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Island Adventure in Malaysia

pulau-langkawiWith just about 900 islands – 878 to be precise – Malaysia has a lot of seaward attractions to contend with the best goals in its peninsular terrain. West drift isles like Penang and Langkawi offer a convincing mix of cooking, society and extravagance, while east drift ones are more tough and remote, with jumping, trekking and edge-of-the-guide unwinding every single crucial motivation to visit.

Escape the urban buzz of Singapore or Kuala Lumpur with a short break on Pulau Redang. Regular ferries run to the rugged, forested island from Kuala Terengganu or nearby Merang on Malaysia’s east coast (‘KT’ also has regular flights to ‘KL’). Sunday to Thursday accommodation rates are good value for a combination of lazy days on Redang’s arcing beaches and regular opportunities for snorkelling and diving. Stay at the Redang Kalong Resort (redangkalong.com) or Wisana Village (wisanaredang.com) to fast-track to a relaxed island state of mind.

Escape into a luxury forest-clad villa at the Datai Langkawi, one of Southeast Asia’s premium resorts. Seen from the ocean, the entire property is largely concealed within some of the region’s oldest rainforest, and regular wildlife walks with the Datai’s resident naturalist reveal shy dusky leaf langurs and sturdy hornbills with massive shimmering beaks. The Datai’s spa is secreted around a meandering river, and private sailing trips are on offer on the elegant Naga Pelangi(naga-pelangi.com), the only traditional junk-rigged schooner cruising the Malay Peninsula. For an alternative Langkawi luxe experience, stay at one of Bon Ton Resort’s lovingly restored heritage villas.

Best for jungle hiking: Pulau Tioman

Most travellers visit Tioman for its marine attractions – the island offers some of Malaysia’s most accessible diving and snorkelling – but land-based discovery of Tioman’s tangled jungle is also rewarding. Wildlife is relatively plentiful, and an island full of trails provides challenge and diversity. The meandering 7km Tekek to Juara Jungle Walk negotiates Tioman’s forested interior, while the Asah Waterfall Trek best commences with a boat ride to Mukut on the island’s southern coast. During evenings, Pulau Tioman’s laid-back backpacker vibe provides plenty of opportunity to relax and recharge after a busy day trailblazing in the island’s more rugged interior.

Best for foodies: Penang

Straits Chinese, Indian and Malay flavours and culinary influences all combine on the island of Penang. Negotiate the Unesco World Heritage–listed historical centre of George Town to feast on local dishes such as asam laksa (infused with a tart blast of tamarind) or a smokey plate of silky char kway teow (noodles studded with Chinese sausage and tiny clams).  Take a morning tour of George Town’s fragrant produce markets before learning local recipes in a cooking class atNazlina’s Spice Station.

 Best for families: Pulau Langkawi

Natural scenery and wildlife are dual attractions for travelling families on Langkawi, and good beaches mean it’s also perfect for spontaneous exploration in a rental car on the island’s largely quiet roads. Spend an active day cycling, jungle walking or exploring mangroves with Dev’s Adventure Tours, or spying on flying lemurs ‘air trekking’ on a zipline through the upper reaches of the rainforest with Langkawi Canopy Adventures. For more high-level treetops exploration, catch the cable car to the summit of Gunung Machinchang (708m) and negotiate the Skyridge suspension walkway 100m above the old-growth jungle canopy.

Best for world-class diving: Pulau Sipadan

Welcome to one of the planet’s finest diving destinations, a compact ellipse-shaped islet crowning a submerged pinnacle and stunning near-vertical walls. Exploration of the gardens and forests of coral reveal whale sharks and sea turtles, and manta and eagle rays, scalloped hammerhead sharks and battalions of barracuda are also common. While Sipadan is a special scuba destination, other Malaysian islands are also top dive locations. Pulau Tioman combines historical intrigue with marine-life diversity on the wrecks of the HMS Repulse and HMSPrince of Wales, while the sheltered and relatively shallow waters of  Pulau Perhentian are a perfect place to start a journey into the underwater world.

 Best for a Robinson Crusoe–style escape: Pulau Kapas

Make the 15-minute speedboat hop from Marang south of Kuala Terengganu to the tiny island of Pulau Kapas. Settle into a rustic but comfortable oceanfront chalet at Qimi Private Bay, or chill with other hammock-loving travellers at the exceedingly laid-back Captain’s Longhouse or Kapas Beach Chalet. Look forward to a few days of beachcombing, reef snorkelling and diving on WWII wrecks, and if you can summon the holiday will, sea kayak across to even smaller Pulau Gemia (Gem Island). For the most relaxed Kapas sojourn, try and visit from Monday to Thursday.

Best for volunteering: Pulau Perhentian

Combine excellent snorkelling and affordable diving tuition with making a difference to the Perhentian Islands’ natural environment.Ecoteer supports two excellent projects around the compact duo of islands on Malaysia’s east coast. Blue Temple Conservation blends learning to dive with the sustainable management of the islands’ marine resources, while the Perhentian Turtle Project is focused on quantifying, identifying and supporting the local sea turtle population. Accommodation is in shared community houses in the islands’ only village of Kampung Perhentian.

Bangkok Great Views

bangkok-great-viewsOf course, the greater part of Bangkok’s perspectives are man-made, and extend from a Buddhist sanctuary on a counterfeit mountain to chic eateries delegated towering high rises. They’re the best places to wrap one’s head around the size of this sprawling city; read on for some of our top choices.

Cloud 47

If you like a bit of elbow room in your rooftop bar/restaurants – say, enough to hold a cricket match – consider Cloud 47. Spread out and enjoy live music and a location in the middle of the city’s financial district, where there’s tall buildings in just about every direction.

Tip: The cocktails here are pricey, but beer – including draught beer and beer ‘towers’ – is a relatively good value.

Golden Mount

This Buddhist temple sits atop Bangkok’s only true hill (man-made, of course), offering great views of pretty neighbouring temples and Th Ratchadamnoen, the city’s Champs-Élysées-like royal avenue.

Tip: Dress appropriately (cover your shoulders and legs) to gain access to this religious site, and don’t forget to check out the gory temple murals at neighbouring Wat Saket.

River Vibe

If you can find it, River Vibe, the open-air bar/restaurant at the top ofRiver View Guest House overlooks a pretty bend in the Chao Phraya River. The casual, backpackery vibe also means that there’s no annoying dress code, and a beer here is a fraction of the price charged at other rooftoppers.

Tip: Yes, there is a restaurant here, but we don’t recommend coming here to eat.

Park Society

Gazing down at the green expanse of Lumphini Park, bordered by tall buildings on most sides, you can be excused for thinking that Bangkok somewhat resembles Manhattan. The drink prices at Park Society, 29 floors above the ground, are pretty on par with that of the Big Apple, too, although there are monthly promotions.

Tip: Don’t be intimidated by the semi-hidden stairway with the sign stating ‘Hi-So (high society) Only’; everybody’s welcome, and the view an additional floor up is even more stunning.

