48 Hour Layover Guide To Shanghai

Shanghai is one of the 4 major cities in China and China’s largest and richest city. Shanghai is also one of the worlds most populated cities. This huge city is located on the east coast of China and is a financial hub, the port is also the worlds busiest container port in the world. Shanghai has a diverse melting pot of various buildings from the skyscrapers in Pudong to a scattering of Art Deco colonial buildings, and traditional Chinese buildings. Shanghai is very different compared to other Chinese cities.

I have been fortunate enough to travel to Shanghai on many occasions with the airline I work for, and have tried exploring different parts of the city on each layover I have had there. Shanghai was not how I imagined it, and has had many foreign influences over the years.

There are many areas of the city to explore and see, and the city has a huge food scene both high end, and places to eat for the more budget conscious travellers. Shanghai is really where east meets west. Shanghai was not what I expected and it’s a really hard place to describe as it doesn’t feel very typically Chinese but you defiantly know your in China (not sure if that quite makes sense) but that’s kind of how I feel when I visit Shanghai, I really enjoy visiting this city but still not quite sure how to describe it or what to make of it.

Sights & Activities

French Concession

The French Concession was a former designated residential area for the French. It’s boulevards are lined with trees, and it has a suburbia feel to it. It feels like your in a completely different city compared to the rest of Shanghai’s metropolis. The French concession can be tracked back to 1849, where it gradually developed into the largest and most affluent areas in all of China. In the 1920s, it was the best and richest residential area in Shanghai. In 1943 the Chinese government took it over, and after nearly a 100 years ended its history as a French concession.

Today the French concession is one of the most sought after areas in the city and is home to lots of live music venues, boutiques, wine bars and European delis. The area also has a large arts and crafts scene there and the area is a great place to explore on foot getting lost down many of the leafy avenues and watching locals go about their day to day lives.

Maglev Train

Maglev Train is a magnetic levitation train which operates in Shanghai, this super high speed train is an attraction in itself. The train can reach speeds of up to 270mph. On one of my trips to shanghai a few of my colleagues and myself decided to take the Maglev Train from Shanghai’s airport to Pudong. I would recommend taking the Maglev either to or from the airport to experience this high tech train.

Nanjing Road

Nanjing Road is one of Shanghai’s main shopping streets and stretches almost 3 and half miles long, starting at The Bund and finishing at the junction by Jing’an Temple. The road is one of the worlds busiest shopping streets, you can buy everything from high end fashion to your cheap tacky souvenirs and everything in between! It’s great to visit in the evening as this is when all the neon signs are lit up.

Qibao

Qibao is a great place to visit to escape the modern city life of Shanghai, and get a chance to see a traditional ancient water town. Located in the Minhang district, and only about 11 miles out of downtown Shanghai it’s easy to reach by the metro system. As the only ancient town forming part of greater Shanghai, with a history of over 1000 years. The town was built in the Northern Song Dynasty from 960 to 1126 and grew into a prosperous business center during Ming and Qing Dynasties.

Today Qibao has lots to offer visitors from temples, museums and lots of shops and street food in the old town. Crickets are popular in the town and not just for eating but a traditional folk activity dating back centuries of cricket fighting, which is still popular today, and you can see plenty of places selling crickets. Which seems a bit cruel to me but it is part of traditional Chinese culture, there is even a museum dedicated to crickets in the town. I would recommend heading to Qibao in the morning to try and beat the crowds and you can easily spend half a day or so there.

The Bund

The Bund is Shanghai’s most iconic symbol and associated worldwide with Shanghai, London has Big Ben, Sydney the opera house, Paris the Eiffel Tower, and The Bund is Shanghai’s most famous landmark. The area is known for its impressive mile long waterfront views of Pudongs huge skyscrapers and the Oriental Pearl Building. On one side you have views of modern tall buildings, and on the other side is a reminder of Shanghai’s colonial past with lots of old historical buildings.

I would recommend trying to go to The Bund both during the day and in the evening to witness what it’s like day and night, however the evening is definitely my preference as I loved seeing all the buildings lit up. The promenade is a great place to take a stroll along and take in the views. The buildings are lit up at 7pm so go a little before then to see the nightly light show and to get a good viewing spot. Just make sure to check the weather before hand as sometimes fog and rain can ruin the views of the bund, check for the clearest evening while your there.

Tianzifang

Tianzifang is an artsy and hipster area in the city, which transformed itself from old traditional shikumen stone houses which formed lots of small alleyways and lanes in former back streets of the french concession to now housing cafes, bars, boutiques and design studios. Tianzifang is also known as the Soho of Shanghai, and it’s full of so much creativity even the old walls are used as canvases to display street art and sculptures.

It is an absolute must to visit this unique area of the city, it is one of my favourite spots in the city, and I loved wandering around the small alleys exploring all that they had to offer. It’s also a great spot to visit for food as there is so much choice so make sure to go hungry!

Yuyuan Bazaar & Old Shanghai

Old Shanghai is full of historical buildings, narrow bustling alleyways and inscense filled temples. It’s a real insight into how Shanghai would have been in days gone by. Yuyuan Bazaar which is also known as Yuyuan Market is outside of Yu Garden, and in the centre of the old town, the bazaar is full of ancient buildings which are now full of shops, stalls and restaurants. I’ve only ever visited during the day, but have heard that the evening is a great time to come to see all the buildings lit up.

Yuyuan Gardens

Yuyuan Gardens is one of Shanghai’s top attractions and dates way back to the Ming Dynasty, and is over 400 years old! The gardens are typical Chinese gardens with rockeries, carvings, carp ponds and pavilions. Yuyuan gardens are set in the Bazaar which is filled with lots of shops, restaurants and stalls. You need approximately 2 hours to explore the gardens, and I would recommend going early and avoid a weekend if possible, it’s only a few quid to enter the gardens and well worth it. The gardens are one of my favourite attractions in Shanghai, and while there make sure to stop off at Huxinting Tea House.

Xintiandi

Xintiandi is a chic pedestrianised shopping, eating and entertainment area in the heart of the city. It retains the antique walls, tiles and exterior of the Shikumen residences of old Shanghai while having a totally modern interior. It’s great to spend an afternoon here wandering and shopping around or you can come here in the evening to sample one of the many upscale restaurants and its nightlife scene.

Food & Drink

Huxinting Tea House

Huxinting Tea House is situated in the heart of the old town next to Yuyuan Gardens. This beautiful ornate tea house is a must when in the old town. It’s one of China’s most famous tea houses, and is steeped in history and is over 200 years old. It’s a great place to visit to escape the chaos of the old town. It has some excellent teas to sample, you do pay a little more here but it’s well worth it for the setting and location. I had jasmine tea, however if tea is not your thing then there is also other traditional Chinese cuisines and refreshments to try out.

Lost Heaven

Lost Heaven is a chic restaurant serving up Yunnan (region in Southwestern China) specialities, the food was very similar to that of many South East Asian cuisines it was a real mix. Many of the dishes incorporate coconut, fresh chillies, flowers etc, and the ambient atmosphere is buzzing. The dishes are really well presented and not only look great but taste great. There are several Lost Heaven restaurants now dotted around the city, but I visited the one on The Bund as after dinner it’s nice to go and see the bund lit up in the evening.

Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant

Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant serves up Shanghai’s most famous dumplings and soup dumplings, is it a bit of a tourist trap?! Yes! However the dumplings are delicious and the place is huge, expect queues and avoid on a weekend would be my best bit of advice. I would recommend coming here to sample the food as I really enjoyed it, and its famous in the city, it’s definitely worth a visit if your in the old town too. If you are in a hurry there is also a stand up bar outside where you can order dumplings to eat there if your rushed for time.

Shanghai Grandmother

Shanghai Grandmother is a popular restaurant with both locals and tourists as it’s really well priced and cooks up a great selection of traditional Chinese food. It’s also only a short distance from the Bund. I have visited the restaurant a few times before I went vegetarian, and had some of the most delicious pork dishes, however there is a good selection of vegetarian dishes available too. When visiting the bund make sure to stop at Shanghai Grandmothers either for lunch or dinner you won’t be disappointed!

Tianzifang Street Food

Tianzifang is one of my favourite places to visit in Shanghai and amongst its small labyrinth like alleyways are lots of choice of small boutique style cafes, restaurants and bars and lots of street food to choose from. Make sure to come hungry as there are snack stalls at every corner. The street food is an eccentric mix from traditional Chinese food, western food and everything in between. I had to have the foot long french fries! I also stumbled across a colourful dumpling stall and couldn’t resists getting a dumpling that looked like a cute penguin. In Tianzifang there really is something for everyone’s tastes.

Transport & Getting Around

Shanghai has an extensive public bus system which is really inexpensive however it’s hard to navigate with the language barrier. Shanghai also has a clean subway which has signs in English as well as Chinese, however it can be extremely busy.

I tend to use taxis to cover larger distances of the city, and try and walk to most places if it’s not too far. Make sure to downsload maps.me so you can easily find your way around the city without WiFi and roaming, and if you can’t speak the language. I also find it helps to plan your route and pin everything on the map, and that way you can easily work out walking distances etc.

Top Tips

When visiting China try and go as prepared as possible, yes there is a huge language barrier and not many of the locals speak English, so go armed with google translate, guide books, maps.me app etc. Also if you have any dietary requirements try and get one of the cabin crew on your flight over to write out a little card for you in Chinese with your dietary requirements or ask a hotel member of staff. Im vegetarian and luckily work alongside some great Shanghai based crew and got them to write me a card which states I’m vegetarian and don’t eat meat or fish on a piece of card for me, and now every time I go out to eat I just show the waiter/waitress the card to make sure I’m not getting any surprises when I order.

When staying at any accommodation try and get a business card or address so you can show taxi drivers. A lot of the big hotels actually have small little translate cards you can ask for which have their address on plus lots of other popular attractions that you can show taxi drivers. I always have maps.me downloaded as it’s a great app that works offline and when I’m walking around Shanghai or in taxi I always check it to make sure I’m heading in the right direction.

Important Information

48 Hour Layover Guide To Beijing

Beijing is China’s capital city and situated in the north of the country. It is one of the nations ancient cities and is the political, economical and cultural heart and soul of China. There is so much to explore from it’s historical past to futuristic developments and booming businesses.

China has always been somewhere I’ve been fascinated by with its huge population, vast size and diverse culture, I knew it was somewhere I always wanted to explore. I have been lucky enough to travel to China with my work and have been to both Beijing and Shanghai, and why China might not be everyone’s cup of tea; love it or hate it – it’s definitely unique!

Every time I travel to Beijing I try to see something new or discover a part of the city I haven’t ventured to before. There are so many temples, beautiful parks, historical monuments and people watching to be done in this city. I have tried some absolutely delicious food in China, and also witnessed some of the weirdest food items on menus, but the best bit of advice to visiting China is to go with an open mind and take China for what it is. Beijing really is an incredible city with a rich culture and a great city to get culturally lost in.

Sights & Activities

Bell Tower & Drum Tower

The Drum Tower and Bell Tower were for centuries the tallest buildings in Beijing, towering over the surrounding hutong. The 46m high towers would provide the city with time keeping, the drums would beat to sound the curfew after nightfall in the Qing dynasty, and thereafter every two hours to coordinate the patrols of the city’s nightwatch. Both towers have really steep stairs which aren’t great for people who suffer with vertigo, both towers are worth the stair hike and provide great views of one another as well as city views. The drum tower has daily performances every hour so time your visit to make sure to catch one.

Confucius Temple & Imperial College

Confucius Temple and Imperial College is a stones throw away from the incense filled Lama Temple. The temple is China’s second largest Confucian temple and is a haven of calm and contemplation. The temple has towering stone columns with scriptures, bright colours, intricate detailing, achievements of scholars past. The temple was once the site of the imperial college during the Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties, and now a museum consisting of multiple scholarly halls showcasing the educational system in imperial China. When visiting Lama Temple be sure to walk over and explore this beautiful temple steeped in history.

Hutong

Hutong’s are the very essence of Beijing and are the alleyways, courtyards and neighbourhoods that cut across the centre of Beijing. Wandering them is an absolute must to get a real understanding of the culture and street life of the locals. After I visited the drum and bell tower I hoped in one of the many rickshaws near by which offer small tours for about £10, however you can explore by foot quite easily too. Looking into these passageways gives you an insight into what old Beijing would have been like.

The driver I had didn’t speak a word of English but drove me around for about an hour and pointed at a few alleyways and buildings and did make a few stops for me to look at various buildings even taking me to someone’s house and courtyard where I ended up having an older couple talking to me in Chinese and showing me what seemed like family photos, I still have no idea what I saw and if it was of any importance but it made for a funny trip and and gave me a good insight into Beijing’s inner city residents.

Jingshan Park

Jingshan Park is in the center of Beijing located by the north gate of the forbidden city. It is a huge royal landscape garden which covers 57 acres, and also home to Beijing’s highest point which provides amazing views over the forbidden city and the rest of Beijing. During the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, the park served as an imperial garden.

There are lots of palaces, pavilions, statues and artwork as well as lots of trees and plants. In 1928 the park was open to the public, and has since been popular with both locals and tourists, and is a beautiful green retreat to escape the hustle and bustle of busy Beijing. I visited here on a really hot day and really enjoyed escaping to this oasis in the middle of the city. If you visit the forbidden city be sure to visit Jingshan Park after.

Lama Temple

Lama Temple is located in the northeast corner of the city, and is an ornately decorated Tibetan Buddhist temple. It’s also considered as one of the most perfectly preserved lama monastery’s in present day China. It was originally built in 1694 during the Qing Dynasty, this building was the residence of Emperor Yongzheng when he was just a prince. However, in 1744 the Qing Dynasty formally changed the status of the residence to that of a lamasery, and so it became the national centre of Lama administration.

There are 5 main halls to wander as well as prayer wheels to spin, and lots of Chinese lion statues and other typically Chinese silhouettes. It’s a really grand temple full of incense filling the air, and while your here it’s easy to also visit Confucius Temple and Imperial College as it’s really close by and it’s also near to Baihe Vegetarian Restaurant.

