Bloomberg Businessweek: How Jetpac Locates the World’s Happiest Places


Julian Green, founder and CEO of Jetpac, discusses how the company set out to find the happiest country in the world, measured not by how happy people say they are but by their actual smiles. He speaks with Angie Lau on Bloomberg Television’s “First Up.”

(Source: Bloomberg)
Hanoi is a fascinating blend of East and West, combining traditional Sino-Vietnamese motifs with French flair. Grab a bite at one of hundreds of street food stalls on the sidewalk, with plastic tables and chairs on the pavement, it’s a great way to experience the local food and culture. #Hanoi #Vietnam #travel #travelguide #Asia #cityguide

Hanoi is a fascinating blend of East and West, combining traditional Sino-Vietnamese motifs with French flair. Grab a bite at one of hundreds of street food stalls on the sidewalk, with plastic tables and chairs on the pavement, it’s a great way to experience the local food and culture. #Hanoi #Vietnam #travel #travelguide #Asia #cityguide

Hong Kong is Home by Javin Lau




"I remember when I first arrived in Hong Kong almost a decade ago, I felt like I had walked into an actual movie set. It was a place that I had only seen on TV as a kid, with its strange red taxi’s, odd stop lights and driving on the other side of the road.

My intent with this project was to illustrate the grandeur of Hong Kong that most people would never get to see. When I had recently watched the movie Oblivion, it had somehow starkly reminded me of Hong Kong, with the feeling of being so insignificantly small — almost irrelevant to my surroundings. Hong Kong is an unbelievably dense city, where much of the world can be accessed at your fingertips. But in a city where you can access the material world in a matter of seconds, it also has the ability to isolate you from the 8 million people around you as well.

With this piece, I hope that you are able to engage in this contradiction.”

- Javin Lau

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X2 Kui Buri, Hua Hin, Thailand




The X2 Kui Buri near Hua Hin, Thailand is located in an undeveloped and peaceful surrounding, with the only communities being local fishing villages. Facing the Gulf of Thailand, the 4-acre beachfront property is 3 hours’ drive south of Bangkok and a further 30 minutes south of Hua Hin, the seaside resort town that is a favourite of the Thai royal family.

Opened in 2007, X2 Kui Buri, pronounced as cross two goo-ee boo-ree, is a 5-star resort with 23 private villas that come with their own terrace, garden and a select few with private pools. There are five room types to choose from – the Deluxe Garden Villa, Deluxe Pool Villa, Deluxe Oceanfront Pool Villa, Luxury Pool Villa and Royal Villa.

Its unique and tranquil atmosphere with large open spaces and lush natural surroundings makes it the perfect place for a retreat. Waking up to the sunrise, having your champagne breakfast, swimming in privacy and listening to the sounds of the ocean – there’s no better place to abandon all your cares. 


(Text: Wan Phing Lim / Photos: Kate Khasuwan, AsiaRooms)






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Lub d, Silom, Bangkok



The iconic, trend-setting original Lub d is still a “Bangkok must” for travelers in the know. With a downtown location conveniently situated in Silom, Bangkok’s business district, Lub d - Silom is surrounded by a plethora of shops, restaurants, bars and clubs. Silom buzzes from early morning until late night. Travelers are connected via the nearby BTS skytrain and the pier for boat rides.

(Photo credit: Lub d)



5 Places Nearby Not To Miss:


Patpong
Patpong is an entertainment district in Bangkok for locals, foreign tourists and expatriates. While Patpong is internationally known as a red light district, a busy night market aimed at tourists is also located in Patpong. Bargaining skills are needed here to get the best prices on a wide variety of familiar products. Entering the roads themselves can get a bit risqué, however, and is not advised for children. There are some nice Irish pubs and other international eateries in this area as well.


