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Want to save money on extra holiday expenses? Here’s how

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Unless your holiday is all-inclusive, the price of the plane tickets and accommodations are just one part of the overall cost.

Travellers often go over their budget because they spend more money on going out than they expected once they are at their destination. However, it doesn’t have to be like this. There are many ways to save money when it comes to extra expenses like transport or restaurants.

Book a rental car from home

A rental car should be reserved before you leave on holiday, since renting a vehicle at your destination is often more expensive.

Even worse, many people don’t read the contract properly because they’re in a rush – even though it could contain several pitfalls.

One thing to look out for is unlimited mileage. Otherwise, going over the kilometre limit can lead to high costs, says Stefan Sielaff, of the German automobile club ADAC.

It is always worth comparing prices, and this is easier to do online than on the ground at your destination.

Use public transport

For the journey from the airport to the hotel, buses and trains often offer a good alternative to an expensive taxi ride. Tourists often fall victim to overpriced transfers.

save money on holiday

Public transport is also a good option for getting around. It’s usually cheaper and often quicker, says Stefan Diener, from a travel blog focused on South-East Asia, who cites Bangkok as an example.

There are usually multiple-trip, daily and weekly ticket options for public transport, which can also save you money.

Eat and drink like a local

There are plenty of opportunities to save money when it comes to eating and drinking. Rule No. 1, according to Diener, is don’t eat at the hotel. A restaurant elsewhere is often cheaper.

Location also plays a role. Somewhere right on the waterfront is probably going to be significantly more expensive than a restaurant on a side street where the food is likely just as good.

save money on holiday

Beware of places that are just for tourists, which often charge more.

If you can find places where locals usually eat, they are generally cheaper, and the food often tastes better too, says Diener.

Look for alternatives to tourist hotspots

The rooftop bar of a famous 5-star hotel may be described as a “place to be” by a guidebook. But hotspots such as these often end up being overcrowded and overpriced.

save money on holiday

You can often get a similar view for free, says Swiss travel blogger Sarah Althaus. It’s a good idea to do research online and see if there are skyscrapers near the rooftop bar that you can visit for free.

Use combination tickets when sightseeing

For sightseeing, you may be able to save cash with a combination ticket or city pass. These usually cost less than the sum of several individual tickets for various attractions.

What’s more, in some cases these tickets also serve as a travel ticket for public transport. It’s also worth looking at a tourist attraction’s website. Tickets booked online can sometimes be cheaper, says Diener.

Be brave while shopping

You can often save money on souvenirs and gifts if you haggle, although some people may find this awkward at first.

In many countries, this is just the way things are done, otherwise you pay completely excessive prices, says Althaus.

Haggling just takes getting used to, he says. And at some point it starts being fun, he promises, as well as saving you money.



AdminWant to save money on extra holiday expenses? Here’s how

Luxury on the rails in train-mad Japan

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Japan’s latest super-deluxe train left the station today with a select group of passengers who paid thousands of dollars for a leisurely trip harking back to an era of Art Deco opulence and a slower pace of life.

The Twilight Express Mizukaze departed Osaka on its maiden trip with around 30 well-heeled passengers on a journey to the far reaches of Japan’s main island.

A couple staying in the 10-car train’s top room, The Suite, paid out a combined ¥2.4 million (RM94,120) for a two-night, three-day return trip that rolls past emerald green rice paddies, craggy coastlines and ancient shrines.

That eye-popping price tag gets you five-star hotel luxury including a marble-floored bathroom with claw-legged tub in the priciest suite, food prepared by gourmet chefs, and sumptuous lounges where you can sip cocktails as you take in the dramatic scenery through huge viewing windows.

“I’m so delighted to get a spot on this historic train,” Ayaka Kobayashi, a newlywed who was travelling on the Mizukaze with her husband, told Jiji Press news agency.

“I want to enjoy this special time and space.”

A suite of Japan's latest super-deluxe cruise train ‘Twilight Express Mizukaze’ is seen during its press preview in Osaka February 23, 2017. — AFP pic

A suite of Japan’s latest super-deluxe cruise train ‘Twilight Express Mizukaze’ is seen during its press preview in Osaka February 23, 2017. — AFP pic

The Mizukaze, which means “fresh wind” in Japanese, is just the latest luxury offering in train-mad Japan, which has an extensive railway network covering most of the country.

These top-end rolling hotels pay homage to once numerous sleeper cars that were overtaken by Shinkansen bullet trains that cut hours off travel times.

“Things have been reset, giving birth to a new breed” of trains, said photojournalist and train expert Kageri Kurihara after touring The Mizukaze.

“Train companies are trying to show what they can do without constraints. You may have this idea that sleeper trains are cramped and inconvenient but these railways are saying ‘look what we can offer!’.

“Japanese people are very fond of trains and you’d be excited with all these superb choices,” he added.

The vista-dome car of Japan's latest super-deluxe cruise train ‘Twilight Express Mizukaze’ is seen during its press preview in Osaka February 23, 2017. — AFP pic

The vista-dome car of Japan’s latest super-deluxe cruise train ‘Twilight Express Mizukaze’ is seen during its press preview in Osaka February 23, 2017. — AFP pic

Gourmet grub, cypress tubs

Last month, the Shiki-Shima left Tokyo’s Ueno Station with passengers treated to meals whipped up by gourmet chefs.

