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Books can take you to new and exciting places—completely new worlds, even. This World Book Day (23 April 2019), let Lifestyle+Travel and Agoda take you on a literary journey like no other. On your next holiday, trace the roots of some of your favorite authors by stopping by their hometowns—some of which have inspired their most seminal works. Here are some must-visit spots for book-lovers roaming around Asia… Kobe, Japan Literary Hero: Haruki Murakami Notable works: “Kafka on the Shore” and “1Q84” available from Shinchosha Must-see attractions: Ikuta Shrine, Arima Onsen, Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge Murakami grew up in Kobe, where a few of his stories, such as his debut novel “Hear the Wind Sing”, are set. Murakami’s works have surrealist elements, often with melancholic themes which in some ways, is reflective of the quiet beauty to be found in the many serene shrines and breathtaking nature scenery in the small seaside city. Internalize the relaxing minimalist side of Kobe when you stay at Arimakoyado Hataya Ryokan. Camarines Norte, Philippines Literary Hero: Ricky Lee Notable works: “Para kay B” available from Philippine Writers' Studio Foundation Must-see attractions: Calaguas Islands, Apuao Grande Island, Bagasbas Beach More than his novel “Para kay B,” Ricky Lee’s body of work encompasses screenwriting and playwriting. He has worked with revered Filipino directors like Lino Brocka and Ishmael Bernal and has even published a screenplay manual called “Trip to Quiapo” which has since been a staple resource for communication colleges in the Philippines. Visit Lee’s hometown of Camarines Norte in the central Bicol region of the Philippines and enjoy its beautiful beaches like those on Apuao Grande Island and the Calaguas group of islands. Keep comfy by making One Platinum Hotel your home base while in the area.   If you’re in the Americas, head to… New York, USA Literary Hero: Jenny Han Notable works: “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” available from Simon & Schuster Must-see attractions: Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, Broadway Though Han originally came from Virginia, her time in New York shaped her career as a young adult fiction writer. Book the cozy Jun New York Midtown III apartment, and feel right at home when you take a break from all of that sight-seeing.   Aracataca, Colombia Literary Hero: Gabriel García Márquez Notable works: “One Hundred Years of Solitude” available from HarperCollins, “Love in the Time of Cholera” available from Penguin Classics Must-see attractions: Casa Museo, Casa del Telegrafista   The municipality of Aracataca is built along the river of the same name and boasts Nobel Prize winner for literature Gabriel García Márquez as one of its sons. The village of Macondo in García Márquez's celebrated novel, “One Hundred Years of Solitude” is fashioned after Aracataca. Take a day trip out to explore García Márquez's reconstructed childhood home-turned-museum and the Casa del Telegrafista, then settle down at the charming Agoda Home in Parque Los Novios in the nearby city of Santa Marta, where you can also visit Colombia’s famous Tayrona National Natural Park. If you’re venturing to Europe, then consider visiting…  Edinburgh, Scotland Literary Hero: J.K. Rowling Notable works: The “Harry Potter” series available from Bloomsbury Must-see attractions: Edinburgh Castle, The Royal Botanic Gardens, Dynamic Earth, Underground Edinburgh, The Scotch Whisky Experience Potterheads, unite! While Rowling was born in Yates, England, it was during her time in Edinburgh that she

A train journey can be a special part of any Thai holiday for the scenery, history and the unique peaks of the kingdom. There are many route options and they roll into most parts of the country. Travelling by train in Thailand is also a great way to see the diverse countryside on your way to tourist areas. From Bangkok, you can ride for an hour or a little more to the ancient city of Ayutthaya, the seaside resort city of Hua Hin, to the “Death Railway” in Kanchanaburi, or visit Lop Buri and its unique history. Overnight trips from Bangkok to Chiang Mai in the North, Nong Khai or Ubon Ratchathani in the Northeast, or all the way south to Malaysia are memorable, too. Trains have a long history in Thailand with the first entering service in 1893. It ran the 21 kilometres from Bangkok to Samut Prakan, south of the capital near the coast. By 1960, most routes had been paved over to make room for Rama IV Road, but by that time many other routes had been established and now the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) operates more than 4,500 kilometres of track