Taiwan Tours

Travel

Traveling in Taiwan anytime soon?

Whenever my husband & I travel, we book tours to get to know the place better- culture. We understand that each place has its gem & story & tours give us a taste of that. Touristy, only because of the amount of time we’ll be spending on the place. We probably would’ve been more daring when it comes to booking tours but since we now have a baby, convenience is very important. These tours gave us a glimpse of Taiwan that left us wanting more. 5 days isn’t enough! We’ll definitely come back for more!

In this blog I’m passing on the tours we’ve booked. All the information about the places listed below are provided on the tour links. Hope this will give you a head start on your research & planning.

TAIPEI CITY TOUR

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Itinerary:

  • Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall
  • National Palace Museum
  • Presidential Office Building
  • Martyrs’ Shrine
  • Traditional Taiwanese Temple
  • Handicraft Center

Tour by KLOOK | Link: https://www.klook.com/activity/456-explore-taipei-city-taipei/

JIUFEN | YEHLIU | SHIFEN DAY TOUR

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Itinerary:

  • Yehliu Geopark
  • Jiufen Old Street
  • Shifen Falls
  • Shifen Old Street | Lantern Flying

Tour by Klook | Link: https://www.klook.com/activity/2953-yehliu-geopark-shuttle-bus-ximen-taipei/?gclid=Cj0KCQiApvbhBRDXARIsALnNoK3g8lqd24DpfQehWQQTYB0bYa3hXiC3fBSxKZMcDG5WLaa617PXfsMaAu71EALw_wcB

TAICHUNG TOUR

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Itinerary:

  • Zhongshe Flower Market
  • Carton King
  • Xinshe Castle
  • Rainbow Village

Tour by Yamventures | Link: https://www.yamventures.com/

MAOKONG

Gondola Ticket by Klook | Link: https://www.klook.com/activity/16000-maokong-gondola-combo-ticket-taipei/

Maokong was supposedly the last place on our itinerary but we were very tired from having to carry our baby in all the tours listed above & the night markets plus the food trips. So we just had to sit this one out & mostly stayed at our hotel. Nonetheless, this was part of what we’ve booked. Next time then!

For other Taiwan blogs you may click links below.

Taiwan Eats | https://trulytara.com/2019/01/14/taiwan-eats-list/

What to Wear | Winter in Taiwan | https://trulytara.com/2019/01/03/what-to-wear-winter-in-taiwan/

Should you have any questions, I’ll gladly help! Drop a comment &/ or see you on my socials. And if you want something extra… up on my Youtube channel is our Taiwan trip in action!

Vlog link: https://youtu.be/IYYce9LRtnI

Xiexie!

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Top 10 Places to Visit in Paris

Travel

Bonjour!

Off to Paris to fulfil your Parisian dream? What if you’re only staying for a couple of days? But also, you’d want to savor every bit of it? Like any good thing, don’t rush! Just come back some other time & make more memories. Narrowing it down for you. Here are a few places you wouldn’t want to miss!

1. Tour Eiffel

The iconic Tour Eiffel or Eiffel Tower (cried when I saw it), the confirmation you’ve reached your dream destination, a known symbol of Paris. Even Hitler had his photo taken with it! Although a lot say that when you get there, “it’s just a tower”, there’s more to it than meets the eye once you get to know its story.

Let’s time travel for a while. (But if you don’t really care or you’re convinced even without knowing about its history, just skip this part. Ha!)

Once upon a time in 1889, Paris hosted a Worlds Fair to celebrate 100 years of the French Revolution. Among 100 aspiring artists who were competing to build a monument in central Paris, Champ de Mars, the project was granted to Eiffel et Compagnie owned by Architect Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, thus its name “Tour Eiffel” or Eiffel Tower. He also had a secret apartment all to himself at the very top at that time. But, you’d be surprised to know that this wasn’t his idea. It was engineer Maurice Koechlin, one of his employees who had the brains for the famous tower. It was completed in March 31, 1889, the making in two years, two months, and five days. Some time that year, Le Figaro, the French newspaper had their printing press at the tower.

The Eiffel Tower became the tallest structure in the world in 1889, standing 1,000 feet high made up of wrought iron. Until New York City’s Chrysler Building was built in 1930, then it wasn’t anymore. Paris was competitive. In 1957, a 65feet antenna was added to the tower, making it taller than the Chrysler Building. But then again, that didn’t match the Empire State Buliding so Eiffel had to stop at some point.

Years later, if it wasn’t made into a radiotelegraph station, the tower would’ve been scrapped. Also, during World War I, the tower was used to interrupt enemy radio communications & messages would be sent out from the top to direct the French troops to the front line. Although most of the French hated it when it was built, through the years Eiffel Tower has contributed to a lot of historic events & scientific discoveries. One of the interesting things about the tower was that in the late 1920s, it was used as a billboard for Citroën automobiles. No other brand has ever used the Eiffel Tower as an advertising medium.

What is its color? The Eiffel Tower was painted in yellow then red then brown. It is painted every 7 years for its maintenance. It is lit every night from sunset to 1am, 2am in summer. It also glistens every 5 minutes in every hour from the time it is lit. You wouldn’t want to miss this! Be part of the 7 million who visit the most visited monument in the world.

Tip | A toast of champagne at the top for celebrating would be lovely! And oh! The best place to see the lights & where you have your photos taken is from Place du Trocadéro. Experiencing it on top is another wonderful experience.

2. Place du Trocadéro

Now, it’s impossible to miss the best place to get a photo with the Eiffel Tower as the background! You’ve got to get to Place du Trocadéro. As mentioned, even Hitler took his photo there on June 23,1940. This place was named in honor of the Battle of Trocadero when the French, headed by Duc d’ Angoulême, captured Isla del Trocadero in Spain. He is the son of the King of France, Charles X. Here you will find Palais de Chaillot which houses the Musée national de la Marine,  Musée de l’Homme, Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine, Musée National des Monuments Français & the Théâtre National de Chaillot.