Baiyoke II Tower

The cheesiness factor is as high as the altitude at Baiyoke Tower II, Bangkok’s tallest building (set to be usurped by a ‘super tower’ due to open in 2016). Ascend through a corridor decked out with aliens and planets (to the tune of the Star Wars theme song) to emerge at the 84th-floor revolving platform that looks over the seemingly never-ending concrete sprawl of Thailand’s capital.

Tip: There’s a rather steep (300B) entry fee.

Moon Bar

An alarmingly short barrier at this rooftop bar is all that separates one from the street, 61 floors down. Located on top of the Banyan Tree Bangkok hotel, Moon Bar claims to be among the highest al fresco bars in the world. It’s also a great place from which to see Phra Pa Daeng, a vast green area that’s colloquially known as Bangkok’s green lung.

Tip: Leave your shorts and flip-flops at home; Moon Bar enforces a strict dress code.

Roof

Located directly across the river from the ancient spire of Wat Arun, therooftop bar at the Sala Ratanakosin Bangkok hotel offers one of the most famous vistas in town. You can’t beat sunset here, but after dark, when Wat Arun is prettily illuminated, is also photo-worthy.

Tip: If you can’t get a riverfront seat, don’t forget the back row, which has nice views over Wat Pho.

Long Table

Looming over one of the city’s busiest intersections, this bar, 25 floors up, is a great place to be at around 6pm, taking in the hyper-urban view and thanking the heavens that you’re not stuck in the rush hour traffic below.

Tip: Generous happy hour deals make Long Table better value than many of Bangkok’s upscale rooftop bars.

Sky Bar

Descend the Hollywood-like staircase to emerge at this bar that juts out over the Bangkok skyline and the Chao Phraya River. Scenes from The Hangover Part II were filmed here, and while it doesn’t come cheap, the bar’s ‘hangovertini’ cocktail is actually quite drinkable. The views, of course, arent bad either.

Tip: Leave your shorts and flip-flops at home; Sky Bar enforces a relatively strict dress code.

Cheap Travel to Beijing

travel-to-beijingChina’s very quick ascent – in 2014 it turned into the nation with the world’s greatest economy – implies that it’s no more a remarkable spending goal it used to be. Without a doubt, the most recent correlations for expenses of living place Beijing in the main 20 most costly urban communities on the planet.

That doesn’t imply that you need to burn through a lot of cash for your outing to China’s capital city. We’ve sculled the privileged insights of local people and long haul expats to give you the lowdown on the most proficient method to appreciate Beijing without revealing the rénmínbì.

Five bargain stays

The cheapest places to stay in Beijing come in the form of guesthouse dorm beds (anything from four to 10 people) and they can be found all over the city.

1. For the best atmosphere, choose a courtyard hostel. A long-term favourite and possibly the best bargain of the lot is Leo Hostel (and its sister establishment, the quainter Leo Courtyard). Both are in prime tourist real estate – just south of Tian’anmen Square.

2. Another courtyard option is the quirky martial arts-inspired Fly By Knight Beijing Courtyard Hostel, which throws in a free western breakfast and offers free accommodation for writers or artists who teach a skill or write about the venue in exchange.

3. If you’d rather not do dorms, The Drum – Specialist Capsule Hostel & Hotel, in Beijing’s beautiful historical Gulou district, has cheap self-contained capsules that are just big enough for a bed and a spot on the floor for your bags.

4. Chain hotels are characterless but cut-priced and  7 Days Inn, with their distinctive yellow buildings, have more than a dozen premises in Beijing from Tian’anmen Square to the 798 Art District.

5. Finally, you can pick up great value rooms from sites like Airbnb (airbnb.com), which have become increasingly popular in China and can offer an insider look at Beijing life. Hosts sometimes throw in the use of a free bike too.

Five economical eats

Dine local to keep costs down.  Western food is almost always more expensive in Beijing, and probably not quite what you were expecting. If you order too much, it’s common to dǎbāo (打包 – box up and take away) leftovers. Grab a spare pair of chopsticks and enjoy later as a picnic in a park. 7-11s also sell a cheap range of Japanese sushi rolls (usually fresher in the morning after a delivery).

1. Zhang Mama is famous for its intensely spicy Sichuan classics, such asmala xiangguo, a spicy broth with a variety of meat choices. This no-frills but tongue-tingling venue is a 10-minute walk from the Drum Tower.

2. Qing Feng Steamed Dumpling Shop, a chain canteen of Beijing staples, shot to fame in late 2013 when Chinese president Xi Jinping was photographed paying for his own steamed buns at the 3 Yuetan Beilu branch. There are outlets all over the capital, but we recommend this one just for the kudos of eating where the Chairman does.

3. Xian Lao Man (252 Andingmen Neilu), a bustling joint and secret expat favourite, serves delectable dumplings and other authentic northern Chinese dishes. The menu is immense, but the classicmadoufu (麻豆腐) – a mountain of pulped mung beans – is truly unmissable. There are several branches, but the most central one is one block from the Lama Temple on Andingmen Lu.

4. Jingzun is oft-cited as the budget choice for Peking duck (a bird with all the trimmings costs only ¥128 here). It’s on Chunxiu Lu, a short walk from the Sanlitun bar district.

5. China’s Muslim Uighur minority run some of the cheapest and heartiest restaurants around – think spicy lamb kebabs, thick noodles with chicken, tomatoes and herbs, and aromatic flat breads. Just across from the east bank of Houhai Lake in Mao’er Hutong is Xinjiang Fengwei Restaurant (新疆风味), one of the best. Otherwise, look out for the green signs or sizzle of kebabs being cooked out front of dozens of other Uigher-run restaurants around the city.

Five fun free things to do

1. The political and symbolic heart of communist China is Tian’anmen Square and there’s plenty of free fun to be had here: watch the flag ceremony at dawn and dusk; spot the undercover security guards on the Square; gaze up at Mao’s portrait casting a watchful eye from the north end; browse through the prehistoric jade and Qing-era artifacts in theNational Museum; view Mao’s waxy remains in his mausoleum or take photos of the curvy National Centre for the Performing Arts (the Egg), one block to the west.

2. Beijing’s hútòng (alleyways) are living examples of history, offering Instagram moments with their twisted trees, ancient beams, tucked-away temples, and locals fanning themselves on sultry summer evenings. The best hútòng are north of the Forbidden City and webbed into the Gulou and Dongsi districts.

3. Guomao is home to contemporary China with its glass-eyed skyscrapers and bold architecture. It’s a dusty concrete jungle at ground level, but head to the Atmosphere Bar in the Shangri-La on the 80th floor of the China World Trade Centre for sweeping aerial views of the city (on a smog-free day). While this will cost you the price of a drink, it’s a bargain when you consider the observation deck in the CCTV Tower swallows ¥70 (and that’s without a cocktail).

4. The Midnight in Peking Audio Walk (us.midnightinpeking.com/audio-walk) is based on a novel by Paul French. The free map and audio tour provide a great framework for exploring one of Beijing’s most curious districts – the Legation Quarter. This grid of leafy streets just east of Tian’anmen Square was the home of foreign missions during the Qing Dynasty.

