& BEYOND Great getaways & readers’ tales



O ne of the best things about living in Singapore is its proximity to so many beautiful destinations. This is an incredible travel hub, with luxury resorts and buzzing Asian cities right on the doorstep – even paradise on earth, the Maldives, is just a four-hour flight away. As well as recommendations on brilliant places to stay and sights to see, we’ve packed this guide full of interesting facts and handy tips for each destination, from basic local lingo to visa requirements and must-try dishes, so you can feel prepared and in-the-know.

Don’t just take our word for it, either. You’ll also read travel tales from Expat Living readers, with a wide range of insights and advice – everything from appreciating the serenity of the holy town of Pushkar in Rajasthan, to marvelling at a magnificent sunset in the mountains of Luang Prabang. We’ve loved reading their stories of adventure and discovery, and we know you will too. We hope this guide ignites your sense of wanderlust, and makes you want to pack your bags, get out there and explore. Once you get back from your adventures, remember to write themdown ready to send us for next year’s guide. Safe travels!






& BEYOND Great getaways & readers’ tales

Editor-in-Chief REBECCA BISSET



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THINGS TO TICK OFF YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET LIST Everyone loves a holiday in tropical paradises like Bali and Phuket, but it’s also great to explore somewhere new, attempt the unusual or do something that reminds you how exhilarating travel actually is. Need a little inspiration? We asked Singapore-based tour operator Lightfoot Travel for ten of their top must-do experiences from around the world.




See the Northern Lights


One of Mother Nature’s most spectacular sights, the northern hemisphere’s Aurora Borealis is caused by colliding electrically charged particles from the sun entering the earth’s atmosphere near its magnetic poles. The best places to view these eerily dancing lights are during the dark winters in Canada, Alaska, Greenland, Iceland and parts of Scandinavia.

Spend a week on a liveaboard

Experience gorillas in the wild



If you’re an avid scuba diver, there’s no better way to explore the greatest dive spots in the world than by liveaboard. Many in Asia are made from traditional Indonesian pinisi boats made with teak wood, sail for up to a week at a time, and take guests to the most distant and pristine of dive sites.

There are less than 900 gorillas living in the wild today, spread over just four national parks in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. A Lightfoot guest recently returned from Rwanda claiming that it’s a “dream come true” for an animal lover: “You get so close to them and feel like they are observing you instead of the other way around!”

4 Balloon over Cappadocia The sight of hot-air balloons soaring over just about anything is pretty magical, but there is something almost otherworldly as you watch them float over Cappadocia’s fairylike rock formations in central Turkey.

Cruise the Galapagos Islands


The Galapagos Islands is known to be the world’s foremost destination for wildlife-viewing. Boutique cruise ships enable guests to sail up to lesser visited areas, whose isolation has ensured a diversity of plant and animal life found nowhere else on earth. Plus, it inspired Darwin’s theory of evolution, so that in itself is pretty special.



8 Heli ski If you’re a ski enthusiast, why not take the sport to the next level? Heli skiing gives you access to vast amounts of terrain and enables you to ski the most untouched powder, with the added benefit of having the mountains entirely to yourself. The sweeping views as you fly in over the snowy peaks aren’t too shabby either.

Stay in an overwater villa For sun and sea lovers, nothing beats


stepping right out of your front door and straight into the crystal-clear sea. A direct flight from Singapore, the Maldives takes the cake for luxurious water villas, many with private pools, deck areas for lounging and some with a waterslide entrance into the ocean.

Trek Nepal’s Annapurna


Circuit Running between 160 and 230 kilometres and taking over 17 days to complete, the Annapurna trek is one of the most scenic and accessible routes that even amateur hikers can do. The horseshoe-shaped trail takes you through some of the highest and most beautiful peaks in the world, including Annapurna and Dhaulagiri – both over 8,000 metres.

10 Fly over New Zealand’s Southern Alps & Milford Sound Flying through the gigantic peaks of the Southern Alps from picturesque Queenstown is absolutely breathtaking. On the way out, touch down for a stroll along a glacier, before flying on to the giant fjords of Milford Sound. On the return journey, soar over ancient wooded valleys with fresh rivers flowing down from the mountains. This is nature at its finest.

Set foot on the Antarctic continent


The Great White Continent is one of the least explored places in the world, and visits warrant bragging rights even among the most seasoned travellers. Camp out on the ice; witness Emperor penguins returning to the sea; hike new routes amidst untouched alpine terrain; or take the plunge and swim in the thermal waters of Deception Island – a once in a lifetime experience.




TALKING Ten minutes with Lightfoot’s co- founder and director, NICO HEATH. TRAVEL

Q Why use a travel planner when there’s so much online info at our fingertips? The fact that there is all this info is often the issue – sifting through blogs, magazine articles and TripAdvisor can be time-consuming to say the least. Lightfoot makes the whole planning process easier for you. You can still research and come armed with ideas, but rest assured you’re speaking to destination specialists who have tried and tested the experiences and properties you’re considering. Every itinerary is tailor-made from scratch and personalised to fit your individual requirements, and us putting it all together saves you an incredible amount of time. Q What are the key features in a Lightfoot itinerary that go towards making a memorable trip? One-off experiences, access to the inaccessible, and insider knowledge on every destination you visit. We’ve spent years building up an extensive (and exhaustive!) portfolio of the best in the industry, from wildlife experts and cultural aficionados to adventure specialists and chefs. No matter how simple the itinerary, we put our hearts into making sure each trip is unique in some way.