A four-day journey in several rooms that boast a cypress wood tub cost a cool ¥950,000 per person.

Well-heeled passengers even got piano playing and a fireplace — actually a trick created by steam and coloured light — on the trip that took them from Japan’s capital to the northernmost island of Hokkaido and back again.

It cost the Shiki-Shima’s operator ¥10 billion to refurbish it and build special lounges at regular stops, among other expenses. The train is booked out through to March next year.

In 2013, Kyushu Railway unveiled its “Seven Stars” service with a piano and a bar, top-end dining and luxury suites.

Japan’s train operators have some offerings a notch down too, including a carriage with a foot-soaker bath.

A dining car of Japan’s latest super-deluxe cruise train ‘Twilight Express Mizukaze’ is seen during its press preview in Osaka February 23, 2017. — AFP pic

A dining car of Japan’s latest super-deluxe cruise train ‘Twilight Express Mizukaze’ is seen during its press preview in Osaka February 23, 2017. — AFP pic

As Tokyo gets set to host the 2020 Olympics, the record numbers of tourists visiting Japan could be another lucrative market for luxury train operators.

“This trend comes when more and more travellers from abroad are visiting Japan so the timing is good,” Kurihara said.

And while the economy may not be as booming as it once was, there are still many Japanese willing to pay for a local version of the Orient Express.

Passengers on the Mizukaze and Shiki-Shima had to put their names into a lottery and hope they got picked.

“(Luxury train travel) is not feeling the impact of deflation or a weak economy — and there are rich people out there,” Kurihara said.

“Money aside, I’d love to travel on it just once in my life.”



AdminLuxury on the rails in train-mad Japan

The world’s a book: 10 places that bring children’s literature to life

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In the right hands, a story is more than just a story. Sometimes it can trigger a lifetime of travel. In my case, the book was Mervyn Peake’s Letter’s from a Lost Uncle, a fantasy travelogue whose illustrations of far-off places launched a travel writing career that has now spanned 20 years and counting.

Prepare your kids for an unforgettable trip and a future full of adventures with our inspiring travel-themed reading list.

Walk in the footsteps of a legendary king in Wales © Jason Jones Travel Photography / Getty Images

Adventures with King Arthur

Nobody knows if there really was a King Arthur, but Wales’ claim to being the birthplace of Arthurian legend is convincing thanks to locations like Caerleon, cited as the setting for Camelot by 12th century legend builder Geoffrey of Monmouth. Warm up for the journey with Terence White’s The Once and Future King, which tracks the legendary king through knight-training school, and hike to the summit of Snowdon, where Arthur reputedly killed a giant and buried his body somewhere amongst the boulders.

More for the reading list:

  • Merlin Trilogy (Mary Stewart): Another reimagining of the Arthur legend, with Merlin taking centre stage.
  • The Dark is Rising (Susan Cooper): An epic teenage coming-of-age fable set against a fantastical landscape of Celtic, Norse and Arthurian legend.

Finland’s islands are arguably just as peaceful as Moominvalley © Igor Grochev / ShutterstockThese Finnish isles are arguably just as peaceful as Moominvalley © Igor Grochev / Shutterstock

Moving to Moominland

Tove Jansson’s much-loved Moomins may speak Swedish, but their creator was a Finn, and the islands that dot the Gulf of Finland were the inspiration for the magical glades where Moomintroll cavorted with Snufkin and Snorkmaiden. Set the scene with The Moomins and the Great Flood then take the kids to the real Moominvalley by renting a mökki (cottage) on the Pellinki Islands near Porvoo, where Jansson spent her summers. For a more commercial alternative, visit Moominworld in Naantali, then take your pick of Turku’s 20,000 islands.

More for the reading list:

  • The Adventures of Pippi Longstocking (Astrid Lindgren): Technically from Sweden, but perfect reading for any Nordic country.
  • The Northern Lights (Phillip Pullman): This epic tale of parallel worlds and animal guides roams across Scandinavia, from Lapland to Svalbard.

You’ll see more yachts than replace pirate ships in BVI, but that shouldn’t stop you hunting for treasure © BlueOrange Studio / ShutterstockYou’ll see more yachts than pirate ships in BVI, but that shouldn’t stop you hunting for treasure © BlueOrange Studio / Shutterstock

Digging for Treasure Island

The Caribbean is rarely a tough sell for beach loving kids, but why not up the ante with a few chapters of Treasure Island? The true setting for Robert Louis Stevenson’s genre-defining pirate epic is hotly disputed, but Norman Island in the British Virgin Islands and Isla del Coco off Costa Rica are both strong candidates. Tell them there’s treasure under that golden sand and they’ll be digging for hours while you relax with a rum punch.

More for the reading list:

  • The Swiss Family Robinson (Johann David Wyss): A shipwrecked family making the best of life on a desert island populated by an unlikely menagerie of tropical beasties.
  • Red Rackham’s Treasure (Hergé): Tintin mystery with buried treasure, foul-mouthed parrots and a shark-shaped submarine.

