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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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

9 Things You Need To Know Before You Travel To Cuba

The Republic of Cuba is made up of; the island of Cuba, Isla de la Juventud and several archipelagos. Spanish is the national language. Havana is the largest city as well as the capital city of Cuba.

Cuba is Caribbean’s largest island and the second-most populous after Hispaniola. The country has 16 provinces and is home to the world’s famous Che Guevara.

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Below is a list of what you need to know before you arrive in Cuba.

  1. Singaporeans do not need visa to Cuba unlike Americans

Unlike the American passport which has restrictions when visiting Cuba, the Singaporean passport passes the test and you can travel to Cuba without a visa for up to 30days.

All tourists require a tourist card, which goes for $20 and which you must purchase prior to your arrival in Cuba. This can be obtained in the country you are arriving in from.

  1. Avoid Hurricane Season – July to Nov

Cuban experiences stormy weather between the months of July and November. Hurricanes are mostly ranging in late August and early October. The other months of the year offer favorable weather for you to visit Cuba.

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  1. Print out your documents before leaving

It is advisable to have a print-out of your return ticket or even saved on your phone or laptop. During the check-in process, the airline checks to ensure that you possess a copy of your return ticket. Unfortunately, the airline isn’t in a position to have a print out done for you.

  1. Credit Card is useless there

All transactions in Cuba are done using cash. It is advisable to have ready cash on you. Foreign exchange counters are available at the airport for your access to Cuban currency.

American dollars are charged a 10% additional fee to the exchange rate when changing into Cuban money, so it is advisable to use other foreign currencies like the British pound, Mexican pesos, or Euro which do not attract such additional fee.

  1. Cuba’s 2 currencies

Cuba uses two currencies, the Cuban covertibles CUC, – which is mostly used tourists -and Cuban pesos CUP. Changing foreign currency to CUP you have to first change to CUC then to CUP. As a tourist, you can use CUP should you prefer.

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  1. Stay in Casas Particulares aka local Airbnb

Accommodation in Cuba is mostly what is referred to as Casas Particulares. Hotels are available but are few making Casas Particulares more common. Families with several rooms available in their homes offer the boarding services at a fee. You will have a shared common space with its members.

  1. Buses are the best transportation

Travel in Cuban is mostly by bus and they have good infrastructure connecting all the major cities. Few bus companies are available that offer bus services to tourist, but should you opt for bus tours ensure to be at the bus terminus earlier since no online booking services are available.

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  1. It is very safe in Havana

Havana is heavily guarded with security troops everywhere. This makes Havana very safe for you to even walk in the streets at night.

  1. The Internet is a scarcity

Internet access here is rather expensive and not easily available. The way for you to have access is to either check- in into one of the hotels that have Internet services, then pay for it, or buy local mobile provider (ETECSA) Sim-card then connect through one of the wifi hotspots available in the major cities.

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Havana city is a prime touristic site. I truly enjoyed the morning strolls along the El Malecon which has a fantastic view of the bay and runs alongside the main streets of Havana. The weather was warm and humid so an early stroll was more enjoyable, refreshing and scenic.

During my short stay, I could not pass up a quick stop at the Camara Obscura. It is situated in the old town and has a breathtaking 360-degrees view of the entire city.

Want to know more about Havana and Cuba? Just askus@ladyredot.com, we have all the tips and tricks for you.


Kally Hi, I’m Kally. A Singaporean who has been relocated twice, first to Shanghai, now based in Kuala Lumpur. I have always been the avid traveller since young. I had my passport made even before I went to primary school! I travel extensively during my free time, either on tour groups or backpacking around Europe and all within the recent years. I am exposed to many different cultures and places, which allow me, to have the ability to look at many things and situation from various angles. Having gained 20 years of corporate world, I decided it is time for me to hang up my briefcase and heels to indulge my passion: Writing and Traveling. The two passions that give me pure enjoyment and liberation. As much as I enjoy traveling and writing, I strive on assisting people in making their lives easier. This is evidently shown in MiddleMe.net where I am the founder and editor. Allow me @ kally@ladyredot.com to help you to pen down your next trip abroad!

To The Ends Of The World in Choquequirao

Many people say only the tough ones can make it to Choquequirao in Peru. They may be right. To get there, one has to tackle the 45 kilometer trek (back and forth) and numerous elevation change. It’s definitely not an easy feat, but it is going to be totally worth it.