Q Give us an idea of the scope of destinations and experiences that Lightfoot offers. We offer everything from simple beach holidays to nearby destinations, such as Phuket and Bali, to African safaris and complex, multi-country tours around South America. I think the sheer range of holiday types we offer and our destination portfolio really sets us apart from other tailor- made agencies. Q What's on your radar as an upcoming hotspot in Asia or beyond? Mongolia and Tibet in Asia. Mongolia has the vast wilderness and culture untouched by the West. Tibet is rapidly changing, making it even more imperative to visit now if you want to catch its authenticity. Likewise with Cuba, if you want to experience the country as it has been for the past century, I strongly recommend visiting sooner rather than later. Q What’s been your favourite personal travel moment of the past year or so? Highlights have to be a helicopter flight over Queenstown where we stopped for a round of golf on top of a glacier (a true bucket-list experience) and quad biking through the dunes in Namibia’s Skeleton Coast. Closer to home, I loved exploring the atolls of Sulawesi on board a traditional Indonesian pinisi boat.

Lightfoot Travel specialises in family holidays, honeymoons, corporate travel and private villas in countries spanning seven continents. For tailor- made itineraries, contact them at 6690 3252 or visit




Who doesn’t want to discover a new secret getaway for their next holiday? For this reason, we asked the team at Skyscanner to outline some of the less-visited places that are growing in popularity this year. 1 Reykjavik, Iceland 4 Sapporo, Japan 8 Tokyo, Japan

This walkable and urbane city boasts plenty of culture and art, along with famous geothermal pools, and magical surrounding tundras. The Northern Lights are said to be dimming, too, so catch them while you can.

Hokkaido’s biggest city is getting attention for its seafood, festivals, beer (at Japan’s oldest brewery) and more – not to mention world-class skiing. Come for the Sapporo Snow Festival in February, and ward off the chill in a hot spring. 5 Dunedin, New Zealand A picturesque South Island town founded in the Victorian era, Dunedin has a large Maori influence and plenty of Kiwi culture, and is a great base for tackling the nearby hiking and cycling trails of the dramatic Otago Peninsula. 6 Tiruchirapalli, India This Tamil town has thrived since ancient Roman times, and is renowned for its temples and monuments. Explore the Rock Fort and enjoy a picnic at Puliyancholai Falls. And don’t leave without tasting some authentic thosai ! 7 Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Why is the Japanese capital trending? Perhaps because it’s easier to navigate than ever before (or perhaps because Skyscanner has some great Tokyo deals!). Visit the imperial palace, head to Tokyo Skytree for views, then shop, dine and party in Shinjuku and Shibuya. 9 Hobart, Australia Cool stuff is happening on the island state of Tasmania, and its quaint capital is a charming base for venturing to the untamed back-country. There are historic waterfront restaurants and bustling markets, plus a striking modern art museum. 10 Zagreb, Croatia This ancient town is classical and fun. In winter, it’s a short drive to fantastic ski slopes; in summer, rent a bike to take in the sights. The squares and markets are quintessentially European, and the young people know how to have a good time.

2 Hua Hin, Thailand A getaway for Bangkok residents since the 1920s, Hua Hin’s beaches, water sports and humble seafood huts still beckon. Hua Hin Jazz Festival is another attraction, or charter a boat to Monkey Island to explore, fish and swim. 3 Paro, Bhutan Paro features classical

Don’t overlook Kaohsiung, Taiwan’s other big city, as it offers plenty and is a gateway to some wonderful wilderness. Aside from skyscrapers, including the 250m Tuntex Sky Tower, you’ll find a lovely harbour, and amazing shopping

Bhutanese architecture and temples, including Taktsang Monastery, the famous “Tiger’s Nest” retreat perched on a cliff. There isn’t much shopping beyond local markets, but there’s plenty of spiritual calm.

and dining.




Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia PAMELA KNAGGS

Xi’An, China TAO LIANG

Jakarta, Indonesia YULIANTO BALAWAN

What are three must-sees for first- timers to KL? 1. Batu Caves – limestone caves at the top of steep steps housing Hindu temples and shrines. 2. Kuala Lumpur Twin Towers – tallest structure of its kind in the world, and a beautiful piece of architecture, right in the heart of the city. 3. Lake Gardens – KL’s “green lung”, with more than 220 acres of botanical collections. Name a hidden gem. Bangsar. Not really “hidden” but this small suburb has everything packed into a few streets: good food and coffee (local and international), bars, pubs, hair salons, massage parlours, gyms, supermarkets, boutiques and more. There’s something for everyone here. 1. Village Park nasi lemak in Damansara Uptown, for legit coconut rice and fried chicken. 2. Robert’s char kway teow at Say Huat Restaurant in SS17. 3. Raj’s banana leaf rice in Bangsar. What three dishes would you recommend to visitors?

