It would be easy to argue that there is no bad time to visit Japan. With a centuries-old culture, some of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world and stunning natural beauty, there is a reason that “travel to Japan” appears on so many bucket lists.
That being said, there are several reasons why 2019 is shaping up to be the best time to finally book that vacation to the Land of the Rising Sun. In fact, Japan itself is working hard to attract more tourists, with a stated goal of bringing 40 million people to visit the country by 2020. So, grab your passport and pack your bags, because now is the time to go.
1. Beat the Olympic Crowds
Tokyo won the bid for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games, meaning that hundreds of thousands of athletes and spectators will be descending upon the tiny island nation during July and August of 2020 — and beyond. Hotels are already filling up for dates around the Games, making 2019 the ideal time to travel to Japan if you want to avoid crowds. Construction of some Olympic venues is still ongoing, but the country has already invested in infrastructure, entertainment and more to attract tourists. This year will be your chance to see Japan at its finest without the huge crowds and high prices that the Olympics will undoubtedly bring.
2. New and Exciting Accommodations
When Tokyo won the Olympic bid, it did so despite a projected shortage of 41,000 hotel rooms throughout the country. As a result, since 2013, there has been significant investment in hotels and other accommodations, to the tune of approximately $4.9 billion. This investment includes constructing new hotels, as well as expanding and upgrading existing facilities. Travelers have more options than ever before when it comes to finding a place to stay, with options ranging from familiar Western-style hotels to Japanese inns and beds and breakfasts that offer a glimpse into Japanese culture along with a place to stay.
3. Improved Attractions
Japan has no shortage of attractions for tourists, but with the renewed focus on attracting visitors from outside Asia, the government has made some significant changes to major attractions to make them friendlier to visitors. For instance, in 2016, the Japanese government opened the Akasaka Palace in the heart of Tokyo to the public for the first time ever. Built as an Imperial Palace for the Crown Prince in 909, since the mid-1970s this European Baroque-style palace has been used as a guest house for visiting dignitaries. A similar palace can be found in Kyoto and was also opened to the public in 2016.
Japan’s leaders have also taken steps to make the country’s national parks more appealing to foreign visitors. During the multi-year initiative, the Ministry of the Environment has taken steps to more effectively market the parks to foreign visitors and made improvements within the parks themselves, such as adding new signage and information in multiple languages and making it easier to access especially scenic areas. With all of these preparations expected to be in place by the beginning of 2020, 2019 is a great time to enjoy them without major crowds.
4. Eased Travel Restrictions
Currently, travelers coming from 66 countries worldwide — including the U.S. — can enter Japan without a visa. In fact, Japan has recently eased visa restrictions for multiple Asian countries, including China, Thailand and Malaysia, as well as India, and seen a significant increase in tourism as a result. Americans wishing to visit Japan can do so with a valid passport and return ticket and stay up to 90 days. Your passport needs to be valid for the entire length of your stay in Japan, and you should expect to be photographed and fingerprinted when you enter the country. Otherwise, there aren’t any visa requirements for U.S. tourists.
In 2016, Japan also changed the rules regarding tax-free shopping for tourists. Generally speaking, items purchased by tourists to take home are tax free, provided that you meet certain restrictions. Shopping tax-free also requires carrying your passport with you while you shop, but it can save you a significant amount of money. Shopkeepers are familiar with the rules and can help you.
Japan is going to great lengths to attract new visitors in the coming years. With all of these tourist-friendly changes taking place, it’s easy to see why 2019 is the best time to visit Japan.
Travel Destinations in Thailand: Chumphon
Thailand has been the most popular holiday destination in Southeast Asia for many years despite Covid-19 making it not possible to go from abroad. Across the kingdom there is something for everyone. From the hedonistic and throbbing cities, the tranquility of rural life, rolling mountains and the clear blue skies reflected upon silky azure waters lapping at palm fringed sandy beaches, the land of smiles has it. Let’s pause and pretend that Covid-19 doesn’t exist and that you can and will travel soon.
Rising Northwards from Malaysia is the Malay peninsula, which makes up part of Thailand’s Kra isthmus, and on the Eastern side of the isthmus lies the Thai province of Chumphon. Chumphon is truly unique among Thailand’s 76 colourful provinces. At around 6,000 square kilometers, it has everything a traveler could wish for. It has the nightlife, the mountains and lush greenery, it has white sandy beaches, blue waters, energy expelling activities and quiet, tranquil serenity. It is the epitome of an all-encompassing holiday destination.
