Thursday, March 31, 2016

Private specialized tours of Hokkaido, Japan



Hokkaido is Japan's last frontier and no one knows this destination as well as the Travelife Magazine team.

It's a nature and wilderness paradise and a haven for food enthusiasts, as well as a venue for all kinds of outdoor activities.




HOKKAIDO, THE TRAVELIFE WAY

Full itineraries for 
solo travelers and private groups of any size

-----------

Tailor-made schedules and activities
Access to special experiences

-----------

The best options for hotels and meals 
at your specified budget level

-----------

Fully bilingual coordinators
Departures all year-round





Afternoon tea, the Wedgwood way, at the Langham in Melbourne. And about becoming a tea sommelier.



At the Aria Bar & Lounge of The Langham, Melbourne, keep an eye out for waitstaff wearing a distinctive pair of Wedgwood cufflinks or a Wedgwood cameo brooch.

These items signify that the wearer has passed an exam on the art of making tea following an intensive 8 hour training course conducted by Wedgwood.

The Wedgwood tea training course includes theory, tea tastings and service as well as a written exam where only a grade of 90% or more earns a pass mark.

Scroll down to read more about afternoon tea at the Langham Melbourne... 



DIFFERENT KINDS OF TEAS

From traditional black teas to caffeine free herbal tisanes such as chamomile, lemon and ginger, Aria's team is well versed in advising guests about tea selection and explain to interested guests that all tea is loose leaf and weighed before brewing.

Also, please remember this tip on how to avoid a pot of tea becoming bitter: tea leaves should be removed just moments before being served.


BECOMING A TEA SOMMELIER

“The comprehensive training really helps give our team the confidence to help guests make a tea selection that will suit them best. We think of ourselves as tea sommeliers. Except in our case, our tools of the trade are scales, thermometers, bespoke tea bags, fine bone china instead of corkscrews and decanters,” comments Damian Kalusiewicz, manager of Aria Bar & Lounge. 

She added: “We are extremely precise about ensuring black teas are only made using water heated to a rolling boil, while green and white teas are made with cooler water heated to 80 degrees.”

SWEETS FOR AFTERNOON TEA
WITH WEDGWOOD



It's not just tea that is served at The Langham.

Miniature salted caramel and macadamia tarts, passionfruit and mango macarons, scones and fresh cream and jam and strawberry choux pastry with citrus cream accompany delicate finger sandwiches all served on an impressive three tiered tea stand.

At The Langham, Melbourne's traditional afternoon teas are served in the hushed and relaxed surrounding of the hotel's Aria Bar & Lounge. The hotel's dedicated pastry kitchen is renowned for their innovation and use of fresh, local produce.

ABOUT THE WEDGWOOD AFTERNOON TEA
AT THE LANGHAM MELBOURNE



The Langham Afternoon Tea with Wedgwood is a decadent experience including Wedgwood specialty teas served in tailor-made “”Langham Rose” Wedgwood china accompanied by a selection of savoury sandwiches such as smoked salmon, cucumber and horseradish crème fraiche, free range ham with tomato chutney and English cheddar, avocado, watercress, micro basil and heirloom tomato salad and free range chicken with chives and lemon thyme.

There are also fruit and buttermilk scones with clotted cream and strawberry and rose petal preserve.

The tea stand's top tier also includes a Valrhona Manjari chocolate sphere, hazelnut and sable biscuit, a white chocolate mousse with raspberry and pistachio and a mushroom shaped meringue with Chantilly cream.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Puccini's Turandot Opera at Sydney Harbour brings together the best of Sydney



A most spectacular production of Puccini's Turandot is now being staged in Sydney Harbour.

Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour's production reimagines Puccini's exotic fantasy about a brutal princess and the brave suitor who will make any sacrifice to win her love.


The cast for Puccini's Turandot features 12 principals, 18 dancers and 48 chorus members on stage with bold and dramatic costuming by designer Dan Potra.

223 speakers carry the music out into the open night air, with 58 members of the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra playing in a custom-built studio under the stage.

Scroll down to read more about Puccini's Turandot opera in Sydney Harbour... 


SINGING THE NESSUM DORMA

The soaring notes of the world's most famous aria, Nessun Dorma, ring out over the waters of Sydney Harbour from a custom-built floating stage featuring a giant nine metre high and a 60-meter long dragon, representing the Great Wall of China, and an 18-meter high illuminated pagoda.

