Why did Thailand’s royal resort set up a giant net?

Posted by - September 21, 2018

Some truths you need to know about Hua Hin island. Source: Shutterstock.
THE pristine island of Hua Hin, located in the southern Thai province of Prachuap Khiri Khan, was Thailand’s first seaside holiday destination.
The quiet fishing village was first discovered by railroad engineers in 1909 before growing into a fashionable escape after the 1920s when the Thai royal family built summer palaces here.
This gave Hua Hin the title of a “royal resort.”
Today, it is a pretty beachside town that is unlike other popular Thai destinations such as Phuket and Pattaya.
Because of the island’s close links with Thai royalty, Hua Hin remains moderately developed without the overcrowding or all-night partying at bars and clubs pulsating with pounding beats.
Its long white sandy beaches, small and laidback town, relaxed vibe, and bountiful of activities make it the perfect destination for families.
Which is why Hua Hin’s authorities scrambled to set up a giant net off its beach recently.
Source: Shutterstock.
In April, 54-year-old Norwegian tourist Werner Danielsen was attacked by a bull shark while swimming at Hua Hin’s Sai Noi beach.
Officials had initially tried to pass off the man’s severe leg injury as being a gash from sharp rocks, according to The Straits Times.
However, the abbot of Wat Tham Khao Tao released video clips showing four sharks swimming off the beach not far from the temple, which pressured officials to reveal the truth.
The Marine and Coastal Resources Department deputy director general Jatuporn Buruphat later confirmed the wound was caused by a shark. Werner suffered tendon damage and received 19 stitches, Bangkok Post reported.
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Shortly after, the officials announced it would be sealing off the beach for at least 20 days due to safety concerns for tourists.
Signs warning people not to swim out further than 20 meters were also erected.
The department quickly jumped into action, announcing plans to install long, floating nets at the beach to demarcate swimming zones. It was finally completed this week.
The net was erected at a depth of three meters covering a demarcated area of 50 by 310 meters from the shore and equipped with buoys to alert boats going into the area and blocks only big fish from coming close to the beach, according to Bangkok Post.
Meanwhile, Hua Hin’s governor said a camera drone would fly patrols over the area to alert officials about any dangers for swimmers.
Hua Hin’s Sai Noi beach is the first beach in Thailand where a shark net has been set up, which would also save swimmers from deadly jellyfish.

Experience traditional Japanese onsen without having to go to Japan

Posted by - September 21, 2018

This onsen resort in Indonesia is tattoo-friendly. Source: The Onsen Hot Spring Resort
FOR travelers to Japan, especially those who are going there for the first time, the onsen, with its own set of etiquettes and beliefs, can be quite an unfamiliar territory.
A good example would be the ban on bathers with tattoos from using onsen facilities in Japan to keep out Yakuza, members of organized crime syndicates who traditionally have elaborate full-body decoration.
By 2015, about 56 percent of onsen operators in Japan have enforced the ban. 13 percent said they would grant access to a tattooed bather but the tattoo has to be covered up.
However, about a seven-hour flight away from the Japanese capital city of Tokyo is an onsen that is tattoo-friendly.
Located in Batu in East Java, Indonesia and set against the backdrop of lush rolling mountains, the The Onsen Hot Spring Resort adopts a traditional Japanese onsen concept.
Upon arrival, guests will be welcomed by a torii (a traditional Japanese gate) as well as a red bridge and a beautiful pond connecting you to Fushimi Restaurant.
The Onsen Hot Spring Resort uses sulfur hot springs that flow from the Songgoriti Temple. The 42 degree Celsius water not only warms the body but also benefits the skin.
In fact, bathing in an onsen has potential to heal sickness and fatigue of body and mind. It improves blood circulation and increases metabolism, and loosens muscles which leads to a relaxation of body and mind.

At the The Onsen Hot Spring Resort, the public hot springs are divided into male and female sections, which each pool accommodating up to 20 people.
Disposable undergarments and camisoles or boxers will be provided so guests will not be required to bathe naked.
The resort also comes with cold water pools, as well as 25 ryokans with their own hot spring baths for those who want a little bit of privacy.
Each ryokan, overlooking a serene scenery, is designed with a real Japanese ambiance, complete with a yukata robe, tea setting, tatami flooring, and comfortable beds. It is available in two- or three-bedroom.
Source: The Onsen Hot Spring Resort
For those who are worried about hygiene, the The Onsen Hot Spring Resort has assured the water is changed every day. However, for safety reasons, guests are not allowed to use their gadgets while bathing in the onsen.
Interested?
The Onsen Hot Spring Resort charges a fee of IDR150,000 (US$10.06) per person for one hour for the public onsen. Visitors who just want to tour the resort without using the onsen will need to pay an entrance fee of IDR50,000 (US$3.37).
For more information, visit the resort’s website.

