Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Discover Queens, NYC as host borough to the US Open Tennis Championship



City Hotels to Offer Special Packages, Experiences and Incentives for Those Staying Overnight During US Open

On August 26, the most attended annual sporting event in the world will return to New York City at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center as the US Open Tennis Championships take over the borough of Queens.

Stars like Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams, Roger Federer, Sloane Stephens and Rafael Nadal will compete for the last grand slam championship of 2019 in front of more than 700,000 fans during two weeks of tennis that concludes on September 8.

NYC & Company, New York City’s official destination marketing organisation, is encouraging visitors to attend the US Open Fan Week and US Open Tennis Championships events, but also to stay longer and explore the diverse neighbourhood offerings in the vibrant and diverse borough of Queens. Additionally, several NYC & Company hotel members are offering special packages and incentives to encourage more overnight stays during this iconic event.

The week prior to the tournament, visitors and locals are encouraged to participate in US Open Fan Week, taking place at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center from August 19-25. The weeklong tennis and entertainment festival includes the US Open Qualifying Tournament, free evening concerts; open practices featuring top players, a new Kids’ Zone and various other family-friendly activities. A complete schedule of events can be found at usopen.org/fanweek.

The entertainment options continue post-Fan Week, as the tournament is held in the vibrant Flushing Meadows Corona Park, home to multidisciplinary attractions such as the New York Hall of Science, Queens Botanical Garden, Queens Museum and Queens Night Market as well as nearly 900 acres of park space—home to the iconic Unisphere.

In the surrounding Corona neighbourhood, authentic NYC experiences are abundant. At the Louis Armstrong House Museum, jazz fans can learn about the musician’s life and legacy in a museum outfitted in the house he and his wife lived in for nearly 30 years. Meanwhile, the culinary options nearby embody the borough’s reputation as the most diverse in NYC. Leo's Latticini is an 80-year-old Italian deli that makes mozzarella cheese fresh on-site. AtArepa Lady, diners can feast on trademark Colombian food-cart treats, and at Tortilleria Nixtamal, savoury Mexican food is served on fresh, GMO-free tortillas pressed in the front window.

Flushing, located on the east side of the USTA National Tennis Center, is filled with Asian flavour and culture from China, Japan and Korea. Asian Jewels is a popular destination for classic Chinese dishes, with a large open dining space and dinner menu filled with Cantonese specialties. Hunan House brings uniquely spicy dishes straight from China’s Hunan province, while Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao serves Singaporean specialties like scallion pancakes and stir-fried rice cakes. At the Queens Historical Society and Flushing Town Hall, visitors can learn about the borough’s history while experiencing two protected NYC landmarks.



New York City’s iconic hotels are rolling out the red carpet for the US Open, with curated packages, offers, and celebratory experiences including:

The Lotte New York Palace is offering an ACE of a stay for the US Open. “The Palace Doubles Package” includes opulent accommodations for two nights in the Towers Corner Suite for up to four adults, and exclusive access to The Palace Invitational, a one-of-a-kind badminton tournament featuring the very best in professional tennis at The Palace’s iconic Madison Avenue courtyard.
The Pierre New York is celebrating the tournament with the third annual outdoor festival “Smash Bash: A Celebration of Tennis” on August 21, featuring special appearances by US Open players Dominic Thiem and Garbiñe Muguruza. Taking place on the Rosé Terrace of The Pierre’s Perrine restaurant overlooking Central Park, the event will also feature a delicious selection of elevated court-side fare from Executive Chef Ashfer Biju, endless Château Miraval rosé, the Honey Deuce cocktail by Grey Goose Vodka, live DJ and table tennis.

At the InterContinental New York Barclay, and other participating IHG properties, visitors can enhance their experience with the “Game-Set-Match” package, including complimentary one level upgrade, tennis macaroons welcome amenity, US Open Honey Deuce cocktail voucher, map to USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and US$15 metro card. The Gin Parlour at The Barclay will serve signature beverages such as “The Lime Judge” and “The Watermelon Smash” to celebrate the tournament’s return to NYC.

The Peninsula New York will host a watch party every day of the US Open with a live feed of each match screened at The Bar at Clement, where the Honey Deuce, in partnership with Grey Goose, will be the cocktail of choice.

