Winter Adventures in Japan

Asia, Japan

Ask a casual traveler what he thinks of Japan and most likely, he will start talking about the mega city of Tokyo and its blinding lights, its efficient transport system, high cost of living, and great Japanese food. If the traveler is art and history inclined, then perhaps he will start dreaming of the imperial city of Kyodo, its perfectly preserved wooden houses and the beautiful geishas, clad in beautful kimonos, that walk around the old city.

But Japan is so much more than its first world megacities or historic towns.

Japan, a large archipelago in the East Asian region, has millions of other stories to tell and even more adventures to offer to different folks with different strokes.

Specifically, Japan’s Hokkaido region bristles with snow sports activities come winter season.

The Land of the Rising Sun’s unique feature is its fascinating geography which comes to life in the snow season and boasts of extreme, high-octane sporting activities.

With over 500 ski resorts nationwide, skiing and snowboarding are prominent winter sports best practiced at resorts in Hokkaido, Tohoku, Niigata, and Nagano.

You can also try other snow activities such as snow rafting, snow shoeing, cross country ski, and snowmobiling

Around Mt. Fuji, resorts such as Niseko,  Shiga Kogen, and Zao, offer marvelous views of the beauty of the great mountain.Of all three, Niseko is definitely the most popular and it attracts snow sports aficionados from all corners of the its powdery snow.

For travelers who enjoy high altitude, climbing the Daisetsuzan National Park in Hokkaido and Kamikochi in Nagano-ken should be top priority.

For those who are into a ore relaxed experience during the winter, one can head out to the famous Sapporo Winter held in February, and marvel at larger than life ice sculptures depicting famous people, places and landmarks from all over the world.

Started by a few high school and middle school students in the 1950s, the Sapporo Snow Festival has become an iconic event in Hokkaido which attracts about two million visitors from all over Japan and the world, every year. The festival is so popular that teams from Canada and the United States are even participating in it by sending teams.

Cebu Pacific has direct flights to Japan.For more information and flight bookings, visit www.cebupacificair.com

Photo Courtesy of Japan National Tourism Organization

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Explore Singapore and Taiwan’s Quirky Attractions

Asia, Singapore, Taiwan

More than just a vast melting pot of cultures teeming with rich history and traditions, Asia is home to plenty of destinations that offer delightfully unexpected pleasures — from the fresh and eccentric, to the artistic and eclectic. Cebu Pacific, the Philippines’ leading airline, invites traveling Juans to take the quirky route in exploring some of Asia’s most exciting cities.

Singapore’s plethora of artistic happenings

Singapore may be known for its fast-rising skyscrapers and modern architectural wonders, but it is no longer just about the high-end and expensive.

For those who want to skip the usual commercial attractions, Haw Par Villa is an unusual theme park where one can learn of the country’s history and culture. Built in the 1930s by two Burmese brothers, the park displays a thousand statues depicting Chinese mythology, folklore, legends and history. Its most famous attraction is the Ten Courts of Hell, which shows gruesome and eerie scenes of hell according to Chinese mythology.

Travelers will feel that they are no longer in Singapore when they arrive at the Bollywood Veggies, a 10-acre countryside organic farm that serves organic home-cooked meals. Located in the beautiful Kranji Countryside, it is a refreshing treat for those who want a change of scenery from the city-state’s high-end and fancy restaurants.

Young Singaporeans who have a taste for the hip and cool are adding more character to the city-state as an upbeat hub for shopping and the arts.  A few blocks from the shopping area of Bugis are the narrow streets of Haji Lane and Arab Street. Littered with colorful street art, the area is lined with bars, cafes, and tiny picturesque shops that sell everything from unique fashion finds to stationeries, and art pieces.

Taiwan’s eclectic attractions

In Taipei, young people stay up late not to party in clubs but to hang out till the wee hours inside a 24-hour bookstore. Eslite, Taiwan’s biggest bookstore chain, has redefined the night life and made reading one of the hippest pastimes in the country. Here, the busiest hours are 10pm to 2am, when customers of all ages fill the bookstore, seated in corners or leaning by the bookshelves, all absorbed in their books.

