What’s driving tourists in Japan?

Posted by - August 3, 2018

It’s true: We (travelers) are very visual people and this theory proves it. Source: Shutterstock.
JAPAN is one of Asia’s top 10 countries in terms of international tourist arrivals in 2017 and it’s showing no signs of slowing down.
At least not for the next five years or so, with Tokyo hosting the 2020 Olympics. Japan will continue enjoying a surge in inbound travelers for sure.
In 2016, there were about 40 million departures from Japan, including 17 million by Japanese nationals.
In 2017, the country attracted a record 28.68 million tourists, reflecting the sixth consecutive yearly increase. As for departures, Japan saw around 45.2 million leaving its shores in the same year.
On top of strong promotional pushes by the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO), the East Asian country already welcomes a steady stream of travelers ready to check out its dark tourism, sakura season, food tourism, heritage tourism, night tourism, fall foliage, and a whole lot more.
But what’s really driving the tourists in Japan these days? It’s not just tourism campaigns and guidebooks for sure.
Source: Shutterstock.
Destinations that are more off the beaten track like Nagano, the capital city of Nagano Prefecture in the Chūbu region of Japan for example, saw more than one million visitors last year.
Which is every bit impressive for the landlocked area as it marks a 36-fold increase in just three years.
How did this happen? First, CNN described Nagano as one of Japan’s most beautiful places, which spurred an influx of postings featuring Nagano’s sights flooding Instagram.
Since then, Instagram’s numbers have seen a steep increase, with Nagano becoming one of the most active markets on the platform.
Zenkoji Temple, one of the most important and popular temples in Nagano, stores the first Buddhist statue ever to be brought into Japan. Source: Shutterstock.
As of June 20, 2018, Instagram has reached one billion monthly active users.
And a majority of these users turn to the Facebook-owned photo-sharing app to match #ootd coordinations, decide where to eat, get suggestions on things to do, and add things to their travel bucket list.
“Instagram is different from other social media because users are the ones taking the initiative to post and spread pictures, not the local municipalities,” Travel And Tour World quoted marketing firm Full Speed Inc.’s Kazukiyo Yonemura of Full Speed Inc. as saying.
Source: Shutterstock.
For Nagano alone, there are more than a handful of Instagram hashtags chalking up thousands of posts such as:
City officials expressed their sheer surprise to see people of all ages visiting the mountains to get a shot of its shrine, with the mass crowds leading to four-hour-long traffic jams.
“We widened roads, built toilets and increased parking from 24 to more than 100 spaces this April,” Nagano city tourism division’s Erika Watanabe said.
The multiple foreign currencies, 27 to be exact, found in the shrine’s offertory box proved that many of the visitors were from overseas.
Last year, Instagram joined hands with the JNTO to introduce a new hashtag, #UnknownJapan, which led to more than five million foreign visitors sharing posts.

What’s the fate of Khao San Road’s food stalls?

Posted by - August 1, 2018

BANGKOK’S Khao San Road has been a marvel among backpackers for decades, but the area is changing drastically and locals aren’t happy about it.
The area is known throughout the world for its cheap booze, even cheaper clothes to stave off a visit to the laundrette, colorful tuk-tuks, and an array of Thailand’s most tempting culinary offerings.
A post shared by タツヤ ナカムラ (@selecta_cv) on Jul 30, 2018 at 7:26pm PDT
Over time, the street has also welcomed a McDonald’s and a Starbucks. But these chains, combined with hordes of travelers, aren’t what locals and angry about.
Recently, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) banned food vendors along Khao San Road from operating outside the hours of 6pm and 12am.
The ban was slapped on the stall owners for BMA to regulate hygiene, monitor traffic, create parking space for ambulances and return the sidewalks, which the stalls currently occupy, to pedestrians.
Why Thailand might make travel insurance compulsory The new regulation is set to affect around 300 workers and slash their income in half as their current business hours run from 10am to 1am.
But the vendors are refusing to accept the decision and have handed a petition to Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-o-cha asking him to suspend the district’s ban.
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Khao San Road Street Vendor Association President Yada Pornpetrumpa told The Nation that all of the street’s vendors would set up their stalls after a big clean up today (Aug 1, 2018) in an act of defiance.
Pornpetrumpa added that the task might be “impossible” as local police are being sent to control the situation.
However, Chanasongkram (the local area) Police Station Superintendent Pol Colonel Chakkit Chosoongnoen told The Nation traffic would remain the same as any other day.
The world’s best beach party destinations revealed A member of the Street Vendors Association spoke to The Nation on the basis of anonymity and explained she didn’t think that people would want to shop in the evening, expressing they were “hours for relaxing.”
The BMA plans to relocate the stalls to designated areas on roads, but the vendors claimed this to be a health hazard if the roads were to flood.
A post shared by タツヤ ナカムラ (@selecta_cv) on Jul 30, 2018 at 7:26pm PDT
There is also a real risk that travelers will disassociate Khao San Road as being a center for partying and meeting fellow wanderers, and choose to spend their money elsewhere entirely.
Afterall, Bangkok isn’t short of nightlife.
The post What’s the fate of Khao San Road’s food stalls? appeared first on Travel Wire Asia.

