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press release

Disney+ Hotstar unveils its thrilling lineup of Korean content for 2024

After a successful 2023 marked by Korean originals Big Bet and Moving receiving numerous international awards, with Moving emerging as Disney+ Hotstar’s most-watched local original of the year, the streaming platform is set to continue its momentum.

Speaking on Feb 19 during the announcement of the lineup, Carol Choi, Executive Vice President, Original Content Strategy, The Walt Disney Company APAC, said: “The new Korean originals announced today really builds on the positive momentum and success of our APAC content slate last year. We will continue to scale our creative ambition with a curated collection of APAC originals, centered on quality storytelling and top talent, in collaboration with the region’s  most exciting storytellers.”

Here are seven shows you can look forward to from Disney+ Hotstar in 2024:

Blood Free:

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Starring Ju Jihoon (Kingdom) and Han Hyojoo (Moving), Blood Free follows a former bodyguard haunted by the failures of his past. After diving down a rabbit hole of tangled leads, he finds himself recruited to protect the CEO of a controversial lab-grown meat company who is also a survivor of the fateful attack that changed his life.

Unmasked:

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Set in modern-day Seoul, Unmasked follows a crack team of investigative journalists who are fighting for their careers after broadcasting a controversial story. With time running out, the team is given an impossible task if they want to save their jobs – solve a twenty-year-old cold case involving a famous actor who disappeared without a trace. Unmasked stars Kim Hyesoo (Under The Queen’s Umbrella).

The Tyrant:

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The Tyrant follows a U.S. government agent as he tries to recover a deadly new virus stolen from the South Korean government. With everything at stake, this action-packed series sees global intelligence agencies battle against nefarious parties to prevent the virus spreading across the world.

Gangnam B-Side:

A thrilling crime drama, Gangnam B-Side follows a pariah detective pulled back into the game after his daughter’s friend goes missing. The latest in a long line of women to go missing in the Gangnam area of Seoul, the detective will delve back into a world of vice, drugs and corruption to uncover something that threatens to topple some of the city’s wealthiest elite.

The Zone: Survival Mission – Season 3:

The popular Disney+ Korean variety has been renewed for its third season with Kwon Yuri and Yoo Jaesuk returning alongside new hosts – former UFC fighter Kim Donghyun and popular YouTuber Dex. Together, the foursome will get up to more hijinks than ever before as they try to survive an increasingly complex range of challenges.

Uncle Samsik:

Starring Parasite star Song Kangho, and Byun Yohan (Mr. Sunshine), Uncle Samsik is a societal drama set in 1960s Korea that follows an idealistic politician, and a mysterious political fixer called Uncle Samsik who operates in the shadows. Together the pair form an uneasy partnership with the goal of transforming a struggling post-war Korea into a prosperous country where everyone can afford three meals a day.

Light Shop:

batch Light Shop

An adaptation of the hit webtoon of the same name, Light Shop follows a group of strangers, each struggling to come to terms with a traumatic event in their past. Going about their daily lives, each individual is mysteriously drawn to a light shop that sits at the end of a seedy alleyway. Guarded by a vigilant shopkeeper, the light shop could hold the key to the strangers’ pasts, presents and futures.

Starring Ju Jihoon (Kingdom), Lee Jungeun (Parasite), Park Boyung (Oh My Ghost), and Bae Seongwoo (Veteran), today’s sizzle gave the first look at this eagerly anticipated new series from Kangfull, the visionary behind 2023’s breakout hit series Moving.

With even more local titles set to be announced in the weeks and months to come, be sure to stay tuned to Disney+ Hotstar for more captivating Korean content.

NKF Malaysia launches VoKAL at the 16th Annual Patient Forum

VoKAL serves as an official platform to elevate voices and transform policies for better kidney care in Malaysia

Kuching Sarawak, 1 October 2023 –  The National Kidney Foundation (“NKF”) of Malaysia held its 16th Annual Patient Forum 2023 in Kuching on October 1. Since 2003, the forum has been dedicated to serving kidney patients, their caregivers, and personnel from government, private, and NGO dialysis centres.

“I would like to express my gratitude to the National Kidney Foundation of Malaysia for their efforts in choosing Kuching as the location for their 16th forum. Their decision to subsidise registration costs is commendable, as it paves the way for greater public participation, allowing a wider audience to partake in this valuable event,” said Dato’ Sri Professor Dr. Sim Kui Hian, Deputy Premier, of Sarawak and Minister For Public Health, Housing And Local Government.

“NKF has been championing the fight against kidney-associated diseases through improving kidney care and preventive education. Recognising the need for support among kidney patients, this forum provides a convenient platform for patients to access essential information and advice,” said Dato’ Dr Zaki Morad Mohd Zaher, Chairman of NKF Malaysia.

Vokal 2

In conjunction with Patient Forum 2023, NKF also launched VoKAL (Voice-out Kidney Alliance), a nationwide kidney support group. VoKAL serves as an official platform for patients, caregivers, donors, service providers, and healthcare professionals to express their thoughts and concerns regarding kidney-related matters.

The primary purpose of VoKAL is to operate as an advocacy and advisory body, amplifying voices through support, advocacy campaigns, and activities that result in substantial contributions to kidney care in Malaysia. Its goal is to serve the community by providing a venue for formal recommendations to government and policymakers. These proposals address critical issues such as improving affordability and expanding access to quality treatments for kidney disease; protecting living donor rights, and removing barriers to organ donation; championing patient’s rights and empowerment; as well as supporting policy changes that can reduce the risks of kidney diseases.

NKF Malaysia invites all patients and interested parties to join VoKAL today and be the change of our kidney community needs. Your voice matters in shaping policies for better kidney care in Malaysia. Raise your voice at https://vokal.nkf.org.my/

4 Family Friendly Activities to Enjoy in Western Australia

The upcoming week-long school holidays in March holds to arrange a fun-filled family friendly activities with their kids.

