Six Romantic Asian Backdrops

January 6, 2011 by  
Filed under Attractions, General Fun, Nature

There’s no doubt that Asian is the land of inspiration and romance. It has often been the place for honeymoons, destination weddings, one night stands and I don’t know specifically but I bet a handful of marriage proposals too! But where to go to find that spark that will make your heart skip a beat? Here are six great backdrops – but no matter where you go, be sure to head off the beaten path, walk a little further, and see if you can find that perfect spot to lose everyone else and maybe find yourself.

Photo credit - farbfilm

Photo credit - farbfilm

Halong Bay, Vietnam

I know what you’re thinking – how cliché. But try taking a sunset cruise along Halong Bay – it is one of those experiences that is hard to forget. The bay is one of Vietnam’s crowded UNESCO World Heritage sites, so why not book the junk boat that actually spends the night in the bay and get away from it all? The junk boat to Cat Ba Island is also nice and a little less overpopulated. You can get by in Halong Bay on the cheap, but don’t – spend that little bit extra and you’ll get a lot more for your money, particularly when it comes to excursions and anything out on the water.

Photo credit - nurpax

Photo credit - nurpax

Jeju Island, South Korea

One of the stops in this island will definitely make your heart skip a beat – and give you a good giggle in the process. Some things are “oh gads, only in Asia” and Jeju Loveland is one of them. It’s a theme park dedicated to sex. From the phallus gardens to the interactive exhibits (link is NSFW!), you and your lover will see in 3D every sexual position possible. Skip the kama sutra and see this stuff in action! Other than that, Jeju Island is a popular honeymoon spot for Koreans, so once you’ve had your laughs get out and explore the island’s other natural attractions. Hike towards the top of Sunrise Peak for a mesmerizing sunset, or head towards one of the many beautiful waterfalls adorning the island.

Photo credit - tboothhk

Photo credit - tboothhk

Stanley, Hong Kong

Hong Kong is great, but the hustle and bustle (not to mention the pollution) aren’t exactly romantic bliss. I prefer to cross the island and head to Stanley, a very quaint little fishing village. Spend a few hours exploring the markets, then sit and watch the sunset. It’s dreamy. Stanley has some excellent restaurants, including a few fabulous dim sum shops, so come hungry. There are some walking trails in the area and other little towns to explore, so you don’t have to spend your time confined in Stanley itself.

Photo credit - Dave B

Photo credit - Dave B

Siem Reap, Cambodia

So Siem Reap is no tourism secret – in fact, it’s so popular it is sinking back into the ground. Not cool. But hire an air conditioned van (or a tuk-tuk, if you prefer the wind in your hair and can stomach the bumpy roads) and go off exploring into the countryside. The Angkor Wat complex is absolutely massive and few tourists manage to get very far off the beaten path. It’s a shame because some of the temples are just as amazing and a sight less busy. Check out Banteay Srei, one of the more popular ones but still more quiet. The carvings in the stone are so intricate, you won’t believe it is stone. Inspiring.

Photo credit - ManojVasanth

Photo credit - ManojVasanth

Jaipur, Rajasthan, India

The state of Rajasthan in India is the country’s largest and has many unique sights to visit for romantic inspiration. From the Great Indian Desert to the hundreds of massive palaces and temples, you could spend weeks finding yourself in Rajasthan. I suggest a few special days in Jaipur, the state capital. It’s known as the pink city, and is one of India’s first planned cities. Because of this, I think, the views are just endless, from the Albert Hall Museum to the Jal Mahal or the Amber Fort. You’ll be blown away by the color and never look at the world the same. You don’t have to build your lover a temple, but you can take them to one.

Eastern and Oriental Express, Southeast Asia

Just saying the worlds orient express conjures up visions of sensual seduction while you glide across the rails. The reality is that while this is one of very few ultra-deluxe trains, there are more than one. But the Asian version is called the Eastern and Oriental Express and it has a number of routes between the cities of Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Vientiane, and Chiang Mai. What better way to spend a romantic retreat than by tucking away into the luxury of this iconic train between visits to any of these classic Asian destinations?

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.

Korean Festival Showcase

September 4, 2010 by  
Filed under Attractions, Culture, Uniquely Far East

The Land of Ginseng is one that thoroughly understands the importance of preserving its rich history and culture. As such, numerous festivals are held throughout Korea each year to showcase the beauty of the country and to foster an understanding of its rich history and culture. Some of these festivals have become tourists attractions on their own, and are definitely worth planning your trip around.

