Shakespeare once said, ‘The sauce to meat is ceremony; meeting were bare without it.’ Basically this translates to, ‘Festivals, they’re pretty cool, eh?’ And those Elizabethans really knew how to party, so I’m inclined to agree with his opinion. Ceremonies and festivals are the cultural glue that binds us as people.
What is it about Asia that throws up strange and unusual places to rest your head? It’s as if there’s some inaudible signal being broadcast causing architects and hoteliers to try and one-up each other in a race towards the weird and wonderful. Hey, I know, let’s make them sleep in a giant elephant! No, why not in tiny cubicles stacked like sardine tins! It’s like Lewis Carol and Gaudi decided to get together and start a small interior design business.
Japan is renowned for being conservative, orderly and refined, but take a weekend walk to one of Tokyo’s hip inner suburbs and you’ll see a very different side to this fascinating country.
Philip Wilson explains…
“I’ve visited Japan many times, but never seen anything to match the crowds at Harajuku on a Sunday afternoon!
Travelling to Japan? Try and time your visit with the cherry blossom season. Even if you’re not big on nature, this is something you’ve got to see.
Be prepared to forget your camera is even in your hands as you stand entranced by the beauty of these blossoms. Watch cities disappear under canopies of colour and national parks transform into spaces so surreal, you’ll think last night’s sake got the better of you.
“Lest we forget” is our heartfelt pledge to all the people who have paid the highest price in defense of their country’s borders or beliefs.
Historic sites around the world are important reminders of what took place at less peaceful times. These war memorials help us understand what people were forced to endure and bring to life the tragic events of our past.
They are the thriving hub of villages, town or cities. They are where people come from miles around to trade their wares or take home a bargain, and they are where visitors get to see the local community in action. Even if you’re not a shopper, there’s so much to love about markets. Here’s a few favourite places to enjoy the local flavours and hone your haggling skills…
During the day the Marrakech main square is full of touts, performers, snake charmers and more, then at night it transforms into an outdoor food festival. The square is surrounded by souks, otherwise known as local markets, selling everything from brass pots and pans, to linens, antiques, colourful spices, local dresses, leather slippers and delicious Moroccan food.
Combining culinary adventures with your travel journeys is a must, especially in Japan where you can enjoy the freshest sushi, be tempted by tempura and even design your own okonomiyaki! And this is where delicious (and healthy) fast food meets super-fast local transport, as Aaron Davis explains…
“Part of the enjoyment of travel is getting from place to place. What can seem a chore in many countries is an enjoyable, speedy and sociable treat in Japan.
There are those stand-out travel moments when we meet someone who has an incredible impact on our appreciation of a place and an understanding of its people. Aaron Davis had one of those profound experiences, when with Intrepid he met Kei san in Japan…
“I have been affected by radiation.” Not a sentence I ever thought I’d hear someone say, but in Hiroshima I got to meet and talk to a hibakusha, a survivor of the A-bomb. Kei san is a most remarkable man with a wonderful outlook on life. He was 16 years old when the bomb was dropped and by a stroke of pure luck he was in school in Hiroshima at the time, which offered some defence from the heat and radiation blast.
Bathing in an outdoor onsen (hot spring bath) in Japan is one of those very memorable real life experiences. But mustering the courage to shed your inhibitions could end up a travel blooper rather than a holiday highlight, so David Atkinson helps us take the plunge…
“Bath time had never been so tricky. Here I was, tackle out and goose bumps spreading like a bad rash, prancing between the centuries-old dipping pools of a pristine hot springs resort in Japan. Set against a serene backdrop of mountain scenery, autumnal forests and tiny shrines, the resort oozed a sense of almost Zen-like calm. But inside I was stricken with fear. I mean, what’s the etiquette when getting naked with a bunch of total strangers?