Around the area are stalls selling crepes, coffee, sandwiches & more. Take your time at the area, eat al fresco & enjoy the view of the Eiffel Tower.

3. Champ de Mars

On the opposite end of Place du Trocadéro right across the Eiffel Tower is Champ de Mars. This is another beautiful place to take a photo with Tour Eiffel, stroll &/ or have a picnic. Champ de Mars means “Field of Mars”, named after Campus Martius in Rome. Giving tribute to the Roman god of war in Latin. A part of the James Bond film, A View to Kill, by Roger Moore was filmed here in 1985. Also, come 2024 Summer Olympics that will be held in Paris, Champ de Mars will be used to hold one of the sporting events.

4. La Siene

La Siene or Siene River is a famous river in Paris with a stretch of 777 Kilometers. With this, there are 37 bridges all over Paris and more outside the city. Some of the well- known bridges are Pont Alexandre III where you see four gilt-bronze statues of Fames & Nymphs of the Neva reliefin in the middle. Have you seen the film Me Before You starred by Emilia Clarke & Fin Claflin? Pont Alexandre III is where we see Louisa (Emilia Clarke) crossing towards the end of the film. Another famous bridge is Pont Neuf, the oldest standing bridge across river Siene in Paris which dates back to 1607. This is where the couples place their love locks. You may book a tour where you can ride a boat, cruising around La Siene.

5. Louvre

First of all, if you want to make it worth your time aaaand money, make sure you make time to visit the Louvre for one whole day. It is after all the world’s largest art museum! It has an area of 72,735 square meters exhibiting approximately 38,000 objects from prehistory to the 21st century.

The Louvre or Musée du Louvre is a historic monument in Paris which is divided into eight curatorial departments: Egyptian Antiquities, Near Eastern Antiquities, Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities, Islamic Art, Sculpture, Decorative Arts, Paintings, Prints & Drawings. With a lot of things going on, make sure to choose top things to see like the Mona Lisa, before wandering.

In the late 12th century, the Louvre was originally built as a fortress under Philip II. In 1546 it was converted into the main residence of the French Kings by Francis I. However in 1682, King Louis XIV moved to live in the Palace of Versailles making Louvre as a place for the royal collection from 1692 & collections of ancient Greek and Roman sculpture. It was during the French Revolution, where the Louvre was decreed to be a museum which opened on August 10, 1793. Since then items increased under the reigns of Napoleon, Louis XVIII and Charles X, and during the second French Empire.

It is the world’s most visited art museum having about 8.1 million visitors annually so make sure to buy tickets ahead & be early for a head start!

Tip | Make sure to visit Angelina for lunch or a quick bite while you’re there!

6. Arc de Triomphe

The Arc de Triomphe Paris is a triumphal arch honoring those who fought for France particularly wars led by Napoleon Bonaparte. Here you will see engraved names of the generals who fought for the said wars. This famous arch was built between 1806 to 1836. Here lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I where the Memorial Flame burns. This have made the Arc de Triomphe Paris a celebrated patriotic site. Since November 1923 when the flame was ignited for the first time, it has been done daily at 6:30pm.

This majestic arch stands 49.5 m (162 ft) tall, 45 m (150 ft) wide and 22 m (72 ft) deep which is hard to miss when you’re at Champs-Élysées.

Champs-Élysées

Shopping, strolling or simply having an espresso by the streets. Champs Elysees has got to be part of your itinerary in Paris. This avenue stretches 2 Kilometers from Place de la Concorde till Arc de Triomphe & is one of the famous streets in the world. Here you will see restaurants, cafes & top brands like Hermes & Cartier. If you’re a tourist & would want to make most of your time, Champs could be last on your list since shops close late & are open on Sundays which isn’t common in France. And if you’re into sports, particularly a cyclist, no doubt this will be on your list since this is where the famous Tour de France race start.

Tip | Make sure to visit Ladurée & have a heavenly bite of their famous macarons while strolling around Champs-Élysées.

7. Palais Garnier

The Phantom of the Opera is hhhhhheeeeere! Among other things, Palais Garnier is famous for the setting of the movie, The Phantom of the Opera starred by Gerard Buttler, Emmy Rossum & Patrick Wilson. This opera house has the capacity of 1,979, built from 1861 to 1875 which is the most renowned opera house in the world. Its name comes from its  architect, Charles Garnier. This place is every ballerina’s dream. The Opera House is now mainly used for ballet.

8. Notre- Dame Cathedral

Notre- Dame Cathedral or Notre-Dame de Paris is a medieval catholic cathedral which has a magnificent French Gothic Architecture. One of its distinguishing designs is having gargoyles, not just a few but about 102 of them. Why? They look so scary & they’re in a church! Well, it has been believed that they scare off evil & practically divert rainwater. Other interesting things about Notre-Dame, here you’ll find some important relics, including the claimed crown of thorns, a piece of the true cross, and one of the holy nails. Also, this got more popular because of the animated movie by Disney, Hunchback of Notre Dame.

9. Montmarte

Montmarte, aaaaah, the life of old Paris. Here lies at its peak the famed Sacré- Cœur Basilica. It is also known for its artistic history as many artists lived or worked here like Pablo Picasso & Vincent Van Gogh. Several films have been shot here as well like Moulin Rouge & Beauty & the Beast.

10. Palace of Versailles

In the Île-de-France region of France, 20 kilometers from the French capital, lies the Palace of Versailles, Château de Versailles, or simply Versailles. Its history dates back in the 11th century when it started out as a small village, today, however, it is a wealthy suburb of Paris & a very famous tourist attraction.

In 1682 during the reign of King Louis XIV, Versailles was the seat of political power in the Kingdom of France until the royal family returned to the capital in 1789. This happened within three months after the French Revolution begun.

The Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versallies having 357 mirrors is a tribute to the political, economic and artistic success of France where paintings depict the successes of King Louis XIV during his reign.

I wonder how long the palace was built when every part & corner is a work of art.


I stop here. There are a LOT more places to wander in Paris which also depends on your priorities or preference. Hope this helps & may you make your Parisian dreams come true.

