Living history

AS THE capital of Spain’s Andalusia region, Seville is famous for major landmarks that date back to the Moorish Almohad dynasty of the 12th century.

Three of them – the Cathedral of Saint Mary, the Royal Alcazar palace and the Archive of the Indies – are listed as Unesco’s World Heritage Sites.

The Cathedral of Saint Mary (better known as the Seville Cathedral) is a large Gothic-style structure built on the site of a former mosque, and is the third largest church in the world.

It was completed only after 101 years of construction in 1506.

Inside, there is a long nave covered by an ornate gilded ceiling 42 metres above.

The church has a large and beautiful Gothic altar piece of carved scenes from the life of Christ, built by Pierre Dancart.

There are 15 doors on the four sides of the building, and the cathedral has 80 chapels.

Besides being the final resting place of legendary Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, it also houses the tombs of Spanish monarchs Ferdinand III and Alfonso X, among others.

Some of the architectural features of the mosque which once stood on this site have been incorporated into the structure – like the columns and bell tower.

The cathedral’s Giralda tower began as a minaret built in 1194, and is one of only three remaining structures of its kind in the world.

When the Moors were conquered in 1248, King Alfonso X insisted that the tower not be destroyed. Instead, it was preserved and became the cathedral’s bell tower in 1402.

The Alcazar of Seville is another architectural wonder made up of Mudejar and Gothic styles. The palace complex has been featured in several films, including HBO’s Game of Thrones.

At the centre of the complex is King Pedro’s palace which was constructed in 1364.

The palace began as one of the many buildings built by the Moorish dynasty which came to power in 1161. The Moors built a grand mosque and palace called Al-Muwarak.

After gaining power, King Pedro I ordered the construction of his palace on the site, where the finest artisans were employed to create the Mudejar interior of the palace surrounded by majestic courtyards and patios.

Visitors can enter the complex via the Plaza del Triunfo through the Puerto del Leon gateway, underneath the figure of a lion on the glazed Azulejo tile panels.

Moving through a triple arch, you arrive at the Patio del la Monteria which borders on the original King’s palace. This beautiful patio has arched windows and Mudejar decorations.

The complex also features a magnificent gilded dome interlaced wood, tile decoration and tapestries, and horseshoe arches or Moorish arches.

There are also palatial gardens, ponds and loggia (rooms with an open side facing a garden).

In a grotto beneath the gardens, just before the exit, visitors will be greeted with the spectacular sight of the reflective, cold-water baths of the Dona Maria de Padilla.

Some 400km north of Seville is the historic university city of Salamanca, also known as La Dorada (the Golden City), due to its sun-kissed golden, orange and pink facades.

The city is the capital of Salamanca province and part of the Castile and Leon region. It is home to the Universidad de Salamanca, founded in the 1100s, which adds to the city’s vibrancy with its international student population.

One of the city’s landmarks and popular gathering area for both locals and tourists is the Plaza Mayor.

Located in the older part of the city, it was built in 1729 by architect Alberto Churriguera and surrounded by colonnaded loggias with each facade having a different number of arches.

The loggias house various restaurants, eateries, pubs and cafes where visitors can enjoy their food and drink while admiring the sight and soaking in the atmosphere.

Every night, at around 9.15pm, the whole Plaza Mayor will be lighted up. During this time, musical groups called Tunas play in the outside seating areas of the restaurants to entertain diners.

For more indepth insights into Spain, let Trafalgar show you the way with its many special curated guided tours. Visit Holiday Tours and Travel website at

India’s singing village, where everyone has their melody

KONGTHONG, India: Curious whistles and chirrups echo through the jungle around Kongthong, a remote Indian village, but this is no birdsong. It’s people calling out to each other in music — an extraordinary tradition that may even be unique.

Here in the lush, rolling hills of the northeastern state of Meghalaya, mothers from Kongthong and a few other local villages compose a special melody for each child.

Everyone in the village, inhabited by the Khasi people, will then address the person with this individual little tune — and for a lifetime. They have conventional “real” names too, but they are rarely used.

To walk along the main road in this village of wooden huts with corrugated tin roofs, perched on a ridge miles from anywhere, is to walk through a symphony of hoots and toots.

