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You Can Now be a Human Slingshot

AJ Hackett
Image credit: AJHK104180377776

Known for its mountainous national parks and dynamic Maori culture as well as world-class surfing and skiing, New Zealand has something for everyone, especially outdoor enthusiasts. Dubbed the world’s capital of adventure tourism, New Zealand continues to bring up the thrill factor with the addition of The Nevis Catapult.

The brand new human slingshot can be found at The Nevis Valley, on New Zealand’s South Island close to Queenstown. The Nevis Valley has housed the world’s first commercial bungee jump and will now be home to every adrenaline junkie’s dream, The Nevis Catapult.

If you’ve already conquered bungee jumps and you’re looking for something more adventurous, the catapult would be the perfect option. If you’re unfamiliar with a bungee, it lets you go through a free fall followed by rebound which pulls you back up. The catapult however, pushes you 492 feet straight up and out.

Created by AJ Hackett Bungy, these thrill seekers who are game enough for the catapult would reach speeds of nearly 62 miles an hour within the 1.5 seconds they are in the air. The entire catapult experience lasts for roughly 3 to 4 minutes depending on individual velocity.

Getting There
Travellers would have to get themselves on board a AJ Hackett-owned four-wheel-drive vehicle so as to access the remote region of the Nevis Valley before strapping themselves in the harness and getting launched in the air.

Participants should at least be 13 years of age and weight at least 60 pounds (27 kg).

Cost: NZ$255 (~US$172)

Zanzibar: Land of History and Spices

Home to the shortest wars to have ever taken place in history, lies the 19th century palace right in the centre of Stone Town. The island of Zanzibar is about 30-miles off the coast of Tanzania and is a beacon for the historical event.

Constructed by the second Sultan of Zanzibar, Barghash bin Said, The House of Wonders was built at 1883 as a ceremonial palace. The doors were built extra large so that the Sultan could enter the palace on a back of an elephant. Being a first in East Africa, the palace already had electricity and a working elevator from the beginning.

 House of Wonders (1)

After the death of the Sultan, his brother Khalid bin Barghash seized the throne which angered the British forces at that time. The British forces then launched a naval bombardment which lasted for only 38 minutes, hence making the record of the shortest war to go down in history.

You can still catch a glimpse of the House of Wonders’ ruins today. Walk through the corridors and rooms that the Sultans have walked through and see a collection of antiques. Displayed inside the House of Wonders is a 56-foot mtepe ship, bronze cannons and a track from the old Zanzibar Railroad.

House of Wonders (2)

You can’t leave Zanzibar without trying the local cuisine. Do not be surprised by the spice-filled dishes that you are about to taste when you get to the island. Zanzibar produces nutmeg, cinnamon, black pepper and cloves hence earning the nicknames the ‘island of Spices’ or ‘Spice Island’. Locals love to use the native grown spices for their delicacies.

Maldives’ Sea of Stars

Sea of Stars

Have you heard about the beach in Mudhdhoo Island (also known as Vaadhoo Island) of Maldives that glows at night? This natural phenomenon is known as ‘Bioluminescence’ which refers to the production and emission of light by a living organism. It usually occurs amongst marine vertebrates and invertebrates, and also in some fungi and microorganisms including some bioluminescent bacteria and terrestrial invertebrates such as fireflies.

The light produced at Mudhdhoo Beach is the result of these marine organisms. Appearing to look somewhat magical and captivating, the beach has been attracting travellers from near and far, especially newlyweds who choose to spend their honeymoon here. This gorgeous phenomenon has been dubbed the ‘Sea of Stars’.

The beach is part of Mudhdhoo Island, which is one of the islands of Raa Atoll in Maldives. Although it’s a small island with a population of not more than 500 people, the island has earned itself a spot on the global tourism map because of the Sea of Stars Phenomenon. The island has remained as one of Maldives’ best kept secrets for a long time but it now holds the elevated status of one of the most sought-after places to visit in Maldives.

