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The Best of Istanbul – Photo Essay

After 4 days exploring Istanbul we felt lucky to have even spent that long in such a beautiful city. Our Istanbul Photo Essay showcases our favourite shots

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Istanbul Street Food Cart at Night

There have been a few places around the world that we have travelled to that we hadn’t really given too much thought to before visiting. We are ashamed to admit that Istanbul in Turkey is one of those places.

As one of the largest cities in the world, and bordering Asia and Europe, we should have expected more. A lot more. But we basically didn’t do our research. We were really only in Turkey for the ANZAC Day celebrations along the Gallipoli Peninsula and our Sail Turkey adventure.

By the end of our 4 days exploring the city from our Istanbul vacation rental, including the incredible UNESCO World Heritage historic city centre, we felt incredibly lucky to have even had that long in Istanbul. Since then we have also vowed to do the proper research to make sure we don’t miss out on any other potentially amazing cities in the future!

Istanbul Photo Essay

These are our favourite photos from Istanbul. We hope you can see why the city grew on us so quickly.

Istanbul Panorama from Tower Galata

Istanbul UNESCO World Heritage Historic City Centre Panorama from Galata Tower

Istanbul New Mosque Yeni Camii HDR

Istanbul New Mosque

Blue Mosque Sunset Istanbul

Sultan Ahmed Blue Mosque at Sunset

Blue Mosque Istanbul Sultan Ahmed HDR

Sultan Ahmed Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque Istanbul HDR

Minarets and Entrance to Sultan Ahmed Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque Foot Wash Tap

Foot Washing Area, Sultan Ahmed Blue Mosque

Istanbul Street Food Kebab

Kebab Street Food in Istanbul

Istanbul Street Food Cart at Night

Fresh Corn on the Cob, Night Street Food in Istanbul

Istanbul Mosque Framed

Mosque Framed by the windows in Galata Tower

Istanbul Galata Tower HDR

Galata Tower, Istanbul

While we quite easily could have spent longer in Istanbul on our cheap holiday to Turkey we felt that 4 days was just enough time to see all the travel highlights. It was the perfect taster before the rest of our adventure travels through Turkey along the western coastline.

We just hope that we find the time in 2013 to explore deeper into the true heart of Turkey and hopefully experience more of this rich and diverse country that we initially knew so little about.

Cole is one half of New Zealand's leading adventure travel blogging couple who have been wearing out their jandals around the world since 2009. He loves any adventure activities and anything to do with the water whether it is Surfing, Diving, Swimming, Snorkeling or just lounging nearby on the beach. You can follow Cole on Google+. Or consider following us via RSS Feed, Twitter, Facebook and subscribe to our Newsletter.

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84 Comments

84 Comments

  1. The Time-Crunched Traveler (Ellen)

    January 14, 2013 at 1:36 PM

    Beautiful photos, guys. I really must make it to Istanbul one day soon. It’s been at the top of my list for years and somehow I never make it there.

    • Cole Burmester

      January 16, 2013 at 12:01 PM

      We were so surprised by how much we enjoyed it. Really need to explore the rest of Turkey at some stage now.

  2. Karen @ Trans-Americas Journey

    January 14, 2013 at 8:09 PM

    The already dreamy city-scapes look even more surreal in your photos.

    • Cole Burmester

      January 16, 2013 at 12:01 PM

      That’s what HDR will do for photos 😉 But still the cityscape is truly that magnificent!

  3. Natalie @ In Natalie's Shoes

    January 14, 2013 at 8:34 PM

    Wow! Thanks for the chance to reminisce about how beautiful Istanbul is. I went 2 years ago and your pictures helped me to relive my travels. Thanks!

    • Cole Burmester

      January 16, 2013 at 12:00 PM

      We were there nearly 1 year ago and our own photos made me remember so many good times! Going to start going back through the last 3 years of travel and editing all my favourite ones I haven’t shared yet 🙂

  4. Escaping Abroad

    January 14, 2013 at 10:54 PM

    Mosques and churches always seem to make great subjects in photos. These are no exception! Istanbul remains high on my bucket list 🙂

    • Cole Burmester

      January 16, 2013 at 12:21 PM

      Hope you manage to get to Istanbul sometime soon! It is a fantastic place to visit and continues to become more and more popular every year.

