Singapore's FREE adventure travel magazine

Distribution locations
Subscribe
Back Issues

Meet a Brand New Khao San Road

Khao San Road
Image credit: Guillén Pérez

Bangkok, Thailand’s famed capital is more often than not a stop that all travellers would make while on an adventure around the world. From the culture to the food and the shopping, there’s something for everyone. On top of that, there’s also the famous Khao San road – a short street in central Bangkok that was constructed in 1892.

“Khaosan” translates to what we understand as “milled rice”, a slight indication that in former times the street was actually a major rice market in Bangkok. Over the last 20 years or so, Khao San Road has evolved into a world-famous backpacker ghetto. This is where travellers can find cheap accommodation such as “mattress in a box”-style hotels to reasonably priced three-star hotels. This is also where many first timers get introduced to Thailand’s vibrant night markets, colourful tuk-tuks and mouth-watering street food.

Tuk-tuk

Travellers who are visiting after 1st August would be seeing a brand new side of Khao San Road as the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) has since imposed a ban on street vendors selling cheap clothes, souvenirs, snacks and other goods during the day. Khao San Road has previously been known for its bustling crowd throughout the course of the day, but the street has remained relatively quiet during the day after the implementation of the ban.

At the moment, street vendors are permitted to set up their stalls from 6pm till midnight in preparation for the night market. The BMA does however has plans to devise controlled zones for different items such as food, clothing and massage services.

Being the vibrant city it is, Bangkok still continues to offer a ton of other things to be explored during the day, especially around Khao San Road such as the historic district or having a meal along the nearby street food stalls. At the northwest end of Khao San Road you can find the Phra Athit neighbourhood, which is home to vintage shops, pretty cages and local restaurants. Alternatively, visit the Grand Palace or the giant gold reclining Buddha at Wat Pho.

The Light Spectacle That Takes Over the Notre Dame

Just when you thought the Notre-Dame Basilica couldn’t get any more majestic, wait till you see their ‘Aura’ light show inside the Basilica itself.

 Basilica (2)

The light show that takes place in the Basilica is a modern day tapestry, sharing the Good News to an audience through the spectacle of lights and music in the historical architecture and art in place of the written word. There’s no need to worry as you need not be a faithful to be able to enjoy and appreciate the show.

During the first part of the show, patrons are free to walk around the aisle and altar of the 19th century church while soft music plays in the background, which adds a whimsical feel to the already awe-inspiring architecture. The basilica is darkened to give effect and to divert one’s attention to the artworks and intricate carvings that are illuminated by shots of light.

Basilica (1)
Image credit: ShajiA

For the second half of the show, the guests are asked to be seated in the benches in the nave of the church and are yet again advised to refrain from taking any photos or videos. The aisles further darken and the focus is centred to the majestic altarpiece. The ceiling of the basilica which is a usual shade of blue that imitates the starry sky has disappeared and is replaced by a series of seasons and changin weather that are of biblical proportions.

Basilica (3)
Image credit: Avramescu Marius

The combination of darkness, loud orchestral music and alluring lights is bound to captivate everyone in the room, so captivating that you would forget that you have any form of tech with you to take photos or videos with. One will be glued to their seats, silent, as the powerful effects of the show leaves you in awe.

The already grandiose architecture of the Notre Dame is already a spectacle itself, but with the added effects of the unique play of lights and sound, it truly is a sensory treat for both adults and children.

Save the World While You’re on Vacation

It doesn’t take much for people to realise the uncomfortable truth we have been facing in recent years – severe climate change, intrusion of nature by humans as well as overtourism. Unfortunately, this threatens our earth’s wildest and most beautiful natural destinations.

It is of course never too late for us to play a part for the earth. Conscious travellers can take part in sustainable tourism activities so as to do good for the earth while still enjoying the thrills of adventure travel. With a growing trend in citizen-science expedition, travellers are able to explore some of the most extraordinary locations of the globe while simultaneously aiding researchers and local communities understand and protect the environment.

To play your part as a conscious traveller, you can get started with these options:

Saving the Peruvian Rainforest
Peru Rainforest

Rainforest Expeditions is a Peru-based ecotourism company which operates Tambopata Research Center, an Amazonian retreat inclusive of meals, river transportation and a selection of field activities. Guests can help the resident scientists conduct bird censuses, collect Jaguar behavioural data with the use of night cameras as well as examine the health of the forest canopy with the air of drones in the surrounding Tambopata Nature Reserve.