The Times Square EDITION, a brand-new luxury hotel located in the heart of Manhattan, is featuring a special “LOVE/TENNIS” offer. Visitors can save up to 15% on US Open accommodations when booking by August 16 for stays through September 8, 2019 and using the promo code TNI. Located just a few steps from the 7 train, The Times Square EDITION provides easy access to the tournament for spectators.

Conveniently located next to Grand Central Terminal and the 7 train to/from Flushing Meadows Corona Park, the Grand Hyatt New York offers visitors the opportunity to cool down at The Lounge at New York Central pre- or post-match, with a Honey Deuce cocktail, the official drink of the US Open.

“We are so pleased to welcome the US Open Tennis Championships back to New York City this summer. Visitors traveling to the City later this month will have a unique opportunity to see and experience Queens, the City’s most diverse borough. With an outstanding roster of cultural, dining and entertainment options plus several attractive hotel packages and offers, travelers will have no shortage of activities to enjoy during one of the nation’s most iconic big events,” said NYC & Company president and CEO Fred Dixon.

For more on the US Open this year, visit NYCGo.com/us-open-tennis-championships and for more on what to do and see in New York City’s borough of Queens, visit NYCGo.com/queens.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Vancouver’s Top Five Landmarks to Visit



Vancouver is Canada’s most populous city on the west coast, and is arguably the most popular tourist destination in British Columbia, having hosted over 10 million visitors in 2016.

A popular filming location for Hollywood movies, Vancouver is close to the gorgeous mountainscape of the Canadian Rockies. With its exciting art, culture, and entertainment, the city offers a unique heritage as North America’s most ethnically diverse city.

Begin your foray into Vancouver by visiting these iconic attractions, recommended by our Pan Pacific Vancouver team.

1. The Refurbished Old Dame: Woodward Building

Look for a big “W” on Vancouver’s horizon: it’s the new sign of its historic Woodward Building.

Originally built in 1903 and once North America’s biggest supermarket, this historic site has now become a residential and office complex housing downtown campuses of several leading Canadian universities. If you are sightseeing from the nearby Vancouver Lookout, you can see the entirety of the Woodward Building from the top down, plus a 360-degree view of Vancouver city.

2. Appreciate Japanese Botany at the UBC Botanical Gardens

Located at the University of British Columbia, UBC Botanical Gardens is Canada’s oldest university botanical garden, established over 100 years ago in 1916. Entry rates vary depending on which sections you are heading to: check its website for details. The garden’s traditionally Japanese-style Nitobe Memorial Garden is considered to be one of the most authentic Japanese gardens with a teahouse in North America.

Spread over one hectare of forest, the garden has each plant and stone carefully placed to emphasise harmony among natural elements. Cherry blossoms bloom in spring, irises in summer, and fiery maples in autumn.

3. The Heart of the City: Vancouver City Hall

Vancouver City Hall houses Vancouver City Council on 453 West 12th Avenue, and features a 12-floor tower. Completed in 1936, it was declared a schedule A heritage building in 1976.

Snap a photo of the statue of Captain George Vancouver by renowned sculptor Charles Marega. Gracing the front of City Hall, it pays tribute to the 18th century English officer who charted the west coast of Canada and the Pacific Northwest of the US.

4. Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden

Considered the first Chinese “scholar’s” garden built outside of China, Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Classical Garden is located right in the middle of Vancouver’s Chinatown area.

Adorned with beautiful pavilions and a jade green pond filled with koi fishes, the garden features a rare collection of 150-year-old miniature trees and tai hu rock specially imported from China.

5. Capilano Suspension Bridge

Thrilling visitors since 1889, Capilano Suspension Bridge is one of Canada’s most popular outdoor attractions.

Suspended over the picturesque Capilano River, the 137-metre long and 70-metre high Capilano Bridge offers visitors a unique experience combining British Columbia’s nature, culture, and history through interpretive signs and knowledgeable staff. Visitors can also explore the adjoining Treetops Adventure which takes guests into the mid-story of a coastal rainforest, traversing across seven suspension bridges.

Stay at the Pan Pacific Vancouver where you will be just a few steps away from the convention centre with panoramic views of the Coastal Mountains, Coal Harbour, and city landmarks in Vancouver. Pick a Pacific Club room or suite for club access and a host of privileges!

Need more reasons to visit Vancouver? Here's what our Concierge Recommends.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Five Unusual Places To #VisitSingapore Near MRT


Hop on and off the MRT to explore the island!



Planning your Singapore holidays, and seeking something a little unusual, outside of the usual tourist hotspots? If you’re willing to venture beyond the city centre, you will be well rewarded.

