Top 10 Things to do for Tokyo First-Timers

It’s been a very long time since my last post. I am sorry! I have been busy working but also enjoying the city during the weekends. Still have some stuff to sort, but I’m getting there. Since it would have been impossible to blog every day, and also a little bit boring, I decided to write a Top 10 post about visiting Tokyo for the first time. Some of them are touristy, some maybe not so much. And here they are:

 

1) Eat ALL the Ramen!

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Ramen at Ippudo, Ginza

You have never tried real Ramen if it wasn’t in Japan! After eating Ramen in Japan, you will understand the purpose of everything. You will feel accomplished. You will understand why you exist: We all exist, so we can enjoy the beautiful taste of Ramen <3

Enough said! Convince yourself!

 

2) Play!

Whether it’s  UFO Catchers or Gatcha Pon Machines (the surprise egg machines where you put in a few 100 yen, turn the knob and wait for a kind of surprise egg coming out which has a figure inside. You can see me play them here and here), your visit in Japan is not complete if you skip playing these colourful machines.

3) Shibuya Crossing

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Actually, when I was standing in front of the Shibuya crossing, I didn’t immediately recognise it. Then I asked myself if this was really the crossing and I looked around: There was the Hachiko statue behind me, the Tsutaya Starbucks in front of me and the Shibuya 109 on my left side, and only then did I realise that this was the crossing indeed. Crossing it was an exciting experience. It felt like I now really belonged to Tokyo. Crossing it without bumping into someone is a real skill that I can now proudly claim to have managed. After crossing it, you have to go up the Starbucks to take a time-lapse and several zoomed-in photos. I could never get bored of this view.

4) The Konbini Experience

7/11, Family Mart, Lawson, just to name a few of the most important life-savers in Japan, a.k.a. Konbinis (Konbini <– Convenient Store). You WILL go there, and you WON’T regret it. They will be your go-to places as soon as you start living here. But even for tourists they have everything you want at any hour. Be it tissues, water, hot drinks, warm foods, alcohol, masks, toiletries, ATMs, anything! And who knows, you might catch yourself in front of one of the shelves, deciding what to get because they all seem so intriguing, and ending up buying nothing because the struggle was just too hard :’D You can have a little review of a 7/11 here. 

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The bread section at 7/11
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One of many Bento Box options
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Sakura snacks you can get at 7/11

5) Harajuku Bucket List

From the Rainbow Cotton Candy, to Purikura to Harajuku Crepes to aaaalll the shopping (Daiso, Wego,…), you can spend all your money and all your time in just this little street called Takeshita Dori. It’s probably the only street in the world that will get your Yens out of your pocket before you even reach the end of the street.

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Totti Candy Factory
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Line Friends Store
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Harajuku Crepes
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Sailor Moon Store at La Forget Omotesando

 

6) Get lost in random alleyways

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Shibuya
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Harajuku
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Nakano
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Asakusa
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Asakusa
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Asakusa

No matter where in Tokyo you go, you will most definitely stumble upon some picturesque alleyways, that look like straight out of a movie or even an anime. Some of these alleyways I found were so beautiful to me, they almost made me cry. Most of them were in Asakusa.

7) Go to an onsen

Since you can’t take photos at an onsen, this point is going to be without visuals. Still, it’s one of the most impressive and interesting experiences you will have in Japan: being naked and relaxing in some hot springs with random, equally naked strangers (don’t worry, everything is gender-separated). The first onsen I went to was an indoor one in Asakusa. It was quite nice. But the outdoor onsen by the Fuji mountain was an unforgettable experience.

8) Visit a temple/shrine

Tokyo is bursting to the brim with temples and shrines. You will have a big choice of all the different types of temples and shrines. Still, there are some especially beautiful ones that you wouldn’t want to miss. One of them is the Senso-ji temple in Asakusa which I also like to call little Kyoto of Tokyo.

 

9) See Tokyo from Above

There are many different ways to see Tokyo from above. You can either pay a lot of money and go up one of the iconic towers that are The Tokyo Tower or the Skytree. If you do this, you won’t be able to see the tower, you are standing on, itself. Or you can visit the Mori Art Museum and finish it off with the observation deck on the top. But if you don’t want to wait in a long line, nor pay a lot of money, then the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku is the best option. It didn’t even take me half an hour from the entrance of the building to the top.

 

10) Go to a Themed Cafe

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Hedgehog Cafe Harry in Harajuku

 

There are endless options for themed cafes in Tokyo such as Robot Cafe, Animal Cafes, Disney-themed cafes, anime cafes, character cafes,…

I went to a bunch of character cafes and I also checked out the Kawaii Monster Cafe which was an experience for itself. The Hedgehog Cafe was super cute and a very new experience to me. Beware, though! The prices of these cafes are higher than usual cafes and restaurants in Tokyo.

And this was the end of the post. I hope you enjoyed it. Feel free to leave a comment and like.

What about you guys? Have you ever been to Tokyo? What are the must-do things in your opinion? Let me know in the comments.

Thank you for reading!

Merveile.

 

 

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Arriving in Tokyo – How I almost got hit by the trains!

December 7th was the day of my flight from Frankfurt to Paris to Tokyo. I was already so excited when I had to say goodbye to my parents and my best friend at the airport. And when I boarded the tiny jet to Paris I remembered that it was getting real.

The plane was so tine, it was the smallest plane I ever flew in. But it was comfy, no turbulences, and they even gave snacks.

In Paris, I actually had to rush to my gate since I had to take a bus to my gate area. When I arrived at my gate, people were already queueing to board. This was it! That should be my flight to Tokyo! I still couldn’t believe it.

