Must-know Hacks to Enjoy the Forbidden City

During the October holidays, teeming crowds turn up at the historical site for an exotic travel experience into the Satan’s pit. For most of the Beijing residents’ going to the Forbidden City is out of question throughout the holidays. Even all through the busiest of weeks, below are some tricks that can make visiting the Forbidden City more tolerable when not pleasant.

  1. Plan for an early morning visit: The ticket sales limit is 80,000 a day. This may seem like its a lot but during special exhibitions and holidays but the possibility of the tickets selling out by early on in the afternoon is very high.

(Advanced Tip: A reservation system is available online and you can book at most 10 tickets for a group except you need to have someone who reads Chinese – or you can do so yourself – and even have a payment method like Zhifubao or Alipay.)

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  1. Skip Mao: About 90% of the tourists approach Forbidden City via Tiananmen to the south. Getting here for an exotic travel experience often requires that you pass through rather long lines to get to the security checks. In order to avoid these, use the west or east entrance. Pay the entrance fee and walk into the park to the east side. This will get you to ticketing area right outside the Forbidden City main entrance. However, you will need to queue for the museum security checks so you can go inside.
  2. Stay away from the crowded area: Most visitors follow the same route right into the center of Forbidden City. Stay away from the crowded places and rather explore the interesting parts by turning right or left. When you walk along the wall going towards the East Gate, you will come to a fascinating and quiet museum of the palace architecture. Down the stairs near the East Gate as if going back towards the courtyard you will find the Literary Flourishing Hall which is a ceramic well-curated museum.

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  3. Keep away the mid-axis: Make a point to visit Cining Gong and Shoukang Gong which was home to the emperor’s mother in 18 century. This is a functioning archaeological site which has sculpture displays that date back to more than 1,500 years. This includes terracotta soldiers loaned from Xi’an.
  4. Use an alternative exit: Officially, Forbidden City is to be exited through one way that is north-south. However, the transport options outside the northern gate are restricted to jam-packed buses and trishaw hustlers. You can, however, exit from the Donghuamen (east gate) which lets out into the quieter street which has better taxi options and is closer to the nearby subway. Should you be hungry, a division of Siji Minfu- a famous Beijing restaurant and TRB Bites are located outside the eastern gate.

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  5. Remember to carry your passport: In 2015 new policies were enacted which require you to present a type of identification for every ticket purchased. The security personnel also look for lighters since it’s not advisable smoking inside the 600-old wooden palace.

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One more last tip – always ask a local for the best time to visit China or you can always rely on us at askus@ladyredot.com. If you have been to China, come and share your stories with us!


 

KallyKally is a former Sales and Customer Service manager turned Writer and Founder of MiddleMe.net. She came from Singapore; lived in Shanghai and now calls Kuala Lumpur her home. After hanging up her corporate briefcase, she now pursue her passions – Writing, Traveling and of course, hunting for good food.

Connect with me @ Kally@ladyredot.com

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5 Reasons You Should Visit Almaty

Kazakhstan is a cosmopolitan place that borders the cultural crossroads between Asia and Europe. The vast country stretches from China to the Caspian Sea. It is one of Asia’s diverse cultures where Russians and Kazakhs border the Ukrainians, Tatars, Uzbeks, Germans, and scores of other cultures mix harmoniously.

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Almaty is the country’s financial and cultural center and custodian of the essence. It is also the biggest city falling short of being the capital city after the young flash rival, Astana. The town sits amazingly below the snow-capped peaks of Zailysky-Alatau Mountains. It is pleasantly green and very relaxed with fountains, fancy malls, black-windowed SUVs and busy and pretty busy boulevards. The town is modern and a sophisticated hub for booming petro-economy, one that has many surprises that make Almaty the focus of any tour around Kazakhstan.

  1. The wonderful ski spot fit for royalty

The ski resort of Shymbulak is about 30 minutes drive from the city. In 2014 the resort became famous in when Prince Harry and his then-girlfriend Cressida Bonas went skiing on the slopes. It is ritzy and the sunny, chilly winters guarantee varying good conditions and crispy cold snow well into the month of April. The ski lifts leopard-print cabins are painted so in honor of the snow leopards that are rarely seen roaming the mountains. The 4kmseries of ski lifts run up to 3180 meters Talgar pass.