  5. Larissa

    January 15, 2013 at 12:29 AM

    We, too, had done very little research about Istanbul, thinking it would simply be a stopover between the Middle East and Europe. But we really loved it! Spent 6 days there, and definitely want to go back. Thanks for the photo reminders!

    PS. We had our favorite sandwich of our RTW in Istanbul. YUMMY 🙂

    • Cole Burmester

      January 16, 2013 at 12:22 PM

      The sandwich sounds amazing! Wonder if it rivals Gozleme which we fell in love with in Turkey 🙂

  6. wanderingeducators

    January 15, 2013 at 4:20 AM

    I just want to say: yum, yum, yum, yum. yum!!

    • Cole Burmester

      January 16, 2013 at 12:22 PM

      I did drool a little on my keyboard when I was going back through all the food photos haha.

  7. Jenna

    January 15, 2013 at 6:57 AM

    Istanbul is a city I hear more and more about and is starting to creep to the top of my list. I also hear it is a great place to live. Nice mix of photos! I especially like the kebab street food photo–the man’s expression is great.

    • Cole Burmester

      January 16, 2013 at 12:23 PM

      I need to start taking more people shots I think. He probably couldn’t figure out why I would want to take a photo of him doing his job! I guess I would find it weird if someone took a photo of me at my desk haha.

  8. Theodora

    January 15, 2013 at 11:07 AM

    Aw, you’re making me miss Istanbul now…

    • Cole Burmester

      January 16, 2013 at 12:24 PM

      Well your Himalayan adventures are making me jealous! Lets call it even 🙂

  9. Jennifer

    January 15, 2013 at 12:41 PM

    Beautiful photos! We’ve only been to Istanbul on a long layover. We had 8 hours coming home from Jordan, so took the opportunity to grab a visa and explore the old city a bit. We really only had time for the Blue Mosque, the spice market, and the Grand Bazaar. We did eat corn on the cob from one of those stands though! We definitely need to go back.

    • Cole Burmester

      January 16, 2013 at 12:25 PM

      Sounds like you did quite a lot in just 8 hours anyway. Well done! Most people would probably just sit in the airport watching movies. We actually didn’t really enjoy the corn, probably because it had been there all day haha.

  10. Vera

    January 15, 2013 at 2:30 PM

    Very cool pictures! I’ve been to Turkey, but not to Istanbul – yet! Keep hearing a lot of good stuff about it, though, also in terms of hipness and stylewise. Pretty sure it’s another big city that could win me over rather quickly:)

    • Cole Burmester

      January 16, 2013 at 12:26 PM

      I think that Loz would break his camera by taking too many photos 😉

      • Laurence

        January 16, 2013 at 12:57 PM

        It’s starting to become an issue 😉 Love the shot titled “Minarets and Entrance to Sultan Ahmed Blue Mosque” – that’s just gorgeous 🙂

        • Cole Burmester

          January 17, 2013 at 9:44 AM

          Have learnt so much about editing in the last few months. Starting to go back through old photos and edit them. Very pleased with myself haha.

  11. Pete

    January 15, 2013 at 9:23 PM

    A beautiful city indeed. If you’ll be back in Turkey this spring, make sure to drop us a line and come and visit 🙂

    • Cole Burmester

      January 16, 2013 at 12:27 PM

      We would love to return this spring! Fingers crossed we can explore Cappadocia at sometime this year.

  12. Petite Adventures

    January 16, 2013 at 1:02 AM

    Stunning photos! I’ve heard such amazing things about Istanbul – can’t wait to explore it some day!

    Kate xo

    • Cole Burmester

      January 16, 2013 at 12:28 PM

      Hope you get to visit one day soon Kate! It is a wonderful city but make sure you also take the time to explore the rest of Turkey too 🙂

  13. Ali

    January 16, 2013 at 2:57 PM

    Istanbul became one of my favorite cities within minutes of arriving. Such a great place!

    • Cole Burmester

      January 17, 2013 at 9:49 AM

      Felt exactly the same way Ali 🙂 We arrived late at night and the first thing we did once we checked in was go for a walk.