Shere Khan, is that you? © dickysingh / Getty ImagesShere Khan, is that you? © dickysingh / Getty Images

Meeting Mowgli

Think about The Jungle Book and you’ll soon be humming tunes from the Disney cartoon, but Rudyard Kipling’s original is the best primer for a trip to the Indian jungle. Ranthambhore National Park in Rajasthan is the ideal stand-in for the steamy forests where Mowgli and Baloo gambolled – you might even spot a real sloth bear, alongside tigers, leopards, and the overgrown battlements of Ranthambhore Fort, now overrun by troupes of real-life bandar-log (monkey folk).

More for the reading list:

  • A Thousand & One Nights (Anonymous): These famous folk tales were plucked from across the Islamic world, but the Arabian Nights come to life in the forts of India.
  • The Tiger-Skin Rug (Gerald Rose): A 70s classic about a moth-eaten tiger who masquerades as a tiger-skin rug and saves a maharaja.

Believe it or not, kids are more than capable of reaching Everest Base Camp © Kriangkrai Thitimakorn / ShutterstockBelieve it or not, kids are more than capable of reaching Everest Base Camp © Kriangkrai Thitimakorn / Shutterstock

Trekking with Tintin

Hergé’s Tintin in Tibet has all the ingredients you need to lure your kids to the Himalaya. Spanning Nepal and Tibet, this classic Tintin romp serves up sacred mountains, levitating monks and even the odd yeti. You have a chance of spotting all three along the trekking route to Everest Base Camp, though yeti sightings may be restricted to body parts preserved in mountain monasteries. Consider hiring a porter to help carry younger trekkers when little legs get tired.

More for the reading list:

  • Spaghetti with the Yeti (Charlotte Guillain): Spirited George goes on a grand hike to meet the yeti – perfect prep for youngsters on a Nepali trek.
  • The Country That Shook (Sophie Maliphant): Created to raise funds for earthquake victims, this book makes sense of the disaster for young minds.

There’s more to Rome than gladiators and gore, but it’s a good place to start © Marco Bottigelli / Getty Images

When in Rome…

There’s plenty for kids to enjoy in Italy: pizza, gelato, and of course the Romans. That said, traipsing around the ruins of lost empires becomes a lot more fun if you can imagine the Colosseum in its heyday, full of gladiators and centurions. Spark their enthusiasm with Terry Deary’s Horrible Histories: Rotten Romans, packed with pictures and historical titbits guaranteed to bring the vivid and often gruesome history of Italy’s dusty ruins to life.

More for the reading list:

  • Angelo (Quentin Blake): A charming love story following a travelling family circus around the small towns of rural Italy.
  • The Thief Lord (Cornelia Funke): Runaway brothers find a rip-roaring new life amongst a gang of child thieves in Venice.

A family of polar bears huddle in Churchill, Canada © Robert Sicilano / Getty ImagesA family of polar bears huddle in Churchill, Canada © Robert Sicilano / Getty Images

Fun in the frozen wastes

Every child loves snow – and in parts of Canada, it’s wintry all year round. Even so, it doesn’t hurt to throw in a little inspiration to help their imaginations fill the gaps in this vast sea of white. Start with Mervyn Peake’s Letters from a Lost Uncle, a compilation of illustrated letters from an eccentric uncle who embarks on a madcap quest across the Arctic in search of the mysterious white lion. Find the setting in real life at Churchill, gateway to the polar-bear-stalked wastes of Hudson Bay.

More for the reading list:

  • White Fang (Jack London): Another rousing tale of survival in the frozen wilderness, this time from the perspective of a wolf caught up in the Klondike Gold Rush.
  • The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe (CS Lewis): Despite the moralistic overtones, still a classic tale of frozen forests and final battles between good and evil.

Mossman Gorge is an enchanting world of green © David Wall Photo / Getty Images

Dreaming Australia

With cavorting kangaroos, precocious possums and wandering wombats, Australia is already a children’s wonderland. Up the wow factor on a walking tour with Indigenous Australian guides at Mossman Gorge where you’ll explore the mystical world of the Dreamtime. Set the mood with Patricia Wrightson’s The Ice is Coming: part teen adventure, part travelogue, and part introduction to the characters of the Dreamtime – including the glow-eyed bunyip and the eldest nargun, imbued with the power of the fires that forged the world.

More for the reading list:

  • Possum Magic (Mem Fox): Get younger travellers in the Oz mood with this tale of a possum who turns invisible and tours Australia seeking the magic to become visible again.
  • The Rabbits (Shaun Tan, John Marsden): Older kids will be captivated by the heart-rending story and haunting illustrations in this allegory for the settlement of Australia.

Roald Dahl will get kids excited about a safari before you hit the road © JurgaR / Getty Images

Living like a lion in South Africa

On paper, an African safari sounds perfect for kids, but factor in long drives, sporadic toilet stops and the baking African sun, and you may need something to sweeten the deal. Younger kids have their pick of tales of lions and elephants, but few manage to infuse African wildlife with as much personality as Roald Dahl’s The Enormous Crocodile. Every wildlife drive will be about spotting heroic hippos and villainous crocs. Favourite reserves for family safaris include Kruger in South Africa and Etosha in Namibia.

More for the reading list:

  • Tarzan of the Apes (Edgar Rice Burroughs): Behind modern sensibilities, but still an epic tome, charting the rise of the Earl of Greystoke from lost infant to king of the apes.
  • The Just So Stories (Rudyard Kipling): A rival to the Jungle Book, with fantasy tales of how leopards got their spots and elephants got their trunks.

