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The Diary of a Karate Kid

Shaolin Students

My interest in martial arts was always radiant. I remember when I was a kid, I always looked up to idols like Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and Jet Li. I used to love their movies and aspired to be as good as they were. I began my martial arts studies when I was four years old, but I was never serious about the sport. Karate classes became more like playtime with my friends instead of learning. It wasn’t until I was in the seventh grade when I became more serious about training to become like my idols. I would stay at my local dojos for extra classes because I was eager to learn more. I even received a black belt from the local schools, but it wasn’t enough. I still wanted to learn more.
So, the summer after my freshman year of high school, my parents sent me to China.

The Shaolin Temple

I landed in a small city in the Henan province named DengFeng. It is home to the famous Shaolin Temple, where monks train in the traditional martial arts, Gong Fu. Not familiar with the term? You are probably more familiar with the term Kung Fu, which is the westernized form of the Chinese pronunciation Gong Fu.
diary-shaolinThe Shaolin Temple is a monastery located in the mountains of Dengfeng. It is a place where traditional Buddhist monks would go and practice martial arts. The temple is rich in history as it has been through many wars and has been rebuilt numerous times. There is a story behind almost everything there. Some of my personal favorites include the room where monks would stomp the ground to create dents as they trained, the tree where monks would train finger strength by punching the trunk with one finger, and the bathrooms just because they were mere buckets.
On tour, we had the chance to walk on a prestigious path where only the grandmaster—or ShiFu—would walk. It was a great experience to see the strict disciplines that monks in training would follow. The Shaolin Temple has also been featured in several Chinese films; several martial arts celebrities have crossed its paths. Most notably, Jet Li filmed a movie here that increased the temple’s popularity. It was really cool to walk in a movie set! In addition to the temple itself, there were several other attractions. One of the most interesting attractions was the Pagoda Forest. It is a collection of tombs for the different monks that have passed and is structured to exhibit a monk’s status before passing. The higher the tower, the higher a monk’s ranking was.
After the tour, we went to watch a Gong Fu performance. The purpose of the performance was to showcase an introduction of Shaolin Gong Fu. It introduced the various “Quan” or forms that are native Shaolin Gong Fu, the weapons used, and the applications of the movements in combat. The fun thing about the performance was that they picked audience members at random to come on stage to learn some of the movements. I remember sitting there practically jumping out of my seat because I really wanted to try! Sadly, they didn’t pick me.

Tagou School of WuShu

After the tour, we went to tour the most notorious martial arts school in China. The Tagou School of WuShu is a boarding school for martial arts as well as an educational institution. This school has produced many of China’s most well-known fighters and performers. They have students attend national competitions and even students who competed in the Olympics. Fun fact, Jackie Chan performed with one of the performance teams from this school. How cool is that? At first glance, I got ridiculously excited because I saw my favorite movie scene in real life—hundreds of students practicing martial arts in sync. It was the highlight of my life to find out that it was not just a scene in a movie. My mom told me that this is where I would be staying for the summer, and I couldn’t have been happier.
diary-tagou-school-viewThe school is gigantic. It’s so big that they had to split the school into two separate campuses. They have the old campus located next to the Shaolin Temple and the new campus at the foot of the mountain near the city of DengFeng. I chose to stay at the old school near the Shaolin because I loved the mountains, and it sounded way cooler to train in the mountains versus the city.
Students of Tagou School of WuShu come from all over the world to study there. Some native Chinese students even use the school for their primary education as well. The school offers intense training sessions and education levels from kindergarten to high school. It was completely different than what I was used to in the states. The students have a crazy training schedule. The students started the day at 5 a.m. and were not done training until almost 10 p.m., six nights a week. I thought that was insane coming from the U.S. where I take an hour-long class three days a week.

Lifestyle as a student of Tagou

Before I agreed to start summer school at Tagou, I honestly did not know what to expect. I thought it was going to be a summer camp-like experience, but it was more of a culture shock and a humbling experience. Before becoming a student, I never realized how privileged I was to be living in the states where we have access to machines that help accomplish chores or technology for entertainment. There was a lot that I had to get used to as a student. My body had to get used to a new diet; my brain had to learn how to cope with limited to no internet. I also had to become less lazy and actually do chores by hand.
diary-canteen-foodI remember my first year going; my diet consisted of eggs and bananas for the first few weeks because I was not used to the food in the cafeteria for the students. I don’t remember what about it made me so sick, but my body eventually adjusted to it, and I was fine by the end of the summer. I was not used to the way you had to grab food. There was not an orderly line to the different chefs. It was a fight to who can swipe their card first to get their canteen full of food. Yes, you read that correctly: a canteen. We did not have bowls or plates to gather our food; we had to stuff a canteen full to carry food. Of course, you could go back and get seconds, but that costed more money, and you would probably have to shove your way back to the front of the food line.
As a millennial, I live on the internet. I love surfing the web to see what the latest trends are, watching YouTube videos, and seeing what my friends are up to on social media. Having limited to no internet killed me. It was already annoying that China blocked a lot of sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Google, but you are able to get around that with a VPN. The thing that was troublesome was that, since we were in the mountains, internet from the town was not that great. Often, the internet would go out in my room and I couldn’t do the things that I wanted to do. Honestly, though, it was the best thing that happened to me. It forced me to get out of my room to explore the campus, talk to some of the locals, and hang out with my classmates. I learned so much about the diary-laundrydifferent cultures in my international group and I learned fun games that the locals play to entertain themselves! My favorite game that I learned was called “Duel the Landlord” and it was a very competitive game once you got the hang of it.
After my first couple of weeks there, I remember struggling to find clothes since I burned through most of my clothes. I was asking around trying to find the closest washing machine or laundry mat just to find out that there wasn’t one. I was challenged to actually wash my clothes by hand. I was not happy about this. I am so used to throwing everything in a washing machine and calling it a day. Additionally, there were no dryers either, so I had to wring the clothes out and let them air dry. It was not a fun thing to do, but it became a part of my daily routine that I got used to.
The one thing that I got used to quickly was the training regiment. I was sore for the first couple of weeks. The workouts were really intense, but I learned a lot from the coaches. The coaches are very strict and everything we did had to be perfect.
Honestly, it was tough. It is not made for everyone, but I’m more than grateful that I had this experience. After the first year, I went back four more times to relive the experience. It’s something that I hope I get the chance to do every summer.

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Feast your way through Singapore’s Hawker Centers!