The world’s best Chinatowns that aren’t in China

Posted by - August 1, 2018

MOST METROPOLITAN destinations in the world host little cultural enclaves such as Little India, Koreatown, Vietnamese suburb, Japantown, and perhaps the most popular town of the kind, Chinatown.
Whether you’re in Cuba or San Francisco, the concept of a Chinatown is the same across the board: an ethnic enclave of Chinese people located outside of mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, or Taiwan.
It’s often a unifying factor for the Chinese in the area, offering Chinese-themed shopping centers and markets, Cantonese restaurants and cafes, decorated in giddying lanterns and flashing lights, and is often the place to be to celebrate festivities such as Chinese New Year.
The heart of heritage: A glimpse of Bangkok’s Chinatown If you’re Chinese, no matter where you are, a Chinatown will make you feel right at home. And for travelers, a Chinatown is simply a taste of China.
Chinatowns are usually found in an urban setting, so don’t expect peace and quiet if you plan to take a stroll down the cramped streets. Do, however, enjoy being in between all the action in the old and the new, as tradition and modernity blend together to become one.
Here are some of the world’s best Chinatowns that aren’t in China:
Manila, The Philippines Located in the Binondo district of Manila, the Philippines’ Chinatown has influence that extends beyond Quiapo, Santa Cruz, San Nicolas.
Considered the world’s oldest Chinatown, it was established in 1594 by Spaniards as a settlement near Intramuros for the Catholic Chinese.
Source: Shutterstock.
Aside from its Filipino-Chinese businesses, Binondo is also famous for The Umbrella Alley where street food is aplenty and historical sites such as the Seng Guan Temple and the Kuang Kong Temple.
Niu Che Shui, Singapore Niu Che Shui, which means “ox”, “cart”, and “water”, Singapore’s Chinatown was once an enclave for the island city-state’s immigrant population.
Today, Niu Che Shui is a sharp but pleasing contrast to the high-rise buildings that surround the area and is heavily visited by both locals and tourists.
Source: Shutterstock.
From its historic ornate Chinese and Buddhist temples to the traditional medicinal halls to the bustling street market and food streets, as well as the hip new watering holes and lifestyle shops, there’s never a dull moment here.
Bangkok, Thailand The sights, sounds, and smells of Yaowarat area will be an assault on any visitor’s senses but in all the best ways.
Get ready for an adventure when you stroll down many of Thailand’s Chinatown in Bangkok and sample the treats from its street food vendors, while occasionally whipping out your camera to take shots for the ‘gram.
Source: Shutterstock.
Yaowarat’s fascinating mix of Chinese and Thai cultures sets it apart from other Chinatowns in the world and it’s not an experience that you should miss.
Kolkata, India Located in the eastern part of Kolkata, Tiretta Bazaar was established in the early 19th century and was once home to 20,000 ethnic Chinese Indian nationals.
Today, the area is still very much loved, dotted with Chinese restaurants that offer traditional Chinese cuisine and Indian-influenced Chinese food.
Source: Shutterstock.
During Chinese New Year, throngs of Chinese Indians flock to Tiretta Bazaar to celebrate and also to witness the lion dance performances that continue to be held every year.
Yokohama, Japan Located in Yokohama, just south of Tokyo, the Yokohama Chinatown has a history that spans about 150 years long and a population of about 3,000 to 4,000 Chinese people.
Established not long after Tokyo opened its port to foreign trade in 1859, it’s the largest Chinatown in Japan and also in Asia, and one of the largest in the world.
Source: Shutterstock.
Yokohama Chinatown is home to over 200 restaurants serving Japan-influence Chinese cuisine, an eight-story entertainment mall and theme park, Chinese grocery and medicine stores, and two elaborate Chinese temples.
Melbourne, Australia In Australia, the Chinese community is well-represented, especially in Sydney and Melbourne. In fact, Melbourne’s Chinatown is popularly known as the longest continuous Chinese settlement in the western world and the oldest Chinatown in the southern hemisphere.
It was established upon the arrival of Chinese immigrants during the Victorian gold rush of the early 1850s, a period of extreme prosperity for the Australian colony.
Source: Shutterstock.
Home to many Chinese restaurants, cultural venues, businesses, places of worship, architectural heritage and annual festivals, Melbourne’s Chinatown is a major tourist attraction.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia At the heart of Malaysia where the city never sleeps is a lively and colorful destination with sprawling flea markets, beautiful temples, and quirky art galleries. It has to be Chinatown.
The large covered market is known for its fashion shops selling both must-have items as well as designer rip-offs, handicraft and souvenir stalls, as well as stalls dishing up delectable Chinese food and refreshing beverages.
Source: Shutterstock.
Shopaholics will love haggling for and scoring dirt-cheap steals and deals whilst other travelers shouldn’t miss this mindboggling sightseeing activity.
The post The world’s best Chinatowns that aren’t in China appeared first on Travel Wire Asia.