My excitement disappeared very quickly though after realising that my seat neighbours – two french guys- were acting a bit awkward. That made me feel awkward. I can’t really explain it, but sometimes, people act in a rather awkward, distant way that makes you feel stupid and awkward yourself. I don’t know if you know what I mean. I also couldn’t sleep properly because the guy next to me (I had an aisle seat) turned to his right side, facing my direction and his knees were bordering to my area. So if I wanted to sleep I also had to turn to the right, the aisle side, which meant that many people heading to the toilet were bumping into my knees and shoulders. That was extremely annoying! I just hated this flight so much! I think it was one of the most uncomfortable flights I ever had. At least, the japanese school class heightened my mood a little bit with all of them wearing their school uniforms… on a long haul flight. That’s what I call discipline! :’D

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When I arrived in Tokyo, finally, I picked up my suitcase and went to look for a sim card. I found one for 7 seven days and I bought it. It was without a telephone number, only internet. But I would get a proper Sim Card in the city anyway.

First, I had to go to the office of my share house to sign some papers, read about the house rules and pick up my key. Actually, it wasn’t really that far away from my share house, but it was just annoying carrying around a big ass suitcase with you everywhere. It really sucked the energy out of my body and by the time I was done at the office, I could feel how tired I was getting. Luckily it was still bright outside. When I took the train back to the metro stop I had to get out at, I missed it and had to get out at one stop after. Luckily, the trains here in Tokyo come in 5-10 minutes and I also didn’t have to change the platform.

When I finally arrived at my metro stop, I struggled to find out how I was supposed to walk. I thought I had to cross the train tracks. The barrier was still down, and as soon as it opened, I slowly walked and stumbled across the tracks with my suitcase that is almost as big as me. I haven’t even crossed 1/3 of the tracks when the sound was ringing again. The barriers were coming down and I was still in the middle of the tracks. Actually, I wasn’t really standing on a track, but like a pathway between the tracks. Still, it seemed like I was in danger.

Luckily, a police man saw me and came for my rescue! He put the barrier up with his hands and took my suitcase, running, and me running behind him. When we were finally safe and sound I had enough! I spotted a taxi right in front of me, another streak of luck for me. Thank you for your prayers, dad! I think they actually helped :)

So I entered the taxi and showed the driver the address. He started driving but after a few minutes he stopped and searched on his gps again. Then after around 5 minutes he stopped and told me that I should better pay the 800 yen first before he drives around without knowing exactly where it is which would make it more expensive to me in the end. That was really nice of him to say that. So I paid and after that he tried everything to find my share house. He also asked a little boy on the street if he knew where it was. I was getting stressed and desperate. It was past 3pm at that time. The only meal I had was on the plane at 7 or 8am. I was starving, at the same time I was tired as hell and I just escaped death. And now it seemed like my share house was impossible to find. I was already imagining myself sleeping on the streets and was about to cry. I decided to look up the directions on Google Maps myself.

And then a miracle happened. We actually found it!!! I was so happy! And the taxi driver was really happy as well. When I asked how much I had to pay he said “daijobu” (it’s alright). I was even more touched and felt my eyes water. He was sooo sooo nice!

Still, the struggle was not over yet. When I entered the share house, no one seemed to be at home. I was on the second floor so I had to carry my stupid suitcase up the tiny stairs. And then it happened. I hit 23kg on my tiny toe and it was one of the worst pains ever! I had to scream and felt the tears in my eyes again. I was cursing this suitcase and the effed up tiny stairs. I quickly went into my room and what do I see between my fridge and my bed?!! A FREAKING DEAD COCKROACH!!! I sat down on my bed and cried. It was all just too much! It was the worst arrival of my life. I couldn’t believe that this was reality! In my imagination I was full of energy, easily finding my share house and then quickly leaving to explore Tokyo, see the busy Shibuya crossing, the loud streets, the colourful neon signs, eating Ramen on my first evening. None of them happened. The worst things that could ever happen happened to me. Murphy’s Law! I was hungry, tired, almost died, spent half an hour finding my share house, hit my f*cking suitcase on my toe, and now this disgusting cockroach was in my room. Although it was dead, I just couldn’t take it anymore. After crying my eyes out I tried to calm down. I heard someone outside so I looked and it was the cleaning man. I asked him if he could please remove the dead cockroach in my room. He laughed and said sorry and took it away in a tissue.

It seemed like as soon as the cockroach was gone, my thoughts were getting a bit more positive as well. I took off my clothes, and put on my pyjamas that I luckily put into my hand luggage.

I was tired, thirsty, as well as hungry, but I could surprise the hunger and the thirst. But my body just couldn’t stay awake any longer. I fell asleep right away, at around 4pm and woke up at 10pm. I slept 6 hours through. When I woke up my throat was dry and hot. I needed water! It was rainy outside but I really needed water. I knew there was a 7/11 around the corner so I prepared to go outside. After I just left my house, I saw 3 vending machines right next to our share house. I didn’t feel like walking in the rain so I just took a bottle of water out the machine. So convenient, seriously! Things were slowly starting to get more positive and easier now. I think sometimes, one just needs a good rest, and then everything just turns to the better.

In general I was still very lucky and thankful. Although I had a difficult start (Maybe that’s a bit of an understatement here), I had the chance to experience the kindness of japanese people right away. Everyone was extremely kind and helpful. More than I have seen in any other country. And after all, it was my suitcase’s fault that all of those bad things happened to me.