What are three must-sees for first- timers to Xi’an? 1. Terracotta Army – this renowned collection of sculptures was buried with a Qin Dynasty emperor to protect him in the afterlife. 2. City Wall – built in the Ming Dynasty as a military defence system, the wall is well preserved enough for you to cycle on top for a great city view. 3.Muslim Quarter (Huimin Street) – this street is famous for its snacks; best visited in the evening. Name a hidden gem. The nearby Qinling Mountains divide China into North and South, and they’re worth exploring. You can fish, cycle, hike or just enjoy the pure natural environment. 1. Roujiamo – a sandwich of pork that has been stewed in a soup of more than 20 spices and seasonings for hours. 2. Paomo – a hot stew of chopped and steamed leavened bread, cooked in a lamb or beef broth. 3. Hulatang – traditional Chinese soup of beef, pepper and chilli. What three dishes would you recommend to visitors?

What are three must-sees for first- timers to Jakarta? 1. Taman Mini Indonesia Indah – a park that gives visitors a glimpse at Indonesia’s different ethnic houses and cultural influences. 2. Taman Safari – a great zoo for kids; you can drive your own vehicle and experience the wild in comfort. 3. Kepulauan Seribu (Thousand Islands) – a 30- to 40-minute boat ride away, this island chain has beautiful beaches, coral reefs and island-hopping opportunities. Name a hidden gem. In the Pancoran/Glodok area, experience old Batavia and Chinese culture while shopping for bargain electronic gadgets andmore. Prices are negotiatiable, and the food is amazing! 1. Martabak manis – a sweet melt-in-the- mouth pancake in chocolate, peanut, Nutella and other flavours. 2. Sate – chicken and lamb skewers dipped in a uniquely Indonesian peanut sauce that will make your tongue dance. 3. Bakmie ayam (chicken noodle) – another favourite food of Jakartans; who doesn’t love this dish? What three dishes would you recommend to visitors?

Book cheap flights, hotels and car rental via the Skyscanner website, or download the free mobile app for easy browsing and booking on the go.



Expert Insights We chat with the Flight Centre team in Singapore on a range of travel-related topics, from planning tips to packing hacks.

Q Is it best to email, call or visit a Flight Centre outlet for advice? We always encourage customers to discuss trips with us in-store, no matter the stage of planning you’re at; we can easily show the relevant brochures, images and prices to help you make informed and suitable decisions. To make things easier, we’re offering Expat Living readers a mobile consulting service with two dedicated travel experts, Monica and George. Simply call or text them to make an appointment, and they’ll make their way to your office or home. Whether it’s paying for a flight ticket or seeking inspiration for your next holiday, our consultants can do everything for you, whether it’s in-store, off-site or online. Q What are the advantages of using Flight Centre when planning a trip? As a global travel retailer, we can offer value-adds and services that most travel agencies in Singapore can’t; this includes 24/7 worldwide customer care, a Lowest Airfare Guarantee (we will beat any comparable quote or you fly for free), and personalised expert advice from consultants who’ve visited more than 50 countries and speak over 20 languages.

Visit for details, or call 6692 9657 to speak with a consultant. • For the gents, travel with business shirts that work from day to night and can be worn two days in a row (laundered, of course!). Plain white shirts work best, but light blues are also great. Q Any handy ideas from the journey? If you’re travelling with kids: • Easy-to-eat snacks, plus toys or books for mess-free and (hopefully) smooth- sailing travel. • Roll your clothes to save the space you’ll need for all those nappies and extra changes of children’s clothes. • Pack toiletries in clear bottles in a re- sealable bag to ensure no spillage; the last thing you need is to clean an entire suitcase full of soap! If you’re on a business trip: • Pack a suit with a second bottom, in case of spillages on your first pair. • Be versatile: go classic with the basic piece that allows you to easily mix and match, and you can add a structured jacket to look extra smart. team about what to pack for a

FIVE MINUTES WITH VICKI PARRIS, FLIGHT CENTRE’S SOUTHEAST ASIA GM What are your three top tips for getting the most out of a trip? Plan the big stuff and leave room for adventures. Don’t waste precious holiday time trying to decide where to stay and haggling with taxis. Pre- book with an expert to get the best value and leave a little time for the unexpected adventures – this is often where the best memories are made! What’s been your own recent personal travel highlight? A week in New York at the Plaza Hotel. It was snowing on Fifth Avenue, and NY is such a beautiful city any time of year – incredible food with a plethora of great bars, cafes, restaurants and shopping! I stumbled across a quirky hidden diner in Williamsburg, people-watched on the subway, and of course took in a Broadway show.




GREAT GETAWAYS Luxury travel operator Scott Dunn

crafts high-end trips of every kind, all around the world, from relaxed retreats to full-on adventure. Here we take a glimpse at some of their itineraries in the region and beyond.

1 Japan Itinerary: Japan’s Cultural Triangle – Tokyo, Kyoto and Kamishiro Onsen Japan is a lovely mix of old and new: slick cityscapes brush shoulders with ancient alleyways, and sky-high cocktail bars contrast with intimate ryokans (inns). Length: 10 days Highlights: • Private Balconies at the Palace Hotel overlooking the Imperial Palace • Take in the buzzing Shinjuku nightlife at The Park Hyatt Tokyo • Kanazawa is a hidden gem with a unique and rich heritage

Indonesia Itinerary: Indonesian Diversity: Ubud,


Sumba Island & Seminyak A romantic intro to the magical islands of Bali and Sumba, from the rice terraces of Ubud to the bungalows of undeveloped Sumba, and Seminyak’s exclusive restaurants. Length: 14 nights Highlights: • With one of Indonesia’s best breaks, Sumba is a dream for surfers who can’t resist luxury

