PEr FYI

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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August 27, 2016

Jiu Fen Old Street, Taipei…winning combination of crazy good food vendors and a bustling stretch of shopping

Jiufen is a great mini-trip out of Taipei, less than an hour away. With gorgeous views of the ocean, quaint streets and beautiful tea houses, Jiufen thrives as a trousit spot for a taste of Taiwan culture and history. When it first formed, there were only nine families, so the city would always request “nine portions” when shipments came in, hence the name.

Jiu Fen Old Street is series of narrow alleys which feature stand after stand of local snacks and handmade souvenirs. Be prepared to shove past throngs of tourists crammed into the narrow alleys. The offer samples of ginger tea which brings with it a host of powerful health benefits. Another popular food item is the mochi – glutinous rice balls which are as soft as marshmallows.

Don’t worry, there alleys are all covered by awning should the heavens open. It’s worth planning an adventure to Jiufen as well as an obligatory stroll down Old Street. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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March 20, 2016

Penang Trick Art Museum, Penang…become part of a painting

Two dimensional painting that trick the viewer into thinking they exists in three-dimensions allowing visitors to ‘crawl into’ the paintings to take amusing, and often bizarre, photographs. This art form originated in Japan and is gradually gaining worldwide popularity.

Sitting on a flying carpet, pulling Sadako out of the TV by her hair, battling mummies are all possible at Penang Trick Art Museum. Unlike other museums where signs such as “do not take photos” or “do not touch” abound, this museum is all about taking photos and being part of the art. It’s a surreal experience walking among art that seems to leap out of the frame.   This is a great place to have some silly juvenile fun.

During an age when ‘virtual reality’ is taking over the digital world, artists have shown that all you really needed is a brush and a canvas to trick the mind. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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November 15, 2015

Capital Segway City Tour, Washington DC…best way to see any big city

Segway tours are the best way to see any big city. It’s a wonderful feeling – zipping around in the crisp air and the front row seat to the city with tour guides and you don’t have to deal with parking, buses or throngs of tourists. Plus it’s fun!!

The tour stops at all of the highlights you will want to see. As far as the Capitol & the White House. Be advised that you don’t get to go in anything on this tour only learn about the area and see everything from the exterior. There is one stop on the tour where we were able to get off the Segway – at the Abraham Lincoln Memorial.

Having been on many Segway tours, I can knowledgeably say that the difference between one Segway tour to another is the quality of the tour guide. A funny, witty, informative and animated one who gives fun facts along the way would make the tour worth every cent you’ve paid. Our guide was not the best, but he was not the worst either.

Do it! This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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November 1, 2015

Madame Tussards, Singapore…How much fun did I have? About 15 minutes worth

Since I am obviously not cool enough to have real celebrity friends, I usually like to spend a day at Madame Tussauds Wax Museum everywhere I go and pretend to mingle with the A-listers.  I would take selfies of me shaking hands with President Obama, posing with Angelina Jolie, or fulfilling my dream of doing sit-ups alongside David Beckham!

Madame Tussauds, which considers itself the plus ultra of wax artistry has sunk to the depths with this overpriced and cheesy display in Singapore. The exhibits in Singapore are boring and it’s way too short. The four-minute boat ride called Spirit of Singapore does not add any value to the museum. If you have been to Madame Tussaud’s in London, Los Angeles or New York City you will be extremely disappointment by this museum.

How much fun did I have at Madame Tussards Singapore? About 15 minutes worth. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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