Could this be Fowl Manor? © Ocskay Bence / ShutterstockCould this be Fowl Manor? © Ocskay Bence / Shutterstock

Finding fairies on the Emerald Isle

Ireland may be gorgeously green, but kids will get more from the Emerald Isle if they think there are fairies in the undergrowth. Even better if the fairies have buzz batons and bio bombs. Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl made fairy stories edgy, and the eponymous hero’s grand, neglected Fowl Manor could be any of a dozen country houses dotted around the Irish countryside. Try Crom Castle, Russborough House or Clonalis House (, home to bonafide descendants of the last kings of Ireland.


More for the reading list:

  • Sláine: The Horned God (Pat Mills, Simon Bisley): Celtic mythology given the graphic novel treatment by two of the genre’s finest; for older kids only!
  • The New Policeman (Kate Thompson): Another fine yarn of fantasy and fairies leaking into the modern world.



AdminThe world’s a book: 10 places that bring children’s literature to life

Experience Malay food and culture on this free Kampung Baru walk

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The struggle is real. I’m trying to stick to my diet – or, at least, watch my calorie intake. But the sight of the delightful two-layered durian and pumpkin seri muka – with its beautiful green and orange custard top and glutinous rice base – is too much to handle.

A quick check on the fitness app reveals that it’s 192 calories per pop. Maybe I’ll give this a pass, I think to myself, as I retreat towards the back of the tour group.

Jemputlah rasa,” the friendly vendor says, offering us some to taste, as he pushes the sticky sweet treats to me.

I end up receiving three pieces of the delightful teatime snack.

I’m on Jalan Raja Muda Musa, the famous food stretch in Kampung Baru – the enclave in Kuala Lumpur that has been home to generations of Malay families in the city – where the aroma of grilled fish and charred banana leaves waft through the air.

What brings me to this foodie heaven is the free cultural guided walk, Jalan-Jalan @ Kampung Bharu. Hosted by Kuala Lumpur City Hall and the Kuala Lumpur Tourism Bureau, the walk takes place from 4.30pm to 7pm every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.

When I arrive at Kelab Sultan Sulaiman, the meeting point of the tour, late on a Tuesday afternoon, dark clouds loom threateningly above KL’s skyline.

My guide for the day, Norazleeta Ismail – or Eta, in short – looks up and shrugs.

“Our biggest challenge with this tour is the weather,” she says with a sigh, explaining how the walk is mostly in the outdoors, “but it’s OK. If it starts to rain heavily, I’ll tell you more about the history of Kampung Baru over some teh tarik.”

Where history was made

Kelab Sultan Sulaiman is steeped in illustrious history.

“This club is the heart and soul of the Malays because it is said that Umno was born here,” Eta explains, referring to the Malay Congress which met there; and some old-timers claim led to the formation of the United Malays National Organisation (Umno).

“The Sultan and other Malay leaders had a meeting here and until today, the club still holds sentimental value for the Malays,” she adds.

Those remnants of a glorious past extend to many of the other stops on the walk too. Take Master Mat’s House, the next stop, for instance. The small blue house, built in 1921, used to be the home of the late Ahmad Mohamed, a well-respected headmaster of an English school in Setapak, KL.

“The locals back then called him Master Mat – “Master”, short for headmaster, and “Mat”, short for Mohamed. That’s how the place came to be known as Master Mat’s House,” Eta says.

“His family still lives here today, and they have been very gracious in allowing us to include the house as part of the tour,” she adds, referring to the third generation of the late educator’s family.

The fact that the house is occupied by people is testament that Kampung Baru is a real village with a thriving community.

When a motorcycle zips past from the wrong side of the road, catching a few of the international tour participants by surprise, Eta smiles wryly and reminds us to watch our step.

“We are in a village now, so don’t be surprised if you see this kind of thing happening,” she says.

Kampung Baru did not cease to amaze us with its lively atmosphere – young children running around playing catch; adults going about their daily business. Some of the men were in their kain pelikat.

“One of the things people are usually surprised to learn is that there are actually seven villages located in Kampung Baru,” Eta offers.

What’s also interesting is the sight of traditional Malay houses juxtaposed against the city’s modern skyscrapers.

Kampung Baru is peppered with houses and buildings made of wood with zinc-slab roofs. Some of these homes are decorated with intricate woodcarvings and coloured glass windows.

One of the bigger traditional houses in this cluster of homes is Rumah Limas. Built in 1913, with major renovation done after World War II in 1949, the property is a colonial Malay hybrid-style building. “Look beneath you,” says Eta, directing our attention towards Rumah Limas’ cemented grounds, “an odd thing about this house is that there is no grass.”

She further explains, “Back then, young people liked to hang out at the teacher’s house. One of the past occupants, who was a teacher, decided to build a badminton court so that his students could have a place to meet in the evening.”


When the sun goes down

As evening approaches, it becomes apparent where the the villagers hang out these days.

The narrow Jalan Raja Alang is transformed into a busy fruit and vegetable street market at dusk.

“Why do we have this walk in the evening? This is the reason why,” Eta says, as she guides us through the busy evening market with rows of stalls selling assorted ulam (salad), fruits and street food.

“Life only begins in the evening after the evening prayers,” she adds.