In pictures: The best of Bali

Posted by - July 30, 2018

LOCATED at the westernmost end of the Lesser Sunda Islands with Java to the west and Lombok to the east, Bali is one of Southeast Asia’s most enchanting islands.
The island has seen a significant rise in tourists since the 1980s and makes up for most of the tourist numbers to Indonesia. In fact, tourism-related businesses make up 80 percent of its economy.
Singaporeans seem to love this Indonesian island a lot Home to the biggest Hindu population in Indonesia, Bali boasts a multitude of exotic religious sites set against stunning natural backdrops such as the cliffside Uluwatu Temple and the Besakih Temple.
Travelers will enjoy the island’s warm hospitality and highly developed arts, including traditional and modern dance, sculpture, painting, leather, metalworking, and music as well.
Aside from cultural and spiritual charm, the island is also known for the beachside city of Kuta with lively bars; popular resort towns Seminyak, Sanur, and Nusa Dua; cliff-guarded “hidden” shores of Uluwatu, Padang Padang, Dreamland, and Bingin; and yoga and meditation retreats.
Whether you fancy taking a walk along its chic cafe-lined streets or shopping at one of its many designer boutiques or hitting one of its many world-class diving and surfing spots, Bali promises there will never be a dull moment.
By sunset, as the night rolls in, the island pulsates with exciting clubbing venues with packed dance floors spread throughout the southern regions of Kuta, Legian, and Seminyak.
It’s almost impossible to discover all of Bali on one trip alone.
Take a look at all that Bali has to offer:
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The post In pictures: The best of Bali appeared first on Travel Wire Asia.

5 new restaurants in Singapore get Michelin-starred

Posted by - July 26, 2018

TRAVELERS who are led by their stomachs would be pleased to know that the Michelin Guide Singapore 2018 has put more Michelin-starred restaurants on the table.
This adds to the existing list of eateries that was announced last year.
Ready to chow down at Singapore’s Michelin Guide Street Food Festival? “Five restaurants received their very first Michelin star in the third edition of Michelin Guide Singapore, bringing the number of one-starred-restaurants in Singapore to 34,” the Michelin Guide wrote on its website.
“There are no restaurants celebrated with three stars this year, the restaurants with two stars last year kept their accolades.”
For the uninitiated, the prestigious annual guidebook sets a standard of excellence with its star rankings and Bib Gourmand selections.
It takes into consideration elements such as product quality, preparation and flavors, the chef’s personality as revealed through his or her cuisine, value for money, and consistency over time across the entire menu.
Source: Shutterstock.
The criteria for the star rankings, which was established in 1936, are as follows:
*: “Une très bonne table dans sa catégorie” (A very good restaurant in its category)
**: “Table excellente, mérite un détour” (Excellent cooking, worth a detour)
***: “Une des meilleures tables, vaut le voyage” (Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey)
This year, the Michelin Guide Singapore 2018 awarded a total of 39 restaurants on the island with Michelin stars.
Get to know the five which have been newly-minted with one star:
Burnt Ends “Modern Australian barbecue restaurant Burnt Ends, which opened in May 2013 in the Chinatown neighborhood, is famous for its open-concept kitchen with custom-made grills.”
“The four tonne, dual cavity ovens and the three elevation grills heat up to over 1,700 degrees and are fired by coal, apple or almond wood.”
“Grilled beef accompanied by marmalade and pickles, and the buns with beef marrow particularly appealed to the Michelin inspectors.”
A post shared by Burntends_SG (@burntends_sg) on Jul 19, 2017 at 8:21pm PDT
Address: 20 Teck Lim Road, Singapore 088391.
Nouri “At Nouri’s open kitchen, chef owner Ivan Brehm creates seasonal and internationally inspired cuisine. Brehm has worked in the finest kitchens in the world, including Per Se in New York, Hibiscus in London and Mugaritz in the Basque Country.”
“Brehm had also joined Heston Blumenthal to serve as the Development Chef at the Experimental Kitchen at The Fat Duck for 4 years.”
“He is best known for leading The Kitchen at Bacchanalia in Singapore to its first Michelin Star in 2016 when he was the restaurant’s executive chef.
“Inspectors noted the “Bread and Bouillon” dish, which combines a leavened rye bread, a silky cheese, and a vegetable broth, as an unforgettable specialty.”
A post shared by Restaurant Nouri (@restaurantnouri) on Jan 23, 2018 at 2:43am PST
Address: 72 Amoy Street, Singapore 069891.
Sushi Kimura “One star has also been awarded to Sushi Kimura at Orchard Road in Palais Renaissance.”
“Sushi Kimura is a 22-seater fine-dining sushi-ya, helmed by Tomoo Kimura, who has spent two decades crafting his fine art while serving an apprenticeship under his sushi master in Tokyo.”
“He rose to become the executive chef at several fine-dining and Michelin-starred sushi-yas before deciding to make his maiden foray as a Master Chef with the opening of Sushi Kimura.”
“Inspectors took note of an abalone dish, cooked for eight hours in sake, as one of the most remarkable creations of this establishment.”
A post shared by Sushi Kimura Singapore (@sushikimurasg) on May 23, 2018 at 3:51am PDT
Address: 390 Orchard Road, #01-07 Palais Renaissance Singapore 238871.
Ma Cuisine “Ma Cuisine, located in a spacious double shophouse along Craig Road was also awarded one Michelin star.”
“The young French owners have curated a collection of over 600 labels from diverse terroirs from wine-producing regions in France to more uncommon regions like Hungary and even Lebanon.”
“Chef Mathieu Escoffier who takes charge of the kitchen sends out rustic French fare that will transport you to the vineyards and rolling hills of Beaune in Burgundy.”
A post shared by Ma Cuisine (@macuisine1996) on Apr 20, 2018 at 12:51am PDT
Address: 38 Craig Rd, Singapore 089676.
Jiang-Nan Chun “Jiang-Nan Chun, led by chef Tim Lam, has been noted for ‘traditional Cantonese cuisine of great finesse’.”
“Inspectors highlighted fried chicken with lime sauce as one of the most emblematic dishes in the restaurant.”
“Chef Tim Lam used to work in Macau and led Ying, a Cantonese restaurant in Melco Resorts & Entertainment’s Altira Macau complex, to their one star in 2017. He joined Jiang-Nan Chun late last year.”
A post shared by Johnathan Giang (@free.the.umami) on Dec 2, 2017 at 6:34pm PST
Address: 190 Orchard Blvd, Singapore 248646.
The post 5 new restaurants in Singapore get Michelin-starred appeared first on Travel Wire Asia.