Aerobics Dancing in Lumpini Park

Lumpini Park, a great place to cool down from overheated Bangkok, is a huge park located on Rama 4 Road. It is well-known as a recreational area with several activities going on inside the park at any given time. There is action available for people at all ages, including cycling, jogging, singing, yoga, and much more. “Aerobics dance” has become the most popular choice of fitness activities in the park. The highlight is the aerobics session which all are welcome to join. From 6 p.m. onwards Monday to Saturday, hundreds of Bangkokians gather to do aerobics in the front of the park. It’s great fun and good for you, too!


Lumpini Boxing Stadium

If you want to see real Thai boxing, the place to go in the Kingdom is not far from Lub d - Silom. Opened more than a decade later than Rajadamnern Stadium, the Lumpini Boxing Stadium is run by the Royal Thai Army on behalf of the Thai Government. It has become the symbol of modern Muay Thai (Thai boxing). Muay Thai contests are held every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. The fights usually start around 6.00 p.m. Ticket prices range from 200 to 2,000 Baht. Don’t miss this opportunity to see the real thing while you’re in Thailand!


Yaowarat Road, Chinatown

Bangkok’s Chinatown is centered on Yaowarat Road. There are many small streets and alleys full of shops and vendors selling all types of goods. It has been the main centre for trading by the Chinese community since they moved from their old site some 200 years ago. Yaowarat Road is also famous for many varieties of delicious foods, and it becomes a street of many foods every night. It’s a wonderful area simply to roam around, window shop, and try some unusual and exotic foods.

 

Bangkok Folk Museum
The Bangkok Folk Museum is located on Soi Charoen Krung 43. The museum was originally the home of the Suravadee family, which was built in 1937. It was converted to the Bangkok Folk Museum to preserve the lifestyle of early Bangkok and the history of the Bangrak District. If you want to learn about the fascinating history of Bangrak, it’s just 1.5 km. away from Lub d - Silom. A wonderful excursion to pass a few hours educationally.






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Cherry Blossoms by Featured Photographer Leslie Taylor


"I’m really not sure what it is about Cherry Blossoms that is so mesmerizing to me. There are many other beautiful flowers around here in Japan, but something about Sakura draws my attention like none other. Maybe it’s the timing, leaving one to enjoy them for only a week or two at best. Perhaps it’s the quantity, with trees being completely full of blossoms. Another possibility is how unique these flowers are from start to finish, even beautiful as they wither away and fall from their branches. I’m really not sure I could point to only one thing. But I do know that looking into the sea of blossoms is almost intoxicating to me, and I will never grow tired of pointing my camera up into these trees."
- Leslie Taylor


This week’s featured photographer has captured the beauty of the cherry blossoms and the Hanami (flower viewing) traditions in Japan.

We asked Leslie Taylor a few questions about his experience living in Japan.


1) What was it about Japan that made you want to live there?
I’ve actually lived in Japan several times throughout my life. Due to my father being a U.S. Marine, I originally lived in Japan from the ages of 10 to 13. As you can imagine I developed a lot of special memories during that time. Of course we always lived on American bases, so the opportunity to come back and live in a genuine Japanese environment was appealing. But to be honest what called me back as an adult was my Christian faith. My family heard about a church that was looking for helpers, so we ended up getting a job nearby that would allow us to help out there. Previous connections and love for the nation made it an easy decision. 

2) Has Japan lived up to your expectations?
I’d say yes and no. In one sense it has because I expected it to be an awesome experience that I would never regret. I expected to fall in love with the culture, scenery, and of course the food. I certainly have done that! On the other hand, I expected the change to be easy, especially because I lived here as a kid. But moving my family over here and taking on a completely different way of life was quite tough in a number of ways. Let’s just say the words “culture shock” have a lot of meaning to me now!

3) What is the most surprising thing you’ve found about Japan after moving there?
It’s hard to pick just one thing here, but I have been surprised by how kind everyone here is to my family. I didn’t expect them to be mean or anything like that, but the people here really go out of their way to help even though we’re foreigners. For example when we moved to Okayama Prefecture in 2010, my wife was pregnant with our second daughter. A lady she had only just met took her to her first doctor appointment, showed us around town, made a map for us of the bus schedules, and other things like that. We have a lot of stories like that. The people here are incredibly kind. 