Feast Through Singapore

If you are a dedicated foodie, Hawker Centers are the go-to place for you. Hawker Centers are one of Singapore’s most famous dining styles. At these bustline food courts, dozens of stalls serve a variety of tasty, inexpensive foods, ranging from the well known Nasi Padang, originally imported from Indonesia, to Singaporean fish head curry. No matter what you are craving, you can probably find it at one of the following Singapore Hawker Centers:

The Chinatown Complex Food Centre

The biggest, busiest, and (arguably) most famous hawker center in Singapore just might be the Chinatown Complex Food Centre. As the name suggests, this hawker center focuses on all things Chinese, from chili crab and chicken wings to Hokkien mee and bak kut teh. A variety of well-known food stalls are ready and waiting to fulfill your foodie dreams, including the China La Mian Xiao Long Bao, which specializes in steamed dumplings (which is what xiao long bao means in Chinese), Hai Sing Ah Balling (which serves Teochew style dumplings), and Zhao Ji Clay Pot Rice (which is known for, of course, its various clay pot rice dishes).

The Hong Lim Market Food Centre

This 100-stall-large hawker center was first built in 1978 in the Chinatown area. Some of the more famous stalls include the Famous Sungei Road Trishaw Laksa, which was featured in a Michelin Guide, and Ah Heng Curry, which serves curry bowls with optional toppings such as taupok, fishcake, or boneless Hainanese chicken fillet. If you’re craving bak chor mee (minced pork noodles) or bak kut teh (pork bone soup), this is a great place to get your fix.

The Old Airport Road Hawker Centre

According to a 2010 survey, thousands of food lovers voted the Old Airport Road Food Center as their favorite Singaporean hawker center. And it’s no wonder why: this hawker center, which once served as the site of Singapore’s first civil airport (Kallang Airport) and only transformed into a food center in 1973 after Singapore’s International Airport opened in Paya Lebar.
The Old Airport Road Hawker Centre boasts over 150 food stalls many of which have their loyal fans. Some recommended hawker stalls include:

  • Dong Ji Fried Kway Teow, a stall so popular that lunchtime usually features long lines of people waiting for their plate of fried char kway teow. These spicy eggy noodles are certainly a huge hit!
  • Toast Hut: Don’t forget to try Singapore’s signature kaya toast. The owner of this stall, Melvin Soh, started working in the kaya toast business when he was only 17 years old, and Toast Hut has been around now for over a decade. For breakfast, order some kaya toast and home-brewed coffee. For lunch, fresh sandwiches made with kaya toast and blended ice coffee will hit the spot.
  • Unkai Japanese Cuisine: Singapore is known for culture blending, so is it any surprise that you can find some of the best classic Japanese udon, soba, and tempura seafood at one of the best hawker centers in the city?

The Tiong Bahru Food Centre

The Tiong Bahru hawker center is one of Singapore’s oldest markets. Located in a neighborhood that meshes old and new, the Tiong Bahru Food Centre is well known for its cafes and delicious hawker foods, from the thin and savory Min Nan Prawn Noodles (great for breakfast or lunch!) to Lee Hong Kee Roast Meat, featuring fatty char siew rice and crispy roast meat for the meat lover in your life.
Some of the newer additions to this beloved hawker centre include the Tiong Bahru Bakery, known for their flaky croissants and artisanal baked goods; Plain Villa, which features fluffy cupcakes, monthly specials, and even children’s workshops; and Forty Hands, a hipster coffee business that uses green coffee beans sourced internationally and roasted locally, paired with a variety of foods including falafel–yes, falafel.

Geylang Serai Food Centre

To get your fix of authentic Malay food, check out Geylang Serai, one of the biggest Malay enclaves in Singapore. Looking for Nasi Biryani? Look no more. The Haji Mohd Yussof Warong Nasi is here for you. Craving putu piring? The famous 24-hour Haig Road Putu Piring stall sells five pieces for $2. If you want nasi padang, the Hajjah Mona Nasi Padang stall is ready to serve, and don’t forget to get your satay at Alhambra satay. Everything is sedap! (That’s “delicious” in Malay)
If you want to better understand the local Malay culture, check out also the Geylang Serai market with its Malay style Minangkabau roof design which is frequented mostly by Malay and Indian Muslims living in Singapore.

Chomp Chomp Food Centre

Although smaller in size than some of the other hawker centers, the Chomp Chomp Food Centre is packed night after night and ready to serve up a feast. If you’re interested in chowing down on some oyster omelets, fried carrot cakes, chicken satay, or Hokkien mee, this is a fantastic place to satisfy your hungry tummy. Ah, Hock Fried Hokkien Mee is one of the more popular stalls, with lines that last up to 45 minutes long. And no wonder, as the owner fries the noodles in prawn-and-pork-bone broth until the aromatic dish is placed before you–perfect with a dab of chili sauce! And don’t forget Stay Bee Hoon which sells both satay bee hoon noodles with satay peanut gravy and Hainanese beef noodles.
Hawker centres are the heart of Singaporean food culture, and since Singaporeans love food so much, one could argue that they are the heart of Singapore itself. Certainly, you can’t visit Singapore without visiting a handful of them for yourself. Visit one, two, or all of the hawker centres listed above to create delicious memories that will last a lifetime!

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The Foodie’s Guide to the 5 Best Bangkok Restaurants

Feast Through Bangkok

Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, is particularly well known for a diversity of foods and restaurants that are sure to satisfy any food-loving nomad. From soft shell crab curry to giant crab omelets, home-cooked Thai curry to halal street food rotis, you can eat just about anything your heart desires in this capital of the Land of Smiles.
But of course, you are wondering: what are the best restaurants in Bangkok that you should plan to visit when you arrive? Whether you are looking for Why not give these ten eateries a try?
Let’s dive right in!

1) Paste Restaurant at Gaysorn

Looking for Michelin Starred Thai cuisine? You can’t go wrong with Paste Bangkok, located in the heart of Sayam, in Bangkok.
Situated adjacent to the Intercontinental Hotel, Paste has won a Michelin Star for two years in a row, and specializes in heirloom Thai cuisine and was rated one of Asia’s 50 best restaurants in 2018. Chefs and owners Bongkoch “Bee” Satongun (who was awarded best female chef in Asia in 2018) and her husband Jason Bailey has studied Thai cuisine for years, rediscovering old recipes and techniques to present to their diners.
What kind of mouthwatering dishes can you discover at Paste Bangkok? How about a live lobster salad with buzz button flowers and crispy local seaweed, drizzled with kaffir lime juice and mandarin juice for starters?
For the main dish, perhaps consider trying the shallow fried rainbow trout with an herbal chili dressing garnished with snake fruit and finely shredded white turmeric and crispy shoestring pork skin. Or try their Southern Thai curry with salt brined chicken, with lemongrass, coconut milk-based curry sauce, and crispy shallots. Either way, you will probably leave this restaurant a few belt buckles looser and a lot happier!

2) Sorn

Interested in a 22-course luxury Southern Thai feast? Sorn is a Michelin award winner dreamt up by chefs Khun Ice and Yod, focusing on long lost recipes and local cuisine and located in a reconstructed old house. Sorn sources its ingredients sustainably from local farmers and fisherman and revels in slow-cooked dishes, including double-boiled soup and rice cooked in clay pots and smoked over a charcoal fire.
What kind of food experiences can you expect at this high-end Thai restaurant? Try their 22-course meal including small bites like cashew nut relish, sand mole crabs, raw lobster, and lobster claw curry on a grilled cracker. Further along, you will be treated to a colorful rice salad, grilled beef (served on your personal portable grill), yellow curry (from turmeric and chili), and squid with stink beans.

