tourist

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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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.

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.

Wat Arun  (Temple of Dawn), Bangkok, Thailand 

Wat Arun is a sight to behold. This temple is one of Thailand’s signature icons and shouldn’t be missed. Easily accessed via boat, the temple hosts hoardes of tourists daily. 

I’ve been twice over two years, both times the temple has been undergoing renovations so prepare yourself for construction scaffolding because they don’t look like they’ll finish up any time soon. Also be wary of what you wear; if the temple guard doesn’t think you’re modest enough you’ll need to rent a skirt to cover shoulders or legs.

I took a night bicycle tour of Bangkok (Grasshopper tours, highly recommend) on my first visit to Wat Arun. It was excellent to avoid the crowds and and the heat. I also relished being able to see the beautiful ceramic tile work up close. The gold details shone brilliantly under the floodlights. 

My second visit two years later was during the day. It’s very hot, but the temple is dazzling white in the midday sun. 

.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.


St Joseph’s Cathedral, Hanoi, Vietnam 

St Joseph’s Cathedral is stunning gothic monolith, just a stroll from Hoan Kiem Lake and the Old Quarter. It’s a marvel of history and architecture and beautiful even just to witness. The church still runs masses in various languages. However, it’s worth visiting for the sheer beauty of the structure. The area around it is a meeting place for tours and has plenty of cafes and restaurants. Lots of boutique handicraft shopping in the area as well.

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.