South Korea on MERS alert: Is it safe to visit?

Posted by - September 13, 2018

What you need to know about South Korea’s first MERS case in three years. Source: Shutterstock.
LAST WEEK, a bunch of passengers on an Emirates flight EK322 arrived at Incheon Airport in South Korea from Dubai.
A 61-year-old male who was on the flight was later diagnosed with the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) after returning home from his visit. This has sent the South Korean health authorities into overdrive in locating people, mostly foreigners, who may have been in contact with the man.
The Korean man had two flights on his return trip – Emirates EK860 from Kuwait to Dubai, and EK322 from Dubai to Seoul. The second flight he was on had about 440 passengers, according to The Korean Herald.
The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said the man took a business trip to Kuwait from Aug 16 to Sept 6 and returned home via the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Friday.
“He visited a local hospital during his stay in Kuwait for diarrhea but showed the same symptom again on his way back home. He was rushed to the emergency room of Samsung Medical Center in southern Seoul upon his arrival at Incheon International Airport,” The Korean Herald reported.
“The Samsung hospital checked the patient in an isolated section of the emergency room and reported him to the health authorities as a suspected case of MERS for showing symptoms of fever, phlegm, and pneumonia. He was then moved to Seoul National University Hospital in central Seoul and tested positive for the disease.”
“The man currently is not in a critical condition and does not have such symptoms as shortness of breath and a decrease in blood pressure, but we have to watch him closely because his conditions may deteriorate in the next one to two weeks judging from our experiences from the previous outbreak,” The Korean Herald quoted Seoul National University Hospital doctor Kim Nam Jung as saying.
The Seoul National University Hospital building in Jongno-gu, Seoul city. Source: Shutterstock.
The South Korean health authorities have since managed to locate 40 or the 50 foreign nationals who may have been in contact with the MERS patient – a feat as foreign travelers in South Korea usually do not have local phone numbers.
They are still searching for the 10 remaining individuals via public surveillance camera footage as well as local accommodation.
Meanwhile, the KCDC has upgraded its National Infectious Disease alert from “blue” to “yellow”. Blue refers to no immediate threat of importing MERS cases to South Korea while “yellow” means domestic important of the disease from abroad has occurred.
KCDC also advised individuals visiting the Middle East to wash their hands frequently and maintain proper personal hygiene, and cautioned against visiting local farms, coming into contact with camels or consuming camel products.
Tourists wearing a surgical face masks during the MERS outbreak in South Korea in 2015. Source: Shutterstock.
This is the first case of MERS diagnosed in South Korea in three years. The disease, which has no known cure or vaccine, is caused by a novel coronavirus carried by camels and has a fatality rate of 20 to 46 percent.
In 2015, an outbreak killed 38 people, infected 186 others, and triggered widespread panic from May 2015 to July 2015.
In that period, 100,000 tourist visits to the country were canceled. South Korea’s department store sales decreased by 16.5 percent compared to the same period the year before and retail shops also decreased 3.4 percent.
It is believed that South Korea lost millions in tourism revenue.
For now, South Korea is still safe to visit. If you are visiting sometime soon, carry hand sanitizers and surgical masks with you as preventive measures.
And be sure to seek medical help at the first sign of MERS-like symptoms such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, diarrhea and nausea/vomiting.

