- HWP PRESENTS
You may or may not be a fan of football, but no one is going to turn down a free trip, especially if it’s one to fabulous Barcelona.
Well, of course, if you’re a fan of Lionel Messi and gang, this deal is going to be so much sweeter for you.
Online travel booking site CheapTickets.sg has rolled out their exciting promotion in March, where they will be selecting a pair of winners to fly to Barcelona to catch the team play live.
The match will be between FC Barcelona and Real Betis, held at Barca’s home turf, Camp Nou, and will take place on May 5, 2013. It will be definitely be one of THE matches to look out for in the La Liga. To up the ante, the winners will also be given the full VIP treatment where you get to enjoy the match from the comfort and of course, luxury of the VIP Box. Throw in wine and gourmet food, even a non-fan will be converted in a heartbeat.
All you have to do to win is to head to CheapTickets’ Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/CheapTickets.sg , like the page, follow the instructions and fill in your relevant particulars! It’s that simple!
The Facebook lucky draw will begin tomorrow on March 14, 2013 and it will end on March 28, 2013. The winner will then be selected on April 11, 2013.
So hurry, gather all your football-loving friends, get clicking and you may find yourself packing for Barcelona in a month’s time!
Uncomfortable seats and sky-high airline fees are among the top complaints among air travel passengers, according to the results of a consumer survey.
In TripAdvisor’s annual air travel poll, in addition to limited legroom and exorbitant ticket prices, 2,000 respondents in the US also named unpredictable flight delays, long security lines and “other passengers” -- notably loud, crying children -- the top five pet peeves about air travel.
The survey also found that more US passengers will be flying the global skies this year, with 67 percent of respondents indicating they plan to take an international flight this year, compared to 56 percent in 2012.
The same is true of domestic fights, with 91 percent of respondents saying they plan to board a flight within the US -- up from 86 percent last year.
Having to pay extra fees for checked baggage, carry-on bags, seat selection, printed boarding passes and in-flight amenities were also identified as among the top five most annoying airline fees.
And when it came down to choosing between airlines, a quarter of respondents said they would choose the one that offered Wi-Fi, while 37 percent said they consider their iPad or tablet a carry-on essential, up five percent from 2012.
Tokyo and Osaka have topped an index of the world’s most expensive cities to live in for 2013, familiar positions for the Japanese megacities which have traditionally dominated the list prepared bi-annually by The Economist.
Released earlier this week, The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Worldwide Cost of Living report put the Japanese capital at the top of the index after comparing more than 400 prices across 160 products and service such as food, clothing, household supplies, rent, utility and recreational costs.
Results are compared to the base city of New York.
Since 1992, with the exception of six years, Tokyo has been the world’s most expensive city to live in, toppled only by Zurich, Paris and Oslo.
Rounding out the top five most expensive cities for 2013 are Osaka, Sydney, Oslo and Melbourne.
Asian cities dominate the index, with 11 of the world’s priciest cities coming from the east, and eight coming from Europe.
Tokyo’s inauspicious reign on the list, meanwhile, comes despite a fall in the relative cost of living in Tokyo that comes with Japanese deflation, a weaker yen and rising prices elsewhere in the world, the report says.
Notably, Australian cities have also risen quickly through the ranks due economic growth, ensuing inflation and currency swings, making them more costly to live in.
No city from North America featured in the top 20 list.
Here’s The Economist’s 10 most expensive cities to live in for 2013:
1. Tokyo, Japan
2. Osaka, Japan
3. Sydney, Australia
4. Oslo, Norway
5. Melbourne, Australia
6. Singapore, Singapore
7. Zurich, Switzerland
8. Paris, France
9. Caracas, Venezuela
10. Geneva, Switzerland
In many places, January's drab gray skies can damper spirits. Prompting many to seek out sunnier climes. Here is a small selection of places to escape to.
