Japanese emoji design - expressing emotions in the digital age

Japanese emoji design – expressing emotions in the digital age

Written by Vyvyan Evans, CNN

Professor Vyvyan Evans is an internationally renowned expert on language and digital communication. He has published 14 books on language, meaning and mind. This is an edited excerpt from his latest book, “The Emoji Code” published by Picador and Michael O’Mara Books.

Emojis have become, without a doubt, a design classic. But how effective are they as a communication tool? Over 6 billion emojis are sent on a daily basis, with over 90% of the world’s online community making regular use of them. Emojis may be one of Japan’s greatest-ever exports.

Today they are even officially classified as art. In 2016, New York’s Museum of Modern Art added emojis to its permanent collection — more specifically, the original 176 emojis, designed by Tokyo-based software engineer Shigetaka Kurita in 1999.

Kurita’s original emojis, licensed to the MoMA by NTT DoCoMo, now sit alongside works by Pablo Picasso and Jackson Pollock.

In the late 1990s, Kurita — working for NTT DoCoMo, one of the largest Japanese mobile telephone operators — was involved in the development of the world’s first commercial, mobile-specific internet browser system. Given display limitations in early Japanese smart phone screens, Kurita decided to develop pictograms to make displaying information more effective.

Taking their name from the Japanese word for “picture character,” emojis were born.

Is emoji a language?

What makes English, Japanese, or Swahili a language is the presence of two things: words and rules. And it is the unique nature of this organization that allows us to express complex and subtle ideas that cannot be expressed using other systems of communication.

Language is organized into meaningful units such as words, and a system of rules — a grammar — that enables us to compose our words and express everything from the gnawing ache of unrequited love to a banal observation on the weather.

Compared to, say, English, emoji has a far, far smaller ‘vocabulary.’

A few of Kurita's early emoji faces

A few of Kurita’s early emoji faces
Credit: Shigetaka Kurita

While new emojis are introduced each year, the number of emojis available is vanishingly small compared to the range and complexity of vocabulary items that a competent native speaker possesses — currently there are fewer than 2,000 emojis available on a smartphone near you.

Compare this with the English words you have at your fingertips: by the age of five, and barely out of kindergarten, you would already have known around 5,000 English words, reaching an impressive 12,000 by your early teens — far outstripping the total number of emojis currently available.

But adding more and more emojis will only get us so far.

A potentially insurmountable problem is the sheer difficulty of expressing abstract ideas using a pictographic form. Winks, smileys, eggplants and dumplings are one thing — but how might we go about representing, say, “chauvinism,” “feminist,” “ethical” or “iconoclastic” in emoji?

The proposed new dumpling emoji

The proposed new dumpling emoji

Even if an emoji “language” could somehow overcome the lack of working vocabulary to express all the things we need a language to say, words, on their own, still don’t get us very far.

The hallmark of language is grammar. We use it, without even knowing it, to do the heavy lifting: combining vocabulary items to create sentences of potentially great complexity.

But even this has not put off some dedicated aficionados.

For instance, designer Ken Hale is so passionate about emoji that he has translated literary classics like Alice in Wonderland into the characters. Hale calls his approach to creating an emoji language “crypto-semantics.”

Nevertheless, like any language, unless you go through a process of learning what the symbols mean and how they are combined, then Hale’s emoji language remains a foreign tongue.

Quotations from Alice in Wonderland, translated into Emoji by Joe Hale

Quotations from Alice in Wonderland, translated into Emoji by Joe Hale

Communicating emotion in the digital age

So if emoji isn’t a language, what is it for? Some see emoji as little more than an adolescent grunt, taking us back to the dark ages of illiteracy. But this prejudice fundamentally misunderstands the nature of communication — and in so doing, it radically underestimates the potentially powerful and beneficial role of emoji in the digital age as a communication tool.

All too often we think of language as the kingpin in our everyday world of meaning. But much of the meaning we convey and glean in our everyday social encounters comes from nonverbal cues.

In the spoken medium, gesture, facial expression, body language and speech intonation provide a means of qualifying and adjusting the message conveyed by our words. A wink or smile provides a crucial cue, aiding our understanding.

Digital communication provides us with an important channel of communication in our increasingly connected social and professional lives.

But the rich, communicative context available in face-to-face encounters is largely absent in a digital setting. Digital text-speak alone is impoverished, seemingly possessing the power to strip all forms of nuanced expression from even the best of us. But here emoji can help: it fulfills a similar function in digital communication to that of gesture, body language and intonation in spoken interaction.

Emoji enables us to better express tone and provide emotional cues; and in turn, our addressees are better able to interpret what the words are meant to convey.

How emojis can reveal the meaning behind words

How emojis can reveal the meaning behind words

Imagine you send this text to a friend or partner: “I tripped and banged my head on the cupboard.” They might not know whether to sympathize or laugh. But a sad face at the end provides a nonverbal cue, a metacomment, providing a clear tell: “I’m in pain.” A tears of joy emoji, on the other hand, tells us the sender finds the situation funny: “I’m such a buffoon.”

We live in a digital age, and emoji is an adaptation to this most recent arena of human interaction.

It helps get the job done when the tried and tested interpersonal cues that oil spoken interaction are absent.

And in the process, it helps avoid what I dub the “angry jerk” phenomenon: the emoji-less emails and texts that seem to be shouting at us. Emoji puts the nuancing back in, better allowing us to express our emotional selves in our brave new 21st century world.

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7 best things to do in Xi’an: Terracotta Warriors and more

(CNN) — Xi’an is home to the most impressive underground attraction in China: the Terracotta Warriors.

Every year, millions of travelers fly to the former capital just to set eyes on the subterranean army, which was painstakingly fashioned from clay more than 2,000 years ago.

But what’s next? The answer is plenty, and here the highlights:

1. Terracotta Warriors Museum (秦始皇兵马俑博物馆)

The sheer scale of this archaeological find is staggering.

The sheer scale of this archaeological find is staggering.


These clay figures are what brought Xi’an to the world stage in modern times.