Evening prayers are performed at Masjid Jamek Kampung Baru. With its beautiful mosaic-adorned gateway, the mosque has been a focal point of the Muslim community here for over a century.

From the mosque, we head towards an area with herbal and sundry shops. According to Eta, a huge white canopy is constructed in the vicinity during Ramadan, with many food items sold.

Another religious institution along the walk is the Gurdwara Tatt Khalsa (which will celebrate its centenary in 2024), located at the fringe of the village and next to the Raja Bot street market. The presence of the Sikh temple is testament to Malaysia’s multi-religious landscape.

As the last glimmer of sunshine fades away, Kampung Baru undergoes a magical transformation. Women with little children hurry along with plastic bags of purchases along the herbal and sundry shops area.

And men in office clothing can be seen buying snacks from the many food stalls.

The scene makes me wonder what sorts of activities were held at the former Saturday Night Market site, which used to be one of the stops on the free tour.

Today, the area has been turned into a construction site, with a high-rise condominium being built.

“Not everyone here was up for new developments. Some, of course, wanted the old site to be maintained,” Eta offers, as she quickly ushers the group along.

While Kampung Baru’s landscape is evolving with time, its strong community vibe remains. And this is the quality that gives the area its village-like charm, despite being located smack in the middle of the city. That, and of course, the amazing Malay food.

As I walk back to my car at the end of the tour, I catch the aroma of fragrant nasi lemak from the famous Nasi Lemak Antarabangsa stall.

Choices, choices, choices. Between being able to slip into my skinny jeans or savouring the iconic piping-hot Malaysian dish, the choice is, in fact, obvious.

Come on-lah, who says no to nasi lemak?



AdminExperience Malay food and culture on this free Kampung Baru walk

Don’t want to be bored on long flights? Here are some ideas you can try on your next trip

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Non-stop flights may be convenient as a travel option as it cuts out the need for multiple connection flights and stopovers.

However, long-haul flights that go beyond ten hours can be quite challenging.

Hours sitting in a confined space can be challenging as you switch from being restless to being incredibly bored.

Keeping in mind the rules different airlines have when it comes to carry-on items, here are some ideas on how to survive a long flight.

– Board the plane early to make sure you get stowage space for your cabin baggage.

– Pack your phone or tablet with meditation apps, games, podcasts, e-reads, movies and music to keep yourself entertained
(check with your airline to see if electronic items such as laptops or tablets are allowed onboard).

– Don’t forget your portable charger to power up your devices.

– Use the downtime to create a mini-spa, with face masks and pampering treatments.

– Pack wisely: eye mask, noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs and travel pillow.

– Avoid lace-up shoes or boots, and opt for slip-on shoes instead for those trips to the toilet.

– Bring wet wipes and plenty of travel tissues.

– Contact lens wearers may want to consider wearing glasses to avoid hassles.

– Stock a toiletry bag with preemptive supplies: eye drops, toothbrush, toothpaste, lip balm, facial mist and moisturiser (keeping in mind the amount of liquid you are allowed to bring).

– Pack a blanket shawl or a thin sweater to ward off cool cabin air.

– Consider investing in compression socks to avert possible deep vein thrombosis, but also to avoid swelling and fatigue.

– Bring (sneak in) extra snacks and an extra bottle (or two) of water to stay hydrated.

– Avoid sitting in the back of the plane which is noisier and bumpier.



AdminDon’t want to be bored on long flights? Here are some ideas you can try on your next trip

Malaysia is getting more visitors from China and India

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Chinese tourist arrivals to Malaysia are on the rise again after the slowdown in 2015 – and better visa service is partly responsible for this growth.

Tourism Malaysia chairman Datuk Dr Siew Ka Wei said the growth trend can be attributed to improvements made to visa services, following Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s announcement to facilitate the matter.

“The Prime Minister’s visits to China and India recently and his call to ease travel formalities for Chinese and Indian tourists was timely and helped to boost confidence in these two markets for travel to Malaysia,” he said.

Siew added that visa arrangements are critical for the convenience of travellers, and the facilities provided are expected to ease travel preparations.

China and India nationals can now apply for e-visa (electronic visa), eNTRI (Electronic Travel Registration and Information) or VOA (Visa on Arrival), depending on the purpose of their visit to Malaysia.

Since the e-visa and visa-free programmes were launched in March last year, response has been positive. Between March 2016 and April 2017, a total of 284,606 e-visa applications and 323,173 eNTRI applications were received.

Meanwhile, the number of visas approved for Indian tourists shot up by 91.1% following the PM’s visit to India in April, from 36,442 visas approved in March to 69,635 visas approved in April from China nationals.

Najib agreed that approved e-visa applications are also valid for multiple entries. The Home Affairs Ministry is currently working on the final details of the two-week multiple entry visa-free visit to Malaysia.

Online visa applications for tourists to Malaysia are processed by the Immigration Department and can be made at



AdminMalaysia is getting more visitors from China and India

Tourism Tax to be implemented on Aug 1: Customs Department

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The implementation of the Tourism Tax (TTx) will begin on August 1 this year, as announced by the Customs Department on their website.

Prior to the enforcement date, operators of accommodation premises are required to register their businesses starting July 1.

Regulated by the Finance Ministry and the Customs Department, the tax is charged at a specific rate on tourists staying at any accommodation premises provided by an operator of the said accommodation premises.