 

4) Which local spot do love going to with your friends and family and why?
As much as I love being able to photograph the big city atmosphere of Tokyo, I much prefer the quiet countryside. So, often times my family heads away from the city into some of the small towns in Chiba Prefecture - the area around Lake Teganuma is a favorite. When it comes to the city, I like the Sumida River walk near Asakusa Station, which has great views of the Tokyo Skytree. 

 

5) Are you taking part in local customs and traditions?
Definitely! Our apartment is Japanese style, so we sleep on futons on the floor, don’t wear shoes in the house, and other daily living things like that. Naturally we enjoy the variety of Japanese foods here too, and we’ll never say no to a great Japanese festival. I’ve found that enjoying the culture in these ways helps me appreciate the culture and people more, as well as avoid homesickness.

6) What do you miss the most about home?
Well, there are the obvious things like being close to family and home cooked American food. Just thinking about a backyard grilled ribeye steak makes my mouth water. But I think the biggest thing is not being a foreigner. There are days when completely blending in, not thinking about language, and feeling totally in my own element would be a huge relief.

7) Since you’re already living in Japan - a place that is on many people’s bucket lists, where is your dream destination?
I have always wanted to go to Australia, especially to the Outback (not the steakhouse, although I like that too) and the Coral Sea area in the Northeast. Photographing a place like that would be an incredible experience, I think. But of course there’s still a lot of Japan I’ve not yet explored! 

8) Do you think you’ve inspired friends at home to visit Japan one day?
I certainly hope so. Part of why I love taking photos is because I can share with people a glimpse at what it’s like to visit a certain location and consequently inspire them to visit these places in person. I think with a photo you can pull out a person’s imagination in a unique way. But there is absolutely nothing like traveling in person. Travel has a way of not only giving a person wonderful memories, but changing them at a deeper level for the better. So if I can inspire people, whether I know them or not, to get out of their own element and explore this amazing planet, I will feel like I have succeeded in a major goal of life - I will have used my abilities to help others.


You can see more of Leslie’s beautiful photos on his website, Gaijin Camera!




Download the Jetpac City Guides app for iPhone to see all city guides for Japan, including “Top 10 Colorful Parks in Tokyo” or “Top 10 Best View Spots in Kyoto”. 

Kyōto was the capital of Japan for over a millennium, and carries a reputation as its most beautiful city. However, visitors may be surprised by how much work they will have to do to see Kyoto’s beautiful side. Most first impressions of the city will be of the urban sprawl of central Kyoto, around the ultra-modern glass-and-steel train station, which is itself an example of a city steeped in tradition colliding with the modern world.
Nonetheless, the persistent visitor will soon discover Kyoto’s hidden beauty in the temples and parks which ring the city center, and find that the city has much more to offer than immediately meets the eye. 



Today's Travel Destination from Jetpac:  Kyoto, Japan
(Photo courtesy of jpellgen)

Stay:
We highly recommend you to try a stay at a ryokan when you’re in Kyoto. A ryokan is a type of traditional Japanese inn that originated in the Edo period (1603–1868), when such inns served travelers along Japan’s highways. They typically feature tatami-matted rooms, communal baths, and other public areas where visitors may wear yukata (robe) and talk with the owner.
There are many to choose from in Kyoto, most are typically either very pricy or very touristy, but you should check out Yadoya Nishijinso which is none of the above. 

Today's Travel Destination from Jetpac:  Kyoto, Japan
(Photo courtesy of Trey Ratcliff)

Today's Travel Destination from Jetpac:  Kyoto, Japan

Do:
Kyoto is filled with historic sites and beautiful temples, but our favorites are:

  • Kinkaku-ji is a famous golden tempel, located north-west in Kyoto.
  • Arashiyama where you can find the popular bamboo forest.
  • Kiyomizu-dera, an independent Buddhist temple in eastern Kyoto. The temple is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

If your timing is right, Kyoto is arguably the most well known place in the country to view cherry blossoms. The cherry blossom season typically takes place in early April.