The Fusion Maia Resort in Vietnam
Wintertime in the northern hemisphere is an ideal time to discover Vietnam. The cool temperatures in the north will allow you to relax and breathe, especially at night.Travelers will enjoy the dry sunny weather in the south.
Discover: The Fusion Maia Resort - This five-star establishment, which is part of the TemptingPlaces collection of boutique hotels, offers 87 villas, each with its own pool. The villas are located next to one of Vietnam's most beautiful sandy beaches, My Khe in Da Nang, which stretches over 8 km.
At the beginning of the year, intense heat and monsoons are still far off as is the peak tourist season. Holidaymakers will be able to lounge and enjoy the 30°C + temperatures all over the country.
Discover: The Thai Garden Resort - Located in a small historic fisherman's village in Pattaya, this four-star resort is near several major tourist attractions. During their stay, holidaymakers will be able to visit the Nong Nooch tropical garden and the Sanctuary of Truth -- a temple that measures 100 meters high -- by the water.
The Cape Verde archipelago is an ideal destination all year round but there are fewer tourists during the January-February period.
Discover: Oasis Atlantico Belorizonte Hotel - At this four-star hotel on Sal Island, visitors can relax on an 8 km beach next to a turquoise blue sea.
Tiamo Resort in Bahamas
Constant temperatures year-round (around 25°C) and the end of the rainy season mean that holidaymakers can take full advantage of this destination.
Discover: The Tiamo Resort - This luxurious resort on South Andros Island has just been given a makeover. It now has a real dive center, ten cottages, a brand new spa and a swimming pool with overflow.
The Dominican Republic
January-February is an ideal time to discover the south of the country, especially Punta Cana. The North is less welcoming at this time of year.
Discover: Club Lookéa Viva Dominicus Beach - There are many activities avaialble at this four-star vacation club in the island's main resort. Some, like the flying trapeze, are very unusual. Holidaymakers will be able to swim in water above 25°C.
Starbucks said Thursday it would open its first store in Vietnam next month, seeking a foothold in the coffee-loving country as part of efforts to expand in Asia.
The communist country's first Starbucks cafe will be in southern Ho Chi Minh City, the US beverage giant said in a joint statement with its local partner, Hong Kong's Maxim Group.
"Vietnam is one of the most dynamic and exciting markets in the world," said Starbucks China and Asia Pacific president John Culver, adding that this would increase the company's presence across Asia to 12 countries.
Starbucks has been targeting growth outside of the stagnant US market, opening thousands of stores in China and across the Asia-Pacific over the past few years. In October it opened its first stores in India.
Culver said the group was "deeply respectful of Vietnam's long and distinctive local coffee culture" and hoped its expanding presence in the country would help develop the coffee industry.
Vietnam -- the world's second-largest coffee producer -- already has a strong local coffee culture, with dozens of popular local chains and small coffee shops on nearly every street corner.
"We are not worried at all," Tran Thu Minh, 52, who owns a small street-side coffee shop in the capital Hanoi told AFP after hearing about the looming challenge from Starbucks.
"We have loyal customers who could never drink (Starbucks) coffee. The taste is different," she said.
Vietnamese coffee is traditionally prepared in individual metal drip filters, which produce a very strong, thick liquid often mixed with condensed milk or served black over ice.
Domestic giants such as Highlands Coffee and Tonkin Coffee already serve Western-style espresso-based coffee drinks, which have proved popular with the younger generation but failed to dent demand for local brews.
"The taste of Starbucks coffee is too light for Vietnamese people, we prefer traditional coffee prepared like this," said 42-year-old office worker Do Hung as he sipped a cup of Vietnamese coffee at his local cafe.
Starbucks aims to have almost 4,000 stores in the Asia-Pacific by the end of 2013, including 1,000 in China.
It also wants to expand its purchases of Vietnam's high-quality arabica coffee.
The bulk of the coffee produced in Vietnam -- some 90 percent of which is exported -- is low-grade robusta coffee, which is used for instant coffee or other blends. However, increasing numbers of farmers are switching to arabica beans, which command higher prices.