The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China is the biggest and main symbol associated with China. The Great Wall is the longest wall in the world, and is definitely one of the top attractions in the whole country and a UNESCO heritage site. With over 2300 years of history it gives a glimpse into China’s days gone by. It was built in different areas by different states and dynasties to protect different territorial borders, and to protect the Silk Road trade and to prevent invasion from various nomadic groups.

If there’s one thing you do in China make sure you visit the wall, you can book onto a variety of tours. Some of my colleagues and myself booked transport through our hotel concierge which picked us up early morning. It only takes between 1 to 2 hours to reach the wall depending where you are in the city, and what the traffic is like. The ticket prices includes a chair lift up to the wall and you can tobbogan down. The chair lift provides great views over the forested areas below and the tobbogan down is so much fun! You can buy the professional photos from both which were an absolute bargain I never normally buy the photos from attractions, but they were so cheap I bought both from the chair lift and toboggan.

There are various tours packages you can book onto to visit the wall. The driver we had organised our tickets for us and waited for us while we hiked along the wall, we had several hours to explore before he took us back to the city. We paid about £40 each which included private transport to and from our hotel and the entrance. We went for half a day, however you could easily spend days, weeks and months exploring the full 13,171 miles of the Great Wall. We only skimmed the surface during the few hours we were there.

I absolutely fell in love with this part of China as I have seen it so many times over the years and on films etc it felt quite surreal visiting the wall myself. Try and get there as early as you can to try and avoid the crowds, just as we were leaving in the late morning it started to get a lot busier with crowds and tour buses coming in. When I visited it was a bit foggy so I didn’t get the most clear of views, so I would like to revisit in the future and maybe go in the winter time as I would love to see what it’s like with snow and frost and on a clear day. If you have a few days in the city then check the weather before and choose which day would be best to visit; weather wise.

Tian Anmen Square

Tian Anmen Square is the heart of Beijing and the largest public square in the world. Named after the Tiananmen (Gate of Heavenly Peace) located to its north, separating it from the Forbidden City. The square has cultural significance as well as it political and historical, and is home to many of Beijing’s Monuments and museums such as Tian Anmen Tower, Monument to the People’s Heroes, the Great Hall of the People, the National Museum of China, and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong. The square is an absolute must visit when in Beijing and can easily be visited prior to entering the forbidden city, it draws in crowds from all over the world as well as locals, and its great to get there early to try and beat some of the crowds.

Food & Drink

Baihe Vegetarian Restaurant

Baihe Vegetarian Restaurant is a dream come true in Beijing when the food scene in China is so heavily dominated by meat and fish, this place is a breath of fresh air and the perfect place to visit vegetarian or not. If your vegetarian it’s great to be able to choose off the menu without worrying what’s actually coming out, as there can be a language barrier in China and most dishes have meat or meat broth in them. Here atleast you can rest assured whatever you order it will be vegetarian.

This restaurant is hidden away down a small street not too far away from Lama Temple. The courtyard restaurant come tea house has a great menu with lots of creative mock meat dishes, and has an English translated menu. I tried the ‘chicken’ kung pao which was so delicious as well as a side of vegetable dumplings.

The restaurant is like a small oasis of serenity compared to the busy streets of Beijing. If you worry what you might end up eating in Beijing then make sure to pay this place a visit, it’s slightly more expensive than other restaurants in Beijing, but was still pretty reasonable and your paying more for the ambience and calmness. The staff were also really lovely and one waiter wanted to talk to me a lot to practise his English.

Bao Yuan Dumplings

Bao Yuan Dumpling restaurant is located in the North Chaoyang district which is full of street food vendors, restaurants and bars. The restaurant may not look like much from the outside, but they cook up an absolute assortment of multicoloured dumplings with a variety of fillings including several vegetarian options. The dough dyes they use to colour the dumplings are all natural made from carrots and spinach etc. They also serve many other Chinese dishes, this place is well worth a visit with its huge menu catering really well for vegetarians, and it’s so cheap you can order a variety of dishes which won’t break the bank!

Transport & Getting Around

Beijing has an extensive public bus system which is really inexpensive however it’s hard to navigate with the language barrier. Beijing also has a clean subway which has signs in English as well as Chinese, however it can be extremely busy.

I tend to use taxis or the many motor rickshaws to cover larger distances of the city, and try and walk to most places if it’s not too far. Make sure to downsload maps.me so you can easily find your way around the city without WiFi, roaming and if you can’t speak the language. I also find it helps to plan your route and pin everything on the map and that way you can easily work out walking distances etc. Many tourists also hire bicycles to explore the city, however I would only recommend this if your a confident cyclist, as it’s a very busy with lots of road traffic and pedestrians.

Top Tips

When visiting China try and go as prepared as possible, yes there is a huge language barrier and not many of the locals speak English, so go armed with google translate, guide books, maps.me app etc. Also if you have any dietary requirements try and get one of the cabin crew on your flight over to write out a little card for you in Chinese with your dietary requirements or ask a hotel member of staff. Im vegetarian and luckily work alongside some great Beijing based crew and got them to write me a card which states I’m vegetarian and don’t eat meat or fish on a piece of card for me, and now every time I go out to eat I just show the waiter/waitress the card to make sure I’m not getting any surprises when I order.

When staying at any accommodation try and get a business card or address so you can show taxi drivers. A lot of the big hotels actually have small little translate cards you can ask for which have their address on plus lots of other popular attractions that you can show taxi drivers. I always have maps.me downloaded as it’s a great app that works offline and when I’m walking around Beijing or in taxi I always check it to make sure I’m heading in the right direction.

Important Information

24 Hour Layover Guide To Nicosia

Nicosia also known as Lefkosia is the largest city in Cyprus and is also the islands capital city. Nicosia is rich with culture and history and today is the worlds last and only divided capital city. The barbed wire and guardtowers of the Green Line cuts the city into two, with the northern side being the capital of Northern Cyprus and the southern half being the capital of the Republic of Cyprus.

The airline I work for fly to Larnaca and recently I was lucky enough to be rostered a trip there with a 24 hour layover. We stay in Nicosia so I decided I wanted to go and explore some of this city in the short time I had there and wanted to make the most of it.

As I only had a short time in the city, I spent the morning sunbathing at the hotel and then my colleagues and myself ventured out and got a taxi into the centre as we were only a few minutes drive away. We explored the main streets, had the most delicious late lunch and crossed over into the Turkish side of the city. I really liked the atmosphere of Nicosia the locals were all so friendly both on the Greek and Turkish side of this split city.

I really want to come back and visit Cyprus on holiday as I feel this island has so much to offer and I would love to visit the coast and some more of the historical monuments and natural sights.

Sights & Activities

Faneromeni Church

Faneromeni Church is located in the old part of Nicosia, and its one of the oldest churches on the island. It is thought to have been constructed in 1222 as part of a Cistercian monastery for women. The church had to be completely rebuilt in 1715 due to the damage it suffered during an earthquake.

The church is located on a small square which has lots of little cafes and restaurants near by. The inside of the church is very grand with lots of large chandeliers and ornate detailing. This is one of the main historical sites to see in the city centre and is an absolute must when wandering around the city streets.

Ledra Street & Onasagorou Street

Ledra Street and Onasagorou Street are the two main shopping streets in Nicosia and are the busier streets of the capital filled with many big name shops, restaurants and cafes. The streets are also filled with lots of local cats which the locals seem to look after pretty well. Both of these streets are pedestrianised and it is the most lively part of the old town. Most tourists tend to visit these streets as they are another of Nicosia’s top sights.

