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Of KitKats and Cocktails

KitKat (1)
Image credit: Nestle Japan

For those who have plans to visit Tokyo soon, you’ll be delighted to know that you can now sample the new plum sake KitKat chocolate bar at a pop-up bar in the city. We’re all familiar with how innovative and creative KitKat can get in terms of coming up with new flavours and you shouldn’t be missing this one out if you’re a fan.

KitKat (2)

The KitKat Umeshu Tsuru-Ume can be sampled at Citan, a cafe-bar-hostel situated in the Nihombashi neighbourhood of Tokyo. For added pleasure and joy, the KitKat would be paired with cocktails and this pop-up bar experience has been named Craft Sake Week @ KitKat Bar.

Umeshu is actually a Japanese liqueur made by steeping ume fruits in alcohol and sugar. According to Nestle Japan, the Kitkat Umeshu Tsuru-Ume has been launched with the purpose of meeting the demand for plum wine and umeshu overseas in recent years. The KitKat was developed under the supervision of Hidetoshi Nakata, who is a former member of the Japanese national soccer team and has travelled to over 350 sake breweries around the country so as to develop a thorough knowledge of Japanese rice wine.

Visitors will be able to sip on two original cocktails that have been specially designed to be paired with KitKat Umeshu Tsuru-Ume. In addition, there is also a total of 16 umeshu and Japanese sakes handpicked my Nakata for guests to choose from.

Citan is also serving a cured mackerel and tofu sour cream tartine that is exclusively created by Shinobu Namae, the executive chef at Tokyo’s L’Effervescence, a two-Michelin-starred restaurant.

Southeast Asia’s Hidden Safari

Koh Phra Thong (2)
Image credit: Visit KhaoLak

About 124-miles north of Phuket, Koh Phra Thong is an island in Khura Buri district. The island’s ecosystem is a rare sight not only in Thailand, but all of South-East Asia. It is a tropical savannah that impose a resemblance to those in Africa.

Though instead of having lions and gazelles, Koh Phra Thong is mainly inhabited by deer, wild boars, monkeys, pythons, otters, leopard cats and a plentiful of carnivorous plants. The savannah is also a prime bird-watching destination where if you’re lucky, you can chance upon the endangered lesser adjutant stork.

With this said, Koh Phra Thong is listed as an Important Bird Area by the Bird Life International. The airspace of the island is frequented by at least 137 species such as eagles, kingfishers and even the Malaysian pied Hornbill.

With a scarcity of its natural predators—tiger and crocodiles—the Sambar deer has also thrived in Koh Phra Thong. The animals retain their skittish nature, making it hard to spot these jumpy creatures. One of the few ways to spot a sambar deer is by going into the savannah at night on foot as cars frighten them.

Koh Phra Thong (3)
Image credit: Rudraksha Chodankar

Biologists believe that the reason why these animals survived in this habitat is because of the lack of human interference. Apart from from the two concrete roads on Koh Phra Thong, there are no buildings that resemble any form of a concrete jungle.

Koh Phra Thong is only visited by 3,000 tourists each year, but with its rising popularity, electricity pylons are being set up and may soon be connected to the grid by November. This issue raises some concerns from locals, fearing that Koh Phra Thong will be transformed into a unregulated tourism development that has changed many of Thailand’s most stunning islands.

Despite being a paradise for many animals, the island is pretty inhospitable to humans. The days are almost unbearable due to the heat and the white sands are difficult to trudge. The ideal time to visit the savannah is during the dawn, when most of the nocturnal wildlife is still semi-active.

Koh Phra Thong (1)
Image credit: Visit KhaoLak

Many of the islands in Thailand has been connected to the mainland by ferries and speedboats, but to get to the island of Koh Phra Thong is by chartering a fishing boat from the Mangrove pier near the town of Khura Buri. The hour-long journey takes course through a mangrove canal that makes its way to the tidal mouth of the river, revealing the blue-grey backdrop of Thailand’s Andaman coast.