Destination NSW CEO, Sandra Chipchase, is urging visitors to plan their trip to Sydney to see Puccini's Turandot in Sydney: “Turandot is a breath-taking delight to the senses. The production is a perfect opportunity for newcomers to opera to experience the spectacle."

She added: "Those who already know and love Turandot will be impressed with this inspired production directed by Chen Shi-Zheng with a set and costumes that reflect the spirit of today's China."


THE BEST OF SYDNEY

She added: "For visitors to Sydney, Turandot showcases the best of the city - world-class opera, harbourside dining and spectacular sunsets over the city's famous icons, the Opera House and Harbour Bridge.

The Handa Opera Turandot at Sydney Harbour runs until April 24, 2016.

Images courtesy of Prudence Upton/ Opera Australia

Great shopping deals in the Hong Kong International Airport Instant Rebate Promotion 2016



Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) has just introduced an array of promotions to travellers, including an instant rebate of HKIA cash coupons up to HK$5,000 and free delivery service.

With these premium offerings, travellers can enjoy an extraordinary shopping experience at HKIA.

ABOUT HONG KONG 
INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) is an international and regional aviation centre connecting about 190 destinations around the world, including 50 mainland China cities.

HKIA achieved record-breaking passenger throughput of 68.5 million in 2015.



INSTANT REBATE PROMOTION
FOR HONG KONG AIRPORT SHOPPERS

From 1 April to April 11, 2016, travellers spending more than HK$20,000 and HK$50,000 at HKIA by electronic payment on the same day can receive an instant rebate of HK$1,200 and HK$5,000 respectively in the form of HKIA cash coupons.

Scroll down to read more about Hong Kong International Airport rebates... 



FREE DELIVERY
FOR HONG KONG AIRPORT SHOPPERS

Travellers who spend more than HK$1,000 in a single transaction at HKIA can enjoy complimentary local delivery service. Free delivery service to the Mainland, Macao and Taiwan is also offered to travellers who spend over HK$2,500 on clothing, bags and accessories in a single transaction.

SHOPPING AND DINING OFFERS

During this promotion period, HKIA will also collaborate with airport retailers to provide travellers with a series of exciting shopping and dining offers, as well as a fabulous selection of special complimentary gifts.



Tempura at Ten-Ichi in Tokyo. And about eating very good tempura in Japan.






Last night in Tokyo, living a #Travelife, we brought a bottle of vintage champagne to Ten-ichi in Tokyo and had tempura at the counter.

There was once a time when Ten-ichi reigned supreme as the best tempura restaurant in Tokyo



This was at a time when there were not too many fancy or famous restaurants in Tokyo.

Even Japanese prime ministers took their foreign guests here to eat at Ten-ichi, considered one of the best tempura in town.

Scroll down to read more about tempura in Tokyo... 



GOOD TEMPURA RESTAURANTS
IN TOKYO

These days, there are more good tempura restaurants in Tokyo, and even a handful of tempura restaurants with Michelin stars.

Nevertheless, for old Tokyo hands and locals who tend to stay away from trendy restaurants, Ten-ichi is still a good old and reliable favourite.



THE BEST WAY TO EAT TEMPURA

The trick to eating good tempura is to only sit at the tempura counter as this more or less levels the playing field as far as tempura is concerned.

Honestly, it's very hard for a real tempura chef to make bad tempura if he's frying it in front of you and then serving it within seconds.



SERVING TIME MATTERS
FOR TEMPURA

I know this because several times I've had to eat in the second floor private dining room of a restaurant in downtown Tokyo that reportedly is the best tempura restaurant in Japan, because the counter seats were fully booked.

The taste of the tempura brought up to us from the counter below was completely different from the taste of tempura eaten at the counter. 

----------------------------------




----------------------------------

SECOND TIME AROUND

It was the same course and the same quality and the same chef, but the few seconds that the tempura was left to the elements made all the difference.

On both times I swore I would never eat in that second floor again, so I don't know how I ended up there a second time.



EATING TEMPURA
AT TEN-ICHI IN TOKYO

So even at Ten-ichi, a good old local favourite tempura restaurant in Tokyo, it's a matter of sitting at the counter.