Au revoir!

Tour Tokyo

Travel

Daydreaming of red & yellow leaves with the cool breeze in clean streets, I found myself missing Tokyo. My husband, sister & I were able to visit Tokyo last December 2016, fell in love with the place, culture & FOOD but never wrote about anything at all about our trip. Today, I am inspired to share about Tokyo for many reasons; I miss my family there, the weather, the FOOD (uh! THE FOOD) & one of my closest friend in the whole wide world together with her soon-to-be hubby, is visiting very soon.

Like any other cities, there are a lot of places to explore but what if you’re only visiting for a day or two? It really depends on what you’re there for but if you’re simply touring & you’re the kind who’s a laid back, take- your- time tourist like us, you might want to choose a few or the top places to visit in Tokyo. (Making an itinerary with kids in consideration would be another story, someday!) Hope this helps & narrows down your search!

TOKYO

The best of both worlds, a mix of traditional & modern, welcome to the capital city of Japan- TOKYO! Kon’nichiwa! Since 1603, Tokyo has been the seat of the Emperor of Japan & the Japanese government when Shogun Tokugawa moved his headquarters here. However, it became the official capital when Emperor Meiji progressed his governance from the old capital, Kyoto, to Tokyo. And it wasn’t till at that time when “Tokyo” became the name of the city from “Edo”.

With many awards like first in the Best Overall Experience (helpfulness of locals, nightlife, shopping, local public transportation & cleanliness of streets” from Tripadvisor World City Survey), Most Liveable City in the World (Monocle Magazine)Most Michelin Stars of any city in the world (The Michelin Guide), first in the 2015 Safe Cities Index, no wonder Tokyo has been one of the top places to visit in the world!

Better save up & start your search for places to visit, accommodations, tickets because come 2020, Tokyo will be hosting the Summer Olympics. That would be one for the books!

TOP PLACES TO VISIT IN TOKYO

1 I Tokyo Skytree

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetYou wouldn’t want to miss the tallest tower in the world! Standing 634.0 meters/ 2,080 feet high, the Tokyo Skytree became the tallest tower in the world in 2011. Guests may go up to the 450th floor or the Tokyo Skytree Tembo Galleria (Floor 445 & Floor 450) & Skytree Tembo Deck (Floor 350, 345 & 340). Besides the view, guests may enjoy meals or have coffee breaks at the Skytree Café & Sky Restaurant. A gallery of souvenirs are available too for guests wanting to have a memorabilia of Tokyo. Just before going up, you can also stroll around Tokyo Solamachi mall.

  • Visit Duration: 1 Hour- 2 Hours (or more)
  • Address: 1 Chome-1-2 Oshiage, Sumida, Tokyo 131-0045, Japan
  • Admission: Between ¥310- ¥2060 from Children to adults
  • Schedule: Open daily 8am-10pm
  • Website: http://www.tokyo-skytree.jp/en/ (Check website for details)

Tip I Since you’re already paying a relatively big amount just to go up, might as well take your time when you’re there. Best to go when the sun is up, if the weather is good, you’ll be able to see Mt. Fuji from a distance, then wait till the sun goes down to see the city lights in Tokyo.

Heads Up I Expect a long queue on your visit.

G A L L E R Y

(CLICK TO SEE PHOTOS AS YOU GO THROUGH THE BLOG)

Just before going up, we had Okonomiyaki for dinner. It is a Japanese savory pancake containing different of ingredients like egg, prok, chicken, seafood, noodles & etc. Okonomiyaki is from the word okonomi, which means “how you like” or “what you like” & yaki means “grill”. So choose what you like from the menu & start grilling! This could be an option for you if you don’t know what to have for lunch or dinner. And oh! There’s always room for dessert, especially when it’s Matcha. Matcha desserts are everywhere in Japan. Take advantage of its goodness!

2 I Samurai Museum

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It’s no question that Japan is famous for their Samurai’s. We’ve seen a lot of films about them too. Should you want to know more about Japan & the Samurai history, see actual Samurai ensembles about 700 years old from Kamakura to Edo period & even wear one yourself, this place is perfect for you! Your admission includes a tour guide to make your visit very pleasant.

  • Visit Duration: 1 Hour
  • Address: Japan, 〒160-0021 Tokyo, Shinjuku, Kabukicho, 2−25−6 永和第6ビル
  • Admission: Between ¥750- ¥1500 from Children to adults
  • Schedule: Open daily 12pm-10pm (last entry 9.30pm)
  • Website: http://www.samuraimuseum.jp/en/

3 I Meiji Jingu Shrine

20161214_122546Located in Tokyo’s famous Shibuya is a Shinto shrine called Meiji Jingu. Shinto means “place of the gods”. The Shrine is dedicated to the legendary Emperor Meiji & his wife Empress Shōken. Emperor Meiji or Meiji the Great was the first emperor of the modern Japan.

  • Visit Duration: 1 Hour- 2 Hours (or more)
  • Address: 1-1 Yoyogikamizonocho, Shibuya, Tokyo 151-8557, Japan
  • Admission: Meiji Shrine FREE/ Treasure House ¥500/ Inner Garden ¥500
  • Schedule: Open daily

Treasure House

– 9am- 4:30pm (4pm from November to February)

– Admission ends 30 minutes before closing time

Inner Garden

– 9am- 4:30pm (4pm from November to February)

Admission ends 30 minutes before closing time

Tip I In between Shibuya & Shinjuku you may visit Yoyogi Park & Harajuku. You may have a bowl of ramen in Harajuku on your break from Shibuya to Shinjuku spots. Check out the Takeshita to have dessert. In every corner you’ll see crepes but there’s one that caught our attention. Try the Croquant Chou Zakuzaku & satisfy your dessert cravings.

