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Making merry with a berry

Posted by pakin On January - 15 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

Planning a trip to South Korea? Then don’t leave a visit to one of the country’s delicious strawberries farms off your itinerary

SWEET… sweet strawberries! One of the best ways to enjoy Korea’s romantic winter scenes is to experience strawberry picking at the farms and taste some of the delicious desserts featuring the seductive strawberry as the star.

During a trip to Seoul last month, I took time out to visit Gapyeong, a popular weekend getaway from Seoul and tourist destination. A gateway to Nami island, which is best known as the setting of the much-loved Korean drama “Winter Sonata” and home to Petite France, a theme park featuring small European-style buildings surrounded by mountains and a lake, the area is also attracting both local and foreign visitors eager to pick – and nibble on – strawberries

Gapyeong native Ji Won Bae, 39, left his engineering job with an automobile company in Seoul two years ago to set up the Gapyeong Strawberry Experience Farm. He has three greenhouses where he grows organic strawberries in long plots and elevated trays.

Bae greets visitors personally and after sharing some facts about strawberries, shows you how to find the best ones. You then take your basket – thoughtfully provided by the farm – and make your way round the greenhouse picking those that are deliciously ripe. Visitors tend to prefer the elevated trays, as they are easier to reach and have the advantage of enabling you to sample the goodies without cleaning them first.

Unlike many farmers, Bae does not supply his fruit to retail distributors such as markets, department stores and discount stores. He prefers to meet his consumers in person and spend time with them as they enjoy the fruits of his labour.

Gapyeong Strawberry Experience Farm is understandably a popular destination for students as well as tourists. Kindergartens often take their young charges along for the day, not least because the entrance fee is a very reasonable 10,000 won (Bt300). Adults and children over the age of seven pay 15,000 won while groups of 20 pay 12,000 won. Kids under three get in free.

Adjacent to the province of Gangwon-do, the city of Gapyeong in Gyeonggi-do is surrounded by mountains and a river. It’s easily accessible from Seoul via the Gyeongchunseon Subway Line 7 from Sangbong Station. Exiting at Cheongnyangni Station, visitors can board the ITX Cheongchun train, which arrives in Gapyeong 40 minutes later.

Another strawberry farm easily accessible from Seoul is Seng Seng in Yangpyeong county owned by Kim Gi Chun. Five years ago, Chun, 52, and her husband decided to transform their vegetable plots into a strawberry farm in the hope of generating more income. It seems to have worked, with the number of Korean and foreign visitors growing steadily each year.

Here you can do more than just pick the fruit. The friendly staff are happy to demonstrate how to make a tasty strawberry cake while offering a variety of dishes and drinks including a strawberry smoothie, Bingsu strawberry (shaved ice with strawberries), strawberry fondue, and even strawberry pizza.

Just one hour by car from Seoul, Yangpyeong is largely undeveloped. Well on its way to becoming an eco-city, it is also referred to as Greentopia and offers breathtaking scenery, cycling along the Bukhan River and a chance to explore the rich farming land that produces safe and eco-friendly foods.

The number of strawberry farms in South Korea has grown significantly in recent years, says Calvin Oh, president of the Korean Strawberry Association, and strawberry-picking tours are particularly popular with tourists as they offer the chance to sample organic fruit. This has a knock-on effect when they return to their home countries as they will make a point of buying South Korean strawberries.

Locally known as dal-ki, the country produces two species, namely Mae-Kyang and Seoul-Hyang. Today Korea is among the top five strawberry-producing countries in the world with total exports valued at US$33 million in 2015.

And visitors who time their trips for April can visit the Nonsan Strawberry Festival. The town, located in Chungcheongnam-do, is the largest strawberry producer in Korea and is accessible by train from Seoul.

In Thailand, Korean strawberries are available at Tops, The Mall’s Gourmet markets and Villa Market.


Strawberry picking is available from December through June. Farm admission fees vary from 12,000 to 25,000 won.

In tune with the times

Posted by pakin On January - 11 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

Tokyo’s Shibuya district sheds its youth image as the professional crowd moves in

Long known as one of the fashion centres of Japan, particularly for young people, Tokyo’s Shibuya area is shedding its image as a “young person’s town,” as the growing number of mainly information technology companies and ongoing redevelopment bring in more and more working adults.

From the 1970s to the ’90s, Shibuya Koen-dori avenue was a centre of youth culture, characterised by the vogue “DC Brands” of Japanese designers and the Shibukaji (Shibuya casual) fashions worn by young people.

