tourist

Torres De Belém, Lisbon, PORTUGAL

The Belém Tower is a landmark of Lisbon. We used the City Sightseeing Hop On/Off bus to access the Tower and we were not disappointed.

Built in the early 16th Century, the Tower stands steadfast. It looks out for the ocean as a testament to early naval defense, and has a museum attached dedicated to Portugal’s defense forces over the years.

The line was obscene, so we didn’t go inside. We could have bought skip the line passes, to go inside the tower, but we were happy to walk around and marvel at the Tower from where we were. The structure is stunning and it’s location on the Tagus is really something. Worth going to see as part of your Lisbon 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.

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Grand Mercure Xi’an on Renmin Square, CHINA

The Grand Mercure is a fantastic hotel to stay at in Xi’an. It’s central to most of the sightseeing landmarks around the city centre and is within walking distance from the Muslim Quarter, Bell Tower and night markets.

The hotel staff spoke limited English which made transactions a little confusing; we had trouble confirming the logistics of a deposit using credit card. We also had miscommunication around how many beds were available in our room.

However, the language barriers aren’t a reflection on the service or the hotel, just keep in mind that Xi’an is less cosmopolitan than other Chinese cities like Shanghai.

We were very pleased with our room and we’re warm and comfortable through snowy winter nights. Would definitely stay here again.

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.

Mongkok, HONG KONG

Mongkok is vibrant energy! It’s the Hong Kong that I pictured in my head, it’s the sounds of life and the smells of old. Martial Arts movie stars could swing through shop windows at any moment. A little girl darts across the street. Sugar cane is pressed. Roast ducks hang in the windows.

Situated in Kowloon Bay, Mongkok is opposite Hong Kong Island and can be accessed by ferry or subway. It’s less western than Hong Kong Island and maintains a strong Asian flavour.

In Mongkok you’ll find cheap Hong Kong street food, sneaker street, goldfish street and the Ladies Markets. The streets are a labyrinth that snake above and below ground. The area has an erratic pulse that moves through the laneway shadows and the thundering trucks.

Go in the late afternoon. Grab a bargain. See the lights buzz and flicker on. A neon wonderland.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.