Be sure to use the train network, known as the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), and you’ll be able to zip to some off-the-beaten track locations without breaking a sweat. From rustic rural neighbourhoods to mini-zoos and hipster cafes, you’ll be surprised by the hidden gems that you can uncover.

Curated by PARKROYAL on Kitchener Road, below is a list of 5 unusual places to visit in Singapore near train stations, and not all too far away from the city!

Heighten Your Senses at Little India (Little India and Farrer Park MRT)

In a city-state still defining its core identity, this well-loved neighbourhood is a paragon of cultural assuredness and authenticity. It’s impossible not to be caught up in the sights, sounds, and tastes of Little India. That said, food should definitely be your top priority here.

To begin, pop into any of these Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurants: Muthu’s Curry (famous for its fish head curry, made with a secret spice blend); Lagnaa (dine barefoot here, and take the Chilli Challenge if you dare); or Bismillah Biryani (biryani is an Indian dish of seasoned rice and meat, fish, or vegetables).

Don’t be confined to award-winning lists or Indian food—leave room for gastronomic discovery. A place to experience the full spectrum of Singapore’s cuisines is the iconic Tekka Centre, where you can tuck into local favourites such as prawn noodles, duck rice, and mee siam (“Siamese noodles” in Malay).

Get directions to Muthu’s Curry (7-minute walk)
Get directions to Lagnaa (8-minute walk)
Get directions to Bismillah Biryani (10-minute walk)
Get directions to Tekka Centre (10-minute walk)

Enjoy the Quiet Life at Potong Pasir (Potong Pasir MRT)

Looking for things to do in Singapore on a budget? Take a quick train ride to Potong Pasir.

Locally, Potong Pasir has a reputation for being an idyllic town with a quiet resolve. In a city of rampant development, Potong Pasir has remained true to the tenets of simple living—the daily routines of many residents revolve around the coffeeshops, minimarts, and wet markets in the area.

To shop like a true local however, head to the ABC Bargain Centre, where you’ll find snacks, drinks, toiletries, and even underwear at discounted prices.

To have a delicious local meal, walk to Lao Zhong Zhong Eating House. According to regular patrons, “nothing is bad here,” although of course, everyone has their favourites. To try “ngoh hiang” (five-spice meat roll, somewhat akin to sausages), look for the Lao Zhong Zhong Fine Spice Stall, which has its own fan following. The other highly popular stall here is Soon Li Whitley Food Centre Pork Porridge and Macaroni.

Alternatively, cross over to River South (Hoe Nam) Prawn Noodle, which also attracts long queues—a sure sign of repute in Singapore. All three stalls have been given the stamp of approval by KF Seetoh, best known in Singapore for championing hawker food.

Get directions to ABC Bargain Centre
Get directions to Lao Zhong Zhong Eating House
Get directions to River South (Hoe Nam) Prawn Noodle

Experience Nostalgia at Kampong Lorong Buangkok (Serangoon MRT)



Need more places to visit in Singapore for free? Kampung Lorong Buangkok has been around since 1956, and it is a must-see, as it is Singapore’s only surviving kampung (Malay for “village”) on the mainland. Other kampungs in Singapore are on surrounding islands such as Pulau Ubin.

To reach Kampung Lorong Buangkok by public transport, take bus 70 or 103 from Serangoon MRT Station and alight at the Church of St. Vincent de Paul bus stop. The kampung is a short walk across the road (check the exact location below). It’s not exactly tucked away; instead, it’s nestled between a park connector and other modern-day developments, which makes it all the more surprising and rewarding to discover.

Once you arrive, try to remain unobtrusive to avoid disturbing the residents. Currently, 25 Malay and Chinese families live in cheery zinc-roofed homes connected by mud paths within the kampung. There are no barriers here—not between homes, nor people—and that’s the true beauty of this place.

Get directions to Kampung Lorong Buangkok

Hole Up in a Hidden Cafe (Serangoon, Kovan MRT)

Much to the delight of residents, indie cafes and dessert bars have been making their way into Singapore’s north-east. Some of these cafes are a short bus or cab ride away from Serangoon and Kovan MRT, and they are worth tracking down if you intend to explore the area.

One cafe that has garnered rave reviews is CIEL Pâtisserie, famed for producing quality cakes that are remarkably inexpensive thanks to its low-key location.

