The Finest Spas – Asia and Oceania

May 14, 2011 by  
Filed under Attractions, General Fun

Taking a break from your travels to enjoy a spa break can be the highlight of any trip around the world. The quality of spa resorts in many regions of Asia and Oceania is truly exceptional, with spa packages offering treatments found nowhere else in the world.

If you appreciate the benefits of a truly good pampering, you will rejoice in the tranquil calm of spa days at these unique resorts. Factor just one of them into your holiday or traveling excursion and experience first hand the remarkable expertise of some of the world’s best practitioners of massage, beauty treatments and relaxation techniques.

Fiji Beach Resort and Spa, Fiji

Managed by the Hilton hotel group, the Fiji Beach Resort and Spa is one of the world’s most exclusive and unique places to spend a relaxing vacation. Located on Denarau Island and spread over 1.5 kilometres of idyllic beachfront, the resort offers world class spa days in a setting that will take your breath away. Unique experiences such as the tropical beach Massage Bure have helped the resort win nominations for two Pervonia Asia Pacific awards, and the resort’s spa manager Lauren Hudson will make sure that your visit to the spa exceeds all your expectations.

Waiwera Thermal Resort and Spa, New Zealand

Just north of Auckland on New Zealand’s North Island, the Waiwera Thermal Resort and Spa attracts over 350,000 visitors each year. For over 100 years, the resort has been welcoming travellers to the invigorating warmth of its natural thermal pools, and in 2011 a visit to Waiwera offers a whole host of unique experiences, such as being able to watch your favourite films in the Movie Pool.

The spa offers a wide range of beauty treatments, theraputic massages and acupuncture healing sessions, all within a resort that has an other-worldly feel to it. Waiwera is a great place for people traveling with children, with its many fun pools and water slides.

Chiva-Som Resort and Spa, Thailand

Nestled amid seven acres of lush tropical gardens, the beachfront resort of Chiva-Som in Hua Hin on the gulf of Thailand is one of the world’s best-loved spas. The gleaming array of awards that adorn the entrance to the resort tell their own story, while the standard of accommodation, food and facilities at this world-renowned relaxation centre is peerless. The spa includes experiences such as a kinesis studio, private watsu pools, kneipp baths and holistic health treatments. The spa cuisine, like everything else at Chiva-Som, has won numerous awards for providing guests with a sensational, cleansing diet during their stay.

Kusatsu Onsen Hot Sptin and Spa, Japan

Two hours from Tokyo, in Gunma prefecture, Kusatsu Onsen attracts 3 million visitors to its naturally-cooled spring waters every year. Japan boasts more natural hot springs than any other country in the world and treats them with reverential respect, protecting the purity of the water to ensure that the bathing experience is physically and spiritually enriching. ‘Spring quality first’ is the motto of the resort, which claims: “The theraputic benefits of Kusatsu’s water are so high, the traditional Kusatsu folk song praises it as able to ‘cure everything but love sickness’.” As well as hot spring bathing, Kusatsu offers truly unique accommodation and cuisine – this place has to be visited to be appreciated.

The Zuri Kumarakom, Kerala Resort and Spa, India

Dubbed ‘God’s own Spa’, the Maya Spa the Zuri Kumarakom aims to help its guests achieve the full potential of their body and mind. The spa won the award for Best Resort Spa in India in 2007 and 2008 and continues to wow its guests with therapies and treatments like Ayurveda, hydrotherapy, solar therapies, Swedish and Thai massages, Sabai stone therapy and a range of steam rooms, saunas and pools. Food and accommodation at the resort is among some of the finest in the region, offering luxurious lodgings and dining against a backdrop of emerald green paddy fields and coconut groves.

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 travel ideas and car rental information in the region of Asia, such as this list of must-try Malaysian foods.

Queenstown, New Zealand Adventure Capital

March 28, 2011 by  
Filed under Attractions, Enchanting Oceania, Nature

One of the most awe-inspiring moments of my life occurred on a cool moonlit night in New Zealand. I gazed up from my ground-level lodge’s balcony and saw the most amazing thing: hundreds of thousands of stars radiantly shining like diamonds in the skies. In the background, the vast, snow-capped Remarkables framed an image that I would remember for all time. It was mesmerizing. I didn’t want the moment to end. As it turned out, I was able to repeatedly watch the same star-studded display in almost every place I visited in this vast country of four million people.