So this was my adventurous arrival in Tokyo. I hope it wasn’t too much or too boring for you guys. I just wanted to describe all my experiences coming to this city. And when I have negative experiences and write about it, you guys can be prepared if you ever plan to come here.

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To sum it all up, here are some Do’s and Don’ts when arriving in Japan:

Do’s:

  • Eat something small at the airport, or take some food and drinks with you to eat on the way. The commute from the airport to the city can take a bit longer than you expect.
  • Buy yourself a Suica or Passmo Card. It’s a rechargeable metro card. So much more convenient when using the metro on a daily basis. You can also pay with that at conbinis (7/11, Family Mart & Co.) or use it to buy drinks at vending machines (not all of them though).
  • Use Google Maps to navigate the metro system. The metro system in Tokyo is the biggest I have ever used (I have already used the ones in Beijing, Shanghai, London, Paris and Barcelona), and if I didn’t have Google Maps, I would have lost my way even more often. Either check the directions at the airport and screenshot everything. Or get yourself a sim card or pocket wifi for your stay. It’s gonna be extremely helpful! Trust me.

 

Don’ts:

  • If you can, try to take a middle sized suitcase with you and maybe a bigger backpack to carry on your back. The streets in Tokyo are not really suitcase friendly.
  • Take care at the tracks! Don’t walk slowly! Some people even run to cross it, because not even after 1 minute the bell rings again and the barriers close. The safest option to cross to the other side is actually by using the metro passages. They also have elevators, so that’s better for suitcases.
  • Make sure to sleep on the plane. I know, sometimes it is not possible, but if you can, definitely do it, please! You will be more wake and energised and positive when you have to navigate through the city to find you accommodation.
  • Don’t force yourself to walk to your destination. If you seriously are exhausted and can’t take it no more, just take the taxi. No money is more important than your wellbeing. And who knows, maybe you will encounter such a nice taxi driver as I did as well :)

 

This was everything about my arrival. I am sorry that you guys had to wait for such a long time until my first post. I was quite busy with all the bureaucratic stuff and editing photos and videos.

You can watch my first video about my arrival here:

 

Thank you for reading and watching!

Merveille.

Maloha Hawaiian Poké Bowl, Berlin

As you could read in my previous blog post about my first restaurant review, I already attempted the next one. This time, it’s a restaurant that serves a dish with a growing popularity worldwide.

I’m talking about the famous Hawaiian Poké Bowls. It’s bascially sushi in a bowl and is being hyped up all over social media, ahead of all, instagram.
Since Hawaii has a huge Japanese population, it’s no wonder that this healthy fusion food is becoming a global food trend very quickly.

I was lucky enough to have tried it quite soon during my short trip to Berlin end of July. Here are my impressions.

Maloha Hawaiian Poké Bowl, Berlin

Website: –

Address: Oranienburger Str. 7, 10178 Berlin

Google Rating: 4,5

 

Location

It’s located in one of the popular neighbourhoods in Berlin, close to Oranienburgstraße.
The best route is to get out at Hackesche Höfe. From there, it’s a very short walk, actually shorter than I expected. I passed a lot of interesting stores and suddenly found myself in front of the restaurant. There is definitely a lot to explore here, and the hip magazine store ‘do you read me?’ is just around the corner as well.

Interior

The interior of this place is probably just as good as the food that’s being served. When you walk in you first wanna stand still and turn around your head to take in all the greenery, the art on the wall and the cute seating options. I especially loved the swings in front of the two windows where you can eat your bowl and observe the people passing by. You can pause eating and just swing around and explore the restaurant further with your eyes.

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Food

Food Selection:

There are two ways to select your bowl: You either choose one of the pre-designed bowl that come with certain ingredients, or you build your own bowl. I did the latter one so I have no clue how the pre-designed bowls look like.
Apart from Poké Bowls, they also offer healthy smoothies, including Acai! I already ordered my drinks when I realized they were offering smoothies as well.

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Food Presentation:

The Presentation could have looked better in my opinion. I imagined it to look like one of those instagramable breakfast bowls only with veggies. Still, it’s worth taking a photo.

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Taste:

There is nothing to complain about the taste. It tasted creamy, had different tastes included and was healthy at the same time.
Here is how you can build your own bowl:
1. Base: White Rice or Whole Wheat Rice.
2. Fish: You can choose whether you like salmon, tuna, shrimps or tofu. You can only choose one.
3. Veggies: You can choose as much as you like. They had different ones such as onions, peppers, carrots and more.
4. Extras: If you wanted one of these ingredients, you’d have to pay 50ct extra. I choose Avocado. They also had seaweed, kimchi, and more.
Sauce: They have around 5-6 different sauces including soy, peanut, and sesame which I chose.
When you finish building your bowl, you get salad and sesame seeds on top of your bowl. It’s such an amazing taste! I would even dare to say that I like it more than sushi :’D You definitely have to try it if you get the chance to.

Service

The girl who served me was quite nice. After I finished my bowl and brought it back to the counter, the owner (I think she was the owner) talked to me and asked if I liked it. Then, she offered me to try the peanut sauce with some rice for free and I accepted. So nice of her! We talked and I found out that she originally came from near Stuttgart, so that was nice to know :D People are really nice in Berlin. They are so open-minded and like talking to strangers. That’s so refreshing.

 

Final Rating: 5/5 Sesame Seeds

Do’s and Don’ts at Neuschwanstein Castle

Because it was my brother’s birthday on Monday, July 10th, and we all had the day off, we decided to take a day trip to Neuschwanstein Castle. Despite having lived in Germany for all of our lives, we never managed to visit this most iconic castle.

