Category Archives: Asia

Busan – South Korea

FacebookTwitterGoogle+LinkedInPinterestRedditEmailShare


Busan pronounced Pusan has fast become one of my favourite Asian cities with its outgoing personality, flourishing in style and diversity. It’s the second largest in Korea with countless festivals, attractions and beaches to be enjoyed here.


Busan’s harbour view and being a port city, there’s a multitude of cruise companies which allow passengers the opportunity to step onshore and rid themselves of any shoppers’ anxieties from being on board too long.


Beach areas are plentiful for those wanting a more relaxed time before hitting the major shopping centres and markets which close late at night.


The Korea National Maritime Museum exhibits more than 12,000 maritime relics, including the Joseon Missional Ship which is the largest replica in South Korea – half the size of the actual ship! A UN Memorial Cemetery can be found along the bayside as well.


The coastline stretching from the Maritime Museum is just one of the many explorations which can be made by foot. It allows visitors to seek out the region’s attractions at their own pace. There are a total of nine walking trails which can take from five to nine hours each in duration.


Resting up a little before a big day out with a number of interesting sights to see. Make sure you wear comfy shoes and cover up a little as the sun is quite fierce here as well!


And, if you’re short on time, take the Hop On, Hop Off Bus for the day as you can eye off quite a sizeable part of the city this way. Make sure your camera is in ‘ever ready’ mode!


Busan harbour bridge-8 and just nearby on the other side is a mecca for shoppers and those who love spicy food. A plethora of restaurants, coffee shops and eateries will keep you fuelled up throughout the day.


Jagalchi Fish Market is Korea’s biggest seafood market and a must see when visiting the local area. Alight Nampo Station Line 1 (Exit 1) on the subway system.


Numerous smaller fish mongers here also offer cheaper prices to ensure all stock is bargained off by end of the day. Doors open at the crack of dawn with some amazing varieties caught from the South Sea; you’d need quite some time in Busan to try all delicacies if you love seafood.


Additionally, vegetables and fruit at any stall in the city appears to be of a very high quality. What did I particularly like about Korea’s market places? They were fresh with products seemingly tastier and a brighter colour to what’s available at home. You were able to have a hassle-free, ‘just looking’ experience without being cornered by the stall holder into buying. A big tick from me.


Is browsing within your sights? When you see this sign you’ll know you’re in the heart of one of the finest commercial strips, not just Korea but within Asia. No difficulties with hawkers here bothering you with all kinds of gigs to try and force you in through their doors. Seomyeon undoubtedly is one of the busiest and best places if you’re after anything specific. Hassle free and you can breathe easy while opening up those purse strings.


Women Only carriages operate between 7:00 to 9:00 am and 18:00 to 20:00 pm at night. A great way for ladies to feel a little safer during peak hours. A standard one-way subway fare is approximately 1,400 won per adult (A$1.70 on today’s exchange rate with AUD). Longer distances cost a little more.


 Busan Train Station is at the southern terminus of the Gyeongbu Line; being the most important railway line in the country, it links Busan with Seoul in just under three hours.


However, a First Class one-way ticket on the KTX Express Train will cost about A$121.00 dollars directly to Incheon Airport with about five stops in between (including Seoul). Considering my luggage wasn’t checked for weight, I walked straight onto the train with my seat reservation (included in the price) and I stepped off at Incheon Airport – then meandered up the escalators to the departures and check in area. Too easy!


Speeding past plenty of market gardens along the way to Incheon whereby farming in Korea is concentrated around the flatlands. Being on level land with an adequate rainfall and a decent irrigated soil, it permits the most intensive cultivation of seasonal crops.


Incheon Airport with the national carrier Korean Airlines whereby they fly directly to/from Sydney and it’s approximately an eleven-hour flight. If you’re seeking a carrier which is reliable, has spacious leg room in economy, and lo and behold, Korean children who are well behaved – this is definitely the airline for you.

Don’t forget too, if you’re a Skypass Member and have 4,000 points available in kitty, this will allow you entry into the Korean Airlines Lounge when holding a confirmed KE ticket from Seoul. Luggage allowance is 23 kilos (50 lb) in economy, Prestige Class 2 x 32 kilos and First Class a generous 3 x 32 Kilos.


Do I love Bibimbap? Undoubtedly, I will miss the spicy dishes and traditional cuisine of South Korea, but mostly it would have to be the very friendly people who had helped me throughout my journey – even when English wasn’t spoken. The younger generation are on the right track in terms of being resourceful, well-mannered and decisive which gave me the opportunity to meet some incredible people along the way.

A memorable trip South Korea – I’ll be back for sure!

Gohan to Gangwon – South Korea


Heading off to High 1 Resort at Gohan and it’s about a four-hour’s drive from Seoul to relax and unwind in the countryside for a change. With the highest altitude of 1,345 metres, it’s amongst Korea’s best ski resorts and features clean, puffy snow which is a drawcard for professional skiers from around the world.


Catching a bus is easy enough in Korea and if you’re worried about how to purchase tickets, all bus stations sell on the day of travel and cannot be bought necessarily online. Schedules are frequent between cities and hospitality staff in hotels are eager to assist with information, prices and will advise you to arrive at the terminal with plenty of time to spare.

Transport was fast, efficient and reliable on the journeys I’d taken around the countryside and it included buses and trains as distances were doable on the same day.