Brief Background

Choquequirao, Chuqi K’iraw or Chuqik’iraw, which means “cradle of gold,” is a remote Incan site  in the Andes. It is on the Vilcabamba mountain range and is 3,050 meters above the ground.

People call it the “sister of Machu Picchu” because aside from the fact that it is located in Peru, its structure and architecture are also very similar to that of its more famous sibling. Choquequirao, however, spans up to three times the size of Machu Picchu (although only 30% of it is visible) and gets only a handful of visitors daily. (Machu Picchu has more than 2,000 visitors a day while Choquequirao has only had about 5,000 visitors since 2013).

How to Get There

Choquequirao can be reached by hiking or trekking for three days (or even up to more than a week) just outside Cusco. The starting point is the village of Cachora (just 5 hours away from Cusco), and then through the Apuramic Valley, and then to Chiquisca where travelers pitch their tents and spend the night. The next morning, the journey involves uphill trek to Santa Rosa and to Marampata. The travelers will then have to descend to 2000 meters, and then ascend again to 3000 meters (and this pattern repeats all throughout).

Choquequirao is, again, not easily accessible (but the 5,000 travelers who have gone there will surely tell you it will be all worth it). The journey requires high level of fitness and determination. To get around, it is also advised that you get an experienced guide.

P.S If you are wondering how to get back to the starting point, it’s the same way you came: trek up and down!

When to Go

It is best to go anytime between May and October as this season has the driest months of the year. However, still expect occasional rain even during the dry season.

While in Choquequirao

Choquequirao gives you a glimpse of the ancient Andean life. Although you only get to see the ruins of the structure, the richness of their culture and the brilliance of the people behind the amazing architecture are very apparent. For instance, you will notice that the water fountains were strategically made of large rocks for durability, and  flat slabs of stones were inserted under the windows which refrigerate stored food. You will also see terraces that were decorated with white stones formed into llamas, animals that played an important role in ancient transportation.

Aside from the majestic ruins of the Incan royal estate, you can also marvel at the beauty of the surrounding snow-capped mountains of Ampay, Panta, and Quishuar. It’s easy to get lost in the mystery of Choquequirao. So don’t forget to look up and witness the marvelous mountains around you.

Looking for a totally unique location to explore? We specialised in creating unique experience for you. Just askus@ladyredot.com!


 

Hello, I am Mish! I used to work as a travel expert, customer service specialist and a communications trainer in the past. After working for eight years straight since I graduated, I decided to give up my corporate job to focuses on my 4-year old son, works as a freelance writer and a real estate assistant. I am a sun-worshipper, a water baby, and an earth warrior. And oh, I’m tiny but I am an Olympic-level glutton. Let me bring your tummy around the globe! You can reach me at LinkedIn.

 

 

Famous Indonesia Scams

As general, Indonesia is a relatively safe place to visit. The streets life are far less threatening compared to some countries in the west, and most of the people are nice. However, there are always some individuals who want to take advantages of tourists for their personal gain. To prevent that, here is a small list of most common travel scams that you may find during your visit to Indonesia. Thus, always be cautious with your surroundings, travel safe, and enjoy your time wandering around !!

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  1. Taxi Scams

Since taxi is the only transportation mode to get you to the downtown, it is very easy to find taxi drivers that are dishonest. No taxi meter, longer routes, no change, and applying extra charges for unreasonable explanations are common things that scam taxi drivers always do in order to force you on paying more for the trip. That is why it is better to book taxi from credible taxi counters wherever you go and let their staffs help you to find the taxi. Rely on using taxi from Blue Bird or Express, since both of them are trustworthy taxi companies that are majorly used by the local. Alternatively, if you are not in rush, hiring uber or grab for a lift is better since there are plenty of promos that you can use for cheaper rides.

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  1. Sellers Scams

While going on shopping in local markets or at tourist shops, scam sellers are always exist with their thousands of ways to make you have for buying their goods.   And here, these are two common types you may always find. First, the follower. This kind of sellers are very consistent on selling their goods to every tourists by following them until they gave up and deciding to buy. It is indeed irritating and because of it, don’t hesitate to say “No, thank you” as your response once you are not interested to buy from them.   Second, the price increaser.   Some sellers have targeted international tourists for selling their stuffs in much higher price than their usual. Therefore, when you are buying something, go to the stores that have clear price tags on their items or just bring the locals with you to do trades with the sellers.

