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.
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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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 (www.top10.co.nz) 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 www.newzealand.com. 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.
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.
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.