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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Finding the Right Balance on Family Vacations

You spend all year planning the perfect family vacation, and all you can think of is how much you are looking forward to a well-earned break. It’s going to be great, right? Going to a glamorous part of the world, spending all that time together in perfect relaxation – nothing can go wrong!

The trouble is, by the end of day one of your vacation, there’s every chance you are ready to call it quits. Holidays at home or abroad can be an exhausting nightmare for parents with small kids, and the stress you go through can often result in you needing another break by the time you get home!

There’s a delicate balance to strike between entertaining all the children of different ages and still finding some time to relax. Here are a few tips to help you achieve precisely that – let’s take a close look!

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It’s all in the planning

First of all, you need to plan well in advance. We’re not just talking itineraries here, either – it’s also important to give your kids plenty of warning about the unknown territory they are going to experience. Ultimately, children thrive on routine and familiar places, and a holiday away can often cause them a fright. If you can go through the sort of things you will be doing – including showing them photos or videos – they will be better prepared for what awaits.

Schedule is critical

It can be tempting to loosen the reins a little when you go on vacation. You won’t mind the kids staying up a little later than usual, and the chances are you will be more tolerant of everything from eating candy to general horseplay. But you should also be careful – it’s still a good idea to stick to some kind of strict schedule. As we discussed before, your little ones thrive on a regular routine, and breaking too many walls down in one hit is going to end in tears – for you, as well as them!

The right mix of activities

Wherever you are in the world, there will always be plenty of fun things for kids to do. But don’t forget, your 2-year old will enjoy things that your 12-year old will not. It’s one of the trickiest things to manage, but you have to make sure that everyone gets what they need out of the vacation. The older children will (hopefully) be able to understand you need to meet the toddler’s needs, but the reverse isn’t quite as accurate. So, when it comes to an older child’s day out, it might be worth splitting up into teams, to ensure they get what they want while the younger ones don’t cause a tantrum.

Bring extended family

When you have young children, almost every vacation you take will be stressful in some way. And you and your partner will struggle to find any time to relax at all. So, our final tip is this – bring some of your extended family. Whether it’s grandparents, aunts and uncles, or cousins, your kids will be delighted to spend time with other people. And you have an instant babysitting service for the occasional night out, too.

Do you have any tips for achieving zen on family vacations with young kids? Let us know about them in the comments!

 

Koh Yao Noi, Phang Nga : Your Perfect Honeymoon Island Paradise in Thailand

Thailand is one of the most romantic countries in the world. The nation’s shimmering beaches, luscious jungle landscape, eclectic culture, and delicious cuisine make it a hotspot for vacationers around the globe. The romantic aura of the island also makes it one of the best island destinations for honeymoon.

Thailand offers a wealth of experiences and environments. The most populated beaches and locations can be found in the southern part of the country, but there are a few more private areas sprinkled throughout the nation. Koh Yao Noi is one of these hidden gems and is the perfect getaway location for honeymooners. This article will offer everything you need to know for your escape to paradise!

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Photo Courtesy of Pear Blossom via Wikimedia Commons

Getting There

Getting to Koh Yao Noi can be a bit tricky if you’re not prepared. The island is popular for its secluded and private nature, so visitors are only able to set foot on the island after taking a ferry or speedboat from Bang Rong Pier on the popular island of Phuket. Most tourists will fly into the local airport at Phuket. From here, they’ll be transported by private vehicle to the pier where they’ll load a speed boat or ferry to Koh Yao Noi. As you plan your visit you’ll want to consider departure times from the marina as they keep a pretty consistent schedule that varies by season.

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Photo Courtesy of Martin Bartosch via Flickr

Fun Things to Do for Couples

There are plenty of things to do in Koh Yao Noi. Since it is one of the best Thai islands for honeymoon, so there are lots of romantic couples activities. Here are a few of the most popular:

 

  1. Couples Massage – Massage has always been a Thai tradition and specialty. The island offers some of the world’s most luxurious spas and massage experiences. Consider booking a romantic couples massage at one of the many resorts on the island.

 

  1. Lagoon Kayaking – For the more adventurous couple, the island offers a large variety of kayak rentals and day tours. Lagoon kayaking is one of the more popular options for couples. It’s more laid back, but still allows you to see a large portion of some of the island’s most beautiful, private spaces.

 

  1. Snorkeling – Snorkeling is one of the most popular activities on the island. Koh Yao Noi’s crystal blue waters and elegant reefs make it a hot spot for snorkeling enthusiasts. There are a variety of companies on the island that offer full day or half day excursions to uncharted waters. These tours offer guests some of the best snorkeling in the world.

 

Best Time to Visit

The climate in Thailand varies greatly throughout the year. The months of November to May are considered the dry season while June-October experiences heavy rainfall. Generally, November-February offers the best weather and climate conditions for vacation and provides spells of dry weather perfect for all the outdoor adventures.

 

Amenities in the Area

There are many forms of accommodation in Koh Yao Noi. The island is romantic and secluded, but still offers all the amenities required for a comfortable stay. There is a 7-Eleven upon entry onto the island, but otherwise the amenities are local-based and lack the glitz and glam of flashier brand name stores. This gives visitors a more island-based vibe and provides a unique cultural experience.

The village has a variety of locally owned restaurants, a hospital, a post office, and a few ATM locations. You’ll find that most of the action and amenities are sprinkled along the southern border of the island where most of the island’s beautiful resorts are housed.

For transportation around the island, guests can catch a ride into town on one of the local tuk-tuk pick-up trucks. For the remainder of the stay, scooters are the most popular method. You can hire a driver, or rent them from one of the many local agencies. It’s a fun and unique way to cruise around beautiful Koh Yao Noi.