3) Soei Restaurant

For a more casual dining experience, try the Soei Restaurant located near the Sam Sen railroad station in the Dusit district of Bangkok. Chef and owner P’Soei, a former ballplayer and coach, decorates his restaurant with trophies and framed pictures of sports teams. His life in the food industry began when teammates would come over to his place after games and practices, and he would cook for them.
Chef P’Soei personally oversees every single dish served at the restaurant, from the Yam woon sen noodle dish (sour and spicy glass noodles, meat, and Thai vegetables) to the Kaem pla too tod (deep fried Indian mackerel cheeks garnished with crispy garlic and chili sauce). And don’t forget the tom yum soup! The flavorful version of this popular Thai herbal soup served at Soei includes kra pao holy basil, chilies, and fish.
Best of all, after having a delicious meal at Soei, feel free to enjoy the local sights, including the Victory Monument, Ratchawat Market, and Sriyan Market nearby.

4) The Dining Room at the House on Sathorn

Want to try some innovative Turkish cuisine while you are enjoying your stay in Bangkok? Well, you can do exactly that at The Dining Room. One of the most prestigious restaurants in Bangkok, The Dining Room is located in a building with a fascinating history as rich as the food served there. The House on Sathorn was originally built in 1889 by a Chinese businessman, and later became an embassy for Russia, and is now part of a hotel.
Chef Fatih Tutak has international experience as a chef working in China, Japan, Denmark, Hongkong, and, of course, Thailand. He aims to feed the mind and soul of each diner first, before the stomach, and the food served at The Dining Room is not just delicious to taste but beautiful visually as well.
Some of the possible recipes you may have the honor of trying at The Dining Room include torched beef tenderloin with fried mussels on an edible shell, white asparagus with a fava bean sauce, vegetarian Turkish pasta with brown butter and tomato sauce, mushroom-stuffed baby squid and charcoal-grilled dry-aged quail with bone and grape juice. And for dessert, you might get to sample the strawberry snow in an ice bowl and creamy cheese helva with pistachios. And of course, you can’t leave without a cup of rich Turkish coffee!
You will probably never see Turkish cuisine the same way after your experience at The Dining Room.

5) Restaurant Sühring

Another fierce contender on the list of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, Restaurant Sühring is the brainchild of twin brothers and chefs, Thomas and Mathias, with the goal of showcasing the best of modern German food combined with contemporary Central European influences, inspired by the twins’ childhood memories, family recipes, and traveling experience.
Some of the dishes you’ll want to try at Restaurant Sühring include appetizers such as the cured salmon with salmon roe and dill, pork sausage with curry and beer, and foie gras mousse. Follow that up with mashed potatoes and eel, sourdough bread with pork lard pate, crayfish with herbs, edible flowers, and crayfish butter, roasted aged Hungarian duck, Spatzle pasta, and of course their signature roast pork knuckle, which is served on a wooden platter with a knife to be carved right in front of you.
If you’ve ever wanted to try German food in Bangkok, this is the place to go.
Bangkok is a dream come true for the foodie and restaurant lover. Only in this capital city are visitors able to try casual and high-end Thai cuisine, as well as European and Middle Eastern cuisine upgraded and given a distinctly Thai touch. Are you ready to plan your trip to Thailand now?

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Why Galle, Sri Lanka Should Be Your Next Stop in Asia

Travel to Galle Sri-Lanka

Galle is a small colonial settlement recognized for its historical importance, yet it increasingly embraces the modern and the new. Visitors are enchanted by the Mediterranean-style atmosphere easily enjoyed without the crowds. Galle is an underrated gem for wanderers who want to take a step back in time without sacrificing the contemporary comforts of everyday travel.

History vs. Modern

Galle was a vital trading post and a busy maritime port for over 200 years. It was a protected harbor where trade between the east and west thrived. Its rich history of invasions and occupations left behind a cultural texture unique, colorful, and one-of-a-kind. The city consists of an old part, and a new part and both are worthy of exploration. The Galle Fort in the old town stands as a living monument to its history, and it is within its walls visitors and locals alike are most enthralled.
There is no better way to absorb the quintessential culture and characteristics of the city than to book your stay at the Galle Fort Hotel. It is an eccentric tribute to the colorful fiber of the Galle community. The grand Dutch mansion’s many incarnations throughout the years give it a multi-layered ambiance you won’t find in any other boutique hotel. The venue maintains much of its architectural integrity while offering award-winning accommodations. You will love relaxing in the frangipani-scented courtyard where poets and dreamers have often been inspired.

Asian vs. European

Galle is a seamless blending of both Asian and European influence noticeable in its iconic buildings decorated with street art and in its eclectic cuisine available in quirky cafes. The colonial presence of the Portuguese in the 15th-century and later occupation by the Dutch were never fully replaced by Asian culture. The result is a wonderful fusion of tradition and sophistication nurtured by a melting pot of artists, innovators, and other creatives who call Galle home. The brightly-painted tuk-tuks still line the streets, yet galleries and shops along the medieval-style pathways are there too.
Most of the restaurants in Galle are quaint and cozy havens filled with the aromas of native spices and seasonings. Visitors can experience local foods at Lucky Fort Restaurant known for its aromatic rice and curries or step it up at the Fortaleza for Sri Lankan fare with a Singaporean twist. You might want to try the Pedlar’s Inn housed in a former British post office. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a friendly cafe-style environment. Moroccan, Chinese, Italian, and French eateries in Galle town give you the opportunity for fine dining around the world.

Shopping vs. Browsing

Galle is a treasure trove of jazzy small shops and those travelers who seek souvenirs will not be disappointed. The new part of the city is home to several malls, yet it is in the old town shoppers find their gems. Koccorikois a motley den of quality handicraft items, the shelves packed with the unusual and the bright. It’s the perfect stop for one-of-a-kind handmade clothes or curious. The spices of Sri Lanka are unique and celebrated around the world. You can just follow your nose in the Galle Fort to Chilli Dragon Spice Shop for the best of fresh cinnamon and curry seasonings. Don’t forget to try some tea while you are there.
Galle is also the ideal destination for travelers who would rather see the sights and soak in the local culture. A visit to the Historical Mansion Museum is a must for an imaginative excursion into the olden days of Galle. The museum contains a vast collection of artifacts including coins, stamps, and odd antiques. Art lovers can browse through the maze of rooms in Sithuvili Gallery where the work of local artists and traditional mask-makers surprise you around every corner. The life-sized art installations and sculptures will blow you away.

