PEr FYI

August 3, 2019

Otaru Music Box Museum, Hokkaido…never fail to dazzle

Otaru is home to a brilliant museum that never fail to dazzle visitors.

Comprehensively housing over 25,000 music boxes dating as far back to the 19th century, the museum continues to draw crowds from all over the world. Oh, and forget to check out the roof space where you may design your own music box, with options including music played and external design. Loads to see and do, and thanks to the vast variety of music boxes, it makes for a brilliant day out.

Then of course, there is the building’s 1912 architecture too – Otaru Music Box Museum is definitely worth a visit. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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March 3, 2019

Asahiyama Zoo, Asahikawa, Hokkaido…don’t miss the penguins

What’s cuter than penguins enjoying an afternoon waddle? Their webbed feet were made for walking, and that’s just what they’ll do. It’s great to see them outside their habitat and see them walking right beside me. I’ve never been this close to one of these delightful birds.

Asahiyama Zoo is an intimate Hokkaido zoo with a number of fun and interesting exhibits. Look for the adorable polar bears and watch them at feeding time in the polar bear pool.

Asahiyama Zoo may not be as large or extravagant as Ueno Zoo, but it does feature beautiful surrounding scenery and some of the most exotic animals in the world. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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September 30, 2018

Saigon Vespa Tours, Ho Chi Minh City…enjoy the thrill of living life like the Saigonese

Getting on a scooter in one of the busiest cities in the world with a stranger seemed like a sensible idea. Walking is not popular in Ho Chi Minh City – a city with 7.43 million motorbikes – so being on one is the ideal way to see the buzzing centre of Ho Chi Minh City.

My heart was in my mouth as scooters, taxis, buses and bikes came at me from every angle. Though it sounds scary, the fact is that negotiating Ho Chi Minh City’s night traffic on the back of a vintage Vespa turned out to be exhilarating. Strangely, the breeze on my face; the exotic smells of spices; the people watching; the bustling night markets and the neon lights of the bars and massage parlours, all began to have a hypnotic effect. In accordance to our request, the first pit stop was at Lesbian Sisters bahn mi. They had bought the bahn mi and that saved us waiting time. We devoured them within 20 minutes on the roadside. Before we can digest all this, we were off to a trendy skybar – Glow. After a quick drink and soaking in the view, we were drive to a restaurant of our choice.

While you don’t ride around in luxury, that was never part of the deal, the tour gives you a chance to experience life as a local, being exposed to the thick smog emitted from the scooters. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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August 22, 2018

Jucker Farm, Zurich…honestly fascinating & relaxing

There is one thing that will catch your attention the moment you make your way to Jucker Farm: The magnificent view over the turquoise lake and the rolling hills. In the background, you might even see the snowy Alps.

The food in the canteen style restaurant is not fancy but quite tasty. There are piles of cake, waffles, pancakes… fresh salads, müesli, smoothies… and also, hearty meals like rösti with fried eggs, quiches and on the nostalgic black stove simmer two different types of soup. There are amusement areas for kids – a dwarf goat petting zoo, a rabbit pen (including baby bunnies), and old tractors for the children to explore – including an apple garden – an accessible labyrinth made up of 5,900 apple trees that provide apples for the table and for producing cider.

Juckerhof in Seegraben, located on the picturesque Pfäffikersee is about a 30 minutes drive from Zurich.

Nothing spells relaxation more than having lunch on a table overlooking the tranquil Lake Pfäffikon. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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March 30, 2018

Warner Bros Studio The Making of Harry Potter, London…an absolute must-see for Potter fans

A movie fanatic would always enjoy a behind-the-scenes look at how the films were made. Unlike the theme parks at Universal, this is the actual studio where they filmed the movies, and actual props. And there’s no doubting that Potter aficionados will love what they see here, because it is the real deal. Potterheads rejoice!!

You’ll see things like the Great Hall (yes it was as dramatic as it appears in the movies!), #4 Privet Drive, The Hogwarts Express, the Knight Bus and the forbidden forest. If you’re really big on details, get the audio guide, note there is a cost but you can book it advance with your ticket. This is 100% worth the price. The highlight – which drew gasps from me – is the model of Hogwarts. Built to 1:24 scale, it was used in the exterior shots for the first six films. The attention to detail is incredible. Even if you are just a mild fan of Harry Potter like me, you will love this place. It’s incredible! Definitely allow a lot of time for this excursion but it’s truly worth the trip. I binge-watched all 8 episodes after visiting this studio.

If you want to book a tour, you should be looking to schedule a time slot about two months out, otherwise there is a good chance it will be sold out. There is also a large shop at the end where you can buy all kinds of Harry Potter and Hogwarts swag. Definitely don’t forget to get some butterbeer or butterbeer ice cream.

