Sofitel Luxury Hotels has proudly opened its first address in Guangzhou with the opening of Sofitel Guangzhou Sunrich. The property is located strategically in the heart of Tianhe, just 1km away from CITIC Plaza and a few minutes from the East Railway Station. The hotel boasts 493 rooms and suites, with decor that elegantly blends contemporary Asian design with Parisian chic. Five bars and restaurants will serve guests of the hotel, with the highlight of the five being Robata Grill & Bar, a fine-dining restaurant which combines a classy steakhouse with modern Japanese Izakaya. The Sofitel Guangzhou Sunrich also has 17 meeting rooms that can be adapted and personalized.
Perfectly situated in the heart of Tianhe, Guangzhou’s dynamic financial and business area, the Sofitel Guangzhou Sunrich is less than 1km away from the iconic skyscraper CITIC Plaza and just a few minutes away from the East Railway Station, a transport hub that connects Guangzhou to Dongguan, Shenzhen and Hong Kong. The hotel boasts 493 rooms and suites, whose decor elegantly refers to both modern Asian design and classic Parisian hipness. All rooms boast a view of the magical skyline of the Tianhe district.
The property features five bars and restaurants. The highlights of them include the fine dining restaurant “Robata Grill & Bar”, “Le Chinois” which highlights famous Cantonese gastronomy and the “8 Faubourg” which reproduces an elegant bar with the typical décor of a Parisian flat. The “Mar-Tea-Ni” lounge bar is the an excellent place to savor fine French pastries beside rare teas. Like this, Sofitel creates a link between French culture and Chinese culture, a value dear to the brand.
The luxury hand of Accor Group, the upscale five-star Pullman, is back on the headlines with the recently opened Pullman Lijiang Resort & Spa in China’s southwestern Yunnan Province. The new property is located in Lijiang, a city often called China’s Forgotten Kingdom. This is the fourth Pullman resort in the country, with two in Sanya and another in Zhangjiajie, and the property boasts a tranquil resort setting with magical views of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. The property is located just a few minutes away from downtown Lijiang, as well as adjacent to Shuhe Ancient Town. Another nearby attraction is the Dayan Ancient Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is well worth the visit.
“Yunnan is one of China’s most attractive destinations for tourists due to its breathtaking natural scenery, mild climate and rich ethnic cultures. We are very excited to bring the Pullman brand to Yunnan,” shared the Senior VP of Accor Greater China, Robert Murray.
The upscale hotel consisted of 79 villas and 51 deluxe rooms. The architecture is inspired by the local Naxi ethnic minority traditions, with elements of contemporary Chinese expertly mixed into the interior design. The resort is a full-service hotel, set in the middle of lush gardens with canals and a lake which functions as a destination in and of itself.
The resort is home to five restaurants and bars, all created to pamper even the most discerning of palates. There is the Xi Western Restaurant, which serves an international buffet spread as well as ala carte selection of international cuisines. There is also Zun Chinese Restaurant, which serve Chow Chou cuisine with inspirations from the local ethnic traditions and cultures.
Other than that, there is also the ultra-cool MIST Lobby Lounge and Bar, boasting a casual, plush and relaxing atmosphere, while those looking enjoy the stunning views of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain can do so from the comfort of 1919 Bar. Finally, another highlight is the Mandara Spa, which serves up unique and exotic spa treatments. All in all the Pullman Resort at Lijiang promises to be your perfect destination away from home.
Cholesterol levels also rise in winter, according to reports in medical magazine The Lancet, and this is because our vitamin D levels fall. With cheap all inclusive holidays 2011 can be your chance for more sunshine.
With so much to see and do in Asia, sometimes a holiday isn’t enough time, and back-packing isn’t the most comfortable way to see what some of the cities have to offer. Somewhere in-between, is staying a week or so in a luxury apartment right in the heart of all the sights and amenities, but with enough autonomy to gain a sense of what it’s like to live there.
Shanghai is speedily becoming one of the most desirable destinations for tourists. With a growing high-fashion reputation, and some beautiful classic gardens; Shanghai appeals to everyone. For an exclusive luxury apartment in the heart of the city, take a look City Base Apartments for the Somerset Xu Hui Apartments. With an indoor pool, a fully-equipped gym, and a children’s playground; a stay here is the perfect indulgence in the increasingly glamorous and sophisticated Chinese city.