Lovely scenery all along the way and heading towards what is known as ski country on the eastern side of Korea, it’s definitely a mecca for all winter sporting experts. Though on this occasion I’m a little early for any snow falls. I don’t mind. Why? Because I can’t ski.


High 1 Resort is a five-star resort and is a destination in itself. Even if you’re not there for the ski season, it’s a retreat for those wishing to have a short break in the superb mountainous region of eastern Korea. Clear, fresh air and an easy bus ride from Seoul makes this area a favourite for holiday makers; both local and from abroad.


Wooden structures are a favourite here amongst children and it highlights the gardens with their portrayal of makeshift animals while recycling old timber branches.


The resort also has a massive garden expanse within its grounds allowing guests the freedom to meander quietly and enjoy the surrounds. See, you don’t have to ski, just walk slowly and smell the dainty flowers instead. Much more sensible for someone like me who cannot stand on two skis if their life depended on it!


No doubt 2018 will be a big year in this region with the Winter Olympics approaching fast. Home to mountains, great skiing and winter sports it should be a huge welcome sign rather than ‘see you again’.


After a few hours on the bus, I’ve discovered Gangwon, but with a fog in tow. Asked why visit this city, I said “why not”? The Gangwon province will be home to the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Pyeong Chang and I think it’ll be interesting to see its transformation from being one of the quieter regions of this busy and modern country, and then contrasting to the hustle and bustle of its popular counterparts.


As a traveller and a travel agent, new emerging destinations have always been of interest to me and a curiosity in how they promote their points of difference. However, it’s now on its way, in particular next year in wanting a slice of the tourism dollar and realising many promotional activities are necessary for that to occur. Putting its best foot forward is paramount; particularly when competing with big-brother cities such as Seoul, Suwon and Bussan.


Traditionally known as a city which caters well towards high-tech companies from overseas, Gangwon has realised it’s high time to pull out the beauty kit and showcase itself as a tourist destination rather than its abundance of technological components.


The city epitomises a bike-friendly place and in doing so, creates a means of transport which is faster and more efficient than most other cities around the world – and in that alone they would find enviable. Seven out of ten Koreans own a bicycle and with lycra-clad riders converging on the well-planned pathways each day, it can only be thought of as a sensible way to exercise, save on energy sources (except your own) and be a good-hearted greenie in the process.

In terms of speediness it would leave my own traffic-jammed home city of residence much to learn from.


Yongji Lake in the heart of Gangwon is a place to take yourself or the family to cool off and take a breather.  The crown jewel and feature is the the water show which happens twice a night for 30 minutes; March 15th through November 30th (except rainy days and the third Monday of each month).

Some people bring instruments, some people bring wine and everyone brings their voice but, mostly they enjoy the communal atmosphere.

Buses: 100, 111, 116, 507 go the closest to the lake.


Although Yongji is a very small manmade lake, its soft track and spacious fields behind, gives 1.5 million people a place to play or just hang out.


The lake is also quite close to the ‘Tree-lined Street’ and nearby there’s a myriad of restaurants, cafes and bars.


Large trees align the streets with bright fuchsia-coloured flowers making it come alive with a real pizazz.


Didn’t expect to see a red phone booth in Korea! But, that’s what it used to look like – long before smart phones. How did we ever cope before …


Outside of the Pullman Hotel and Convention Centre, youngsters love these big cats and as they act like a show pony for the little ones to climb all over …


And, whilst you’re at the Pullman Ambassador Hotel, treat yourself to a couple of these – why might you ask?


Because Korea makes a traditional black raspberry wine and it is divine! As you can expect it’s a little sweeter than most long-established vinos, but you really have to try it to appreciate just how unique it really is, and not to mention how tempting it can be to have another glass …


Next stop Bussan.

Seoul – South Korea


If you just happen to be around in South Korea when it’s their national Foundation Day in October and Chuseok Holidays being listed on the calendar, then you’ll be lucky enough to see many of the Korean people adorned in traditional attire over the holiday period. And, they’re very happy to snap photos of each other too!


Having returned to Seoul after a couple of previous visits over the years, on this occasion I’ll be traversing a little further around the country. But for now, a view of the Changdeok Palace which is set within a large park in Jongno-gu, Seoul and is a must see as it’s one of the ‘Five Grand Palaces’ built by the kings of the Joseon Dynasty (1392–1897). There’s so much to see within this complex built on a 58-hectare site, so make sure you wear comfortable walking shoes.


Beautifully, the buildings of Changdeokgung blend with the natural topography of the site instead of imposing themselves upon it. All this within the city’s boundaries and it’s easy access to transport and the Anguk subway station is within a couple of minutes walking.


My very willing model for this photo and dressed in her lovely traditional gown showing off a by-gone era.


Ahh of course, did I tell you I’d taken a liking to photographing doors? Yes of course I did! Non of which were going to escape from me on this trip either.


Not too far away is Jongno Tower which is a 33-story office building with its top floor being equipped with a restaurant/bar and famous for its views of Seoul – especially at night.


N. Seoul Tower in the distance built in 1971, it’s South Korea’s first general radio wave tower providing TV and radio broadcasting for the city and surrounds.


Some very interesting architecture within Seoul; most notably swerves, waviness and this one doing the splits … All within an easy walk around the city centre, and if you’re a photographer who likes impressive structures, then Seoul is for you.