‘Sex cult’ yoga retreat in Thailand unravels dark side of wellness tourism

Posted by - September 12, 2018

What you need to knew to know about the controversy that rocked the wellness tourism industry. Source: Shutterstock.
WELLNESS tourism, one the industry’s fastest growing sector with a 10 percent rise this year, promotes travel for one’s health through psychological, physical, or spiritual activities – or all three.
In this super stressed modern world, wellness tourism is highly appealing as it encourages travelers to practice mindfulness and to “find their center.” The positive uptake and exponential growth have made wellness tourism a multi-billion dollar market.
This brand of travelers is mostly carefree and less discerning, with just their wellbeing on their minds. But a recent controversy may have just thrown in the spanner in the works.
Last week, news emerged that 14 tourists have claimed sexual assault by guru at Agama Yoga, a yoga center located on the idyllic island of Koh Phangan in Thailand.
On its website, the wellness paradise described itself as “a true spiritual university whose core principles are centered in bringing the authentic roots of yoga to life through courses, workshops, and retreats, at campuses around the world.”
“We guide students to cultivate clarity and spiritual refinement, thus empowering the individual with a balanced approach to living. Providing support to an aspiring student who is willing to live to their fullest, we provide the roadmap for the journey towards awakening,” it wrote.
Agama Yoga exists under the watchful eyes of its teachers including its charismatic leader “guru” Swami Vivekananda Saraswati, whose real name is Narcis Tarcau.
The center offers yoga courses, a variety of workshops including astrology and metaphysics, retreats, and teacher training.
This includes a Tantra workshop which aims to teach students how to “transform lovemaking into a liberating spiritual experience” and “develop deeper, longer orgasms.”
The workshop gives a basic overview of the major concepts required to start a Tantric practice, including female orgasm. Source: Agama Yoga.
But 16 former pupils and staff (14 women and two men) got more than they bargained for.
According to The Guardian, they said they felt a “sex cult” was operating inside the retreat and that it has been happening for 15 years.
The 14 women, from the UK, Australia, Brazil, US, and Canada spoke to The Guardian on the condition of anonymity. Three claimed they were raped by Tarcau while the rest alleged he sexually assaulted them in the name of helping them achieve enlightenment.
“The alleged assaults included Tarcau penetrating women with his fingers against their will, aggressively groping them, or performing sex acts on them without consent. When they said ‘no,’ the women claim Tarcau would say ‘I know what’s best for you,’ before forcing himself on them,” The Guardian reported.
Both male and female students claimed the culture of inappropriate sexual conduct was “endemic” at Agama Yoga. At least two senior male teachers have also been accused of sexual violence.
But they stayed on for years due to what they claimed was “brainwashing.”
Swami Vivekananda Saraswati, real name is Narcis Tarcau. Source: Agama Yoga.
This is not the first time controversy has rocked the wellness tourism industry.
Last year, yoga teacher Uma Inder was accused of using the world famous Yoga Barn in Ubud, Bali to operate a cult from 2008 until she was fired in 2016.
Like Tarcau, she groomed potential members with promises of “enlightenment”, a process that included verbally and physically assaulting members and sleeping with students.
“She frequently compared herself to Jesus and said she was God, Kal, and Death. Uma told devotees they will feel ‘raped’ by working with her and that they’d actually become Uma while making love.”
Initially, Yoga Barn founder Meghan Pappenheim dismissed the complaints as a “witch hunt” against Uma. However, it was later revealed that Pappenheim had sent Inder a formal “Cessation of Cooperation” letter on May 24, 2016.
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On its Facebook page, Agama Yoga posted up a series of status updates regarding the incident, the earliest being July 26, 2018.
“Considering the severity of these allegations, Swami has taken the decision to step back from all his administrative and teaching responsibilities in order for the situation to be investigated without additional provocation,” it wrote, adding that it will “focus on the important tasks of restructuring our internal policies and reflecting on the current situation.”
Then, on Aug 5, 2018, Agama Yoga head of school and founding member Ananda Maha, whose real name is Dr. Mihaiela Pentiuc took to Facebook to ask, “Is the current media war authentically fought in the name of supporting the women who have been affected or is it aimed at closing down the school?”
Pentiuc added, “We at Agama, we encourage women to come forward. We want to listen, help and assure their privacy. How can we offer these, if the school is constantly demonized? Please let me remind everyone that these allegations are against individuals and not against the school.”
On Aug 11, 2018, the center wrote yet another status claiming a high-profile hate campaign has been launched against Agama Yoga and that “the entire yoga and healthy living community in Koh Phangan is now under threat and scrutiny.
The relentless hatred is spreading like an infectious disease in all vicinity as well as internationally.”
The ‘Rites of Passage for Women’ celebration 2016. Source: Agama Yoga.
Agama Yoga has since launched an independent inquiry.
Meanwhile, Tarcau, as well as the senior male teachers, is believed to have left Koh Phangan after allegations first surfaced in July. Agama Yoga has confirmed it has “removed” all accused male teachers as well.
In its latest Facebook status update, the center said it was also critically reviewing both the entire sexual Tantra curriculum as well as the yoga curriculum and working relentlessly for the reconstruction Agama Yoga.

