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Catch Sunsets and Eat Noodles on this Lesser Known Island

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Lined with groups of people and selfie sticks, people ran towards the the water’s edge, trying to get a piece of the sunset for themselves. Various silhouettes became part of the orange and pink hues of the sky as they were all trying to get the perfect shot for their social media post.

This famed place is located on the north coast of Shikoku, the smallest and most rural of Japan’s four main islands, Chichibuga is a flat sandy 1km-long beach that overlooks the Seto sea. Sitting between the bigger islands of Honshu and Kyushu, Shikoku is usually overlooked by many tourists.

Many visitors of the island are drawn by its spiritual heritage, inland gorges, rivers and waterfalls, not to mention its Pacific coastline. The island is easily accessible from Honshu, though the capital port city of Shikoku, Takamatsu, is about an hour and 20 minutes’ drive from Okayama city.

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The visitors of the island and the now famous Chichibuga beach was once a very under the radar attraction to not just tourists, but even locals. Not until in recent years. Back in 2016, the Mitoyo tourism authority conducted a photography contests and concluded to a winning image of silhouettes of two children and they’re reflections on the still waters of the ocean with the sun setting in the background.

After the iconic photo circulated online, Shikoku and Chichibuga beach started to get noticed by many and started to get more and more visitors.

Kagawa is also known for their noodles. Shikoku is home to a ‘noodle hotel’ called Udon House, a cookery school with pod rooms, opened by Japanese entrepreneur Hima Furuta. Guests who wish to stay in the hotel for at least two days will be able to take udon making classes, visit a farm and join in on breakfast tours of local udon restaurants.

The Udon House is also a short drive from Chichibuga beach, so not only will you be able to eat amazing noodle but also catch the local highlight.

Ski Alongside Snow Monsters in Japan

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Home to well known hot springs and ski resorts up in the mountains of the Yamagata Prefecture, Zao Onsen is also home to “ice trees” or “snow monsters”.

Located in the Tōhoku region of northern Japan, about 250,000 people call the Yamagata Prefecture their home. With these people, every winter, snow monsters would pop by and live harmoniously with the residents.

The Zao Onsen ski resort transforms into a winter wonderland every winter, being blanketed by fine white snow. The ski resort sits about 800 feet above sea level, being fully covered by fluffy snow all winter long.

With all that snow, the trees that line the ski trails get covered as well, transforming them into snow and ice covered mythical looking creatures. The snow monsters, also known as juhyo, are caused by the region’s harsh weather, with frequent winter storms passing by the Zao Mountain Range and freezing cold fronts that originate from Siberia.

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You don’t have to be an expert snowboarder or skier to see these mythical trees, the best times to catch them would be between January and March. Guests can hop onto two connecting cable cars, the first one would be starting off from the base of the resort.

During the night time, the snow monsters would be lit up and will be seen from the summit café, or you can step off the observation deck and walk among the snow giants, if you dare.

The Zao Onsen ski resort is one of the oldest ski resorts in Japan and offers over thirty ropeways, lifts and gondolas and variety of courses that suits every skier and/or snowboarder of any ability, from beginners to experts.

The longest course starts by the territory of the snow monsters, right at the summit of the mountain and is about ten kilometres long. The ski season would usually start in late November or early December and would run all through early May.

 

Cruise Around Hanoi on a Vintage Motorbike

One of Hanoi’s most visited area’s, the Old Quarter is filled with labyrinthine-like roads, pastel-coloured shop houses and is home to flocks of motorbikes. The Old Quarter is also home to the Hanoi Opera House, the National Museum of Vietnamese History, the Hoan Kiem Lake, and a maze of guild streets.

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The Old Quarters can easily be explored on foot, but why walk when you could tackle the labyrinthine streets through a unique perspective. Sidecar Tours Vietnam lets visitors cruise around the Old Quarter on Soviet-era Ural motorbikes.

The Old Quarter was established during imperial time centuries ago and has long been a centre of trade in the city. There are about 36 guild streets and each street is associated with a product, each of which was dedicated to a specific craft ranging from bamboo to copper, cotton, silk, and even lacquer-ware to name a few.

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Streets such as Hang Chieu Street is named after sleeping mats, having the lanes dedicated to straw bedding which would keep one cool during humid summers. However, despite being a dedicated street for sleeping mat, modern day Hang Chieu street has evolved to creating other products such as plastic bags.

At the end of Hang Chieu street comes the stately Quan Chuong Gate. It was built in 1749 and is the last of 21 brick and stone gates that once protected the fortified city. The rest of the gates were taken down during the French era.

Just past the gate is the Hang Ma Street, or Paper street. Hang Ma Street is not known for dedicated office or school stationery, instead it’s a street for paper offerings. Paper iterations of luxury items such as cars or bags that are burned as offerings to the deceased during festivals.

Known for being the busiest—and noisiest—street of the Old Quarter’s guild streets, Hang Thiec Street is famous for their welding, metal and sanding works. From tin boxes to dining utensils. The street is lined with overflowing shops full of tools and crafts.