Doing and Seeing in Chumphon
Where to start? The city of Chumphon, the provincial capital, is mid-province on the East coast and is the perfect base from which to discover this wonderful province. The city itself has a vast array of accommodation to suit every travelers budget. From homestays, villas, beach huts and bungalows to high end hotels, for places to stay Chumphon is not to be found lacking.
Of course the city has its nightlife, bars, restaurants, its fair share of neon and glitz along with night and weekend markets. As with anywhere in the kingdom, Chumphon has many temples, most of those in the city are well maintained and very beautiful. There are some which are extremely beautiful and ornate, drown in these gold laden temples which will take your breath away and provide fantastic photo opportunities.
On the coastal edge of the city is Thung Wua Laen Beach. This is almost 3 kilometers of soft sand which is never over populated by rowdy tourists. Fringed by lush greenery, there are small bars and restaurants and beach huts dotted along its length, perfect for lazy days in the sun or for diving and snorkeling in the clear blue waters. Most of the local hotels and guest houses are happy to provide beach picnics so you can spend your entire day enjoy the sand, sea and sunshine.
From the city the whole province is on the doorstep, which includes the Mu Ko Chumphon National Park. The Park covers 300 square kilometers of land and sea, which includes 40 islands and islets. On land there are durian and mangosteen orchards and plantations of coconut palms and rubber tress. The lush flora supports a fascinating and diverse fauna waiting to be explored.
At sea, threaded between the islands, the coral reefs are teeming with exotic, tropical sea life that swim and school in the clear blue waters. Swimming amongst the colourful, seemingly orchestrated, piscatorial displays of nature may seem to be from another world. The inquisitive greenback turtles complete the experience which leaves memories that last a lifetime.
The province has many waterfalls, each a spectacle in its own right, they are awe inspiring and bring about a feeling of peaceful tranquility. Two of the most popular are the Wisai River waterfalls and the Pho Sa Le waterfalls. Explorers can raft the waters or relax and dine along the river banks in secluded huts along the way.
At Tha Hin, Sawi District, the Shrine to Prince Chumphon is a place of great historical interest. Prince Chumphon is much revered and seen as the father of the Thai Royal Navy. He was the 28th child of King Rama V, or perhaps usually known as Chulalongkorn. Take a trip out, a little to the South of Chumphon city, to understand more of this highly revered figure of Thailand’s regal historical.
There is another important site in remembrance of the Prince which can be visited at Sai Ri Beach a little North of the Chumphon city. This beautiful beach is popular with locals and tourists and is home to the Krom Luang Chumphon Khet Udomsak Royal Palace. This is the biggest of all the shrines to the Prince of Chumphon and is where he passed away. To see the pure white building against the blue sky is both humbling and magnificent.
Another ‘Must See’ destination a little South of the provincial capital, is Khao Dinsor. A trek up this mountain is exhilarating and provides the most breathtaking views, it is also home to the Chumphon Raptor Center. Ornithologist or not, seeing up to 25 different species of majestic birds of prey in their natural habitat is a treat not easily replicated anywhere else.
Chumphon is also the perfect place from which to launch yourself into an island hoping tour. There more than 40, some of which are inhabited, some are not. Some appear to be almost artificial with their even blankets of lush greenery which supports some of the most amazing fauna imaginable. Others look as though they should not be of this world, hard rock monoliths rising up from the sea with majestic arrogance.
Whatever you want from a tropical holiday, Chumphon has it. In Chumphon you can expel pent up energy, relax and recharge, learn and become enlightened or reflect in peaceful serenity. Whatever it is, Chumphon has it. Click here for transportation information to and from Chumphon. Note that Covid-19 makes this something to plan for a later date.
THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW BEFORE TRAVELING TO SINGAPORE
If you are looking for one of the most dazzling and beautiful places in the world to visit, Singapore comes to mind. Over the years, the city’s accolade of historic culture, luxury buildings, skyscrapers, hotels, tourist sites, and lifestyle has created a deep craving in many travelers.
If you’re one of those travelers craving to visit Singapore, you need to consider the following key things before making your plans:
1. Singaporean Visa
Travelers from countries such as China, Russia, India, Armenia, and North Korea are required to have an e-visa. If you are from Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Yamen, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Somalia and the like, it is required to have a visa vignette attached to your passport. Your Singaporean visa can be acquired through the embassy or a visa agent.
