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Best Places and Experiences in Vietnam

When you’re out to visit Vietnam, there are plenty of places to explore, and experiences to enjoy. Vietnam is spreading on a large territory and boasts cultural heritage, natural treasures, and mesmerizing sceneries. It’s pretty much impossible to see everything, and as a tourist, one should have it all planned out to make sure they will enjoy an unforgettable trip.

To make things a bit easier, we’ve handpicked a couple of must-have experiences and places to visit when visiting Vietnam. Of course, which ones you go for, is all up to you, but we made sure to include something for everyone.

Ha Long Bay

We’re kicking things off with one that’s perfect if you want to cruise Vietnam – the Ha Long Bay. It is definitely one of the most recognizable places when it comes to Vietnam, and it’s a sight to behold. You have the bay’s emerald waters and quite a lot of limestone mountains that are scattered throughout.

Now, Ha Long Bay is something that you could spend a single day on, but if you want to make the most of it, you should definitely dedicate at least two to three days. This will allow you to explore it completely, and see what it’s all about.

Hanoi

One of the most crowded places in Vietnam, Hanoi is located in northern Vietnam. Contrary to the peace you could get from exploring Vietnam’s wilderness, in Hanoi, you get the Old Quarter experience. This is a place that’s chaotic, to say the least, but there are a lot of things to do.

This is where you’ll find some of Vietnam’s finest colorful food for sale. Both the sidewalks and the streets are as crowded as they come, which is why Hanoi, especially the Old Quarter, shouldn’t be your first stop. Even though that’s exactly what makes it so attractive, Hanoi is rather overwhelming. You should visit something like Hoi An first. And while we’re at it …

Hoi An

While the name is definitely similar to Hanoi, Hoi An is a slightly calmer experience in comparison. Hoi An is an ancient city located in central Vietnam, and should definitely be one of the places you witness. If your trip only allows you to go to one place in Vietnam, you should go to Hoi An.

The main reason why it’s so good is the fact that you pretty much get everything Vietnam has to offer. In the center, you’ll find some of the finest restaurants in Vietnam, as well as shopping opportunities. There are even some really nice historic sites you should visit, too. Oh, and if you take a short ride, you’ll be met with those stunning rice fields Vietnam is known for, as well as some of the best beaches you’ve seen.

The Mekong Delta

This is another one of those must-have experiences, and is also known as the “rice bowl”. The Mekong river actually starts all the way in China, moves through Cambodia and Laos, and ends in the Mekong Delta before going into the South China Sea.

But that’s not what you’re here for – what you are here for are the numerous rivers that spring out from the river in Vietnam’s south. They create a stunning network of canals that you can travel by boat, and they link things like small cities and rice farms. This is a stunning tropical maze that you’ll enjoy every minute of.

Ho Chi Minh

Ho Chi Min is one of the cities Vietnam is famous for, and there are plenty of reasons why. Previously known as Saigon, this buzzing-city gives you a pretty interesting combination of old and new, history and contemporary.

You will get the opportunity to visit and tour buildings that were designed by Gustave Eiffel (yes, that Gustave Eiffel), see cultural sites like the War Remnants Museum, and if you would like a bird’s eye view of the entire city, you can head to the Bitexco Financial Building.

Of course, you also get to experience the same motorcycle dodging you get in Hanoi, which is pretty much a trademark of Vietnam at this point.

Phu Quoc

Even though technically, Phu Quoc is closer to Cambodia than mainland Vietnam, it’s still one of the most beautiful, tropical places you can visit. There is certainly no shortage of beautiful beaches in Vietnam, but Phu Quoc is something else. It’s the go-to place if you want to get away from the chaotic city experiences.

Now, one thing to note about Phu Quoc is that “you get what you pay for” is absolutely true here. If you want to enjoy it to the fullest, by all means spend a bit more and go for one of the nicer resorts. This also gets you larger and cleaner beaches, and better views, something definitely worth paying extra for.

And if you make it to Phu Quoc, do not miss the chance to continue your trip to Cambodia. It sure is one of the Asian countries, that together with Vietnam, should be on everyone’s bucket list.

