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

Thinkstock  

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. We also recommend take a fun road trip to the Batad Rice Terraces. 960 1280

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

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  

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, well, obvious reasons. 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 7 different 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 4th 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  

Žižkov Television Tower

Žižkov Television Tower

It doesn't get much stranger than the Žižkov Television Tower in Prague. Standing at 709 feet tall, the building features 6 observation pods with the highest offering a panoramic view of Prague at 328 feet. Crawling baby sculptures by Czech artist David Černý 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 2 towers, 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 6 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 5th-highest number of stories in the world. 960 1280

Socialism Expo, flickr  

Venice's Carnevale

Venice's Carnevale

Carnevale, in Venice, Italy, is a huge winter festival with parades, public and private masquerade balls, entertainment and music.  The annual festival starts 40 days before Easter and ends on Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday.  Decorative Venetian masks are an important part of carnevale. A jury of international costume and fashion designers vote for the best mask during the last week of the celebration. 960 1280

Frank Kovalchek, Wikimedia Commons  

Rio’s Carnival

Rio’s Carnival

This world-famous festival is held before Lent, every year. It’s considered the biggest carnival in the world. Two million people flood the streets during the 1-day event that is the culmination of a fierce dance competition between rival samba schools. Each school must have an overall theme and 6 to 8 floats, and it’s not uncommon for 1 school to be represented by thousands participants.  The first festival dates back to 1723. 960 1280

Getty  

Sundance Film Festival

Sundance Film Festival

Celebrity alert! This film festival, held in Park City, Utah, showcases new work from American and international independent filmmakers.  It is the largest independent cinema festival in the US, and comprised of non-competitive and competitive sections, including feature-length documentary films. Actor Robert Redford’s company, Sterling Van Wagenen, started the first film festival in 1978. 960 1280

Getty  

New Orleans’ Mardi Gras

New Orleans’ Mardi Gras

The New Orleans Carnival season officially starts, on January 6th and ends in February, the day before Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras, aka “The Greatest Show on Earth,” specifically refers to the Tuesday before Lent. Most tourists center on Bourbon Street and the French Quarter, but most of the major parades originate in the Uptown and Mid-City districts and follow a route along St. Charles Avenue and Canal Street. 960 1280

Getty  

Winter Party Festival

Winter Party Festival

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force hosts the White Party Festival in Miami Beach. It’s 1 of the world’s biggest celebrations for the LGBT community. During the 6-day event are 9 spectacular dance parties with more than 10,000 guests from around the world. The proceeds from this non-stop party go to local nonprofit organizations. To date, The Task Force has donated $1.2 million to LGBT Community Projects Funds of the Miami Foundation. Kick up your heels for a cause. 960 1280

Elvert Barnes, Flickr  

Quebec City’s Winter Carnival

Quebec City’s Winter Carnival

Quebec City’s Winter Carnival is the largest and most popular winter celebration in the world. Visitors spend more than $42 million per winter in this city of winter wonder. The festival starts during the last week in January and ends in mid-February. Some of the fun festivities include the Uniprix 400-feet ice slide, dog sled racing, snow rafting, the Arctic Spas Village, outdoor dance parties, night parades, winter camping, and much more. 960 1280

Morgan, Flickr  

Frozen Dead Guys Day

Frozen Dead Guys Day

Nederland, CO, hosts this unique, annual festival, based on an old story about a Norwegian citizen Trygve Bauge, and how she brought her deceased grandfather, Bredo Morstol, to the US, preserved on dry ice and stored in liquid nitrogen.  The townspeople discovered the cryonic state corpse in 1994. During the first full week of March, the town keeps locals and tourists entertained with coffin races, a slow-motion parade, “Frozen Dead Guy” lookalike contests, snow sculpture contests, snowshoe races and a polar plunge, for those who can brave a cold swim. 960 1280

Matt Beldyk, Flickr  

Yukon Quest

Yukon Quest

Looking for a fun sporting event? In February, head to Alaska to cheer on mushers and their sled dog teams, as they make their 1,000-mile, 10- to 16-day trek, from Fairbanks, Alaska to Whitehorse, Yukon in Canada. The Yukon Quest Trail follows historical Gold Rush and Mail Delivery dog sled routes from the turn of the 20th Century.  The champion wins a $35,000 purse. 960 1280

WwwBrooks, Flickr  

Ottawa’s Winterlude

Ottawa’s Winterlude

In Ottawa, Ontario and Gatineau, Quebec, they celebrate Winterlude or in French, Bal de Neige. Canada’s National Capital Commission runs the 3-week winter festival in February, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.  There’s no shortage of things to keep people busy. Some activities and entertainment include musical concerts, an ice sculpture competition, ice skating in the largest ice playground, or relax and chill out in the ice lounge. 960 1280

Canadaos Capital, Flickr  

Hwacheaon Sancheoneo Ice Festiva

Hwacheaon Sancheoneo Ice Festiva

This annual festival takes place in Hwacheon, located in South Korea’s Gangwon province. This virtually untouched region is known as the first area in Korea that freezes over in the winter, and the river is covered with a thick layer of ice. Visitors can try ice fishing with their bare hands; view an exhibition of ice sculptures that take over 20 weeks to prepare; and sample raw and grilled mountain trout. The winter festival runs for almost the entire month of January. 960 1280

Korea Tourism Organization  

Valencia’s Las Fallas

Valencia’s Las Fallas

 Visit Valencia, Spain! Las Fallas, which means “the fires,” is a 5-day celebration that attracts more than 3 million flame-loving revelers. The focus of this annual fiesta is the creation and destruction of puppets, or ninots, designed to poke fun at corrupt politicians and Spanish celebrities, or they usually depict satirical scenes and current events. The ninots are set ablaze on March 18th at midnight, the day known as La Crema. One of the ninots is spared from destruction by popular vote. Other activities include bullfights, parades, paella contests and around the city. 960 1280

yourtheone, Wikimedia Commons  

Sapporo Snow Festival

Sapporo Snow Festival

This famous festival is held in Sapporo, Japan, over a 7- day period in February. It is 1 of Japan’s largest and most distinctive events. Millions of people visit Sapporo for the International Snow Sculpture Contest, to view the impeccable, frozen art in Odori Park and Susukino. And much like any major winter festival, an annual beauty contest is held to crown a new Susukino Queen of Ice. 960 1280

City of Sapporo  

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