5. Beijing’s parks, green pockets of relief from pollution, are free or just a handful of rénmínbì to get in. They offer  plenty of people-watching opportunities: Temple of Heaven Park is famous for its opera singers and marriage markets, Jingshan has lovely views of the Forbidden City, Purple Bamboo Park (zizhuyuangongyuan.com) is a classical Chinese garden, while Ditan is your best bet for a picnic on the grass (although watch out for eagle-eyed park wardens who very occasionally shoo people off the grass).

Five budget boozers

Alcohol can really rack up your daily budget. To keep costs down, drink chilled local beers (Yanjing and Snow are two popular brands) in street-side restaurants. It’s a good idea to stick to bottled beers in cheap bars, as cocktails are sometimes made with fake spirits.

1. Kai Bar (3/F, Tongli Studios) in Sanlitun has drawn the raucous crowds for years with its ¥10 drinks, and is now very gay-friendly.

2. One block from the Lama Temple, El Nido is a tumbledown hútòngbar with outside benches. Its imported beers are some of the cheapest in the city.

3. In the summer, grab a chilled bottle of white wine or a six pack from 7-11, and head to the moat around the Forbidden City for an evening of drinking fit for en emperor.

4. Some of the cheapest beers in town can be had at hostel bars. Beijing Downtown Backpackers has a busy attached pub in the Nanluoguxiang tourist lane, while The Drum – Specialist Capsule Hostel & Hotel promises every guest a free bar at its bar.

5. The university district of Haidian has a strip of banging budget boozers. Lush, with its pub quizzes and live music, is an enduring favourite.

Five tips to keep costs down

1. Avoid public holidays, such as Spring Festival in January/February and National Day in October, when it feels like China’s 1.4 billion are on the move. Hotels and guesthouses double or triple their rates and the capital is a crush.

2. Take public transport (besides, Beijing cabs are notoriously hard to flag down these days). The Beijing Subway (English signs and announcements) has improved its network in recent years and a single journey ranges from ¥3-6. Buses are trickier to use but if you get a Beijing Transportation Smart Card you pay half price, which means you’ll be paying less than ¥1 per trip (that’s just US$0.16 for those keeping track!).

3. Avoid the well-known tourist markets (such as the Silk Market andYashow Clothing Market) where they pump up the price for foreigners and the goods are often fake. Instead buy your gifts from local markets and shops. Some inexpensive gift ideas: packaged Chinese tea and Chinese sauces from a supermarket, paper cutouts and silk purses fromTian Yi Goods Market, and bolts of fabric from Muxiyuan Fabric Market (23 Dahongmen Lu, Fengtai district).

4. Turn roaming off and connect with friends and family online. While you won’t have access to sites like Facebook, Twitter and Gmail in China without a VPN, you’ll likely be able to use Skype and What’s App. Hostels generally have free wi-fi as do coffee shops (for the price of a drink).

5. You can almost always bargain in markets and shops. Decide on what you’re willing to pay beforehand, keep smiling, and walk away if the vendor won’t agree to your price. If they are willing to discount to your level, they’ll call you back.

Learning The “Secrets” of Restaurants

Tips in Getting to the Best Japanese Restaurant Anyone would like to taste the delicious food being served in Japanese restaurants. Searching for a great Japanese restaurant in your local area requires diligent effort on your part. If you are not sure what you are looking for, finding a good restaurant might take a lot of your precious time. However, by the time you get into a good Japanese restaurant, you will definitely experience the best dining in your whole life. It is advisable that you do your research about foods being served in Japanese restaurants first before you start your search for one. Please be reminded that Japanese restaurants are quite different from the usual restaurants and fastfood chains you see in the street. The foods being served in these restaurants are entirely different from the foods being served in other kinds of restaurants. Before you order food in a Japanese restaurant, you must know they are authentic first. You would surely not get the best moments in your life if you just settle eating in common fast food restaurants. Many customers around the world today love to eat foods being served in Japanese restaurants. You need to make sure that the Japanese restaurant you are trying to dine only serves authentic Japanese food. Another factor that would tell you they only serve authentic Japanese food is you will taste something you never tried tasting before. If you feel like you are not good at searching for Japanese restaurants in your local area, you can always try using the internet. The internet could provide you with a long list of Japanese restaurants in your local area and you will just pick the best among them. Your next step will then be to determine which among those restaurants are the best and authentic.
Foods – Getting Started & Next Steps
If ever you are not good with using the internet, you can always ask for recommendations from your friends and relatives who might have tried eating in a Japanese restaurant. You can even search for restaurants in your local directory. You should thoroughly check on the feedbacks and comments from the previous customers of a restaurant first before you try out their food. These comments and reviews will determine the authenticity of a Japanese restaurant and how well they serve their food. Always remember to be aware of every quality of a good Japanese restaurant before trying out their dishes.
Study: My Understanding of Restaurants
Once you get into a quality restaurant, you will surely be able to choose from a wide selection of Japanese food. You will feel comfortable ordering the dishes you like because you know their authentic. You may find yourself finding a hard time looking for a good Japanese restaurant but always remember that once you do, you will definitely make the most out of it. For more info about this, check it out!

Little India, Penang

There’s a spot in Penang, south of Little India in Georgetown, where you can discover great nourishment, sport on the TV, a pretty sanctuary and some place around the bend, the spirit of the island.

This spot really is the kind of spot where the island’s numerous personalities – Malay, Chinese, Indian, British frontier, advanced traveler – string together into a delightful bunch. You remain here, at the convergence of Lebuh King and Lebuh Ah Quee, and you’re a the crossing point of Southeast Asia and its examples of movement, exchange and history, itself at the crossing point of the world’s examples of the greater part of the above – the mission for zest, for pioneer domain, for tourism heaven – so perhaps, as it were, you are in that exact instant at the focal point of the universe…

To your south is a Chinese assembly hall. Assembly halls are scattered all over Georgetown and Penang (and Malaysia in general), but ‘assembly hall’ is a somewhat sterile term that doesn’t cut to the heart of how cool these buildings are. They’re part neighbourhood association centre, part temple, part community foundation, and almost always decorated in coiling dragons, paintings of Immortals, Confucian sages, Taoist demigods and Buddhist scripture, photos of ancestors and inlaid classical Chinese script.

Indeed, you wander in the courtyard of your average assembly hall and you get the sense Chow Yun Fat is about to break out of the walls in a spectacularly choreographed fight scene. And just around the corner of here is the Khoo Kongsi, the most spectacular assembly hall in Penang, a testament to the influence the Chinese have had on this island’s culture (Penang is the only majority-Chinese state in Malaysia). And the influence other cultures have had on the Chinese; among the guardian statues standing sentinel over the entrance to Khoo Kongsi’s incredibly pastiche of Chinese architectural styles and decorative arts is a stone Sikh warrior, a reminder of the time sub-continental soldiers provided the security in this former jewel of the British Empire.

North of here are other testaments to Chinese wealth, including thePinang Peranakan Mansion. Both a lovely example of what happens when colonial and Chinese architectural styles blend, the mansion is also a monument to the entrepreneurial skill and posturing that, to this day, animates the local ‘Baba Nonya’ community, descendants of those Chinese merchants who settled in the great Malay and Indonesian archipelagos.