The Old Quarter is truly Hanoi’s heart of the city. Every turn you take is a whole new world of commerce.

The Hindu Festival That Celebrates Pups

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Image credit: Heads Up For Tails

We have all heard of doggie day outs where we would spend the entire afternoon letting the pups out to run freely and even pamper them for a bit. But for dogs in Nepal and some parts of India, they get more than than an afternoon, man’s best friend gets a whole entire day.

The five-day Nepalese Hindu festival called Tihar was held last week, with Tuesday marking ‘Day of the Dogs’ or Kukur Puja. The day is spent celebrating the dog’s in the community, adorning them with garlands and treated to the very best of everything. During the festivities, the pups receive a tilaka, a red mark on the forehead which is a highly special honor. Every dog, even strays, get this special honor—given they are still very good boys.

The canines are celebrated and are treated like royalty as they are believed to be the messengers of the Hindu god of death, Yama, hence dedicating the day to the pups is to appease the god. According to Heads Up for Tails, dogs are also mentioned famously throughout the Hindu text Mahabharata, in which the king of righteousness, Yudhishthira, refused to enter heaven without his canine companion.

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Image credit: Dogster

Though puppies are not the only animals being honoured during the five-day festivities. On the first day of Tihar, the crow is worshiped during the Crow Festival. The third day is dedicated to the cows during the morning and the night is for the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi.

Depending on your background, there are three ways to celebrate the day—worship of the oxen, worship of the mountain, or worship of the self. The fifth and final day of Tihar, sisters would dedicate the day to their brothers and at this time, they give them a tilaka to ensure longevity.

Day of the Dogs isn’t just celebrated in Nepal and India, people from far and wide also take part by paying tributes to their doggos and posting adorable pictures on social media.

This Dream Job Lets You Explore Thailand Like a True Local

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In today’s time and age, who wouldn’t wish that you could make travelling your job and spend your days exploring brand new sights and sounds around the world while getting paid for it? Look no further because the Tourism Authority of Thailand has something that is perfect for you.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand has collaborated with DreamJobbing to create a position called “The Local Traveller”. The position requires you to travel around Thailand just like any other true local, to explore and experience what the country has to offer.

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The Local Traveller will be helping to find the ultimate local Thai experience, and at the same time have his or her journey transformed into a documentary which will subsequently be aired on TV. It is estimated that the trip will last from two to three weeks taking place around January or February 2019. Airfare, expenses and meals will be fully covered and on top of that, the lucky traveller will also be receiving some allowance to spend each day.

People of all ages and backgrounds are welcomed to apply for the position, the only condition being you have to be adventurous, adaptable and always ready to experiment something new. To apply for the position, you can submit a video of 60 seconds or less introducing yourself and what your story is and why do you think you are the perfect fit for the position of “The Local Traveller”.

After you have prepared your video, you can submit it here. The DreamJobbing staff suggests that you should submit it as soon as possible since casting will be done on an ongoing basis until the lucky traveller is chosen.

Island off Japan Has Just Disappeared

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Another island has been engulfed by the seas. According to the Japanese coast guards, a small and inhabited island in northern Japan has just ‘disappeared’ after being worn away by the waves.

The island was called Esanbehana Kita Kojima and was just 1,640 ft. away from a village on the northern coast of Hokkaido before disappearing from sight. The coast guard reportedly went to the area for investigation after a report from local residents that they could no longer spot the island from their shores.

Esanbehana Kita Kojima was only recorded to be 4.6ft above sea level according to a 1987 survey, not taking much for the islet to dip under the seas. Authorities have theorised that the sea and flows of ice could have been the reason for eroding away the land that was left above the sea level.

The islet’s identification was short lived, having to be one of the 158 uninhabited islands that had received its names from the Japanese government in 2014. This was an effort to clarify Japan’s maritime boundaries.

Located near the Northern Territories, a volcanic arc of islands that has been a topic for territorial dispute since being occupied by the Soviet is the last days of WWII, the islands are referred to as the Kuril Islands by Russia before being returned to Japan after the European Parliament passed a resolution.

The loss of Esanbehana Kita Kojima would be affecting the shrinkage of Japan’s maritime territory.

Enjoy Direct Flights Between London and Shenzhen

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There’s a new flight route linking London to Shenzhen which operates thrice a week on every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.

The Shenzhen Airlines flight will be carrying passengers from London’s Heathrow Airport to Shenzhen, a city that is home to 12.5 million people. It is projected that the flight will be taking approximately 100,000 passengers a year to China’s most innovative city. Shenzhen has an intriguing indie-music scene, hipster cages as well as several craft brewers that can be explored by travellers. Plus, with comprehensive transport links, travellers can get to Hong Kong simply via a short ferry journey or train ride.

