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Lifestyle Relaxation THG Youth

6 Techniques Therapists Recommend to Reduce Stress

Experiencing stress is inevitable at any point in our lives. With the evolving COVID-19 situation, fear and anxiety about the future could cause overwhelming emotions in adults and children. Social distancing measures, albeit necessary, can also evoke feelings of loneliness which might further increase stress.

It’s important to handle stress proactively to minimise its impact and prevent anything from spiralling out from control. If not managed or kept on track, high stress levels over time can negatively impact your health, such as risk of anxiety and depression and high blood pressure. If you’re currently going through a rough time or know someone who is, here are some therapist-approved stress reduction techniques to employ. 

Practice journaling

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Journaling, a tried and true practice for many therapists, is a simple yet powerful tool that reveals your internal thoughts and worries. Not just that, it helps create order when you feel like your world is in chaos. According to professionals from the University of Rochester Medical Center, not only does journaling help you prioritise your problems and fears, it also tracks day-to-day symptoms so you can recognise triggers and learn ways to better control them. Maybe you’ve been stressed over work, but could there be other larger factors at hand, such as demanding perfection from yourself? Journaling provides the opportunity to gain greater insight into your thoughts so you can work on a plan and reduce your stress.

Have a daily ritual

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Do your days tend to get overwhelming? Try to work with a schedule, and fit in intervals throughout the day where you can pause and get some me-time. “Take five seconds to pause before you get out of the bed, before you get in the shower, get to work or go on your next task,” says clinical social worker Jihan Madyun, LICSW, in an interview with Bustle. She recommends taking that time to do some gentle breathing, or think about what’s gone well for the day. “Make this a regular daily habit, and your feelings won’t feel so scary.”

Practice the 4 A’s of stress management…

Stress can hit us anytime and anywhere, whether it’s at a meeting with your boss or dealing with difficult family situations. In such instances, you can either change the situation or your reaction. Regardless of what you choose, it’s helpful to keep in mind the four A’s: avoid, alter, adapt, and accept. Avoid unnecessary stress by learning how to say no; alter the situation by changing the way you communicate and operate in your daily life; adapt to the stressor by reframing problems; and accept the things you can’t change.

Try breathing exercises

When you’re feeling stressed out and overwhelmed, the first thing you need to do is breathe — better yet if you employ breathing techniques. Try the diaphragmatic breathing technique, which uses patterns of deep, regular breathing from the diaphragm, and is found to reduce stress and muscle tension. Psychologist Shiri Sadeh-Sharvit, Ph.D, recommends practicing two to three times a day for three to five minutes each time. The 4-7-8 breathing technique (also known as rhythmic breathing) is also another effective method to employ — focus on breathing in quietly through the nose for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds, and exhale forcefully through the mouth for eight seconds. Remember to take your time.

Spend time in nature

Spending time in nature has great therapeutic effects. A 2019 study show that taking at least 20 minutes out of your day to stroll or sit in a place that makes you feel in contact with nature will significantly lower your stress hormone levels. By being in the outdoors, many discuss feeling a greater sense of peace and less rumination. So the next time you procrastinate on going on that walk — don’t.

Talk to someone

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It’s important to get help and support from others, as humans are social creatures. “Having a heart-to-heart conversation with a family member can diminish your stress. Not only that, the other person will provide important perspective, instrumental support and emotional feedback,” Sadeh-Sharvit tells Bustle. If you’re not comfortable confiding with your family, a friend or therapist is just as good. Some social time can also provide immense benefit as spending time with people who care can help you feel better. So make it a point to connect regularly with family and friends. 

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Asia Lifestyle Relaxation Taiwan

Hot Springs in Beitou, Taiwan: A Perfect Relaxation Getaway for Weary Travellers

Known for their street food and night markets, Taiwan is also famous for their hot springs, which are said to have a plethora of health benefits — such as raising one’s energy levels, and treating chronic fatigue, eczema, and arthritis. 

Hot springs have been a large part of Taiwanese culture since the 1800s, when Taiwan was under Japanese rule. During their rule, the government in charge developed the hot springs on the peninsula, with many influences from the Japanese onsen culture. The first hot spring hotel was opened in Taiwan in 1896, by Hirado Gengo; this paved the way for the development of hot spring culture. Fast forward to today, Taiwan now has more than 100 hot springs — one of the most in the world. Additionally, it has also been dubbed the “Hot Spring Kingdom”, and is ranked among the top 15 hot spring destinations in the world. 

The most accessible hot spring from Taipei City would be Beitou, which is easily accessible via MRT, with a journey that takes approximately an hour. Since the 1970s and 1980s, many hotels and resorts have been developed in the area as well. 

Here’s how to get to Beitou: 

  1. Take the Red Line to Beitou Station 
  2. At Beitou Station, transfer to the pink line and alight at Xinbeitou Station 

The hot springs and other interesting tourist attractions are a mere 5 minute walk away from the MRT station, so there’s no worry of getting lost. Alternatively, visitors may also opt to take a taxi, which would take about 30 to 40 minutes, depending on traffic conditions. 