Smoking kept within decent shelters seems like a reasonable and fair deal for all.


Sewing machines on display while window shopping along the streets. From my observation, clothing made in South Korea appears to be of a higher quality than from many other Asian countries; with fine materials and stronger threads being used and therefore lasting longer. Everything a sewer could ever possibly need can be found at the ever-popular Dongdaemun Fabric Market.


Shopping, shopping and more shopping. There is no shortage of markets and other precincts for some true retail therapy.

Myeong-dong is Seoul’s prime shopping and entertainment area in downtown which contains some of the city’s top stores and fashion boutiques. Itaewon is another notable shopping area lined with boutiques and stores especially targeted at the large foreign population in Seoul. However, my favourite is Insadong whereby at one time it was the largest market for antiques and artworks in Korea. The Gangnam areas often attract a more well-to-do population of wealthy young Koreans who shop at one of many luxury boutiques and department stores, as well as dining at some of the finest cafes and restaurants in the city.


You don’t have to go too far to find any kind of market, maybe just around the corner of your hotel stay.


Chestnuts are offered by street sellers and are looking very much like they’re calling my name.
While American chestnuts range in size, Korean or Asian chestnuts are slightly bigger and may not be as sweet. Instead they have a neutral, smoky flavour that makes them versatile in many other dishes.


Coffee shops abound everywhere in South Korea! Lucky me. This is one country which appreciates the good bean for its customers to enjoy, more so than any other Asian country I can think of. This little place has survived in a fast-growing metropolis and I think it deserves my patronage.


On the walk home, a stop at Tapgol Park Insadong which is historically important as the site of the origin of the March 1st Movement 1919, an important part of South Korea’s independence as the first location for the reading of the Proclamation of Independence.

Although at the time of writing this post, tensions were at a high level with North Korea’s missile testings. However, I found there wasn’t any shortage of visitors upon arrival with queues of tourists waiting to clear immigration. Obviously people weren’t prepared to ‘wait and see’ and were still willing to flock and visit this wonderful country which is filled with warm-hearted and welcoming South Koreans.

Beijing – China


Chinese culture in Beijing is just like the thickest encyclopaedia containing the  heritage and history between its covers.  A city trying to absorb the exploding knowledge of the current society and foretelling the scenarios of the future’s growing developments – and all the while still holding on fast to many old traditions.


Bikes galore and possibly the best way to make your way around Beijing (that’s if you’re a local – not me) which is impossibly busy with non-stop traffic 24/7.


Our guide showing us the magnitude of the Summer Palace and its gardens which is situated in the Haidian District northwest of Beijing. The Summer Palace is 9 miles (15 kilometres) from the downtown area and being the largest and most well-preserved royal park in China, it greatly influences Chinese horticulture and landscapes which has long been recognized as ‘The Museum of Royal Gardens’.


The Summer Palace’s lake with a sea of Lotus showcasing its famous natural views and the cultural interests which form this crowd pleaser.


A boat ride around the lake ensures you don’t feel you’ve missed out on seeing the area other than from the foreshore. And yes, with a peripheral view you’re kept nice and dry with calm waters on Kunming Lake.


Connecting the eastern shore of Kunming Lake and the only passageway to Nanhu Island in the west, the Seventeen-Arch Bridge was built during the reign of Emperor Qianlong (1711-1799). There are some thirty bridges in the Summer Palace area and this is the largest one, with a length of 150 metres (164 yards) and a width of 8 metres (8.75 yards).


Affectionately known as the Bird’s Nest, the National Stadium, it’s situated within the Olympic Green Village in the Chaoyang District of Beijing  and was designed as the main stadium for the 2008 Olympic Games.

An afternoon stroll will secure your sighting of mainly one-child families out with their off spring finding solace in a wide open space with plenty of security. While a few tantrums were witnessed here by some little princes and princesses, it seems the parents are adept in tuning out with selective hearing. I’m told that the one-child policy in China has been relaxed since 2016 and having spoken to a few parents, it seems they are not rushing to accept the new ruling and bolster further production …


Part of my group’s youngsters enjoying Tiananmen Square where you’ll find the Tiananmen Tower, Monument to the People’s Heroes, Great Hall of the People and Chairman Mao Zedong Memorial Hall. Thousands of people come to the Square every day and is the ‘must place’ to visit in Beijing.

Outside China, the square is best known for the Tiananmen Square protests whereby there was an armed suppression of a pro-democracy movement back in June 1989 by the Chinese government.


The National Museum of China flanks the eastern side of Tiananmen Square with its mission to educate about the arts and history of China.


Now known as the Palace Museum, it’s to the north of Tiananmen Square, rectangular in shape and it’s the world’s largest palace complex which covers 74 hectares. Surrounded by a 52-metre-wide moat and a 10 metre-high wall, there are more than 8,700 rooms.


The Great Wall steps here at Juyonguan are gigantic in height to say the least. Make sure you’re fit if attempting any part of it.

The most famous Great Wall sections are located in its suburban areas, including the well-preserved Badaling and Mutianyu, the renovated Juyonguan, Jinshanling and Simatai and wild Jiankou and Gubeikou. They’re all not too far from downtown Beijing – about 1-2 hours driving away depending on traffic conditions.


