hours a day and, most importantly, don’t speak for the entire time Thailand has some truly wonderful spas throughout the country – there are health centres in Bangkok, up into the northern cities like Chiang Mai and down south on islands for multi-day detox holidays. Hua Hin‘s Chiva Som is one famous health resort and popular with Hollywood’s A-list. Phuket has some spectacular spa resorts where you can combine vacation and rejuvenation.


WELLNESS Jamu Traditional Spa in Bali

Sheraton Grande Laguna Phuket

The Banyan Tree Phuket is rated by many as the world’s best spa with impeccable service and attention to detail. The Sheraton Grande Laguna Phuket features Ayurvedic

A trip to a Southeast Asian spa retreat provides purification of mind, body and spirit.

Malaysia In multi-cultural Malaysia, the therapies and treatments available incorporate techniques from many different Asian countries. All the big hotels in Kuala Lumpur have spas, but you’ll have a truly special experience at KL’s five-star Mandarin Oriental, the only Asian spa offering the Haki Stretch and Relax. The 50-minute treatment combines soft pressure with vibrations and rhythms to release tension. It is primarily focused on the neck, shoulders and head, but ends with a foot massage, fitting the Southeast Asian

at Putrajaya Shangri-La is truly world-class, offering rejuvenating massages and even personalized spa treatments based on astrology. The tropical setting features private villas, and the spa takes a holistic approach that incorporates philosophies and techniques from many different Asian treatments. Langkawi Island has the award-winning Datai Resort, nestled in gorgeous rainforest and ensconcing guests in clean Zen décor. Oil drips, hot stone massages and nature walks assist in total metaphysical rejuvenation. Another exclusive Malaysian retreat is Pangkor Laut

treatments and an unbelievably good fusion massage which mixes Thai and Swedish techniques. Pleasure and pain combined in the best possible way. Indonesia The Indonesian approach puts water as the foundation of most spa experiences. This is because the local belief is that water is a source of both physical and spiritual energy. There are a wide array of exfoliation treatments such as seaweed, coconut husks and sandalwood. In an Indonesian spa you will usually be offered jamu, a drink made from roots and herbs that’s supposed to be beneficial for all kinds of ailments. It doesn’t look or taste nice, but the locals swear it’s good for you. You can find spa resorts throughout Indonesia and outside the cities are some really interesting experiences such as natural volcanic hot springs. The Javana Spa, about two hours from Jakarta and near the rainforest, is surrounded by waterfalls, and features a sulphur bath with water from the hot springs of Mount Salak. Bali is famous for its variety of spas. Bali also has an impressive spread of retreats, from the luxurious to the low-cost. The Jamu Spa in Bali specializes in jamu treatments and offers a variety of other treatments involving better-smelling ingredients, such as cocoa beans, vanilla and papaya.

Pangkor Laut Spa Village

philosophy in which the feet are considered the mirror of the body and reflect the body as a whole. Also in KL, the Kenko Reflexology & Fish Spa located at the Pavilion Kuala Lumpur mall provides adventurous exfoliation. It has a large pool stocked with Garra Rufa fish (known as ‘Doctor Fish’), which love to nibble on human flesh. If you let these fish feed on your feet you’ll get a tingly micro-massage, which will leave the soles of your feet smooth, and your blood circulation increased. It can also help with a variety of skin conditions including psoriasis. Outside Kuala Lumpur, the Health Club and Spa

Resort, which is set on its own island. Pangkor Laut’s Spa Village specializes in Ayurvedic treatments and traditional Balinese, Chinese and Malay therapies with dedicated consultants to tailor programs for their guests. The most restorative aspect of Pangkor Laut, however, is its setting – the Spa Villas themselves are perched on stilts above the ocean while jungle treks and sailing expeditions facilitate a complete connection with nature. Location is a key element when it comes to detox programmes. Hypnotically swaying palms, warm blue water and white sand are all excellent motivating factors when it comes to a complete health overhaul.