  14. Delane

    January 16, 2013 at 10:14 PM

    I had a friend who told me to visit Turkey but I didn’t believe that I would like it until now!

    What great photos!!

    Thank you!

  15. Amanda

    January 16, 2013 at 10:39 PM

    Istanbul is one of those cities that I think it would be impossible to hate. It’s SO different from anywhere else in the world, and so alive! I can’t wait to go back sometime soon.

    • Cole Burmester

      January 17, 2013 at 9:51 AM

      Lets organise a press trip because we want to go back too 😉

  16. Kristy

    January 17, 2013 at 5:09 AM

    The picture of the mosque is so stunning! My friend told me that kebab taste better in Turkey. I wonder if that’s true.

    • Cole Burmester

      January 17, 2013 at 9:51 AM

      Hahaha which one? We took a few ;D

      • Kristy

        January 17, 2013 at 11:46 PM

        All of them but what I like most is the picture of Sultan Ahmed Blue Mosque.

        • Cole Burmester

          January 18, 2013 at 8:15 AM

          Glad we made it so tough to choose your favourite! But I think you might have picked a winner too 😉

  17. Salika Jay

    January 17, 2013 at 6:28 AM

    Beautiful photos and architecture! Istanbul is a place I’m yet to visit and I see why I should plan one. Kebab looks good 🙂

    • Cole Burmester

      January 17, 2013 at 9:52 AM

      Kebabs were delicious! Not sure what makes them taste better there… maybe it is because I wasn’t eating it after drinking all night haha

  18. Micki

    January 17, 2013 at 9:32 PM

    Cole, thanks for this. We’re planning to be in Istanbul later this year, and you’ve given us the perfect start on what do do and see. Beautiful photos!

    • Cole Burmester

      January 18, 2013 at 8:14 AM

      Did you see our Spice Markets post? Most people head to the Grand Bazaar but I much prefer the smaller, more local, Spice Markets. They are located below the New Mosque in our “Best of Istanbul” post 🙂

  19. Jade - OurOyster.com

    January 17, 2013 at 11:55 PM

    Turkey is one of those place where I really want to visit in depth… I would love to spend at least 3 months there.

    • Cole Burmester

      January 18, 2013 at 8:15 AM

      We only spent 2 weeks there, and half of that was on a boat sailing the coastline so not really authentic. Need to get deeper into Turkey itself!

  20. Jarmo @ Arctic Nomad

    January 18, 2013 at 12:27 AM

    Stunning photos guys! I really need to visit Turkey again,it’s probably been over 15 years since I was there! And haven’t visited Istanbul yet!

    • Cole Burmester

      January 18, 2013 at 8:16 AM

      You REALLY need to go back to Turkey if you haven’t been to Istanbul yet Jarmo!

  21. Cheryl

    January 18, 2013 at 1:26 AM

    Gorgeous photos. I hope to travel there for NYE celebrations! Can’t wait. =)

    • Cole Burmester

      January 18, 2013 at 8:17 AM

      Are their NYE celebrations big there? Will have to look into it!

      • Cheryl

        January 22, 2013 at 1:04 PM

        Not quite sure! It’s just been a dream of mine to celebrate one there for an couple of years now!! 🙂

  22. Craig - ADayTrip.com

    January 18, 2013 at 4:17 PM

    Wow, great pictures. I’ve never been to Turkey, but really want to go.

    The kebabs make my mouth water, I remember having one almost every day when I was in France. How is the food in Istanbul?

    • Cole Burmester

      January 19, 2013 at 9:35 AM

      All of the local markets and street food was really good. The one meal we had in a restaurant turned out to be over priced, touristy, and the food wasn’t great!

  23. Stephanie - The Travel Chica

    January 18, 2013 at 11:06 PM

    I spent about 24 hours in Istanbul, and I was blown away. It was the first time I visited a city with a very different culture, different architecture, different food…. I loved it and I definitely want to return.

    • Cole Burmester

      January 19, 2013 at 9:35 AM

      24 hours would have been barely enough time to scratch the surface. We felt we need to go back after 4 days there 🙂 Definitely try and make the time for it this year, or soon!

  24. Laurel

    January 19, 2013 at 11:46 AM

    I haven’t been to Istanbul yet either, but I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about Istanbul. Great photos and glad to hear that you enjoyed it!