Travellers can spend three-nights at the retreat starting from US$1884.

Learn about elephants in Kenya
Kenya Elephants

Take part in an expedition focusing on elephants and sustainable agriculture on your next trip to Eastern Africa. Travellers would have the opportunity to study the human-animal conflict in and around the Tsavo Conservation Area located in southeastern Kenya. It is known that local farms in that area have a precarious relationship with the native elephants residing there. Travellers would be working together with farmers and conservationists to come up with methods to protect crops while at the same time minimizing the impact of agriculture on the elephant herds.

A 12-day trip with Earthwatch Institute begins from US$2,995.

Track Siberian tigers
Siberian Tiger

With only approximately 530 Siberian tigers left in the world, Natural World Safaris offers a Siberian tiger tracking expedition in Far East Russia. Conversationalist Alexander Batalov would be leading small groups around the Durminskoye Reserve where you would be setting up and collecting camera traps that document the animals’ movements and interpreting the camera footage retrieved. Take the opportunity to get acquainted with the region’s snow owls, red deer and wild hogs.

Seven-day trips start from US$3,150.

Home of the Dragons, Komodo National Park

Home of real life dinosaurs—or dragons to be exact, Komodo National Park is nestled between the islands of Sumbawa and Flores in the center of Indonesia. The park’s main purpose was initially to protect the unique Komodo Dragons and its habitat but as the years pass, the goal of the park was expanded to protecting its biodiversity, terrestrial and marine.

Komodo National Park
Image credit: Charlie Marchant

There are a number of ways to get to Komodo National Park, but you will still end up taking a three-hour ferry to the dragon inhabited island. Since the island is surrounded by Komodo Dragons, it is advised you trek the island with a park ranger, which will cost about 250,000 Rupiah. The park rangers will take you along the dirt path lined with bushes and towering trees. The dragon-like lizard can grow up to 10-feet long and is able to take down a deer or even an adult water buffalo, hence there’s a need to be extra careful and alert when trekking the island.

The best times to visit the park is during the middle of the year during its dry season when it is not too hot and little to no rain is expected. During the month of June, it is the mating season for the dragons, providing you with the opportunity to spot both male and female Komodo dragons out in the open.

Komodo Dragon

Despite the island being named after the Komodo dragon, Komodo National Park serves as refuge to many other notable terrestrial species such as the orange-footed scrub fowl, an endemic rat, the Timor deer and many other animals. Moreover, the park is also one of the richest marine ecosystems which includes coral reefs, mangroves and semi-enclosed bays. Komodo National Park is also home to hundreds to sea creatures such as reef-building corals, Dugongs, manta-rays and dolphins.

Komodo National Park

The rich diversity of the terrestrial and marine ecosystem is protected under the declaration of the World Heritage Site and a Man and Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. Despite this, the biodiversity of the island continues to degrade as there is an increase of pressure in forest cover and water resources. Efforts to save the park and its residents are continuous and environmental activists work hard to keep these dinosaurs—dragons, live another million or so years.

 

5 Spots to Visit in Kenting for the Outdoor Enthusiast

Kenting

Located on the Hengchun Peninsula of Pingtung County, Taiwan, Kenting National Park (commonly known as Kenting) is Taiwan’s oldest and southernmost national park. It covers the southernmost area of the Taiwan island and is well known for its tropical climate, sunshine, scenic mountain views as well as beautiful beaches.

The southernmost region of Taiwan has also received increasing attention as one of the settings for the hit movie Cape No. 7 that was released in 2008 and once again for Life of Pi in 2012. From swimming and surfing to snorkelling and diving, there’s plenty to do for everyone.

1. Jiupeng Desert
ATV(2)

Enjoy the outdoors with an ATV ride! Located at Gangzai (also known as Jiupeng) Desert, treat yourselves to charming panoramic vistas as you tour the area on an ATV.

You wouldn’t be seeing any cactuses or wild desert animals, but the sand dunes in Hengchun Peninsula top the charts as one of the largest in Taiwan. These dunes have been formed over time by the northeastern trade winds and are well kept with beautiful curves.

Unlike the other ATV experiences in Kenting that has you riding through crowded beaches, the ATV experience at Jiupeng Desert treats you to an adrenaline rush as you race down the sand dunes and explore the desert away from the crowd.

