Friday, August 23, 2019

From TV to TZ, Five Lessons from The Lion King


Disney's The Lion King may be many people's first encounter with lions, but the movie is more than a touching tale of a cub finding his way to the throne. Jenman Safaris advises travellers to watch the movie closer to learn about some of the real locations, cultural wonders and handy tips for safari experiences in Tanzania.

1.     The Serengeti inspired the Pride Lands
The Pride Lands film set reflects the Serengeti (which means "endless plains'' in Swahili); and a drive through the Serengeti quickly reveals the uncanny resemblance. Travellers will enjoy the savannah teeming with herds of zebra, impala, and wildebeest, while among the long grasses cheetah and lions stalk their prey – the circle of life in real life action. Nearby, the Olduvai Gorge supposedly served as inspiration for the spot where Mufasa was trampled by wildebeest. The gorge is a significant archaeological site where Mary Leakey discovered a 1.8 million-year-old hominid skull.

2.     Accurate animal behaviour
While Disney got some of the animal behaviour right – e.g. the structure of the pride led by one dominant male who is the only one to sire offspring and lionesses straying away when food is scarce, fact and fiction part ways where Simba's diet is concerned. Lions can never survive off bugs, as an adult male eats around 10 kilograms of meat a day. Another fact is hyenas are successful hunters and kill most of their own meat, so they are not the lazy scavengers The Lion King portrays them to be.

3.     Characters named after Swahili words
Remember the names of these characters and you've just gained some Swahili vocabulary:
– Simba means lion;
– Rafiki means friend;
– Pumbaa means foolish or silly;
– Shenzi means savage; and
– Banzai means to skulk or lurk.

4.     Hakuna Matata is a real phrase!
Thanks to the catchy tune, everyone is familiar with 'Hakuna Matata'. A useful phrase picked up by Disney's research team during their time in Africa, it really does translate to 'no worries' and is frequently used by locals in Tanzania. However, it is typically only used for tourists' benefit with Tanzanian Swahili speakers preferring to say hamna shida instead.

5.       Pride Rock was inspired by kopjes
Kopje formations across the Serengeti plains look eerily similar to Pride Rock because they were the source of inspiration. Islands of granite thrusting up out of the grassy savannah, kopjes often feature lions draped across the top. These rocky outcrops are not only important vantage points for lions, but they also serve as good hiding places for their cubs, just like in the movie!

MORE: Established more than 18 years ago, Jenman Safaris is a specialist safari tour operator offering travellers a wide range of small group tours and tailor-made itineraries in Southern Africa, East Africa and Madagascar.

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.



Thursday, July 4, 2019

"Fall" in Love With Hokkaido's Autumn Experiences



Autumn presents itself as an optimal time to see a different side of Japan as nature and locals prepare for the winter ahead. Here are five autumn experiences that will make a trip to Hokkaido an unforgettable one.

“Fall” in love with Hokkaido's autumn foliage

The beautiful red leaves known as “Momiji” are a natural phenomenon that occur when temperatures drop after a hot summer. Hokkaido's magnificent fall foliage can be seen as early as late August. Beautiful trees in vibrant shades of yellow, orange, red and brown make for a stunning backdrop across Japan's northern island including mountains, national parks, river banks and streets.

Witness a “sea of clouds”

Unkai is a sea of clouds that can be seen from places of high elevation. It is one of mother nature's greatest spectacles which emerges under certain temperature conditions in the early morning. It is a sight to behold as the clouds form a blanket-like cover over mountains resembling that of an ocean. Although quite rare to see, one of the best places in Japan to see Unkai is at Hoshino Resorts TOMAMU's UNKAI Terrace between May and October.

Enjoy the fruits of your labour

Autumn marks the season of harvest so why not go on a food-filled adventure! Being the agricultural heart of Japan, Hokkaido lends itself to a variety of activities for you to brush up on your farming skills and learn a thing or two. Pick fresh peaches, grapes and apples straight from the orchard, learn how to make ice cream and butter or catch a fish to eat! There are plenty of unique experiences to try delicious, seasonal foods straight from the farm and sea.