To get here you wander through another slice of Penang: Little India, where the spice is shaped into little mountains, the gold jewelry is sold on poker tables and the Bollywood music is cranked to 11. There may be no place on Penang island where you have a sense of being so palpably somewhere else, where the atmosphere is so redolent of adventure. Pick up some milky sweets or eat a nice, hot curry off a banana leaf, and see some stunning examples of Tamil temple architecture at the Sri Mariamman Temple, whose four walls enclose both the holy space of worship and, to the faithful, the universe entire. Even among the Hindu faithful, you may notice there are statues of Chinese deities like Kuan Yin that are decorated with the same garlands draped on Shiva and Ganesh, another testament to Penang’s cross-cultural appeal.

At the risk of painting with a very broad brush, it’s safe to say Malays have a thing for food, especially good street food, and as such a great place to see Malays at their most relaxed and happy is Georgetown’s many hawker stalls. These pushcart affairs can be found anywhere – at the east end of the backpacker ghetto on Lebuh Chulia, in the Red Garden center behind the Hotel Continental, on the seafront esplanade. If street food frightens you, try New World Park, a spic-and-span modern hawker ‘mall’ where you can often find families eating out for the night – always a sign of good hygiene – and food from across Malaysia.

Know The Reason Why Visit Kinabalu, Malaysia

Eat, eat, and eat some more

KK’s rich ethnic makeup has birthed one of the most diverse culinary scenes in Southeast Asia. Unsurprisingly, seafood is king here. Head to Welcome Seafood Restaurant (wsr.com.my) for one of the freshest, most affordable seafood feasts in town – simply point to what you want in the tanks and indicate your cooking style (hint: try the curry crab) and it’ll be on your table in minutes. Worth forking out a little more for is a meal at Alu-Alu Café. Don’t be fooled by its modest surroundings; here, seafood sourced from Borneo Eco-Fish, an organisation dedicated to harvesting and distributing seafood from sustainable sources, is prepared with modern Chinese-style finesse.

From Indian to Italian, you can find it all in KK. But if it’s hawker food you’re after, head to the city’s famed Night Market to take a culinary tour of Malaysia, or jump in a taxi to Lido Square, a newer, more local food market in the suburb of Penampang where you can feast on everything from mouthwatering gou tie (pork dumplings) to the perfectKuching laksa for next to nothing.

Smell the mountain air in Kinabalu National Park

Roughly 40,000 people attempt to scale the 4,095m summit of Malaysia’s highest mountain every year, but you don’t have to commit to climbing Mt Kinabalu (best done over three days to acclimatise) to appreciate Sabah’s first World Heritage Site. In a full day tour from KK, it’s possible to take in the botanical gardens nature trail at the mountain’s base (a must for orchid-lovers) take a dip at Poring Hot Springs, and stop at a popular viewpoint to take the perfect picture of the formidable peak – should the clouds part for long enough. Six clicks east of the park headquarters, the moving Kundasang War Memorial, which commemorates the 2,345 Australian and British soldiers who died during the WWII Sandakan Death Marches, is a worthy pit stop. A mere six men survived the horrific ordeal, and only because they escaped.

Soak up the city sights

One of Malaysia’s fastest-growing cities, sprawling Kota Kinabalu is no longer easy to picture as a British colonial trading post. But with just three buildings surviving the 1945 Allied bombings (including the Atkinson Clock Tower, the post office-turned Sabah Tourism Board headquarters, and a welfare office, which, after being razed by fire in 2002, has become an unofficial street art gallery), one can hardly blame it. But while business booms in KK’s office blocks, day-to-day life thrives at street level much as it always has.

By the waterfront, KK’s Central Market is a feast for the eyes, if not the stomach. Hawking everything from exotic tropical fruits to prawns the size of small lobsters, this wet and dry market is open all day, every day, and makes for great photo opportunities. Wander south, and you’ll hit the colourful Handicrafts Market – perhaps the best place in Sabah to pick up inexpensive textiles, pearls and other souvenirs.

Hang with orangutans

Located in northeast Sabah, the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre is still the best place in Borneo to get up close to island’s critically endangered orangutans. But for those who don’t have time to head out east, it’s possible to admire these gentle creatures in their natural habitat just outside KK. Set up with support from the Sabah Wildlife Department, the Shangri-La Rasa Ria owns a 64-acre nature reserve backing on to the hotel that acts as a halfway house for orphaned orangutans until they are ready to integrate with their brethren at Sepilok. Twice-daily viewing sessions are available, where for one hour visitors can observe the orangutans (on Lonely Planet’s recent visit, there were two mischievous young males in residence) feeding and playing.

Island-hop along Sabah’s west coast

When it comes to diving in Sabah, there’s no contest against the legendary Pulau Sipadan, in the state’s southeast. But while Sabah’s west coast waters can’t compete with the marine diversity of the Coral Triangle, the handful of jungly humps that comprise Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park, just a 15-20min boat ride from KK, are perfect for day-tripping. With a nice beach, decent – if not great – snorkelling, and enormous resident monitor lizards, Pulau Sapi is the best option for those looking for some fun in the sun. Connected by a zip-line, Palau Gaya has a lovely beach fronting the luxury Bunga Raya Island Resort & Spa, but is more easily visited as a guest of the hotel, or its sister-property on the other side of the island, Gayana Eco Resort. Famed for its on-site Marine Ecology Research Centre (merc-gayana.com), Gayana has had award-winning success propagating Sabah’s near-extinct giant clams.

Also day trip-able, but better as an overnighter, is Pulau Tiga, accessed from Kuala Penyu, about two hours’ drive south of the capital. Better known as Survivor Island – the first series of the long-running reality show was shot here – this ready-made adventure isle comes with its own mud volcano, and good snorkelling. Arguably even more idyllic are the Mantananis – three isolated islands off Kota Belud, about an hour’s drive north from KK. Simply check in to a stilt chalet at the Mari Mari Backpacker’s Lodge on Pulau Manatani Besar and live out your own castaway fantasy.

Get a taste of tribal life

With many of Sabah’s indigenous communities having long since adapted to modern living, you’re not likely to see anyone living in a loghouse beyond the state’s most remote corners (and even then it would probably have a satellite dish and air-con). Rather than portraying traditional cultures, Mari Mari Cultural Village offers a fascinating (if mildly corny) insight into traditional tribal life via a tour of traditional dwellings of the Bajau, Lundayeh, Murut, Rungus and Dusun tribes. The hands-on guided tour (opt for the 6pm slot, when the low light makes the experience feel more authentic) includes a chance to sample delicacies from each ethnic group (such as rice wine), and test your hunting skills with a traditional blowpipe. Set in a lush, jungle setting about 30 minutes from KK, it’s great for families.

