Japan: Experience a Traditional Tea Ceremony in Osaka

Osaka is Japan’s second largest city and the birthplace of the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. Maikoya, a former geisha house, hosts professionally taught introductions to this ancient cultural pastime.

Visitors, sitting on tatami mats, wear authentic kimono robes and learn to make the unique green match tea. Japanese sweets, specially made to complement the flavour of the tea, are served during the ceremony.

Taught in English by a Japanese Tea Master, the ceremony lasts around an hour. Guests can choose to experience the ritual in a group setting or pay more for a private lesson.

The artistic form of this ritual, from adopting the correct posture to learning how to pour and sip the tea, requires focus and concentration. It is a contemplative process, with periods of silence as the tea steeps, settling the mind into a zen-like calm.

Maikoya is a cultural hub, intent on preserving and educating people on Japanese culture. The six-storied traditional building, complete with rickshaw outside, was once home to Osaka geisha who were highly trained in the arts and conversation. Calligraphy tools and artwork decorate the space, giving a taster of the the Samurai tradition which is so integral to Japanese culture.

For further information see Maikoya.

Prana by Atzaro: Indonesian Island-Hop on the Ultimate Phinisi Super-Yacht

Owned by Atzaro, the luxe Ibizan hospitality group, this stunning Phinisi super-yacht is the largest of its kind in the world. Voyages explore the remote Indonesian Coral Triangle, following the trade winds to some of the world’s most inaccessible and dreamy islands.

Prana Indonesia map
Indonesia

Designed to reflect the ancient Indonesian double-masted Phinisi sailing vessels, this 180-foot ship is entirely handmade from ironwood and teak according to traditional methods.

Prana overhead
Prana

Beyond this authentic backdrop Prana gives way to pure luxury. Nine beautiful suites, with en-suite bathrooms and deluxe furnishings, are carefully placed across four decks ensuring privacy and wonderful sea views from floor-to -ceiling windows.

A Prana Suite
A Prana Suite

Daily sun salutations on the yoga deck start the day followed by an outdoor breakfast and a leisurely rest on one of the sumptuous day beds; perfectly placed to watch the aquamarine waters of the Indian Ocean drift by.

Prana yoga
Morning Yoga

Days are as active or restful as you like. A range of water sports and spa treatments are offered on board as well as carefully curated shore-based adventures.

Relax on deck
Relax on Deck

During May to October, Prana visits the Komodo National Park. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to the famous ‘dragons’, stunning pink beaches and pristine waters. If you seek adventure, the ship’s resident dive expert hosts specialist diving trips to explore the protected reefs.

Komodo National Park
Komodo National Park

In the shoulder seasons of autumn and spring, Prana traverses the remote Banda Islands. Famously part of the colonial spice trade, this heavenly part of the world is rich in myth and legend. Dominated by the grand Mount Api, the landscape gives way to virgin rainforest, white-sandy beaches and coral cliffs plunging deep into an ocean brimming with marine life.

Prana Spice Islands
The Banda Islands

The islands of Raja Ampat are Prana’s destination from December until April. Nestled in the heart of the Coral Triangle, these lost islands are home to prehistoric caves, hidden lagoons, forgotten tribes and some of the best diving in the world. There are ten times the number of hard coral species here as found in the Caribbean.

Diving the Reefs
Diving the Reefs

Prana is quite simply a haven after such exhilarating days ashore. Chefs prepare the very finest regional dishes served either under the stars, in the elegant lounge or on a deserted island beach. Old and new wines complement the cuisine along with a collection of carefully chosen cocktails, beers and spirits. After dinner the open-air cinema beckons or simply an early night to the sound of gently lapping waves.

Prana sunset
Sunset on Prana

What we like ….

  • guided access to remote areas of the world
  • a perfect balance of nurturing rest and adventure
  • a unique private charter

www.pranabyatzaro.com

Photos courtesy of Atzaro

 

 

Best River Cruise: Mekong River with Scenic

Scenic Spirit Mekong River Cruise
Scenic Spirit

The Nine Dragons River flows 2,700 miles from the snowy Tibetan Plateau through China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam where it disappears into the South China Sea.