Trained at Le Cordon Bleu Paris, co-owner Chara Lum completed an apprenticeship at Fauchon—a culinary institution renowned for its luxury foods. “Ciel” means “sky” or “heaven” in French, and it’s a nod to Lum’s aspiration to serve a little slice of perfection to all her customers. From the rave reviews, it appears that she is well on target.

If you prefer something closer to the train station, make your way to Lola’s Cafe on a weekday morning; it’s usually packed during lunch and on weekends. A short walk from Kovan MRT station, patrons enjoy its laid-back atmosphere, good service, and casual brunch options.

Too tired to head out? Read our guide to getting your caffeine fix around PARKROYAL on Kitchener Road.

Get directions to Ciel Patisserie
Get directions to Lola’s Cafe
Get directions to Wimbly Lu

Hang Out with Farm Animals (Sengkang MRT)

The Animal Resort
Address: 81 Seletar West Farmway 5, Singapore 798058
Telephone number: +65 6482 1160
Opening hours: 10:00am to 5:00pm (Monday to Friday); 10:00am to 6:00pm (Saturday, Sunday)

If you love animals, or are travelling with children, consider visiting The Animal Resort, a quirky animal farm in Seletar Farmway – theres’ no entry fee to the farm, plus you’ll get to spend quality time with its motley crew of animals.

At The Animal Resort, most of the farm birds (ducks, geese, and other fowl) are allowed to roam freely. You’re also welcome to feed the animals, including a retired racehorse. Food packs are available for purchase at a dollar or two. With kids around, you’ll probably find yourself going back for more.

It’s not just domesticated farm animals at The Animal Resort too—you’ll get to see exotic birds such as the Cassowary (careful, it’s deadly!), the African crowned crane, and the Marabou stork.

The best way to get there is to hail a cab from Sengkang MRT station, and to use a ride-hailing app (Grab or Gojek) to return to the station when you’re done.

Get directions to The Animal Resort

Welcome to Singapore! Need travel or accommodation advice? Speak to our friendly team at PARKROYAL on Kitchener Road, or browse our room and dining offers here.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Discover Center Hill Lake Tennessee


Center Hill Lake may be less well known than other outdoor escapes in Tennessee, but this gorgeous lake on the state’s Highland Rim is our recommendation for a mid-week break or weekend getaway. Center Hill, which is roughly an hour from Nashville and two hours from both Chattanooga and Knoxville, is a sublime summer spot delivering the best of both worlds with fun on the lake and miles of forested shoreline for hiking, outdoor recreation, and camping. Boating, waterskiing, canoeing, and fishing are all popular activities at Center Hill Lake. Anglers have the chance of landing bream, walleye, smallmouth bass, crappie, catfish, and white bass. The area also offers over nine miles of hiking trails, numerous camping options at Floating Mill Park, Long Branch Campground, and Ragland Bottom Campground, and easy access to other nearby attractions like Burgess Falls State Park with breathtaking waterfalls and a large Native Butterfly Garden.

Center Hill Lake

Floating Mill Park has over 100 campsites with options for everyone from a first-time camper to a seasoned outdoorsperson. Many of the sites have convenient amenities including electric and water hookups, while several tent-only lakefront sites are available for those looking to rough it. The campground also has flush toilets, showers, and drinking water, offering a comfortable camping experience for visitors. Floating Mill Park is surrounded by the lake on three sides, providing sweeping waterfront views and easy access to boating and other activities along with a fish cleaning station, playground, and hiking trails.

For visitors looking for waterfront camping right on the lake, Ragland Bottom Campground has 40 campsites with water and electric hookups as well as 16 primitive tent-only sites. Amenities like flush toilets, showers, and drinking water are also available at Ragland Bottom. The campground puts visitors right on the lake, limiting the time it takes to get to the water and delivers other fun shoreline activities including a volleyball court, basketball hoop, playground, and plenty of hiking trails. The Red Post Trail is a short but steep, two-mile loop above the campground. Hikers who tackle this moderately difficult climb are rewarded with beautiful overlooks of the lake in a perfect place to bring home a story of the trip!

Another top camping choice at the lake, Long Branch Campground is located below Center Hill Dam on the scenic Caney Fork River. Long Branch is an ideal spot for tranquility and trophy trout fishing on the river, which is stocked with rainbow and brown trout. The popular Buffalo Valley Nature Trail, which provides access to the Caney Fork and offers great wildlife viewing opportunities, is also located just across the river from the campground. It is important to know that due to high releases at Center Hill Dam this spring, erosion has occurred along the riverfront and campsites 2, 4, 8, 10, 12, and 18 at Long Branch Campground are currently closed. Visitors can check the Recreation.gov page for Long Branch and the Center Hill Lake Facebook page for updates on campsite changes throughout the season.

