More Japan travel!

Once again I have found yet another site that will whet the appetites of Japanophiles (親日) out there.

A relatively young entrepreneur hailing from Japan launched his website some years back (can’t remember if it is 2013 or earlier) introducing and providing an easy one-stop gateway to knowing all that latest new thing to experience in Japan. His website is said to be generating 4.2 million page views per month! Enviousness grips … but then I am not looking for this kind of page hits.

“Unfortunately” the site caters it caters mainly to the Taiwanese and Hong Kong crowd, and the website is in the traditional Chinese script. So much for access by the non-pictogram learning folks! Suan has been an expert in navigating Japanese sites and this is no sweat for her. But then, pictures do paint a thousand words. Even an anglophile like me could guess what each link leads to… well there are some English words along the way to help.

Having trawled through the site, I have to say that there are really some cool stuff in there. For those who really enjoy Japanese shopping, eating and culture, there are lots to learn from the site. We are still exploring!

Best Driving holidays in Europe

One of the joys of writing your own blog is that you are free to express your thoughts (within reason and decency) after trawling through a plethora of websites and numerous pages. Which is why I like to read the travel section of some of the “main stream” sources – eg some of the mainline news publications (I quote frequently from the Singapore Straits time being Singaporean) both local and international.

The UK Telegraph has to be one of my favourites which I come back time and again. I feel so motivated again to plan for these trips after reading the article.

We have long been fancy to road trips. During the 3 years we lived in Holland, we drove all across France, Germany, northern Italy, the Benelux and the UK of course! A road is a wonderful way of taking the time to soak in the places you want to stay longer and moving on when no longer motivated. Better photos are taken too when you have time on your hands.

The longest and most memorable was our 18-day drive all along the “fringes” of France during the early summer. It was a time of relocation for us and July of 2005 was our move home. Taking “flight” from Amsterdam, our road trip proper commenced from the time we crossed into the northeast Picardie region of France.

France road trip
Encircling France


Well, together with the other road trips made (eg to Champagne, Alsace etc), the bucket list has Cote D’Azur, the Pyrenees and Central Massif remaining as untouched by our flag.

Very soon some day we will be doing the same all over the UK, starting with the southwest.

Is the Aurora Borealis dimming?

Articles on the supposed dimming of the Aurora Borealis has been circulating on the web for quite a few years. Since the purported peak in 2003, there has been predictions on how it will get harder to see these beautify dance of lights in the night sky. One of the videos I really like from Yahoo! (no I am not a fan) tells us of where you can consider to view these lights. Click here. I read quite bit of this from Clapway.

In any case, this is not the blunt sword that is holding us back from getting to Norway for our viewing pleasure of the Aurora. Its more of a budget thingy…

Most article reassure that the lights are not going away, just that they may be less spectacular than in the past years. Perhaps from the start of the next 11-year cycle we can see even more glorious sights? The forecast (now that’s my profession) is for this “dimming” to continue till 2024-2026. Ok, guess this gives me time to save up for this while going other places first!


More travel options

A few news nuggets for those domiciled in Singapore:

  • SQ is launching a capital express linking Singapore to Canberra (Aus) and Wellington (NZ). This is a through flight with the stopover in Canberra.
  • Those born in the year of the monkey (click here to view which one you are) may win a 7D cruise to Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh city (Saigon) on Royal Caribbean. Sign up at their facebook page (you need to like it…and comment). Pity that you need to travel on 29-Jan if you win!
  • Airbnb seems to be upping the ante with offers to stay in the former homes of celebrities. I wonder if Emily Blunt has a “ex-home” in London to bnb…

Suan told me that there is an equivalent to Airbnb in South Korea. Apparently only in Korean, the site also fixes you in accommodations in private homes.

Product innovation is indeed critical, especially in the tourism industry.

Best time to travel

I read that Skyscanner has come up with when are the best (and worst) times to travel – I think it appears to be from a cost and crowd standpoint). A few points:

  1. Book 5 months ahead and you stand an opportunity to get the best deal with up to 15% savings (well that depends on a host of factors…).
  2. Try traveling in the months identified as cheapest – ie September (generally) and avoid December (duh?).
  3. If need to travel in February, try the last week (duh again!).

All these relate mainly to the travel crowd from Singapore. However you can find more about what the above means in your own countries. Obviously things will be different – think about when you have public and school holidays…

The point of this blog post is that there is really no “one approach fits all”. Statistics tell for a large body of folks but it may will not apply to each individual. It depends on your circumstance. If time is a really valuable commodity for you (it is not always for everyone), then travel in 2nd week of February you must. May the force be with you.

That said, searching from a wide variety of sources do help. No harm looking right?

Dream Destination Aurora Borealis

There has been many legends about the mysterious lights over the northern parts of Europe (and Canada, Alaska, not to mention Russia etc). Today we know the reasons for this phenomenon of the solar wind’s collision with the earth’s magnetosphere.

Partly due to the draw of being at the place where such phenomenal display of lights (not made by man) and also the allure of traveling to the exotic is the draw which places a trip to Northern Norway on our bucket list.

The selection of Norway was a considered one, as the Aurora is mainly visible only in a specific band of latitude. Further, access to places which lies in the band is important, given that it will be highly preferable to watch the phenomenon in relative comfort.

Aurora Borealis Belt
Aurora Ring – grabbed from

While Iceland, Canada and Alaska were some of the other considerations, Norway holds a special place for us. We were last there in 2004, but only to Trondheim and in spring!

Did anyone know that the sun’s activity has peaked and will be “slowing down”? This means less solar wind activity hitting our atmosphere and thus less phenomena of the dancing night lights! We know that within the coming 1-2 years we will definitely take the trip.

Best to cruise though after spending some time at the lovely (and lively) city of Bergen. We intend to take the cruise operated by Hurtigruten. There are limited voyages per season and astronomers onboard to give lectures for those who seek in-depth understanding of the phenomena.

Working out the budget now to see if we can go as early as 2017!