Eat and then eat some more

Located in Odori Park, The Sapporo Autumn Festival is Hokkaido's largest food festival that takes place in September. A foodie's paradise, you can “spam your gram” with tons of pics and videos as you make your way through the market trying some of the best local delicacies like Asahikawa ramen, seared scallops, ishikari nabe, yubari melon and of course Hokkaido's famous soft serve ice cream made from fresh milk.

Wake up and smell the roses

There are many flower farms that grace the fields of Hokkaido's countryside. Making a trip in autumn doesn't mean you miss out on seeing picturesque colourful rows of flowers, in fact there are a variety of gardens that bloom right up until the first frost. A visit to Farm Tomita in the late autumn will show the backdrop of flower fields against the snow-capped Tokachi Mountains beyond the valley. What's more is that they have a café serving lavender ice cream!

You can enjoy all of these autumn experiences and more when you stay in Tomamu. Located in the center of Hokkaido, Hoshino Resorts TOMAMU is the perfect place to base yourself and is conveniently accessible from New Chitose (Sapporo), Asahikawa and Obihiro airports.

Palm Cove Reef House & Spa : a great place to escape

The Reef House & Spa is a romantic escape in Tropical North Queensland, located in the laid-back beachfront village of Palm Cove. A personal experience, Reef House has character in abundance, offering a fresh sense of luxury contrasted with historic charm.



Half-way between the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest; Reef House is only a 25 minutes’ drive from Cairns and 45 minutes from Port Douglas; an ideal getaway for couples and a great base for your tropical far north adventure.

Rich in history, Reef House was one of the first Palm Cove properties built in 1958, before being acquired by Brigadier, The Hon. David Thomson in 1972. Originating from an Officers Mess system in the Army, Thompson adopted the same principle of trust with the Brigadier Honesty Bar; an unattended beverage and snack bar. Signature to Reef House is personalised customer service and a homely experience rare to find in modern hospitality.

Hidden behind palm trees, Reef House is a colonial, beach-front retreat consisting of 67 intimate guest rooms, nine apartments and villas, two large swimming pools (one adults only, one heated to 30 degrees), a rejuvenating day spa and a modern fine dining restaurant.

Surrounded by luscious greenery, each room is nestled in its own private oasis, Reef House instantly makes you relax and unwind; from the romantic love swing to the relaxing spa baths and sweeping ocean views.
Enjoying spectacular views of the beach sits the Reef House Restaurant; offering tropical fine dining with a constantly evolving menu of the freshest produce. Executive Chef, Ben Canham has created a modern Australian menu with Asian and European influences, where guests come back time and time again for the locally caught Reef fish and Orecchiette pasta with smoked duck chorizo.

A new curated wine list from recently appointed Sommelier, Bernard Bungaleea will feature wines from recognised wineries and epic vintages. Complimentary for guests, is the Reef House Mixology Academy, where Sommelier Bernard will run cocktail classes every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.

From check-in, Reef House & Spa provides personal touches that make guests feel at home, including complimentary amenities; from an arrival drink, pool-side sorbet and aqua-aerobic classes, to fishing rod and bike loan. Each day, guests are invited to the Brigadier Bar for complimentary punch and canapés, to encourage lively conversation between guests, hosted by the General Manager, Wayne Harris.

For those looking to rejuvenate, the Reef House Day Spa has five treatment rooms, two Vichy showers and a couple’s treatment room with spa bath. On the menu is holistic massages, refreshing facials, body exfoliation, seaweed wraps and anti-ageing treatments. The only Day Spa in Queensland to offer Phytomer treatments (marine biotechnology), the Reef House Spa is the ideal way to pamper and relax.

The only fully owned and operated property in Palm Cove, Reef House & Spa is the ‘summer’ property of Malcolm Bean and David Horbelt, owners of Adelaide’s Mount Lofty House.

Reef House Palm Cove | 9 Williams Esplanade, Palm Cove, QLD 4879
(07) 4080 2600 | www.reefhouse.com.au

Monday, July 1, 2019

Longreach Qantas founders' museum: Early history of QANTAS



QANTAS, the world's second oldest airline, was registered on 16 November 1920 as Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Service Ltd. While Winton was the official birthplace, the company and operational headquarters were moved to Longreach in February 1921.