    • Cole Burmester

      January 20, 2013 at 7:53 PM

      It is a fantastic place Laurel! Chuck it on your to-do list for this year 🙂

  25. Dave

    January 20, 2013 at 12:20 PM

    Was in Istanbul for only a few hours (layover) but did manage to see a few of the biggies – can’t wait to go back after seeing these photos!

    • Cole Burmester

      January 20, 2013 at 8:12 PM

      Make sure you have at least 3/4 days there Dave! You guys will love it when you make it over this side of the world.

  26. Cat of Sunshine and Siestas

    January 20, 2013 at 12:45 PM

    I went to Turkey this past year and was blown away at how my camera’s view finder was imprinted on my face after days out shooting! Gorgeous and pulsating – I came back with nearly 1000 pictures after less than 4 days in Istanbul!

    • Cole Burmester

      January 20, 2013 at 8:18 PM

      Sometimes I forget to end up looking past my viewfinder! Need to learn to put it down every now and then 🙂

  27. gabi klaf

    January 21, 2013 at 2:21 PM

    oh these photos are unreal. did you take these yourselves? they are stunning. the facet, the towers, the night vendor, wow. wow. truly makes this now on my bucket list too. oh god, so much world to see, so little time!

    • Cole Burmester

      January 21, 2013 at 7:43 PM

      Yup they are all our photos Gabi 🙂 I wish everyone could see more of the world!

  28. Sam

    January 22, 2013 at 5:16 AM

    Nice photos as always, keep up the good work! Was wondering, what software do you use for your HDR processing?

    • Cole Burmester

      January 22, 2013 at 9:12 AM

      We have just started using Lightroom 4 and LOVE it! We have software called Photomatix Pro which is a plugin for Lightroom and works a treat for HDR processing. Definitely try it out.

  29. Laura @Travelocafe

    January 23, 2013 at 10:13 PM

    Truly amazing photos. You have done it again! Wow!

    • Cole Burmester

      January 24, 2013 at 9:12 AM

      Thanks Laura 🙂 All we do is capture the world with our camera then share it! Nothing special 😉

  30. Mary @ Green Global Travel

    January 24, 2013 at 9:54 PM

    Great photos! That street vendor pic is making me hungry

    • Cole Burmester

      January 25, 2013 at 8:35 AM

      Makes me hungry every time I think about Istanbul… so many delicious local ingredients to try.

  31. Heidi Wagoner

    January 25, 2013 at 10:31 PM

    Beautiful. I really would like to go there. thanks for sharing and can’t wait to see more.

  32. Izy Berry - The Wrong Way Home

    January 26, 2013 at 9:20 PM

    Beautiful photos, Cole! Istanbul is really an amazing city! Tip: a trip on Bosphorus is a must do in Istanbul!

    • Cole Burmester

      January 28, 2013 at 10:05 AM

      Hopefully we get the chance to go back Izy because we never explored the Asian side and would love to go on the Bosphorus too!

  33. Arti

    January 31, 2013 at 2:22 AM

    Stunning captures as always Cole! I love the way the sky patterns in one of the pictures! And the architecture is superb. Have a lovely day 🙂

    • Cole Burmester

      January 31, 2013 at 9:39 AM

      Thanks Arti! Will have a great day now thanks to your nice comments 😉

  34. Yvonne

    February 12, 2013 at 12:01 PM

    wow. amazing pictures! Have been to Istanbul before but it was just a business trip so I had no time to explore the city. But it’s on my bucket list!

    • Cole Burmester

      February 12, 2013 at 1:17 PM

      You would love it there Yvonne 😉 Hopefully this year you can make it a priority!

  35. Kevin James

    February 18, 2013 at 6:33 AM

    Stunning pictures, Nice shot.. Kebab is one of my favorite street food in Istanbul.