With the beautiful translucent waters of the Mudhdhoo Beach, the place is nothing short of amazing and seems to be straight out of a dreamland. As the sun sets, witness the Sea of Stars on the waters of the Mudhdhoo Beach and enjoy this incredible phenomenon.

Getting There
If you’re wondering how to get to Mudhdhoo Island, the island is merely approximately 8km from Male, the capital city of Maldives and the main airport. Mudhdhoo Island is well connected to the rest of Maldives and travellers can conveniently hire a speedboat to get there, which would only take about 15 minutes.

The Lively South American City, Cuzco

Acclaimed for its mix of architectural styles and sophisticated urban planning, Cuzco is one of the best cities to experience culture, cuisines and to bask in the incredible landmarks. The center of the former Inca Empire lets you wonder around the cobblestoned streets and sightsee the Temple of Qorikancha, which is believed to be built in the 15th century in honor of the sun god, Inti.

Cuzco (1)

In Plaza de Armas, the busy and vibrant centre of Cuzco, the Spanish influence can be clearly seen. From the wide stone pathways to the well maintained colourful gardens, it is no surprise Plaza de Armas is a popular pit-stop for tourists. Apart from the gardens and the pathways, the plaza is also home of the Cuzco Cathedral and the Church La Compania de Jesus which surrounded by numerous Spanish colonial buildings and stone galleries. The plaza is where most events and festivals are held such as the Inca Festival of the Sun and Corpus Christi—a religious festival.

Cuzco (2)

Head to the San Pedro Market to sample salchipapas (fried sausage and potato) and even anticuchos (beef heart). The market is filled with Peruvian culture and delicacies that is out-of-the-ordinary, ideal for the adventurous eaters that are willing to try even the most bizarre. If you’re up for it, you can head over to a cuyeria to have a taste of cuy or guinea pig. Cuy is typically roasted and is served in one piece—head included. It is not an everyday cuisine that’s eaten by the locals, but it is a local delicacy that has been served for millennia.

Despite not being the capital of Peru, Cuzco still welcomes about two million people each year, visiting the UNESCO World Heritage sight on their way to Machu Picchu which is 50 miles from the Sacred Valley. Since the city sits at an elevation of about 11,150 feet above sea level, some visitors may suffer from altitude sickness for a couple of days. In the Inkaterra La Casona, an oxygen-rich hotel, you can book a room to help combat the effects of the altitude and get you properly adjusted to the elevation.

Machu Picchu

5 Tips for Saving Money During Your Tokyo Vacation

Tokyo (1)

Tokyo – the city that is constantly on the move, dazzling us with its neon-lit streetscapes as well as its love for traditional culture and passion for all things new. From the the fanciful mega malls to the high-end designer boutiques and the world’s tallest tower, the Tokyo Sky Tree, Tokyo continues to surprise us with its continuous development.

It’s not surprising that travellers don’t usually head to Tokyo for a budget vacation. Although the city is known to be quite expensive in terms of hotels, meals and transportation, you’d still be able to have a great time without burning a hole in your pockets with some tips:

Tokyo (2)

Visit during the winter months
Hotel rates during the months of November to February are at its lowest and the weather is comfortably mild to chilly.

Avoid the spike in hotel room prices during March and April. The spring months coincide with the cherry blossom season and although the flowers are beautiful and there would be exciting festivals, the hotel room prices reach their peak during these months.

Spend on your meals wisely
There is no question that travellers should pamper themselves with at least one high-end meal at places such as the Sushi Bar Yasuda for sushi and GO (located within the Palace Hotel) for teppanyaki.

Otherwise, you should always save on the rest of your dining costs by patronising the city’s many inexpensive fast casual restaurants. Simply check with your hotel’s concierge or travel guides such as TripAdvisor or Time Out Tokyo for suggestions of unique and authentic Japanese cuisine that won’t cost you an arm or leg.

