So you’re finally going on a trip, eh? You’re finally leaving your comfort zone. Well, good! The world’s your oyster, one that you open with your passport. There’s plenty to discover and more to experience.
But before you fly off to lands unknown, learn a few things first; for knowledge is power, and it may well save your life.
Here are a few crucial things that you should know before you travel the world.
Check Your Gear
Prep time is half the fun of travelling. There’s a certain kind of excitement that experienced travellers get when browsing stores for stuff they’ll bring on their next trip. You may feel that too, once you rack up some mileage on your visa.
That said, prepping your gear isn’t just for fun. It’s also for your own good.
You’ll be a stranger in an unfamiliar land, and the commodities and conveniences of home will no longer be within your reach, particularly when going to areas untamed by civilisation, to meadows and groves where you commune with nature and soul.
Thus, make it a habit to check your gear, days before your trip. Go over your pack, and review what you need and what you don’t need. Packing too much can unnecessarily burden you; packing too little may leave you stranded somewhere without even basic necessities like food or water and without the hope of rescue.
Check the Culture
One of the many things that can fumble a traveller’s stride is the culture shock. It’s usually the first gale that greets one so used to the comforts of home. The impact can strike so overwhelmingly and so frustratingly that one can become homesick in a matter of days.
Experiencing how other people live in other parts of the world is part of the fun in travelling. But if you don’t do your research in advance, you could be on the receiving end of sudden culture shock. Then all your preparations will be for nought as you hurry to book a return flight home.
What you see in the movies isn’t always the truth; it’s often embellished by false fluff for production value. You expected the romances of Casablanca but then get chased by bulls in Pamplona. You expected Mickey Mouse, but it was actually Dio.
So be a smart tourist. Be informed. Do a quick search about where you’re going. Read up on the news from your destination, and set proper expectations so you’ll be prepared for the reality.
Check the Weather
Lastly, check the general weather and environment of your itinerary. It’s not always sunny in Philadelphia; storms can come a-knockin’ too. That’s part of life. But if you don’t prepare for such times, it may be the death of you.
This may seem like it’s part of common sense, but it’s still too vital to be left unsaid. Not anticipating bad weather can ruin a good time. Worse yet, your chiselled-for-the-beach body may get wet not because of the sea but because you’re sweating under the 34.4 degrees Celsius average temperature of Ethiopia.
Keep yourself up-to-date on the weather around your target destination/s. Download an app so that you can check anytime and make adjustments accordingly.
Envoi: Bon Voyage!
The fundamental point of all these things is to be prepared. As mentioned earlier, prep time is half the fun of travelling.
Be a smart traveller and prepare well. Check the three items noted above, and you’ll get the most out of your time abroad.
One of the many great things about Singapore is its strategic location. As a central hub in southeast Asia, it’s incredibly convenient and easy to go to many of the beautiful places around the area. Whether you intend on taking the family along, just your partner or you just want to fly solo, you can be sure that you’ll find the right place for you. There are tons of picturesque places nestled in nature, so make room in your memory (phone, camera or otherwise!) and click away so you can do postcard printing in Singapore when you get back to get the most precious keepsakes of your journey!
Now, beauty lies in the eye of the beholder and all that – but it has a little something for everyone. With that spirit in mind, we’ve shortlisted a few places that stand out as travel destinations for those looking for solitude, romance or a bit of adventure!
Those looking to escape the city bustle can find comfort in Kampot – where travellers can experience the riverside charm by renting boats, canoes or simply plunging in for a swim! For those who like some good old countryside adventure, you can also wander through their pepper farms. Another option in this country is Mondulkiri – where adventurers can hike or trek to waterfalls and climb beautiful hills!
While the more commercial parts of Thailand like Bangkok may be better known for its bustle and architecture, Kanchanaburi is recognized for its national parks, waterfalls and intriguing caves. Of course, Thailand also hosts an array of beautiful beaches in places like Phuket and Krabi that are perfect for those who enjoy white sand beaches, snorkelling, and scuba diving.
Another country that’s known for its beautiful beaches and a popular honeymoon destination for young couples! Places like Bali are dotted with white sandy beaches. If the idea of cycling around the countryside and exploring quiet coves and secluded beaches appeal to you, this is the place for you! Ubud, known for its rice terraces and its romantic allure, is also a popular choice among travellers.
Halong Bay in Vietnam is an excellent place to be for cave explorers and seafood enthusiasts (whether you like to look at them or eat them!). But for those of you looking to get a taste of rural life in Vietnam, head to Sapa – a quiet, pretty place with green hills celebrated for being an area run by women alone! A great place for solo female travellers to enjoy some quiet time.
Si Phan Don in Laos is the place where you go to enjoy bike rides, tranquillity, and peace. The country itself is scattered with beautiful places all over and offers a quieter environment than its neighbouring alternatives. If you’re someone who wants a taste of architecture, mountains, peace, and adventure – Laos has it all. Vang Vieng is just rivers of peace and calm, and it offers a number of adventurous activities like zip-lining and hot air ballooning.
These 5 places are our top picks, but let’s not forget that there’s a vast array of other options too! Philippines and Malaysia, as well as the lesser known countries like Brunei, Timor-Leste, and Myanmar, are all swamped with gorgeous places too. The fact is, every one of the countries that make up Southeast Asia has something different to offer. So, don’t stress it too much, have a happy holiday and take a lot of pictures!
You can have a gander at photojaanic.sg to find fun ideas and advice on travel photography and how to bring your holiday memories into life!
Man-made objects can never compete with the creations of nature. Nature is majestic, beautiful and raw. If there’s any man-made object that comes close to competing with nature, it’s Gardens By the Bay. An amalgamation of mankind’s capabilities and nature’s beauty, Gardens By the Bay stretches across 250 acres and has more than 1 million plants.
Who would have thought that there are 1 million plant species in this world?
It’s safe to say that Gardens by the Bay is a marvel. It has attracted over 40 million visitors since its inception and has managed to capture the imagination of all.
Popular Things to do at Gardens by the Bay
There’s plenty to do at Gardens by the Bay and because it’s a massive area, it’s easy to get lost and miss out on certain attractions and landmarks. Apart from fascinating sights like the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest that can catch your fancy; there’s a lot more that Gardens by the Bay offer which can get quite daunting.
The Supertree Grove is one of the highlights of Gardens by the Bay. It’s a beautiful piece of architecture with stunning lights in the night. The music light show is gorgeous, breathtaking and absolutely worth its time.
The Cloud forest is nature at its finest. The lush green interspersed with bits of color will rejuvenate you immediately. The falling water will take you places and give you the feeling that you’re one with nature.
The best way to make most of your ticket and the day is to take a guided tour with the help of an app! How does an app help you might ask.
Well, Locomole is a hiking trail app that gives you self-guided tours of popular tourist spots. They focus on finding the hidden gems in every tour; so hidden, even the local won’t be aware of its existence. If you are an avid hiker, you should check out this app which is developed by a Singapore-based company.
Using the QR Code
To make the best of your trip to Gardens by the Bay, head on a Locomole tour using the QR code below.
It’s been a long while since I last sat down to write or pen down my thoughts and in this post, I will be sharing some insights that I have gained during our most recent trip to Japan, the land of the rising sun.
Japan is very well known for many things… ninjas, samurais, World War 2, green tea, sushi, tofu, geishas, Toyota cars, anime and many more. To appreciate your trip to Japan even more, do read up a little about the history and development of Japan because you will be very amazed by its resilient and forward-looking culture and its preservation of traditions.
We booked for a Singapore Airlines flight from Singapore to Kansai International Airport, Osaka on SQ618 and for our return trip, from Haneda International Airport (Tokyo) to Singapore on SQ633.
SQ618 to Kansai International Airport is an overnight flight and it is a rather popular flight with travellers who frequent Japan. You will want to get as much sleep as possible during the flight and not fiddle around with the in-flight entertainment so that you will be all rest up when you arrive in the morning.
One of our most enjoyable flights thus far is SQ633 as the aircraft (the A359) is one of the newest in Singapore Airline’s fleet of aircraft. The in-flight entertainment system is pretty sophisticated and the fact that we were assigned bulkhead seats for a 6-hour flight back to Singapore makes the flight all the more comfortable due to the extra leg space.
The flight time from Singapore to Japan is approximately 6-7 hours.
The Time Difference
Japan (GMT+9) is one hour ahead of Singapore time.
Japanese people are very mindful and considerate and they are also approachable and friendly. However, most of them might not be able to converse fluently in English and you may need to pick up some simple and basic Japanese phrases and words prior to your trip. As we speak and write Mandarin, we were able to roughly interpret some signage and instructions that were written in the Japanese language because some Japanese and Chinese characters can be quite similar.