Ride the North Borneo Railway

Built in 1896 to transport tobacco from Sabah’s interior to the coast for export, Borneo’s first (and still only) railway was all but destroyed during World War II. In 2011, the North Borneo Railway finally reopened, complete with a retrofitted locomotive offering tourists the chance to experience its most scenic section, turn-of-the-century-style. Leaving from Tanjung Aru, just south of KK, the iron horse chugs past lush paddy fields and traditional stilt villages before arriving in the town of Papar. The four-hour round trip includes breakfast, a smashing tiffin lunch, and stops at Kinarut, with its serene Chinese temple, and Papar, which has a colourful produce market worth checking out. Tours depart on Wednesdays and Saturdays, but be sure to check ahead if the train running; the old girl is temperamental.

Chinas Silk Road

The unmoving scenes of the Silk Road have charmed voyagers for centuries. Sights along the course have kept going down through the ages, from a period when friars voyaged these streets bringing Buddhism once more from south Asia, and brokers traded silk for products and flavors.

Comprised of a progression of streets interfacing Chinese capitals with south Asia, Europe and the Mediterranean, a voyage down the Silk Road stays one of China’s most epic excursions. Venturing to every part of the length of this course today, with its flaring red mountains, towering sand hills and snow capped lakes, still offers an undeniable feeling of what old dealers experienced. Also, in 2014, UNESCO recorded the whole 5000km Tian Shan Corridor as a World Heritage Site.

Luckily, the Silk Road is ever-more accessible from the rest of China thanks to the opening of a new high-speed rail line through Xinjiang. This train will eventually connect the furthest reaches of China’s northwestern province to Xi’an, Beijing and beyond. Here we explore a must-see list of its east-to-west sights.

Army of Terracotta Warriors

Painstakingly cast as guardians for Qin Shi Huang’s – the first emperor of China – safe passage into the afterlife, the Army Of Terracotta Warriors was discovered in 1974. Since then, thousands of warriors, archers and chariots have been unearthed and remain on display just outside the city of Xi’an in Shaanxi province. Xi’an is the first stop along an itinerary of the Silk Road from east to west – it was the capital of Chinese empires variously in ancient periods and its strategic north-central location on the Guangzhong Plain makes it a gateway from eastern China to the wild west. Today, Xi’an is a busy provincial capital home to numerous ethnic minorities, mainly Hui Muslims.

Overhanging Great Wall & Jiayuguan Fort

The Great Wall is not one stretch of compiled stones, but an almost countless series of small walls stretching from the Bohai Sea in northeastern China to a desert outpost along China’s Silk Road:Jiayuguan. This, the westernmost end of the Great Wall once the last outpost of Chinese civilisation and marked the end of China and the beginning of everywhere else. The fort’s giant mud walls rise out of the desert. Nearby, the mud-brick Overhanging Great Wall ascends a steep length of desert mountainside with sweeping views of the dry valley below. The city of Jiayuguan is a fascinating stopover thanks to its selection of Han, Hui Muslim and Uighur cultures and foods, which can be enjoyed at the local night market.

Labrang Monastery

One of the most important monasteries in the Yellow Hat sect of Tibetan Buddhism, Labrang Monastery was once home to 4,000 monks and echoes of a time when Buddhism passed through this part of the world on its great journey through China, from south Asia to the Far East. Today, Labrang Monastery is home to 1,800 monks and its grand prayer halls and intricate yak-butter sculptures remain a draw for visitors and monks alike.

Mogao Caves

One of the most important Buddhist art sites in the world, the Mogao Caves near Dunhuang are what remain of a thriving ancient monastery generally dated to 366 AD. The caves were a repository of wall paintings, scrolls, carvings and texts left by monks and nuns who passed through on their way to or from Buddhist sites in south Asia. Though many of the caves’ most precious goods were looted in the early 20th century, they remain open for visitors to marvel at their intricate interior paintings.

Jiaohe Ruins

The origins of the ruined city of Jiaohe have been traced to as early as 108 BC, when it was known as Yarkhoto. It was an important Silk Road stopover in the desert between the Tian Shan mountains and the oasis of Dunhuang. Today you can explore the archaeological remains of Jiaohe, with its mud walls and crumbling buildings atop a steep embankment over the confluence of two rivers. It’s an easy 10km taxi or bike ride along a paved road from Turpan, another Silk Road oasis town now known for its wine production.

Emin Minaret

No trip along the Silk Road would be complete without viewing the rising spire of Emin Minaret near Turpan, China’s tallest minaret. Built in the 1770s to honour a local general, the minaret boasts a unique collection of floral designs and a bowling-pin shape formed from dried mud that make it stand out among the Silk Road sites.

Singing Sands Mountain and Crescent Lake

The oasis city of Dunhuang has the feel of an outpost town, thanks to its incredible location at the literal edge of the harsh Taklamakan Desert. In addition to being a jumping off point to visit the Mogao Caves, Dunhuang is also home to the incredible Crescent Lake. This half-moon shaped pond sits at the bottom of a giant sand dune and, according to local lore, possesses special magic as the lake itself has never been covered over with sand despite the local winds that give rise to its towering dune, Singing Sands Mountain. Ascending to the top of the dune, only to peer out over an endless sea of sand further west really gives a sense of the size and scale of this desert and the length of the Silk Road.

Flaming Mountains

The romantic name of these eroded sandstone hills do them perfect justice. The Flaming Mountains have been the subject of many artistic expressions, including in the classic Ming-dynasty novel Journey to the West and an otherworldly backdrop for the 2002 Jet Li epic film Hero. The hills extend for a whopping 100km across the Turpan Depression – the hottest, driest place in China and lowest point in Central Asia (154m below sea level) – and reach 800m high.

Tianchi Lake

Heaven Lake, as it is known in English, is a perfect disc of blue water surrounded on all sides by the gaping Tian Shan mountains. Bogda Feng, the highest peak in the range, looms 5445m above the lake. Boats zip visitors across the lake and local Uighur families offer their yurt tents for overnight stays, but the buzz can’t detract from the overwhelming vastness of the scenery here.

Bangkok Dishes You Should Try

For a moderately little nation, Thailand’s food is astoundingly different, with dishes changing in structure and flavor pretty much every time they cross a commonplace fringe. Bangkok, by a wide margin Thailand’s biggest city and a mixture of individuals and sustenance, is no exemption to this assorted qualities, and the city can make a case for its own particular unmistakable cooking.

The general population of Bangkok are especially enamored with sweet flavors, and numerous dishes incorporate freshwater fish, pork, coconut drain and palm sugar – basic fixings in the focal Thai fields. Simple access to the ocean likewise implies a wealth of fish.

Migrants from southern China have been impacting Thai cooking for quite a long time, and it was doubtlessly Chinese workers and merchants who presented the wok and a few assortments of noodle dishes to Bangkok and whatever is left of Thailand. Moreover, Muslims are thought to have initially gone by Thailand amid the late fourteenth century, carrying alongside them a meat-and dried-zest based cooking that in the long run advanced toward Bangkok. Another critical impact on the Bangkok’s kitchens originates from the illustrious court, which has been delivering complex and refined goes up against focal Thai dishes for almost 300 years.

Pat tai

Thailand’s most famous dish – a Bangkok street eat staple – takes the form of rice noodles stir-fried with dried and/or fresh shrimp, bean sprouts, tofu, egg and seasonings, and is traditionally served with lime halves and a few stalks of Chinese chives and a sliced banana flower. Decades-old and perpetually packed Thip Samai is undoubtedly Bangkok’s most lauded destination for the dish.