In pictures: Sri Lanka’s captivating Colombo

Posted by - July 25, 2018

SRI LANKA’S tourism board is ramping up efforts to ensure that tourists visit the island even during offseason.
In order to do so, its Tourism Promotion Bureau is casting its net far and wide to capture the attention of potential tourists in China, India, and the Middle East.
Sri Lanka plans to clear illegal structures to build tourism hub The Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau will be rolling out its first campaign from September to November before the winter starts, according to Tourism Minister John Amaratunga.
The mega campaign will promote special tour packages on offer during Sept 1, 2018, to Nov 30, 2018, to attract Chinese, Indian, and Middle Eastern tourists.
September to November is ordinarily a slow period for Sri Lanka, as the monsoon more or less affects the whole country. However, it’s not always predictable and sometimes it never comes at all.
What you should know about traveling during the monsoon season Sri Lanka’s tourism industry was once heavily scarred by a 30-year civil conflict known as the Sri Lankan Civil War, which caused significant hardships for the population, environment, and the economy of the country.
Since signing a permanent cease-fire agreement in 2002, the country worked its way to becoming one of the leading industries.
However, in December 2004, the Indian Ocean tsunami struck Sri Lanka killing more than 35,000 people and left the country’s southern coastline looking like a wasteland.
It presented the Sri Lankan tourism industry with a substantial loss, estimated at US$250 million. This only meant that the nation had to be more resilient than ever in the recovery process.
Today, the country is dubbed as one of the world’s greatest tourist hot spots by several international publications.
Source: Shutterstock.
Thinking of planning a trip to Sri Lanka? Start with visiting its must-see historical capital and ocean city, Colombo.
Having been ruled successively by the Portuguese, Dutch, and British in the past, Colombo is blessed with architecture that represents the heritage of its previous rulers.
From mixed colonial buildings with high-rises to glossy new hotel complexes, to stylish galleries and shops and shopping malls, Colombo’s cosmopolitan side has a character like no other.
Food is in abundance as well, with restaurants serving up delicious local eats, carts selling a mouthwatering rainbow of street chow, and tiny convivial cafes offering great spaces to chat over coffee.
Source: Shutterstock.
Be sure to set out to explore on foot as well, as the island has been a center of Buddhist scholarship and learning, with around 6,000 Buddhist monasteries and approximately 15,000 monks.
One of the must-visit locations on Sri Lankan soil is the Gangaramaya Vihara, one of the most venerable temples in the country. Its beautiful facade has been decorated with wonderful brass work, stone carvings, and other Buddhist art.
The other is the sprawling Viharamahadevi Park, the oldest and largest park in Colombo. Named after named after Queen Viharamahadevi, the mother of King Dutugamunu who reigned from 161 BC to 137 BC, the park features a series of water fountains, a mini zoo, a children’s play area, and a giant Buddha statue.
But don’t just let us talk you through it. Take a look at what Sri Lanka’s captivating Colombo has to offer:
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Meanwhile, according to recent statistics from Sri Lanka’s Tourism Ministry, tourist arrivals recorded a growth of 15.3 percent during the first half of 2018 compared to the same period last year.
If the mega campaign is successful, it will be repeated annually, and a similar campaign will be also launched from March to July.
The post In pictures: Sri Lanka’s captivating Colombo appeared first on Travel Wire Asia.