Beitou not only has many hot spring resorts that cater to various price points, but is also home to a Hot Spring Museum, which provides visitors the origins of hot spring culture in Taiwan. What’s interesting about the museum is that the building is a restored Japanese colonial-era bathhouse which gives visitors a comprehensive introduction to hot springs in Beitou — a perfect way to learn about hot springs before (or after) experiencing it! 

At Beitou, the dormant Datun volcano provides Beitou with an infinite supply of thermal waters, and the area is surrounded with resorts across all price points to suit tourists’ varying budgets. First time visitors usually opt for the well-known public hot spring, located near the Hot Spring Museum.


In Beitou, there are three main types of hot springs: 

Green Sulfur Hot Spring

This type of hot spring has a high concentration of sulfur, and its colour is reminiscent of jade. It is the hottest out of the three, with temperatures ranging from 50 to 75 degree celsius. What makes this particular type of hot spring so highly sought after is its rarity—it can only be found in Beitou and Akita, Japan! Many believe that the green sulfur hot spring is useful in treating skin diseases, gout, rheumatism, and fatigue.

Red Iron (Ferrous) Hot Spring

Unlike the green sulfur, this hot spring’s water is clear, and has a slightly lower temperature of between 40 to 60 degrees Celsius. It is believed to relieve nerve strain and inflammation. 

White Sulfur Hot Spring

Do not be fooled by this hot spring’s creamy and milky appearance — the hydrogen sulfide in it gives off an extremely strong odour, similar to that of rotten eggs! It is also extremely rare, as it is only available in Beitou and the Kansai Region in Japan. Its temperature is the lowest out of the three, at approximately 45°C. This hot spring is typically used to treat ulcers, chronic skin diseases, liver diseases and diabetes. 

The most affordable option in Beitou would be the Millennium Hot Spring Bathhouse, which costs NT$40 per entry. Run by the government, this bathhouse has a variety of hot spring pools for visitors to experience a hot spring for themselves. However, a possible downside for some would be the restrictions at the bathhouse. As this is a shared public facility, visitors are required to be dressed in bathing suits. Hot Spring attendants are also constantly walking around the area, which might cause some unease. 

For those who would like to have a hot spring experience in private, there are quite a few privately-owned resort establishments in the area. One of the most reputable ones is the Yitsun Hotel, which was built in 1901. Its original name was Xin Nai Tang, but was later changed to its current name in honour or Dr Sun Yat Sen’s given name — Sun Yi Xian — who was believed to have visited this hotel and was impressed by the quality of the hot springs. 

Many of the guestrooms at Yitsun are decorated Japanese-style, in honour of Japanese influence on Taiwan’s hot spring culture. The baths are separated by gender — one for males and one for females — and are set in grey slate stone, and are about 60 °C, making them perfect for long dips. 

Being one of the hallmarks of Taiwanese tourism, and with such a rich history, Beitou is definitely a destination to add to your travel bucket list!

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Asia Destinations Europe France Lifestyle Relaxation Singapore Spain United Kingdom

The Best Places to Relax in Any City (Other Than the Spa)

Did you know? National Relaxation Day is an internationally celebrated annual event, held every August 15th. The day was first founded in 1985, by an American fourth-grader, Sean Moeller. The intention is simple — to take a day off for yourself to refresh and rejuvenate your mind, body, and spirit.

Most of us live in a fast-paced, constant state of ‘doing’, but as the founder of this day suggests, it is important to find ways to relax and unwind from a busy lifestyle. So, in honour of National Relaxation Day, take a moment for yourself and explore the following places to let your hair down:

The park

With dozens of shades of green, fresh air, and a sense of expansion, parks top the list in terms of being ideal places for relaxation. Research has shown time and time again that there is a strong link between nature therapy and a decrease in physiological stress and immune function levels — because of our evolutionary history, it is thought that we are essentially adaptive to nature.

A recent study supports this, and shows that these stress-relieving benefits can easily be achieved in as little as 10-minutes. If you live in a concrete jungle, opt to take a stroll through the nearest park or spend a lazy afternoon picnicking with friends and family for the ultimate rejuvenation.

Hot picks

Some of the biggest cities in the world also feature the most stunning pockets of green —  from Hyde Park in London to Central Park in New York City. Indulge in an urban oasis — your body will thank you for it.

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Pixabay

The beach

If parks are not your thing, the beach is a fantastic alternative for outdoors relaxation. There’s a reason tropical vacations are in vogue — the mere visualisation of aquamarine waters and powder soft beaches can have a calming effect on the body.

Because beaches are often not centrally located, they’re best for the days you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. With no shortage of relaxation activities — ranging from getting that Vitamin D with friends to swimming and walking along the beachfront — it is easy to spend a whole day at this invigorating location.

Hot picks

While the Mediterranean cities in Europe (think Spain and Portugal) offer some of the coolest beaches in the world, Singapore comes a close second. Check out Sentosa Island in Singapore, for some of the island’s prettiest beaches.