Ledra Street Check Point

The Ledra Street Checkpoint cuts one of the busiest streets into two with passport control kiosks. It’s a divide that has split the Turkish Cypriot community from the Greek Cypriot community for decades. From the checkpoint the border spreads outwards dividing Cyprus in two. The crossing was closed for many years only several points were opened up in 2003, but in 2008 Ledra Street opened up its checkpoint allowing people to walk across the border. Today it is a symbolic of how divided the island of Cyprus still is to this day.

Crossing the divide should be something that all visitors should witness to understand some more of how life is in the worlds only divided capital. When crossing the border make sure you take your passport as you need to show it when leaving one side of the divide and show when entering into the other side. We went late afternoon after our lunch and the border crossing was pretty quiet and it was also on a weekday, I have read that on a weekend the checkpoint can be busier and sometimes might have queues, so try to aim to cross first thing in the morning or late afternoon.

Turkish Nicosia

Once crossing over into the Turkish side of Nicosia you can straight away see the difference of culture to the Greek side. I really enjoyed exploring the narrow streets and small shops and market stalls.

There was lots of street art around this part of the capital too, and several mosques to see, one of the largest and most grand mosques of the capital is Selimiye Camii mosque with its gothic architecture it really stands out. Just across from the mosque is Bandabuliya which is an old covered market that has been running since the 1930s and is a major landmark in the area, it has undergone some renovation recently to ensure it can continue running and to retain its original features.

You could easily spend a full day wandering around the streets and sights of this side of Nicosia, we only spent a few hours and saw so much and was great to see many of the locals too.

Food & Drink

To Anamma

To Anamma is a small Greek restaurant located on the famous Ledra Street in Nicosia. There is outdoor seating at the front, but what really makes this little restaurant special is it’s pretty little courtyard outback which is decorated with lots of greenery and has a relaxed atmosphere. The staff are so warm and friendly and couldn’t do enough for us and even catered for me being vegetarian.

They have a meze option on the menu for €14.50 per person which includes Greek salad, breads, tzatziki, halloumi, grilled vegetables and grilled meats etc all finished off with a dessert. The food was honestly some of the best Greek food I’ve ever had, and it just didn’t seem to end just when we thought all the food had came out they just kept delivering more. They swapped my grilled meat for grilled vegtable skewered and cous cous which was really great of them to do.

If your in Nicosia then make sure to add To Anamma to your itinerary and make sure you go hungry as you will be given so much food if you opt for the meze option.

Top Tips

When planning your trip over to the Turkish side of Nicosia be sure to catch one of the Whirling Dervish Performances which run daily Monday to Saturday between April through to September, I unfortunately discovered that they had this traditional dance after I had visited and wish I could have caught one of the performances.

If your a crazy cat person like myself then go prepared and take some cat food along with you to feed the many street cats, we took some of our leftover food from the restaurant to feed them which they seemed very happy with.

Important Information

A Trip To Kuala Selangor From Kuala Lumpur

I had not heard of Kuala Selangor ever before until a few months back while on a layover in Kuala Lumpur. When I was in Kuala Lumpur I decided to book onto a trip with a guide that many of the crew use for tours as I wanted to visit Selayang Hot Springs, Kanching Waterfalls and I wanted to revisit the Batu Caves as it had been years since I was last there.

While organising the trip the guide suggested adding on Kuala Selangor to see the fire flies at night and to stop off at a few other places along the way. I thought why not and decided to do the full itinerary that was being offered, and lots of the other crew decided to join me.

I was really surprised by Kuala Selangor and would really recommend getting out of Kuala Lumpur for half a day or a full day to go and explore this area which is only about an hours drive away from the capital Kuala Lumpur.

Sights & Activities

Bukit Malawati Hill (Monkey Hill)

Bukit Malawati Hill is a fortress on a hill which was built in the late 18th Century to defend Selangor from its enemies. The high ground provided a vantage point to view the ships that passed by the Straits of Malacca. The Civil War that occurred from 1867 to 1873 due to the struggle for tin mines had destroyed the fortress which was later taken over by the British.

What remains of the fortress today are some cannons, foundation stones and colonial houses. The Hill has several other attractions as well such as a light house, a royal mausoleum, a viewing tower, a museum, 200-year-old angsana trees and lots of silver leaf monkeys.

The monkeys here an attraction in themselves as they roam freely in the park. The adult silver leaf monkeys are dark haired and the young ones are bright orange. They are more gentle in nature compared to the Long Tail Macaques.

Food can be purchased to feed the monkeys for about £1 a bag, the monkeys are very confident and definitely not shy when it comes to approaching you to get some food and are more than happy to climb up you. Just be careful as these are wild monkeys but as long as they don’t feel threatened or under attack they are very friendly. This was a real highlight on our trip out to Kuala Selangor and is a must for any animal lovers visiting the area.

Kampung Kuantan

Kampung Kuantan is a small village that is surrounded with palm trees. This village is situated about 5 miles away from Kuala Selangor. The fireflies are what attracts many tourists to this area and as well as the gorgeous mangroves and fireflies there is a great opportunity to observe wild eagles and sea birds feeding over the water.

Witnessing the seabirds at sunset was an absolute amazing opportunity, and it was so surreal watching the sunset over the Selangor River mouth and getting to see so many birds swooping over the water. The photos really don’t do it justice, after watching the birds the boat then takes you further down the river as day turns into night all the fireflies can be seen in full force twinkling in the trees.

Our driver took us to to D-Tour boat company and from memory it was about £7 to see both the wild birds and to finish off with the fireflies. This was an amazing experience and it’s really relaxing and a great way to finish a day of sightseeing.

Sri Shakti Devasthanam Temple

Sri Shakti Devasthanam Temple is on an acre of elevated land in Bukit Rotan in Kuala Selangor. We stopped here on the way to Bukit Malawati Hill. This temple is the only temple in the world which displays all 51 Shaktis within the decor. There is also 96 carved pillars that depict the 96 universal principles of Hinduism.This is one of the most beautiful Hindu temples I’ve ever been in, entrance into the temple is also free. You cannot take photos inside the temple, and while we were there, there seemed to be a ceremony going on with lots of music being played and blessings. When in Kuala Selangor make sure to make a a quick stop here, we spent about 15 minutes looking around.

Food & Drink

Kuan Hwa Seafood Restaurant

Kuan Hwa Seafood Restaurant is a well known and popular seafood restaurant in the area, it is situated a few doors down the the D-Tours ticket office. It’s a huge restaurant with views overlooking the river. There’s a large choice of food and several vegetarian options, just ask the server to point them out on the menu as they’re not very obvious.

There are several options of either you can choose a 5 course meal for RM35 per person or a 7 course meal for RM45 which both options are less than £10 which is such a bargain!

Top Tips

If your planning a trip to Kuala Selangor or even want a driver for sightseeing around Kuala Lumpur then I would really recommend a man called Suria he is really reliable and really well priced, and you can just WhatsApp (+60 18 286 9215) him what you would like to see and do and he will put an itinerary together for you and make suggestions.