Citizens of the United States of America, the European Union, Australia, Norway, South Korea, and Switzerland are free to enter Singapore without a visa for 90 days. Aside from these, all travelers need to have their citizenship passports.
There are many exquisite and world-class hotels in Singapore, each with competitive prices and services. Instead of trying to search them all out on Google, you can easily check, review and select the best hotels at this hotel booking platform. They offer honest pricing, multiple payment options, real customer reviews, best prices and amazing discounts that enhance your trip.
You can get local and international dishes from restaurants around. It can be a bit expensive. So, you can also consider hawker streets for affordable food prices. Alcohol is generally expensive in Singapore. After 10.30 pm, it’s not allowed to buy or drink alcohol in public. However, you can enjoy it in your hotel room, pub or restaurant.
4. Lifestyle & Safety
Smoking and vaping in public are illegal in Singapore. It can only be done in restricted zones. Chewing gum is also not allowed. The climate is either warm or humid. So, you need to wear light and breathable cloths while going for the tour. With transport, you have various options: taxi, train or public transport. The city is very peaceful, disciplined and crime-free. Therefore, there’s no need to worry so much about your safety. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t carry along your travel first aid kit.
5. Tourism & Leisure
If your aim is to spend your holiday in Singapore, there are a host of attractive tourist destinations. There are countless places for entertainment, swimming, beach riding, skating, sightseeing, relaxation, meditation, and leisure. Some of them are Gardens Bay, Sentosa Islands, SEA Aquarium, USS, ArtScience Museum, and the Singaporean Zoo.
10 Things You Didn’t Know About China
The People’s Republic of China is an amazing country, with an ancient history steeped in wonder and so many modern marvels to explore. This fascinating and unique country is the most populated country in the world, as well as one of the largest by land mass.
Many of the people who live here still abide by their traditional Chinese culture, but the country has always been at the forefront of innovation too, graduating more science, technology, engineering, and mathematics students than any other country in recent years.
You probably already know that China is the world’s longest continuous civilization, that its Great Wall is the largest manmade structure on the planet (but contrary to popular belief, is not visible from space), and the Silk Road is the oldest and longest trade route ever; however, did you know that China is also responsible for the creation of our modern decimal and binary systems, algebra, geometry, and the discovery of the human circulatory system?
Did you also know that 1.7 million pigs are consumed daily in China and that one weird delicacy is ‘urine eggs’ which are eggs boiled for 24 hours in the urine of young boys? Neither did we! Here are ten more amazing facts about China that you probably didn’t know:
China has only one time zone
Despite being the third-largest country in the world by square mileage (China is almost as wide as the US) and technically spanning five time zones, the whole country has operated under one single time zone since 1949, when ‘Beijing Standard Time’ was made official by the Communist Party. That means when it’s 6am in Beijing, it’s also 6am across the other side of the country – even though the sun won’t rise for approximately three hours.
Most schools, transport services, and other Government services in the westernmost region of Xinjiang obey Beijing time, while many local businesses stick to their own time. This means kids are walking to school by starlight, while later, some locals are getting caught up in rush hour traffic… at 7pm!
Chinese new moms are meant to ‘sit’ for four weeks
You might have heard that couples in China need to apply for a ‘Family Planning Certificate’ to have a baby, but did you know that after the birth, new moms are customarily meant to stay in confinement for a month?
This tradition – called ‘Sitting the Month’ – involves the new mother resting in bed for a month, not exposing herself to people or any conditions that may cause stress, such as exertion, cold weather, emotional stress, and traditionally, even water!
Being physically wet was thought to pose a health risk to the mother, as she may catch a cold if she’s exposed to these elements through bathing and hair washing. Thankfully, avoiding water is less often practiced these days, but mothers (and sometimes fathers) still regularly participate.
The confinement is designed to give the mother rest and recover from the birth, ensure both her and her baby aren’t exposed to unnecessary threats, improve breastmilk production and strengthen the maternal bond.
Soccer was invented in China
The ancient Chinese not only invented paper, gunpowder, printing and the compass, but they also invented the concept of soccer (or football, if you prefer). The game of ‘cuju’ – which means ‘kick the ball with foot’ – was regularly played during the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD). The popularity of cuju then spread to neighboring countries and the rest is history!
