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Archive for asia

Snow Monsters in Japan

By Linda Tancs

Mount Zao is a volcanic mountain range in the Tohoku region of Japan. Known for its rough winters, it’s no surprise that the tall fir trees on the mountain’s slopes are draped in snow and ice. Their surreal look has earned them the nickname “snow monsters.” They form around the peak of the Zao Ski Resort and are usually most spectacular around February. Access to the monsters is provided by a ropeway and a gondola for both skiers and non-skiers.

Nature and Art in Japan

By Linda Tancs

Blending art into the natural environment, Hakone Open-Air Museum is Japan’s first open-air museum. The verdant lawns provide an ideal exhibition space for attractions like the sculpture garden. One of the highlights is the Symphonic Sculpture, where visitors enter and ascend a spiral staircase surrounded by colorful stained glass to a viewing platform with views of the park and the surrounding mountains. The Hakone Open Air Museum is a few steps from Chokoku No Mori Station on the Hakone Tozan Railway. Take advantage of one of the hot springs baths while you’re in town. 

Rabbit Island

By Linda Tancs

In Okunoshima, you can rest assured that some bunny loves you. All puns aside, the Japanese island in eastern Hiroshima is known as Rabbit Island for a reason. Make that 1,000 reasons. A rabbit lover’s paradise, you’ll find them everywhere from forest to beach. Early mornings and late evenings are the best times to take photos. Keep a respectful distance, don’t feed them (except for refilling water pans) and don’t try to take one home with you. The island is a 15-minute ferry ride from Tadanômi Port with services leaving roughly every 30 to 45 minutes. You’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the Inland Sea and its many islands.

Blooms in Malaysia

By Linda Tancs

As if Malaysia’s Cameron Highlands weren’t scenic enough with its tea plantations, forests and waterfalls, it now boasts a Flora Park. Boasting a sea of blooms bounded by winding trails, the park features a series of private picnic areas available in timed sessions. November is considered the best month to visit the region. The travel time from Kuala Lumpur is roughly four hours.

Off the Grid in Thailand

By Linda Tancs

As tropical beaches go, there aren’t too many places in Thailand that one would consider to be off-the-grid, especially if it’s the fourth-largest island. Yet that’s the case for Ko Kut (Koh Kood), a beach lover’s haven where relaxation is the prime attraction and palms outnumber people unless you travel in-season (November to February), when a lively open-air music venue breaks the silence. You can get there via Trat Airport by ferry.

The Lion Rock

By Linda Tancs

One of Sri Lanka’s most popular attractions is Sigiriya, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Otherwise known as Lion Rock, the site in the Central Province boasts the ruins of an ancient stronghold from the 5th century atop a rock standing over 600 feet above the surrounding plain. It was built by King Kashyapa as a fortress against attacks from his brother, the rightful heir to their father’s throne. On a plateau halfway up the rock Kashyapa built a gateway in the form of a huge lion with a staircase emerging from the lion’s mouth, giving rise to the moniker “Lion Rock.” A series of stairs leads to the summit, a portion of which contains the remnants of the lion’s paws and the first stairs.

To the Heights in Korea

By Linda Tancs

Near Chungju-si (where a martial arts festival takes place each year), Woraksan National Park in South Korea is a hiker’s paradise. The highest peak (at 3,600 feet) is Yeongbong, a steep ascent aided by stairs with railings bolted to boulders. Ma-aebong Peak is just below at 3,150 feet. It’s called a false summit because it’s commonly mistaken as the ultimate peak, but there’s nothing fake about its glorious vistas. While you’re in the park, keep an eye out for the nodding lily, an indigenous species with leaves like pine tree leaves.

Japan’s Ramen Museum

By Linda Tancs

Ramen is arguably the national dish of Japan, with styles varying according to the region in which it is served. There’s even a museum dedicated to the stretchy noodle. Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum in Yokohama is designed like a food court, offering up different styles of ramen and featuring original recipes from its inception. You’ll learn about ramen history and have the opportunity to participate in a noodle-making workshop.

Pretty in Pink in Vietnam

By Linda Tancs

You’ve heard of hotspots, but how about a hot pink spot? Literally and figuratively, Tân Định church in Vietnam fits the bill. One of the oldest churches in Ho Chi Minh City, it’s known for its vibrant pink façade (inside and out) and Gothic pillars. It first opened to the public in 1876 and remains one of the city’s top attractions as well as a local favorite. You’ll find it on Hai Ba Trung Street.

Japan’s Bathing Beauties

By Linda Tancs

Buried in snow almost one third of the year, Japan’s Jigokudani Monkey Park in Nagano is home to Japanese macaques, popularly known as snow monkeys. The northernmost living nonhuman primate, they descend from the forest to bathe in naturally occurring hot springs, a pleasant respite from a cold day. Part of Jōshin’etsu-kōgen National Park, the monkey park is reportedly the only place in the world where monkeys bathe in hot springs. The park is not a zoo; the monkeys are wild and come and go as they please, enticed by feedings by professional staff. Keep a respectful distance when taking photos, or else you may go home with one less piece of equipment.

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