Following a fire in April 1921, commercial operations were conducted from a small office in Duck Street, a replica of which has been erected in Qantas Park, Eagle Street. From May 1922 until June 1930 when the company moved to Brisbane, Qantas operated from the Graziers Building also in Duck Street.

The airline's founders were Paul McGinness and Hudson Fysh, two former Australian Flying Corps pilots, Ainslie Templeton and Fergus McMaster, local graziers; and Alan Campbell, a principal of Queensland Primary Producers Co-op of Brisbane. Shortly after the first aircraft was purchased they were joined by Arthur Baird, an Australian Flying Corps associate of Fysh and McGinness, who filled the role of engineer.

By May 1921, initial subscribed capital was $13700 (6850 pounds), of which McMaster, Templeton, Fysh and McGinness had personally contributed $6600 (3300 pounds). Pastoralist Alexander Kennedy also made a substantial purchase of shares conditional on being the first passenger on the scheduled service.

In March 1922 Qantas sought Department of Defence permission to improve the Longreach aerodrome. At the same time, the company let a contract for $3274 (1637 pounds) to a Brisbane firm Stewart and Lloyds, for supply and erection of the now famous hangar. It was completed five months later.

Qantas Founders Museum, Longreach QLD

On 2 November, the Qantas Charleville-Cloncurry aerial mail service was inaugurated. An Armstrong Whitworth FK-8 flown by Paul McGinness left Charleville at 5.30am and after stops at Tambo and Blackall landed at Longreach at 10.15am. Early next day, Hudson Fysh with Arthur Baird as engineer flew 84-year-old Alexander Kennedy to Cloncurry. Kennedy's condition had been honoured! The 797km (580 mile) flight took nearly eight hours

With Arthur Baird and his skilled team repairing a constant stream o unserviceable aircraft, the hangar a Longreach became the focus of Qantas operations.

By 1925, increased reliability resulted in the hangar being underused In January of that year, Qantas reacher an agreement with de Havilland to build its own DH50 aircraft under licence.

Seventeen months later, the first Longreach built DH50A was christened by Lady Stonehaven, wife of the Governor-General. In August 1927, the third DH50A was christened Pegasus by Mrs Bruce, wife of the Prime Minister. A further four aircraft - one DH50A and three DH50Js were built in this hangar.

When the DH61 superseded the DH50s they proved too large for Qantas to build locally and production ceased in September 1929.

As well as repairing and building aircraft, in December 1926 Qantas opened a flying training school at the hangar.

When the administration moved to Brisbane in June 1930, the close physical and administrative links between Qantas and Longreach ended. The BrisbaneLongreach service continued until World War II ended. Under Federal government ownership, Qantas was to become Australia's International Airline.



American B-17 Flying Fortresses were stationed at Longreach from May until July 1942 and flew combat missions into the Coral Sea. The American personnel were from the 93rd and the 28th Bombardment Squadrons.

Source: Qantas Founders Museum, Longreach QLD

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Guide to Hong Kong's neighbourhoods



Dive into Hong Kong’s diverse and exciting neighbourhoods with Trip.com and you’ll be guided into experiences in places you never knew existed, and where you’ll gain a new understanding of local Hong Kong life, up-close and in detail.

Each is a destination in its own right. Like tiny cities within a sprawling metropolis, each has its own culture and personality, shaped over time by fascinating people, foods, communities and stories, as well as rich and varied histories.

Use Trip.com’s handy guide below to show you how to explore all these neighbourhoods like a local, with deals to match and you’ll discover the Hong Kong that is missed by most guidebooks.

With hotels on offer from under $100 per night and return flights from around $680 with Qantas and Virgin, Hong Kong never looked so enticing.

Sign up online too, as Trip.com’s loyalty members can benefit from deals available only to them, in Hong Kong, during this campaign launched this week, designed to encourage travellers to explore beyond the same old tourist haunts.

TripPLUS members who have accumulated loyalty points called “Trip Coins” whenever they have booked flights and hotels or written a review on Trip.com platforms, can use them to gain exclusive discounts on future purchases.

