World Cities Where East Meets West

There is no doubt that travelling to Asia an unforgettable experience for everyone. The culture, languages, food and architecture are just a few of the things that make the continent such a fascinating and intoxicating place to visit. But there are also cities where western culture has had a very clear impact, and these are the places we are going to be talking about in this article.

This fusion of East and West is incredible to behold, and these cities also provide the perfect introduction to Asia if you have never visited before. You will be able to see the familiar and the not-so-familiar sitting side-by-side. We will also look at a couple of European cities where the Eastern influence has been obvious. So, let’s start looking at each place in more detail.

Hong Kong

Though it is part of China once again, Hong Kong has a very different feel to the rest of the country. After decades of British rule, the remnants are still there despite being handed back 20 years ago. A centre of business and commerce, people still flock here from all over the world to live and work. While the stonework of many of the buildings makes the city feel distinctly Eastern, just look at the road signs and street markings to see the British influence. Depending on which district you visit, you will experience something different every time.

One of the highlights of a visit is a trip between the two main islands on the Star Ferry, where you can truly appreciate the grandeur of the place. Another way to do this is to hop on the Peak Tram for panoramic views over the city. And while you can wander down one of the main shopping streets and feel like you are in London, you can just as easily wander over to the 10,000 Buddhas Monastery and feel like you are in a different world.

Bangkok

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The capital of Thailand has been a melting pot of different cultures, races and religions for hundreds of years. Today, that legacy still lives on, and many people use the city as a gateway to Asia, helped by the fact that one of the region’s busiest airports is located here. While there are big parts of the city where the traffic, noise and sheer number of people can feel overwhelming, there are plenty of hidden corners where you can get some much-needed peace and quiet.

The main party district of Khao San Road is where you will find party-lovers from all over the world. But for more traditionally Eastern sights, you will find numerous temples around, as well as the mighty Grand Palace. An unmissable traditional sight is the floating river markets where you will get a better idea of why Bangkok is sometimes known as the Venice of the East. As for the cuisine, there is no better place to try the many dishes which have become so popular all over the world.

Istanbul

If you are looking from a purely geographical perspective, Istanbul is a city where East and West literally meet. But there has also been plenty of cultural influence from both of the European and Asian continents that the city straddles. There are three main areas of Istanbul where you can see this clearly – Asian, Modern European and the old city of Constantinople. While you will see incredible Islamic buildings like the Suleymaniye Mosque, you will also find dazzling Christian monuments like the Church of St Saviour in Chora.

For fans of shopping and food, Istanbul’s markets are a dream come true. And one of the main pleasures of visiting this city is simply wandering the street to witness the pace of life and diversity of sights, sounds and smells. The city is a unique one that you will want to take your time to appreciate in its entirety.     

Sarajevo

Still one of the most overlooked cities in the whole of Europe, Sarajevo is small but it packs a lot into what it has. Surrounded by hills on all sides, you can hike up here for a spectacular sunset over the city. At the same time, you will hear the call-to-prayer echoing from the minarets which will make your feel like you have travelled a lot further east than you actually have. But there are still plenty of Christians living here as well, and there aren’t many other cities where you can find a church, a mosque and a brewery on the same street!

Sarajevo still bares the remnants of its four-year siege during the 1990s, but there is a peaceful feel to wandering the city now. You can enjoy a coffee (served thick and black in the Turkish style) and wander around the various markets. At times, it is easy to forget that you are still in Europe! Best of all, the city is small enough to explore entirely on foot.

Singapore

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With its towering skyscrapers mixed with an undeniable sense of Asian culture, there is no doubt that Singapore is a place where East meets West. Okay, so technically Singapore is a country, but it is small enough to feel like a city. Next door to the obvious symbols of Western modernity, you will find plenty of Chinese shop houses, Hindu temples and Malay mosques.

