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Archive for March, 2010

Xintiandi: The Newest Neighborhood in Shanghai

March 31st, 2010 by

Most travelers visit foreign countries hoping to experience authentic lifestyles while learning about the development of history and culture in the area. Others prefer sticking to more modern attractions, seeking out the neighborhoods and sites they can identify with the most. If you’re a true partier and lover of adventure than no trip to Shanghai will be complete without a visit to Xintiandi.

What is Xintiandi?

Highrise in the distance, Xintiandi area

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Delicacies To Enjoy In Cebu

March 26th, 2010 by

The people in the Philippines always look forward to Holy Week.  For one, it is those rare times in a year when there are a couple of days declared as non-working holidays.  In short, it is the perfect time to travel plus have that much deserved rest and relaxation.  This year, Holy Week will start on the 28th March which is referred to as Palm Sunday.  The holidays will start on Maundy Thursday (April 1) until Easter Sunday (April 4).

Dried Fish at the Taboan Market  Photo by:  theshutterbugs

It is also this time when most airline tickets get sold out and room accommodations sell like hotcakes.  Booking a vacation during these days is the perfect way to kick off a series of summer escapades.  One of the favorite destinations for these getaways would have to be Cebu.

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6 Must-Try Japanese Alcoholic Drinks

March 25th, 2010 by

Unlike its Western counterparts, Japan has liberal laws with regards to alcohol, and there is little stigma to partaking it. It is readily available in the country, in bars, restaurants, supermarkets and vending machines. And with such a repressed and hectic culture, alcohol drinking is considered one of the few safety valves to allow people to act without inhibition. Most families will serve alcohol during meals, and it is considered rude to refuse when offered.

Here are 6 favorite Japanese alcoholic drinks to sample during a visit to the country:

Sake

Sake - the national alcoholic drink, which tastes like weak vodka and is supposed to be taken straight. People aren’t supposed to get drunk on sake; rather, they imbibe on one or two cups to relax. Autumn rice is usually used for sake, which the brewing process starts from winter and ends in spring, while the maturation takes all summer. The cheaper varieties are usually served hot.

Beer - Beer started overtaking sake as Japan’s most popular drink. Introduced in the country by Dutch sailors during the Edo period, beer is usually enjoyed with beer snacks like steamed soy beans, edamame (salted boiled beans), grilled meat and seafood and so on. Popular brands are Kirin, Asahi, Sapporo and Suntory. The Great Beer Festival is celebrated annually in Tokyo, Osaka and Yokohama.

Happoshu - literally meaning, “sparkling spirits”, is any Japanese spirit with less than 67% malt content. This category was created by a tax law that places high-malt beer with high taxes. This low-priced, light-tasting beer has found its own market among budget-conscious drinkers. There is even a lower category called third beer, which replaces malt with pea protein, soy protein, or soy peptide.

Shochu – a completely different drink from the Korean soju, this is a distilled beverage made from potatoes and barley. Described as possessing an earthy taste, Shochu originated from Kagoshima, on the island of Kyushu. It was traditionally an old man’s drink, but recent marketing has developed a market for it among young women, helping it attain massive popularity in recent years. Often referred to as a “water cocktail”, it is enjoyed on-the-rocks, with cold water or with hot water, with the quality of water being critical to the latter two options; natural water of the region where the shochu was produced is a fashionable source. Of all the different variants of shochu, the most interesting is imoshochu, which is made from sweet potatoes. A fun way to drink it is tea ceremony-style, substituting the ceremonial green tea to create a formal, yet unorthodox ritual.

Chuhai - a canned drink that comes from the term “shochu highball”, where shochu is mixed with fruit juices, flavored sodas or other spirits. Traditionally, chuhai is shochu mixed with carbonated water with a splash of lemon, but modern variants are known to replace the shochu with vodka, and the lemon with grapefruit, apple, orange, pineapple, grape, kiwi, ume (plum), yuzu, lychee or peach. It is considered an individual’s drink, as it does not come in  large bottles which is shared by groups. It also has a low alcohol content, allowing those with a low tolerance for alcohol to drink safely.