Your summer escape to the lake is calling! Learn more about Center Hill Lake, check availability at Long Branch Campground, Floating Mill Park, and Ragland Bottom Campground, and plan your trip today!

Source: recreation.gov

Monday, July 22, 2019

Meet the man who models a city



Ahead of the completion of the capital's first model of the Klang Valley in February at The KL City Gallery, Sarah Rees met with the man behinds the models to hear about his life-time crusade to protect and preserve the city he calls home.


When living in a big, sprawling city like Kuala Lumpur, it is easy to feel small. The buildings dwarf anyone navigating their way around the city, each taller and shinier than the last, their towering peaks lost in the clouds and the glare of the sunlight. That is, at least, until you take a trip to the KL City Gallery and stand in the darkened room, observing the whole of the Klang

Valley stretched out before you, the Twin Towers mere inches high, and the 200-year-old raintrees that gather around Merdeka Square seemingly minute in the shade of the lofty office blocks.

"Every city should have one,” declares Andrew Lee, the man responsible for KL's only scale model of its own environs. “It's the past, present, and future together." He gestures to the crystal towers sitting amid the careful coloured buildings, all hand-assembled and fitted with lights. “The crystal ones are future buildings before construction has yet begun; we will make them coloured when they are completed.”

It will be, one assumes, a never-ending task as the city continues to develop – “My model makers have a job for life!” Andrew laughs - but it was the past and not the future that first attracted Andrew to the model-making life, and it was an interest that took hold when he was still but a young boy, growing up in Chinatown.

While his father was cooking steaks for the British, Andrew was roaming the streets, wide-eyed in wonder at the old buildings and their intriguing architecture. “I was always observing," he remembers, “and was so interested in the heritage of the country. I took photographs, and when I compare my photos to the way it looks today...?” He trails off and shakes his head sadly.

A CITY PAST AND PRESENT

Andrew is passionate about preservation, especially in reference to the architectural heritage of old KL, and he fumes in frustration as we speak about the grand colonial mansions and palaces that were lost in the rush to develop the city in the boom years. "We never protect, never preserve, never announce these wonderful buildings." he laments. It is this frustration that drove Andrew to suggest, in a meeting with the Mayor of KL, that he might take the lease of the old printing press on the edges of Merdeka Square and open a gallery that would let tourists know about the historical significance of the area, providing nuggets of history and fact amid the sea of photo opportunities in the vicinity.

"He was delighted," explains Andrew of that fateful meeting with the mayor, "and when I told him I wanted to call it the KL City Gallery, he was thrilled!” The KL City Gallery has now become a place of preservation, inside and out. Andrew has meticulously protected the old printing press building that the museum calls home, and filled it with maps, photographs, newspaper clippings, and models of the city and the area, the last of which are made by his company ARCH in a workshop inside the gallery.

MODEL MAKING MASTERS 

It is with ARCH that Andrew first began his heritage crusade - a model-making company that he set up in a 150ft office, on his own, back in 1989, and one that has now grown to such a scale that the team undertakes multiple projects for companies all over the world. Despite some wobbles during the Asian financial crisis, ARCH has gone from strength to strength under the tutelage of its inspired leader, who moved from making the models himself to overseeing the team and pushing the company into new realms, gaining prestige both home and abroad.

ARCH sprung to fame when it turned its attention - after the financial crisis saw its number of contracts drop from 60 to zero - to souvenirs, and opened its first outlet of charming keepsakes in the thennew KLCC. “I realised that tourists were coming and admiring our buildings," he explains, “but they couldn't take anything away with them except photographs.” Andrew and his team began designing and creating handmade models of iconic buildings in the city, presenting them as pictures, key rings, and other forms of tourist paraphernalia.

These became popular with companies as corporate gifts, and attracted attention beyond the limits of the country – Andrew soon found himself making tourist gear for countries as diverse as Dubai and the US. This side of the business still continues to blossom, especially as ARCH products are now the official souvenir of KL, but Andrew is keeping himself busy with his latest, mammoth task.