These accommodation premises are buildings including hostels, hotels, inns, boarding-houses, rest houses and lodging houses, held out by the proprietor, owner or manager, either wholly or partly, as offering lodging or sleeping accommodation to tourists for hire or any other form of reward, whether or not food or drink is also offered.

Tourist accommodation premises are any accommodation which have been registered by the Commissioner under subsection 31C (1) Tourism Industry Act 1992.

It is stated in the announcement that this tax is implemented using a mechanism of cooperation between the government and the industry to enhance tourism experience for tourists.

Tax returns will be used to develop the tourism industry, namely the enhancement of tourism infrastructure and facilities, tourism promotional activities and campaigns.

Implementation of this tax is also an effort to protect, preserve and conserve Mother Nature, culture and heritage for the benefit of the present and future generations.

According to the announcement, tax rate is fixed at RM20 per room per night (five-star), RM10 per room per night (four-star), RM5 per room per night (one-, two- and three-star), RM2.50 per room per night (one, two and three Orchid) and RM2.50 per room per night (non-rated accommodation premises).

Whether Malaysian nationals or otherwise, a “tourist” defines any persons visiting any place in Malaysia for purposes including recreation or holiday, culture, religion, visiting friends or relatives, sports, business, meetings, conferences, seminars or conventions, studies or research, any other purpose which is not related to an occupation that is remunerated from the place visited.

Under the TTx, the registered operator is liable to collect tourism tax from a tourist upon his or her departure and pay the tourism tax collected to the Customs Department in respect of his taxable period.

The announcement also stated that an exemption of the tourism tax is available for ‘homestay’ registered with Ministry of Tourism and Culture (Motac), ‘kampung stay’ registered with Motac, accommodation premises established and maintained by religious institutions not for commercial purposes or accommodation premises with less than 10 rooms.

Accommodation premises operated by the Federal Government, State Government or statutory body for training, educational or accommodation not for commercial purposes are also eligible for the exemption.



AdminTourism Tax to be implemented on Aug 1: Customs Department

Sri Lanka named Asia’s leading destination 2017

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Adventure-seekers and intrepid globetrotters looking to blaze new trails in South-east Asia will want to consider adding Sri Lanka to their travel bucket list, after the country claimed the title of leading destination and leading adventure tourism destination for Asia over the weekend.

At the World Travel Awards Asia & Australasia 2017, which were held in Shanghai, Sri Lanka took the title of leading destination for the region, an award that reflects a country’s range of tourism products and services.

The country was also named the leading adventure tourism destination.

Winners are based on an online voting process cast by industry leaders and travel professionals.

Sri Lanka has been emerging as an interesting travel alternative to Thailand, for its beaches, wildlife safaris and adventure tours.

Along with its native land mammals — elephants, leopards and wild buffalos — the island’s marine surroundings make the destination one of the best for whale and dolphin watching.

A Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka.

A Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka is also known among thrill-seekers for offering top-notch surfing and diving experiences, jungle treks, hikes and elephant-riding and rock-climbing adventures.

Other big winners of the night include The Oberoi Udaivilas in India, which took home the title of Asia’s leading hotel 2017 and The Peninsula Hong Kong, which was named Asia’s leading luxury hotel 2017.

For Australasia, the Pullman Sydney Hyde Park in Australia was named the leading hotel, and Yasawa Islands in Fiji Australasia’s leading destination.

Here are some of the big winners from the gala event:


Leading airline: Hainan Airlines

Leading airline economy class: Cathay Pacific

Leading beach destination: Thailand

Leading boutique hotel: Casa Del Mar Langkawi, Malaysia

Leading city break destination: Hong Kong

Leading cruise line: Star Cruises

Leading fine dining and hotel restaurant: La Maison 1888 InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort, Vietnam

Leading low-cost airline: AirAsia


Leading airline: Air New Zealand

Leading private island resort: Laucala Island, Fiji

Most romantic resort: The Remort Resort, Fiji Islands.



AdminSri Lanka named Asia’s leading destination 2017

New Zealand’s North Island: on the road at the edge of the world

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The Māori call them mākutu, or witchcraft, because in New Zealand the roads are magical. One minute they surface, unfolding along pastoral foothills; the next they vanish, furrowing deep into Triassic-period jungles laden with silver ferns. It is an untamed corner of the universe that rewards those travelling under their own steam.

With the keys to a campervan, drivers can – on a whim – go in search of a lake glimpsed through the window, or stop to climb a hill spotted in the rear-view mirror – because their bed for the night is never somewhere distantly ahead, but always about two feet behind them.

Lion Rock dominates the bay and beach at the surfers’ paradise of Piha © Justin Foulkes / Lonely Planet

Catch the wild waves at Piha

Setting out on the highway from Auckland to the west coast town of Piha, the Kiwi enchantment begins to take hold. Anyone driving to the surfer’s retreat must first negotiate the Waitakere Ranges, an abrupt vegetative Eden of subtropical kauri forest that acts as a barrier between the twinkling lights of civilisation and the untamed coast.

After a 30-minute drive west, the road corkscrews into hills carpeted with nīkau palms, some as giant as pantomime beanstalks, then careers down the other side to meet Piha’s sheer cliffs, pock-marked with nesting sites for gulls. It’s mid-afternoon when the campervan trundles into Piha, passing scattered weatherboard houses and parking in front of a beach being pounded by waves. This volcanic sand has Marvel-superhero strength, so rich in iron it will stick to a magnet.