Make the subway your main mode of transportation
Tokyo’s subway would probably be the fastest and most inexpensive way for you to get around to explore the city’s major areas, neighbourhoods and attractions. Rides begin at US$1.50 (~SG$2.05). You can also consider purchasing local and regional rail passes depending on your itinerary and schedule.

Line your itinerary up with free and affordable sights
There’s a handful of Tokyo’s top attractions that are inexpensive or can be visited for free. For example, Ueno houses a picturesque park that is free for all which allows travellers to meet some resident deers there as well as National Museums that have entry fees below US$10  (~SG$13.66).

Travellers can also visit the Imperial Palace for free as long as they make an advance booking for their trip there.

Go taxless with Japanese brands
Remember to bring your passports along when you go shopping as it allows travellers to shop tax-free at most stalls carrying Japanese bra

Discover the Quaint City of Quebec

A city filled with history, Quebec City gives out an old-world charm like no other. Founded in 1608, the city retains its old colonial core and is frequented by cruise ships that dock at the heart of the lower city. Petit Champlain, a neighbourhood near the lower city, is full of charming little shops that is now a mix of old and new.

Rue du Petit-Champlain
Image credit: Jeangagnon

Drop by Old Quebec to witness the rich historical landmarks and museums. The town is also home to the majestic Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac hotel which is surrounded by various government, religious and military buildings. Take a walk along the Terrasse Dufferin, a wide boardwalk which overlooks the city and the St. Lawrence River.

Quebec

Quebec is also the home to the first hospital in North America, The Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal. It was first established in 1645 by Jeanne Mance, a nurse from New France, together with Augustinian nuns. The then-hospital can be visited through various tours offered by the city or by travel agents.

 image2_resized

Alternatively, you can visit the Montmorency Falls which is about 12 kilometres form the old Quebec City. The 83 metre waterfall is located within the Montmorency Falls Park (also known as Parc de la Chute-Montmorency). If you don’t wish to hike up to the top of the falls, there is an aerial tram that takes you from the bottom of the falls to the top with ease. Located just a stone’s throw away from the falls is the Ile d’Orleans, which facilitates agrotourism through wineries, jam makers and other restaurants and shops that offers locally sourced goods.

End your trip with a spa day at the Strom Spa Nordique, a spa filled with the necessary amenities to keep you relaxed. Strom Spa Nordique will be opening a riverside location this coming fall to be closer to the port. The spa is ideal for cruise ship passengers aboard a small ship that offers limited spa services.

Road Tripping Along the Great Ocean Road

Great Ocean Road Memorial

The Great Ocean Road is an Australian National Heritage listed 243 km stretch of road along the south-eastern coast of Australia, between the Victorian cities of Torquay and Allansford. The road was built between the years of 1919 and 1932 by returned soldiers and is dedicated to the soldiers who are sacrificed in World War I. The Great Ocean Road also happens to be the world’s largest war memorial.

Dubbed as one of the world’s most scenic coastal drives, the Great Ocean Road winds through various terrains and brings you through several prominent landmarks which includes the Twelve Apostles limestone stack formation. From observing native wildlife in their natural elements to exploring the lush greenery or simply soaking up the panoramic views from the various lookout points, there’s plenty to choose for for everyone, especially for outdoor enthusiasts.

To get you started, here are a few of our favourites along the Great Ocean Road:

London Arch
London Arch

The London Arch is an offshore natural arch formation in Port Campbell National Park, Australia and has been a significant tourist attraction along the Great Ocean Road. Over a gradual course of erosion, the stack eventually formed a complete double-span natural bridge. Unfortunately, the iconic London Bridge collapsed in 1990, and left two tourists stranded on the outer span and had to be rescued by a helicopter. The formation has been known as the London Arch ever since its collapse. If you’d like to catch some Little Penguins making their way home, it is advisable to visit the rock formation towards the end of the day.