• Uma by COMO, Ubud offers easy access to Ubud and its unique local atmosphere • Samaya in Seminyak offers beachfront action with plenty of local bars and restaurants

Maldives Itinerary: PER AQUUM Niyama; Dhaalu Atoll,


4 Namibia Itinerary: Classic Namibia Dunes and Wildlife – Sossusvlei, Swakopmund & Etosha This self-drive Namibia trip takes in the sand dunes of Sossusvlei, seal colonies and shipwrecks on the Atlantic coast, and the wildlife of Etosha. An ideal first trip to this diverse country. Length: 9 nights Highlights: • Get up close to seals, dolphins and even whales on a catamaran cruise • Stake out a waterhole at Etosha and wait to see what wildlife comes your way • Track rhinos on the private Ongava Reserve

Maldives Th i s l uxu r y f i v e - s t a r resort set on two pristine islands offers exceptional water sports, from diving to kitesurfing, and an Explorers kids’ club for ages 12 months to 12 years, run by Scott Dunn. Length: Variable Highlights: • Spacious one-bedroom beach suites ideal for families • Treetop, offshore or underwater dining options • Explore the reefs with a marine biologist





Villas Scott Dunn’s villas in Mallorca and the South of France come with private pools and experienced staff, including a chef and host to take care of everything, and a nanny or activity specialist available to ensure your children have a great time too. Sleeping from four to 12 people, some villas are set in the rolling hills, some near the beach. Menus are tailored to taste (for adults and children alike), and make the most of local ingredients. Villa managers work behind the scenes adding hidden touches to make the holiday as smooth as possible. Ski chalets Scott Dunn’s portfolio of freestanding chalets, apartments and rooms are situated in Courchevel 1850, Courchevel 1550, St Anton and Val d’Isère, and range from chic Chalet Artemis with its own cinema to luxurious Chalet Husky, and smaller apartment chalets for individual families, still with Scott Dunn’s renowned chalet service. A private chef will tailor a menu to your liking, from cooked breakfasts to gourmet dinners. With roaring log fires, bubbling flutes of Laurent-Perrier Champagne and, in most chalets, wellness areas to indulge in, this is skiing at its best.

5 New Zealand Itinerary: New Zealand’s Super Lodges – Bay of Islands, Taupo, Hawkes Bay, Christchurch & Glenorchy These exclusive “Super Lodges”, whether they’re on the edge of a crystal-clear lake or amongst rolling fields or native forest, are nothing less than spectacular. Length: 17 nights Highlights: • Sublime food, exceptional service, sumptuous accommodation • Locations range from wild clifftops to roaring rivers • Activities range from fly fishing, golf and wine tasting, to horse riding, hiking and helicopter flights

Bhutan Itinerary: Highlights of Bhutan


– Bangkok, Thimphu, Punakha & Paro This varied private journey is ideal for the first-time visitor, covering the must-see highlights with an exclusive driver and guide, and offering comfortable accommodation throughout. Length: 7 nights Highlights: • Choose a cultural experience, or focus on day-walks in the countryside and seeing local life in action • Combine the capital Thimphu with the fertile valley of Punakha and Paro, including the iconic Tiger’s Nest Monastery • Combine with India, Nepal, Thailand or Singapore for the ultimate itinerary to the region

6 India Itinerary: Highlights of Rajasthan – Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Shahpura & Udaipur From the forts and palaces to local villages filled with sari-clad women, combine the major highlights of romantic Rajasthan with a mix of bustling cities and idyllic rural heartlands. Length: 11 nights Highlights: • Breakfast on your balcony as the sun rises above the Taj Mahal • Looking down in awe at the Rajasthani landscapes from a hot-air balloon • Private dinner on a pontoon floating on Lake Pichola in Udaipur

8 Burma Itinerary: Classic Burma – Yangon, Kalaw, Inle Lake, Mandalay, Irrawaddy Cruise, Bagan & Ngapali Beach Encounter the Shan people around Inle Lake, cruise down the Irrawaddy River from Mandalay, and visit the majestic temple-strewn plains of Bagan before relaxing at Ngapali. Length: 14 nights Highlights: • Morning hot-air balloon trip over the pagodas and temples of Bagan • Watch as the spectacular Shwedagon Pagoda gets illuminated as night falls • Stroll along palm-fringed Ngapali Beach – one of the most untouched beaches in the region

To book any of these itineraries or others, call 3158 6530 or visit



Indochina’s FabFour Indochina–SoutheastAsia’smaincontinental peninsula – is an exotic, multi-facetedplace, with some of the best travel destinations on theplanet.We askedbespoke travel experts Country Holidays to recommend its most spectacular experiences.