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FESTIVAL

Borneo

Jazz Festival by Joe Ng

H

eld at the beach side grounds of the Park Everly Hotel in Miri, the newly renamed Borneo Jazz Festival is now bigger and better, with an average turnout of 4,000 a night.

One of the welcome changes is the bigger ground area for the audience flanked by stalls serving local and international food, merchandise, local art, design and fashion. The chill out atmosphere creates a good vibe about the festival. On the programming side, the organisers, Sarawak Tourism Board, scored a double coup this year, by having two Grammy Awards nominees on their repertoire, namely jazz legends, Maria Muldaur and John Hammond. The repertoire embraced a mix of the traditional - the French gypsy music of Les Doigts De L’Homme- to the

Jazz legend John Hammond PHOTO: JOE NG

modern state of contemporary Jazz- Dutch band, State Of Monc- to Latin Jazz Rock fusion- homeboy Victor Young with his Canadian outfit, The Electric Carnival Band. Even more so this year, there’s a greater diversity from different countries - Yuichiro Tokuda’s Rallyzz Dig band from Japan, China’s SIU2, Dhruv from India, and the Brazilian-Australian mixed samba combo of Cunha & Piper. The organizers also introduced two new show times, Afternoon Matinee & Musical Meetings that are outside of the core evening performances. The Eastwood Golf & Country Club was the venue for the Afternoon Matinee where Cunha & Piper rolled out their smooth samba and jazz.

About Borneo Jazz Festival Borneo Jazz Festival is the new name of the six-year-old Miri International Jazz Festival. Changing the brand name gives the already successful event a fresh coat of paint, and goes with the objective of tagging the term, ‘Borneo’ into their bigger promotional plan. The rebranding reflects the future ambitions of the Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) to extend the jazz festivities to more venues and states in the future.

Kota Kinabalu Jazz Fest rolls out 5th edition

Rainforest World Music Festival

The Kota Kinabalu Jazz Festival (KK Jazz Festival) in Sabah hit its milestone fifth edition this year.

Another festival of note in Sarawak is the Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF), held annually in Kuching, Sarawak (Malaysia). It is regarded among the Top Five music festivals in Asia and the Top 25 in the world. The festival had made a name for itself in the international music scene putting Sarawak on the world tourism map. The 14th edition of RWMF took place this year from 8 - 10 July. The line-up for the event included Masters of the Sape (Sarawak), Kamerunga (Australia), Warsaw Village Band (Poland), Kenge Kenge (Kenya), Kamafei (Italy), Joaquin Diaz (Dominican Republic), DuOud (Tunisia/Algeria), Paddy Keenan Trio (Ireland), Kissmet (India/ UK), Victor Valdez Trio (Mexico), Malick Pathe Sow (Senegal), Leweton Women’s Water Music (Vanuatu), Ilģi (Latvia), Agung Beat (Sabah-Malaysia), Frigg (Finland), Iskwew (Canada), The Shin (Georgia), Mamak Khadem (Iran), Pacific Curls (New Zealand), Startijen (France), Lisa Haley and the Zydecats (USA) and Blue Canyon Boys (USA).

The inaugural Musical Meetings saw members of Les Doights de L’Homme and Cunha & Piper with John Hammond jamming some mean blues at the Park Everly restaurant. While over at the Miri Marriot Resort, a more workshop like session feature members of SIU2, State Of Monc, Dhruv and Les Doights de L’Homme.

The two-day event, which has enjoyed word-of-mouth support and loyal hometown following, was held at the Sutera Harbour Marina, Golf & Country Club in Kota Kinabalu on 17 & 18 June. This year’s edition of the KK Jazz Fest featured a striking line-up including Australian one-man band Juzzie Smith, Chinese bossa nova darling Z Yan, Indonesian smooth jazz act Lucky Octavian and the Benjamin Lackner Trio, hailing from the United States/ Germany. Local acts played a major part in the festival’s pioneering spirit with the traditional outfit Agungbeat, the gambus-driven Spice of Tone and acoustic blues from Momain Blues. KK Jazz Festival is jointly organised by Rotary Club of Kota Kinabalu and the Society of Performing Arts Kota Kinabalu Sabah.