The museum

Beyond being educational institutions of the arts, museums are also restorative sanctuaries of the mind and body. The beneficial effects of art on human health and well-being have long been documented, and art therapy is very much a trend.

A fascinating article by Psychology Today makes a strong case for museums as healing places, arguing that museums can provide the same revitalising effect as spending time in nature by offering the same characteristics that enable one to shift mental gears, and refocus attention in a less effortful way. Findings from a 2008 study showed that museum goers have reported benefits like restored attention, tranquility, and reflection, further corroborating the association between museum visits for leisure and stress reduction.

Hot picks

Home to the Renaissance, Europe is the best continent to visit for some of the most spectacular masterpieces of the world. Other than Le Louvre in France, check out The British Museum in England or The Uffizi Gallery in Italy for national collections that have withstood the test of time.

The library

Given that reading a book can help provide a welcome escape from routine and everyday demands, it makes sense to head to the one place where books are the ‘cells of life’. And in a world filled with distractions and white noise, the library provides a safe haven for those seeking absolute peace and quiet.

Cosy nooks offer the passing traveller comfortable corners to while away the afternoon, while a cornucopia of resources promise to entertain and inform. Individuals will face little difficulty in finding a new world to lose themselves in with columns of books and magazines to choose from. According to a 2009 study conducted by the University of Sussex, reading can reduce up to 68% of stress, and just 6-minutes of reading can reduce your heart rate and improve your overall state of being.

Hot picks

As with museums, Europe showcases some of the most beautiful libraries in the world due to the rebirth of the literary arts during the Renaissance. Trinity College Old Library in Ireland is one of the most magnificent of the lot, with dark mahogany arches and millions of rare manuscripts collated since 1712.

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A café

Often cosy and well-lit, cafés are great places to chill out in a city, be it for brunch or a mid-day break. For a lazy afternoon, bring along a book to read, or have an intimate setting with a couple of close friends or your date. If you run out of things to do, take up people watching — you’ll find that the conversations and interactions around you can be disarmingly familiar and pretty funny, usually unintentionally.

Hot picks

Korea and Japan feature some of the quirkiest and most Instagram-worthy cafés in Asia. Settle in with a cup of coffee or tea, and relish in a quiet afternoon amid a comfortable, affable ambience.

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Destinations Japan Lifestyle Relaxation

Rugged Tohoku with Hot Springs and Snow: The Vacation You Never Knew You Needed

When you’re stuck working from home during COVID-19, time is truly an illusion. The hours begin to meld into one another as you forget what it means to have office hours. When your space of solitary retreat is snatched from you, and then becomes the same place that you’re getting overworked at daily, you know there’s nothing you deserve more than an ideal vacation. A post-pandemic vacation demands nothing less the vacation of all vacations.

The vacation of all vacations, you say? Does that begin with ruggedly beautiful snow-capped mountains… or with a misty heat that dances in the light as you hike through abundant forested nature? And how could you forget, the breathtaking scenery overlooking cityscapes that live in concert with culture and the environment? Walk Japan’s Tohoku Hot Spring Snow Tour is all of those things and more.

In North Honshu, Tohoku, a relaxing snowshoe tour awaits. Walk Japan’s eight-day escapade is a fully-guided tour that takes travellers through the mysterious land of rural Tohoku, beginning in Tokyo and ending in Sakata. The experience is so intimate that it has no minimum group size and a maximum group size of 12 persons. Bound by prodigious snow, the tour is only available for limited durations that you would be lucky to partake in.

The Tohoku Hot Spring Tour is a warm welcome into Tohoku’s peaceful communities. Enter a world of age-old tradition and cultural practices bound by millennia, tested only by one of nature’s greatest challenges: winter.

And it is from winter that you’ll get to experience one of Tohoku’s best-kept secrets. It’s a luxurious, simple pairing of delightful winter and onsen baths. Accommodation for the tour is in Japanese inns, almost all of which have onsen thermal hot spring baths that will send all of your stress melting away.

The tour begins with a meeting at 09:15 am at Tokyo Station, where an expert Walk Japan tour leader will greet you. After an exhilarating but comfortable bullet train ride to Yonezawa, the tour’s pace will slow as you travel further into the deep north, boarding local trains and vehicles to visit rustic hot spring villages and charming farm hamlets. With snowshoes on, you’ll venture toward glistening countrysides that fade into the stunning monochrome snow sky.

Right when your adrenaline is begging you for more and you need to pick up the pace, you’ll embark on a long descent with stunning juhyo snow monsters enveloping you.

The juhyo frost-covered trees are a rare sight known for emulating the shapes of snow monsters and kaijus that are iconically Japanese.

Fans of literature can indulge in the poetic narrative of Matsuo Basho, a renowned 17th century Japan haiku master. The tour coincides with the poet’s travels, narrated in his poem Narrow Road to the Deep North. The poet’s footsteps are well worth following and will reward you with a temple that sits on a steep cliff, perched in the sky. The view that awaits will steal your breath, offering a spectacular view of valleys below and creating the illusion of floating in the sky.