Burma's tourism industry is on the rise with tourist numbers expected to reach the one million mark by the end of the year.
According to Htay Aung, Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, over one million tourists will arrive in the country by the end of December, with 400,000 entering the country from border gateways.
Most of the country's international visitors come on business trips to the country's commercial capital Yangon. According to the minister "Yangon International Airport has been receiving an average of 2,300 visitors daily."
Home to more than 2,000 Buddhist temples and stunning landscapes, Burma's tourism sector has benefited from recent political reforms and especially the by-elections held this year. In comparison, there were over 800,000 arrivals in 2011, up 1.27 percent from over 790,000 in 2010. Visits to Burma jumped by 37.5 percent during the first seven months of 2012 compared to the same period last year.
However as the country welcomes an increasing number of tourists after years of oppressive military rule, the industry experts have expressed concern on the hotel room shortage and the lack of transport infrastructure.
Recent data shows that there are around 448 hotels offering a total of 19,014 rooms in the major tourist destinations such as Nay Pyi Taw, Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan, Taunggyi and Inle Lake.
"We need to upgrade service standards, transportation and also upgrade existing hotels and tourist sites including opening new tourist sites," the ministry said.
As part of the plans, the country is planning a new international airport near Yangon and Yangon is allowing investors to convert apartment to hotels, adding over 500 rooms this year.
The refurbished Hollywood sign was presented in all its freshly painted glory Tuesday after its biggest makeover in 35 years, in time for 90th birthday celebrations next year.
Some 360 gallons of fresh bright white paint was applied over the last two months to the Tinseltown icon, which sits atop Mount Lee in the Hollywood Hills north of Los Angeles.
"It's our Statue of Liberty, it's our Golden Gate... but it's more than that it's Hollywood, which is hope," said Tom LaBonge, LA city council member for Hollywood. "The Hollywood sign, there's nothing like it in the world."
"It puts a bright face on the icon of the southern California lifestyle," added Chris Baumgart, chairman of the non-profit Hollywood Sign Trust that manages the icon, at a press conference staged below the landmark.
Over the last two months, workers have used window-cleaner style platforms to strip down the 50-foot (15-meter) tall letters, powerwash the corrugated iron and apply fresh primer and topcoat paint.
The paint job cost some $175,000, $140,000 of it paid for by the company whose paint was used. Sherwin-Williams also provides the distinctive color for the Golden Gate bridge, further up the California coast.
"The sign was scrubbed to the bone, and two tonnes of makeup was put on her best side. A lot was done to her backside but we've leaving that her secret," quipped Baumgart.
Victor Galindo, who was on the team of painters, said he felt proud of having worked on the world-famous landmark.
"It's a privilege for a lot of us to be up here, because a lot of us grew up here in the City of Los Angeles, and we're used to seeing this sign from far away, and now we're so close to it, painting it," he told AFP.
The job went more quickly than expected it, added the 37-year-old.
"The hardest part was the H. After that first letter we got the hang of it, we just went fast."
Millions of tourists come to see the icon -- visible from large parts of Los Angeles, depending on the weather -- but fences, warning notices and security surveillance keeps all but the most determined from the sign itself.
Access for the painters -- and journalists given a close-up look at the makeover Tuesday -- is via a steep slope down from behind the sign, through a locked gate and using a rope to rappel down for newcomers.
Cameras attached to the top of the huge white letters feed live video 24 hours a day to a bunker in downtown LA to alert officers to anyone trying to scramble several hundred meters (yards) up the steep slope below the sign.
Looking down the hill from just in front of the sign, ranger Patrick Joyce said: "Several times a month people make their way up here. It's against the law, you can be arrested.
"Most of the time what they do they write on the sign, or they just want to take a picture up here and they leave," said Joyce, 40.
"But every once in a while somebody will come up here and they drink too much, or they'll consume drugs. We've had crazy people come up here, start small camp fires and stuff like that."