Central

Take a quick glance at Central’s glittering skyscrapers and it would be easy to dismiss Hong Kong’s financial hub as boring. But beneath the canopy of this concrete jungle lies some of the city’s most exciting (and exclusive) bars, restaurants and modern-art galleries. Perched on the north shore of Hong Kong Island, the district’s transport links are as good as you’d expect from a place named ‘Central’ – this is where you’ll find the Victoria Peak Tram, the Mid-Levels Escalator and the Star Ferry.

Sheung Wan

If suits own Central, then hipsters control Sheung Wan. Sitting in the shadow of Central’s high-rises just west of Hong Kong’s towering business district, Sheung Wan was a typical residential neighbourhood until it began to modernise rapidly in recent years, welcoming a wave of trendy coffee shops, bohemian vintage stores and cutting-edge eateries to its streets. Here, you can shop for antiques on Hollywood Road; visit Man Ho Temple, one of the oldest in Hong Kong; and take photos of the street art in PoHo, the area around Po Hing Fong and Tai Ping Shan Street.

SoHo

SoHo is another spot favoured by Hong Kong’s arty crowd. Sandwiched between Central and Mid-Levels and sitting next door to the craziness that is Lan Kwai Fong, SoHo is short for South of Hollywood Road and covers the area between Staunton and Elgin Streets. All along the Mid-levels Escalator route are where cool new bars, restaurants, boutiques, comedy clubs, galleries, design stores and cafés seem to spring up every day.

Lan Kwai Fong

Welcome to Hong Kong’s party central. Home to more than 100 bars, Lan Kwai Fong has a venue for everyone. Young professionals, expats, backpackers, cashed-up locals, yuppies and anyone else thirsty for a drink or three converge on this part of town on the weekend, flooding legendary nightspots like Club Qing, Levels and Cé La Vi.

Mid-Levels

This district might be mainly residential, but the Mid-Levels boasts some of Hong Kong’s best views from the slopes of Victoria Peak. Hop on one of the 20 escalators or three ‘travelators’ snaking between the glitzy apartment blocks to escape the Central smog and enjoy some fresh air in one of the mountainside parks, then climb even higher to the summit of Victoria Peak for peerless vistas over Hong Kong. On the way back down, make sure to stop off in one of the many boutiques, bars and bistros that line the escalator route.

Wan Chai

Wan Chai used to be infamous for its red-light district, but the sleaze and smut has made way for stylish hotels and cultural centres. Occupying the waterfront east of Central, Wan Chai has traded raunchy sailors and boozy bars for the avant-garde Hong Kong Arts Center, the world-class Academy for Performing Arts, and the iconic Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center. Just east of Wan Chai sits Causeway Bay – an area teeming with department stores – and to the south is Happy Valley, home to one of the most famous horse-racing tracks on the planet.

Tsim Sha Tsui

Jump on the Star Ferry across Victoria Harbour to reach one of Hong Kong’s liveliest neighbourhoods on the southern tip of the Kowloon Peninsula. Tsim Sha Tsui is one stop that every visitor should add to their Hong Kong itinerary. Take in Nathan Road’s neon-lit Golden Mile, the Avenue of Stars – China’s answer to the Hollywood Walk of Fame – and gargantuan shopping malls such as K11 and Harbour City. This neighbourhood has a veritable smorgasbord of upmarket dining options: visitors can choose from Michelin-star fine dining, traditional Cantonese cuisine and international fare from pretty much everywhere around the world.

Mong Kok

Mong Kok is all about one thing: markets, and lots of them. The air here is filled with the smells of food wafting from the stalls on Sai Yeung Choi, Dundas, Fa Yuen and Soy Streets – perfect for satisfying your hunger after a long day exploring the Ladies’ Market or the district’s specialist markets dedicated to birds, flowers and even goldfish. Hipsters should venture further north to Sham Shui Po, an up-and-coming food and shopping hub.

With the TripPLUS rewards program, members can earn 25 Trip Coins for every US$100* they spend on flight bookings, 80 Trip Coins for every US$100 spent on hotel bookings, and up to 120 Trip Coins for every hotel review they post. Members can either make instant savings on Trip.com hotel products by selecting the number of Trip Coins to use when booking, or exchange Trip Coins for access to promo codes. By enabling instant saving through Trip Coins, Trip.com will offer further attractive products in the highly competitive online travel market.

