Tokyo had always been our dream to visit, and probably one of the first destinations on my mind since I was a child. So planning for the trip was a lot of fun. Despite the throngs of Western tourists in Japan, it’s a well known fact that the majority of the locals still do not speak English (or are simply too shy to). Having said that, Tokyo remains easy to navigate with most signs having English and Romanji for foreigners. But it certainly helps a lot if you planned some things in advance to avoid as much fuss and trouble as possible.
If you’re completely new to Taipei, there’re quite a number of things to see, take a walk around Ximending, visit the National Palace Museum, check out the night markets, have drinks around Xinyi Road or the National University, or simply, gorge yourself with the glorious food the Taiwanese are rightfully proud of. But if you feel a little restless in the city (Really?), there are always options to venture out a little for something closer to nature. Taipei, and generally the whole of Taiwan, is pretty convenient to get around. There are also local trains, and buses that connect you to most places. The inter-town railway line basically encircles the entire island. Continue reading Taipei: Half Day Trips
Shanghai’s landscape is ever changing. The boom in new restaurants, bars, malls, is bigger now than ever. It’s no surprise then that developers have thought that one Xintiandi is not enough and decided to create another food & drinks hub in an old quarter somewhere. They found their location in Jing’An. (And right behind our home, lucky us!) The new place is currently referred to as “Zhong Plaza” or “That new place on Taixing Lu”.
Most of the restaurants and bars are already open and are having their soft launch prices and menus, some are still in development, but all of them look promising.
We got ourselves some affordable tickets to Taipei for the week just before Chinese New Year. On one of the days, we decided to venture a little out from the modern city to the North Coast. For that, we got in touch with Christine via her page on ToursByLocals. Her husband, Jan, came along on the trip, as well as her brother, Leo, who was our driver for the day. Below were some of the main spots we managed to visit.
The government protests happened during our visit. Despite the sensational headlines in newspapers, we did not come across the protests first-hand. Not even once. The only inconvenience we felt were some of the main roads being cordoned off, and so alternate routes had to be taken, and traffic jams were lengthier and more common. Talking of alternate routes, the roads surrounding the Grand Palace have been blocked that day, and so we decided to take the river taxi instead.
We had some trickier-to-get-to places we wanted to see in Bangkok – the Artists’ House, and Khlong Lad Mayom, for example. So on our third full day in Bangkok, we decided to hire a small teak boat to leisurely to head to these few places as well as explore the places along the route. We first met up with Nui, our guide, before taking a cab down from our hotel to the hidden off boat pier.
Not being able to fly back to Germany for Christmas, we selected a location a wee bit closer (well, on the same continent at least), and ended up in Thailand, mainly Bangkok & Chiang Rai. Despite only having 3½ days in Bangkok, we managed to squeeze in a little day trip to Ayutthaya (1-2hours from Bangkok). We got a private guide for our trip (Thai Private Tour Guide). Though you can definitely do the travel up on your own. There’s a site listing the different travel options in great detail here: Getting to Ayutthaya from Bangkok
On our last day in Chiang Rai, we made a trip down to Wat Rong Khun, also known as The White Temple, before our flight back to Bangkok. The moment we arrived, we knew it was worth the trip. The temple was unlike any other we’ve seen – it’s exceptionally new (and still unfinished), with modern motifs and controversial art.
Continue reading Chiang Rai: Wat Rong Khun (White Temple)
(Click on photos for gallery view)
Another activity we selected on our stay at the Anantara, was the private Golden Triangle Day Tour. The guide and driver themselves are not part of the Anantara group, and are from an independent tour company. The tour covered the old city of Chiang Saen, Tachilek in Burma, and Don Sao Island of Laos.
As all our meals were all-inclusive in the room rate, the resort staff kindly made us select dishes from a print out menu for them to prepare in advance. The food was then packed and passed over to our guide and driver. Talk about service!
One of the popular activities to do when in Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai is visiting an elephant camp. Anantara Golden Triangle actually offers it as one of the free activity per night stay options. If you were wondering where these elephants come from, they belong to the Golden Triangle Asian Elephants Foundation (GTAEF), a non profit organization.
Continue reading Chiang Rai: Elephant Camp