Get Up Close and Personal With a Giant Moon

Moon (1)
Image credit: Museum of the Moon

Not everyone has the opportunity to become an astronaut and eventually set foot on our Earth’s beautiful moon, but with the Museum of the Moon you can now view a giant reproduction of the moon up close. That’s probably as close as you can get to the moon, but it’s still an amazing experience nonetheless.

The Museum of the Moon is a touring artwork installation created by  UK-based artist Luke Jerram. Measuring seven metres in diameter, the giant moon is internally lit and allows visitors to study the images of the real moon’s surface that has been attached to the sculpture’s surface. As these images com directly from NASA, rest assured that they are probably as scientifically accurate as it gets. The sculpture is scaled at 1:500,000 — each centimetre of it actually represents 5 km of the actual moon.

You’ll be pleased to know that the Museum of the Moon is currently touring various countries and being displayed both indoors and outdoors. The experience of the artwork would be altered in each brand new venue. Plus, the surround sound music has been composed specifically for the installation by Dan Jones, a BFTA winner.

Moon (3)
Image credit: Museum of the Moon

By bringing his artwork around the world, Luke Jerram hopes to inspire artists, poetes, scientists, writers and musicians, just like the actual moon. At the same time, he hopes to take the opportunity to observe cultural similarities and differences amongst people across the globe when it comes to our satellite system and our relationship with it.

Moon (2)
Image credit: Museum of the Moon

Some visitors lie down and moon-bathe on the outdoor lawn while admiring the installation, and there were even some visitors who dressed as spacemen and arrived in slow motion to the exhibition.

The Museum of the Moon has visited China during Summer and is currently travelling back to Europe for Autumn. Between September and November 2018, you’ll be able to catch the moon through the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, Germany and Finland. After the Europe tour, the installation will be travelling to Melbourne, Australia until Spring 2019.

Mark down the tour dates here and start planning your visit!

Disney takes over Singapore’s shopping belt for Christmas

Disney
Image credit: Orchard Road Business Assocaition

In preparation for the holiday season, Orchard Road will be lit up by a parade of familiar faces. Disney and Disney-Pixar characters will be taking over 1.8 miles of the shopping belt, from Tanglin Mall to Plaza Singapura with festive cheer.

The display is named Disney Magical Moments and will run from November 10 to January 1. The streets will be decked out in four themed zones, Disney Princesses, Mickey Mouse and Friends, Frozen and Toy Story.  Each of the themes celebrate a different aspect of the Disney brand.

A Christmas market called the Endless Wonder Christmas Village, will be open to the public and will have an array of activities for kids. From live musical performance, bouncy castles to yuletide treats. Though the Christmas carnival will only run from November 15 to December 26.

Of course this Disney jamboree isn’t just for kids, there are several other Disney themed activities and attractions for everyone, the young and the young-at-heart. Other attractions include a “snow room”, DIY workshops and numerous photo booths that are in different Disney themes.

The Disney-themed light-up would be the first of its kind in Southeast Asia, making it extra special and memorable for the holiday season and for all.

Other activities that will be popping out and about during the upcoming holiday season will be the many Christmas eve and New Years plans that is pretty decadent this year. Many prefer to dance the night away a countdown parties with the free flow of drinks and such. End the night with a spectacle of fireworks display when the clock strikes midnight.

Eat Your Way Through Hong Kong

Hong Kong (3)

More commonly known for its huge variety of dim sum and milk tea, Hong Kong is packed with a lot more international dishes. Hong Kong is very much an international city, so it wouldn’t come as a surprise when you see noodle bars of Bangkok, Bahn Mi stalls of Saigon or the grills of Spain.

Here are some known places to try out some extraordinary world cuisines in Hong Kong.

Samsen

Hong Kong (1)
Image credit: Alpha

Built into an old shop-house on Stone Nullah Lane, Samsen specialises in Thai dishes. They are most known for their Thai ‘boat noodles’, which was named so because they used to be served from the boats that piled in Bangkok’s canal system.

Chef of Samsen, Adam Cliff, trained at Nahm in Bangkok. Chef Cliff’s fine dining approach to Thai food changed the game in the capital. He gives humble dishes a twist by applying a fine dining touch, elevating the dish further.  Samsen has a no-reservation policy, so finding a long queue will be of norm.