Asia Guides Insider Tips

City Guide to Kyoto, Japan

I have visited Kyoto many times since I moved to Japan, yet it will never stop to amaze me. This former Japanese imperial capital is full of mysterious temples, majestic palaces, beautiful Zen gardens, and picturesque back alleys with traditional wooden town houses. It is a big city with small town charm and immense cultural heritage. However, it can be quite overwhelming for a first time visitor, because there are so many places to see. I prepared this article to help you plan your stay, it includes not only my favourite places to visit, but I added some extra activities to make your trip more memorable.

Best Places to See

Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine

Fushimi Inari Taisha is one of the most impressive and popular sights in Kyoto. This mountainside Shinto shrine is dating back to 711 AD and its main feature is a path made of thousands of traditional torii gates in vermilion colour. The area is truly picture-perfect and therefore very touristy. If you wish to get a photo without people, you have to come here very early in the morning, or you can try to come late at night as the shrine is open 24/7. In the evening the lanterns light up the way. Another option is to hike all the way up to top of the hill, where not many people go and the views are spectacular.

Fushimi Inari shrine is located on the south of Kyoto and you can get there by Nara Line from Kyoto station. The journey lasts only 5 minutes. The entrance to the shrine is free.

Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion

Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion was named, together with Mt. Fuji, as one of the greatest sights in Japan and it is easy to understand why. Surrounded by stunning Zen Garden with its reflection in the pond, shining in the sun, this sight can honestly leave you speechless. The pavilion was built in the 14th century as a retirement villa for a military commander, but after his death his son turned it into a temple.

Golden Pavilion is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm and the price is 600 yen per adult. To get there, you need to take the bus 205 which leaves from Kyoto Station from the B3 platform. Even though Kinkaku-ji is very popular and usually very busy, it is a must-see place in Kyoto and totally worth the longer bus ride!

The Path of Philosophy

The Path of Philosophy (also called the Philosopher’s Path) offers a quiet retreat from the city and it will lead you to many historic sites along the way. The stroll lasts approximately 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on your pace. It starts at the Eikan-do Temple, a lovely temple with famous Buddha statue looking over his shoulder and finishes at Ginkaku-ji Silver Pavilion. The path goes along a stream and it is lined with cherry trees, so this place is especially beautiful in spring when all the flowers are in bloom.

Gion District

Gion is very traditional neighborhood in Kyoto that has developed in Middle Ages as one of the most exclusive geisha districts in Japan. The chances that you will meet a geisha today are very small, but Gion is a lively and picturesque area to visit. The streetscape is very well preserved with high concentration of typical ochaya (teahouses) and machiya (merchant houses). Be aware though that many of these houses are private and their inhabitants do not wish people to take photos of them, so be respectful (you wouldn’t want to have masses of tourists in front of your house every day either).

The two most popular streets where you can take beautiful pictures are Ninenzaka and Sanenzaka.

Nishiki Market

Nishiki market, also called the “Pantry of Kyoto” is a lively place located in the city centre, where you can find hundred stalls with street food, fresh produce, sweets or handmade souvenirs. It is a perfect place to sample some unique dishes and enjoy the atmosphere. If street food is not directly your cup of tea, there are also many restaurants nearby.

Kiyomizu Dera Temple

Kiyomizu Dera Temple is one of Kyoto’s most famous and enjoyable temples. It was founded in 778 AD, and it’s a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The main hall, situated on the hillside of Mt. Otowa, has a large wooden veranda from where you can enjoy epic views over the city. The entrance fee is 300 yen per adult and it is open daily from 6 am to 6 pm. It is walking distance from Gion, or you can take one of the city buses from Kyoto station (numbers: 106, 110, or 206).

Heian Shrine

Heian Shrine was modelled after the ancient Imperial Palace and it is dedicated to the spirits of the first and last emperors who reigned in Kyoto. It belongs to the newer shrines in Kyoto, with its history dating back only about hundred years, but it has very impressive spacious grounds featuring a gorgeous garden full of weeping cherry trees that bloom around mid-April. There are a couple of museums in walking distance from the shrine, where you can hide in case of rain, and at its entrance you will also find some food trucks with Japanese and international dishes so you can take a nice break here when sightseeing all day.

