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Top 10 Things to do in Japan

26th March 2018

Steeped in history and a rich culture, Japan offers all sorts of wonderful places to see, and unique experiences waiting to be had. If you'll be visiting on an exciting Far East cruise, take a little inspiration from our top 10 things to do in Japan! [More]

What to Do in Singapore

14th September 2017

 

Singapore’s colourful history means a fusion of cultures have influenced the country, and made it the unique destination that it is today. Its ever-changing nature has caused it to appear something of a mystery to many people, and we think the best way to begin to uncover and understand it is to explore both the popular and the lesser known spots.

As a popular port of call on many cruise itineraries, Singapore is probably more reachable than many people realise. Whether stopping here during an Asia cruise for a few hours or a few days, when it comes to planning your stay, our list of top things to do is a great place to start.

1. Try a Singapore Sling at the Long Bar in Raffles Hotel

Raffles Hotel is a truly majestic hotel that dates back to 1887. It has hosted a plethora of historical figures including Charlie Chaplin and Rudyard Kipling, and is said to be the origin of gin-based cocktail, the Singapore Sling. The drink is thought to have been created in 1915, by a bar tender named Ngiam Tong Boon in the hotel’s Long Bar.

2. See some incredible animals

The Singapore Zoo is home to almost 3000 creatures, with everything from elephants, white tigers, and monkeys, to naked mole rats. Arguably one of the most ethical zoos in the world, the animals each have ample space, and the ability to roam free in some cases. For a more unusual experience, Singapore also boasts a Night Safari. This is a separate attraction to the zoo, and allows guests to see animals during the night while riding trams through the centre.

3. Eat local!

As a Southeast Asian country, Singapore can certainly compete with its neighbours when it comes to cuisine. There are so many choices ranging the whole culinary scale, from high end Michelin star restaurants to tiny carts selling street food – or hawker food as it’s known locally. You can even find the best of both worlds in Chinatown, with ‘Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle’ – a Michelin-starred street food vendor.

Our Commercial Manager Callum Buchanan feels that Singaporean food is really something special:

“Whenever I’m telling people about my time in Singapore the very first subject I talk about is the food. You’ll be blown away by the vast array of dining choices; I especially recommend ‘Mod Sin’ cuisine, simply meaning Modern Singaporean.”

4. See the Singapore Grand Prix

Combine your holiday with the Formula 1 racing schedule, and be a part of the brilliant experience that is the Singapore Grand Prix. With most activity taking place during the night, the atmosphere in the streets of Marina Bay is undoubtedly infectious and exciting. Find out more about the Singapore F1 Grand Prix and other F1 cruise holidays.

5. Stroll through stunning and tranquil gardens

Singapore Botanic Gardens has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status, and is home to hundreds of different species. Visitors will find a spectacular rainforest quarter, the National Orchid Garden, pretty sparkling lakes, and more. Or, Gardens by the Bay offers an altogether more futuristic space, boasting extraordinary features such an aerial walkway, modern sculptures, and technological tree-shaped gardens among others.

Callum rates Singapore very highly as a holiday destination:

“Singapore is such an amazing city full of culture and energy, and I guarantee you’ll leave Singapore richer in life and you’ll be planning your next visit before you have even left!”

Might this be the next destination for you? Find out more about Singapore cruises, and be sure to sign up for our new Asia brochure.


Discover sacred temples in Shanghai

6th October 2015

Any trip to the Far East is going to be a memorable one. The region can feel for many like a step into the unknown but the culture and customs are worth the trip alone.

Countries such as Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand have become popular amongst those wanting a taste of the Far East, whilst China also remains a great location for a holiday. It is not just the culture that keeps people coming back, it is the amazing architecture that populates these countries. Shanghai in particular boasts a host of historic temples.

The largest city by population in the world, Shanghai combines both the modern with the traditional. While the centre is home to some of the planet's biggest businesses, Shanghai stays true to its heritage with a large number of historic temples remaining nearby. With Iglu offering cruises to the Chinese city, why not check out some of these traditional places of spirituality? Here is our rundown of the best temples Shanghai has to offer.

shanghai temple

Jade Buddha Temple

By far the most famous temple in Shanghai, the Jade Buddha is an iconic image of the city. Founded in 1882, the structure draws from both the Pure Land and Chan traditions of Mahayana Buddhism. It is an intriguing place to stroll around and learn about the history of the temple while gazing upon the many statues.

In the Jade Buddha itself is the Chamber of Four Heavenly Kings, which contains images of Maitreya, Wei Tuo Bodhisattva and the Four Heavenly Kings. These figures represent favourable circumstance and good fortune.