UmeshuUmeshu – also known as plum liqueur, this drink made by immersing unripe plum into sugar and shochu and marinating them for a year. Originally brought from China as a medicinal drink, umeshu comes in 4 basic types: sake-based, shochu-based, brandy-based and white liqueur-based. Some producers even leave a few plums in the umeshu to the delight of enthusiant.  Known as an aperitif, umeshu should be tried with everything, but it’s most popularly enjoyed straight, on-the-rocks or with hot water (oyuwari).

Be Captivated By Asian Sunsets

March 19th, 2010 by

I have always been fond of taking photos.  My father gave me my very first camera during my 6th birthday.  After more than a decade, I got to re-ignite my passion for photography when my partner gave me a DSLR camera back in 2007.  My partner decided to upgrade to a higher model so he gave me his old camera so that we can both take photos whenever we leave for trips.  It became another activity which we enjoyed doing together.  Because of our passion for photography, we really went out of our way to discover new places and to capture as many wonderful things as we can.  We love taking photos of landscapes, people, food, and SUNSETS.

Signal Hill, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia Sunset Photo by: theshutterbugs

Here is a list of the different sunsets that we have seen all over Asia and captured through our lenses:

SIGNAL HILL, KOTA KINABALU (MALAYSIA) – Kota Kinabalu or KK, as it is popularly known, is the state capital of Sabah in Malaysia and is fondly described as a “pleasant Borneo surprise” as it is unexpectedly set between the magnificent South China Sea and rich tropical rolling hills.  It is gaining popularity among tourists who travel to Borneo and Sabah because of its strategic location.

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7 Places In The Philippines To Spend Holy Week

March 18th, 2010 by

Holy Week usually occurs in early April, and for the predominantly Catholic Filipinos, it is a period when families take leave from school and work and spend time visiting churches to observe the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Many opt to leave the cities and take vacations, and depending on their temperament, will choose destinations for their party atmosphere, quiet setting, or spiritually-nourishing events.

Here are 7 Philippine places to spend the upcoming Holy Week:

Moriones Festival

Moriones Festival, Marinduque – a popular celebration which reenacts the story of Longinus, the Roman soldier who pierced the side of the crucified Jesus with a spear. Morion means mask, and was once a standard part of a Roman soldier’s helmet. Colorful Roman costumes, painted masks and helmets, and brightly-hued tunics characterize this festival, and several towns in the island of Marinduque become one big stage.

Sagada – located in the Cordillera mountain range of Luzon some 5,000 fee above sea level, this area is world-renowned for its hanging coffins, 60 caverns and pleasant waterfalls. The cool climate, clean air and plush scenery allow for peaceful contemplation with few distractions. Getting to Sagada from Baguio requires a 6-hour bus ride through Mt. Halsema Express.

Subic – a former US naval station which has since been transformed into a premier economic zone and entertainment complex. An Ocean Park, wreck-diving sites, mangrove graveyard, Mt. Pinatubo crater trek, bat sanctuary and golf course await visitors who desire family-friendly fun. Regular flights are available between Metro Manila and Subic; there is also a 50-minute ferry ride off the Cultural Center of the Philippines which travels directly to Subic Bay Free Port.

Boracay – the premier beach in the country, notable for its fine, white sands and turquoise waters. Modern amenities are provided along the shore for the comfort of vacationers, along with bars, restaurants, and clubs. Boracay gets particularly festive during Lent, when throngs of beach-goers mix it up with henna tattoo artists, trinket vendors, masseurs and entertainers. To get to this beach, reserve a domestic flight early from Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 to Caticlan or Kalibo Airport in Panay, then board a commuter van to the Port Terminal, where pumpboats finally take passengers to Boracay Island.