The currency that Japan uses is the Japanese Yen. Before our trip, the exchange rate that we got was 1 SGD to 82.4 JPY. For the best exchange rates, head down to the Money Changers in the Central Business District area and do take your time to shop around for the best rates because if you’re changing a large sum of money, any small movements in rates do make a lot of difference!
It is rather easy to get around Japan with the help of some navigation and travel apps like Google Maps, Tokyo Subway, Japan Official Travel App, and Live Japan.
One of the best websites that have been the most instrumental and helpful in our planning is Live Japan and Tsunaga Japan. There are a lot of guides and articles that are worth checking out so be sure to do some research before your visit to Japan.
The common modes of transportation in Japan are as follows:
The train is the most common way of getting around in Japan. However, with so many different rail lines and rail companies that are operating in Japan, it can get quite confusing. Day passes are available for tourists so do make it a point to get one if you plan on visiting a couple of places.
The bus is another way you can get around in Japan conveniently. Day passes are available for tourists so do make it a point to get one if you plan on visiting a couple of places.
We took an ANA flight from Kansai Domestic Airport (Osaka) to Haneda Domestic Airport (Tokyo) for less than SGD$95 per person. This is relatively cheaper than taking the bullet train. But of course, if you have never taken a high-speed train in your life, experiencing it in Japan could very well be on your bucket list.
Traffic in Japan can get pretty hectic especially during the peak hours. It is, in fact, easier to get around the city area via public transport. However, if you’re travelling around the suburban or rural areas, driving is an excellent option. In case you’re wondering, parking in the city area is very expensive while parking in the suburban or rural areas is cheaper and sometimes free.
To drive in Japan, you will need to apply for an International Driving Permit (IDP) and you can do so via online or at the Automobile Association of Singapore (AA) offices in person. If you’re not in a hurry to get your IDP, you can apply for it via online and then wait up to 7 days for the courier to deliver it to you. However, if you need an IDP urgently, just head down to the (AA) offices in person and get it on-the-spot for just $20! The last transaction at the AA offices is at 10.30pm so don’t worry about not being able to make it in time to apply for the IDP in person.
While there are a lot of car rental companies around, we rented a car from Toyota Rent A Car and it was a convenient and hassle-free experience. Car navigation system is offered as a free option and it is available in English or Japanese. You could either punch in the telephone number of the place that you want to navigate to or the address of the place.
A paid option which I feel would be a good add-on to the car rental is the rental of an ETC card. The ETC card is inserted into the ETC device (it is very much like our ERP IU in Singapore) and it pays for the toll charges. Just so you know, it is cheaper to pay for toll charges using the ETC card than by cash.
One other great thing about our car rental experience with Toyota Rent A Car was that I could just return the car without having to make a visit to the Petrol Kiosk to top up petrol because what Toyota Rent A Car will do is that they will calculate the amount of petrol that I have used and from there, determine the petrol charges that I need to fork out.
If you’re planning to rent a car to drive around in Japan, I would strongly recommend that you purchase full insurance coverage; you don’t want to end up with nasty surprises that can spoil your holiday.
During our time in Japan, we stayed at 3 different accommodations.
1. NEST Hotel @ Nishiki, Kyoto
NEST Hotel @ Nishiki, Kyoto is situated in an attractive location. Just 800 m from the Kyoto International Manga Museum, a 13-minute walk from Samurai Kembu Kyoto and 2.5 km from Nijo Castle; this 3-star boutique hotel is highly sought after for its close proximity to popular landmarks and places of interest.
There are 3 types of room available; Standard Twin/King Room, Superior Twin/King Room, and Japanese-Style Room. We stayed at the Superior Twin/King Room for 5 nights and we had such a pleasant stay that we hope to return again. Just so you know, the service and amenities of a 3-star hotel in Japan are considerably good so don’t be deceived by the star ratings. Not only is free WiFI available, every room is stocked with a Nespresso coffee machine! The hotel also has a common laundry area that is equipped with a washing machine and clothes dryer for guests’ use!
NEST Hotel @ Nishiki, Kyoto is owned by NESTatNEST and they have other luxury properties around the Asia Pacific area. What is even more interesting to note is that NESTatNEST is a subsidiary of Sin Heng Chan Group, a Singaporean company!
Room rates start from $156 onwards. With only 23 rooms available, be sure to make your reservations early to avoid any disappointment!
2. Super Hotel Lohas Akasaka, Tokyo
Super Hotel Lohas Akasaka is conveniently located in central Tokyo and it is a 4-minute walk away from Akasaka Subway Station. The non-smoking hotel features a spacious public bath and free WiFi. Super Hotel Lohas Akasaka provides coin launderette service and internet PCs in the common area. Although there’s a convenience shop just beside the hotel, drinks vending machines are also available on site.
There are several subway stations accessible within a 10-minute walk from the hotel, such as Akasaka Mitsuke Subway Station, Nagatacho Subway Station and Tameike Sanno Subway Station. Popular Shibuya or Ginza areas can be reached within a 10-minute subway ride from the Akasaka Station.
Room rates start from $119 and do make your reservations early because they tend to sell out pretty fast!
3. Shojiko Camping Cottage, Yamanashi
A trip to Japan without a glimpse or a photo of Mount Fuji is incomplete and I really wanted to do some outdoor camping and stargazing in Japan. To convince my wife (who’s not very outdoor-ish), I decided to glam it up and made some arrangements to do glamping at Lake Shoji for SGD$170 a night.
To get there, we rented a car from Toyota Rent a Car in Akasaka and drove from Tokyo to Lake Shoji. Along the way, we also made a stop at Gotemba Premium Outlets in Shizuoka Prefecture.
Our host, Masaki, is very fluent in English and he made sure that everything was all well in place before we arrived at our glamping tent. There’s hot-water shower and as well as cooking facilities available at Shojiko Camping Cottage.
There may be wild animals around the area but when we were there, the only wild animal that I spotted were some cats and a herd of deer foraging for food early in the morning. It was really a pity that the sky was cloudy when we were there. If not, we would have been treated to a marvellous sight like the one below.
As it can get really cold at night (about 10 degrees Celsius and below), you really need to be fully equipped and prepared. Do bring along some heat packs and layers of clothing to keep yourself warm if you’re going to camp at Lake Shoji.
If you’re an outdoor person, camping at Lake Shoji is something you must do when you’re in Japan!
The Places That We Have Been To
Nishiki Market has a history of many centuries and lots of shops are manned by the very same families for decades. Everything began as a fish wholesale district, with the very first store opening around the year 1310. A bigger assortment of stores moved in afterwards, and the neighbourhood shifted from a wholesale marketplace to a retail marketplace. Today, it remains a significant marketplace for Kyoto and is frequently packed with tourists and locals alike.
Known as “Kyoto’s Kitchen”, this vibrant retail marketplace specialises in everything food related, such as fresh seafood, produce, cookware and knives; and is an excellent spot to locate seasonal foods along with Kyoto specialities such as Japanese candies, pickles, dried fish and sushi.
Tip: Kyoto is well-known for its Matcha (Japanese Green Tea) and what that means is that you probably might want to find some matcha-related goods as souvenirs for your tea-loving relatives and friends.
Open daily 9 am – 6 pm.
Teramachi and Shinkyogoku Shopping Arcades
Nishiki Market branches off Teramachi about 100 meters north of Shijo Street.
At the centre of downtown Kyoto, Teramachi and Shinkyogoku streets form the core of Kyoto’s most important shopping district. Shinkyogoku is full of tacky souvenirs and Teramachi is a much-refined place with many different art galleries, bookshops, and clothes stores. You will also discover several stores selling spiritual goods including incense, Buddha pictures, prayer beads and so on. These stores are a holdover from the 16th century when the warlord, Toyotomi Hideyoshi moved a number of the town’s temples into Teramachi Street in a bid to restrain the clergy; hence the name of this street, Teramachi, literally means”temple town”.
Kyoto Owl Forest Zoo
Japan is rather well known for their animal cafes and even though there are a couple of owl cafes in Osaka and Tokyo; we decided to visit the one in Kyoto since we would be spending more time in Kyoto than anywhere else. The Kyoto Owl Forest Zoo is not a typical owl/animal cafe. No food and drinks are served here and visitors are not allowed to carry or hold the owls. At the very most, visitors are only allowed to pat some of the owls. Unlike other animal cafes where there is a fixed time limit of an hour per visit, there is no time limit here and you can choose to stay for as long as you wish.
