Why We Love Japan

Geisha girls, a Shiatsu massage, karate, sushi, cherry blossoms and Mount Fuji are some reasons why we love Japan.

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Taal Volcano
Taal Volcano

Taal Volcano

Located on the island of Luzon (31 miles south of Manila), Taal Volcano is the 2nd most active volcano in the Philippines. The volcano -- part of what is known as the Pacific Ring of Fire -- and Taal Lake is one of most picturesque views in the country. 960 1280

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Diniwid Beach

Diniwid Beach

Visit the upscale Diniwid Beach on Boracay Island, Philippines. Of the 13 beaches on Boracay, Diniwid Beach is perfect for travelers looking for an upscale stretch of sand that’s private, quiet and less populated with beachgoers. 960 1280

Getty Images  

Chocolate Hills

Chocolate Hills

Located in the Philippines’ Bohol Province, the Chocolate Hills are 1,776 hills spread over an area of more than 20 square miles. This geological site and popular tourist attraction -- normally covered in green grass -- turns chocolate brown during the dry season. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Boracay Island

Boracay Island

Boracay is a small island located almost 200 miles south of Manila. This island paradise is emerging among the top destinations for a relaxing vacation and exciting nightlife scene. In 2012, Travel + Leisure picked Boracay as the best island in the world. The island is also a great spot for travelers who enjoy water sports, including scuba diving, snorkeling, helmet diving and cliff diving. Visit during Amihan season (usually from September to June) to get the best trade winds for windsurfing, kiteboarding and kitesurfing. 960 1280

Getty Images  

Manila

Manila

Manila is the second largest city in the Philippines with a total population of more than 1.6 million people. Recommended sights to visit include Metropolitan Museum of Manila, Rizal Park, Fort Santiago, Star City, Manila Ocean Park, Café Juanita and the Marikina Shoe Museum, for those fascinated by the footwear of the Philippines’ controversial former First Lady, Imelda Marcos. 960 1280

Mark Holloway / iStock / Getty Images  

Shangri-La's Boracay Resort & Spa

Shangri-La's Boracay Resort & Spa

Arrive at Shangri-La’s secluded Boracay Resort & Spa on a speed boat. Guests can choose to stay in one of the resort’s 219 rooms, suites or villas -- all with a spacious balcony and some with a stunning oceanfront view. Don’t pass up being pampered at Chi, The Spa, or using the resort’s health club, tennis court, dive center or swimming pool, one of the largest free-form swimming pools in the country. 960 1280

Shangri-La's Boracay Resort & Spa  

Banaue Rice Terraces

Banaue Rice Terraces

Commonly referred to by Filipinos as the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” the Banaue Rice Terraces are 2,000-year-old terraces carved into the mountains in the Ifugao Province of the Philippines. Locals still plant rice and vegetables on the terraces despite the steady decrease in number of young farmers. 960 1280

Norbert Eisele-Hein, Getty Images  

Cebu

Cebu

Cebu is an island province in the Philippines, consisting of the island itself and 167 surrounding islands. It is one of the most developed provinces, with Cebu City as the main center of commerce, trade, education and industry. In 2007, Conde Nast Traveler named Cebu the 7th best island destination in the Indian Ocean-Asia region. Cebu is also a great spot for shopping. We recommend shopping at local markets like the Carbon Market or Tabo-an Market. 960 1280

Tom Cockrem / Lonely Planet Images / Getty Images  

Snorkeling in Cebu

Snorkeling in Cebu

Spend hours snorkeling and exploring the marine life along the coast of Cebu. Mactan Island and Moalboal Cebu are some of the best spots for an underwater adventure to explore the 4-armed chocolate, blue linckia starfish, black sea urchin, manta rays, barracuda, whalesharks and beautiful coral gardens. 960 1280

Getty Images  

Rizal Park

Rizal Park

Take a stroll through Rizal Park, a historical urban park located along Roxas Boulevard in Manila. This iconic park consists of open lawns, lush gardens, paved walks and wooded areas with monuments that recognize national Filipino heroes like Jose Rizal. On Sundays, locals and visitors can sit back and listen to live entertainment, for free, in the open-air auditorium as part of the Concert at the Park series. 960 1280

