Tuesday 10 January 2012

Durian: Singapore's Thorny Problem

Durian - love it, hate it - the only fruit that is banned on Singapore public transports - buses & trains & airplanes.
Durian is famous for it's pungent odour (just imagine the smell of gas out of the gas cylinder).
Photo by: Billy Tan
One wonders how this fruit was crowned the "King of Tropical Fruits"? Maybe it can easily knock out any Westerners within 1 meter.   

Singapore Night Sky

Monday 9 January 2012

Gaya Island Resort

Gaya Island Resort, an upcoming resort located off the coast of Borneo, offers a self-discovery of personalised authentic experiences that is distinctively Borneo. It is located on Pulau Gaya, the largest of the cluster of five islands that form the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park. The park is a renowned natural marine conservation area off the coast of Kota Kinabalu in Sabah.

Gaya Island Resort is set over 52 acres of land but only a small proportion has been developed into a resort. This is part of the resort’s effort to conserve the natural vegetation, lush rainforest and wildlife. The resort is a combination of comfort, natural beauty and exotic wilderness. The hilly landscape features an abundance of flora and fauna set against the spectacular outline of Mount Kinabalu. The resort is fringed with a beautiful beach that is ideal for sea activities. Diving enthusiasts will find much to explore in the nearby coral reefs.

• Accommodations

Gaya Island Resort offers accommodation in the form of 120 hill villas and a two-bedroom suite located at nature’s doorstep. Personal verandah space is set against the backdrop of an ancient rainforest and a vantage view of Mount Kinabalu in selected villas.


• Range of Activities

There is a wide range of activities available for guests to the resort. Visitors can choose to explore jungle trails with the resident naturalist, dine on fresh seafood or simply relax in the comfortable rooms and enjoy the view of Mount Kinabalu. A spa village has been seamlessly integrated into the resort offering a rich tapestry of spa programmes that reflect the ancient healing practices of the region while restoring balance to alleviate modern stresses.

• Good way to spend the day

At Gaya Island Resort, authentic personalised experiences await; for the curious to actively engage or be touched by all Borneo has to offer whether you are a nature enthusiast, an adventurer or a romantic at heart. Discover activities that include bird watching, water activities, nature expeditions, cultural and yoga classes.

• Dining Experience           
Gaya Island Resort serves local and international cuisine made with fresh produce that will please even the most cultured taste buds. The Feast Village is equipped with three kitchens and a wine cellar and offers all-day dining with a diverse range of dishes from the Asia-Pacific region and beyond. For something unique, try the rooftop dining available at Fisherman's Cove. True to its name, the outlet serves up freshly caught seafood for dinner. For a casual light lunch, try the Pool Bar Lounge, which has a floating upper-deck platform overlooking the lap pool.

• Unique Features

For a truly invigorating experience try the Spa Village which is built in a mangrove setting making it the ideal environment to refresh and revitalize body and soul. The spa provides a range of treatments that is uniquely rooted in time-honoured remedies of Sabah while restoring balance for contemporary times. Embark on the magic of scent with Sabah Scent Exploration where the spa’s in-house perfumer will guide guests in learning about essential oils and to craft custom blended scents.

• Getting There

Visitors from Singapore can fly to Kota Kinabalu via SilkAir, Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia. From Kota Kinabalu Airport, it is approximately 15 minutes land transfer to Sutera Harbour Marina. From Sutera Harbour Marina, it is a 15-minute journey by speedboat to Gaya Island Resort.   

Wednesday 4 January 2012

Happy times in Hokkaido


Happy times in Hokkaido 
Hokkaido makes an impact with its natural wonders, hot springs and marvellous. 

Hokkaido is sometime referred to, as the secret jewel of Japan and it is not hard to see why. Hokkaido residents have a healthy respect for the environment and it shows in their reverence for nature and hot springs in the vicinity.   
A good place to start exploring Hokkaido is Sapporo, a remarkably green city with several unique features. The places of interest here include the Botanic Gardens, the Russian influenced Clock Tower and Odori Park with its observation deck that stands 90m high.
The Shikotsu-Toya National Park is a great place to get close to nature, while a visit to the traditional Ainu Village gives visitors an insight into the culture. For a rejuvenating experience visit the Noboribetsu Spa hot springs resort.   
The mountains around Lake Toya are still active giving rise to natural hot springs in the area. It comes as no surprise that the hotels around the lake offer public areas to immerse in the springs for a healthy reprieve from the rigours of the day. 
Nature lovers will take pleasure in trips to national park lands like Akan National Parks, Daisetsuzan and Shikotsu-Toya. The wide expanse of wheat fields and hills covered with forests will delight nature enthusiasts. Here, you can ski in winter and hike in summer, or simply relish a soak at one of the famous onsen (hot springs). 
North of Lake Toya are other attractions such as in Asahikawa which is the second biggest city in Hokkaido. Among Asahikawa’s most appealing draws is the Asahiyama Zoo, which has a unique display of penguins walking in the park.  
As farming and fishing are key cottage industries in this island, there is a great emphasis on fresh produce in Hokkaido’s culinary scene. Nowhere is this as true as the Hakodate morning market which boasts up to 360 shops selling seafood. You have to be up pretty early in the morning to see the freshest catch. Seafood choices can range from scallop, salmon, sea urchin and crabmeat. 
A good place for seafood in the Olaru area is known as Sushi Street. Ramen Yokocho, which literally means ‘ramen alley’, is a narrow street crammed with shops that tempt you with delicious bowls of the noodles. End your meal on a sweet note with the rich cocoa flavour of chocolate from the Ishiya factory.
One of the biggest draws in Hokkaido is the Sapporo Snow Festival. For seven days in the month of February, the city is decorated with various ice and snow sculptures, some of which can be as high as a three-storey building. The sculptures sparkle at night when they are lit up. Undoubtedly, the highlight is the crowning of the Ice Queen Beauty Pageant.
From the extensive food delicacies available to the many wonders of nature, Hokkaido is surely a gem waiting to be discovered. 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION:It is possible to take a domestic flight from Tokyo to Chitose Airport in Sapporo, which is the capital of Hokkaido prefecture and its largest city.

Image source Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO)
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