While the animal’s welfare is a major concern for me, I was told that the owls here have been raised as domestic pets. One thing I also noticed about Kyoto Owl Forest Zoo is that they try to create a cosy and comfortable atmosphere and ambience for the owls. The lights here are pretty much dimmed and signages are put up to educate visitors about the different types of owl.
As Kyoto Owl Forest Zoo is pretty near Teramachi and Shinkyogoku Shopping Arcades, you may want to consider adding it to your itinerary.
Hours & Fees
11:30 to 19:30
Ichiran Ramen, Kawaramachi
Some say that Ichiran Ramen serves the world’s best ramen and I must say, it is absolutely true for me because ever since I dined there, I have not had any ramen that could match up to Ichiran Ramen’s. Although long queues are expected at almost every Ichiran Ramen Outlets, the Ichiran Ramen outlet at Kawaramachi opens 24 hours and so; you could visit at a time when it’s not so busy. The ramen and soup base here is just perfect and you can even customise the way you want your ramen and soup base to be! Prices are also pretty reasonable and the entire dining experience is unique on its own. My recommendation? Remove every distraction and the itch to reach out for your phone and just fully concentrate on savouring your meal. You will definitely notice the wonderful goodness of the soup and the ramen. Will I return? Absolutely!
Kama-gawa River Bank
Kyoto has a river running through it; it’s known as the Kamo-gawa and it’s one long stretch of park that Kyotoites use for relaxation, exercise and contemplation.
Both sides are lined with broad green areas and bicycle paths, with lots of benches and exercise locations. Up near the Demachiyanagi end of the river (in the north, where Imadegawa-dori crosses the river), you will find broad play areas which are fantastic for picnics and for kids to run around.
Do make a stop for some really nice pictures!
Starbucks Teahouse in Higashiyama
By setting up shop in a two-storey renovatedJapanese townhouse which was once occupied by geishas, the Starbucks outlet has brought a breath of fresh air to the historical town of Higashiyama in Kyoto.
From the tiled roof and aged wood exterior to the logo printed on Noren curtains, the coffee shop blends right in with the rest of the classically designed temples and shops around it. The interior resembles a traditional tea house that features three tatami-matted rooms where guests are expected to act and follow the same rules given to them in a tea house. Shoes must be off and they must sit on cushions placed on the floor.
The rest of the space is filled with very few tables and benches to maintain the intimate atmosphere and flow throughout. Lines are not allowed to form beyond the shop so the number of customers allowed inside will be monitored, especially during its busiest times.
Nijo Castle was built in 1603 as the Kyoto residence of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun of the Edo Period (1603-1867). His grandson Iemitsu finished the castle palace buildings 23 years later and further enlarged the castle by adding a five-storey castle keep.
Following the fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1867, Nijo Castle was used as a royal palace for some time before being donated to the city and opened to the general public as a historical site. Its palace buildings are arguably the greatest surviving examples of castle palace architecture of Japan’s feudal age. Niji Castle was designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 1994.
Nijo Castle can be divided into three areas: the Honmaru (main circle of defence), the Ninomaru (secondary circle of defence) and some gardens that encircle the Honmaru and Ninomaru. The entire castle grounds and the Honmaru are surrounded by stone walls and moats.
Visitors to Nijo Castle enter the castle grounds via a massive gate at the east. English sound guides are available for rent (500 yen) at a kiosk just inside the gate. Venturing further into the castle will bring you to the Chinese style Karamon Gate, the entrance to the Ninomaru (secondary circle of defence), where the castle’s main attraction, the Ninomaru Palace is situated.
The Ninomaru Palace served as the residence and office of the shogun during his visits to Kyoto. Surviving in its finest form, the palace consists of multiple different buildings which are linked to each other by corridors with so-called nightingale floors that squeak when stepped upon as a safety measure against intruders
The tour route passes by multiple waiting and audience rooms. Only the highest ranked visitors were allowed all the way into the main audience room where the shogun would sit on an elevated floor, flanked by bodyguards hidden in closets. Lower ranked visitors would be allowed only as far as the adjoining rooms without a direct view of the shogun. The innermost rooms consisted of offices and living chambers, the latter of which were only accessible to the shogun and his female attendants.
Outside of the Ninomaru Palace extends the Ninomaru Garden, a traditional Japanese landscape garden with a large pond, ornamental stones and manicured pine trees.
The Honmaru (main circle of defence) was the site of a second palace complex and a five-storey castle keep. However, both structures were destroyed by fires in the 18th century and were never rebuilt. After the fall of the shogunate, an imperial residence was moved from the Katsura Imperial Palace to Nijo Castle’s Honmaru where it remains today as the Honmaru Palace.
Unlike the Ninomaru Palace, the Honmaru Palace is not regularly open to the public, although there are occasional special openings. Visitors may, however, walk around the Honmaru gardens and climb up the stone foundation of the former castle keep, which offers views over the castle grounds.
Cherry trees of numerous varieties are planted throughout the castle grounds, including nearly 400 cherry trees of late blooming varieties in a cherry orchard. Because of the many cherry tree varieties present, the blooming season at Nijo Castle usually lasts from late March through the entire month of April.
The castle also features a plum orchard, which is typically in bloom from late February to early March. Many areas of the castle grounds are also populated by maple, ginkgo and other trees that offer brilliant autumn colours usually during the second half of November.
The entrance of Nijo Castle is a short walk from Nijojo-mae Station along the Tozai Subway Line. From Kyoto Station, take the Karasuma Subway Line to Karasuma-Oike Station and transfer to the Tozai Line to Nijojo-mae Station. The whole trip takes about 15 minutes and costs 260 yen. Alternatively, the castle can be reached from Kyoto Station by Kyoto City Bus numbers 9, 50 or 101 (15-20 minutes, 230 yen one way) or from Shijo-Kawaramachi by Kyoto City Bus number 12 (15 minutes, 230 yen one way).
Hours & Fees
8:45 to 17:00 (admission until 16:00), entry to Ninomaru from 9:00 to 16:00
Tuesdays in January, July, August and December (or following day if Tuesday is a national holiday), December 26 to January 4
Tenjin-san Flea Market
The Tenjin-san flea market is held on the 25th of each month in the early morning at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine. There are about 1,000 shops selling all kinds of goods, second-hand goods, pottery, toys, foods and kimonos in and around the shrine.
This market is popular for antique goods, used kimonos and vintage kimonos. You can find kimonos for 500 yen to 1,000 yen in this market. If you find a beautiful kimono that’s to your liking, be sure to check the size before you buy. There are also a variety of foods such as vegetables, fresh fruits and local foods on sale.
The Kitano Tenmangu Shrine is also famous for having 2,000 plum trees. You can enjoy many beautiful plum flowers in full bloom in February and March.
Bakuro-cho, Kamigyo ward, Kyoto city, Kyoto
Kyoto city bus number #50 or #101 from Kyoto station to Kitano Tenmangu-mae stop
Takes Place On
On 25th of every month
6:00am ~ 4:00pm
Kinkakuji is a Zen temple in northern Kyoto whose top two floors are completely covered in gold leaf. Formally known as Rokuonji, the temple was the retirement villa of the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, and according to his will, it became a Zen temple of the Rinzai sect after his death in 1408. Kinkakuji was the inspiration for the similarly named Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion), built by Yoshimitsu’s grandson, Ashikaga Yoshimasa, on the other side of the city a few decades later.
Kinkakuji is an impressive structure overlooking a large pond and it is the only building left of Yoshimitsu’s former retirement complex. It was burnt down numerous times throughout its history; including twice during the Onin War, a civil war that destroyed much of Kyoto; and again in 1950 when it was set on fire by a fanatic monk. The present structure was rebuilt in 1955.
Kinkakuji was constructed to replicate the extravagant Kitayama civilization that developed from the rich aristocratic circles of Kyoto throughout Yoshimitsu’s times. Each floor reflects a different kind of architecture.
The first floor is built in the Shinden style used for palace buildings during the Heian Period. Statues of the Shaka Buddha (historical Buddha) and Yoshimitsu are stored on the first floor. Although it is not possible to enter the pavilion, the statues can be viewed from across the pond as the front windows of the first floor are usually kept open.
The second floor is built in the Bukke style used in samurai residences and its exterior is completely covered in gold leaf. Inside is a seated Kannon Bodhisattva surrounded by statues of the Four Heavenly Kings which are not shown to the public. Finally, the third and uppermost floor is built in the style of a Chinese Zen Hall and is capped with a golden phoenix.
After viewing Kinkakuji from across the pond, visitors pass by the head priest’s former living quarters (Hojo) which are known for their painted sliding doors (fusuma). The path once again passes by Kinkakuji from behind then leads through the temple’s gardens which have retained their original design from Yoshimitsu’s days.
