Posts

dollar

The International Value Of The US Dollar Is Making Travel Cheaper For Americans

The US dollar has been moving upwards in value when compared to international currency, such as the Euro and British pound, which are typically much stronger than the US dollar, making travel much cheaper for Americans.

pride

Singapore To Repeal Law Banning Gay Sex, ‘A Win For Humanity’

Singapore will repeal a law that bans gay sex in the city-state, effectively making it legal to be homosexual, which activists are calling a “win for humanity.”

movie

Thailand’s Gay-Romance TV Dramas Reviving Tourism Industry

A recent wave of Thai television dramas known as “Boys Love” (BL), or the “Y” series, has grown in popularity in Thailand. The genre of show portrays some sort of gay romance, which has attracted a large audience across Asia in recent months.

 Hong Kong Overwhelmed With Exponential Rise In Covid-19 Cases 

According to Carrie Lam, the head of the city administration in Hong Kong, the city has been overwhelmed by new Covid-19 infections, which have surged within the past two weeks. Daily cases are 20 times higher when compared to two weeks ago, leaving many hospital’s struggling to keep up with the influx. 

“The onslaught of the fifth wave of the epidemic has dealt a heavy blow to Hong Kong and overwhelmed the city’s capacity of handling. Patients are having to wait longer to access isolation facilities. The situation is highly undesirable and the government feels worried and sorry about it.”

Embed from Getty Images

China has stated that it will be helping Hong Kong with testing, treatment, quarantine efforts, and securing resources like rapid antigen tests and protective gear for healthcare workers. 

Deaths in Hong Kong have remained low, especially when compared to the impact of the virus on the city when the pandemic first began. However, at the rate they’re going now, Hong Kong is expecting up to 28,000 new cases to appear by the end of March. 

Hospital beds for Covid-19 patients are currently at 90% occupancy, according to the city’s Hospital Authority. Isolation facilities are also nearing full capacity, so the city is prioritizing elderly individuals and children who are in serious conditions.

According to the authorities, there are around 1,000 people waiting to be hospitalized currently. Hong Kong in general has experienced about 24,000 infections and more than 200 deaths since the pandemic first began, which proportionately is less than many other small major cities. 

Embed from Getty Images

Lam said authorities would “spare no effort to implement the dynamic zero coronavirus infection strategy in Hong Kong, which, like mainland China, seeks to curb outbreaks as soon as they occur, in contrast with many other places that are trying to live with COVID.”

Currently residents of Hong Kong are banned from attending public gatherings of more than two people, while public locations like schools, churches, and gyms are shut down. Dining in restaurants is banned after 6 p.m. and most individuals are working remotely. 

Strict flight restrictions have been in place for two years now, making Hong Kong one of the world’s most isolated major cities. 

The city’s Legislative Council is set to discuss putting $27 billion HK ($3.46 billion in America) into an anti-epidemic fund which would support businesses and individuals that have been economically impacted by the pandemic and the strict social distancing measures that have been in place.

Mid-Autumn Festival

Rising Covid-19 Concerns Appear In China As Nation Gears Up For Mid-Autumn Festival

With the arrival of the month of October comes the widely celebrated Mid-Autumn festival in Asia. On October 1st, hundreds of millions of individuals are expected to flood public transportation in what’s known as one of the busiest travel times in the world’s most populated country. The eight-day festival marks China’s first major holiday celebration since the coronavirus pandemic began. 

While life in China has almost completely returned to normalcy in terms of the pandemic, this week will be a true test to how successful they were at taming the virus/will continue to keep case numbers down. The festival, however, is projected to bring in a lot of money, as it does every year, which would be a great boost for China’s dwindling economy. 

Embed from Getty Images

Last year 782 million domestic trips were made during the festival week in China, which generated around $95 billion in tourism revenue. This year, the ministry of culture and tourism in China is projecting 550 million domestic trips, while China’s largest online travel agency, Ctrip, is predicting the number to be more around 600 million. 

The thought of that many individuals moving within such a short time period seems unfathomable for most citizens across the world also still battling this virus. But in China, the virus is less of a concern for the holiday week, as the nation has had close to zero local transmissions and has continued to implement some of the world’s strictest border control measures for international travelers. 

While Wuhan, China acted as the initial epicenter for Covid-19, the country has since been able to contain the virus and has only dealt with smaller-scaled outbreaks that occasionally would flare up. There haven’t been any locally transmitted symptomatic cases since mid-August, and any individuals coming into China from overseas have to go through a vigorous screening process.