Other dates that could be fun to be around for are:

  • Setsubun (February 3 or 4) A large bonfire and Shinto ceremony is held at Yoshida Shrine.
  • Aoi Matsuri (May 15) Beginning at Kyoto Imperial palace, a large procession dressed in Heian Period garbs walks to Shimogamo Shrine and finishes at Kamigamo Shrine.
  • Gion Matsuri (July 17) Many Mikoshi are paraded through the streets. It is considered to be one of the top three festivals in Japan.
  • Daimonji Gozan Okuribi (August 16) The hillside in Northwestern Kyoto is lit aflame in this festival honoring one’s ancestors. Candle lanterns are floated out in Hirosawa Pond.
  • Jidai Matsuri (October 22) People dressed in traditional garbs parade to Heian Shrine.
     

Today's Travel Destination from Jetpac:  Kyoto, Japan
(Photo courtesy of Agustin Rafael Reyes)


Eat:
Kyoto specialities include

  • Yatsuhashi (Hard yatsuhashi was originally made using cinnamon, and tastes like a crunchy biscuit. Raw yatsuhashi, also known as hijiri was also made with cinnamon, but the cinnamon is mixed with bean paste and then folded into the hijiri to make a triangle-shape.)
  • Hamo (a white fish served with ume as sushi)
  • Tofu (try places around Nanzenji temple)
  • Suppon (an expensive turtle dish)
  • Vegetarian dishes (thanks to the abundance of temples)
  • Kaiseki-ryori (multi-course chef’s choice that can be extremely good and expensive)

Today's Travel Destination from Jetpac:  Kyoto, Japan
(Photo courtesy of Trey Ratcliff)



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Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, Thailand
The most famous of the floating markets in Thailand is the Damnoen Saduak market, located about 65 miles southwest of Bangkok. This buzzing market is at its best in the early morning before the crowds arrive and the heat of the day builds up. The market is crowded from 8am. to 11am with hundreds of vendors selling and buying goods from their boats.The area is know for Malacca grapes, Chinese grapefruit, mangoes, bananas, and coconuts.
 
 (Photo by: Felix Weizman, Flickr, CC)



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Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, Thailand


The most famous of the floating markets in Thailand is the Damnoen Saduak market, located about 65 miles southwest of Bangkok. This buzzing market is at its best in the early morning before the crowds arrive and the heat of the day builds up. The market is crowded from 8am. to 11am with hundreds of vendors selling and buying goods from their boats.

The area is know for Malacca grapes, Chinese grapefruit, mangoes, bananas, and coconuts.

 

 (Photo by: Felix Weizman, Flickr, CC)

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Holi Festival of Color


Holi is a religious spring festival celebrated by Hindus as a festival of colors. It is primarily observed in India and Nepal. It is also observed by the minority Hindus in Bangladesh and Pakistan as well in countries with large Indic diaspora populations.

Every year, thousands of Hindus participate in the festival Holi. The festival has many purposes. First and foremost, it celebrates the beginning of the new season, spring. Originally, it was a festival that commemorated good harvests and the fertile land. Hindus believe it is a time of enjoying spring’s abundant colors and saying farewell to winter. It also has a religious purpose, commemorating events present in Hindu mythology.

Although it is the least religious holiday, it is probably one of the most exhilarating ones in existence. During this event, participants hold a bonfire, throw colored powder at each other, and celebrate wildly.




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Street View guide to Japan: Sakura Edition

Google has released an awesome update to it’s Japan Street View collection focused on the Sakura Cherry Blossom!

Every year the Japanese Meteorological Agency and the public track the sakura zensen (cherry blossom front) as it moves northward up the archipelago with the approach of warmer weather via nightly forecasts following the weather segment of news programs.