Outside the exit are souvenir shops and a small tea garden where you can have matcha tea and sweets for 500 yen.
You can get to Kinkakuji from Kyoto Station by Kyoto City Bus number 101 or 205 and the journey will take about 40 minutes and cost 230 yen. Alternatively, it can be faster and more reliable to take the Karasuma Subway Line to Kitaoji Station (15 minutes, 260 yen). A taxi ride Kyoto Station to Kinkakuji will take 10 minutes and cost 1000-1200 yen while a bus ride (bus numbers 101, 102, 204 or 205) will take 10 minutes and cost just 230 yen.
Hours & Fees
9:00 to 17:00
No closing days
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is one of Kyoto’s top sights and for good reason; standing amid these soaring stalks of bamboo is like being in another world.
Apart from the Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Shrine and Kinkaku-ji Temple; the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is also one of the most photographed sights in Kyoto but no picture can capture the feeling of standing in the midst of this sprawling bamboo grove. You truly have to be there to experience it for yourself and although it is usually packed with people; you could go for the Arashiyama Rickshaw Tour where the guide will help you capture those beautiful moments while you just sit back and admire the scenery.
Tip: The Arashiyama Rickshaw Tour is highly recommended especially if you have rented the traditional Kimono to take photos with.
You can access Arashimaya Bamboo Grove directly from the main street of Arashiyama; it’s a little to the north of the entrance to Tenryu-ji Temple and it’s best paired with a visit to that temple (exit the north gate, take a left and you’ll be in the grove in no time). There’s just one main path through the grove which leads slowly uphill. Once you get to the top of the hill, the entrance to the sublime Okochi-Sanso Villa is right in front of you.
If you plan to take the train, the nearest train stations are Saga Arashiyama Station (10 mins walk) and Arashiyama Station (15 mins walk).
Kyoto’s Higashi Tenno Okazaki Shrine
Okazaki Shrine has been a place of worship for more than 1,200 years. Originally, this shrine played a role in protecting the emperor, his court and its citizenry. It is also called Higashi Tenno (Emperor of the East) because it is located to the east of the former capital, and it is beloved by the locals even in the present day.
The deity Susanoo-no-Mikoto, his wife Kushinadahime-no-Mikoto, and their children are enshrined here. Susanoo-no-Mikoto is a hero in Japanese mythology, especially in the famous tale of where he saved Princess Kushinada from the monster called Yamata no Orochi (a gigantic serpent with 8 heads and 8 tails) and after that, they fell in love, got married, and had many children. These deities are also enshrined at Yasaka Shrine in Gion and other shrines nationwide.
The Shrine’s Atmosphere
The area of Okazaki is a lively sightseeing spot, but originally it was located on the outskirts of the capital and therefore nature was plentiful. However, the peaceful grounds inside still remind visitors of the atmosphere of the past. The air is very fresh and clean because the shrine is surrounded by a lot of trees.
After going through the torii entrance gate, the area widens into a relaxing, sprawling open space. The building that is behind the trees is the Honden (main hall) and in front of the Honden, in the centre of the grounds, are shrubs and trees.
On the left side, there is the Miyashige Inari Shrine, which houses the deity of business prosperity. There is also a building called Amasha, which is said to be beneficial for eye diseases.
The Grounds of the Shrine are Awash with Rabbit Statues!
It has been said that “Usagi” (rabbits) are messengers for the deities of this shrine, and the reason for this is still unknown. One theory states that there were many wild rabbits living around the shrine, so there are many sculptures, statues and pictures of rabbits around the shrine!
First is the “Koma Usagi,” 2 statues of rabbits sitting adorably in front of the main hall. On the right side of the front face of the main hall, there is an opened-mouth male rabbit and on the left side is a closed-mouth female rabbit. Petting their heads and praying for marriage and a married couple’s compatibility is a common custom.
There are other rabbits statues close to the main hall, one is an Usagi Lantern, and there is also a pair of “Maneki Usagi” (rabbits inviting good luck) standing in front of the main hall. The rabbit to your right is for marriage and the rabbit to your left is for good fortune.
The surrounding area of the main hall is not the only place that has plenty of rabbits. In the chozuya (a building for purifying your hands before praying), there is a statue of a black rabbit looking up at the moon. This rabbit is called “Kosazuke Usagi,” and it is customary to splash water on the statue and rub its belly which is beneficial for having children and the safe delivery of children. There are other rabbits hiding all over the grounds in unexpected areas, so the fun part of visiting this shrine is finding these hidden rabbits!
Get Some Usagi Juyohin!
“Juyohin” means the blessing of items, like charms and omikuji fortunes which are offered at the shrines. They are available for purchase by offering money to the deity. The blessed items from Okazaki Shrine are very popular because of the adorable rabbit motif, especially the large variety of omamori charms which are beneficial for things like passing an exam and having good health.
There are unique omamori such as the “Usagi Mikuji Omamori” which include the fortunes and cost 500 yen, as well as the “Fukumimi (big ears bestowing good fortune) Mamori” for 1,000 yen. The Fukumimi Mamori is a blessed charm so that you might have a fortune from sharing benefits granted to rabbits with large fukumimi ears. They also offer a variety of items like the”Usagi Ema” (rabbit votive) for 600 yen, another amulet for the safe delivery of children called “Anzan Kigan Ofuda” for 1,200 yen, and “Usagi Dorei” (ceramic rabbit bell) for 500 yen at the shrine office which, when facing the Main Hall, is located on the right hand side. Do stop by after you have finished praying!
What’s So Special About the Omamori?
Originally, people regarded this shrine as important for protecting the emperor, his court, and its citizenry. At the same time, it has also been famous for granting blessings for having children and their safe delivery. Also because of a Japanese mythology hero, this deity shrine was said to be a place that blesses marriages, and therefore, many couples chose this location for their wedding ceremony every year. Wanting to share the benefits of this shrine, a staggering amount of amulets, including those for the safe delivery of children, are hung at both the main hall and the chozuya. Amulets are offered at the shrine office and what you need to do is to write down the date and contents of your wish and your name, and then just hang it with the others. If you feel that praying for something would help, why don’t you try it?
Okazaki Shrine is a prestigious shrine and is located very close to shrines and temples like Heian Jingu and Nanzenji Temple. There is a bus stop right in front of the shrine, and it is highly accessible from Kyoto Station as well.
Hours of Operation
9 AM to 5 PM
Address 51 Okazaki Higashi Tenno-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto
Take Kyoto City Buses 32, 93, 203 or 204, and get off at the “Okazaki Jinja Mae” bus stop and it is a short walk from there.
Nara Park is a large park in central Nara. Established in 1880, it is the location of many of Nara’s main attractions including Todaiji, Kasuga Taisha, Kofukuji and the Nara National Museum.
The park is home to hundreds of freely roaming deer. Considered in Shinto to be messengers of the gods, Nara’s nearly 1200 deer have become a symbol of the city and have even been designated as a natural treasure. Nara’s deer are surprisingly tame, although they can be aggressive if they think you will feed them. Deer crackers are for sale around the park, and some deer have learned to bow to visitors to ask to be fed.
As the deer are wild animals, do be careful (especially if you have brought your children along) and do keep a constant lookout especially when interacting with the deer. You are highly encouraged not to leave your children unsupervised.
It is pretty easy to get to Nara Park from Kyoto and there is a 1-day pass which you can purchase for just 1500 yen and it gives you unlimited rides on the KINTETSU Railway and Nara Kotsu Bus Lines within designated zones. We recommend that you set aside 1 full day to experience Nara.
Nara Park is a five-minute walk from Kintetsu Nara Station or about a 20-minute walk from JR Nara Station. Alternatively, the park can be reached by bus.
Kasuga Taisha Shrine in Nara
Kasuga Taisha is Nara’s most celebrated shrine. It was established at the same time as the capital and is dedicated to the deity responsible for the protection of the city. Kasuga Taisha was also the tutelary shrine of the Fujiwara, Japan’s most powerful family clan during most of the Nara and Heian Periods. Like the Ise Shrines, Kasuga Taisha had been periodically rebuilt every 20 years for many centuries. In the case of Kasuga Taisha, however, the custom was discontinued at the end of the Edo Period.
Beyond the shrine’s offering hall, which can be visited free of charge, there is a paid inner area which provides a closer view of the shrine’s inner buildings. Furthest in is the main sanctuary, containing multiple shrine buildings that display the distinctive Kasuga style of shrine architecture, characterised by a sloping roof extending over the front of the building.
Various Types of Lanterns at Kasuga Taisha
Kasuga Taisha is famous for its lanterns, which have been donated by worshipers. Hundreds of bronze lanterns can be found hanging from the buildings, while as many stone lanterns line its approaches. The lanterns are only lit twice a year during two Lantern Festivals, one in early February and one in mid-August.