Getty Images  

Sensual Spa Treatment

Sensual Spa Treatment

There’s no better way to unwind and relax than to hit the spa for a therapeutic massage to help release the stress sitting in those tight muscles and joints. From a hot stone massage to foot reflex therapy, the Philippines have a several resorts that have their in-house spas and services that cater to its guests’ needs. 960 1280

FotoWare FotoStation, Luca Tettoni, roberthardin, Getty Images  

SM Mall of Asia

SM Mall of Asia

Go shopping at the SM Mall of Asia! Located in Bay City, Pasay, this mega-sized mall attracts about 200,000 people every day, and it is one of the largest malls in the world. If you still have satisfied your shopping fix after visiting the SM Mall of Asia (pictured); then you can’t miss out on shopping at the SM Megamall in Mandaluyong, Philippines. It’s the 3rd largest shopping mall in the world. 960 1280

Roberto Verzo, flickr  

White Beach

White Beach

Welcome to one of the finest, stretches of white-sand beachfront in the world. Lined with coconut palms, White Beach -- located on Boracay Island -- is 3 miles long and has a strip of bars, restaurants, hotels and souvenir shops that cater to millions of tourists. The beach is divided into 3 sections from north to south: stations 1, 2 and 3. Station 1 has the widest stretch of sand with pricey hotels. Station 2 is the place to be for eating and shopping, and the Station 3 is the place to go if you’re looking for a quiet place to relax. 960 1280

Getty Images  

Shinjuku
Shinjuku

Shinjuku

The business and entertainment district of Shinjuku is constantly flooded with people – over 2 million a day. 960 1280

Tinou Bao, flickr  

Sign in Tokyo Airport

Sign in Tokyo Airport

This sign in the Tokyo airport reminds you to keep a close watch on your luggage, or a ninja might swipe it. 960 1280

Alex Castro, flickr  

Akihabara

Akihabara

The district of Akihabara is known for its shopping, particularly if you're looking for anime souvenirs. 960 1280

OiMax, flickr   

Tokyo Signs

Tokyo Signs

No matter what street you wander down in Tokyo, watch out for sensory overload. 960 1280

Metro Centric, flickr  

Shibuya Crossing

Shibuya Crossing

The fashionable area of Shibuya Crossing is known for its nightlife and is often compared to Times Square with its towering electronic billboards. 960 1280

Mark Pegrum, flickr  

Tokyo Sign

Tokyo Sign

With a culture known for its animation, it's no surprise that even the traffic signs in Tokyo are expertly drawn. 960 1280

Metro Centric, flickr  

Tokyo Sign

Tokyo Sign

In Tokyo, there's a sign for everything -- even one asking you to please apply your makeup at home. 960 1280

Leon Brocard, flickr  

Tokyo Sign

Tokyo Sign

Everyone needs a massage once in a while, especially if you're feeling pain like this. 960 1280

Metro Centric, flickr  

Japanese Paper Lantern

Japanese Paper Lantern

Paper lanterns like this one can be found all over the city. 960 1280

shuets udono, flickr  

Tokyo Sign

Tokyo Sign

Sometimes, in a busy city like Tokyo, residents have to be reminded to slow down. 960 1280

Metro Centric, flickr  

Tokyo Sign

Tokyo Sign

You have to admire the aesthetic qualities of Japanese signage, even if the spelling isn't always correct. 960 1280

shimown, flickr  

Tokyo Sign

Tokyo Sign

Safety is important on construction sites. Now if only we knew what we were being warned about. 960 1280

mrbriandesign, flickr  

Shinjuku Lights

Shinjuku Lights

Even the backstreets of Shinjuku glow with an endless array of neon lights. 960 1280

Christopher Kemp, flickr  

Tokyo Sign

Tokyo Sign

Lost your hat? Go fishing for a new one! 960 1280

Photocapy, flickr  

Ueno Zoo Sign

Ueno Zoo Sign

At Ueno Zoo, do not feed the monkeys or their stomachs will grow to unnatural proportions. 960 1280

  

Tokyo Sign

Tokyo Sign

You don't have to always know what's going on to appreciate a good sign. 960 1280

Photocapy, flickr  

Photos

Shinjuku

Shinjuku

The business and entertainment district of Shinjuku is constantly flooded with people – over 2 million a day. 960 1280

Tinou Bao, flickr  

Sign in Tokyo Airport

Sign in Tokyo Airport

This sign in the Tokyo airport reminds you to keep a close watch on your luggage, or a ninja might swipe it. 960 1280