TripPLUS works in tandem with Trip.com’s tier membership system, which includes Silver, Gold and Platinum membership. Members of all three tiers are entitled to exclusive hotel deals, while Gold and Platinum Tier Members will respectively receive 10% and 30% more Trip Coins on any flight or hotel booking. Higher levels of membership are reached through the separate accumulation of “Tier Points” on Trip.com platforms, earned through making flight and hotel bookings.

Download the Trip.com app to keep up to date with the latest special deals that are regularly on offer. Check your flight status, manage your bookings, and reach us 24/7 for any help, plus lots more.

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Monday, June 17, 2019

Sydney's Celebrity Hot Spots



Wonder where celebrities like actors, singers, and models hang out during their Sydney holidays?

After all, Sydney is known to be one of the Southern Hemisphere’s cultural capitals, favoured by the glitterati of Australia and beyond.

In this article, we will reveal the best locations in the Emerald City for a celebrity sighting.

But before you go stargazing, here’s some good news: visitors to Sydney may soon enjoy a long-awaited extended nightlife scene, if shops, eateries, and other businesses in central Sydney are finally given the go-ahead to operate at all hours of the day. Currently, the city’s “lockout laws” prohibit entry into bars, pubs, and clubs after 1.30am. There is also a stipulated time for last drinks—3.00am.

"It's not going to all happen at once, but it will slowly start to build," says Sydney councillor Jess Scully. "It's setting Sydney's nightlife up for the future, and for how we live now."

Thankfully, there’s already plenty to do in Sydney. If you need quirky Sydney activities to fill your day, or ideas for fun things to do in Sydney at night, take your cue from Sydney’s celebrity visitors, and make a stop at the city’s hippest spots. Put on your glamorous togs and read on to find out more.

1. Have Breakfast at Bills Restaurant

Bills
Address: 359 Crown Street, Surry Hills NSW 2010, Australia
Telephone number: +61 2 9360 4762
Opening hours: Monday to Friday: 7.00am to 10.00pm
Saturday to Sunday: 7.30am to 10.00pm

Why begin your day at Bills? It’s run by Bill Granger, Aussie celebrity chef and the “egg master of Sydney.” Bills at Surry Hills was pop superstar Taylor Swift’s first stop—fresh from the airport—when she arrived in Sydney for an awards show some years back.

At Bills, the scrambled eggs are creamy to a fault, the sweet corn fritters have been proclaimed the city’s best, and the ricotta hotcakes have earned a devoted following too. Yet Granger remains charmingly modest about his culinary talents. "It's not complicated. It's not science. I'm not… out there in the kitchen devising. I'm very much a domestic cook," he once said.

Surprisingly, the passion for food doesn’t run in Granger’s family—cooking was even viewed as a chore to rebel against. But, following his parents’ separation, Granger began to change his perspective. "We never sat down together as a family, so for me, food was a way of bringing the family together,” he told The Telegraph. “Food is a conduit to good relationships."

Last year, Bills at Surry Hills celebrated a fresh start, by reopening at a site next door to its original location. This was the restaurant’s first update after 23 years. Its breakfast classics are still there, along with newer dishes (seared duck breast) and a delectable wine range sourced from South Australia’s Riverland region. (Click here to see where else you can find Bills in Sydney, and around the world.)

Get directions to Bills

2. Scale the Sydney Harbour Bridge

You might not spot a celebrity at the Sydney Harbour Bridge, but if you conquer the BridgeClimb Sydney—by reaching the bridge’s summit—you would most certainly be following in celebrity footsteps. Which celebrities, you may ask? Recent star climbers include actor Luke Evans, musician Sam Smith, retired Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe, and Hollywood megastar (and Sydney native) Hugh Jackman.

There’s an even better reason to put this on your list of things to do in Sydney today: the BridgeClimb was named Australia’s top experience by TripAdvisor last year. It also clinched the No. 4 spot on TripAdvisor’s Top 10 list of the best experiences in the world.

Not exactly a fan of heights? Here are some tips by the BridgeClimb experts for staying on course: slow down your breathing to relax naturally, steer your mind towards positive thoughts (“I’ll love the view!” or “This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience!”), look horizontally instead of downwards, and most importantly, trust BridgeClimb to bring you safely up and back.

As for what to wear, those who’ve done the climb recommend comfortable casual wear, such as a t-shirt and tights.