Embed from Getty Images

China’s overall restrictions on domestic movement have for the most part been able to lift. Some cities are requiring their citizens to show a green health code on their smartphones at certain public transportation facilities, but the implementation of that policy has been relatively relaxed as of late. International leaders view this week’s festivities as a sign of China’s confidence, especially considering they’ve been one of the countries most on top of enforcing their health and safety measures. 

The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention released a statement last week in which they claimed all domestic travel for the country can be arranged as normal for the upcoming holiday week, as long as all cities in mainland China maintain their low risk status. Travelers are still encouraged to protect themselves with facial coverings and social distancing.

China’s Culture and Tourism Ministry has also ordered prominent tourist sites to restrict capacity to 75% during the festival week, and to better facilitate potential contact tracing efforts in the future, all visitors are required to register which sites they’re going to visit online before being granted entry. 

While the Mid-Autumn Festival typically sees a massive spike in international travel among various celebrating Asian countries, this year all overseas trips will likely be impossible due to border restrictions heavily being enforced within most Asian countries. On major Chinese highways it’s expected that massive traffic jams will be occurring as they do every year, as it’s predicted that an average of 51 million highway trips happen per day during the week-long festival. 

Harvest Moon Festival

How To Join In On Mid-Autumn Harvest Moon Festivals This Year

Every year the first full moon that occurs closest to the autumnal equinox is recognized as the Harvest Moon, and is widely celebrated across the world as one of the biggest lunar events of the year. The autumnal equinox in general is significant for many cultures around the world. In many Asian countries it’s believed that the full moon is the brightest during the Mid-Autumn Festival, which is celebrated with a variety of customs and traditions. 

Traditionally, the Mid-autumn festival is observed in China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines. It’s celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month, which usually falls in mid-September or early October. This year, the full moon is projected to occur on October 1st, here’s how some of these countries will be celebrating:

Embed from Getty Images

Festival customs vary based on country, like any holiday celebration. All generally focus on family gatherings, special foods, lanterns, and offerings to the moon. In Taiwan, for example, the event is a national holiday and involves eating mooncakes and pomelo. The food traditions on this night are just as important as turkey on Thanksgiving or a ham on Christmas. 

In South Korea the celebrations last for three days to give everyone enough time to reconnect with their families and friends; normally people come back to South Korea from all over the world to celebrate the festival. In Vietnam the event is called the “Children’s Festival” and involves kids carrying lanterns while they watch traditional lion dances and enjoy some homemade mooncakes. 

Mooncakes are another generally accepted traditional element of the Mid-Autumn festival. People either give them to their loved ones as gifts, make them for family gatherings, or donate to local organizations. The cakes are meant to represent the full moon, and are traditionally filled with either bean paste, egg yolk, truffles, chocolate, or even ice cream. 

Embed from Getty Images

The legend of the festival involves a hero named Hou Yi, who single handedly shot down nine of the ten suns that were overheating the earth. As a reward, the Goddess of the Heavens gave him a special elixir that would enable him to become a god himself. Hou Yi’s wife, however, was forced to drink the elixir one day after an evil man tried to steal it from them. She then flew up to the moon along with her rabbit, so in a fit of heartbreak Hou Yi placed his wife’s favorite foods on his table every year on the day of the fullest moon, hoping she would return to him. 

Now, Netflix is even getting involved in the festivities with the release of “Over the Moon,” a computer animated musical that’s based on the legend behind the festival. The musical will follow a young girl named Fei Fei, who’s coping with the loss of her mother and becomes enthused to learn about the legend of the Moon Goddess. 

Lady M is a very prominent mooncake maker and recently announced a collaboration with Netflix and Pearl Studios – the studio producing “Over the Moon” – to celebrate the film and upcoming event. The artist created a limited-edition lantern that actually glows to highlight its opulent gold and emerald accents. If you click a button the Moon goddess and other mythical creatures will appear as well. The lantern also comes with six different moon cake variations to keep with tradition.

Colorful Music

Ambient Music-Maker John Hassell On Embracing The Sounds Of The World

John Hassell was both in Memphis, Tennessee. The 83-year-old ambient musician has been praised over the years from other artists such as Bono, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Björk, and countless others.

Positive COVID-19 Test

New Covid-19 Cases In China Spark Concerns For A Second-Wave

Coronavirus flare-ups in China and South Korea are prompting worldwide fears of a second-wave of the virus, especially considering China was one of the first countries to enact lockdown policies to fully flatten the curve. These new cases appearing in parts of Asia that have already almost fully recovered from the virus has other countries reconsidering reopening. To catch new infections and further trace the source of the virus, China is continuing to test its millions of residents. South Korea has also done the same and dispatched thousands of officers to help with the contact tracing. 