On one side a mother calls out to her son to come home for supper, elsewhere children play and at the other end friends mess about — all in an unusual, musical language of their own.

“The composition of the melody comes from the bottom of my heart,” mother-of-three Pyndaplin Shabong told AFP.

“It expresses my joy and love for my baby,” the 31-year-old said, her youngest daughter, two and a half years old, on her knee.

“But if my son has done something wrong, if I’m angry with him, he broke my heart, at that moment I will call him by his actual name,” rather than singing lovingly, said Rothell Khongsit, a community leader.

Harmony with nature

Kongthong has long been cut off from the rest of the world, several hours of tough trek from the nearest town. Electricity arrived only in 2000, and the dirt road in 2013.

Days are spent foraging in the jungle for broom grass — the main source of revenue — leaving the village all but deserted, except for a few kids.

To call out to each other while in the forest, the villagers would use a long version lasting around 30 seconds of each other’s musical “name”, inspired by the sounds of nature all around.

“We are living in far-flung villages, we are surrounded by the dense forest, by the hills. So we are in touch with nature, we are in touch with all the gracious living things that God has created,” says Khongsit.

“Creatures have their own identity. The birds, so many animals, they have ways of calling each other”.

The custom is known as “jingrwai lawbei”, meaning “song of the clan’s first woman”, a reference to the Khasi people’s mythical original mother.

And unusually for India, this is a matrilineal society. Property and land are passed down from mother to daughter, while a husband moves in with his wife and takes her name.

“We consider the mother the goddess of the family. A mother looks after a family, after the inheritance we get from our ancestors,” Khongsit said.

Modern world

But according to anthropologist Tiplut Nongbri, a professor at Jamia Millia Islamia university in Delhi, it is something of a “disguised patriarchy”.

Women “don’t have decision-making powers. Traditionally, they can’t take part in politics, the rules are very clearly demarcated between male and female,” she told AFP.

“Taking care of the children, that’s the women’s responsibility. Statecraft and all that is (a) male function”.

The origin of “jingrwai lawbei” isn’t known, but locals think it is as old as the village, which has existed for as long as five centuries.

The tradition’s days may be numbered, though, as the modern world creeps into Kongthong in the shape of televisions and mobile phones.

Some of the newer melodic names are inspired by Bollywood songs.

And youngsters are increasingly going off singing out their friends’ melodic names, preferring instead to phone them. — AFP

See more of Macao

MACAO is making an effort to move forward and become a World Centre of Tourism and Leisure, with visitors coming from all over the world to experience the different delights the territory has to offer.

Aside from being home to a rich blend of western and eastern cultures, Macao also hosts a number of colourful local and international festivals and events all year round.

29th Macao International Fireworks Display Contest (Sept 1, 8, 15, 24 and Oct 1)

These spectacular fireworks displays take place on the Macau Tower shorefront and can be enjoyed from many vantage points on the Macao Peninsula and Taipa

Ten pyrotechnic teams from Philippines, Korea, Japan, Belgium, France, Portugal, Germany, Austria, Italy and China will present spectacular fireworks displays synchronised to music, and laser lights within a multimedia experience not to be missed.

32nd Macao International Music Festival (Sept 28-Oct 28)

A major annual event that attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors to the city.

This year’s edition of the MIMF is themed “Enjoy – The Moment in music”, and offers 16 programmes with a total of 22 excellent performances, with the aim that the audience may feel the joy and fulfilment that music brings to the soul.

On occasion of the 170th anniversary of the death of composer Gaetano Donizetti, the MIMF kicks off with the timeless opera L’Elisir D’Amore by the Zurich Opera House.

The Macau Food Festival (Nov 9-25)

Enjoy delicious Asian, European, mainland China, and local delicacies at Sai Van Lake Square.

The Macau Food Festival is a veritable amusement park where visitors can taste a wide variety of cuisines in just one place.

There will also be game booths, live performances, and a beer competition during the festival.

65th Macau Grand Prix (Nov 15-18)

The best motorcycle, WTCC and Formula 3 racers in the world compete against each other and the clock in dedicated competitions along the narrow, twisting Guia street circuit of Macao city.

