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Archive for July, 2008|Monthly archive page

Introduction to Beijing Olympics 2008

In Asia Sport, Travel Tips on July 30, 2008 at 9:52 am

Beijing Olympics Logo

Beijing Olympics Logo

Every 4 years the world is treated to the ultimate test in athletic prowess and determination and 2008 is Beijing’s year to host the big show. This will mark the first time ever the Olympic Games will be held beyond the Great Wall.  The ‘2008 Beijing Olympics’ opening ceremonies kick off at the Beijing National Stadium on August 8th and are set to conclude on the 24th.

 

Beijing won the chance to host the 2008 games, back in 1998.  A surprise winner, Beijing wowed the Olympic Committee, with plans to create some of the most unique and awe inspiring buildings to help host the worldwide event, beating out strong bids from Toronto, Paris and Osaka.  The Chinese delivered on that promise, creating 12 brand new buildings to add to their 25 existing venues, set to house this year’s games.  The Beijing National Stadium and the Beijing National Aquatics Center are 2 that have received the most attention.  The Bird’s Nest (Beijing National Stadium) which will host all the track and field events, looks just like its moniker; a mishmash of steel and style, the stadium is an architectural marvel.  No less impressive (and right next door to the Bird’s Nest) is the Water Cube (Beijing National Aquatics Center) built for all the aquatic competitions.  Resembling a monstrous sponge, the architectural award-winning cube, lights up at night casting an eerie glow over Beijing.

 

In 1984, the Summer Olympic Games were held in Los Angeles and were remarkable for a number of reasons: Russia’s boycott of the games, incredibly tacky 80’s track suits, Carl Lewis’s winning 4 gold medals while sporting a terrible slanted hair cut, perky gymnast Mary Lou Retton becoming the belle of the games (and subsequent desire of advertising executives everywhere) and it also marked the first time the Chinese ever won an Olympic medal.   Xu Haifeng blasted her way to a gold medal in the 50m Pistol event.  Since then, China has been on a tear winning 112 gold, 94 silver, and 75 bronze medals, with the majority being awarded in diving, gymnastics and weightlifting.

 

As per usual, this year the United States and Russia are expected to haul a bunch of medals home.  With the 2008 version of the United States basketball “Dream Team” featuring Lebron James and Kobe Bryant, the race appears to be on for the silver and bronze.  Jamaica’s Asafa Powell is set to leave the Bird’s Nest track scorched.  The former world record holder in the 100m has been sending dust into the eyes of his competition lately, as he amps up for the games at various meets.  Ronaldinho and Lionel Messi lead their respective Brazil and Argentine football squads into the games, both with a legitimate shot at the gold.  However with all the well known stars competing, it’s the lesser-known athletes that seem to rise to the occasion during the Olympics, creating the drama and excitement of which is legend.

 

With the spotlight set squarely to shine and Beijing and all of China, it will be interesting to see how the rest of the world views the eastern power after the games. China, if you didn’t know, has had a somewhat stormy relationship with the rest of the world.  It’s technically still a communist country (but don’t tell Hong Kong that), it occasionally gets into trouble for human rights issues, and it really isn’t a world leader for environmental causes.  But recently, the intensely private Chinese government has started to show a different side.  In the wake of the terrible earthquake earlier this spring that killed thousands and left more injured and homeless, the world received a better look at the Chinese and how they treat their own.  How China and its 3 billion residents, will be perceived in the aftermath of the intense media focus the Olympic Games brings, is anyone’s guess. One thing for sure, it’s going to be a lot of fun to watch how everything unfolds.

Top 10 Golf Resorts in Southeast Asia: The Recommendations

In Asia Travel, Travel, Travel Tips on July 10, 2008 at 10:30 am

Asia is a Paradise for Golfers

Asia is a Paradise for Golfers

Greg Norman once said that “happiness is a long walk with a putter”, and for many a golf enthusiast that phrase drives true. Beyond the game itself, playing golf provides the opportunity for its participants to be in the great outdoors. Often set against striking natural scenery, golfers can breathe in the fresh air and embrace nature’s wonders whilst getting both exercise and sun.

 

Not surprisingly golf is the fastest growing and most popular sport in the world, a fact most evident in Asia, where the game has developed rapidly in the last decade. For golfing buffs, Asian courses are paradise, especially since many have been designed by stalwarts such as the “Shark” and Jack Nicklaus, are situated in the balmy and breathtaking tropics and are – by European and American standards – very easy on the pocket.

What is further complementary about choosing a golf holiday in Asia is the quality spa options available across the continent, especially in Southeast Asia where quality and cost are not mutually exclusive concepts. For golfers themselves, spa treatments such as massage can provide that perfect balance to sport with further relaxation. But more importantly, for wives and girlfriends who wish to holiday but don’t par–take in the fairways, spa pampering is a welcome alternative.

To cater for golf and spa holidaymakers, many courses and golfing resorts have been built across Asia. Let’s highlighted some of the best courses in the region, along with accommodation options, just to pique your interest!

Here are the suggested top 10 golfing resorts in the SEA region:

1. Laguna Phuket Golf Club, Phuket (Thailand)

Lauded already in numerous publications as one of Asia’s premier golf resort destinations, the Laguna Phuket Golf Club is set among the Laguna Resort Complex which features five luxury hotels (Sheraton, Dusit Thani, Banyan Tree, Laguna Beach Resort and Allamande). It boasts an 18–hole, par–71 course designed by Max Wexler and David Abell and caters to players of all levels of expertise. But the course certainly is challenging as 13 of the 18 holes are in close proximity to the actual lagoon. Golfers can enjoy taking the watery gamble with their shots. Afterwards, pampering is essential at the world famous Banyan Tree Spa.

