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Kanazawa: The Gold Leaf City

After visiting Hiroshima, one of the most devastated cities from WWII, we headed to Kanazawa, a city that managed to escape any damage during WWII. Kanazawa, a castle town founded in the late 1500s, also boasts escaping any significant damage from natural disasters and while it used to be a powerful and strategic city, it never fully industrialized. Consequently, it is one of the few Japanese cities where many of its buildings are still original and is home to many historical attractions such as restored residences and districts. Continue reading

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One Night in Hiroshima

In 1945, the first atomic bomb in history was dropped on Hiroshima. The destructive power of the bomb obliterated nearly everything within a two kilometer radius. Since then, great efforts have been taken to rebuild the city. Maybe it’s something embedded in our psyche that gives us a desire to go somewhere where such great destruction occurred because, like so many others, Dan and I wanted to experience the city. We caught a morning train from Osaka and booked one night in a hostel. In retrospect, we could have day tripped, although the change of scenery, not to mention upgraded accommodation was a nice change. 

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Spa Land: Our Jjimjilbang Experience

Korea was full of new experiences; and our Korean spa experience was no exception. I would be at a ‘jjimjilbang’ every day, or at least every week, if I lived in Korea. A jjimjilbang is essentially a large, public bathhouse (gender-separated) furnished with hot tubs, showers, saunas and massage tables. Every spa offers unique features; however, there are often snack bars, ondol-heated flooring for lounging and sleeping, wide-screen TVs, exercise rooms, ice rooms, heated salt rooms, and even sleeping quarters. Most jjimjilbangs are open 24 hours and are a popular weekend getaway for Korean families. During the week, it’s common for business men to stay overnight after either working or drinking late. *The one we visited is one of the only ones in Korea that closes at midnight and has no sleeping quarters. Continue reading

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Gyeongju: A Museum Without Walls

After almost a week in Seoul we headed south and spent two nights in Gyeongju, the last capital of the Silla Kingdom. The city is often referred to as ‘the largest outdoor museum in the world‘ and its history dates back thousands of years to the start of the Silla Kingdom in 57 BC. A vast number of ruins and archaeological sites from the almost 1000 years of Silla heritage remain in the city. The Gyeongju Historic Areas were designated as a World Heritage Site in 2000 and encompass the ruins of temples and palaces, outdoor pagodas and statuary, and other cultural artifacts left by the Silla Kingdom. The historical treasures the city holds play a large roll in drawing over 6 million tourists a year to the city, including 750,000 foreigners per year. Continue reading

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Hong Kong: The World’s #1 Tourist Destination City

While there are hundreds (if not thousands) of cities in the world worth visiting, there’s a few that just about everyone has on their list of ‘must-see’ cities and Hong Kong is one of them. Not only is Hong Kong one of the world’s three most important financial centres (alongside New York and London) and a major global trade hub, but it’s also the world’s number one tourist destination city. Top 100 City Destinations, published by Euromonitor International, has placed Hong Kong in the number one spot consistently since the 2010 data was published in 2012. Of course, a big reason Hong Kong is on the top is its proximity to mainland China and the massive increase in Chinese tourism around the world. Continue reading

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Manila Vanilla

We just liked saying Manila Vanilla, unfortunately there’s no vanilla in Manila. 

Almost every traveller we talked to recommended skipping Manila, or staying for as little time as possible. Given that Dan and I enjoy cities more than most, we thought we would give Manila a chance and stay for two nights. As it turns out, the city is filthy, crowded and the traffic is absolutely horrendous. And there’s really not much to see other than doing a day trip to a volcano which we hadn’t planned on. So, in retrospect, I would probably have to agree with everyone and not recommend Manila as a must-see city, or even one to bother with at all (especially if you are short for time, which we weren’t). Continue reading

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Exploring the Small City of Bratislava

We arrived in Bratislava in the afternoon and our airbnb host met us at the train station. He had already bought three tickets for the bus and he offered to carry my luggage. He rode the bus with us to our apartment and showed us around. The apartment was one of the best we have stayed in – everything was there. The bathroom was stocked with toiletries and the kitchen was stocked with everything you could possibly need for cooking as well as enough food in the pantry for a dinner or two, all for our use. We were very pleased and happy with the fantastic start to this new country. Continue reading