going to all four corners of the kingdom. Trains range from the luxurious Eastern and Oriental Express to the first-, second- and third-class trains. Third-class “hard seat” trains are actually a great way to travel in the daytime to watch the country roll past. The cars have open windows offering a breeze with a view and lets passengers hear the sounds of the countryside. Better still are the food hawkers who walk up and down the moving carriages selling local delicacies and cold drinks. It is a memorable way to experience Thailand. Second class offers more comfortable seats in air-conditioned carriages and sleepers (also air-con) with upper and lower berths along each side for a comfortable sleep as the train gently rolls along. First class have private rooms with sleepers for couples or individuals. Passengers can control the air-con and the room includes a hand basin for washing. If you are travelling to or from Malaysia or Lao PDR., you can leave or enter the country by train. Some of Thailand’s rail highlights include:   The “Death Railway” The “Death Railway” is what remains of the engineering marvel of the Burma-Siam Railway the Japanese Imperial Army built during World War II using prisoner-of-war and Asian forced labour. Conde Nast Traveller recently listed it as one of the 10 Best Train Journeys in the World. The 415-kilometre route claimed nearly 16,000 POW lives and perhaps as many as 100,000 Asian labourers from disease and overwork. Most of the old route is now closed, but the remaining two-and-a-half-hour trip from Kanchanaburi town to Namtok Sai Yok passes through beautiful tropical forests and along the wild Kwai Noi River. It is a serene and sometimes spectacular trip through a sombre past. The route includes passing over the River Kwai made famous in the 1957 Oscar-winning movie The Bridge on the River Kwai. There are two trains a day from the Thon

The Lanesborough is offering guests to London the opportunity to enjoy the world-famous RHS Chelsea Flower Show with access to the acclaimed chef Raymond Blanc’s 2019 Jardin Blanc, nestled deep in the grounds of one of the world’s most celebrated horticultural events. This year’s show runs from 21-25 May 2019 and this special experience offers guests the chance to be one of the first to see the show when it opens at 8am on 21 May, plus access to the exclusive members-only days. The timings and what’s included for each daytime and evening Jardin Blanc experience can be viewed in more detail here. The special Lanesborough experiences start from £1,325.00, and include one-night accommodation at The Lanesborough, one-way transfers and ticket entry to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and an incredible dining experience in the beautiful Jardin Blanc, with menus exclusively designed by Raymond Blanc.

Long in history, rich in beauty – each part of Sri Lanka has unique experiences to captivate. One of the top picks is definitely the Southern Province, indeed the Southern paradise, with infinite elixirs to shower holidaymakers with bliss. All journeys in Sri Lanka, doubtlessly, start in Colombo. The Sri Lankan capital is observably a “growing” city, with modern skyscrapers infiltrating antiquated colonial buildings, and other new constructions on the way. It is more a business hub than a destination for recreation; however, spending a night in Colombo is a good idea to really get to know modern Sri Lanka, especially in culinary and architectural scenes. I spend my first night at Fairway Colombo, and I hold dear how I can explore remarkable parts of the city on foot from here. My first meal in Sri Lanka occurs at the food arcade of the hotel, being eager to try the Sri Lankan tastes as soon as possible. After going out exploring, I am back to Fairway Colombo again for the rooftop dining. Botanik Bar & Bistro comes with both an indoor bistro and jazzy outdoor area, with live music playing. The atmosphere alone is pleasant, and as soon as the food is served, my mouth is completely pleased. Specialising in contemporary bistro-style fares, the Botanik kitchen crew does it right. I learn later that the menu is co-created by Sri Lanka’s first Michelin Star chef, Rishi Naleendra, using fresh, locally sourced ingredients. This is how dishes here are undoubtedly delectable. Actually, Colombo has a lot to offer to tourists as well – if only you know where to go. If you wish to delve into sacred architecture, then Colo mbo is the place, as beautiful Buddhist monasteries, Islamic mosques, Hindu temples, and Christian churches, all of them live together peacefully in the capital. You can also pay a visit to the “Number 11”, a residence in Colombo belonged to Geoffrey Bawa, the world famous architect, to witness