From The Straits Times    |



River cruise down the Danube, Germany. Photo: Avalon Waterways

River cruises are the new way to experience a destination this year. No, not those short and touristy boat rides that aff ord little insight into the waterways and cities they traverse. We’re talking about immersive cruises that are veritable travelling boutique hotels.

Companies such as Pandaw Expeditions( and Belmond( have noted an increase in demand for luxury river cruises due to a growing appreciation for new adventures and the desire for a leisurely travel cruises, which pass through waterways not accessible by larger ships, off er a dramatically diff erent side to cities.

“Instead of visiting a culture, river-cruise travellers experience a culture,” says Marco Rosa, vice-president for sales and marketing at Pandaw Expeditions, which uses shallowdraft vessels to access the most remote parts of Asian rivers such as the Chindwin River.

Belmond, on the other hand, uses luxury barges. This year, it launches two new ones that will travel to the Alsace and Champagne regions in France, combining a luxurious on-board stay (think heated swimming pools and plush lounges) and intimate visits to vineyards and castles in bordering towns.

Avalon Waterways (, popular for its European river experiences, also off ers tours by local guides and free-and-easy day trips.

Time to get on board.

Four Up-And-Coming Destinations

Hallstatt in Austria

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia “The number of bookings to this city has nearly quadrupled in the past year. This is a place with a unique fusion of traditional and modern elements – think meditative chants from the Gandantegchinlen Monastery intermittently punctuated by the roar of gas-guzzling vehicles, and dapper businessmen rushing past nomadic folk dressed in their traditional tunics. It’s full of surprises.” – A Zuji Singapore spokesperson

Canberra, Australia “The capital of Australia is a food paradise. It has everything, from homely cafes serving up local seasonal produce to boutique wineries and fine-dining establishments with degustation menus. The shopping there is great too – the massive Canberra Centre is home to more than 310 speciality retailers, including local brands such as Aesop and Sass & Bide.” – Alicia Seah, director of public relations and communications at Dynasty Travel

Dusseldorf, Germany “This German city is gaining traction as an up-andcoming destination for Singaporeans, thanks to the new thrice-weekly Singapore-Dusseldorf flights by Singapore Airlines, and its rich cultural and historical sights. Go on a scenic Rhine cruise that’ll take you along the Rhine River to the Upper Middle Rhine Valley, a Unesco World Heritage Site with castles, historic towns and vineyards; and take a stroll around Altstadt (Old Town), a bustling city centre with museums, theatres and churches.” – Joyce Tan, marketing communications executive at Chan Brothers

Zagreb, Croatia “Less touristy with a wealth of historic monuments, this traditional medieval European city is home to stunning architecture. Highlights include the majestic Zagreb Cathedral, Opera House, Archbishop’s Palace and St. Mark’s Church. It’s great for hours of exploration.” – A Trafalgar spokesperson



Photo: 123rf

As the pace picks up for 2017, it becomes even more important to manage stress better. Tune in and let go with meditation, says Sriman Japadas, founder of Singapore School of Meditation & Yoga (SSMY).

Meditation offers mental and physical benefits. “Meditation helps dispel worries about discomfort (real or perceived), so one feels more peaceful and appreciative of people and the world. As you become better at stress management, your risk of stress-related ailments such as high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases is also lowered.”

It helps build focus and clarity. “Meditation helps you get in touch with yourself. Focus your attention on your breathing and body. Don’t stop your thoughts; let them come naturally. As you meditate, you will discover what’s been limiting you and will be able to let go of the problems, hence promoting a sense of clarity.”

It is about the process, not the end goal. “One does not need to achieve some grand enlightenment after meditation. The real bene ts are that we become more mindful about our own thoughts and actions, and what happens around us. Meditation seems diffi cult because we are attached to results. It is simple if you just focus on your breathing.”

It requires practice. “Meditation works only when you consciously develop it into a habit. If you want to start, set time aside for it – preferably after you wake up. As you focus on your breathing, remind yourself not to get caught up in the ‘how’; meditation is never perfect on the first attempt. As you meditate more often, you’ll become better at it.”



Wakeboarding. Photo: Singapore Wake Park

How does learning to wakeboard or fly a plane sound?

And you don’t even have to be a daredevil or adrenalin junkie to take on either of these new challenges.

At the Singapore Wake Park (, wakeboarders ride in the safety of an enclosed body of water – an exclusive in Singapore. Great for beginners is the System 2.0 setup (also a local exclusive), a two-tower cable-ski system that allows for only one rider at a time, thus ensuring that the instructor is fully focused on the individual.

A gentle increase in the system’s operating speed, from 0km/h to 25km/h (the average cable runs at 31km/h), allows for gentler falls, and lets beginners anticipate the pull of the cable and find their balance easily.

Safety is of utmost importance here; mandatory highbuoyancy life vests and helmets are provided. Also, the beginners area is overlooked by three instructors at all times – one operates the system in accordance with the rider’s progress, and the other two guide and help the rider in the water. According to the park, children as young as four have already tried their hand at the sport.

Flight simulator. Photo:

If you fancy taking to the skies, there is (, the first private flight school in Singapore. Located at Seletar Airport, it has a Redbird MCX full-motion flight simulator – considered one of the most sophisticated flight simulators for general aviation – in which you can train for a private pilot license issued by the US Federal Aviation Authority. It’s cheaper and safer than renting an actual aircraft.

Others with no such lofty goals can opt for a 60-minute flight simulation. You’ll learn to take control of the single- and twinengine aircrafts usually used in flight training, as well as navigate various weather conditions and “land” at any airport in the world.



Wheel Yoga. Photo: Trium Fitness

With new fitness classes as fun as these, you no longer have to drag yourself out for a workout.

Pop Pilates at Virgin Active (
Struggling with your pilates roll ups and roll downs during class? You could do better at Pop Pilates. Developed by Youtube fitness star Cassey Ho, the class is set to upbeat charttopping hits, so expect a fun-filled, high-energy routine that will leave you with plenty of good vibes.

Fama Fitness (Basic) at Fitness and Martial Arts (
You will be guided through martial arts techniques used in Brazilian ju-jitsu and Muay Thai, such as various punches and kicks, and technical stand-ups. These, coupled with body-weight drills and coordination exercises, will improve your stamina, strength, balance and  exibility.

Wheel Yoga at Trium Fitness (
Even beginners will enjoy this lowimpact yoga class. With a yoga wheel as a prop, it seeks to improve one’s stability in poses as well as mobility and breathing during the deep stretches that help loosen the quad and hip flexors, and the muscles in areas such as the back, shoulders and chest.

Endurofit at Triplefit (
You go through an interval circuit comprising rowing machines, air bikes, jump ropes and other equipment. Sounds tough? Don’t worry, the exercises can be dialled down to cater to beginners. You will wear a  tness tracker, which allows coaches to monitor your progress and keep you in the healthy heart-rate zone.