Mini City

The sprawling Klang Valley lies out before the visitor in the darkened, cool room on the first floor of the KL City Gallery, and while it wasn’t completed when I visited at the end of last year, already the city centre was there to behold, complete with the green grass and trees of the Lake Gardens, the flashing Twin Towers, and the iconic reddish-brown of the historical buildings that line Merdeka Square.

“It was much harder than I expected,” admits Andrew with a chuckle, “and much slower!” The task of turning every single building in the Klang Valley into a model is a huge one, and while some blueprints of buildings and plans can be obtained from DBKL, many months were spent taking photographs from all angles and physically measuring buildings – especially the old ones – in order to generate a design that could then be cut out and crafted completely by hand. It wasn’t enough just to complete the model: it had to be exactly right. “It’s all in the detail,” declares Andrew, as he points out how each building is in the correct colour, each tree is in the right place, and a light flashes and whooshes along each of the train lines that snake the sprawling area.

Once completed in February, the model will be truly impressive, and it already attracts a stream of tourists with cameras, emitting chuckles of delight and awe. Sound and light effects will be used to show a short presentation of “a day in the life of…” when the full model is complete, beginning with the red sun rise and rushing through the day before a thunderstorm and a sunset rounds the proceedings off.

Man On A Mission

It is yet another stepping stone on Andrew’s journey to preserve and celebrate the city, educating visitors and reminding local people what they have. It is especially important that the older buildings get their place on the map, and the older neighbourhoods of town – where this city truly began – don’t get forgotten in the rush to build taller, bigger, flashier.

At the end of the day, it comes back to Chinatown – the place where KL turned from a muddy swamp into a city – which lies just moments from the KL City Gallery. “I want to be a councillor of Chinatown,” jokes Andrew. “I want to beautify it, put up signs; if we don’t start now, people will forget!”

He is not, thankfully, one man against the world, and admits to being heartened by how many local people he has met (thanks to the KL City Gallery) that share his enthusiasm for architectural heritage and are just as keen as he is to preserve the buildings that are left, and the history that exists within their walls. “We have to do more,” he declares, “we may not be that old as a country, but we have to start now or it will all be forgotten!”

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KL City Gallery is located on Merdeka Square (beneath the flag pole) and is open 9am-5pm daily. Admission is free. For more information, visit www.klcitygallery.com.

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Source: Senses of Malaysia Jan-Feb 2013

Seven Unique Festivals To Celebrate In China




Festivals are an intrinsic part of Chinese culture.

Mostly based on the Chinese lunar calendar, these festivals are also a time for connection with friends and family, appreciation for people and place, and grounding in culture and traditional way of life.

With a number of Chinese festivals on the calendar for the coming months, below is a guide to 7 unique and exciting festivals to celebrate in China, brought to you by Pan Pacific Xiamen.

1. Celebrations and Sweets At The Lantern Festival

The wondrous Lantern Festival is an incredible light-filled experience with cultural performances for all ages.

Celebrated on the fifteenth day of the first month of each Lunar New Year (typically in January or February), it is a time for Chinese families to bond over a hearty meal.

Tuck into a warm bowl of famed Tangyuan (glutinous flour and bean paste balls in sweet broth) while gazing the full moon during the Lantern Festival (元宵节). The act of eating tangyuan signifies adding one year to your age while anticipating the coming spring.

Also known the last day of the Spring Festival, youths in ancient China were said to tour the streets freely on this occasion with lanterns. Their goal? To find a suitable life partner!

2. Treat Your Favourite Ladies on Women’s Day

8 March is Women’s Day in China. An opportunity for men to express love and appreciation for the women in their lives, Women’s Day has evolved into a celebration of women’s purchasing power – clothes, shoes, and cosmetics are often discounted online.

The best thing about this occasion? Women can often leave work early and enjoy a half-day holiday!

More companies are taking a step further to honour their female employees by giving them a half-day off, catering breakfast in the office, or throwing them a dinner party.

3. Paying Tribute To A Patriot: The Dragon Boat Festival

Happening during the warm summer periods, the Dragon Boat Festival (also called Duanwu Festival) memorializes loyalty and filial piety every fifth day of the fifth Lunar month, which is in late May or early June. The date was made famous by well-loved minister and scholar Qu Yuan, who took his life in 278 BC after his political exile.

A senior political office holder, Qu was known for his loyalty to the state of Chu. Betrayed by his rivals to the detriment of his homeland, the distressed Qu drowned himself in the Miluo River after the fall of the state. Local villagers threw balls of rice wrapped in leaves into the river to prevent fish from eating Qu’s body as boatmen rowed out to find him.