his legacy. Please note that advance booking is required for visiting the house and an entrance fee applies. THE SOUTHERN PROVINCE’S MUSTS Unawatuna With in two hours from Colombo, I reach Cantaloupe Levels, my nigh t’s safe haven. Being a huge seafood fan, I unhesitantly order Parisian Jaffna Kool, a bowl of baby calamari, prawns, and baby crabs inside the broth filled with seafood bisque, followed by Prawn Linguine with pumpkin sauce. I am amazed by the tastiness of the soup, creaminess of the pumpkin, and the surprisingly huge prawn topped on the pasta. I later get a chance to learn the Sri Lankan culinary scene better, thanks to the hotel’s cooking class and special Ekamutu Platter (Sinhalese, Muslim, and Tamil cuisine in a nutshell!). Happily satiated, I look away from the table, only to see how cushy this place is. Unlike other hotels I’ve been to, the hotel is not vast and has no elevator, yet remains easefully fashionable. The lounging beds by the pool, overlooking the sun-dappled sea, are my favourite, as well as its being cosily mid-sized and the panoramic skyline

The Empire State Building (ESB) today announced that it will utilize two EarthCam video cameras to give fans around the world 24/7 access to footage of ESB and of the views from ESB via a livestream on www.empirestatebuilding.com . One camera is installed on the rooftop of One Grand Central Place, a property in the portfolio of Empire State Realty Trust, the company that owns and manages the Empire State Building. The EarthCam footage allows fans all over the world to view in real time the beloved ESB tower lightings, New York City sunsets, and the signature hourly sparkle effect that occurs daily for five minutes every hour between sunset and 2:00 a.m. Eastern Time. The second camera is installed on the south corner of ESB's 103rd floor and will capture the stunning views of New York City and beyond. Users will have the opportunity to view extreme weather conditions and even watch the sunrise from the heart of New York City. The two different viewpoints allow visitors to witness the World's Most Famous Building 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, and to enjoy a preview of the ESB Observatories' 360-degree panoramic views. Fans are encouraged to take advantage of the screenshot function provided by EarthCam and to share images on social media by tagging the Empire State Building in their posts.

Thai travellers increasingly experiencing cherry blossom season in a unique way by exploring off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods in Tokyo and by immersing themselves in sakura-themed Experiences in Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. The upcoming Cherry Blossom season (March – May) is one of the year's highlights and has helped to make Japan a firm favourite and one of the most popular global outbound destinations for Thai travelers today. Hot on the lips of travelers-in-the-know is Tokyo's Yanaka neighborhood which offers travelers the opportunity to immerse themselves in authentic Japanese culture, where traditional ways of life are still part of the neighborhood’s daily routine. Through this, Thai travellers are also supporting local, healthy tourism, helping diversify their spendings to smaller, local businesses. The area is known for Japanese sweets, tea and artisanal shops where craftsmen and shop owners take pride in making accoutrements for Kabuki actors and geishas who used to wander the neighborhood’s narrow alleyways. Springtime sees Yanaka Cemetery bursting with expansive cherry blossom trees, an alternative yet beautiful way to see these blooms in full force. Explore Yanaka and Kuramae town, a.k.a. the “Brooklyn of Tokyo,” while riding on "tokyobike". Explore the old and new sides of Tokyo on a bike as you cycle past small artisan workshops still in operation and factories that now house coffee shops and a chocolate factory. See Yanaka from the eyes of a local  while you stroll through a shopping street, looking at kitchen knives and sampling sweets like karinto and manju from traditional Japanese shops. Get lost in narrow labyrinthian streets, arrive at an old wall made of tiles and make a final stop at Yanaka Cemetery for a prime cherry blossom viewing opportunity. Learn about the history of wagashi (Japanese sweets) from the owner of a renowned wagashi shop. Complete the Experience with organic Japanese tea. Increase your Instagram followers and get more likes and comments by making instagramable cherry blossom maki sushi rolls.  Impress your friends back home with culinary skills of making cherry blossom Japanese sweets. Enjoy a scenic view of cherry blossoms in your private kayak and watch the world go by with Cherry blossom kayaking.