Note: the Sydney BridgeClimb does come at a price, with some packages costing as much as AU$388 per person. If you’re keeping an eye on your spending and don’t mind doing a shorter version of the climb, try the BridgeClimb sampler for AU$174 (adult price).

Get directions to Sydney Harbour Bridge | Buy tickets

3. Chill Out at Bondi Beach

Icebergs Dining Room and Bar
Address: 1 Notts Avenue, Bondi Beach NSW 2026, Australia
Telephone number: +61 2 9365 9000
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday: 12.00pm to 12.00am
Sunday: 10.00am to 10.00pm

“Definitively Sydney, Bondi is one of the world’s great beaches,” says Jeroen Meijer, general manager of PARKROYAL Darling Harbour, Sydney. “It’s the closest ocean beach to the city centre (8km away), has consistently good—though crowded—waves, and is great for a rough-and-tumble swim.”

If you’re looking for calmer waters, Meijer’s advice is to “try the child-friendly saltwater sea baths at either end of the beach.” To enjoy warm sea temperatures, the best months to visit are from December to March. But rest assured that people still visit the beach during the winter months of June to August.

To spend a full day at Bondi, you could begin with a morning or midday surf lesson, and cool off at the Icebergs Dining Room and Bar, where luminaries such as Oprah Winfrey, model Alexa Chung, and actress Sienna Miller have been spotted. Post-lunch, you can check if any festivals or celebrations are happening in the vicinity, or go shopping along the nearby Gould Street, where you can find international labels as well as homegrown designer fashions.

Hungry again? If you haven’t had a chance to sample Australian cuisine at Bills (see above), there’s a branch at Bondi Beach you can visit.

Get directions to Bondi Beach

4. Explore Sydney’s Classiest Neighbourhood

Chargrill Charlie’s Mosman
Address: 884 Military Road, Mosman NSW 2088, Australia
Telephone number: +61 2 9969 7107
Opening hours: 9.00am to 9.00pm daily

Taronga Zoo Sydney
Address: Bradleys Head Road, Mosman NSW 2088, Australia
Telephone number: +61 2 9969 2777
Opening hours: 9.30am to 4.30pm daily

In 2017, pop sensation and former bad boy Justin Bieber rented a home on Coronation Avenue, in the Sydney neighbourhood of Mosman. Today, Coronation Avenue has been named the lower north shore’s most desired street for buyers, according to an Australian real estate site.

Mosman is reputedly one of Sydney’s most affluent and prestigious suburbs, and it’s worth a drive there to see how the city’s well-heeled live. Use the Sitchu guide to explore the restaurants, cafes, and bars in the area, or simply head to Chargrill Charlie’s, as Bieber himself did.

From here, the Taronga Zoo Sydney is within easy reach. “[T]his bushy harbour hillside is full of kangaroos, koalas, and similarly hirsute Australians,” quips Jeroen Meijer. “Highlights include the nocturnal platypus habitat, the Great Southern Oceans section, and the Asian elephant display. Feedings and encounters happen throughout the day, while in summer, twilight concerts jazz things up.”

Get directions to Mosman
Get directions to Taronga Zoo Sydney

5. Party at The Ivy

Address: 330 George Street, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia
Telephone number: +61 2 9240 3000
Opening hours: Hours vary, check website for details

Looking for things to do in Sydney at night? If you fancy running into the likes of reality star Kim Kardashian or English comedian Russell Brand, The Ivy is where you need to be. This urban playground features intimate lounges, as well as dance floors and plenty of food and drinking options—essentially, all your party needs under one roof. (Did we mention that there’s a rooftop pool bar too?) The Ivy tends to attract those who want to be seen, so go ahead and make the extra effort.

Sadly, it appears there are redevelopment plans afoot for The Ivy, with no closure date given as of now. Your best bet is to visit The Ivy while it’s still around!

“I've been to nearly every club in Ibiza. I've been... to Miami Music Week and several festivals. [The Ivy] is one of the best clubs I have ever been [to],” raves a satisfied clubber. “It's not only this really great venue…. the people you're going to party with [are] perfect!”