Here are the most important Do’s and Don’ts for visiting the busiest place in Germany:

Do: The early bird

Arrive as early as possible! Whether by train or car, make sure to leave on time.

Don’t: Forget to bring enough liquids

The air up there is a bit thinner, and a lot of walking is involved. Make sure to bring at least 1L of water and stay hydrated.

Do: Buy a ticket for visiting the inside of the castle

I’d recommend booking the tickets online so you can skip the line at the ticket counter and you can decide which time you wanna visit. Especially if you can’t arrive there early. We didn’t book them online, but we planned to arrive there quite early.

Do: Book an audio guide tour

If the guided tours don’t fit your schedule, the audio guide is a good alternative.

Don’t: Forget to bring your umbrella…

…or cagoule since the weather can be unpredictable, even in summer.

Don’t: Stand in line for the carriages for ONE HOUR!

 

I actually wanted to take the horse carriages up to the castle, but the line would take 1 hour. Plus the animals looked quite exhausted :/ Better to walk or opt for the busses which are also cheaper (1,80€).

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Do: Visit the Alpsee lake

You can find this lake right away after buying your tickets. It is very close to the bus stop. The lake is utterly beautiful and worth spending the whole day there, just enjoying the view.

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Don’t: Skip the Marienbrücke

Although you might get a shock from how filled it is, just brace yourself and go on that bridge to take that postcard picture. Be careful though, and hold on tightly to your camera.

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Do: Go beyond the Marienbrücke

Try to walk across the Marienbrücke and climb up the little ledge if you trust yourself and have some firm walking shoes made for that.

Do: Snacks

Eat something small and simple like a pretzel. Also a great photo idea together with the castle :)

Don’t: Forget to take photos of the architecture

You will probably have plenty of time before your tour begins, so this leaves the opportunity to snap a lot of photos of the castle from every angle imaginable.

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Don’t: Take photos inside the castle

It’s not allowed in the first place. Also, don’t play on your phone but absorb the surroundings and the intricate details of each room you are guided to.

Do: Visit a gift shop

Take your time to visit the second gift shop after the castle tour. The first, bigger one is overpriced and I didn’t like the stuff offered there. There is a second, smaller gift shop and they have some beautiful bookmarks there as well which I bought (5€). Also, there is an observation terrace after the castle tour where you can get the most awesome views on the two lakes and the Marienbrücke. Another reason to book the castle tour.

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Do: Have dinner at the Schloßrestaurant

When you choose the walking path down from the castle, you will come across this beautiful restaurant. They have great food, especially their sweet stuff smelled divine <3 I ate vegetarian cheese dumplings swabian style (It’s said that they were created there)

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Do: Walk all the way back downhill

Back down is easier than up. You can also do both if you are fit enough :) Plus, it saves you some money.

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Don’t: Loose your car at the parking lot

Remember exactly which parking lot it was that you used, and how you walked to the ticket counter. If you still end up loosing your car, ask one of the workers there, they will, strangely enough know exactly where you have parked :’D

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Do: Explore the oldtown of Füssen

If you are not too exhausted, and the weather is nice to you, drive downtown and explore the cute, colourful oldtown. Sit down at one of the street cafes, or get yourself a Schneeballen, a sweet treat that is famous for that part of Germany.

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10 Things to do at airports during a layover

Having layovers can be hard for many people, but if you look at the bright side of life, you can get a whole new experience out of it.

I had quite a few layovers on my travels so far, and most of the time, it was very interesting to explore yet another different airport.

Every airport is different, and the smaller ones don’t really have much to offer, still you can prepare to kill time before your connecting flight, be it at a tiny or huge airport. Here is how:

1. Freshen up

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Source: Pinterest.com

This is probably the most important thing to do after stepping out of the plane. For this, make sure you always carry around lotion, brush/comb, and a little bit of make-up in your hand-luggage. Body Wipes or roll-on deodorants can also be handy if you feel super disgusting. Some airports even have shower rooms, but I am not sure if they are free or not. Another good idea is to carry extra clothes in your hand luggage. If you were sweating too much, or just wanna feel more comfortable, it’s gonna save your life.

2. Get your gate information

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Source: newdelhiairport.in

Many times, the gate and time won’t be announced yet, by the time you land. This is pretty common when you have connecting flights, so you would have to make sure to keep yourself updated in front of the departues boards. It’s more relaxing if you have 3 or 4 hours until your flight, but if it’s only 1 or 2 hours, and your gate is still not being announced, make sure to ask someone at the information desk when to expect the announcement. They will be able to tell you more.

Not only gates, but sometimes, you might even have to get your ticket during a layover as well. That happened to us in March when we were flying back from Dubai to Stuttgart with Turkish Airlines. We had to get our connecting tickets at a counter right after landing, and we only had around 1 hour in total until our flight’s departure. That was very stressful, and I’d prefer airlines not doing this at all.

3. Social Networking

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Source: surfsonix.com

Posting your location on Facebook or an Instagram picture of your flight is almost mandatory when travelling. Of course, not only for entertainment, but also to inform your family and friends back home and let them know you’ve landed and are safe and sound.

For this, always make sure to have your battery fully loaded or plug it in at one of the charging stations at the airport. If there is none, take a portable battery with you and make sure that it is fully loaded as well.

In January, during my flight from Taipei to Shanghai, my phone’s battery was so low that I couldn’t text my parents after landing, because I needed to show the address to the taxi driver. My parents were extremely worried by the time I finally got to my hotel. It was already midnight and they thought that something happened. After that hassle, I will make sure in the future to keep my phone fully loaded.