With spring around the corner, it means cherry blossom season is coming. Take this chance to spend some quality time with your loved ones beneath the beautifulsakura trees. While Japan and Washington, D.C. are the most famous places to enjoy cherry blossoms, it is possible to see these trademark pink flowers in other locales around the globe. Lifestyle+Travel and Agoda.com share some of the best across Asia, America and Europe to enjoy the age-old tradition of hanami, or “flower viewing” in Japanese. Jinhae, Changwon, South Korea The Jinhae Gunhangie Festival attracts roughly two million visitors a year. Historically a memorial service to commemorate Admiral Yi Sun-sin, it is now South Korea’s biggest spring festival. Enjoy the festival by taking a stroll down the picturesque Romance Bridge, where cherry blossoms canopy the Yeojwacheon Stream, and along Gyeonghwa Station where the trees line the railway track. The best time to visit is late March to April. Conveniently located within reach of the city’s must-see destinations, M-Stay Hotel Changwon is the ideal accommodation for travelers looking to stay busy throughout their trip. Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam It’s a little-known fact that Vietnam’s Hoa Island, located east of Dien Bien Phu in the middle of Pa Khoang Lake, is a goldmine for those seeking cherry blossoms. Did you know that Vietnamese scientist Dr Tran Le wandered up and down the country for the perfect place to plant the seeds, a gift from a Japanese friend? Stay with the family at the Hoang Anh Villa which features an outdoor pool and sun terrace for some quality hanami, or cherry blossom viewing, time. Washington D.C., America The three-week-long National Cherry Blossom Festival celebrates the dawn of spring while honoring both American and Japanese cultures. The 3,000 trees that can be seen here are a symbol of friendship between the two countries and were gifted by Tokyo’s then Mayor, Yukio Ozaki in 1912. Take in the sights of a sea of stunning cherry blossom trees at the Tidal Basin, and stay at The Wink Hotel Washington D.C. Located at the heart of the city, this hotel is perfect for travelers who want to make the most of all that the lively city has to offer. Edinburgh, Scotland Pack a picnic and head to The Meadows in Edinburgh. Once you’ve laid claim to one of the benches along the tree-lined paths, you can take a breather and soak in the pink-hued scenery outdoors. Plan to spend the day outdoors by taking along a blanket and your favorite novel. Stay at the Radisson Blu Edinburgh on the historic Royal Mile in the heart of Edinburgh. Recently renovated in 2015, the hotel is within walking distance to top tourist attractions, shopping areas and The Meadows. Paris, France Few places on earth are as romantic and picturesque as the beloved City of Lights. Every spring, neighborhoods and parks in the French capital are dotted with mesmerizing cherry blossoms. For prime viewing, take a stroll through Parc du Champ de Mars, set in the shadows of the world-renowned Eiffel Tower. Stay in ultimate luxury at the Park Hyatt Vendome Hotel located in the heart of Paris on the prestigious Rue de

From learning to make your own Thai herbal ball to meditating with a shaman, Airbnb guests are finding one-of-a-kind ways to increasingly prioritise wellness while traveling In 2018, international tourist arrivals reached 2020 projections two years ahead of schedule, with growth being driven by global trends such as wellness tourism. Wellness travel is worth US$639 billion globally and Airbnb have seen wellness related Experiences spike more than 500% from 2017 to 2018, globally, with notably strong growth among seniors (ages 60+) and Gen Z and millennials (ages 18-24) with more than 800% growth in both age groups. In Asia, cities experiencing the most significant growth in wellness Experiences are Bali, Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Bali tops the list for cities prospering with wellness Experience supply with more than 7,400% year-over-year growth*. Following closely after Bali, Thailand is one of the top 20 global destinations dedicated to providing a holistic and rejuvenating holiday and recently Thai authorities advocated that traditional Thai massage receive world cultural status. Thailand’s drive to become a ‘Wellness Hub’ were recognised in Travel Weekly UK’s Best Destinations in The World survey when Thailand was named number one for Best for Spa & Wellness in the world. As visitors to Thailand look for more authentic experiences and a healthier way of travel away from areas of over tourism, the popularity of