2. Baisha Beach
Baisha

Baisha Beach is a private scenic spot in Kenting and not many tourists know how to get there. Due to the smaller crowd, the original beach has been kept intact for most parts and has not been subjected to heavy construction. If you’re an avid fan of movies, you should also recognise that the beach is the filming location for several scenes in Life of Pi.

The beach has sand that is clean and thin, and at the same time features crystal clear waters that are calm and perfect for swimming and snorkelling. The nearby vendors provide easy access and convenience for travellers to rent gear for their water activities.

Baisha is also the only beach in Kenting that is on the west side of the peninsula. Spanning a length of 500m and a breadth of 40m, the white beach is formed by shell sand and is home to beautiful coral reefs.

Cycling enthusiasts should also note that the longest bike trail in Taiwan begins from Baisha.

 3. Water Activities
Kenting

No visit to Kenting would be complete without spending some time on the white sands and taking a dip in the clear blue seas. Famed for its beautiful beaches, there is no lack of water activities for you to choose from. Sign yourselves up for a banana boat ride, parasailing or even jet skiing.

Most activity vendors would provide different packages that vary in the number and type of activities, don’t be surprised if you’re spoilt for choice.

4. Southernmost Point
Southernmost Point

Located between the famed Eluanbi and the ecological reserve area of Longkeng, the Southernmost Point provides you a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean to your left and the Baishi Channel that lies between Taiwan and the Philippines to your right.

As Taiwan is not a large island, it would only take 1000 km to circle the island. If would only take you 9 to 10 hours of driving to travel from Fugui Cape, the Northernmost Point of Taiwan to the Southernmost Point of Taiwan in Kenting. If you’re up for a challenge, sign yourselves up for the annual biking event that takes you from the northernmost lighthouse to the southernmost lighthouse.

5. Chuanfanshi
Chuanfanshi

Most people are familiar with Yehliu in northern Taiwan, but there are also other geological wonders in Kenting that seeks to be discovered. Chuanfanshi translates to “sail stone” as it takes the shape of a sail of a boat protruding out on the sea at a distance.

The rock was originally disintegrated from the coral shore and is hard enough to withstand the erosion which has already flattened the shoreline that is behind the stone. As the coral shoreline at Chuanfanshi lies in a bay between two peninsulas in Kenting, it attracts an abundance of marine life making it a perfect spot for snorkelling and scuba diving.

Fun fact: Some say that the rock draws some resemblance to the head of President Nixon of America when you take a look close-up.

Getting Around
Renting an electric scooter from any of the vendors operating at Kenting Main Street is one of the most popular options for tourists to get around conveniently. Explore the region on your scooter and make stops at scenic lookout points to take in breathtaking views of the ocean.

Take a Trip to Italy’s Best Medieval Town

Gradara
Image credit: Alien66

If you haven’t heard, the town of Gradara has recently been nominated the best in Italy for 2018. Gradara is located in the region of Marche in central Italy, in the province of Pesaro and Urbino. The ancient town of Gadara is iconic for its double line of medieval walls and massive Castle, known to be one of the best preserved ones in Italy. Gradara is a borgo (village or small town) that treasures and preserves its medieval heritage.

Gradara was voted “Borgo dei Borghi” by the Italian television programme Rai Kilimangiaro and its panel of judges. Gradara emerged victorious amongst twenty towns, rendering Sicilian Castroreale in the province of Messina to come in second and Bobbio in the province of Piacenza of the Emilia-Romagna region to come in third.

Gradara Castle

Featuring two superbly preserved set of walls daring back to the 13th century alongside a calendar full of historical reenactments whereby the town’s 3000 residents play specific and well-detailed roles, Gradara’s remarkable medieval history makes the town stand out. One of the main highlights of these reenactments is the commemoration of the 1446 battle that took place between the local Malatesta lords and the Sforza from Milan.

In addition, the theatre for one of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy most famous stories is located in the borgo. Known as the Rocca in Italian and built between the 12th and 13th centuries, the theatre holds great appeal to all travellers visiting this medieval town.

With reference to the data provided by the Italian ANSA agency, almost 550,000 visitors take a trip to Gradara each year, all thanks to the town’s location on the famous Riviera Romagnola, Italy’s Adriatic coast.

East Meets West: Hong Kong

 

Being part of both Imperial China and the British Empire, Hong Kong is a perfect example of the East-meets-West vibe that everyone can’t get enough. From a small fishing village, it has now turned into a busy port and an important trade centre.