You can’t access western websites in China
While China is undoubtedly a captivating country with unsurpassed beauty, fascinating history, and amazing people, the current Government don’t really want to dilute it all with western influence, so they have created a state of heavy censorship, banning many western internet sites.
If you were considering a visit to China, don’t expect to be able to browse Google, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube or Reddit sites, just to name a few – these have been blocked by what many have dubbed the ‘Great Firewall of China’.
The Government have even attempted to block methods for circumventing their firewall, including blocking the use of many VPNs. Thankfully, it’s still really easy to bypass this firewall using VPNs, but only if you know which ones still work! If you want to know which VPNs to use to get through China’s firewall, visit vpnMentor’s article ‘9 Best (Still Working in 2019) VPNs for China – 3 Are FREE’ and enjoy some internet freedom in China.
The Chinese heavily censor their film industry
There is no film rating system in place in China, but that doesn’t mean it’s a haven for 12-year-olds who want to watch adults only films. Films are censored for the same reasons as the country’s internet.
Instead of ratings, there is a 36-person committee who ensure nothing untoward or inappropriate makes it through to Chinese audiences. When they find something too raunchy, violent, flamboyant or insulting to China, they simply cut the entire scene out of the film before releasing it to the public!
These cuts include the famous nude painting scene in Titanic being removed, a whole minute of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ being cut due to a man-on-man kissing scene and drug use, as well as 13 minutes of ‘Men In Black 3’ being removed because it featured an alien disguised as a Chinese person. If you’re in China and want to watch any censored films, you can use one of the VPNs mentioned here.
Chinese manners are a little different
Many countries think burping after a meal shows that the meal was delicious and is a sign of good manners, while other countries don’t blink an eye at spitting in the streets. There are also plenty of people who don’t think yawning wide or grunting are rude – in China, all of these are totally acceptable while eating!
Even more interesting is the country’s lack of diaper use. Older babies and toddlers who are able to use a potty don’t wear them. Instead, they wear special pants with a split in the rear and when they need to go potty, they squat wherever they feel like it and go. We don’t just mean outside either. It’s acceptable for the youngest Chinese citizens to poop or pee wherever they feel the need to, inside or out!
China is full of cavemen
Not really, but close! Due to inheritance, tradition and sometimes poverty and lack of affordable housing, an estimated 35 million Chinese people live in caves. The majority live in the yellow, porous cliffs and hillsides of the Loess plateau in Shaanxi province. The Government has attempted to move them on but the long-term residents love their cave homes and refuse to budge.
The Chinese do actually eat canine meat and also invented the first ice cream
Most people have heard the rumor that Chinese people eat dogs and this is actually no rumor. In the city of Yulin for one day per year, the residents celebrate the summer solstice by eating dogs bred for this purpose. The dog meat is eaten as a tradition that started 4000 years ago.
Another ancient tradition that started around the same time is the milk-based treats that the Chinese invented, made with yaks milk and rice and cooled with saltpeter (potassium nitrate) and snow poured on the outside of the containers. Yes, these were the first milk-based ice treats most similar to what we now think of today as ice cream.
The Chinese are masters of war
You may think that large gas and chemical weapons are a fairly modern invention, but the Chinese were actually the first to poison people on a mass scale, with incendiary weapons being reportedly used as early as 200BC according to Sun Tzu’s ‘Art of War’.
There were also reports of arsenic gas bombs being used by the Chinese as early as 1000BC and their war history is littered with similar references and hundreds of recipes for weapons of mass destruction, like the supernatural -sounding ‘soul-hunting fog’. They may have also been the first country to utilize covert spy operations, as they invented kites to gather military intelligence about 3000 years ago.
The Art of War is itself a bible of warfare tactics and many strategies from the book are still used today. While the Chinese have always been ruthless to their enemies, they aren’t completely war oriented – Shanghai was the only port in the world who were accepting Jewish people without visas during the holocaust.
China has the World’s largest army
The Chinese aren’t only masters of war historically, but they are also well-prepared for any future combat. The People’s Liberation Army boasts the largest number of soldiers on the planet, with more than 2 million soldiers. It also has the second largest defense force budget and is almost considered a military superpower.
Meet Cole and Adela
We have been wearing out our jandals (Kiwi for flip-flops) on our travel adventures around the world since 2009. We think our blog is thought provoking and a little witty. But we have been proven wrong before. Find out more about us here...
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