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There are now a total of 11 direct routes operating from Heathrow to China and this new flight more than doubles Heathrow’s current travellers visiting China. In addition, this new route marks the airline’s first long-haul intercontinental route and passengers will be travelling via the AIrbus A440 wide-body aircraft.

You can read more on Shenzhen Airlines here.

All Aboard the Palace on Wheels!

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Image credit: Indian Luxury Trains

What better way to see India’s famous cities and attractions than to see it while travelling on a palace? Travellers can now go to these places like royalty by booking a trip with the Palace On Wheels.

The train is built in a contemporary royal style, complete with plush furnishings in its deluxe suites, presidential suites and even its corridors. The train also includes amenities such as an onboard spa, a lounge bar and two restaurants that will make all its guests feel like royalty themselves.

Panoramic windows line the train and its restaurants. Guests are treated to traditional Indian dishes that are focused on Rajasthan’s cuisine. The restaurants are dressed in intricate table settings and draped curtains to rekindle the glory days of rail travel.

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Image credit: Indian Luxury Trains

Palace on Wheels sets off on an eight-day, seven-night journey that starts off in New Delhi and are welcomed with a drink before heading to its first stop, Jaipur. Known as the Pink City, due to the terracotta pink hues that blankets the historic centre, travellers will see iconic locations in Jaipur such as the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Jantar Mantar and the area’s famed markets for pottery, jewellery and many more.

Just like royalty, guests will also tour various palaces like the Hawa Mahal which is known for its pink décor and honeycomb windows. Lunch is provided in one of the historic palaces before heading off to the next stop, Ranthambore National Park, to observe deer, tigers, panthers and a plethora of birds.

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Image credit: Indian Luxury Trains

Guests are treated to multiple scenic views and tours of palaces in Udaipur. Passengers can go for boat rides on the lakes, go shopping for paintings and embroidered artefacts or visit the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary to see thousands of birds.

Before ending its trip at the Taj Mahal, Palace on Wheels takes you to the Thar Desert. Guests are free to admire the sandstone forts, the latticed mansions and explore the deserts sand dunes.

Vietnam is Moving Towards Ethical Elephant Tours

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Yok Don National Park in southern Vietnam has stopped offering elephant rides and now encourage visitors to see elephants in their natural habitat. This would also be the first ethical elephant experience of its kind in the country.

In the past, the Yok Don elephants (just like many others around the country) were chained up for extended periods of time, often without access to water. They would be harnessed with heavy riding baskets and could be carrying tourists around the part for nine hours a day. With this new change in place, visitors can instead observe the animals roaming freely in their natural habitat.

Yok Don is Vietnam’s largest nature reserve and is located near the Cambodian border. The nature reserve is also home to other wildlife such as leopards, red wolves, muntjac deer, monkeys and snakes.

The nature reserve has made this change as part of an initiative by Animals Asia which campaigns for long-term changes in animal welfare and tourism in China and Vietnam. The agreement will be valid up till April 2023 and the first tours have already taken place earlier this month. Over the next five years, the management is hopeful that this new model will provide as much or perhaps even more revenue for owners as compared to riding, and at the same time encourage mahouts and elephant tourism companies to follow suit.

The group of retired elephants consist of three females Bun Kham, Y’Khun and H’Non, and one bull, Thong Ngan. The elephants are now capable of forming bonds with one another and have begun displaying the naturally complex social and emotional behaviour that is often observed amongst herds living in the wild.

It is estimated that there are only 65 to 95 elephants surviving in the wild and according to conservationists, it is not viable for survival. The numbers has declined dramatically over the past few decades, from over 2,000 in the 1980s to the small numbers today. Campaigners and charities are going in with the goal of educating the industry around the world, and demonstrate how ethical elephant experiences can also be profitable, especially when it comes to retired and rescued animals.

Cherry Blossoms in Japan Blooming Way Ahead of Schedule

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You’ll be surprised to hear that some of Japan’s famed cherry trees have already begun blossoming months ahead of schedule, and this is all thanks to the typhoons and irregular weather.

As per past records, cherry blossoms typically begin to bud at the start of spring. However, Japan’s Weather News reported that more than 350 yoshino cherry trees have already begun to bloom earlier this month.

Local meteorologists are attributing the early blooms to salt damage caused by the typhoons that have been prevalent throughout the summer. The warmer-than-usual temperatures that followed the storms also played a role in the trees’ early flower eruption subsequently.

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Although Yoshino cherry trees typically develop their buds during the summer, a hormone that is released by the trees’ leaves inhibit their growth until springtime. However, due to the typhoons’ strong winds and salt water, the leaves have fallen of the trees resulting in the cutting off of the hormone supply.

While there are cherry blossoms that bloom as early as January, most of them don’t start to appear until March. The upcoming year would mostly likely be very different judging on the early bloom of the cherry blossoms earlier this month. For travellers who would like to witness the sakura bloom, keep a lookout for updates by the Japan National Tourism Organization as there will be a list of predictions as to when the blooms will appear although the data for 2019 has not been released at the moment.