Asian countries that have declared war on cigarettes

Posted by - September 12, 2018

What you need to know before lighting a cigarette in these Asian countries. Source: Shutterstock.
SMOKING is a looming health epidemic, and Asian countries are taking measures against smoking.
In addition to banning tobacco advertising and slapping graphic images of smoking health hazards on cigarette packaging, a handful of Asian countries have also regulated smoking in indoor public places and more recently, some outdoor public places as well.
This includes children’s playgrounds, exercise areas, carparks, markets, al fresco dining areas, and more.
Last week, the Malaysian Health Ministry announced it would be making smoking at open-air mamak and hawker stalls illegal from December.
The motion was tabled during a sitting at the Parliament by Deputy Health Minister Dr. Lee Boon Chye under the Control of Tobacco Product (Amendment) Regulations 2017.
“This gazettement is Malaysia’s commitment as a member state to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and adheres to the guidelines under Article 8 of the World Health Organisation (WHO),” The Star Online quoted him as saying.
Currently, Malaysia’s Control of Tobacco Product (Amendment) Regulations 2017 prohibits smoking in 21 areas including hospitals, public toilets, lifts, government premises as well as air-conditioned shops and offices. Others include parks and government premises.
It carries a penalty of RM10,000 (US$2,409) or a jail term of not more than two years.
Here are the other countries that have further strengthened some of the strictest tobacco regulation in Asia:
Singapore In July 2016, the island city-state restricted smoking in hawker centers, coffee shops, cafes, and fast food outlets. Establishments with an al fresco dining area are allowed to set aside 10 – 20 percent of the area for smoking, but they would have to be clearly marked to avoid confusion.
The regulations were later extended to bus interchanges and shelters, public toilets, public swimming complexes, entertainment nightspots, all children’s playgrounds, exercise areas, markets, underground and multi-story carparks, ferry terminals and jetties.
It was also extended to non-air conditioned areas in offices, factories, shops, shopping complexes and lift lobbies.
Source: Shutterstock.
Rule breakers will be fined SGD200 (US$145) while the owners of the establishments are fined SGD200 (US$145) and SGD500 (US$363) for a subsequent offense.
Singapore is now looking to phase out tobacco by preventing the supply of tobacco to Singaporeans born from the year 2000.
Japan 50 years ago, around half of Japanese smoked. That has now dropped to 18 percent and smoking areas have been dramatically restricted.
There are no set smoke-free regulations in Japan but smoking is forbidden on the streets of the Chiyoda, Shinagawa, Shinjuku and Nakano wards of Tokyo for reasons of child safety and Tokyo’s wards have the ability to fine people for smoking on the streets.
It is also generally understood that smoking is prohibited on public transport and subway platforms, while above ground train station platforms typically have smoking areas.
Source: Shutterstock.
In 2010, Japan’s Kanagawa Prefecture implemented the nation’s first prefecture-wide smoking ban, banning smoking in public facilities, including hospitals, schools, and government offices. It requires large restaurants and hotels to choose whether to become nonsmoking or create separate smoking areas.
Three months ago, the Japanese capital city of Tokyo passed a tough anti-smoking law that will effectively ban smoking in most of the city’s bars and restaurants in the run-up to the 2020 Summer Olympics.
Hong Kong Under the government’s Smoking (Public Health) Ordinance (Cap. 371), first enacted in 1982, smoke-free regulations to include indoor workplaces, most public places including restaurants, internet cafes, public lavatories, beaches, and most public parks.
It was later extended to some bars, karaoke parlors, saunas, nightclubs, lifts, public transportations, cinemas, concert halls, airport terminals, escalators, shopping centers, department stores, supermarkets, banks, and game arcades.
On the cross-border trains between Hong Kong and mainland China, however, smoking in the restaurant car and the vestibules at the end of the cars are allowed but not in the seating area.
Any person who smokes or carries a lighted tobacco product in a no smoking area will be fined a maximum fine of HKD5,000 (US$637).
However, the Hong Kong government has yet to clarify how this will be enforced against non-Hong Kong ID cardholders and tourists since the offender has 21 days after the ticket issue to pay up.
Indonesia There are approximately 57 million smokers in Indonesia. Of Indonesian people, 63 percent of men and five percent of women reported being smokers, a total of 34 percent of the population.
The smoking restrictions started in the Indonesian capital city of Jakarta, which banned smoking in the mega-metropolis’ restaurants, hotels, office buildings, airports, public transportations, and overall public areas.
Restaurants which want to allow smoking were required to provide a separate smoking space, but only half of the establishments have built separate facilities for smokers.
Source: Shutterstock.
Smoke-free regulations were later extended to Indonesia’s paradise island, Bali. This affected restaurants, hotels, playgrounds, traditional and modern markets, schools, government buildings, public transportation, places of worship and other public places.
Smokers caught doing the deed in smoke-free zones can be reported to the authorities and carries a penalty of IDR50,000 (US$3.36) or a jail term of three months.
South Korea The rules for smoking was not always strict in South Korea, but after discovering that male smoking is among the highest at 36.2 percent among the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, it was clamped down.
The government aims to take down male smoking rate to the OECD average of 29 percent by 2020 by making the country one of the world’s most difficult places to smoke.
This includes significant price hikes, mandatory warning photos on cigarette packs, advertising bans, financial incentives and medical help for quitting.
Smoking is now illegal and strictly prohibited in all bars and restaurants, cafes, internet cafes, government buildings, kindergartens, schools, universities, hospitals, youth facilities, libraries, children’s playgrounds, and private academies.
It is also not allowed at subway or train stations and their platforms and underground pathways, large buildings, theaters, department stores or shopping malls, large hotels and highway rest areas.
The ban also entails a KRW100,000 (US$88.78) fine and up to KRW5 million (US$4,439) fine on shop owners not following the law.
Thailand In November 2002, Thailand rolled out indoor smoking restrictions in all indoor air-conditioned establishments (except entertainment areas) throughout the country.
Tobacco advertising was banned, and cigarettes were required to display graphic pictures since 2005.
Further restrictions were announced in February 2008, banning smoking in both indoor and outdoor establishments open to the public including restaurants, bars, and open-air markets.
Those who fail to comply will be fined THB2,000 (US$60) while establishments face a TBH20,000 (US$609) fine for not enforcing the ban, including not displaying mandated “No smoking” signs. They may also be arrested.
Source: Shutterstock.
Thailand also banned smoking on 20 popular tourist beaches last year in its bid to end pollution caused by discarded cigarette butts. Those caught lighting up could face a year’s imprisonment.
Bhutan This remote Himalayan Kingdom, fondly known as the happiest country in the world, made headlines for becoming the first country in the world to go entirely smoke-free.
In 2004, the national assembly of Bhutan banned the sale of tobacco throughout the country as well as smoking in public places, private offices, and recreation centers like bars and pubs.
Under the law, any individual found selling tobacco can face imprisonment for a period of three to five years.
Bhutan also passed the Tobacco Control Act in 2010, under which smoking cigarettes or chewing tobacco became a non-bailable offense.
Those in possession of tobacco could face imprisonment for a minimum of three years if the person is unable to produce a receipt declaring payment of import duties for the products.