There are many smaller auxiliary shrines in the woods around Kasuga Taisha, twelve of which are located along a path past the main shrine complex and are dedicated to the twelve lucky gods. Among them are Wakamiya Shrine, an important cultural property known for its dance festival, and Meoto Daikokusha, which enshrines married deities and is said to be fortuitous to matchmaking and marriage.
Kasuga Taisha is located in the east of Nara Park. It is about a 30-minute walk from Kintetsu Nara Station or a 45-minute walk from JR Nara Station. Alternatively, it can be reached by bus from either station. Get off at the Kasuga Taisha Honden bus stop (210 yen, frequent departures).
Hours & Fees
Hours 6:00 to 18:00 (April to September)
6:30 to 17:00 (October to March)
Inner area: 8:30 to 16:00
No closing days (the inner area is occasionally closed)
Free (outer area), 500 yen (inner area)
Harushika Brewery & Sake Tasting
The Harushika Brewery Shop in the Naramachi district of Nara has become popular with foreign visitors as a must-do experience as eating tuna at Maguro Koya. In fact, it’s possible to do both one after the other as they are not so far apart; especially if you are on a bicycle.
At Harushika Brewery Shop, you can pay a small fee and sample a variety of Nara’s famous sake along with traditional Japanese tsukemono pickles in sake lees (a by-product of the brewing process). The sake tasting lasts about an hour and is conducted by English-speaking guides dressed in happi coats, who explain the different grades of sake and try to answer any questions visitors may have. You will also receive a small Harushika sake cup as a souvenir and you can purchase bottles of sake, pickles and sake-flavoured ice-cream wafers at the shop.
We really like the sparkling sake that Harishika Brewery makes and it goes pretty well with desserts! Unfortunately, as their sparkling sake is unpasteurised, they are best consumed either on the spot or within a couple of days.
As the fount of Japanese culture, Nara can lay claim to being the first place that sake was produced, in a commercial, somewhat mass-produced way by 8th century standards, at least.
The lively entertainment area of Dotonbori is Osaka’s most famous tourist destination and renowned for its gaudy neon lights, extravagant signage, and the enormous variety of restaurants and bars.
The name “Dotonbori” generally refers both to the Dotonbori Canal and to Dotonbori Street which runs parallel to the canal’s southern bank. It is one of the most colourful areas in Osaka and an absolute must-visit location when travelling through the Kansai region.
The History of Dotonbori
The history of this area goes back to 1612 when a merchant by the name of Yasui Doton invested all of his personal capital in an ambitious local development project. Doton’s plan was to divert and expand the Umezu River into a new waterway that would link the local canal network with the Kizugawa River. Unfortunately, Doton’s project was interrupted by war and he himself was killed during the Siege of Osaka in 1615. Later that same year, Doton’s cousins completed his work and in his memory, the new canal was named Dotonbori or “Doton Canal”.
The new canal brought with it a flood of trade and from 1626, the area began to flourish as an entertainment district after theatre companies and playhouses began to move into the area on the canal’s southern bank. At the same time, the north bank of the canal began to prosper with restaurants and teahouses that supplied food, drink and entertainment to theatregoers after they left the theatres.
Today Dotonbori’s theatre culture is very much in decline. During World War II, bombing raids destroyed all the theatres except for the Shochikuza. However, there are still a number of small comedy clubs in the area and the Shochikuza continues to host classical kabuki plays, opera, modern dramas and musicals. Today, Dotonbori is better known as a gastronomic wonderland crowded with restaurants, street side food stalls, and bars.
Dotonbori’s Food Culture
Osaka’s obsession with food is often summed up with the expression “kuidaore” which is often interpreted to mean “eat till you drop” but it actually means to spend so much on food that you fall into financial ruin! Dotonbori is said to be the best place in Osaka to experience this kuidaore style/extreme love of food!
The Glico Running Man
Dotonbori is famous for its eye-catching signage and billboards with a giant pufferfish, an octopus, a clown, and the Kani Douraku crab which are all vying for your attention and creating an amusement park-like atmosphere. However, of all these signs, the most famous is that of the Glico running man above Ebisubashi Bridge.
An advertisement for Glico candy, the 20 meters tall and 10-meter wide sign shows a man running on a blue track with his arms raised in victory. This is actually the 6th version of the sign which was last renewed with LED lighting in 2014. However, the first Glico sign was installed here in 1935 and over the years, it has become a much-loved landmark of Osaka’s Minami area. In fact, the Glico running man and Ebisubashi Bridge below it is the focal point of Dotonbori. It is a popular meeting spot, an essential photo stop for tourists, and the site of wild celebrations when local sports teams are victorious.
The Dotonbori entertainment district generally designates the area between the Daikokubashi and Nippombashi bridges on the Dotonbori Canal with its focal point located at Ebisubashi Bridge. It is located in the Minami or “South” district of Osaka and is easily accessed from Namba Subway Station which is just four minutes away on foot.
Shinsaibashi is a popular shopping district in Osaka which has a long history as a regional centre of commerce. The entire area is named after the former Shinsaibashi Bridge which was first built by Shinsai Okada in 1622. This bridge crossed the Nagahorigawa canal and was a popular local landmark until 1964 when the canal was filled in and the bridge was removed. The name remains though and has become closely associated with high fashion retailers and chic brand goods.
One of the big-name stores in Shinsaibashi now is the main branch of the Daimaru department store chain. This store’s history actually goes back to 1726 when it was first opened as a kimono and textiles store called Matsuya. Already at that time, there were many well-established small stores in the area, and Shinsaibashi grew to be Osaka’s major centre of trade; with goods coming from all over Japan. In the early 20th century, stores here began to trade in goods from overseas and Shinsaibashi grew to challenge Tokyo’s Ginza district as a leading commercial centre for high-class luxury products. There was even an expression: “Ginza in the east, Shinsaibashi in the west.” These days, Osaka can’t compete on quite the same level as the capital city, but Shinsaibashi is still the fashion central for Osaka; and for the major brands and retailers, it is very important to be represented here.
The backbone of Shinsaibashi is the Shinsaibashisuji shopping arcade that runs north from Dotonbori to Nagahori Dori Street and which parallels the Midosuji Boulevard to the west. This roofed arcade runs for 580 meters and contains roughly 180 stores among which you can find major department stores, brand retailers, independent fashion boutiques, teashops, and cafes. Because of its roof, it is a great location for a rainy day shopping. However, it does get crowded, with 60,000 people passing through it on an average weekday, and double that number on weekends. If you don’t mind the crowds, this is an excellent place for discovering the latest fashions in clothing, footwear, jewellery and accessories.
Some of the big names on this street are H&M, Uniqlo, Zara, United Arrows, Samantha Thavasa, Calzedonia, and Ralph Lauren. However, be sure to watch out for the side alleys that branch off from the arcade, as it is there that you will find some of the older and more traditional stores selling traditional crafts, hanging scrolls, and kimonos.
Shinsaibashisuji shopping arcade is convenient for the restaurants and bars of the Dotonbori entertainment district in the south, and for the youth fashion and clubbing district of Amemura in the west. The southern entrance to Shinsaibashisuji is just across the Ebisubashi Bridge opposite the famous Glico Man sign. From here Namba Subway Station is 5 minutes away. At the northern end of the shopping arcade, you have direct access to Shinsaibashi Subway Station.
Tsukiji Market is a large wholesale market for fish, fruits and vegetables in central Tokyo. It is the most famous of over ten wholesale markets that handle the distribution of food and flowers in Tokyo. Tsukiji Market is best known as one of the world’s largest fish markets, handling over 2,000 tons of marine products per day.
The sight of the many kinds of fresh seafood and the busy atmosphere of scooters, trucks, sellers and buyers hurrying around, make Tsukiji Market a major tourist attraction. In fact, the number of visitors has increased so much over the recent years, and that has become a problem to the course of business, as the ageing market’s infrastructure was not anticipated to serve as a tourist spot.
A visit to Tsukiji Market is best combined with a fresh sushi breakfast or lunch at one of the local restaurants. There are restaurants both in the inner and outer market area, which are typically open from 5:00 am in the morning to around noon or early afternoon.
If you plan to visit the tuna auction, do note that the number of visitors to the tuna auction is limited to 120 per day; the maximum number which the market’s infrastructure can accommodate. You will also have to apply at the Osakana Fukyu Center at the Kachidoki Gate, starting from 5:00 am (or earlier on busy days) on a first-come, first-serve basis. Successful applicants will be able to view the auction from a designated visitor area.