20161215_214617Another food option for you to try is what the Japanese call as “Kaitenzushi” or conveyor belt sushi. They are very famous in Japan & would be a good experience for tourists. The conveyor belts rotate  small plates with different kinds of sushi & move along the tables in the restaurant. Guests may place special orders too. We had our Kaitenzushi experience somewhere in Ikebukuro. Most of the top spots when visiting Tokyo are in the Yamanote line, as you can see. Another tip is staying or booking places in these areas to save fare. We were able to book an airbnb at Mejiro, just beside Ikebukuro. The station was just across our place too which was very convinient!

YAMANOTE LINE

YAMANOTE LINE (Photo from Google)

4 I Shibuya

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You’ll know one is in Tokyo when one’s at the busiest crossing in the world, the Shibuya crossing. For some reason, despite of its busyness, it has become a known spot to take photos or boomerangs. This is where you’ll Hachiko too! Shibuya is a shopping district in Tokyo which has a lot of fashion centers. Not only does Shibuya have the busiest crossing, it also has the busiest railways in Tokyo.

Visit Duration: 1 Hour- 2 Hours (or more)

Tip I Here is where you can try Japan’s Takoyaki. Tako-yaki means “octopus-grilled/fried”. It is a Japanese round- shaped snack with pieces of octopus which originated in Osaka. Try the one in GINDACO. My favorite is the one with cheeeeeeese. Yum!

GINDACO TAKOYAKI

  • Address: Japan, 〒150-0001 Tokyo, Shibuya, Jingumae, 1 Chome−14−24, 第5寿和ビル
  • Schedule: 11am-10pm

5 I Ueno Park

Ueno Park is one of the known parks in Japan especially during the Sakura or Cherry Blossom season having 1,000 Cherry trees. Because of this, it is known to be Tokyo’s most popular city park where tourists do “flower viewing” or in Japanese, Hanami. This is also where the Tokyo National Museum, National Museum for Western Art, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum and National Science Museum is situated. As well as Japan’s 1st zoological garden- Ueno Zoo.

6 I Shinjuku Gyoen

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is said to be the most beautiful garden in Tokyo. Besides the enjoying the Cherry Blossom views at Ueno Park, this is another place for you to do just that. Let time stand still, smell the flowers, stroll around & have a picnic.

  • Visit Duration: 1 Hour- 2 Hours (or more)
  • Address: 11 Naitomachi, Shinjuku, Tokyo 160-0014, Japan
  • Admission: ¥200
  • Schedule: Tuesday- Sunday 9am-4:30pm

Tip I Just around the area, if you’re looking for a place to have lunch, having Tonkatsu Curry with cheese at Coco Ichibanya will melt your heart! Fell in love with this food. They have a lot of branches in around Tokyo. Check the ones near you to try this!

COCO ICHIBANYA

  • Address: Japan, 〒160-0023 Tokyo, Shinjuku, Nishishinjuku, 5 Chome−8−8, メゾン・ド・新宿
  • Schedule: 11am- 12am

7 I Sensoji Temple I Asakusa Shrine

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Located in Asakusa is Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist temple, Sensoji. Beside it is another Shinto shrine called the Asakusa Shrine or Shrine of the three gods. The shrine pays tribute to the three men who founded Sensoji. Upon entering the temple, guests go through the Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate) which has the symbol of Asakusa & the entire city of Tokyo. Guests are then greeted by Nakamise- a shopping street of over 250 meters with about 89 shops featuring traditional goods & souvenirs.

  • Visit Duration: 1 Hour- 2 Hours (or more)
  • Address: 2 Chome-3-1 Asakusa, Taitō, Tokyo 111-0032, Japan
  • Admission: FREE
  • Schedule: 6:30am- 5pm
  • Website: http://www.asakusajinja.jp/english

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Tip I While visiting the Asakasu Shrine, make sure to taste Taiyaki. It is a Japanese fish-shaped cake with red bean paste which is made from sweetened azuki beans. Other shops sell them with other fillings like custard, chocolate, cheese, or sweet potato, gyoza or sausage. Taiyaki originated in Tokyo during the Meiji era. We also had Gyudon (Japanese Beef Bowl) for lunch somewhere there before exploring the temple. You might just want to have that before having Taiyaki as your dessert or snacks.

8 I Akihabara

Into the tech stuff? Akihabara is the place where you can score good deals when it comes to electronic goods. Check out the Yodobashi Camera Multimedia Akeba, Akihabara Radio Center, Mandarake, Gundam Café, AKB48 Café, Akihabara Crossfield & Anime Center & the Kanda Myojin Shrine to get your electronic & anime fix. Geek on!

  • Visit Duration: 1 Hour- 2 Hours (or more)
  • Address: Akihabara, Taitō, Tokyo 110-0006, Japan

9 I The Imperial Palace / Imperial Palace East Garden

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The Imperial Palace is the residence of the Emperor of Japan & his family. The inner grounds are only welcome to the public on January 2 for New Year’s Greeting & December 23 the Emperor’s birthday. This was the former location of the Edo Castle, which was the seat of Shogun Tokugawa’s reign in Japan for 264 years from 1603 to 1867. Beside the inner grounds of the palace are the Imperial Palace East Gardens, which are open to the public throughout the year.

  • Visit Duration: 1 Hour- 2 Hours (or more)
  • Address: Japan, 〒100-8111 Tokyo, Chiyoda, 1−1
  • Admission: FREE
  • Schedule:

The Imperial Palace

Tuesday- Thursday & Saturday- Sunday 9am-5pm

Imperial Palace East Garden

April- August Thursday, Saturday- Sunday 9am- 4:30pm/ November- February Tuesday- Thursday Saturday- Sunday 9am-4pm

10 I Tokyo Disney Sea

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Kids at heart, who doesn’t love Disney?! Need I say more? Here you could explore 7 themed areas or “ports of call” namely Mediterranean Harbor, American Waterfront, Lost River Delta, Port Discovery, Mermaid Lagoon, Arabian Coast & Mysterious Island.

Tip I Like visiting any other theme parks, choose your favorite rides & shows first before going around. Don’t miss the Fantasmic show by the Harbour in the evening.