  36. Kym Ciftci

    February 25, 2013 at 12:54 PM

    Your photos are simply stunning – çok guzel 🙂

    • Cole Burmester

      February 25, 2013 at 1:18 PM

      Thank you Kym! It is a beautiful city to photography 😉

  37. Sand in My Suitcase

    March 16, 2013 at 7:46 PM

    Istanbul is really one of the world’s most exciting cities – with a fascinating blend of East meets West. Our recent story on “Turkish Delight” in Compass magazine covers some of Istanbul’s attractions – from soaking in a steamy hammam to feasting like a sultan. Glad you got to enjoy some of Istanbul! And your photos are gorgeous…

    • Cole Burmester

      March 18, 2013 at 9:25 AM

      Thanks guys 😉 Agree totally that Istanbul it is one of the world’s most exciting cities!

  38. ardun

    April 29, 2013 at 4:43 PM

    Great HDR photos! I loved Istanbul and Turkey as a whole and was there for the ANZAC service this year too. Beautiful people and a beautiful country.

    • Cole Burmester

      May 3, 2013 at 3:13 PM

      Cheers Ardun 🙂 ANZAC Day is a really moving experience for everyone. Glad you had a great time!

  39. Quinn

    November 3, 2013 at 12:44 AM

    I like to travel to Istanbul and I think that it is one of the best cities to visit in the world.

  40. Michael

    March 16, 2014 at 5:32 PM

    Istanbul is a wonderful place for photography subjects. I like your post-processing also. Well done

  41. Soheil | Travel to Iran

    April 9, 2016 at 11:35 PM

    WOW perfect post and photo thank you
    please Travel to Iran if you can here is perfect country too
    thank you

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Asia

10 Things You Didn’t Know About China

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The People’s Republic of China is an amazing country, with an ancient history steeped in wonder and so many modern marvels to explore. This fascinating and unique country is the most populated country in the world, as well as one of the largest by land mass.

Many of the people who live here still abide by their traditional Chinese culture, but the country has always been at the forefront of innovation too, graduating more science, technology, engineering, and mathematics students than any other country in recent years.

You probably already know that China is the world’s longest continuous civilization, that its Great Wall is the largest manmade structure on the planet (but contrary to popular belief, is not visible from space), and the Silk Road is the oldest and longest trade route ever; however, did you know that China is also responsible for the creation of our modern decimal and binary systems, algebra, geometry, and the discovery of the human circulatory system?

Did you also know that 1.7 million pigs are consumed daily in China and that one weird delicacy is ‘urine eggs’ which are eggs boiled for 24 hours in the urine of young boys? Neither did we! Here are ten more amazing facts about China that you probably didn’t know:

China has only one time zone

Despite being the third-largest country in the world by square mileage (China is almost as wide as the US) and technically spanning five time zones, the whole country has operated under one single time zone since 1949, when ‘Beijing Standard Time’ was made official by the Communist Party. That means when it’s 6am in Beijing, it’s also 6am across the other side of the country – even though the sun won’t rise for approximately three hours.

Most schools, transport services, and other Government services in the westernmost region of Xinjiang obey Beijing time, while many local businesses stick to their own time. This means kids are walking to school by starlight, while later, some locals are getting caught up in rush hour traffic… at 7pm!

Chinese new moms are meant to ‘sit’ for four weeks

You might have heard that couples in China need to apply for a ‘Family Planning Certificate’ to have a baby, but did you know that after the birth, new moms are customarily meant to stay in confinement for a month?

This tradition – called ‘Sitting the Month’ – involves the new mother resting in bed for a month, not exposing herself to people or any conditions that may cause stress, such as exertion, cold weather, emotional stress, and traditionally, even water!

Being physically wet was thought to pose a health risk to the mother, as she may catch a cold if she’s exposed to these elements through bathing and hair washing. Thankfully, avoiding water is less often practiced these days, but mothers (and sometimes fathers) still regularly participate.

The confinement is designed to give the mother rest and recover from the birth, ensure both her and her baby aren’t exposed to unnecessary threats, improve breastmilk production and strengthen the maternal bond.

Soccer was invented in China

The ancient Chinese not only invented paper, gunpowder, printing and the compass, but they also invented the concept of soccer (or football, if you prefer). The game of ‘cuju’ – which means ‘kick the ball with foot’ – was regularly played during the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD). The popularity of cuju then spread to neighboring countries and the rest is history!

You can’t access western websites in China

While China is undoubtedly a captivating country with unsurpassed beauty, fascinating history, and amazing people, the current Government don’t really want to dilute it all with western influence, so they have created a state of heavy censorship, banning many western internet sites.