4. Food and Drinks

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Source: pinterest.com

Sometimes, the food you get on the plane won’t be satisfactory to many of us. How lucky we are that there are food courts even in the smallest airports in the world. It’s nearly impossible to starve on your layover. The higher possibility is that you’ll spend an infinity on deciding where and what to eat. If you don’t wanna opt for fast food on your travels (which I wouldn’t suggest), then there are many beautiful restaurants with great food options as well.

Other than a hot meal, there are lots of cafes, bakeries and shops to get some snacks and drinks for the flight. I personally love to sit in cafes and have a cup of coffee with something sweet to keep me energized.

5. Shopping

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Source: newjetsetters.com

Some people actually buy a lot of things in those shops at airports since it’s duty free and you can find almost every brand at one place. Especially the cosmetics sections are very popular, and even I stroll through those venues every time I’m having a layover. It’s a nice way to kill some time, but also get freshened up with high-end perfumes (I am looking at you YSL). I even bought a MAC lipstick once on my 6-hour layover in Hong Kong, one that I have been searching for a longer time. And I also bought presents for my cousin’s two kids at the Disney Store at Hong Kong Airport. Usually, I buy magazines or books at airports, but that one time in Hong Kong, I just did some last-minute shopping since I still had some money left :’D

6. Extra Activities

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Source: cnn.com

The biggest airports in the world have more to offer than just shopping and food. If you are lucky, you can actually kill some time in an airport cinema (Changi Airport in Singapore, Hong Kong Airport, Schiphool Airport in Amsterdam,…). I would love to try that out once if I have another +4h layover somewhere, but I would think about doing No. 10 instead.

Some airports offer a cultural exhibition. There will be a small section with utensils being exhibited, almost like in a museum. Or even performances to keep the travellers entertained.

In many muslim countries’ airports, there will be prayer rooms offered for free. And I am sure that many more airports around the world will have individual activity programs designated to each airport.

7. Sleep

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Source: traveltalkmag.com.au

This might be one of the most popular things to do during a layover, since most of the time you won’t be able to strech out on a flight. Plus, if the jetlag hasn’t reached you at your layover airport yet, it will definitely kick in after landing at your destination, so sleeping off during a layover might be the smartest idea.

8. Read

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Source: flydenver.com

If you haven’t already packed an exciting read in your hand luggage, then you might as well check out the books at your layover airport. If you are not so much into books, you can also get one or two magazines.

I personally love browsing through bookstores at airports, and I even got myself a great book once at the Taipei International Airport (“Crazy Rich Asians”). I don’t always buy a book, though, since I try to bring my own.

9. People Watching

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Source: irelandfamilyvacations.com

At an airport, there will be people from all over the world. People you might never ever see again. People who look differently, and talk in different languages. And this is one of the reasons I love airports so much. They are the places where people from almost all nations worldwide meet. I personally love people watching; guessing about their lives, where they are going to, where they are coming from, what language they are talking. I love making stories in my head for just a few minutes.

10. Explore the City

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Source: travel2next.com

Most of the times, your layover might be around 3 hours maximum, but sometimes, you will have extremely long layovers where a short trip to the city might be actually worth it. Many big airports will have airport expresses which will take you to the city centre in less than an hour (Hong Kong, London,…). Also, airlines like Turkish Airlines will offer a free city tour in Istanbul when you have +5h until your next flight.

Until now, I only had 2 very long layovers, one 6 hours in Hong Kong and one 3 hours in Dubai. The one in Hong Kong passed by almost immediately. I did almost all activities stated above except for Nos 6, 7, and 10. I could have actually gone to the city as well, but I have already been to Hong Kong several times, and I didn’t want to be more stressed than I already was. In Dubai, I had a layover of 3 hours which made it impossible to take a trip downtown, so I just wandered around the airport and looked around most of the time.

What about you guys? What are the things you love to do at airports during a layover? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!

Merveille.

5 Myths about China that are not true

1. Everyone eats dog meat

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A dog enjoying the calmness of that dirty river :’D

It’s true that there is a dog meat festival in a village in Guilin. These people are definitely the cruelest, dumbest, most ignorant and evil people in this world. Seriously, how can you possibly tortue and then eat a dog??!?!!?!??
Yes, this festival is a reality in China, but it’s the exception. I have never seen anyone eat dog meat where I lived in China. I also don’t know anyone of my friends who tried it or seen dog meat being offered anywhere.
Of course I am not trying to deny that this behavious exists in China, but it is also not true that everyone in China eats dog. It’s rather more common to see dogs being kept as pets now, and they seem to be more popular than cats. There are also more people protesting against the dog meat festival every year. So I hope that after a few years, the government will actually do something to ban it for good.

2. You will return with lung cancer

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That day the smog in Shanghai was stronger than on other days.

Another misconception that many people get after watching the news too much. Again, I am not trying to deny the fact that the air is polluted, but it is by far not as bad as you see in media. Of course, when you happen to live in Beijing, it is more serious, but if you happen to live in any other city, you won’t see the smog as often as you feared. I was living in small town close to Shanghai, and the only times it was really smoggy were the 2 or 3 days after Christmas.
December is a very bad time to visit China, because the pollution is gonna be the strongest. Since winter is really hard in the north, heating will go up during the cold months. The eastern and southern parts of China don’t have central heating since there is basically only one month of proper cold weather. Still, the smog from Beijing wanders east to Shanghai and the cities around it. I did wake up to a smoggy morning and I just cried in my bed. I didn’t know what to do other than wear a face mask.
Still, this only lasted a few days. The other days were maybe only a little bit more polluted than the weather here in Germany. No city nowadays is 100% clean. I guess you’d have to live up on a mountain or by the beach to have clear and clean air.

