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Lantau Island, HONG KONG

I didn’t do as much of Lantau Island as I could have, but I left feeling as if I had seen what I needed to see. This island left me with mixed feelings; I was overwhelmed by the attraction of it as a tourist trap. I was curious about the opportunity to visit a local village, but wary that it may be tainted by manufactured superficiality. I was gobsmacked by the amount of retail stores that boasts teachings of piety and self-reflections from Buddha, on commercial wares flogged at obscene prices. I was floored by the irony. And the Starbucks and the wifi. I hope that the Shaolin Monastery practiced Buddha’s ways of freedom from material possessions, but I was uninspired by the copious trinkets and wares for sale. And the fact that the 30m bronze Big Buddha was only erected for the masses in recent decades.

I’m still reeling from the contradiction of it all.

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.

The Block Arcade, Melbourne, AUSTRALIA

The Block Arcade is a beautiful testament to historical architecture and Victoria’s efforts to preserve traditional buildings. It has boutique stores and a quaint café scene. The arcade is a great place to explore when arcade hopping through Melbourne. Look for details, in the tiles on the floor and the window facades. Look for the spiral staircases and the nutcrackers. It’s a perfect photo opportunity for vintage aesthetics and the perfect place to get lost in.

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.

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.

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.