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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Awesome Asia – The Best Bits Unveiled

Asia is certainly up there on many people’s must-see list. There are so many wonderful countries, each with their own incredible cultures. And then, of course, is all the amazing food you can sample from each region! So what would you most love to see in Asia next time you’re traveling? Needless to say, a long-haul flight or two will be necessary, but which bits of Asia would make it all worthwhile?

Vietnam

It’s hot, it’s humid, and it’s stunningly beautiful if you’re lucky enough to explore some of the countryside here. But did you know that you don’t have to be in the countryside to see the beauty and the charm of this country? Cities like Hanoi have an elegance and grace that reflects the time-honored traditions of the Vietnamese people. And in the city, you’ll find a much wider choice of food. Hanoi is the capital city that keeps on giving. There are some fabulous places to eat and some stunning architecture to admire. You’ll find beautiful Vietnamese parks to stroll through too.

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Hanoi image from Flickr

Japan

People most often come to Japan for two reasons. The first is business, which is understandable in the tech world! The second is for the beautiful cherry blossoms. You find these almost anywhere, but two cities really do stand out for their floral displays and their elegant architecture. Kyoto, with its Temples and Shrines rarely disappoints any visitor. Hakone has gorgeous springs, beautiful lakes, and a fabulous view of Fuji. Check ahead for the best anticipated dates for a full bloom.

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Japanese Cherry Blossom image from Pexels

China

From the moment you land at the airport, you can enjoy the best of modern China. You might start somewhere like your Xi An Hotel where you can enjoy a room with a view. From there, you might travel into the city to explore the marvelous Terracotta Army. Incredibly, these 6000 figures were only discovered about 40 years ago. After Xi An, you might explore more of this magnificent and historic country. Check out Shanghai for the best eclectic mix of ancient and modern China.

Indonesia

This nation is an absolute must for any traveler that loves the great outdoors. Indonesia is actually a large collection of volcanic islands. This makes for some of the most extraordinary landscapes in the world. But the beauty of this place doesn’t stop there. It’s hard to find beaches anywhere else that are quite so lovely. Beyond the sandy coastlines, you can also find lush jungles that are home to elephants, tigers, and orangutans. Check out the Komodo dragon and listen out for the gentle gamelan music.

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Indonesia image from Pexels

Thailand

Many Thai communities live by or even on the water. Fishing is a big part of life here, so you can find some of the more flavorsome dishes you know and love made with fish. The Emerald Buddha Temple is a firm favorite among tourists, and it is certainly worth visiting this incredible place. Bangkok is a weird and wonderful mix of old and new and is far more modern in some places than you would expect. Enjoy your tour of Asia.

 

5 Cultural Gems To Discover This Summer

If you’re looking for a summer holiday with a difference, why not unleash your inner culture vulture? Make this the year you visit some of the world’s most treasured gems. If you’re a history enthusiast or you’re eager to get some of those bucket-list sites ticked off, here are some ideas.

  1. Chichen Itza, Mexico

A stunning example of Mayan ruins, Chichen Itza is one of Mexico’s star attractions. The highlight of this ancient city is a domineering stone pyramid, which forms the backdrop for many a holiday snap. The city dates back to 600AD, and it has been beautifully preserved. Take a tour to learn all about the Mayan civilization and the significance of the El Castillo pyramid. Stick around for sun down and appreciate an entirely different aesthetic. By night, the pyramid is illuminated. You can appreciate its intricate decoration and striking geometry in a different light.

  1. Petra, Jordan

All the pictures and postcards in the world could never prepare you for seeing Petra with your own eyes. This rose colored ancient city is a worthy wonder of the world, and it has to be seen to be appreciated. Enter through an ornate doorway carved into the rock face and prepare to be amazed. Book one of the many education tours on offer to gain an insight into the architecture and design. Take in the incredible sights and sounds and marvel at the attention to detail. Make sure you have sturdy, comfortable walking boots with you and keep your camera handy.

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Image via https://www.flickr.com/photos/archer10/2216880341

  1. Great Wall of China

An engineering feat and a breathtaking landmark, no trip to China is complete without a tour of the Great Wall. Stretching more than 21,000 kilometers, you probably won’t manage it in its entirety, but it’s fascinating to see it and learn more about it. Local guides are happy to impart their knowledge and wisdom, and there are tours available throughout the country. If you’re visiting Beijing, you can easily arrange a day tour.

  1. Machu Picchu

An iconic symbol of Inca culture, the lost city is a magical and mysterious place. Established in the 15th century and located almost 8,000 feet above sea level, it takes a little effort to reach the site. But it’s well worth it. The ruins have been tended to meticulously and they remain in excellent condition. You can also enjoy staggeringly beautiful views over Peru. Fly to Lima and spend a couple of days exploring this vibrant and hectic city before heading to Cusco. It’s worth doing a little training before you trek up to Machu Picchu, as the altitude can be draining.

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Image from https://www.flickr.com/photos/davidstanleytravel/7914096100

  1. Taj Mahal, India

India is famed for its mesmerizing scenery and nothing lures intrepid travelers in like the Taj Mahal. Built in the 17th century as a memorial to Emperor Shah Jahan’s wife, this giant mausoleum is made from pristine white marble. It glistens in the sun and the dome penetrates the Agra skyline. Wander around the manicured gardens and soak up the tranquility. Visit at sunrise or dusk to avoid throngs of tourists.

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Image courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/archer10/2215341546

If you’re after something different, why not inject some history into your holiday? There are so many awesome sights out there to discover.

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