Review

Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China 

Tiananmen Square is such an interesting place. Harsh, brutalist buildings enclose a vast empty space right before Chairman Mao. It’s true grandeur.

We made a couple of rookie mistakes purely because we had no idea what we were doing and we couldn’t speak a word of Mandarin. We alighted the subway at Tiananmen Square and planned to see it and the Forbidden City in one venture. When we reached street level, we saw enormous queues and security check points cutting off any direction remotely leading toward where we wanted to go. We couldn’t check if we were in the right place or where to go, or why there was security because we couldn’t speak the language, so we walked around. We walked a full length of the Forbidden City, through a local community until we reached the side entrance and entered there. It took us some time to figure this out.

When we came back to Tiananmen Square, it was sundown and the queues were less, so we went through the security check point. Lo and behold, both the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square are right there before you.

Moral: follow the crowd.

In a serendipitous coincidence, dusk was the perfect time to be here. The major road was blocked off for a slow of military might as the army marched in to lower the flag. Be there for that if you can.

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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Muslim Quarter, Xi’an, China

The Muslim Quarter is a labyrinth of food stalls and trinkets. In all my travels, I found this area to be one of the most interesting food scenes for sizzling squid, chilli tofu, dried spices and vats of mystery broth. It was cold, so we walked through mists of steam and smells of roasting delicacies. There seemed too many options to choose from, all of them pungent, all of them packing flavour. We found respite from the cold in a cute little bakery and ordered hot chocolate; which was a whole squeeze of Hersey’s chocolate sauce into warm milk.

This whole area is absolutely worth exploring, at no cost to you. It’s a full sensory experience of lights and sounds. Plus you can do all your souvenir shopping here too!

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.

Baltazar Roiz Castenheiro Successor, Lisbon, PORTUGAL

The hot chocolate is devilishly thick, and the pastel de natas are light and crispy. The aesthetic is 1950s luxury department store and the history of it having existed since 1829 just adds to the grandeur of the patisserie. What a delight we stumbled upon.

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.

Holiday Inn, Shanghai Downtown, China

The Holiday Inn was everything we needed. Close to the subway so we could sightsee through the day. It’s located in the Downtown area so it’s not central to the major tourist sights, however the subway is easy to navigate. We found it difficult to find somewhere close by to eat out, but I guess we didn’t know where to look. The hotel has fast wifi, a good restaurant and reliable facilities. A solid recommendation.

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.

Oriental Pearl Tower, Shanghai, China

The Oriental Pearl Tower is iconic Shanghai. It can be seen from The Bund and marks the skyline. Going up the Tower is a must-do and I would urge you all to be a child for a day and to have fun.

We went up to the viewing platforms, even though the visibility wasn’t great. The queues were long but crowd control made it a painless wait for us. You could spend hours up there just learning about the cityscape and landmarks.

Once you’re done seeing the city from a great height, there’s a 4D roller coaster, glass floors, virtual reality visions of futuristic Shanghai and more. Some of these experiences costed extra and were knaff and gimmicky (but fun).

Our whole experience at The Pearl Tower was slightly pricey, but an essential tourist experience.

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.

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.

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.