Located in Western Honshu, the largest island of Japan, Hiroshima has the sad history of being the first ever city to be targeted by a nuclear weapon. Since that day, Hiroshima has risen from the ashes to become a shining reminder of the destruction capable of war. The Hiroshima Peace memorial park and Genbaku Dome stand as reminders and offer a humbling experience to visitors of this beautiful city.
Hiroshima makes a fantastic day trip from Osaka. The bullet train or ‘Shinkansen’ will get you there in about 90 minutes. Visiting as a day trip saves you from transporting your luggage again to another city and to new accommodation, something I like to do as little as possible.
Alongside the sites of the Peace Memorial Park and Genbaku Dome, other popular attractions in Hiroshima include;
- Itsukushima Shrine
- Hiroshima Castle
- Shukkei-en Garden
- Peace Memorial Museum
- Hiroshimagokoku Shrine
The island of Miyajima is a particular highlight. With its beautiful untouched forest, full of wild deer. The island is also host to the Itsukushima Shrine, an impressive UNESCO world heritage site. You can also take a cable car to the peak of Mt Misen, offering panoramic views of the island and surrounding harbour. Simply walking through the forests can be a very peaceful experience, with flowing streams and small waterfalls adding to the atmosphere. I found myself alone wandering the picturesque pathways which wound through the trees and clearings, before returning in a loop to the ferry harbour and heading back to the mainland.
Combining the sights of Miyajima with the memorial sites of Hiroshima make up an excellent full day and is a very popular tour option. As a booked tour, included private transport and lunch make it very simple and saves time easily wasted by using slower public transport. This leaves as much time as possible to experience what Hiroshima has to offer.
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Osaka, the magnificent port city and commercial centre. Rich culture, busy modern streets, excellent local cuisine and street foods are only the beginning.
When arriving, a great first stop is a tourist information centre, to grab a map and any extra info on sightseeing you might have been after. These centres are found in Kansai Airport or the major train stations of Osaka and Namba.
With its central location in Japan, Osaka is a fantastic place to start an adventure in Japan. It makes a great base to launch day trips from also, with places like Hiroshima and Nara easy train rides away. Taking this approach means you can leave your baggage in one place for longer, saving lugging it through airports and train stations over and over again. This was the approach I took, and it made for a very fun but comfortable 6 nights. With equal time spent in the city itself, and surrounding attractions in the area.
Full of wonderful sights, Osaka has something for everybody. A personal highlight was simply walking the streets, turning down colourful alleys, full of restaurants, bars and shops. This kind of exploring can occupy entire days. A great place to travel with a family also, especially with Universal Studios Japan on hand to entertain for an entire day or more. You can also take a cruise through the harbour on the Santa Maria sight-seeing boat!
Definitely check out some of these highlights also;
- Osaka Castle
- Kaiyukan Aquarium
Japan is a food loving country, and Osaka is no exception. A city with an abundance of options and a passion for it. I found myself eating noodles of some variety almost daily, often going in for a second bowl because I just couldn’t get enough of the delicious food.
Make sure to try these local favourites;
- Sushi & Sashimi
Osaka is full of shopping malls, and you can find everything you could ever want in almost any part of town. Make sure to carry your passport with you, as you can get anything tax free in many shops if you present it. Along with this, many places I entered, especially large electronics stores offered an extra 8% discount for using a Visa card. The savvy shopper can come away with some very good deals!
I hope this quick intro to Osaka was helpful. This is the first of a series with Tweet World Travel all about touring in Japan. Keep an eye out for the rest very soon!
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Shanghai is an incredible city. Completely stunning in almost every way. I made it to 5 major cities on my first ever trip to China and it was by far my favourite. China’s largest city by population, Shanghai is also one of the biggest finance and transport centres. The name means ‘Upon-the-sea’.
I didn’t have any sort of organised tour for Shanghai, but I did have a hop-on hop-off double-decker bus ticket valid for 48 hours. This bus was excellent value, having 3 routes covering a great area and stopping at dozens of city attractions. I found it also doubled as a fun general purpose. Sitting on the open top-deck, under a bright blue sky, lazily cruising around the city was a lovely experience. The bus provided head phones with location specific information in 4 languages. On top of all of this, the ticket provided entrance to the 88th-floor observation deck of the Jin Mao Tower, the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel and a cruise along the Huangpu river. Two of the bus routes run along The Bund, the magnificent length of architecture running along the river. This water-side area always swarming with people, attracted by the beautiful sights and sounds.
Alongside those I’ve just mentioned, other worthy Shanghai attractions include;
- Shanghai Museum
- Yuyuan Garden
- World Financial Centre
- Shanghai Disneyland Resort
- Revolving restaurant inside the Oriental Pearl Tower
- Nanjing Road
High-end retail is everywhere in Shanghai, the city is a shopper’s heaven. Western influence is much stronger here than the rest of China, tourists are definitely more present also. It’s a very friendly city! The tree lined boulevards and colonial era buildings make it a beautiful place to simply wander and be absorbed by.