There is also the Grand Hall which features the statues of the Three Golden Buddhas (Gautama Buddha, Amitabha and Bhaisajyaguru), the Gods of the Twenty Heavens which are covered in gold on the eastern and western sides of the Grand Hall and of course the 18 Arhats, statues of what the Buddhists consider to be "perfected people".

jade buddha temple shanghai

Jing'An Temple

Translated as the Temple of Peace and Tranquillity, the Jing'An Temple perfectly portrays modern day Shanghai. It can trace its history back to 247 AD but set against the backdrop of towering skyscrapers, it highlights the juxtaposition between the historic side of Shanghai and its now urban metropolis.

Built in the Wu Kingdom during the Three Kingdoms period of ancient China and having sat in the same location beside the Suzhou Creek since 1216, the features of the Jing'An Temple are simply remarkable.

It has three Southern-style main halls each with its own courtyard dating back to 1880. Among the main features is the Guanyin Hall, which is made out of camphor wood along, with paintings by master artists such as Chu Zhishan, Zhang Daqian and Wen Zhenming.

jing'an temple shanghai

Wen Miao

The Shanghai Wen Mao is one of the understated temples in Shanghai and is set away from the city centre. However, it is one of major spirituality and pays homage to Confucius, a legendary ancient Chinese philosopher who lived between 551 and 479 BC. It is similar to the original Temple of Confucius in his hometown Qufu but smaller in its stature.

Wen Miao was first founded during the Yuan Dynasty and quickly became the most prestigious learning institution in Shanghai, when it gained the status of a county. A visit is not complete without viewing the bizarre-shaped stones and wood and, of course, the Kuixing Pavilion which is situated in the western part of the compound.

chinese lanterns in shanghai

Chenghuang Miao

Moving back into the centre of Shanghai and Chenghuang Miao is another must when visiting the city's temples. Translated as The City God Temple, Chenghuang is dedicated to three city gods - Huo Guang, Qin Yubo and Chen Huacheng.

The former was a famous Han Dynasty chancellor and is known for overthrowing a young emperor and replacing him with another. Qin Yubo lived in Shanghai during the 12th and 13th centuries and served as the Imperial examiner for the Hongwu Emperor before his death in 1373.

Chen Huacheng was a Qing Dynasty general and helped to defend Shanghai from the British during the First Opium War.

The temple acts as a shrine to these city gods and is adjoined to the famous Yuyuan Garden.

Learn more with a river cruise to China, or for more information about cruising in this beautiful part of the world, sign up for our new Asia brochure.


Practical Guide to China

14th September 2015

With diverse cultural experiences on offer and a vast expanse of land, it is no wonder that many holidaymakers are heading to China.

The country is experiencing somewhat of a boom in tourism of late with international visitors soaring to 26.36 million last year. People flock from all corners of the globe to see iconic wonders such as the Great Wall of China and embrace the culture and customs of the Chinese way of life.

Many ocean and river cruises visit China with stop offs in cities such as Beijing, Xian, Fengdu and Shanghai, making for some incredible experiences. However, there are a few things you need to know before heading for the Far East, here is our practical guide to holidaying in China.

Getting in

Hong Kong Harbour

China is hugely accessible from the UK with flights leaving airports such as London Heathrow, London Gatwick, Manchester and Edinburgh among others. Airlines such as Air China, China Eastern, China Southern, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Hainan Airlines all offer direct services to reduce the need for transfers. Flight time from the UK is around ten and a half hours.

To enter China you must have both your passport and a visa, the latter can be obtained from a Chinese Embassy or Consulate prior to your trip.

Currency

China deals in the Chinese Yuan with the current exchange at 9.62 CNY to the pound.

What to see

If you are heading on an Iglu river cruise, the first destination is likely to be Shanghai. China's largest city combines modern architecture with the history and culture of the nation's past. Head down to the Jing'an District to see the famous Jing'an Temple, a Buddhist place of worship which has sat on the same the site since 1216. Literally meaning 'Temple of Peace and Tranquillity', the temple was originally built in the Wu Kingdom in 247 AD. It features the Hall of Heavenly Kings, Hall of the Three Saints and The Precious Hall of the Great Hero. Once inside you will be transported away from the urban metropolis in which it sits.

If you are visiting Shanghai for the first time then a trip to the Bund is an absolute must. From the Anglo-Indian term for muddy embankment, Bund was once considered to be the most important financial street in Asia and is filled with Western institutional banks and business buildings. A walk along will provide great views of Old Shanghai, a beautiful juxtaposition between classic and modern.

South of the Bund is Nanshi, the old town of Shanghai, which will give you a clear idea of what the city was like in generations gone by. These lively streets are filled with locals going about their daily business providing a real buzz around the place.