Le Petit Saigon

If you haven’t guessed it, Le Petit Saigon serves up some classic Vietnamese dishes and snacks. Bahn Mi is a classic Vietnamese snack which consists of a crusty baguette stuffed with cut pork, chicken liver pate, fresh herbs and pickles, topped with mayo and a mandatory blast of chilli. Le Petit Saigon serves up one of the best versions of classic bahn mi in Hong Kong.

Pair your bahn mi with a bottle of Saigon lager and dine by the porch outside to have a taste of being in the heart of Ho Chi Minh city. The bahn mi’s are available from noon till they sell out, which often happens. So if you missed their last orders, you can also head to the neighbouring Le Garcon Saigon restaurant to get you bahn mi fix or if you’re searching for a larger meal.

The Optimist

Hong Kong (2)
Image credit: The Optimist

Spanish food in Hong Kong is all of great quality but it has become overwhelmingly expensive due to the costs of flying Spanish produce halfway across the world. The Optimist skips the riddle by going northern Spanish, heavy on grilled meats and seafood.

A show-stopper in the restaurant is the platter of meat—a 45-day dry aged Galician txuleta rib eye or the charcoal-grilled turbot. The Optimist has turned tapas into cheap bites that can be paired with cocktails.

Chautari

Situated in the Queen Street Cooked Food Market, Chautari cooks up a storm of Indian and Nepalese dishes that combines great service and wonderfully genuine, affordable food. Chautari, a family-run restaurant, serves up superb naans and grilled tandoori dishes.

This Hot Spring Theme Park Has Drink-Themed Baths

Yunessun (1)
Image credit: Yunessun

Located just 75 minutes away from Tokyo, the Hakone Kowakien Yunessun Spa and Resort offers a variety of unique baths for its guests. From the jellyfish bath where guests can swim in a dark cave that’s lighted up by fluorescent creatures to the “Doctor Fish” foot bath and a collection of Japanese style open air baths, this hot spring theme park has something for everyone.

The highlight of the hot spring theme park is however, the coffee, wine, ramen, green tea and sake baths that are available.

Yunessun (2)
Image credit: Yunessun

It is said that each of these drink-themed baths will aid guests in beautifying their skin. For example, the Coffee Bath is made of low heat Nel Drip style brewed coffee that is said to provide recharging, relaxing and skin beautifying effects while guests take in the aroma of coffee. In a vibrant grape colour coupled with a rich aroma, the Wine Bath is used as a rejuvenation bath and is said to be able to provide skin beautification effects as well.

Apart from these drink-themed baths, there is also a 40m long open air bath which provides stunning views of the surrounding Hakone mountains in the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. During the Autumn months, the open air bath provides a breathtaking view of the autumn colours covering the mountains while letting you witness snow-covered mountains during Winter.

Yunessun (3)
Image credit: Yunessun

For guests travelling with their family, Yunessun has a playground complete with an impressive water slide with swift currents that is perfect for kids. As the slide uses warm water, families are able to enjoy it during the Winter months as well.

Prices start from approximately 2,900 yen (~ US$26).

5 Things to do in Nepal For a Great Adventure

Nepal is every trekker’s paradise. Get acquainted with golden temples, charming hill villages and jungle wildlife while enjoying excellent Himalayan views in the background, Nepal is without a doubt one of the world’s greatest travel destinations.

Many mountain climbers have flocked to Nepal and ventured to the famous Everest Base Camp to have a go at its rugged trails. As the years go by, Nepal has also been reinvented into a popular travel destination. Travellers visit the country to experience its natural beauty, historic sites and vast cultural heritage — a seamless mix between the slow paced lifestyles and frantic city life.

If you don’t know where to begin, check out some of our favourite adventures in Nepal:

1. Trekking in Nepal
Nepal (1)

From novice trekkers to experienced trekkers, Nepal offers some of the best trekking routes in the world and there’s something for everyone.