In Chinese history, Beijing was not only one of the ancient capitals, but also one of the most strategic cities in the north. To defend their territory, many rulers had actively ordered to build a Great Wall here and of the surrounds, Beijing totals 573 kilometres (356 miles). Those from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), it was the last dynasty engaged in the Great Wall construction which amounted to 526 kilometres (327 miles).


Jade is everywhere for sale. Don’t take my word on what’s the best deal. Sometimes you’ll have to rely on your own judgement on what’s a fake or not. If you ask me the precious gem all looks very much the same to me …


There are pockets of quietness and a boat ride around a moat might be one way of escaping some of the maddening crowds. Not sure about leaving the bike on the footpath though, but I wouldn’t do that in Sydney either!


The majority of the Ming tombs are located in a cluster near Beijing and collectively known as the Thirteen Tombs of the Ming Dynasty. The site on the southern slope of Tianshou Mountain was chosen based on the principles of feng shui by the third Ming Emperor Yongle.


Once you’ve mastered China’s most sought-after sights when touring, you’ll realise how quickly a week goes when it’s time to say bye. And, if you’ve been lucky enough to have a fabulous and fun group along the way, then it makes the journey even more enjoyable.

For group enquiries contact me on the home page ‘About Me’ of this website.

Hangzhou, Suzhou and Wuxi – China


Travelling within China needn’t be all about the Golden Triangle of Shanghai, Xian and Beijing as this is one country which encompasses a mammoth area in terms of touristic sites to visit and it’s worthy of going outside the ‘triangle’. Art, food and theatre play a major part of China’s cultural heritage and traditions which can be easily seen in other more tame cities such as Hangzhou, Suzhou and Wuxi.


However, there are some destinations which are best I feel to be a part of an organised tour when it comes to learning from local guides about what’s interesting and historical in that region. In particular, quaint smaller cities you might otherwise miss if travelling independently. Additionally, it takes away the stress of traffic congestion, having decent hotels already sorted with all transfers included and language barriers overcome.

Overall, distances are huge within China and there’s a plethora of airlines, trains and buses servicing the country. However, a packaged tour is generally regarded as value for money allowing you to take in the sights without too much fuss.


In the area around Hangzhou, Mei Jai Wu Village is a tea growing district and here we learn about the differences of green and black tea – and anything else in between.


Hills and fields of green as far as the eye can see, with little Chinese workers’ heads bobbing throughout the rows and covered with cornical hats to ward off the heat, which in turn, is lovingly soaked up by the precious bushes producing one of the world’s most enjoyable beverages.


Tea leaves which are really quite delicate are harvested by hand before being dried and crushed to give many of us our first hot drink of the day. Well mine anyway …


Hangzhou’s West Lake has influenced poets and painters throughout Chinese history for its natural beauty and historic relics. It’s among one of the most important sources of inspiration for Chinese garden designers. If you look on the back of all Chinese paper notes, you’ll find all the heritage-listed natural wonders of China are revered here, rather than other past prominent rulers.


And onward we go with plenty of sites to see along the way. Distances between these three cities by bus is anywhere between three and five hours depending on the traffic.


China is known for its silk and Suzhou is most famous for producing its silk. Here at a factory we’re  able to see how intricate and fine the technique is for yielding quality products from these small cocoons.


Here silkworms are munching away on mulberry leaves as if it were their last meal, and yes it really is … What’s so amazing about the silk-making process is that the silkworm creates its cocoon out of a single silk thread that is continuous for approximately 3,600 feet.


Among the processes, making cocoons to skeins is especially important to produce quality goods.


For an extra couple of Yuan, take a very quick boat ride around the perimeter of the factory. Really have to capitalise on those tourists coming in …


Xue Fucheng’s former residence, also known as the Xue Family Garden, is the biggest of its kind in Wuxi our next stop. Once belonging to the late Xue Fucheng, a famous ideologist and diplomat during the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), the garden was built in 1894 and covers an area of 21,000 square metres.


The magnificent residence with its gardens had been restored and is open to tourists to admire a bygone era. Obviously it’s in the middle of Wuxi’s central business district and thankfully had been saved from developers.


All around when motoring between cities, you’ll witness some amazing architecture, waterways and bridges.


Beautiful gardens at Panmen Gardens in Suzhou and if you’re a guest of the Pan Pacific Hotel it’s entry is free. Only a six-minute walk from the scenic garden and five kilometres from the Tang Dynasty-era Shantang Street.


The Pagodas in the Gardens are located on the south-west corner of the Main Canal, or the encircling canal of Suzhou. Originally built during the Spring and Autumn period in the state of Wu, historians estimate it to be around 2,500 years old.


Suzhou Culture and Arts Centre is regarded as the landmark of the development of the city’s culture and arts.


End of the day, a cool breeze and understanding some feng shui will help keep you balanced and ready for the next part of your journey.


Airports in China are not really any different to most when it comes to security and safety. However, I’ve not seen a Ladies Only line before. Didn’t make too much of a difference with long lines anyway. Ensure you have plenty of time to make it to the airport if travelling independently as the traffic is horrendous and language barriers can take time for explanations to departing passengers.

Let the tour company’s guides take all the hassle out of your travel by taking a packaged tour such as this one which included our flight as well and seemed great value; especially when short on time …

Next stop Beijing.

