Tokyo Travel Tips

Tokyo Travel Tips

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If you’re thinking of traveling to Japan, I’ve put together some of my travel tips. I’m doing this post because of the interest and questions I’ve been asked recently. If anyone else is planning a trip, I hope this helps you too. Image Credit: Shutterstock
Before visiting Japan, I knew I loved the country based on what I had read and seen. Remember when they were hit with that devastating earthquake in 2011? They didn’t ask for handouts, and set out to rebuild everything almost immediately. It was this remarkable attitude that prompted me to donate money to the Red Cross who aided in their relief campaign. So yes, I had a long standing love for Japan, which was as a ‘must visit’ for me. After I saved enough money because the impression you have is that it’s expensive. More on this further below. Image Credit: Shutterstock
I had the opportunity to visit Tokyo with Sony on a press trip last May (blogged about it here ). To say I was excited was an understatement. It was a 3 day trip and we had a packed itinerary but some free time on the last day. Please note that I didn’t book my flights, pay for hotels, food, or the WiFi dongle we were supplied with throughout the trip. So with that in mind, I will share what I think might be useful to potential travellers. VISA APPLICATION
The Embassy of Japan in South Africa is located in Pretoria, not sure of other locations in SA. You can find all the info you need on their website. I was sent the visa forms by Sony, including the documents required from their side. Regarding an appointment, you do not need one. I repeat, you do not need an appointment; this is the first embassy in all my life of physically applying for visas that you don’t need one. You simply go there and hand your documents in. It took me less than five minutes to apply for my visa, which was ready within 2 working days. FLIGHTS
Getting to Japan from South Africa is best done via a Middle Eastern airline because you’re heading in the same direction. There are two international airports in Tokyo: Haneda International Airport (HND) and Narita International Airport (NRT). I flew via Emirates to Haneda Airport, which is very close to the main city. Narita is a bit far out, 76km away from HND. I would recommend flying to Haneda; it’s also going to be cheaper to get to your hotel.
Another thing to keep in mind when flying to Haneda, all flights via Emirates lands at 22:45pm. There’s still waiting for bags, going through passport control, and not even factoring a potential flight delay. You’re likely going to get to your hotel at midnight if not after, so keep this in mind when booking accommodation because it’s technically a day “wasted”. Similarly, the flight back to Dubai leaves at 00:30.
On the flight from Tokyo to Dubai, we were told that the rule was one item of hand luggage only. So I shoved my handbag into my hand luggage because I wasn’t going to check in additional bags. Double check with Emirates if this is still the case, or keep place in your hand luggage for your handbag/laptop bag. I flew on an economy flight but my Emirates Gold status did not help with the hand luggage situation. It was so odd, I have never encountered this anywhere, ever. Flights here are pricey, so keep an eye when your favourite airline is having a sale and then book. ACCOMMODATION
I stayed in Minato, near Sony HQ at the Grand Prince Hotel New Takanawa, and it was excellent. I would highly recommend that you stay in a hotel in Tokyo if you plan to take an Emirates flight here. The reason being is that if you check-out early on your last day, you have somewhere safe to store your luggage while you’re out sight-seeing or shopping. If you opt for an Airbnb you may be left with no choice but lug it around with you. That said, accommodation is not cheap here. You can get a three star hotel for up to R1500 a night if you search booking.com (for two people), but if you skip the free breakfast you can get a wider selection of hotels.
Side Note: You can also search other airlines besides Emirates to see what their timetable is like, and if they take off and land in the afternoon or during the day. This would also make using Airbnb an option should this be the case, but in addition to what I said above, you can always ask your host what to do with luggage. FOOD
I was spoilt with food options on this trip as Sony took us to the best places. I noted my dietary requirements as Pescatarian (seafood and vegetarian) so I didn’t have to worry about halaal. We went to the famous Kill Bill Restaurant called Gonpachi Nishi-Azabu. It’s very touristy, you need a booking to get in but it’s got a vibe. These are just some of the dishes we had on the evening and they brought us extra dessert.
Regarding halaal food, you can find places that offer Chinese, Arab, Indian, and other Asian spots, so you can eat ramen, curries, noodles, wagyu, kebabs etc. See image below. But here’s a better list of the top halaal places in Tokyo with reviews. It’s not as easily available as in New York or London.
There are also vegetarian and vegan places to consider and well, sushi. On this trip, I was with Middle Eastern and a Saudi journalist and we opted to have curry on our free day for lunch near the tech part of the city because we had seafood on the previous days. I can’t remember the name but we searched for halaal food near us on Google Maps. We also ate at Kawaii Monster Cafe but this place isn’t really about the food, more the experience: GETTING AROUND
Getting around Tokyo is easy with the Tokyo Metro. You can access information in English and buy tickets without additional help. I managed to navigate myself when I took a train to the tech part of the city. If you’re familiar with the Subway, Underground, MRT etc, it’s the same thing.
There are various lines, all colour coded, and each station is numbered. At the actual stations, you will see the numbers next to Japanese text. As you can see above, the map is also available in English and you can download the official app for Android and iOS. A day pass for unlimited rides, valid for 24 hours is ¥600, which is roughly R80. I can’t be sure if you get multiple day or weekly passes, but use this as a guideline to budget for getting around per day. Uber and cabs are available here but they are pricey. This is the best way to get around. We were supplied with metro cards by Sony, which displays your balance like it does on the Underground or Subway. SIGHT-SEEING
Even though it was a quick 3 day trip, Sony tried to include some fun bits between our official itinerary. This is all I have to include for this section.
We made a stop at Shibuya, the world’s busiest intersection. My photo doesn’t do it justice:
We went to the Kawaii Monster Cafe in Harajuku in Shibuya (you probably heard of this area, famous for its fashion and colourful street art):
This is the view from the top at the Kill Bill restaurant, Gonpachi:
On my free day I visited a cat cafe as my top priority (my first stop!). It’s very clinical, you have to put your shoes into a locker and wear slippers, and take in a drink (hot or cold, included in your entry fee), and you have to pay extra to feed the cats. You cannot go to Tokyo and not go to a cat cafe:
We spent the rest of our time at the tech part of the city called Akihabara. I bought a bunch of cute geeky things and as mentioned below, Google Home Minis and a Chromecast.
We also got peckish at some point. Finding food places was all about relying on location and using Google Maps to narrow down a cuisine type (coffee, cakes, dessert, Indian, etc):
Regarding doing other cool things in the city, I suggest you look that up online. Alas I wasn’t there long enough to do it myself but if there’s a sight-seeing bus with commentary like in most cities, I recommend doing that. LANGUAGE BARRIER
The places we went to, we didn’t have an issue communicating. People understand basic English. Sometimes at restaurants you may have to point at something if they don’t understand your accent. But also, keep Google Translate with the Japanese language downloaded for a backup. This app has helped me tons of times in non-English speaking countries. Also if you buy anything in the supermarket and want translations. IS IT EXPENSIVE?
Regarding the cost of visiting the city as a whole, like paying for food etc, I’d say it’s similar to New York City, which is on the expensive side but it’s not unattainable. You can be smart with your choices – like pack your own snacks from South Africa, bring a few ready meals that you can heat in boiling water in your room kettle (Woolies and some Indian shops sell delicious vegetarian curries/ready-meals) for one meal a day or the days you don’t feel like eating out. I’ve been told that food in the food halls are cheaper but I haven’t been there, and I’m not sure if there’s any contamination for those with dietary requirements. Here’s some prices from a halaal spot in Tokyo and it looks reasonable. I would assume the Asian spots are cheaper.
Regarding tech, I went to Yodobashi Camera shop in Akihabara, and bought a bunch of Google Home Mini’s and a Chromecast because they had a special for that weekend. It’s about five or six floors and we spent a lot of time in there. You can always find bargains if you look carefully and know exactly what you want, and how much it costs at home to know if it’s worth it.
If you’re a gamer, Tokyo is heaven – think Playstation, Nintendo, Sega, Mario, Pokemon etc. Pikachu is everywhere. If you’re a regular traveller, Tokyo is heaven. The three days I visited was not enough, I plan to go back, as well as visiting Kyoto. It is the cleanest city I’ve come across in Asia. It really stood out for me and I was like “wow, there’s no litter on the streets”. I noticed the ladies dress up properly, full on hairdos, and make up. It’s quite something to notice. Also, at the bus stops, you will see people queuing in a single file to take public transport – have you ever? People also have weird fetishes going on and there’s something for everyone in that regard. I was told that going to a karaoke bar is a must but alas I didn’t have a free evening for it.
I’ve been working on this post for a while and I hope I covered everything. If you have more questions, please leave a comment.