Alex Castro, flickr  

Akihabara

Akihabara

The district of Akihabara is known for its shopping, particularly if you're looking for anime souvenirs. 960 1280

OiMax, flickr   

Tokyo Signs

Tokyo Signs

No matter what street you wander down in Tokyo, watch out for sensory overload. 960 1280

Metro Centric, flickr  

Shibuya Crossing

Shibuya Crossing

The fashionable area of Shibuya Crossing is known for its nightlife and is often compared to Times Square with its towering electronic billboards. 960 1280

Mark Pegrum, flickr  

Tokyo Sign

Tokyo Sign

With a culture known for its animation, it's no surprise that even the traffic signs in Tokyo are expertly drawn. 960 1280

Metro Centric, flickr  

Tokyo Sign

Tokyo Sign

In Tokyo, there's a sign for everything -- even one asking you to please apply your makeup at home. 960 1280

Leon Brocard, flickr  

Tokyo Sign

Tokyo Sign

Everyone needs a massage once in a while, especially if you're feeling pain like this. 960 1280

Metro Centric, flickr  

Japanese Paper Lantern

Japanese Paper Lantern

Paper lanterns like this one can be found all over the city. 960 1280

shuets udono, flickr  

Tokyo Sign

Tokyo Sign

Sometimes, in a busy city like Tokyo, residents have to be reminded to slow down. 960 1280

Metro Centric, flickr  

Tokyo Sign

Tokyo Sign

You have to admire the aesthetic qualities of Japanese signage, even if the spelling isn't always correct. 960 1280

shimown, flickr  

Tokyo Sign

Tokyo Sign

Safety is important on construction sites. Now if only we knew what we were being warned about. 960 1280

mrbriandesign, flickr  

Shinjuku Lights

Shinjuku Lights

Even the backstreets of Shinjuku glow with an endless array of neon lights. 960 1280

Christopher Kemp, flickr  

Tokyo Sign

Tokyo Sign

Lost your hat? Go fishing for a new one! 960 1280

Photocapy, flickr  

Ueno Zoo Sign

Ueno Zoo Sign

At Ueno Zoo, do not feed the monkeys or their stomachs will grow to unnatural proportions. 960 1280

  

Tokyo Sign

Tokyo Sign

You don't have to always know what's going on to appreciate a good sign. 960 1280

Photocapy, flickr  

30 St. Mary Axe

30 St. Mary Axe

30 St. Mary Axe in London's Financial District is also known as the Gherkin for its striking resemblence to a small cucumber by the same name. Its 41 floors opened in May 2004, and it became Britain’s most expensive office building when it sold in 2007 for 630 million British Pounds. 960 1280

Getty Images  

The Chang Building

The Chang Building

The Chang Building in Bangkok, Thailand, is hard to miss, and because of its resemblance to a pachyderm, it has become more commonly known as the Elephant Building. Completed in 1997, the Chang Building is made up of 32 floors and seven ifferent sections, including a recreation area with a swimming pool and a shopping plaza. 960 1280

Chayuth, flickr  

Burj Al Arab

Burj Al Arab

The world's fourth tallest hotel, the Burj Al Arab sits on its own manmade island and is only accessible by its private bridge. Designed to mimic the shape of a sail, this hotel is the epitome of luxury with its Royal Suite going for well over $18,000 a night. 960 1280

Getty Images  

Zizkov Television Tower

Zizkov Television Tower

It doesn't get much stranger than the Zizkov Television Tower in Prague. Standing at 709 feet tall, the building features six observation pods with the highest offering a panoramic view of Prague at 328 feet. Crawling baby sculptures by Czech artist David Cerny were added to the sides of the tower in 2000 as a temporary installation, but were kept permanently after the public expressed their admiration of the art. 960 1280

Guillaume Cattiaux, flickr  

Lippo Centre

Lippo Centre

The Lippo Centre in Hong Kong is made up of two owers, with the tallest standing at about 610 feet. Frequently referred to as the Koala Tree, it’s said to resemble koalas clinging to a tree -- if you squint a little, you might see it. 960 1280

Felix Krohn, flickr  

Kingdom Centre

Kingdom Centre

Kingdom Centre in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, was completed in 2002 and houses a Four Seasons hotel, apartments and a shopping mall. The bridge across the top is open to the public with an observation deck offering stunning views, and the space below the bridge glows at night, with differently-hued lights filling the space. 960 1280