Batanes - the northernmost province of the country has also the sparsest population, and is characterized by steep cliffs, rugged coastlines and unpredictable weather. With no malls and modern distractions, visitors can expect quiet moments of reflection while enjoying the outdoors. Mountaineers can relish a challenge with Mt. Iraya; the rest can go lighthouse-hopping or take a dip at the nearest beach. To get to the Batanes Islands, travelers can take a SEAIR flight from Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

Mt. Banahaw
Mount Banahaw, Laguna – considered sacred by many cults in the surrounding areas, this dormant volcano, located 165 kilometers south of Metro Manila, is a pilgrimage destination for the devout. Topological features have names based on biblical allusions, and three crosses are placed on important sites. To get to Mt. Banahaw, travel to San Pablo, Laguna, then ride several jeepneys to the foot of the mountain.

Cutud, Pampanga – a Lenten ritual which is highlighted by a dozen or so people who flagellate themselves or nailed to wooden crosses atop a makeshift Cavalry. While the Catholic Church does not endorse this behavior, the locals believe in these acts of penitence and their ability to remove sins. Interested parties can get to Cutud and other participating towns by taking the North Luzon Expressway and exiting at San Fernando, Pampanga, then following the road to the town.

The national government takes big steps to support this holiday mass migration across and in-between the islands with media updates, roadside and port assistance, and heightened presence of police and emergency units. For those who wish to remain in the big cities, expect many malls, restaurants and shops to close from Thursday to Saturday during this week.

Bathe Yourself in Color at the Holi Festival

March 17th, 2010 by

The Holi Festival, also known as The Festival of Color, is an annual event held in primarily Hindu countries each year. Often seen celebrated in places like Nepal, India, and Bangladesh, the festival is usually held in late February or early March and marks the end of the winter season.

Holi Festival- Gopal Kite Shop

The Holi Fetival is incredibly important to Hindu culture. In societies where caste systems still separate people based on economic status and race, the Holi Festival is considered a time where all people can commune together, taking part in the fun and fanfare that comes with more than two weeks of colorful celebration. Read the rest of this entry »

My Asian Bucket List

March 12th, 2010 by

Back in 2007, I got to see an extraordinary movie that made a significant mark in my life.  The story is about a corporate billionaire and a simple middle class mechanic who had nothing in common except that they were both terminally ill and that they shared a hospital room.  One day, they made a list of the things that they wanted to do before they “kick the bucket.”  So one day, they decided to leave and do all the things that they wanted to do before they die.  It turned out their journey became the greatest adventure of their lives.  Yes, I am talking about “The Bucket List” which starred Jack Nicholson as Edward Cole and Morgan Freeman as Carter Chambers.

Lord Buddha Head at Wat Mahathat  Photo by:  the shutterbugs

When I saw that movie, I decided to make my own list of things that I wanted to do before I “kick my bucket.”  Since I have a pretty long list, I will just share with you My Asian Bucket List.  But I will not only share my list with you but I will also clue you in on how I am doing so far.  My status will be marked as FULFILLED if I have already ticked it off my Bucket List and PENDING if I have yet to achieve it :)

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5 Cool Hill Stations In Malaysia

March 11th, 2010 by

Hill stations are areas built in elevated ground by European colonizers as an escape from the tropical heat of the lowlands. In Malaysia, they are reserved for top colonial officials and their families; other residents must submit a formal letter to allow them access to these exclusive spots. In modern times, these hill stations have been converted into vacation locations and heritage sites, and are especially popular among visitors and locals alike during the summer months.

Here are 5 cool hill stations in Malaysia:

Cameron Highlands

Cameron Highlands - located in Pahang, this hill station is the nation’s highest at 1,500 meters above sea level. Cameron Highlands possess 8 towns, and is called home by a butterfly farm, strawberry farms, rose gardens and vegetable gardens. The Boh Tea Centre is also located here, a tea factory that offers tours to visitors, as well as Cactus Point, a market that sells every type of cactus imaginable.

Cameron Highlands is located 214 kilometers north of Kuala Lumpur, and can be reached in 2.5 hours by car.