Loch Ard Gorge
Loch ard Gorge

Loch Ard Gorge is also a part of Port Campbell National Park and is located approximately three minutes’ drive west of The Twelve Apostles. The stairs at the lookout allows visitors to access the beach as well as the eastern side of the gorge. To help visitors get acquainted with the history of the area, there are several plaques and a small museum that visitors can visit. The gorge has been named after the clipper ship Loch Ard, which was beached on the nearby Muttonbird Island in 1878 as it was approaching the end of a three-month journey from England to Melbourne.

Apart from the area’s rich maritime history, the gorge has also served as the filming location for several productions such as the 1982 The Pirate Movie as well as the 1999 TV series Journey to the Center of the Earth.

Twelve Apostles & Gibson Steps
Twelve Apostles

The harsh and extreme weather conditions from the Southern Ocean gradually eroded the soft limestone to form caves in the cliffs which eventually became arches that collapsed, leaving rock stacks up to a height of 45m. Today, we refer to these limestone stacks as the Twelve Apostles.

Probably the most iconic attraction along the Great Ocean Road, the Twelve Apostles is a collection of limestone stacks off the shore of Port Campbell National Park. The close proximity of the limestone stacks has made the site a popular tourist attraction. At the present moment, there are only eight Apostles left after the ninth one collapsed in 2005. In spite of that, the name remains largely significant in the Australian tourism industry.

Gog and Magog

Located about 2 minutes drive from The Twelve Apostles, the Gibson Steps are an area of cliffs on the south coast of Australia. Gibson Steps refers to the 86 steps staircase which leads people down to the stretch of beach at the bottom of the 70m high cliffs. When on the beach, be amazed by the giant limestone stacks Gog and Magog rising above the seas.

Teddy’s Lookout
Teddy's Lookout

Embarking on a short drive to the top end of George Street located at the back of Lorne would bring you to the scenic Teddy’s Lookout. Take in the beautiful coastal views of the surf breaking into the mount of Saint George River alongside the surrounding rainforest-covered gorge and witness how the river winds through fern-covered valleys. Teddy’s Lookout is without a doubt the go-to spot for capturing amazing shots of the Great Ocean Road.

Getting There
The official start of the Great Ocean Road is 103km from the Melbourne CBD and is approximately 1h 17min away by driving.

 

Bizarre Eats Around the World

Everyone has their own reasons to travel and the best part of travelling is that it gives us the opportunity to explore the different cultures and history. Food tourism has always been an ‘it’ thing for most travellers, writing their experiences down on their blogs, making video diaries or just savouring the moment in pictures.

 There are tonnes of dishes to be discovered by your taste buds around the world, and it’s only natural to be curious about them. But to pique your curiosity a bit further, we suggest bizarre foods. Of course, what seems to be bizarre to us may be normal to the locals and vice versa. The world is a complex place, so as a traveller, remember to be open-minded.

Balut, Philippines
At first glance the Balut looks like any other harmless egg until you crack it open. Commonly found in most South Asian Countries, Balut can be bought as a street food in the Philippines. Balut is a fertilised duck egg that has been boiled. Yes, fertilised. So when you crack open the shell, you can see the entirety of the baby duck. Balut is meant to be eaten as a whole and is usually dipped in spicy vinegar.

Balut
Image credit: Judgefloro

Hakarl, Iceland
Popular among the Icelandic locals, Hakarl is a kind of fermented food made from the Greenland Shark. Poisonous when fresh, it is important to ferment the Greenland Shark for months before consuming it. Hakarl can be a bit too much for first time eaters as to any fermented dishes, but after you get pass the smell, the taste is nutty and a little sweet. It is a must try when you’re in Iceland.

Hakari
Image credit: Chris 73

Sannakji, South Korea
Considered to be hazardous to consume, Sannakji is a challenge to eat. Sannakji refers to live octopus that has been washed and chopped into bite size pieces, eaten raw with a variety of dips for you to choose from. Eating Sannakji may be difficult because you have to fight the octopus while eating it, since it’s still very much alive. Caution is advised while eating this dish as the tentacles can get stuck in you throat and may choke you.