At the end of every day, come back to traditional Japanese inns and reinvigorate yourself with the earth’s own mineral waters in onsen baths. Meals will stimulate your palate, boasting the fresh produce that Japan is so well known for. The produce in Tohoku is from its seas, fields, rivers, and mountains.

And with every stone that you turn at Tohoku, you’ll inch a little closer to Sakata, an elegant port town on the coast of the Sea of Japan where you’ll end one of the most relaxing weeks of your life. Known for its charmingly imperfect landscapes and its onsen thermal hot springs, a walk through Tohoku is an experience unlike any other.

Walk Japan’s Tohoku Hot Spring Snow Tour is available on a limited basis. Dates for the tour are between 31st Jan 2021 – 7th Feb 2021. A place in the tour costs ¥438,000, approximately SGD$5,600.

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Asia Bali Destinations Indonesia International Lifestyle Philippines Relaxation Thailand Vietnam

The Best Nature Destinations For a Relaxing Holiday In Asia

Asia — the largest continent on Earth. Spanning the uninhabited wilderness of Siberia to the lush tropical rainforests of Indonesia, Asia is a hotspot for nature lovers as it has a climate as diverse as its geographic features. It houses some of the most stunning natural phenomenons of the world, including one of the seven natural wonders — Mount Everest.

With no dearth of natural destinations to visit, it can be hard to decide on just one. We rounded up some of the best places to kick back and relax in within the expansive continent.

Phu Quoc, Vietnam

With powder soft beaches and clear, turquoise waters, Phu Quoc (pronounced ‘foo-kwok’) is a gorgeous tropical paradise. Comprising 28 uninhabited islands, Phu Quoc offers unspoilt, secluded stretches of quiet and calm, a welcome reprieve from the crowds at more popular beach destinations like Phuket, Thailand.

Marine enthusiasts would enjoy Phu Quoc for the diverse wildlife it offers in its crystalline waters, while avid hikers can look forward to silken waterfalls within the larger UNESCO-listed Kien Giang Biosphere Reserve. Eclectic bars and cafes line the beachfront alongside luxurious resorts and private guesthouses, catering to all kinds of budget preferences for each type of traveller.

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Ubud, Indonesia

Perhaps best known as the place where Elizabeth Gilbert gained spiritual self-actualisation in Eat, Pray, Love, Ubud is a popular cultural and natural hotspot in Indonesia. Perched on the remote highlands, Ubud is especially iconic for its cascade of emerald green rice terraces (Tegalalang Rice Terrace) and showcase of the very best of traditional Balinese culture.

With an easygoing and laidback atmosphere, Ubud is a place where it’s easy to lose track of time — a few days can easily turn into weeks and months, even years. For the ultimate experience, get on the mat at one of Ubud’s yoga retreats — you’ll leave feeling re-energized and rejuvenated in mind, body, and soul.

Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka

If you didn’t already know, Sri Lanka has a trove of secluded, sandy beaches, and Arugam Bay is one of them. Located on the East Coast, it’s far enough from the capital and other tourist attractions to be less popular with visiting travellers. With just a single main road running parallel to the beach, there’s not much to the village itself, other than lots of chilling.

Featuring a famed point break, Arugam Bay is a surfer’s paradise, and is regarded as the best surf spot in the country. If you’re not into surfing, you can laze on the beach like the rest of the sun-seekers, or chill at one of the beachside restaurants offering fresh-from-the-ocean seafood.

Koh Kood, Thailand

Just five hours from Bangkok lies this stunning island getaway — Koh Kood. As reported by The Guardian in 2014, it is “Thailand’s last unspoilt islands”. Because of its remoteness, it is the perfect escape from a bustling lifestyle, instead offering tranquility amid the most idyllic of beaches.

Home to a population of less than 2,000, coconut plantations, and sleepy fishing villages, you can expect the pace of life at Koh Kood to be slow and unassuming. Under the lull of waves lapping against the shore and the hypnotic swing of beachside hammocks, it provides the rare opportunity to gently unwind, and temporarily disconnect from the world.

Siquijor, Philippines

While the spiritual side of Siquijor continues to draw tourists in, nowadays, it is best known for its beautiful corals, white beaches and sparkling waterfalls.

Every night, hundreds of green luminous fireflies light up the island, giving evidence to its name ‘Isla del Fuego’ (or ‘Island of Fire’). When these mystical creatures come out to play, it gives the tiny island a magical, almost eerie glow that lends to Siquijor’s reputation among many Filipinos as an ‘island of witchcraft’. As a wise philosopher once said, “Nature itself is the best physician”.

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Maldives

Finally, the pearl of South Asia. Maldives is beach luxury personified, and features the Indian Ocean in brilliant shades of blue, turquoise, and aquamarine. Colourful coral reefs host a diverse variety of marine wildlife, from striped clownfish to genteel sea turtles. Islands rimmed with the softest of pure white sand make for serene sanctuaries to luxuriate in, and let the worries of yesterday slip away.