3. Street food is not safe

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Some fatty but yummy street food in Xi’An

Totally wrong! Street food is in most cases even safer and cleaner than restaurant food. You can actually see all the ingredients and how they cook it, so they can’t trick you. Also, most locals get streetfood on an almost daily basis, so don’t worry. It seriously is restaurant food that you should be worried about. Behind closed doors, those cooks use MSG and used oil and what else we can only guess about.
Street food is the safest option in Asia in my opinion.

4. Everyone is rude

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Some frown, some laugh.

I hear a lot of tourists and travellers complain about how rude chinese people are. I can see how that happens though. I also had my share of chinese rudeness, but it was mostly some mean taxi drivers refusing to take us because we were not chinese, or couldn’t speak the language, or didn’t have the adress in chinese characters. Other than those evil taxi drivers, I mostly met the nicest people on earth. When I was lost, there were people who would get out of their ways to help me. Once, a girl even took us all the way to our hostel although it was raining outside. Not only young people, but also older people are so nice when they see you are lost. They are actually the ones who will understand your broken mandarin the best :’D
Also, when you plan to go to China, you should get ready to learn at least some basic sentences in mandarin. People will appreciate it and they will be more eager to help you out. Actually, this is something you should do for every country you visit. In the end, you are the visitor.

5. It’s a communist country

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Mao is watching you

Of course, the party that rules the country of China is a communist party. Still, chinese people must be the most capitalist nation I have seen. They are addicted to shopping and real estates as well as tourism. China is a rising star, and without a capitalist concept, it would have never become the most powerful developping country.
I would describe China as a perfect mixture between communism and capitalism. I am sure, that the political situation in China will eventually get better and better after the following years to come. I kind of feel like China might be the next super nation since the US is doomed with Donald Trump :’D
Anyway, what I wanna say is that the political situation in China is actually not as bad as others imagine it to be.

So these were the most crucial myths people know about China before actually visiting. If you visit a country with specific misconpetions already floating around in your head beforehand, then it is quite certain that these things will actually happen.

So please, wherever you go, let go of your prejudice and enjoy the place in its purity!

Merveille.

Last two weekends in Shanghai

After this one-week trip, the end of my stay in China was slowly approaching. Right after my trip to Hong Kong, I still had one night to sleep in my room back at home, but the next afternoon which was a Sunday, we had already our next train going to Shanghai. Our group this time should be a very different one. Ana and me have gone on weekend trips to Shanghai or Hangzhou already, but Josie and Ale never joined us, so that was a first time for the four of us. Although I wished that the others could have joined us as well, it was still a nice way spending my second last weekend away with my friends.

On my very last weekend in China, I was also invited to Shanghai by some new friends I met.

In this post, I will just point out what you can do on two Sunday/Mondays in Shanghai:

  1. Have dinner at the top rated restaurant on Tripadvisor:

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    Since Ana and me discovered this turkish restaurant Efes after our spring festival holiday, we were certain to tell the others about it and make them try it as well. Especially with our foodie friends Josie and Ale, it was a must.

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    As I can recall, I had a plate of chicken kebab. 
  2. Have you last fancy drink at Bar Rouge:

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    After our dinner, we went straight to the Bund to have some drinks at Bar Rouge. That was the second time at that bar for me now, and the drinks are still one of the best I have had so far.

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  3. Go to the foreign language bookstore:

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    I do have A Strangeness in my mind by now. My father gave it to me in german.

    On Monday, when we had our train back to Yuyao in the late afternoon, we still had some time left to do some shopping. Ana had to go to the embassy, Ale wanted to meet up with a friend and Josie and me went shopping. We split up as well. She had to go to Sephora and Nike and I wanted to get a new book from the foreign language bookstore that was just down the street from our hostel.
    But none of this could happen without having proper breakfast first.

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  4. Stroll through Yuyuan Garden:

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    I have been to Shanghai so many times, but only on my last weekend in China did I have the possibility to see the Yuyuan Garden and stroll through its streets there. It’s the perfect place to try street food and buy souvenirs. But the architecture looks awesome as well. It is a great spot for photo opportunities. 

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  5. Try Stinky Tofu:

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    During my stay in China, I swore to myself that I would never ever try Stinky Tofu, no matter what. But then my friends craved it when strolling through Yuyuan Garden, so I said “yolo” why not? My final thoughts are: Try it, because it basically tastes like nothing. You might like it. I will not eat it again, because I didn’t like the texture and the aftertaste is just exactly like the smell. Not nice.

  6. Visit a Jazz Bar:

    On my very last evening in Shanghai, we visited the Jazz Bar that is right in front of the Captain Hostel which is called House of Blues & Jazz.  That was my third time there, and it is weird that none of the times, none of us had actually thought about taking a photo there. A shame. It is a great bar and the people who go there really go for the music, to dance and just to enjoy the moment. It is not at all pretentious.
    Because I don’t have any photos of the Jazz Bar, here is a photo of a stranger having a monkey pet we saw on the street when walking to the bar.

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When thinking back of that time, I was having mixed feelings. Both happy and sad about returning to Germany, to start a new life as I imagined, and sad about leaving my new friends and beautiful China behind. I do have a new life now, but it is not as I imagined. I am still struggling to fit in, and I miss Asia, especially China so much that it actually hurts. 

I don’t know what the future will bring, but I still have one last post left which will be dedicated to the last parties in Yuyao.

Stay tuned for some funny posts.

Thanks for reading and travelling with me!

Merveille.