If you’re looking for a short trek, the 4 days Poon Hill trek would be a perfect. Although the trek starts you off with some intense uphill climbing, the remainder of the trek is considered to be relatively relaxing with rewarding views of Rhododendron forests. The peak of Poon Hill provides panoramic vistas of the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri range.

The Everest Base Camp trek takes approximately 16 days. While you’re there, take the opportunity to enjoy the hospitality of the local Sherpas who also double as excellent guides.

For beginners who are just getting into climbing, the Island Peak or Mera Peak would be a good starting point. Both peaks are over 6,000 metres in height and can be summited by climbers without prior mountaineering experience while guaranteeing an equally challenging experience.

2. Bird’s Eye View of the Himalayas
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Conquering the Himalayas may not be something that everyone is able to partake in. However, that does not mean that you have to miss out some of the most spectacular views available. Sign yourselves up for a himalayan panoramic mountain flight tour to get a bird’s eye view of the majestic mountain peaks.

Catch a glimpse of these peaks during your flight: Mt. Makalu, Mt. Gosaithan, Mt. Dorje Lhakpa, Mt. Gauri-Shanker, Mt. Pumori and last but not least, Mount Everest.

3. Chitwan National Park
Nepal (5)

Image credit: Maamarcos

Chitwan National Park is the first national park in Nepal and is home to over 500 species of migratory birds alongside the one-horned rhinos, Bengal tigers and Asian elephants. Covering an area of approximately 330 square miles, up your chances of meeting bears, tigers, crocodiles, elephants and rhinos during your trip to Nepal. Keep a lookout for a variety of bird species inclusive of kingfishers, paradise flycatchers, egrets as well as brahminy ducks.

4. Mountain Biking
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Adrenaline junkies, this one’s for you! There are a ton of mountain bike tours available in Kathmandu and Nepal, and one of the most challenging excursions can be found in Shivapuri National park. With the dirt road beginning at the Budhanikantha entrance, gear up and bike through challenging patches that promises to make your ride exciting.

If you’re looking for something that is less challenging, take on the Godavari, Bungamati and Chapagaun trails that promise serene beauty and manageable riding.

5. White Water Rafting
Nepal (4)
Image credit: Anil Simkhada

To experience one of the most exciting and kayaking rafting adventures in Asia, take a trip to the Bhote Koshi River. Known for offering some of the best short river trips in the world, you can sign up for a two-day rafting package and get the best bang for your buck on an adventure that sets you on an adrenaline rush.

The Border Town of Sa Kaeo At a Glance

Just 3 hours away of Bangkok is the popular border town of Sa Kaeo. The town may be overshadowed by Aranyaprathet’s popularity and is often passed by tourists but Sa Kaeo is full of historical and natural beauty.

Sa Kaeo (1)

The ‘frontier of the east’ is the perfect place to be if you’re a history buff. Since the 11th century, the Prasat Sdok Kok Thom is a sandstone sanctuary that has survived the test of time. This laterite is also the largest one in all of Eastern Thailand. Prasat Sdok Kok Thom is dedicated to the Hindu god, Shiva and a stroll around the temple ground will show you traces of ancient Khmer history.

Another ancient religious site that one can visit in Sa Kaeo is the Wat Tham Khao Chakan. The Mahayana Buddhist temple is located on a towering mountain that dates back 2,000- 4,000 years ago, Khao Chakan. The temple is surrounded by multiple caves though the Thalu Cave is the only one open to the public in which a beautiful Buddha statue can be found.

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Wat Tham Khao Chakan is blanketed by trees and greens, be sure to greet the monkey residents there too! If you stick till the sun goes down, you will also be able to see millions of bats flying in and out of the caves.

See Mother Nature’s artwork at Lalu in Ta Phraya National Park. The sculptures are sculpted by rain and wind, coming in all shapes and sizes. Let your creativity run wild and have fun imagining what each sculpture looks like!

Sculptures is not the only thing you will marvel at, Lalu lies close to mountains and rice fields, painting a whole different scenery for you to take in.