Vietnam With its array of

Myanmar My anma r bo a s t s

Cambodia Angkor Wat and its

Laos Laos is still in its





attractions and street-food aromas, Vietnam will blow your mind. Brush shoulders with hill-tribe locals in Sapa; discover traditional Hanoi; feel the romance of a Halong Bay cruise; explore the cultural hub of quaint, ancient Hoi An; wander the forbidden city of Hue; meander through the markets of the Mekong Delta; and view the flamboyant colonial facades of Ho Chi Minh City.

some spectacular sites, including Yangon’s 98-metre Shwedagon Pagoda, covered with 60 tons of pure gold; the world’s oldest and longest teakwood bridge in Mandalay; an amazing array of stupas and temples in Bagan (best viewed from a hot-air balloon); and Inle Lake, home to several ethnic minorities, where you can go hiking or biking.

temples are Cambodia’s main lure, and with this appeal come the crowds. At Country Ho l i da y s , we f ocus on uncommon timings and less- known routings to provide a unique experience. We also discover less-visited gems: a river eco-lodge in Koh Kong, with remote waterfalls and mangrove kayaking; charming rural Battambang and its colonial architecture; and the beach retreat of Sihanoukville.

tourism infancy, so you’ll be treated to some unique, off- the-beaten-path destinations. Take a glimpse inside some of the biggest Laotian temples in Vientiane; rise early and join the locals in offering alms to monks; catch a traditional long-tail boat trip up Mekong River; and join mahout elephant training in Luang Prabang.

Country Holidays offers bespoke holidays to Indochina destinations and beyond, with English-speaking guides, private vehicles and flexibility to suit families or couples. Contact their specialists at 6334 6120 or enquiries@countryholidays., or visit




STAYING PUT No time to get away, but still craving a break from the 9 to 5? We hear you. A staycation is a great way to refresh the mind, and Singapore has plenty of options. Here are just a couple!

PARK HOTEL CLARKE QUAY With its classic colonial architecture, this hotel feels like a tropical retreat in the heart of town, and many rooms offer gorgeous views of the city and the Singapore River. Given its central location, there’s no lack of things to do either, and the buzzing nightlife and dining scene of Clarke Quay and Robertson Quay is just a stroll away.

HOTEL JEN ORCHARDGATEWAY Located in the heart of the action, this modern hotel is located right on Orchard Road – above Somerset MRT, in fact – a leisurely walk from some of Singapore’s hottest shopping malls and dining spots. The rooms are cosy, spacious and stylish, and there’s a suite designed for families with kids, too.

HOW WE’D SPEND OUR STAYCATION... After an afternoon swimming in the pool and relaxing in the cabanas, we’d head for dinner at the hotel’s PORTA restaurant, helmed by Chef Michael Suyanto, which serves up modern European fare, including the likes of Spanish octopus with patatas bravas .

HOW WE’D SPEND OUR STAYCATION... After a day of retail therapy, we’d stop off at Emerald Hill for cocktails among the picturesque shophouses, followed by a sunset swim in the hotel’s rooftop infinity pool while taking in those wonderful panoramic views of the city.

1 Unity Street 6593 8888 |

277 Orchard Road 6708 8888 |

For more cool staycation ideas, visit!


THE FESTIVAL MAY 2017 TO APRIL 2018 CALENDAR An eclectic selection of solemn, scary, fun, musical and just plain weird festivals happening around the region in the next 12 months.

NINGALOO WHALE SHARK FESTIVAL, EXMOUTH, WESTERN AUSTRALIA: When theworld’s largest sharks visit in hordes, what do you do? Hold a festival, of course! Fortunately, whale sharks are completely harmless to humans so everyone can swim with these friendly giants. Floating parades, market stalls and plenty of beach game stations will be set up to celebrate the annual arrival of the whale sharks. 26 TO 28 MAY 2017 DRAGON BOAT FESTIVAL: Crowds munching on sticky rice dumplings ( zongzi ) will be streaming to this exciting event that originated in China over 2000 years ago and now takes place all over the globe. A festival of many names, it’s also known as Duanwu, Tuen Ng and Double Fifth Festival (falling on the fifth day of the

Legend has it that the Dragon Boat Festival commemorates the attempt to save the life of Qu Yuan, a Chinese poet and statesman of the ancient Chu kingdom. Court officials, jealous of Qu Yuan’s wisdom, falsely accused him of conspiracy and he was exiled by the king. At the age of 61, Qu Yuan drowned himself by attaching a heavy stone to his chest and jumping into the Miluo River. The people of Chu took to their boats and tried to rescue Qu Yuan, believing he was an honourable man, but they were unable to save him. Instead, they threw sticky rice dumplings into the water so that the fish would eat these rather than Qu Yuan’s body.

fifth month). 30 MAY 2017




RAINFOREST WORLD MUSIC FESTIVAL, SARAWAK, EAST MALAYSIA: This three-day musical celebration has grown and grown since its inauguration in 1997. Dance along with 20,000 others to anything from local native chants and African dance to American folk music and percussion troupes. 14 TO 16 JULY 2017 BORYEONG MUD FESTIVAL, SOUTH KOREA: Since 1998, visitors have been getting down and dirty at the Boryeong Mud Festival, caking themselves in the nourishing, mineral-rich mud from the Boryeong mud flats while being entertained with bands, mud games, fireworks and more – all for around S$10 a day. 21 TO 30 JULY 2017 MID-AUTUMN FESTIVAL: Chinese and Vietnamese families gather in the evening to admire the mid-autumn harvest moon while eating mooncakes and pomelos. 4 OCTOBER 2017

PCHUM BEN, CAMBODIA: Also known as the Festival of the Ancestors; food, flowers, rice and gifts are given to monks, while religious rites are carried out on the streets. 19 TO 21 SEPTEMBER 2017