Shanghai – China


Shanghai China; big, bold and growing faster by the day. In fact, in terms of size, the whole population of Australia sits within this city alone.

Cruising the River Huangpu alongside The Bund, Shanghai’s cosmopolitan cultural district, an evening tour of the waterfront is a must see. Dazzling lights allow you to see the city’s most significant landmarks cloaked by the atmospheric cover of darkness.


The Bund area is  one of the most visited shopping centres within Asia and commands consumers to spend up – even if you don’t want to you’ll be hard pressed …


Stretching for almost five kilometres from the Bund through to Jing’an Temple, Nanjing Road features massive modern multi-level shopping malls, historic stores and specialty stores. It dates back to the Qing Dynasty and many of the same shops are still trading today which is a major drawcard.


I’d read an article which stated strollers should be left at home if visiting the shopping areas. It seems this mother and child never made it out …


Peking Duck features throughout the city’s crazed food markets and outlets. The Chinese have appreciated the finer qualities of roast duck for a millennia and in that time, they’ve refined their cooking techniques into a virtual art form. Over the centuries, the specialty evolved to become China’s national dish. And, from my observation, each restaurant claims to have the best and it seems to me once a diner has found their favourite eatery, that’s where the family and friends will congregate for their national treasure when it comes to food.


According to the pricing system of the rail traffic network, approved by the Commodity Price Authority of Shanghai Municipality, the ticket price is calculated on a multi-level which is based on mileage. For passengers travelling between 0-6 kilometres, the ticket price will be RMB3. Should you be travelling more than 6 kilometres, then add RMB1 for every 10 kilometres. A ‘Shortest Path Method’ is adopted to calculate ticket prices. For instance, when there’s more than one transfer path between two metro stations, the ticket price is calculated based on the path with the shortest mileage.

As for ‘getting around’ Line 2 will take you all the way from Pudong International Airport to Hongqiao Airport Terminal 2 and Hongqiao Railway Station at the opposite end. The train on this green line also stops along the way with the major sights such as Jing’an Temple and The Bund if need. This is the fastest and easiest way of going from one place to another within Shanghai as the traffic is horrendous with cars only allowed on certain days on various main roads; depending on whether the registration plate ends in an odd or even number!


For sightseeing I’d recommend take a Hop On, Hop Off Big Bus to view as many sights as possible in a short time. Shanghai is one of the Chinese cities whereby the 72 hour transit visa is applicable for Australians should their forward journey be outside of China. For example continuing onto Europe or the USA. With this particular visa an Australian passenger cannot enter through/via Hong Kong on both their inward and outbound itineraries to China. However, if your itinerary departs from Australia to Shanghai  (or other allowable Chinese cities) and then onto Hong Kong once before returning home; this is permitted.

Check with the Chinese Visa Application Centre or Consulate as the information here was correct at the time of posting this blog.


Emerging Hongqiao is an area where the very stylish Meliá Shanghai Hongqiao have recently opened its doors in late March this year of 2017.

If you’ve ever hopped into a new plush car on the showroom floor, that’s what this Melia Hotel feels like when you enter its expansive reception area. Polished and ready for its guests to be treated with precision and guaranteed service.


Upgrade to the sophisticated Grand Suites which boasts a generous and very spacious 75 m²  lounge featuring neo-Chinese décors and includes a massive TV of which delivers a multitude of stations from around the globe.

The delightful bathroom with a separate bath and rain shower will keep ladies from leaving it in a hurry. But once you remember the room rate includes entry into the lofty Club Lounge, it might be the incentive one needs to ‘move on’ from the mirror for some cocktails and canapés to enjoy in the early evening.


Love this note pad as a gift given to guests at this level.  I’ve not seen anything similar given by other hotel groups of which I thought was quite clever and thoughtful.The slogan on the cover states: Clearing your mind is relaxing, but filling it with colour is even better.


Oh and did I mention the Spa Treatments which complement the sauna and steam room within the hotel’s premises? In record time the award-winning Spa had me rested like a soothed babe encased in a May Gibb’s Gumnut – one of which I didn’t want to leave!


But at the end of the day, this hotel offers peace and quiet in an area which is fast becoming the cultural hub for meetings and events. Meliá Shanghai Hongqiao is one of the premier convention and meeting hotels being only five minutes from Shanghai’s National Exhibition and Convention Centre. However, the hotel provides 700m² of conference space of its own with multi-function meeting rooms to cater for different needs of conference and incentive planners – in addition to guests wanting a more intimate space to conduct their business.
Check the Melia’s website for more details https://www.melia.com/

Guangzhou, China


Trains in China are fast and speed past crawling traffic in the bigger cities. The train to Guangzhou from Shenzhen takes about an hour and fares are approximately CNY40 Economy and First Class CNY80 one way per adult. Upon arrival at Guangzhou Station the signage is clear in both Chinese and English.

Guangjiu (Guangzhou-Kowloon in Hong Kong) Railway stretches from Guangzhou in the north to Hung Hom, Kowloon in the south and is 119 kilometres away if you’re considering returning to Hong Kong.

On today’s exchange rate A$1.00 = CNY 5.24
Traditional cuisine tea drinking with fragrant dried chrysanthemum flowers are steeped in hot water (usually 90 to 95 degrees celsius after cooling from being boiled) either in a teapot, cup or glass.  This has become quite a habit for me now, not to mention addictive!