This UNESCO World Heritage site displays more than 8,000 terracotta warriors, horses, and around 10,000 bronze weapons. Excavations continue, and more than 300 pieces were unearthed in June 2012 alone.

These warriors were made as part of the funerary goods for Qin Shi Huang (259-210 B.C.), first emperor of the Qin Dynasty. The human-size figures are said to be models of Qing’s real-life army.

The army stands in three exhibition pits. Pit one is the largest, measuring 230 meters long, 62 meters wide and seven meters deep and housing around 6,000 troops in battle formation.

Standing in front of the phalanx of warriors gives you the awe-inspiring feeling of stepping onto a battlefield. More strikingly, no two soldiers look exactly alike. The warriors were unearthed by a group of Shaanxi farmers from the local Yang in 1974 while digging a well.

Upon request, museum tour guides can take tourists to meet and have a chat with these celebrity farmers, who now live right next to the museum site.

The prerequisite is to buy a book about the discovery of the Terracotta Warriors and pay a guide. To get to the museum, board one of the green shuttle buses at Xi’an Train Station. The journey takes about an hour.

If you’re not as comfortable navigating the public transit system yourself and don’t speak any Chinese, you may be more comfortable booking a tour — group or private — via a company like Viator or Klook. Just keep in mind that some of these tours will insist you stop at the local terracotta factory where they make the hard sell for mini warriors and other souvenirs, most of which you can buy elsewhere.

Stand your ground if you don’t want to buy anything, but do keep an eye out for the terracotta head molds of celebrities like Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin.

Terracotta Warriors Museum, East of Lintong City, Lintong District, Xi’an 西安市临潼区近郊临潼城东

2. Big Wild Goose Pagoda (大雁塔及北广场)

Possibly the oldest structure in Xi'an.

Possibly the oldest structure in Xi’an.

china photos/getty images

Just like the Statue of Liberty in New York, or the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Big Wild Goose Pagoda is the most symbolic structure in Xi’an.

The seven-story, 64-meter pagoda was built 1,300 years ago when Xi’an was the capital of the prosperous Tang Dynasty. The top of the pagoda provides a grand view of the old town — busy roads stretch out neatly like the grid on a chessboard, lined by a mix of ancient architecture and modern high-rises.

The pagoda was said to have been dedicated to Xuanzang, a master monk during the Tang Dynasty who traveled to India to learn Buddhism and later brought back the sutras. His experience was featured in the Chinese novel “Journey to the West.”

The 110,000-square-meter plaza at the foot of the pagoda is where the locals go for free public entertainment. Elderly and young Xi’anese practice calligraphy with oversize brushes during the summer evenings.

The plaza hosts a half-hour musical fountain performance at 12:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. on weekdays and every two hours between noon and 9 p.m. at the weekend.

Big Wild Goose Pagoda, 3 East Guangchang Lu, Yanta District, Xi’an, Shaanxi 陕西省西安市雁塔区广场东路3号

3. City Wall (明代城墙)

The City Wall of Xi'an is a must-see.

The City Wall of Xi’an is a must-see.

Courtesy Colin Capelle/Creative Commons/Flickr

Built more than 600 years ago in the Ming Dynasty, the City Wall of Xi’an is one of the best preserved fortifications in China. And the best way to see the wall is by bike.

Visitors are allowed to cycle on the wall, which is 15 meters wide. Cyclists will be able to view the city from a unique angle — on one side stands the Xi’an from the past; on the other hand erects soaring high-rises of the present and future.

“Xi’anese live by the City Wall,” says Jessie Wang (王苗), 28, from Xi’an. “You can see people playing Mahjong, singing and dancing under the wall.”

The Wall stretches 13.74 kilometers in length, 12 meters in height and was built with earth, quicklime, and glutinous rice extract.

Four watchtowers are located at each point of the compass. The Southern Watch Tower, aka the Southern Gate, is the main grand gate through which important guests entered the town in ancient times. Bicycles can be rented at the Southern Water Tower.

The top of the wall is surprisingly free of foot traffic compared to the ground below, and that’s because there is an entry fee that keeps many locals out. To access the top, you’ll need to enter at one of the main gates and pay 54 yuan (about $8 US).

Xi’an City Wall Southern Gate, 2 Dan Da Jie, Beilin District, Xi’an, 陕西省西安市碑林区南大街2号

4. Han Yang Ling Museum (汉阳陵博物馆)

Another pit stop for fans of ancient clay figures. The underground museum houses the tomb of Emperor Jing Liu Qi (188 BC-141 B.C.). Liu was the fourth Emperor of the Western Han, the dynasty succeeding Qin.

Completed in 126 BC, the tomb covers 20 square kilometers and has 80 chambers.

“The tomb and its relics are not as magnificent as those at Qing Shi Huang’s Terracotta Warriors Museum, but they are more vivid,” says Wang Xin (王昕), 40, a Xi’an-based travel blogger.

“It has more types of figures, such as warriors holding weapons, young ladies wearing silk dresses, and livestock including pigs, horses, cattle, sheep, and dogs,” Wang continues. All sculptures stand roughly 1 meter high.

The museum can be reached by No. 4 Tourist Bus, which departs from City Sport Park in Xi’an. The journey takes an hour.

Han Yang Ling Museum, East side of Xi’an Xianyang International Airport Road, 西安国际机场专场公路东段

5. Mount Huashan (华山)

This is a great day trip from Xi’an.

Located 120 kilometers east of the city, Huashan is one of the five greatest mountains in China — and it’s certainly the most dangerous. The 2,155-meter mountain is best-known for its steep slopes and hair-raising walkways.

Thrill-seekers should venture onto Chang Kong Plank Road (长空栈道), a wooden trail built alongside a vertical cliff more than 1,000 meters above the ground. The 50-meter-long plank walk is only 50 centimeters wide.

All tourists are required to pay for a protection harness while walking the path — money very well-spent.

“Once I reached the planks, I became light headed,” says U.S. traveler Clint Koehler, who ventured the walkway in 2008. “I started concentrating on the precipice directly under me and it was beginning to wig me out enough to have to consciously not look down for more than a few seconds at a time.”