Air Asia – connection to East Malaysia Malaysian low cost airline AirAsia flies four times a week from Singapore to Miri on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. AirAsia’s other existing routes between Singapore and Malaysia include Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Langkawi, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu. Apart from Malaysia, AirAsia flies between Singapore and Jakarta, Bali, Pekanbaru, Yogyakarta and Bandung in Indonesia, as well as Bangkok and Phuket in Thailand.

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HERITAGE

A walk through

By N. Gunalan

A visit to the heritage sites of Macau reveal there is more to it than the casino town image that it might be associated with St Paul’s At Senado Square

M

acau’s European architectural legacy is the oldest and most intact in China today. Far from being mere relics, these historic enclaves continue to play host to concerts and festivities. The best way to explore Macau’s heritage sites is on foot. Start with the ruins of St Paul’s at Senado Square - the heart of Macau since its founding in the early 1550s. The ruins are part of a church with the world’s only depiction of the Virgin Mary stepping on a dragon.

Macau’s grandest

Behind St Paul’s is the Museum of Macau, which traces the city’s history from the Maritime Silk Road era through today. The streets of Macau are lined with pastel coloured Portuguese houses, Chinese mansions and gardens, and tea and noodle parlours.

The Venetian Macau, the sister development to Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands, is the biggest integrated resort (IR) in Asia. It boasts the world’s largest gaming space at 546,000 sq ft, which represents merely 5 per cent of the total gross floor area of the resort, which includes a 15,000-seat performance arena, over a million sq ft of convention and meeting facilities and a 1,800seat theatre for Cirque du Soleil shows.

A Suzhou-style garden is home to the Macau Tea Culture House and a favourite practice ground for martial arts enthusiasts and traditional opera singers in the morning. En route to this garden, you will pass by Tap Seac Square, which has been a cultural venue for various visual arts events. To finish off this cultural walk, head to Macau’s last remaining teahouse from the 1950s - Casa de Cha Long Wa - located in the back alley of the redbrick Red Market Building a few blocks away. Don’t be fooled by the empty first-floor, for the real gem is on level two, where you can enjoy tea and dim sum, or yum cha, 1950s style. Epicurean delights Macau is a food haven. Around Senado Square, Portuguese snacks such as bacalhau fish balls and chargrilled marinated wild boar meat are common fare. Yi Shun Milk Factory on the square is a unique shop best known for its steamed milk curds, papaya juice with fresh buffalo milk and other Hong Kong-Macanese brunch delicacies. Given Macau’s variety of good food, Macau Tower’s buffet on its observation deck is a good place to taste it all. The buffet serves authentic Macanese, Portuguese and Southern Chinese cuisine, which you can enjoy while marvelling at the panoramic views.

Macau Must Sees • Start by getting a map from the tourist visitor centre on Senado Square and you’re all set to go. • Explore Hard Rock Hotel’s digital aquariums with mermaids and 4D-show. • The best time to visit is from October to December when the weather is cooler.

Macau Must Dos • Cirque du Soleil’s first permanent show in Asia, Zaia, cost a whopping MOP1.2 billion (about $212 million) to produce and shows nightly at the Venetian Macao. It is a magical acrobatic fairytale not to be missed. • For the adventurous, bungee jumping off Macau Tower’s observation deck will earn you a Guinness World Record certificate for completing the “world’s highest commercial bungee jump”. Night jumps are also available on Fridays and weekends - accepting the challenge may be the biggest gamble one can take in Macau. • The Michael Jackson Gallery at Ponte 16. Among the precious items on display are the bejewelled glove that MJ wore to première his trademark Moonwalk Dance and a signed painting of Charlie Chaplin by Jackson when he was 9 years old.