Relaxation vs. Activity

Different people travel for different reasons. Some just want to get away and relax; others are seeking out exciting adventures. Galle can accommodate both. Templeberg Villasis a serene getaway tucked discretely on a coconut plantation just minutes from Galle Fort. It is the ultimate retreat with lush gardens and breezy verandas where butterflies lazily flitter and curious monkeys play. The pristine beaches are only a short tuk-tuk ride away. The friendly service and meticulously prepared food will make you feel like you are at grandma’s house instead of a hotel.
Outdoor activities are plentiful in Galle especially if it involves water. You can discover a completely uncommon underwater world in Unawatuna at the Pearl Divers and Water Sports Centre. Certified and experienced divers guide you on an unforgettable diving excursion you will be talking about for years to come. Those who prefer to stay on dry land can take a guided bicycle tour through Galle’s paddy fields, cinnamon plantations, and bird sanctuaries with Idle Bikes. More challenging and invigorating trails are available for the fit and energetic. It’s a great way to explore the countryside.
Sri Lanka is sometimes referred to as the “Pearl of the Indian Ocean,” and it is easy to see why. It is a lush oasis rich in fauna and flora. Galle is no exception offering a pleasant combination of forest, beaches, and cultural interests. The district is home to Sri Lanka’s unique tradition of stilt fishing and, if you are lucky, you might get to see fisherman on tall stilts casting their lines in the shallow waters. It is a sight you will not easily forget. After a morning of sightseeing or shopping, you can settle in at the Owl and the Pussycat for a cool drink and a fabulous lunch.
A visit to Galle would not be complete without experiencing the nearby Virgin White Tea Factory. The sprawling working plantation produces high-quality white teas treasured for its anti-oxidant content and said to be some of the best in the world. Visitors are given a rare view of the tea harvesting process by an expert resident planter. The tour ends with a tea-tasting and a slice of chocolate cake! It doesn’t get much better than that. Galle is Sri Lanka’s best-kept secret on its southern coast, and you will be glad you chose to wander there.

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The Foodie’s Guide to Taiwan’s Can’t-Miss Night Markets

Feast Through Taiwan

This unique little island, given the nickname “Ilha Formosa” (the Beautiful Island) by 16th-century Portuguese settlers, abounds with delicious traditional dishes brought over by mainland Chinese immigrants in the 20th century, influenced by native aboriginal culture, as well as Japanese and other international cuisines.
The best way to sample the cuisine, of course, is to visit Taiwan’s ubiquitous night markets. When the sun goes down, the streets of most major cities light up with the hustle and bustle of vendors hawking their wares and food stands to spill fragrant scents onto crowds of locals and tourists looking for a good deal or a bite to eat.
Whether you are looking for local specialties like chewy oyster pancakes and the infamous stinky tofu, or the Taiwanese version of crunchy large fried chicken or ice cream wrapped in a crepe, you can find all of this and more at any of the following night markets below.

Northern Taiwan

Shilin Night Market, Taipei

Arguably the largest and most famous night market in the entire island, Shilin Night Market is located conveniently next to the MRT Jiantan Station and attracts hundreds of tourists and locals every night. The market features general merchandise and local cuisine, with a Night Market Food Court located along the western edge.  Feast on the reasonably priced fried chicken stake, bubble tea (which was originally invented in Taiwan!), and, of course, don’t forget to give the famous stinky tofu a try!
If you come early to the night market, feel free to take a look at the Martyrs’ Shrine nearby, built to honor fallen Kuomingtang soldiers after the Chinese Civil War.

Raohe Night Market, Taipei

Another major hot spot, particularly for tourists and visitors, is the Raohe Night Market, one of the oldest night markets in the capital city. This 600-meter single pedestrian path in the Songshan District is lined with cozy shops and stalls, carnival games, and fascinating late-night foods and snacks.
Easily accessible from the MRT, the entrance of the night market is located right next to the Songshan temple and is conveniently situated beside a clothing outlet in Wufenpu and the Taipei New Horizon Shopping Complex. For an unforgettable night, shop to your heart’s content at the clothing outlet or shopping center, and then fill your belly with the well-known pork pepper buns, giant grilled squid, mochi, and of course Taiwan’s signature beef noodle soup!

Miaokou Night Market, Keelung

Located seven minutes away (on foot) from the Keelung train station, the Keelung (pronounced “Jeelong”) night market is one of the most famous night markets in the country. Known for its seafood, visitors to the Keelung night market will be able to enjoy the fresh sea breeze as they stroll along the boardwalk beside the water and enjoy the sight of large ships docked at the harbor.
The night market wraps around a local temple in the center of the city and is particularly well known for its lush seafood. From milk crab and stir-fried king crab legs to its barbecue squid and cuttlefish, Keelung night market is a definite must-visit for the seafoodie visitor!

Central Taiwan

Feng Chia Night Market, Taichung

This night market/shopping town located within walking distance of Feng Chia University offers not only delicious foods and fashionable clothing for sale, but Taichung is also known for selling the cheapest, most fashionable mobile phones.
Comprised of one street, Feng Chia night market offers cheap and delicious and unforgettable foods and a friendly atmosphere–a true sensory feast for both eyes and tongue. Moreover, visitors are encouraged to rent an iBike (an iBike station is located at the main intersection of the Feng Chia road) and travel green through the area.
If you’re looking for churros, scallion pancakes, sweet potato balls or pork-stuffed rice-sausages, this is the night market for you!

Zhongxiao Night Market, Taichung

The Zhongxiao night market was historically the late-night snack center of choice during the Japanese colonial period. It was here that locals feasted on grilled duck, oyster vermicelli, and all sorts of seafood. It was also here where the Ding Wang Spicy Hot Pot originated.
Zhongxiao is well known for its delicious food. Located next to the Third Market, Zhongxiao opens as the Third Market closes (around 4 pm). Some of its must-try dishes include bamboo rice, sugarcane juice, and, of course, Zhongxiao BBQ.

Tunghai Night Market, Taichung

This upscale commercial district located in Taichung, Taiwan features not only a university (Tunghai University) but also a fixed store night market. Different from traditional open-air street markets, Tunghai night market is hugely popular with students, staff, and professors from nearby Tunghai U, and also features a melting pot of fusion cuisines and brand-name clothing.
Perfect for the foodie-shopper, Tunghai Night Market offers an array of irresistible snacks, from chicken steak burgers and steamed meatballs to braised dishes and chicken feet gelatin!

Southern Taiwan

Rui Feng Night Market, Kaohsiung

This grid-shaped market is considered one of the busiest and most popular night markets in Kaohsiung. Located in the Zuoying district, Rui Feng is open Tuesday nights and Thursday through Sunday nights from 6:30. With a two-decade-long history, this L-shaped market offers late-night snacks, entertainment, and shopping. Due to its location, most Ruifeng local visitors are students and office workers, and it sports a variety of low-cost dishes to appeal to guests.
Some of Ruifeng’s most famous dishes include Wanguo steak teppanyaki, brown sugar bubble tea, papaya milk tea, and Mongolian barbecue.