The plank path was laid out more than 700 years ago by He Zhizhen (贺志真), a Taoist priest in the Yuan Dynasty. Cable cars are available at the entrance gate.

A daily train to Mount Huashan is available from Xi’an Train Station. Journey takes about 90 minutes. Or take a shuttle bus at the train station.

6. Muslim Quarter (回民街)

Head gear on sale in Xi'an's Muslim quarter.

Head gear on sale in Xi’an’s Muslim quarter.

frederic j. brown/afp/getty images

Chinese historians think Xi’an was the starting point of the Silk Road, an ancient trade route linking China with the Middle East and Europe. From cuisine to clothing, the city is deeply influenced by Islamic culture.

Xi’an’s Islamic heritage is best observed in the Muslim Quarter, or Huimin Jie in Mandarin, located in the center of Xi’an old town.

Like Chinatowns, Muslim Quarter is the community for local Muslim Hui people, a Muslim ethnic group in China. The 1,800-square-meter neighborhood has 10 mosques and more than 20,000 Hui inhabitants. It’s also one of the best food streets in Xi’an. Narrow alleys are packed with tiny restaurants and that spill out onto the street.

Most symbolic local eats include hand-cut wheat noodles dao xiao mian (刀削面), Chinese-style hamburger rou jia mo (肉夹馍), spice jellynoodles ma jiang la pi (麻酱拉皮), and cumin-sprinkled lamb kebabs.

Street food vendors normally start setting up stalls at 6 p.m. Food Street runs till midnight.

One great way to experience this community is by signing up for a tour with Lost Plate, which costs $59 per person and includes all food and drink.

The tour, which maxes out at 10 people, whizzes you through the narrow streets by tuktuk and stops at several eateries along the way.

xi'an muslim food tour tuktuk

A Lost Plate tuktuk.

Courtesy Lost Plate

In addition to trying some of the best eats in the neighborhood, you’ll also have the chance to learn about the history of this community and get to meet some of the people who make the best biang biang noodles (so named for the loud way they slam onto the table) and Eight Treasures congee, which was a staple of travelers along the Silk Road thanks to its easy-to-haul ingredients like nuts, spices and seeds.

If you have food allergies or dietary restrictions, the Lost Plate team can handle those — a huge bonus if you don’t speak Chinese and aren’t comfortable ordering on your own.

Muslim Quarter, 100 meters northwest of the Drum Tower, 鼓楼旁往西北走100米

7. Shaanxi History Museum (陕西省历史博物馆)

This Buddha statue from the Song Dynasty is more than 1,000 years old.

This Buddha statue from the Song Dynasty is more than 1,000 years old.

china photos/ getty images

The provincial history museum is an ideal place to learn about Chinese history, especially the Tang Dynasty.

The 65,000-square-meter building displays some 370,000 cultural relics discovered from the Stone Age to 1840. Most displays have English descriptions. Entry to the museum is free but only 4,000 visitors are allowed in on any given day.

All items at the gift shop are tagged with a proposed price. Visitors can bargain before purchase. A sensible bid is half of the original price.

Shaanxi History Museum, 91 Xiaozhai Dong Lu, Xi’an, 西安市小寨东路91号

8. Near Wall Bar

Mainland China is still slow to catch on to the craft beer trend that is exploding in other countries like the UK, Australia and South Korea.

However, there is one craft brewery in Xi’an, the appropriately named Xi’an Brewery, and its beers are all served at Near Wall Bar just inside the old city walls.

In addition to a flight of their beers — the milk stout is a particular standout, and will be sweet enough for people who don’t normally like dark beers — Near Wall Bar is a popular hangout for locals and expats alike, hosting karaoke, live music and other events.

It stays open until 2 am most nights, so there’s still time for street food on the way home.

Near Wall Bar, No. 40 Shun Cheng (inside of the south gate), Xi’an 710000 中国陕西省西安市南门里南顺城街西段40号泥窝窝酒吧。邮编710000

Editor’s note: This article was previously published in 2012. It was reformatted, updated and republished in 2018.

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Seoul bars: 14 quirky watering holes

(CNN) — Petal-strewn pools, laser tripwires and Engelbert Humperdinck: Seoul’s bars are an odd mix to go to unwind, dance you heart out, or even visit an inner-city “beach.”

Here, for you delectation, we’ve chosen 14 of the city’s strangest bars.


In an area of overpriced cocktail bars and sticky-floored “hofs,” (or bar that serves beer with food) Rainbow, near Gangnam Station, comes like a breath of fresh air. Or rather, like a waft of pungent, sweet-smelling hooka smoke.

Stepping into Rainbow reveals a dimly lit mishmash of fountains, Thai art, peace signs made of fairy lights and shoeless, floor-lounging clientele.

Throw in plentiful mid-priced cocktails and a playlist that mixes Bob Marley with Engelbert Humperdinck, and the result is a virtual student commune right in the heart of brightest, brashest Seoul.

Getting there: From Gangnam Station, leave via exit 6, walk 250 meters, turn left at Giordano, turn right at Dunkin Donuts and Rainbow is on your right.


In Korea, drinks in ziplock bags have become as much a part of rock festival culture as camping, mercurial weather and iffy toilets. And if Vinyl owner Moon Hyun-jung is to be believed, it all started at her pint-sized cocktail bar in the Hongdae area.

“I got the idea after seeing people in Taiwan drinking iced coffee from bags,” she says. “A lot of places do it now, but I was the first!” Today, Vinyl remains an essential warm-up point for a night of revelry in one of Seoul’s most happening areas.

And if the bijou interior is packed out (10 people usually does it), Moon is on hand to sell her fruity cocktails from a take-out window facing the street.

Getting there: From the front of Hongik University, cross the road and turn left. Keep walking for around 200 meters and Vinyl is on your right.


Surreal, cave-like bar Oi.

Surreal, cave-like bar Oi.

Courtesy Jordi Sanchez Teruel/Creative Commons/Flickr

Quite what the owners of Oi had in mind is difficult to say. In its concrete, cave-like interior, polystyrene rope dangles from the ceiling, dusty chandeliers give off an eerie glow, and luminous string is suspended between walls like laser tripwires.