HARI RAYA HAJI: Marks the end of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia by Muslims worldwide. There’ll be bazaars to attend, and mosques and relatives to be visited. 5 SEPTEMBER 2017


DEEPAVALI: The “Festival of Lights” is a joyous four- day Hindu celebration of the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness. Head down to Little India in Singapore to see the lights and street decorations, feast on festive delicacies, get a henna hand tattoo and join in the fun. 18 OCTOBER 2017 PUSHKAR CAMEL FAIR, RAJASTHAN, INDIA: One of India’s most highly rated travel experiences, a spectacle on an epic scale, attracting more than 11,000 camels, horses and cattle and visited by over 400,000 people. 29 OCTOBER TO 4 NOVEMBER 2017 ALL SAINTS DAY, PHILIPPINES: A day of remembrance of the dead and an important holiday for the Catholic Church. People attend Mass, decorate loved ones’ tombs and spend the day in graveyards with picnics. 1 NOVEMBER 2017 BON OM TUK/WATER FESTIVAL, CAMBODIA: Celebrate the end of monsoon season. Brightly decorated dragon boats will race over the three days – and Phnom Penh HORNBILL FESTIVAL, NAGALAND, INDIA: Launched in 2000 by the Government of Nagaland to bring together the 16 major tribes of the region, the Hornbill Festival colourfully celebrates the Naga’s cultural heritage. Buy yourself a hornbill headdress, practise your moves and join in the fun. 1 TO 10 DECEMBER 2017 THE EMPEROR’S BIRTHDAY, JAPAN: This is one of only two occasions when the inner grounds of Tokyo’s Imperial Palace are open to the public, and Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko will greet the flag-waving crowd. 23 DECEMBER 2017 will be very crowded! 2 TO 4 NOVEMBER 2017

AUSTRALIA DAY: Outdoor concerts, sporting competitions, fireworks shows and backyard barbecues are held all over the country to celebrate all things Australian. 26 JANUARY 2018 THAIPUSAM: In Singapore, get up early to witness the 4.5-kilometre “Walk of Faith” by Hindu devotees carrying brightly decorated kavadis , burdensome metal frames with sharp skewers piercing their tongues, cheeks and bodies. Other major processions take place at the Batu Caves, just outside Kuala Lumpur, and George Town in Penang. 31 JANUARY 2018 WAITANGI DAY, NEW ZEALAND: Commemorates the signing of t h e Tr e a t y o f Wa i t ang i , the founding document for New Ze a l and . C e l e b r a t i o n s include flag-raising, nava l s a l u t e s , Mao r i cultural performances, family-themed festivals, sports events and more. 6 FEBRUARY 2018

HARBIN ICE AND SNOW SCULPTURE FESTIVAL, CHINA: Set in Harbin’s coldest months (and we’re talking minus 20 degrees Celsius or considerably lower!), this festival features stunning works of art, all created with over four million cubic feet of ice from the Songhua River – giving a whole new meaning to Winter Wonderland. 21 DECEMBER 2017 UNTIL END FEBRUARY 2018 ATI-ATIHAN FESTIVAL, KALIBO, PANAY ISLANDS (VISAYAS), THE PHILIPPINES: This flamboyant fiesta, dubbed “The Mother of all Philippine Festivals” began in the 13th century when a small group of Malay chieftains landed on the Panays and were sold land by the local Ati people. To celebrate, the Malays painted their faces black to look like the tribe. This tribal celebration has now evolved into a wild, rhythmic, street party in honour of Santo Niño (the infant Jesus). 10 TO 19 JANUARY 2018



MYANMAR NEW YEAR: Burmese visit their elderly to pay respect, and visit the temples. A religious tradition is to release caged birds or fish into lakes and rivers to gain merit. The accompanying Thingyan Water Festival is great to watch. 18 APRIL 2018 HAMAMATSU FESTIVAL, JAPAN: For over 440 years, the Japanese have fiercely wielded their kites in kite fights at this festival. Fliers attempt to cut their opponent’s 5mm hemp string by using their own kite string to create enough friction to break the line. The last kite still flying is the winner as it soars through the leftover smoke created by the friction. 3 TO 5 MAY 2018 VESAK DAY: Buddhists bring offerings of flowers, candles and joss sticks to the temples where elaborate rituals are held to commemorate the birth, the Nirvana (enlightenment), and the Parinirvana (death) of Gautama Buddha. This is the most significant day of the Buddhist calendar. Dates differ due to variations in lunar calendars. 29 MAY 2018

CHINESE NEW YEAR: Traditional Chinese decorations and lights abound. Families have a reunion dinner on Chinese New Year’s Eve and visit relatives over the next 15 days. Many businesses close for the whole week. 16 TO 17 FEBRUARY 2018 JAKARTA INTERNATIONAL JAVA JAZZ FESTIVAL: First held in 2005, this festival attracts over 100,000 visitors a year. International performers in 2017 included Grammy winners Sergio Mendes, Chick Corea and Arturo Sandoval. Arguably the biggest jazz festival in the Southern Hemisphere. 2 TO 4 MARCH 2018 SAKURA (CHERRY BLOSSOM) SEASON, JAPAN: Not really a festival, but a spectacular event nonetheless. The blossoming begins in Okinawa in January and reaches Kyoto and Tokyo late March to early April. When the blossoms are at their peak, the Japanese turn out in large numbers at parks, shrines and temples to picnic, relax and admire the flowers. LATE MARCH TO EARLY APRIL 2018 CHING MING FESTIVAL: Also known as Tomb Sweeping Day or Mourning Day, when Chinese families visit their ancestors’ graves to offer incense and flowers. 5 APRIL 2018