First up on a Gourmet Tour is a spicy beef  noodle soup and is a perfect luncheon for a full day of sight seeing around Guangzhou.


There’s a myriad of restaurants which are well patronized with hoards of locals coming in with their families for a treat of some of the best and most traditional dishes.


Built in the memory of the Founding Father Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall is reputed as one of the most outstanding landmarks of Guangzhou.


As an art for more than 3,000 years, Chinese calligraphy is regarded as an illustrious tradition in its culture. It’s neither just writing Chinese characters nor writing well. It’s actually an art to express spirituality and this artistry carries with it the calligrapher’s personality, thoughts and ideas.


19th-century architecture shown at the Chen Clan Academy and story telling of traditional and ancient times is replicated here.


Chen Clan Academy, also known as Ancestral Temple of the Chen Family, was built as a college in 1888 and was designated as the Guangdong Museum of Folk Art in 1959.

\
Oh really, more food! Local street specialities are found everywhere, just need to know what it is you like and then have it cooked in front of you … Thought I’d give the sponge-like loofa looking things a miss …


Time out to reflect. In China, Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism are the three main religious beliefs, with others being supplementary to them.


Noodles ready for sale. Long noodles mean having a long life. So don’t eat any short ones! The picturesque environs of Lizhiwan Canal and a variety of goods at the Qingping Market make for a lovely day out.


Tree struggling for space in an ancient land being built out with modernisation and technology.


Five Ram Statue built in 1959 to give the local farmers a means of praying for prosperity and a sizeable yield from their crops when droughts have been prevalent in the past.

You can wander through the expansive green oasis of Yuexiu Park and explore the highlights of the park, including Zhenhai Tower and Temple Of The Five Immortals.


After lunch – out and about with all the Aunties and Uncles. Theatre in the park is where retirees gather for some afternoon delights, and in particular traditional performances which only require a small donation which keeps themselves entertained.


Gourmet dinner stop, ideal for an authentic meal of Southern Chinese cuisine before sailing off for an hour-long cruise along the Pearl River. Quite spectacular with brightly lit up buildings and bridges constantly changing colours.


Buildings which are easily recognisable at night such as The Canton Tower, or Guangzhou Tower. It’s a 604 metres tall multi-purpose observation tower in the Haizhu District and here showing itself off whilst we’re enjoying the river cruise.


Bright in light – Liede Bridge opened in 2009 crosses over the  Pearl River and the 4.3 kilometres (2.7 miles) bridge connects Pazhou Island in Haizhu District with Tianhe.  


More spicy fish – yum!

Guangzhou, formerly known as Canton is the birthplace of Cantonese cuisine, one of the eight traditional culinary cuisines of China. As a major trading port, Guangzhou / Canton has many imported ingredients, as well as fresh ingredients from farms or fisheries. Guangzhou Street Food shares many similarities with Hong Kong cuisine as the two cities are located relatively near each other and has a cross influence.

There’s a myriad of flights from both Shenzhen and Guangzhou to all other destinations within China.

 

Shenzhen, China


Breakfast at The Langham Hotel in Shenzhen is one favourable reason to hop out of bed and face the day with more eating. Especially when it’s a Gourmet Tour you’re about to embark upon; not to mention taking in some of the sights around the city …


Symbolism of Shenzhen’s early days; the city was established in 1979 and is a modern, highly-technological metropolis of China having been a fishing village which was transformed and soon established as the fourth highest economical region in China. In August of the following year, the country’s first special economic zone was established here.

‘Being China’s largest port city and window of opening up to the outside world, Shenzhen saw 239 million people traveling across the border in 2015. The policy of allowing mainland citizens to travel to Hong Kong and Macau on an individual basis made Shenzhen an intermediate point for people’s trips to Hong Kong. Statistics show that more than 60% of people travelling from mainland cities to Hong Kong or overseas destinations via Hong Kong choose to make a stopover in Shenzhen.’ Source: http://english.sz.gov.cn/


Dongmen Place in Shenzhen is a commercial shopping area in Luohu that’s been ticking away for over 300 years. Truly a maze of streets and buildings and on weekends it’s incredibly busy (just to let you know). If you like relaxed shopping, try going during the week and early with most stores opening between 10 and 11 am, closing later in the evening between 9 and 11 pm – depending on the time of year and day.

Tips: Be mindful of pick pockets, it’s a large area spread across several blocks and you won’t see everything in one day, double check the quality.
Cooling off with a refreshing mist in Dongmen Place is my guide Lisa who knows the humidity during the Summer months can cause heat exhaustion – especially if you’re buying up big in a very busy shopping precinct.

It’s a short walk from Laojie Station on Line 1 of the Shenzhen metro.


Meeting some locals in the park ‘advertising’ for their children to hopefully find them a partner. You can come and check out the profiles of those who don’t have time to spend here during the day. However, it seems these Mums do have the opportunity and possibly keen to have their ‘adult’ kids move out by promoting them to others who are in a similar situation. Some youngsters are like sticky rice and very hard to separate!


Hongfa Temple is located in Xianhu Botanical Park which is about a 20 minute cab ride from Luoho in central Shenzhen. Buy your ticket at the gate, then either walk through the park (30 minutes or so) to the temple or take a shuttle bus up. However, be aware the buses do not operate in the latter part of the day and a walk down is definitely easier than going up. Just don’t leave it too late as the lighting wasn’t operating at the time of writing this post.


