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677: The Little Island
Escape the late-winter blues with a tropical blast from the past
675: Scenic Spirituality
Commune with religion and nature in an ancient land
673: Aoni Onsen
Return to a forgotten time at one of Honshu’s most remote getaways
671: The Golden Rock
One of Burma’s many splendid attractions hangs by a hair
669: Hida Takayama
For personal trips gentle to the soul, seek out the old-time charm of Hida Takayama
665: Okayama
A serene stroll through history awaits at this seaside retreat
663: Cruising the Bay
Ha Long Bay offers a breath of calm away from Vietnam’s urban rush
661: Agamachi
Fox fires and bar codes help a rural Niigata town reinvent itself
535: Hotel California
Mark Parren Taylor kicks up the desert dust in Palm Springs, the perennial Hollywood star retreat.
531: Race through time
The Xterra Saipan triathlon journeys through tropical jungle, up steep mountain paths and across the sands of history. Tama M. Lung joins the chase.
527: Bohemian rhapsody
No visit to Paris would be complete without taking in the Montmartre district. Bon vivant Simon Rowe dusts off his French to go exploring.
523: Slow Motion
Mark Parren Taylor touches down in the timeless former seaport of Lukang, Taiwan.
519: Rock of ages
From ancient times to the present, Gibraltar has always been an island of legends. Stephen Mansfield sifts through its history.
515: Go west, young man
Simon Rowe takes in the big skies and dust trails of Western Australia's East Kimberley region.
511: All mixed up
Mark Parren Taylor makes land on Macau and finds an enigmatic blend of cultures, cuisine and heated competition.
505: Earth, wind and fire
A historically imperiled town in Papua New Guinea holds the keys to a magical getaway. Carlo Niederberger splashes ashore.
501: Off the rails
Braving the 2,010 kilometers of Vietnam's Reunification Express from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi is quite the adventure. Simon Rowe goes along for the ride.
493: Rites of passage
From firecrackers and cheek piercing to divinations and buffalo races, Thailand's most colorful customs come alive at two annual festivals. Mark Parren Taylor joins the crowds.
489: Paradise found
Beaches, battlefields and a colossal casino provide tropical pleasures on the Pacific isle of Tinian. Carlo Niederberger touches down.
485: Through the grapevine
Stephen Mansfield drinks up the delights of the Château Monbazillac in southwest France.
481: Pleasure island
Saipan awaits the young and young at heart with its pristine beaches, pointy peaks, and perfect amount of entertainment. Carlo Niederberger checks in.
477: Reservoir of dogs
Simon Rowe visits the Kingdom of Tonga, where storms burst without warning and wild canines rule the night.
473: Into the bat cave
Sarawak’s Niah Caves are home to hairless bats, birds on the brink of extinction, and lots of bugs, according to Simon Rowe.
469: A fork in the river
Laos’ ethnic minorities battle the forces of time. Stephen Mansfield goes upriver in search of them.
465: Action scene
Sick of the short, humid Japanese summer? Tired of the winter? In NZ it’s summertime and the living is easy, the food and drink inexpensive, and the evenings long and lazy. Mark Devlin heads south to explore and party.
457/458: In living color
Simon Rowe soaks in the glow of Samoa's kaleidoscopic streets.
454: From Jamaica with love
Michael McDonagh soaks up the atmosphere in James Bond's balmy birthplace
449: See worthy
Dan Grunebaum drops oar in the stunning caves of Thailand's Phang Nga Bay
445: Great heights
Simon Rowe packs his hiking boots and sets out for Malaysia's Mount Kinabalu
441: Split personality
There are few cities with such an exacting dividing line between past and present as Lijiang in China's southwestern province of Yunnan
438: Fierce creatures
Simon Rowe introduces us to the untamed charms of Australia's Kangaroo Island
434: Leap of Faith
Simon Rowe dives into a tropical island paradise of waterfalls, reefs and bush rugby on the Fijian archipelago
430: A week in Provence
Stephen Mansfield explores the historic festival city of Avignon, a medieval diamond in the south of France
426: Outer space
Surreal sites, lunar landscapes and UFO sightings go with the territory in Chile
422: The Big Easy
The Moorish streets of Granada, Spain are alive with a new Bohemian rhapsody
418: Small awakening
Japan's microbrewers
414: Fowl play
The animal kingdom comes alive in the Galapagos
410: The river of spirits
Wading through soulful waters in Varanasi, India
406: Heading north
Marching to the beat of a modern drum in North Korea
403: Santa's lap
Santa's lap - enjoy saunas, Santa and sightseeing in Finland’s Lapland
399: Shanghaied
Seeking the past in China's megacity
395: Rising from the ashes
Mary King explores the rich history, culture and art of Croatia’s phoenix city, Dubrovnik.
391: The betels and the stones
Simon Rowe rolls with the tropical exotica on the obscure island of Yap
387: Prague
World heritage site
383: South Africa
Land of hope
381: Hawaii
Pearl Harbor
377: Salt of the earth
Tour the Uyuni Salt Pan
374: China
Suzhou and Hangzhou
370: The Nile
The river mild
367: Tibet
Top of the world
363: Laos
Memo from the Lower Mekong
360: Cuzco, Peru
Lost cities
357: Namibia
Call of the wild
354: Southern India
Mad about Madurai

ISSUES 349-   

Action scene

Sick of the short, humid Japanese summer? Tired of the winter? In NZ it’s summertime and the living is easy, the food and drink inexpensive, and the evenings long and lazy. Mark Devlin heads south to explore and party.