Another bar with hookahs and a prohibition on shoes, Oi’s hokey new-agey ethos (“The Story of Beautiful Nature …”) is offset by excellent cocktails, a young and lively crowd, and very loud dance music.

Getting there: From the front of Hongik University, cross the street and follow the road that runs along the back side of the playground. Keep walking for 5 or 10 minutes until you find the Adidas store on your right. Oi is roughly opposite on the third floor.


The lights are dim, lilting French jazz hovers in the background and water trickles from a fountain onto a pool strewn with petals and marked by Indian figurines. With a few early evening guests reclining on cushions on the floor, a tattooed, seemingly kohl-eyed woman serves drinks from behind a small opening cluttered with palm frond leaves.

Inspired by India but with a distinctly Hongdae boho vibe, Nabi is about as mellow a bar as you could hope to find.

Getting there: Facing Vinyl, turn left and take the first right next to the 7-Eleven. Go straight, turn left at Gr8 hookah bar and keep going till you see the Sexy Pig restaurant. The stairs leading down to Nabi are marked by a small white sign right next door.

Gopchang Jeongol

Today, K-pop usually means feminine guys or scrawny women singing and dancing to instantly forgettable electro-fluff. But it wasn’t always thus, and the fabulously retro Gopchang Jeongol has the proof.

Amid pictures of mop-topped Korean rockers, and walls clogged with decades-old clocks, radios, speakers and LPs, Gopchang Jeongol cranks out a constant stream of classic Korean rock, invariably eliciting big grins and impassioned sing-alongs from its faithful punters.

Getting there: Come out of exit 4 of Hongik Station, take a right and keep going to the end of the road. Take a left and walk until you come to a roundabout, take the first right, and keep walking until you almost come to the end of that road. Gopchang Jeongol is on your left.

Sir Raymond

It has London Pride at the bar, bangers and mash on the menu and Travis and The Beatles playing on the sound system. But anyone thinking Kim Hong-gu, the owner of Sir Raymond, in Garosugil, was a long-term resident of the United Kingdom (or even much of an Anglophile) is in for a surprise.

“I just chose this theme because it has a backyard, like most British houses do,” he says. Though Kim’s Korean take on an English boozer could never be mistaken for the real thing, the promise of malt whisky by the glass and Premier League soccer on a big screen is enticement enough.

Getting there: From Apgujeong Station, leave via exit 5, walk straight for 15 minutes, turn left at Kraze Burger and turn left again at the lane opposite Starbucks. Sir Raymond is on your right.


Though a certain ambivalence remains in South Korea toward its giant easterly neighbor, those feelings certainly don’t extend to Japan’s food and booze. Particularly popular among the gustatory imports are sake and odeng, a kind of fish sausage known in Japan as kamaboko, which is sold across the capital in its ubiquitous orange food tents.

In Garosugil’s Jeongdeunjib, however, patrons can help themselves to pronged odeng from pots in the middle of each table (hence the prominent fishy pong) and wash it all down with one of the many hot and cold sakes on offer. In sharp contrast to much else in Garosugil, Jeongdeunjib has won many admirers because of its studiedly down-at-heel setting.

Getting there: From Sinsa Station, leave via exit 8, walk for a couple of blocks, turn left onto Garosugil and Jeongdeunjib (Korean sign on a basic wood and brick exterior) is about 20 meters along on the right side of the street.

Au Gout Des Autres

It is a South Korean wine bar named after a French movie, owned by a former club promoter, and housed in a Japanese-style house from the 1950s. Yet of all the bars on this list, Au Gout Des Autre has perhaps the most simple, unaffected charm.

Located in a dozy area opposite the Sungkok Art Museum, Au Gout des Autres boasts an exceptional selection of wines, good European fare and lilting jazz music (live on some Wednesdays) in a setting that gives an inkling of what life would have been like in South Korea of yore.

Getting there: Leave Gwanghwamun Station via exit 7, go straight and take a right into the alley next to the Salvation Army Hall. Then follow the road to the Sungkok Museum, and Au Gout des Autres is opposite.

Moon Jar

In a country increasingly succumbing to a “wellbeing” craze, the purportedly healthful properties of makgeolli have helped propel this most traditional of Korean tipples back into the limelight.

Today, bars devoted to this zingy, off-white rice wine are springing up all over Seoul, and few are as charming as Moon Jar. Eschewing traditional Koreana in favor of an interior approximating a French cottage, Moon Jar sells a selection of “President” and “Luxury”-grade makgeollis, along with makgeolli cocktails and excellent side dishes.

Getting there: Facing Dosan Park in Sinsa-dong, take a right and carry on to the end of the park. Turn left, go straight to the end of the park, cross the road, keep walking and Moon Jar is on your right.

La Cle

With a basement location just behind Samcheong-dong’s main drag, this charming confection of aged wood paneling, creaky furniture and sepia-tinged pics was once a photo studio that doubled as a hangout for intellectuals during South Korea’s military rule.

Now one of the few regular bars in this part of Seoul, La Cle’s beers, wine and simple foods are accompanied every night from 8:30 by mellow local jazz bands.

Getting there: Walk right up the main Samcheong-dong Street until you get to the Felice Gatto Italian restaurant. From there, cross the road, and take the lane on your left. La Cle is about 50 meters along on the left.


Also in Samcheong-dong is this relative veteran — a cozy little wine bar with a solid selection of Italian food and an excellent choice of wines, available only by the bottle.

Any curiosity about the providence of this place’s name is quickly answered on arrival, by the presence of a vast rock protruding from much of the rear wall.

Getting there: Walk right up the main Samcheong-dong Street until you get to the Nescafe Cafe. Cave is in the basement.

Harue Pocha

It may have art nouveau stylings, be owned by a former shoe salesman and mix Thai food with Korean grog, but what really sets Harue Pocha apart is its status as a cut-price bar and eatery in Cheongdam-dong, Seoul’s gilded home of Bentley showrooms and Chanel boutiques.