With a 3.4-mile long premier shopping street; Nanjing Road; Shanghai has some of the best clothes shops in the world, and is a must-visit for the fashion-savvy. Take a step into another world and visit the Yuyuan Garden, an expanse of five acres filled with 400 year-old rockeries and pavilions, stunning exotic flowers, and glistening ponds.
Whether for business or pleasure, a stay in Singapore City will leave you wanting more. Situated next to the Central Business District, the Orchard Parksuites provide a stay drenched in luxury and affluence. Fully-equipped with every modern convenience thinkable, and boasting its very own maid service; there is no other way to experience Singapore city-living than here.
A visit to Singapore City wouldn’t be complete without a ride on the world’s largest observation wheel, the Singapore flyer. This is a once in a lifetime experience which is equally as breath-taking by day as it is by night. With an array of elegant restaurants, indulgent spas, and the finest shopping malls; a trip to Singapore City is the ultimate extravagance.
Known as the centre of software development, Bangalore in India has a reputation as the economic and IT hub of India. However, this culturally-diverse city is also home to many parks and gardens which provide relief from the bustling city streets. The Lal Bagh is a garden located in the southern part of the city, packed with lotus ponds, fountains, glass houses, and ancient stone formations.
The Residency Road Apartments can be found in the heart of the city, and these elegantly furnished apartments are just a two-minute walk from the beautiful Cubbon Park. With plenty of traditional food stores, you can experience new flavours and a healthy way of life all whilst cooking in a luxury apartment.
Staying in an apartment offers you a luxurious, secure, and comfortable stay; all whilst enjoying your own independence. Providing you with a unique experience with which you can truly appreciate the local way of life; apartment renting offers the perfect balance between a package holiday, and traveling.
A cheap car rental opens new doors to the holiday-maker. Explore the places you want to visit and be in control of your trip. There are gorgeous spots that are off the beaten track.
Somewhere high up in the Himalayas, the mighty Yangtze River embarks on a long and arduous descent. Beginning its journey as a tiny creek at its apex, the Long River (as it is known in Chinese) transforms over its course, forming a series of bounding rapids and hurtling waterfalls before settling into its slow, flat demise into the East China Sea.
About 65 km north of Lijiang in Yunnan Province, the river descends into one of the deepest and most intensely beautiful canyons on earth – the Tiger Leaping Gorge. Legend has it that many years ago, a local hunter was chasing a fierce tiger that leapt onto a rock in the middle of the gorge’s narrowest junction to his escape, leaving his legacy in the name of the place – Hu Tiao Xia or Tiger Leaping Gorge.
Tiger Leaping Gorge is the steepest and narrowest canyon on earth situated in a remote suburb of Shangri-la. The mere mention of a place so alluring whetted my appetite for true paradise on earth that is becoming a rarity in our modernized world. I had to experience for myself this gem of a place– the last of China’s lost heavens.
My journey to Tiger Leaping Gorge begins in the city of Lijiang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its ancient architecture and ethnic minority, the Naxi People. Once a trade center along the old tea roads to Central Asia, Lijiang is one of the last stops before Tibet and its series of waterways and canals meander through carved wooden edifices that are interconnected by cobblestone streets.
Hiking along one of the two trails that span above Tiger Leaping Gorge requires just a short day. But why rush through the experience without savoring its beauty and splendor? So I opted instead to spend two nights and three days hiking the gorge.
Camping here is virtually impossible because the trails are extremely narrow; however, there are many guesthouses operated by the locals who once made their living farming grains. They are now spending their days providing food and accommodation to adventurous foreigners who come seeking the thrills of Tiger Leaping Gorge.
The gorge measures about 15 km long, but hiking through the sandy paths created by the locals for access in and out of their homes on the steep cliffs proves to be a much longer journey, almost double the gorge’s length. Two trails provide a way in: the low road and the high road. The low road offers quick access to tour buses and the high road is a steep hiking trail sought out mostly by the adventure seekers.