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Where’s G?d: Night Seven

Editor’s note: Tikkun is delighted to be publishing Michael Kagan’s book Where’s G?d as a series on our website. This is the seventh and final chapter. Click here to read the Prologue, Introduction, and “Night One.” Click here to read “Night Six.”
I was back home, back in my room, back with my angels, books and toys. Only the globe of the Earth was missing. Daddy told me that when they washed it, water had seeped into the electrical wiring and that it was too dangerous to use. Something about short-circuiting and fuses and the possibility of a fire and getting electrocuted. I didn’t understand but I could see that worried look on his face, so I didn’t argue. It left a hole in my room. It felt strange with the Earth missing. I always enjoyed tracing my finger over its surface.
I lay on my bed talking to my angels. “What happened to me?” I asked. “You saw everything. You are witnesses. Tell me what happened between me and the earth?” The mobile turned gently. The angels replied one by one: I see the pain of the earth. I hear the pain of the earth. I know of the pain of the earth. I am giving you a taste of the pain of the earth. I receive the pain of the earth. I love the earth. Please teach of the pain of the earth. I bless the earth. Please do right to the earth. And finally – I will protect the earth. And then as one, they chanted: Holy, Holy, Holy; the whole earth is filled with God’s glory. I began to cry. I sobbed uncontrollably.
And then I felt her arms around me, holding me tight, bringing me comfort, bringing me strength, bringing me hope. Mummy! I lay in her arms, weeping while she gently rocked me.
“It’s OK, sweetheart,” she whispered. “It’s OK. You’re home now. Everything’s alright.” I loosened myself from her embrace, wiped the tears away on the palms of my hand and looked her in the eyes.
“It’s not really, is it?” I asked sniffing. Mummy looked at me puzzled.
“Let me get you a tissue for your nose,” she said, leaving the room. She returned a moment later with a whole box of tissues. Daddy joined her, a little miffed at having his evening program disturbed.
“What is it, dear?”
“What happened to me?”
“You mean why you were sick like that?” I nodded, “Well, I told you, you had a stomach virus…”
I shook my head, “No.” I said, “Something else was wrong. I didn’t have a virus. We are a virus.” They looked at me puzzled. “We are like a virus,” I corrected myself. “To the earth. We are like a virus to the earth. And the earth’s response to viruses is just like our responses to viruses – being sick. I was sick all over the earth. It was like the earth was telling me that this is what might happen if we continue to act like a nasty virus. It will sick us out.”
“Vomit,” said Daddy.
“What?” asked Mummy.
“The correct word is vomit. Rhymes with Gromit.” He tried to chuckle, embarrassed by his embarrassment. I played that word around in my head. I tried it on my tongue: VO – MIT. Yes, that’s a good word to describe it.
“The world is not in good health, is it?” I asked after a while. They shook their heads. “I felt the world in pain. I felt the crying of my planet Earth.” I pointed to where my globe once stood. “I heard it crying, crying in pain like some of the people I saw in the hospital.” They looked at each other. “Its body was hurting like a sick body. Its blood, its lungs, its skin, its bones; it was all in pain. I could feel the animals that are dying, and the seas that are polluted, and the fish that are disappearing, and the air that is filthy, and the trees that are burning, and the mountains that are broken, and the fields that are tired, tired like an old woman.” I shivered. My eyes brimmed with tears.
“Do you think that global warming could be like a fever, you know, like the planet has a fever and its temperature is rising?” asked Daddy. “Because if it is, that’s another way that our bodies overcome attacks by dangerous elements like bacteria and viruses. They raise their temperatures in order to kill the enemy. Unfortunately, sometimes that strategy goes haywire and results in the body hurting itself.” I nodded my head. I think that he was right.
“But why are we doing such bad things to our own selves?” I asked. “Why are we destroying ourselves?”
“You mean: why are we destroying the earth?”
I shook my head and said in my best Alice voice, “No! I meant what I said and I said what I meant: Why are we destroying ourselves?”
“Well,” said Mummy, “if we continue to damage the planet, we will end up destroying ourselves. Is that what you meant?”
“No!” I insisted. “We are the earth. Just like everything else. We’re not aliens from another planet, are we?” I caught Daddy looking at Mummy with that slightly raised eyebrow of skepticism – maybe the thought flitted across his mind that I might be an alien. “Every cell of our body, every molecule, every atom comes from this planet. We’re not separate from it, how could we be?”
“’…and God formed Man from the dust of the earth…’” Quote: d Daddy.
“Exactly! We’re not star-dust, we’re earth-dust.”
“Well, we’re also star-dust,” said Daddy. “Everything originally came from the sun.”
“Everything originally came from nothing,” I said defiantly. “But that’s not the point and that’s not what’s important right now.”
“What is important right now, dear?” asked Mummy, trying to help me stay on track.
“It’s this: the earth is alive and can vomit us out in order to protect itself just like our own bodies. It thinks. It has feelings. It is awake.”
“That’s nonsense!” protested Daddy, “That’s what’s called anthropocentrism, like a cartoon. That’s what Disney does best, it makes everything – animals, tree, houses, cars, planets, suns – all look like humans, with eyes, and noses, and smiles, and mouths, and feelings, and songs. That’s all cartoon stuff. The planet is a lump of rock with a molten core, plenty of water and an oxygen atmosphere that can just support the carbon-based organisms we call life. It doesn’t have feelings. It’s not ‘awake’.”
Mummy spoke. “This sounds a little bit like déjà-vu.” I looked questioningly at her. “You know,” she continued, “like when you told us that everything is God, including Daddy.” She laughed. Daddy growled and stuck his tongue out at her.
“Yes,” I said, “it is a little like that, isn’t it? Look, think about it like this: where is the brain of the Earth located? Obviously not at its core, that’s silly. Where do you think it is though?”
“Well I read an article recently,” said Mummy, “which talked about ants and how they have the most tiny insignificant brains consisting of just a few neurons. Yet somehow, when they all get together, I mean thousands of them, they become a super organism with a massive brain able to carry out very complex tasks. It’s as if each ant comprises of a single neuron of a brain. I would say that the brain of the Earth is something like that, sort of dispersed.”
Daddy looked at her with a very impressed look. Now it was her turn to stick her tongue out at him. The atmosphere in the room was lightening up.
“Daddy?”
“Yes?”
“Any ideas?”
“I’m all ears, sweety. Go on.”
“Well, the Earth was once a lump of dead molten rock which over millions and millions of years began to change and evolve. Somehow simple creatures began to appear in the oceans. These evolved into fish and reptiles and flying creatures and creepy-crawlies and mammals and giant dinosaurs. All these creatures were part of the planet. Do you agree?” They both nodded their heads. “But none of them, as far as we know, could think.”
“Think?” asked Mummy, “What do you mean by ‘think’?”
“Think. Like you and me. Think. Give names to things. Create language. Build things. Compose music.”
“I suppose what you are trying to say is – self-aware. No creature was self-aware until we humans came along. Only we know we are.” That’s Daddy showing how self-aware he is. And he really is.
“Yes!!” I exclaimed with delight. “Exactly. Only we know we are!”
“So?” Oops. Perhaps Daddy was not quite as self-aware as I thought.