While the Maldives comprises a whopping 1192 islands, only 200 are inhabited. At this nation of islands, island hopping is a way of life, and the best means to go about uncovering the hidden gems of the region.

nature-destinations-asia
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Lifestyle Relaxation

Massage Centre Run by Prison Inmates in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai, Thailand, is located 700km north of Bangkok, and was founded in 1296 as the capital of the Lanna Kingdom. It is the largest city in Northern Thailand, and is situated near the highest mountains in the country. As a result, temperatures at night can go as low as 10°C (50°F). Today, it is known for being a hotspot for tourists who want to witness the intersectionality of rich Thai history with the vibrancy of modern city life. One of the highlights of this rustic city is the Doi Suthep National Park, which houses the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, one of the most holy Buddhist sites in Thailand. Chiang Mai Old City is also a hotspot for tourists as it is an area brimming with handicraft shops, antiques, and clothes. 

Another integral aspect of immersing oneself in Thai culture is through tasting the many local delicacies that Chiang Mai has to offer. A staple food for many Northern Thais is sticky rice, known as ‘khao neow’ to the locals. Additionally, another unforgettable favourite for many is Khao Soi, a noodle soup made with a spicy coconut curry, accompanied with either chicken or beef, and yellow noodles.

And of course, who can forget about the quintessential Thai massages? After a long day of walking and venturing, there’s nothing better than having someone help to soothe those aching muscles. What’s more, getting a massage in Chiang Mai is extremely affordable — a one-hour session costs an average of 200 baht, equivalent to less than SGD 10! 

Although there are a myriad of massage parlours scattered around the city, one particular chain stands out from the rest. Located near the Three Kings Monument, the Chiang Mai Women’s Correctional Institute Massage is just as its name suggests. A social enterprise of the Chiang Mai Women’s Correctional Institute, the massage parlour is run by women who are currently serving their sentences, with a presence of a few female wardens to ensure safety. 

Before you dismiss the idea of being served by prisoners — these women are non-violent offenders who are at the end of their sentences; they have to undergo a six-month long training programme with multiple assessments before they are allowed to work at the center. 

The setting up of a massage center at the vocational institute is part of the prison’s efforts to rehabilitate its inmates, and provide them with a smoother reintegration to society when they are released. Up to 80% of these women have been incarcerated for drug offenses, a result of the country’s campaign against drugs. Hence, being able to secure stable employment is a crucial factor that will help these women remain sober when they are released. 

Over the years, many of them also choose to continue working as a masseuse at parlours that have partnered with the center. 

Furthermore, 50% of the money that these ladies earn will be given to them upon their release so that they may start life anew; any tips given by customers will also contribute to the sum of money they receive upon release. 

When the programme was still in its infancy, massages would be done directly on prison grounds, but it has since moved out to occupy its own compound opposite the prison due to a lack of space — evincing the success and viability of the programme. The massage center is also conveniently located next to a restaurant and a gift shop which sells trinkets and crafts made by the inmates. 

There are also a plethora of massage parlours who hire these ladies who have just been released from prison, such as the Women’s Massage Center by Ex-Prisoners, located nearby. 

What’s more, prices for a massage are comparable to what is offered by a typical shop in Chiang Mai — a one hour foot massage costs around 180 to 200 baht. The service provided is pretty extensive as well, beginning with a relaxing foot wash, followed by the soothing Thai-style massage that we all know and love. 

The Chiang Mai Women’s Correctional Institute Massage is located at 100 Rachawithi Road, Siriphum T, Muang Chiang Mai. It opens from 8.30am to 4.30pm on Mondays to Fridays, and 9.30am to 4.30pm on Saturdays and Sundays. 

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Destinations Lifestyle Relaxation Singapore

The Best Luxury Staycation Packages for a Pampering Weekend

With travel off the table, most of us have had to languish in virtual wanderlust and Pinterest feeds. Aquamarine waters and luxurious resorts seem like a distant thing of the past, but not all hope is lost. Following the Singapore government’s decision to reopen local accommodations, staycations have become the saving grace for many a weary, distressed soul.

The kicker? Many hotels in Singapore have been offering sweetened staycation packages, including some of the most opulent crème de la crème. If you’ve been feeling bummed out because of the travel ban, treat yourself to a weekend of pampering with these one-of-a-kind staycation deals.

Sofitel Singapore Sentosa Resort & Spa

Amid swaying palms and pristine pools, rejuvenation comes easy. Set strategically atop a cliff with sweeping views of the South China Sea, the resort & spa comes tantalisingly close to dreams of a luxurious tropical vacation.

The urban getaway is currently offering an Infinite Family Experiences package, where you can relax in absolute comfort within a palatial-sized sanctuary. The offer includes decadent dining experiences for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as a stimulating fish spa courtesy of the resort.