If you were considering a visit to China, don’t expect to be able to browse Google, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube or Reddit sites, just to name a few – these have been blocked by what many have dubbed the ‘Great Firewall of China’.

The Government have even attempted to block methods for circumventing their firewall, including blocking the use of many VPNs. Thankfully, it’s still really easy to bypass this firewall using VPNs, but only if you know which ones still work! If you want to know which VPNs to use to get through China’s firewall, visit vpnMentor’s article ‘9 Best (Still Working in 2019) VPNs for China – 3 Are FREE and enjoy some internet freedom in China.

The Chinese heavily censor their film industry

There is no film rating system in place in China, but that doesn’t mean it’s a haven for 12-year-olds who want to watch adults only films. Films are censored for the same reasons as the country’s internet.

Instead of ratings, there is a 36-person committee who ensure nothing untoward or inappropriate makes it through to Chinese audiences. When they find something too raunchy, violent, flamboyant or insulting to China, they simply cut the entire scene out of the film before releasing it to the public!

These cuts include the famous nude painting scene in Titanic being removed, a whole minute of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ being cut due to a man-on-man kissing scene and drug use, as well as 13 minutes of ‘Men In Black 3’ being removed because it featured an alien disguised as a Chinese person. If you’re in China and want to watch any censored films, you can use one of the VPNs mentioned here.

Chinese manners are a little different

Many countries think burping after a meal shows that the meal was delicious and is a sign of good manners, while other countries don’t blink an eye at spitting in the streets. There are also plenty of people who don’t think yawning wide or grunting are rude – in China, all of these are totally acceptable while eating!

Even more interesting is the country’s lack of diaper use. Older babies and toddlers who are able to use a potty don’t wear them. Instead, they wear special pants with a split in the rear and when they need to go potty, they squat wherever they feel like it and go. We don’t just mean outside either. It’s acceptable for the youngest Chinese citizens to poop or pee wherever they feel the need to, inside or out!

China is full of cavemen

Not really, but close! Due to inheritance, tradition and sometimes poverty and lack of affordable housing, an estimated 35 million Chinese people live in caves. The majority live in the yellow, porous cliffs and hillsides of the Loess plateau in Shaanxi province. The Government has attempted to move them on but the long-term residents love their cave homes and refuse to budge.

The Chinese do actually eat canine meat and also invented the first ice cream

Most people have heard the rumor that Chinese people eat dogs and this is actually no rumor. In the city of Yulin for one day per year, the residents celebrate the summer solstice by eating dogs bred for this purpose. The dog meat is eaten as a tradition that started 4000 years ago.

Another ancient tradition that started around the same time is the milk-based treats that the Chinese invented, made with yaks milk and rice and cooled with saltpeter (potassium nitrate) and snow poured on the outside of the containers. Yes, these were the first milk-based ice treats most similar to what we now think of today as ice cream.

The Chinese are masters of war

You may think that large gas and chemical weapons are a fairly modern invention, but the Chinese were actually the first to poison people on a mass scale, with incendiary weapons being reportedly used as early as 200BC according to Sun Tzu’s ‘Art of War’.

There were also reports of arsenic gas bombs being used by the Chinese as early as 1000BC and their war history is littered with similar references and hundreds of recipes for weapons of mass destruction, like the supernatural -sounding ‘soul-hunting fog’. They may have also been the first country to utilize covert spy operations, as they invented kites to gather military intelligence about 3000 years ago.

The Art of War is itself a bible of warfare tactics and many strategies from the book are still used today. While the Chinese have always been ruthless to their enemies, they aren’t completely war oriented – Shanghai was the only port in the world who were accepting Jewish people without visas during the holocaust.

China has the World’s largest army

The Chinese aren’t only masters of war historically, but they are also well-prepared for any future combat. The People’s Liberation Army boasts the largest number of soldiers on the planet, with more than 2 million soldiers. It also has the second largest defense force budget and is almost considered a military superpower.

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Asia

Why 2019 Is the Best Time to Visit Japan

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It would be easy to argue that there is no bad time to visit Japan. With a centuries-old culture, some of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world and stunning natural beauty, there is a reason that “travel to Japan” appears on so many bucket lists.