“So. We are the brains of the Earth!! After all these years of being unawake, the Earth is finally awake. It can think. It has self-awareness through us. We are its mind. We are the Earth’s conscienceness.”
“I think that you mean ‘consciousness’, dear,” corrected Mummy.
“Yes, thank you. We are the conscious mind of the Planet Earth. It is through us that it thinks. Isn’t that lovely to know?”
“You mean that the world knows itself because we know ourselves?” asked Mummy.
“Yes. After all these millions of years of growing up, the planet has finally woken up.”
“So now,” jumped in Daddy, getting very excited, “the Earth is much like us: we have minds that are self-aware, and bodies that have very complex mechanisms like enzymes and hormones and blood flow that control our temperature, digestion, heart and all the other automatic unconscious functions that we don’t have to think about, until of course something goes wrong. So what you’re saying is that the analogous role…”
“Analogous?” I asked.
“Analogous is…is…”
“Parallel or similar to,” explained Mummy.
“Exactly. So what you’re saying is that the analogous role, the parallel role of all the creatures and insects and rivers and seas and atmosphere and all that, is to keep the Earth healthy and balanced?” I nodded in approval.
“Well it’s not just that, is it dear?” It was Mummy’s turn. “As long as our bodies are functioning properly, we can think properly. When something goes wrong, like getting an infection which then causes a fever, it affects the mind and we can’t think straight. I don’t mean that the only reason we have bodies is for the sake of our minds. That would mean that the only reason that there are all the animals and creatures and trees and flowers and everything else is because of us humans. Because, because that would be a little too anthropocentric, I mean, too much putting humans at the center of everything.”
“No, I don’t think that’s correct,” said Daddy a little hesitatingly. “If I understand what Tara said, it would not be anthropocentric because what she is describing is a body-whole, a what’s-it-called, a holistic system. That’s it. A holistic system in which everything is working for everything else’s good. We’re the ones who make it anthropocentric. It’s only in our minds, our selfish minds that we think that we are above the rest of the system.” He started to laugh.
“What’s so funny?” I asked. He waved his hands as if he was trying to brush away the thoughts.
“Darling, what is it?”
“I suddenly remembered a joke I heard as a kid.” His face had turned a slight shade of red. “But I don’t think it’s suitable, you know.”
“Go on Daddy, I like your jokes.” Sometimes Daddy could be very funny and sometimes not so funny.
“Well,” he began looking at Mummy a little sheepishly, “the parts of the body were having an argument about who was the most important. The brain declared that obviously it was the most important because it was the organ that thought. The heart laughed and said that it was the most important because it was the organ that pumped the blood. The liver argued that it was the most important because it was responsible for cleaning the blood. And so it went on from organ to organ, from limb to limb. Finally a small voice was heard. It was the anus.” I shifted in my seat.
“Darling!” protested Mummy.
“I know what that is,” I reassured her. “It’s the kaka hole. Go on. Please, ” I begged.
“OK. Well the anus declared: ‘I’m the most important part of all the body!’ and upon hearing that all the other parts laughed.”
“Poor kaka hole,” I said sympathetically.
“So the anus decided to prove what it had claimed. With all its strength, it closed tight. After a day or so, the brain began to lose focus, the heart began to palpitate, the kidneys began to stop functioning properly, and the legs began to weaken. Until they all declared that the anus was indeed the most important part of the body!”
“Good little kaka hole!” I clapped my hands gleefully.
“And what exactly was that meant to teach us?” scowled Mummy. “That we should all strive to obtain the status of the kaka hole? Somehow I don’t think that would go down well in school.” I burst out laughing just at the thought of it.
“No,” said Daddy with a big grin on his face. “No! The point of the joke…”
“What joke?” interrupted Mummy.
“The point of the joke,” continued Daddy, “is to show that all the parts are actually equally important. It’s a whole body. Each part is necessary for the whole body to function properly.”
“I think that is what’s called Holistic.” Mummy added.
“Exactly,” continued Daddy. “Holistic. That’s the word. So what Tara is saying is that if the Earth is considered a living body, then all parts of her are equally important. We are all part of this complex, holistic system with each organism playing its specific role. Including us. We’re part of the circle of life.”
Which was the signal for all three of us to start singing my favorite song:
“From the day we arrive on the planet
And blinking, step into the sun
There’s more to see than can ever be seen
More to do than can ever be done
There’s far too much to take in here
More to find than can ever be found
But the sun rolling high
Through the sapphire sky
Keeps great and small on the endless round.
It’s the Circle of Life
And it moves us all
Through despair and hope
Through faith and love
Till we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the Circle
The Circle of Life.”
“But seriously,” I said after we had caught our breaths and Daddy had put down one of my dolls that he had used as a makeshift microphone, and Mummy had rearranged all my animal dolls back in their corner, “the Earth’s in trouble isn’t it?”
“It seems,” said Mummy, “that not many people nowadays think that humans are the brains of the planet in the way that you have described, sort of like a part of the same body, interrelated, interdependent. I think that most people believe that the planet and its resources are theirs to do whatever they like with. They think that the planet is an endless supply of raw materials for us to use as energy, or chemicals, or medicines, or building materials,and that somehow it will be all right.”
“You know,” said Daddy, “it does say that right in the Bible. At the beginning, or rather right after the beginning.”
“What does it say?” I asked. The Bible was not my strong point. I could never manage with the strange, antiquated English.
“If I’m not mistaken,” he continued, “it says, after God created the Human, something like: ‘Be fruitful and multiply; populate the whole planet; and conquer her.’ I think that’s right, isn’t it dear?” Mummy nodded her head. She knew her Bible.
“But that’s awful,” I said. “That’s just terrible.”
“Well, you’re our fruit and you’re not that bad,” joked Daddy. “Very sweet, I would say.”
“No, not that. The conquering bit. How could it say ‘conquer’? You conquer enemies, don’t you? The earth is not an enemy, is it? It can’t be right?” I was getting very upset. This was terrible. How could the Bible say such a thing? I could envision armies of humans marching across the surface of the world, plundering and destroying everything in its path like, like soldier ants. But when humans did it, it was ruthless. It led to the end of so many forests and the extinction of so many species. It couldn’t mean that, it just couldn’t. “Are you sure that’s what it says?” I was pleading, hoping to hear another answer. But Mummy just shrugged her shoulders and Daddy nodded his head. “I’m going to ask.”
“Ask who?” they both asked.
“Ask God of course,” I answered. They stared at me and I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.
I began praising God for the wonders of the world. Not thanking but praising. Praising like complimenting. Complimenting like when Mummy asks Daddy to tell her how pretty she looks or how beautiful her new dress is. I praised God for the ants and the forests and the leaves and the trees and the water and the sky and the rain and the earth… Until, until I was somewhere else or, perhaps, no one else. And there I gently let my question float into space. And waited. And then in no time I knew. I whispered my thanks and took a deep breath and opened my eyes.