Get directions to The Ivy

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More reasons to book us: kids stay and eat free, and early birds enjoy savings on our Best Available Rates. View our room offers or get in touch with us today!

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Philippines: Ten great things to do in Cebu



Located in the Central Visayas region of the Philippines, Cebu draws almost 2 million foreign travellers each year with its white-sand beaches and spectacular diving. Consisting of over 7,000 islands, the Philippines is filled with lots of places for travellers to explore, and with so many destinations on offer, many travellers only plan a couple of activities in Cebu before heading onto another island. The Philippines Department of Tourism has compiled a list of 10 things for travellers to consider doing in Cebu before moving on.

Ms Norjamin Delos Reyes, Tourism Attaché at Philippine Department of Tourism Australia and New Zealand said,

“Tourism to Cebu is really booming at the moment. From cultural and heritage sites to natural destinations and more active activities, Cebu has so much on offer. The capital of Cebu City alone is filled with lively bars, emerging eateries and shops to explore, there really is so much to do. Travellers do not often realise that they can enjoy a full adventure-packed week and more in Cebu alone.”

1. Sirao Flower Garden
This so-called “Mini Amsterdam” is attracting tourists from far and wide to view the stunning range of flowers within. Located just a few minutes from Lahug, Cebu City, the 8,000-square-meter piece of uphill land is filled not only with flowers, but bicycles, a windmill, fountains, and picket fences to resemble the fields of Amsterdam.

2. Osmena Peak
The Highest Mountain in Cebu, Osmena Peak forms part of a range of green jagged hills, similar to the Chocolate Hills of Bohol. Set amidst limestone cliffs, the hills offer the perfect hiking trail; a relatively easy 700-metre climb which can be done in around 20 minutes, with incredible views out to sea from the top.

3. Kawasan Falls
A stunning three-tier waterfall in the South of Cebu island, Kawasan Falls is one of the Philippines most famous waterfalls; a tropical oasis surrounded by turquoise natural water to swim in. Bamboo rafts are also on hand to take travellers around the blue pool and under the waterfall.

4. Heritage of Cebu Monument
The Heritage of Cebu Monument is located at Parian in downtown Cebu and is amongst one of the most visually interesting sights in the Philippines. Consisting of sculptures made from concrete, bronze, brass and steel, the monument shows scenes about events and structures related to the history of Cebu.

5. Basilica of Sto. Nino
The oldest Roman Catholic church in the country, the Basilica of Sto. Nino is a basilica in Cebu City which was founded in 1565. The church itself is built on the spot where the image of the Santo Niño de Cebú was found during the expedition of Miguel López de Legazpi.

6. Sea of Clouds at Mt. Mago in Carmen, Cebu
Mount Mago is one of the easiest hiking and camping destinations in the Philippines, with gently rolling hills and a well-established trail to explore. Travellers may also be lucky enough to witness a surreal natural phenomenon whilst on the trail – a sea of clouds appearing right before their eyes.

7. Taoist Temple
Built in 1972, the Taoist Temple is located in Beverley Hills and is one of the many highlights of Cebu. Located on a hillside and offering views over Cebu, the temple is a place for meditation and is beautifully designed with carved dragons, a variety of colours and topped with a pagoda-style roof.

8. Oslob Cebu, Diving with the Whale Sharks
Swimming with the whale sharks is one of the top attractions in Cebu, and one not to be missed. In Oslob, travellers have the opportunity to get in the water and snorkel or dive with these gentle giants and watch them swim by, offering a unique and unforgettable wildlife interaction.

9. Sardine Run, Moalboal
Moalboal is widely considered to be a scuba diving mecca, with easy shore diving and numerous dive sites located along the beaches. The sardines are easily the main attraction here, forming huge clouds and creating different shapes in the water, providing incredible underwater photography opportunities.

10. Mt. Manunggal Eco-Adventure
Located in Baguio City in Northern Luzon and surrounded by pine trees, this stunning mountain view destination offers spectacular natural sceneries. With a range of adventurous activities on offer, travellers can choose from an exhilarating sky bike attraction, horseback riding, trekking and mountain climbing, and a soon-to-be-opened zip line.

For more information, visit Tourism Philippines. Follow Tourism Philippines on Facebook and Instagram. #itsmorefuninthePhilippines #Philippines

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