Ameen Mohammad, Wikimedia Commons   

Longaberger Home Office

Longaberger Home Office

While maybe not technically a skyscraper, the Longaberger Company's headquarters in Newark, Ohio, deserves a spot on this list since it doesn’t get much wackier than designing your office after your best-selling product. The founder of the company wanted all of his subsequent offices to be shaped like baskets, but his daughters vetoed the idea. 960 1280

Derek Jensen, Wikimedia Commons   

Tokyo Tower

Tokyo Tower

A communications tower in Tokyo, Japan, the Tokyo Tower was intended for television broadcasting; however, Japan’s recent transition to digital television necessitated a taller tower, leading to the construction of the Tokyo Skytree in February 2012. 960 1280

Taro Tokyo, Wikimedia Commons   

Torre Velasca

Torre Velasca

In Milan, Italy, the Torre Velasca was built in the 1950s, making it part of the first generation of modern architecture in the city. So it wouldn't be too much of a sore thumb on the skyline on Milan, the architecture is influenced by medieval fortresses and towers -- a modern interpretation of the Italian castles of yore. 960 1280

Getty Images   

Taipei 101

Taipei 101

At 101 stories and 1,667 feet, the Taipei 101 in Taiwan was the world's tallest structure until being beat out by the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Despite this defeat, the skyscraper was awarded the LEED Platinum certification, making it the tallest green building in the world. 960 1280

Peellden, Wikimedia Commons   

CCTV Headquarters

CCTV Headquarters

The headquarters for China Central Television is actually comprised of six connected sections encompassing 1,552,000 feet of space, and due to its irregular shape, has been nicknamed "big boxer shorts." 960 1280

Ningbo Ningbo, flickr  

Suite Vollard

Suite Vollard

The Suite Vollard is a residential building in Brazil named after the Picasso collection of etchings called the Vollard Suite. It may not look that wacky, but it happens to be the world’s first spinning building, with each floor rotating 360 degrees each hour, giving residents an ever-changing view. 960 1280

Raames Manosso, flickr   

Ryugyong Hotel

Ryugyong Hotel

The Ryugyong Hotel in North Korea has been under construction since 1987. But despite still being incomplete, the building is undoubtedly North Korea's largest structure, and with 105 floors, has the fifth-highest number of stories in the world.  960 1280

Socialism Expo, flickr  

Only Happens in Alaska

Only Happens in Alaska

What an adorable little mosquito! I wonder what it’s made of. Wait, what? It’s made of poop?! Yep. Believe it or not, this creative little creature is made of repurposed moose droppings. In Alaska, artists will use anything they can find to make their art — and we do mean anything. 960 1280

  

Only Happens in Alaska

Only Happens in Alaska

But you can’t just pick up poop and pop out art. Artists carefully coat each piece of moose poop with polyurethane so that it can be transformed into Christmas ornaments, knickknacks and even jewelry. Haven’t you always wanted moose-poop earrings? 960 1280

  

Only Happens in Alaska

Only Happens in Alaska

In some of the more remote stretches of Alaska, women can be hard to come by. The frontier life simply isn’t for everyone. But the men of Talkeetna, AK, have come up with a solution to attract the opposite sex to their small town. Welcome to the Wilderness Woman Contest. Every year, hundreds of bachelorettes from all over the state flock to Talkeetna to partake in this tongue-in-cheek competition to separate the girls from the women. Events consist of such tasks as fetching water from a stream (pictured), snagging a salmon and shooting a latex ptarmigan (similar to a pigeon). While the prizes vary from year to year, all competitors leave as winners. 960 1280

  

Only Happens in Alaska

Only Happens in Alaska

Alaskans pride themselves on their ability to get the most out of anything. So when they’re presented with an old WWII bunker, they don’t see ruins — they see potential for new house! A couple in Kodiak renovated this old bunker and even added an entire third floor, creating one of the more secure and unique living quarters in the world. And you simply cannot beat the 360-degree view of the Alaskan wilderness. 960 1280

  

Only Happens in Japan

Only Happens in Japan

This hallway resembling a beehive is in one of many Japanese hotels focused on pleasing the traveler who’s always on the move. These small pods offer customers the bare essentials: a bed, a pillow and a place to recharge their phones and bodies. There’s not even a door, just a simple curtain to give each guest some privacy. The rooms  are booked in 9-hour increments — just enough time to get a good night’s sleep before continuing on your trip. 960 1280