The tour is a must-see for Potter fans. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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May 6, 2017

PlearnWan, Hua Hin…traditional charm

A stroll in PlearnWan is an exercise in time travel, with many buildings recreating the 1950s feel. The atmosphere is casual and uncrowded.

Explore everything from liquor, inexpensive plastic-and-tin toys, snacks as well as a beauty salon, photo studio, outdoor cinema screen and a 20-room guesthouse or ‘Piman Plern Wan. Hard-to-find snacks, such as ‘tong muan sod’ (sweetened pancake) and ‘ka lor jee’ (similar to Japanese mochi), are cooked up a’la minute at one of the hawker carts lining the walkway along with typical fare such as noodles and barbecued pork over rice

It’s not all chocolate box perfection but while in Hua Hin, there’s nothing better than strolling through the unheralded but absurdly charming streets of PlearnWan. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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May 1, 2017

Camp Greaves, Seoul…reel to real

The chance to spot movie locations is a favourite game the world over. But even better than spotting recognisable places on the screen is spotting recognisable film locations in real life.

Home to one of the major hit 2016 South Korean television series – Descendants of the Sun – Camp Greaves,  the former US military camp near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) in Paju, north of Seoul, is one of the best movie sites in the city. Here you get to visit Song Joong-ki’s waiting room, try on soldiers’ uniform, make military dog tags, get a photo taken in front of a green screen photo booth.

Though I am not familiar with this K-drama, judging by the high octave excitement of the folks in my group, this has been a reel to real experience for them. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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February 18, 2017

Asia Tour MICE and Leisure Co, Bangkok…fixer – par excellence

The popularity of escorted tours is on the rise.

Asia Tour MICE and Leisure Co, led by Panyawat Peter Tongprasert (CEO – Chief Entertainment Officer) has proven itself to my evident satisfaction. Its portfolio is wide-ranging: from Fototastic Challenges and party vehicles to team building activities and golf tournaments and police escort services. They customize sophisticated itineraries which cater for every type of traveler. With excellent planning, good contacts on the ground and close attention to detail, they set extremely high standards of customer service and his staff have consistently delivered.

If you are looking to book anywhere in Thailand – either a detailed itinerary or a fairly straightforward trip – you won’t do better than to get quotes from Peter and Asia Tour MICE. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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September 25, 2016

Temple of heaven, Beijing…A haven for the lazy art of people watching

Located south of the Forbidden City, the original Altar of Heaven and Earth was completed together with the Forbidden City, which was later renamed the Temple of Heaven in the reign of Emperor Jiajing. It was here that the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties offered sacrifice to heaven and prayed for bumper harvests. Tiantan Park as it is otherwise known, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Unlike the Forbidden City with its majestic awe, if I had to name one thing I love about Temple of Heaven, it would be the unique Chinese park life. It is hard to think of better scenes to partake in people watching. Silver-haired citizens doing line dancing and tai chi or squaring off on chinese chess.There’s the impromptu performances of Chinese opera and jam sessions with traditional chinese instruments like the pipa and erhu. Then there’s my old childhood game “chapteh” ( Jianzi) played by senior folks. During this game, these silent generation players keep the shuttlecock (with a rubber sole/plastic disk) off the ground using their feet and other body parts, but not their hands. There was around 70 people patting their thighs 30 times, then their knees, shoulders, backs and heads to allow their Qi to flow freely. There were a few who were shouting, almost yodelling: “voice exercises”. Several people appear to be wrestling with trees, gripping trunks and pushing against them.

I love this lazy art of observing and admiring unique cultures and happenings of day-to-day park life in China. Next to no skills needed, other than some discreet positioning. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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September 4, 2016

Shilin Market, Taipei…bring an appetite

Taiwanese night markets are a not-to-be-missed experience. Flying the flag for night markets is Shilin – perhaps the most famous and biggest Taiwanese night market.

Crowded and squeezy, the maze of alleyways is filled with clusters of hundreds of small stalls and street vendors selling a variety of local delicacies. Try everything  from skewered cuttlefish to fresh fruit to Taiwanese sausages to two of the market’s most iconic dishes: pan-fried buns and slabs of fried chicken cutlets. To decide what to eat, wander around and let your eyes and nose make the selection for you. This vibrant and colourful market blends street food with local souvenirs, designers, textiles, homeware and jewellery for a well-rounded market experience.

If you’re food-obsessed but don’t have the disposable income for Taipei’s best restaurants, Shilin is your saviour. Entry is free. The food, of course, is not. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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