The trek begins in the tiny town of Qiaotou, where, equipped with a hand-drawn map, I side-stepped a truckload of touts and made my way to the start of the trail. The Yangtze flows right through Qiaotou, which is not more than a one-lane village with loose chickens crossing the road under the beginnings of mountain green mountaintops.
Most inbound hikers to Tiger Leaping Gorge are required to pay a ¥50 entrance fee, but that day the dusty guard station was empty, so I continued along the path, which was lined in wildflowers and weeds and narrowed into a small track carved into the hillside. Below, the mighty Yangtze narrowed with it in a rush of grey water, and before me the hill swept up into a swath of green.
The first few kilometers trek steadily upward in a gentle incline until you reach the 28 Bends, an aptly named series of steep switchbacks that bring you over a tangle of rocks and weeds straight up the cliff side. The view becomes intense, at times almost vertical as the gorge opens like a chasm below and little more than a few dusty boulders separate you and imminent death.
As the bends wore on, my feet began to burn and slip under the loose rocks, and about halfway to the top, I met a toothless lady selling green tea and Snickers bars. “Hashish?” she asked with a wry smile. I gently declined, ordering instead some cold tea to sip on.
A high wind caught the flags flying over the Tea-Horse Trade Guesthouse, where I stopped for the day and readily ordered a large bottle of cold Tsingtao and a plate of fried noodles. The huge porch here offers stunning views of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, which stands in awesome grandeur on the opposite side of the gorge. Despite early May’s spring temperatures, the mountain was still capped in a white blanket of snow, indicating its altitude and, below, the green river steamed in quiet serenity.
The following day, I made my way down to the Tiger Leaping Stone, where the mythic tiger supposedly landed mid-river as he fled from the hunter. To get there required a tricky encounter with a waterfall before arriving at a serene bamboo grove. Below, the gorge dived into what seemed like eternity, while the bamboo trees above wafted back and forth like feathers. Terraces of tea fields laced along the slope of the gorge and the icy azure waters of the Yangtze flowed in harmony below, winding their way out to freedom.
To get down to the Stone, you must follow a long, narrow staircase before finally arriving to the roar of the river’s rapids. An unstable-looking rope bridge offers the possibility of retracing the tiger’s jump across to the massive boulder, which sits like a sentinel in the middle of the gushing waters. I took the chance and, once across, laid down there on my back, watching the walls of the canyon rise like rocky pillars above me and enjoying the sprinkles of the mighty river over my face.
My second night on the gorge was spent at Sean’s Guesthouse, a budget friendly accommodation, one of the last inns along the high road. The inn’s leafy Eden-like gardens brought spring to life and a scenic place to relax. Here, I met several backpackers from all over the world, and we strayed into a dreamy evening, drinking cheap Tsingtao around a glowing campfire. As the river flowed steadily below us, we exchanged stories about our travel experiences, about lives back home and most interestingly, the various encounters on the road to Tiger Leaping Gorge. Too soon, the fire quelled to dying embers and my friends retreated into their rooms to sleep, leaving me alone under the inky sky, trying to find the North Star.
My final day on the gorge was one of goodbyes and of photo taking. The last stretch of trail before returning to the road and the bus back to Lijiang offers amazing panoramas of the canyon’s sweeping vistas and the vast horizons beyond. Looking back toward the trail’s beginning, Haba Snow Mountain and Jade Dragon Snow Mountain extend into the skies with one on each side of the gorge, sliced sharply in two by the Yangtze.
Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the few remaining places in the world so undisturbed that even the “flawed” dirt paths and muddy slopes are made perfect in its splendor. As more infrastructure is forced into the natural beauty of Tiger Leaping Gorge, I fear it may lose some of its grandeur to the masses of tourism. But for now, Tiger Leaping Gorge still exists as a place off the beaten track where peaks rise to the heavens and myths meet the helm of reality.
Unearthing Asia is a travel zine focusing on Lifestyle, Culture and Attractions all over Asia. Don’t miss out on the best travel ideas and inspirations in the region of Asia, such as this list of top attractions in Ho Chi Minh City.