Rates: Starts from S$338++, until 31 December 2020

Address: 2 Bukit Manis Road Sentosa, 099891 Singapore

Shangri La Hotel

With a name that translates to “paradise on Earth”, the Shangri La is synonymous with affluence and luxury living. Offering a sculpted green haven and facilities for every type of traveller, the Shangri La is a fool proof choice for a lazy weekend indulgence.

The Fun Family Playcation promises a memorable vacation for the kiddos with private access to Buds, the hotel’s own interactive play space, as well as Singapore’s largest outdoor water playground. For extra extravagance, go for the Valley Wing Indulgence Package, offering complimentary privileges like free-flow champagne, a 90-minute massage experience at Chi, The Spa, and a butler-drawn bubble bath to soak your stress away.

Rates: Starts from S$398++, until 30 December 2020

Address: 1 Beach Road, 189673 Singapore

Fullerton Bay Hotel

Overlooking prime real estate in Singapore (the Marina Bay waterfront), the Fullerton Bay Hotel offers luxury with a view. Suites showcase each of Singapore’s cultural identities, ranging from rich Peranakan tradition to Indian culture-inspired influences, all while offering an exclusive view of the Marina Bay panorama from a private balcony.

The Staycation by the Bay offers $100 nett of Food & Beverage credit, daily breakfast, and other complimentary perks for you to wine and dine your woes away. Did we mention the complimentary in-room Bottega Veneta amenities?

Rates: Starts from S$650++, until 30 December 2020

Address: ​80 Collyer Quay, Singapore 049326

Raffles Hotel

Featured on the set of Crazy, Rich Asians, Raffles Hotel is a timeless pillar of high-class social fabric and old-world charm. As one of the few remaining 19th-century hotels of the world, a stay in this hotel is guaranteed to be iconic and memorable.

Singapore’s national drink — the Singapore Sling, was first created here; hear from the hotel’s very own resident historian for more fascinating tales surrounding this storied hotel. The special offer includes an unprecedented opportunity to enjoy a two-night stay for the price of one, and daily breakfast at the venue’s highly acclaimed Tiffin Room. Not only that, a S$100 Experiential Credit adds to the lavish experience – use your credits at 藝 yì by celebrity chef Jereme Leung or enjoy a massage at the illustrious Raffles Spa.

Rates: Starts from S$795++, until 30 September 2020

Address: ​ 1 Beach Road, 189673 Singapore

Capella Singapore

“Discover lasting relaxation on this restorative sojourn” is Capella Singapore’s tagline for this luxury spa retreat package, and we are all for it. Nestled amid verdant green and lush landscaped grounds, the Capella is an island escape that reminds us of the far-flung landscapes of Ubud, Bali.

As part of the package for two, seek refuge from the bustle of a city lifestyle and enjoy a rejuvenating therapeutic treatment from the award-winning Auriga Spa. You’ll also get to indulge in breakfast at The Knolls, one of the most exclusive all-day dining restaurants in the country. Bonus? You can bring along your pet for the experience, as Capella is the apex of a handful of pet-friendly hotels in Singapore.

Rates: Starts from S$930++, until 31 December 2020

Address: ​1 The Knolls, Sentosa Island, 098297 Singapore

Categories
Asia Destinations Lifestyle Relaxation

Chilling In a Hammock Is a Way of Life in Muang Ngoi, Laos

In Laos, life revolves around water. The Mekong cuts through the landlocked country in mighty fashion, bringing food, transportation, and livelihoods with it. Villages cluster and flourish around smaller rivers and tributaries such as the Nam Khan and Nam Ou, as these rivers flood the surrounding rice fields and serve as local sources of sustenance and nourishment.

Today, these rivers have a different purpose — ecotourism. With its gilded temples and exquisite French colonial architecture, Laos is fast becoming one of the top travel destinations in Southeast Asia. Cities like Luang Prabang are visited by as many as 600,000 visitors a year (as of 2019), and its popularity comes in part from its scenic location at the confluence of two mega rivers — the Mekong and Nam Khan.

Despite the recent boom, you’ll be happy to know there remains rustic riverside villages that offer a glimpse of local Laotian culture, sans the crowd. In these villages, the name of the game is enjoyment and ease of life, and indeed, ‘sabai sabai’ (take it easy) is the aphorism that sums up the average Laotian’s approach to life.

Muang Ngoi (pronounced moo-ang ny-yoi) is one such village, situated in Northern Laos.

History of Muang Ngoi

Most of the local inhabitants have lived in the village for many generations, though some of the guesthouses are now operated by entrepreneurial locals from other parts of the country. The small village was pulverised during the Second Indochina War in Laos (1959-1975), and was only ‘discovered’ by travellers after it was rebuilt in the late 1990s.

Word of the idyllic riverside village spread, and today, Muang Ngoi is best known for its beauty and laissez-faire atmosphere. Surrounded by limestone cliffs and jungle-clad karst mountains, the tranquil village is a sanctuary for the weary traveller — an oasis far removed from the worries of daily life.