Mummy and Daddy were still staring at me.
“That’s it?” asked Daddy. I nodded and smiled. “You just closed your eyes and one second later opened them. And anyway, what do you mean ‘Ask God’?”
“Dear. Do you have anything to tell us?” Mummy asked sweetly.
I nodded again. “It doesn’t mean conquer or anything like that. It means to utilize or take advantage.” They looked at me, puzzled. “It’s like this: isn’t it true that all living things on the planet can only live in certain areas, like African elephants can only in the jungles of Africa and Indian elephants can only live in certain places in India?”
“It’s called eco-niches,” explained Daddy. “Everything adapts to areas that allows it the greatest chances to survive. Which means most food and fewest enemies.”
“Eco which is short for ecology and niche which means a suitable place,” added Mummy.
“Everything except us!” I exclaimed. “Every animal, plant and insect is stuck inside …”
“Its own eco-niches…”
“…Eco-niches, thank you. Except humans! We’re everywhere. There’s hardly a place on the planet that doesn’t have humans living there.”
“I never thought about that before,” said Mummy.
“It’s true,” chimed in Daddy. “If you think about it, we’re everywhere: in the hottest areas and the coldest, in the highest and the lowest, in the wettest and the driest. I think that with the exception of the North and South Poles and the most deserted deserts, humans are probably in every eco-niche on the planet.”
“Just like that verse you Quote: d from Genesis: ‘be fruitful and multiply and fill the whole earth’. But what’s that got to do with conquering?” asked Mummy.
“It’s not conquering!” I reminded her empathically. “We’re special. Not like the other living things. God wants us to spread out and live on all parts of the earth.”
“Wait!” interrupted Daddy. “Let me do this. We had to overcome the natural constrictions that would have kept us in a very limited eco-niche. We had to learn how to utilize the resources around us in order to survive environments that were extremely hostile.”
“Tell us about fire, Daddy.”
“Fire?”
“Yes. Fire.”
“Well let me see now. Fire.” Daddy scrambled for words.
“’Tell me the secret of Man’s red fire.’ That’s what you mean, isn’t it?” asked smart Mummy, looking at me.
Suddenly, Daddy got it too. He picked up my stuffed monkey and started to sing King Louis’ song from the Jungle Book.
When the song was over, Mummy said: “Well, I think that it’s our ability to handle fire that’s at the core of technology, and technology is what enables us to build houses that protect us from the cold and the hot…”
“Especially if they have central heating in the winter and air conditioning in the summer,” added Daddy half-jokingly.
“…and fire allows us to make everything else. All our electronics, chemistry, engines, metals are all possible because of our ability to utilize fire.”
“King Louis was right,” said Daddy. “Fire is the secret to being a human being because only humans can break out of the prison of their eco-systems and be free.”
“That’s what he wanted more than anything else,” I said sympathetically, “to be free from that awful temple. Even though he was king of the apes, he knew that it was meaningless if he couldn’t do whatever he wanted. And in order to do that, he needed the secret of fire.”
“So?” asked Daddy impatiently.
“So?” I asked with a big smile on my face. “So God wants us to be everywhere. That’s what it says – ‘be fruitful and multiply; populate the whole planet.’ And then in order to be able to do that, God adds: ‘and utilize her,’ use nature, make fire, control fire, build houses, build villages, build, cities, create languages, books, culture. Be fruitful! It’s so beautiful. God wants us to be human in every possible way.”
“Hundreds of languages and forms of writing.”
“Multiples upon multiples of living styles.”
“Hundreds of variations in cuisine.”
“Thousands upon thousands of dressing modes.”
“A plethora of literature, folk stories, music, memories.”
“You see?” I said. “’Be fruitful and multiply’ is not just about creating children. It’s about creating everything that the human mind is capable of. God loves…what’s the word?”
“You?” suggested Daddy. I shook my head. “Us?” I shook my head again.
“It begins with a D.”
“Daddy?”
“No!” I laughed. “I mean yes, but that’s not the word I’m looking for. It rhymes with universe but means more than one.”
“Diverse!”said Mummy.
“Diversity! God loves diversity!” shouted Daddy.
“Yes,” I said. “God loves diversity. But..”
“But what, dear?” asked Mummy. Suddenly the joy and happiness that had enveloped us got sucked out the room. A heaviness descended, a darkness that blocked out the light, like the darkness that had covered my globe before I was sick. I shivered. Mummy and Daddy felt it too. “What is it?”
“It’s not good out there, is it?” I asked. “I could feel the earth crying in pain. It was like…like a mother having her children taken from her. It was terrible.” Mummy put her arms around me and held me tight.
“You’re right. We’re not being very nice to the Earth,” said Mummy. “We’re losing many, many species every year.”
“Not only that,” added Daddy, “but we’re also losing human cultures.” I looked at him in puzzlement. “Yes,” he continued, “there is a growing trend today for cultures to stop developing their own unique expressions and joining the global culture. It’s one of the side effects of what we call ‘globalization’.”
“It’s ironic…” said Mummy. “At the same time that we are recognizing that we are all on one planet and that we are all interconnected, that one culture begins to dominate and overwhelm the others.”
“But why?” I asked. “God loves differences. I told you that.” There was silence. We sat in my bedroom in silence. Even my angels were silent. After a while, I said, “Now do you understand what I meant by the danger of the earth vomiting us out? It can happen.” We sat in more silence.
Without warning, the Angel of Seeing began to twist and turn as if she were trying to tell me something.
“Oh no!” I suddenly remembered Marty. Tears filled my eyes.
“What is it?” asked Mummy.
“I just remember Marty.”
“Who’s Marty?” asked Daddy as he glanced at Mummy.
“He was a man I met in the hospital. He was all alone. The nurse said he was in a … a coma. His body was there but there was no one inside.”
“Poor man,” said Mummy.
“Sometimes people wake up out of comas. Even years later, added Daddy.
“I don’t think that Marty is coming back,” I said. “But now I understand.”
“Understand what, dear.”
“I understand what will happen to the Earth if we were to disappear.”
“Now I don’t understand,” said Daddy.
“You see,” I continued, “if the Earth should vomit us out, it would be like Marty with no Marty. The Earth would go unconscious again. There would be no one on the planet that would be able to think like us. The Earth would go into a coma. After all those millions of years that it took for humans to come out of the earth, for the Earth to gain consciousness, it would go back to sleep and have to wait for any number of millions of years for another species to evolve that can think like us.”
“And they would probably end up messing it up as well,” said Mummy wistfully.
“That reminds me of that final scene in Planet of the Apes,” said Daddy. I looked at him blankly. “It’s a movie about a planet in which the apes rule the humans. In the final scene, Charlton Heston escapes from the apes and he finds himself on a beach. He turns a corner, and there he sees the remains of the Statue of Liberty. And he realizes that the planet of the apes is Earth – his own home – sometime in the future. He realizes that somehow the humans have lost their supremacy at the top of the chain to more intelligent creatures. And when he realizes this, he falls to his knees and cries and curses.”
“There is no chain,” I said sadly. “Only chains.” We sat in silence for a while. Then I added, “I wouldn’t want to live if I was in chains. I wouldn’t want to live if I couldn’t be me. That’s what God wants – God wants me to be me.”
The End
In memory of Marty Lee. May our memory of him be a blessing.