  • Visit Duration: The more hours, the better!
  • Address: 1-13 Maihama, Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture 279-0031, Japan
  • Admission: Between ¥4,200- ¥6,900
  • Schedule: 8:30am- 10pm (Best to check schedule at the website on your scheduled visit)
  • Website: http://www.tokyodisneyresort.co.jp/en/

Most of the places you’ll visit in Japan are parks, temples & shrines in general. There are a lot more places to visit in Tokyo if you have more time, these are just a handful. One of the things you’ll surely enjoy is their food, I cannot exaggerate that enough. Hope to be back in Japan to visit family, explore other cities, see Mt. Fuji up close, eat Kobe beef & a whooooole lot more.

PROPOSED ITINERARY

DAY 1

  • Meiji Jingu Shrine
  • Shinjuku Gyoen
  • Samurai Museum
  • Shibuya

DAY 2

  • Tokyo Disney Sea

DAY 3

  • Sensoji Temple/ Asakusa Shrine
  • Ueno Park
  • Akihabara

DAY 4

  • The Imperial Palace/ Imperial Palace East Garden
  • Tokyo Skytree

Sightsee Sydney

Travel

G’day Mate! Whenever my husband & I travel to a place, we make sure we cover what the place we are going to is about- history, culture, food & etc. Although it is quite impossible to cover everything in just a couple of days, we try. We try to have fun & learn at the same time. Last July, we went to ‘Straya’ (that’s how locals say it), Sydney to attend the Hillsong Conference but we extended to a few days to “Sightsee Sydney”. If you plan to visit Sydney, this might help you with your itinerary.

SYDNEY

Sydney, is not the capital city of Australia neither is Melbourne, Canberra is. Going back to Sydney, it is however the state capital of New South Wales & Australia’s first city. With 658 suburbs, 40 local government areas & 15 connecting regions, it is the most populated city in Australia.

Australia has been known to be a British Colony where convicts were sent to in the early days. In 1788, Captain Arthur Phillip led the first fleet of convicts to Sydney. He called the city “Sydney” in the name of the 1st Viscount Sydney, Thomas Townshed. Transfer of convicts then ended in the 19th century & since then, Australia has been transformed from a colonial settlement into a main economic & global center. After World War 2, Sydney became a multicultural city with the mass migration. Developments in Sydney took place making it one of the most livable cities in the world & has been in the top ranking for economic opportunity with advanced market economy- a fortes in finance, manufacturing & tourism. Expect Sydney to be a hub of multinational corporations & banks. Since the hosting of the 2000 Summer Olympics, Sydney has been one of the top destinations to visit.

AUSSIE SLANG

Before getting on with your sightseeing, here are a few Aussie (Australian) words & phrases that might help you communicate around.

  • Barbie- Barbeque
  • Brekky- Breakfast
  • Esky- Insulated container you take on a picnic or to the beach
  • Sanger / Sambo- Sandwich
  • Snag- Sausage
  • Spag bol- Spaghetti Bolognese
  • Takeaway- Take out food
  • Tucker- Food
  • Bikkie- Biscuit
  • Lolly- Candy/ Sweets
  • Servo- Service station, gas station
  • Arvo- afternoon
  • Macca’s- McDonald’s
  • Bloody- Very
  • Exy- Expensive
  • Reckon- For sure
  • Stoked- Very pleased
  • Thongs- Flip flops or sandals
  • Woop woop- in the middle of nowhere/ remote location
  • Buckley’s chance- No chance
  • Chockers- Full/ no more room
  • Deadset – Without a doubt/ 100% sure of it
  • Heaps- Lots/ many/ very
  • Spewin’- Upset or disappointed about something
  • Mozzie- Mosquito
  • Mates rates- A discounted price given to a friend
  • She’ll be right- “it will be okay”
  • Youse- Plural of you. “you guys’’/ ‘’you all’’
  • Chemist- Pharmacy or drugstore
  • Come good- Turn out okay
  • Dunny – Toilet
  • G’day – Hello
  • Iffy – Questionable
  • Let’s go to the pictures – “Let’s go see a movie at the cinema”
  • Loo – Toilet
  • Mate – General term used for someone you are familiar with
  • No worries – No problem, that’s ok
  • Ripper – Good
  • Rooted- Tired
  • Shonky- Dubious/ unreliable
  • Smoko- Tea break
  • Sunbake- Sunbathe
  • Ta- Thank you
  • True Blue- Genuine

SIGHTS TO SEE & MORE

Sydney Opera House

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You’ll know one is in Sydney when a photo of the Sydney Opera House is posted. Named a UNESCO World Site, the Sydney Opera House was designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon which opened on October 1973 to be a multi venue performing arts centre. Since its opening, it became one of the symbols of architecture in the 20th century. And it’s undeniably an eye catcher when visiting Sydney. Because of this, it receives about 8 million visits annually.

Tip I You may dine inside the Opera House or enjoy its view outside while having your fish & chips. Very touristy!

Address: Bennelong Point, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia

Schedule:

  • Monday- Saturday 9am- 8:30pm
  • Sunday 10am- 6pm

Fees: Check the Sydney Opera House website (https://www.sydneyoperahouse.com/visit-us/tours-and-experiences.html)

The Harbour Bridge

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Just across the Sydney Opera House at Circular Quay is the Harbour Bridge or locally known as the Coathanger. It is the world’s largest steel arch bridge which stands 134 meters above the harbor. It’s interesting how this bridge was built by 1,400 men in 8 years. Today, it carries rail, vehicular, bicycle, and pedestrian traffic between the Sydney central business district and the North Shore. For tourists who are adrenaline junkies, you may do the ‘Bridge Climb’, where you are able to climb the monument & enjoy the breathtaking 360 view at the top of the pylon.

Address: Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney NSW, Australia

Sydney Tower

If the bridge climb at the Harbour Bridge is too much for you, this may be another option to have a breathtaking view of Sydney. However, if being able to see the whole of Sydney in a birdseye view isn’t a priority, you may just check out the tower from a distance. The Sydney Tower or Sydney Tower Eye stands 309 meters or 1,014 feet above the Central Business District (CBD) making it the tallest structure in Sydney.