Foodies and concept restaurant hunters will love Taipei’s abundance of themed cafes and restos such as A380 In-Flight Kitchen, Modern Toilet, Hello Kitty Sweets Cafe, and the Barbie Cafe. For the outdoorsy type, Yehliu Geopark, just 40 minutes from the capital, is an awe-inspiring natural marvel of rocks formed into shapes resembling figures such as the Queen’s Head, the Fairy’s Shoe, the Mushroom Rocks, the Tofu Rocks, and the Elephant Rocks.

Explore Asia beyond the usual tourist spots for a more interesting and memorable trip. Discover these cities’ quirky attractions via Cebu Pacific. For the latest seat sales and to book a ticket, visit www.cebupacificair.com.

Experience Fukuoka’s cherry blossom festival

Airlines, Asia, Japan

Seeing a cherry blossom tree in full bloom is truly a sight to behold. Its blooming marks the end of winter and the coming of spring. In Japan, it also symbolizes the nation’s deep-rooted belief that life’s immense beauty cannot last forever. 

First glimpse in Kyushu

Every year, tourists from all over the world come to visit the different cherry blossom spots in Japan. However, one can have the first glimpse of blooming Sakura leaves in Kyushu, where the much-anticipated seasonal cycle starts.

There are countless parks where people can practice hanami or “flower-viewing” in Kyushu. One can head to its capital, Fukuoka, or Saga, Nagasaki, Oita, Kumamoto, Miyazaki or Kagoshima, as cherry blossoms in each destination are set to bloom from late March to early April.

Located in the southernmost part of Japan, Kyushu is bound to be the first to experience the change in season. In the following months, the cycle moves upward to Osaka, Kyoto, mainland Tokyo, Hokkaido and cities in other islands. 

Bask in Fukuoka’s rich culture

Fukuoka is one of the largest and most active cities in Japan. When the castle town of Fukuoka merged with the port town of Hakata in 1889, the city became progressive while maintaining its rich culture. Hakata remains to be the central district in Fukuoka and contains the JR Hakata Station, the main railway station that transports people all over the city. The Fukuoka Airport is also as accessible as the other forms of transportation available, ranging from local bus lines to long-distance buses.

Home to more than a thousand cherry blossom trees, the most popular parks in Fukuoka are Fukuoka Castle (Maizuri Park), Uminonakamichi Seaside Park, and Nishi Park (Nishi Koen), all just about a few minutes’ walk from the nearest train stations.

Aside from the alluring Sakura tree parks, the capital of Kyushu also houses a variety of other tourist destinations. For enthusiasts of history and culture, the Fukuoka Castle ruins, the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, and the Hakata Machiya Furusato-kan (a folk museum that recreated townhouses from the late Meiji era) are the places to be. When it comes to food, the Kagomma Furusato Yataimura food stalls, as well as the noodles in Ichiran is a must-taste for foodies and enthusiasts alike, while the rural beaches in Nokonoshima and Shikanoshima will surely delight the adventurous-at-heart.

Complete your Fukuoka-Kyushu experience

The island of Kyushu and its capital Fukuoka serves as Japan’s gateway to its neighbouring countries, making it a melting pot of different cultures. Fukuoka, as a destination, can truly provide historical and cultural experiences for everyone to enjoy.

Its rich geography boasts of charming qualities that are second to none. Scattered all over Kyushu are Onsens or “hot springs,” brought to life by vibrant volcanic activity, making Kyushu a must-visit for tourists looking for relaxation. A 4-hour drive from Fukuoka, Aoshima beach in Miyazaki has shallow waters perfect for a refreshing dip on hot summer days. About an hour and-a-half away from Fukuoka is the Kumamoto Prefecture, with hills and plains that glow green during the summer season, fit for an artistic eye that appreciates nature’s profound beauty.

These are just some of the activities that one can enjoy in Fukouka and the rest of Kyushu. With a lot more to discover, it is definitely an out-of-the-box experience for visitors that complements the fleeting beauty of the Sakura Festivals.