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The Top Honeymoon Destinations of 2019

Posted in Uncategorized |
Every year, the holiday hotlist for the top honeymoon destinations switches up a little bit. Your post-wedding getaway should be a place to completely relax and refresh yourself after all your hard work and planning (and celebrating!), but it can be hard to choose the right one.
Honeymoon trips come in all shapes and sizes but try to remember that it’s the one holiday where you can really give yourself an excuse to ‘go all out.’ Perhaps you’re eager to explore the picture-perfect beaches of Thailand, or explore the best pasta and prosecco of Italy?
Below, we’ve picked out four favorite honeymoon spots of 2019, worth checking out if you’re jetting off post-wedding day. Mauritius
Mauritius was a popular honeymoon destination several years back, which has now risen again in popularity for providing a luxury experience. Nestled in the Indian Ocean, this place is perfect for the hot weather due to being situated off the east coast of Africa.
Due to its Indian Ocean location, it’s one of the most magical places for boat trips and snorkeling, where newlyweds can experience the breathtaking coral reefs , powder white sands, and the most see-through turquoise waters. Flic En Flac is a key resort for this, offering scuba diving opportunities and plenty of sightings of bottlenose dolphins!
Known once for being an ideal beach holiday, it’s now attracting those who like a bit of action and adventure to their honeymoons. You’ll find it’s Casela Nature Park boasts the longest zip-line in Mauritius. You can whizz across the stunning nature park, skimming the tops of the jungle and admiring the views of beautiful mountain peaks, which is surrounded by thick jungle, forest-clad hills and towering mountain peaks.
Thailand
Whether you’re into island-hopping and traveling around, or quaint beaches and staying in one luxurious destination, Thailand has it all. Thailand is filled with palm-lined beaches, incredible local cuisine and street food, and some of the world’s most impressive national parks. Plus, you can pretty much guarantee sunshine all year round.
Of course, it depends on your own interests to tailor your Thai trip to your needs. Thailand has a fabulous array of resorts and islands, such as Phuket for its lively beach scene and bustling back streets, and Pai for its yoga retreats and secluded hideaways.
Why not look at combining a few different island or city trips so you get to explore more than one beautiful place? Chiang Mai is one of the most cultured places to see, giving you a real snapshot of Thai life. Then, you could add on a few days exploring the exciting sights of Bangkok.
There is so much to take in when it comes to Thailand’s vibrant capital, it’s worth staying around for a number of days. If you want to ensure to capture some relaxing time or experience the best Thai massages, do your research first. You can find some brilliant travel guides on sites like www.mrhudsonexplores.com which can give you some real inspiration.
St Lucia
Nothing screams honeymoon bliss like a trip to the stunning St Lucia. Known for its luxurious resorts and hotels complete with the most impressive infinity pools, this place is sprawling with extravagance and indulgence.
St Lucia overlooks the Caribbean’s sparkling clear waters, as well as giving sights to some of the oldest volcanos. There is something for every type of couple on their honeymoon, which is why it tops the list as one of the most romantic getaways year after year.
In a nutshell, you get a combination of private pools and premium resorts, idyllic beaches with photographic views, interesting hikes among roaring waterfall routes, and a coastline sprinkled with traditional restaurants, small villages, and seafront bars.
Amalfi Coast, Italy
Italy is one of the most romantic getaways for your honeymoon, although it can be overwhelming deciding which Italian spot is the best one for you.
The beauty of Italy is that you can always combine several cities into your honeymoon trip, but if you’d rather stay in one place, you have plenty of opportunities. One of the most up-coming spots for romance, glamour, and luxury is the Amalfi Coast. The number of unspoiled beaches and spectacular coastal views make this a perfect location for chilled out beach days and gazing out at breathtaking sunsets over a glass of wine (or two).
The Amalfi Town itself has more to offer than just picturesque beaches, traditional cuisine , and quaint little bars. The town is home to quirky villages nestled into hillsides, seeping with medieval architecture and history. If checking out sumptuous spas and going on romantic walks are also on your honeymoon to-do list, make sure you head to locations such as Ravello, Positano and Conca dei Marini.
Above all, your honeymoon trip should be unique to you as a couple, providing everything you need to wind down after your wedding. Take some time to research further into these dreamy destinations listed above, and who knows, you could be jetting off to the most unbelievable places you have ever visited. This entry was posted in Uncategorized . Bookmark the permalink .

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ONE PARA TRAVEL-16

Today, I will write about, COURTALLAM FALLS, a place, I visited years back. A very popular summer spot, located in Tirunelveli district, on the western ghats, that many rivers, are found flowing, near this falls. Courtallam, is called, spa of south India, which carries, good amount of water. The exact location, of courtallam, is on the western ghats, near Agasthiar Malai, where Sage Agasthiar, is believed to have lived and, made immense contribution, for Tamil literature. The temple Thirukutraalanaadhar, Located below the foothills of the falls, depicts the 5 panch Sabha, of Natarajar Chitra sabhai. This temple, is in counch shape, which is also referred, as Sangakkovil. Tirikootamandapam, here is a festive site. Parvathi shrine, is one of the, 64 Sakthi Peetam. Arudra darisanam, Vasantha utsavam, Vishu, Sashti, are, popularly celebrated. The myth story is that, Sage Agasthiar at Lord shiva request, moved towards southward, to stabilise the balance, of the earth because there was instability, in Himalayas, during shiva, Parvathi wedding. So, Sage Agasthiar, created a shivalingam, by shrinking the image of Lord Vishnu, so that name, Kutralam was derived.
HOW TO REACH-Tuticorin the nearest airport, while there are trains, till Tenkasi and direct buses, to courtallam.
MAIN PLACES TO SEE-Five falls, old courtallam falls and main falls are popular falls of courtallam, besides chitaruvi falls, thenaruvi, puli aruvi, shenbaga devi falls, and pazhathotta aruvi.
PLACES TO SEE- children’s park, eco park, boat house, therkumalai estate, and Gundar dam. Tenkasi town, Tirunelveli, Kollam and Tuticorin are nearby cities.
TO DO-Authentic South Indian, food is seen, all over courtallam, besides Kerala cuisine. Parotta, Biyani, chicken pepper fry, are popular, while exotic fruits like, Mangosteen, Rambootan, are popularly shopped.
July to March, is the best time to visit. Blessed with Mother Nature, sprawling greenery, fresh air, courtallam, has always been a pride spot, of Tamilnadu, besides being a, popular summer destination.
Conts….🙏🙏

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Jiggs Kalra, the czar of Indian cuisine, dies in Mumbai

Scroll.in reports: Restaurateur Jaspal Inder Singh Kalra – popularly called Jiggs Kalra – who was known as the czar of Indian cuisine, died in Mumbai on Tuesday morning. Although there is no official confirmation from his family, several people paid tributes to the pioneering food columnist on Twitter. Kalra was unwell for quite some time. He spent his 72nd birthday on May 21 in a hospital, his son Zorawar Kalra had said, reported Mid-day.