Cruise through lush tree ferns and palms in the Waitakere Ranges, between Auckland and Piha © Justin Foulkes / Lonely Planet

New Zealand’s surfers are also drawn here, and talk about it in poetic terms matched only by the place’s name itself – Piha is the Māori word for the onomatopoeic crack of surf sliced by the bow of a canoe. The town is so laid-back and low-key that if the surf club were to shut, it’d surely disappear off the map completely. Following a different clock to the rest of New Zealand, surfers rise with the tides and the streets empty at sunset.

With his sun-bleached mop of tousled hair, national longboard champion Zen Wallis embodies Piha’s surfing ideal. He’s out on the water most days, catching break after break as they blow in off the Tasman Sea, before darkness finally sends him ashore. (He even admits to sleeping with his board before a competition, for luck.)

The near-deserted beach at Piha © Justin Foulkes / Lonely Planet

Also a surf coach, Zen has a deep knowledge of Piha and talks about its waves in reverential metaphors. The predominant onshore wind, he explains, creates a potent hit, attracting only hardened surf-addicts to the town. ‘Life existed in black and white before the sport arrived here,’ he says, the sky turning oily purple behind him. ‘Now we wake everyday to a kaleidoscopic, world-class wave, but without the crowds. It’s like a drug.’

See glowworms at Waitomo Caves

The campervan rolls south out of Piha in the haze of early morning. Grey banks of cloud shift across the glossy hills and fields where gangly sheep farmers round up super-sized flocks numbering more than a thousand.

Neither the livestock nor the terrain at the western edge of the North Island would look out of place in the Welsh valleys. Evergreen vales and dimpled pastures surround the one-street town of Waitomo, while, beyond the roadside, rumpled farmlands and wool sheds are a picture of serenity. Flocks doze on mossy crags as local farmers watch a rugby game in town. Calm, peaceful and seemingly unremarkable, this place gives nothing away of the preternatural treasures hidden below the topsoil.

Speleolologist Angus Stubbs in one of the North Island’s underground ‘cathedrals’ © Justin Foulkes / Lonely Planet

Even in a country as geographically blessed as New Zealand, the Waitomo Caves command a special status. A network of fathomless, pitch-black passages, they are places long sacred to the Māori, but also to speleologists like Angus Stubbs, a third-generation farmer-turned-caver. For the past 20 years, this modern-day caveman has found sanctuary in their honeycombed caverns and sunken potholes. They are the North Island’s cathedrals, he says, created by millennia of water erosion and now home to a subterranean river and labyrinthine tunnels.

The local Kawhia tribe used the area’s limestone catacombs as burial sites to access the afterlife, but the Victorians were more interested in what they could take away. They plundered the caves one by one, digging up museum-piece curiosities and the skeletons of giant moa birds. A flightless creature hunted to extinction by the Māori, its bones fetched a fine price at auction back in London.

Angus leads the way down into the Ruakuri Cave, the midday sun vanishing behind the snap of a trapdoor. Squeezing through narrow gaps into a cavernous obsidian-black hangar, our eyes adjust to the darkness. And then they appear: thousands of underground stars lighting up the vaulted gallery like a lattice of subterranean sky.

Glowworms in Waitomo Caves – the larvae glow to attract prey that might become entangled in hanging threads of mucus-covered silk © Justin Foulkes / Lonely Planet

‘These little fellas are just like me,’ says Angus, shining a torch on the glowworms, known first to the Māori as ‘titiwai’ – water stars. ‘Not pretty when the lights are on, but beautiful when it’s dark.’

Chill out at Lake Taupo

To drive the North Island is to encounter signposts that tell the story of New Zealand, a curious mix of towns named by homesick Scots and Englishmen – Hamilton, Hastings, Cambridge, New Plymouth – and sing-song Māori villages: Matamata, Whatawhata, Mangatangi.

From Waitomo Caves, the road to Lake Taupo turns southeast onto State Highway 30. It rolls over concertina-creased hills and livestock grids into the North Island’s agricultural heartland, dewy and green with vegetation. Soon overtaken by volcanic ridges and treeless mountaintops, the road emerges at Lake Taupo, one of the grandest waterbodies in the southern hemisphere.

It’s not hard to mistake massive Lake Taupo for the ocean © Justin Foulkes / Lonely Planet

Filling the caldera of a prehistoric volcano, the lake was created by one of the largest eruptions in history – one that blew out so much detritus that it would have made Krakatoa look trifling. When Taupo first appears over the dashboard, it looks more sea than lake. It’s a body so big that the water and sky mix like a watercolour; one so wide that the Earth curves across its surface like a spoon.

Outside Taupo, on the town’s northern outskirts, is the workshop of Delani Brown, a master carver who crafts allegorical totems inspired by the lake and by the Māori creation myth of Ranginui, the sky father, and Papatūānuku, the earth mother.

Carver Delani Brown in his workshop © Justin Foulkes / Lonely Planet

‘The wood can take me in any direction,’ he says, tightening a lumpen block of petrified swamp kauri in a vice. ‘So I have to listen to it carefully.’ As the afternoon passes, the slab gradually undergoes a metamorphosis into an intricate talisman. Delani uses his chisel like a fine paintbrush, delicately etching marks and paring back the block one shave at a time. Up close, it has whittled tattoo lines across its brow; each groove simulates the area’s synergy of rivers, canyons and fault-lines.