How this LGBTQ+ nightclub in India became a movement

Posted by - June 26, 2018

WHAT WOULD YOU GET if you threw class, fashion, music, champagne, and a rainbow in a large room and mixed it all up?
Kitty Su.
Here’s what you should know if you’re LGBTQ+ and traveling to Asia Founded by Indian hotelier and avid traveler Keshav Suri and his partner Cyril, a Frenchman who “loved to explore new worlds,” Kitty Su at The Lalit New Delhi was influenced by the LGBTQ+ scenes that they had seen everywhere from Argentina to New York to Shanghai.
Rooted in happy pride, Kitty Su is India’s most inclusive nightclub, often packed to the brim with likeminded LGBTQ+ revelers with not a moment of no love-for-all vibe in the air.
“The sophisticated elegance of Kitty Su became a beacon to which all kinds of people – drag queens hailing from Ambala or Chandigarh, transgender personalities and differently abled musicians and artists – could flock, secure in the knowledge that they were in a safe space, at last,” Suri shared with Conde Nast Traveller.
In India, where homosexuality is seen as “shameful,” one man is changing things up with a nightclub. Source: Kitty Su.
“In the last three years, Kitty Su has grown beyond being just a haven for the LGBTQ community.”
But it hasn’t always been rainbows and butterflies for Suri.
Post-traversing through Milan, Rome, Florence, Venice, New York, and China and soaking up the sensation of pure love and acceptance, then going home to India was “sometimes frustrating.”
All that euphoria and empowerment dissipates in a blink of an eye as the reality hits them.
The LGBTQ community dance and celebrate at a pride march. Source: Shutterstock.
Same-sex relationships, marriages, and sexual activities are illegal in India, and its people aren’t tolerant of LGBTQ people.
Homosexuality is seen as “shameful,” and those who are would usually face discrimination from families and friends.
India criminalized homosexuality until 2009 when the High Court of Delhi declared section 377 of the Indian Penal Code invalid. In 2013, India reinstated its ban on homosexuality, making it a criminal offense punishable by imprisonment up to life.
Due to the lack of understanding and prejudice against LGBTQ+ people, coupled with the spreading of misinformation, the community often falls victim to violence.
Reports of violence against LGBTQ people, including honor killings, attacks, torture, and beatings of the LGBTQ community is common in India. Source: Shutterstock.
In May, a transgender woman was killed and three others seriously injured when they were attacked by a mob of angry locals acting on rumors that the women were child traffickers in the Indian city of Hyderabad.
The women were begging in the southern suburb of Chandrayanagutta when they were set upon.
“They were begging for money from some shopkeepers in Chandrayanagutta at 11pm when some unruly youths started saying they had come to kidnap children,” Hyderabad (South Zone) deputy commissioner of police V.Satyanarayana told CNN.
Up to 20 people took part in the attack, while a crowd of up to 200 people stood by egging them on.
LGBT activists hold a long rainbow-colored flag demanding equality during Queer Swabhimana Yatra 2017 in Hyderabad, India. Source: Shutterstock.
“Homophobia is a global phenomenon, but in India, the fear of arrest for a same-sex inter-racial couple like us is very real. Wherever we go, this fear accompanies us, a paranoia that can feel like a noose is always hovering,” Suri wrote.
One fateful night, however, mid-conversation with Cyril, Suri was empowered to break free from the noose and change things up.
“Over the years, all our travels had demonstrated to us that members of the LGBTQ community had to come out and show their strength and demands to pave the way for mainstream acceptance. Despite the pervasive homophobia in China, for instance, there was a vibrant, high-end LGBTQ nightlife scene in Shanghai, where people could act freely and enjoy themselves with like-minded and open people,” Suri explained.
“It irked me, and I immediately thought, “If China can, why can’t we?”
A post shared by Prateek Sachdeva (@bettanaanstop) on Jun 10, 2018 at 4:22am PDT
And that was how Kitty Su, a product of love, labor, a pinch of paranoia, and more importantly, a whole lot of pride came to be.
Here are seven things you need to know about the nightclub-turned-movement:
It offers the finest high-octane beats ranging from techno to commercial, and house to dubstep. It’s the only nightclub from India to feature in DJ Mag’s Top 100 Clubs poll for three consecutive years. For two years in a row, Kitty Su was awarded the Best Night Club in the Capital. World’s Best Bars called Kitty Su “an absolute ground-breaker on the New Delhi nightlife scene,” being the first to introduce a VIP area. The club is also home to a trendy tattoo parlor and boutique. Kitty Su often promotes and champions its motto, #PureLove, across its social media platforms. It’s open three days a week including Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Kitty Su is located at Basement, The Lalit New Delhi, Barakhamba Avenue, New Delhi, India.
LGBT escape: Asia pushes pink tourism Aside from Kitty Su, Suri also manages Lalit Group of Hotels’ properties as the company’s executive director. He has since made the properties more inclusive and hopes that in time he will be able to help the community that he’s a part of, the much needed basic human rights that they deserve.
In April, Suri led a petition with the Supreme Court, challenging Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalizes a consensual relationship between adults of the same sex.
The post How this LGBTQ+ nightclub in India became a movement appeared first on Travel Wire Asia.