Accompanying events include the Macau Grand Prix Family Carnival (Nov 3-4), the Macau Grand Prix Opening Ceremony and Car Show (Nov 10-11), and the 65th Macau Grand Prix Celebration Guia Circuit Fun Run (Nov 11).

Macao Light Festival (Dec 2-31)

Visitors can expect projection mapping, light installations, interactive games, and a series of other activities.

The event aims to draw visitors to different districts of the city for an appreciation of Macao by night and to learn about the local culture and history from innovative angles shaped by light artistry.

3rd International Film Festival & Awards • Macao (Dec 8-14)

This event will introduce world-class exchange opportunities to local cultural and creative industry professionals, and further raise Macao’s international profile.

Regional movie fans will also be thrilled to note that Hong Kong superstar Aaron Kwok was recently chosen as the talent ambassador for the festival.

Macao International Parade (Dec 16)

Local and international arts groups use the city as a performance platform to express their creativity while encouraging participants to showcase their creative talent.

Macao Gastronomy Charms KL (Sept 1 and 2)

Get a better ‘taste’ of what to expect in Macao, courtesy of The Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO), at the Taste MIGF (Malaysian International Gourmet Festival), at Berjaya Times Square Hotel’s Bronx V ballroom.

There will be an array of delicacies for visitors to sample, as well as a cooking demo by a chef from Macao.

For more, visit the Macao Tourism Malaysia Facebook page at

Macao’s grand fireworks display

THE MACAO International Fireworks Display Contest is a major event organised by the Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO).

This year, the 29th edition of the contest will be staged above the sea overlooked by the Macau Tower on Sept 1, 8, 15, and 24, as well as Oct 1, from 5pm to 11pm each night.

Ten pyrotechnic teams will present spectacular fireworks displays, synchronised to music and laser lights, with themes like Magical Colours in Harmony; A Mystified Fireworks Dream; Shining Voices of Heaven; A Sparkling Mid-Autumn Night; and National Day Fireworks Celebration.

An accompanying carnival offers visitors a confluence of delicacies, performances and games, enriching the event with more fantastic experiences.

Fireworks teams from the Philippines, Japan, Portugal, Germany, Austria, and Italy will be returning to Macao to participate, while teams from Korea, Belgium, France and China will make their debut.

For the best views, wait around the shoreline overlooked by the Macau Tower, Kun Iam Ecumenical Centre and Macao Science Center, the shoreline in Taipa, the top of Penha Hill, as well as the leisure, cultural and creative landmark Anim’Arte Nam Van.

Four outreach programs will be held in tandem with the Macao International Fireworks Display Contest this year, including the newly launched Songwriting Contest, the widely-popular Photo Contest, Student Drawing Contest, and Trophy Design Contest.

MGTO will continue to broaden the spectrum of spectacular events and leisure elements in Macao in collaboration with different sectors, making relentless efforts to breathe a new dynamic into the tourism industry, parallel with Macao’s transformation into a world centre of tourism and leisure.

For more event details, please visit The 29th Macao International Fireworks Display Contest’s official website, and Macao Tourism Malaysia’s Facebook page.

Haunted by infinite fear

BE AFRAID, be very, very afraid, for Singapore’s largest and most iconic Halloween event returns to haunt you!

From Sept 27 to Oct 31, Universal Studios Singapore’s Halloween Horror Nights returns for the eighth edition on location at Resorts World Sentosa, bringing ‘Infinite Fear’ to all.

Featuring five terrifying haunted houses, three killer live shows, and two scare zones, Universal Studios Singapore’s Halloween Horror Nights 8 is set to be bigger and scarier than ever.

As it spreads its infinite fear, expect a never-ending cycle of heart-stopping thrills and scares.

What makes this year’s event stand apart from previous editions is the first-ever tie-up with popular Netflix TV series Stranger Things, whose spooky, otherworldly storyline makes it a perfect addition to the annual horror event.

The highly-anticipated Stranger Things haunted house will feature the most number of thematic rooms to date, with 12 artfully-recreated scenes and storylines.

Be prepared to be thrown into the menacing Hawkins National Laboratory, the Byers home with an erratic display of flashing Christmas lights, and the eerie Upside Down woods.

This year’s edition will showcase Asian horror in four haunted houses.

Enter the world of Killuminati – the Chinese secret society of vampires that has existed for centuries – where mystery, controversy, and nightmares await.