Proud of his accomplishment, Delani looks out towards Lake Taupo. ‘Ko wai koe?’ he asks me. ‘Which waters do you come from?’ It is a traditional greeting born from whakapapa, the fundamental principle of genealogy that permeates all Māori culture. He hesitates for a moment before pointing to the lake. ‘That’s my universe,’ he says. ‘Right there.’

A Maori rock carving at Mine Bay, accessible only by boat © Justin Foulkes / Lonely Planet

It’s not just Māori like Delani who have been bewitched by the Great Lake Taupo region. Ever since the first tribes arrived in the 13th century by canoe, the low-slung villages dotted along the lake have attracted newcomers. These days, the acacia-banked edges are filled with the guesthouses, galleries, organic wineries and craft breweries that keep holidaymakers here for days. Many will make the trip out by boat to the high bluffs at Mine Bay, to bob in front of a magnificent stone-faced god carved into the cliffside.

Before dark, the campervan is back on the road and the next 30 miles zip by with the tempo of a radio pop song. We veer south to the lakeshore town of Turangi, parking by the waterside and lighting a brazier under a half-moon sky. Dinner is lamb chops cooked on the barbecue, washed down with cool-box beers.

Explore the steaming wonders of Rotorua

Come daybreak, the road squiggles north before reaching the spa town of Rotorua. Hunkered among silvery crater lakes of all shapes and sizes, the town is renowned for its sulphur-rich bathing waters and its fantastical Māori legends.

Maori elder Auntie Josie Scott © Justin Foulkes / Lonely Planet

Rotorua’s most memorable folk tales are told by 71-year-old Auntie Josie Scott, a Māori elder within the Ngāti Whakaue tribe. Storytelling is a big part of life in Rotorua, she explains, and few tell them better than her. She leads cultural walking tours around the historic settlement of Ohinemutu on the outskirts of Rotorua – by her reckoning, the most energised place on Earth.

‘There’s a magnetic strength that makes it impossible to leave,’ she says, a geyser behind her letting off steam. ‘The ground is alive, and that binds us here.’ Strolling around the Māori village, past the cherry-red and white St Faith’s Anglican Church, she points to outdoor bathing sheds and a thermal pool at the end of a neighbour’s garden. ‘It’s 300 degrees in there,’ she says. ‘That heat is the lifeline that brought our tribe in the first place. Just don’t get too close; you don’t want to get any thermal activity on your buns.’

The Champagne Pool at Wai-O-Tapu owes its orange colouring to mineral deposits, while its waters bubble with carbon dioxide © Justin Foulkes / Lonely Planet

Rotorua has a complicated relationship with its waters – life here is not without its hazards. There are more than 1,200 hissing geothermal features in the area, and 500 pools and 65 geysers in the Whakarewarewa Valley alone. Hot springs can burst higher than a six-storey building. Nevertheless, locals appreciate the tourism revenue they generate – there are daily crowds at meringue-shaped Lady Knox Geyser at Wai-O-Tapu, where plumes of froth surge skywards and steam vents from the ground, billowing across the hillside and blowing with an end-of-the-world fury.

Elsewhere in Wai-O-Tapu, the geysers – the wildest in the southern hemisphere – seem to dance and sing. Some squeak out bubbles, others blow cotton-candy puffs into the permanently sour-smelling air. There are lime-green cauldrons (whiffy eggs), scalloped-edge mud pools (week-old ham) and smoking caves (a gone-off bean fritter). In particular, the Champagne Pool makes unearthly gurgles, fizzing like the effervescent painkillers you might need after a night out on the good stuff.

The next day, the landscape turns from steamy to sun-kissed on the highway back to Auckland. For two hours the road rolls past forests, pastoral scenes and winding waterways. As the city at last rears into view and buildings close in around the campervan, attempting a last-minute U-turn feels like just the right thing to do.



AdminNew Zealand’s North Island: on the road at the edge of the world

Warning: Thailand’s national parks closed during rainy season

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In a renewed commitment to the environment, Thailand will not let tourists access several of its 61 national parks for at least five months.

During the annual monsoon period, which is when the largest numbers of tourists head for Thailand’s beaches, 61 out of the country’s 154 national parks will be closed. This closure applies to some very well-known sites around Phuket, such as the Koh Phi Phi islands. Maya Bay, made famous by the Leonardo DiCaprio movie The Beach, will remain open this year despite damage to the reefs, AsiaOne reported.

The Koh Ha islets to the west of Koh Lanta Island will be inaccessible to tourists until Oct 15. And in the Andaman Sea, the remote Similan Islands that tourists generally reach from Khao Lak, will also be out of bounds.

This means that numerous locations that are popular with divers will be closed. This drastic decision, which has been taken for the fourth consecutive year, aims to give marine wildlife time to recover from the effects of mass tourism. Between May and October, nine million tourists visit Thailand’s national parks. The wet season is the ideal time for marine wildlife to regenerate.

This drastic decision aims to give marine wildlife time to recover from the effects of mass tourism.



AdminWarning: Thailand’s national parks closed during rainy season