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Archive for May, 2009

A Guide To Japanese Bathhouses

May 29th, 2009 by

The Japanese bathhouse, or sento, has seen its heyday. Modern Japanese residences have in-house bathing facilities, and many families and individuals prefer the privacy of single-occupancy bathrooms than the communal nakedness of public hygiene facilities. This lack of skinship (Hadaka no tsukiai, lit. “naked relationship”) may lead to the decline of social development, especially among the young, as lamented by the older members of Japanese society. There are still a number of bathhouses operating across Japan, so if you want to experience this piece of culture, then soap up, rinse down, and soak in this article.

Spa LaQua

The sento originated from temple bathhouses, which require residents to purify themselves before participating in ceremonies by means of bathing. These religious bathing areas soon became accessible to the nobility and well-to-do in Japanese society, followed suit by the masses. The sento’s popularity revived right after World War II, when the public went back to public bathing due to economic hardships.

A traditional sento operates much like an onsen (hot springs) except it uses tap water instead of mineralized water. Bathhouses have temple-like entranceways (which recall their religious origins) with curtains proclaiming the kanji yu, or hot water. Customers first remove their shoes upon entering, then receive a small towel from the attendant before walking into the changing room (datsuiba). They proceed to remove all their belongings and clothes and storing them in the lockers provided, bringing only their towel, soap, and shampoo inside the wash area. A sliding door separates the datsuibafrom the bathing area. Another attendant, usually female, sits between the entrances on a bandai, a rectangular or horseshoe-shaped elevated platform that is fitted with a railing. Besides the bathing area is a wall installed with a row of shower heads and knobs for hot and cold water, as well as stools and buckets for the benefit of patrons. Local businesses usually advertise in these places, and are gender-specific for each side of the dividing wall. Well-equipped bathhouses often provide massage chairs, and drink vending machines. The far end of the room usually portrays a scenic image, like a Japanese landscape, or Mt. Fuji.

The large bath (yokujyo) lies in the middle of one large room, which separates the sexes by means of a tall barrier. It is highly discouraged to soak into the bath without washing up first and rinsing off the soap suds; operators are known to empty and refill the large tub if someone breaks this taboo, creating delays and discomfort for everyone. Use the small towel provided to scrub your body with soap. You may also shave your face and brush your teeth at the wash area. After a thorough soaping and rinsing, you may now soak pleasantly in the yokujyo. You may place the small towel on your head to prevent it from submerging in the water with you. After a satisfactory soak, wipe your body with the towel before going back to the datsuiba. The entire ritual usually takes an hour. The bandai keeps watch on both sides of the barrier to make sure people follow the house rules and prevent any voyeurism from occurring.


Nowadays, the remaining sento owners fight for survival by innovating their establishments. Some operators provide super-sentos, which very much resembles a spa (except it uses tap water). These bath mansions may include a variety of sauna and jacuzzis, and provide extra services like massages, medical baths, and fitness centers. Spa LaQua at the Tokyo Dome City complex is one such facility, providing families one more reason to visit the sports arena and amusement park.

Foreigners who have qualms about visiting a sento shouldn’t fear about racial discrimination, which is virtually unheard of in these Japanese bathhouses. Some sentos may turn away customers who sport tattoos, which may originate from Yakuza (Japanese gangsters) who cause trouble in these establishments. The only remaining fear is the idea of being naked in front of strangers, a concern which turns away even the younger generation of Japanese. For the older generation, however, it’s not only nothing to be worried about, but the concept of hadaka no tsukiai means that once you bathe with someone, you’re immediately buddies.

Touring Bohol In One Day Part 1

May 29th, 2009 by

When people talk about the top tourist destinations in the Philippines, Bohol would surely be included in the discussion.