  1. You get to enjoy yourself along the Silk Road

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The bustling green bazaar market halls, filled with traders from across far as Korea to central Asia gather to hawk are a fantastic way to get familiar with the multifaceted ethnic mix of Kazakhstan. The foothills near Almaty are said to be home to the apple fruit, and it is said to massive proportions. Almaty translates to “father of the apple”.

 

  1. The impressive socialist architecture and art

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Soviet War Memorial in Almaty looms vividly in front of the city’s former army command center. The city’s finest museum, Kasteyev State Arts Museum, was named after Abilkhan Kasteev-Kazakhs greatest painter. Along with the huge collection is the intriguing room dedicated to his depiction of life in the former Soviet era from portraits of the peasant life to the canvases of the fast developing landscape.

  1. The second tallest wooden building in the worldnki

Proudly standing in the leafy Panfilov Park is the Cathedral of the Holy Ascension; a mix of pastel-colored gables, a gilded dome and brightly painted tiles that rise 60m high. All built with no single nail.

  1. The Russian baths are the finest in Central Asia

The Arasan Bath’s complex in Almaty is the most highly styled bathhouse in this area. It was built in the early 1980s as a notable statement of the Soviet ambition. Pick your slippers, conical felt hat (shapka) and a towel and join fellow bathers in the fiercely hot Russian steam room (parilka). Bundles of birch or oak leaves (vyeniki) are used to thrash on each other. This wince-inducing practice is believed to improve circulation. From the parilka, you are to upturn over yourself a bucket of gasp-inducing cold water. To finish up a dip in cool plunge-pool under the domed atrium will leave you refreshed.

Want to go on an exotic tour with us? Drop us a note at askus@ladyredot.com


Kally

Kally is a former Sales and Customer Service manager turned Writer and Founder of MiddleMe.net. She came from Singapore; lived in Shanghai and now calls Kuala Lumpur her home. After hanging up her corporate briefcase, she now pursue her passions – Writing, Traveling and of course, hunting for good food.

Connect with me @ Kally@ladyredot.com

Why You Must Visit Sarajevo In 2018

The recent traumatic history of the city is well documented but what is hardly know is the welcoming, warm and amazingly cool exotic travel destination the city is. Sarajevo is surrounded on three of its sides by mountains and it is where the twin strains of ottoman and Hapsburg architecture come together. Trains and buses rumble past bazaars and mosques, and minarets take their place on the skyline together with the Catholic spires and Orthodox domes.

Below are reasons to make Sarajevo your next destination for exotic travel

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The captivating Old Bazaar

Suspended on the steep Miljacka valley slopes, Baščaršija, the city’s old Bazaar is a smoky, hectic and noisy locality that is unlike any exotic travel place in the Balkans.

The narrow alleys burst with antique Ottoman monuments, the sweet-smelling ćevabdžinica and several street-corner cafés, and a varied assortment of stalls each selling all types of goods, from sandals and slippers to copperware and coffee sets.

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The one place with the best cevapcici in the Balkans

The legendary staple in the region can be found here. The high calorie spiced minced meat is typically served with kajmak-(a slightly sour and thick cheese) or ajvar (red pepper spread which is first roasted) and somun- a doughy delicious flatbread. Ćevabdžinica Petica is known amongst the locals as the one place with the best of these morsels.

The coffee

Bosanska kafa is served on a thin metallic tray; this bubbling coffee is served from an attractive džezva (copper vessel) into small fildžan (tumblers). Sugar lumps can be added – the regular practice is to dip the sugar lump into coffee then taking a tiny nibble to help customize the taste.

The two world-class summer festivals

During July, the old town streets rock big time throughout the Baščaršija Nights. This is a month-long music gathering from folk, rock and classical to the theatre, ballet, comedy, and opera and it is free.

Augusts’ Sarajevo Film Festival is more prestigious and bigger adding to your exotic travel experience. The festival has grown ever since its start during the 1995 siege to turn into the greatest movie gathering of Eastern Europe.

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The most captivating architecture in the Balkans

Numerous elegant monuments all though Sarajevo are proof of the 4 centuries of dominion from the east. The most exquisite is the Gazi Husref Beg Mosque and above it towers the Sahat-kula- the striking seventeen-century clock with hours of prayer marked in Arabic numeral. Also, check out the Sebilj fountain.

In contrast, the buildings down the Ferhadija Street have an Austro-Hungarian orientation – as are much more along Obala Kulina bana- an elegant riverside fare found further south.