About the Author. Megan Eaves. Megan Eaves is a freelance travel writer and China junkie. She’s an English teacher in a small town in Zhejiang Province where her days are filled correcting grammatical mistakes, killing nuclear wasps and getting stared at by the locals. Megan has traveled everywhere from the Great Wall to the Gobi Desert and isn’t afraid to write about it. She’s also the author of a groovy book called “This is China: A Guidebook for Teachers, Backpackers and Other Lunatics”. She, of course, has a website: http://www.meganeaveswriting.com
Kenya holidays are popular for the incredible wildlife. The grasslands of the Serengeti in the west of Kenya have prides of lions along with magnificent elephants, zebras and more.
Recently Unearthing Asia has the pleasure of interviewing Dr Leping Zha, an unconventional photographer. Dr Zha’s professional career is not in photography, but he shares an unforgiving passion for it and an incurable thirst for Huangshan, his beloved childhood playground. Here he shares his story and amazing photographs, oozing with emotions and palpable passion.
Dr. Zha, it’s a pleasure to have you with us today. Could you please tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Leping Zha, and I’m a Principal MRI Scientist in a Toshiba lab in Chicago, Illinois. I was born in China and went to the States in 1986 to attend graduate schools, first in Duluth, Minnesota, and then Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. My real passion, however, has always been in the world of art, spirituality, and philosophy.
How did you get started in fine-art landscape photography?
I started getting interested in landscape photography when I was about 14 years old. I would grab primitive Chinese- and Russian-made cameras from my father’s cabinet from time to time to snap photos. Huangshan, in the Southern Anhui province of Eastern China is, without a doubt, my favorite place to photograph. In the West the word ‘Huangshan’ is incorrectly translated as ‘Yellow Mountain’. Most people do not realize that the word ‘huang’ refers to an ancient Chinese Emperor named Huang Di. Legend has it that Huang Di gave the mountain its name, and that it was also the location from which Huang Di ascended to the heavens.
What’s so special about Huangshan?
Huangshan is an inspirational place. This is where traditional Chinese landscape brush painting started centuries ago, and since then, it has inspired plenty of famous artists. One of the greatest Chinese poets, Li Bai, has often cited Huangshan as one of his muses. For me, Huangshan is deeply and emotionally attached to my heart and soul. My family was originally from a small village right at the base of Huangshan. As such, I would often spend my days going up into the mountains – it was my childhood playground.
With virtually no pollution, no global warming and very few visitors, Huangshan in the 1970s was a photographer’s heaven. Seas of clouds formed every other day, and in winter the snow covered mountain peaks for months. I would often come back empty handed from my trips up into the mountains. Sometimes I simply didn’t have a camera , and when I did have access to a camera, it wasn’t always easy to capture the best scenes since the fog and clouds were constantly moving. Nowadays, technology allows us to work with these elements, but back then it was simply luck of the draw. Additionally, I could never afford to stay long. My time was precious, and I had to go back to the factory to work, for which I earned 13 renminbi (approximately $2 USD) a month! I could not afford color film, and the black and white emulsions were very grainy. Professional photography was not accessible to me.
Things changed rapidly in the late 70s. Colleges in China reopened their doors, and I was among the first batch to get in. China opened its doors to the world as well, and in 1980 Ansel Adam’s landscape prints came to China in an exhibition in Beijing. I was mesmerized by the “Moon Rise over Half-Dome” image. My feelings, at that time, were of regret because I would never be able to see Yosemite with my own eyes.
But then, fate and destiny intervened! Fifteen years later, I was not only in America, but I was also just a four hour drive away from Yosemite! I literally started calling it “my backyard”, and would often go there to enjoy the amazing scenery. However, I refrained from picking up my photography hobby again, because I knew once I started there would be no stopping it, and it was an expensive hobby that was well beyond my means.
Ah yes, but then again that abstinence didn’t last long…
Yes. In the end, I landed a stable job and wasn’t able to resist the call of the West Coast’s natural beauties. I finally jumped back into photography and restarted my childhood love affair. I went to study with landscape masters David and Mark Muench, Charles Cramer, Bill Atkinson, John Shaw, Richard Garret, Charles Farmer, Richard Lohmann, John and Barbara Gerlaches, and Yuntian Yu. I was ferociously learning left and right, eager to make up for lost time. I tried film and digital capture, traditional and digital darkrooms, and various film formats. Eventually I decided on my preferred backbone gear, Pentax 67 system, to go with mainly color chrome film (Fujichrome Velvia), complemented by the occasional 4×5 (Ebony and Toyo).