Other parts of Asia, such as Russia, are still coping with their first-wave of the virus. Russia specifically is still experiencing 10,000 new cases every day, making them the country with the second-highest number of confirmed infections worldwide; trailing the US which is the most infected. 

Embed from Getty Images

Wuhan, China, where the virus is believed to originate from, is also mandating every resident gets tested again amid new cases appearing in China. Over the next 10 days authorities in China will be testing the 11 million Wuhan residents, which is a direct response to six new coronavirus cases appearing in the city. 

The reason they’re mandating such a heavy response to six cases is because those were the first new cases to appear after 35 days; Wuhan lifted their 76-day lockdown on April 8th. In South Korea authorities are also demanding that all clubs and bars in the capital city of Seoul close down again after more than 100 new cases appeared that were traced back to the establishments. In Seoul specifically more than 8,000 police have been deployed to assist with contact tracing over 11,000 residents. 

“If the government of Korea hadn’t done this, then there would be 119 people out there infecting other people. So that actually gets to the point of tracing people,” explained Dr. Jerome Kim, a leading epidemiologist in the country. 

Embed from Getty Images

Back in Russia, healthcare professionals are coping with a hospital fire tragedy that killed four patients being treated for the coronavirus. This is the second fire to take place in a Russian hospital that’s been linked to faulty ventilator machines. President Vladimir Putin’s main spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, has also recently been hospitalized amid suspicion that he was also infected. Peskov is just one of many men in Putin’s inner circle who have tested positive after working in close-contact with the president. 

Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, is confident that “ the country is on a steady path to ending its epidemic. [Our] government may lift the national state of emergency for much of the country as soon as Thursday — more than two weeks earlier than the current May 31 expiry date.”

Tokyo is likely to remain under emergency declaration, especially considering all of the international workers/individuals who have been flying in and out of the city before this pandemic to plan the 2020 Summer Olympics. For now, like most aspects of this pandemic, only time will tell how much worse it’s going to get in Asia, and how much we should use their experiences to better ourselves as a country.

Eifel Tower

2019’s Most Popular Travel Destinations

2019 was a huge year for international travel. UK based market research company Euromonitor International recently measured and listed the top 100 travel destinations people visited within the past year, and some of the results may surprise you. While Hong Kong has been making major world news headlines due to its political unrest and civilian protests, it remained the number one travel destination for 2019. So much so that Euromonitor reports that by the time the month is up the city will have been visited by 26 million travelers this year alone. The protests have led to an 8.7% decline compared to last year’s stats; however, that didn’t stop the metropolitan city from being at the top of the list.

The decrease in travel isn’t isolated to just Hong Kong. Over-tourism and tourist misconduct has become a growing issue, and has already lead to a lot of restrictive travel policies, especially in Europe. Europe and Asia are the two continents that typically take over Euromonitor’s list every year. However, this year due to a combination of the stricter tourism policies in Europe and an increase in Chinese tourists travelling to other countries within the continent, Asia has dominated the entirety of the list, but Europe and some spots in America are also mixed in there. 

Embed from Getty Images

Hong Kong

Euromonitor reports that Asia had the fastest growth in international traveler arrivals. This is also most likely due to the extreme size of Asia and the many different cultures and countries available for travel lovers to go to. Bangkok and London took the second and third spot on the list; Euromonitor is able to measure all of this information by pulling airline data and marking the parts that show international travelers who spend over 24 hours in their destination. This year, they measured travelers who went to over 400 different cities. 

Since the company uses airline data, international travel via cruise ship or any other possible mode of transportation is not taken into account. The reports for 2019 indicated that Asia was the most popular destination for tourists this year, followed by Europe, the Americas, the Middle East and Africa. The reports also predict that European travel is on a relatively steady decline, and Singapore, which took spot number 5 on the list, is the travel destination that will likely gain the most popularity in 2020. Singapore offers a very authentic and engaging tourism market that allows travelers to fully engulf themselves in their culture and beautiful landscapes, which is why it increased in popularity by almost 6% this year. 

Embed from Getty Images

Bangkok, Thailand

Euromonitor also reports that in general, tourism is down, and a lot of it has to do with travelers wanting a more “localized” experience. 