Heian Shrine can be reached by Kyoto city bus number 5 or 100. The entrance to the temple is free, but if you want to visit the gardens you have to pay 500 yen per person. The shrine is open daily from 6 am to 5 pm (hours can differ during public holidays).

Top Things to Do

Stay in a Traditional Ryokan

Ryokans are traditional Japanese inns that can be found all over the country. They offer you more than just a place to sleep, you will get here the opportunity to experience the real Japanese lifestyle and hospitality. In a classic ryokan, you will sleep on futon beds in tatami rooms, you can soak in famous Japanese bath and sample the local cuisine. Staying at least one night in ryokan is a must when visiting Japan.

Relax in an Onsen

Onsens are Japanese natural hot springs containing distinctive minerals. Soaking in an onsen after a busy day of sightseeing is one the essential experiences to have in Japan. Onsens can be public, or private as a part of ryokans. Kyoto is not very rich in onsen, but there are still a few to found around the city. Before visiting an onsen it is important to mention that there is an etiquette to follow – you have to take a shower first and you go inside without a bathing suit. Some more traditional onsens can forbid people with tattoos to enter.

Try a Kimono on for a Day

Nowadays, kimonos in Japan are used mostly for special occasions like weddings or official holidays. It is very rare to see young people wearing this formal attire daily. However, Kyoto is one of the cities where this tradition hasn’t quite disappear and people use kimonos frequently. There are many shops and kimono rentals so it’s easy to pick one and get the real kimono experience in the streets of Kyoto’s historical old town. The kimonos are beautiful and you usually get the full “make-over” including hairdo like geisha, make-up, wooden slipper shoes and little pouch for your necessities while browsing the city.

Kaiseki Feast

Kaiseki is a celebration of Japanese tradition, fresh seasonal and local produce and haute cuisine. It is traditional Japanese multi-course high dining with a long history that originated centuries ago in tea ceremonies and later it evolved into exclusive cuisine popular among aristocratic circles.

Kaiseki can be quite pricey and intimidating, if you haven’t got this experience before. The elegantly presented dishes often look like a piece of art and some restaurants don’t appreciate if you take photos of them. That is why I would recommend booking a food tour that takes you to kaiseki, where an experienced tour guide will lead you through each dish and tells you more about its cultural context.

Join a Food Tour

Japanese cuisine is very complex, it goes way beyond sushi, miso soup and ramen that are popular all over the world. Each Japanese city and each region have their own local cuisine and they take a great pride in using locally sourced seasonal ingredients. If you are a foodie and you would love to know more about Japanese food, I am sure you will appreciate a good food tour, where you will discover the whole philosophy behind each dish and its cultural and historical background.

There are plenty of food tours or cooking classes to choose from in Kyoto that suit all the budgets.

Getting Around Kyoto

The city centre of Kyoto is compact and easily walkable, however, if you want to get to further destinations such as Fushimi Inari Taisha or Bamboo Forest, you will have to use the public transport. Metro, trains and city buses are the most convenient way to get around. Taxis are very expensive in Japan so if you are traveling on budget, I wouldn’t recommend using them.

For international travellers the most convenient mean of transport are the city buses that have commentary in English and they take you to all the important sites. One journey costs 230 yen for an adult and you pay directly to the driver at the end of your journey, or you can buy a daily ticket in the office at the Kyoto station for 600 yen. Kyoto city buses are green and easily recognizable. They operate with numbers 5, 17, 100, 204 and 205.

Best Time to Visit

Kyoto can be visited and enjoyed in any season, but the best time to visit is spring and autumn. At the end of March and beginning of April, the cherry blossoms are in bloom and everything is covered in light pink. It is simply spectacular! Beginning of November is just as magical when all the leaves turn red, orange and yellow. Also the temperatures are moderate with little rainfall. However, keep in mind that these seasons are also the busiest.

Summers in Kyoto can be very hot and humid. The rainy season starts in June and continues until the end of July. Winters are relatively mild with January and February being the coldest months of the year.