Ling Ya Night Market, Kaohsiung

Located in Taiwan’s largest southern city, the Ling Ya night market is a favorite among the locals. Designed for the focused , the Ling Ya night market solely features food stalls, including such delectable options as squid and eel noodles, Taiwanese salt and pepper (deep fried) chicken, braised pork rice, and white sugar cake.
This market is easy to navigate because the stalls are arranged neatly in two rows, so you will never have to fear getting turned around in large crowds or maze-like winding streets.
As a bonus: because more folks in the southern part of Taiwan speak Taiwanese (in addition to Mandarin), you can take the opportunity to practice sharpening your Taiwanese skills as you order food from the local vendors. (“Ji Koh?” means “How much?”)
No matter where you go in Taiwan, you are sure to have an unlimited number of choices of delicious foods to try. But to soak in the excitement and flavor of Taiwan, unfiltered, make sure you spend some time wandering through its iconic night markets. Wishing you an unforgettable food-lover’s adventure in the Beautiful Island!

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Raising Your Adrenaline While Thrill-Seeking in South Africa

Thrill Seeking in South Africa with WorldVia

From vintage African escapades to harrowing experiences not for the faint of heart, it’s also the ideal place to cut loose and delve headlong into adventure. For anyone considering South Africa for a bit of thrill-seeking, don’t skip these opportunities for an unforgettable experience.

Quad-Bike Safaris:

You don’t have to be a quad-bike enthusiast to enjoy cruising through the pristine South African terrain inspecting elephants, leopards, rhinos, and more. While there are many different options for safaris throughout the continent, quad-bike safaris have become very popular near both Cape Town and Johannesburg for their unique combination of thrill-seeking and scenery.
At the renowned Aquila Game Reserve about two hours from Cape Town, guests have a spread of options catered to creating an individualized experience. While those looking for a mild adventure can do a half-day trip and stay in a luxury lodge, there are also overnight camping options that will take you right out under the stars among the local wildlife. Along the way, explorers can expect to see the Big 5 in African wildlife, including a chance to get just close enough to snap compelling photos of a pride of lions. Aquila Game Reserve also has a working conservation center, where you can check out animals that are being rehabilitated before being sent back into the wild.
While there are plenty of transportation options to get to a quad-bike safari near Cape Town, the same goes for near Johannesburg. One of the most popular spots in the area, Segwati Getaways, taps an extensive network of quad-bike trails that cuts right through stunning terrain. Snaking up the beautiful Witwatersberg Mountains, trails showcase some of northern South Africa’s finest scenery, and visitors are likely to have close encounters with giraffes, water buffaloes, exotic birds, and plenty of others. Trails also are very close to the Cradle of Humankind, a World Heritage Site that offers numerous cultural experiences. Although there are many ways to see South Africa’s famous wildlife, zipping through the gorgeous countryside on an easy-to-use quad bike has become a go-to favorite for thrill-seekers.

Rock climbing (or Hiking) in the Drakensberg Mountains:

The Dutch settlers who first came to the region named them the Mountains of Dragons (Drakensbergen in Afrikaans), and there might not be a better or more interesting place to be a beginning rock climber. Swirling with local legends and panoramic beauty, the Drakensberg Mountains are mysterious and inspiring, complete with enormous grasslands and green hillsides filled with endangered plant species. A morning’s drive south from Johannesburg, near the eastern border of Lesotho, the Drakensberg Mountains have more trailheads and outdoor adventures than you’ll know what to do with.
One of the favorite spots for visitors is the Didima Camp at the base of Cathedral Peak, where hikers can find comfortable lodging as they launch into the neighboring attractions. While you can easily spend an entire day or even a week walking through the Didima Valley, most find their way to one of the nearby Cathedral Peak trails that will take you to the breathtaking summit the region is known for. Very green in the summer (December through March) and brown during most of the dry winter, Cathedral Peak has multi-day hiking trails for the most adventurous, and you can even sleep in a cave on the side of the escarpment (Twins Cave).
For those who aren’t quite up for that level of excitement, staying at the Cathedral Peak Hotel or Didima Camp and taking a more direct day hike to the summit still guarantees plenty of thrills and scenery. Also in the Didima area, the Rainbow Gorge Trail is a pleasant 3.4-mile woodlands hike that ends at a waterfall that often boasts a rainbow when there is enough sunshine.
Even if you’re not much of a mountain climber, the Drakensberg Mountains are also a great place to be a curious beginner. At the Sentinel Peak in the northern part of the mountain range, popular beginner courses will have you scaling up rocky bluffs in only a couple days of training, ending with a triumphant view of the escarpment and valley. For those not afraid of a little winter adventure, novices can also learn the art of ice climbing during the coldest parts of the year, and the views are every bit as sensational.

Shark cage diving and cableway tours near Cape Town:

If you’ve ever wanted to slip into a Discovery Channel documentary, all you need to do is charter one of the many boat tours that leave from various spots in Cape Town. While searching for sharks jumping out of the water is sure to yield a memorable experience, true thrill-seekers can find their way into a shark cage in Shark Alley, where your sense of adventure will be challenged by face-to-face meetings with great whites.
One of the most popular launching points is False Bay, where there is a wealth of options for a close encounter with the local marine life in the area. From fall to spring (March through September) you can expect clear waters all around internationally famous Seal Island, the hot spot for catching great whites jumping out of the water in a feeding frenzy. If you want to get into the water next to a great white, a shark cage expedition from either False Bay or Gansbaai Harbour is sure to be one of the most intense experiences of your life. Between the chilly Atlantic waters and a close-up of a great white buzzing by your cage, even a seasoned thrill-seeker will have a spike in adrenaline.
If diving with one of the greatest predators in the history of the planet is a bridge too far, there are also terrific whale-watching options just south of Cape Town off the coast of Hermanus. Sailing along the southwestern tip of South Africa between July and November, visitors can check out the massive southern right whales gliding just off the rugged coast. Thrill-seekers can still take it to the next level here as well by renting a kayak for an even closer look at the many sea beasts of Cape Town.
Meanwhile, taking a cable car to the 3,500-foot peak of Table Mountain will yield a spectacular view of Cape Town and miles upon miles of ocean-hugging coastline. The gigantic Table Mountain National Park – spanning almost the entire west side of Cape Town – also has an exceptional assortment of hiking trails that boast impeccable views of the region, including down to the majestic Cape of Good Hope. With thrill-seeking opportunities to fit every type of traveler, Cape Town is simply an outstanding launching point for adventure.