“They are proving popular as travelers seek newer, more localized experiences and less crowded locations. The popularity and increased number of low-cost carriers to these destinations has also favored the growth of previously less explored destinations,” says Euromonitor

This is mostly in regards to European travelers, and their desire to branch out more within their own continent. Travelling from country to country is a lot easier in Europe, as there are many forms of public transportation that go all over the continent. It’s for this reason that a majority of European tourists are mainly remaining in Europe, or going “across the pond” to scratch their traveler’s itch. Below is the top 20 list of top travel destinations based on collective data from 2018 and 2019, according to CNN

Euromonitor’s Top 20 Cities:

1. Hong Kong
2. Bangkok, Thailand
3. London, England
4. Macau
5. Singapore
6. Paris, France
7. Dubai, United Arab Emirates
8. New York City, USA
9. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
10. Istanbul, Turkey
11. Delhi, India
12. Antalya, Turkey
13. Shenzhen, China
14. Mumbai, India
15. Phuket, Thailand
16. Rome, Italy
17. Tokyo, Japan
18. Pattaya, Thailand
19. Taipei, Taiwan
20. Mecca, Saudi Arabia
Passenger Vessel

Expedition Cruising Predicted To Reach All Time High

Demand for expedition cruises is set to reach an all time high, as reports reveal that 28 new expedition ships will be launched by the end of 2022.

Gone are the days where cruises consistent of retired, older passengers looking for opportunities to socialize with others and enjoy their later years. Cruising has now become the preferred travel experience by passengers of all ages, including solo travellers, families and those looking for extreme explorations.

Despite many associating cruising with the summertime, winter cruises continue to be extremely popular, with certain destinations lending themselves well to the temperatures at this time of year.

Tapping into the growing demand for winter destinations, expedition cruise company Exclusive Expeditions recently released a list of the best winter expedition cruise destinations. Here are their top three:

Embed from Getty Images

Indian Ocean:

The Indian Ocean is surrounded by Asia to the North, Africa to the West, and Australia to the East, and is home to the idyllic settings of tropical paradise islands, animals and adventure that many travelers dream of, boasting sunshine all year round and still obtaining desirable temperatures compared to the winter months in the UK. The beautiful islands of the Seychelles will offer temperatures from between 25 to 30 degrees Celsius in the month of December and combined with golden sands and warm crystal waters make for the perfect escape from the grey skies back home. The island of Mauritius has always been a favorite of many travelers, with the opportunity to explore the archipelago of 16 islands, and offering the chance to experience some of the world’s most beautiful wildlife and plants first hand at the Black River Gorges National Park. Also just off the coasts of Africa, the island of Madagascar boasts 3 UNESCO World Heritage sites to visit, national parks, picturesque landscapes for hiking, endless wildlife and forests. You can also take time to relax on their white sandy beaches and venture to the capital of Antananarivo offering shopping and dining aplenty.

The warmer temperatures of the Indian Ocean are home to several species of sharks, dolphins and porpoises and will be great for spotting from the decks of your cabin. Moving further across the ocean, the luxury islands of the Maldives are never set to disappoint. Sri Lanka also has a lot to offer with beautiful hiking trails and waterfalls as well as glorious beaches providing the perfect waves for all levels of surfing. With 8 UNESCO World Heritage sites, Sri Lanka is rich in history and culture.

African plains:

If you are looking to escape the cold and dull setting of winter, Africa will not disappoint. The South West of Africa on the banks of the Indian Ocean are set to bring warm temperatures all year round and an array of settings to explore the African cultures and animals. The Serengeti, also home to the Serengeti National Park where you will find an abundance of some of the most magnificent animal’s people dream to see in real life including Lions, elephants, rhinos and giraffes. Kruger National Park features various Game Reserve, safari and lodges and camping facilities to fulfill your safari experience. Cities such as Cape Town and Johannesburg will bring an abundance of culture and entertainment.

Embed from Getty Images

The Arctic Circle/Polar regions:

Whilst many wish to jet off to find some winter sun, for many people adventure can be found in the snowy terrains. With the scale of the arctic circle incomprehensible for some, combining 8 different sovereign states there will be a full itinerary for keen explorers. Follow in the footsteps in the route of many famous travelers through the northwest passage through Canada’s archipelago and locations such as North Cape, the northernmost point in Europe is always a tourist point.

Arctic cruises provide the ability to showcase the brilliance of the arctic circle. Photographic opportunities aplenty, the mountainous and icy blue waters are the perfect environment to wrap up and spot native wildlife including whales, polar bears and walrus. And of course why not designate a stop to the North Pole making sure to visit Lapland over Christmas.

Set to embark on an expedition lit by 24-hour sunshine, known as the midnight sun and the polar nights of the winter with the sun not rising, this time of year is a true sensation. The Northern Lights more commonly known as the Aurora Borealis can be spotted through August to April due to the nights having darkness in them, in the northern polar latitudes of Alaska, northern Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Siberia. A cruise of the Arctic Circle enables a taster of all the countries and archipelagos making up this region, seeing their beauty from the water.