Address: 100 Market St, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia

Schedule: Open daily 9am-10pm (Schedule may vary, check the website on your scheduled visit)

Fees: Check the Sydney Tower Eye website

(https://www.sydneytowereye.com.au/#)

St. Andrews Cathedral

St. Andrews Cathedral is the oldest cathedral in Australia which opened in 1868. It was designed by Edmund Blacket with a Gothic Revival architecture.

Address: Cnr of George and Bathurst Streets, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia

Schedule: Open daily

Laneways & Art

wp-1513413293742.jpgThe Laneway art project’s goal was to revitalize Sydney’s laneways to create a livelier city while exploring its past. One of the artworks is the Forgotten Songs. It is made up of 120 suspended bird cages in the laneway located above the Angel Place accompanied by the sound recordings of extinct bird species of central Sydney. Its intention was the celebration of birds living in Sydney “before they were gradually forced out of the city by European settlement”, returning the bird sounds to the city.

“The installation explores how Sydney’s fauna has evolved and adapted to co-exist with increased urbanisation – inviting contemplation of the city’s past, its underlying landscape, and the sustainability issues associated with increased urban development.”Michael Thomas Hill

Queen Victoria Building

The Queen Victoria Building (or QVB), is a Romanesque Revival building in the late nineteenth-century designed by the architect George McRae in 1893 which was designed as a marketplace. With 30 meters wide by 190 metres long, it fills a city block by George, Market, York and Druitt Streets. It is known as an iconic heritage building of Sydney and Australia. Dating from 1898, the Queen Victoria Building has continued to operate as a market facility for over 190 years. Until today, people are able to go there to shop & dine. Outside QVB, you’ll find the “Talking Dog”.

Address: 455 George St, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia

Schedule:

Lower Ground & Ground

  • Sunday 11am- 5pm
  • Monday- Saturday (except Thursday) 9am- 6pm
  • Thursday 10am- 9pm

Level 1 & 2

  • Sunday 11am- 5pm
  • Monday- Saturday (except Thursday) 10am- 6pm
  • Thursday 10am- 9pm

Macquarie Street

The Macquarie Street which is named after Governor Lachlan Macquarie is known to have the major landmarks & government institutions of New South Wales, Sydney. It extends from Hyde Park to the Sydney Opera House. Landmarks & government institutions located in this stretch include Hyde Park Barracks, St. James Cathedral, Hyde Park, St. Mary’s Cathedral, The Mint, Government House, II Porcellino, Queen Victoria Statue, Customs House, Mcquaries Wall, Busby’s Bore Fountain, Foundation Stoner, Dorbell Memorial Sculpture, Drinking Fountain, Martin Place, John Dunmore Lang Statue, Bridge Stairs, T2 Building, Secret Restoration, Admiralty House & National Trust of Australia. That’s a lot!

Hyde Park Barracks

If you are into History, the Hyde Park Barracks will interest you. It is listed in the New South Wales State Heritage Register and the Commonwealth Heritage List, as well as being celebrated on the UNESCO World Heritage List as one of 11 pre-eminent Australian Convict Sites as amongst “the best surviving examples of large-scale convict transportation and the colonial expansion of European powers through the presence and labour of convicts”. This was designed by architect Francis Greenway between 1818 and 1819 to provide lodging for convicts working for the government till 1848. Then it became an immigration depot for women who were seeking for employment to reunite with family & a female asylum till 1886. Then it became a law court & government office to 1979. Until it became a museum in the 1990s.

Address: Queens Square, Macquarie Street, Sydney, NSW 2000

Schedule:

Museum

  • Open daily 10am- 5pm
  • Closed Good Friday & Christmas Day

Bakehouse

  • Open daily 10am–4pm
  • Closed Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day

Fees:

Adult $12 I Concession $8 I Family $30 I Members Free of charge I Children under 5 years Free of charge

Parliament House

Although its architectural appearance isn’t grand, the Parliament House is said to have an exceptional historical and social value since it has played a vital role of Australia’s history of the colonial government. It is the oldest public building in Sydney. Since 1811, the Parliament House and the Mint Museum are the two surviving wings of the triple wing General Hospital.

Address: 6 Macquarie St, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia

Schedule: Open daily 9am- 5pm

Fees: Check the Parliament House of Australia website for more details (https://www.aph.gov.au/Visit_Parliament/Plan_your_Visit)

Glebe

Glebe is one of Sydney’s suburbs famous for its intellectual feel & atmospheric heritage buildings besides some vintage finds at the Glebe Markets which open every Saturday. The place is surrounded by cafes, bookshops, galleries & ethnic eateries. Some of its landmarks are Johnstons Creek, Coroner’s Court, Lyndhurst, St. Scholastica’s College, Bellevue, Sze Yup Temple & the Rozelle Tram Depot.

G A L L E R Y

(Click to see photos as you go through the blog)

Luna Park

If you’re with kids, just around the city you can visit the Luna Park. It is an amusement park with rides, shows & attractions & it has NO entrance fee!

Address: 1 Olympic Dr, Milsons Point NSW 2061, Australia

Schedule: Its operating hours vary. You may check the Luna Park website on your scheduled visit (http://m.lunaparksydney.com/opening-hours)

The Rocks

 Very rich in history, The Rocks is one of the top tourist spots in Sydney. It is hard to miss specially that it is located by the southern shore of Sydney Harbour, just beside the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The Rocks has gone a long way from having a reputation as a slum where convicts arrived & where sailors visited prostitutes to a tourist historic area. Today it is surrounded by shops, restaurants, hotels, bars, museums & galleries.

Must Try I Here you can find the famous Pancakes on the Rocks which is known for their pancakes, of course! Another reason why it’s famous because it’s open 24/7.

Heads Up I Take note that shops, restaurants & malls generally close early in Sydney so this might be on your list especially if you get hungry after a long day of touring the city.