Important Information

A Day Trip To The Taj Mahal From Delhi

India is somewhere I have always dreamed of going and I would love to go and spend a good month travelling around the country, so have always put off going on holiday there until I know I can get enough time off work.

Recently though I got a Delhi trip on my roster with the airline I work for, so straight away my mind started planning what I wanted to do on my quick stopover in Delhi. It was a no brainier I knew I had to go and visit the Taj Mahal in Agra. It’s one of the most associated icons with India, I’ve seen so many photos and films of it over the years but wanted to go and see it with my own eyes.

The Taj Mahal was built in 1632 by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, it was built to house the tomb of his favourite wife – Mumtaz Mahal. The Taj Mahal is set in beautiful landscaped gardens, and set on the Yamuna River. There is also a mosque in the Taj as well as the mausoleum.

The Taj Mahal is quite away from Delhi it’s about a 3-4 hour drive depending on where you set off from in Delhi and what the traffic is like. I had heard some other colleagues of mine had been to the Taj Mahal and booked through a local company called Taj Mahal Trip, and I messaged them on Facebook and decided to book with them. We only had 24 hours in Delhi so trying to squeeze the trip in was really tiring but so worth it!

There was only myself and another colleague that wanted to go on the trip, so the tour company sent a car at 3am which was an early start, but it’s best to get to the Taj early to try and beat the crowds and the midday heat! The car was really comfortable and the seats fully reclined so we took some pillows and slept most the way to the Taj, as we had landed straight into to Delhi and didn’t have much time for a nap before the tour pick up.

We arrived at the Taj Mahal for about 6.30am and it was pretty hot and humid even at that time of the morning. The driver parked in one of the car parks around the Taj Mahal and agreed where we would come and find him after our visit, we decided to just book a driver and not a tour guide as we wanted to wander around at our own pace. I normally tend to visit major sights without a guide and usually will look online for all the facts and information as my attention span isn’t the best, and find I don’t always remember a ton of information given to me at once.

We took one of the electric cars up to the Taj ticket counter and purchased our tickets which were INR1300 per person which also included a bottle of water and some shoe covers to wear inside the Taj Mahal Mausoleum. While getting our tickets there was lots of tour guides touting for our business but you just have to be quite firm with them if you don’t want a tour guide, if you do visit the Taj Mahal without a guide do expect to be approached quite a bit before entering.

When we entered the grounds of the Taj Mahal it was absolutely stunning and just how you see in the pictures. It has gorgeous well kept gardens and lawns, even though we arrived early there was still quite a lot of people, and I wanted to get a photo on the bench where Princess Diana had her photo taken but unfortunately there was so many people around it, it wasn’t quite the same!

We wandered around the gardens and took lots of photos, and then went up to the Taj Mahal and went inside the Moloseum which is all made from beautiful white marble. There was saw of monkeys running around too and there are also some amazing views over the River.

After we had wandered all around the Taj Mahal we went back and met our driver for the long drive back to Delhi which took almost 4 hours as traffic was a bit more congested. We also stopped for some breakfast too. While driving out of Agra there is lots to see we even drove past Agra fort and got to witness all of the hustle and bustle in the streets and of course saw plenty of cows, monkeys, dogs and lots of traffic and people everywhere. We slept most of the way back to the hotel too.

If your visiting India then a trip to the Taj Mahal cannot be missed it’s an absolute must and is so iconic to the country. I really enjoyed visiting and am so glad I made the long journey it really was worth it! I can’t wait for my next trip to India to do lots more exploring, and to experience more of India’s diverse culture and of course eat lots more delicious Indian food.

Food & Drink

Eating & Meeting Restaurant

After visiting the Taj Mahal we asked our driver if he could take us somewhere for something to eat and drink. He stopped off at Eating and Meeting Restaurant in Agra which has a huge choice on the menu, we opted for some paneer paratha bread and a paneer gravy style curry to go with it, and some mango lassi and tea which was all delicious. The restaurant doesn’t look much and is set on a busy junction but the food there was so tasty and the service was warm and welcoming.

Transport & Getting Around

The only way to describe India’s road and transport system is congested and chaotic! If your short on time and only on a quick trip then I would suggest getting drivers as they’re vehicles should have air con and comfortable seats, and the drivers will know and understand how the roads work. If your travelling India for longer then there is a whole range of various transport options available for getting around and to suit all budget types, although if you have the budget splurge out and pay a bit more for a nicer seat or cabin!

Top Tips

My top tip for the Taj Mahal would be to plan your arrival time to try and avoid the crowds and heat as much as possible and to get the best light to really witness the Taj Mahal in all its glory. I would suggest getting to the Taj Mahal for either sunrise or early morning or for sunset. I visited during July so it was extremely hot even at 6.30am it was mid 30s and very hot a muggy.

Important Information

24 Hour Layover Guide To Beirut

Beirut is the capital city of Lebanon, and also the largest city in this small country. Lebanon is in the Middle East and is where east definitely meets west, it’s a real mix of cultures, religions and has a very laid back feel compared to other countries in the Middle East.

Beirut was somewhere I had really mixed views about before visiting, as I had heard so much conflicting information about Lebanon in the past. I had heard how westernised it was and that it was meant to have an amazing nightlife and party scene, however I also remember several years back that Lebanon was at war with Israel, and decades ago the country had a civil war and was at constant unrest for many years.

I decided to request a trip with work to go and find out for myself what Beirut had to offer, as I was intrigued and don’t ever like to go on other people’s opinions and always like to make my own mind up on a place, and well I can honestly say I was pleasantly surprised. Beirut is a beautiful picturesque city with lots on offer and serves up the most delicious Lebanese food, Beirut is a foodies dream!

Beirut has a very Mediterranean feel to it, but also shows its Middle Eastern heritage throughout its architecture, food and culture. There are still signs of Lebanon’s past unrest with derelict and war torn buildings, but this city feels very much at peace even with lots of chaos going on in neighbouring countries. Some of the places I visited were absolutely stunning and Beirut is somewhere I definitely want to venture back to and explore some more, however on my 24 hour layover I managed to pack quite a a lot into the trip.

Sights & Activities

Basilica of St Paul

Basilica of St Paul is situated in the mountain village of Harissa just north of Beirut, and is a stunning church and beautifully decorated with thousands of mosaic tiles and intricate detailing. Just outside the church are gorgeous views of the city too. When we visited the church was empty and so peaceful and quiet. Im atheist and church’s don’t normally appeal to me, but this church was absolutely stunning and well worth a visit, and only a short drive from Our Lady of Lebannon, where you can also get some lovely views of the Basilica in the distance.

Byblos

Byblos is actually a city itself and a UNESCO world heritage site, it is located to the north of Beirut and is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world. It has a beautiful port looking out onto the vast ocean and the backdrop of old crumbling buildings from days gone by. There are lots of souks and market stalls, it’s easy to see why Byblos is a tourist hotspot! It’s pretty streets are filled with quirky bars, restaurants and boutiques and the area is steeped in history and archeology.

Byblos was my favourite area in Lebanon it’s so pretty and looks like a picture on a postcard, you can easily spend a day wandering around and stopping in the many cafes and shisha lounges along the way. I only spent a small amount of time here exploring and would love to go back to spend a full day there. It has a very relaxed atmosphere and it’s easy to loose yourself for the day and soak up the atmosphere.