The original sign was erected in 1923 to advertise a property development called Hollywoodland, but the last four letters were removed in the 1940s.
One of the City of Angels' most beloved attractions, the sign had fallen into disrepair until it was restored in the 1970s after a campaign that saw nine donors pay $27,777 to "adopt" one letter each.
It was threatened again more recently when investors who own land surrounding the giant white letters indicated plans to sell the plot to developers.
But Playboy mogul Hugh Hefner helped secure the sign in 2010, along with then-California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and other Hollywood luminaries, including Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks.
The sign's history is not without tragedy. In 1932, British actress Peg Entwistle infamously committed suicide by throwing herself off the top of the letter H.
Saudi Arabia has imposed a ban on smoking at all tourist facilities including hotels, travel agencies and areas where tourist-related activities are held.
According to local media, the General Commission for Tourism and Antiquities of Saudi Arabia instituted this past weekend a ban on smoking at all tourism facilities.
Hotels, travel agencies and indoor areas where tourist events take place are the target of the ban.
The ban is an extension of the initiative by the interior ministry in July 2012 to eliminate smoking in all enclosed public areas.
Government buildings, public establishments, cafés, restaurants, and shopping malls are subject to the ban, which also includes smoking of water pipes (or shishas) in public spaces. Last month officials in the Red Sea resort of Jeddah shut down 242 restaurants and cafés for 24 hours for violations.
According to official figures, Saudi Arabia, whose population is around 27 million, counts about six million smokers, including 800,000 teenagers.
Brazil, Albania and Burma have been selected as the top three destinations to visit in 2013 by five travel bloggers.
The bloggers have compiled a list of 13 destinations to visit during 2013. The initiative was organized by travel website G Adventure, an online tour company focused on sustainable development and adventure tourism.
G Adventure selected five industry-leading bloggers to participate in the G Adventures Wanderers Residence program. Gary Arndt (Everything Everywhere), Jodi Ettenberg (Legal Nomads), Matt Kepnes (Nomadic Matt), Daniel Noll and Audrey Scott (Uncornered Market) and Nellie Huang (Wild Junket) were in charge of compiling the list of places not to miss in 2013.
1. Brazil: The country is getting ready to host two major sports events in the coming years -- the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016. The eyes of the world are turning to this top destination and the experts recommend going there before prices increase even further.
2. The popularity of Albania and its Adriatic coast is increasing as Southeastern Europe's profile as a tourist destination continues to rise. Situated between tourist favorites Italy and Greece, Albania has all the advantages of the southern climate for more reasonable prices.
3. After last year's election, Burma has opened up its borders to foreign visitors. The country received a total of 313,127 foreign arrivals during the fiscal year 2010-2011. Numbers are expected to continue to rise. Those visiting the country in the next few years will be able to appreciate the country before it becomes a mainstream Asian tourist destination.
4. Mongolia is still a relatively unexplored area due to years of communist government and tight travel regulations. Traveling to Mongolia from China has been made easier as the Bulgan/Takashiken border crossing between West Mongolia and China is now open to all passport holders and operates year-round.
5. New Zealand's unique geography has always drawn outdoor enthusiasts. Its profile will be increased with the release of The Hobbit in December.
6. According to the bloggers, Bolivia offers reasonable prices as well as unique "scenery from the Salar de Uyuni salt flats in the south to Lake Titicaca in the north." Bolivia is currently the least visited country in South America, as it has struggled to compete with popular destinations such as Machu Picchu in Peru.
7. Three years after the end of the country's civil war, Sri Lanka has seen a steady increase in the number of visitors. It was also selected by the editors of the travel guide Lonely Planet as the number one destination to visit in 2013.
8. Tourists have been visiting Istanbul for many years, but the bloggers are recommending visiting lesser-known areas in Turkey such as Antalya and Trabzon.
9. After the financial crisis in 2008, Iceland, a country long considered an expensive destination, has seen tourist numbers increase.