There are also plenty of job opportunities for people all over the world, so take a look here if you are looking for room for rent. But it is also great for travellers as well, and the perfect ‘decompression chamber’ for first-time visitors to Asia. Though Malay is the official language, you will find that English is spoken pretty much everywhere you go. One of the most cosmopolitan places in the world, people largely value openness and an acceptance of other cultures. And when it comes to the climate, the temperature stays warms and appealing all year round.

Ho Chi Minh City

Another place where colonial rule has had its influence is Ho Chi Minh City. When you first arrive here, you will probably think that Eastern culture has taken over, but take a closer look at the elegant buildings and leafy boulevards and you will clearly see the French influence on Vietnam’s capital. But at the same time, in the Old Town, you will see plenty of Buddhist pagodas and Chinese temples

The city has become such a backpackers hub that people from across the globe flock here to get an introduction to this beautiful country. And it is probably the most developed place as a starting point, before you snake your way up the country towards the capital of Hanoi. Of course, there are still the sad reminders of Western influence on the country which you can see when you go to the landmarks and museums dedicated to the Vietnam War.

Shanghai

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Not so long ago, the whole of China was off limits to foreigners. But the city that has embraced Western culture more than any other is Shanghai. Just take a stroll along the Bund and stare at the modern skyscrapers or wander the charming streets of the French Concession and you will see how the city has been influenced. But, at the same time, it has still not lost its roots as you will see from attractions like the 16th century Yu Garden.

Alongside many local Chinese eateries, you will also find plenty of big brand foot outlets and European themes restaurants so you really can take your pick. If you are looking for a spectacular view over the city, take the elevator to the top of the World Financial Centre to stare across at just how far this city has come in a few short decades. You will also get a glimpse at China’s potential for the future

Take Your Pick

If you are very much used to Western culture and the idea of travelling to Asia scares you, choosing one of these cities as a starting point is a good idea. As well as some sights that will surprise you, there will also be many that seem a lot more familiar. Once you have gotten your first taste of the continent, it is likely that you will want to experience more and visit some places that are a little more off the beaten track. But the beauty of starting in one of these cities is that you will have easy access to many of your home comforts so you don’t feel too disoriented!   

With the exception of Sarajevo, all of these cities have busy international airports so they are easy to fly into from most places in the world. Best of all, the cost of flights is steadily decreasing so there are more opportunities than ever to explore each of these incredible destinations. The East is much closer than it ever was before, so now is the time to get exploring!    

 

 

 

  

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The Czech Republic For Those Into History

Steeples of St. Vitus Cathedral and Prague Castle from Charles Bridge in Prague

Steeples of St. Vitus Cathedral and Prague Castle from Charles Bridge in Prague

Slap bang in the middle of Central Europe, if there we had to describe the Czech Republic in just one word it would have to be ‘cocktail’. No no no. This has nothing to do with its fame and notoriety among stag parties or thirsty backpackers but rather its history. You see, the Czech Republic is a cocktail made up of its Bohemian past, Moravian splendor and Slavic charm. It is a city that celebrates the historic diversity that blends all things Gothic and Baroque and that is what makes it an absolute must see nation for anyone that has even the slightest interest in what came before us.

St Vitus Cathedral

There is only one place to start your cultural exploration and that is the St Vitus Cathedral, so get book your cheap flights to Prague, pack your camera with plenty of films and then head to this magnificent structure that has been built over a 600-year span. Hidden within its thick walls you will find a mosaic of The Last Judgement and the tombs of people you have heard legends about, like Charles IV and St Wenceslas, among many more.

Veletrzni Palac

If you are caught in the tough decision over which Prague museum you absolutely must explore, you’d do well to find a better contender than this National Gallery. The collection is just a mind-boggling array of art that stretches back as far as the 1800s, including pieces from little-known artists like Van Gogh and Picasso and Klimt. What’s more, there are four floors for you to wander about with your mouth as wide as it has ever been.