Watch out for never-before-seen stunts, and lots of twists in the most interactive haunted house ever created in the history of Universal Studios Singapore’s Halloween Horror Nights.

Two haunted houses will unravel the spine-tingling narratives of two different iconic ghosts in Asian folklore: the Japanese ghost story of Yotsuya, and the legend of the Pontianak.

Step back in time to the chilling Edo-era of Japan in The
Haunting of Oiwa, and come face-to-face with Lady Oiwa who returns from the dead seeking revenge after being poisoned by her unfaithful husband.

And for the first time, the infamous long-haired female vampiric ghost of kampung lore gets her very own haunted house named after her.

At the Pontianak haunted house, thrill-seekers will need to tread carefully in a Malay village, as they survive the various hair-raising scenes and stories of the Pontianak unfolding before their eyes, from how she was created, to the banana trees where she resides, and the laundry area where she sniffs out the next victim.

Over at Apocalypse: Earth, get ready to be thrown into chaos as Mother Earth unleashes her most terrifying forces and takes over New York.

Or witness the ancient tribe of man-hunters in Cannibal, where the bodies of rivals killed in revenge are being devoured.

Take a break from the screams and join the charismatic Gideon Grim, the Motivational Death Coach, as he captivates guests with tips on highly-effective scaring in DEAD Talks!

This is an all-new, witty, seminar-style show with cutting-edge illusions, electrifying dancing, and acrobatics at the Pantages Hollywood Theatre.

Zombie Laser Tag is back by popular demand after its debut last year, with an arena double the size.

Each team of eight participants will work together for one mission: to fend off and ‘kill’ zombies in infested areas.

Expect more zombies, face greater obstacles, and rev up for more action, all in the company of a drill sergeant who will

lead the way to ensure everyone gets out alive.
The Zombie Laser Tag experience is available at an additional S$38 (RM113.40) per participant.

For the first time, Universal Studios Singapore has produced a series of short, original horror films leading up to Halloween Horror Nights 8.

These shorts are available on Resorts World Sentosa’s Facebook, Instagram, blog, Twitter, and YouTube till end of this month.

These dramatic bite-sized films aim to showcase the riveting stories and iconic supernatural characters of this year’s haunted houses in unique cinematographic styles.

Halloween Horror Nights 8 will run for 18 nights, starting in September from the 27th to 29th, and in October, on Oct 5-6, 11-14, 18-21, 25-28, and the 31st.

Tickets to this event can be purchased from the Resorts World Sentosa website and at Universal Studios Singapore ticket booths.

Fans can also purchase an R.I.P. Tour that includes event admission, a guide who will share insider stories and escort fans to the various experiences, VIP access to haunted houses, private meet-and-greet sessions with creepy characters and more.

Guests can also enjoy many of the theme park’s exciting rides and attractions.

For more, visit

Fly into paradise

AIRASIA continues to bring Asean closer with the launch of direct services between Kuala Lumpur and Phu Quoc in Vietnam. The four times weekly flights will commence on Nov 2.

Phu Quoc is the largest island in the Phu Quoc district, as well as in the whole of Vietnam. It is home to a diverse landscape featuring lush forests, towering mountains and white sandy beaches that can be found all along its 150km-long coastline, offering a slice of heaven for sun worshippers.

Among the many beautiful beaches in Phu Quoc are Long Beach, Ong Lang Beach, Ganh Dau Beach, and Starfish Beach, all offering stunning views of the sunset, and crystal clear waters.

The Phu Quoc district is part of the Kien Giang province which was recognised by Unesco as a World Biosphere Reserve in 2006.

The other main regions in the district are the An Thoi Archipelago, as well as Hon Thom, the district’s second largest island (also known as Pineapple Island), which is connected to Phu Quoc island via what’s said to be the world’s longest oversea cable car.

There is plenty to do in Phu Quoc, including visiting Ham Ninh Village for a glimpse of life in a local fishing village; exploring Suoi Tranh Waterfall which is surrounded by greenery, caves and rock pools; savouring fresh seafood and local Vietnamese bites at the Dinh Cau Night Market, and many more.