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Treat Your Dad to A Feast Fit for a King at Novotel Manila Araneta Center

Home » Featured » Treat Your Dad to A Feast Fit for a King at Novotel Manila Araneta Center Treat Your Dad to A Feast Fit for a King at Novotel Manila Araneta Center
Father’s Day, June 16, is just around the corner. Do you have plans already on how to treat the king of the house? Check out what Novotel Manila Araneta Center has stored for the king this Father’s Day Weekend! LUNCH OR DINNER BUFFET
Treat Daddy to a delightful Asian-themed lunch or a dinner buffet at Food Exchange Manila for only Php 1888 per person. They have exciting choices at the buffet that includes spicy authentic Indian cuisine, nostalgic savory Filipino dishes and more.
You may also opt to spike it up with unlimited beer or unlimited D-I-Y cocktails for an additional Php 650 nett .
If your party includes three full paying guests, your dad eats for free!
Dining dads will receive free gifts and a chance to personally meet surprise PBA celebrities. Lucky dads may get additional treats from Food Exchange Manila. POOLSIDE BARBEQUE
If Dad is the outdoor type of guy, go up #The6thManila for a sunset by the pool barbecue feast. There is a live band entertainment as well.
On June 14 and 15, starting at 6PM, take a dip while enjoying fresh off-the-grill meat and seafood barbecue buffet, free-flowing beer, live cooking stations of sisig, grilled mussels and shrimps, Mongolian or Teppanyaki rice and a lot more for only Php 1,588 per person. Staycation Treat for the King
If the family wants to spend more time and bond with dad, a staycation package good for two adults and two kids 15 years old and below is available starting at Php 6,000 nett . This includes a complimentary buffet lunch or dinner buffet voucher for Dad and 30% off per companion per buffet once availed. Relax & De-stress
Spoil dad with the perfect gift to relax and enjoy – a de-stressing 90-minute pampering treatment at one of the five awardees in the Philippines of the ASEAN Spa Services Standard 2019 – 2021, In Balance Spa.
For just Php 2200, he’ll enjoy a 30 minute organic red rice body scrub and 60 minute combination massage.
“Here at Novotel Manila Araneta Center, we value celebrations that bring families closer together. Our team continues to provide personalized moments for our guests to cherish and remember,” said Novotel Manila Araneta Center General Manager Mike Brown.
For inquiries and reservations, please call (02) 990 7888 or email H7090@accor.com. More information about Novotel Manila Araneta Center, its facilities and services are available via www.novotel.com , www.accorhotels.com , or www.novotelmanilaaranetacenter.com .

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02:30 PM: Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street Television

Visit the program’s official website
The world of home cooking is undergoing a revolution with new tastes, flavors, techniques and influences. CHRISTOPHER KIMBALL’S MILK STREET TELEVISION wants to change how Americans cook by bringing home a fresher, bolder, simpler way of preparing food. Chris and his test cooks search the world over looking for the best recipes, and finding home cooks who can teach better ways to prepare a meal at home. The first season includes 40 all-new recipes, such as Central Mexican guacamole, Thai fried rice, Peruvian pesto, Japanese fried chicken, soba with miso butter and asparagus, tahini swirl brownies, lemon buttermilk pound cake, and more. Chris also shares tips and techniques designed to make home cooking easier, like how to make foolproof egg whites and how to season a carbon steel pan. As part of the debut season, Chris also travels overseas to cook with several internationally renowned chefs and authors, including: Fuchsia Dunlop, a Sichuan cooking expert; Claire Ptak, a food stylist and author of London’s The Violet Bakery; and Andy Ricker in Thailand, known for his skill and expertise in northern Thai cuisine. Back in the kitchen, Chris transforms what the MILK STREET TELEVISION crew has learned into practical, simple recipes for home cooks everywhere. Taipei Cooking Lesson (#210H) Duration: 26:46 STEREO TVG In this episode, Christopher Kimball travels to Taipei, Taiwan, where he meets Qin Jia Bing Dian, who teaches him her secret to making the flakiest scallion pancakes. Back at Milk Street, Milk Street cook Lynn Clark shows Chris how to make Taiwanese flaky scallion pancakes at home, and viewers learn how to make Taiwanese five-spice pork with rice (Lu rou fan) with Milk Street cook Matthew Card. 2:30pm South African Bbq (#211H) Duration: 26:46 STEREO TVG In this episode, the team explores the various colors, flavors and textures of South African cooking. Christopher Kimball and Milk Street cook Lynn Clark prepare a bright red piri piri chicken, packed with heat from crushed chilies and slightly sweet undertones. Milk Street cook Matthew Card makes Cape Malay chicken curry, a uniquely South African one-pot dish consisting of a chicken and vibrant vegetables and spices. Plus: Tue, Jun 11, 2019 — 2:30pm Remind me Porchetta at Home (#212H) Duration: 26:46 STEREO TVG In this episode, Milk Street highlights the perfect recipes for a wintertime meal. Milk Street cook Matthew Card prepares a hearty fennel-rosemary porchetta, consisting of aromatic herbs and peppery spices. Milk Street cook Erika Bruce shows Christopher Kimball how to make a simple, yet decadent chocolate-hazelnut (gianduja) crostata. Finally, Milk Street cook Catherine Smart prepares mashed potatoes with caraway-mustard butter using an Indian flavoring technique known as tarka, in which herbs and spices are added to hot butter. Plus: Tue, Jun 18, 2019 — 2:30pm Remind me Chicken from Paris to the Middle East (#213H) Duration: 26:46 STEREO TVG In this episode, the team learns how to elevate simple chicken recipes by using techniques and flavors from around the world. Milk Street cook Matthew Card shows Christopher Kimball the best technique to spatchcock a chicken. Nimco Mahamud-Hassan stops by Milk Street to teach how to make chicken soup the Somali way-layering flavors, textures and colors. Later, Matthew shows Chris an easy recipe for za’atar-roasted chicken, and finally, they borrow a technique from France to make chicken en cocotte with Milk Street cook Catherine Smart. Plus: Tue, Jun 25, 2019 — 2:30pm Remind me Japanese Tuesday Nights (#204H) Duration: 26:46 STEREO TVG Christopher Kimball travels to Tokyo, Japan, where culinary instructor Elizabeth Andoh shows him how to make skillet glazed chicken. Back at Milk Street, Milk Street cook Matthew Card applies these techniques to make chicken teriyaki rice bowl (donburi), and Milk Street cook Bianca Borges shows how to cook pork and vegetable miso soup (ton-jiru). Plus: Sat, Jun 29, 2019 — 3:30pm Remind me Crazy Noodles (#112H) Duration: 26:46 STEREO TVG Milk Street visits Peru to learn a new way to make pesto, with surprise! spinach. Milk Street Cook Rayna Jhaveri shows how it’s done as she creates Peruvian pesto (tallarines verde). The pasta theme continues as Milk Street Cook Catherine Smart teaches host Christopher Kimball about a different noodle dish, soba with miso butter and asparagus. Chris reveals his foolproof recipe for pisco sours. Finally, Milk Street Cook Lynn Clark shows a pesto that’s red, not green, as she creates the Sicilian pasta dish, trapanese pesto.