Charles Bridge

If you were to stop a local on the streets (hopefully one that speaks English) and asked them what their most savored simple pleasure is in life, they will tell you it is the eight o’clock stroll across the Charles Bridge. It is just the most stunning place in the city; fresh snow at your feet, a sea of pastel-coloured buildings stretching as far as the eye can see and architecture of every kind. The reason they say eight o’clock, however, is because the circus comes to town at nine and by circus we mean tourists.

Prague Castle

When you are a kid and you imagine what a fairy-tale castle to be like, chances are it was something akin to this. It is magnificent. The ranks of tall spires and enchanted towers and palaces that could melt your heart a thousand times over. But it isn’t just something nice to look at from the outside, for within the walls lay galleries and museums and buildings of old. This place is celebrated by the locals as being one of the greatest treasures in all of Central Europe and for good reason too.

Old Town Hall

If it is old that you are after then you need to carve out time to see the Old Town Hall, which was founded in 1338. It is a patchwork of medieval buildings that have been sewn together over a series of centuries, each adding their own eclectic charm. In terms of the centerpiece, that title definitely goes to the Gothic tower that looks over it all with a salute, not least because of its Astronomical Clock.

The Best Camping Sites in Europe – A Comprehensive Guide to Scenic Routes

Planning a camping trip in Europe is one of the best choices you can make this summer. It’s budget friendly, offers a lot of exciting cities and sights, as well as wonderful camping breaks in picturesque surroundings. There are too many advantages to it; not having to book a room for the night means that you save a lot of money, while your mode of transportation gives you the freedom to go where you like.

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To make it even easier on your wallet, we have looked up the most scenic camping sites you can choose in European countries, depending on which route you’d like to follow. It’s a great choice for your camping adventures as it only takes you a few hours between each country. Wander the streets of Ljubljana one day, and drive to Venice the next morning.

Tent, motorhome or caravan?

As a camper, you have probably decided on your favorite already. There are different benefits to each type of camping, and it depends on how comfortable you’d like to be. In a tent, you’re close to nature and not quite as sheltered as in a caravan or motorhome. You will need to choose the right type of tent, though, and keep the weight of it in mind if you’re backpacking. Make sure it’s big enough to fit your family if you’re traveling with children, and bring something heavy for setting the tent up in case the ground is particularly tough. Here is an excellent article if this is your first time camping abroad, by the way.

With a motorhome, you get the freedom of traveling in your home. It’s costly, though, and reserved for those who plan to use it every summer. The caravan offers the same convenience of traveling but might provide even more freedom in terms of exploring; it’s just not practical to drive around in a large motorhome when you want to explore the surroundings. Simply park your caravan where you plan to camp, and set off in your car instead.  

At the end of the day, if you have invested in a caravan or motorhome, it makes sense to ditch the tent altogether; rather that than leaving a costly vehicle behind in the carport for your caravan. Have a look at this article to prepare your vehicle for the big trip and make sure it runs smoothly.

Beginning: Budapest and Ljubljana

Your camping route can be laid out however you please; it can easily be turned around so that you end up in Central Europe at the end of your trip rather than the beginning. Budapest has a lot to offer, both for those seeking a city break and those looking for beautiful nature; Ave Natura Camping is situated in the idyllic forest of Buda Hill. You can relax in a motorhome, caravan or tent, in shady and sunny spots.

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It’s not too far from the city either if you feel like mixing it up a bit. When you fall in love with Budapest, it’s because it will never bore you – stay in the center to feel its life or head to the outskirts for a bit of serenity.

When you want a change, it won’t even take you five hours to drive to Ljubljana. It’s a wonderfully scenic route, too, so the drive there will be just as pleasant as the camping itself. The city is a personal favorite of many, myself included, as it still has that quiet charm of a city not yet discovered by the masses. Its beauty is stunning; more than half of the country is forested, so you can feel confident that your wildlife adventure will be wild enough.

Camping Bled is an hour away from Ljubljana, but the view makes it worth it. It’s also the cradle of golfing in Slovenia, in addition to being located right by Lake Bled. There is another camping site in Ljubljana if an hour away from the city seems to much – but its ratings are not even close to Bled’s.