With an abundance of crisp and fresh air, alongside the opportunity to get close to mother nature, Western Australia is a must-visit destination for the enjoyment of both parents and kids.

Easily accessible via a 5.5-hour flight from Kuala Lumpur, a trip to Western Australia with the family would not be complete without bringing the kids along to experience these family friendly activities:

1.Visit Australia’s cutest inhabitants at Caversham Wildlife Park

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Caversham Wildlife Park, Swan Valley.

Situated in the heart of Whiteman Park in the Swan Valley, Caversham Wildlife Park is a 30-minute drive north east of Perth and is bound to be a hit with the kids!

Being home to one of the largest collections of native fauna in Western Australia, Caversham Wildlife Park invites visitors to experience magical encounters with many uniquely Australian animals.

Kids of all ages will be thrilled with the chance to hand-feed the kangaroos and have their photo taken with cuddly koalas and wombats.

Visitors can also peek into the interactive zone to witness a variety of farmyard activities, including sheep shearing, sheepdog and droving demonstrations, and try their hand at milking cows and bottle-feeding lambs.

Once the kids have had their fill of mingling with wildlife, visitors can head into the surrounding Whiteman Park which acts as a picnic spot, or head to the on-site restaurant located just a 4-minute walk away.

2.Spend a day at Rottnest Island

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Couple taking selfie with Quokka (Setonix brachyurus) on Rottnest Island.

Perth’s idyllic island playground, Rottnest is just a short 25-minute ferry ride from Fremantle and a world away from city life.

For such a tiny island, visitors are in for a treat with the amount of activities families can enjoy at this carefree island in a day.

Being a car-free island, cycling is the best way to get around. With rental bicycles available at the ferry terminals and on the island, kids (and parents) can set off on a journey to explore the island.

Alternatively, the Bayseeker Bus regularly runs around the island, dropping visitors off at some of the more secluded beaches.

More family fun can be enjoyed in the form of golf, tennis, shopping and guided tours that can be found in Thomson Bay.

Don’t miss the chance to take a selfie with the world’s cutest and friendliest marsupial – the quokka. Found only in Western Australia, getting a #QuokkaSelfie with the world-famous quokka is a must-do for visitors headed to Rottnest Island and is sure to be a treat for the kids.

3.Go on a walk at Kings Park Botanic Garden

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DNA Tower, Kings Park and Botanic Garden.

Kids who love to explore are bound to enjoy the 17-hectare Kings Park Botanic Garden.

Located just 1.5km from the Perth central business district and overlooking the Swan River and the iconic Perth skyline, the park is home to over 3,000 flowering plant species.

Before setting of on an adventure, be sure to make a stop at the Visitor Information Centre to pick up a park map before discovering the amazing attractions of the park. Don’t miss going on a walk via the 40-minute Lotterywest Federation Walkway which takes visitors up into the treetops to enjoy one of the best panoramic views of the river and city.

For families with more time to explore, follow the Lotterywest Federation Walkway to the tranquil Water Garden and Pioneer Women’s Memorial Fountain and don’t forget to take plenty of pictures along the way.

4.Visit the dolphins of Monkey Mia

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Children feeding dolphins at Monkey Mia.

For families looking to take a road trip up north to the Coral Coast, The Dolphins of Monkey Mia in the Shark Bay World Heritage area will be a worthy addition to a trip with the kids.

Famous for their almost daily ritual of swimming to shore, as many as five wild Bottlenose dolphins will visit the beach, making this spot a popular dolphin-watching destination for families.

For an extra kick of adrenaline, specially-trained rangers who are on hand to control the interaction sessions will even choose a few lucky onlookers to hand feed the dolphins.

Of course, parents are always reminded to keep their kids safe from approaching the dolphins too closely and are refrained from touching the dolphins without the supervision of the specially-trained rangers.

With this list, parents and kids alike are sure to enjoy a stress-free school holiday by enjoying the best family-friendly activities that Western Australia has to offer.

For more details and destination inspirations, head over to Tourism Western Australia’s website at https://www.westernaustralia.com.

13 New Zealand’s traditional ingredients you should know about

Don’t know your pāua from your horopito? All you need to know about New Zealand’s traditional ingredients.

One of the biggest movements in New Zealand food is the enthusiastic embrace of Māori indigenous ingredients, known as kai.

The movement is spearheaded by Netflix’s Final Table star Monique Fiso, a chef of Māori and Samoan heritage who has conducted extensive research into traditional kai ingredients and cookery methods.

She incorporates many of these into the food she creates at her elegant new Wellington restaurant Hiakai.

If you’re keen to try kai, here’s a list of New Zealand’s traditional ingredients to look out for in restaurants, food trucks and at kai festivals.

1.Shellfish

Dig deep at low tide on sandy beaches for a range of delicious sweet shellfish such as pipi, tuatua, tuangi (cockle) and diamond shell clams.

Eat them freshly shucked straight from the shell; steamed and tossed with butter, herbs and lemon; or in pasta and fish dishes. Best place to try them? Depot Eatery in Auckland.

2. Green-lipped mussels/kuku

A unique and prized export to the world, the green-lipped mussel is served simmered in wine and herbs or baked on the half shell with a tasty topping of bacon, onion and buttery crumbs.

Taste their deliciousness at The Mussel Pot in Havelock in the Marlborough region.

3.Horopito

The dried leaves and seeds of this native bush have a slight peppery sensation and are prized by Māori for a wide range of traditional medicinal uses.

The spicy, earthy aromatic taste adds flavour to a wide variety of spice rubs, stuffings and chicken and other meat dishes. Look for Dovedale’s Horopito bread in good food stores.

4. Kawakawa

Another native bush whose leaves and berries are used for medicinal purposes but also for spicing up food.