Starting December 17, 2015, explore and experience the different destinations that make Kyushu stand out, with the rest of the wonders of Japan, with Cebu Pacific’s new Fukuoka route. For more information and flight bookings, visit www.cebupacificair.com.

What To See At The Korean Folk Village in Seoul

Asia, seoul, South Korea

If you are planning a trip to Seoul, you may want to check out one of the most popular destinations in the city: the Korean Folk Village.

During a recent trip to Seoul for our company’s summer outing, we checked out the place and I found it quite informative, interesting and endearing.

Located in the city of Yongin in the province of Gyeonggi, the Korean Folk Village is a living museum of what traditional Korean villages, houses looked like.

The houses were mostly bungalow style made out of straws and wood. The houses had low ceiling and there were no beds, as common in Korean culture up to this era.

It wouldn’t be a stretch if I say that the place really looks like old Korea.

Therefore, it isn’t a surprise to know that most Korean dramas with the Joseon era theme filmed here. As a matter of fact, you can see life-size posters/murals of the dramas that filed here.

Among the most notable ones are Jewel in the Palace, Hwang Ji-ni, and Rooftop Prince.

Outside of the main gate, there are souvenir stalls selling mementos and restaurants among others.

The entire complex is filled with traditional Korean dwellings. There are installations that mimic shops that sell traditional metal and wooden handicrafts.

There is also the judgment hall where traditional hearings were performed.

Those who were proven guilty of crimes were given penalties that range from whipping to death.

At one area of the vilage, there is a mini ampitheatre where horse exhibitions and cultural performances are held.

I was particularly moved by the dungeon/prison. I have watched so many dramas and I have had a vivid memory of the prison death scenes.

Any trip to Seoul would not be complete without a visit to the Korean Folk Village. It is a must-see place. It is also quite close to Everland so you can hit two birds in one stone.

 

Bangkok International (Suvarnabhumi) Airport to Hualamphong train station

Asia, Thailand

Bangkok is the gateway to Southeast Asia.

And while the city itself is a major traveler destination, Bangkok, for the most part, serves as temporary stop to both local and foreign tourists who want to explore the northern and southern regions of Thailand, or simply cross borders into other Southeast Asian countries such as Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia.

Majority of those transfering from Bangkok to other destinations, choose to go directly to Huamlamphong station as soon as they land at the Suvarnabhumi airport. Hualamphong station houses trains moving to Nong Khai (boundary of Thailand and Laos), Chiang Mai, Ayuttaya and Udon Thani in the north and trains to Surat Thani in the south.

Unfortunately, unscrupulous taxi drivers take advantage of them and charge a steep fee. As it is, taxi fares are expensive already.

A trip from the airport to the train station costs about 250 to 300 Thai Baht.

If your are one of them, worry no more, since transfering from the Bangkok International Airport to the Huamlamphong station is easy enough, if you have the patience and physical stamina for it.

After exiting the immigration office at the airport, go down to the basement level three towards the Airport Link.

There buy a ticket for the Makkasan Express costing 90 Thai Baht. This is non stop train to Makkasan and will by pass stops in Lat Krabang, Ban Tap Chang, Hua Mak, and Ramkhamhaeng. The train ride takes about 20 minutes.

The train is airconditioned and the seats are very comfortable.

At the Makkasan express, you will exit the terminal and walk about 100 meters to the MRT Phetchaburi subway station.

The MRT ride takes another 10 minutes and costs about 30 baht.The MRT system extends 20 kilometer to Bang Sue in the north and Huamlamphong in the south, near Chinatown and the Central Railway System.

If you are in a hurry to catch your train ride, then the fastest and most efficient way to get there is to take the airport link and MRT.

Taking a cab might be less strenuous but with the heavy Bangkok traffic jam, you’ll always have that worry at the back of your head.

So to save time and money, this is the fastest route you can take.

The Gay Clubs of Bali, Indonesia

Asia, Indonesia

Indonesia is a predominantly Muslim country and the Islam religion is not exactly the friendliest to people in the LGBT community.

It is therefore a big surprise for me to find out that Bali, one of the most gorgeous and exciting islands in the world, has an actual district for people whose sexuality is fluid.