How to get there

Only reachable by boat, Muang Ngoi is an hour’s journey from the neighbouring villages of Nong Khiaw or Muang Khua. Of the two, travelling from Nong Khiaw is the more popular choice, as it houses epic hikes and gushing waterfalls. The public boat leaves at only two timings every day (10:30 or 14:00) from the jetty at Nong Khiaw.

Riding through some of the most dramatic sections of the Nam Ou, the journey is an adventure in itself. You’ll float by verdant wilderness and rickety villages, and if you’re lucky, see water buffaloes frolicking in the water or a fisherman out on the job. Some days, low-lying fog and misty clouds encircle the surrounding mountains, adding mystery and a distinct chill to the otherwise hot and humid environment.

Things to do

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A single road runs through the tiny village; walking end-to-end would take no more than 15 minutes. Bamboo bungalows on stilts and nondescript guesthouses line riverside, perched precariously on rocks from the river bank. These bungalows offer the most basic of amenities — a bed, and since 2013, electric-heated showers. On the balcony, a colourful hammock hangs, comfortable and inviting.

And indeed, lounging in the hammock, riverside, is what most travellers choose to do when visiting Muang Ngoi. There’s nothing that beats an unobstructed, panoramic view of the Nam Ou and rolling green mountains. Hearing the gentle ‘put-put’ of the longboats and watching the clouds go by is a tangible pastime, as is falling asleep to a chorus of frogs and the lapping of the Nam Ou against the shore.

If you get hungry, take a brief stroll through the sleepy town — there’s only a couple of restaurants and one bar to pick from. Wi-Fi is still relatively weak and unstable, offering the rare opportunity to go completely off-the-grid, and recharge in absolute peace and serenity.

Surrounding villages

For the adventurous, a hike to the surrounding villages of Bana and Huay Bo is in order. As you pass vibrant green rice fields and shallow rivers, you’ll find the trail refreshingly empty, save for the odd local. No difficult hills or rocky terrain complicates the trek; even hiking, it seems the pace of life in Muang Ngoi is slow and unassuming.

Yet, you’ll notice that despite the unhurried lifestyle, everywhere there is life. Skinny chickens cluck in the yard while stray dogs run around untethered, and the local children love to swim and dive-bomb in raucous delight in the nearby river.

In Muang Ngoi, it is about living in the moment, more so than chasing after the next activity. Embracing the spontaneity of these unplanned little moments of joy is something we could all learn from the Laotians to indulge in more in our lives.

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Destinations Lifestyle Relaxation

Travelling Solo As a Lesson On the Art Of Relaxation

I lean back against the rough panel, cautious that I’m perched on a makeshift wooden hut some 700-metres above the ground. I’d just completed my hike to the peak of Nang None Mountain in Nong Khiaw, as part of a solo trip to Northern Laos. Around me, there was nothing but thick foliage and a sweeping view of the charming riverside village down below. It was perfectly still, serene. It was another two hours before I started making my way back down again, buoyant and recharged from my little escapade in solitude.

Solo travel and its benefits

A recent survey by leading travel experience platform, Klook, found that up to 76% of people have travelled alone or are interested to do so. Another survey conducted by Agoda, a leading online travel agent, supports this, with relaxation cited as the top reason more travellers have been choosing to explore solo.

From personal experience, it is true that solo travel provides a welcome respite from the stressors of modern living. By having the full freedom of deciding what you want to do, when you want it, you afford yourself the gift of time for necessary reflection and introspection, without having to adhere to anyone’s timeline. Indulge in a leisurely hike in nature’s embrace or read at the beach for the whole day — the choice to unwind and destress is yours.

More than that, solo travel is a lesson in mindfulness and living in the moment, as staying present is one of the best ways to heighten your awareness of all that’s going on around you. Not only is this important when travelling alone, the cultivation of purposeful solitude can be helpful in lowering levels of cortisol, the stress hormone produced by your body.

Learning to relax

That said, if you come from a busy lifestyle, taking a day off for yourself might not come naturally, let alone for several weeks. To this point, it’s important to give yourself time to acclimatize to travelling solo; the satisfaction will follow.

Foster new social connections

The first lesson? Paradoxically, it is to connect with the people around you. Socialising with others as a solo traveller brings with it its own stress-relieving benefits, including lots of laughter and spontaneous adventures you might never have had before. When you’re on your own, it becomes easier to meet locals and connect with other travellers, and research has long shown a positive correlation between social interaction and cognitive function.

Exploring a foreign destination with new friends is often also the confidence booster you need, if you’ve been stuck in a rut or going through a major transition in your life. There’s just something about interacting with the world at large that gets you out of your head and rediscover your passion for life.

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Get out of your comfort zone

On a related note, because solo travel forces one to face difficulties with new people in an unfamiliar environment, you learn to become mentally resilient. This is key to emotional relaxation — the ability to surrender to the uncontrollable and accept whatever comes your way.