Getting around is a breeze with the fantastic metro system, you’re never far from the nearest stop. Taxis are also everywhere and ready to take you where you need. Having your locations written down in Mandarin is always advisable in case the driver doesn’t speak English. It’s easy to have this done at your hotel before leaving!
Thanks to its position in the Yangtze River Delta, and the fact it has attracted so many migrants throughout history, Shanghai is a bustling centre of Chinese street food and cuisine. Some definite must-tries include;
- Sheng Jian Bao
- Cong You Bing
- You Dunzi
- Shansi Leng Mian
- Dou Hua
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Arriving at Guangzhou train station, I didn’t know what to expect of the city. It’s one of those modern metropolises often seen as a stop-over to other parts of the world. As one of China’s busiest airports, Guangzhou Baiyun is the home base and central layover for China Southern Airlines. It’s also growing into one of China’s most important centres for the high-tech industry with booming industrial sectors. A great place to shop for electronics.
The metro from the train station is as efficient as any other in China. Well laid out maps with an intuitive system. The ticket machines always available in English and prices around 1 dollar to get anywhere in the city.
Guangzhou doesn’t quite have the history to match some other major cities, its streets full of modern architecture and high-end retail. It looks and feels clean, modern and safe. The people smiling and milling about town in a jubilant fashion.
The city is busy, but it doesn’t feel busy in the same hectic way that other cities do. A relaxed nature seems to permeate the air.
Exploring at night is a great decision. The air is cooler, that southern humidity dropping off slightly with the absence of the sun.
The city begins to glow in the evening and continues on into the night. The lights of the towers coming to life in a myriad of colour and modern expression. The air itself glowing purple as the mist and fog catch the light.
The waterside is wonderful, it seems this is the time and place to exercise, the riverbank flowing with activity. Again, it’s busy with crowds but doesn’t feel like it. The noise and behaviour are calm and comfortable. The locals at peace in their home.
The Canton Tower stands high in the sky, its shifting rainbow of light dancing in the sky. It’s a marvel to look upon as it reflects on the river. The tower can be ascended, with a glass observation deck at 450m!
Across the bank, Huacheng Plaza is abuzz with life and laughter. The ‘place to be’ apparently, the square teeming with families and children playing on the colourful ground which lights up like a disco floor, the city’s tallest towers bordering both sides displaying their own light shows.
I spent hours wandering the streets, seeing everything on display. It really comes off as a very happy place, a big city with a welcoming environment.
Some other highlights of the city are definitely;
- Shamian Island
- Chen Clan Academy
- Baiyun Mountain Park
After taking the metro back across town to my hotel, I wandered down the streets lined with small food stalls, the smell captivating and irresistible. I couldn’t finish my walk empty handed, grabbing a portion of crispy looking gyozas. Completely delicious, every bite a reassurance of the decision I had made.
Guangzhou is a wonderful place to visit for food, its streets full of wonderful regional cuisine and international favourites.
Make sure to try these delights when visiting;
- Yum Cha
- Kao Ru Zhu
- Long Hu Dou
- Shuang Pi Nai
- Dim Sum
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Not far from Guilin, around 95kms, lie the breathtaking rice terraces of Longji. Amongst these flowing hills of lush green forest and rice, is Dazhai village. I cannot recommend this place enough, whether you’re looking for adventure and hiking or just time to relax in a serene location surrounded by some of the most beautiful country scenery I’ve ever seen!
Like many places of stunning natural beauty, it is a little remote. I travelled by local bus from the airport which was very slow and involved a few vehicle switches in small towns where no one spoke English. When I left a couple days later I discovered the direct bus which was much faster and a lot more comfortable! From my experience, unless you’re very confident on your own I would definitely recommend visiting the Longji area with private transport, or as part of a tour! For me, it’s a place not to miss either way!
I stayed in the Longji Dazhai International Youth Hostel. It’s definitely not a youth hostel in the traditional sense of low-cost backpacker style travelling. I had a wonderful king room with en suite and private balcony overlooking the centre of the village, which was also a rice field! Very comfortable indeed.
Despite being such a small town, there are quite a few local restaurants serving up fresh local produce. Every time I went for a walk, there would be friendly invites and gestures to join a table for lunch or dinner. I actually ate all my meals in the hostel, which had a great menu of wonderful variety. I had some of the freshest and most flavoursome food I’ve ever eaten during my stay!
About a 10-minute walk down the road that you come in on, is an enormous cable car ready to whisk you up to the highest point in the immediate area for incredible views of the surrounding valleys and terraces.
The area provides some excellent hiking, most of which follows small paved paths that curl and weave around the hills. Some of the greenest green that I’ve ever seen greets you around every bend and over every crest.
Dazhai and the Longji area were a wonderful escape from the flat-out-busy lifestyle of the Chinese cities. Even the drives in and out were incredible, the narrow roads following a river through the valley. Waterfalls cascade down on both sides, one even straight onto the roof of the bus as we drove past. It did rain a lot while I was there in mid-July but I felt this added to the experience. July through September is a beautiful time to go, as the crops are mid-growth and will be glistening green with the fresh rains.
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