 

 

How to spend less than 24 hours in Hong Kong Part 4

If you might have missed my previous posts to the Hong Kong series I have written, you can check them here:

Part 1  |  Part 2  |  Part 3

The first two times I had less than 24 hours in this cosmopolitan city. The last time I had slightly over 24 hours. This time I had less than 24 hours again.

I stayed at Hop Inn Mody Hostel again which is located in Tsim Sha Tsui. It’s very central, spacious and affordable. I would recommend this hostel, and I would definitely stay here again.

As the posts before, I will list all the things you could do in one day in Hong Kong.

So here we go:

1. Breakfast in a cafe near your hostel:

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Most chinese cities, especially Hong Kong, have plenty of different cafes at every corner that serve delicious pastry, sandwiches, and coffee, all fitting the taste buds of any westerner. Coming from Germany, the country known for its variety of bread, I approve of the cafes in Hong Kong.

 2. Visit the museums:

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Walking to the museum as you can see it in the background

Hong Kong has some interesting and unique museums to offer, especially close to Tsim Sha Tsui in the harbour area. I visited two museums which are in the same building. The Hong Kong Museum of History, and the Science Museum.

Here are some small reviews of the two museums I visited.

  • Science Museum:

I had the feeling that this museum was directed more towards kids. There was a lot of information about the human body, for example, that should be known to adults. Still, I liked how interactive the museum was. There were different activites involved with obtaining the information. It’s definitely worth a visit, even for adults.

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This was pretty impressive. lightning bolts would apear when you touched the glass. I guess it was some magnetic lightning ball.
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There was a hall of mirrors that had special effects, like this one making us small and wide :’D Not flattering at all.
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This one’s already way better. The kid’s face is too hilarious :’D
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This was a triangle-shaped mirror tube. This is what it looked like from the other side. I asked the girl if I could snap a photo of her. Yes, this time I asked to take a photo of a stranger, not the other way around :’D
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And this is how it looked like when I tried to take a selfie in that triangle-tube. It didn’t have the same effect of course. SCIENCE!

So if you have seen everything you wanted to see in Hong Kong, go ahead and have a look inside the science museum. It doesn’t take too much time to walk through it, especially as an adult.

There was also a nail bed where visitors were allowed to lie down on it, and a professional advised what to do. I did it as well, and it didn’t hurt at all. Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of that. But it was an interesting experience.

  • Hong Kong Museum of History:

This is in the same building, but you need a different ticket for this. I heard of my friend Josie that it was a highly interesting museum about the dramatic history of today’s Hong Kong. With that I mean the outcome of Hong Kong as a city it is now. It has so many influences from different cultures that make the city so unique like no other in the world. The museum explains how Hong Kong has developped to the city it is today. It shows the ecological development, the unique appearance of ecosystems and animals in this city, and then, finally shows the influence of its chinese origin, the british opium war and the effects of the japanese occupation. All of these incidents are reflected in the city’s unique culture, and have shaped Hong Kong into today’s modern, cosmopolitan city.  Hong Kong might be the most unique city I have visited. You can neither compare it to other chinese cities, nor western countries. 

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This is something like a small wish shrine

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Traditional masks for street performances
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These fishing boats still exist today.
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Its really impressive that traditional restaurants in Hong Kong and China still have the same architecture today.
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The Japanese occupation
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How cute the shops looked like <3

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There were so much more beautiful photo opportunities. These are the most beautiful snaps I took though.

I am usually not a big fan of museums, but this one was pretty cool. It reminded me of the Story of Berlin museum a little bit.

3. Visit Mammy Pancake – Again:

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I had to get some of these delicious treats again, before leaving China for good. This time I got sweet potato (the purple one) and Sesame. The sesame one was a bit disappointing. I thought they’d fill it with black sesame paste, but it was just sprinkled with light sesame. Sweet potato was the bomb though. Nothing compared to green tea chocolate though :)

4. Stroll along the promenade:

When I walked towards the promenade at Tsim Sha Tsui, I couldn’t believe my eyes. There was heavy fog hanging above the skyline making it look like some sick special effect of a science fiction movie. It looked so beautiful, with the boats sailing in the harbour, and the sun slowly setting into the white curtains of the sky. 

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The weather was really nice. It wasn’t too hot, so you could comfortably walk around in short clothes. Unfortunately, I just had a sweatshirt, so I was sweating like crazy.

Still, I had to say goodbye to beautiful Hong Kong for good. Of course, it has always been a bit stressful to just visit this amazing city more of less for 24 hours, but the more often I visited, the more I appreciated it. I had a last view on Hong Kong, and then headed to the airport already.

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My flight was in the evening, and I would be back in Yuyao in the evening, early enough to take a shower and find some good night’s rest. The next day, I had one more trip left which was to Shanghai with the laowais (Ana, Josie and Alessandro).

I hope you enjoyed this post. If you have ever been to Hong Kong, feel free to recommend me some more places to visit for next time :)

Thanks for reading and travelling with me!

Merveille.

ABC Travel List: X,Y,Z – Xinjiang, Yangon, Zanzibar

Because the last three letters are rather poor, and it is already May today, so I will just wrap the last three letters up as cities, because there aren’t really a lot of countries here.

Lets start!

X

Xinjiang

Bildergebnis für xinjiang landscape
Source: farwestchina.com

Xinjiang is actually a province in West China, mainly populated by Uighurs and Han Chinese who are mostly muslim. The landscape of this province has everything from deep blue lakes to bright orange deserts.

Ähnliches Foto
Source: china-silkroad-travel.com

These are the rainbow mountains of Dnaxia Landform. An amazing sight that I have never forgotten from the moment I first saw them on pictures.