Scenic Spirit Mekong River
Mekong River

As one of Asia’s least developed waterways, the Mekong is abundant in wildlife, history and culture. With a biodiversity second only to the Amazon, this precious river is the lifeblood of South East Asia. It is also a place of stark contrasts; bustling cities and rural river towns, royalty and poverty, ancient sacred sites and POW camps.

Scenic River Cruise Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat

Scenic cruises the Mekong river on the luxurious Scenic Spirit. The 13-day Treasures of the Mekong uncovers the best of Cambodia and Vietnam, taking guests to the spectacular ruins of 12th century Angkor Wat, the ancient hilltop monastery of Wat Hanchey where monks offer their blessing, the Royal Palace, the Killing Fields, lively local markets and Ho Chi Min City. Ox carts, rickshaws, sampans and tuk tuks take guests from place to place.

mekong river girl
Mekong River

A Mekong river cruise is an adventure and experience to embark upon sooner rather than later. With China’s dam crisis, environmental concerns and inevitable economic development the Mekong is sure to change over time, perhaps losing some of its authenticity and charm along the way. A journey to this part of the world will likely present challenges for most visitors as local people still bear the scars of war despite their cheerful and welcoming faces. However, there are opportunities for visitors to support local communities and pay respect to their fascinating way of life.

Scenic Spirit Lounge
Spirit Lounge

The Scenic Spirit, introduced in 2016, is an ultra-luxurious ship with 34 balcony suites which, at the gentle press of a button, smoothly convert into a Scenic Sun Lounge by seamlessly sliding away the window glass.

Scenic Spirit Deluxe
Deluxe Room

Each suite has a personal butler and service follows a 1:1 guest-to-staff ratio. The ship itself is tasteful and in harmony with the Asian surroundings. Facilities include a pool, sauna, bar and open-air cinema.

Scenic Spirit Sun Deck
Sun Deck

Custom designed for the Mekong, the Scenic Spirit emulates the cruise line’s high standards in Europe, replicating the style and service they are known for. The all-inclusive fares are comprehensive with everything included – even port charges, bottled water for excursions, Wi-Fi and tips.

www.scenic.com.au

Photos courtesy of Scenic

 

Asia

 

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Asia is an intriguing land of paradox; a blend of old and new, wealth and poverty, noise and silence. Ultra-modern cities, spiked with towering glassy skyscrapers, are populated by millions and alive with technology. In contrast, in the countryside, ancient temples stand beside tea plantations and rice fields in a place where tradition and spirituality are the cornerstones of life. The region is filled with interest from pristine beaches to bustling markets, mangrove forests and bullet trains.

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South East Asia cruises often visit the busy urban centres of Singapore and Hong Kong with further stops in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. November to March is considered the optimal time for these voyages where guests can expect to see the white sands of Thailand’s Koh Samui, magnificent limestone formations at Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Borneo’s orangutans, Komodo dragons in Indonesia and the Shwedagon Pagoda of Thilawa (Rangoon). Seabourn Sojourn accesses many of these sites in a range of ultra-luxury Asia cruises.

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East Asia is growing exponentially as a cruise destination. China, Japan and South Korea are the main destinations on a journey to this part of the world, best taken in the winter to avoid scorching temperatures and the rainy season. Visitors can expect to see The Great Wall of China, the poignant city of Hiroshima in Japan, Kyoto’s Golden Pavillion, the energetic metropolis of Shanghai and embark on a scenic cruise the Yellow Sea. Silver Shadow brings together many of East Asia’s sights in one effortless itinerary, as does Crystal Symphony.

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River cruising is also capitalising on the global interest in Asia as a tourist destination and is particularly well placed to access many of the regions most fascinating sites. Lindblad Expeditions ventures along the Mekong River in the new 48-guest riverboat Jahan, exploring the world’s largest religious monument, Angkor Wat, the Choeung Ek ‘Killing Fields’, Saigon and many small villages and colourful markets. Viking River Cruises also extend into China, taking in The Great Wall, Xian’s Terra Cotta Army and a scenic cruise of the Yangtze River.

Jahan provides the perfect way to explore the Mekong River.

Photos courtesy of Silversea, Crystal and Lindblad