Tom yam

Lemongrass, kaffir lime leaf and lime juice give tom yam – often insufficiently translated as ‘Thai sour soup’ – its characteristic tang; fresh chillies or an oily chilli paste provide it with its legendary sting.Tom yam is available just about everywhere in Bangkok, but it’s hard to beat the version at Krua Apsorn, a legendary shophouse restaurant in the city’s old district.

Gooay teeo reua

Gooay teeo reua translates as ‘boat noodles’, so-called because the small bowls were previously served from boats along the canals and rivers of Bangkok and central Thailand. Based around a dark, slow-cooked broth that unites meat, herbs, dried spices and sometimes blood, these pork- or beef-based bowls are among the most full-flavoured – and perhaps intimidating – of all Thai noodle dishes. Try a bowl at land-boundBharani.

Mah hor

With likely origins in Bangkok’s royal palace, mah hor are delicate yet full-flavoured Thai snacks that combine chunks of mandarin orange or pineapple and a sweet/savoury/peppery topping that unites pork, chicken, peanuts, sugar, peppercorns and coriander root. Although increasingly rare these days, they can be found as part of the set meal atnahm.

Kanom beuang

The old-school version of this tiny, taco-like snack is sold with two types of fillings: sweet, which combine rich strands of duck egg and preserved fruit, and savoury, which include a spicy mixture of dried shrimp and white pepper. Available from street vendors in older parts of Bangkok, such as the stall at Nang Loeng Market.

Mee grorp

Crispy noodles prepared the traditional way, via a former palace recipe that provides the dish with a uniquely fragrant, sweet/sour flavour, are a dying breed. Longstanding shophouse restaurant Chote Chitr is one of a handful of places to try the old-school version of this dish.

Bamee

Although these Chinese-style wheat and egg noodles, typically served with slices of barbecued pork, a handful of greens and/or wontons, are ubiquitous in Bangkok, not every bowl is created equal. For something exceptional, head to Bangkok’s Chinatown, where Mangkorn Khăo, a roadside stall, delivers both in terms of flavour and atmosphere.

Gooay teeo kooa gai

Wide rice noodles fried with little more than egg, chicken, salted squid and garlic oil is a dish rarely seen outside of Bangkok, and one that’s at its delicious peak in Bangkok’s Chinatown. The best places to get the dish, such as Nay Mong, up the ante by frying the dish in lard, over coals.

Or sooan

Another Bangkok Chinatown staple, this dish combines a sticky, eggy batter topped with barely-cooked oysters. Shophouse restaurant Nai Mong Hoi Thod does what is arguably Bangkok’s best take on this dish.

Kow mok

Biryani or spiced rice, a dish found across the Muslim world, also has a foothold in Thailand. In Bangkok the dish is typically made with chicken and is served with a sweet-and-sour dipping sauce and a bowl of chicken broth. Try the charmingly old-school version of the dish at 70-year-old Bangkok institution, Muslim Restaurant.

Sate

These grilled skewers of meat, a staple in Southeast Asia’s Muslim countries, probably came to Thailand via Malaysia or Indonesia. Today, the slightly sweet peanut-based dipping sauce that accompanies them is often mistakenly associated with Thai cooking outside of Thailand. Sateis available streetside or at open-air hawker gatherings such as the Soi 38 night Market.

Mataba

Known as murtabak in Malaysia and Indonesia, these are thin sheets of dough that have been stuffed with a savoury (minced pork or beef seasoned with curry powder) or sweet (egg and slices of banana) filling and fried until crispy. Available at classic Bangkok-style shophouse restaurant, Roti-Mataba.

No Pay Things to Do In Hongkong

Hong Kong is not a shoddy spot, but rather with a touch of arranging and innovativeness, you can spend a charming day in the city on almost no cash. Outside spaces, road shows, displays and showcases possess large amounts of this stuffed city, numerous open complimentary.

So if the wallet is feeling a little slim, check out some of our favourite free things to do in Hong Kong.

Museums, galleries and art spaces

Free art is everywhere in Hong Kong. Seven of of the city’s museums are open for free every Wednesday: the Museum of Art, Museum of History, Heritage Museum, Science Museum, Space Museum, Museum of Coastal Defence and the Dr Sun Yat-sen Museum. The Flagstaff Museum of Tea Ware, Hong Kong Railway Museum, Lei Cheng Uk Han Tomb Museum, and a handful of folk museums are free of charge on everyday, as are the exhibitions at the Hong Kong Film Archive and the Hong Kong Arts Centre. On the south side of the island, former factories in Wong Chuk Hang have transformed into beautiful gallery spaces, such as Spring Workshop (springworkshop.org), many of them free to visit.

Far from the maddening crowd: Spring Workshop is a free oasis of calm. Image by Megan Eaves / Lonely Planet

The stunning Asia Society Hong Kong Centre has excellent exhibitions throughout the year. Also worth exploring are the PMQ design hub in Sheung Wan, or Cattle Depot Artist Village, Oil Street Art Space, and the Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre in Kowloon, where the setting and architecture beguile alongside the art.

The charming streets of Sheung Wan are lined with galleries specialising in Chinese antiques. Take your time admiring the artefacts and learning about them from the owners.

Street concerts in Wan Chai

Concerts featuring some of the best local musicians from classical through jazz to indie, are thrown by eclectic music organizer Kung Chi-shing every third Saturday of the month (5.30-8pm) outside the Arts Centre, every second Thursday (7.30-9pm) outside the Blue House, and every last Sunday (3-4.30pm) at Comix Home Base. All three venues are in Wan Chai.

Expansive views

Enjoy panoramic island views from the 43rd floor viewing platform in the Bank of China Building; or bring your own booze to the public terrace at the International Finance Centre and gaze at Victoria Harbour. If in Kowloon, join lovers and photography enthusiasts on the rooftop carpark of Harbour City in Tsim Sha Tsui for some serious sunsets over the harbour or West Kowloon.

Peninsula walkthrough

Saunter through the gilded (and air-conditioned) halls of one of Asia’s most legendary hotels – the Peninsula. Listen to the clink of silverware as fashionable patrons take afternoon tea in the opulent lobby, then climb the red-carpeted staircase to the colonnaded verandah on the second floor.

Going to the market

Trawling through Hong Kong’s markets will make you richer, as you will have pocketed the real gem: atmosphere. Brush shoulders with housewives and comb-over uncles and try your hand at haggling. TheTemple Street Night Market features fortune-tellers, adult toys and Cantonese opera; the Ladies’ Market offers ‘I Love HK’ tees and football jerseys; fragrant florals sit beside gardening tools at the Flower Market. And don’t miss those colourful wet markets (produce and meat markets) strewn all over the city.

Turf and surf

Almost 70% of Hong Kong is officially countryside – rolling hills, country parks, surf-beaten coastlines, all free and within an hour from urban Hong Kong. You can enjoy the vistas by hiking, cycling and picnicking. For those with less time, there are urban parks and gardens where you can take walks along dappled paths between bouts of sightseeing.