The blossoming begins in Okinawa in January and typically reaches Kyoto and Tokyo at the end of March or the beginning of April. It proceeds into areas at the higher altitudes and northward, arriving in Hokkaidō a few weeks later.

Japanese pay close attention to these forecasts and turn out in large numbers at parks, shrines, and temples with family and friends to hold flower-viewing parties. Hanami festivals celebrate the beauty of the cherry blossom and for many are a chance to relax and enjoy the beautiful view. 

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Beijing authorities announced a new 72 hour visa-free transit policy, effective January 1, 2013 for travelers transiting through Beijing who are citizens of one of 45 approved countries, hold third-country visas and have onward plane tickets.

Source: Jetpac on Pinterest

 In response to this new visa-free transit policy, Air China will offer new products and services to meet the needs of transit passengers, and will continue to improve our operating services to provide maximum possible convenience to passengers traveling through Beijing.

Source: Jetpac on Pinterest


The 72 hour visa-free policy to be implemented in Beijing applies to citizens from 45 countries including the United States, Canada, Britain, Australia, Brazil, Japan, South Korea and Singapore. Travelers eligible for the visa-free stay in China are allowed to travel and sightsee within the Beijing Municipality. This new policy will exempt travelers from the complicated procedures associated with visa applications, but still enable them to visit Beijing, an iconic center of Chinese culture.


Source: Jetpac on Pinterest



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Early Bird tickets to Fuji Rock Festival are being released tomorrow, Saturday February 9th.

The Fuji Rock Festival is set on a ski resort on Mt Fuji in Japan in what has got to be one of the most ideal settings for a music festival - it takes place in a thicket of lush forests, streams, and hills. The confirmed dates for the Fuji Rock festival are July 26 - 28, 2013.

The 3 day event, organized by Smash Japan, features more than 200 Japanese and international musicians, making it the largest outdoor music event in Japan.

Festival goers can watch music on 7 different stages, and the largest can accomodate 30,000 people. They can also take the gondola (renamed the ‘Dragondola’ for extra special local flavor) to the top of the mountain to hang out in the Day Dreaming & Silent Breeze area for a break and some great vantage points to the surrounding mountains.

The Fuji Rock Festival lineup has not been announced yet.


Oishii Eats blog Fuji Rock Festival


Check out the Oishii Eats blog to see some great photos from the 2010  festival.

Oishii Eats at Fuji Rock Festival





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EXPLORE: Japan

Kusatsu Onsen is a hot spring resort located in Gunma Prefecture, Japan, northwest of Tokyo and a popular tourist destination.

Their high quality hot spring water is said to cure every illness but lovesickness.

Kusatsu is situated at an altitude of 1200 meters above sea level in the mountains of Gunma Prefecture, and offers skiing in winter and hiking during the rest of the year to be enjoyed in combination with hot spring bathing. Kusatsu is also located along Japan’s Romantic Road.




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Japan's Romantic Road

Japan’s version of Germany’s “Romantic Road” leads over about 350 kilometers from Ueda City in Nagano Prefecture through the mountains of Gunma Prefecture to Utsunomiya City in Tochigi Prefecture.

Japan's Romantic Road


Various interesting towns, hot spring resorts and lots of natural scenery can be enjoyed along the Romantic Road, including the mountain resort of Karuizawa, active volcanoes, the hot spring mecca of Kusatsu and the world heritage sites of Nikko.

Due to a lack of convenient public transportation along many of its sections, the Romantic Road has remained off the beaten path for foreign tourists. Private transportation, such as a rental car, and two to five days are recommended to cover the entire route.


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This gigapixel image of the Khumbu glacier was captured by David Breashears during the spring of 2012, from the Pumori viewpoint near Mount Everest. The Khumbu Icefall is clearly visible here, and one can easily see the hustle and bustle of Everest Base Camp below. (click on the title link to view the interactive photo)
 

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