Phuket Gazette - March 10, 2014 | 12:13 PM
PHUKET: There always comes a time when you need a time-out. An inaudible beckoning call comes out of the ether when the pressure and daily grind of work, home life and the day-to-day routine wear on you and you just have to escape.
Escaping can be a chore in and of itself and you might find yourself in search of a hint or cue as to where to go and what to do. Being based out of Phuket can make it tricky, not for lack of amazing places to go, but on the contrary, we are surrounded by destinations that many only see on their bucket lists.
Low-cost airline, Hong Kong Express has recently provided a cue by launching nine weekly flights from Phuket to Hong Kong. Having initiated these new flights on October 28, 2013, the direct flights offer a strong incentive to escape Phuket and explore what Hong Kong has to offer. After all, with HK Express offering round trip tickets at just over 7,500 baht with tax included, that beckoning call just got easier to answer.
So, you just had a smooth flight to Hong Kong, now what? Taking a peek back in time to the ancient culture of Hong Kong with a visit to the Che Kung Temple should make it onto every savvy travellers’ list. The temple was originally constructed about 300 years ago as a desperate attempt to stop a spreading epidemic. The temple paid homage to 13th century military commander Che Kung, who is said to have had an innate ability to curb rebellion and prevent plagues.
Many are familiar with the wise saying, “all that glitters is not gold”. However, within the world-renowned jewelry factories in Hong Kong, that glitter actually is gold... and a myriad of other precious metals and stones. The factories are certainly worth a visit but be prepared to lust after some beautiful pieces.
A trip to Hong Kong wouldn’t be complete without getting a bird’s eye view, from above. The 5.7km long Lantau cable car leads you out of the city on a 25 minute aerial journey across Tung Chung bay with sweeping views of the Ngong Ping plateau. You even have the option of reserving a standard car to have the experience all to yourself or the “crystal” car which sports a glass bottom for those who aren’t afraid of heights.
Don't let your adventure stop in Hong Kong though. Take advantage of the fact that HK Express has also added 11 return flights a week to their itinerary servicing Hong Kong to Osaka for about 11,175 baht. Although if you are coming from Phuket you must make a connection, it is immediate so there is no waiting around.
Osaka is a vibrant city of over 2.5 million people located at the mouth of the Yodo River which empties into Osaka Bay. It is the third largest city in Japan steeped in a rich history and lively culture and there are practically never-ending opportunities for visitors to indulge in.
The idyllic Osaka Castle and surrounding 60,000sqm grounds are home to luscious gardens filled with plum groves and cherry blossoms. Built in 1583, the castle sports four turrets, is surrounded by moats and doubles as a museum. If you happen to be visiting the castle in winter you can also catch a two hour “3-D mapping and super illumination” light show in one of the castle’s gardens.
Speaking of Osaka Castle, for a commanding view of it directly out the window of your room, book a stay at the New Otani Hotel. If this massive hotel doesn’t offer it, you probably don’t need it. There are 13 restaurants and bars to choose from serving Japanese, Chinese and Western foods as well as a patisserie to satiate your sweet tooth.
The world-class facilities include an outdoor pool, fitness club, massage and business center not to mention the host shops to peruse such as a beauty parlor, cigar shop and florist.
Children and adults alike will enjoy the Kaiyukan Aquarium at the Tempozan Harbor Village. One of the largest aquariums in the world, the Kaiyukan takes visitors through 18 exhibits themed after various natural environments around the Pacific Ocean. The four seasons of the Japanese forest, the penguins of Antarctica and the loggerhead turtles of the Cook Strait are just a few of the recreated wonders.
You can find a little style from the west in the east at Universal Studios Japan. Take a spin on some Hollywood rides like Back To the Future, Jurassic Park and Jaws and enjoy a dazzling show such as Magical Starlight Parade, Waterworld and Backdraft.
Change your perspective by hopping on the relaxing “aqua bus” for a scenic boat tour on the Okawa river and maybe get off to stretch your legs at the Yodoyabashi bridge where you get a sweeping view of metropolitan Osaka.
For a stunning example of serene Japanese form and cultural history, explore the 3rd century Sumiyoshi Taisha temple. Showcasing a pure Japanese architectural style called Sumiyoshi-zukuri, which is said to be uninfluenced from mainland Asia, the shrine represents the gods who protect fishermen, sailors and travellers.
Once you have left the tranquility of the Sumiyoshi Taisha temple, initiate yourself back into the 21st century with a visit to Grand Front Osaka, where garden greenery meets high-tech architecture, shopping, entertainment and learning. You will find three towers which hold 266 shops and restaurants, the 272 room Intercontinental Osaka hotel and the Knowledge Capital a place dedicated for people to check out exhibits of the latest technologies, glimpse what the future of corporations and universities might look like and enjoy stage performances and business seminars at the knowledge theater.
With the new promotions from HK Express and endless activities and entertainment options in Hong Kong and Osaka, there has never been a better time to escape.
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