Whether it’s a dip in the waves or engaging in sun worship, Hong Kong’s beaches offer a free and enjoyable escape from the city, and there are lifeguards. Just bring sunblock, a picnic and music for a cheap-but-cheerful party.

Cheap thrills

Hair-raising bus rides along scenic routes make for a budget alternative to the thrill rides at Ocean Park. Try the following if you dare: bus number 314 (Sunday only) from Siu Sai Wan via Tai Tam Reservoir to Stanley; bus number 14 (weekdays only) from Sai Wan Ho along the tram tracks to Stanley; bus number 6 around the southern bays, and the open-top buses H1 and H2 that pick you up in Central.

For thrill of a different kind, an exciting night at the races can be had for only HK$10 at Happy Valley Racecourse. Alternatively, head over to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and watch punters of a different kind try to strike gold at the city’s nerve centre.

Spiritual spaces

Hong Kong’s places of worship are plentiful and usually free to enter. There are hundreds of temples and nunneries, a fair number of churches, and a handful of mosques and synagogues in Hong Kong. Almost all are free of charge. You can enter to experience the history and architecture, or simply for a few moments of quiet contemplation. For deeper introspection, saunter among the headstones of the famous dead at Hong Kong Cemetery.

Free tours

These heritage sites offer pocket-friendly, English-speaking tours that are fun and informative.

Tai O Heritage Hotel

A former police station that defended the coast against pirates is now a boutique hotel (www.taioheritagehotel.com/eng/tour/hotel_tour.jsp). You can see the original cannons, searchlight and guard towers.

Former Magistracy

The UNESCO-award-winning former North Kowloon Magistracy Building (visitscadhk.hk), complete with courtrooms and prison cells, was one of the territory’s busiest magistracies until it closed in 2005. It’s now home to an art institution.

Asia Society

A former explosives magazine compound (asiasociety.org) built by the British Army in the 19th century has been transformed into a graceful cluster of galleries, theatre, café, and bookstore.

Mei Ho House

A public resettlement block (yha.org.hk) built in the 1950s gets a new lease on life as an airy youth hostel and museum.

Former Legislative Council Building

This neo-classical monument (legco.gov.hk) served as the seat of the Legislative Council from 1985 to 2002. Tours for individuals are available.

Museum of Coastal Defence

The museum (lcsd.gov.hk) occupies the site of a fort built over a hundred years ago that was an important battlefield during the Battle for Hong Kong in 1941.

PMQ

Living quarters for married policemen built in the 1950s have morphed into an arts hub (www.pmq.org.hk/heritage/guided-tour/) featuring designer studios, galleries, and restaurants.

Former Marine Police Headquarters

This gorgeous complex built in 1884 has been turned into a monument to consumerism (www.nextstophongkong.com/1881-heritage/). But you can still have a look at a handful of the original structures.

Travel to Bangkok First Time Tips

Scratch Bangkok’s surface and you’ll discover a city with uber shopping centers minutes from 200-year-old homes, with sanctuaries offering space to neon-lit pieces of scum, and where boulevards fixed with sustenance trucks are disregarded by eateries roosted on high rises. Furthermore, best of all, as Bangkok races towards the future, these eccentricities will keep on supplying the city with its novel image of Thai-ness.

Safety

Bangkok is generally a safe city and incidents of violence against tourists are rare. Commit the following to memory and you’ll most likely enjoy a scam-free visit:

  • If you aren’t a gem trader or expert, then resist the urge to buy unset stones in Thailand. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself getting sucked into a complicated scam in which you’ll pay an exorbitant price for costume jewellery.
  • Ignore any ‘friendly’ local who tells you that an attraction is closed for a Buddhist holiday or for cleaning. These are set-ups for trips to a bogus gem sale.
  • Say goodbye to your day’s itinerary if you decide to go with any tuk-tuk driver willing to take you around for 20B. These alleged ‘tours’ bypass all the sights and instead cruise to all the fly-by-night gem and tailor shops that pay commissions.
  • Refuse any taxi driver who quotes a flat fare, which will usually be three times more expensive than the reasonable meter rate. Walking beyond the tourist area will usually help you find an honest driver.

Etiquette

  • Don’t say anything critical about the Thai royal family.
  • Do dress respectfully at royal buildings and temples.
  • Don’t wear your shoes indoors.
  • Do try to avoid conflict or raising your voice with locals.
  • Don’t touch another person’s head

Neighbourhoods and sights

Ko Ratanakosin and Thonburi
The artificial island of Ko Ratanakosin is Bangkok’s birthplace – a logical starting point for your visit – and the Buddhist temples and royal palaces here, including Wat Phra Kaew & Grand Palace, and the enormous reclining Buddha at Wat Pho, comprise some of the city’s most important and most-visited sights. Cross Mae Nam Chao Phraya (the Chao Phraya River) to Thonburi to visit Wat Arun, one of the only Buddhist temple sights in Thailand that visitors are allowed to climb on.

Banglamphu
Leafy lanes, antique shophouses, hectic wet markets and golden temples convene in Banglamphu – easily the city’s most quintessentially ‘Bangkok’ neighbourhood. It’s a quaint postcard picture of the city that used to be, that is until you stumble upon Th Khao San, the intergalactic backpacker melting pot that’s anything but traditional. If you’re not staying here, come in the cool evenings and hit the Th Khao San Market for backpacker essentials, or grab a beer at one of the strip’s fun bars such as Hippie de Bar.

Riverside, Silom and Lumphini
Although you may not see it behind the office blocks, high-rise condos and hotels, Mae Nam Chao Phraya forms a watery backdrop to these linked neighbourhoods. History is still palpable in the riverside area’s crumbling architecture, evident in the nearly 140-year-old Mandarin Oriental, arguably the city’s most famous hotel. Heading inland, Th Silom is Bangkok’s de facto financial district by day, while after dark it transforms into a nightlife destination with districts such as Bangkok’s ‘gaybourhood’ on Soi 4, Th Silom, and Patpong, one of the most famous red light districts in the world. Nearby Th Sathon is the much more subdued embassy zone, and is home to nahm, arguably Bangkok’s best Thai restaurant. And right next door is Lumphini Park, central Bangkok’s premier green zone, best visited in the cool morning or afternoon.

Chinatown
Although generations removed from the mainland, Bangkok’s Chinatown could be a bosom buddy of any Chinese city. The streets are crammed with vendors, gaudy yellow-gold and jade shops, and flashing neon signs in Chinese characters. With this over-the-top vibe, it’s hardly a surprise that Chinatown’s own Wat Traimit is home to the world’s largest solid-gold Buddha statue. And with so much life on the streets, open-air restaurants such as Nai Mong Hoi Thot and the famous Th Phadungdao Seafood Stalls make Chinatown Bangkok’s best ‘hood for street food feast.

Siam Square
Multi-storey malls, outdoor shopping precincts and neverending markets leave no doubt that Siam Square is the heart of Bangkok’s commercial district. In addition to shopping, which hits its overwhelming peak at megamalls such as MBK Center and Siam Paragon, don’t miss the charming Thai architecture and art museum that is Jim Thompson House.

