Photo of the Week: Japanese Covered Bridge HOI AN, VIETNAM

Japanese Covered Bridge, Hoi An
Japanese Covered Bridge, Hoi An

 

Legend has it that in 16th century, the Japanese constructed the bridge(Hoi An) so as to reach the Chinese Quarter on the other side.  Today it’s the emblem of Hoi An, proudly standing with a dog sculpture on one end and a monkey sculpture on the other. This is perhaps because its construction begun in the dog year and ended in the monkey year, according to Japanese culture.

Translated into English, it means ‘a peaceful meeting place’. For centuries, Europeans, Chinese, Indians and Japanese received wares traded via Hoi An. Hoi An is UNESCO listed – a meticulously well preserved Southeast Asian trading port.

Hoi An is a complex of timber frame buildings, including churches and private homes. At the Central Market, you get everything – fresh food, a cheap bespoke suit, souvenirs.

When night falls, Hoi An’s innumerable lanterns light up, lending it a magical glow. Temperatures are now cooler, and folks are exploring the night, catching dinner at the food stands, running last minute errands.  During the Hoi An Lantern Festival every moon cycle, locals exchange flowers, fruits, candles, lanterns and candles for luck and good fortune.

 

Book A TripTo Hoi An

Destination of the Week: JAIPUR, INDIA

India’s northwest holds a gem: Rajasthan’s capital, Jaipur, is an encapsulation of history, nature, folklore. From noisy bazaars, to folksy people, to huge animals walking in the streets, Jaipur’s unusual charm is hard to resist.

 

Amber Fort is a blast from 5 centuries ago, dramatically set upon a hill with amazing panoramas of Jaipur below. It is a revelation of defense systems of the Rajput Maharaja Empire – walking through the impossibly high walls, uncountable gates and cobbled paths takes you on an unforgettable time travel.

Amber Fort, Jaipur
Amber Fort, Jaipur

 

City Palace is a complex of buildings. Our guide told us this was the former seat of kings, and it sure is kingly – how else would you explain the red and pink sand stone buildings, spacey courtyards and charming gardens? Besides, there are two mega silver jars that you shouldn’t miss to see: the largest silver vessels ever, even making it to the Guinness Book of World Records.

City Palace, Jaipur
City Palace, Jaipur

 

Hawa Mahal, made of red and pink sandstone, and the tallest foundation-less building in the world, is an architectural masterwork of passageways and balconies – which reminded me of a honeycomb. Its history is more fascinating: it was meant to allow royal ladies to observe everyday life and festivals celebrated in the street below so as to obey the strict laws of ‘purdah’ which forbade them from appearing in public.

Hawa Mahal, Jaipur
Hawa Mahal, Jaipur

 

Elefantastic is, fittingly, an elephant sanctuary. I always love to commune with members of the wild. Thankfully, the gentle giants at Elefantastic allow you to feed, wash and decorate them. Unlike other elephant farms where elephants are extorted e.g. carrying loads of tourists, being chained, Elefantastic takes genuine care of elephants by encouraging positive interaction with tourists.

Resting elephant at elephantastic JaipurResting elephant at elephantastic Jaipur

 

Book a trip to Jaipur, India

Photo of the Week – A TIGER IN RANTHAMBORE

photo of a tiger in ranthambore national park
photo of a tiger in ranthambore national park

 

Ranthambore is known for its sheer numbers of the endangered Bengal tiger, where the beasts are roaming in their natural habitat: foraging, feeding their young, mating. Other sightings on a safari will be the wild boar, the spotted dear, the mugger crocodile, all native to India.

Back in the day, Jaipur royals would spent evenings hunting in around the fort. It was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1955. Since then, its occupants, especially tigers, have been the most filmed wildlife in the world. A tigress christened ‘Tigress Queen of Ranthambore’, ‘Lady of the Lakes’ was the most photographed tigress in the world. She was the longest surviving tigress in the wild.

Ranthambore Fort rests majestically on a hill towering over the rest of the park. Forbidding walls surround the fort. Inside, there are palaces, still grand imposing, and temples dedicated to Hindu gods. The fort was the object of scramble among different reigns over centuries. The Maharajas of Jaipur were the victorious owners until Indian Independence.

Birds are aplenty; from woodpeckers, to Indian Gray Hornbills, to Kingfishers. If you’re lucky, you might spot owlets cuddling before the midday heat, an aggressive bird protecting its young, or a kingfisher midflight; holding in its talons a fish succumbed to prey.

Destination of the week – CAMERON ISLANDS, MALAYSIA

We don’t know what Eden looked like, but it must’ve been something close to Cameron Highlands, or vice versa. I’ll tell you why this is.

Boh Tea Plantation is a combination of unbelievable views, tranquility & fresh air. The journey itself to the plantation is a crazy adventure: a narrow, precariously winding road. Boh is acres upon acres of pure tea arranged in neat rows in rolling, green hills. And if it’s a snack you fancy at the end of the adventure, the flavorsome tea and delicious cakes at the tea shop does it.

Northern Boh Tea Plantation
Northern Boh Tea Plantation

 

Several butterfly farms dot Cameron, like Butterfly Garden and Butterfly Farm within walking distance of each other. As soon as you enter, a rabble of butterflies will be fluttering all around you, a hazy and almost psychedelic experience. And if you smell right, you may just become their next perching point.

Butterflies at the Butterfly Garden
Butterflies at the Butterfly Garden

 

We caught 360 degree views of the gorgeous Titiwangsa Range – part Malaysian, part Thailand at Mount Brinchang, also the highest point in Malaysia. And if you might like to keep busy, check out the television and radio studio also on the mount.

Morning view from the top of Mount Brinchang
Morning view from the top of Mount Brinchang

 

Mossy Forest can be described by one word: mysterious. Everywhere you look is covered in moss, ferns, and orchids. According to our guide, this’s how it has been, untouched, for ages. It’s a green fairyland with everything covered with moss: the trees, the ground, everything. Mossy, indeed.

Mossy Forest, Gunung Brinchang
Mossy Forest, Gunung Brinchang

 

Sam Poh Temple, the main Buddhist temple in Cameron is arresting in several ways: the bright red and yellow facade, the reverence that suddenly grips you, the blends of burning incense and chanting monks. Inside is so peaceful and soothing. Remember to remove your shoes before entering & don socks as the floor’s a little chilly.

Sam Poh Temple
Sam Poh Temple

 

book-a-trip-to-cameron-islands-malaysia