Address: 4 Hickson Rd, The Rocks NSW 2000, Australia

Sydney Fish Market

Seafood you say? One of the things you do as a tourist in Sydney is visiting the Sydney Fish Market & indulging yourself, not just to see food, but to eat a lot of seafood! It is the biggest fish market in the Southern Hemisphere & the 3rd biggest in the world, in terms of variety. 13,500 tons are traded nationally & internationally every year. Make sure you visit for your seafood fix.

Address: Bank St & Pyrmont Bridge Road, Sydney NSW 2009, Australia

Schedule:

  • Open daily 7am- 4pm except Christmas day
  • Fisherman’s Wharf Restaurant dinner service is open until 11pm

Taronga Zoo

Just a ferry away from the Circular Quay, visiting the Taronga Zoo with about 4,000 animals is one of the refreshing things to do in Sydney, especially with kids! There are many ways in going to Taronga, but riding a ferry is probably the best way as it allows you to well, ride a ferry along the harbor getting a different view or angle of the Sydney Opera House & Darling Harbour Bridge. You simply ride the ferry at the Circular Quay Wharf 4 then in less than an hour, you get to Taronga!

Address: Bradleys Head Rd, Mosman NSW 2088, Australia

Schedule: Open daily including Christmas day from 9:30am- 5pm (Best to check the closing time on your scheduled visit as it may vary)

Fees:

  • Adults- Gate Price $46 / Online Price $41.40
  • Children (4- 15 Years) Gate Price $26/ Online Price $23.40
  • Infant (Under 4 Years) Free
  • For more details check the Taronga Zoo website (https://taronga.org.au/taronga-zoo#whats-on)

Must See I QBE Free- flight Bird Show or the Seal Show.

Tip I Get a map & check the animals you want to see first before you start wandering around especially if you want to have animal encounters. Make sure you go early to the scheduled time of the shows to get good seats.

Bondi Beach

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Approximately 45 minutes from Central Sydney, you may enjoy the iconic Bondi Beach. Bondi is an Aboriginal word which means water breaking over rocks which is why its known for surfing. But if you’re not into surfing, you may simply enjoy the view during sunrise & sunset, through a stroll/ coastal walk from Bondi to Coogee or picnic, having coffee, fish & chips or like in our case, have churros by the beach.

Getting There / Getting Back:

  • By Bus I Go to Alfred Street in Circular Quay & ride the bus numbered 380/ 333 (destination of the bus should show NORTH BONDI, DOVER HEIGHTS, WAITRONS BAY or BONDI BEACH). You may ride the same bus in going back to the city (destination of the bus should show CIRCULAR QUAY).
  • By Train I You may ride in stations Central, Town Hall, Martin Place, Kings Cross, Edgecliff to Bondi Junction. Then switch into a 380, 381, 382 or 333 bus for a 15-minute ride to the beach. You may ride the same bus to Bondi Junction then from there, switch to a train going back to Central.

Must Try I We didn’t have much time to explore around Bondi but we tried  San Churro which were recommended by our friends who lives in Sydney. Churros with assorted dips, coffee plus the view. Ah!

The Grounds of Alexandria

The Grounds of Alexandria is one of the places tourists love to visit for some food trip cozy experience. It’s a rustic-like courtyard with a café serving freshly roasted seasonal blend and single origin coffees & artisan pastries, a potting shed serving drinks & a garden where pizza, burgers & other charcoal grill offerings are served. There are also shops, food stalls & a play area for kids.

Must Try I Chargrilled Lamb topped with Garlic & Chili Sauce paired with Rose Lemonade.Coffee & Pastries, for sure!

Heads Up I The place gets crowded. A little patience will go a long way to get your seats.

Tip I Should you have time for shopping, there are a lot of outlet shops in Alexandria. Check your maps for all of them!

Address: 7a/2 Huntley St, Alexandria NSW 2015, Australia

Schedule:

Café

  • Monday- Friday 7am- 4pm (kitchen closes at 3pm)
  • Saturday- Sunday 7:30am- 4pm (kitchen closes at 3:30pm)

Potting Shed

  • Monday- Thursday: 11:30am (kitchen closes at 9pm)
  • Friday 11:30am (kitchen closes at 10pm)
  • Saturday 11am (kitchen closes at 10pm)
  • Sunday 11am (kitchen closes at 9:00pm)

The Garden Bar

  • Monday- Friday 8am- 2pm
  • Saturday- Sunday 8am- 3:30pm

Wood Fried Pizzas

  • Monday- Wednesday Closed
  • Thursday- Friday 11.30am- 2pm
  • Saturday- Sunday 8am- 3pm

The BBQ

  • Monday, Thursday, Friday 9am- 3pm
  • Tuesday- Wednesday 11:30am – 3pm
  • Saturday- Sunday 8am – 3:30pm

Blue Mountains

If you’re into some nature tripping, Blue Mountains is a place for you. Although we weren’t able to visit this place during our trip due to time constraints, this should be part of the places to see when in Sydney. It is called Blue Mountains because they look ‘blue’ from Sydney. This is the result of the eucalyptus oil’s mist (products of eucalypts or gum trees that make up the Blue Mountains) refracting light, making the haze look color blue from a distance.  It is famous for the three sisters sandstone rock formation. The place is filled with forests, waterfalls, gardens & a magnificent view that will surely take your breath away! If you don’t have a vehicle going there, you may book a tour or ride a bus going to Katoomba, from there you may ride a bus to get to the Blue Mountains. This will take approximately 3 & a half hours so expect the whole journey to at least 1 whole day should you go back to the city.

Hunter Valley

This is one of the places we missed, that should be on the list, during our last visit to Sydney. This is a place for the wine lovers! It is Australia’s oldest wine region. Here you may explore vineyards with fresh & exceptional wine paired with gourmet food. You may also enjoy its scenery through riding a hot-air balloon or skydiving. Ah! Both on our bucket list! If you don’t have a vehicle going there, you may book a tour or ride a bus or train to Maitland, the main transit point of the Hunter Valley. Which will take approximately 3 & a half hours so expect a whole day trip should you go back to the city. Another option is by plane from Sydney to Cessnock or to Newcastle which is the nearest main town to the Hunter Valley. It is best to have a vehicle or to book a tour for a hassle free experience.