Yesterday, we had their middle-level dinner course which included some Hokkaido scallops and half of an eel. It was excellent, and interestingly, the vintage champagne we brought actually went very well with our tempura dinner.

By the end of dinner, I'd had a very good tempura meal and I'd drunk practically half the bottle, on just another delicious evening in my never-ending #Travelife.





Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The best hotels and suites in Sydney, Melbourne and across Australia and New Zealand

The Hotel Windsor in Melbourne
is one of the nominees for the 2016 World Travel Awards

Here are the hotels nominated for the 2016 World Travel Awards, and they're pretty much also the best hotels and resorts in Australia and New Zealand.

The World Travel Awards™ (WTA) was established in 1993 to acknowledge, reward and celebrate excellence across all sectors of the tourism industry. Travel and tourism professionals vote for WTA winners worldwide, with over 650,000 individual votes cast in 2014.

In 2016, WTA will celebrate its 23rd anniversary year.

Scroll down to read more about the best hotels in Australia and New Zealand... 



NOMINEES FOR
AUSTRALASIA'S LEADING HOTEL

AUSTRALIA
Crown Towers 
Four Seasons Hotel Sydney 
InterContinental Melbourne 
The Rialto 
Palazzo Versace on the Gold Coast 
Park Hyatt Melbourne 
Park Hyatt Sydney 
Pullman Sydney 
Sheraton on the Park 
The Hotel Windsor, Melbourne 
The Langham, Sydney

NEW ZEALAND
SkyCity Grand Hotel 
The Langham Auckland 

---------------------------------------

NOMINEES FOR
AUSTRALIA'S LEADING HOTEL SUITE

Presidential Suite 
Four Seasons Hotel Sydney 

Presidential Suite 
Surfers Paradise Marriott Resort & Spa 

Presidential Suite 
Sydney Harbour Marriott Hotel at Circular Quay 

Royal Suite
Sheraton on the Park 

Royal Suite
The Hotel Windsor, Melbourne 

The Australia Suite 
InterContinental Sydney 

Renewing my driver's license in Japan. And about the requirements to renew your license.



I spent this morning at the Metropolitan Tokyo Government Offices in Shinjuku renewing my driver's license so that I can rent a car in Europe this summer and continue living a #Travelife.

The paper pushing to actually renew the driving license was done in one hour in a clean, orderly and peaceful facility with speedy processing and minimal waiting time -- in spite of the fact that Tokyo is one of the biggest cities in the world and there are only three venues in central Tokyo for renewing a driver's license.

The joys of living in the First World where everything works efficiently.

Scroll down to read more about the renewing a driver's license in Tokyo... 



30 LONG MINUTES OF MY LIFE

The downside to this efficiency is that every driving license renewal requires a sit-in lecture, classroom-style, with a teacher upfront refreshing everyone's memory on everything from car stickers to traffic signs. 

This is the closest I've been to a school environment in a very long time.

A GOLD LICENSE IN JAPAN



I have a Japanese gold driving license, which is the highest category for a non-professional driver in Japan. This basically means I haven't gotten into an accident or been given a driving infraction in the five-year period of the license.

All gold license holders are entitled to a slightly lower renewal fee as well as to the shortest mandatory lecture time, which is 30 minutes. Most other drivers without a gold license need to sit through either a two-hour lecture or a one-hour lecture before they get their license renewed.



HOW TO GET A JAPANESE DRIVING LICENSE

And, by the way, getting a Japanese driving license is a very big deal in itself. 

The written test isn't easy but at least you can prepare in advance; but the actual driving test is just one giant frustrating obstacle course. Very few people pass on the first try and the average pass rate is after about four attempts.
----------------------------------




----------------------------------

NO EXCEPTIONS FOR DRIVING LICENSE
RENEWAL REQUIREMENTS

And it doesn't matter whether the person renewing the license is the Prime Minister of Japan.

There are no exceptions to taking this lecture, if you want to renew your license. You cannot even miss one minute of the lecture.



These are some of the things not allowed during your lecture: No food, no mobile phones, no reading material, no bathroom breaks and no sleeping. If you shut your eyes for even 10 seconds, you risk failing the lecture and having to take it all over again.

So getting the shortest lecture time to renew one's driving license in Japan alone is a great incentive to get a gold license. Because even at 30 minutes, I have to say that this lecture is the longest 30 minutes in my never-ending #Travelife. 