Unique Souvenirs to Buy

Green tea – Japan, and Kyoto especially, takes pride in its green tea – matcha in Japanese. You can find matcha and matcha-related products anywhere in Kyoto, from convenience stores to high quality green tea leaves sold in big department stores.

Kimono or Yukata – Kimono and yukata (lighter kimono worn in summer) are also great souvenirs to buy in Kyoto, as there are many shops that sell them. Kimonos can be pretty expensive but yukata is usually a cheaper alternative.

Hand-made hand fan – summers in Japan can get very hot and you will see many people using hand-fans. They are colourful, cute and beautiful, and apart from being useful during hot summer months, they also make a beautiful souvenir to remind you of your trip to Japan.

Umbrella – I don’t mean the Japanese paper umbrella to protect you from the sun, but proper umbrella for the rain. In Japan you can buy high quality umbrellas in specialty shops that will protect you even during a typhoon. They usually have twelve collapsible ribs for extra protections against the wind and many of them have also UV protection against the strong sun.

Unique Kit-Kat chocolates – famous Kit Kat is one of the most popular sweets in Japan because its name is pronounced similarly to ‘kitto katsu’ which means good luck. You can find here many different flavours that you cannot find anywhere else in the world – from green tea, to sake, to soy bean paste, to apple pie, you name it! You won’t know which one to choose!

Kanzashikanzashi are traditional hair ornaments often worn with a kimono. They are very fine and usually hand-made. It can be difficult to attach them at first, so make you sure you ask for instructions in the shop how to use them. They are a very unique special gift.

 

I hope this guide to Kyoto will help you to plan your visit! Kyoto is very popular and beloved tourist destination for a good reason. I love to come back every time I get a chance! If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments below. Have you ever visited Kyoto? Or would you like to go there?

 

*This post is for the inspiration for your future travels. As per 10th August 2020, Japan remains closed for international visitors until the end of this year.

 

 

 

Asia Guides Insider Tips

Top 20 Places to Visit in Tokyo in 2020

I have a feeling that by the end of 2020 Tokyo is going to be the “it” city to visit in the world. Why is that? Well, if you haven’t heard, the summer Olympics are coming to Tokyo. And after people see the sights and neon lights of Tokyo on their TV sets or their computer or phone screens, they’re going to want to visit. So, you better beat everyone else to the hottest city of 2020 and book your ticket NOW!

Tokyo is a great place to explore the two sides to Japanese culture: the traditional side of temples and history and the modern side of manga and robots. Here are my top 20 places to visit where can experience both sides of Tokyo in 2020:

Where to see the best traditional Culture of Tokyo:

1. Senso-ji Temple

The oldest and one of the most important Buddhist temples in Tokyo is Senso-ji.

Originally built in 645, Sensoji is dedicated to the Bodhisattva of Compassion (a.k.a. Guanyin in Chinese culture). Senso-ji was destroyed during World War II, so the current one that you’re seeing was built in the twentieth century.

Pro Tip:  Make sure to get a omikuji, a paper fortune. Just follow the instructions (written in English). Don’t worry, if you get a bad fortune, just tie the paper around a nearby rack to stop the bad luck from happening.

2. Meiji Shrine

Meiji Shrine is one of Japan’s most popular shrines. This shrine is the one Tokyoites visit at the beginning of every year in order to pray for good fortune.

Built in 1920, the shrine is dedicated to the deified spirits of the Meiji Emperor and his wife, the Empress Shokun.

What to do at Meiji Shrine: Write your wish on an ema, a votive tablet, and place it under the big camphor tree to the right of the main hall.

3. Tokyo National Museum

This museum is the best place to visit in Tokyo to get a sense of the overall history of Japanese art.

The Tokyo National Museum is made up of 5 buildings. It would take you a few days to visit all of them. However, you don’t need to do that. Just head to the one in the center, the Honkan Gallery. Here you’ll see an overview of Japanese art from the Jomon to the Edo periods.

Pro Tip: I love the paintings by Hakusai. His most famous one, “Great Wave of Kanagawa,” was located on the first floor when I visited.

4. Edo Tokyo Museum

This spectacular museum in Sumida covers the fascinating history of Tokyo.