10. Singapore is celebrating its 50th year of independence from Britain next year and events and activities are expected to attract tourists.
11. Namibia offers desert, dunes and safari opportunities and is becoming a real alternative for visitors to Africa, according to the group of bloggers.
12. Jordan is enjoying a rise in popularity after the anniversary of the rediscovery of Petra and the release of the British epic film Lawrence of Arabia in 2012.
13. Lastly, bloggers are recommending going to Zanzibar in Tanzania. Zanzibar will be celebrating its 50th anniversary of independence from Great Britain next year.
About the bloggers
Everything Everywhere currently has 47,840 likes on Facebook and over 113,000 followers on Twitter. His author, Gary Arndt has been traveling since 2007, visiting over 116 countries in seven continents.
Nomadic Matt is written by Matt Kepnes from the United States. Matt quit his job in 2006 to go traveling for 18 months around the world. Nomadic Matt has over 21,000 likes on Facebook and more than 41,000 followers on Twitter.
Legal Nomad is written by Jodi Ettenberg, a former lawyer from Montreal. She has been traveling since 2008. Legal Nomads has over 8,000 likes on Facebook and more than 17,000 followers on Twitter.
Uncornered Markets is a blog by Daniel Noll and Audrey Scott. This couple from Prague has been traveling since 2006. Their blog currently has over 6,000 likes on Facebook and more than 30,000 followers on Twitter.
Nellie Huang is the author of Wild Junkie, a blog focused on adventure travel. Wild Junkie has almost 3,000 friends on Facebook and more than 23,000 followers on Twitter.
International air travel from Europe and Asia was hit Monday by flight cancellations as much of the United States' eastern region battened down for the threatened impact of Hurricane Sandy.
Even before the hurricane crashed ashore the US after barrelling across parts of the Caribbean with fatal consequences, it had already whipped up a maelstrom of disruption on land and in the air.
After thousands of flights were axed from eastern US hubs and bus and train services suspended, safety fears over the monster storm also caused disruption as far afield as Hong Kong and France.
Air France cancelled all flights to Washington and New York, a company spokeswoman said, adding the airline was "closely monitoring the situation" of what is being dubbed "Frankenstorm".
In Britain, holiday-makers bound for the US for this week's school holidays were left stranded after British Airways and Virgin Atlantic were among the airlines to scrap all connections the US east coast, including New York and Washington.
"We understand that customers may be disappointed. However their safety is our highest priority," British Airways, which cancelled around 20 return flights, said in a statement.
Elsewhere in Europe, cancellations also hit Amsterdam's Schiphol airport as well as Rome-Fiumicino, Frankfurt Airport, which is Germany's busiest hub, and Geneva and Zurich airports in Switzerland.
However Zurich airport seemed to have been spared "mass passenger layovers" as some cancellations had been announced the day before, press officer Jasmin Bodmer told AFP adding it was unclear if the disruption would go into Tuesday.
The European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation, Eurocontrol, said 300 of the usual around 500 flights between Europe and the US had been cancelled with more expected later Monday.
In Asia, Hong Kong flag carrier Cathay Pacific announced it was scrapping a total of eight direct flights between the southern Chinese city and New York on Monday and Tuesday.
"We are responding to the recommendation of the airport authority of the John F. Kennedy International Airport in cancelling our flights and it is possible that we may face further disruption," the airline said.
Air India said it had scrubbed both of its daily flights to the US.
"We are waiting for the US authorities to issue alerts once the weather changes and it is safe to fly," K. Swaminathan, Air India's corporate communications manager told AFP.
Flights from Japan were not immune either.
The flight information centre of Tokyo's Narita airport said one Japan Airlines flight to New York and one All Nippon Airways flight each to New York and Washington had been cancelled.
In the US, more than 7,400 flights out of east coast hubs were grounded while Amtrak suspended all bus and train services up and down the coast.
Subway services, buses and commuter trains were also shut down in New York, Philadelphia and Washington. - AFP RELAX NEWS