This Thailand-based platform will match travelers with locals

Posted by - June 26, 2018

MODERN DAY TRAVELERS seeking off the beaten path attractions and experiences at their destinations like a true local will appreciate TakeMeTour.
Created by robotics engineering graduate Taro Amornched, the online platform aims to match travelers with locals – but not in the sleazy Tinder kind of way.
Bali’s ‘Airbnb Experiences’ second most popular in Asia Specifically, it matches travelers with locals who can show them around.
So whether it’s a gastronomical tour of Bangkok’s Chinatown, a hiking trip along Japan’s nature trails, or a dance in a sunflower field your heart desires, TakeMeTour will connect you with the experts with all the know-how.
“On our website, a traveler can browse tours, itineraries, and experiences that are offered by locals. Currently, we have more than 20,000 local experts from 55 different cities. It’s like having a friend, some people you can trust, to show you around,” Amornched said in an interview with The Jay Kim Show.
Let’s get started Log in to the website and select a city you’d like to visit.
Source: TakeMeTour.
Then, choose from the list of one-day tours and experiences available. Once you find what you like, pick a date on the calendar or chat with said local for availability.
When all details are confirmed, book with them directly. Bookings will only be valid once the payments are made through Take Me Tour with a valid credit card.
It’s like making one new local friend with every booking.
“All the local experts speak Thai and English. We have been focusing on English-speaking travelers in the past two years, but starting this year, we will start focusing on a third language. That means you would see local experts who can speak Japanese, Chinese, and French as a starting point,” Amornched added.
About safety and security Is it okay to throw caution to the wind and simply follow a local around in a foreign country?
How safe is it, really?
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“We have very strict security measures. We check the ID, bank account, criminal record, and the like to make sure these local experts are actually legitimate. We also make sure we know how to find them,” Amornched explained.
Newly-listed tours will go through stages of approvals by both TakeMeTour as well as its network of bloggers to assure they’re meeting quality standards.
What if things go bad?
“If something bad happens, we can still make refunds. We also provide accident insurance for both travelers and local experts,” Amornched said.
Every listing also includes reviews from previous guests so travelers can gauge if the experience is something that they’d like.
Healing on a holiday: Cheap rehabs boost Thailand’s medical tourism Currently, the Asian countries that TakeMeTour covers are Thailand, Cambodia, and Japan. The platform is looking to expand to Myanmar next month.
Check it out here.
The post This Thailand-based platform will match travelers with locals appeared first on Travel Wire Asia.