Hillsong Conference

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Well, this should definitely be part of the list since this is the reason why we came to Sydney. It has always been a dream to visit Sydney because of this. Hillsong Conference is not a place, by the way! It is usually held at the Qudos Bank Arena. It is an annual 4- day conference hosted by the Hillsong Church, held every July & is attended by about 20,000 delegates across the world as well as renowned speakers like Rick Warren, Christian bands & worship leaders- Hillsong United, Taya Smith, Brooke Fraser, Lauren Daigle, Kari Jobe & so much more! For more details, check the Hillsong website (https://hillsong.com/conference/sydney/)

A dream come true. God knows how grateful we are & how much our hearts are full.

ATTEND HILLSONG CHURCH SERVICES

wp-1513480200634.jpgIf you want to attend Hillsong Church Services, you may check the schedules in the different campuses at their website (https://hillsong.com/sydney/). Best to have reserved seats as services across the campuses get full especially during the conference season. Visit their website & click “Plan a visit”, go to “Concierge”, fill out the details then you’re good to go! All the details are at their website. Despite the reservation, be early still. Main service is at the Hills campus. They provide a free transportation from the Parramatta Station & Blacktown to the Hills & back, right after the service. Just check details under “Courtesy Bus”.

TIPS & MORE

  • Get an Opal Card for free with a minimum load of $10 & download the Opal App to get around Sydney. This can be used for trains, ferries, buses & light rails.
  • Download the tripview app for transport timetables.
  • Schedule far destinations, which cost more in transportation on Sundays, as maximum spend for that day is only $2.50.
  • Sydney provides a FREE BUS that operates every day around Central Sydney called/ numbered 555. It runs every 10 minutes from the Central station to Circular Quay & back through Elizabeth & George street. Check photo for the direction of the whole loop. Schedule: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday 9:30am- 3:30pm, Thursday 9:30am- 9pm, Saturday- Sunday 9:30am- 6pm.
  • 555map
  • The whole loop takes about 30- 40 minutes to cover. Photo from http://www.broketourist.net/shuttle-bus-555/
  • Get a sim card for communication, data usage & getting around Sydney. You may purchase it upon arrival at the airport. Make sure your phone has an open line.
  • Take note that most of the shops, malls, stores & restaurants close early or by 5pm in Sydney.
  • Join a free walking tour to explore the city. (Check http://www.imfree.com.au/sydney for details)
  • Check online deals ahead of time to score discounted tickets.
  • For shopping, visit Pitt Street, QVB, Strand Arcade, DFO Homebush (Chemist for perfumes & Priceline for makeups), Birkenhead, Surplus Shops- K- Mart & Target & for Souvenirs- Paddington Markets.
  • Check link for Sydney Trains Operating Hours (http://www.sydneytrains.info/stations/pdf/Hours-of-Business.pdf)
  • If you are in hurry to get to a place, Uber is very convenient in Sydney.
  • Don’t forget your TimTams! Another sweet treat to try is Coles Ultimate Chocolate Chip & Cinnamon Donuts.
  • VERY AUSIE FOODVegemite – A famous Australia spread to go on toast, perfect with butterLamington- Typical Australian sponge cake covered in chocolate and coconutMeat Pie- A popular Australian snackPavlova (pav)- Popular Australian desert, meringue and cream topped with fruitSausage roll – Favourite Australian snack consisting of seasoned minced meat encased in pastry, perfect with tomato sauce on top
  • Go- to food: Nando’s, Thai Food.
  • YOU CAN COUNT ON COFFEE. (Aussies are big on coffee so expect coffee goodness all the way)COFFEE TERMS (AUSTRALIAN/ US)Short Black- ExpressoLong Black- AmericanoFlat White- Latte No FoamLatte- Latte
  • Mocha- Mocha
  • Cappuccino- Cappuccino
  • If you’re attending the conference, you should try the NACHOS sold at one of the stalls there. Yum!
  • Check the CBD STORAGE WORLD SQUARE for luggage storage. See website for details (http://www.cbdstorage.com.au)
  • List of Museums (without fees) you might want to visit:

White Rabbit Gallery (Open Wed- Sun from 10am-5pm)

The Rocks Discovery Museum (Open daily from 10am-5pm)

Royal Botanic Gardens (Open daily from 7am- sunset)

Sydney Observatory (Open from 10am- 5pm)

Manly Art Gallery (Open Tues- Sun from 10am- 5pm)

Reserve Bank of Australia (Open Mon- Fri from 10am- 4pm)

Museum of Contemporary Art (Open daily from 10-5pm, 9pm on Wed)

Art Gallery of NSW (Open daily from 10am- 5pm, 10pm on Wed)

Government House (Open Friday- Sunday from 10:30am- 3pm)

Anzac Memorial (Open daily from 9am- 5pm)

Asian Art Gallery (Open Tuesday- Fri from 11am-5pm & Sat- Sun from 11am-4pm)

  • List of Museums (with fees) you might want to visit:

Australian Museum (Open daily from 9:30am- 5pm/ $15 Adults, Child FREE)

Powerhouse Museum (Open daily from 10am- 5pm/ $15 Adults, Child FREE)

Museum of Sydney (Open daily from 10am- 5pm/ $12 Adults, Child $8)

Susannah Place Museum (Open Sat- Sun from 10am- 5pm/ Adults $12, Child $8)

Justice Police Museum (Open Sat- Sun from 10am- 5pm/ Adults $12, Child $8)

Sea- Life Aquarium/ Wild- life Sydney (Open daily however schedule may vary, check website for details (https://www.sydneyaquarium.com.au/plan/opening-hours/) Adults $40, Child $28)

This definitely won’t be our first & last. We’ll be back to attend another conference & see more of Straya. See you later, Mate!

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