The Edo Tokyo Museum takes you through the history of Tokyo when it was called Edo to the present day. It’s filled with reproductions such as the Nihon Bashi Bridge (considered the center of Edo), a Kabuki Theater, and a Japanese apartment from the 1960s.

Pro Tip: The Edo Tokyo Museum is huge! To see it all, you’ll want to schedule three or four hours. Be sure to arrive early because most museums in Japan close at 5:00 pm. Also, make sure you have enough time for the post World War II section of the museum.

5. Ukiyo-e Ota Museum of Art

If you’re looking for a break from the teeny boppers crowds of Harajuku, head to this small, gem of a museum, the Ukiyo-e Museum of Art.

This museum focuses on Japanese woodblock prints of the Floating World in the Edo and Meiji periods. The Floating World was the term used to describe the pleasure world where Japanese went to watch kabuki, drink, gamble, and visit geishas and prostitutes.

Pro Tip: It’s small, so you need just an hour to visit. You could go back to this museum every month as the prints change monthly.

6. Kabuki-za Theater

Watching a kabuki performance at Tokyo’s Kabuki-za Theater is a must for anyone wanting to explore Japanese traditional culture more deeply.

Kabuki is traditional Japanese drama. The stories usually feature tales of romance and heroism. It was traditionally performed by all female casts, but the Japanese people felt this was too risqué, so female actors were banned and replaced by an all-male cast.

Pro Tip: The Kabuki-za theater has four to five performances every day from morning to evening. You can buy single act tickets on the day of the performance from 600 yen to 1,500 yen. I highly recommend renting an electronic translator at the theater to get a translation of the play.

7. Ryogoku Kokugikan Sumo Stadium

Seeing a sumo match is not just for the sports enthusiast, but also for those wanting to experience one aspect of Japan’s unique culture. You can do that at the Ryogoku Kokugikan Sumo Stadium in Samida.

Official Sumo tournaments only take place in January, March, May, July, September, and November. If you’re not in Tokyo in those months, you can also watch a morning practice session.

Pro Tip: You can buy tickets on Voyagin or Viator websites. You can also buy cheap same day tickets at 8:00 am. However, they sell out very quickly, so get in line really early in the morning.

8. Oedo Onsen Monogatari

Another cultural experience you must try before leaving Japan is a visit to a hot springs (called onsen in Japanese). An easy way to visit one in Tokyo is at a hot spring entertainment park called Oedo Onsen Monogatari in Odaiba.

At Monogatari, you’ll find an outdoor foot bathing area, a food court, and a gender-separated bathing area with several different kinds of baths. The other unique aspect about this experience is that you’ll wander around the park in a traditional Japanese robe called a yukata.

Pro Tip: Japanese hot springs can be an intimidating experience for the first-timer. Before your visit, watch some videos to learn how to tie a yukata and read up on Japanese bathing etiquette.

9. Tsukiji Outer Market

You can’t leave Japan without experiencing its world-famous food. One of the most fun ways to do it is to visit Tsukiji Outer Market. Here you’ll get to sample Japanese street food like tamagoyaki, sea urchin, and oysters. There are also lots of delicious restaurants for a sit-down meal of sashimi or seafood rice bowls.

Tsukiji Market used to be divided into 2 parts: the outer market for tourists and the inner wholesale market. The wholesale market moved in 2018 to modern facilities in Toyosu. You can also visit, but it’s far away and it lacks the character that Tsukiji has.

Pro Tip: Shops are open from 9:00 to 14:00. All are closed on Sundays and some are closed on Wednesdays.

10. Staying in a Ryokan

You should at least experience staying in a traditional Japanese inn, called a ryokan, at least once during your trip to Japan. Tokyo is a great place to experience this only-in-Japan style of accommodations.

Ryokans have several features that are uniquely Japanese. They’ll have their own hot spring bath for their guests. Some of them will also serve a multi-course breakfast and/or dinner consisting of seasonal dishes.

Pro Tip: Asakusa and Yanasen areas have some affordable ryokans for around (and sometimes under) US$100 a night.