Chocolate Hills

Beautiful Bohol is located in the Philippines and is very accessible either by water or by air.  Foreigners have the option to enter the Philippines either through the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila or through the international airport of Cebu. The most common route would be to enter the Philippines through Manila and catch a connecting flight to the town of Tagbilaran which takes around an hour and fifteen minutes.  Some tourists even prefer to spend a few days in Manila to relax in hotels like the Edsa Shangri-La Hotel Manila. This is not the only way to go.  Budget travelers can take the twenty-five hour boat ride to Bohol. Another possible route is to take the plane ride to Cebu and catch a ferry to Bohol. A lot of visitors choose this route as they get to “shoot two birds with one stone,” so to speak.

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India’s Most Beautiful Beaches – Part 1

May 27th, 2009 by

Feeling sun-deprived? Believe it or not, both the East and West coasts of India are littered with beautiful beaches. On the West Coast you’ll find the Arabian Sea while on the East Cost you’ll find the Bay of Bengal. Each coastline is full of picturesque beaches, spectacular sea resorts, and incredible vacation opportunities.


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Opulent Treasures Of Brunei At The Royal Regalia Museum

May 26th, 2009 by

Whenever I visit a new place, I make it a point to explore as much as I can…on foot. I firmly believe that nothing beats roaming around in a strange place and trying to discover new and exciting things while walking. I feel that I might leave some stones unturned if I just rely on riding taxi cabs to get from one place to another.

Dome of the Royal Regalia Museum

So when we were in Brunei, we did a walking tour of Bandar Seri Begawan. It is highly recommended that you do the same even if coming from hotels like the Centrepoint Hotel Bandar Seri Begawan.

Our walking tour first brought us to the village on stilts called Kampong Ayer where about ten percent of Brunei’s population lives. From Kampong Ayer, we also got a good view of the majestic mosque called the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque. We walked some more and passed through different street alleys and crossed several streets. We came across several cultural centers, tourist attractions, historical sites and a lot of wonderful architectural structures that will make you say “Wow!” After about thirty minutes of leisurely walking, we finally saw a glimpse of the tiled dome of our destination – the Royal Regalia Museum.

The Royal Regalia Museum is the most famous museum in all of Brunei and it is one of culturally significant places in the country. This museum is located right at the center of Bandar Seri Begawan and was constructed back in 1992. This was built to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Sultan of Brunei.

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Borobudur, Indonesia’s Monument To Buddhism

May 25th, 2009 by

Asia possesses a staggering historical collection of architectural wonders that rivals its European counterparts in many ways. Angkor Wat in Cambodia is one such edifice, a religious complex as monumental as the monuments of Imperial Rome. Less known is the Buddhist temple complex in Indonesia known as Borobudur, an assemblage of 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues that was built in the eighth and ninth century. Borobudur is comprised of six square platforms topped by three circular terraces. At the summit sits a massive central stupa, the largest Buddhist stupa in the world, on a lotus-shaped base that is half a meter thick. The 3 levels of the stupa form a microcosm of the entire universe, with the lower levels representing man’s world of desire controlled by negative impulses (Kamadhatu), the middle levels showing man’s control over these negative impulses and use of positive impulses (Rupadhatu), and the highest level, which depicts man unbound by worldly desires (Arupadhatu). Borobudur also symbolize the 10 levels of a Boddhisattva’s life which he/she must develop in order to attain Buddha-hood.


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8 Wonderful Things To Buy In Thailand

May 22nd, 2009 by

You find yourself in Thailand and your pockets are loaded with crisp Thai Baht bills that you just exchanged at the nearest money changer. You are ready to go on your much-awaited shopping spree. Now, the next big question would be “What to buy?”

Here’s a list of some of the wonderful things that you can buy during your trip to Thailand:

Jim Thompson House Museum

THAI SILK – It would be a shame not to buy some Thai silk when you visit Thailand. This particular kind of beautiful fabric, which is commonly sold by the yard, was made famous by Jim Thompson and it is available in an assorted of lovely colors, weights, thickness and patterns. Silk, perhaps, is the most popular among Thailand’s products. One unique kind of Thai silk is called Mat Mee which is actually tie-dyed silk.  If you have time, make time to visit Jim Thompson’s house which is located at the top of Surawong Road in Bangkok. Thai silk products include bags, pillow cases, beddings and drapes among others.

