Month: May 2018

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.

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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.

Scenic World, Katoomba, Sydney 

Scenic World, Katoomba is a classic tourist activity in the Blue Mountains. I recommend it to visitors because it showcases Australia’s natural and social histories, amongst a beautiful ecological park. The funicular railway is very fun; so steep and not for the faint of heart! The cable ways give you stunning views of the valley and the walkway at the bottom of the forest provides information on the local history and geography of the area.

This activity is, however, rather pricey and the queues can be quite disheartening. The whole experience is very well set up, but you need to figure out your motivation is for being there. If you want to experience natural beauty, then take a walking track from Echo Point. There are other, less expensive and time draining ways to experience the Blue Mountains. I support local businesses, however this feels like are tourist trap. 
.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.

Queenstown Skyline, New Zealand

Queenstown is stunning, there’s no doubt about that. It’s a beautiful landscape, it’s a sight to behold. Taking the skyline up to the top of Queenstown is worth it for a fun gondola ride and picturesque views.

However, that’s where my admiration ends, unfortunately.

There’s a lot of activities you can pay to do at the top- bungy jumping, luge, giant swing, mountain bike down to the bottom, buffet dining. The café fills the gap, but that’s about it. It feels very commercialised and a bit of a tourist trap, compared with the gondola at Christchurch, which has a 360 degrees panorama of the whole region, information about the local area and cultural history.

I think the spectacular view of Queenstown could be achieved through less expensive means, like trail walking for example. But for those who just want to zip up and appreciate the beauty, it’s there and it’s worthwhile.

Big Wild Goose Pagoda, Xi’an, China

The Big Wild Goose Pagoda is part of the sightseeing experience in Xi’an. With an active monastery attached to the precinct, this pagoda is rich with history attached legend. There are many alcoves to explore which outline local culture and Buddhist philosophy, so it’s accessible to non-Buddhists as well as practicing. It’s beautiful and peaceful, I recommend it to all as it will flavour your time in Xi’an.

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.

Ayutthaya Historic Park, Thailand

Ayutthaya is a great day trip from Bangkok. It’s a series of fairly well maintained temples and ruined complexes from the Ancient Capital. It’s a UNESCO world heritage site and I’d put it up there with Borobadur and Angkor Wat as historical marvels. 

Logistically, do your research and pace yourself.  While there are plenty of tours from Bangkok, it’s very easy to self navigate. We got the train from Bangkok (approx 1.5hrs) for about 500THB, first class. Incidentally, we paid 20THB returning third class and were not dissatisfied. When we got there we were harassed, naturally, by tuktuk drivers offering packages. Don’t give in. Wander down the street with all the food stalls and market stalls to the ferry wharf. It’ll cost you 5THB to cross the river. 

On the other side of the river, it’s much less intense. There are bicycles you can hire (but it’s often a blistering heat and the distance between temples is far so I wouldn’t recommend it) and tuktuks. We haggled a driver for the two of us down to 500THB  to visit about six temples and take us to a lunch for about 4 hours (and felt rather proud of ourselves). 

Study first and pace yourself. Wat Mahathat is the classic ruin overcome by nature, Wat Pra Singh sits riverside, and there are others surrounded by moats or reclining Buddhas. You can choose where to go. Remember that there’s an entrance fee to every temple, so you’ll be hit with 50THB every time. Bring water and wear modest clothing. Sunscreen and hats because there isn’t much shade at all. Bring cash; I don’t recall seeing many ATMs, if any.
The tuktuk driver will take you to their usual lunch spot, so expect to be hit with tourist prices there and they food may not be excellent. Nevertheless, you can have a fairly inexpensive day trip to these ancient wonders and return with a taste of real Thailand. 


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.