11. Visiting traditional pre-war neighborhoods

If you want to see what Tokyo was like before World War II, the neon lights and shiny skyscrapers, then wander through the streets of Yanasen. 

Yanasen consists of three areas: Yanaka, Nezu, and Sendagi. Here you’ll find pre-war wooden buildings, lots of old temples and cemeteries, and shops selling traditional sweets and home goods.

Pro Tip: Try to have lunch or dinner at Hantei or Kamachiku.

Modern Japanese Culture

12. Visiting Shinjuku

If you have time for only one place to visit in Tokyo, make it the district of Shinjuku. Here is where you’ll see the Tokyo from the movies: the neon lights, unique bars, the crazy pachinko parlors, modern skyscrapers, and crowds of hip Tokyoites.

When visiting Shinjuku, there are three modern places to visit: Kabukicho, Omoido Yokocho (a narrow alley filled with tiny bars and yakitori restaurants), and Golden Gai (a series of small lanes filled with more tiny bars).

Pro Tip: Join a food tour of Shinjuku to get the inside scoop on where to go. You can sign up with tours through Get Your Guide.

13. Shibuya Crossing

Shibuya Crossing is THE famous crosswalk where you see a mess of people coming from all directions at one time to cross one intersection. To add to the experience, you’re surrounded by bright neon lights, huge television screens, and slick skyscrapers.

Don’t feel embarrassed if you do the crosswalk numerous times. I think all tourists do it! After doing Shibuya Crossing, check out the surrounding neighborhood. I found it to be a great place for street photography.

Pro Tip: Find a place from above to watch the crossing. An easy place to watch is from Starbucks. Sometimes it’s hard to find the exit from the station for Shibuya Crossing. Be patient. Look for the Hachiko Exit. This also leads to the statue of the famous dog called Hachiko.

14. Takeshita Dori Street

Takeshita Dori is a fun street to visit in Harajuku. It’s where Japanese teens go to shop, to eat, and to strut their stuff in the latest fashions.

Takeshita Dori is the perfect place to do both your people watching and shopping. You’ll see Japanese teens showing off their latest hairstyles and clothes. There are lots of trendy boutiques, inexpensive shops selling things you really don’t need, cat cafes, hedgehog cafes, and cafes serving crepes, cotton candy, and whatever the latest snack fad is.

Pro Tip: Stand at the beginning of the street to take a photo of the sea of people bobbing their heads as they parade down the street.

15. Fluffy Pancakes

The Japanese like to take foreign dishes and put their own spin on them. One dish that the Japanese have made their own version of is the pancake called the fluffy pancake. You can find restaurants all over Harajuku selling this delicious it.

You can find fluffy pancake restaurants in Harajuku. Here are some popular ones: A Happy Pancake, Burn Side Street Cafe, Flippers and Rainbow Pancake.

Pro Tip: Expect to wait in line to get in. I arrived at A Happy Pancake before it opened at 9:00 am, put my name on a list, and went off to wander the streets of Harajuku.

16. Akihabara

Another teen hangout that epitomizes modern Japanese culture is Akihabara.

You’ll find lots of stores for electronics, manga, anime, and video games. Looking for a Maid Cafe? Look no further than Akihabara.

Akihabara is named after Akiba, a local shrine. On Sundays, the main street, Chuo Dori, becomes a pedestrian only zone from 1:00 to 6:00 pm.

Pro Tip: You’ll see “maids” standing outside maid cafes getting customers to come inside. Please ask first before taking photos of them. They hate it when you snap one without asking.

17. Robot Restaurant

Some may say that the Robo Restaurant is a tourist trap, but it’s a fun and only-in-Japan tourist trap that keeps people coming. 

The Robot Restaurant isn’t a restaurant per se. You can order food, but you don’t have to and you probably don’t want to since the food isn’t all that good. The main focus of the “restaurant” is the robot show.

Pro Tip: Buy tickets for the show through Klook to get a discount.

18. teamLab Borderless

MORI Building Digital Art Museum: teamlab Borderless is the newest tourist sensation in Tokyo. It’s a museum devoted to interactive digital art. The digital art is projected onto the walls, floors, and ceilings. It’s constantly changing so that you can enter a room twice and experience different works of art.