Lainey Loh | @laineyx
A certified daydreamer, when she's not physically travelling, she's often going places in her head. Her first love is coffee & her second, wine – & she accepts bribes in either forms. She's also entirely capable of deep conversations about life & random musings just for laughs, but do excuse her if she appears AWOL mid-chat – she's just going places in her head.

How to grasp the concept of ‘being in the now’ while you travel

Posted by - September 7, 2018

Are you the type of traveler who enjoys doing absolutely nothing on a holiday? It could be good for you. Source: Shutterstock.
THEY always say, “There is no time like the present.”
And that is why “being in the now” is important, especially when you travel.
It sounds simple enough, but for many, it is a hard thing to do because part and parcel of traveling is planning, packing, waiting, a lot of waiting, and going. It is all very overwhelming, and it also muddles your mind.
And by the time you rock up to your desired destination, you are either:
A) Already too exhausted from all the traveling, or
B) Excitedly jumping right into it and getting into the groove of your holiday
Honestly, you have no time to “be in the now,” to just immerse yourself in the calm and live in the moment – especially not if you are busy whipping out your smartphone camera every other minute or so for the ‘gram.
So how can you grasp the concept of “being in the now” while you travel?
Source: Shutterstock.
There are a few simple ways to channel your attention and energy into noticing the things and the sounds around you and appreciating fleeting moments.
And no, it does not require you to learn meditation or be a certified yoga guru or take you a great deal of effort, for that matter.
Here are some easy travel hacks to fully immerse yourself in your vacay:
Do nothing That is right. Staying still and doing absolutely nothing is the easiest way to find pockets of calmness that will enable you to be in the moment.
In your hotel room, lie in bed or lounge on the couch or sprawl on the floor and stare into space. Enjoy the complete silence.
Source: Shutterstock.
Let that sit for a while and take note of how relaxed you already feel because you are not rushing to anywhere or trying to figure out how to get something done.
Listen, really listen Truth: People often confuse the terms “hear” and “listen.”
Hearing is perceiving sound by the ear, an act that simply happens. Listening, on the other hand, is something you consciously choose to do.
Concentrate on the sounds (no matter how soft or loud they are) around you, even the gentle sound of your breathing. Try to mentally point out certain sounds that your ears did not pick up before this.
Document (almost) everything Ditch the digital notepad on your smartphone, get a small notebook from the airport and pledge to write everything down during your holiday.
At the end of your day, unleash your journaling skills by documenting what you did, where you went, how you got there, what you ate, who you met, etc. Stick some ticket stubs or receipts in it while you are at it.
Source: Shutterstock.
It will not take up too much of your time but it will get you to reflect on your day, and it makes a good travel memento too.
Pay attention to your thoughts Your thoughts are louder than you think. They are just often drowned out by a garble of noises from your surroundings.
Being on holiday is an excellent opportunity to pick at your own thoughts because you are removed from the noise and circumstances.
It is a good time to pay attention to your thoughts because it helps put things into perspective. Perhaps you could even chance upon a revelation or two.