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Six of the best things to eat around Manchester – June 2019

The Confidentials 3 June 2019 Pick of the plates include curries, spätzle, dumplings and ancient grains Our writing team seems to have gone truly international this month. Perhaps the recent collective dose of vitamin D has got to us all, or maybe it’s the siren call of summer holidays abroad reminding us we still have a bit of annual leave left. Actually, it’s more likely down to the astonishing range of international cuisines available to us in Manchester.
Read on to discover what we recommend you treat yourself to this month. Office Worker Tiffin – Mowgli (£16)
I have to admit that I’d never visited Mowgli, Nisha Katona’s mini-ish (actually now totalling eight restaurants), local-ish (if you count Oxford as local) chain of Indian street food restaurants that began way back in 2014. What better way to make up for lost time than to sample the Office Worker Tiffin, a sort of greatest hits in a can, consisting of three curries and a portion black cardamom basmati rice. While the green ginger and rhubarb dahl was fresh and vibrant and the ginger chicken was punchy and full of flavour, the rich lusciousness of the house lamb was the winner for me. Lucy Tomlinson
Mowgli Street Food, University Green, City Centre Keema Per Eddu – Dishoom (£10.90)
It’s been a tough few months but I’ve finally tried every dish on Dishoom’s breakfast menu. The bacon naan and the pancakes are both epic. However the boss has to be Keema Per Eddu (£10.90); a massively intense chicken mince curry, studded with chicken livers and topped with sunny fried eggs, potato straws and milky-white bread rolls. The soy version (pictured) is basically the same, but a less weighty. Mancunian brekkies don’t come better than this. Ruth Allan
Dishoom , 32 Bridge St, Manchester M3 3BT Spätzle with sage, butter and Parmesan – The Spärrows (£5.50)
There’s something Zen-like about The Spärrows; cosy and white in its Hobbit arch opposite Umezushi. You feel if you yomped in crimson with rage at the bridgeworks obstacle course cordoning it off co-owners Kasia and Franco would fan your brow and offer you a cup of saké (she’s a specialist). After which you would be at the tender mercy of the restorative carbs. Breakfasts of Alpine Emmentaler, braised onions, green peas, Spätzle and egg with smoked and grilled Vilenska sausage, sauerkraut and a wedge of foccacia have been reported by those who’ve made it back alive. The umlaut is the giveaway for this 20-cover homage to Spätzle, those Swabian/Alpine egg noodle dumplings created by scraping chunks of dough into boiling water. Spätzle translates as ‘little sparrows’, which they resembled in flight when shaped by spoon in the traditional way. I say don’t mess with the birds. Dressed simply with sage, butter and Parmesan they are a treat that won’t put a strain on your Lederhosen. Gnocchi treated the same way there are equally fine. Neil Sowerby
The Spärrows , Unit 3, Mirabel Street, M3 1PJ Chicken, hispi and crispy onions – Kala (part of two course, £20, set menu)
If you ever made model WWII aeroplanes as a kid, before digitalisation removed such tactile pleasures, then this dish looks like the kit before assembly. It is very much the sum of its parts. Stick the French masala spiced hispi cabbage on a forkful of perfect chicken, gather in the crispy onions and dab with the lime pickle and you get a whole bombing raid of flavour and aroma. Get some chips to go with the dish, Kala does these superbly well, properly spuddy, giving a great base to the exoticism of the chicken. The new restaurant is a plain but smart and with these sort of dishes a boost to city dining. Jonathan Schofield
Kala Bistro , 55 King St, Manchester M2 4LQ Fried crispy dumpling – Thai Kitchen No.6 (£3.50)
Been away quite a lot this month, so I was worrying that my dish of the month was going to be a bit weak; but then walking down the street opposite Sam’s Chop House (whose chips served in the bar after five pints are a joy to behold) I spotted Thai Kitchen No. 6. Family owned and run, contemporary interior, efficient service and a menu that has pictures – normally considered naff, but in Gordo’s Thai world of a fish cake and green curry, it came in very useful.
It’s rumoured that Gran is in the kitchen cooking and if she is, she needs looking after. One of the things Gordo ordered was the spring roll. It was actually a cross between a spring roll and a giant won ton and was a banger. Gordo isn’t sure if it exploded in the frying pan to be like it was, or it’s Grannie’s personal design, but it was terrific. Rustic, but very memorable. Gordo
Thai Kitchen No.6 , Chapel Walks, Manchester M2 1HN Bakewell pudding – Where the Light Gets In (part of £90 tasting menu)
I’ve eaten at WTLGI only three times since it opened and each time it has noticeably grown in confidence as the team becomes more relaxed and quality climbs higher. Diners aren’t given a copy of the menu (though it can be emailed to you post-consumption), so you never quite know what point you are up to within their adventurous blind tasting menu. Although once the sweet stuff starts to arrive, you know you need to fasten your seatbelts for the descent back to reality. The humble and traditional Bakewell pudding was almost beyond domestic replication thanks to a lighter than air and unusual pastry case. It was dark thanks to heritage wheat varieties including ancient grains Einkhorn and Emer, and light thanks to the inclusion of hand churned cultured butter. In the bottom was a layer of home made rhubarb conserve. It came with an almond scented cream infused with ground plum stone. If this is the type of food people were making in their cottage homesteads before the Industrial Revolution, fill my plate and call me a luddite. Deanna Thomas
Where The Light Gets In , 7 Rostron Brow, Stockport SK1 1JY In this Story

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Travel: My top tips for visiting Southern India