Monday, March 28, 2016

Saturday night kaiseki dinner at Kien, a Michelin-starred restaurant in Akasaka, Tokyo



Two Saturdays ago, in Tokyo living a #Travelife, saw us having dinner with some new friends in Tokyo who really feel more like old friends, for some reason.

We met at a cocktail party in Tokyo late last year and one email led to another and to two dinners together on two trips to Tokyo in a row.

Scroll down to read more about the kaiseki dinner at Kien in Tokyo... 



A REASONABLY PRICED KAISEKI DINNER
IN TOKYO

I suggested having dinner in Kien, a small Michelin-starred establishment in Tokyo with good food and reasonable prices for a kaiseki-style dinner. 


It has a corner in its counter that is just perfect for four persons to sit and have a very good time the whole night.

There are of course many good kaiseki restaurants in Tokyo, headed by Michelin three-star establishments like Ryugin and Yukimura, both in Azabu.



Kien is in a category below Ryugin and Yukimura, in terms of Michelin rankings, but the food is very good and prices are not astronomical so it's the kind of place you can feel good about eating in any time.

----------------------------------




----------------------------------

THE GOOD OLD DAYS IN TOKYO


So far I've had very nice memories of dinners at Kien.

My last dinner here was also with a couple, this time visiting from England, who are very old friends. Again, we overstayed our welcome, drinking and eating until way past closing time, talking about old times in Japan and in London.



Two Saturdays ago, we'd brought bottles of champagne and red wine and had the full-course kaiseki dinner that actually included a very nice wagyu sirloin steak as a main course, in Tokyo, living and loving a never-endingly delicious #Travelife.


Sunday, March 27, 2016

Summer art workshop for kids at the Ayala Museum, featuring Philippine festivals



The Mad about Crab buffet at the Intercontinental Hong Kong will have all kinds of crab dishes



Harbourside, the all-day dining venue of the InterContinental Hong Kong, known for its elaborate international buffets, is going “Crazy for Crab” as it offers a crab buffet from April 5 to 30, 2016.

Over 20 different fresh crab dishes from around the world will be on offer including the Alaskan King Crab, the red crab, brown crab and snow crab.

Intercontinental Hong Kong Executive Chef Nicola Canuti and his team will be preparing fresh Asian inspired crab dishes using a variety of recipes and cooking methods from Thailand and Singapore, along with traditional Hong Kong style dishes.

Scroll down to read more about the crab buffet at the Intercontinental Hong Kong... 



CRABS FROM AROUND THE WORLD
AT THE INTERCONTINENTAL HONG KONG
CRAB BUFFET

Among many other selections, crab lovers will be able to sample a selection of fresh poached crab on ice (spanner crab, mud crab, Alaskan King crab), and a rotating selection of sushi creations that includes soft shell crab roll, King crab tempura roll, snow crab sushi.

There will also be rice bowls with salmon roe & black caviar with crabmeat, sea urchin and crabmeat plus cold Inaniwa udon with snow crab and condiments.

----------------------------------




----------------------------------

NEW CRAB DISHES TO TRY

Try Asian-inspired crab dishes including braised bird's nest soup with crabmeat, fresh crab congee with ginger and Chinese style stuffed crab shell

There will also be rotating selection of dishes including Singaporean style stir-fried crab with black peppercorns, Hong Kong style stir-fried crab with chili and garlic and dried red chili, steamed crab & egg white with Chinese rice wine, plus Thai style crab with yellow curry sauce and baby eggplant and okra. 

MANGOES FOR DESSERT



For dessert, Intercontinental Hong Kong Executive Pastry Chef Cyril Dupuis & his team are creating a rotating selection of mango-themed desserts on the decadent dessert buffet in April.

Ignite your taste buds with ginger lime mango napoleon, roasted mango & passion fruit with Sichuan pepper, coconut mango panna cotta, Earl Grey tea mango and pear cakehot mango & sago soup.

European-inspired mango desserts include Riz au Lait & Mango, Chocolate Fondant with Granola & Mango, mango cheesecake, and Indian mango waffles.


18 Salisbury Road
Kowloon, Hong Kong 
Tel: (852) 2721 1211 
Fax: (852) 2739-4546 
E-mail: hongkong@ihg.com