Buddhist Monks at the Temple whereby you’ll see numerous believers praying and burning incense in its assembly.


Fledging Buddhists Monks counsel a newly-wed lady who believes her husband may be cheating on her … Of course, not being privy to the conversation, I was quite keen to know what advice had been given by inexperienced, never married men and what they believe might be the right path for her future? To stay or not to stay …

 


Afterwards walking around the Fairy Lake Botanical Gardens, (referred to as SZBG or the Garden) it includes biodiversity conservation, scientific research, science education and tourism. First constructed in 1983 and then opened to the public in 1988, it’s relatively new and has received international recognition.


The China Folk Culture Village is located adjacent to the Splendid China theme park and features displays of the daily life and architecture of China’s 56 ethnic groups (including the minorities) and opened to the public in October 1991. An insight to the many regions of China of which most tourists only wish to visit the Golden Triangle of Xian, Beijing and Shanghai – not realising there’s so much more the country has to offer, especially in terms of natural beauty and an ancient civilisation which had lasted for centuries. Much of the Chinese culture has endured, even in today’s modernism.


A lot of fun to be had by youngsters and all the ‘aunties and uncles’ who accompany them at the Culture Village with various activities.


Once the Culture Village lights up, it’s a beautiful setting in the evening with families drawn to it like fireflies. Featuring throughout the year there’s several cultural festivals such as the Water Splashing Festival of the Dai, the Shawm Festival of the Miao, the Torch Festival of the Yi, the  Huaxia Great Cultural Temple Fair, the Xinjiang Cultural Festival and the Inner Mongolia Grassland Cultural Festival.


Dinner, ah yes there’s a reason I’m here on this Gourmet Tour. More food and the offerings are of the local cuisine with a very spicy fish dish on this occasion with seasonal vegetables on the menu.


In the performance called The Dragon and Phoenix, the entire troupe of entertainers combine their efforts to produce an outstanding and dazzling spectacle for both young and old. The costumes are amazing and set in a versatile theatrical setting and undoubtedly worthy of seeing.

Next stop Guangzhou, China.

Hong Kong to Shenzhen, China

 


If there’s no other reason to visit Hong Kong than to hang out with friends, then you’ll always enjoy a Herbal Tea tradition dating back as far as anyone can remember – either made at home or being sold on the street in ancient days. Here with my mate Polly who is enjoying  a Dampness Expelling Tea and mine a Five Flowers Tea  for the princely sum of HKD10 each in Mong Kok.

In the 50s and 60s Hong Kong, there wasn’t too much influence from the West, beverages such as coffee and English tea was mainly served for high society with British Government officials and merchants in hotel coffee shops. The economy was blooming, people started to have more leisure, but there still wasn’t too many places for people to ‘hang out’. Herbal Tea Shops were the places which first installed TVs and radios, so it was similar to a chilling place for the youth at that time. Afterwards it started to be replaced by coffee shops starting from the 1980s.


And, it’s even better when your friend Polly knows where to take you for Yum Cha!


If you’ve seen Ladies and Flower Markets in Hong Kong,  a trip to Men’s Market might be of interest to the people who patiently tread the shopping mill with their partners; maybe sifting through and snatching an odd reward in Apilu Street will appease them.


Some of the finds here are truly intriguing. Perhaps it’s one way of keeping your man (or lady) extremely happy and that’s not to say there’s some useful items to take home. Never know when you might fancy an antiquated movie projector because you’re tired of the remote-controlled TV at home? Nothing like a bit of nostalgia …


The Jade Market is the largest offering I’ve ever seen and if gems are your thing then take the MTR to Yau Ma Tei.  Exit C and walk south down Nathan Road and after passing under a road viaduct turn left into Kansu Street. The market is located near the junctions of Kansu Street and Battery Street (fourth on the left) almost opposite the attractive colonial Yau Ma Tei Police Station. You’ll find other interesting items as well …


Lunch on the go is cheap and additionally there’s a plethora of small traditional restaurants serving authentic cuisine.


Later during my stay, it was time to catch up with friends Alex and Gwynne from Sydney who were visiting family in Hong Kong. Here at Ladder Street, we’re making our way up to Sheung Wan, which consists entirely of stone steps.


We also navigated our way up onto the Mid-Levels Escalator which crosses Hollywood Road and heads up towards Shelley Street. Although the people movers go on and on upwards, bear in mind, they do not operate coming down and the walk can be a little steep. But the good news is that you can stop along the way at a myriad of bars and restaurants; and if it’s later in the day, perhaps stop for a couple of cocktails within ‘happy hour’ to ease the burden of a long walk downwards – you won’t even notice how far you’ve traipsed after some bevvies … Check out Lan Kwai Fong for a lively smart area to chill out.


So, I’m heading off next to Shenzhen in China which borders with Hong Kong and easiest for me whilst staying here is to take a train across. Takes about an hour from Mong Kok East Station and the cost one way for an adult is HKD40 in economy and HKD80 in First Class which has its own dedicated queue to board. On today’s exchange rate A$1.00 = HKD6.21


On the Hong Kong side of the border is Lo Wu station and Luohu Station at Shenzhen, China with  a number of stops en route. However, a new faster express train is currently being developed for the near future and will take approximately 17 minutes I’ve been advised.