Kawakawa tea is most refreshing, while the succulent leaves may be wrapped around foods or used as a base for soups and stocks. Find it flavouring the dressing for fish dishes at Hiakai.

5.Sweet potato/kumara

Sweet potato is one of the main kai ingredients; it’s an essential at hāngis and is served at all traditional feasts.
The three main sweet-potato varieties – purple, golden and red – are all deliciously sweet whether roasted or steamed. Pūhā & Pākehā cafe in Auckland serves stunning kumara and coconut bites.

6. NZ spinach/kōkihi

This very versatile native green (kōkihi or Tetragonia tetragonioides) is found in coastal areas.

The succulent leaves – when well washed and trimmed – can be used in salads and soups and are an excellent addition to stews and braised dishes.

7. Abalone/pāua

Pāua is a highly prized seafood gathered from the deep waters around rocky outcrops on the seashore.

The inky black meat found in the spectacularly colourful shell (which is often used in jewellery and as a decoration) is chewy and flavoursome. Find it in fritters, or in the famous pāua pie at Amisfield winery near Queenstown.

8. Pikopiko

These delicate, curled-up, bright green fern fronds are generally used as an attractive edible garnish, but can also be served steamed, boiled or added to a stir-fry. The risotto at Pūhā & Pākehā features this delicacy.

9.Puha

Puha CREDIT Vegetables co nz
Puha is one of the most important New Zealand’s traditional ingredients.

It’s one of the most important ingredients in Māori kai: a wild small leafy plant with thistle-like leaves and milky juice that grows profusely and is easily foraged.

Puha is boiled with pork and eaten as the green vegetable component of a common delicious dish known as “boil-up”.

As Monique Fiso says, “You can find it absolutely everywhere you look – by the roadside, in the bush or at the bottom of your garden.”

10. Seafood/kai moana

Kai moana (food of the sea) is central to all Māori feasting.

Apart from treasured shellfish, the most desired fish are two oily/meaty species, kahawai and mullet, and the larger kingfish and hāpuku.

Try them smoked or fried whenever you see them on a menu.

11. Taewa

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Taewa, one of New Zealand’s traditional ingredients.

These savoury potatoes were a staple crop for both eating and trading, and can be found in several varieties, usually with a purple or coloured skin and a creamy or blue interior.

Moemoe and urenika are the most popular, but the brilliant blue tūtaekurī is also worth tracking down.

12.Tītī  

Also known as mutton bird, this salty, savoury seabird is coveted by those who have acquired the taste for it.

It is gathered on islands in the extreme south of New Zealand in a traditional way by Māori iwi (tribes) who have lineal rights to the ancient ritual.

The birds and generally salted and preserved then roasted or boiled. Try this delicacy at Fleurs Place in Moeraki (Fleur herself says it tastes like “anchovy-flavoured duck”) or Fishbone in Queenstown.

13. Karengo and other seaweeds

High in nutrients, there are many delicious varieties of edible seaweed including rimurapa (bull kelp), karengo and sea lettuce.

Enjoy them in soups and salads or dried and used as flavourings.

This article is based on a press release by Tourism New Zealand.

Explore Unique Adventures for the Best of Western Australia

It’s no secret that Western Australia is home to a number of UNESCO World Heritage-listed sites, including the incredible Ningaloo Reef, spectacular and isolated coastlines in the country, huge swathes of wilderness dotted with rugged gorges and dramatic mountain ranges, and of course, home to Australia’s whitest beach.

With all of this in mind, it may come to no one’s surprise that this state, which makes up a third of Australia’s landmass is an absolute goldmine of outdoor adventure opportunity.

Come and experience some of the world’s most thrilling and scenic adventures, for whether it’s on water, land or in the air, you’re bound to find an activity that appeals to your sense of adventure, all within the state.

The best thing is, Perth (the capital of Western Australia) is only a 5.5-hour flight from Kuala Lumpur and shares the same time zone as us!

To help plan your escapade, here’s a must-see list of unique and adventurous experiences to explore across the five diverse regions in Western Australia:
  • Go above and beyond
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If skydiving has been on your bucket list for a while, or you’ve just been waiting for your chance to leap from a plane at 15,000 ft all over again, Western Australia is the place to make it happen.

You can do it over the beach at Rockingham or admire the breath-taking scenery high up in the air with the Rottnest Island skydive and ferry pass combo. And once you’re back on solid ground, it’s time to whip up your camera and go selfie-hunting with an adorable Quokka on the same day! Seeing this island paradise with your own eyes is a real must-do in Perth.

For something a little more leisurely, you can always hop into a hot air balloon. The sensation of calmly floating up in the air is something you just have to try at least once. Drifting with the wind is quite unlike anything else – it’s a really smooth glide across the sky, with plenty of time to take it all in and snap some really amazing sunsets or aerial shots. If you’re planning to pop the question to your significant other, doing so will certainly make it all the more romantic and memorable. We’re not sure if there’s enough room to get down on one knee though…

  • An Instagrammable Playground
Granite Skywalk
Granite Skywalk

Another area that you may want to visit is Castle Rock, where you’ll be greeted by massive ancient granite domes that are 1,100 million years old. At 670 metres above sea level, take in a truly exhilarating view from the suspended Granite Skywalk or scale the last few metres to reach the summit.

This unique granite range of 12 peaks sits in the heart of Porongurup National Park and merely a 4.25-hours’ drive away from Perth.  Allow at least 2 hours to complete the steep 3-kilometre return walk and stop to get a closer look at the incredible variety of plant and animal life that makes this region one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots.

Another popular adventure spot is Collie, which is an outdoor adventure playground nestled in a scenic forested valley in the Darling Ranges. All the beauty, challenges and thrills of the South West bushland are right here. Think white water rafting, water skiing, canoeing, bush camping and fishing, plus bushwalking and mountain biking on some of the world’s greatest long-distance trails.