BATIK & COTTON – Aside from Thai Silk, it would also be nice to buy some cotton or batik products.  Cotton products of Thailand were produced by certain locals or tribal people.  Some nice pieces were even carefully embroidered using differently colored threads.
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Ride Like Royalty Aboard The Palace On wheels

May 21st, 2009 by

Indian trainDespite what the movie Slumdog Millionaire shows, not all of India is swamped in squalor. After all, what other country boasts of a train ride fit for a majarajah? The Palace on Wheels combines at least three things that India is renowned for: the world’s largest rail network, the elite lifestyle of its former monarchs, and the rich heritage of buildings and structures still existing today. Following the trail of history in Delhi, Rajasthan and Agra, this touring carriage is reserved only for those visitors with simple needs: only the best will do for them.

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8 Fun Festivals in Macau

May 20th, 2009 by

Kampong Ayer: A Village On Stilts

May 19th, 2009 by

There are so many places in Asia that are listed in “Top Places to Visit.” Unfortunately, one would seldom see Brunei Darussalam in this list. It seems that people hesitate to visit this rich country.  Because of this, only very few get to experience true blue Bruneian hospitality and culture.

When visiting Brunei, visitors can choose from a number of accommodations. There are luxurious ones like The Empire Hotel and Country Club where you can literally live like a sultan for a day. There are also the less expensive hotels like the Traders Inn Bandar Seri Begawan which would be suitable for those who are a bit budget conscious.

Kampong Ayer

Aside from relaxing accommodation, one can also count on Brunei Darussalam when it comes to both breathtakingly beautiful attractions and interesting sights that one does not get to see every day.  My partner and I were on our way to visit the classy Yayasan Shopping Complex when we chanced upon a place that really made us pause and take a second look. The place that caught our attention was the Water Village (Malay: Kampong Ayer) which is also known to some as the “Venice of the East.”   This village, over a century old, is located in the capital city of Bandar Seri Begawan and can be found right in the middle of the Brunei River.

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The Singapore SingTel Formula 1 Grand Prix

May 18th, 2009 by

Formula 1Asian racing car lovers rejoice! Singapore will continue to host the SingTel Formula 1 Grand Prix, which will take place in the streets of Marina Bay once more. It will occur in the Marina Bay Street Circuit, a 5.1-kilometer long harbor side track, more than 70% of which is made up of existing road network. The race itself will happen between the 25th and 27th of September 2009. The race is so popular that early bird tickets, where up to 50% of the available grandstand seats and passes are sold at an average of 15% discount of regular prices, have sold out mere days after it was made available early this year. A total of 72,000 tickets will be released.

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Season Greetings!

Japanese TempleFrom castles to shopping malls and business districts, Sendai is vibrant and fast paced but this bustling city also boasts the name of “City of Trees” for its tranquil parks, the Hirose-gawa River and the beautiful zelkova trees that border the city’s streets. Bellhop Picks: Read more about other attractions in our Japan guide. See what fellow travellers have to say in the Japan tales section.
  • Polls

    Top 5 Romantic Spots in Asia

    • Palawan, Philippines (39%, 182 Votes)
    • Boracay, Philippines (36%, 168 Votes)
    • Bali, Indonesia (31%, 143 Votes)
    • Agra, India (18%, 84 Votes)
    • Batangas, Philippines (17%, 79 Votes)
    • Male, Maldives (16%, 77 Votes)
    • Jeju Island, South Korea (16%, 75 Votes)
    • Sentosa Island, Singapore (15%, 72 Votes)
    • Krabi, Thailand (13%, 60 Votes)
    • Macau, China (10%, 49 Votes)
    • Halong Bay, Vietnam (7%, 34 Votes)

    Total Voters: 467

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