It is therefore a big surprise for me to find out that Bali, one of the most gorgeous and exciting islands in the world, has an actual district for people whose sexuality is fluid.

A newfound friend I met in the main beach of Kuta tipped me about it, assuring me that it is one of the funnest places is the island whether you’re gay or heterosexual.

Always up for an adventure, I braved the warm Bali evening and hailed a cab going to the Jalan Dhyana Pura in Seminyak.

 
It was only a five minute drive from my place along Jalan Mertenadi.
The cab costs less than 30,00 Indonesian rupiah (IDR)
 What greeted me was a row of bars and clubs with screaming neon signage, each one trying to outdo one another by pumping their volumes to the max. I threw caution to the wind and simply embraced what the queer side of Bali has to offer
Mixwell
As hinted by it’s name, Mixwell is a bar/club that accepts anyone and everyone. Whether you’re straight or gay, this place is for you.

It was by far the most crowded and most popular along Dhyana pura. The cocktails are a bit pricey ranging from 85,000 IDR to 150,000 IDR per shot. A small bottle of my favorite beer Bintang, is sold at 50,000 IDR.

The music mix is not that great but at least they know Swedish House Mafia. The music is stopped every once in a while to give way to the gay impersonators who mimic popular singers like Whitney, Mariah and Beyonce among others. Male go-go dancers also have segments.

The gay impersonators and dancers notwithstanding, the bar remains respectable because the crowd is a mix of gay and straight so the bar respects diversity and caters to both.

Bali Joe’s

Unlike Mixwell, Bali Joe’s definitely caters to the LGBT crowd, and the performances of its gay artists are wilder and funner deviating from your usual pop stars to the Tina Turners, and Chaka Khans of the world. The male dancer segments are more often.

The crowd is a mix of locals and expats. Lots of male hookers abound, so take caution. Price range is the same as Mixwell. I think the music is better since they know Alesso and Avicii.

Facebar and Bottom’s Up

These two other bars are also located along Dhyana Puna. What’s strange is that they do not attract the same big crowds like Mixwell and Bali Joe’s.

I took a peek inside both bars and I found them too dark and gloomy, made even more prominent by the lack of big groups of clients. Some members of the staff are also standing outside the bars and try to overflowing crowds from Mixwell and Bali Joe’s to minimal effect.

There’s a fifth bar to check out in this street. Unfortunately, I spent too much time and money in the said four bars so I decided to just overlook it. I stepped into Mixwell at around 10:30pm and the parties stopped at almost 4am.

What I noticed in Dhyana pura is that while there are lots of expats kissing and dancing with locals, they rarely bring them back to their respective hotels. In this regard, I guess Bali tourists are more conservative than those in other gay districts, say Bangkok, Thailand or Malate, Philippines.

The whole economy of Bali, depends on its tourism sector so no wonder the rich tourists are well protected. Outside the bars, there are polic officers and motorbikes and cabs all ready to bring tourists safely back.

I asked one of the waiters why Bali is more tolerant and accommodating of LGBT people. Apparently, the mentality of its people is way, way different than the rest of Indonesia, say Jakarta or Java.

I checked my watch to see that it was already 3:45am so I finished my mojito and hopped on one of the motorbikes and sped back to my hotel.

Take it from me, your Bali trip won’t be complete without checking out Dhyana pura. Sure, there are clubs in Legian and Kuta but those in this district are of totally different nature and you’ll love it.

Food Heaven at Cafe TOO in Island Shangri-La, Hong Kong

Asia, Food and Dining, Hong Kong

When one travels to Hong Kong, it is literally imperative that he/she partakes in the island’s gastronomic feasts. After all, Hong Kong, and its motherland China, are known the world over, to be havens for good food.

Expectations are even higher with Hong Kong since this small, but very cosmopolitan city, has become a melting pot of various cultures, races, and food specialties.

Café TOO Lobby and Entrance

Café TOO Lobby and Entrance

Nowadays, buffets are all the rage in Hong Kong, as the modern food connoisseurs demand quantity and quality in exchange for their hard-earned though and when it comes to buffets, there is absolutely nothing better than the time-tested leader in serving fancy buffets than Café TOO.