Hong Kong (2)

Despite its very modern infrastructure, Hong Kong still keeps some Chinese traditions alive. Buildings like the HSBC building was built with the concept of Chinese feng shui in mind. The open atrium of the building was to allow wind and good qi (energy) to enter. The Asian metropolis is filled with skylines that towers over the city, but ancient traditions remain well and alive.

One of the most famous ancient traditions is ‘Villain Hitting’, practiced by modern-day ‘witches’ to cast out bad luck or put curses on people. A typical ritual involves a ‘witch’ hitting a piece of ‘Villain Paper’, that could include a name of a person a client wants cursed, with a slipper or shoe. This is meant to drive or scare away any bad spirits or energy that is bothering the client.

You can still find these modern-day ‘witches’ under the Canal Road Flyover in Causeway Bay. During the evening, the lit candles and the burning incense lends a dramatic effect that surrounds the casters which is truly worth the sight.

Hong Kong (4)
Image credit: Foouaichaou

Though Hong Kong still has a strong hold on its ancient traditions, it doesn’t stop the city from being extremely welcoming to other cultures. The bustling city is home to many European and Asian expats, and the international feel of the city makes it easy for newcomers to fit in. More than half of the locals also speak fluent English, breaking down the language barrier and making it easier to make friends with the locals.

Just like any metropolitan city, Hong Kong is fast paced. Businesses work on a rapid pace such that when you go to a Hong Kong-style restaurant, your food will be served in five minutes or less after ordering. Also, because of the fast paced lifestyle, people speak without wasting time hence pleasantries such as ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ are rarely used.

 Hong Kong (1)
Image credit: Michal Osmenda

Hongkongers who speak Cantonese as their first language, constantly invent new slangs that might translate differently to someone that lives elsewhere. ‘黐線’ (ci-sin) literally means ‘glued wires’ but is actually used as a slang for ‘crazy’ or ‘insane’.

With the modernisation of the city, comes challenges for the residents as well. Real Estate prices are sky high, which leads to some surprises. Despite the high prices of real estate, residents get creative. Some great eateries can be situated in unexpected places such as the 13th floor of a shabby building, but is still widely recommended by many. Some also make use of the tiny spaces to set up shops despite the size of the space. High real estate prices also leads residents to live in ‘Coffin Houses’ which are really small apartments that could barely store a bed.

Hong Kong (3)

Although the busy city life may get overwhelming, you can always escape to the various beaches and hiking trails nearby. Sai Kung is a beautiful lake whereby you can jump off  cliff and to the turquoise waters. Shek O beach is a great spot to hang out under the sun and enjoy the sea. These places, and many more, are accessible through the region’s excellent and well-used transportation system.

 

You May Have to Opt for Alternative Modes of Transport Around Venice

Venice (1)

Venice is a city in northeastern Italy and the capital of the Veneto region situated across a group of 118 small islands separated by canals and linked by bridges. It is known as a floating masterpiece that features a city of marble palaces built on the shallow Venetian Lagoon, an enclosed bay that sits between the mouths of the Po and the Piave rivers. Best known for the beauty of the architecture, artwork and simply the beauty of the city, the lagoon and a part of the city are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Venice (2)

Unfortunately, a new regulation will now ban certain types of boats from the Grand Canal of Venice, locals and tourists would have to resort to alternative means of getting around the area. As of 1st August, authorities are prohibiting the use of recreational boats (canoes, kayaks, paddleboards, just to name a few) from being used in the Grand Canal. There are however exceptions to the ban – people who live or own businesses in the historic district would still be allowed to use their boats during restricted hours.

Tourists who are in town do not have to feel disappointed as they’d still be able to get themselves on a gondola ride, the traditional Venetian watercraft.

After the death of a German tourist in 2013, stricter regulations on the Grand Canal have been implemented. The new regulation is merely adding on to the pile of measures devised for public safety. Areas affected include the Grand Canal, Cannaregio Canal as well as several other waterways. As for the less crowded and smaller canals, the ban would be enforced during the daily peak hours.

Welcome to Middle Earth

If you’re a fan of the Hobbit trilogy, then you probably already know that New Zealand is a hotspot for all things Middle Earth. From Lake-town to the Hobbit Holes, New Zealand is a one-stop-shop for all the sets of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.

Mount Cook
The location is more recognisable as an aerial background landscape that can be seen in The Hobbit: The Destination of Smaug. Apart from the Southern Alps being used as a backdrop, Mount Cook is also the set location for Esgaroth, also known as Lake-Town.