Visit in springtime (September to November) and you’ll see the valley come alive with blooms of colourful wildflowers. You can be here in just over two hours from the freeway south of Perth, making it an easy weekend getaway.

  • Ride along the waves
Kimberley
Up close experience of the Horizontal Falls on boat tour with Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventures.

Your trip is not complete without heading over to rugged Kimberley in the north west region of Western Australia where you’ll find a variety of spectacular waterfalls, including some of the world’s biggest and most stunning. Experience jumping in the waterfall for an invigorating dip, tackle the rough waters or take to the skies in a helicopter for a bird’s eye view of the action.

If bumpy waves and water sports don’t tickle your fancy, you can “surf” in one of Australia’s biggest waves at Hyden – it’s nowhere near the ocean, but uniquely enough  home to the world famous Wave Rock. Over 2,700 million years in the making, the wave rises 15 metres over the outback plain, which becomes a sea of colourful wildflower blooms in spring.

Located near the Wheatbelt town of Hyden, it’s a pleasant drive (between 3 to 4 hours) from Perth, where you’ll see picturesque rolling farmlands to wide vistas of wheat and canola fields.

  • Free your spirit with natural wonders
Pinnacles
Couple at The Pinnacles, Nambung National Park

Located just over 2 hours north of Perth, Pinnacles Desert is almost like an other-worldly landscape. Formed over millions of years, the lunar-like Pinnacles form one of Australia’s most unique and fascinating natural landscapes. Once darkness falls, get a rare chance to see an unpolluted and breath-taking view of the Milky Way.

Some people love getting up close with fascinating and diverse marine and if you’re one of them, you’ll be in awe of World Heritage-listed Shark Bay and Ningaloo Reef. Being one of the largest fringing reefs on Earth, you’ll get the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to swim with the largest fish in the sea, the gentle whale shark, as well as a huge variety of marine wildlife including sea turtles, humpback whales, orcas (killer whales) dugong, manta rays and reef sharks!

  • Journey back to “the land before time”
Karijini
Friends enjoying the natural spa pool located at Hamersley Gorge , Karijini National Park

Last but not least, a land of breath-taking contrasts covering billions of years in history and over one million square kilometres, the North West is one of the last true wilderness areas on Earth. Find adventure in Karijini National Park, one of Western Australia’s most spectacular natural attractions offering amazing hiking trails through ancient gorges.

Explore tunnels of marbled rock, clamber over boulders, squeeze through narrow tunnels, paddle through waterways and descend deep into ancient chasms.

Ever tried riding a bike on sand or even better riding a fat bike? For anyone unaware, a fat bike is similar to a regular mountain bike but with huge oversized tyres and rims. And you can ride one of these against the sunset on Cable Beach, which is well known as one of the best spots to admire the setting sun.

If we were you, we’d save this for last, for then you can literally say that you spent your last few days in Western Australia riding into the sunset.

For more details and destination inspirations, head over to Tourism Western Australia’s website at https://www.westernaustralia.com.

Guam Rail and other recent species recoveries you should know about

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According to an updated report of The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, conservation efforts have led to improvements in the status of ten species.

This includes the recovery of the Guam Rail, a bird previously listed as Extinct in the Wild.

Despite these improvements, the IUCN Red List now includes 30,178 species threatened with extinction.

The report also finds there is increasing evidence of the negative effects of climate change. There are now 112,432 species on the IUCN Red List.

“This IUCN Red List update offers a spark of hope in the midst of the biodiversity crisis,” said IUCN Acting Director General, Dr Grethel Aguilar.

“Though we have witnessed 73 genuine species declines, the stories behind the 10 genuine improvements prove that nature will recover if given half a chance. Climate change is adding to the multiple threats species face, and we need to act urgently and decisively to curb the crisis.”

So what are the conservation success stories

The latest IUCN Red List update reveals genuine improvements in the status of eight bird species and two freshwater fishes.

Captive breeding, combined with careful management of wild populations, has been key to these conservation successes.

Among these improvements is the flightless, fast-running Guam Rail (Hypotaenidia owstoni).

It is the second bird in history to recover after being declared Extinct in the Wild, after the California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus).

Once widespread on the Pacific island of Guam, its numbers declined after the Brown Tree Snake (Boiga irregularis) was accidentally introduced at the end of World War Two.

In 1987, the last wild Guam Rail was killed by this invasive predator.

Thanks to a 35-year captive breeding programme, the Guam Rail is now established on the neighbouring Cocos Island.

However, the bird is still classified as Critically Endangered – one step away from extinction.

Guam Rail © Greg Hume CC BY SA 3.0 1
Guam Rail at the Cincinnati Zoo.
© Greg Hume

Other species

In Mauritius, the Echo Parakeet (Psittacula eques) continues its recovery thanks to conservation efforts. This effort included a highly successful captive breeding programme.

There are now more than 750 Echo Parakeets in the wild. With this update the species has been reclassified as Vulnerable, following its improvement from Critically Endangered to Endangered in 2007.

Two freshwater fish species – the Australian Trout Cod (Maccullochella macquariensis) and Pedder Galaxias (Galaxias pedderensis) – have likewise improved, from Endangered to Vulnerable and Critically Endangered to Endangered respectively.

Decades of conservation action have focused on establishing additional subpopulations through reintroductions and wild-to-wild translocations.

Both species face threats from invasive species and habitat destruction and degradation.

Increasing evidence of the effects of climate change

Despite these successful conservation stories, climate change has contributed to the declines of species. Some of them are several freshwater fishes and the reef-dependent Shorttail Nurse Shark.

Assessments in this update show climate change affects species by, for example, altering habitats and increasing the strength and frequency of extreme weather events.

This Red List update reveals that 37 per cent of Australia’s freshwater fish species are threatened with extinction.