Korea Mud Festival

Photo credit - Stinki Pinkie Infinity

Boryeong Mud Festival

July, at the Daecheon Beach – www.mudfestival.or.kr
During the festival period, tourists from all over the world flock to Daecheon Beach to experience a unique festival showcasing the beneficial properties of the Boryeong mud. Visitors can partake in numerous activities such as mud wrestling, mud sliding, swimming in a mud mega tub and generally have loads of fun! In the evening, the party carries on towards the beach, with music and fireworks making this a delightful, family-friendly event.

Korean Ginseng

Photo credit - Zionorbi

Ginseng Festival

September, at the Goumsan County – www.geumsan.go.kr
The Ginseng Festival, locally known as the Geumsan Insam Festival, is the leading festival of Geumsan County, which is located in the Chuncheongnam-do province. The county is the largest producer of ginseng in Korea, and as such, a festival is held there to promote the beneficial effects of Geumsan ginseng. There are various exhibits on everything related to ginseng, as well as traditional folk performances, singing and dance contests. There is also a special fair for international ginseng trade and various programs for international tourists.

Muju Mountaineous Area

Photo credit - WStay

Muju Firefly Festival

June, at the Namdaecheon Stream – www.firefly.or.kr
The Muju Firefly Festival is an eco-friendly event that celebrates these fascinating creatures, held in the beautiful mountainous area of Muju. In Korea, the firefly are indigenous only to the Namdaecheon Stream in Muju. They are prominent not only to the area’s natural environment, but also in the traditional folklore of the surrounding area. All these are celebrated in the festival, with various firefly-themed events that also educates visitors on the important connection between man and nature.

Photo credit - Waegook

Hyoseok Culture Festival

September, at the Bongpyeong Culture Village
The Hyoseok Culture Festival is a unique festival combining literature with tourism, held to celebrate Bongpyeong – the birthplace of Lee Hyo-Seok, a leading korean novelist. The Festivals focuses on one of Hyo-Seok’s most famous short story When the Buckwheat Blossoms, which took place in the backdrop of Bongpyeong, and offers various excursions to places mentioned in the story. Although international visitors may not be able to fully enjoy the historical and cultural significance of the festival, it is still worth a visit, if only to enjoy the natural beauty of Bongpyeong.

Photo credit - WStay

Gwacheon Hanmadang Festival

September to October, at Gwacheon City – www.gcfest.co.kr
Held every fall at Gwacheon City, the Gwacheon Hanmadang Festival is a celebration of the unique spirit of street art culture. Hanmadang literally means “a place where everybody can gather together”, and the festival extols exactly that, with a large selection of performances held in public spaces like major road-side street, open-air stages and more. There is a wide range of performances for everybody to enjoy, from street theater, Madang playes, circus acts, street dance and much more.

Jinju Namgang Lantern Festival

October, at Namgang Riverside Area – www.yudeung.com
This is an extravagant parade of colorful lanterns filling out the river over the Namgang Waterfronts, acros from Jinjuseong Fortress and Chokseongnu Pavillion. The festival originated from the Jinjuseong battles in the worst suffering period of the Japanese invasion, and has evolved through time to become the current iteration of the Lantern Festival. The spectacular view of the floating lantern parade, as well as the magical fireworks makes this festival a must-see attraction renowned across the country.

Photo credit - jlfacine

Andong Mask Dance Festival

late September, at Hahoe – www.maskdance.com
The Andong Mask Dance Festival is the biggest event at Hahoe, usually held around late September to early October. The festival showcases various Korean and international dance troupes paying homage to local folklore, which centered on these mask dance performances to appease restless spirits around the area. Now, the event has grown to become a showcase not only for traditional Korean mask dance, but also for various traditional dances from countries around the world.


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 inspirations in the region of Asia, (especially for those going places!) such as this list of must-try Malaysian foods.

Buddhist Temple at Mount Sorak

September 11, 2009 by  
Filed under Culture, Nature, Uniquely Far East

About one and a half hours drive away from Seoul, South Korea, is beautiful laid-back Mount Sorak. This mountain region offers mesmerizing views and numerous hiking treks for the nature lovers, and at the foot of the mountain are various Buddhist temples from centuries of old. Here are some scenic snaps from the foot of the mountain, featuring lush green landscapes, colorful guardian statues (left, third row) and a magical water fountain (right, second row). Be sure to come back next week as we bring you more snaps, this time from the top of Mount Sorak itself!

compilation


This post is part of Photo Friday, a Blog Carnival held by Delicious Baby. Check them out for photo-sharing goodness, or take part in the carnival yourself.

