- China: Beijing, Xi’An, Suzhou, and Shanghai
The first thing you need to know is that in China, people have a lot more trouble speaking English. It’s not like in Hong Kong where everyone speaks English and there are so many ex Pats. In China, the language barrier is strong and this makes it daunting to travel through. Though I was told my a friend I recently made who comes from Taiwan, that people in China do want to help tourists, they just don’t always know how. This can be misleading, however, and lead people to feel quite intimidsted in China. Personally, I was glad to have had a travel group when I was in China, because it was my first destination, my first time in Asia, and I was able to experience China all the while meeting amazing people, seeing more cities, and partaking in more activities than I would have on my own. You can obviously do it on your own, but if you are not sure and would prefer a group, then do so. Just don’t miss out on China. It’s magnificent! I recommend G Adventures. They were great, I have several friends who have also travelled with them, and I used them twice in Asia last year! Love them!
Beijing was great; a big city. What really marked it however, was the Great Wall. That was an incredible experience and I am so glad to say that I got to the top on foot and all the way back down with minimal dehydration and muscle pain. It’s a reconstructed bit of course, and there is more than one I think. You can also take a lift up to station 14 there they is a restaurant. There is also a slide own you can take from a specific station, if you like. We had a great banquet in Beijing and delicious Pekin duck. The food is exceptional so i definitely recommend taking the time to try the different foods. You can have a marvellous and rich experience without trying any crazy foods, if that is what you are afraid of. Most restaurants offer a wide range of different foods, including Chinese food that is mostly a Western version of their food. Nevertheless, do try to mix it up a bit and have some authentic Chinese food!
Also, be sure to check out the Forbidden City, the gardens, Kung Foo shows, and other activities.
Xi’An surprised me, honestly. I would not have thought of going there but the people were great, the dumpling restaurants exquisite, and the cute streets with bars and pubs to watch the Euro Cup so quaint! The fountain show in Xi’An is also very nice! The city looked as pretty during the day as it did at night with its beautiful lights. Don
Be sure to check out the Terracotta Warriors as well eh? It was unreal and VERY much worth the visit!
Suzhou, or the Venice of the East apparently, was nice as well! Again, not a city i would have known to visit but very glad I did. The town square is so lively and has all the boutiques and shops for a great day of a different style than they had been. More banquets were had, of course, gardens were to rest up were ideal! We finished off our stay in Suzhou with a night of Karaoke and countless beers. It was the second to last night of the trip and was a great way to start our farewells, in some way.
Lastly, Shanghai. What a breath taking city, with architecture to feast your eyes on for days, streets that dance around the rich city that plays tricks on time, as you look at one old building only to look a bit further and see some of the most modern constructions! The night life is buzzing in this city and there is no shortage of restaurants, bars, clubs, and things to do.
Important to remember about China is that it’s not that cheap… While I hear a lot of people say how cheap Asia is it’s important to remember that not all of Asia fits into that category. Southeast Asia is cheap, yes. Very cheap. But China is average. Even though the currency is weaker in China than say the pound, the euro, the US dollar, and the Canadian dollar, things still added up very quickly, because a the end of the day, you are still spending a lot. For example, most of the banquets were around 80 Yuan, which is about 15$. That is not expensive per se, but it is not that cheap either. You get your money’s worth, don’t get me wrong. But if you look at SE Asia, it’S about 4$ for the same thing. So just be careful to keep in mind that it may be cheapER, but it’s not always cheap. A few of us, at the end of the 8 days had spoken about how it did really add up quickly and how it can be misleading to assume currency exchange will makes things very cheap all the time. That being said, there are more expensive places in Asia. Japan for example. And, as usual, a lot of this is relative.
Another thing to be aware of is that Hong Kong and China are very different. VERY different. While in China some people were stopping us to take selfies with us because they had never seen “white people”, Hong Kong is full of “white people”. A lot of people move to Hong Kong for work. It is like Singapore that way.
Another thing is that you will notice a strong divide between social classes in China. There are the really rich and the really poor, with not much in between. This will be obvious pretty much everywhere you go.
Next thing is that you will see some things that you are not used to. Yup! Who knew right? Don’t be alarmed is you see cats and sometimes even dogs dying in the streets and covered in flies.
Otherwise, just enjoy the people, the views, the activities; rent a bicycle and go through the cities… Just ENJOY. China is fab!