Sannakji
Image credit: LWY

Haggis, Scotland
Haggis is made with the sheep’s heart, lungs and liver together with onions, oatmeal and spices that is further mixed with the stock taken from the sheep’s stomach. All these ingredients are cooked inside the animal’s stomach. Though the preparation is slightly disturbing, Haggis is a savoury dish and is truly a bizarre dish that is worth the try.

Haggis
Image credit: Tess Watsons

Spend a Night Atop the Great Wall of China

Great Wall of China (1)

The Great Wall of China – an ancient series of walls and fortifications, totaling more than 13,000 miles in length that’s located in northern China. Probably the most recognisable icon of China, it has been functioning as a powerful symbol of Chinese civilisation’s enduring strength.

Having been crowned as one of the wonders of the world it also means that the Great Wall of China attracts massive crowds to flock to the site for a glimpse of this ancient allure. If you’ve been wanting an opportunity to experience the wall without the swarms of people, here’s your chance because eight lucky travellers would be able to win themselves a night atop the Great Wall of China next month.

Great Wall of China (2)

A collaboration between the Beijing Tourism Development Committee and Airbnb, winners would be able to call the wall their home for a night. Airbnb has claimed its temporary accommodation atop a watchtower which provides a panoramic view of the surrounding landscape. This would be the first time in history that ordinary visitors are permitted to spend a night on the ancient fortification.

The pop-up room is part of a campaign to promote preservation efforts of the Great Wall. The room features a four-poster double bed but is at the same time open to the elements, which is perfect for taking in stunning mountain views during the day and for you to stargaze into the night. The room sleeps two and is complete with modern lamps and floor lighting, with a cosy lounge area furnished with a sofa and dining table. Plus, guests will be able to look forward to enjoying gourmet food and traditional Chinese music before bed and take part in a guided sunrise hike through the countryside as well as a tour of the Great Wall guided by historians.

Enter Airbnb’s online contest here by 11th August. All you have to do is answer: “Why is it more important now than ever to break down barriers between cultures? How would you want to build new connections?” Four winners along with their guests would be flown to China for their stay between 4th to 8th September.

Revealed: The Best Economy Seat of Today’s Airlines

Aeroplane

It’s probably safe to say no one enjoy long-haul flights, but having a comfortable seat for your journey can make all the difference.

According to a ranking released by Skytrax World Airline Awards, Japan Airlines’ Sky Wider seats have topped the charts once again for best economy class offering. This would be their third time in the last four years. These Sky Wider seats have been introduced by JAL in 2013, featuring a slim design and completed with organisational features that seek to provide travellers with increased comfort.

JAL
Image credit: Aero Icarus

The seats have an average seat pitch that ranges from 33 to 34 inches depending on the aircraft. If you’re wondering what the seat pitch is, it’s the space between the back of one seat and the back of the next seat. To put things into perspective, JAL’s seats on Boeing 767-300ER have an average pitch of about 34 inches whereas Austrian Airlines’ seats on the same aircraft have 30 inches and Asiana Airlines’ seats range from 31 to 32 inches.

In addition, the airline utilises a 2-4-2 configuration on its 787 aircraft as compared to most airlines which opt for a 3-3-3 configuration. This would subsequently allow the airline to add an additional 5 cm of space on its 787 aircrafts. On top of that, the seats come with added storage space underneath, a plastic bottle holder and a 10.6-inch touch panel entertainment monitor.

When you’re on a long-haul economy flight with JAL, you’d also be entitled to two free checked bags, seasonal in-flight dining menus created in collaboration with noted chefs, a self-service snack bar on JAL’s European and North American flight routes, and bottled mineral water from the Japanese town of Tsusan.

From top in-flight cuisine, comfortable seats and high-end offerings at first class airport lounges, JAL has been listed as a five-star airline according to Skytrax.