About the Author. Nikolas Tjhin. A graphic and web designer in its previous incarnation, Nik’s journeyman career has seen him do work for various creative studios in Wisconsin, Minneapolis, Singapore and Jakarta. Now, he’s settled down for the time being and focusing his efforts as the editor of an Asia travel zine, Unearthing Asia.

The Best of South Korea

July 13, 2009 by  
Filed under Attractions, Culture, Uniquely Far East

You’ve already read about how tasty South Korean food is, but what else is going on in this small peninsula? Quite a lot in fact, a great combination of nature and man-made attractions. Here’s a sampler set of backdrops that are some of the best spots to visit in South Korea.

Gyeongbok Palace. Photo credit - Laszlo Photo.

Gyeongbok Palace. Photo credit - Laszlo Photo.

Seoul (of course)

Seoul is the capital of South Korea and the largest city, so more than likely you’ll find yourself here at some point during your visit. It’s a bustling place, with a raging bar scene (the Koreans are heavy drinkers against most standards) and the metro area is extremely expensive, so if you’re on a budget be forewarned. It’s craziness and massive sprawl is only surpassed by Tokyo; but it’s an experience not to be missed.

The Namdaemun glows impressively at night. Photo credit - Tyler Durden.

The Namdaemun glows impressively at night. Photo credit - Tyler Durden.

The Namdaemun (also known as the Sungnyemun) is a historic gate that was one of Seoul’s most gorgeous structures, particularly striking at night with the backdrop of water fountains and skyscrapers. The neighboring market of the same name is also a great stop to watch the hurried activity of shoppers and browsers. Unfortunately, the gate was nearly destroyed by arson last year – so the gate is looking quite sad and poignant at the moment.

Seoul shopping frenzy. Photo credit - chromogenic1.

Seoul shopping frenzy. Photo credit - chromogenic1.

If you can’t find what you need in the markets, head for Myeongdong, Seoul’s shopping district. It’s a bit difficult to describe – something akin to Las Vegas, but shops instead of casinos. There are department stores as well as street vendors, so it has a strange mix of options. Needless to say, if you can’t find it here, you probably didn’t look hard enough.

Lastly, don’t miss the “Five Grand Palaces of Seoul”, all of which are fairly easy to access. Gyeongbokgung  is one of the most majestic (even despite restoration still ongoing from WWII damage), but it is said many of the kings of the Joseon Dynasty – who had the palaces built – preferred to spend their time in Changdeokgung.

Jeju Island. Photo credit - don.lee.

Jeju Island. Photo credit - don.lee.

Jeju Island

Jeju island (“Jejudo”) off the southwest coast of Korea is a place filled with my mysterious yet wonderful sights. Besides hidden waterfalls and gorgeous coastlines, you’ll find the remains of the volcano which created this island, ruins of Stone Age villages, and spooky stone statues littered about the island. It’s a favorite for honeymooners, especially in the spring and fall when the island’s wildflowers are in bloom.

The island is popular stop, with low cost, frequent air service giving travellers even more reason to stop in. You’ll get the usual island fare of attractions in full supply: endless beaches, picture-postcard waterfalls, striking cliffs, and caves to explore. There are also several museums and theme parks to see. Consider coming in February for the crowded Jeju Fire Festival.

Ganghwa Dolmen. Photo credit - Friars Balsam.

Ganghwa Dolmen. Photo credit - Friars Balsam.

Gochang, Hwasun, and Ganghwa

The areas of Gochang, Hwasun, and Ganghwa are UNESCO protected heritage sites where you can see wonderful examples of “dolmen,” or prehistoric (neolithic) cemeteries. The stone monuments come in a variety of shapes and sizes, ranging from unimpressive to completely bizarre. These are the same structures you’ll find elsewhere in the world, but for some reason here in South Korea they are highly concentrated.

Gochang is the largest and has some of the more unusual displays, but Ganghwa Island, about an hours drive off Seoul, has one of the most important dolmen to South Korean people. The Chamsungdan was believed to be the site where the state of Gojoseon (Modern-day Korea) was first founded in the year 2333 BCE. South Korean people celebrated this every year on the 3rd of October, which is known as Gaecheonjeol, or by the english name of National Foundation Day.

If You Go

Public transport seems to be running pretty well in South Korea; from the expansive subway network in Seoul to the high-speed express trains covering the rest of the country, it is easy to get around quickly. Keep in mind that in many instances you’ll have more than one option (say, train or plane) and in some cases prices range can be different, so consider your options before booking, especially if you’re on a budget and looking to squeeze out an extra Korean won.

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 Experiences.