 Lake Town
Image credit: Krzysztof Golik

The stunning lakeside village of Lake-Town took place at the shores of Lake Pukaki, at the Tasman Downs Station. This location was used in many of Sir Peter Jackson’s scenes from both The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.

While it may look alluring on the big screen, it is just as beautiful when you see it in person. There is plenty of space for you to move about either on foot or by bicycle. Being completely isolated from the city areas, Tasman Downs Station has no evidence of human settlements. It’s the perfect place to become one with nature.

Mount Cook

From the iconic high mountain peaks of the Southern Alps to the glacier fed alpine lakes and the golden fields of tussocks lying beneath the endless sky, Aoraki at Mount Cook casts a whimsical feeling that leaves all its visitors in awe. The place was so captivating that Hobbit cast member James Nesbitt (Bofur) was left impressed with the the immense natural beauty and colours of Aoraki Mount Cook.

Pelorus River, Marlborough
The tranquil beauty of Pelorus River in Marlborough is an ethereal wilderness that is inhabited by giant trees and native New Zealand bats, enveloping crystal clear waters that cuts through a rocky gorge.

Pelorus River was where the scene of dwarves escaping in barrels floating in the Forest River, as seen in The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug, was filmed. Unfortunately, you can’t go floating about Pelorus River in barrels, but you can sign up for a kayaking guided river tour as an alternative. The tour is includes stops at waterfalls, streams and, of course, the barrel scene location.

Pelorus River
Image credit: Jeff Hitchcock

Pelorus River is also surrounded by several native wildlife such as the New Zealand forest birds and the endangered native bats. Visitors who wish to stay overnight can do so by setting up camp at the Pelorus Scenic Reserve Campground, it is a great place to have a swim and have an evening bush walk to visit the nearby bat reserve.

Piopio
Piopio is home to the spectacular Mangaotaki Rocks, an incredible limestone cliff formation that sits on a 690-hectare family farm that was used as a scenic film location. The cliffs and the surrounding forested hills below it formed a backdrop to a number of scenes in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

The owners of the farm, Warrick and Suzie Denize, operates the Hairy Feet Waitomo tours. The tours host numerous visitors on a 90-minute tour along the same path that was frequented by dwarves and a hobbit. Unusual smaller rock formations nestles in New Zealand’s native bushes filled with song birds. The entire landscape will take you back in time and into Middle Earth.

Matamata
The Shire

If you’re a fan of Middle Earth, you would not want to miss the rolling hills of The Shire, also known as Hobbiton. Previously utilised for filming purposes, Hobbiton has remained open to public. You can walk around the neighbourhood and peer over a Hobbit’s front gate or have yourself a glass of beer at the Green Dragon Inn.

There is also a number of farm stays around the area should you want to prolong your stay at Hobbiton.

Wake Up to the Sight of the Pantheon

Pantheon Piazza

Being recognised as the ‘work of Angels’ by an awe-struck Michelangelo himself, the Pantheon is an ancient temple-turned-church is praised as the best preserved monument of the Roman Empire.

Imposed by dark marble that surrounds you as you enter, a single beam of light radiates down the oculus situated in the middle of the dome, a greeting that seems to come from straight from the heavens. The Pantheon, other than the Colosseum and the Trevi Fountain, is in everyone’s must-see list when in Rome.

The Pantheon Iconic Rome Hotel

However, relishing in the divine moment around the crowds of Piazza della Rotonda proves to be rather difficult. Why not book a room that overlooks marvellous dome, just around the Via di S. Chiara, in the city’s newest five-star hotel – The Pantheon Iconic Rome Hotel. Some of the hotel’s guest rooms and suites overlook the monument from atop and provides a view of the city’s other historical rooftops.

Roof

As you step inside the impressive marble lobby, its interior will remind you of the ancient monument itself. Though the hotel’s 79 guest rooms and suites are decked out in modern aesthetics such as minimalistic furniture and dazzling design, the overall architecture of the hotel still nods towards the familiar arches and the circular lighting, reminiscent of the Pantheon’s most recognised feature.

The hotel is also throwing an aperitivo series called the Iconic Sunset, which happens every Thursday till mid-October. The Iconic Sunset happens to be somewhat like a ‘ritual’, where guests could drink spiced wine out of original carafes just like how the Ancient Romans did.

A special rate on classic rooms start from $489 per night and an opening package that includes 20 percent off for stays of two nights or more. Room upgrades are subject to availability and would be offered till 30 September.