Selling an array of curries, noodles and shellfish, Harue Pocha manages to be both classy and completely welcoming, a trick that reputedly sees it pull in a regular cohort of South Korean celebrities.

Getting there: Take a taxi to the old Mnet Media building, take the lane between that building and Tom N Toms Coffee, walk up to the junction, take the first right, then the first left, and Harue Pocha is on your right.


Of all the bars on this list, the recently opened Off might seem the odd one out. Located in an unremarkable part of town, its muted interior and leather armchairs speak more of a private members’ club than of a pioneering bar.

Yet as Seoul’s first ever purpose-built malt whisky bar, that is just what Off is. In a country where whisky means Ballantine’s, Off’s admirable collection includes Glenfiddich, Laphroaig and even Auchentoshan.

Getting there: From Gangnam-gu Office subway station, leave via exit 1, take the alley adjoining KFC, go straight until you get to the Brownstone building, turn right, and Off is on your left.


For all its reams of drinking establishments, few places in Itaewon stray too far from the regular boozer/wine bar template. Bungalow, though, is certainly one of the quirkier propositions.

Located in the lively alley behind the Hamilton Hotel, Bungalow “Tropical Lounge” sprawls over three floors, with patios, private rooms and, most popular of all, a rooftop ‘beach’ complete with sand and deck chairs.

Getting there: From Itaewon subway station, leave via exit 2, turn left, turn right, walk straight and Bungalow is on your left.

London-born, Edinburgh-raised Niels Footman has been living and working in the South Korean capital of Seoul for eight years.

Editor’s note: This article was previously published in 2010. It was reformatted, updated and republished in 2017.

Editor’s note: This article was previously published in 2010. It was reformatted, updated and republished in 2017.

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African safari: 8 best national parks to view wildlife

(CNN) — With so many spectacular game reserves to choose from, determining the ultimate once-in-a-lifetime African safari experience is no easy task for travelers.

From Tanzania’s protected Serengeti National Park, to Botswana’s brutally wild Kalahari Desert, here’s our pick of eight of the finest national parks Africa has to offer.

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Serengeti National Park is Africa as you always imagined it, a pristine landscape of swaying savannah, dotted with flat-topped acacia and speckled with great roving herds.

The Serengeti is the setting for the Great Migration (normally from June to July and January to February,) considered the greatest wildlife spectacle on earth when over two million wildebeest, zebra and gazelle chase the rains.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this area offers the same sort of phenomenal predator sightings that you’d expect from the neighboring Masai Mara National Park in Kenya (part of the same ecosystem,) but lion and cheetah chases at Serengeti are often enjoyed without another vehicle in sight.

Some visitors might be frustrated by the great expanses of plains to be covered between sightings, but the feeling of being just a dot in the immensity of Africa is part of the appeal.

For first-timers: Safari novices might want to consider starting their Tanzania trip with a day or two at Ngorongoro Crater, where the Big Five (lion, elephant, buffalo, rhino and leopard) are often all visible in a single morning’s game drive. After that the pressure is off — they can sit back and take the thrill of the Serengeti as a bonus.

For old hands: Allow more time for the Serengeti to really get under your skin and head for the less visited areas near Namiri Plains or around the Grumeti River. An often-overlooked alternative to the Serengeti is Tanzania’s Selous Game Reserve, which offers world class lion and painted dog (or wild dog) sightings.

Kidepo Valley National Park, Uganda

Uganda - Kidepo Valley National Park

Kidepo Valley National Park boast at least 86 mammal species.

Mark Eveleigh

With the sweeping plains of Kidepo and Narus Valleys overshadowed by the brooding mountainscape of Mount Morungole (the sacred peak of the mysterious Ik people,) this park has huge appeal just for scenery alone.

Tag on incredible animal sightings and tiny visitor numbers, and you have a winner.

The voracious Kidepo lions prey on roving herds of more than 4,000 buffalo (the total population in the park is said to be about 13,000) and you will often see herds of elephants moving majestically along the valleys.

The park’s isolation is off-putting for many, but the 12-hour road trip from Kampala, Uganda’s capital, (or a fairly expensive private charter flight) is a small price to pay to discover one of Africa’s genuine hidden gems.

For first-timers: If the journey to Kidepo is not appealing, Murchison Falls National Park is hard to beat for the sheer drama of the falls themselves and for the easy wildlife viewing from cruise boats.

For old hands: Even for those who’ve seen everything else that Africa has to offer, Uganda is perhaps the best destination on the planet for ape watching. Gorilla viewing at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a life changing experience and chimpanzees can be tracked on foot at Kaniyo Pabidi.

Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

Hwange National Park

Hwange is Zimbabwe’s biggest national park, covering more than 14,600 square kilometers.

Mark Eveleigh

Hwange National Park is arguably the most underrated wildlife park in Africa.

Zimbabwe’s biggest national park (with almost the same land area as Hawaii) is said to boast a greater diversity of mammals (108 species) than any other national park in the world.

It has the greatest concentration of big land animals anywhere on the planet, yet sees so few tourists that the vast elephant population (roughly 46,000) outnumbers foreign visitors by almost 200 to one.

Hwange is also prime predator territory with “super prides” numbering more than 20 lions (powerful enough even to hunt young elephants,) hyenas, leopards and the enchanting painted dogs.

For first-timers: Combine with a lakeside vacation at Lake Kariba or an introductory safari at Zambezi National Park which, despite its diminutive size, offers a chance to see elephant, giraffe, buffalo, hippo, crocs and even lion within a stone’s throw of the legendary Victoria Falls.

For old hands: Mana Pools National Park has incredible density of wildlife and (guided or unguided) canoeing and walking activities provide a burst of adrenalin for even the most dedicated wilderness thrill seeker.

Samburu National Reserve, Kenya

Kenya safari

Mark Eveleigh

Often overshadowed in the minds of visitors by the celebrated Masai Mara, Samburu National Reserve offers a wilder side of the Kenyan safari experience.