SONGKRAN FESTIVAL, THAILAND: The Thai New Year often attracts droves of tourists and locals, where people splash water on one another as a blessing. 13 TO 15 APRIL 2018 LAO NEW YEAR: Laotians shower one another with water and white powder as blessings, and pray at temples. Fun to watch, though it is the hottest time of the year. 14 TO 16 APRIL 2018 CHAUL CHNAM THMEY, CAMBODIA: Cambodian New Year involves dressing up, visiting temples and cooking feasts with family. Celebrations last three to four days; the Angkor temples will be packed. 14 TO 16 APRIL 2018 NYEPI, BALI, INDONESIA: The evening before Nyepi (Balinese New Year and “Day of Silence”), loud street processions are held to drive away evil spirits with gongs, drums and huge, papier-mâché “ ogoh-ogoh ” monsters. On New Year’s Day itself, Bali retreats into silence for 24 hours. No work. No travel. No cooking. No noise. Even the airport closes. Village wardens (Pecalang), there to enforce the rules, are the only people outdoors. The idea is that any demons and evils spirits will be deluded into thinking that Bali is deserted, prompting them to leave the island. 17 TO 18 APRIL 2018

Write in and tell us about any new festival discoveries you might have made on your travels!








1 Do I need a visa? There have been changes to Indonesia’s visa policy in the past few years. Currently, the passport holders of 169 jurisdictions do not need a visa to enter Indonesia: these include Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, the US, India and the UK. Nationals of 68 other countries can apply for a visa on arrival (30 days, US$35). How long will it take me to get there? 2 hours (Jakarta) or 2.5 hours (Bali) flying time from Singapore. Indonesia is between 7 and 9 hours ahead of GMT. What’s the money situation? The official currency of Indonesia is the Indonesia rupiah (Rp). MasterCard and Visa are the most widely accepted credit cards and ATMs are common throughout the country. 2 3 When’s the best time to visit? While the weather is warm year-round, rainfall is very common from November to March. May to September is generally considered the driest time, but parts in the north receive rain throughout the year. widely spoken. Here are some phrases to get you started: Hello/Good morning Hello/Selamat pagi What is your name? Apa nama anda? My name is __ Nama saya __ How much? Berapa banyak Thank you Terima kasih Yes Ya No, thank you Tidak terima kasih Is there anything I should know about meeting the locals? Indonesians typically shake hands when greeting each other. Only shake an Indonesian woman’s hand if she initiates the handshake. What’s a must-try dish? Gado gado – a salad of boiled vegetables served with a peanut sauce dressing; and on the Hindu island of Bali you mustn’t miss babi guling , or roast suckling pig. 7 4 5 What’s the lingo? The official language is Bahasa Indonesia, but English is also 6


• Indonesia is made up of 17,508 islands. Only about 6,000 of these islands are inhabited by people. • Indonesia is one of the largest producers of nutmeg in the world. • Krakatoa’s 1883 most destructive in modern history, but the 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora on the Indonesian island of Sumbawa was the largest. • Indonesia is home to the Komodo Dragon, the largest living species of lizard, growing to a length of three metres. • There are over 700 indigenous • The word “java” has become slang for coffee, on account of the coffee beans grown on the island of the same name. languages spoken in the country. eruption may have been the

What should I buy as a souvenir? Shadow puppets ( wayang kulit ), or wooden doll puppets


( wayang golek ).








The basics Population: 252 million Capital: Jakarta Religion: Predominantly Muslim, but Hinduism is dominant in Bali Emergency number: 112 (standard GSM number) The key dates 24-26 June: Eid al-Fitr (referred to as Lebaran or Idul Fitri in Indonesia) – the end of Ramadan, a month of fasting and prayer. Celebrations include breakfast, brunch or lunch dishes of rendang (spicy beef), ketupat (rice dumpling), opor ayam (chicken and coconut) and more, along with snacks of peanuts, biscuits, kue and other sweets. Dates vary each year. The hot spots Popular destinations include Bali, Jakarta, Yogyakarta, Surabaya, Lombok, Aceh and Bintan. The eight World Heritage Sites include the Borobudur temple, Komodo National Park and Sumatra’s rainforests. Some itinerary ideas • Java: Jakarta – Yogyakarta – Borobudur – Bromo • Bali: Seminyak – Ubud – Lovina – Sanur – Nusa Dua – Uluwatu • Sumatra: Medan – Lake Toba – Berastagi – Bukit Lawang How to stay healthy • Malaria and dengue fever exist in many parts of the country, so therefore use adequate protection and keep antimalarial medicine on you. • Avoid swimming in freshwater streams and lakes as disease-causing organisms can be present. • Unlabelled bottles of the locally distilled rice spirit called arak are best avoided because of dangerous additives sometimes used in the production process.