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Source: youtube.com

And of course, there are a lot of mountains. This is the Changbai Mountain with lake Tianchi on top of it. Looks more like a friendly volcanoe to me. I would probably not dare climbing this gigantic thing, but it surely looks impressive.

Bildergebnis für Aksu China
Source: visitourchina.com

This is the city of Aksu which is famous for its rock formations and it kinda reminds me of Cappadocia. The name Aksu actually sounds turkish as well. It even has a meaning in turkish, which means something like flowing water. Very ironic, since this place looks as dry as it wouldn’t see any flowing water for months.

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Source: thecrowdedplanet.com

Xinjiang is famous for its muslim food, especially the Kebab. Everyone in China loves these grilled meatsticks which are famous in other muslim countries as well. I would love to go on a food trip to Kashgar, which seems to be the cultural centre of Xinjiang.

Y

Yangon

Bildergebnis für yangon
Source: amicimieiphukettravelagency.com

Yangon is one of the more popular cities in Myanmar and looks pretty majestic. Myanmar is actually climbing the stairs on my travel list, the more I see and read about this country. The architecture looks so unique, and I don’t know anything about their food which makes it so intriguing.

Bildergebnis für yangon
Source: eoinbutter.com

This is the Shwedagon Pagoda and it probably is the most beautiful pagoda I have seen on a photo. It is white and gold, almost like liquid.

Bildergebnis für myanmar yangon sehenswürdigkeiten
Source: myanmar-rundreisen.de

Probably inspired by the hot air balloon rides over Bagan, it seems like getting sights from above might also be possible here.

Z

Zanzibar

Bildergebnis für zanzibar beach
Source: de.oyster.com

Just recently I have seen an instagram picture of a friend who went to Zanzibar which is in Tansania in Africa, and it looked gorgeous!!! The water looked like a mirror, a mirror of the sky. And the pale sand of the beach matched the pale blue colour of the sea perfectly.

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Source: zanzibar-tanzania.holiday

This just looks unreal.

This place would also make a great honeymoon getaway or just a couple’s retreat.

This post has actually been quite short despite covering three different letters and cities. But it’s time this challenge comes to an end now. It was a lot of fun, and I actually discovered a lot of places I haven’t known before.

I hope I could also give some of you inspiration for new travel destinations you haven’t known of.

But I would still like to know what other XYZ places you would recommend, if you know of any, since it is really hard to find places that start with that letter. I would be delighted, so feel free to comment below.

My next post is gonna be about my travels in Beijing in Xi’An which I haven’t posted yet. I know, I am late, but you can definitely look forward for some great picture and stories. Stay tuned!

Thanks for reading and travelling with me!

Merveille.

ABC Travel List: W – Wales, Warsaw, Wulingyuan National Park

This post is not going to be very long, I guess, since I have chosen, or let’s say, had to choose places that do not interest me as much as some other places I have already mentioned in this challenge. Still, these places are worth to be seen. And here they are.

W

1.Country: Wales

Bildergebnis für wales landschaft
Source: hotelausflug.de

Wales is famous for its beautiful natural landscapes. This is one of them, and there are even more…

Bildergebnis für wales landschaft
Source: iha.com.de

This is Snowdonia landscape in North Wales. Very typical with green mountains and hills and little blue lakes in the middle.

Bildergebnis für wales landschaft
Source: artikelmagazin.de

This looks very atmospheric.

Bildergebnis für wales sehenswürdigkeiten
Source: englandjournal.de

Plus there are many ancient castles that look like straight outta Winterfell :’D

I think a weekend trip to Wales would be an accurate way to get to know the culture and everything this often ignored country has to offer.

 

2.City: Warsaw

Bildergebnis für Warsaw
Source: hilton.com

Warsaw, together with many other Polish cities, has evoked my interest throughout the last few years. Warsaw actually seems to be quite similar to german cities, but the buildings look even older and more beautiful than its german counterparts. Or maybe it just seems like this to me because I have lived in Germany all my life.

Anyway, here are some of the beautiful sides to Warsaw.

-Culture Palace

Bildergebnis für kulturpalast warschau
Source: franks-travelbox.com

This is a culture and science Palace, is actually the tallest building in Poland. It doesn’t seem to be a palace, nor a museum of any sorts.

-King’s Castle

Ähnliches Foto
Source: pl.wikipedia.org

The red building on the right side it is. It has been the place where the kings used to live. Now, it kind of reminds me of the typical german city halls we have in oldtowns.

-Lazienki Park

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Source: warsawcitybreak.com

WOW! This park looks amazing!

Bildergebnis für lazienki park
Source: de.123rf.com

I can only imagine how beautiful this park must look like in summer. I would probably spend most of my time at this location.

-Wilanow Palace

Bildergebnis für wilanow palast
Source: 123rf.com

This must then be the polish answer to Versailles. I love the colours, the arrangement of the garden and the structure of the building. Everything fits into perfect harmony with each other.

Warsaw seems to be a beautiful city with an impressive historical past, but also a vibrant place with a buzzing nightlife.

3.UNESCO World Heritage Sight: Wulingyuan National Park

Bildergebnis für wulingyuan national park
Source: backroadsofchina.com

By now, everyone has probably seen these mountains at least once. No surprise, since these are the mountains that inspired the movie Avatar. Many people call these also the Avatar mountains. Wulingyuan is the name of the town as far as I know, and the mountain area is actually called Zhangjiajie. It is breathtaking, and one of the things that are still on my China travel list.

So, this was a short post. I hope you still enjoyed it.

What W-destinations are on your travel list? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading and travelling with me!

Merveille.