The Samburu people (frequently confused with their southern cousins, the Maasai) offer a similarly colorful cultural appeal in what was once Kenya’s Northern Frontier District, but few villages see many visitors and the Samburu’s sense of hospitality remains legendary.

Apart from the premier league wildlife sightings that draw most visitors to southern Kenya, Samburu National Reserve is also home to an impressive “second division” which local guides call the Samburu Special Five (featuring Beisa oryx, reticulated giraffe, Grevy’s zebra, Somali ostrich and the elegant gerenuk antelope.)

For first-timers: The Masai Mara National Reserve — sometimes called “the greatest wildlife real estate on Earth” — is a must-see sight for any wildlife fan.

Rather than placing an emphasis on staying at a camp in the center of the (unfenced) park, it’s worth considering staying on a private concession which can offer experiences such as walking safaris and night drives featuring the same wildlife but with a level of exclusivity rarely found in the heart of the world-famous Mara.

For old hands: The 150-kilometer long Matthews Range is barely known, yet this jungle-clad “island in the sky” has been described as a “biological bonanza,” a place where you can walk in the presence of lions, buffalo and the world’s densest concentration of melanistic black panthers.

CNN explores Kakamega Forest, Kenya’s last pocket of tropical rainforest, with local guide Solomon Kita.

Kalahari Desert, Botswana

Botswana safari

Kalahari Desert covers most of Botswana as well as parts of Namibia and regions of South Africa.

Ariadne van Zandbergen

Traditionally known to the San Bushmen as Kgalagadi, The Great Thirstland, the Kalahari Desert represents Africa at its most brutally wild.

The 52,800-square-kilometer-long Central Kalahari Game Reserve is a challenge to access and, because of the aridity, wildlife tends to be more spread out than in the other great parks in the region.

This is a land of pure adventure, however, and encountering herds of majestic gemsbok on the shimmering mirages of Deception Valley or camping amid the guttural roar of the local lion pride near Tau Pan (meaning Lion Pan) is sure to provoke a feeling of privilege.

There are no facilities in the reserve you need a tour operator with experience in leading 4×4 convoy to access this region.

The logistical complications are invariably amply rewarded, however, by the adventure of a lifetime.

For first-timers: For an insight into the diversity of Africa, there’s nothing better than a two-stop safari combining the shimmering pans of the Kalahari with Okavango wetland wilderness. Moremi Game Reserve probably presents the most convenient safari option (along with prodigious wildlife) in the delta.

For old hands: Northern Tuli Game Reserve is one of unknown gems of Southern Africa. On offer is mountain biking, walking and even horseback riding through stunning landscapes of the mopane and fever tree forests, watching herds of up to 400 elephants and enjoying what might be the best leopard sightings in the world.

South Luangwa National Park and Kafue National Park, Zambia

South Luangwa National Park

South Luangwa was established as a National Park in 1972.

Pixabay / Creative Commons

South Luangwa National Park (Zambia’s wildlife flagship) is a firm favorite with many dedicated safari buffs for its uncrowded wilderness combined with a spectacular concentration of wildlife.

Meanwhile giant Kafue National Park, which is twice its size, draws safari connoisseurs with its phenomenal lion and leopard sightings and incredible diversity of antelope species, many of which are rarely seen elsewhere.

With the exception of rhino, the Big Five are relatively common fixtures here. Lions and cheetah often seen hunting on the Busanga Plains and you have a chance to spot leopards and painted dogs from a boat on the Lufupa River.

Zambia (along with Zimbabwe) is known for some of the best guides in the business and walking safaris and night drives are activities you can enjoy here that rarely feature in national parks in other areas.

For first-timers: Even in Africa, good things sometimes come in small packages. Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park (one of Zambia’s smallest) is more of a sanctuary than a park, yet it boasts the Big Five and a lot more besides. Visitors can even walk among white rhino.

For old hands: Lower Zambezi National Park offers heart-stopping views of hippos and huge crocs from the vantage point of a canoe on the mighty Zambezi River.

Etosha National Park, Namibia

Etosha National Park

A zebra drinks at one of Etosha National Park’s many waterholes.

Martin Bureau/AFP/Getty Images

While Namibia falls short from its neighboring countries for sheer wildlife density, it does offer wonderful sightings of desert species, along with perhaps the best chance to watch the region’s iconic cheetah in fleet-footed action.

Etosha National Park is undoubtedly the star of the country’s wildlife line-up, but it can get busy during the dry season (from July to September) when the wildlife concentrates closer to the waterholes.

Affordable camps and well-maintained roads and tracks make this one of the best options for self-drive safaris, and floodlit waterholes (like Okaukuejo in the southwest) offer an unusual opportunity to watch lions, hyena and even black rhino at night.

For old hands: Zambezi Region (formerly known as Caprivi Strip) provides a crossing point for wildlife from Namibia, Zambia, Botswana and Zimbabwe but it is a challenging safari, best undertaken in a convoy of 4x4s.

Kruger National Park, South Africa

Kruger National Park

All of the Big Five animals can be found at Kruger National Park.

Pixabay / Creative Commons

The gigantic Kruger National Park (about the same size as Israel or Wales) is big enough to offer something for everyone.

With diverse wildlife, including the Big Five (with an estimated 1,500 lions but heavily threatened rhinos,) Kruger’s excellent road network means that most areas are accessible even with two-wheel drive vehicles.

Often derided for being “tame wilderness” because of tarred roads and good infrastructure, this huge park measures 414 kilometers from Crocodile Bridge in the south to Pafuri Gate in the north — for added wilderness appeal it is recommended to head farther into the less-visited tracks and trails of the north.

For first-timers: For the independent traveler with a hired vehicle, Kruger is arguably the cheapest and most accessible of all Africa’s major parks. Sabi Sand Game Reserve shares a 50-kilometer unfenced border with Kruger National Park and it benefits from incredible wildlife viewing (along with possibly the best leopard spotting in the world.)

For old hands: Phinda Private Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal offers some of the best cheetah sightings, huge leopards, a rare chance to see both the black and white rhinos and a bird list of well over 400 species.