To commemorate the occasion, glutinous rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves (zongzi or 粽子) are eaten. The wrapped dumplings have become so popular that you can now buy them any time of the year in food stalls.

4. Fly Over The Milky Way On Qixi: Chinese Valentine’s Day

Known as the Qixi (七夕) Festival or Double Seventh Festival, Chinese Valentine’s Day falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month (usually in August).

Like Valentine’s Day in the West, Qixi Festival has its own touching tale. According to legend, a cowherd and a weaver girl (or Zhinü) were banished to different parts of the Milky Way. Allowed to meet once a year on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, the couple would reunite by walking over a bridge of magpies in the sky.

In ancient China, Qixi was a time for single women to pray to Zhinü and burn paper offerings. Newlywed couples also paid their respects to the heavenly couple for the last time as a farewell to their singlehood.text

5. Feast on Sweet Mooncakes On The Mid-Autumn Festival

Celebrated across China and the Chinese diaspora, the Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋节) occurs when the moon is said to be at its fullest in the year. This is on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month, normally in September or October of the Gregorian calendar. Sweet round mooncakes representing reunion and connection are served during this occasion.

Head to your nearest Chinese mall or city plaza to join in the fun. Participate in lantern exhibitions, lantern riddle competitions, food fairs, and carnival games for the young and old.

The story of the mythical figure Chang’e (嫦娥)—an immortal woman living on the moon with a pet rabbit—is often retold during the Mid-Autumn Festival. Chang’e was famed for being the wife of archer Hou Yi, a hero who shot down nine of ten suns and saved humanity from disaster. Gifted a potion of immortality, Hou Yi let Chang’e safekeep it. To prevent a robbery attempt, however, Chang’e swallowed the potion and flew towards the moon where she is now said to live.

6. Chongyang Festival: A Chinese Tradition of Climbing High

Get away from the city and inhale some fresh autumn air. Also known as the Chongyang Festival (重阳节) or the Double Ninth Festival, this day marks the impending arrival of winter and falls on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month, usually in October.

Chongyang is celebrated by baking and steaming Chongyang Cake. Made from rice flour, sugar, almonds and other nuts, the confection is a sweet treat not to be missed. Since the Chinese word for “cake” (糕) is a homonym for the word for “height” (高), celebrants often climb tall mountains and appreciate chrysanthemum blooms on this occasion.

Beyond working off your calories from the cake, hiking allows you to get in touch with nature, gather with your family and friends, and honor deceased relatives by burning paper clothing offerings at their graves. Declared as Seniors’ Day in 1989, Chongyang Festival is also time for numerous seniors’ nature walks organised by community associations.

7. Gawk At A Shopping Extravaganza: The Double 11th Shopping Festival

China’s answer to Black Friday is the annual Double 11th Festival (双十一), when people in China can grab a discount on Chinese online shopping platforms such as Taobao, Tmall, Amazon.cn, and more. This festival happens every 11th of November. Purely commercial in nature, November 11, 2016 saw Alibaba post a staggering 120.7 billion yuan worth of sales by the end of the day.

The symbolism of the four 1s has given the day the second meaning of being Singles’ Day (光棍节) in China. Celebrate your single status by tucking into a fried dough fritter (youtiao) breakfast, eaten on this day because it looks like the number one.

Celebrate China at the Pan Pacific on your next visit, and ask us about the best ways to rejoice in all of its seasons. Speak to our team at Pan Pacific Ningbo, Pan Pacific Suzhou, Pan Pacific Tianjin, Pan Pacific Xiamen, or Pan Pacific Beijing to enquire about our latest offers for rooms and suites.

It's time for the Lion King



We are loving the computer animated Disney remake of the smash hit 1994 movie, The Lion King, released earlier this month. But surely nothing beats the real thing!

Here is Sanctuary Retreats' definitive guide to the best places in Africa to get close the 'mane' event and see some real Lion Kings in the wild!

Kenya

A safari favourite since the early 20th century and home to one of the world's greatest wildlife arenas, Kenya's 2,000-odd lions are scattered across the country. But when Karen Blixen, author of Out Of Africa and long-time Kenyan resident, wrote: 'You know you are truly alive when you're living among lions,' she was talking specifically about the Mara.