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Photo Courtesy of Vyacheslav Argenberg via Flickr

Places to Stay

Lodging is a big deal in Koh Yao Noi. There are a variety of housing options suitable for any budget. Here are a few of the more popular accommodations for your romantic getaways:

  1. Six Senses -This unique resort focuses on sustainability and uses natural materials for all of their resort architecture. The resort offers private, elevated villas right off the beautiful bay. This accommodation is relaxing, romantic, and luxurious and is definitely a bit more pricey.

 

  1. Coastal Escape – This new island resort offers stunning views of Phang Nga Bay and also boasts some of the best in-house island cuisine. Guests will enjoy a delightful view, a free one-hour massage at the resort spa, and access to the resort’s activities like mountain biking and kayak rental.

 

  1. Koyao Bay Villas – This local accommodation offers visitors the opportunity to experience their trip like a native. The bungalows are equipped with dark wooden architecture and a local flavor that can’t be beat!

Overall, Koh Yao Noi is one of the best Thai islands for the honeymoon experience. The island offers the perfect balance of seclusion, romance, and activity. If you’re looking for a sweet escape after you say “I do” consider this tropical paradise!

The Best Asian Travel Destinations for Summer 2017

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Asia is home to some of the most beautiful sights to be seen in the world. However, many people visit the continent during the winter months. Perhaps they are scared off during summer due to the potential for excessive temperatures and an impending rainy season. But that’s not enough reason to completely strike Asian travels from your list of potential summer trips. There are many beautiful parts that are at their peak from July to September, and it would be an awful shame to miss them. So here are a few different destinations you might like to check out in the summer of 2017.

Bali

Bali’s sees most of its visitors pass through from July through to August. Unlike many parts of Asia at this time of year, the region is dry during this time, making summer the ultimate season to visit. Because of its summertime popularity, you might want to avoid busier areas and tourist traps. Try seeking out the alternative side of Bali: trek rice terraces, seek out waterfalls and skirt the edges of temples. Head out early in the morning to secure good spots at beaches and book into restaurants you might like to try out early during your stay.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong is urban, making it suitable to visit at any time of the year. The bustling country has so much to offer. From historic sites and temples, such as Tian Tan Buddha and Wong Tai Sin Temple, to Disneyland. There’s something to suit everybody. We’d recommend, as with most urban city breaks, to book into a reputable hotel, such as hotel causeway bay. Hong Kong is a highly popular destination, and you don’t want to leave your accommodation down to chance once you get there, as all hotels in the local area may well be fully booked.

Malaysia

If you’re drawn to the sea and sand, Malaysia might well tick all of your boxes for the holiday of a lifetime. The Tioman and Perhentian islands are highly recommended during the summer months, as the islands’ climes during this period result in calmer seas, which allow for extraordinary snorkeling experiences. If you have your heart set on a more urban retreat, visit Kuala Lumpur, the country’s capital. Book day trips and excursions in advance to avoid disappointment on the day.

Ladakh

Ladakh is a Himalayan region located in North India. It is a summer favorite, with azure blue skies and beautiful weather throughout the summer months. Try exploring the stunning landscape and visiting Buddhist temples along the way. Roads in the region are closed from October to May, so make the most of them being open. Hire a vehicle and take a drive through one of the most spectacular mountain ranges known to man.

Koh Samui

If Thailand has captured your heart, you might fancy taking a trip to Koh Samui. Better known destinations, such as Phuket, are located in the Andaman Sea and experience wet seasons during summer. But Koh Samui lies in the Gulf of Thailand, which has sunny and dry weathers at this time of year.

Tired of Regular Holidays? Consider a Modern Camping Trip

For a long time, camping has been associated with setting up a tent in the woods, cooking canned food over an open fire and sleeping in bags. However adventurous it might seem, it does come with its fair share of frustrations and annoyances. For instance, there are bugs and animals to avoid or deal with, the food you cook isn’t exactly amazing (it’s just canned!) and you might wake up sore or hurting for a number of different reasons.

However much you love to travel, there’s nothing quite like the peace and tranquillity of a camping trip. Just don’t forget that you live in a world where cars can drive themselves and people fly into space. Using the power of technology, we can upgrade the classic camping experience and bring some creature comforts that set it apart from what we used to do a decade ago. So grab your bag and open up your shopping list, because these are the essential components that you will need to have a modern camping trip.

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Hammocks

Although you should still have a tent, if you really want to experience the sun and have a relaxing position to rest in, then learn more about hammocks and consider getting one to sleep or lounge in at your camping destination. They are inexpensive, they’re easy to set up and they’re much more comfortable than sleeping on the ground. Of course, you might need nets to prevent bugs and other creatures from disrupting you while you sleep.

Smart Phones

Mobile internet connections are easy to get nowadays and your camping location might even get a signal. This means you can always access the internet and do things such as watch movies, keep up with social media and stream music live to your phone. Many people say that camping should be a disconnect from real life and that you should never bring too much technology in case it gets overwhelming.

However, technology always has a use in camping and it can even help you get out of bad situations. For instance, if you get lost, you have a GPS on your phone to help lead you to safety. If you’re bitten by something or end up hurting yourself, then you can browse the internet in order to look for remedies or check if it’s something that requires immediate attention. Of course, let’s not forget the ever-useful torch app as well! Just remember to bring a couple of spare batteries or portable battery banks along with your smartphone.

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Portable Grills

If you’re worried about fires spreading or getting out of control when you’re ready to cook or heat up the campsite, then consider investing in a portable grill. Not only do these make cooking food much easier and open you up to more recipes, it’s safer because they can easily be turned off and you won’t risk burning down your campsite because you didn’t watch the fire. They’re easy to lug around, lightweight, and extremely versatile. You also might want to pair it with a portable cooler or freezer device so that you can keep meats and vegetables fresh and cool before you grill them.

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