In 2000 I finally had my first publication. I won the Cemex International Photography Awards and the Grand Prize of Earth Day 2000 Photo Competition. My works were displayed in local, national and international galleries and museums, and in books, magazines and calendars all over the world.
However, my endeavors could not be completed without going back to Huangshan. I often pictured the peaks and clouds in my dream, and longed to go back with renewed passion to recapture my childhood memories, and more if I could. However, I only had a few weeks of vacation each year and I did not know how to best go about climbing its peaks. Every time I go to Wuhan, my hometown, my parents tell me that it is unsafe to go on my own, especially with my expensive photo gear.
Then destiny called again. In the summer of 2000, a Huangshan painter came to Millbrae, California to exhibit his paintings, only a few blocks from where I lived. I poured my heart out to help them, and they were touched with my generosity and my passion for Huangshan. They put me in contact with the top Huangshan photographers on site, and soon in October, I was finally able to travel back to Huangshan!
Amazing! How did it feel to go back and relive your childhood memories?
It was indescribable. It was, without a doubt, my most memorable travel experience. To go back to Huangshan after a 22-year absence was one of the most spiritual moments of my life. There are many other beautiful places in the world, but none means as much to me as Huangshan.
I think the essence of my love for Huangshan can be described in one word – dignity. Every pine, every rock and every mountain formation bears a sense of dignity that I have been unable to find anywhere else. Nowadays, through my annual trips to Huangshan since 2000, I have made enough local friends to make my stay comfortable and productive.
Please tell us more about your photographs and artistic style.
My artistic style reflects the strong influence of my Eastern background. As with many of China’s major mountains, Huangshan is closely related to Buddhism and mysticism. I always strive to capture the deep spirituality of each location, as well as my own personal state of mind at the moment of observation.
I’m a born perfectionist, and I pursue technical excellence from composition to printing. However, I always feel it is more important to study and understand the forms, the grandeur and drama of nature, and to discover the ways human minds respond to natural elements.
Thank you very much for your time Doctor! And that, dear readers, is the end of our interview with Dr Leping Zha. You can find out more about Dr Zha and his photographs in his online website at www.lepingzha.com.
If you are planning a visit to Asia, don’t forget to check out Unearthing Asia, the best Asia travel portal focusing on Lifestyle, Culture and Attractions all over Asia. We have got some of the best canary island holidays ideas and inspirations in the region of Asia, such as this list of must-try things in Hokkaido.
China’s northernmost city of Harbin is a popular winter destination for both local and international tourists alike. Hundreds of thousands flock in freezing January temperatures to attend the Ice Lantern Festival, an annual festival of international prominence that sees the city play host to a multitude of magnificent ice and snow sculptures. This does not mean, however, that the city has nothing else to offer – in fact some of northern China’s best historical sights and recreational resorts are located here.
City of Ice
The famed Ice Lantern Festival was first established in 1985, and it is held annually from the beginning of January through the month of February. The city’s location and arctic climate provides an abundant amount of ice and snow that is so necessary for the festival’s success.
One of the key components of the festival is Harbin’s humble ice lanterns, which were originally created by local peasants and fishermen who used ice lanterns as jacklights in winter. These windproof lanterns gained great popularity in the region, and from then on novel changes and advancements in techniques resulted in the various delicate ice lantern displays.
Subsequently the Ice City of Harbin grew to become the center of ice and snow art sculptures in China, and now the Harbin Ice Festival is not only a showcase of ice and snow art, but a cultural event for international exchange, with artists and fans from ?all over the world gathering in Harbin ?to participate in the festival.
From November onwards, the Snow Sculpture Exposition is open at the Sun Island Park, the world’s largest indoor ice and snow art museum. There is also the Harbin Ice and Snow World, one of the world’s largest ice architecture parks, with sculptures deriving from traditional Chinese fairy tales and world famous architectures. Zhaolin Park is another must-see attraction that features a traditional showcase of ice lanterns with water, lights and natural ice from the Songhua River. Touring the various ice lantern parks are a popular tourist activity here, and other than sight-seeing, there are also various activities such ?as ice fishing, skiing and much more.