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HERITAGE

Sunrise at

Borobudur

Central Java, with its mystical landscape of active volcanoes, rice fields and enchanting ancient temples is easily accessible from Semarang, the bustling capital of the region.

Contributed by Sulaiman Shehdek, Visit Indonesia Tourism Office (Singapore)

T

he provincial capital of Central Java, Semarang is an unassuming city on the north coast of Java with a rich history, laid-back charm and some of the best food in the country.

The oldest church in Java is the Bledug Catholic Church, which was built by the Dutch in 1753. It stands out for its huge red dome and distinctly European architecture. The Grand Mosque is considered the pride of Central Java because of its majestic combination of Asian, European and Middle Eastern architecture. At the Ambarawa Railway Museum, you can take an hour-long ride on a century-old Dutch-made steam train. The two-carriage train makes its way slowly along a 10km

track, huffing and puffing through rice fields, plantations and tiny villages. Don’t miss the Sampokong Temple built to honour Admiral Cheng Ho, a Muslim convert and a eunuch of the Ming Dynasty, who led a Chinese fleet on seven expeditions to Java and other parts of Asia in the early 15th century. The ancient royal Indonesian capital of Yogyakarta, also called Jogja, is one of the country’s top cultural destinations. It is a centre of fine Javanese arts and famous for its classical gamelan music, dance, theatre, poetry, silver work and leather shadow puppets. The Unesco World Heritage Site of Borobudur, located about 42km west of Yogyakarta, is a must visit. It was built in three tiers: a pyramidal base with five concentric square terraces, the trunk of a cone with three circular platforms topped by a monumental

Must try! Lumpia The most famous local snack is lumpia, a spring roll filled with fresh bamboo shoots, crabmeat, egg and shrimp. Gudeg A dish made with young jackfruit that is a staple with a sweet and sour taste (right). Sekoteng A beverage concocted with ginger, nutmeg, and water chestnut carrying a spicy sting in its tail. Ayam Goreng Suharti (Jalan Adi Sucipto) Started in 1972, Ayam Goreng Suharti sells fried kampung chicken made famous by Madam Suharti, who set up a franchise of over 50 outlets across Indonesia.

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bell-shaped chamber called a stupa. Viewing the sunrise from the top of Borobudur is a masterpiece not to be missed. The sun peeps over the horizon, painting the world in purple, blue, red, and orange, colouring the numerous stupas first then filling the land beyond and illuminating a mystical forest of trees with their tops peeking through the soft mist. The sky is turned a brilliant orange in stark contrast to the black shadow of mighty Mount Merapi in the distance. The walls and balustrades are decorated with fine low reliefs. Around the stunning circular platforms are 72 openwork stupas, each containing a statue of Buddha. The Buddhist temple was restored in the 1970s with Unesco’s help. Overlooking the lush green countryside and the imposing Mount Merapi, this is a top tourist spot in Indonesia.

Garuda Indonesia Indonesia’s national airline, Garuda Indonesia, operates eight direct flights daily from Singapore to Jakarta. The airline utilises a 222-seater Airbus A330-200, which includes individual touch-screen LCD TVs, with Video on Demand (VOD) entertainment systems offering 25 feature films and 250 audio tracks. Garuda Indonesia has upgraded it safety, product and front-line service standards, and was recently upgraded to a four-star rating by Skytrax Research.

How to go The best way to reach Semarang from Singapore is to fly Indonesian flag carrier Garuda. Daily flights are available via Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International airport. Where to stay A good choice is Jayakarta Hotel in Jogja. Another choice is Manohara Hotel, which is located in the Borobudur complex, with rooms starting from S$50 per night including entrance fees to Borobudur. You can book a sunrise tour from the hotel for around S$15. Side trips Besides Borobudur, there are other Hindu and Buddhist temples in the vicinity that are worth visiting as well. UNESCO site, Prambanan, and its surrounding temples, built around 850 AD, warrants at least a half-day visit. When to go The best time to visit is during the dry season, from April to October. The weather is a lot like Singapore’s - hot, humid and when it rains, it is very wet. Bring mosquito repellent, lots of it.