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  1. Unnecessary Services

Public places such as airports, train stations, and harbors are meeting points for many scammers. They usually work in disguise by offering unnecessary services such as voluntarily offering you to carry on the luggage, selling cheaper fake tickets, or force you to take a stay on newly-open hotels that are definitely not located at a strategic place. At first, those sweet talks and hustles may sounds good to be heard, however it won’t get you to anywhere, since they will take your money after they did their job and looking out for the next potentials. For handling this, keep distance with strangers who tried “too hard” on getting your attention, and ignore them by keep walking through.

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  1. Ticket Scammers

Holiday season especially to welcome eid al fitr days can be so hectic since all transportation tickets from planes until trains were fully booked. In this situation, ticket scammers or usually be called as “calo” are easily to be found. Usually, their modus is to offer you extremely cheap tickets. Never buy a ticket that you think is too cheap from the normal price, especially during holiday season since there are huge possibilities for them to be fake. If you are suddenly have to travel, consider to book your tickets online. It is better to pay a little more expensive price than losing all your money to some scammers.

One surefire way to steer clear of scammers is to engage us at askus@ladyredot.com.


dsc_4705-jpgHello, I’m Jenica from Indonesia.  As a law student in progress, studying law can sometimes become really boring.  That’s why I always like to wander around and exploring new, unusual places to relieve some tension.  I also like to capture my experience through lenses and especially from writing, because it helps me to create memories that will last forever, yet it can also enjoy by a lot of people.  Meanwhile, if I don’t have time to travel, you can find me easily at the markets while trying delicious street foods from various local food stalls.  Nasi goreng, rendang, and martabak are my all time favourite that will never be replaced with anything. For me, diet always starts tomorrow so  let’s enjoy the life to the fullest!  If you want to know more about me, drop me an email now.

How To Keep Your Valuables Safe When Travelling

There are so many fun things to do when you travel. And because, most of the time, your mind is preoccupied with your itinerary and exciting activity plans, it’s so easy to get your mind off your valuables. We have listed some tips for you to make sure you keep your valuables safe when travelling:

First of all, make sure to only bring the necessities when travelling. That means you have to leave your jewellery and other expensive items that you may not need during your trip. For instance, if you’re going on a trip for 3 days to the beach with an itinerary that includes mostly water activities, it may not be a good idea to bring a laptop or your gold chains with you. And unless you’re a blogger or going to an important event, leave your designer bags and dresses at home.

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Keep your passport, IDs, money and credit cards on you. Some say putting them in a money belt is the best way, but a neck bag or neck wallet that you can slide underneath your shirt actually does a better job at keeping these items safe.

This may seem impossible to do, but try to avoid getting wasted and walking around in a foreign land with your valuables. You’re very vulnerable when you’re drunk, so if you’re going out to party, leave your valuables in a locker.

It is never a good idea to trust a complete stranger to help you with your luggage. If in case you are in dire need of help, make sure the bag that has all the valuables is with you and not with someone else.

Do not put your cash in one place. If you have $250, do not put all of them in a wallet. If you lose your wallet, you will have to say goodbye to all your cash, too.

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Get creative when hiding your cash. Roll your bills and put them in empty lip balm/beauty product containers, vitamin bottles or even your kid’s Play-Doh containers. If a thief decides to break into your hotel room, they would usually go for the most obvious places that might contain money (bag, locker, closet, mattress, pillow, drawers) but they would not have time to open vitamin bottles or Play-Doh containers.

Always be aware of your surroundings. Tricksters—young or old—are literally everywhere these days. They move really fast in stealth mode and you wouldn’t have the slightest idea about what’s going on if you zone out.

Invest in anti-theft luggage. Bags that are slash-proof and tamper-proof are really helpful. They can be costly in some places, but it’s worth it.
When shopping or going to the ATM to withdraw cash, do not stay long and count your cash at the ATM. Doing so makes you an easy prey for thieves.

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When roaming around, make sure to find out the name of the place you’re in by asking around. In case you lose something, you would know where you’ve been and hopefully be able to trace where you lost your stuff.

The tips on how to keep your valuables safe are endless. No matter where you are going, the best way to stay safe would be to remain vigilant at all times. Have a happy and safe trip!


 

mish

Mish worked as a travel expert, customer service specialist and a communications trainer in the past. After working for eight years straight since she graduated, she decided to give up her corporate job. She now focuses on her 4-year old son, works as a freelance writer and a real estate assistant. She is a sun-worshipper, a water baby, and an earth warrior. And oh, she’s tiny but she is an Olympic-level glutton. Let her bring your tummy around the globe! You can reach her at LinkedIn.