wellness tourism is growing, evidenced by the growth of Thai massage and wellness Experiences on Airbnb, especially in urban centres such as Bangkok and Chiang Mai where travellers are looking for a more wellness-oriented travel experience. Airbnb Experiences also provide an opportunity for wellness entrepreneurs who are finding innovative ways to be part of the tourism economy, and sharing their knowledge of the cultural traditions behind Thai wellness with guests from around the world. “We are excited to support a new wave of entrepreneurs in the local community and as the travel industry continues to grow, Airbnb promotes local tourism that is authentic, diverse, inclusive, and sustainable. Our Airbnb hosts are creative entrepreneurs passionate about their local culture, and Airbnb Experiences are a great way to unleash economic opportunity for people to monetise their passions and talents. Our greatest assets are time and potential, and Experiences is a way to unlock that,” says Mike Orgill, General Manager of Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and Taiwan. For Kanokwan, she took over her mother’s massage centre after taking a business degree and wanted to find innovative ways to engage her customers and help them understand the Thai culture better. Her Airbnb Experience, Make your Own Thai Herbal Ball, lets her impart her knowledge around various infused oils and their properties as you learn to make your own Thai herbal ball. Guests will end the session with a herbal hot compress massage. “This type of hospitality is unique and can support the local people by providing another stream of income. I enjoy sharing about the ingredients and raw material we bring from local and made by local people,” she quips. In addition to Thailand’s popularity as a wellness destination, Airbnb

Whether you're a fan of butt-kicking blockbusters, love a good thriller or you're obsessed with romantic flicks, these 6 ‘reel’ travel locations will make you a superstar in a movie. Lifestyle+Travel, together with Agoda share the list of holiday ideas inspired by the past year’s blockbuster hits and award winners.   Mission Impossible: Fallout Queenstown, New Zealand   If you fancy playing action hero for a day or two, head to Queenstown, New Zealand, where Mission Impossible: Fallout filmed its helicopter action sequence. Take your own helicopter ride and indulge in New Zealand’s other extreme sports, from bungee jumping to heli-skiing.   Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom Oahu, Hawaii   If Sci Fi and the chance to run into dinosaurs in the modern world is more your thing, head to Oahu, Hawaii, the setting for Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom. Not only is it an excellent backdrop for extinct creatures, but also for travelers looking for a holiday full of sea, volcanoes, outdoor sports and lush nature.   Crazy Rich Asians Singapore   Crazy Rich Asians, the rom-com of the year, has travelers going crazy for Singapore. The film captured multiple locations across Singapore, from the famous Gardens by the Bay to the food hawker stalls at Newton Food Centre, which lends itself to a pretty full itinerary for travelers keen to explore the Lion City.   Black Panther Busan, Korea   Black Panther had its epic casino fight and car-chase scenes take place in Busan, Korea, a city that’s arguably more beautiful at night than during the day. Though the glamourous underground casino doesn’t exist in real life, you can pretend otherwise at one of Busan’s swanky cocktail lounges or nightclubs. During the day, check out Busan’s beaches, hot springs, temples, and shrines – local gems that didn’t make the cut for the film.   A Star is Born Los Angeles, California   The City of Angels was the backdrop for many of the scenes in this year’s remake of A Star is Born, the romantic drama about a seasoned country musician eclipsed by his rising star of a partner. Throughout the movie, many of its noteworthy concert scenes were shot across a number of Los Angeles venues, including the 5,870-seat music venue Greek Theatre, the cozy Regent Theatre, and the Shrine Auditorium, a landmark venue where multiple film and music award events have been held.   Bohemian Rhapsody London, UK   If your taste in music is more classic rock than country, this award-winning biographical film about one of the greatest rock bands of all time should be on your must-watch list. Bohemian Rhapsody is framed around the band’s Live Aid performance at Wembley Stadium. Home to England’s football, Wembley is also still one of the most popular venues for major artists to perform.   Source: Agoda