AirAsia’s BIG members can now book their trip to this well-kept secret paradise from Kuala Lumpur to Phu Quoc to enjoy AirAsia’s special introductory all-in-fares from RM90 for one-way travel only inclusive of taxes and fees (terms and conditions apply).

This special fares offer, which ends this Sunday, is available for booking on and the AirAsia mobile app for the travel period from Nov 2 to March 29, 2019.

BigPay members will also enjoy zero processing fees when making payment using BigPay card.

BIG members can also redeem a one-way flight from Kuala Lumpur to Phu Quoc with as little as 100 BIG Points (base fare only).
AirAsia Malaysia Commercial head Spencer Lee said: “We are delighted to be the first airline to launch direct services from Kuala Lumpur to one of Asean’s best-kept secrets, Phu Quoc.

“As a truly Asean airline, we’re committed to enable more people to visit more places in this region.

“Our guests can connect seamlessly to Phu Quoc via Kuala Lumpur from 20 cities in 10 countries, including China, India, Australia, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia.”

Lee added that travellers from any country can also visit Phu Quoc visa-free for up to 30 days.

“We hope to contribute to the social and economic development of Phu Quoc through the power of connectivity.

“We look forward to working with the local government to develop Phu Quoc into a world-class tourist destination.”

Phu Quoc marks AirAsia Malaysia’s 59th unique route, and the fifth route into Vietnam.

Besides Phu Quoc, AirAsia also flies to Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang, Hanoi and Nha Trang from Malaysia.

For the latest AirAsia news, activities and promotions, follow AirAsia on Twitter and Facebook.

Inspired by the Gold Coast

IF YOU are seeking an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life, or simply want to go on a journey to rejuvenate your senses, then the Gold Coast is the place for you.

Located in Queensland, Australia, the beautiful coastal city is the gateway to a number of unforgettable experiences that can either surprise, inspire or rejuvenate you.

Whether it be taking on any one of the Gold Coast’s many adventure sports, exploring the city streets or the breathtaking hinterlands, the Gold Coast has many treasures to discover.

Go on an adventure

Challenge yourself to try something new, or indulge your daredevil nature by taking on the waves at one of the many beaches lining the Gold Coast, and see how it earned itself the title of ‘surfer’s paradise’.

If you want to thrill yourself while getting a bird’s eye view of the city, suit up and take on new heights with SkyPoint Climb, where you make your way up the exterior of the Gold Coast’s tallest residential building, 270 metres above the ground.

There are even climb packages that allow you to watch the sun rise or set over the horizon, or enjoy the night air and the shimmering lights of the city below.

For a real adrenaline rush, make a trip to one of the Gold Coast’s many theme parks, home to some of the most heart-pounding rides.

This includes the longest, tallest and highest hypercoaster in the Southern hemisphere, DC Rivals, located at Warner Bros. Movie World, where you can find out if you have the courage of a superhero!

Encounter local delights

For something a little more personal, explore the true heart of the city by taking to its streets.

Not quite an urban jungle, yet not as laidback as its beachside city status implies, the Gold Coast has so much to offer visitors.

From a rich, thriving arts and culture scene, to the labyrinthine shopper’s haven of Pacific Fair Shopping Centre, to its hundreds of boutique bakeries and cafes, the city has a refreshingly modern vibe to it, while still preserving that unique flavour that separates it from other cities in Queensland.

At night, the party continues, as trendy street food markets like the NightQuarter and Miami Marketta draw crowds looking to dine on some of the best foods on offer, while enjoying the live music performed by local musicians.

Solo explorations

If getting in touch with your inner self is what you desire, go on a journey and explore the hinterlands.

Located one hour outside of the city, this ‘best-kept secret’ of the Gold Coast is the perfect playground for nature lovers.

With deep valleys and soaring mountains, and green lands and far as the eye can see, it offers numerous delights for curious explorers.

The most well-known spot in the hinterlands is Mount Tamborine, which are home to the Glow-Worm Caves, as well as Gallery Walk, featuring several popular art galleries and cafes.

For something a little more luxurious, book yourself a rustic farm stay or a glamping experience in the Scenic Rim region, where you can get a feel for the land, and be enveloped in a blanket of serenity and peace.

AirAsia X flies direct daily to Gold Coast. Visit to book your flights today.