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ADVENTURE

India’s magnificent

Mountains

From snow-clad peaks to gentle meadows – India’s Himalayas have them all BY NAZIR KESHVANI

Uttaranchal

W

hether you are a traveller or an adventure seeker, the lure of the magnificent Himalayas is hard to resist. In India, where more than a third of the Himalayas spans, verdant plains and rolling hills tussle for the attention of tourists, as do snow-cloaked mountains that plunge into river valleys and gentle meadows. Spanning across five states, the Indian Himalayas is a paradise for nature lovers and intrepid trekkers and climbers. Depending on where and when you go, you’ll be spoilt for choices with options like scaling the mountains, skiing along white snowy slopes or simply soaking in the awe-inspiring views.

age-old monasteries - turns into a popular tourist destination. The beautiful Markha Valley Trek, for one, is a long-time favourite among trekkers offering glimpses of small villages and shepherd camps. Shopping opportunities also abound with beautiful handicrafts, including silk and wool carpets, embroidered shawls and products made of walnut wood. For a taste of Kashmiri cuisine, try the goat meatballs and meat with almonds, both recommended traditional delicacies.

River rafting amidst scenic mountain views along the River Beas. PHOTOS: NAZIR KESHVANI

Himachal Pradesh East of Kashmir lies Himachal Pradesh - the land of mountains and snow. Another spot for adventure-seekers, the region offers golf, winter sports, mountaineering and trekking. Perhaps the most spectacular mountain range is the 150km-long Dharamsala range.

Kashmir In western Himalayas lies the state of Kashmir. Here, you can take pony rides at the mountains; jump aboard a shikara (hand-paddled water taxis) or explore the beautiful Dal and Nagin lakes. You can also stay over at one of the colourful houseboats that ply along the water banks. The quiet and cleaner Nagin Lake is ideal for a quiet vacation accompanied by water skiing, swimming and surfboard riding. Kashmir is famous for its four distinctive seasons. In winter, put on your snow boots and muffler for some winter sports, such as skiing and heliskiing. Come summer, the Ladakh district - a high-altitude desert characterised by rugged mountain terrain framing

It offers arresting views of the Dharamsala mountains and the Kangra Valley and is one of the best launching pads for hang gliding and para sailing. Himachal Pradesh is also known for its sacred places of pilgrimage, with numerous temples and a mix of Buddhist and Hindu customs. Uttaranchal Nestling between Himachal Pradesh and western Nepal is Uttaranchal, the abode of Hindu gods. Steeped in Hindu mythology, this region is the origin of the holy Ganga River and home to four of India’s most sacred shrines, making it a magnet for pilgrims. The mountainous regions of Kumamon and Garhwal make up much of Uttaranchal’s attraction: Hallowed shrines and temples, alpine meadows and blooming wild flowers. Also visit the Corbett National Park, which boasts the highest density of tigers in the country. The excellent facilities for viewing wildlife make Corbett one of the finest reserves in India.

Darjeeling-Sikkim Himachal Paragliding At Darjeeling, a collective view of the

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glorious Himalayan peaks unfolds before you. This region is also famous for producing one of the world’s finest teas; so make sure you visit tea plantations, such as the famous Happy Valley Tea Estate and Lopchu Tea Estate. Also set aside a few hours at Kalimpong, where inhabitants turn up at two bazaars in native costumes to sell their farm produce. After Darjeeling, drop by Sikkim to witness a different facade of India influenced by Tibet, Bhutan and Nepal. Sikkim also boasts thrilling rapids for white-water action, and hundreds of species of orchids, butterflies and dense forests. For travel packages, contact Snowland Holidays, one of the leading tour operators and odyssey race operators, based in Manali, Himachal Pradesh. Snowland organizes trekking, cultural & sightseeing, paragliding, mountain & motor bike, Himalayan Odyssey race, jeep safari, wildlife & mountaineering trips in the Western Himalayas and Rajasthan. Snowland has scheduled monthly departures for soft, moderate or extreme adventure to Shimla, Kullu, Manali, Dharamsala, Kinnaur, Spiti, Ladakh, Zanskar, Uttranchal and Rajasthan. Visit www.snowland-holidays.com for more details.