Hong Kong is unreal. It is densely populated, by both sky scrapers and people. Careful though! If you were learning Mandarin during your China journey, you will have to learn Cantonese now, because that is what they speak in Hong Kong. Also, keep in mind that the currency is different, so be sure to exchange your Chinese money.
Hong Kong is magnificent but expensive. However, it is so rich in various restaurants, people, buildings, views, activities, and destinations!!
Don’t miss out on Victoria’s peek! Watch the sunset (and/or sunrise) there. That sky line is next level! Take a trolley down the windy, hilly roads and take in the different perspective views; they will blow your mind, I promise!
Head over to Lama Island for the day. Take a quick boat, visit the small town, hike a bit, then have lunch by the water that will most probably included catches from that morning. Though it is not cheap, it is definitely worth while.
Take a day trip to Lan Tau, visit the Big Buddha, and take a cable car ride over some crazy scenery! There are buses you can easily take around.
Lastly, why not head to Macau while you are taking all these day trips eh? Though I have not been, a good friend of mine has and she loved it!
There is plenty to do in and around Hong Kong, so take advantage of it; experience it to the fullest!
3. Southeast Asia
Spend a few days in Bangkok, and no not only because of the nightlife but because of the food, the temples, and… ok fine the night life is mental! This is where your Asia trip starts to get very cheap. BUT, also where you can get too comfortable in that mind set and end up spending s much money anyway. It adds up folks so be cautious… 😉
Head to Puhket, the Phi Phi Islands, take boat rides, cruises, spend your days at the beach, whatever you prefer! Note that there are some places in Thailand that are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and should not be missed!
So I have quite the soft spot for Cambodia actually… I’m not sure if it was the time i spent in a small village with the children, the quad bike ride through the country, the night where I had such a productive happy hour that I hate a tarantula, or just the beauty of the country, but I really really treasure my time spent in Cambodia.
Experience Siem Reap! Go to the night markets, take tuktuk rides, go to little villages, take a quad bike ride, meet the kids, and enjoy the food! The people are lovely in Cambodia. In Thailand as well, by the way. Southeast Asia is particular, I found. There is a certain vibe there and I like it! You MUST visit Angkor Wat Temple, ideally at sunrise, if possible, it is just stunning! Take your pick of all the temples in Cambodia, they are all beautiful, and filled with monkeys! 🙂
Of course, don’t miss Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. Just watch your valuable because pick pockets do exist there, and quite a lot of them at that, so be careful. Enjoy the fact that everything is cheap and try the food, shop for anything you may have ruined along the way, or may need now. I put emphasis on the food however, because that is always my favourite part of any trip! 🙂
Don’t forget to check out the S21 prisons. It is an emotional bout, but very much a part of the story of Cambodia, so do visit it.
Go to Sihanoukville, if you can. It’s a small port city, and you can go to the beach there. Once again, watch out for pick pockets, here especially! Also, more kids will try to sell you things here, and will try to steal from you while you are not looking. In fact, one little boy came up to us once to sell us bracelets and lost us in pretty perfect English that our phones and cards were in such a way that made them very easy to steal and that we should hide them. We chatted with the boy, who was not more than 10 years old, and it was very interesting, I’ll say that much.
Go to the beach and unwind! There are lockers along the beach that you can use to store your valuables so don’t worry. Watch the sun set and then go to one of the many restaurants along the shore. It was a pretty awesome experience!
Lastly, make sure not to walk alone at night, as a girl especially, in Cambodia, but particularly Sihanoukville. It’s a rougher area so just keep that in mind.
What a unique country this one! They all are of course, but Vietnam is so cool man. Once again, very cheap so PLEASE take advantage of the opportunity to try their food! Crazy delicious in Vietnam!
Visit the historical sites in Ho Chi Minh. There are many. Experience the craziness of the main square. See your life flash before your eyes while you attempt to cross the street whilst hundreds of bikes swarm the streets and side walks. It’s a blast, I swear! Just watch your valuables and your phone especially if you are sticking it out taking photos, because people will drive by and grab them!
Just so you know, the night life is pretty solid in Ho Chi Minh, so partake in a pub-crawl if you can!
Don’t forget to check out the war areas. You can take a tour with a war veteran and they will take you through the story, the different kinds of traps that were used, the trace of where bombs landed, and you can even go through the underground tunnels used during the war.