Malaysia vs. Singapore: Food fight

Posted by - June 25, 2018

IS MALAYSIAN FOOD the same as Singaporean food? Which country does it better? Who really owns chicken rice?
It’s an age-old food fight between the neighboring countries that will never truly end.
Food tourism: Where are the top food destinations in Asia? Malaysia and Singapore often get compared because of their proximity to each other and similar demographics. Much more so than Thailand and Malaysia.
Although the assumption is the two countries are quite literally joined at the hip, the differences between their cost of living, the standard of living, palates, and cultures are what sets them apart.
This includes food, of course.
Jalan Alor in Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur is famous for many food stalls and outdoor dining. Source: Shutterstock.
Often, Malaysians and Singaporeans debate over the quality of their food and for years, the nations have been staking claim over some identical dishes and what they think is rightfully theirs.
Case in point: The well-loved Hainanese chicken rice. Said to be one of the world’s 50 most delicious foods (according to CNN GO), the dish has been caught in this tug of war for decades, with Singapore calling it their national dish.
“(They say) chicken rice is theirs (and) if we’re not careful, ‘char koay teow‘ will become theirs (one day too),” Business Insider quoted Malaysian Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng as saying.
‘Char koay teow’ is a popular noodle dish in Penang, Malaysia. It’s usually stir-fried over very high heat with light and dark soy sauce, chili, a small quantity of ‘belacan’ (shrimp paste), whole prawns, deshelled blood cockles, bean sprouts, chopped Chinese chives, and egg. Source: Shutterstock.
Those who don’t know any better may think that Malaysian food and Singaporean food are one and the same. As they always say, “If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.”
But here are some popular Malaysian and Singaporean dishes that are actually different.
Wantan mee Wantan mee (wonton noodles) is a Cantonese noodle dish which is popular in Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand.
The Malaysian version of wantan mee. Source: Shutterstock.
Malaysia: The noodles are either served in a hot broth, garnished with leafy vegetables, and wonton dumpling, or relatively dry, dressed with oyster sauce, and garnished with chopped spring onions, with wontons and soup in a separate bowl.
Singapore: The dish includes noodles, leafy vegetables, barbecued pork, and bite-sized wonton. However, the Singapore version uses less soya cause and is often served with chili ketchup.
Bak kut teh Bak kut teh (Hokkien words which mean “meat bone tea”) is a pork rib dish cooked in broth popularly served in Malaysia and Singapore, and also in neighboring areas like Riau Islands and Southern Thailand.
Bak kut teh is done differently in Singapore. Source: Shutterstock.
Malaysia: Usually cooked in a claypot, bak kut teh contains a variety of herbs, pork meat and ribs, and soy sauce creating a more fragrant, textured and darker soup.
Singapore: Ordinarily, bak kut teh restaurants serve the Teochew style of clear soup bak kut teh, which is light in color but uses more pepper and garlic in the soup.
Hokkien mee Hokkien mee is a dish in Malaysian and Singaporean cuisine that has its origins in the cuisine of China’s Fujian province.
There are distinctive differences between Singapore and Malaysia’s versions of hokkien mee. Source: Shutterstock.
Malaysia: Cooked over a raging charcoal fire, it’s a dish of thick yellow noodles braised in thick dark soy sauce with pork, squid, fish cake and cabbage as the main ingredients and cubes of lard.
Singapore: It’s a stir-fried dish of egg noodles and rice noodles in fragrant stock (made from stewing prawn heads, meat, clams, and dried fish). It also has a lighter color than the Malaysian version and is usually served with lime and sambal (hot sauce) for that extra zing.
Laksa Laksa is a spicy dish popular in the Peranakan cuisine, consists of noodles chicken, prawn or fish, served in soup. It’s found in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and southern Thailand.
Asam laksa is a sour, fish and tamarind-based soup with thick rice noodles. Source: Shutterstock.
Malaysia: There are various types of laksa across the country, even some state-specific recipes such as Asam laksa (Penang), Sarawak laksa (Sarawak), Laksa Kelantan (Kelantan), Laksa Johor (Johor), curry laksa, Nyonya laksa (Malacca), and laksam (Kelantan and Terengganu), just to name a few.
Singapore: The country’s variant of curry laksa is better known as its local “Katong” version. It’s a spicy soup stock the color of a flaming sunset, flavored with coconut milk and dried shrimp, and topped with ingredients like cockles, prawns, and fishcake.
Don’t make these cultural Pho-pas when eating in Asia The countries aren’t always at loggerheads though. As much as food is one of the reasons why Malaysians and Singaporeans can’t see eye-to-eye, food is also a big uniting factor.
For example, Singapore and Malaysia banded together with Indonesia in a furor over MasterChef judge Gregg Wallace’s crispy chicken rendang comment.
The post Malaysia vs. Singapore: Food fight appeared first on Travel Wire Asia.