Of this number, at least 58% are directly impacted by climate change.
Fish are highly susceptible to extreme droughts caused by declining rainfall and increasing temperatures.

Climate change also compounds the threat from invasive alien species, which can move into new areas as water temperature and flow change.

Native to the Western Indian Ocean, the Shorttail Nurse Shark (Pseudoginglymostoma brevicaudatum) has declined by approximately 80% over 30 years.

Simultaneously affected by unmanaged fishing and climate change, it has moved from Vulnerable to Critically Endangered.

Living only in shallow waters where it has no refuge from fishing, the shark is losing its habitat due to coral reef degradation caused in part by ocean warming.

Climate change is also threatening Dominica’s national bird, the Imperial Parrot (Amazona imperialis).

While hurricanes naturally occur in the Caribbean, their increased frequency and intensity result in high bird mortality and habitat destruction, alongside devastating impacts on people.

The species declined from Endangered to Critically Endangered after Hurricane Maria in 2017, the strongest hurricane on record to have struck the island. There are now estimated to be fewer than 50 mature individuals left in the wild.

Eucalypts assessed worldwide

Rainbow Eucalyptus © Thomas Caldwell CC BY SA 2.0
Rainbow Eucalytpus (Maui Garden of Eden, Hawaii)
© Thomas Caldwell

All known eucalypt species worldwide have been assessed in this Red List update, revealing that almost 25 per cent are threatened with extinction.

Of the 826 eucalypts – comprising the Eucalyptus, Corymbia and Angophora species groups – 812 occur only in Australia.

As keystone species, they define the landscape of the entire Australian continent, and are culturally significant to its First Nations People.

Eucalypts including the Vulnerable Eucalyptus moluccana are the sole food source for the Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus), which has declined significantly due to loss of eucalypt habitat.

Elsewhere in the world eucalypts can be highly invasive, but in their native range in Australia they face threats from human use of land, especially agriculture and urbanisation.

This has resulted in population declines of at least 30% for 134 eucalypts, such as the Endangered Rose Mallee (Eucalyptus rhodantha), which has declined by more than 50%. Mining also threatens some restricted range species, such as the Critically Endangered Eucalyptus purpurata.

Critical habitat for conservation now remains in the areas between rivers and land, on roadside patches and in paddocks where lone trees often remain.

4 Unique Experiences You Can Get in Western Australia in 2020

Despite (or because of) the bushfire tragedy in Australia, Tourism Australia has been fighting to get its tourism industry back on its feet.

One of the ways it’s been doing that is launching its Holiday Here This Year campaign, where they’re encouraging Australians to support their fellow countrymen and plan a local holiday to show that they are open for business and welcome visitors.

Here’s a list of the best activities you can dive into in Western Australia in 2020.

Easily accessible via a 5.5-hour flight from Kuala Lumpur, Western Australia is perfect for all types of travellers – from those looking for a quick getaway to those embarking on a sabbatical.

For inspiration, here’s a list of fun-filled things you can do in Western Australia in 2020.

1.Spend some time frolicking in the sun

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Couple snorkelling at Greens Pool

With plenty of sunny days, you’ll be sure to enjoy a day out in the sun at the many white, sandy beaches in Western Australia during any time of the year.

Along its 12,500 km coastline, you’ll find some of the most stunning World Heritage scenery and once-in-a-lifetime wildlife encounters for a truly unforgettable beach holiday.

For those looking to get in some good old Vitamin Sea, head to Greens Pool in the South West region – one of Western Australia’s most iconic beaches.

The beach is truly an Insta-worthy spot with a view of clear emerald waters, pure white sand and sculpted rocks, making it the perfect spot for swimming, snorkelling and diving.

You can also check out the many other beaches in Western Australia in 2020, including those located along Perth’s 80km coastline. It offers an endless supply of sun, sea and sand.

Popular destinations among the 19 beaches situated in Perth include Cottesloe Beach, Scarborough Beach and City Beach which offers the best beach-front activities for travellers all over the globe.

2.Enjoy the best seasonal food of Western Australia in 2020

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Hunting for truffles, The Truffle & Wine Co.

No matter the time of year, there’s sure to be plenty of gastronomical experiences awaiting you across the five regions of Western Australia.

If you’re curious to know the stories behind Western Australia’s produce, take the Swan Valley Fresh Seasonal Produce Trail where you can meet the people behind the produce that adorn the amazing dishes throughout the four seasons.

If you’re looking to “hunt” your food, the annual Truffle Kerfuffle is a weekend long celebration of Manjimup’s famous black truffles.

Held at the beginning of truffle season in June, festival goers can join truffle hunters and their truffle dogs to sniff out prized truffles, visit the festival village to meet the producers and get a taste of the region, or get a truffle fix at a multitude of exclusive dining events.

3.Go on an exciting road trip

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Another great perk of Western Australia’s sunny weather is that you can plan to go on a road trip during any long weekend or public holiday throughout the year – earning it its title as the road trip state.

Western Australia offers some of the most gorgeous coast-hugging scenic drives along the Coral Coast.

If you can’t stay away from the crystal clear waters of the sea, try going on an adventure along the Coral Coast Highway where you will be brought to the two wonders that put Ningaloo and Shark Bay on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

For those looking to go off the beaten track and enjoy longer drives, try planning for a road trip to the South West and Golden Outback where you’ll witness the landscape changing right in front of you as you travel south from the city skylines of Perth to witness the spectacularly diverse landscape as you take an adventure to the great South West Edge.

4.Be one with nature

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Photographing the wildflowers located near Carnarvon.

Western Australia boasts an amazing line up of natural events and attractions, many of which are found only in a handful of locations on Earth.

Regularly occurring during different seasons of the year, these events offer unique opportunities for you to immerse yourself in nature.

For starters, there’s the collection of wildflowers in Western Australia, which is one of the largest on Earth. More than 12,000 species, over 60% of which are found nowhere else on Earth, call Western Australia home.