South Korea – Seoul Food

June 12, 2009 by  
Filed under Gourmet, Uniquely Far East

South Korean food just so happens to be one of my favorite, right up there along with Japanese food (it’s similar, but different). As such, I was delighted to be trying out all kinds of delicacies on my last visit to Seoul, South Korea. Here are some snaps from my culinary adventures in soulful Seoul!

food1
To start with, here are some street-side snacks easily found all over Seoul. The one on the right is a long wooden stick with pieces of chicken stuck into it. The sweet marinated meat is then grilled to tender perfection and served hot!

food2
On the left is Korean fried rice, with a generous serving of eggs layered into the dish itself. While on the right is a giant bowl of chillies in soy sauce, a common condiment it seems. Fortunately, it looks spicier than it tasted.

food3
Here on the left is one of my favorite meals, other than the grilled meat buffet you’ll find further down. It’s called Bi Bim Bap, loosely translated as Korean Mixed Rice. It’s a serving of meat and various steamed vegetables over rice, with an egg on top of it served on hot-stone bowl. You mix the ingredients together, “cooking” it just the way you like it before eating it right off the hot-stone. On the right is Ginseng Chicken, which you add taste and flavor by pouring alcohol (soju I believe) into it.

food4

food5
And here now is my personal favorite, BBQ meat, or as they call it, Bulgogi. Slices of beef (chicken or pork works as well) are marinated in sweet bulgogi sauce before cooked to suit each person’s taste and eaten with various side dishes.

food6
On the left is how I prefer my Bulgogi, thin slices of meat combined with garlic and a dash of chili (hidden), then wrapped in fresh lettuce. Yumm! Also, Korean meals come with various side dishes such as pictured on the right. Our table is always a beautiful mess!

food7
Finally, something creepy I saw to end this post. Maggots? Larvae? Not too sure. But I stumbled upon them quite often while I was in Korea. Unfortunately, I couldn’t gather enough courage to try them out.


This post is part of Photo Friday, a Blog Carnival held by Delicious Baby. Check them out for photo-sharing goodness, or take part in the carnival yourself.

About the Author. Nikolas Tjhin. A graphic and web designer in its previous incarnation, Nik’s journeyman career has seen him do work for various creative studios in Wisconsin, Minneapolis, Singapore and Jakarta. Now, he’s settled down for the time being and focusing his efforts as the editor of an Asia travel zine, Unearthing Asia.

Exploring Jeju Island, South Korea

May 29, 2009 by  
Filed under Attractions, Nature, Uniquely Far East

Jeju Island (Jejudo), South Korea, also known as the “Island of the Gods,” is a popular vacation spot for Koreans and many Japanese. It remains one of the top honeymoon destinations for Korean newlyweds.

The island offers visitors a wide range of activities: hiking on Halla-san (South Korea’s highest peak), catching sunrises and sunsets over the ocean, viewing majestic waterfalls, riding horses, or just lying around on the sandy beaches. Unfortunately, I visited during the fall, which means cold breezy winds preventing us from enjoying the beaches. What we got instead, are refreshing scenic views and relaxing hikes through the hills!

jeju
jeju4
jeju2
jeju3


This post is part of Photo Friday, a Blog Carnival held by Delicious Baby. Check them out for photo-sharing goodness, or take part in the carnival yourself.

About the Author. Nikolas Tjhin. A graphic and web designer in its previous incarnation, Nik’s journeyman career has seen him do work for various creative studios in Wisconsin, Minneapolis, Singapore and Jakarta. Now, he’s settled down for the time being and focusing his efforts as the editor of an Asia travel zine, Unearthing Asia.

5 Spiritual Vacations for Miss Lohan

April 16, 2009 by  
Filed under Attractions, Feature Highlights, General Fun, Nature

Dearest Miss Lohan. A fellow travel blog zine has recently implied your need of assistance. Apparently, you are heartbroken, broke and out of work. Adding to that, a somewhat complicated relationship problem seems to be on the horizon. As such, I would like to offer you our own suggestion of vacations that would help you heal your soul. After all, Asia has always been a land of mystical and spiritual healing. And down here, your dollar goes a long long way!

Rameswaram, South India. Photo credit - myriadity and technicolorcavalry.

Rameswaram, South India. Photo credit - myriadity and technicolorcavalry.

Spiritual Healing in South India

The spirituality of South India is one of colour, symbols, statues, incense, flowers and singing. Stay in inexpensive government-run hostels and do darshan (greet the Gods) in some of the holiest Hindu temples and pilgrimage sites in the region. Even outside the temples, India is a country that reeks with spirituality, from the fragrant garlands hanging in market stalls to the red paste adorning the forehead of men and the smell of burning incense left in offerings to the Gods.