Tsukiji Market is just above Tsukiji Shijo Station on the Oedo Subway Line. Alternatively, it can be reached in a five-minute walk from Tsukiji Station on the Hibiya Subway Line. The closest JR station is Shimbashi, from where you can walk to the market in about 15 minutes.
From Tokyo Station
Take the Marunouchi Subway Line from Tokyo to Ginza (3 minutes) and transfer to the Hibiya Subway Line to get to Tsukiji Station (3 minutes). The fare is 170 yen.
From Shinjuku Station
Take the Oedo Subway Line directly from Shinjuku Station to Tsukiji Shijo Station. The one-way trip takes 20 minutes and costs 270 yen.
Ameyoko is a busy street market along the Yamanote Line tracks between Okachimachi and Ueno Stations. The name “Ameyoko” is a brief form for “Ameya Yokocho” (candy shop alley), as candies have been traditionally sold here. “Ame” also stands for”America”, since lots of American products were available here when the street was the site of a black market after World War Two.
Nowadays, various goods like clothing, bags, cosmetics, fresh fish, dried food and spices are sold along Ameyoko. Opening hours and closing days depend on individual shops, but shops typically open about 10:00 am and close at 8:00 pm.
If you are craving for some fresh and big oysters, this is the place to go because they are very affordable!
There is only one DisneySea in the world and it is located next to the Disney Land in Tokyo, Japan. If you are torn apart between having to visit DisneySea and Disney Land; I would recommend that you skip Disney Land and head to DisneySea instead. Tickets to DisneySea can be purchased online or even at convenience stores such as Lawson (but you have to be able to navigate the Japanese menu). Just so you know, the Disney theme parks in Japan are not owned by Disney but by The Oriental Land Company. Hence, the language and signages used at the theme parks are all in Japanese. It is best that you set aside one whole day to visit DisneySea so that you can conquer all the major rides and attractions in the theme parks. Better still, plan your visit on a day when there’s not much crowd (even though there will still be queues practically every day).
Gotemba Premium Outlets
As Lake Shoji was our eventual destination and Gotemba Premium Outlets happened to be along the way, we made a pit stop here to shop for some branded goods. With more than 200 over stores to choose from, you probably might want to set aside half a day to shop here. Don’t forget to present your passport at the Information Centre to get some discount coupons for some extra savings in addition to the normal discount prices. Also, if you go to Gotemba Premium Outlets on a clear sunny day, there is a high chance that you can see Mount Fuji from here so do bring along your camera for some photo opportunity!
Gotemba Premium Outlets generally opens from 10 am and closes at 8 pm. However, do check their official website before you visit!
Forest Mall is about a 20-minute drive away from Lake Shoji and if you’re camping overnight at Lake Shoji, this is the place to get your food and toiletries since there are no convenience shops nearby Lake Shoji.
Sandwiched between Lake Motosuko and Lake Saiko, Lake Shojiko is the smallest of the Fuji Five Lakes. Together with its two neighbours; it was formed when lava flowed from Mount Fuji and divided a large prehistoric lake into three smaller ones. The lakes seem to remain connected by underground waterways as they always maintain the same water level of 900 meters above sea level.
Lake Shojiko borders the Aokigahara Jukai forest and remains largely undeveloped except for a few hotels around its northern shore that enjoy excellent views of Mount Fuji. Outdoor activities such as hiking, camping and fishing are popular around the lake, as well as water sports such as water skiing, jet skiing and boating. If you are into caving, there are some caves nearby Lake Shoji which you can explore but they do come with entrance fees.
This interactive museum is designed to stir the creativity and curiosity within every child and provide a rich educational experience. Through the museum’s many exhibits, you can learn about the creative thinking of Momofuku Ando, the founder of Nissin Food Products and inventor of Chicken Ramen. The entire museum is designed as a place for exposing children to the spirit of creative thinking that Momofuku possessed his entire life and as a place for stimulating the seed of creativity within them. More than just the educational aspect of the museum, you can even design and customise your own cup noodles here for just 300 Yen!
We had a really fruitful trip to Japan and personally, we would love to return for a holiday. Although we didn’t quite fancy the crowded city areas, it is worth exploring Tokyo or Osaka at least once in your lifetime. For us, we prefer the quieter suburban areas such as Kyoto and Nara.
There are indeed so much to do, see, eat and play in Japan that it’s really hard to cover every single attraction in a short span of time. Furthermore, the same place in Japan is totally different in spring, summer, autumn and winter! If you haven’t been to Japan before, you should include it as part of your bucket list of countries to visit in your lifetime!
When winter comes knocking at their doors, people living in countries that experiences winter will flock to the Bahamas where they can get more sun and warmth! Between mid-December to mid-April, this array of subtropical islands become the playground of tourists who crave for some sun-tanning on the beaches, endless shopping, various joyrides, vibrant nightlife, delectable seafood or even just some time for simple procrastination by the serene and pristine water of Atlantis. More than 700 islands and 2400 cays welcome tourists worldwide to explore a bit more in the lands of jaw-dropping coral and ocean trenches.
One of the major attraction in this country is the opportunity to do some duty-free shopping. From fortune-seekers to millionaires, who don’t want to be exempted from taxes while shopping? Not only that, high-end resorts with private beaches along with the rental houses in the Bahamas, are accessible to tourists worldwide.
Here are some of the reasons why one should visit the Bahamas for a beautiful sunny vacation.
Beautiful Places to Visit
The capital of Bahamas, Nassau, is a perfect blend of the old and new. Colourful abodes of Bay Street, numerous shops and restaurants and souvenir shops at Nassau Straw Market, and the white sand beach of Cable Beach; keep tourists busy enough with a variety of activities. Options for spending quality time here in this city are plentiful! One can choose to snorkel in the vivid coral reefs or visit the British Colonial Hotel where two of the James Bond movies were shot. Also, there is the Junkanoo Festival where tourists can witness the parades of indigenous costumed performers.
2. Grand Bahama
The Grand Bahama is the shoppers’ haven! Situated on the northernmost part of the country, Grand Bahama was founded in 1955 mainly as a tourist hub. The regional capital, Port Lucaya, captivates tourists with its grandeur of duty-free shopping centres, gourmet restaurants, casinos, nightclubs and other recreations such as boating, fishing, diving and even golf. If you’re not a fan of large crowds, worry not as places like the Garden of Groves botanical garden, the Rand Nature Centre or the Lucayan National Park will offer you a peaceful setting to relax and unwind.
3. Eleuthera and Pretty Harbour Island
The beaches in this region of the country are way different than the rest as the colour of the sand is pink over here. This is also where the oldest settlements in the Bahamas lie. That’s why the first Bahamian parliament found its place only here in this country. Besides all the popular water rides like diving or snorkelling, tourists can also indulge themselves in a golf game or two. It is no wonder why people often say that they see more golf carts on the streets here than the usual cars!
4. Paradise Island
Paradise Island is famous for its turquoise blue crystal clear water that gets tourists diving and snorkelling here. Besides that, there is the Aquaventure Water Park which is packed with plenty of fun options like high-speed water slides and etc. There’s also the Dolphin Cay where one can get the rare chance of swimming with the dolphins!
In the eastern side of the Bahamas, the Exuma Cays Land & Sea Park is a “no-take zone” and marine protected area. With its magnificent white seashore and transparent water, the park lures people who got a keen interest in diving, boating, windsurfing or snorkelling. On some of the perfect days in the year, divers and snorkelers often relish 30-meter-plus visibility. For the 007 fans, the Bond-famous Thunderball Cave is situated only in this part of the world.
Ease of Transport
The most popular form of transportation in the Bahamas is the Jitney or the public bus system. The service starts at around 6 am and continues till 7 pm. Do note that this bus service is not available throughout the country except the major cities like Nassau or Grand Bahama or Paradise Island. Hence, taxi services are also very popular in this country. If you have plenty of cash in your wallet, you can get onboard a water-taxi to get closer to the sea.
You will find numbers of high-end hotels and restaurants that offer gourmet cuisines of various taste and no one can ignore the option of mouth-watering seafood while being surrounded by water! Savour popular seafood items such as the grilled and fried grouper, conch served in chowder, broiled and steamed lobster while enjoying other popular items such as the johnnycake and the peas n’ rice. Many of the eateries also serve desserts like guava duff and rum cake and when you’re in the Bahamas, you cannot complete the cuisine tour here if you don’t taste the country’s rum!
Last but not the least, Junkanoo
The biggest festival in the Bahamas is the Junkanoo. It was started in the late 18th century and today, it is famous for its jovial dance, energetic music and vibrant costumes. Though the main festival is held between Christmas and New Year’s Day, the summertime sees an extension of it each year.