Gauging the weather:

Many of the activities in South Africa change substantially from season to season, although they’re still predominately doable year-round. In the Drakensberg Mountains, for example, the pinnacle of fall between April and May is generally seen as the best time to hit the hiking trails, as you’ll see a lush green landscape without the constant threat of summer thunderstorms. By winter (roughly May through August) you’ll have to be prepared for temps to drop below freezing at nighttime, though you also won’t have to deal with the rainfall you’ll have to overcome during the summer months. A similar dynamic will be at play for anyone eager to check out a safari; knowing the local climate and bringing the right gear will be a fundamental part of your trip.
As for chartering a boat or hopping in a shark cage, your tour will completely weather dependent and keeping a close eye on forecasts is a must. You’ll also want to have an alternative in mind in case you get bad weather, though that shouldn’t be difficult considering Cape Town’s extensive network of popular sites and icons. For those ready to persevere no matter the weather, however, South Africa is difficult to surpass when it comes to thrill-seeking.

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10 Amazing Family Friendly Things To Do In Rotorua, New Zealand

New Zealand Travel film

You don’t even have to compete for a hotel spot in one of the biggest cities on the map. Instead of heading to Auckland, Christchurch, or Queensland, you can base an incredibly fulfilling family vacation right in Rotorua, NZ.
Rotura is beside a beautiful lake and at the heart of native Maori territory. If you want an amazing New Zealand vacation complete with thrilling theme park rides and beautiful nature tourism all in one — and create the perfect itinerary for your kids — Rotorua has it all.
Let’s take a look at ten incredible places to vacation as a family in Rotorua, New Zealand. Starting with these, you’re sure to find even more amazing things to do.

1) Visit the Hobbiton LOTR Movie Set

The one thing every child (and Lord of the Rings fan) will want to see in New Zealand is the Hobbiton movie set, which is only an hour’s drive from Rotorua. A real-life place where adorable little houses are built into hillsides and tastebud tingling meals are served in taverns fit for any hungry hobbit. Children traveling with you will delight in exploring a whimsical world that is just their size while you and any other grown-ups can learn fascinating facts about how the movies were filmed in this enchantingly designed little village.

2) Revel in the Skyline Rotorua Theme Park

High above the city of Rotorua is the Skyline Rotorua theme park, perhaps one of the most amazing things that this little city has to offer. The Skyline has features that you can find in many New Zealand cities. The cool thing is that it has -them all-. If you want to enjoy a high-speed luge race, zip line over beautiful redwood forests, or take a sky swing with the whole family, the Skyline is your destination. Not to mention some truly incredible views.

3) Meet the Animals at the Paradise Valley Springs Wildlife Park

If you are vacationing with children and want them to touch and experience the safer aspects of New Zealand’s amazing wildlife, then you can’t miss the Paradise Valley Springs Wildlife Park. This park focuses on bringing the sensations of nature to you through birds, fish, unique New Zealand mammals, and plenty of hands-on opportunities. Almost every creature in the Paradise Valley Springs wildlife park can be hand-fed by your little ones, creating truly incredible moments and memories to take home.

4) Connect With History in the Mitai Maori Village

One of the fascinating things about New Zealand is their uniquely powerful native culture. The Maori have inhabited this strange and beautiful island for thousands of years, and their traditions reach back into a time before history or western New Zealand settlers. You can experience a taste of their traditional culture by visiting the Mitai Maori Village outside of Rotorua. Share the wonders of traditional Maori dance, canoeing, and tattoo art while enjoying a traditional ground-roasted Maori dinner and a breathtaking fire dance show in ancient tribal style.

5) Take a CampervanRoad Trip

New Zealanders don’t always see vacationing the same way we do. Every inch of their island country is breathtaking, and New Zealanders often take the opportunity simply drive across it. And you can, too. Campervans are like mini-RVs with a kitchenette and cleverly hidden cots that double as a table during the day. If you want to take a short road trip across New Zealand, campervan rental is the perfect way to do this. Experience as a family what New Zealand looks like between towns or drive out to spend a few days in the incredible New Zealand wilderness together. With a campervan, you’ll have everything you need.

6) Get Wild at Velocity City

Believe it or not, Rotorua has a second thrilling theme park available if you’re not done adventuring after hitting up the Skyline. Velocity city has even more opportunities to go really, really fast with less focus on nature and more on every possible kind of speed. At Velocity City, you can free-fall on air, speed boat, and delight in several kinds of a zip line. If your children are nervous about going up in the air for fun, take the family sky swing with them first. Or, if you have teens looking for a once-in-a-lifetime thrill, send them to the Schweeb Racer track. You’ll have to see it to believe it.

7) Become a Human Hamster at OGO Rotorua

Speaking of things that are hard to believe, the OGO Rotorua is one of the single most incredible attractions we have ever encountered. Ever want to roll down a hill in a giant inflatable hamster ball? We know you have, which is exactly why you and the family should visit OGO Rotorua, one of the only places to enjoy this novel and exciting experience. Bring your swimsuits, because, inside the ball, you’ll also be floating in the water.

8) Get Rural At the Agrodome

There are a lot of sheep in New Zealand, so it’s only right that any children with you get to pet and frolic with them at least once. The Agrodome is the safest and friendliest place to meet the lively agricultural side of New Zealand. And all of the cute little fuzzy sheep. There will be plenty of petting, lessons on interesting agricultural topics and a Farm Show featuring very talented farm animals doing tricks any children with you will love.

9) Take to the Sky with Canopy Tours

Have you always wanted to be a nature tourist? Then it’s no surprise you’re in New Zealand. One of the most breathtaking experiences you can have in this incredible place is taking a canopy tour over the tops of ancient redwoods and beautiful waterfalls. Rotorua canopy tours are zip-line experiences where you and the whole family can witness the wonder of New Zealand’s forests and landscapes from high above.

10) Explore the Ruakuri Caves Tour

Finally, don’t forget New Zealand underground. And we don’t mean the music scene. The Maori tradition in New Zealand also extends deep below into networks of caves. The Ruakuri caves are a beautiful place for children to discover the connection between stalactites and stalagmites, bat ecosystems, and the incredible wonder of natural caves. This is the perfect place to cool down after a hot or exciting day and discover an entirely different aspect of how beautiful nature can be.
New Zealand is a wonderful place to vacation with your entire family. And the city of Rotorua is uniquely equipped to give you day after day of incredible family-friendly fun. Whether you like to go fast, explore cultural traditions, or adventure through the rugged landscape, there is more than enough for everyone in your family to have a great time.

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The Best Places to Eat in the Maldives

Feast Through Maldives

Here are several establishments you should visit during your stay in the Maldives.

Ithaa Undersea Restaurant

The Ithaa Undersea Restaurant offers a unique, high-end dining experience that you’ll never forget. The restaurant claims it is the first all-glass undersea restaurant in the world with 180-degree panoramic views of the ocean. Located 16 feet below sea level, the Ithaa Undersea Restaurant is connected to the Conrad Hilton Rangali Island resort in the South Ari Atoll. The restaurant was named Ithaa because it means “mother of pearl” in the country’s native language of Dhivehi. The restaurant was crowned the “Most Beautiful Restaurant in the World” by New York Daily News in 2014.
The upscale restaurant specializes in contemporary European cuisine and serves four-course lunches and six-course dinners. Guests rave about their reef lobster stuffed with calamarata pasta and lemongrass veloute sauce entrée. You should also order the coconut crusted légine which is served with steamed sea beans, curry bisque, and spicy sea snails.
The setting provides a very cozy and intimate atmosphere, so this is perfect if you are traveling to the Maldives with a loved one. Be advised that the restaurant has a strict dress code so please wear slacks and a button-down shirt or a nice dress if you would like to be seated. Overall, the best part about dining at the Ithaa Undersea Restaurant is that you can watch sharks, dolphins, sea turtles and other fish swimming nearby while you eat.