End your trip by passing by the Rong Kluea Market, the mecca of thrifty shoppers. Located in Aranyaprathet, Rong Kluea Market is one of Thailand’s biggest markets. With over 3,000 shops and stalls selling items such as souvenirs and even second-hand items brought over from Japan, Korea, USA and other countries through Cambodia.

You can buy and bargain almost anything at Rong Kluea Market, from clothing to fresh food, you name it you get it. The market brims with vendors from Thailand, Cambodia and even Vietnam. Even if you aren’t going for the shopping, the market is still a great place to experience some multicultural window shopping.

Typhoon and Earthquake Hits Japan

Japan (1)
Image credit: Kota Endo/ AFP/ CNN

On Tuesday, the powerful typhoon Jebi struck western Japan causing flooding due to the heavy rain and high winds, flooding the region’s main international airport and blowing a tanker to slam into its only access. This would disrupt all land and air travel throughout the area.

The typhoon initially made landfall on Japan’s southwestern island of Shikoku and then to Kobe on Honshu while Tokyo remained relatively unharmed, with some irregular gusts of wind and rain.

Typhoon Jebi is said to be the strongest typhoon to hit Japan since 1993. The typhoon left a series of damage and destruction, taking the lives of 11 people and injuring hundreds more. The storm headed north across a broad path of Japan’s main island of Honshu towards the Sea of Japan. It then headed off the coast of Fukui on Tuesday evening while sustaining winds of 126 KPH and gusts of 180 KPH.

In the city of Osaka, Kansai International airport was forced to shut down due to the heavy rains flooding one of its runways, cargo storage and other facilities. More than 700 flights were cancelled, leaving some stranded in the airport for the meantime. The High-speed bullet train from west Tokyo to Hiroshima was suspended as well.

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Image credit: Kentaro Ikushima/Mainichi Newspaper via AP/ CNN

A day after typhoon Jebi struck the western part of Japan, the northern island of Hokkaido was shocked by a 6.6 magnitude earthquake early on Thursday. The earthquake triggered a landslide, engulfing houses and injuring hundreds of people. A series of smaller shocks, including one 5.4 magnitude, followed the initial earthquake. Officials have warned residents to take precautions for any major aftershocks that could potentially hit in the coming days.

The earthquake caused a power outage all through Hokkaido, affecting the the High-speed bullet train and New Chitose Airport.

Efforts are being made to evacuate people from the highly affected areas. On Wednesday, boats and buses were ferrying people who didn’t want to stay in the airport to locations they were more comfortable in. More than 1.2 million people were advised to evacuate the Kansai area as Jebi approaches the industrial heartland.

You Can Now Travel to Your Hotel Via a Traditional Chinese Wooden Boat

Hangzhou (1)
Image credit: Jakub Hałun

Travel is all about accumulating brand new experiences and going on new adventures. A Hangzhou hotel has now introduced a brand new experience that hotel guests can sign themselves up for — travel from the airport to the hotel via a traditional Chinese boat.

This initiative is introduced by Four Seasons Hotel Hangzhou located at West Lake. Hotel guests will be picked up from Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport (or train stations) in a limousine and then driven to the pier of West Lake. Guests will subsequently board a small traditional craft where they can relax and cruise through the scenic lake, passing through beautiful pagoda-topped hills and panoramic vistas of the surrounding area. In addition, longjing tea will be served while the boatman shares fascinating stories, local legends and folklore of West Lake.

The old-fashioned wooden boat ride has been introduced to allow hotel guests have a wholesome and enriching experience to appreciate West Lake better.

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As of 2011, the West Lake Cultural Landscape has been listed as one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites, iconic for representing Hangzhou’s charm and doubling as the major carrier of the city’s cultural and historical legacy. West Lake is populated with pavilions, pagodas, gardens alongside causeways and artificial islands. These famous lakes and hills have been serving as inspiration to well-known poets, artists and scholars since the 9th century.

This Culturally Curious package is time-dependent and more information can be found from the official website of Four Seasons Hotel Hangzhou at West Lake. Alternatively, guests can opt for day trips and enjoy a boat ride during their stay. The hotel offers a breakfast package on the boat at US$228.