Now, however, department stores and commercial facilities have begun large-scale renovations with adult customers in mind.

Marui City Shibuya, a fashion building facing the avenue, reopened as Shibuya Modi on November 19.

Before its renovation, the building’s shops offered clothing mainly for young people, but it now targets adults of refined taste.

Its stores include HMV, which features books and miscellaneous goods classified by themes such as “travel and cuisine”, a luxury karaoke store and a kimono speciality shop.

“We’ll make the building a place that offers lifestyles that go beyond generations and is suitable for today’s Shibuya,” Marui Group president Hiroshi Aoi says,

Seibu department store’s Shibuya branch reopened its renovated fifth floor for women’s clothing in late August.

The floor features an enhanced line-up of clothing aimed at executive women in their 40s and 50s, including high-quality one-piece dresses and jackets that cost from 100,000 yen (Bt30,300) to less than 200,000 yen.

Sales during the three months after renovation increased by 50 per cent from a year earlier.

Shibuya Parco, from which Koen-dori is believed to derive its name (Koen is park in Japanese, parco means park in Italian), has led youth culture since the 1970s with its innovative advertising.

The building is also slated for renovation, to attract people of working age.

Shibuya encompasses many schools and used to attract crowds of young people, while the number of companies in the area was relatively small.

In the 1990s, an area called Shibuya Centre-gai attracted attention as a gathering place for many juvenile delinquents called “teamers” and young girls called “ganguro,” who sported tan makeup, bleached hair and platform shoes.

In response, Tokyu Corp, which operates railways that terminate at Shibuya Station, has promoted the construction of complex buildings to lure adults with high purchasing power to Shibuya.

In the 2000s, such complex buildings as Shibuya Mark City, Cerulean Tower and Shibuya Hikarie opened in quick succession, and many IT firms began to gather in Shibuya.

According to a survey by Video Research, people younger than 30 accounted for 44.2 per cent of those who visited the area around Shibuya Station during a specific period in 2006, while those aged 30 or older accounted for 55.7 per cent.

However, in 2014, those younger than 30 decreased to 39 per cent while those aged 30 or older increased to 60.9 per cent.

A total of eight complex buildings, including offices and hotels, are scheduled to be opened mainly by Tokyu Group between 2018 and 2027.

Many people are interested to see how Shibuya will become more adult-oriented in the future.

Busan Christmas Tree Festival

Posted by pakin On December - 25 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

The Busan Christmas Tree Festival, Busan’s annual winter event, is being held in the Gwangbokro area of Jung-gu District.


Now until January 3, Busan, South Korea

The Busan Christmas Tree Festival, Busan’s annual winter event, is being held in the Gwangbok-ro area of Jung-gu District. Adding a more festive atmosphere are concerts, a tree of wishes, street performances, love coins, a photo and video contest, and much more.


Now to January 10, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Families with children, youths and young adults visiting Malaysia will love the “Illusion” exhibition at Petrosains science exhibition centre in Kuala Lumpur. The exhibition, brought in from the Science Gallery at Trinity College Dublin, explores science in an interesting way, combining it with art, technology and illusion to appeal to all ages. Curated by psychologist and author Richard Wiseman, and researched by magician and escapologist Paul Gleeson, the exhibition challenges the perceptions and gets visitors to use their senses to understand how the brain works. Expect magic with psychology, optical illusions with scientific reasoning, and confusion with clarity!


Now until January 24, Jeollanam-do, South Korea

The installation of a 120-metres-high and 130-metres-wide Christmas tree, which made it into the Guinness Book of Records in 2000, is among the highlights of this festival at the Boseong Green Tea Plantation, one of South Korea’s popular tourist attractions. Also featured are activities like the giant Christmas tree, a themed street, a galaxy tunnel, illuminations of Botjae and Dahyanggak, a photo zone, resolution stairs, and hanging wish cards. The landscape is also special, graced with a romantic and magical ambience of falling snow created by the arrangement of LED lights.


Now to February 14, Hong Kong

Udderbelly Festival made its international debut on Hong Kong’s iconic waterfront skyline this month as part of the second year of the hugely successful Great European Carnival with a bellyful of exciting, eclectic and affordable entertainment! It includes some of the very best shows and artists from London, Australia, the Edinburgh Fringe and also local talent from Hong Kong. Just like on London’s Southbank and in Edinburgh, you can come and enjoy circus, dance, music, beat -boxing and family shows, as well as comedy and cabaret over the weekends and holidays.