There are actually two of these museums in Tokyo: teamLab Borderless and teamlab Planets. The teamLab Borderless in Odaiba is a permanent museum, while another one is temporary.

Pro Tip: Buy your tickets ahead of time because they sometimes sell out AND arrive before the museum opens to be the first ones in the museum. You’ll avoid crazy long lines.

19. Tokyo Sky Tree

The Tokyo Sky Tree is the best place to see 360 degree panoramic views of Tokyo. It towers over the city at 634 meters. 

Tokyo Sky Tree was finished in 2011 in Sumida district of Tokyo. It has one of those glass floors that you can walk on and see the world below you.

Pro Tip: Some people suggest skipping the tree and going to the Tokyo Government Building in Shinjuku. It’s free, while Tokyo Sky Tree isn’t. I felt the views were better from the Sky Tree, and you can actually take photos without the glass causing a glare on your camera.

20. Studio Ghibli Museum

The Ghibli Museum is the animation museum of Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli. The studio made many famous Japanese anime movies such as Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, and Princess Mononoke.

You’ll find exhibits on the process of making an animation movie and an opportunity to watch a movie that can only be seen at the museum.

Pro Tip: You need to buy the tickets online and in advance. You can’t buy tickets at the museum. Online tickets go on sale 3 months before the date of the visit. They sell out quickly, so as soon as your ticket date is being sold, buy it. Don’t even wait a day.


To read more about what to see and do in Tokyo click here!

 

Asia Insider Tips Travel Planning

The Top 5 Places to Visit in Kolkata, India

If you’re planning a trip to India, make sure to schedule at least two days for a visit to Kolkata. It is one of the absolute best destinations for 2020, especially for the female traveler. This city is ancient and stocked with heritage values and world famous sights, festivals and foods — including the city’s Durga puja celebration and delicious ‘Rasgulla’. 

1. Victoria Memorial

Everybody knows where Taj Mahal is, but do you know where the same replica belongs? Victoria memorial has the same architectural design as Taj Mahal.

The Victoria Memorial was built between 1906 to 1921. It is a museum and holds some of Kolkata’s oldest photos. Inside the museum, you will see artillery that once belong to the British period. Outside the memorial, be sure to take a “Tanga” (horse cart) ride to get a full experience.

2. Howrah Bridge

The landmark of Kolkata joins Kolkata city and Howrah, and dates all the way back to British imperialism period. The world’s busiest cantilever bridge is Howrah bridge, and it stands without nut and bolts. Pretty impressive.

3. Marble Palace

The Kolkata Marble Palace was built in 1835 by Raja Rajendra Mullick with a heavy influence by Greek architecture. It is now a wonderful museum. If you want to see antique relics in bulk, then you have to visit this palace!

4. Jorasanko Thakur Bari

The famous poet/novelist Rabindranath Tagore’s house is just beside the Marble Palace. It’s a 5 minute walking distance between the two, making it a breeze to add to your itinerary. The house is a museum now and the Rabindra Bharati Museum is situated on one side of the building. 

5. St Paul’s Cathedral

Lastly, St Paul’s Cathedral welcomes you. It was built in 1839 with Gothic architecture and is the first Episcopal Church in East Asia.


There are many more places in beautiful Kolkata, India that you’re sure to discover! Happy exploring this hidden gem of a city.

Asia Cruising

From Vietnam to Cambodia, Cruising Down the Mekong River

From Vietnam to Cambodia, Cruising Down the Mekong River

The Mekong River – the world twelfth largest river, the lifeblood and the boundary line of much of Southeast Asia. Cutting through valleys, ancient silk towns, major metropolises, monasteries and hundreds of miles of farm lands and fishing towns… exploring the Mekong River is a cultural traveler’s delight. Today, I’m sharing the highlights of my fifteen-day long exploration of Cambodia and Vietnam while cruising down the Mekong River.

Vietnam

In between visiting Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city, cruising down the Mekong River gave me the opportunity to see a quainter, more rural and authentic side to its people and its culture… for which I’m forever grateful. I truly believe getting off of the well-worn path of must-see cities and metropolises gives travelers a more well-rounded, fuller perspective of a place.

