Crazy Rich in Culture: Celebrating AAPI Month at IHG Hotels
Asia is arguably the most contrasting, chaotic continent, saturated with… well everything and everyone. An almost endless reservoir of flavors, lifestyles, and languages – the contribution of Asian people and cultures to the world is enormous.
In the United States, May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Month. To celebrate, a few of IHG’s colleagues share their favourite stories and travel tips about some of the most popular places to visit.
We begin in Singapore. Born from a smorgasbord of almost every other Asian culture – Singapore has created a distinct fusion identity all its own.
It’s also created one of the most famous food meccas in the world.
“Roti Pratha, Laksa, Keuh Tu Tu, Mee Pok, the list goes on,” says Key Account Director, Lis Chmiel as she describes some of her favorite Singaporean dishes. “Going to Singapore means enjoying a lot of good food – and it’s one of the ways I stay connected to my culture here in the States.”
In fact, a trip to Singapore can’t be had, according to Chmiel, without a visit to a hawker center – an open-air complex with dozens of stalls selling some of the best (and most affordable!) food in all of Singapore.
“It’s one of the best ways to immerse yourself in the local scene.” Another must on Chmiel’s list— the zoo! “Especially the night safari,” she says.
Where to Stay:
InterContinental Singapore Robertson Quay
Holiday Inn Singapore Little India
voco Orchard Singapore
Robert Sakamaki and his sister Michelle Sakamaki are both a part of the IHG family. Robert is brand strategy and performance manager for Luxury & Lifestyle, and Premium Brands and Michelle is a consultant for Channels and Hotel Operations Support in the Americas.
They are also first-generation Japanese Americans. They were born in the U.S. but spent the first 11 years of their childhood in Tokyo before moving back to the states.
“The last time we visited Tokyo was before the pandemic – in 2019. We were there for 10 days and stayed at the ANA InterContinental – Tokyo in the heart of the city,” says Robert. “We want to try and go back this year if possible.”
The Sakamakis say a visit home means seeing family and enjoying a big “welcome back dinner.”
“I love how Japan is traditional and modern at the same time,” says Robert. “You can visit Tokyo SkyTree – one of the tallest structures in Japan from which you can view the entire city. Then you walk 10 minutes and you’re at Sensoji – a temple built hundreds of years ago.”
Michelle loves the more grounding aspects of the country.
“One of my favorite things to do is visit the hot springs with friends – it’s a great way to spend time together and relax,” she says. “I also make time to try different ramen shops – some are a hole in the wall and others are by a well-known chef. Each place has its own broth and ingredients. It’s said there are more than ten thousand ramen shops in Japan!”
Both Robert and Michelle say the best way to explore Japan is to hop on the bullet train.
“The scenery of nature and different cities during the train ride is amazing and the different cities will offer their local delicacies and culture specific to that region.”
Where to Stay:
InterContinental Tokyo Bay
Hotel Indigo Inuyama Urakuen Garden
ANA InterContinental Beppu Resort & Spa
ANA Crowne Plaza Kanazawa
Heeson Ryu moved to the United States from South Korea in 2005 as part of a college exchange program and has been here ever since. Today she is part of the Revenue Strategy team at IHG Hotels & Resorts. For Ryu, going back to Korea is going back home, spending time with her childhood friends and family, and soaking in all the sights Seoul has to offer.
“Korea has distinctive seasons and plenty of beautiful mountain ranges along with sea as a peninsula. I love walking around Kwang-Hwa-Moon Square in Seoul where you can see Korean palaces. Kyung-Bok Palace is the most well-known but there are few more,” Ryu says. “For the best view of Seoul, take a hike or a cable car to N Seoul Tower. The night view is beautiful with all the lights. Seoul does not sleep at night!”
Ryu finds a lot of similarities between Seoul and New York City except for one big difference. “You can see mountains from all directions in Seoul,” she says.
“Visitors must try all the authentic Korean food – there are variety of choices from street food to more upscale course meals where you’re treated like a member of royal family. There is so much to eat aside from Korean BBQ like fresh seafood and traditional noodle dishes such as Japche which are glass noodles and one of my favorites.”
If you get tired of hustle and bustle of the city, you can experience Korean island life and eat the best seafood in Jeju. Less than an hour away, by flight, and you’ll feel as if you’re in a completely different place.”
Where to Stay:
voco Seoul Gangnam
InterContinental Grand Seoul Parnas
Gangwon - Do
Holiday Inn Resort Alpensia Pyeongchang
Deepshikha Sinha loves embracing her Indian roots by celebrating festive holidays like Diwali and Holi. Sinha, a business development manager at IHG, who moved to the U.S. five years ago describes India as a tourist’s dream.
“There is something for everyone. Mountain climbing, deep sea diving, visiting old forts and historical site, yoga retreats, and modern bustling cities – India has it all,” says Sinha. “During all my visits back home, we always try to take a holiday within a holiday with a road trip somewhere.”
With its plethora of languages and dialects and customs – Sinha says just one trip is never enough to cover it all.
“Each state is unique and has something very different to offer in terms of scenic views, culture, and of course, food!”
Where to Stay:
InterContinental Marine Drive-Mumbai
Crowne Plaza New Delhi Rohini
Mr & Mrs Smith Malabar Escapes: Trinity
The majestic Grand InterContinental Seoul Parnas in the heart of the city’s Gangnam district
The family-friendly Holiday Inn & Suites Makati in the Philippines
Pauline Luna, a manager on the Americas Design & Construction team, moved to the U.S. from the Philippines when she was 22. It’s a been a few years since she last visited but as pandemic restriction ease she says she hopes to go back in August.
“I love shopping when I’m back there, visiting beaches, and traveling to see the rice terraces which is considered an unofficial eighth wonder of the world,” says Luna. “My kids grew up eating Filipino food, and I try to eat local dishes when I visit because different provinces have their own way of cooking the same dish.”
For anyone visiting the Philippines, Luna recommends they go see Cebu which is one of the oldest cities in the Philippines. “It is full of history of when Spain ruled the Philippines. It is just one of the many remarkable places in the country to experience.”
Where to Stay:
Holiday Inn & Suites Makati
Opening Summer 2022: Holiday Inn Cebu City
Travel to, and within, China continues to be heavily restricted as of May 2022, and the U.S. State Department, as well as the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office currently advise against traveling to the region.
Once the nation does open up fully for tourism, Steven Wang, senior manager, Hotel Operations Support, says there are wonders to be discovered across the country.
Wang immigrated to to the U.S. in 2008 and holds his culture close – continuing to speak Mandarin at home, using his Chinese name which he says carry the blessings of his family and ancestors, and practicing Chinese meditation.
“China is a vast country with so much to see and do. Guests must visit the Great Wall of China of course, but also the Forbidden City [in Beijing], and the mall near Shanghai Science Museum is a shoppers’ paradise,” says Wang. “The Imperial Palace in Beijing and the Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an are also a must for anyone visiting China for the first time. I would also recommend they spend a day in Shao Lin Temple and learn some martial arts.”
And of course – there is the food.
“My favorite dishes are Peking Duck, Mongolia Roasted Lamb, Stinky Tofu, Shanghai Bok Choy and all the various dim sums,” says Wang.
Where to Stay:
InterContinental Hotels Beijing Sanlitun
Holiday Inn Express Beijing Badaling
HUALUXE Hotels and Resorts Xi’an Tanghua
Hotel Indigo Shanghai on the Bund