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12 London restaurants with great views

(CNN) — This Thursday in London, “haute cuisine” will be taken to a whole new level.
The global pop-up dining experience Dinner in the Sky is back for 2018, and will be strapping groups of diners around a table and hoisting them 100 feet up in the air by crane.

From July 5 to 15, 2018, breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner menus created by award-winning chefs Robin Gill (The Dairy), Lee Wescott (The Typing Room) and Pascal Aussignac (Club Gascon) will be served alongside spectacular views of the Thames and London landmarks including St Paul’s Cathedral and The Shard.

Tickets start at $65 (£50) per person and are selling out fast.

But you needn’t risk spilling your aperitif onto gawkers below to enjoy elevated eating in the British capital. There are plenty of more comfortable indoor options.

We take the measure of the best — and most thrilling — “uppity” eateries in London.

Helix and Iris

Helix restaurant and Iris bar, levels 39 and 40 of the Gherkin, London

The public will soon be able to dine at the top of one of London’s favorite buildings.

Courtesy Searcys at the Gherkin

Helix Restaurant and Iris Bar, on levels 39 and 40 of the Norman Foster-designed Gherkin building — a much-loved star of the London skyline — open to the public for the first time on July 13, having previously only been available for exclusive hire and private events.

Helix’s executive chef Daniel Loftin is behind a menu featuring seasonal British produce such as Dorset crab, Rhug Estate Welsh lamb and English green asparagus.

Iris Bar, which offers spectacular 360-degree views over the City, will unveil a new London-inspired cocktail list, including the Jack the Ripper — with Mediterranean herbs vodka, beet juice, tomato, lemon and Worcester sauce — a dark local twist on the Bloody Mary.

Oblix at the Shard

Stunning dinner-time views from London's tallest building.

Stunning dinner-time views from London’s tallest building.

Courtesy Richard Southal/Ilona Zielinska

The Shard is home to several fancy eateries, but Oblix is the original and the most elevated, situated on the 32nd floor of the glass skyscraper. Oblix has a New York-inspired rotisserie theme — a departure for founder Rainer Becker, whose other restaurants, Zuma, Roka and the newly opened Inko Nito, are Japanese-themed.

Diners are treated to panoramic views of the cityscape — staggering at sunset, but eminently Instagrammable all day long. Try Oblix’s late-night menu: three courses and a complimentary cocktail can be enjoyed for £39 per person ($51).

Where to find it: Oblix, 32/F, The Shard, 31 St. Thomas St., London SE1 9RY; +44 (0)20 7268 6700

Duck and Waffle

Duck and Waffle offers delicious food and views 24/7.

Duck and Waffle offers delicious food and views 24/7.

Courtesy Duck and Waffle

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so why not treat yourself to waffles amongst the clouds? Duck and Waffle is located on the 40th floor of 110 Bishopsgate (Heron Tower) and even in London fog its impressive.
The restaurant’s signature dish is its eponymous duck and waffle, but it’s open 24/7, serving all-day food described as traditional cuisine of England with European influences.

Duck and Waffle’s signature dish will cost you £16 ($21) from the breakfast menu, but two eggs any style comes in at £8 ($10.50) — comparable to many less glamorous brunch spots in the capital.

Where to find it: 110 Bishopsgate, London EC2N 4AY; +44 (0)20 3640 7310

Galvin at Windows

Admire the greenery of Hyde Park from the luxurious surroundings of Galvin at Windows.

Admire the greenery of Hyde Park from the luxurious surroundings of Galvin at Windows.

Courtesy Galvin at Windows

Holding fort in upper-crust Mayfair is Galvin at Windows, the Michelin-starred French restaurant on the 28th floor of the Hilton Park Lane Hotel. Known for its sterling service, the restaurant also supports the charity Galvin’s Chance, which helps disadvantaged young people get into hospitality.

More classical in style than some of the city”s newer high-rise eateries, visitors are still treated to stunning aerial views of London’s Hyde Park.

Where to find it: Galvin at Windows, 28/F, 22 Park Lane, London W1K 1BE; +44 (0)20 7208 4021

OXO Tower Restaurant

Dine with a view of St Paul's and the Thames at OXO, on London's Southbank.

Dine with a view of St Paul’s and the Thames at OXO, on London’s Southbank.

Courtesy OXO Tower Restaurants/Harvey Nichols

The iconic rooftop OXO restaurant has been wowing restaurant-goers since 1996, operated by chic British department store stalwart Harvey Nichols.

As one of London’s older rooftop restaurants, OXO is at a much lower altitude than its City counterparts. Don’t let that put you off — this lower vantage point allows diners to watch the boats drift by on the Thames and enjoy a stunning view of St Paul’s Cathedral — and is more palatable for those with a fear of heights.

Why not try OXO’s “Not Afternoon Tea,” a scone-free affair in which Champagne is traded for cocktails and desserts are modeled after ice cream vans. Alternatively, it’s the perfect brunch spot — while away your Sunday morning looking out over the Thames.

Where to find it: Oxo Tower Wharf, Bargehouse Street, South Bank, London SE1 9PH; +44 (0) 20 7021 1686

Fenchurch Restaurant

Fenchurch New Menu - Web Sized28

Fenchurch Restaurant offers panoramic views of London below.

Courtesy Sky Garden

Head to the “Walkie Talkie” skyscraper (AKA 20 Fenchurch Street) to enjoy a landscaped indoor garden known as the Sky Garden, wide observation desks and state-of-the art restaurants and bars.
Fenchurch Rooftop Restaurant serves “British contemporary” food and stylish cocktails. It’s the perfect place to sit and admire the city below.
The Sky Garden is also well worth wandering around: its lush greenery forming a striking contrast with the concrete jungle glimpsed through the windows. A visit to the Garden is free, you just need to book online in advance. The building is also home to the Darwin Brasserie and the Sky Pod Bar.

Where to find it: Sky Garden, 1 Sky Garden Walk, London EC3M 8AF; +44 (0) 333 772 0020

Boundary Rooftop

Shoreditch's Boundary rooftop is the perfect spot to while away a summer's evening.

Shoreditch’s Boundary rooftop is the perfect spot to while away a summer’s evening.