Jeita Grotto

Jeita Grotto is a magnificent cave system with lots of limestone formations. There is a small cable car up to the caves which you can take in the gorgeous views of the surrounding greenery and hills. Once in the cave you are not allowed to take any photos and all cameras and phones must be locked away in lockers at the entrance, there wasn’t any real explanation as to why, so unfortunately I didn’t get pictures of these beautiful caves. While I was there the lower grotto was also closed off so I didn’t get to take the boat ride either.

The upper grotto is a easy walk through the cave and is well lit, and we spent about 20 minutes walking through the cave and back again taking in just how huge this cave actually is. Once we finished viewing the cave we took the small train back down to the entrance. The cable car, cave entrance and train back down are all included in the same ticket price which is LBP18,000 per adult which works out at less than £10 per person. 

Nahr Al Kalb Bridge

Nahr Al Kalb is a river that runs 19 miles from a spring in Jeita into the Mediterranean Sea, and is also known as Dog or Wolf River which are previous names from myths and tales from years ago. The river runs through a beautiful valley surrounded by greenery, hills and mountains. On our way to the Jeita Grotto we made a small stop at this old roman bridge that sits on the river and admired the views.

Hills overlooking Nahr Al Kalb

The drive up to Jeita Grotto is impressive and also a top attraction itself with gorgeous views overlooking the Nahr Al Kalb valley, river and greenery. There are several places to pull over to appreciate the beautiful views. Also along the way to Jeita Grotto are several stalls selling food, souvenirs and one still in particular that grabbed our attention was a tourist photo booth where you could pay to dress up in traditional Lebanese clothes and have your photo taken while posing with a gun.

Our Lady of Lebanon

Our Lady of Lebanon is perched on top of a mountain overlooking Beirut and the beautiful ocean below and located in the village of Harissa. The statue was finished in 1904 and is one of Beirut’s top attractions. Our lady of Lebanon can be reached by the Telerifique cable car. The shrine to Mary is one of the most important shrines in the world to Christians, and attracts millions of tourists from all over the world. You can walk to the top of the shrine and witness the most incredible views from up there.

Telerifique

Telerifique is one of Beirut’s most visited and oldest tourist attractions. These gondola cars and cableway were constructed in 1965, and provide incredible views over the Bay of Jounieh and the surrounding areas. The ride takes you 650 meters above sea level, and up to Harissa village then from there there’s a funicular to take you up to Our Lady of Lebanon. We paid for a one way ticket and the funicular ride which was LBP7000 per adult which is just short of £4, and our tour driver met us at the top by our lady of Lebanon. The Telerifique is an absolute must when in Beirut the landscape was stunning and great to see.

Food & Beverage

Abou Jihad

Abou Jihad serves up traditional hot and cold mezes as well as lots of barbecued meats. You can tailor make your own wraps and sandwiches too. There are some great vegetarian dishes to try I tried some cheese filled pastries, meze and tabbouleh salad which was delicious and finished off with a pistachio dessert. There are also shishas available there too to finish off your meal.

Falafel Zeinoun

Falafel Zeinoun doesn’t look anything special from the outside and looks like a small cafe. We had an amazing feast in there, we had so much food and the falafel was delicious! My favourite dish was a yoghurt dish with chickpeas and almonds in (I can’t remember the name of it) but it was delicious with the bread. We had so much food all for the grand price of £7 each and we came away so full. This little place is a great spot for a cheap lunch and the falafels are cooked fresh to order.

Transport & Getting Around

As I only had a limited time on my trip to Beirut, my colleagues and I decided to book a tour guide to drive us around for the day and take us to some of the main sights around Beirut. The best and easiest way to get around the city is by taxi as it’s relatively cheap and I’ve heard the local buses are slow and overcrowded, and it’s not really a good idea to hire a car as the roads are crazy!

Top Tips

Beirut has really bad traffic so when heading out for the day try and head out before or after the the morning and evening rush hour, as after leaving Byblos we hit all of the traffic heading back into the city.

If your a shisha lover like myself then stop in one of the many cafes and grab yourself a shisha and some tea to wind down after the day.

There are tons of stray cats in Beirut so if your a crazy cat person, go prepared and take some cat treats out with you for the day to feed all our four legged friends. I took a few packets of cat meat and a tub of cat biscuits and treats out to Beirut with me and got some really funny looks off airport security I think thy thought I was mad, but these cats definitely needed some TLC!

Important Information

48 Hour Layover Guide To Buenos Aires

South America is somewhere I would like to explore some more. I have been to Brazil and Chile a few times with work on layovers, and was over the moon when I saw a Buenos Aires on my roster. I have always heard lots of good stuff about this city and it’s rich mix of cultures.

This bright and colourful city has lots to see and do, and is famous for its street art scene and tango dancing. I managed to get around some of the main sites on a recent layover, but still have much more I would like to go and see on a future layover there.

Being in Buenos Aires really reminded me of being in Spain. It has lots of similarities to that of Spanish cities, with lots of colonial buildings, street art and church’s there is a lot going on in the city.

I really enjoyed my time in Buenos Aires although I think many people that travel to Argentina only stop in the capital for a few days before heading down to Patagonia, and other natural areas of beauty around Argentina. I would recommend maybe 2-3 days in Buenos Aires as you could easily see all the main attractions in this time, and I imagine outside of the city is a lot more spectacular.

Sights & Activities

Basilica De Nuestra Senora Del Pilar

Basilica De Nuestra Senora Del Pilar is located next to Cementerio De La Recoleta, and was built back in 1732, and is the second oldest church in Buenos Aires. The church was also part of the Franciscan convent. It’s a beautiful baroque church and worth a visit when visiting the Cementerio De La Recoleta.

Centro Cultural Recoleta

Centro Cultural Recoleta is a exhibition and events space located in Recoleta, and just a few steps away from the Cementerio De La Recoleta. It is one of the oldest buildings in the city and was part of the Franciscan convent. Today it hosts a whole range of different events such as art exhibitions, festivals, films, workshops and cultural presentations. While in Recoleta this is a must I loved the way the building was decorated, it was so bright and colourful and really stood out, however I believe the exterior gets regularly updated and repainted, so it could look very different to when you visit.

Cementerio De La Recoleta

Cementerio De La Recoleta is a huge labyrinth cemetery home to over 6400 statues, crypts and coffins to Argentina’s most famous and influential people over the years including Eva Perón (Evita). It used to be the orchard attached to the adjoining Basilica De Nuestra Senora Del Pilar. It became a public cemetery back in 1822, and is now a city of the dead which you can spend hours wandering around.

This major attraction in the capital will definitely appeal to anyone into darker tourism. It’s definitely one of the weirdest places I’ve visited. It feels a little bit eerie as in some of the tombs you can see the coffins, it felt a bit surreal walking around this maze like cemetery as there are just rows upon rows and narrow alleyways of the most ornate and beautiful graves. It’s free to enter however there are several tours in English, but these only run on certain days.

La Boca

La Boca is a working class barrio (neighbourhood), and has many European influences dating back to its early immigrant days, and is one of the oldest parts of the capital, and is located next to the city’s port.