New Zealand was once thought of as just a lush, exotic destination somewhere down there, where there are more sheep than human beings, until Peter Jackson brought the country’s stunningly varied terrain to life on the silver screen in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Filmed in more than 150 locations all over New Zealand, the trilogy won 17 Oscar awards and catapulted New Zealand into a coveted spot as one of the “must-see destinations” in the world. Its stunning landscapes left audiences so awed that Britain’s Express on Sunday wrote, “If locations were awarded Oscars, New Zealand would scoop the lot.”

But there’s more to New Zealand than movie locations and bungy jumping. The youngest country on earth is swathed in natural and man-made assets making it the perfect place for a holiday, especially during the hot and humid summer months in Asia. Autumn (March to May) and winter (June to August) are great seasons to cool off in one of New Zealand’s sensational spots.

The Karawau Bridge Bungy  © AJ Hackett Bungy New Zealand

The Karawau Bridge Bungy © AJ Hackett Bungy New Zealand

It is tempting to follow the throng of holiday-makers in Asia who head to the beach for temporary relief from heat. I, however, say ditch the beach! Instead, pack some warm gear and escape to Queenstown (South Island) to chill out. Celebrated for its magnificent scenery, adventure opportunities and luxury lifestyle, Queenstown sits prettily on Lake Wakatipu. The birthplace of bungy jumping, Queenstown’s wildly exciting environment is irresistible to adventure seekers. It is for this reason that it has been dubbed the adventure capital of the world. This bustling year-round destination simply rocks with adrenalin-stirring, sanity-reducing exploits of the most extreme kind—and a few leisurely pursuits.

Autumn is a relaxing time to witness nature’s landscape transform from luscious green to brilliant red and gold. From March to May, Queenstown has stable, clear weather that allows most outdoor excursions. Every visitor to Queenstown should hike or ride to somewhere high. From the top of almost any hill, magnificent views await. Climb Queenstown Hill or Ben Lomond for fantastic views of Queenstown and beyond. Ride the Skyline Gondola for the classic postcard-perfect shot across Lake Wakatipu and Queenstown. Ride a horse into the high country on a guided trek.

Queenstown’s astounding mountain scenery is even more enjoyable from the deck of a private luxury lodge © Azur

Queenstown’s astounding mountain scenery is even more enjoyable from the deck of a private luxury lodge © Azur

Queenstown is part of the Central Otago region, the fastest growing wine district in the country. Book a wine tour or hire a car and visit the vineyards in Gibbston Valley, known for its seriously good lunches and wine tasting. You can also tour Gibbston’s wine cave and cheese factory. From June to August, Queenstown turns into a winter playground, positively vibrating with snow activities and enthusiasm. With two ski areas in close proximity, this resort town is the place to escape to if you want to beat the sweltering heat in Asia.

Fancy being a part of the apres scene? Queenstown is filled with chic restaurants, nightclubs and cafes. If you’re lucky, you might even get a window seat overlooking snow-capped mountains. A cozy seat by a roaring fireplace where you can snuggle up and drink the night away is also a delightful way to spent an evening.

Head over to minus5º where you can have a drink in a bar that is made of hand-sculpted ice. The walls, the bar, the sculptures, the seats and even the glasses your drinks are poured in, are all crafted out of ice! It is a unique experience that will chill your bones and delight your senses. Let one of the ice guides take you on a tour you will never forget.

Fun in the snow © Chris McLennan

Fun in the snow © Chris McLennan

The two ski fields closest to Queenstown are Coronet Peak and The Remarkables. A mere 20-minute drive uphill, Coronet Peak probably has the most European feel of the lot. Choose a bar or restaurant to relax at and enjoy some of the love music acts on the outdoor stage. You might even see the occasional celebrity accompanied by an entourage.

