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Most Read This Month
See the flowers bloom

Koh Joh Ting shows where you can get the best views during the cherry blossom season in Taiwan



A taste of Taiwan

Chan Brothers Travel takes visitors to the best spots, from curiosities like the Vampire restaurant in Taipei to favourites like Sun Moon Lake in Nantou

Latest travel story
Coping with flight delays at the airport

YOU are about to leave Singapore for your well-deserved holiday, when about 15 minutes before your plane is scheduled to take off, you hear the announcement that your flight has been delayed.

That is fine if it is for half an hour, but what if there is no announcement on how long the delay will be?

Having to keep your cool during a flight delay might be alright for those of us who are not on business trips, but anything longer than an hour starts to become a nightmare.

Here are three ways to help you deal with potential flight delays.


Some people may skip taking out a travel insurance to save money, or do not consider it necessary for a weekend trip.

But let’s look at it this way: do you know that some travel credit cards actually provide a free insurance if you use them to pay for your trip?

Getting it for free just for using your card really makes getting travel insurance a lot easier – not to mention cheaper.

Taking an insurance policy mitigates the risk of changes to your travel schedule and potential losses. At the very least, you can take comfort in getting some monetary compensation.

However, do note that there is usually a minimum delay limit in order for compensation to kick in. Some policies might also not cover delays and flight cancellations due to natural disasters and operational issues by airlines.


Many people go on a flight prepared with entertainment to keep themselves occupied during flight time.

If you have a book, magazine or your laptop on hand, why not get some reading done or use the time to learn some new phrases in the language of your holiday destination?

Since you cannot do anything about the plane, might as well do what you can within your power to make the situation more productive for you.


If you are travelling with friends or family members, you can use the delay to interact and catch up on lost time with them.

That is exactly why you are on a holiday together, right? Go for a coffee break somewhere nearby, play some card games together or simply talk about or plan your itinerary together if you have not already done so.

The delay could also make a good conversation starter with fellow passengers. Who knows who you might meet next?

This article first appeared on, a personal finance and lifestyle website.

Become one with nature at Shakotan

KAMUIMISAKI cape is located on the north-western edge of the Shakotan Peninsula in Hokkaido. I walked along a narrow path that looked like a mountain ridge going as high as 80m above sea level. I proceeded for about 20 minutes amid the ocean wind and then came to the tip of the cape, which overlooks the crystal-blue Sea of Japan. This beautiful colour is known as Shakotan blue.

As the horizon appears slightly curved at both ends when observed from the tip of the cape, you can see that the Earth is round. Though it takes about an hour from the centre of Shakotan by car, the spectacle is worth the trip.

The sea offers not only this impressive view but also a variety of seafood. The town is famous for its nama uni don (raw sea-urchin roe topping a bowl of rice). I was there, however, just after the fishing season, which is only from June till August.

Even so, a Japanese restaurant I visited for lunch offered steamed sea-urchin roe and I enjoyed the kaisendon sashimi bowl decorated lavishly with northern shrimp and seasonal salmon roe. The sea urchin roe melted in my mouth and I could taste its subtle sweetness. I felt a sense of the abundance of the sea.


Forests account for 80 per cent of the town. The rains that fall on the highlands are soaked up in the mountain areas and the nutrient-laden rivers flow into the sea. This process is believed to help the growth of seafood and seaweed.

In 2010, Japan Tobacco (JT) began a 10-year project called JT Forest Shakotan to help the conservation of these mountains. JT subsidises the costs of forest thinning, weeding and afforestation over 350ha within the reach of three rivers running through the town, including the Bikunigawa river.

“Ill-maintained forests are recovering,” said Shakotan Mayor Hideki Matsui, 68. “I want to scientifically prove that mountains foster the ocean.”

Experts on forests, rivers and seas have already started investigations in their various fields.

“I hope they will collect enough data soon so that we can properly explain to children, who will be responsible for the next generation,” Mr Matsui said.

Forests not only nurture the abundant sea, but are also helping the reconstruction of areas hit by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. About 2,000 trees, including Japanese larches, were cut down, sent to disaster-hit areas such as Miyagi Prefecture and used as foundations for temporary housing units in May 2011. The workings of nature help human beings, highlighting the importance of protecting nature.


The next day, I visited a traditional-style fishermen’s lodge in the centre of the town that was originally built for those involved in the herring-fishing industry. Its herring fishing was the boast of the town and there were many houses that accommodated fishing boat owners, their families and crew members. But these houses are almost all abandoned nowadays.

In 2008, residents in the town began activities to preserve these houses as sightseeing spots. Local volunteers including Noriichi Bessho, 67, renovated the lodge and named it Yamashime Banya.

The two-storey wooden house has a total floor area of about 420 sq m. A public interest corporation subsidised the costs of renovation, such as those for replacing the flooring.

The facility was opened to the public until late September, hosting events such as shamisen lute performances. It is currently closed in preparation for further restoration work but its reopening is planned for around May next year.

“I feel regret if tourists just eat sea-urchin roe and leave town. I want them to know the history of Shakotan, even if it’s just a little,” Mr Bessho said.

Though the town has a population of only 2,300, many local people I met love their home town.


It takes about 1 hour 40 minutes by plane from Haneda Airport in Tokyo to New Chitose Airport. Then, 1 hour 15 minutes by train from the airport to Otaru Station and 1 hour 25 minutes by bus from the station to Bikuni, the centre of Shakotan.

For more details, contact the Shakotan tourism association at (0135) 44-3715 (English inquiries accepted only on weekdays) or visit


Czech it out on foot

Uma Venkatraman explores Prague’s old town in a walkathon