Maxwell Hill – also known as Bukit Larut, is the oldest, wettest and most well-preserved hill station in the country. Built in 1884 some 10 kilometers from Taiping, Perak, this resort is 1,250 meters above sea level and still retains its colonial origins with its old bungalows and gardens. Maxwell Hill is ideal for birdwatchers and nature lovers, as the area provides a welcoming environment for the local wildlife. Maxwell Hill also has a war cemetery for British casualties during World War II.

To get to Maxwell Hill from Taiping Town, walk towards the Taiping Lake Garden and follow the turning in Alan Air Terjun towards the foot of the hill. Government Land Rovers await passengers there, the only vehicles allowed by the government to climb the slope.  Visitors can also walk to the summit, an 8-hour journey.

Penang Hill – also known as Bukit Bendera, this 830-meter high hill gives visitors the best view of Georgetown, the mainland and Penang Bridge. Penang Hill also has a canopy walk, which lets people trek up the treetops along a 150-meter long path.

Penang Hill Railways gave passengers a memorable ride on one of the world’s oldest funicular system, which snakes its way up the hill as it ascends. However, the system is being upgraded to provide a straightforward route to the summit. The adventurous can also opt to hike all the way up using the paved jeep trail. Visitors should let night overtake them up the hill, as the lights turn the Penang Island into a dazzling jewel.

Genting Highlands - home to the popular Genting Highlands Resort, also known as the “City of Entertainment” and the “Las Vegas of Malaysia”, for possessing the only legal land-based casino in the country. The resort has 6 hotels, 5 performance venues and a golf course.

Genting Highlands is an hour’s drive from Kuala Lumpur. It can also be reached via the world’s fastest and Southeast Asia’s longest cable car, the 3.3 kilometer Genting Skyway.

Bukit Tinggi – one of the larger cities in West Sumatra, whose name in Indonesian means “high hill”. Bukit Tinggi is 90 kilometers from Padang, with a height of 930 meters above sea level. Visitors can see Sianok Canyon and the Japanese Caves, a network of underground bunkers and tunnels built during World War II, which includes a two-story observation tower overlooking the canyon. There are also the ruins of Fort de Kock, a former Dutch outpost which are now connected to a zoo via the Limpapeh pedestrian overpass.

The primary way to get to Bukit Tinggi from the international airport is by car or chartered mini-van.

Spectacular Diving in Brunei Bay

March 10th, 2010 by

Are you someone who enjoys scouring the earth’s waters for spectacular diving opportunities? If so, you’re missing out on something amazing if you haven’t yet found your way to Brunei Bay.

Sipadan from boat

In an area filled with rigs, wrecks, and reefs you’ll find an incredible collection of aquatic wildlife you’ll wish you could visit with for hours. Read the rest of this entry »

Dishes To Try In The Philippines

March 5th, 2010 by

The Philippines is another destination in Asia that is quite famous among tourists.  It is known for the warm hospitality offered by the Filipinos, the lush forests, tropical climate, island getaways, and serene sights just to name a few.  Undeniably, anyone who gets to visit the Philippines must never miss trying out the local fares.  Of course, there are numerous dishes ranging from the ordinary to those that are borderline exotic.

I think it is best to start this list with the crowd favorite – SINIGANG.  This dish is popular because of its sour and tasty soup.  The meat that is included in Sinigang can be pork, beef or seafood like Shrimp or Fish.  It is prepared by boiling the meat together with chopped onions and tomatoes in a proportional amount of water until the meat becomes tender.  Tamarind powder, which is readily available in local supermarkets, is added to the soup for the flavoring plus salt depending on preference.  When this is done, chopped vegetables are added as a final touch.  This dish is best served when hot and with a cup of steaming boiled rice.  Sometimes, the locals prepare a special dip that is made of fish sauce with a little lime.

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AsiaHotels.com Travel Blog is your central source of news bits, amusing experiences, funny observations, and helpful tips and guides to travelling around Asia. For easier browsing, check the Categories section for topics you are interested in. Every month, we also highlight an Asian destination with quick links to the travel guide and best hotels in […]

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  • 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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