Visa on arrival Singaporeans travelling to India can get visa on arrival at New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai airports. The visa costs US$60 (S$84) and is valid for a month. For more information, visit www.incredibleindia.org, write to info@indiatourism.com.sg or call +65 62353800.


BEYOND THE REGION

Christmas

Corals

The tiny island in the Indian Ocean boasts amazing wildlife in the sea and on land.

I

t is a tiny dot in the Indian Ocean that is barely known and even less explored. But Christmas Island, a small Australian territory, northwest of Perth, is one of nature’s most impressive feats. Also known as the Galapagos of the Indian Ocean, the island has a unique combination of cultures and history. These elements, together with the diving, make a visit to Christmas Island a truly unusual travel experience. Walking tour Discover the tiny island by walking from one end of the coastal town to the other. Start at the idyllic Flying Fish cove, with its colonial mansion hovering over the bay, then pass the Malay village and the loading dock to discover the Christmas Island phosphate mines. Next, walk through the old European Settlement and stop at the Christmas Island Visitor Centre for information on its colonial history before heading on to Gaze Point for a breathtaking view of the ocean.

Discover the ocean The tip of a volcanic mountain born of an eruption some 60 million years ago, the island is ringed by a narrow coral reef. The colourful corals that encrust the shallower waters benefit from strong sunlight and deep-water up welling that supply rich nutrients. The diving is amazing, but even snorkellers on the surface can see way down into the depths, admiring fish such as tuna, barracuda and reef sharks. Temples and cemeteries There are both Taoist and Buddhist temples in Gaze Road. Head out of the Settlement in Golf Course Road to find Mar Chor Nui Nui, a Taoist temple sitting on the edge of a cliff. At South Point, Soon Tien Kong is the island’s oldest and most important temple. How to get there: It takes a direct flight from either Kuala Lumpur or Perth to discover this island full of intriguing wildlife. You can see everything from the annual red crab migration to glorious deserted beaches where the only footprints in the sand are those made by nesting turtles.

Here are SOME tips on getting the most out of a visit tO CHRISTMAS ISLAND. Keep cool in the rainforest Christmas Island has an incredible number of unique land species too, both flora and fauna. The compact size of the island makes it easy to get in touch with nature. Walking to Hugh’s Dale is easy, with boardwalks leading the way past giant robber crabs to a crystal-clear waterfall that tumbles down a hill.

Bird watching Being the only outcrop of land in the middle of a vast ocean, Christmas Island is an important habitat for both endemic and migrant species. Birdwatchers from around the world come to see the Golden Bosun, also known as the White-tailed Tropicbird.

Red crab If Christmas Island is famous for the annual red crab migration, which happens from the end of October to the beginning of December. Every year, the rainy season triggers their migration from the forest to the coast, to breed and release their eggs into the sea. This is quite a sight. Blow holes Visit The Blow Holes on the island’s south coast. Even from a distance you can hear the rushing, roaring water and admire the fissures and tunnels the pounding water has created on the shore over countless years.

Simple pleasures As the sun goes down over the Indian Ocean, most people, tourists and residents alike, chill out. The Golden Bosun and Rumah Tinggi serve modern Aussie-style dinners. For something livelier, head to Poon Saan, located on top of the hill, and indulge in some delicious Chinese food such as chili chicken and Oriental vegetables best enjoyed with a beer.

Photo credit: Department of Regional Australia

ATN Ad.ai 14/07/2011 8:32:48 AM

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