Shell Beans

If you are looking for a casual yet trendy café, you should visit Shell Beans. The café has been operating for over a decade and has two locations on both sides of Malé island that attracts tourists and locals alike.
Shell Beans serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner so you can easily grab a cup of coffee or a quick meal before you go snorkeling or hop on a jet ski. Their large menu selection includes both traditional Maldivian food and international cuisine.
The café’s signature dishes include the Mediterranean beef stew and Chinese Chicken fried rice. If you’re homesick, you can order their classic American pancakes, chicken quesadillas, pasta, and pizza. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can get the Taste of Maldives for breakfast, which includes two eggs with fish and a fresh fruit platter. And if you’re in a rush, you can always place an order through the Shell Beans mobile phone app and pick it up when you arrive.

Subsix

Subsix is another restaurant known for its breathtaking underwater views. The gourmet restaurant is located 19 feet below sea level on the private island of Niyama. Subsix is very secluded, so much so that you need to charter a speedboat if you want to dine there! Once your boat reaches the restaurant’s landing, you will need to walk down a three-tier staircase to enter the subaquatic restaurant.
You will be impressed as soon as you step inside. The circular shaped dining room has the floor to ceiling windows provides a stunning panoramic view of the ocean, giving you the perfect opportunity to gaze at brightly colored fish, turtles, and eels while you enjoy a gourmet meal. From the sophisticated black color scheme to the capiz shells hanging from the ceiling and the furniture made to resemble sea urchins, Subsix is a sight to behold.
They are revered for their Spiny Lobster Medallion appetizer dish, which includes lobster cromesqui flavored with watermelon and drizzled in a balsamic glaze. Another meal that received rave reviews is their poached salmon with butter, chorizo, crushed potatoes, coconut, and tamarind coulis. Subsix also makes homemade ice cream, parfait, and other dessert treats. The restaurant also hosts an “Underwater Glow Party” every Wednesday and Saturday for guests.

Jazz Café

Another casual dining option in the Maldives is the Jazz Café. According to the locals, the owners of the restaurant were inspired by the famous American music genre and wanted to recreate the spirit of New Orleans by giving the café a jazz theme. The café serves as a cultural hub and is a popular hangout for local Maldivians and tourists due to its live jazz musical performances every week. They also have frequent open mic nights if you’re feeling brave and want to perform.
As soon as you enter you’ll be impressed with the café’s classic European style decor. Jazz Café serves international cuisine from New Zealand and Thailand as well as traditional Maldivian meals. Their breakfast, lunch and dinner menus include everything from hamburgers and French fries to lasagna and other types of pasta. They also have different flavors of smoothies and gelato for dessert!
The Jazz café is the ideal place to sit back and relax with your loved ones while listening to a live jazz band. You can either have a seat at their wooden tables in the main area or venture upstairs if you would like to look out over the city of Malé.
If you want a tranquil vacation, you should consider traveling to the Maldives. Tuna, spicy fried fish, lobster, and other seafood are a staple ingredient of Maldives cuisine. However, you can easily try international cuisine if you don’t like seafood. Luckily, there are many different types of restaurants available that can fit a wide variety of tastes and price points. As you just learned, you can eat comfort food in a small cafe and chat with the locals, or you can go to an exclusive underwater restaurant for a once-in-a-lifetime dining experience. The options are endless in the Maldives! Before you pack your bags, remember not to bring any alcohol. The Maldives is a Muslim nation where alcohol is banned for locals. Most of the resorts offer alcohol to its guests, but the government will confiscate it if you try to enter or leave the country with it.

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The Cuisine of Montreal, Canada

Feast Through Montreal, Canada

Let’s talk about some of the best places to go and the foods that you must try when you truly want to get a taste of Montreal!

What Types of Food is Montreal Known For?

There are some simply iconic foods that you will find in Montreal. It is what the city is known for, and it would be hard to find a local who doesn’t enjoy chowing down on just about everything on the list! In Montreal, you will find plenty of bagels, Steamé, which is a steamed hot dog, smoked meat such as brisket, poutine, and much more. Know that we know the best foods to eat in Montreal, we will discuss the best places to eat while you are there.

Fairmount Bagel

At Fairmount Bagel, you will find a breakfast staple that is not to be missed. As the first bagel bakery in all of Montreal, every bagel is rolled by hand and baked to perfection in a wood burning oven. The establishment is family owned and operated and welcomes all guests into an atmosphere that is warm and inviting. With a variety of bagels that include the original poppy seed, plain, onion, garlic, and more, you’ll want to stop here almost every morning to fuel up for the rest of your day!

Schwartz’s Deli

A tradition for over nine decades, Schwartz’s Deli is known for serving up smoked meat that will have your mouth watering. The meat is smoked daily and flavored with a secret blend of herbs and spices. The restaurant promises every guest a unique experience that they won’t ever forget. As a landmark of Montreal, people have come from near and far over the years to indulge in the most amazing smoked meat they have ever tasted. Come hungry, because you will find offerings such as a smoked turkey or salami sandwich, rib steak, a chicken combo and more. Don’t forget to compliment your entree of choice with Schwartz’s homemade french fries or coleslaw for a meal that is nothing less than perfect.

Garde Manger

This fine dining establishment has a romantic ambiance, making it the ideal place to relax and enjoy great food after a day of sightseeing. At Garde Manger, you’ll feel right at home as soon as you walk through the door. With a professional and attentive staff, all of your needs are immediately catered to. The atmosphere is serene, with dim lighting and an amazing menu. Get ready to try selections such as Pave de rump steak, Scotch fillet of beef, and Canard a l’orange. The dessert menu is outstanding, with guests choosing from treats that include specialty crepes, a selection of French cheeses, a cold meat platter, and a variety of specialty coffees. You’ll savor each bite more than the last!

Au Pied de Cochon

You do not want to leave Montreal without enjoying a meal at Au Pied de Cochon! Known for their poutine, a staple of the city, this establishment also features new menu items each season. The atmosphere is lively and friendly featuring an open kitchen, with each guest welcomed as if they were family. The portions are generous and expertly prepared. Enjoy a fulfilling meal with a group of friends, or an intimate dining excursion with someone special. Choose from dishes such as cassoulet, foie gras terrine, foie gras & pork, and much more. It is an experience like you’ve never before had!