Located at the mezzanine flood of the Island Shangri-La in the Admiralty district of Hong Kong, Café TOO has repeatedly been named as one of the best, if not the best buffet restaurants in all of Hong Kong. Both the Time magazine and the South China Morning Post recommend this place. And for a good reason.

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Long before the residents of Hong Kong clamored for buffets, Café TOO has been serving banquets to the more affluent locals and visitors.

And compared to other buffets, Café TOO is popular not only because of the superb taste of the food, but because of the unique food theatres they pioneered.

Café TOO is known all throughout Hong Kong and beyond. So much so, that for my birthday last July, I especially planned and booked ahead of time to ensure that I get a table.

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I made an online reservation and the restaurant was quite professional in updating the status of my booking. They even notified me about the surge in reservations on the date of my visit and advised me to come in early to avoid the queues and the crowds.

True enough, Café TOO was jampacked when I arrived at 8:30pm. I booked for 7:30pm and because of my late arrival, the seat I was given was located at the bar and they expressed sincere apologies for this. They made it up to me, by giving me a table as soon as one became available.

To be honest, I didn’t mind because it was my fault and the atmosphere that night, was just electric. I was also elated that the crowd that time was made up of high-end, and high-fashion locals and visitors so I felt really special.

The food, like I expected was superb.

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I especially liked the fresh seafood and the sensational dim sum (theirs was so much tastier and meatier than the average HK restaurants) staying true to the Shangri-La standard of goodness.

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The lobster and the oyster were fresh and cold as they should be.

The siu mai and dumplings were served hot off the steamer and the flavor was just too awesome.

Café TOO’s noodle and pasta section also satisfied me. It was my birthday so I didn’t want to eat so much, but I had three helpings of ramen, because it was so, so good.

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The curry and pork dishes were also good. The foie gras is popular so there was a long queue and I wasn’t able to get and taste it.

Because I was in Hong Kong, I had to try some roast duck and golden chicken and I was pleasantly satisfied with their servings. The suckling pig was also good.

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You can enjoy some wine to go with the buffet dinner but I passed so I would stay sober and enjoy the buffet to the full extent.

After going through 6-7 plates of good food, I tried their dessert section and this, I found out later, was really the star in Café TOO’s menu. The cakes were awesome, especially the strawberry cheesecake. I had to give in and fill my tummy with several slices.

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All throughout the buffet dinner, you will get a good view of the Hong Kong park located just a few steps away from the Shangri-La. In fact, my date and I had to walk around the park later in the night to burn some of the excess calories.

Prices at Café TOO are steep, I must tell you. My date and I had to pay more than 1,600 HKD for a Friday dinner buffet inclusive of the service charge. And in Hong Kong rates, it was quite a lot. I think it’s really worth it though.

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I looked around the entire restaurant and I noticed that Hong Kong residents are especially lean and slim. After several visits to Café TOO, I don’t think they would stay the same. I am positive that they would gain some pounds thanks to the undeniable goodness of the food served at Café TOO. It was a birthday dinner, I will surely remember for a long time.

Note: Featured Image is courtesy of Island Shangri-La   http://www.shangri-la.com/hongkong/islandshangrila/dining/restaurants/cafe-too/

A Whirlwind Trip to Taiwan

Asia, Taiwan

Working as a journalist, while being highly challenging and taxing, also has its perks.

In particular, working as a business journalist for one of the country’s leading broadsheets, gave me several opportunities to travel outside of the Philippines.
One particular trip I really enjoyed and remember is a six-day trip to Taiwan, which led me to the streets of Kaohsiung, and Taipei.
Temperature in Taiwan can get really high during the summer but organizers fortunately scheduled our trip a week before Christmas or during the early stages of winter in the country.
But how cold can it be in Taiwan, I asked? It couldn’t be that cold, I said, considering that Taiwan is very close to the Philippines and is also an equatorial country.
me wearing shorts in Kaohsiung
 So I disregarded prior advisories and decided to go to the country wearing a simple shirt and walking shorts (we are arriving in the evening and are not expected to work right away so casual clothing is advisable.
And that was the first of my many misadventures in Taiwan.
 The unexpectedly colder weather sent shivers down my spine as soon as I got off the airplane in Kaohsiung international airport. It was 14 degrees celsius and I was wearing shorts,
Despite the cold, I stood by my decision, since I didn’t want my friends to bug with me with their “I told you so’s”
yes, the tower is taller than me