Cái Bè

Perhaps there’s nothing more classic on a Mekong River cruise than experiencing a floating market. Cái Bè’s market was buzzing with excitement, from the sellers and farmers bargaining amongst themselves, to the overflowing amounts of fresh vegetables, candies and more. However, just off the busy market streets you’ll find the calmer waterways lead to the heart of the village, where locals showed us their honey tea making customs and let us sample their delicacies. So special!

Sa Déc

After boarding a small boat set to explore the backwaters of the Mekong Delta, after passing many factories and floating markets, we landed on Sa Déc’s shores. Sa Déc is home to famous authors and brick factories, but what I loved most about exploring this small city was the interactions I had with the locals who were selling their handmade goods and homegrown fruits and vegetables. Having the time to speak with locals and support the local economy was so incredible.

Tan Chau

Our time in Vietnam’s silk weaving factory town, Tan Chau, will forever stay with me. In between exploring the silk-weaving looms, wooden beams and swelteringly hot conditions, we were able to again connect with the locals yet again. Their smiling faces and warm reception to us meant the world to me. It’s the small yet meaningful interactions with locals that always resounds the most with my heart.

Cambodia

Although Cambodia’s famous Angkor Wat draws many, many tourists every day… I could not suggest seeing the country’s quieter side more. Every morning our excursions through Cambodia’s villages revealed a new, intimate experience I just know more travelers would love to witness on their own. For anyone looking to experience their own Indochina Tour, there are so many options and packages out there for every type of traveler.

Chong Kho

Upon crossing into Cambodia’s borders, we were welcomed into the small village of Chong Kho – best known for its silk-weaving and rich fabrics. I found myself exploring the small streets alleys filled with local children, joyfully playing in their swing sets and climbing trees.

French NGO

I truly love photographing people. Their expressions, their joy, the spark in their eyes when I make them giggle or attempt to say something in their language. I spent so much time with the children you see below, these snapshots are just glimpses into the memories I have of them laughing, jumping and walking side by side with me.

From Vietnam to Cambodia, Cruising Down the Mekong River
From Vietnam to Cambodia, Cruising Down the Mekong River
From Vietnam to Cambodia, Cruising Down the Mekong River
From Vietnam to Cambodia, Cruising Down the Mekong River

Kampong Cham

Kampong Cham is a centrally located hub of fishing and agriculture in Cambodia, filled with dense archaeological sights and over 200 ancient temples. You read that right! 200 ancient temples… some of which go back further than the Khmer Empire.

From Vietnam to Cambodia, Cruising Down the Mekong River
From Vietnam to Cambodia, Cruising Down the Mekong River

Magnificent Mekong with Viking Cruises

The grand Mekong River was a sight to behold. And having it as my morning view? Priceless. Viking’s itinerary through the Vietnamese and Cambodian river valley boasts some of the most gorgeous panoramas. But what really made me fall in love was their commitment to showcasing the authentic silk towns, fishing villages and aged beauty of the Vietnamese and Cambodia culture. Each morning I knew that my day would be filled with discovery unlike I’d ever imagine.

Viking’s lodgings and menu always leave me rested and well fed – exactly what I need before taking part on daily excursions! Traditional Vietnamese and Cambodian meals were offered daily… and as an adventurous eater, I loved the experience of tasting the indigenous flavors and authentic dishes as much as I possibly good. 

While cruising through these ancient villages and learning from the locals, I was extremely thankful for Insure Yonder’s travel insurance coverage. I’ve learned the hard way in years past that airline and cruise insurance can be super expensive and lack coverage… but their insightful and thorough coverage gave me such a sense of ease while on this grand adventure. Very thankful for the peace of mind it brought to me while enjoying these serene sights!


A big thank you to Viking Cruises for the opportunity to travel to Vietnam and Cambodia. And also a big, resounding thank you to Insure Yonder for providing us with travel insurance, in case of an emergency! 

Trip sponsored by Viking Cruises. As always, all opinions are my own. All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. The owner of this blog makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site.

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