Beginning from the north in June, the flowering season moves south by September to reach Perth and moves on to the South West by October.

Another event you ought to bookmark for your trip to Western Australia is the whale migration season.

Between May and December, the Humpback, Southern Right and Blue Whales make their way along the coast, often coming close to shore where you can see them with binoculars or even the naked eye from coastal vantage points.

Besides, you can get close to these gentle giants of the ocean by making a trip to Coral Bay or Exmouth, particularly from June to November.

If you’re looking for a fun-filled family getaway, be sure to check out the friendly dolphins at Monkey Mia where wild dolphins have been visiting the shoreline virtually every day for over 40 years, making this spot a must-visit.

Whale watching low res
Whale watching near Busselton

With this list, we’re sure you’ll be able to plan for the best trip in western Australia – be it a weekend getaway or a long vacation.

For more details and destination inspirations, head over to Tourism Western Australia’s website at https://www.westernaustralia.com.

5 things you should know about Andaz Seoul Gangnam

Hyatt Hotels Corporation recently announced that Andaz Seoul Gangnam has opened in the heart of the South Korean capital.

Hence, this marked the Andaz brand’s entry into the country.

So, here are five things you should know about the newly opened Andaz Seoul Gangnam:
Andaz Seoul Gangnam One King Bed Deluxe Room
Andaz Seoul Gangnam’s one king bed deluxe room.
1.Andaz Seoul Gangnam’s unique design

With direct access to Apgujeong metro station, Andaz Seoul Gangnam is designed to fuse traditional local culture and creative modern living.

The hotel concept’s inspiration is bojagi. It is a traditional Korean wrapping cloth used in significant ceremonies. Besides, according to traditional Korean folklore, it is a gift wrap to preserve good luck.

As for the brain behind the design, internationally renowned Dutch design firm Studio Piet Boon designed Andaz Seoul Gangnam. As guests move through the hotel’s light-filled interiors, unique layouts unfold to reveal unconventional corners and dynamic architectural angles that are layered with contemporary bojagi patterns cloaked in soothing muted shades and subtle textures.

All of the artworks in the hotel is created by artists either from Seoul or with a strong connection to the city. With this, the hotel will actively nurture local talent, offering a platform for emerging young artists.

Greeting guests at the entrance is Wish. It is an 8-foot-high (2.5 meter) bronze abstract of a mother with overlapping hands by Choi Jong-tae, a notable Korean contemporary artist.

While checking in, guests can admire Dialogue. It is an oil painting of frantic brushstrokes in cobalt blue by Oh Su-fan, who combines eastern calligraphy with western abstraction.

In A’+Z bar, there is an artwork by Lee Jung-woong called Brush. It is a strikingly hyper-realistic depiction of a Chinese calligraphy brush on Korean rice paper by Lee Jung-woong.

2.Guestrooms with spectacular view of Seoul

Andaz Seoul Gangnam houses 241 contemporary and stylish guestrooms. Plus, all of them are offering a bird’s-eye view of the bustling downtown district through floor-to-ceiling windows.

The striking diagonal walls inspired by the asymmetric angles of bojagi patchwork complement the fluid layout and clean-lined furniture which provide a floating illusion.

Guests looking to entertain may opt for one of two rooftop ‘hospitality suites’. These suites are spanning the entire seventeenth floor with private outdoor terraces overlooking Han River and the city.

As for the ultimate indulgence, the 1,755 square-foot (163-square-meter) Gangnam Penthouse Suite houses a vast entertainment terrace, a multifunctional living space with a bar and dining area.

Additionally, it can accommodate up to 20 people, a TV den with a theatre AV system.

The highlight must be its luxurious bathroom with a circular tub from which one can soak in the city views.

3.Well-assorted choices for drinking and dining

The hotel’s bars and restaurants are led by Executive Chef Hamish Neale and Sora Choi. She is the youngest Hyatt food and beverage director in Korea.

On Level 1, A’+Z serves as an all-day bar. This is where guests and passersby can drop in throughout the day.

Furthermore, freshly prepared savories, cakes and pastries are available for guests to either grab ‘n’ go or enjoy at the communal table or bar counter.
 
Then ascending the central staircase guests arrive at JOGAKBO, which means ‘traditional patchwork’ in Korean.

Here, it offers a sophisticated reinterpretation of Seoul’s immersive street and alleyway dining.

4.Rejuvenating wellness facilities

The Summer House features a 16-meter pool surrounded by a whirlpool and cold and warm baths, cabana-style niches and a seven meter LED screen showing immersive scenes of Seoul.

Guests can also relax in the infrared sauna, herbal bath, cool, warm and hot baths, marble-clad wet and dry saunas and ice fountains.

In the meantime, the spa offers only cutting-edge treatments. They are using products from premium K-beauty brand AmorePacific as well as Ling New York by facialist Ling Chan.

The 24-hour Fitness Center comes with the latest Life Fitness and Pilates equipment for energizing workouts.

Additionally, there is the Juice Bar serving fresh pressed drinks for patrons.

5. Andaz Seoul Gangnam’s collaborations with Korean brands

Andaz Seoul Gangnam has collaborated with several Korean brands to create an authentic local lifestyle experience for guests.

The art-inspired perfume brand Tamburins developed a signature fragrance for the hotel’s public areas. The brand is inspired by the nostalgic scent of mugwort rice cakes wrapped in bojagi, as well as an exquisite blend of amber, pine needles and sweet wormwood.

Meanwhile, local brand Hohodang will host a series of exclusive Andaz Salon events on bojagi wrapping.

Andaz Seoul


 

Guide to a Romantic Escape along Australia’s Coral Coast Highway

Nothing beats a romantic escape with your significant other. Whether you’re looking to plan a special anniversary trip or a quick couple’s escape, Western Australia is the ideal location to bring your romance to life.