Lainey Loh | @laineyx
A certified daydreamer, when she's not physically travelling, she's often going places in her head. Her first love is coffee & her second, wine – & she accepts bribes in either forms. She's also entirely capable of deep conversations about life & random musings just for laughs, but do excuse her if she appears AWOL mid-chat – she's just going places in her head.

Where do you think the most germ-filled places in airports are?

Posted by - September 6, 2018

Hint: It’s not the toilets. Source: Shutterstock.
Contrary to popular belief, it is not in the toilets.
Or anywhere else that commands a queue or a crowd (such as the waiting areas or the passport checking counter).
According to a recent study by Finnish and British researchers published in the BMC Infectious Diseases journal, the highest concentrations of respiratory viruses are on airport security trays.
Yes, the same spot where you would dump your phone, passport, laptop, tablet, camera, handbag, hand luggage, watch, and sometimes even the occasional jacket or scarf.
The research team took swabs from surface samples of the plastic trays at the Helsinki-Vantaa airport in Finland, taken at three different times during the peak of the 2015 to 2016 flu session.
After monitoring the germ levels, they found rhinovirus or adenovirus, the cause of cold-like symptoms, in four of eight samples. To be precise, the germs were found on 10 percent of all the surfaces they tested.
Source: Shutterstock.
The scientist explained that these trays “typically cycle with high frequency to subsequent passengers, and are typically seized with a wide palm surface area and strong grip”.
Because it is usually passed on so quickly to the next passenger, it makes airports a potential risk zone for an “emerging pandemic threat”.
And if you touch your face or someone else’s after, or decide to have a sandwich at a nearby airport cafe after passing security without first washing your hands, well, no prizes for guessing where that will lead you.
That having said, the airport security tray is not the only spot travelers should be wary of.
Source: Shutterstock.
Other places where germs are frequently found are:
Passport control checkpoint: The study found that 33 percent of the samples taken at desks and glass dividers at the Helsinki-Vantaa airport’s passport control checkpoint were contaminated with rhinovirus. A pharmacy’s terminal payment: 50 percent of samples from the Helsinki-Vantaa airport pharmacy’s payment terminal buttons were contaminated with rhinovirus and the human coronavirus. Toys in the children’s playground: 67 percent of the samples swabbed from a plastic toy dog at the Helsinki-Vantaa airport’s children’s playground were contaminated with rhinovirus or adenovirus. Why were the samples taken from toilet lids, flush buttons, and door locks clear of the presence of a cold virus?
On top of the frequent cleaning, it could also be because “passengers may pay particular attention to limiting touch and to hygiene in a washroom environment”, according to the scientists.
While the Finnish and British researchers are hoping airports could provide “hand sanitization opportunities where intense, repeat touching of surfaces takes place such as immediately before and after security screening”, there is nothing like a taking care of your hygiene yourself.
After all, nobody likes being sick on a holiday.
So, disinfectant hand wipes or sanitizer gels, anyone?

Tanamera, the hidden gem on Sri Lanka’s southwest coast

Posted by - September 6, 2018

This could possibly be one of the best places for a little R&R in Sri Lanka. Source: Tanamera Sri Lanka.
PUSHING the boundaries of luxury hospitality offerings on Sri Lanka’s stunning coastline, Tanamera is the destination of choice for food lovers, culture seekers, and wellness aficionados.
Situated in the quaint fishing village of Talpe, Tanamera is an exquisite private residence with uninterrupted views of the Indian Ocean.
Blending the intimacy of villa accommodation with the hospitality of a luxury hotel, breathtaking scenery, genuine service and impeccable attention to detail fuse to create a distinctive accommodation choice in the heart of Sri Lanka.
The three-bedroom beachfront property can sleep up to six guests and was designed to emulate traditional Sri Lankan architecture.
Guests will enjoy the high ceilings, full-length folding doors, towering pillars, archways and verandas adding to the property’s colonial character.
Source: Tanamera Sri Lanka.
Inside, the design of the three en-suite bedrooms blends old-world charm with contemporary comforts.
Two spacious, king-sized bedrooms each offer magnificent ocean views and direct access to a sweeping veranda.
The third en-suite room is complete with two super single beds and double doors opening onto the villa’s verdant gardens, offering total privacy to its occupants.
Source: Tanamera Sri Lanka.
Social areas include a family dining room, dedicated TV room, and a spacious living room, with doors opening onto an outdoor terrace.
The sprawling grounds of the property boast manicured lawns, tall coconut palms, and 110 meters of direct ocean frontage.
Outdoor socializing areas are abundant, with an outdoor dining area and shaded pool pavilion offering solace from the Sri Lankan sun.
Source: Tanamera Sri Lanka.
Tanamera embraces a bespoke approach to dining, with a private chef tailoring daily menus to suit all preferences.
Using fresh, locally-sourced ingredients, the dishes are expertly curated to celebrate the flavors of Sri Lanka.
A fully stocked bar is complemented by a refreshing selection of cocktails, best enjoyed with the backdrop of the incredible sunsets visible from the front terrace.
Source: Tanamera Sri Lanka.
Guests looking to dedicate time to wellness can take part in sunrise yoga sessions.
There is also a visiting masseuse who offers a range of treatments, including the utilization of Ayurvedic and Shiatsu methods to relieve stress, enhance mindfulness, and encourage overall well-being.
For guests wishing to explore the surrounding areas, a knowledgeable concierge team is on hand to arrange activities and trips whilst guided bike tours enable leisurely trips through bird sanctuaries, tea plantations, and paddy fields.
Enter the lush grounds of Tanamera and let the gentle breezes of the Indian Ocean lull you to relaxation.
Tanamera is available for private bookings only, for a minimum of three nights, via its website.

