Xi’an Bell Tower, China

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The Xi’an Bell Tower is an important landmark in Xi’an. It adds to the historic flavours of the city, coupled with the City Wall and Temples peppered throughout. Right in the centre of a bustling intersection, the bell tower is overlooked by modern hotels and shopping precincts. It’s a poignant testament to the dichotomy of this place.

At night, it’s ablaze in all lights and glory. There are night markets nearby in the Muslim Quarter, and you can’t help but be drawn there by the crowd.

The Bell Tower is worth seeing, I think, as part of your exploration of the area. Go inside, look around, watch the drum show. You’ll be glad you did.

Disclaimer: This review was also posted by me on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.

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Summer Palace, Beijing, China

The Summer Palace in Beijing is a must see, regardless of the season. It’s easy to navigate to via subway as a non Chinese speaking tourist, and it’s worth a good few hours of your time.

The palace grounds are massive. There are temples, shrines, lakes, theatres, all dating back to ancient times, all perfectly preserved.

It’s a major tourist attraction, so expect crowds all year round. I went in the middle of winter and found the grounds to be truly magical. Crisp air, frost on the grass, frozen lake. You can ice skate if you wish.

Get yourself a map, but don’t expect it to be useful. The paths here twist and wind. You’re never sure if you’re going where you mean to, but there’s surely something of interest along the way. Take your walking shoes, you’ll be there for hours.

We paid extra at the ticket booth to see some of the special attractions, and I would recommend doing so. For instance, the Tower of Buddhist Incense charges entry (on top of your entry fee), so I’d suggest buying an all inclusive ticket in the first instance. These attractions are really quite exceptional so it’s worth paying extra.

Definitely take a day to see the Summer Palace. It was a highlight of my trip to Beijing.

.Disclaimer: This review was also posted on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.

Ladies Market, Hong Kong

The Ladies Market in Hong Kong is a great experience. Easy to navigate to, we were able to visit the Ladies Market in the same day we went to Sneaker Street and Goldfish Street. The market is knick-knacks galore, it’s hustle and bustle, it’s loud and colourful. Everything is cheap and ready to be haggled down. It’s perfect for last minute souvenirs. it’s not somewhere to go if you want unique, authentic goods. It’s a bargain paradise for cheap knock-offs.

Underwhelming and cheap, but good fun.

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer: This review was also posted on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.

Khao San Road

Woah, Khao San Road is an experience. It’s not for the faint of heart. Khao San Road is the underbelly of Bangkok, all soft and exposed, all smells and yells. In Khao San you can get accommodation that’s cheaper than a haircut and street-peddlers harass you to buy a fake ID. It’s high octane backpacker tourism. Dirt and grit.

I’m the sort of traveler who lives like a local, and I was with family. Unlike other transient people, to me Khao San was more like an attraction to see, rather than a place to stay. I decided I needed to stop by this world-reknowned road on my way back from a Muay Thai fight at Rajadamnern Stadium. My quick hour or so at Khao San was all I needed- despite offering every flavour, it wasn’t my taste.

Khao San Road is the epitome of nightlife. There’s ping-pong shows, scorpions on a stick, cheap wares and fishbowl cocktails. The crowd pulses, and they snake down the road tempted by bright lights and neon. The cheapest Pad Thai you’ll ever see, but the prawns have been congealing in the heat for days.

I went and had a beer- something I took the lid off of myself- and sat back, watched the people flow and the area start to vibrate. There’s no BTS or MRT, so make your own way there. However, beware of taxi and tuk tuk scams, as this area will fleece you before you can say ‘Sawasdee kaa’.

 

Disclaimer: This review was also posted on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.

Xi’an City Wall, China

The Xi’an City Wall is culturally very interesting. The City Wall was constructed in the Ming Dynasty, around 600 years ago, and remains one of the oldest, largest and best preserved testaments to China’s history. You pass through it to get to the main hub inside Xi’an, so it’s inevitable that you’ll see the wall while you’re here. I do, however, recommend taking a tour that includes this site because there’s a lot of little facts and local knowledge that make your visit to the wall more interesting.

I found the contrast between the modern city and the ancient relic to be quite nostalgic. On one side of the wall there are local markets, all noise and colour. On the other side is steel and glass. Right on top, is silence. The birds sway and dance in their dozens. The air is fresh. There are garrisons from times of war.

The wall provides a great view of the city. It’s a ticketed entry and has bathrooms if you need them. It’s quite big, so go for a wander and stop by the historical plaques, or ride a bike along the top.

It’s well worth it, even if you’ve already seen the Great Wall of China.

Disclaimer: This review was also posted on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.

Cafe Notturno, Lygon Street, Melbourne, Australia  

This café was a great find. We went wandering down Lygon street to experience the Italian sector and came across this gem. We shared a supreme pizza, chicken and mushroom risotto and caesar salad. The food was hearty, flavoursome and good value for money. Not much ambience wise, but it seems very accommodating to families with kids and big groups. My only disappointment was that the caesar was advertised to be served with anchovies but didn’t come with any. Aside from that I was delighted with my Italian meal.

.Disclaimer: This review was also posted on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.

Chao Praya, Bangkok, Thailand 

The Chao Praya River is an interesting landmark to see in Bangkok. It’s not absolutely necessary, however as a traveler, it’s difficult to avoid. To get anywhere touristy such as Wat Arun and Wat Pho, you have to cross the Chao Praya. I recommend taking the tourist ferry for this as it offers a guided commentary on the major sites and drop off points along the river for tourists (and it’s reasonably priced too). Beware that the river can be tumultuous after the rains so alter your plans accordingly. 

My favourite thing to do along the Chao Praya is to take a long tail boat cruise up the canals, a klong tour as they say, which takes you on a half day tour up through the waterside residences, art shops, villages and markets. It’s a great way to visit the other side of Bangkok. Good luck negotiating your ticket before you hop on first; don’t be scared of haggling and ensure you’re taken only to places you actually want to go.

Other ideas include taking a water taxi across to one of the luxury hotels along the river, such as the Mandarin Oriental and have a delightful lunch by the water and let it all pass you by.

.Disclaimer: This review was also posted on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.