Running forward as fast as we can, we head down the steep mountain incline. Behind me John, a typical gnarly Kiwi, shouts “faster, faster!” I look out over the cliff; if we run any further we will drop of the side of the mountain, like a wayward hill sheep. Well, off we go. With a final step, our feet lift from the ground, and we step into space. The air catches our parachute, and we slowly begin our descent, some 450m through the cool summer air over the sparkling waters of Lake Wakatipu. John guides the parachute in twists and turns revealing the Remarkables, the sharply peaked “Gates of Mordor” in The Lord of the Rings. Below is Queenstown, the hub of New Zealand South Island activities.


Town and country
One week earlier, we had touched down in the nation’s capital, Auckland, a modern “City of Sails” with a strong British influence and a newly redeveloped waterfront with displays of America’s Cup yachts. We bunked for the night at The Hilton. Surrounded by water on three sides, The Hilton is one of those ultracool modern hotels that made us think of cruise liners, crisp white sheets, a single flower in a long thin vase and a photo spread in Wallpaper* magazine.

After a brief sample of Auckland night life, we took a short flight the following morning to Wellington, the quaint capital, and hop on the Interislander ferry for a two hour’s cruising to Picton at the very tip of the South Island.

The next day, we arrived at Abel Tasman National Park, named after the first European to set sights on NZ, offers a Mediterranean climate, sandy beaches and coastal walks. We abandoned the path and waded from cove to cove, watching out for the tide. If you prefer not to get your feet wet, try a day’s sea-kayaks tour.

Abel Tasman National Park

The West Coast of the South Island is a rainy “land that time forgot.” During our two-day drive, we half-expected dinosaurs to charge out of the forests. Unlike Australia, which was settled over 50,000 years ago, New Zealand was discovered by the Polynesians just 1,000 years ago, with widespread colonization coming after Captain Cook’s landing of 1770. Much of the island remains untouched, and we even spotted an uneaten Kiwi bird or two. Adding to the mystery are poetic Maori names (Punakaki) as well as Scottish (Ross) and more straightforward descriptions (Cape Foulwind). Every turn of the road brings a new mountainscape, a new feeling of exploration into a new world.

On the way, amateur geologists will be happy to walk to the base of the Franz Joseph Glacier to see the declining power of the river of ice, once able to move mountains and now receding due to global warming. For an extra close-up look, we hitched a ride in a helicopter while the more adventurous can take an all-day ice walk up the glacier face. Even though it is summer, it is best to dress warmly.

Auckland glistens at nighttime

Queenstown and the smaller Wanaka are activity-based resorts in the center of the South Island and either is a perfect base camp for hiking or trips to more remote areas such as the serene fiords of Milford Sound (weather permitting). We stayed at the classy Novotel St Moritz, five minutes from the town center. The hotel has an excellent Italian restaurant and views over the mirror of the lake. A charming resort town, nestled on the shore of Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown has many good-quality bars, restaurants, craft and jewelry stores where you can search for the One Ring, and some excellent art galleries with a fine selection of inexpensive (and expensive) art by local and international artists.


Out and about
Using Queenstown as base camp, we set off up river with Funyaks tours. The mountains had a light dusting of snow as we shot up the river in a custom jetboat. With a quick shout from the pilot, the high-powered speedboat spun 360degrees, sprinkling us with chilly mountain water. The inflatable Funyaks were somewhat slower, but no less fun. Make sure your partner knows the difference between right and left and back and forward or, like us, you will definitely become marooned on a stony embankment. Friendly and helpful guides kept us entertained with stories and legends as we drifted down the wide riverbed through the pristine mountains and lonesome valleys.

Skyline Gondola offers breathtaking views

For walkers there is no end of hiking trails starting from Queenstown, from just a few hours to walks such as the Bourne Trail, which can take several days. The spectacular Rob Roy glacier trail was one of our favorites, taking us over river wild torrents, Indiana-Jones rope bridges and Lord of the Ring’s ancient woods. Yes, I am Frodo! Fans of The Lord of the Rings will not be disappointed at the variety of scenery laid before them like a living movie set, however, actual locations are spread throughout the country like so many lost legends, so a location tour is only for the very dedicated.

If you don’t like walking then there are horses, motorbikes, ATVs, four-wheel drives, speedboats, kayaks, helicopters and even submarines.

And Parapunting (aka paragliding). You can take the Skyline Gondola to the top of Mount Coronet, strap yourself in with your co-pilot and as John said “Just run as fast as you can, then sit back and enjoy the ride” As I drifted down to earth through the spectacular view I realized this is what they mean by 100 percent New Zealand.


Getting there
Flying into Auckland with Air New Zealand ( is a painless affair as the flight is overnight and there’s only a one-hour time difference from Japan. Book the ferry and rental car ahead of your trip. Try to pick up the “AA What to See and Do” and “Where to Stay” guides.



Queenstown Novotel San Moritz
Interisland Ferry
Milford Sound cruises
Franz Josef Glacier
Air Safaris Mt Cook Tour
The Helicopter Line
Skyline Gondola
Rob Roy Glacier

Many thanks to Yumiko Nakayama of Tourism New Zealand Japan.

Photos courtesy of Tourism New Zealand