That being said, there are several reasons why 2019 is shaping up to be the best time to finally book that vacation to the Land of the Rising Sun. In fact, Japan itself is working hard to attract more tourists, with a stated goal of bringing 40 million people to visit the country by 2020. So, grab your passport and pack your bags, because now is the time to go.

1. Beat the Olympic Crowds

Tokyo won the bid for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games, meaning that hundreds of thousands of athletes and spectators will be descending upon the tiny island nation during July and August of 2020 — and beyond. Hotels are already filling up for dates around the Games, making 2019 the ideal time to travel to Japan if you want to avoid crowds. Construction of some Olympic venues is still ongoing, but the country has already invested in infrastructure, entertainment and more to attract tourists. This year will be your chance to see Japan at its finest without the huge crowds and high prices that the Olympics will undoubtedly bring.

2. New and Exciting Accommodations

When Tokyo won the Olympic bid, it did so despite a projected shortage of 41,000 hotel rooms throughout the country. As a result, since 2013, there has been significant investment in hotels and other accommodations, to the tune of approximately $4.9 billion. This investment includes constructing new hotels, as well as expanding and upgrading existing facilities. Travelers have more options than ever before when it comes to finding a place to stay, with options ranging from familiar Western-style hotels to Japanese inns and beds and breakfasts that offer a glimpse into Japanese culture along with a place to stay.

3. Improved Attractions

Japan has no shortage of attractions for tourists, but with the renewed focus on attracting visitors from outside Asia, the government has made some significant changes to major attractions to make them friendlier to visitors. For instance, in 2016, the Japanese government opened the Akasaka Palace in the heart of Tokyo to the public for the first time ever. Built as an Imperial Palace for the Crown Prince in 909, since the mid-1970s this European Baroque-style palace has been used as a guest house for visiting dignitaries. A similar palace can be found in Kyoto and was also opened to the public in 2016.

Japan’s leaders have also taken steps to make the country’s national parks more appealing to foreign visitors. During the multi-year initiative, the Ministry of the Environment has taken steps to more effectively market the parks to foreign visitors and made improvements within the parks themselves, such as adding new signage and information in multiple languages and making it easier to access especially scenic areas. With all of these preparations expected to be in place by the beginning of 2020, 2019 is a great time to enjoy them without major crowds.

4. Eased Travel Restrictions

Currently, travelers coming from 66 countries worldwide — including the U.S. — can enter Japan without a visa. In fact, Japan has recently eased visa restrictions for multiple Asian countries, including China, Thailand and Malaysia, as well as India, and seen a significant increase in tourism as a result. Americans wishing to visit Japan can do so with a valid passport and return ticket and stay up to 90 days. Your passport needs to be valid for the entire length of your stay in Japan, and you should expect to be photographed and fingerprinted when you enter the country. Otherwise, there aren’t any visa requirements for U.S. tourists.

In 2016, Japan also changed the rules regarding tax-free shopping for tourists. Generally speaking, items purchased by tourists to take home are tax free, provided that you meet certain restrictions. Shopping tax-free also requires carrying your passport with you while you shop, but it can save you a significant amount of money. Shopkeepers are familiar with the rules and can help you.

Japan is going to great lengths to attract new visitors in the coming years. With all of these tourist-friendly changes taking place, it’s easy to see why 2019 is the best time to visit Japan.

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Asia

Cambodia – Land of Ancient Cultures

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When it comes to tracking the history of ancient culture down to its very specifics, not many countries can come close to Cambodia.

With its historical significance dating back to the Funan Empire in 50 AD, Cambodia boasts a historical record of around 2000 years. That is why, it is one of the most sought after locations to be visited by those who value culture, history, and an all-around glorious land that is filled with lush-green sights to behold. Therefore, if you are a person who ticks any of these boxes, then it would be a good idea to get your Cambodia visa in advance, ahead of whenever you want to visit this magnificent country.

What makes Cambodia so special are not just the historical buildings and locations that it has been provided by the ancient empires, but also the natural biodiversity that it has been gifted by nature itself.