Easily accessible with a 5.5-hour flight from Kuala Lumpur, you and your partner can easily jet off on your getaway during one of the many long holidays coming up.

Want to make the most out of your romantic getaway? Opt to rent a car right at Perth airport for as low as RM 130 a day to embark on an adventurous road trip in one of the largest states in the world – Western Australia.

As you make your way along the Coral Coast Highway, be sure to have your camera at the ready to take in beautiful sights of the beach and lush green landscapes along the way.

Here are some of the must-visits stops along the Coral Coast Highway for a truly memorable romantic escape with your loved one.
1.Take a stroll on the ‘moon’ at the Pinnacles Desert
Startrails and Milky Way over The Pinnacles, Nambung National Park
Startrails and Milky Way over The Pinnacles, Nambung National Park.

Starting from Perth, take a scenic four-hour Indian Ocean Drive to the Pinnacles Desert of Nambung National Park. Regarded as Australia’s most fascinating landscape, a walk through the desert feels as though you are walking on the moon as you follow the trail through the limestones coming out of the shifting sand.

After your walk on the ‘moon’, head to the park and check out the beautiful beaches, coastal dune systems, shady groves of tuart trees and low heathlands of plants that produce vibrantly coloured flowers between August and October.

For more curious couples, head over to the Pinnacles Desert Discovery Centre located within the park to find out how this curious landscape took shape and discover the abundance of flora and fauna that call it home.

2.Capture the beauty of wildflowers at Kalbarri National Park
Kalbarri National Park
Couple sitting near Nature’s Window, in Kalbarri National Park

Located four hours away from the Pinnacles Desert along the Coral Coast Highway lies Kalbarri National Park. The park covers an expansive 186,096 hectares and offers some of the most spectacular scenery in Western Australia for nature-loving couples.

To see the park blossom with the colours of spring, make a visit between July and October where over 1,100 varieties of wildflowers are in full bloom, from Grevilleas to feather flowers. This offers you the most picturesque backdrop for the perfect Instagram shot!

3.Visit the friendly dolphins of Monkey Mia
RAC Monkey Mia Resort
Underwater view of a friendly Monkey Mia bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)

With a four-hour drive from Kalbarri, you and your loved one will be able to get up close with these friendly creatures located at Monkey Mia in the Shark Bay World Heritage. Known for their ritual of swimming up to the shore almost daily, as many as five wild Bottlenose dolphins will visit the beach, making this spot a popular dolphin watching destination.

While the exact timing of these dolphin experiences depends on, well, the dolphins, there are feeding sessions between 7.45am and 12.00noon with a few lucky onlookers getting the chance to hand feed the dolphins. However, they are also known to visit the beach outside these times to forage and socialise. For your safety, and the dolphins’, do remember to not approach them too closely and refrain from touching them without the supervision of the specially trained rangers.

4.Marvel at the wonder of Shell Beach
Shell Beach Conservation Park, south east of Denham
Family on Shell beach in the Shark bay World Heritage Area.

After spending time with the friendly dolphins at Monkey Mia, drive an hour to Shell Beach. Formed from billions of tiny shells, Shell Beach is a hidden gem in the Shark Bay World Heritage Area and is popular for swimming, and simply relaxing in the sunshine.

Shell Beach, like its name, is one of only a handful of places on earth where shells replace beach sand. A walk on the 100 km stretch with shells that are seven to 10 metres deep with your loved one is truly an experience like no other.

5.Swim with whale sharks at Coral Bay
Swimming with whale shark (Rhincodon typus)
Woman swimming with a whale shark (Rhincodon typus), in the Ningaloo Marine Park

From Monkey Mia, take a six-hour drive to Coral Bay – the only place in Western Australia that gives you direct access to Ningaloo Reef. Here, in the peaceful waters of the bay, you and your partner are just a short snorkel or glass-bottom boat ride from Ningaloo’s coral gardens, all of which are part of a UNESCO World Heritage site.

You can also come face-to-fin with the gentle giant itself, the majestic whale shark. Take some time to explore the outer reef on a kayak, dive charter or even a snorkel tour and go on an exciting journey to discover humpback whales, turtles, and manta rays, which is sure to be a sight to behold. With plenty of beachfront stays to choose from, you’ll truly enjoy being just a few steps away from the sparkling waters for a quick dip in the waters or a snorkelling adventure.

Glamp under the stars at Sal Salis Ningaloo Reef
Sal Salis Ningaloo Reef, near Exmouth
Accommodation at Sal Salis Ningaloo Reef, near Exmouth

Located two hours away from Coral Bay lies the exclusive beach safari camp of Sal Salis. Nestled in the dunes of the Cape Range National Park, the camp offers an exclusive camping experience overlooking the World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Reef.

The campsite is perfect for a romantic evening under the stars as each of the 15 eco-luxe wilderness tents is decked with comfortable beds and comes complete with en suite bathroom with an eco-friendly toilet and solar hot shower.

The cherry on top is, of course, the fact that your stay comes with a spectacular view of the surrounding bush and the expansive Indian Ocean.

Spend the night stargazing under the bright jewels of the night and witness the cosmic wonder of the Milky Way for a truly memorable experience with your loved one.

With these equally relaxing and adventurous spots along the Coral Coast Highway, we’re sure you and your loved one will spend quality time together and enjoy the experience of these uniquely exciting activities across the Coral Coast.

For more details and destination inspirations, head over to Tourism Western Australia’s website at https://www.westernaustralia.com.

Five best New Zealand gardens to see in spring for Insta-worthy photos

From subtropical Northland to blossoms down south, New Zealand gardens are at their best once winter’s departed.

New Zealand is a land of contrasts, with a climate that ranges from hot and humid to arid and alpine.

This diversity of topography makes it ideal for a wide range of garden styles.