Kaosiung is an industrial town in southwestern  Taiwan. The port of Kaohsiung is also the largest harbor in the country so it’s no surprise that most industries and factories are situated in Taiwan.

We proceeded with our scheduled plant visits and interviews but we were also able to do some shopping and dining at the Sinjhong Night Market located in the Cianjheng District. Just like any night market in China,  lots of stalls were selling souvenirs, knock-offs, and there were lots of food stalls.
The really popular food were stinfy tofu and oyster omelet (which was really yummy).
After two days, we took a six-hour train from Kaohsiung to the capital city of Taipei. Here, the temperature even got colder and it even drops further down at night.
Again, the trip was filled with work-related activities such as press conferences, plant visits and high-level meetings with Taiwanese and Philippine officials, but being the wanderers that we are, we still found some time to roam around the city during our off-hours.
One important destination is the Taipei 101 tower in the Xinyi District, which at the time, was still the tallest tower in the world. At the time, it displaced the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur as the tallest structure in the world.
 
Despite the cold, we still ventured into the night as took a trip to the building’s observatory at the 89th floor (there is also an observatory at the 91st floor).
For a visit to the observatory, each visitor needs to pay NT$300, which I thought was kinda expensive. But given the time constraints, we all decided to just pay it.
 Well it was an official work visit but that didn’t mean, we can’t do some shopping in Taipei.

As we strolled around Taipei, I noticed that Taiwanese people bring out all their fashion mojo during winter and wear the most stylish fur clothing.

The lower floors of Taipei 101 are home to some of the luxury brands shops.

In Chung Hsiao street located at the East Road, Section 4 of Taipei, clothing shops lined the street offering some brand clothes and some knowck-offs. A business district by day, it becomes a shopping haven at night.

The only thing that bothered me was the fact that locals could hardly understand English so asking for the prices of some of items for sale was difficult.
A branch of Philippine bank Metrobank is located along this street so most Filipino workers who send remittances back home also stroll around in this area.
 

Our guide said visitors coming in Taiwan are advised to learn some of the words before visiting to be able to communicate somehow with the locals.

After almost a week, we traveled back to Kaohsiung where we flew back to Manila.
While I wasnt able to explore Taiwan that much, what I saw was enough for me to conclude that it is a charming place especially during winter. If time and budget permit, I will definitely come back, this time as a traveler and really explore every nook and cranny of this wonderful country.

A Visit to Everland in Seoul, South Korea

Asia, South Korea

Without any exaggeration, I can safely say that one will not run out of things to do and see in Seoul.

No matter, what season, this city offers a host of tourist spots and activities for every one.
I zigzagged the entire city by subway for five whole days and those days were still not enough for me to see half of the city.
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The only consolation I can get is that I was able to see one of the highlights in Seoul Korea. For the young adventurers and the young at heart, you should definitely visit Everland.
Located in Yongin, a city in Gyeonggi-do province, South Korea, Everland is about an hour and a half away from Seoul, but don’t worry. I can guarantee that a trip to Everland is definitely worth it.
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Everland, owned by the Samsung group, is the largest theme park in Korea, bigger than its rival Lotte World. Reports said, it has an annual visitor count of 6.6 million tourists, one of the biggest attendance among theme parks in the world.
Admittedly, there are no mascots as recognizable as Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck and the Disney princesses are nowhere to be seen (of course) but that doesn’t lessen the fun.
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 The rides and attractions are tailored fit for the Asian culture.
 The highlight is definitely the T-Express. This is the scariest roller coaster ride ever. The first and highest drop was so steep, I thought my head was gonna snap, hahaha. I was so scared during the entire three minutes experience.
A quick chat with the other riders will tell you how crazy the experience was.
Another major stop is the Safari adventure where you will see the Asian white tigers, hyenas, bears and even vultures.
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For fans of the K-pop music, you should definitely visit the K-Pop Hologram museum where you will have the chance to get closer to your K-pop ideols like Big Bang and Super Junior.
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Other highlights include the Double Rock Spon, Hurricane, the Ferris Wheel, and the Lost Valley.
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During the entire afternoon, I felt like a child as I try the rides at Everland.
Whenever I got tired, I would stop at restaurants (there are lots of them to choose from) and enjoy a great afternoon meal.
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  Everland is also one of the cleanest most organized theme parks I have been to. And everywhere you go, there are numerous rest rooms, necessary for children.
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Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie or just a laidback person who love afternoon walks, Everland is perfect for you.
Here are some of the things to will see in Everland:
Enjoy!!!!.