If your legs are skied-out, try your hands on a gold pan or a fishing rod. There are plenty of exciting activities to choose from. Bungy jumping, horse trekking, 4×4 bike adventures, fishing, golfing, jet boating, tandem skydiving, and white water rafting are just a few of the activities on offer here. Better yet, enjoy lunch on a steam boat or soar in the air in a hot air balloon. There is also a pedestrian mall that links souvenir shops with ski stores and high fashion boutiques to satisfy your shopping itch.

Explore Skippers Canyon with Nomad Safaris. This area offers both amazing man-made and natural features. Following the Shotover River valley, the Skippers Road was carved by hand through solid rock. The road clings to sheer cliff sides with breathtaking drops into the river gorge below. This route has breathtaking views at every hairpin turn, across the spectacular Skippers suspension bridge.
The Ledge and Nevis Highwire Bungy sites reinforce the reputation of Queenstown as the “home of bungy”. It offers Queenstown’s only winter night-bungy—suspended 400m above the night lights of Queenstown (open from 4:00 p.m. – 9:00 pm). The Ledge Bungy is a harness jump as opposed to the traditional foot tie jump of other sites. It is accessible via the Skyline gondola making this a one-hour return trip experience. 

Queenstown and its neighboring towns are only the tip of the iceberg. There is an abundance of places to experience and attractions to explore. Nature has bequeathed New Zealand with unrivaled beauty. This is the one place on earth that will absolutely take your breath away.

Greek island holidays are very attractive. The various islands all have their own flavour, so you can choose according to your preference. Do you just want the beach or night-life? The right holiday is there for you.

Sunny Christmas in NZ

March 14, 2011 by  
Filed under Attractions, Enchanting Oceania, Nature

The extinct volcanic cone known as Mauao © Chris McLennan

The extinct volcanic cone known as Mauao © Chris McLennan

Mention Christmas and it conjures up images of kids frolicking in the snow, people wrapped in thick winter clothes and, of course, Santa Claus as he shimmies up and down chimneys bearing gifts for all. Now, picture yourself in sun-drenched New Zealand experiencing a Yuletide holiday the Kiwi way: kids romping around the beach, relaxed barbecue picnics filled with folks dressed in T-shirts, shorts and flip-flops. Yes, it’s summer in Kiwi country from December to February, where average temperatures range from 20-30ºC.

Christmas and New Year celebrations in New Zealand offer a summer twist on the traditional festive season. As temperatures begin to rise, December starts the countdown to the holiday period, which is marked by barbeques, outdoor music festivals, summer sports and an en masse migration to the beach. The festive focus is on the outdoors as Kiwis wind up business for the year to enjoy Christmas holidays of long, hot sunny days, when the summer days don’t often end until 9:30 at night.

The cheerful red blooms of the Pohutukawa tree appear just before Christmas © Elite Images

The cheerful red blooms of the Pohutukawa tree appear just before Christmas © Elite Images

Crimson Tree

With its crimson red flower fluttering in the wind, the Pohutukawa tree has become an established part of the New Zealand Christmas tradition. This iconic tree, unique to the New Zealand’s demographic, has become an important symbol for Kiwis at home and abroad, and are often featured on greeting cards and in poems and songs.

Renowned for its vibrant colour and its ability to survive rough terrain, the Pohutukawa is important not only to modern New Zealanders, but also to the Maoris who venerated the tree for its spirituality, strength and beauty. The Pohutukawa is considered one of the “chiefly trees”, the rakaurangatira.

Upon death, the Maori believe that the spirit travels to the Pohutukawa tree which sits on the very tip of Cape Reinga, at the top of the North Island. The spirit then slides deep underground into the roots of the Pohutukawa, before finally emerging onto Ohaua for a final farewell before rejoining the ancestors.

The Sky Tower provides a point of focus for Auckland by night © Julian Apse

The Sky Tower provides a point of focus for Auckland by night © Julian Apse

New Year Parties

New Zealand is one of the first few places in the world to welcome the New Year. Auckland’s Sky Tower traditionally has a fantastic fireworks display that doesn’t disappoint.