  

Only Happens in Japan

Only Happens in Japan

At most restaurants, the first thing the staff hands guests is a fork, but not at Zauo Restaurant in Tokyo. Guests are greeted with a fishing pole and a net. If you want to eat here, you’ll have to earn it first. Catch your dinner fresh from the restaurant’s aquariums. Then, bring it over to the chef and watch as he prepares your meal. The experience is unique to Japan and definitely brings a whole new meaning to “catch of the day.” 960 1280

  

Only Happens in Japan

Only Happens in Japan

Perhaps no country in the world holds on to traditions the way Japan does. From daily rituals to annual festivals dating back centuries, tradition is found everywhere. One example is the Hadaka Matsuri — the Naked Man Festival. Thousands of men from all over the country come together each year to participate in the annual event in hopes of gaining luck for the new year. Men are broken up into teams as they parade around in nothing but a Japanese loincloth, called a fundoshi, before entering the temple gates. Once inside, the men stand shoulder to shoulder and wait for 3 sacred bamboo sticks to be tossed into the crowd. If you are lucky enough to get your hands on one of these sticks, and subsequently be escorted out of the naked mob by teammates, you are granted good luck for a year. 960 1280

  

Only Happens in Japan

Only Happens in Japan

These ornately designed dekotora trucks line up to show off their beauty. The stylized trucks are unique to Japan and can often be seen at car shows and special events, or even on the road as work trucks. Owners do everything and anything to dress up and trick out their trucks with neon lights and extravagant additions. The end result is something you’d be more likely to see in a Mad Max sequel than on the open highway.  960 1280

  

Only Happens in Russia

Only Happens in Russia

Russia features some of the most notoriously brutal winters in the world. And none are more brutal than those in Siberia. Winter here can last up to 9 months, and when spring comes, it’s time to celebrate. This fiery party is the symbolic “burning of winter” at the Maslenitsa festival near Lake Baikal. The weeklong festival coincides with the start of Great Lent (similar to Lent) and is a celebration of religion, culture and food. If you plan on making the trip, come hungry! The festival is known for serving up some of the best and biggest pancakes around. 960 1280

  

Only Happens in Russia

Only Happens in Russia

It takes a special kind of person to run a marathon. It takes a really special person to run those 26.2 miles over a frozen lake. But that’s precisely what happens every year at the Baikal Ice Marathon. Runners from around the globe come to Siberia to partake in this truly unique and challenging race, which takes place on the frozen ice of Lake Baikal. 960 1280

  

Only Happens in Russia

Only Happens in Russia

Some people like a cup of coffee to start their day. Russians prefer being whipped by tree branches in the sweltering heat of a bathhouse called a banya. But what if you can’t get to a banya? No worries. In Russia, it’ll come to you! This old military truck is exactly what the cartoon painted on the outside looks like — a mobile banya. 960 1280

  

Only Happens in Dubai

Only Happens in Dubai

Nothing says luxury more than gold. And what better way to show off your bankroll and status than with a gold-leaf facial? At the Raffles Spa in Dubai, you can get just that. Sit back, relax, and before you know it, your face will be covered in 24-karat gold leaf. The treatment, unique to Dubai, is supposed to rejuvenate your skin and deliver a fresh and glowing complexion. 960 1280

  

Only Happens in Dubai

Only Happens in Dubai

Police car chases have often been a thing of intrigue. There have been TV shows created solely dedicated to them, in fact. And no matter how boring they may appear, somehow, you just can’t take your eyes off them. So just think how amazing they would be if the police officers were driving McLaren’s and Audi’s. Now THAT is exciting! They even have a Bugatti worth $2.2 million! Only in Dubai will you find an entire police force outfitted with racetrack-quality vehicles to chase down the bad guys. 960 1280

  

Only Happens in Dubai

Only Happens in Dubai

What’s the first thing you think about when you hear Dubai? The sweltering heat? The lavish city and surrounding resorts? No, you think of shredding some powder at the most unique ski resort you’ve ever seen, right? Well, maybe you should. Because right in the middle of the city of Dubai is the completely man-made, snow-pumping Ski Dubai, where snowboarders and skiers alike can come to get their winter-sports fix. 960 1280

  

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