Is Winter knocking on your door? Don’t fuss and make a trip to the sun-kissed land by the ocean and let us know what more you could get out of Bahamas.
Dubai Marina is very famous for offering the most relaxing, exclusive and demanding lifestyle in the UAE.
Located at the heart of Dubai, Dubai Marina is perfect for living and spending time, complemented with an amazing view and fresh air from the sea.
A place for both expats and locals, Dubai Marina offers the perfect night out in terms of location and its variety of restaurants. It is also where you can enjoy the breathtaking view of high-rise buildings, yachts, lights and sea view after sunset.
When you visit in the evening, the cafes and restaurants tend to be full and coupled with the shisha smoke and lighting, it showcases the perfect blend of modern and traditional Dubai.
Visit Dubai Marina in the evening and you will realise the beauty and the atmosphere of this place.
Dubai Marina is also good to enjoy during the daytime with plenty of European-styled restaurants, cafes, and boutiques. Just so you know, there are more than 20 average-priced cafes and restaurants that you can enjoy with friends and family. The major attraction for children is the dancing fountain where they will want to match their tiny footsteps with the rhythmic water of the fountain. If you are a fan of water sports, Dubai Marina offers plenty of activities that range from eating to fitness and pleasure.
Easily accessible via the Dubai Metro, Dubai Marina is located near Sheik Zayed Road Interchange 5 and has ample parking spaces available.
The Dubai Marina Walk should also be on your list and it is an experience that you shouldn’t miss. The Dubai Marina Walk, which is in the water centre, adds further beauty to the area. It is the perfect place to enjoy fun activities, high-class shops, and different restaurants that offer seafood, grill, Indian, Japanese and Thai cuisines. You may even want to set aside some time to visit the beauty salons, spa, and coffee shops. What’s more? You can hire a boat at the marina to have some fun with friends and family on the sea.
Here are Some Highlights of the Dubai Marina that You Can Enjoy:
The Marina Mall in Dubai is good for shopping, relaxing and spending time with friends and family, both as a visitor and a resident. The mall has 4 levels with more than 140 shops of brands, supermarket, dining, cinemas, and kids play zone.
Skydive Dubai is very famous around the world and it is where one can enjoy life like a free bird. Here, you will come out of the plane at an altitude of 4000 meters, experience the thrill of free-falling for 1 minute, and then enjoy the breathtaking scenery during the 5-minute descent when the parachute is deployed.
You can have the most amazing dining experience at Dubai Marina Pier 7. The 7 different outlets at Dubai Marina Pier 7 offer a unique culinary experience with a variety of food choices. The 7 outlets are Asia Asia, Fume, O Cacti, The Scene, Cargo, and El Wahab and Atelier M.
Global travel authority Lonely Planet has today revealed its 2018 Best in Asia list – an agenda-setting collection of the continent’s 10 best destinations to visit in the year ahead.
For this third annual Best in Asia list, Lonely Planet’s in-house Asia experts have named “eclectic” and “vibrant” Busan, South Korea, as the number one destination; while the jewelled architecture and ancient cities of Uzbekistan are in second place; and in third comes Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, “a supercity that somehow keeps getting cooler”.“Asia is such a vast and diverse continent for anyone dreaming of an escape,” Lonely Planet’s Asia-Pacific Media Spokesperson Chris Zeiher says. “Our experts have combed through thousands of recommendations to pick the best destinations to visit over the next 12 months.”“From Nagasaki in Japan, to Arugam Bay in Sri Lanka,” Chris says, “this is a line-up to inspire a multitude of travellers – whether they’re based in Asia, or maybe they’ve already visited some of the region’s heavy-hitting destinations.”Lonely Planet’s Best in Asia 2018 is available online, with accompanying articles to each destination, at lonelyplanet.com/best-in-asia.
Busan, South Korea
“A stunning confluence of scenery, culture and cuisine…Busan packs an eclectic offering of activities to suit all travellers: hike hills to Buddhist temples, settle into sizzling hot springs and feast on seafood…at the country’s largest fish market. Poised to steal the spotlight, Busan is East Asia’s Culture City for 2018 and will be at its most vibrant with…colourful events showcasing the country’s cultural heritage, from street art festivals to traditional dance shows.
“Change is afoot in a country that has remained largely closed off to the wider world due to tight control following the end of the Soviet era. Uzbekistan has long held sway over travellers’ imaginations, with its dreamy mosaic-clad mosques and Silk Road lore…and in 2017 took huge strides in opening up to tourism, announcing visa-free and e-visa schemes, new air routes and extensions to its shiny high-speed rail line, making access to its arsenal of jewelled architecture and ancient cities easier than ever”.
3. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
“The southern supercity of Ho Chi Minh City somehow keeps getting cooler. Ageing apartment blocks are being colonised by vintage clothes stores and independent coffee shops, innovative breweries arefuelling one of the best craft beer scenes in Southeast Asia, and…eclectic venues are strengthening the local music scene. Add in long-standing attractions The War Remnants Museum and a pioneering street food scene…and this buzzing Asian megalopolis is in no danger of going out of style”.
4. Western Ghats, India
“The Western Ghats offer…an atmospheric mirror to Shimla and Darjeeling, with added jungle appeal… coffee, tea and spice plantations, charmingly dated colonial outposts, thundering waterfalls, and a steam-powered mountain railway. These rugged hills are Unesco listed as one of the top spots for biodiversity in the world, protecting the neelakurinji flower, which blooms only once every 12 years and will be painting the hills in purple livery from August to October 2018”.
5. Nagasaki, Japan
“For most, Nagasaki is synonymous with the tragic atomic bombing of August 1945…but remarkably, the city has converted the catastrophe into a call for peace, exemplified by the tranquil Nagasaki Peace Park and the Atomic Bomb Museum. However, Nagasaki’s identity transcends one violent act…visit a new foreign-trade museum housed in Japan’s oldest church, or pass the verdant harbour towards the hiking routes that snake through the surrounding volcanic hills”.
6. Chiang Mai, Thailand
“This former capital of the Lanna Kingdom feels plucked from the pages of history, where visitors browse stalls of antique jewellery…among archaic alleyways…yet despite this, a young, creative population has taken up residency in Chiang Mai bringing an exciting buzz…alongside majestic chedis (stupas) are cafés known for their latte art, mural-walled fusion cuisine restaurants and the newly-opened, award-winning MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum”.
7. Lumbini, Nepal
8. Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka
“This surf town on Sri Lanka’s east coast…has managed to retain its cool as holidaymakers swarm the rest of the country’s ancient citadels and hiker-strewn hill stations. Barefooted boarders sprawl outside vegan cafes…but if the turquoise swells can’t tug you in, Arugam has grown its onland offering with…beachside bars and makeshift music festivals; plus a handy proximity to Kumana National Park, home to leopards, elephants and crocodiles.
9. Sìchuān Province, China
“Far-flung villages, towering skylines, giant pandas and fiery cuisine; Sìchuān Province is a microcosm of modern China…gain perspective surveying the Lè Shān Grand Buddha or climb Éméi Shān to absolve a lifetime’s sins…ride the first section of the Sìchuān-Tibet Railway to visit time-frozen Tibetan villages…or spot the mushrooming of luring brewpubs and boutique hotels in cosmopolitan Chéngdū.”
10. Komodo National Park, Indonesia
“New flight connections have made Komodo National Park more accessible than ever. Aside from laying eyes on the illustrious Komodo dragon, visitors to this cerulean-silhouetted archipelago can hike to hallowed viewpoints on Padar, sample laid-back beachside living on Kanawa and dive with a mind-boggling array of marine life in the reefs. A nature enthusiast’s nirvana”.
Visitors to lonelyplanet.com/best-in-asia also have the opportunity to enter a competition for a chance to win either a trip for two to Busan, South Korea, or a camera drone package from DJI. Terms and conditions apply.
For those that love the hustle and bustle, and bright lights; there’s nothing quite like a city break or escape. You’ll never be stuck for something to do and if you’re an energetic or restless soul who just loves to stay busy; a city getaway could be just what you need. Sometimes, you just need a change of scenery and new experiences to unwind, relax, and have a great time. Vacations don’t always have to be a plane journey away and involve a beach. There are some great deals to be had on city escapes and it’s always worth keeping your eyes peeled for something that’s close by so that you can hop in your car and be there within an hour on a Friday night to enjoy a long weekend of fun.
There’s bound to be so much to do and see, so, you’ll need to make a plan beforehand so that you can squeeze as much of the fun stuff into your trip as possible. You don’t want to arrive and feel totally lost for a few days before heading home again. Therefore, it’s time to get your notebook and pen out, and start writing a list of the places you want to visit, shop, eat and drink, and where you’ll need to book. The following are some ideas and inspiration surrounding the benefits of a city break for those who don’t want to have to travel far for a weekend of nothing but fun.