Having to singlehandedly deal with anything that goes wrong teaches you the depths of your own grace and patience. As your mindset shifts to one of self-postivity and empowerment, you’ll find yourself more adept at overcoming obstacles and problem solving, allowing you to refocus only on what matters.

Become good at doing nothing

Above all, travelling solo teaches you the art of doing nothing with intention and purpose. I’ve found visiting the same spot that’s comfortable to me in the city — this can be a park bench or the beach — to be reassuring and calming. Writing in a journal has been a reiterative process I like to engage in, to refuel my mind, body, and spirit with some much needed rest and inspiration.

In a world that’s constantly on the go and always striving, this opportunity to ‘just be’ is usually hard to come by. The nature of solo travel gives you plenty of space to learn to relish being alone with your thoughts, a skill that if nurtured becomes a powerful asset and state of being. Downtime becomes less of a foreign concept as you practice relaxation, and learn to be content with nothing more than the current moment. It is a necessary pause for your body to regenerate and recover.

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Asia Destinations Europe Lifestyle Relaxation South Korea

The Most Unique Spas You’d Want to Try Around the World

Spas — the saving grace of many a weary and disillusioned soul. While the typical spa experience conjures up images of massages and mud baths, the definition of the modern spa experience has expanded to include facials, body scrubs, even meditation and exercise classes.

In this article, we dive deeper into spas that promote the renewal of mind, body, and spirit, through a variety of singular practices and environmental components. Slow down and pamper yourself with these one-of-a-kind spas from around the world:

Blue Lagoon, Iceland

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As one Tripadvisor reviewer puts it, the Blue Lagoon is a “joyful Disneyland feeling in water paradise”. Nestled amid rocky volcanic landscapes and alien-like black lava fields, the Blue Lagoon looks ethereal and otherworldly. Steam occasionally billows across the milky blue waters, and the stunning shade of blue is because of the unique combination of silica, algae, and minerals that does wonders for your skin.

Visitors can choose from three options: Comfort, Premium, and Luxury for entry into the spa. The lagoon is open all year round, and the best time to visit is often in the evening — for the midnight sun in summer or the Northern Lights in winter.

Thermal Beer Bath, Budapest, Hungary

For the ultimate rejuvenating effect, bathe in 36°C (96.8°F) thermal water combined with natural beer ingredients — malt, yeast, hops, and beer salt, all elements that are rich in vitamins and minerals. Bonus? You get a beer tap in between the tubs you’re soaking in, so you can drink all the Czech beer you want to your heart’s content.

One of two spas in the city to offer the option of bubbling in yeasty, aromatic beer, the Szechenyi Thermal Baths in Budapest is known to be healing and luxuriously calming. After your beer bath, soak in any of the 18 medicinal pools within the beautifully decorated, Neo-Renaissance inspired complex to end off your relaxing retreat.

Hammam, Turkey

The Traditional Turkish Bath (or ‘Hammam’) in Turkey is a transcendental experience of purification. The typical package includes 45 minutes of washing: beginning with 10-15 minutes in the hot room, where you can relax and sweat it out; a thorough scrubbing and exfoliation by an attendant with a special kese glove; and the highlight — the traditional foam massage.

If you’re looking for baths that accept mixed groups of men and women, try the Suleymaniye or Galatasaray in Istanbul. Sit back and relax on the warm marble slab (‘gobektasi’) as the attendant lathers your entire body with a soft, foam-filled cloth for a soothing, sudsy massage. This all takes place in an opulent, marble-covered room — usually designed for rays of light to stream through a high, central dome, creating a lavish, almost decadent experience.

Jjimjilbang, South Korea

The Jjimjilbang (a traditional, gender-segregated Korean public bathhouse) is a way of life in South Korea. These Korean spas are often multi-storey complexes that are open 24-hours and feature all kinds of amenities from hot tubs and saunas to ice rooms, private sleeping quarters, and karaoke bars.

Try immersing yourself in a kiln sauna for the ultimate Jjimjilbang experience — these wood and charcoal powered stone kilns reach up to temperatures of 200°C (392°F) and are believed to promote relaxation and detoxification of the body through sweat. Visitors often huddle on rice-straw mats within the clay dome and drape towels over their heads to protect themselves from the intense heat.

Banya, Russia

What the Jjimjilbang is to Koreans, the Russian Banya (traditional Russian bathhouse) is to Russians. The typical banya comprises a steam room with long wooden benches, pools or buckets of cold water, and leafy, fragrant bundles of birch, oak, fir or eucalyptus (‘venik’).

Named ‘the tsar of banya’, the venik is used to flog the skin, and this act is said to help improve blood circulation and release toxins from the body. Sounds unusual, but the Russian banya is all about high-humidity steaming, followed by a careful lashing of the skin with a softened bundle of twigs. Felt hats are part of the stimulating experience, and while they may look strange, wearing them is necessary to protect your head and reduce the risk of overheating. As the Russians would say, “A bath-broom in the banya is worth more than money.”