2. Le Meridien Nirwana Golf & Spa Resort, Bali (Indonesia)

The five–star Le Meridien Golf & Spa Resort is a luxury resort overlooking the Indian Ocean with world–class golf and spa facilities. The Nirvana Bali Golf Club boasts an 18–hole course designed by the legendary Greg Norman, and has been featured in several publications. The course is made challenging by the elaborate network of streams, ponds and terraces plus its ocean lapping location. After playing, relax at the fusion Nirwana Spa which uses Western products while keeping the Balinese Hindu philosophy in mind.

3. Novotel Ocean Dunes and Golf Resort, Phan Thiet (Vietnam)

Located three hours from Ho Chi Minh City, the four–star Novotel Ocean Dunes and Golf Resort is located on a private beach and was the first international resort to be built in Vietnam. The Par–72 Ocean Dunes Golf Club located on–site has been designed by Nick Faldo and been identified it as one of the top 10 resort courses in Asia. The course will appeal to both experienced as well as casual golfers, and the coastal winds will bring challenge to each hole. The on–site Spa has private saunas and Jacuzzis for customers use after a round of golf. Or you can go in for a massage before you take to the course, helping to relax the muscles and improve that swing.

4. Kirimaya Golf Resort & Spa, Khao Yai (Thailand)

The three star Kirimaya Golf Resort & Spa provides 60 contemporary living options and is the perfect retreat for those looking for a golf holiday. The 18–hole golf course has been designed by the legendary Jack Nicklaus and is set among the mountains and greenery of Khao Yai. Guests can indulge in a range of massages and wellness rituals at the Maya Spa or in the comfort of them own rooms after a day spent on the course or exploring the surroundings.

5. The Empire Hotel & Country Club, Bandar Seri Begawan (Brunei Darussalam)

The five star Empire Hotel & Country Club and beach resort overlooking the South China Sea boasts of lavish accommodations, eight swimming pools and a championship golf course. Designed by the celebrated Jack Nicklaus, the golf course includes cliffs, ravines, tight fairways, large bunkers, and is floodlit for night–time games. Also not be missed is the Spa, with its therapies from around the world designed to calm the body and revitalize the skin.

6. Hornbill Golf & Jungle Club, Sarawak (Malaysia)

The five star Hornbill Golf & Jungle Club is nestled amongst the oldest and second largest rainforest in the world, 1,000 meters above sea level. As the name suggests, the main attraction of the hotel is its golf course designed by Neil Crater, while keeping in mind the features of its unique highland location. The course is the ultimate test of golfing skills, and is suited for those who love a fresh physical challenge as well as a mental one. With the number of guests kept to just 60 a day, it provides ample exclusivity and privacy to indulge at a calm pace. The Jungle Club continues to keep up the promise of relaxation and rejuvenation with its pampering sessions of spa, exotic traditional massages and a range of natural treatments.

7. Bintan Lagoon Resort, Bintan Island (Indonesia)

The four–star Bintan lagoon Resort is set among 300 hectares of beachfront gardens and offers a world of choice. This golfing resort can easily be reached by a short high–speed ferry ride from Singapore. Both the Jack Nicklaus 18–hole Sea View Golf course and Ian Baker–Finch 18–hole Woodlands Golf course at the resort are known for their spectacular design and signature holes. The stay is incomplete without a visit to the Bintan Spa, where traditional methods are used in conjunction with organic ingredients for the ultimate relaxation experience. Choose from a range of treatments, scrubs, and spa packages.

8. Springfield Village Golf & Spa, Hua Hin/Cha–am (Thailand)

The 3.5 star Springfield Village Golf & Spa provides luxurious rooms and suites, designed to blend with their surroundings and each providing an open view of the golf course. The golf course (another design by Jack Nicklaus) challenges golf enthusiasts with 27 meticulously manicured holes. The championship course has five sets of tees to play from, and offers varying levels of difficulty. For those looking to improve their game, step there is an excellent Learning Center which offers private lesson. Be sure to head over to the Springfield Spa to pamper and rejuvenate yourself with a wide variety of top notch massages and treatments on offer.

9. Sentosa Resort & Spa, Singapore (Singapore)

The five–star Sentosa Resort & Spa is perched atop a cliff gazing out across the South China Sea. The resort’s 21 rooms and suites are spread across 27 acres of tropical woodlands. For a round of golf, tee–off one of the 2 resort courses, including the exceptional Sentosa Golf Club, home to the Barclay’s Singapore Open and the course of choice for politicians, dignitaries and celebrities alike. The resort also boasts the Spa Botanica, housing mud pools, flotation pools, a meditation labyrinth and Turkish-styled steam baths and a wide choice of indoor treatment rooms or outdoor pavilions.

10. Sofitel Zhongshan Golf Resort, Nanjing (China)

The five–star colonial-styled, Sofitel Zhongshan Golf Resort Nanjing is located on the slopes of the famous Purple Mountain, and features 140 luxurious accommodations. This resort is the perfect choice for leisure as well as business travelers to Nanjing. It is also the first deluxe, five–star golf resort in Nanjing, and the exclusive 27–hole golf course was designed by Gary Player. Guests can also enjoy the Spa, with its various massages and treatments, guaranteed to relax and ease the muscles.