The most symbolic building in Sarajevo is the National Library. It was obliterated in 1992, this noble neo-Moorish construction reopened in 2014. Its renovation is the most obvious proof of Sarajevo’s renaissance.

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The most important Bosnian War exhibitions

Inevitably, Sarajevo is full of sights attributed to the siege. However, the most significant exhibition is Galerija 11/7/95. It stands as a proper memorial to the traumatic events that widely spread at Srebrenica on this eponymous day. The show is presented in a potent way, courtesy of interviews, audio-visual documents and black and white imagery.


Kally
Kally is a former Sales and Customer Service manager turned Writer and Founder of MiddleMe.net. She came from Singapore; lived in Shanghai and now calls Kuala Lumpur her home. After hanging up her corporate briefcase, she now pursue her passions – Writing, Traveling and of course, hunting for good food.

Connect with me @ Kally@ladyredot.com

Singapore Changi Airport Opens its 4th Terminal

One of the many things that I’m proud of being a Singaporean, is our World Class Award Winning – Changi Airport. I have the chance to visit the new Terminal 4 in August 2017. It is going to open on 31 October 2017 officially for operation.

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The new terminal is 225,000m2, which is the size of 27 football fields. It is half the physical size of Terminal 3 but able to handle 16 million passengers a year – about 70 per cent of Terminal 3’s handling capacity.

As Singapore is progressing into Smart Nation, most of the check in processes are going to be automated and self-help; leveraging on the use of technologies and digital innovation.

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After check in, I came into an area where there is an Immerse Wall showing a pane of high definition video of introducing some of Asia Countries with its unique representatives. I believe it does helps me to relax when there is a long queue for bags and body scan.

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In the Departure Hall, other than the usual duty free shops and restaurants, you feel very different from other terminals. Changi Airport Group has immerse Art and Peranakan Heritage culture as one of the focus architecture design in the new terminal. There is a Love Story Play that compose by Singapore own song-writer Dick Lee where you can sit back and enjoy while waiting to take off.

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As you continue to explore around, you get to see some artistic figures like The Travelling Family, an aluminium sculpture by Swiss artist, Kurt Lawrence Metzler and Petalclouds, a grand-scale kinetic sculpture. Quite a usual sight in an airport.

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The first airline that be taking off in Terminal 4 is Cathay Pacific. Others joining are Korean Air, Vietnam Airlines, AirAsia, Cebu Pacific and Spring Airlines. Hence, the next flight, see you at Changi Airport Terminal 4.

I have quite an enjoyable open house, learning so much about the new terminal. Before I missed out, do watch out for the cleaning auto-bots. They are pretty awesome and adorable. Be sure to spend some time exploring the new terminal!

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Reference links:


IreneHi, I’m Irene. Born as a Sagittarius and living in the South of Singapore, I have been working in the Information Technology as a Business Product Manager for 8 years. Enjoying my scope that allows the challenge of learning new things every day as my role demands frequent business travels all over the globe. I have an adventurous bold soul that nothing can tie me down. When I am not sweating it out, I can be found chilling at a corner of any café, bury my head in a Sales Strategy or a Poem book, whatever my mood takes me. Besides being a yoga and gym enthusiast, my passion for travelling and planning travel itineraries show through friends who encourage me to share my travel experiences with others. Reach out to me @ irene@ladyredot.com for amazing impromptu ideas for your next trip abroad!

Best Vacation Destinations for Anthophiles

Originally, anthophiles refer to insects which frequent flowers or feed from them. These days, however, flower lovers everywhere has appropriated the term anthophile to mean a person who loves or appreciates flowers. For example, I’m a self-confessed anthophile. Since I don’t have much space for gardening in the city, I make do by displaying fresh cut flowers on my work desk, dining table and even on my bedside table.

It may seem a bit frivolous for others because flowers wilt anyway, so why keep purchasing them? But for me, it really is worth every cent. Plus, the lives of fresh cut flowers do not end on murky waters inside a vase. You can actually dry them out and craft them into potpourri or frame them into something artsy. Your only limit is your imagination!

Still, nothing beats living, breathing and thriving flowering plants. Fortunately, I do get to appreciate flowers in their natural habitat when I travel—wide, open spaces of pastel-coloured flowers in full bloom. Wherever I am, I always make it a point to visit flower farms or well-tended gardens and parks. So if buying hampers and fruit baskets from the best florist in Singapore is not enough to satisfy your anthophilous needs, perhaps going straight to the source may do the trick. Here are some of the prime vacation destinations you can visit and the best time to go there.