Middle: Venice and Marseille

When you’re ready for your next city, you’ll be driving down to Venice in about two and a half hour. The drive is, in all honesty, almost too short – watch how the landscape changes and see Italy open up beneath you, with all its humidity and crooked little houses. Venice is the perfect city for a romantic getaway, and it’s quiet enough for you to enjoy the time with your family in peace and serenity.

Camping Al Boschetto is a great place for children and even located by a sandy beach; with a playground and a sports ground, you can relax and enjoy the city of love together, while the youngest is having far too much fun to bother you. It will take you an hour to get there from the center of Venice, so when you feel like walking by the canals instead of the sea, it won’t take you too long to get there.

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Although you certainly should see more of Italy and even stay there for as long as possible, you probably want to get moving eventually. Where you go from here depends on whether or not you travel by caravan or public transport; as you need to get on a ferry to go to Spain, it’s probably better to head straight for France and save yourself the extra expenses.

If you do travel by public transport and would like to visit Barcelona, you should take a ferry from Livorno  – it is as sandy and blue as paradise, and the best way to get there is to take a train from Venice to Florence. You’re welcome.

For the sake of order, we assume that you travel by caravan and would like to head straight to France. It’s massive, and since you’d like to save as much time as possible, the southern part should give you everything you need; proximity, the French Riviera, and all of those good summer vibes you have been dreaming of.

Make your way to Marseilles and prepare for a good 6 hour drive – it is, after all, a journey across Italy. You can always make the drive a bit easier by stopping in Genoa before driving on; it’s not the first city to come to mind when you think of Italy, but as one of it’s largest ports and with a stunning view wherever you look, you won’t regret spending a few hours here.

Camping Du Pylone is reopened after the tragic flood two years back and is still as popular as ever. You can use one of their mobile homes or just stay in your own caravan. There’s a lot to do for your kids too, with a swimming pool and offers different activities for the whole family.

End: Geneva and Enzklosterle

As the end or the beginning of your trip, a few nights of camping in Geneva is just what you need. Your caravan will take you there from Marseilles in about five and a half hours, so start early in the morning to get the most out of the day. As always, you won’t be bored while driving through shifting landscape, friendly towns, and get to enjoy the endless charm of Europe in the summer.

The view and nature are in a class of its own; you’ll be looking for long if you want something even more idyllic than what Geneva has to offer. Camping Rive-Bleu is situated by a small marina, as well as a large indoor swimming pool. The site is quiet and picturesque, with a small village ten minutes away, and you can choose to rent a tent from them if you’d like. It is camping in nature at its finest, but beware of the prices – they’re slightly higher here than in some of the other cities on the route.

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Image from: Pexels

Make your final destination a forest camping in Germany. Camping Müllerwiese is a car-free camping in the middle of a small village, surrounded by the Black Forest, and with a small stream running through it. Since you need to leave your car behind, you simply load your things into the provided charts and pull it with you over a bridge and onto the site. It’s a German camping dream come true, and a perfect place for resting out after the drive. It will take you about five hours, by the way, and you’ll be pleased to know that visitors to the campsite have called it a hidden gem with a fantastic view over mountains and forest.

When you want to see as much of Europe’s nature as possible while traveling on a budget, you’re in for a great adventure. The proximity to the countries and opportunities for indulging in different architecture, history, and cuisine wherever you go will attract your camper’s instinct again and again. Luckily, you have so many exciting cities to choose from and can accommodate the route to fit your budget – stay a few days in an expensive country and balance it out by extending your stay in the less expensive ones.

 

5 Tips For Getting the Most From A Family Trip to London

Young or old, London is always an exciting destination to visit. There, you can do anything and everything, from seeing world classic theater shows to exploring the sights that have helped shape the modern world. As probably the greatest city in Europe, London delivers again and again. The size and chaos of the place, however, does mean that you’ll have to put some thought into your trip – especially if you’re travelling with the family. Below, we offer five tips for getting the most out of your trip.