And you’re never very far from a pretty garden whether that’s the houses along the street or a magnificent park. 

Here’s a rundown of the best New Zealand gardens both north and south during spring.

Northland: Sun-soaked sensations

As one of the warmest parts of New Zealand, Northland is celebrated for its subtropical gardens.

But this isn’t all the balmy region has to offer the keen plant lover. Pompallier Mission in Russell is an Edwardian/Victorian garden with curving flower borders and a mix of annuals, perennials, trees and shrubs.

Bordered by scented Elaeagnus hedges, it’s a tranquil spot that references the former mission’s 19th-century provenance.

Meanwhile, the privately owned Monto Garden in Kerikeri is closer to what you’d expect of a subtropical climate. Pools fringed by palms and cycads and a wetland area are star attractions in this lovely spot.

Travel Tips

Pompallier Mission: The Strand, Russell (+64 9 403 9015)
Monto Garden: 182 Puketotara Rd, Kerikeri (+64 9 407 3329)

Just a few hours north of Auckland, Northland is best explored by car.

Spring sees the area’s gardens at their balmy prime, and you’ll also avoid the crowds that gather over the summer holidays.

Russell is accessed by car ferry from Opua, and Kerikeri is an easy three-hour drive from Auckland.

Auckland: Diverse delights

Auckland is the country’s largest city. Besides it boasts a wide range New Zealand gardens

The Auckland Garden DesignFest (a biennial event, 16-17 November 2019) is a great way to see the city’s best private gardens in a short time frame.

Twenty gardens will be open to the public showcasing a range of gardening styles.

Accessible all year round, the 64-hectare Auckland Botanic Gardens in Manurewa includes 10 hectares of native forest.

One of the highlights is the Gondwana Arboretum, with cycads, conifers and ferns unchanged from those found in the super continent of Gondwana 150 million years ago.

Travel Tips

Auckland Botanic Gardens: 102 Hill Rd, Manurewa (+64 9 267 1457)

Auckland is built amid volcanoes (more than 50) and many of these have beautiful trees and other notable plants on their slopes.

In the city’s west, the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park offers interesting walks amid the native vegetation. Driving is the best option for getting around the area.

Auckland Botanic Gardens 4
Auckland’s Botanic Gardens are a wonderful place for a colourful spirng stroll. Credits: Auckland Council.

Waikato – Hamilton and Hobbits

Only 90 minutes south of Auckland, Hamilton Gardens is one of the country’s most celebrated public gardens, attracting 4000 visitors daily over spring and summer.

It is also one of the newest, founded 30 years ago on a former refuse tip.

At more than 54 hectares, it’s a large space and tells the story of different civilisations in areas including the Indian Char Bagh Garden, the Italian Renaissance Garden and the Tudor Garden.

Additionally, Te Parapara is New Zealand’s only traditional productive Maori garden. The newest series of gardens entitled The Fantasy Collection. It includes the Mansfield Garden (inspired by Katherine Mansfield’s The Garden Party) and the Chinoiserie garden.

Future gardens under development include the Surrealist Garden with features that will be five times the normal size. 

Just 50 minutes south-east of Hamilton is Matamata or Hobbiton.

Set in green pastureland, it’s the place where The Shire scenes were filmed for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies.

Enjoy the Hobbit holes with their gorgeous gardens, rolling hills and a beer at the Green Dragon Inn.

Travel Tips

Hamilton Gardens: Hungerford Cres, SH1, Hamilton (+64 7 838 6782)
Hobbiton: 501 Buckland Rd, Hinuera, Matamata (+64 7 888 1505)

The Waikato River runs through Hamilton and there are a number of easy walks along the river through lovely riverside vegetation. Hamilton Gardens is also on the river’s edge, so take a stroll after your visit.

Taranaki – Flowers and Forests

With both mountain and coastal climates, Taranaki is one of New Zealand’s best gardening regions.

The main gardening attraction here is the Taranaki Garden Festival (1 – 10 November 2019), with more than 40 public and private gardens open.

Best known for its brilliant spring-flowering rhododendrons, the district also features some outstanding native forests and elegant public parks.

Travel Tips

Taranaki has a wealth of natural wonders, from the beaches to the dramatic snow-capped peak of Mt Taranaki.

One of the most unusual and atmospheric natural wonders is the Goblin Forest. It is a collection of twisted trunks and branches of kamahi trees.

Located in an area known as East Egmont, it feels like an elf might just be hiding behind each tree.

ChristchurchBotanic Gardens willow tree
In September, the Chirstchurch Botanic Gardens are at their best with camellias, bulbs and magnolia. Credit: Tourism New Zealand.

Christchurch – Garden City

Christchurch has long been known as ‘the garden city’. Additionally, the central city redevelopment post the 2011 earthquake has a major focus on new gardens and green spaces on the terraces on the banks of the Avon River.

Among the many long-standing attractions is the Christchurch Botanic Gardens. In September, the camellias, rhododendrons, bulbs and magnolias are blooming across its 21 hectares.

Adjacent Hagley Park fills with daffodils and blossom, and close by Mona Vale is an historic homestead. It is a 5.5 hectares of maples and conifers, rose gardens, camellias, a large lily pond and a stunning iris garden.

Mona Vale Homestead 1
Christchurch’s Mona Vale is an historic homestead with 5.5 hectares of maples and conifers. Credit: Tourism New Zealand.
Travel Tips

Christchurch Botanic Gardens: Rolleston Ave, City (+64 3 941 7590)
Mona Vale: 40 Mona Vale Ave, Fendalton (+64 3 941 8999)

Christchurch is the gateway to the Canterbury region – from here you can drive to places such as Hanmer Springs (where you can spend time soaking in thermal pools) or the turquoise lakes and alpine slopes of Tekapo and Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park.

This is a story idea provided by Tourism New Zealand.

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