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Keukenhof in Lisse (The Netherlands)
(Unsplash | Owen Williams)

Tulips have become so in demand that it even caused the Tulip mania during the Dutch Golden Age that sent the prices for tulips skyrocketing. They have remained popular even up to this day. These elegant blooms are perfect for various occasions, including weddings and especially for Valentine’s Day. Every online florist in Singapore probably has Holland tulips in their inventory. To see these tulips in their place of origin, travel to the tulip fields in Holland to see millions of bulbs bloom in spring. The best time to visit Keukenhof is during the months of March to May.

Though I can’t visit those fields whenever I please, every time I miss Holland’s gorgeous tulip farms, I often order A Better Florist’s The Allison composed of multi-hued tulips. It just transports me to the countryside’s of Europe. Fortunately, you can also buy The Allison from Hong Kong, Abu Dhabi and Dubai due to their recent expansion. Seems like there are anthophiles everywhere as they’ve already gained quite a following after they’ve been touted as best flower delivery in Hong Kong, best florist in Hong Kong and one of the best florists in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The flower business is definitely blooming!

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Yanaka Cemetery, Ueno, Tokyo (Japan)
(Unsplash| kazuend)

If your version of satisfying your floral fix during a vacation is by ordering a luxurious bouquet from the best florist in Hong Kong in between shopping sprees and food trips, then you need to level up your anthophilous game. Why not ditch your annual Hong Kong trip and pick another Asian destination for an authentic floral fix at Japan’s sakura season! This is probably the most magical season in Japan. Even the best bouquet from the best florists in Singapore can’t quite capture the whimsy and scenic appeal of sakura. When springtime comes, tourists flock to the country to get a glimpse of the ephemeral beauty of Cherry Blossoms. For a brief time, Japan gets covered in a delicate tapestry of pink and white.

Yanaka Cemetery in Ueno may seem like a morbid choice, but trust me, if you want to witness the cherry blossoms in full bloom and in relative peace, then this is where you want to be. Nagoya Castle may have the more cinematic overall experience, but you can also expect droves of people bound to be there obstructing the view. The best time to witness the sakura season is late March to mid-April. You can also check online for a more accurate schedule.

 

Adventures in Hang Son Doong, the World’s Largest Cave

Considered as the largest cave world over, the three million-year-old cave is located in central Vietnam. The cave’s name translates as ‘Mountain River Cave’. The cave ceiling is spread 100 meters over our heads. Sun rays stream in through the serrated sides of the cliffs. The high-pitched calls of the macaque monkeys and the birds bounce off the limestone walls, resounding from the world past the skylight. The Hang Son Doong cave is situated in Vietnam’s Quang Binh province in the middle of the Phong Nha-Ke National park.

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In 1990, a local farmer, Ho Khanh, stumbled upon the cave. While in the jungle, he heard the gushing sounds of the underground river and saw clouds hanging above the large opening in the limestone. He reported his discovery to the British Caving Research Association but sadly, upon his return he got lost and could not find the cave. The cave remained lost for eighteen years, and in 2008 as he was hunting for food, Ho found the entrance to the cave again. A year later he returned with Howard and Deb Limbert both from the BCRA.

The Hang Son Doong covers an area of more than 5 kilometers (3 miles) and a height of two hundred meters. The main grotto is huge enough to accommodate a whole New York City housing block. The Hang Son Doong was for the first time opened to the public in 2013, with the Oxalis tour company offering limited 5-day expeditions. The use of only one Tour Company has helped protect the cave from huge developments. The tours run once a week from February to August yearly and only ten customers are allowed for each departure.

The Hang Son Doong has a unique eco-system with its own localized weather. Scattered in the dried pools are the unique limestone cave pearls and the biggest stalagmite ever stands eighty meters tall. The collapsed cave ceilings have formed openings called dolines, which allow plant life to grow in the cave.

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The journey into the Hang Son Doong involves a 2-day trek through thick jungle shrubbery and crossing rivers to arrive at the cave’s entrance. Night-time is spent camping within the cave and the close by Hang En cave. The Hang En has come to be recognized as the third largest cave world over. In order to get to the end of the cave, hikers climb, crawl, abseil and swim through the underground rivers, making this a remarkable adventure. Even with the physical strains, guests are well cared for; accompanied by 2 caving experts, two chefs, three local guides, 20 porters and two park rangers who ensure the expedition is exceptional and safe. Small tour groups ensure the cave is preserved as well.

