The Pyramids of Giza

A wonder of the world and about as famous as it gets.  A must for anyone visiting Egypt and, whilst the setting on the outskirts of Cairo may not be a magical as you’d expect, this only partially takes the shine off seeing a true mountain of human achievement


I visited all the way back in 2009, so won’t go into much detail, but I’ve listed my main tips below for how to have the best experience

Hiking, horse-riding and staying in yurts in Gorkhi-Terelj National Park

You don’t have to head that far out of Ulan Bator to get a real feeling for the wilderness of Mongolia.  Gorkhi-Terelj National Park is only 55km / 35miles from the busy, polluted city, yet feels light years away.  Once you’re there, there is some fantastic hiking, traditional Buddhist temples nestled in the hills, and the opportunity to stay overnight in the Mongolian Gers (felt yurt huts).  Whilst not as remote as some destinations in Mongolia, there are various spots that give you those giant views across the seemingly endless steppes and allow you to spend time with people that are still living the subsistence lifestyle much the same as hundreds of years before.  A must if either staying in Ulan Bator or passing through on the Trans-Siberian Railway


I’ve listed some travel tips below, but the main tip I would give is to make sure you spend your evening(s) in one of the Mongolian Gers.  Not one that is surrounded by village infrastructure, but one that is isolated and with no other gers in sight – it gives you a feel of what it must be like to live in the isolation here and was our highlight of the trip

Petroglyps and horseback riding in Cholpon-Ata by Lake Issyk Kul

The north shore of Lake Issyk-Kol is the main tourist destination for most Russian and Central Asian tourists coming to Kyrgyzstan with its beach scene, water sports and booming bars.  But, unless you’re from the nearby region where coastal beaches are at a premium, I doubt that will really appeal to you – most likely it will just come across as a tacky resort


That being said, if you’re travelling from Bishkek to Karakol (for the hiking in the nearby Ak-Suu mountain region), its still worth stopping off at Cholpon-Ata for the horse-ride around the lake and up to the 3500 year old petroglyps on the glacial boulders just north of town.  Don’t stay much longer though

2 day trip from Hohhot to see the Xilamuren Grasslands and Kubuqi Desert

From Hohhot there are a series of standard tours that take you to a few of the places nearby area, but primarily to the Xilamuren grassland, where you can see local horse riding, and Resonant Sand Gorge of the Kubuqi Desert, where you can slide down the dune and generally play around in a full-on desert.  All of this with a night staying in one of the traditional Mongolian Yurts


The whole experience is relatively fun as you do get to see some great countryside, but unfortunately most of these tours are very much catered for the domestic tourist market, which means large numbers of fellow tourists, often spaces concreted over to make way for the masses, manufactured “traditional horse riding shows”, and, of course, the serene-breaking megaphones.


I’d say give it a go if a bit tight on money and don’t mind the mass tourist nature, but otherwise see if you can get a tour company that takes you further afield so that you can escape the crowds and see some of the more traditional Mongolian culture rather than the Chinese branded version

Mandalay’s surrounding sites

Mandalay itself isn’t that attractive as its basically a classically rapidly sprawling Asian city, with all of the noise, concrete and mess that tends to go with this.  Also, surprisingly, the Mandalay Palace which you’d think would be the central attraction is also a bit dull.  But, the areas around Mandalay make it very much worth checking out
I’ve listed below some more general tips,  but in particular be sure to check out:
  • Mandalay Hill – when walking around Mandalay, it can feel a bit like one sprawling road after another and the sides of the Palace are LONG  so take a while to look around.  Instead, if near the Palace, head up Mandalay Hill for great views over the whole city and Palace, and some smaller temples and pagodas on the way up the nice covered stairway
  • Mingun Paya – take a short boat ride up river to this rather unusual site.  It’s unusual in the sense that 1. It was, at the time, supposed to be the world’s largest stupa.  Only “supposed to be”, because the King who sanctioned its construction died with only 1/3rd completed. 2. Now it is basically the world’s largest pile of bricks.  3. It has large crack down its side from an earthquake in 1838.  4. Right next to it is the Mingun Bell which at 90 tonnes has been at various times in history the world’s largest bell.  Not enough for you?  Its a nice boat trip
  • U-Bein Bridge -the world’s longest teak bridge and a route used regularly by the nearby locals and monks.  The cool thing is that the water level varied dramatically through the year so, in wet season you see various buildings largely underwater, whereas in dry season you see the buildings from a strangely high bridge
  • The Maha Aungmye Bonzan Monastery within the former royal capital of Inwa.  The monastery itself is a stunning yellow, but its also fun to get a horse cart / cycle around the overall site

Cable Beach’s gorgeous sunset

When in Broome, it’s all about the sunset from Cable Beach.  Beautiful white sand, perfectly west-facing beach and water often at bath temperature – utterly gorgeous.  Take one of the touristy camel rides; or just sit back with a bottle of something and watch the wonderful change in colours


Tip – head to north of the rocks for the best views