New Year’s Eve is party time in New Zealand and many of the country’s premier music festivals are held at popular coastal settlements. The best-known event is Rhythm & Vines, a three-day outdoor festival set in a vineyard in Gisborne on the east coast of the North Island – the first place in the world to see the sun each day. More than 20,000 people gather to hear bands from all over the world and see the New Year in at a typically Kiwi outdoor event.

This year Waiheke Island (30 mins by ferry from Auckland) has a huge party called HighLife NYE right in the sprawling Stony Ridge Vineyard. Many popular New Zealand music artists and bands also team up and spend the Christmas and New Year period touring local pubs and bars across the country. Touring information is usually available at the bars or in local newspapers.

Moke Lake Reserve © Ben Crawford

Moke Lake Reserve © Ben Crawford

Sunny Holiday Options

Do something different this year. Pack light and head to New Zealand’s many gorgeous beaches and outdoor hot spots. It’s a perfect time to go diving, surfing, sunbathing, or taking a road trip around the vineyards, fruit orchards and olive grove. If you’re still looking for adventure, try your hand at any number of adventure sports around the country.

A popular holiday option for many New Zealand families and groups of friends is to rent a house or pitch a tent in a camping spot. Bachs, found in the southern part of New Zealand, refers to structures akin to small, often very modest holiday homes or beach houses. They are an iconic part of New Zealand’s history and culture, especially in the middle of the 20th century, where they symbolized the beach holiday lifestyle that was becoming more accessible to the middle class.

Websites such as Bachcare, Holiday Homes, Holiday Houses and New Zealand Holiday Homes provide a network of holiday rentals, while Top 10 Holiday Parks ( coordinate 48 camping grounds across the country. The Department of Conservation manages over 250 vehicle accessible camping grounds, providing access to more remote camping locations.

Matariki – Traditional Maori New Year

Matariki is the Maori name for the small cluster of stars that can be seen low on New Zealand’s northeastern horizon just before dawn in the last days of May or in early June. The first appearance of these stars, which are also known as the Pleiades or the Seven Sisters, heralds the beginning of Maori New Year celebrations.

All Iwi (Maori Tribes) celebrate Matariki, although they may celebrate at different times. Some tribe celebrations are held when Matariki is first seen in the dawn sky, while others celebrate after the full moon rises or at the dawn of the next new moon.

Traditionally, Matariki was an opportunity to honor the past and plan for the future. The coming season’s crop is thought to be determined by the visibility of Matariki. Many people believe that the brighter the stars, the warmer the season will be, thus ensuring a more productive crop. Today all of New Zealand celebrates Matariki. It has become a time to rejoice in the remarkable country they live in; share kai (food), stories and songs; create art and enjoy cultural entertainment.

The next Matariki Maori New Year celebration will be on 04 June 2011. For more information This article is written by Debbie Reyes-Coloma exclusively for Unearthing Asia.

Unearthing Asia is a travel zine focusing on Lifestyle, Culture and Attractions all over Asia. Don’t miss out on the best cheap holidays ideas and inspirations in the region of Asia, such as this list of divers paradise in Indonesia.

Book one of our holidays to Rhodes – one of the most popular Greece holiday destinations. Rhodes also has the reputation of being the sunniest Greek island.

Fiji Fun

September 24, 2009 by  
Filed under Culture, Enchanting Oceania, Nature

If you really want to go somewhere off the beaten track, head to Fiji. While yes, most people have heard of it, few realize how far away it is – floating out in the South Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and New Zealand. With turquoise blue waters and amazing palm-tree shores, Fiji isn’t a tough sell. Here are a few thoughts on things to do when you’re not lying in the sun sipping drinks with umbrella in them.

Photo credits - kalevkevad

Photo credits - kalevkevad

Visit a Traditional Village

You should take an opportunity to go and visit a traditional village. These trips can be arranged or you might just be invited if you make friends with the locals. If you go, stop by a shop and pick up some kava root, the traditional gift guests bring. On arrival, you’ll be offered a coconut shell full of yaqona, to be swallowed in one full gulp. It’s considered homeopathic in some countries, so enjoy it – it is rude to turn it down.

Afterwards, you’ll be invited to sit and chat with the villagers. This is may seem quite casual but it’s the traditional way for the locals to get to know each other. The best part is the children, who love guests and love their photo taken!