The exhibits are best viewed at night when the sculptures are lit from within in tones of pink, red, blue, green and yellow. The numerous ice sculptures and exhibits around the park can be toured in the park on foot, but frequent stops at tea tents on the grounds are of the utmost importance if you want to keep somewhat comfortable in the sub-zero weather. The tea tents are outfitted with cozy space heaters and piping hot tea, which are much needed after a mere thirty minutes outdoors atop the ice sculptures.
A tour of the grounds can also be arranged with one of the many horse and carriage operators in the area. Be warned, though. Physical exercise makes a big difference in body temperature and there’s no way to keep warm from the back of a carriage. We recommend doing a short, quick tour of the grounds by carriage before continuing the rest of the way on foot.
Siberian Tiger Preserve
The Sun Island Park is the largest recreation center in Harbin, and one of its must see attractions is the Siberian Tiger Preserve. The Preserve is home to the endangered Siberian Tiger, the largest member of the cat family. These beautiful creatures can grow up to 320 kg! The park boasts about 800 Siberian Tigers of all ages, which makes it the largest natural reserve for Siberian Tigers in the world.
Visitors can ride in an open bus with metal caging around it, and purchase strips of meat to hand feed the tigers. If you’re into it, you can buy live animals such as ducks, chickens, and even goats or cows to feed the tigers. Park employees will set your animal free among the tigers for a showcase of animal instinct at its most basic. This option is definitely not for the faint-hearted, nor for obsessive animal lovers.
Zhaolin Park, located at the northern end of Zhaolin Street at the bank of Songhua River, is also worth a visit. Set up in 1900, the park was built in memory of the General Li Zhaolin, and was originally named Daoli Park before having its name changed in 1046. The park’s enchanting scenery is the main draw, with the Hua Guo Mountain to the East and the Mei Gui Mountain to the West. The park is sectioned into various gardens and man-made lake with a skating ring and exhibition hall.
The Park is home to the original Ice Lantern Festival, and while the newer and larger Snow and Ice World in Sun Island Park attracts a larger crowd, a smaller, more traditional festival is still held here in Zhaolin Park. Unlike the internationally inspired structures at the Snow and Ice World, the ice structures in Zhaolin Park are all Chinese inspired, with various traditional elements such as the red lanterns, dragons and flowers aplenty.
Yabuli Ski Resort
Finally, there is also the Yabuli International Ski Resort, about 200 km east of Harbin, the perfect place to go if you’re into skiing. Located in Shangzy City, this is the largest ski resort in China, and it provides excellent ski conditions with high mountains and natural snow.
The ski resort is sectioned into two separate areas – the competitive section and the leisure skiing section. The competitive section is built to international skiing standard, providing an environment for professional skiers with altitude reaching up to 1,374 meters. The leisure section is about 1,000 meters high and provides a comparatively safe environment for leisure skiing. Tourists can easily ski down a giant slide from the top of the mountain. This is made especially for skiers who are not confident enough yet to ski on their own.
The resort is approximately 4 hours away from Harbin, with various buses and trains going to and from throughout the day. Besides skiing, visitors can also enjoy a multitude of entertainment facilities at the resort, such as hot-air balloon rides, paragliding and mini golf. The beautiful scenery makes this an excellent destination for your winter sojourn, and even in the summer tourists can escape the heat and enjoy an array of outdoor activities.
Unearthing Asia is a travel zine focusing on Lifestyle, Culture and Attractions all over Asia. Don’t miss out on the best majorca holidays ideas and inspirations in the region of Asia, such as this list of divers paradise in Indonesia.
Winter beckons! White, powdery snow; cool frosty air; and the cheer of Christmas. But here in Asia the celebration of winter is uniquely different, one that we are going to unearth in this issue of Unearthing Asia – the magic of Oriental Winters.
In this issue
+ Japan + China + Taiwan
+ Truly Malaysian Spa
+ Urban Living – Singapore
+ Siem Reap Top Attractions
+ Melbourne Arts Galore
+ 12 Things to do in Bali
+ Historic Duolun Road
+ New Zealand Food Trail