Getting There: ASAP!
The best thing about heading to your nearest city is going to be the ease of getting there. Utilising public transport or driving your Ford there will always work out far more affordable than a flight. Choosing your nearest city to make the most of over your weekend will also keep travel and insurance costs down as you’ll be avoiding any lengthy road trips. It’s worth checking out different insurance companies before you leave to ensure that your car is covered for everything city life might be throwing at it. If you’re enjoying regular local city trips, you’re bound to cut down the mileage in your car along with the amount of gas you’ll use; so getting there will never break the bank. It’s also worth checking out if your chosen accommodation has secure parking or if you can find a carpark that will offer a deal for the duration of your stay. Sorting out parking beforehand will save you a lot of cash as city parking is renowned for being expensive.
It’s Time To Eat!
Whether you’ve travelling by public transport or car; you’re bound to be hungry after your journey. Stock up on snack and drinks for your journey, especially if you’ve booked some self-catering accommodation. However, if you’ve decided to fully enjoy what your city can offer in the way of places to get full; some snacks and bottles of drink will get you there without anyone getting hungry. With so many city-based deals on offer online; you’ll always be able to find somewhere to eat at a discounted price. Therefore, it’s worth taking a look online the week leading up to your trip and make the most of saving some cash that you can spend on something else when you’re there. Book into any popular restaurants, and plan that brunch or afternoon tea you’ve always wanted to try in the latest Instagram-worthy cafe.
See The Sights And Do All The Things!
As previously mentioned, you’ll never be stuck for something to do in a city setting, and, you’re only there for the weekend, right? So, it’s time to fill each day, evening, and night up, with something memorable and fun. There’ll always be a new restaurant or bar, or an exhibition in the gallery or museum to see. Heading into new and vibrant settings and experiencing different food, culture, and sights will enrich your life in the space of a couple of days and nights. Do plenty of online research and read an array of reviews so that you can discover some of the best things to do in your chosen city. Give yourself a budget; it’s too easy to overspend in a city setting so prioritise the things that you really want to do, see, eat, and drink. You can condense a lot of learning, discovery, and excitement into a short space of time when you’re staying in a city, thus ensuring that you don’t need to fly overseas for a fortnight to have the best getaway ever.
India is one of the places that have some heartening sights and mesmerising views. So, selecting of the vacation destinations in this country seems to be really infinite starting from various scenic destinations and different culturally and historically soaked sites to the cities bustling with confusions and chaos and the destinations that offer relaxed and laid-back stays. Among all the destinations, there is always the dilemma of selecting the destinations which are actually worthy of visiting. So, to help you out, here is a list of top 10 destinations in India that you must visit.
#1 Kye Monastery, Himachal Pradesh
The Kye Gompa is considered to be one of the ancient monasteries in the Himalayan range. This is also a sacred old place where the lahmas are being trained for thousands of years. Situated at the height of 13,668 ft in the Lahaul-Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh, this is a famous lamasery in India. There are three main floors in this monastery. One of these floors is located underground and it is mainly used as storage. Besides, there is also a room, known as Tangyur and this includes richly painted murals. The Kye monastery is very well known for the collection of old books and murals including several images of Buddha. The ground floor of this monastery includes beautifully decorated cells for monks and the Assembly Hall.
#2 Tawang Monastery, Arunachal Pradesh
Located in the valley of the Tawang River, the Tawang Monastery is the largest monastery in the northwestern part of Arunachal Pradesh. Also known as the “Celestial Paradise on a clear night”, this place is popular for its true divine beauty. This monastery is developed like a mansion and the interior part of this monastery includes murals of saints and divinities painted on those that adds more spirituality to this monastery.
#3 Dawki River, Meghalaya
Dawki is a small town located in the West Jaintia Hills district located in Meghalaya and this town is also located on the border between Bangladesh and India. The Dawki River is the center of attraction of this town. The translucent water of this river captivates the minds of the tourists. The Dawki Bridge on this river offers a beautiful photographic view of this river.
#4 Dzuluk, East Sikkim
Situated in the rugged terrain of the Himalayan ranges, this place is now gaining loads of popularity among the tourists. In this place, a wonderful view of the eastern Himalayan Mountain range entices the minds of the travelers as well as their harmonious feelings.
#5 Cola Beach, Goa
This place is considered to be the “hidden paradise of Goa” and this place is also really difficult to reach. Although reaching to this place is tough, the beauty of this place would make the tourists fall for it. In fact, this is a secluded destination that obtains the beauty from the crystal clear water of the ocean and the scenic view of the place. Besides, this place has some serene surroundings where the tourists can enjoy a beautiful experience in the beach tents.
#6 Ladakh & Leh
Apart from being a beautiful destination, Ladakh is a famous tourist destination among the bikers due to the marvelous roads that come with some infinite views. In fact, it is the dream of every biker to ride on the roads of Ladakh. The way to Ladakh also includes some amazing and ancient monasteries that add more color to this heavenly place. Apart from Ladakh, its capital Leh is also one of the most beautiful destinations in India that one must visit. The Royal Palace of Leh is the must visit here.
#7 Dal Lake, Jammu & Kashmir
This is one of the most popular tourist attractions of India with a crystal clear lake and colorful homes at the banks with the background of mountains. Going for a boat ride in this lake is actually a wonderful feeling that can move the tourists from inside.
#8 Andaman and Nicobar Islands
This is one of the union territories of India and this place is also the group of islands located at the juncture of the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal. Although this place is a secluded one, people prefer this place as one of the leading destinations in India because of the beauty of the place. This place comes with a beautiful shoreline that makes it a popular tourist destination. Besides, the beachside shacks of this place offer some delectable seafood.
#9 Pangong Lake, Ladakh
Also known as the high grassland lake of the Himalaya, this lake is the most beautiful place that you would ever see in your life. This place is so beautiful that it is just impossible to keep off the eyes from it. The lush blue water can take over the minds of the tourists completely. Besides, with the background view of the Himalayan range, it makes this place the perfect backdrop for some wonderful images.
Also known as “a thousand islands” in the Sanskrit language, this place is the archipelago of three reefs, twelve atolls and five submerged banks with the total number of 39 islets and islands located in the southern part of India. The best thing about this place is that this place is entirely isolated. Things like warm water, untouched archipelago lagoons, and also the pure beauty of the coral reefs make this place heaven for both nature lovers and divers. The main islands of Lakshadweep are Agatti, Kavaratti, Amini, and Minicoy.
A vacation is something you look forward to all year long, so it’s frustrating when something goes wrong. When your dream vacation turns into a nightmare, it can ruin your experience and make all the money you’ve spent feeling like a waste.
Many vacation horrors can be prevented by taking the right precautions and making sure you’re prepared. To help ensure you have the best vacation experience possible, here are some common vacation nightmares and tips on how you can avoid them.
Your car lets you down
If you’re setting off on a road trip, or you need your car to get to the airport, etc. you don’t want to take any chances with your vehicle. Make sure that you get it serviced before your trip and get any funny noises checked. Your nearest auto repair shop will be able to check your car and make sure everything is in good working condition before you set off on your trip. Make sure you pack some emergency supplies in case of a breakdown and make copies of all of your important documents.
You forget insurance
Travel insurance might seem like an unnecessary expense, especially if you haven’t claimed before. The truth is, you’d be kicking yourself if you were to get sick or have your items stolen during your vacation. The cost of medical treatment abroad can be astronomical, so it’s not worth the risk to travel without insurance. If you travel often, it might be worth taking out an annual travel insurance policy to make sure you’re covered wherever you go.
You get sick
Illness can ruin a trip, and many of the illnesses you pick up can be avoided. If you’re travelling out of the country, check that the place you’re visiting doesn’t require any special vaccinations and if they do, book them well enough in advance. Other things to bear in mind include drinking bottled water as opposed to tap water and be sure to cover up during peak sun hours. Pack a first aid kit and suss out where the local pharmacy and doctor are ahead of your visit.
You run out of money
Running out of money can be disastrous for your vacation. It’s easy to be feel excited and get caught up in the thrill of being away; but if you’re not careful with your budget, you might find yourself having to be frugal for the rest of your trip. Setting a budget per day and putting your money into labelled envelopes can help you to manage your money throughout your vacation and ensure you stay on track. Another thing you can do is to experience an all-in-one vacation and know that once you’ve booked your trip, you won’t have to spend more money while you’re there.
After working hard all year, you deserve a great vacation. Make your travels as simple and hassle-free as possible through careful planning and preparation and avoid those common vacation nightmares.