Photo credits - makani5

Photo credits - makani5

Walks and Waterfalls

Fiji has so many fantastic waterfalls it’s worth heading out to see a few; there are walking tours in many areas that include a waterfall option. Waterfalls are mostly on Viti Levu and Taveuni. The World of Waterfalls site has a great map showing you where all the falls are. You can join a waterfall walk with many of the forest tours, such as the Bouma Falls and Lavena Coastal Walk .

Photo credits - derekkeats

Photo credits - derekkeats

Scuba Diving

Given its remote destination, Fiji is a diver’s paradise. But it’s not just coral; check out the shark dive in Pacific Harbour (not for the amateur nor the faint of heart). It’s too adventurous for me so I can’t report first-hand! If something far more ‘light’ is your interest, then ask your accommodation to book a snorkelling trip. Great spots are ubiquitous and most resorts have special rates with a local operator, so ask if you can get a discount. One of the nicest places is Somosomo Strait where you’ll find the Great White Wall and Rainbow Reef.

Photo credits - timoshea95

Photo credits - timoshea95

Other Must Dos

Beyond those favorites, there are a couple more must-do experiences. You’ll love the ZIP Fiji experience, similar to the ever-so-popular ZIP options in South America (Costa Rica and Brazil come to mind).

And don’t miss out on the shopping! Ladies, check out the black pearls. One the reign of the Cook Islands, Fiji is now in on the game. In Savusavu Bay you can buy what they call Fiji Gold, very uniquely yellow-ish pearls. You can also pick up colourful clothing, arts, and crafts – just shop carefully because many crafts are imported and mass-manufactured.

Photo credits - Alex Kehr

Photo credits - Alex Kehr

If You Go

Fiji is unfortunately becoming more well-known for violent crime, especially in Suva. Be sure to use extreme caution at nightfall and take heed to any advice/warnings of your accommodation. The fact remains, though, that the Fijians are some of the warmest, friendliest people in all of Asia, so don’t let that impede any trip to Fiji. Head to Fiji when you have the chance!

Unearthing Asia is a travel magazine 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 Bangkok’s fine dining highlights. You can also find some information on holidays in salou here.

About the Author. Andy Hayes. Andy Hayes is a freelance travel writer and photographer based in Edinburgh, Scotland. When not crossing the world to have his next Asian travel adventures, he is hitting the walking trails near home. To get in touch or see Andy’s other travelogues, visit his website, Sharing Travel Experiences.

Whale of a Time

January 20, 2009 by  
Filed under Attractions, Culture, Enchanting Oceania

Every year up to 3000 humpback whales use Hervey Bay as a stopover during their migratory return from Antarctica. Sheltered from the currents and winds by Fraser Island, the bay’s waters are calm and mild. After the tempestuous Southern Ocean, the location provides a place for whales to rest and develop layers of blubber for the next migration south.

Tourists flock to Hervey Bay between August and November, when sightings are virtually guaranteed to occur. Several operators provide whale-watching tours from the town’s Urangan Harbour to Platypus Bay, but MV Spirit of Hervey Bay is the only vessel with underwater viewing windows. This ensures passengers can witness the antics of these 15-metre, 40-tonne creatures both above and below the waterline.

On the day I went in search of whales, I learned that the whales are apparently relaxed by the warm temperatures and untroubled by the tourist activity on the water.

To see these magnificent mammals dive and surface was memorable, to see displays of tail and fin-slapping or breaching was spectacular – a real privilege. When surfacing took place right beside the boat it was a heart-stopping encounter of mutual curiosity. There was constant communication between whales in each pod, which could be heard if the tour operator submerged a microphone in the water. Mesmerized, there wasn’t a sound from anyone on-board the boat.

About the Author. Char Magalong. Char Magalong, freelance web designer and programmer, spent two years living, working and traveling in Singapore. Another two years stint right after that in Malaysia led to homesickness, after which she promptly returned to the Philippines. With her myriad of treasured experiences for apt comparison, she comments regularly on the beauty of Philippines and its surrounding country side.