While you’re there,

please don’t… • climb over monuments or places of wo r s h i p ; i t ’s c on s i de r ed h i gh l y disrespectful. • talk with your hand on your hip, it’s seen as impolite. Before you go, read … This Earth of Mankind by Pramoedya Ananta Toer – a love story that takes place at the end of the Dutch colonial period Flight 714 by Hergé – Snowy and Tintin’s 22nd adventure sees them snarled up in a kidnap plot taking place in Indonesia. Read it to your children, or yourself. Before you go, watch … Laskar Pelangi (“The Rainbow Troops”) – tells the story of 10 schoolchildren and their two teachers on a Sumatran tin mining island The Year of Living Dangerously – Mel Gibson plays a rookie Australian journalist who gets caught up in the Indonesian civil war in 1965. They said it “Bali is one of the few cultures with origins in one of the great ancient cultures which is still alive.” Arthur Erickson, architect “Long live my land, long live my state My nation, my people, entirely Let us build its soul, let us build its body For the Great Indonesia” – First stanza of Indonesia’s national anthem

“The firm tree does not fear the storm.” – Indonesian proverb




IN CENTRAL JAVA We discover the ideal accommodation for exploring one of the region’s great religious monuments. Just 15 minutes away from Borobudur, built in the 9th century and the largest Buddhist temple in the world, Villa Borobudur is a cluster of six individually designed luxury villas with fantastic views (and fantastic ratings on TripAdvisor). It was created with the aim of giving an authentic Javanese experience, from the architecture to the staff and cuisine. It’s a suitable destination both for a romantic trip for two or a trip with friends and family. Aside from the temple experience (our tip: book the early morning visit to Borobudur to beat the crowds), there’s hiking, mountain biking, rafting, art, cooking, jeep safaris – even a reptile rescue centre! The best times to visit are the drier months from June to August and October and November, and you would ideally stay at least four nights to make the most of all that’s on offer. Flight time from Singapore to Yogyakarta is 1.5 hours, and then there’s a road trip of around one hour to Villa Borobudur. CULTURE & ADVENTURE |

When’s the best time to visit? The best season in North Sulawesi is from the middle of May to the middle of October, and the period from November to March is also very decent, with an occasional shower in the late afternoons or evenings. The wettest months are January and February, but the cooler water temperatures bring in more sharks and whales. We’ve had occasional sighting of manta rays, whale sharks, sperm whales and orcas between December and April too! Can we bring the kids along too? North Sulawesi is safe and child-friendly. While you’re enjoying your underwater dives, the resort can provide a free-of-charge babysitter service to keep an eye on them on the boat or at the resort. There’s also a spacious kiddy pool, and older children can try snorkelling or the PADI Bubble Maker programme, which teaches how to dive safely in the pool.

The waters around Indonesia’s North Sulawesi are home to vibrant coral reefs and a huge variety of ocean critters. We asked the team at Thalassa , a five-star PADI dive resort and training centre based there, for advice on planning a trip. Diver’s Delight

GOING GREEN An environmentally conscious resort, Thalassa provides reusable bottles and refill stations around the property to reduce plastic waste.

For more information on bookings and diving, visit | Ethan Daniels




Singapore’s Chilean Ambassador, HE JAMES SINCLAIR MANLEY, arrived in Singapore in 2014, after previous postings in Korea, Egypt, Argentina, Peru, Washington and Jakarta. Since then, he and his wife – both avid golfers – have discovered the pleasures of Bintan Lagoon Resort (BLR), visiting many times, and being honorary guests for the resort’s 20th Anniversary Celebration last year. We asked the Ambassador for his thoughts on the resort. BINTAN BREAK

A short ferry ride from Singapore, Bintan Lagoon Resort is an award-winning, 470- room, fully integrated beach, golf and spa resort. It has two 18-hole golf courses, the largest convention centre in Bintan, a private international ferry terminal and two helipads, plus over 50 land and sea activities for guests. For reservations, call 6223 3223 or email Q What are some of your favourite things about BLR? Besides playing golf, I enjoy the wide range of cuisines. Japanese at Miyako is excellent; for breakfast, Fiesta has good choices; and Chef Ghulam is the king of Indian food! My favourite is Nelayan, by the beach. Having lived in Jakarta before, I’ve developed a fondness for spicy Indonesian food. If I’m not playing golf, I like to take early morning walks on the beach or just have a dip in the water and relax. There’s also 24 hour in-room massage available – it’s a fantastic service, and the masseurs are professionals. Q What are your favourite holes on the golf courses and why? The par 5 in the forest of the Ian Baker-Finch- designed Woodlands course – I like to walk that course instead of using a buggy because it’s so nice – and the 12th hole by the beach of the Jack Nicklaus-designed Sea View course.

Q How often do you visit Bintan Lagoon Resort? At least once a month, usually over a three- to four-day weekend; I often go with my wife and my three adult children (25, 30 and 32) when they visit me in Singapore. Q What do you like best about the resort? I find Bintan extremely attractive – the nature, beach, food and weather. It’s so close to Singapore – just over an hour from Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal to the resort beach, and then you’re in the lobby. I find Indonesian people very warm and hospitable, and the team takes care of me very well. I’ve become good friends with Moe Ibrahim, President Director, and Gerald Hendrick, Vice President of Business Development & Hotel Operations. Bintan reminds me in some ways of my home country. The greenery is similar, and so are the beaches, though the water is warmer here (in Chile, it’s around 15 or 16 degrees Celsius), so you can stay in for longer. We have a lot of spicy food in Chile, too.


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