And it's not hard to see why. This iconic game reserve, contiguous with the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, is named in honour of the area's ancestral Massai and their description of the area when looked at from afar. Mara is Maa (Maasai language) for "spotted" – an apt description for a landscape characterised by endless overlapping circles of trees, scrub, savanna and cloud.

It's also globally famous for its exceptional population of lions and other big cats including leopards and cheetahs, making it the perfect place to witness one of the world's most quintessential wildlife experiences, the annual Great Migration, when millions of zebra, wildebeest, and other antelope species make an incredible journey across Tanzania and Kenya.

Of course, the Great Migration is spectacular at any time of year, but one of the best periods to catch local lions in action in Kenya is between August and October when fattened herds cross over from the northern border of Serengeti National Park into the Masai Mara Reserve. Here they will face their hardest challenge, crossing the Mara River, while doing their best to defend life and limb from hungry feline predators.

And Sanctuary Retreat's recently refurbished flagship property, Sanctuary Olonana in Kenya is just the place to watch them do it. Just one hour by plane from Nairobi, the luxurious camp is set in lush woodland on the banks of the Mara River, its fourteen spacious suites designed especially to maximise the wilderness experience for guests. But it's the game viewing on offer that makes a stay here truly memorable. Experienced guides are expert at finding the perfect hidden spots from which to view the extensive wildlife on show in the Masai Mara, supported by special touches ranging from private picnic breakfasts and lunches to magical bush suppers under the stars.

As well as providing front row seats to the Great Migration, game drives out from the camp reward guests with plenty of other 'Big Five' encounters, including a pod of hippos who live permanently in the river just below the Camp, and after-dark drives also allow for exclusive sightings of nocturnal creatures.

South Africa

South Africa is more successful than most African countries at preserving its wild populations — and the Madwike Game Reserve is one of the country's richest wildlife sanctuaries, literally spread out over 75,000 hectares of stunning – and diverse, African wilderness. The terrain also varies widely from rocky peaks and open grasslands right through to lush valleys. This means that each area boasts its own distinctive inhabitants, which in turn means that visitors to the Reserve are all but guaranteed to see a huge and very diverse range of wildlife and some spectacular game viewing. Lion are prolific, with almost 100 calling the Reserve home, along with elephant, buffalo, rhino, leopard, cheetah, giraffe and hyena.

Madikwe Game Reserve is strictly protected and self-drive or day trips are tightly restricted in the area. This means that the best way to see the Reserve is during a stay in one of the area's exclusive bush hideaways. Sanctuary Makanyane Safari Lodge is situated on private ground within the Reserve overlooking the Marico River. Catering to just sixteen guests, eight secluded and luxurious suites each boast spectacular glass-walled bedrooms, offering uninterrupted views of the surrounding forest and the River. Add in exceptional cuisine, welcoming service and thrilling game viewing, and the result is an unforgettable luxury safari experience.

Botswana

Botswana is Africa's high-end luxury safari destination offering spectacular game-viewing in the reserves that surround the dramatic Okavango Delta — a vast inland river system made up of permanent water channels, seasonal floodplains and islands. Here in the Delta, lions spend a lot of time crossing the floodplains, roundly dispelling the myth that they don't like water.

With several local lion prides and leopards living close by, the game viewing opportunities at Sanctuary Chief's Camp are awe-inspiring. Located on Chief's Island in Delta's famous Moremi Game Reserve, itself an area recognised as the 'predator capital of Africa', the Camp is ultimate safari destination. Re-built in 2016, it has well and truly raised the standards of the luxury safari experience to new heights.

Ten spacious pavilions offer incredible views over the surrounding Okavango Delta, which can be enjoyed from each pavilion's private pool or from the tranquil outdoor seating area. Bathrooms – which come complete with floor to ceiling windows and folding glass doors – also have a spacious outdoor shower and an indulgent, large bath tub – perfect for soaking in after a day's game viewing.

For the epitome of luxury, the 620m² Geoffrey Kent Luxury Suite, named after the eponymous safari pioneer, can accommodate from two to six guests. The suite is ideal for honeymooners looking for the ultimate retreat or groups of friends in search of the utmost privacy and comfort, with two pavilions, a private kitchen, indoor lounge, private boma with fire pit, and secluded deck area. It's fully staffed – with a dedicated chef, personal waiter and housekeeper.

Plus, the Suite comes with its own private vehicle and guide, who is adept at locating roaming lions out on the plains that prey on the thousands of antelope, zebra and buffalo who live here all year round.



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