Make sure to visit the Zhujiajiao Water Town, a 400-year-old water village with a signature five-arch bridge spanning the Cao Gang River. This is an important place for local trade and goods being shipped up and down the river. It is a little way out from Shanghai itself but is well worth a visit and is connected via public transport.

 

Eat and drink

Chinese food

While Chinese food is attainable all over the world, there is nothing better than tasting the real deal. Different approaches and twists are taken on classics across the country but Shanghai food is characterised by some sweet and oily dishes. Pork is the meat of choice in the city and it is used in dumplings and bun fillings, as well as served in strips.

Arguably the most famous dish in Shanghai is xiaolongbao, small steamed buns served with a delicious broth and some form of meat inside. Before heading off on your cruise around China, be sure to try both xiefen shizitou, crab meat and pork meatballs, and Shanghai mao xie, the city's 'hairy crab'.

Across China food tends to be split into the Four Great Traditions - Jiangsu, Cantonese, Shandong and Sichuan. All of these display a different style of cooking, some of which you may be familiar with while others could be foreign concepts. There are other traditions such as Teochew, Guizhou, Hainan and Imperial, experience them all for a true culinary adventure.

When it comes to drinking, China loves a beer with Tsingtao remaining the nation's most popular brew. Grape wine is also popular in the nation with Suntime, Yizhu, Mogao Ice Win and Shangrila Estate widely available brands. For non-alcoholic beverages, you can't go wrong with authentic Chinese tea.

 

Stay safe

As with any major country across the globe, China's crime rate differs from place to place. While the larger cities are relatively safe, tourists should be aware of potential pickpockets at some of the popular attractions. It is always wise to bring a little extra money just in case of the unlikely event that something does happen.

Browse our Yangtze River cruise deals

Browse our Asia cruise deals, and sign up for our Asia brochure today.


Vietnam - Everything you need to know

25th August 2015

Southeast Asia is becoming a hugely popular destination for British holidaymakers.

Thailand and Singapore have typically become hotspots for the younger generation, Cambodia, Indonesia and Laos are favourites among backpackers, but there is one nation that has crossed over all different tastes - Vietnam.

From its stunning temples and pagodas to the glorious scenery around Sa Pa to cruising on the Mekong River, Vietnam is such a wonderful country to visit. So what do you need to know about this corner of Southeast Asia? Read on for our Vietnam fact file.

Hue Vietnam

The Country

Vietnam is situated on the furthest eastern point of the Indochina Peninsula and is bordered by China, Laos, Cambodia and shares a coastline of the South China Sea. It has a population of around 90 million with the Kinh people making up the majority of its ethnic demographic.

The country was originally part of Imperial China but became independent following victory against the Chinese in the Battle of Bach Dang River in AD 938. Over the years Vietnam has been occupied by the French and Japanese before expelling the former in the First Indochina War.

Following the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 both North and South Vietnam were reunited with Hanoi being named as the capital city. Nowadays it welcomes people from all over the globe as they visit historic Citadel in Hue, the Long Son Pagoda in Nha Trang and, of course, the mighty Mekong.

Mekong River

Customs and Tradition

The Vietnamese are hospitable, proud people and over 4,000 years of civilisation has developed a number of customs and traditions. One of which is to recite a myth which says they descended from the dragon lord Lac Long Quan and the female heavenly angel Au Co.

Such is their hospitality that should you be invited into their homes at meal times they will share whatever food is available. They are also prone to providing guests with the best portions as a gesture of close friendship. If you happen to be a visitor in their home you should come prepared with a gift.

Religion plays a huge part of Vietnamese culture with the majority of people in the country practising Vietnamese folk religion. This form is not an organised religious system but more local worship traditions devoted to the than, translated as spirits and gods.

Currency

Vietnam deals in the Vietnamese Dong with the current exchange rate having 33,654 dong to the pound.

Food

Vietnamese food is one of the huge plus points about visiting the region. This is quintessential Southeast Asian cooking and is a delicious treat when rounding a full day of sightseeing or river cruising.

Make sure to try Pho, a noodle soup which is a staple of Vietnam containing vegetables and either beef or chicken, Ca Kho To, a caramelised fish dish served in a clay pot, Banh xeo, a savoury sizzling or even Banh Cam, one of the most beloved desserts the country has to offer.

Rice Fields in Vietnam

Stay Safe

While Vietnam is a relatively safe place for tourists you need to be aware of thieves and pickpockets, especially at some of the nation's most famous sights. Areas such as Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Nha Trang are home to thieves who snatch handbags, mobile phones, cameras etc. Be sure to do your research as the country is susceptible to scamming so be careful when shopping and eating in places which don't have the price written down. Make sure you take some extra cash with you to cover for any unforeseen eventualities.

Sign up for our new Asia brochure for more information about cruising all over this exotic continent.

Experience Vietnam


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