What Vietnam’s famous alcohol aphrodisiac is really made of

Posted by - September 4, 2018

Want a tipple with a potent bite? Source: Shutterstock.
OH, the things people would do (or rather, drink) for love.
Aphrodisiacs come in many forms: from food to potions, to just about any form of alcohol. One of the most popular natural aphrodisiacs is oysters, which are high in zinc and have a reputation for being great for love and fertility. And if you live for chocolate then you are in luck because chocolate can certainly add flavor to an intimate evening.
But in some parts of the world, oysters and chocolates are child’s play.
In Asia, outlandish aphrodisiacs are not uncommon, thanks to centuries of traditional medicine and cultural beliefs.
The Chinese believe bird’s nest soup, which contains nests constructed with the spit of Asian cave swifts, can help to improve one’s sex life. Alternatively, there is the cheaper option of sea cucumber soup – a fleshy, sausage-shaped marine animal with leathery skin (which reportedly stiffens and squirts fluid, aherm) cooked in broth.
Speaking of ocean residents, the Japanese love a generous serving of the deadly fugu (blowfish), usually prepared and served in paper-thin sashimi slices by specially licensed chefs, guaranteed to give you a “tingling sensation”.
In the Philippines, locals will not even blink an eye while consuming balut, a common sidewalk snack of a duck egg that contains a fetus about 20 days into gestation.
Wait, it does get stranger.
Source: Shutterstock.
Travelers to Vietnam should not be surprised to find store shelves lined with rows upon rows of the Vietnamese’s own brand of venomous vino.
The bottles of unusual wine are called ruou thuoc, a kind of traditional Vietnamese distilled liquor infused with herbs and more notably, animals. Which is why it is so easy to spot.
Sure, having a “pickled” snake (scales intact and all) stare back at you from inside a bottle may startle you initially, but snake wine is believed to enhance virility. It is prepared by putting an entire live snake inside a jar of rice wine then left to steep for several months.
The dead snake then ferments in the wine, releasing chemicals that transform the alcohol into a mystic tonic.
And it does not stop at just wine.
Source: Shutterstock.
Chugging down a shot of snake blood or swallowing the still-beating heart of a cobra will also ignite your sexual vigor, it seems. In fact, it is so popular that there are food tours to snake restaurants in Hanoi.
But we will save you the gory details of how the dishes are prepared because it is definitely not for the squeamish.
Aside from wondering if these so-called traditions have cost the lives of hundreds way back when – from catching the snakes to preparation and consumption – the real question here is, “Do locals really believe in this?”
You would be surprised to know that most Vietnamese have neither consumed snake nor drunk its blood.
“It is not a significant part of our culture, and the fact that it survives at all is largely down to the tourist trade,” South China Morning Post quoted Animals Asia Foundation Vietnam director Tuan Bendixsen as saying.
Source: Shutterstock.
Also, more than 20 snake species in Vietnam are protected, four of which are cobra species. Restaurants in Vietnam may claim its snakes are farmed but it is difficult to differentiate farmed snakes from those caught in the wild.
“Vietnam’s Traditional Medicine Association does not support the use of endangered wildlife products. They work with us on promoting herbal alternatives,” Bendixsen revealed.
And while creatures floating in alcohol is a shock factor and a conversation starter for tourists, consuming wildlife-infused ruou thuoc may not be as health-enhancing as it touts.
Bendixsen explained rice liquor contains only 30 to 40 percent alcohol or ethanol, not enough to stop viruses, bacteria, or other nasties. For example, reptiles carry salmonella, which can cause food poisoning, resulting in diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps.
Reptiles such as snakes.
Probably not the kind of wine that you should be buying for your anniversary or Valentine’s Day, eh?

Lainey Loh | @laineyx
A certified daydreamer, when she's not physically travelling, she's often going places in her head. Her first love is coffee & her second, wine – & she accepts bribes in either forms. She's also entirely capable of deep conversations about life & random musings just for laughs, but do excuse her if she appears AWOL mid-chat – she's just going places in her head.

