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Vientiane – Charming Sleeping City

Vientiane, the French version of the Lao Viangchan, is the capital city of the Lao People's Democratic Republic. It is on a sweeping curve in the Mekong River, right on the Thai border. You may find a charming collection of lovely temples, old French colonial buildings, ramshackle riverbank wooden homes and pretty yellow two-storey Indochinese shop houses. Tourists will notice that the city's architecture is largely low-rise.

For those who have been to Vientiane long ago and now, they likely will say that this Laos’ city is changing. For example, where there were once hundreds of bicycles, there are now motor bikes and cars. Whatever it is, Vientiane is marked by a fountain named Nam Phou Place, and almost all of Vientiane's important sights are located within walking distance from here.

The gate of That Luang and its stupa at sunset

Like other tourists, you may find it hard to believe you are in a capital city, i.e. the pace of life is so gentle. You will often meet with small groups of Buddhist monks in orange or rust-coloured robes, and sporting umbrellas against the sun seems to invite you to visit their temples and to practise their English on you!

What are the not to be missed places to see and places to visit in this charming city?

The Mekong River – watch water buffalo as they graze peacefully, you will notice that they barely looking up as you pass, at the same time the farmers are growing vegetables on the banks of Mekong.

Wat Si Saket - Vientiane’s oldest temple. Wat Si Saket was built in 1818 under King Anouvong. Many said it displays the Siamese rather than Lao style of Buddhist architecture. I believe the architecture as well as its surrounding terrace and ornate five-tiered roof, is to keep it safe during the Siamese invasion. Its cloister wall has more than 2,000 ceramic and silver representations of Buddha, and houses a museum as well.

The Great Stupa/Pha That Luang - is an important Buddhist temple built in the sixteenth century by King Setthathirat. I understand that the relics of Buddha are said to be contained here. In fact, the stupa was destroyed by the Thai invasion in the nineteenth century, but was later rebuilt to its original design. Some even said that The Black Stupa (That Dam) is inhabited by a seven-headed dragon which tried to protect them from the Siamese army invasion.

Patuxai (Victory Gate) - this was built in the 1960s to commemorate those who fought in the struggle for independence from France. From what I see, it is quite resembles the Arc de Triomphe, but the style is definitely Laotian, with its numerous kinnari figures, i.e. half woman, half bird.

Talat Sao – is a colourful morning market. Over here, you can find the best of Lao weaving, i.e. glorious silks, cottons and ethnic textiles, both old and new.

Do you think Vientiane is a sleepy city that is full of charm?
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Ogasawara Islands – the Chichijima and Hahajima

If you like to watch whale and many different types of dolphin, and also looking for a chance to swim with bottlenose and spinner dolphins, then Ogasawara Islands (also known as Bonin Islands), a remote group of 30 small and flat islands in the Pacific Ocean should be in your travel itinerary. In fact, they have a sweeping, white beach which is also ideal for swimming, but do watch out for highly endangered green where they do come to lay eggs.

Anijima and Chichijima Islands

Ogasawara Islands, about 1,000 km away from Tokyo, were the result by ancient submarine volcano. What I understand is that they are home to more than 140 species of indigenous plants as well as insects such as the Ogasawara damsel fly. You may want to know that of the 97 species of tree on the islands, 73 are endemic.

Out of the 30 Ogasawara Islands, Chichijima (father island) and Hahajima (mother island) are the only inhabited with a population of about 2,500. Their main products are timber and fruit such as pineapples and bananas. True to be believed, Ogasawara is unspoiled and unpolluted, that I think is the reason the waters are crystal-clear and full of coral reefs and tropical fish.

Those who went there have commented that Ogasawara Islands is truly a great place for watching whales and dolphins. I suggest you to take a day trip out to the open sea for an amazing day whale and dolphin watching. While available to see all year round, humpback whales and their calves can usually be seen between February and April, while the best time to see sperm whales is from August to October.
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Lake Pichola | Udaipur - the city of lakes

Have you ever visited a beautiful lake surrounded by stunning scenery? If not, you may want to travel to the foothills of the Aravalli Hills in southern Rajasthan of India, where the beautiful Lake Pichola lies.

What is Lake Pichola most famous for? Those beautiful royal palaces and temples that lie on its islands and around its shoreline. One that impressed me the most (guess many tourists too!), and also the most famous sights on the lake is a beautiful shining white building that appears to float on the lake's clear blue waters, i.e. Jag Niwas, but now the Lake Palace Hotel, which was built in the 1740s and is made entirely of marble.

The Lake Palace Hotel - in the centre of Lake Pichola

You may want to know that the chief town in the area is Udaipur (also known as the city of lakes), was founded on the advice of a hermit in 1559 for the residence to Maharana Udai Singh. Among the highlights in Udaipur included the City Palace and Museum, the many smaller palaces and temples, as well as those tourist attractions picturesque streets, gardens and fountains.

What follows are some of the places to see and places to visit on Lake Pichola’s islands that I think you might be interested:
  • Sajjangarh Palace - this palace overlooks the lake from the top of a hill and was the summer palace where the members of the royal family spent the monsoon season.
  • Shah Jahan’s refuge - i.e. the Jag Mandir, is a red sandstone complex with cool courtyards, a small museum, and the massive Jagdish Temple that lies within its walls. Some said this has provided inspiration for Taj Mahal.
  • Shilpgram - a craft village that is in the north-west of Udaipur. In fact, Shilpgram is a centre dedicated to preserving and enhancing the craft and folk heritage of western India.
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Seoul - Economic Powerhouse to South Korea

Feel like to visit a city that has the most skyscrapers than any Asian city? Or want to see how a city that was left in tatters by war has reinvented itself to be one of the most populous and successful cities on earth?

Read the full article here...

The skyline at dusk

Changdeokgung Palace in winter

When is the best time to go? September to November or March to May. For great travel deals and ideas, please visit!
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How much exercise is required to reduce joint pain? This may be a tricky question as we may not know whether it is okay to work through exercise pain or when it’s not. In its most basic form, mild muscle soreness is considered normal, however, if you suffered sharp pain during or immediately after your exercise, then you should...