Due to these factors, a visit to Cambodia is easily one of the most immersive experiences that any tourist can have even without the added flashes of the neon lights of Vegas or the lucrative casinos of Macau. The simplicity of Cambodia acts as its most lucrative factor, which is arguably the most beautiful thing that you can notice about a specific region.

If you are planning a visit to Cambodia whether to learn about the culture or just to relax in its natural beauty, then knowing about which segments to look forward to might help you in creating an itinerary that would keep you organized yet open for fun over your trip.

Without further ado, here are some of the most famous aspects of a visit to Cambodia that would help you gain knowledge about the region while also creating unforgettable and fun memories for you and your loved ones.

The Historical Sites in Cambodia

Once again, Cambodia is immensely rich in terms of history. As with other historical sites, the association of the history itself comes with a mixed feeling of joy and grief; but nonetheless, it lets you learn about human history, the consequences of the actions of past civilizations, and the comparison of decisions taken decades ago to the ones that the humans are making in this day and age.

The Khmer Rouge Killing Fields, also known as the Cambodian Killing Fields, are what denote to the last sentence the most. Originated out of mass killings of over a million people during the Khmer Rouge regime, these sites hold a historical significance of those who were not fortunate enough to survive what can only be called a genocide. The fact that these killings took place just over 4 decades ago, between 1970-1975, brings about a profound feeling in itself.

While many sites are tied with the Killing Fields era, the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center remains as one of the most famous locations of the genocide. It stands as a monument to the victims of the genocide, while the other locations such as Tuol Sleng house museums that tell the story of those who couldn’t survive the brutal regime.

Apart from these two sites from recent history, the Bayon Temple remains tall as an ancient history monument, being built in the 12th or 13th century. The temple is the epitome of ancient architecture, where just one look at it is enough to transport you back to the era where this state temple with no less than 216 stone faces was built with exceptional craftsmanship.

Moving to other sites, you will also be able to visit the Angkor Wat, which stands tall as one of the largest monuments in the world when it comes to religious structures. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Angkor has the distinction of being one of the most popular sites to be visited by tourists all over the world, which is not shocking at all once you read more about it or have the opportunity to visit its magnificent temple yourself.

About the Natural Wonders of Cambodia

Looking past the historical sites and towards the more natural ones, the Angkor Center of Biodiversity might be one of the most fantastical displays of nature’s creations in their natural habitat. The biodiversity center is a great place to learn more about the different species that roam the lands of Cambodia, and remains a must visit for those with a certain adoration for wildlife.

Speaking of which, the Tonle Sap Lake should also be on your list of locations that cannot be missed when it comes to appreciating nature and wildlife in their most magnificent forms. The biodiversity mentioned above can be easily appreciated at the lake and its adjacent area, which would let you witness different animals, birds, and fishes roaming in their natural setting and provide you with memories that you would cherish for the rest of your life.

With this, the lush green lands that you can witness throughout these locations and across many other sites within Cambodia would sing praises of the region’s status as a prime tropical spot on the Earth.

To summarize, a visit from this perspective would also leave you just as fulfilled as a visit from a historical point of view.

About the Gastronomical Offers of Cambodia

Cambodia is one of the richest regions when it comes to fresh food consumption. The food that is served here is mostly made out of fresh ingredients and meat, and prepared with influences from various cuisines of cultures that have touched the region in its many years of development.

In Cambodia, you can find pho-like soups that are not really pho; you can find seafood that is prepared within minutes of being caught from the ocean; and you can enjoy pork and chicken dishes that are created with the aforementioned fusion of flavors that you can identify easily, but would not be able to taste in the delicious combination that Cambodia makes possible for you.

Visit Cambodia with a Warm Heart and You Will End Up Learning A Lot

When you visit Cambodia, you will be visiting a land that is rich in everything that money can’t buy, and experiences that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

Overall, a visit to Cambodia is a visit to a location whose associated feelings cannot be emulated elsewhere. Therefore, if you are to visit this land of wonders in the near future, then you are definitely in for a treat.

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Meet Cole and Adela

Cole and AdelaWe have been wearing out our jandals (Kiwi for flip-flops) on our travel adventures around the world since 2009. We think our blog is thought provoking and a little witty. But we have been proven wrong before. Find out more about us here...

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