Handy tips on how to disconnect from work on vacation

Posted by - August 30, 2018

A few Instagrams here and there won’t hurt, but checking your emails every 10 minutes might. Source: Shutterstock
SOMETIMES disconnecting from work while on vacation is easier said than done.
And when throwing your phone into the ocean isn’t a viable method, you need to look at other ways to switch off and enjoy the restorative break that a vacation is supposed to be. If you actually take a vacation, that is.
A report released last year revealed one in five American workers left vacation days unused and three in 10 said if they do take a vacation, they stay connected to work responsibilities while away.
Malaysian’s aren’t much better at taking vacations either.
Back in January, a British Airways survey found that out of 2,000 respondents, the majority kept vacations to a maximum of five to nine days. Of those who claimed to have holidayed, 75 percent said they wish they hadn’t left the office at all due to an unmanageable amount of work on their return.
Source: Shutterstock
You could argue that working professionals of the 21st century who are brave enough to take time off, remedy their absence by staying connected while away.
And all of life’s technological conveniences make staying connected not only possible but easy.
Ultra-fast connections, power banks juicing up our devices and a deep-rooted fear of missing out (FOMO) all contribute to the anxiety of being disconnected.
But just because technology allows us to stay online every waking moment, doesn’t mean we should, especially when it comes to vacationing.
Source: Shutterstock
You’re supposed to be creating memories, spending quality time with loved ones, and exploring new cultures, not checking if Deborah from finance received the client invoices or making sure the intern threw out the milk over the weekend.
If you’re guilty of staying connected to your professional life when you should be making the most of your leisure time, or you just feel completely addicted to your phone, these are some helpful tips on how to disconnect and make the most of being offline.
Vacation somewhere with a slow connection Source: Shutterstock
A recent study from global travel agency Trip.com found that Thailand and Mongolia are among the top places in the world to disconnect from work.
Why? Because they have the highest number of hotels that aren’t equipped with WiFi services.
Trip.com found that 6 percent of its accommodation listings in Thailand had no WiFi and 12 percent of listings in Mongolia weren’t fitted with wireless services.
If you force yourself to travel somewhere with little or no internet connection, you physically won’t be able to check emails.
Getting offline will allow you to see the world in a whole new way, without the familiar image of a phone screen getting in the way.
Tell everyone you’re on holiday Source: Shutterstock
There’s nothing more annoying than forgetting to set your “out-of-office” email and having a string of angry people raising their professional pitchforks in frustrated follow-up emails.
But when you do remember to set it, ensure that your out-of-office email thoroughly explains the dates you’ll be away and provides sufficient contacts for the sender to reach instead.
It’s also a good idea to remind your colleagues and management that you’re going away. While they might think you’re vacation-bragging, you’re actually hinting at the fact that they should not contact you for a week.
Work a little harder before you leave Source: Shutterstock
Staying an extra hour in the office every night the week before your vacation is much better than working through your break.
Whether it’s finishing that important proposal, writing a descriptive handover for when you’re gone or getting everything ticked off your to-do list, putting a bit more effort in will mean a stress-free vacation.
Unless you miss your flight, then you’ll be stressed. So don’t miss your flight.
Try reverse psychology on yourself Source: Shutterstock
Much like negotiating with a child who doesn’t understand why they can’t eat dessert first, you might need to convince yourself not to work.
One successful method is telling yourself that taking full advantage of this vacation and switching off from work will ultimately make you a better worker.
The more you tell yourself this, the more likely you are to chill out and not return as stressed as you were when you left.
Take a pledge Source: Shutterstock
Whether you’re traveling alone or with others, take an oath to reduce screen time, whether its promising to only check your emails once a day, or swearing to not mindlessly scroll through Instagram until your FOMO is so intense you spoil the vacation for yourself.
A good way to stick to this pledge is to create forfeits for those who break it.
Download some screen-time avoidance apps Source: Shutterstock
It may sound contradictory, but apps are a great incentive to stay off your phone.
Forest, for example, is an app which lets you plant a virtual tree and the longer you stay off your phone, the more the tree will grow.
You can end up growing a whole virtual forest with each tree representing a period you resisted using your phone.
Add an extra layer of difficulty Source: Shutterstock
Have you ever opened an app and thought, “I don’t remember doing that?” We all have.
As our phones become our fifth limb, we use them through muscle memory, as opposed to actually thinking about what we’re doing.
However, to avoid finding yourself “accidentally” three months deep in a stranger’s Instagram page, log out of all your accounts before you go away.
This added layer of annoyance will remind you why you didn’t want to access your accounts in the first place.