Tourism on track in the world’s largest cave

by Nhac NGUYEN PHONG NHA, Vietnam (AFP) — Vast rock formations the size of multi-storey buildings loom above Ho Minh Phuc, as he picks a path through the gloom inside the world’s largest cave. Phuc, who once earned a living through illegal logging, is a porter for the small tour groups that explore Vietnam’s Son Doong — a cave so large it has its own ecosystem and weather patterns. Home to flying foxes and a […]

World migration down 30 percent due to pandemic: UN

  UNITED NATIONS (AFP) — The coronavirus pandemic has slowed global migration by nearly 30 percent, with around two million fewer migrants between 2019 and 2020, according to a UN report released on Friday. Some 281 million people were living outside their country of origin in 2020. The report, entitled “International Migration 2020,” showed that two-thirds of registered migrants lived in just 20 countries, with the United States at the top of the list, with […]

New virus restrictions threaten Hong Kong’s last true junk boat

  by Celia CAZALE Agence France Presse HONG KONG, China (AFP) — The red sails of the “Dukling” junk boat have glided across Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour for more than six decades. But the wooden ship has been docked after new measures to stem a fourth wave of the coronavirus were introduced earlier this month, threatening the city’s last remaining antique junk. Strict social distancing rules were brought back after daily cases repeatedly spiked to […]

World’s deepest diving pool opens in Poland

  MSZCZONOW, Poland (AFP) — A 45.5-metre (150-foot) deep diving pool with artificial underwater caves and Mayan ruins, the world’s deepest such structure, opened near Warsaw this weekend. The complex, named Deepspot, even includes a small wreck for scuba and free divers to explore. It has 8,000 cubic metres of water — more than 20 times the amount in an ordinary 25-metre pool. Unlike regular swimming pools, Deepspot can open despite coronavirus restrictions in Poland […]

Swiss urged to ‘hit the slopes’ to save ski season

by Agnès PEDRERO Agence France-Presse VERBIER, Switzerland (AFP) — The coronavirus crisis shuttered Switzerland’s ski resorts in the spring, but they are banking on tighter precautions and the Swiss love of the mountains to save them as the winter season kicks off. A cable car ride to the top of the slopes at Verbier, where staff wear plastic face shields, reveals the extent to which the pandemic has impacted even the furthest reaches of the […]

Dubai breaks world record for largest fountain

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AFP) — The glitzy emirate of Dubai broke the record for the world’s largest fountain on Thursday, as the Gulf city seeks to boost its hard-hit tourism sector amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Palm Fountain, which covers an area of 14,366 square feet (1,335 square metres), is located at The Pointe shopping and dining district on Palm Jumeirah, a man-made palm-shaped island. Mask-clad people, in keeping with coronavirus safety measures, gathered […]

Cathay Pacific to cut workforce by nearly a quarter

  by Jerome TAYLOR / Su XINQI Agence France Presse Cathay Pacific announced plans Wednesday to cut its workforce by nearly a quarter and close one of its short-haul airlines in an effort to survive the “devastating” impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. Across the globe, airlines have been hammered as the pandemic has slashed international travel, and they face a long, hard winter after a much-hoped-for rebound failed to materialise. Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong’s flag […]

The underground ‘Parthenon’ protecting Tokyo from floods

by Shingo ITO KASUKABE, Japan (AFP) — It has been called Japan’s underground “Parthenon”, a cavernous complex charged with protecting Tokyo and surrounding areas from catastrophic flooding — a risk experts warn is growing as climate change advances. Above ground, there is little to give away the cathedral-like feat of engineering that forms the main reservoir of the Kasukabe flood tank, the largest facility of its kind in the world. The immense structure — deep […]

‘Making of Harry Potter’ park to open in Tokyo in 2023

TOKYO, Japan (AFP) — Muggles in Japan can discover how the Harry Potter films were made at a new amusement park opening in 2023 in Tokyo, Warner Bros said Tuesday, in the latest expansion of the multibillion-dollar wizarding franchise. The attraction, offering visitors a behind-the-scenes look into the production of the eight-hit movies, is the second of its kind, modeled on the original permanent studio exhibition in Britain. “The Studio Tour Tokyo” will stretch across […]

Road test: Chinese ‘robotaxis’ take riders for a spin

by Dan Martin / Beiyi SEOW Agence France-Presse SHANGHAI, China (AFP) — Chinese entrants in the race to put autonomous vehicles on the road are bringing “robotaxis” online in hopes that a hired-car format can be the key to unlocking wide acceptance of the futuristic technology. It is expected to be years before cars that operate completely without human intervention are unleashed owing to lingering technological, regulatory, and safety hurdles. But as China challenges US […]

Defying virus, Latvian ocean rower plans next adventure

by Imants LIEPINSH Agence France-Presse RIGA, Latvia (AFP) — After spending 140 days rowing across the ocean without seeing another human being, Latvian adventurer Karlis Bardelis has some valuable tips for those learning to cope with coronavirus lockdowns. Bardelis started his nearly two-year journey in Peru in July 2018, reaching French Polynesia after nearly five months and finishing in Malaysia in June of this year. Along the way, he was rammed by sharks off Papua […]

Disneyland Paris reopens, but no hugs for Donald

MARNE-LA-VALLEE, France (AFP) — Disneyland Paris, Europe’s biggest private tourist attraction, reopened its gates Wednesday after four months of coronavirus lockdown, albeit with limited access and a ban on hugging the famous characters. As festive music played, Mickey, Pluto and other Disney characters greeted the first visitors — all sporting face masks and some the trademark Mickey Mouse ears — while keeping a safe distance from the guests. Despite the merry mood, things at Disneyland […]