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Singapore's Seedy Neighborhoods and Warehouses Now Hot Spots

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With its Art Deco style wet market and pre-War public housing, Singapore's Tiong Bahru neighborhood has been luring thirtysomething artists, architects, and other creatives in recent years, so it was only a matter of time that funky small businesses began popping up in the area.

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Taiwan's Art Scene Explodes

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Taiwan might not be on the radar for a lot of travelers, but it really should be. It has incredible cuisine, a thriving arts and design scene, beautiful scenery and really friendly locals. Plus, there's a great mix of Chinese and Japanese cultures.

Here’s another reason: Since 2000, artists, developers, and government officials have been transforming abandoned warehouses, factories, etc. into art spaces, complete with studios and exhibition space. The trend has really gained momentum in recent years; for instance, there is a series of railway warehouses stretching from Taichung, near Taipei, to Taidong that have been turned into art spaces, which are especially popular among locals on the weekend.

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New Ways to Cruise in Asia

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Life Resorts has launched a 22-junk fleet in Halong Bay in Vietnam—a welcome addition given the somewhat dodgy operators around the area. The boats can accommodate up to four guests and have all the modern conveniences, sunbeds on the deck, and kayaks and snorkeling gear. They’re doing day trips at the moment, but longer journeys will soon be introduced.

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Singapore Takeout: Look for the Pop-Up Window Near You

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Ten chefs, nine cities, and one pop-up kitchen. No, it’s not the set-up of some new reality TV show on Bravo, but an inventive initiative by the Singaporean government to showcase the city’s vibrant fine dining scene. Dubbed Singapore Takeout, the project starts its yearlong world tour in London on June 9.

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Lessons from Japan: Earthquake Survival 101

Events are moving quickly in Japan as engineers at a nuclear plant in Fukushima are trying to bring three stricken reactors under control. Tokyo is 170 miles south from Fukushima, and though prevailing winds are sweeping most of the radiation to the Pacific Ocean, residents say a feeling of anxiety pervades the capital. Aftershocks wake them up at night. Lines are long at supermarkets, where staples such as milk and rice are selling out quickly. “The streets are eerily quiet compared to the usual hustle and bustle of this massive city,” says Rachael White, an American teacher and blogger based in Tokyo. White and others, however, note that people remain calm—a reflection of Japanese fortitude.

As a traveler, the most you can do in the event of a nuclear meltdown is get as far away as possible or head for the basement. But there are steps you can take to increase your chances of survival in an earthquake and/or a tsunami. Japan is located in the world’s most seismically active regions—the Pacific Ring of Fire, which includes the West Coast. About 90 percent of earthquakes happen here, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. And Tokyo is still bracing for the Big One that experts say is long overdue. (Friday’s massive quake occurred along the northeastern fault line, rather than the southwest fault line that affects Tokyo more directly. It last ruptured in 1854.) The second most active region stretches from the Mediterranean into northern India.

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Bangkok Dispatch: "Something's Changed"

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Last Thursday night, we learned that Seh Daeng, a renegade general who sided with anti-government protesters, had been shot in the head by a sniper. (He was shot while being interviewed by Thomas Fuller of The New York Times. You can read an account here.) We’d been planning a weekend with friends at one of our favorite island resorts—a much-needed respite from the claustrophobia of Bangkok. But my husband, S., is a journalist, so it looked as if we had to scrap our plans. “If a crackdown doesn’t happen by the morning, we’ll go,” he promised.

Despite sporadic clashes throughout the night, Friday morning proved calm and away we went. But we couldn’t leave Bangkok’s troubles behind. Friends sent updates, while my husband would hunker down with his iPhone, scrolling through headlines, emails, tweets. At dinner, we’d discuss the situation, the Thais among us expressing sorrow over the present and fear for the future.

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Bangkok Protests: Notes from the Ground

200904-a-songkranjpgTuesday was the start of Songkran, the Thai new year, usually an occasion for mass water fights throughout Bangkok. This year's celebrations, of course, have been subdued, after violence last weekend left 23 people dead and more than 800 injured. Still, in the Bangkok neighborhood where I live, a handful of children and teens armed with water guns, hoses, and buckets have gathered every day since Tuesday, merrily drenching passers-by and each other. Some Bangkokians, it seems, are trying to find their way back to normalcy.

How long the calm will last, I'm not sure. As an American who's called Bangkok home for nearly eight years, I found the violence shocking but not unexpected. Thailand is stuck in an incredibly complex conflict that resists easy explanation, and there is little political will—or bravery—to find a way out of it peacefully. Thailand has witnessed similar eruptions in the past, during the 1970's and in 1992,when the military killed dozens of pro-democracy protesters. Yes, Thais are generally peaceful, but there are few release valves for settling differences. When conflicts arise, they can escalate quickly. (For an insightful take on the current crisis, read this Wall Street Journal op-ed.) 

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