Soak up culture while sipping on coffee in charming Hanoi

Posted by - June 14, 2018

CONTRARY TO POPULAR BELIEF, the capital of Vietnam is not Ho Chi Minh (more commonly known as Saigon).
It’s Hanoi, a metropolis located in northern region of the country.
Vietnam’s tourism sector spreads its wings, aims for the sky The “Hanoi vs. Ho Chi Minh” debate is not new, but if you’re hankering for a holiday destination with history (Hanoi’s stretches back 4,000 years while Ho Chi Minh City is at just 300 years), coffee, culture, and charm, then Hanoi should be your top priority.
Known for its centuries-old architecture and a rich culture with Southeast Asian, Chinese, and French influences, Hanoi’s tourism has been gaining traction as of late. This is in large part due to the rise of low-cost carriers such as AirAsia, Scoot, and VietJet, making the charming destination easier to reach from just about anywhere in the world.
It’s also the second cheapest Asian country to travel around, according to Skyscanner, which makes a Hanoi vacation a bang for the buck.
In fact, VIETNAMNET Bridge reported that Hanoi served more than 13 million tourists in the first five months of 2018, a year-on-year rise of 10 percent.
What draws people to Hanoi? Plenty of things.
The main names that will turn up in search results when you Google “tourist attractions in Hanoi” include (but not limited to) the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long, water puppet theatre, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, The Perfume Pagoda, Ngoc Son temple, Dong Suan market, Vietnam Museum of Ethnology, Hanoi Opera House, Ba Vi National Park, and the Temple of Literature.
The Temple of Literature entrance decorated with flags and lanterns for the mid-autumn festival in Hanoi. Source: Shutterstock.
Let’s not forget the heart of Hanoi, the chaotic but endearing Old Quarter, where Hoan Kiem Lake (Turtle Lake) is.
The fascination never ends as you walk along the narrow streets of the Old Quarter that are dotted with well-preserved colonial buildings. Scooters and bikes may whizz past you carelessly as you explore the town. Just take deep breaths and stay on your path because the area is best explored on foot.
The streets are arranged by trade, which makes shopping a breeze. Sidewalk food stalls selling pho (rice noodles with herbs and meat in broth) and bahn mi (baguette sandwich various savory ingredients) are a dime a dozen, and you can fill your tummy with satisfyingly delicious Vietnamese food for pennies.
Heads up though, the kiddy-sized low stools and tables will take some getting used to. But nothing an adventurous traveller can’t handle, for sure.
Stuff your bahn mi any number of protein options, from sweet minced pork to sardines and even pate. Source: Shutterstock.
Be sure to wash it all down with a generous serving of Vietnamese ca phe (coffee), famed for the way it’s made – with a small metal drip filter. For those who are particularly bold, the yummy ca phe sua chua (yogurt coffee) is a must-try.
Don’t forget to take a leisurely stroll at Hoan Kiem Lake, a central feature in Hanoi.
Legend has it that Hoan Kiem Lake is where the Golden Turtle God (Kim Qui) lives. In reality, the lake is home to large soft-shell turtles. If you’re planning to visit, don’t forget to walk across the striking red Huc Bridge to get to Ngoc Son Temple on the small island in the center.
By day, Hoan Kiem Lake bursts with activities, as it’s a popular place for joggers, couples on a date, the elderly practicing tai chi, locals line dancing, and families enjoying themselves.
Hoan Kiem Lake at night with the striking red Huc Bridge. Source: Shutterstock.
After sunset, however, the lake becomes beautifully illuminated, giving it a romantic atmosphere.
What else is there to do? Its prime location makes Ha Long Bay, a Unesco World Heritage Site and the most visited tourist site in the north of Vietnam, very accessible. The bay is only about 170km east of Hanoi.
“Ha Long” means “Bay of Descending Dragons”, but it’s likely that no actual dragons were spotted there. It’s more famous for its scenic views, as it boasts hundreds (1969, to be exact) of limestone islets in different shapes and sizes rising up from the water.
Hạ Long Bay is known for its emerald waters and hundreds of towering limestone islands topped by rainforests. Source: Shutterstock.
To really experience Ha Long Bay, stay on board a cruise for a night. It’ll give you ample time to explore the bay on a smaller bamboo boat, visit hidden caves and floating villages, kayak or even swim if you’d like, before retiring and falling asleep beneath the stars on the top deck of your cruise.
How to get there? There are no direct flights to Ha Long Bay but getting there is fairly simple and straightforward.
The most popular and inexpensive way is to get on a local coach. The journey should take you about four to five hours long. Prices are anywhere between US$3.50 to US$7. Get your ticket to your ride here.
Alternatively, you can hire a private car and have yourself a little road trip from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay. Prices depend on car and day (can be higher on weekends and holidays) but you should expect to splurge about US$25 to US$65 per day. Go to this website for more information.
There are a number of ways to get to Ha Long Bay from Hanoi. Source: Shutterstock.
Finally, the easiest and most fuss-free option of making your way to Ha Long Bay is to book a cruise package here or here.
Most packages include a roundtrip transfer in which a shuttle will pick you up and drop you off at your hotel’s doorstep.
How to be an eco-friendly, alternative traveler Meanwhile, Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem district launched its own tourism website to promote its tourism potential and attract more tourists to the area.
The Hanoi Department of Tourism has also been working with CNN to give its promotional efforts more mileage via CNN’s “Destination Hanoi” programme.
This year, Hanoi expects to serve more than 25.4 million holidaymakers, including 5.5 million foreigners, which will bring in some VND75.78 trillion (US$3.33 billion) in revenue.
The post Soak up culture while sipping on coffee in charming Hanoi appeared first on Travel Wire Asia.