The Quang Binh province has greatly benefited from the growing tourism after the discovery of the cave. Many locals turned to tourism after guests started arriving; this has contributed greatly to the provinces’ economic growth. Local entrepreneurs have established hiking, mountain biking, kayaking and eco-conservation companies to work together with the caving expeditions.

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In recent years, the Sun Group, a Vietnamese development firm has been forward with its intention to construct a cable car to the Hang Son Doong. In 2015, strong opposition from the UNESCO and other activist groups urged the Vietnamese government to briefly stop the construction permits. The cable car construction still looms and it remains unknown whether the approval will be allowed.

Some people are for the idea that tourism will keep benefiting the locals, while others express their concern regarding the destruction tourism will cause to the ecosystem due to the high numbers of guests it brings. Comparable projects like the Mount Fansipan and the Halong Bay have experienced major environmental due to tourism. It can only be anticipated that a responsible and sustainable decision is arrived at to help preserve the Hang Son Doong.


Kally

Kally is a former Sales and Customer Service manager turned Writer and Founder of MiddleMe.net. She came from Singapore; lived in Shanghai and now calls Kuala Lumpur her home. After hanging up her corporate briefcase, she now pursue her passions – Writing, Traveling and of course, hunting for good food.

Connect with me @ Kally@ladyredot.com

How to Stay Safe as A Single Female Traveler In India

In India, attacks on tourists have recently been on the rise, leaving one question the level of safety of women touring alone in the country. This has led to women taking safety measures to avoid “Eve-teasing”; the name used in India referring to sexual harassment.

The problem has greatly been attributed to the easy access to illegal homebrews, an increase of porn on the internet and the increasing numbers of uneducated bachelors- who, having lost hope of settling down- relocate into towns and cities away from their families.

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I have put together a useful list of what to do and not do for women traveling alone in India. Women are further advised and reminded that they are not without help. Opportunists are always watching a woman’s behavior and not with the best of intentions. Please be reminded western women that they are not to carry themselves as they do back home. It was observed that both local and foreigner women are at risk of these horrific attacks. Most of the local educated women hardly go out after dark and are often brief when dealing with male strangers and even hotel staff who attempt to chat with them.

What to do or not do when traveling alone in India

To Do

  • Always make arrangements with your guesthouse or hotel for taxi transfers to rail and bus stations particularly after dark.
  • Make use of pre-paid cab counters at the airports and always take the smart and air-conditioned taxis.
  • Ensure your hotel room door has fast bolts on the inside. You can acquire rubber doorstop to help prevent intruders.
  • Avoid the streets after dark. Make use of a rickshaw or taxi to restaurants like the local women do.
  • When in Delhi, use the carriages for women only on the metro and only walk when you have to. This will keep you away from encountering the growing eve-teasing problem.
  • Even when you have not made a hotel reservation, act as though you do. As the taxi to drop you off a particular place then continue from there.

Not to Do

  • Wear any revealing or skimpy clothing. This can be anything from long see-through skirts, strappy tops, shorts or a cut-off pair of trousers. Putting a long tunic over a loose trouser is suggested.
  • Be too welcoming with hotel staff or men who engage you at tourist attraction sights. Instead, hold conversations with women only. While on trains, it is unusual to see any Indian woman chat with a strange man unless it is her husband.
  • Accept drinks from any stranger. The local women barely take drinks in public- even at the hotel bars- therefore be careful of men who invite you for drinks.
  • Facing staring Indian men. This is understood as an invitation. Therefore look away or turn your eyes down. This will indicate your lack of interest in any further interaction.
  • Take walks in the countryside alone. If you have to, have your mobile phone at hand with a speed-dial number ready to call for help. Use your mobile to make fake calls when you get an uncomfortable feeling.

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It pays to stay safe when you travel to another country especially when you are alone and this is your first time in a new destination. Bring back fond memories of your travels  by being cautious, alert and respectful.


Kally

Kally is a former Sales and Customer Service manager turned Writer and Founder of MiddleMe.net. She came from Singapore; lived in Shanghai and now calls Kuala Lumpur her home. After hanging up her corporate briefcase, she now pursue her passions – Writing, Traveling and of course, hunting for good food.

Connect with me @ Kally@ladyredot.com