La Boca is probably the most touristy place in Buenos Aires, but I can understand why so many tourists are drawn to La Boca. It was my favourite area in Buenos Aires, with all its bright coloured buildings, street performers and quirky shops, bars and restaurants. It is easy to spend an afternoon wandering around the rainbow coloured lively streets of La Boca.

This neighbourhood is one of the poorest in Buenos Aires and caution and care should always be taken when visiting, as the area has a high crime rate, however when I visited there were lots of police around on patrol. The best thing to do is stick to the main tourist streets and try not to carry too many valuables.

Obelisco De Buenos Aires

The Obelisco De Buenos Aires is a national monument and was created back in 1936, located in the Plaza De La República at one of the city’s most busiest intersections. It was built to commemorate the fourth centenary of the city’s first foundation. The streets it is located in between is Buenos Aires’s entertainment hub, and has so much going on from theatres, restaurants and lots of shops which open early and stay open late.

Tango

Tango dancing is the National dance of Argentina and originated from the border between Argentina and Uruguay in the late 1800s. It started in the deprived port areas of both Argentina and Uruguay, where natives mixed with slave and European immigrant populations. There is a huge array of options in Buenos Aires to view tango performances as well as taking lessons.

We sat in one of the bars along the main strip in La Boca and watched some dancers, it was really great to watch and for a small tip to the dancers it gives you a small glimpse at tango dancing. Milongas which are dance events happen most evenings all around the capital as well as professional shows. Next time I have a layover I would definitely like to go to a traditional Milonga.

Food & Beverage

El Gran Paraiso

El Gran Paraiso is a gorgeous little hidden gem tucked away in La Boca. This outside little courtyard is so pretty and beautifully decorated with lots of trees, fairy lights and parasols. It’s a really cute and quirky find in the neighbourhood. The restaurant serves up traditional Argentinian food with lots of grilled meats available on the menu.

Being vegetarian I decided to order a salad and a few sides from the menu. It was such a hot day though and all of us massively over ordered on food! The food however was delicious, and the service was warm and friendly and our waiter was very helpful and attentive. When in La Boca go and pay El Gran Paraiso a visit even if it’s just to have a cocktail and enjoy the sunshine in the courtyard.

Floreria Atlantico

Floreria Atlantico was one of my favourite finds in Buenos Aires. This bar is hidden beneath a florists, and serves up a good selection of drinks as well as bar food. The bar has a underwater theme decor, and serves up flower themed cocktails to compliment the florists upstairs.

The cocktails were delicious and this hidden bar is a must visit when in the city. It’s similar to a speakeasy bar and you wouldn’t guess there was a bar underneath the florists.

La Torre De Retiro

I went to La Torre De Retiro for breakfast, it’s a small cafe that serves up a huge selection of pastries which is great for breakfast snacks. I opted for a breakfast pastry and a cheese empanada both were delicious and just what I needed to start my day of sightseeing off.

Las Nazarenas

Las Nazarenas was close to our hotel, and one of my colleagues loved the place and suggested we go there for dinner. I have to admit I wasn’t massively blown away by this place but not sure if this restaurant was wasted on me being a vegetarian. It cooks up traditional Argentinian steaks and meats so I ordered a salad and a few sides to share with some of my other colleagues.

My salad was nice and the sides were also nice, but I don’t think I would go back there for a meal, there was a good choice of Argentinian wine and there was a traditional rustic atmosphere to the place. If you are meat eater and love your wine then this place is probably for you.

Transport & Getting Around

While I was in Buenos Aires we decided to take taxis as there is plenty of marked taxis (Taxi Ezeiza) everywhere and easy enough to flag down, just make sure you get the marked taxis. They are yellow cabs so you can’t miss them. They are all meter run but very cheap for nipping around the city. We were in the city while there was a protect on so it did take a while as traffic was building up so just bear in mind Argentinians love a protest and this happens quite regularly so can cause massive traffic jams.

Top Tips

Buenos Aires may seem like a beautiful picturesque city but it is one that you have to have you witts about you, and make sure you don’t end up in the wrong area. When is Buenos Aires make sure not to wear any expensive jewellery or anything to make you stand out, also make sure you try and not carry too many valuables on you, as pick pocketers and bag snatchers are rife in the city, and there are lots of scams and scandals I heard about, I heard one scam of one person distracting you while another robs you. So like anywhere you have to have a certain level of awareness of what’s going on around you, but in Buenos Aires just be extra careful even in the touristy areas.

Important Information

24 Hour Layover Guide To Kuwait City

Kuwait City is the capital of the tiny oil rich nation of Kuwait, which is located on the Arabian Gulf. Kuwait has an ancient past dating back to early human civilisations. Kuwait City however couldn’t be further away from its olde worlde past. Kuwait City is ultra modern with a skyline full of sleek and new skyscrapers.

Kuwait was somewhere I would have never imagined going to, but a few years back I used to go quite regularly with the airline that I work for, even getting stuck in Kuwait once for an extra day and night. I’m always grateful to get to travel to these types of places as they’re not your average holiday destination, however I used to really love seeing a Kuwait on my roster.

Kuwait to me was always a pretty chilled trip, and a good opportunity for a detox as alcohol is completely banned in Kuwait. I used to love having a layover in Kuwait and sunbathing by the pool and then spending the evening wandering around the oud scented Souq for delicious local cuisine. If you ever get chance to go to Kuwait with work or stopping off on a flight connection you won’t be disappointed.

Sights & Activities

Avenues Mall

If you love a bit of retail therapy like myself then a trip to Avenues Mall is a must. Kuwait has lots of large malls, but the Avenues Mall is one of the largest malls in the world with more than 1100 shops spread over 12 districts. The districts are inspired by various architectural themes. It has every shop you can pretty much think of, from high end to high street shops and a mix of brands from all over the world. This mall is a shopaholics dream, and a great place to spend a day, or to come to for a meal in one of the many restaurants.

Kuwait Towers

The Kuwait Towers are Kuwait City’s most well known landmark, there are 3 towers in total and were built back in 1979, their purpose was to provide water distribution.

The main tower is 187 meters high and has 2 spheres. The lower sphere holds water in its bottom half, and in its upper half there is a lounge, cafe and restaurant. The upper sphere which rises to 123 meters and completes a full turn every 30 minutes. The second tower is 147 meters high and serves as a water tower. The third tower has equipment to control the electricity flow and illuminates the larger towers. The towers hold 9000 cubic meters of water altogether.

You can spot these eye catching towers from all over the city, and these are considered one of Kuwait’s main tourist attractions.

Liberation Tower

The Liberation Tower is a 372 meter high telecommunications tower, which is the second tallest structure in the country. Construction of the tower started before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990. When the invasion took place construction was put on hold, the structure received no damage and construction continued in 1991. When completed in 1993, the tower was renamed the Liberation Tower which symbolises Kuwait’s liberation from Iraq. You can see the Tower when near Souq Al-Mubarakiya.

Marina Mall

The Marina Mall is set along Kuwait’s coastline and is a modern shopping mall with more than 150 shops and an enclosed bridge over to the marina. There is also a pathway to additional retail developments such as Marina Waves, Marina Waterfront and Marina Walk.