Written by Sandy Cadiz-Smith on June 3, 2019 in Travel , Travel in Asia
So my recent trip to Southern India was truly marvellous. It did take a lot of thought and planning, and as it was our first time there we really had no idea what to expect. So I thought I’d share my top tips so you can benefit from what we learnt and have a wonderful experience too. Do your research
India is a vast country and takes a lot travelling around. So don’t try to do too much, your holiday will very quickly turn into a route march. Think about which part you would like to explore. I had wanted to visit Kerala for a long time so that was our starting point for planning. We then discussed options with our fabulous travel agent East Travel . This process took over three months before we had what I hoped would be the perfect itinerary. And it was. Work with an expert to plan your trip
In these days of internet travel planning it’s definitely become much easier to do it all yourself. But the complex issues (like distances between places and how long it will take you to cover them) mean I’d advise some help from people in the know. So we planned everything through East Travel who also worked with an agency called Travel Spirit based in Cochin in Kerala so they could benefit from local knowledge. Stay in decent hotels
Okay, if you have serious budgetary constraints this is going to be an issue. But it’s definitely the way to go. We stayed in 4-star hotels throughout our trip. This meant a high level of comfort, large rooms, great cleanliness and no need to worry about food poisoning issues as we generally ate in the hotel where all the standards were very high. Organise a car and driver
Driving in India can be a perilous experience – from the chaos and cacophony of the major cities to the general slower mayhem with livestock on the road, potholes and sometimes very bad road conditions to deal with. Not to mention finding your way! Our driver Vinish picked us up at the airport and drove us through Karnataka and Kerala until our final stop at the beach. Not only was it a convenient and comfortable way to journey through the country, it was also endlessly fascinating and Vinish was full of information and great company. Oh, and treat your car journeys (which can be long and slow) as part of the holiday – there’s plenty of sights along the way. Vinish guided us safely through the cities and countryside of Southern India Be careful with the water
Drink only bottled water at all times and make sure your bottles are properly sealed when you get them. We were advised to brush our teeth with bottled water too, but I must admit to forgetting to do that a lot of time with, fortunately, no ill effects. This is probably related to my earlier point that we stayed in decent hotels throughout. It’s also a good idea to avoid ice as much as possible as it can sometimes be made with inferior quality water. Drink plenty of tea
India is the second biggest producer of tea in the world after China – producing over 1.3 million tonnes a year. This means there are beautiful tea plantations to visit and many types of tea to enjoy. I particularly enjoyed the spicy teas at roadside stops as we travelled through the country. Masala tea was my favourite, though I also loved the ones flavoured with cinnamon or cardamom. Freshly picked tea leaves ready for processing Eat yogurt for breakfast – and masala dosa
This is the best way to get a high dose of good quality probiotics on a daily basis. All breakfast buffets will have a version of yogurt, so you don’t even have to bring your probiotics with you. We had absolutely no stomach issues at all for our entire trip – though I’m not sure if it was anything to do with my yogurt breakfasts, but it’s a good, healthy way to start the day anyway. And you have to sample masala dosas wherever you go (a local breakfast speciality) – the thinnest of crisp pancakes served filled with spicy potato. Eat lots of vegetable dishes
I reckon I could (almost) become a vegetarian if I lived in Southern India. There are so many diverse dishes on offer and they are all incredibly delicious. We didn’t encounter a lot meat and I had heard that it could often be the cause of stomach issues. So go big on the veg – and be brave and experiment with things you haven’t tried before. It’s a big and tasty part of the Southern Indian experience. Freshly cooked vegetable and fish dishes on our houseboat Ride in a tuk-tuk
Tuk-tuk drivers are legendary in India, weaving through the traffic with apparently very little concern for any of the many road perils. Get your hotel to organise one for you, so you know you have someone trustworthy. Take a train journey at least once on your trip
We got the train from Calicut to Cochin – it was about a three hour journey (way faster than if we had driven there). We travelled in the air conditioned first class carriage. It was an enjoyable experience, from taking in the (ordered) chaos of the huge stations to finding our carriage on the enormous train (it had over 20 carriages!). Vendors paraded up and down throughout the journey selling everything from samosas, biryanis sandwiches, cakes, ice creams, water and sweet chai. We didn’t risk any of the cooked food, though I did enjoy a lovely ice-cream and refreshing chai. Our carriage was full of relaxed travellers Be prepared to have your photo taken with local families
I was stopped several times and asked to pose with families. Particularly on Christmas Day when there were large crowds of people exploring the Edekkal Caves. They clearly hadn’t seen a lot of blondes in their lives! It was fun to smile for their pics, I even felt like a bit of a celebrity (in a good way). We climbed to the heights of the Edekkal Caves, stopping for photo opps along the way Hire a local guide
The best way to learn all about the country. India has a rich history and culture and there’s a lot to take in, so having someone knowledgeable to lead you is a huge bonus. Also helps massively at big attractions (e.g. Mysore Palace, the second most-visited place in India after the Taj Mahal) as you can generally avoid queues and crowds to some extent. Travel with your own wine
If you’re a wine drinker you’re going to be shocked to discover that in Kerala 4-star hotels are not allowed to sell alcohol. Most of them don’t mind, however, if you have your own and will largely let you bring it with you to dinner (though this was not the case at one hotel we stayed at). The government is trying to limit alcohol consumption so you will only find one shop in a town that is allowed to sell it. The queues are generally substantial (though as Westerners we were permitted to skip it) and wine is not cheap as it is heavily taxed. It’s sold from behind a wire security grate and there’s only Indian wine available. These shops are often off the beaten track – our driver Vinish took us on several journeys of discovery on potholed dirt roads, through the back streets! The whole thing is quite an experience – although not always a pleasant one – but we did need our wine with dinner. Always visit the fruit, vegetable and flower markets
We went to two, in Bangalore and Mysore. I would have visited many, many more. They are beautifully bustling colourful places that are a true assault on all the senses – packed with an incredible range of exotic produce. The colourful local markets sell all sorts of wares, including these vibrant dyes Meander through a spice plantation and shop for spices
I was amazed at the myriad spices growing throughout beautiful Kerala. There are cardamom bushes, nutmeg, cinnamon, tamarind and all spice trees, turmeric and ginger roots, pepper creepers and curry leaf bushes. Wow! I couldn’t resist a visit to the Spice Supermarket (possibly my favourite shop ever) to stock up in preparation for making my own version of this delightful cuisine. Embrace the chaos
Don’t expect the same rules that you are used to in the West! India is a vast and populous country and it’s noisy, busy and can be overwhelming. Markets are crowded, roads are mega-busy and feel scary at first, until you realise everyone understands the rules (or lack of) and there’s just a lot of everything to absorb. Take time out to relax in the comfort of your hotel each evening. And drink in every moment in this fascinating part of India.
Have you been to India? Which part did you visit? What was your experience? And where would you recommend I go next. Do get in touch, I’d love to hear from you.
We organised our trip to Karnataka and Kerala through East Travel . Their in-depth knowledge, flexibility and patience was absolutely invaluable with the itinerary going through several incarnations.

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CNN Travel: Penang among best destinations for ultimate Asia experience

Home / World Localities / CNN Travel: Penang among best destinations for ultimate Asia experience CNN Travel: Penang among best destinations for ultimate Asia experience World Localities
GEORGE TOWN: Penang has been listed as one of the best destinations to visit for the ultimate Asia experience by CNN Travel , along with 16 other destinations .
The American broadcaster listed Penang for its “diverse mix of cities, islands and entire countries to consider for adventures”.
CNN Travel said the island of Penang, off the western coast of Malaysia, was a mecca for food and architecture lovers.
It said George Town, the island’s main city, made for an ideal home base, thanks to a dynamic cityscape that’s punctuated by British colonial architecture, Buddhist temples and ornate Chinese manor houses.
“This seaside city is known as one of the world’s top food destinations , serving up a delicious mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian cuisine.
“You’ll crave dishes like Hokkien mee (prawn noodles), roti canai (an Indian-influenced flat bread dish with dal or curry) and Penang laksa for years after visiting,” it said.
The destinations on the list include Bali in Indonesia , Luang Prabang in Laos, Kyoto in Japan, Rajasthan in India , Hong Kong, The Great Wall and Xi’an in China , Maldives, Siem Reap in Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Yogyakarta in Indonesia , Chiang Rai in Thailand, Hanoi and Phu Quoc in Vietnam, Bhutan, Kathmandu in Nepal, El Nido in Philippines and Seoul in South Korea.
This is not the first time Penang, which is renowned as a food destination , has received recognition.
Earlier this year (March 2019), Penang was also chosen as one of the best places to travel to by CNN Travel , alongside popular tourist destinations such as Spain and Greece , as well as various cities in the United States.
George Town was also named by Forbes, an American business magazine, as the 10th best budget tourism destination for 2016.
The Los Angeles Times also listed it among 16 must-visit destinations in 2016. Google News: Tourism India site-thestar.com.my

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