Sukhumvit
Japanese enclaves, French restaurants, Middle Eastern nightlife zones, tacky bars: it’s all here along Th Sukhumvit, Bangkok’s unofficial international zone. This is modern, cosmopolitan Bangkok, manifest in fun bars such as Badmotel and WTF, and excellent international restaurants such as Jidori-Ya Kenzou and Little Beast.

Other areas
You can hardly say you’ve been to Bangkok without a visit to Chatuchak Weekend Market, located north of the city. Allegedly one of the word’s largest markets, it’s an overwhelming assemblage of vendors that unites commerce ranging from exotic fish to vintage sneakers.

What to Pack

Cool, yet modest clothing. Bring a scarf or sarong to cover legs and arms when entering temples.

Getting Around

Bangkok has two airports. Suvarnabhumi International Airport is Bangkok’s primary international air hub and is located 25km east of the city centre. From/to Suvarnabhumi, transport options include metred taxis, the Airport Link train and city buses. Don Muang International Airport, Bangkok’s low-cost terminal, is north of the city. From here, transport options include metred taxis and two airport bus lines.

Bangkok’s public transportation network is continually growing, but it is still relatively young, and getting to certain parts of the city – particularly the older areas such as Ko Ratanakosin and Banglamphu – remains extremely time-consuming. The best strategy is usually to combine a longer trip on the BTS or MRT with a short taxi ride.

The elevated BTS/Skytrain (bts.co.th) is probably the most efficient and convenient way to get around central Bangkok. Bangkok’s MRT/Metro (metro.co.th) is also convenient, although not quite as expansive as the BTS.

Outside peak hours, Bangkok taxis are a great bargain.

Bangkok’s river boats, the Chao Phraya River Express (chaophrayaexpressboat. com.th) are a slow but steady way to visit the tourist sights in older parts of town.

Know The Reasons Why Visit Hong Kong Global Geopark

The Unesco-recorded Hong Kong Global Geopark is the delegated transcendence of the city’s common spaces, covering 50 sq km of Hong Kong’s upper east coastline. The recreation center is comprised of two particular topographical areas and eight named locales that reach from islands to volcanic rocks, bluffs, ocean gives in and even a tombolo (tidal spit). In the event that eight astounding sights weren’t sufficient to draw you, here are seven reasons (and one reward) why we think this is the ideal opportunity to visit Hong Kong Global Geopark.

# It’s easier than ever to get here

The Hong Kong government has been taking steps to make the sublime but underplayed Hong Kong Global Geopark more accessible to visitors. The park is distributed across two regions – volcanic rocks at Sai Kung Peninsula, and sedimentary formations and old villages in the northeastern New Territories. Guided boat tours now whisk visitors around the islands that comprise the park, and ferries take explorers out for hiking excursions, swimming and wildlife-spotting. The easiest island to reach is Sharp Island – home to the park’s tombolo – as it is connected to Sai Kung Town by regular small ferries in about 15 minutes. Minibuses now run between the formerly difficult-to-reach jumping-off village of Sai Kung and central Hong Kong in about half an hour.

 # New buses to colonial East Dam

If you’re short on time but still want to take in some of Hong Kong’s magnificent geopark, there’s a new shuttle bus to one of the sites: East Dam of High Island Reservoir, a surreally handsome piece of colonial waterworks architecture. The bus departs from Sai Kung Town four times daily on weekends and public holidays. Fares are HK$90 round trip (HK$85 for children under 12) or HK$50 one-way. There are guides on board explaining the history and geology of the reservoir and the volcanic rocks. Visitors have an hour to explore the area before the bus heads back to town. To ensure a seat, you can book online via theVolcano Discovery Centre, which serves as the main tourist info centre for the geopark.

# Rocks from the age of dinosaurs

The geopark’s Sedimentary Rock Region features Hong Kong’s oldest rocks (400 million years). Dating from the age of dinosaurs, these ancient stones don interesting silhouettes in vivid plum, ochre and jade colours. The star here is the uncanny Devil’s Fist, an human-height sandstone formation that weathering and erosion have fashioned into a wrist with finger-like protrusions. You’ll also see stunning younger rocks like shale, which evokes layered cake or wave-cut platforms, and rock pools that contain entire ecosystems within.

# Get up close with rare volcanic rocks

The centerpiece of Hong Kong Global Geopark is the Sai Kung Volcanic Rock Region: a series of towering, honeycomb-shaped basalt columns. These are not the black basalt found in most other places in the world; depending on the light, they are pinkish or a luminous honey-colour seldom seen on such a large scale anywhere. These beautiful giants are the result of a massive eruption about 140 million years ago. Lava and ash solidified over hundreds of millions of years and contracted, producing uniform columns. The sun, wind and waves finished the job, sculpting and adding colour. The rocks form poses along the coast, skirting an island, forming a tall mural on a seaward cliff, rising over a sea arch, or winding a spiral staircase upon an islet.

# An (agri)cultural revival in Lai Chi Wo village

Though previously semi-abandoned, the 400-year-old village of Lai Chi Wo – a walled Hakka village – has been enjoying a new lease on life thanks to the hard work of villagers and conservationists. Rice and vegetables are sprouting in formerly fallow fields, old livestock sheds and shuttered abodes have been turned into a mini-museum and research facilities. And there’s an open-air restaurant in the main square cooking up a delicious storm. Cultural and ecological tours and a Hakka dumpling-making workshop are run every Sunday, with architecture tours, accommodation, and a volunteer in exchange for lodging scheme (applicable to overseas visitors) soon to join the list of colourful offerings.

# New ferries galore

A new ferry service runs between Lai Chi Wo and Ma Liu Shui Pier near the Chinese University every Sunday and public holiday, with sailings expanded to at least two a week this year. Most geopark tours to the Sedimentary Rock Region call at Lai Chi Wo and you can also come here the old-fashioned way – by hiking from Wu Kau Tang or Luk Keng.

 # Majestic hiking on the MacLehose Trail

A wonderful alternative to riding a shuttle bus is to hike to East Dam, which falls along the opening section of the legendary MacLehose Trail, one of Hong Kong’s best hikes. A pleasant 9km saunter along Tai Mong Tsai Road and Sai Kung Man Yee Rd takes you to East Dam. Going on a further 1.6km, you reach one of the area’s most beautiful beaches, Long Ke, where blue waters are framed by jagged rhyolite columns. From here, you can carry on through the next section (13.5km), often lauded as the most picturesque section of the 100km trail. The route winds past majestic peaks and secluded bays, ending after five hours in Pak Tam Au.

A bonus eighth reason, you say? Back in urban Hong Kong, the city’s moving heritage – the century-old tram, or ‘ding ding’ as it is fondly called by locals – is offering a new way to learn about local life and history. The TramOramic tour allows passengers to see several historic areas on Hong Kong Island on board a sleek replica of a 1920s open-top tramcar. Sightseeing is supplemented by a meticulously-scripted audio guide in eight languages, a display of vintage tram paraphernalia, and souvenirs for sale. The one-hour tour from Western District to Causeway Bay (or vice versa) even buys you two full days of unlimited rides on the ding ding.