Courtesy Boundary

For year-round rooftop dining, head to the hipster hotbed of Shoreditch, East London. The Boundary restaurant rewards visitors with vistas of East London and a heated orangery filled with citrus trees.

Cosy and inviting even in winter, the heated roof offers 360-degree views of the City skyscrapers and East London’s skyline. Food is served sizzling from the Robata Grill and cocktails are available into the early hours of the morning.

Where to find it: 2-4 Boundary Street, Shoreditch, London E2 7DD; +44 (0) 20 7729 1051


alto by San Carlo. Pop-up restaurant on Selfridges rooftop, London

Catch it while you can: alto by San Carlo is the Selfridges pop-up for the 2018 season.

Courtesy alto by San Carlo

On the rooftop of Selfridges, the iconic London department store, pop-up restaurants and bars appear seasonally. The current resident is alto by San Carlo — an Italian spot with a retractable roof for when the sun shines. Lunch and dinner can be enjoyed from this vantage point, which surveys London’s Oxford Street — Europe’s busiest shopping street.

Where to find it: Selfridges, 400 Oxford Street, London W1A 1AB; +44 (0) 20 7318 3287

Aqua Nueva

Sample stunning Spanish fine dining at Aqua Nueva, then sit back and admire this vista.

Sample stunning Spanish fine dining at Aqua Nueva, then sit back and admire this vista.

Courtesy Aqua Nueva

Aqua Nueva delivers stunning Spanish food with views to match. Its Art Deco-style interior offers intimate dining, but its rooftop exterior is where it’s at. In the evening, Regent Street’s shops — including iconic Tudor-revival department store Liberty’s — are illuminated and diners can spot the London Eye in the distance.

Somewhere between a trendy evening hotspot and a fine-dining restaurant, Aqua Nueva is as perfect for after-work summer cocktails as it is for a luxury evening meal.

Where to find it: 5th floor, 240 Regent Street (Entrance 30 Argyll Street), London W1B 3BR; +44 (0) 20 7478 0540

Coq d’Argent

Admire London's eastern cluster of skyscrapers from Coq d'Argent's manicured lawn.

Admire London’s eastern cluster of skyscrapers from Coq d’Argent’s manicured lawn.

Courtesy Thomas Alexander/Coq d’Argent

Coq d’Argent promises classic French food in a contemporary, rooftop setting. The rooftop comes complete with a lawn, hedges and spectacular views of London’s eastern cluster of skyscrapers.

The high-quality menu includes baked lobster and Australian sirloin steak. But beware, you’ll be surrounded by suits as this is bankers’ territory.

Where to find it: No. 1 Poultry, London EC2R 8EJ; +44 (0) 20 7395 5000

Radio rooftop bar

Survey the city skyline from the 10th floor of the ME Hotel on The Strand.

Survey the city skyline from the 10th floor of the ME Hotel on The Strand.

Courtesy Chris Orange

A swish bar designed by legendary UK architectural firm Foster + Partners, Radio serves weekend brunch, a modern spin on afternoon tea, sharing plates, lunch and signature cocktails. Located in the five-star ME Hotel and overlooking the Strand and London’s theater district, visitors can peer at the hustle and bustle of the streets below or look out towards the river Thames.

Where to find it: ME London, 336-337 Strand, London WC2R 1HA; +44 (0) 20 7395 3440

Qin Xie is a London-based freelance journalist and trained chef.

Francesca Street is a London-based journalist, writing features with a focus on travel, arts and culture.

This article was previously published in 2013. It was reformatted and republished in 2018.

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Akshay Kumar's Gold: All you need to know about independent India's first Olympic gold

Akshay Kumar’s Gold: All you need to know about independent India’s first Olympic gold

Akshay Kumar in Gold (L) and the film’s poster

Akshay Kumar is currently in London shooting for Reema Kagti’s Gold. The film, which marks the Bollywood debut of television actor Mouni Roy, went on floors on Saturday. Gold also features Kunal Kapoor and Amit Sadh in key roles, and is scheduled to release on Independence Day next year.

The film will bring to celluloid the story of independent India’s first Olympic gold win.

Here’s what you need to know before you see Gold on the big screen:

1. The Indian men’s hockey team won the country’s first Olympic medal as a free nation in 1948 at the 14th London Olympiad.

2. The London Olympics was the first Olympics held post World War II. It was held after a gap of 12 years, with the previous one being the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

3. The India team that played in the London Olympics was a brand new one, with all the great players from the earlier gold-winning team, including top goal scorer Dhyan Chand, having retired.

4. The captain of the new team was Kishen Lal, with KD Singh (Babu) being the vice-captain. This was the first time when India marched holding the tricolour, as a free nation, in the opening ceremony at the Wembley Stadium.

5. India played its first match against Austria. The Indian team beat the Austrian team hollow, with the scorecard reading 8-0. They went on to defeat Argentina 9-1. India was victorious against Spain in the quarterfinal (2-0) and against Holland in the semi-final (2-1). The final match was played against Britain.

6. Indians took on their former rulers and won in style, defeating the British 4-0.

7. This was the fourth consecutive gold medal for India in the sport, and its first as an independent nation.

8. After the Indian team’s victory, free India’s first High Commissioner to England, VK Krishna Menon, gave the players an official reception at India House. The team was also sent on a fortnight-long goodwill tour of Europe, where they visited France, Czechoslovakia and Switzerland.

9. Incidentally, Pakistan was also contesting as a free nation for the first time, and there were strong chances of an India-Pakistan final. However, Britain defeated Pakistan in the semi-final and went on to play India in the final match.

10. When the victorious team returned to the country, they received a grand welcome. The victory celebrations went on for days and came to an end in Delhi, where Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and President Rajendra Prasad attended the winning team’s exhibition match at the National Stadium.

ALSO SEE: Akshay Kumar shares his look in Gold

ALSO READ: Akshay Kumar and Talaash director Reema Kagti team up for sports drama Gold

ALSO WATCH: Akshay Kumar wins National Award – How the actor became Sabse Bada Khiladi

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