Australians require a visa to enter China and if seeking a 72 hour visa-free stay, then check with the Chinese Visa Application Service Centre for updated information. You can go online and make an appointment prior to going into the Centre to speed up the process.
Address: Level 5/299 Elizabeth St, Sydney NSW 2000
Phone: (02) 9475 8800
Hours: Open Monday to Friday 9am–3pm

At Luohu Shenzhen, there’s an underground subway which is also a major rail station and the border crossing immigration point is here – all in the one place. It’s a mix of old and new buildings and though the signs can be a little vague, eventually you’ll find your way out … You can fill in the arrival form found on the counters before progressing to the Immigration line up.


Checking into The Langham Hotel in Shenzhen had been made a breeze at the Club Lounge which is  inclusive of internet access and VIP welcome amenities. My advice is to upgrade and treat yourselves to take advantage of the Club privileges which include daily breakfast for two, afternoon tea, evening cocktails with canapés and additionally all-day coffee/tea with light snacks.


Rooms are beautifully appointed with natural light streaming into the room and it’s just what Aussies love – bright, stylish rooms. Classic European style in the heart of modern Shenzhen – you may not want to leave the hotel once settled in!


And at the end of the day, why wouldn’t you want to relax and soak up the classy atmosphere at The Langham …

Somewhere out there on the left is Hong Kong and it’s easy to see why the residents come in droves for a short break away when you can experience luxury at an affordable price in an elegant five-star hotel such as this one.

Next blog post – Shenzhen sights and Gourmet Tour.

Seoul, South Korea – Asia

travel_gracefully-c-2016-15En route to Nepal with Korean Airlines (KE) and Crooked Compass – a small niche tour company who encourages you to experience the lesser known and immersive side of many unique destinations. ‘Follow a different path’ is their mantra and we’re about to explore with our group the alternate southern side of the country rather than heading off to Base Camp style trekking.

One of the fantastic benefits of being a Korean Airlines member is that, once you have accumulated 4,000 points redeemable, you can gain entry into one of the participating lounges around the world – provided you are holding a KE boarding pass for onward travel.

Personally I would recommend at least three nights in Seoul as it’s one of those Asian cities which connects the senses by embracing culture, art and history, even though it leads a distinctive urban lifestyle.

travel_gracefully-c-2016-17-copy
And the start to a wondrous trip can’t be any easier than relaxing in the Sky Team Lounge at Sydney Airport.

travel_gracefully-c-2016-2
There’s a few transport options into the city from Seoul’s Incheon International Airport; the bus being one of the most convenient ways and will deliver at designated stops within its area. Check with your hotel as it could mean either the  bus or train may be the better path to their address. Additionally taxis are available and more expensive as the ride will take approximately one hour regardless.

travel_gracefully-c-2016-1
Entrance of Four Seasons Hotel Seoul exudes class and an undeniably stylish décor. It’s smack in the centre of all attractions in Gwanghwamun – the very heart of Seoul and not far from the Gyeongbok Palace.

travel_gracefully-c-2016-11
The Four Seasons Seoul being a five-star hotel, offers 317 guest rooms and luxury suites. My recommendation is to upgrade which allows entry into the Executive Club Lounge.

travel_gracefully-c-2016-8
Wish this was my desk everyday … And the TV, well it might have to go – too much of a distraction … not!

travel_gracefully-c-2016-9
Buffet lunch at the hotel cannot be missed. Endless choices from all over the world.

travel_gracefully-c-2016-10
And, what are some of the things we love about Korean food? It’s all those tasty condiments which go with the main dishes. So much to choose from and if you like spicy, then this is the country to visit.

travel_gracefully-c-2016-7
Isadong is a shopper’s dream with so much on offer – of course it’s the tourist precinct but can’t be missed.  It gained in popularity with international tourists during the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

travel_gracefully-c-2016-6
Games, toys and techno? It’s all here.

travel_gracefully-c-2016-5
Smells divine too.

travel_gracefully-c-2016-19
A night out with my group calls for some cool décor and a place to relax such as Hangik, a neighbourhood wedged between two Universities which has a thriving arts and indie music scene. It’s home to an array of independent clothing labels and off-the-wall vintage shops. The relaxed vibe here can be best felt in any one of the area’s clubs, bars or cafés and is the closest city area to/from the airport. Located on Seoul’s Metro Line 11 is easy to find.

img_3251-2
In Hongdae, we  headed towards  the Mint Bar to enjoy their signature cocktail with Tom about to tackle his and yes, you have to sip and slurp with the bottle still in the glass.

travel_gracefully-c-2016-16
Even if you’re not a beer drinker, you’ll enjoy these,  the Coronarita! An icey blend of corona beer and a margarita.

travel_gracefully-c-2016-13
Going back to Incheon Airport by train is incredibly straight forward with a plethora of stations underground which feed into the main subway and effectively take travellers to where they need to go.

travel_gracefully-c-2016-14
Clean, fast and comfortable the train slices through any traffic hiccups. Cost is approximately A$4.00 one way per adult.

travel_gracefully-c-2016-3
Back at the airport and this has to be one of the most efficient airports in the world. Have your comfy shoes on because you’ll be running a marathon to check out all the duty free shops.

Next stop Kathmandu Nepal – Namaste till next week’s blog.