The Marina is also home to the Marina Yacht Club with gorgeous views overlooking the Gulf. There are lots of restaurants and cafes around there, and it’s the perfect setting for a late afternoon shisha and to wind down the day and watch the sun slowly setting.

Souq Al-Mubarakiya

Souq Al-Mubarakiya is a one of the oldest souqs in Kuwait, and was the center of trade prior to the discovery of oil. The market is about 200 years old, it was damaged during the Iraqi invasion in 1990, however it was renovated and it got back its traditional charm.

The Souq is a great place to come in the evening to see what the stalls and shops are selling. There is a whole range of things to purchase from food, homewares, carpets, perfume and clothes and literally anything you can think of. Tucked beneath Kuwait City’s skyline this old Souq really transports you back in time and you will witness authentic Kuwait culture.

Food & Beverage

Souq Al-Mubarakiya

If you want delicious cheap food with traditional flavours, Souq Al-Mubarakiya is the best place to come for your meals. There is so much choice with plenty of cafes and restaurants with lots of authentic Arabic dishes available.

My favourite is a selection of mezes, salads, hummus and warm breads all washed down with my favourite drink in the Middle East – mint and lime juice (most refreshing drink ever). When I used to order chicken kebab I hardly ever ate any of it as always took pity of the local street cats, and ended up sharing most of my food with them. If you are a crazy cat person take some cat treats with you so you don’t have to share your dinner.

Transport & Getting Around

In Kuwait there is public transport available such as buses, however I believe most visitors tend to take taxis as they are pretty reasonable and offer flat city rate tours. I always make sure to get the hotel to book taxis as they will recommend a reputable taxi company.

Top Tips

My biggest bit of advice would be that when in Kuwait remember you are in a Muslim country, so respect traditions and customs and be modest with the way you dress. Alcohol is also illegal in Kuwait however you can buy non alcoholic beer in certain places if you have a craving or why not do as the locals do and have a shisha instead?!

Important Information

24 Hour Layover Guide To Doha

Doha is the capital of Qatar and situated on a peninsular in the Arabian Gulf. It is a modern city in Doha Bay. Doha has a sleek and stylish skyline which is forever expanding and changing. It’s fast becoming one of the new Gulf mega cities which will give Dubai and Abu Dhabi a run for their money.

Doha isn’t short on huge modern shopping malls and luxurious hotels and resorts, however like other cities around the Gulf that have literally just sprung up from the desert, there is a slight lack of history and authentic charm.

Doha isn’t somewhere I would consider going on holiday myself, as there isn’t a huge amount to see and do here unless you like sunbathing and staying in flash hotels, which I like to an extent but I also like to do lots of exploring on my holidays. However when I get a layover there with work, I have to admit I really look forward to a chilled trip lounging by the pool, sunbathing on the beach and taking a dip in the warm sea, and finishing off a chilled day with a trip to Souq Waqif for some dinner.

Sights & Activities

Arabian Gulf

The beaches all along the Arabian gulf in Doha are gorgeous and this is one of the best reasons to visit Doha if you want ultimate relaxation and guaranteed hot weather, Doha makes a great chill out holiday destination. It’s got a ton of fancy hotels most of them offering pools and private beaches.

Souq Waqif

Souq Waqif has been built on an old market site from centuries ago, Bedouins used to bring their livestock here to trade for everyday essentials. Today the entire market area has been redeveloped to imitate a 19th century Souq. The Souq is new but made to look old with exposed beams, mud rendered buildings and some traditional Qatari buildings have also been restored.

Souq Waqif is very much the social hub of Doha with so much going on all in one place, it’s also a bit chaotic and maze like. There is lots to see and do here and it’s great to come in the evening when it’s slightly cooler. There’s stalls selling everything from clothes, homewares, food and other trinkets.

I love going down there in the evening and pigging our on warm bread and hummus. If you do visit here remember you are in a Muslim country so make sure to dress modestly and cover shoulders, or you will stick out like a sore thumb and potentially get some funny looks.

Even though I love coming down to the Souq, there is one area I’m not a fan of which is the pet section of the market. It’s quite upsetting to see lots of dogs, puppies, cats, kittens, birds and reptiles all kept in small cages without anything to keep them mentally stimulated. When walking around a few of the cages have empty water bowls so I normally go round filling them up with my water. The only kind of saving grace with it being a pet section is that hopefully these designer pedigree pets will end up with a doting owner.

When in Doha I would really recommend going down as this is one of the top attractions in Doha.

Transport & Getting Around

Doha has very recently built a metro system which I haven’t used yet, however I normally tend to use taxis to get around as they are pretty cheap and normally I go out with other crew so split between a few of you it’s even cheaper.

Top Tips

My biggest bit of advice would be that when in Doha remember you are in a Muslim country, so respect traditions and customs and be modest with the way you dress. There is alcohol available at licensed bars and restaurants but it is illegal to be drunk so be mindful of your limits.

Doha is a huge hub for flight connections so if you have a connection it’s a great place to stop off at for a night or 2 to break up a long flight and get some much needed r and r.

If you are planning on staying longer in Doha look into your budget as like other cities along the Arabian gulf it is not cheap. Eating out is similar costs to eating out back home, and many of the hotels offer room only or bed and breakfast rates rather than all inclusive, so costs could mount up.

Important Information

A Day Trip To The DMZ From Seoul

On one layover in Seoul I decided to get out of the city and booked onto a tour to go and visit the DMZ.

The DMZ which is the shortened name is the demilitarised zone and is a border barrier that divides the Korean Peninsula roughly in half. The DMZ is a weapons free buffer zone between North and South Korea. It was created by an agreement between North Korea, the People’s Republic of China and the United Nations in 1953. The DMZ is 160 miles long, and about 2.5 miles wide.

There is a variety of tours you can book to visit the DMZ. We booked a half day tour through the hotel concierge which picked us up from our hotel at 8.30am, and drove straight to the DMZ which took approximately 40minutes. First we travelled to Imjingak which is only 4 miles from the Military Demarcation Line. This town was built in 1972 in the hope that someday unification would be possible. There are several sites to see here such as the Unification Bridge and the Dorasan Station which is the last station before North Korea.

We also visited secret tunnels dug by North Korea. Since 1974 several secret tunnels have been discovered crossing the military line. They are believed to have been planned as a military invasion or infiltration route and each tunnel is large enough for 30,000 soldiers to pass through in an hour. There is also the Dora Observatory which is a viewing point to peer over to North Korea.

The DMZ is probably one of the most eerie and strangest tourist attractions I’ve ever visited. It seemed really surreal being on the South Korean side of the border which seems like a different world looking over to the North Korean side.

The DMZ seems like a purpose built leisure park, then you look over to the other side which seems bleak and dreary. There was also really loud Korean music playing at one of the viewing points when I asked our guide why it was so loud she explained that it was to drown out the propaganda messages North Korea was blaring out from across the border.

There is also lots of messages and prayers written on notes and ribbons from South Koreans, visitors and North Koreans that have escaped the regime. This is really heartwarming to see such beautiful colours and messages in a dark tourism spot.

No trip to Seoul would be complete without a trip to the DMZ to understand the sensitivity and divide between the 2 nations of North and South Korea. It really is an eye opener.

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