The holy island of Rameswaram is known as one of India’s most venerated and most visited shrines, dedicated to Sri Ramanathaswamy (or Sri Rama for short). Spend some time here to take in the epic story of Ramayana, and learn for yourself the workings of karma. Find your artha (purpose), limit your kama (pleasure or desire) and gain moksha (liberation) by completing your due dharma (duty).

Ayurveda yoga and Beruwela's beach. Photo credit - fabola and DreamwizarD.

Ayurveda yoga and Beruwelas beach. Photo credit - fabola and DreamwizarD.

Ayurveda Treatment in Sri Lanka

Head towards Sri Lanka for a seaside retreat involving ayurveda, the 5,000 years old Indian healing system whose name translates as “the Science of Life”. You’ll be offered an array of holistic therapies such as herbal oil massages, steam baths and acupuncture, with yoga and meditation. We recommend a thorough purging of the system by incorporating them all into your medication. You need all the help you can get!

Try to enjoy and appreciate the beautiful ocean view as you practice the traditional Hatha Yoga from the resort’s roof top. At 56 km south of Colombo, Beruwela marks the beginning of 130 km stretch of mesmerizing beach for your admiration. Spend a quiet moment of two as you stroll along the beach, a luxury you’ll rarely find in Florida’s packed beaches.

Diving in North Sulawesi. Photo credit - naturemandala and Erwin Kodiat.

Diving in North Sulawesi. Photo credit - naturemandala and Erwin Kodiat.

Diving in North Sulawesi, Indonesia

With more than 150 dive sites and around 1000 reef fish species, North Sulawesi is a hotspot for avid scuba-divers. The beauty of the marine bio diversity here is unparalleled, one of the best diving spot in the whole world, but that’s not the only reason we recommend this site for you. There are still not much development in North Sulawesi, and it’s very easy to find a quiet island retreat away from the hustle and bustle of the world.

As you forget the stress and pressures of unemployment and impending bankruptcy, mesmerize yourself with one of the most pristine natural areas in the world. Swim with dolphin, sharks, giant turtles and even rare manatees as the local diving team guide you over vivid, unspoiled coral gardens.

Temple stay in South Korea. Photo credit - dailytransit.

Temple stay in South Korea. Photo credit - dailytransit.

Temple Stay in Seoul, South Korea

Seoul, South Korea, offers a variety of temple stay at one of its many Buddhist monasteries. One such place is the Woljeongsa Temple, a 7th century temple located in Pyeongchang County, a few hours east of Seoul. Wake up at 4 in the morning to the sound of moktak – a long, wooden, percussion instrument Buddhist monks use to start their day. Lateness is not acceptable, and will be punished by 3,000 times of bowing for punishment, and a day of fasting for everybody else!

The rigorous pre-dawn ceremony is designed to clear the minds – chanting prayers, standing and then bowing gracefully, repeating it for 108 sequences, symbolizing the 108 worldly desires you need to renounce. Attend Buddhist sermons by the monks, preaching the teachings of Buddha and how you can incorporate them into your life, and spend the remainder of the day helping out with chores, admiring the scenery and meditating in calm contemplation.

Meditate in the silence of nature. Photo credit - felix42 and aimforawesome.

Meditate in the silence of nature. Photo credit - felix42 and aimforawesome.

Silent Retreat in Thailand

The idea of a silent retreat is simple. You go somewhere quiet and don’t talk. Not only that, most artificial sounds and distractions – reading, writing, music, caffeine, alcohol and music – are not allowed. The Suan Mokkh Temple in Thailand offers 10 days of silence in which you simply sit there and do nothing but meditate. A senior monk leading the retreat chimes in time to time with teachings to contemplate.

The concept behind this is that our mind is constantly bombarded with distractions and information. It is over-saturated, always thinking about the next thing to do, always contemplating about the past which has happened. The silent retreat is designed to have us confront these distractions, to know these shallow pleasures and let go of them. Only then will you be able to connect with your true self.

The attrition rate for silent retreat are high up at around 25% in the first few days, and usually ending with less that 50% the original attendees. With the constant distractions that’s been bombarding your everyday life, we felt this would be good for you, so try to last till the end will you?

About the Author. Nikolas Tjhin. A graphic and web designer in its previous incarnation, Nik’s journeyman career has seen him do work for various creative studios in Wisconsin, Minneapolis, Singapore and Jakarta. Now, he’s settled down for the time being and focusing his efforts on Unearthing Asia.

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