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Source: Pexels.com

Give Yourself Time

People who aren’t from the UK have an idea that it’s small – and it is, relatively, but London most definitely not. It’s huge, and if you want to see a lot, then you’ll have to give yourself plenty of time to do so – especially as you’ll have to factor in what each person in your family wants to do too. If you very rarely get a chance to visit the capital city, then go big: it’s better to stay a week or more and do everything you want to do rather than visit just for a weekend and go home thinking you could have done more.

Finding the Right Accommodation

London has many different neighborhoods, each with their own characteristics, and you’ll want to find one that fits in with what you want to do during your time there. Transports links are exceptional in London, so don’t think too much about how you’ll get from your accommodation to the sights – think more about what you want from your accommodation, and where you want to stay. As you’re travelling with family on tow, it’s best to look at short term lets by londonservicedapartments.co.uk, as this will give you a space that’s both ‘homey’ and well located. You’ll also be able to prepare meals yourself, which can free up some cash to do other fun things in London!

Picking The Sights

You could stay in London for a month and still not see everything you wanted to see. There’s just that much to do. There are a few essential places to visit – like Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, and the like – but beyond that, it’s all about what you want your family to do. Check out some of the best family attractions at www.visitlondon.com/things-to-do/family-activities and see what would suit your family.

Individual Interests

You don’t want to make everything you do fun for everybody! Everyone in your family will have things only they want to do, and they shouldn’t miss out. Make sure people have opportunities to visit some of the sights that interest them; Sherlock fans, for instance, will get a thrill from Baker Street; non-fans might not.

Free Time

There’s much to do, but you don’t always have to be doing them! One of the best things about London is doing…nothing at all. Go for a stroll, with no destination in sight, and enjoy all the nooks, crannies, and oddities of this vibrant city along the way.

North or South? Best Vacations in France

If you have not traveled to France before, then you are missing out. It is such a stunning country with so much to see and do. The country itself is quite large, as far as European countries go anyway. So it can be a good idea to divide the country in half and choose some vacation ideas based on what is each half. Have you done any of these before?

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The North of France

You can’t mention going to France without mentioning Paris, which is right in the heart of the north of the country. The city of lights is a must! The history that the city has is just amazing, and there are so many fascinating things to see and do. The Louvre Museum has to be one of the highlights, home to the world famous Mona Lisa painting. A trip up to the top of the Eiffel Tower is one of the top things to do too. You can even book a table at the restaurant at the top of the tower for a quintessentially Parisian experience. Notre Dame is magical to visit too, as well as munching on a macaron or two down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées.

If you are looking for something to do with the family, then Disneyland Paris is only a short train ride out of the city. Paris isn’t the most child-friendly city ever, so many families visit Disneyland instead. It isn’t as large as its American counterparts, but it still makes for an amazing day out for any Disney mad family members.

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The South of France

If you’re planning on a trip to the south of France, then the chances are that you’re looking for something quite romantic and relaxed. The scenery and views in the south are breathtaking, with large mountains and valleys to boot. The great thing is that you can enjoy the south of France all year round. You could enjoy St. Tropez and Cannes in the summer, and areas like Chamonix in the winter. So don’t just dismiss the south as only being a place that will work if you like the beach. The French Riviera is, of course, stunning. But the mountains are just as beautiful. So you could look for luxury ski chalets to luxury beach accommodation. There really is something for everyone.

The south of France is also a great area to explore and take in some of the French culture. You could enjoy the range of bakeries and patisseries that are scattered in the small towns, as well as discovering the many vineyards of France. So hiring a car is a really good idea. In the south, the towns and cities are a bit more sparse than they are in the north. So hiring a car means you’ll be able to see everything without missing anything.

Have you ever been to any of these areas in France? Would love to hear any of your top tips for traveling to France. Knowing some basic French phrases is pretty important, in my opinion.

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