6 day itinerary for Romania and the Transylvanian region

Romania, and in particular Transylvania, conjures up images and feelings of some far off place . . . in the mountains . . . in the forests . . . with castles . . . kind of like Lord of the Rings, but with a spooky vibe . . . and indeed it is all of this.  And while there are not as much of a concentration of stellar attractions as you would get in Western Europe, that is kind of Romania’s charm and it makes for a great roadtrip for a week or so, with the itinerary below

3 days in Budapest for baths, architectural gems and nights out in the ruin bars

Big fan of Budapest.  The city itself has a certain unusual quality compared to other well known European cities just because of its history in the Austro-Hungarian empire and strong Eastern European (and Middle Eastern) influence.  This combined with the bath culture and great energy from the easily accessible night spots (think beer gardens rather than clubs) make it quite a gem for a long weekend trip

2 days for the famous highlights of Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a great place to visit either as a destination on its own, or, as many people do, as a nice 2 day stop over between flights.  I’ve lived in Hong Kong for 8 years, so . . . I’m biased . . . but also leaves me well placed to give you tips on how to have the best experience

For this review, I’m focusing on 10 classic highlights of Hong Kong and can give some tips that will improve your experience.  But my biggest tip overall is that Hong Kong is not just skyscrapers and neon signs – more than 3/4 of HK is undeveloped, 40% is national parks and a mini tropical paradise if you just jump on a ferry or take a short taxi ride.  For some ideas that will give you an even better HK experience, see the travel entry for 2 days hidden highlights of Hong Kong – you maybe surprised at just how world-class an experience you can get from these little islands

2 days hidden highlights of Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a great place to visit either as a destination on its own, or, as many people do, as a nice 2 day stop over between flights.  I’ve lived in Hong Kong for 8 years, so . . . I’m biased . . . but also keen to share some tips to make sure you get the best from the place
The biggest overall tip I can give – many people when they think of Hong Kong think of the skyscrapers, the busy neon light lined streets, the sheer hustle of one of the most densely populated places on earth etc etc – and it is indeed all of these things.  But it is also 75% undeveloped and 40% national park.  In short, it is a world class city, with a tropical paradise a short ferry / taxi away.  That is why, for this review, I am focusing on some of the more unusual things to do in Hong Kong for a first time visitor
Should you want to check out the classic Hong Kong highlights – see my entry for 2 days for the famous highlights of Hong Kong

7/8 week itinerary for the highlights of South East Asia

South East Asia has to be the premier world traveling region.  A big call?  For sure, but consider what genuinely world class offerings it can provide:

 

  • World class beaches and coastal areas – think of THAT beach in Ko Phi Phi and HaLong Bay, one of the Natural Wonders of the World
  • World class food – think Thai, Vietnamese, Malay and the genuine fusion into the mix with the large established Indian and Chinese communities
  • World class ancient sites and history – think of the temples of the “8th Wonder of the World” of Angkor Wat, and the breathtaking site of the pagodas stretching across the plain in Bagan
  • World class cities and party locations – think of Singapore as the city of the future and the Full Moon Parties on Ko Pha-Ngan

 

And all this in a place that is super safe, outrageously friendly, easy and cheap to travel in.  A must for any keen traveler and the below itinerary will give you the highlights – enjoy!

2 days in Singapore

Similar to Hong Kong and Bangkok, Singapore is a place that people tend to pass through rather than visit purely for the city on its own.  But, just like those cities, Singapore is really worth the stop over for a night or two.  More than anything it’s great just to see what the “model city” could look like – wandering around has the combo feel of Disney Land / Truman Show / Stepford Wives meets tropical island functional finance hub, and it all … well … works very very well. Always worth a trip into the future

 

I’ve listed below the top 5 things I really enjoyed doing, plus some extra tips

 

Nights out in Tokyo

What a place – as you walk the crammed streets, ride the insane subway, visit the various bars / restaurants / shops that cater for any niche, you start to realise just how big and varied Tokyo is.  It also has so many different centres in their own right that you could spend weeks wandering around and only see a sliver of the place.  Instead, best thing to do is just get yourself lost in the mayhem of it all

For each of the 4 times I’ve been to Tokyo, its mainly been for lash / partying, which felt like a blur, so I won’t try and write a review.   Instead, I just have a few tips / thoughts:

  • Nights out:
    • Kick your evening off with the Robot Restaurant.  It’s hard to describe – it’s kind of like a robot / giant animals / skaters / burlesque show with booze, and, I think food, added.   All very odd, but heaps of fun and is in Shinjuku (next to Golden Gai) so a great place for going out
    • Golden Gai is a great spot for drinks – 200 tiny bars crammed into within something like 5 very small streets right next to each other, some with only room for 4/5 people.  Quite a unique experience
    • Geronimos in Roppongi was great atmosphere.  Good fun banging the drum
  • Be prepared for lots of taxis – Tokyo is huge and getting from area to another can take a while
  • Places I enjoyed:
    • The famous Shibuya Crossing is worth a visit
    • Tokyo Skytree is good for a view of the city
    • Getting up early for the fresh fish market
  • Gutted each time I missed the Sumo Wrestling.  That looks awesome
  • Accommodation – there are so many places to stay in Tokyo that there is something for everyone and really depends on what your itinerary and budget is, so I won’t go into specific recommendations.  But, I would recommend the capsule hotels – the ones where you sleep in a capsule rather than a room.  The shared services, such as onsens are usually superb, and its just a fun very Japan-style experience
  • Short trips from Tokyo.  If you do have more time, I really recommend
    • Taking the 2.15 hour bullet train to Kyoto for a classical Japan feel, seeing the imperial heart and sampling some of the Japanese whiskies in the famous Suntory distillery – for more details and tips, see the individual travel entry for – Cycling around Kyoto and sampling whiskies in the Suntory Distillery
    • Climbing Mount Fuji in Summer – you go from central Tokyo to the summit and back easily within 24 hours for what is a real bucket-list item.  For more details, see this individual travel entry – Climbing Mount Fuji in Summer

2 days in London and top 10 things to do

One of the world’s premier cities and with just about everything you could hope for in a 2 day city visit.  World famous sites such as the Houses of Parliament and the Tower of London; world class restaurants, shopping areas and entertainment venues; vast parks which give you the opportunity to break away from the mayhem; and, of course, the mania that surround the Royal Family and their residences.  Yes, its busy, but it’s also a must visit city

 

There’s obviously heaps and heaps of things to do.  I’ve listed out below what I think are the top 10 split between must-sees and great to sees.  Plus, some general tips for how to get the most out of your visit

Day trip to Macau from Hong Kong

Macau is a wonderful day trip from Hong Kong with the combination of China’s boom on display as you wander through the lavish mega casinos, plus the Portuguese culture shinning through in the architecture, food and even street signs in Portuguese in the various spots that justify its UNESCO World Heritage status

 

Top 3 tips:

#1 Experiencing the Portuguese feel – there are various places which are great for getting your fix.  Taipa Village is lovely and well located next to the main casinos.  The area around the Ruins of the Church of Saint Paul is the symbol of Macau and does feel a bit like being in Lisbon around there.  But my main tip is to head to the south of Taipa Island to either the South West for the classic restaurant of Fernando’s that is a bit of an institution in Macau, or to the South West in the area around the Chapel of Saint Francis Xavier which is far less busy and you’re able to sit having Portuguese food in the courtyard looking across the water

 

#2Enjoying the Casinos – whilst Macau sees x6 the revenue of Las Vegas passing across its tables, that doesn’t necessarily equate to the entertainment.  Its more a reflection of the Chinese love / obsession of gambling and this is the only spot in all of China to do it – for example, you’ll typically see a minimum bet of around Macau $200 (USD25) on the tables in Macau combined with little entertainment.  That being said, the entertainment that is on offer is great.  I’d particularly recommend spending time walking the canals of the Venetian and booking ahead for the world-class Cirque du Solei show “The House of Dancing Water” in the City of Dreams.  It is superb .  If you can time it right and keen for the lash / partying, the Hard Rock Pool Party is also a must

 

#3 Transport – getting to Macau from Hong Kong is super simple.  There are ferries leaving every 30mins or so from 3 spots across Hong Kong and it only takes an hour.  Most realistically, you’ll aim to leave from the Shun Tak Centre on Hong Kong island.  Just be aware though that there are two ferry spots in Macau – Macau Outer Harbour which is for the Macau Peninsular (the northern half) and Taipa (the southern half).   Getting around though is a bit harder than Hong Kong as there isn’t the subway / MTR equivalent.  Easiest to just get taxis

 

Overall, its a very easy and great experience from Hong Kong