January 17 to 26, Kalibo, Philippines

Ati-Atihan is a nine-day exhibition of costume and dance and feast in honour of Santo Nino (Infant Jesus), in the island and town of Kalibo, Aklan. Soot-black painted faces, feather headdresses, and animal bones create an arresting visual impression. Drumming and dancing break out at dawn and continue on until the festival ends three days later at a masquerade ball. A mass outdoor procession follows a sacred image of Santo Nimo from the Kalibo Cathedral to Pastrana Park. Don’t miss the masquerade ball. The creativity and colour of the traditional costumes are matched only by Brazil’s Carnival and Papua New Guinea’s Mt Hagen Cultural Festival.


January 23, Nara, Japan

Visit Nara and watch Mount Wakakusayama burning. This annual festival is quite an enigma. People have celebrated it for centuries, but its origin is not clear. When the grass on the hillside of Mount Wakakusayama is turning brown in January, the local folks will set fire to the mountain. The flames can been seen from anywhere in Nara. Temples and local communities draw visitors for the festive activities and the fireworks.

In the Spirit of Isaan

Posted by pakin On December - 3 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

Jim Thompson Farm reopens on Saturday for five weeks of rustic beauty

The Thai winter is now officially here and once again Jim Thompson Farm is celebrating by throwing open its gates to the country’s most popular ecotourism attractions. This year’s Farm Tour, on the theme “Mang Moon Boon Khao”, gets underway on Saturday and honours the Isaan rice culture.

Popular with city dwellers looking to get out of Bangkok for the weekend, the annual visit to Pak Thong Chai district offers a wonderful opportunity to commune with nature. Along with beautiful scenery, it features orchards, mulberry plantations, fields of flowers, nurseries, hydroponic vegetable production and an education in how rice is interwoven with the people of Isaan.

“There are a lot of things to explore this year including the cosmos fields and the pumpkin patch,” says Yuttapong Matwiset, Isaan Culture Adviser at Jim Thompson Farm. “However, the highlight is on rice and its relationship with the people of the Northeast.

“Visitors will enjoy exploring the circle of life and the spirit of the Isaan plain through a series of rice-related traditions,” Yuttapong continues.

“The farm offers a hand-on experience through activities and food, making it ideal for a family trip.”

Over the last 12 years fewer and fewer Thai people have been observing the customs and traditions passed down from previous generations. While change is of course an inevitable part of any culture, this fading out of activities once so dear to the agricultural way of life leaves in its wake a strong sense of nostalgia and a hankering for a calmer, more spiritual, lifestyle.

A day at the farm satisfies that hunger.

The spirit of the Isaan people is interrelated with the circle of rice, which begins in the early part of the rainy season when local folk celebrate the rocket festival. The idea of firing rockets to the sky is to “leave” a message in heaven for the Rain God to pour the rain on the earth so that rice growing can begin.

Isaan farmers always mark the important moments throughout the circle of rice. When the very first ears of rice emerge from the ground in the 10th lunar month, the villagers hold a merit-making rite known as boon khao sak to appease their dead relatives and ask their spirits to bless the rice field and ward off insects and pests.

The series of merit-making rites continues through the summer with the largest boon phawed ceremony taking place when the rice has been harvested and the farm work is complete. People will celebrate the end of the circle by spending a day and night listening to 13 chapters of Lord Buddha reincarnation.

“Jim Thompson Farm presents demonstrations of these rice-related ceremonies in a very authentic atmosphere giving visitors a rare opportunity to experience them,” says Yuttapong.

The celebrations take place around Isaan Village, home to several traditional Thai houses looking out over the rice fields. Visitors are guaranteed breathtaking views as well as an authentic experience of the Isaan way of life.

And there’s plenty to enjoy in addition to the cultural shows including a field of pink cosmos covering more than 50 rai. Here too, visitors can also walk alongside the kitchen garden and admire row after row of organic vegetables or even pick fresh vegetables from the plots if they want to take them home.

At Jim Thompson Village visitors will be introduced to the distinctive silk production processes of the renowned Jim Thompson brand from start to end. They will learn the lifecycle of silkworm and how the little creature makes this natural fibre and also see the processes of silk reeling, yarn dyeing, silk weaving and fabric printing.

And, at Jim Thompson Market, visitors can buy vegetables, fruits, trees, pot flowers, fresh produce and processed products from Jim Thompson Farm, as well as silk fabrics and other products from the Jim Thompson brand.

Last but never least is the opportunity to be photographed with one of the farm’s biggest stars – Boonlai the buffalo