Oh! Don’t forget to check out the water markets! Those were cool! you can take a boat and go to different little boat “shops” if you will, and buy fruits, vegetables, and so on. It was un unforgettable experience.
Lastly, take your time to visit all of Vietnam. I did not have the chance to last year, but will be doing it in November. Vietnam is a very long, and very diverse country; so experience it in all its glory. Go to Hoi’An, Da Nang, Hue, and make your way up to Hanoi, then from there visit Halong Bay. You can take cruises as well, up there, through the emerald waters, visit different gems it has to offer. I have some friends who have been and they said it was some of the most stunning scenery they had ever seen.
4. Singapore and Malaysia
Now, we are back to the land of the very expensive. Singapore is very expensive, folks! It may be one of the most safe, clean, and organized places, with very nice people and all that, but you are paying for it.
Nevertheless, visit Clark Keys, Orchard Garden, Marina Bay, and eat the food! They have some of the best Dim Sum and Dumpling places in Singapore! I have a friend who lives there and he gets his groceries delivered to his door, and orders food in all the time and it was some of the best food I had ever eaten in my life, I promise you!
Singapore is unique, vibrant, rich, and fun! So much to be done and experienced there.
As for Malaysia, it is easy to access from Singapore. Take a cab or public transit to the border, get to the actual border crossing, wait in line to get your passport stamped, and BOOM you’re in Malaysia! Upon your arrival there is a tourist information desk where you can get all the information you need about getting around Malaysia’s different cities, bus times, top attractions, and so on. It was a 4 hour ride to Kuala Lumpur and it was getting late at that point because it had taken so long at the border that I just stayed there in Johor Bahru. There was a huge mall so I chilled around there and then walked around town and found a cute restaurant for dinner before heading back to Singapore. I will be going to KL in November though so I will be able to tell some more stories about Malaysia a that point.
To this day, my favourite place in the world, Bali takes the cake for me. Not only was it the ultimate dream come true for me to visit Bali, but my time there was so of the most relaxing, most decadent, most spiritually, mentally, and emotionally cleansing and enriching. Yes. It was THAT perfect. It had an energy like no other place on earth for me. So far.
I stayed at the cusp of Denpasar and Kuta. I spent just a day walking around the capital before heading to Kuta for the beach walk, the mall, the beach, and the buzzing streets filled with not only tourists but great bars and pubs that made for an exciting night life. Kuta and Legian are both great for nice spots to eat, go out, have happy hour, meet people, shop, and watch sunsets on the beach.
There was on day where I paid for a driver to take be around places. Yes, sounds fancy, but it was not that expensive. Basically, my hotel offered the service so I took it for that one day, and befriended a nice local, visited the Bali Zoo, Padang Padang beach, Dreamland beach, Uluwatu Temple and beach, other various temples, watched an authentic Balinese dance show, went to an adorable local tea and coffee plant (where they you sample everything that they make and even walk you through their gardens and production processes), walked into the monkey forest for way longer than necessary (not in my opinion though but whatever haha), drove through rows of markets, miles of rice terraces, and ate delicious food along the way!
I also visited Ubud where I walked through yet more rice terraces and had the chance to see amazing local art at the various markets and kiosks. Ubud was lively and unique! It is also not that far from Kuta; in fact most of the towns in Bali are not that far apart from each other. Ubud was probably my favourite village because of its diversity and personality. The villages in Bali are all different. Some are more expensive than others as well. Overall though, Bali is very cheap and getting around in cheap too.
On my last day in Bali I had a spa day. The hotel I was staying a offered the spa packages so I bought one and it was perfect way to end not only my stay in Bali but my entire Asia trip. Once again, it was not expensive at all. That night I went to the Tanah Lot temple that is off on another small island that you go to by boat and where you can watch the sunset and/or sunrise.
I did not have the chance to go, but apparently, in Lovina, in the north, you can spot some pink dolphins! Maybe I can try to spot them during my next visit to Bali in November.
Lastly, no I did not have the privilege of visiting the Gili Islands last year but will in November and promise to write about of that! 🙂
So that just about does it for Asia 2016. Please feel free to contact me for any details and information you need for transportation, tours, accommodations, tips, and advice of any kind!
Write you soon,