The Hong Kong I Remember

Asia, Hong Kong

A little over 10 years ago, I arrived in Hong Kong as a fresh-faced 20-something adventurer, out to discover the world.

It was a very exciting time in my life, when I could see the world and all its possibilities. I was slightly naive but very optimistic.

Hong Kong was the very first foreign country or territory I have ever visited, and the city’s bright lights and busy streets totally captivated me. The explosion of sight, sound and flavor was just too much for the travel neophyte and the city completely had me in its palms during my very first hour of exploration.

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I remembered, I would walk along the Nathan Road in Tsim Sha Tsui in broad daylight, bright eyed, jaw dropping ever slowly, at the skyscrapers that dominate Hong Kong’s skyline.Neon lights along the were reflected on my eyes as I roam around the city from dusk till dawn, going to bed only when my body could no longer handle the physical toll of non-stop walking.

The first time I saw Hongkong harbour, I bravely described it as the most magical thing I have ever seen. My 20-something self, just couldn’t help but hide my admiration and love for this city. I must have spent hours staring at the harbour during that first trip.

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Fast forward to 2015, and I have become a somewhat accomplished traveled, a man of the world if you may.

By now, I have traveled thousands of miles across four continents and 30-plus countries, and I have climbed very tall mountains, marveled at ancient cities, and saw the world’s beauty in all its seasons. I have also experienced heartaches, sadness, loss and I have realized that not everything is not all black and white. Behind beauty lies poverty and sometimes, cunning.

But it is quite comforting to know that the Hong Kong of my childhood, remains the same magical place I fell in love with.

For sure, some things have changed: the buildings were older, the shopping malls are more modern, and the people more fashionable, and almost everyone is armed with the latest gadgetry but Hong Kong has maintained its essence and spirit.

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The towering skyscrapers remain and the view of the city from Victoria Peak continues to tale my breath away.

Shoppers continue to come in droves, taking advantage of the tax-free privileges accorded to buyers. Mongkok and Central Hong Kong continues to be a shopper’s paradise.

The famous Lan Kwai Fong continues to be the epicenter of gastronomic and partying exploits for many. Some of the restaurants and the clubs have changed, but the atmosphere is still electric, with festivities reaching a dizzying frenzy at 3am.

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Wan Chai continues to be the pleasure district, while Sheung Wan still exudes that old charm with its rows and rows of antique shops and small, hole in the wall, restaurants.

At every turn in Admiralty and Causeway Bay, you will discover amazing bargain stalls and restaurants ranging from authentic Chinese cuisine to Japanese to Western.

The glittering lights along the Hong Kong harbour remain as awesome as before, with the nightly “Symphony of Lights” dazzling new generations of tourists and travelers.

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I returned to Hongkong to renew my spirit and fuel my ever growing desire and passion to explore and marvel. And I think I have accomplished just that. It remains a great, vibrant city that caters to visitors of all ages, and fancy.

It reminded me why I fell in love with the world, and why I was hooked on wandering in the first place.

I spent four days in Hong Kong very recently and while they were not enough to explore Hong Kong it in its entirety, those days were enough for me to go back in time and remember a part of my younger days that I cherish very much.

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