L’Express

A restaurant that captures the intimate culture of Montreal, L’Express is based on the image of perfect French food. The surroundings are as unique as one could imagine, with a mirrored dining area and beautiful artwork adorning the walls. This restaurant is comfortable, with dishes that you simply must taste to believe! With a wine cellar directly below the dining area, it is a fun fact of the establishment to know that over 10,000 bottles are located beneath you as you enjoy your meal. Choose from items that include beef, chicken, and vegetable stew, freshly grilled salmon on a bed of spinach, roasted quail with wild rice, and much more. You’ll want to make sure to have dessert because selections include a lemon or chocolate tart, the house truffle, and rum baba. L’Express is one place that reflects what Montreal is all about.

Yulcite

The time will come when you need a coffee break, and Yulcite is just the place to do that! The surroundings are as peaceful as can be with bright sunshine streaming through the windows, and beautiful green plants hanging from the ceiling. Come in for a small bite to eat, a hot beverage, or a selection of gelatos and sorbets that are to die for! Weekend brunch is also offered, so stop by and indulge in homemade gravlax on St-viateur bagel, French toast, and other incredible treats. You’ll feel right at home as you converse with the friendly staff, and interact with the locals who frequent the coffee shop.
Montreal is a magical city, with so much to see and do! With plenty of diversity and a bilingual culture, it is an adventure that everyone must experience. The city is rich in history and has wonderful character as well. Overall, Montreal is a charming place to visit, and, as you can see, the cuisine is delightful. Be sure to visit all of the amazing restaurants to get the most out of what Montreal has to offer for the foodie who is looking for a one of a kind food tour of the city!

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Exploring the Culture of St. Petersburg

Bridge St.Petersburg Russia

A City With Many Influences

To appreciate St. Petersburg, it helps to familiarize yourself with the variety of cultural influences that have impacted the city over the centuries.
Soviet Architecture – As with anywhere in Russia, you’ll see vestiges of the communist era, when the name of the city was changed to Leningrad (it was changed back to its original name in 1991). One of the most prominent symbols of this period are the many statues of Vladimir Lenin around the city. One of the most famous of these is at Finland Station.
German Settlement on Vasilevsky Island – Germans played a large role in the early days of St. Petersburg, with numerous people emigrating from Germany in the 18th and 19th centuries. One of the largest settlements was on Vasilevsky Island where you can visit the Zoology Museum and the Academy of Sciences.
French in St. Petersburg – French culture also had a huge impact on the city’s culture. As novelists such as Tolstoy chronicled, Russian aristocrats often spoke French as a second language. While the French influence has declined considerably since the Imperial Era, there are still remnants of French Culture in St. Petersburg in the arts and architecture of the city. For example, there’s a substantial collection of French art at the Hermitage Museum.
The confluence of cultural influences has produced a city that’s at once Russian and European. The unique ambiance and mixture of old and new make it an unmatchable place to explore the arts, literature, and history.

Explore the Metro

One of the best ways to experience St. Petersburg is to travel by metro. The St. Petersburg Metro is one of the most beautiful in the world. Each station is like a room in a museum, with a variety of architectural styles, ornate decorations, and extensive historical information. In a city as large as St. Petersburg, the Metro is often an efficient way to get around. It’s also a prime example of the city’s artistic style.

Take a Literary Tour

Many of the great Russian novels of the 19th century, such as Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky and Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, are set in this great city. There are, of course, many more recent books set here as well. One of the best ways to get yourself in the right frame of mind for your journey is to read (or reread) some great books set in the city.
Volkovskoe Cemetery -This famous cemetery has a special section reserved for famous writers and other celebrities.
Literature Museum in the Pushkin House – This museum is devoted primarily to the writer Alexander Pushkin but also has artifacts and exhibits dedicated to other Russian authors.
Nabokov Museum – This museum is located at the birthplace of modern Russian author Vladimir Nabokov.
More literary destinations – You can also do your self-guided tour and follow in the footsteps of your favorite Russian literary characters or visit the sites of authors’ homes. For inspiration, Russia Beyond publishes a map of 10 Key Places from St. Petersburg’s Literary Map.

Museums and Historic Buildings

Here are a few of the great museums not to miss when in St. Petersburg.
The Hermitage Museum – Created by Catherine the Great in 1764, this is one of the iconic attractions of St. Petersburg. In addition to having a great art collection, it also houses the Winter Palace, where the Tsars of Russia lived. It is one of the world’s oldest, largest and most comprehensive museums, where you’ll find exhibits covering art from classical to modern times.
State Russian Museum – This is another very large museum that is dedicated to Russian art. It includes several buildings including the Mikhailovsky Palace, the Marble Palace, the Stroganov Palace, and the Benois Wing. Some of the most crowded exhibits are those dedicated to popular Russian artists such as Kandinsky and Malevich.
Peterhof Palace and Gardens – Peterhof Palace is about half an hour out of the city but it is a day trip well worth taking. The summer palace of Peter the Great, this impressive structure was inspired by Versailles in France. The grounds contain numerous beautiful gardens, paths, sculptures, and fountains. There are also great views of the Baltic Sea. You should have at least a few hours to stroll the gardens at a leisurely pace.
Mariinsky Theater – This is the place to come for a traditional St. Petersburg experience of theater, ballet, or opera. Open in 1860, many of Russia’s top plays and concerts have been performed here. The building itself is a work of art on both the inside and outside with its neoclassical design and huge stage and auditorium. It’s best to buy your tickets as far in advance as possible (you can order them online) as performances are often sold out.
Fabergé Museum – This is one of the world’s greatest museums devoted to decorative arts. It’s located in the beautiful Shuvalov Palace, which is itself a work of art. Among many other holdings, the museum has the world’s largest collection of Fabergé eggs. This is a great place to get a feel for the wealth and opulence of 19th century St. Petersburg.

Churches

St. Petersburg has some of the world’s most beautiful churches. While the Russian Orthodox Church was an offshoot of the Greek Byzantine Church, the architectural styles of St. Petersburg churches are quite distinct from those you’d find in Orthodox churches in Greece or Turkey, with a variety of influences.
Church of the Savior of Spilled Blood – One of Russia’s most ornate churches, but not one of the oldest, having been built in the early 20th century on the spot where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated. The church was closed during the Soviet era and converted into a museum. Aside from the remarkable architecture, you can spend hours appreciating the incredible mosaics.
Saint Isaac’s Cathedral – The largest Orthodox cathedral in the world, Saint Isaac’s is officially a museum rather than a church. However, services are still held here on major holidays. The church is beautifully decorated with paintings, an ornate stained glass window portraying Resurrected Christ, and mosaic icons. You can get spectacular views of the city if you climb to the top.
Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul – St. Petersburg’s oldest cathedral, consecrated in 1704, shortly after the founding of the city. The architecture of the church reflects the eclectic influences apparent throughout St. Petersburg. The overall style is Baroque, with elements borrowed from Dutch Protestant churches. One of the highlights of any visit to the cathedral is the Bell Tower. If you climb to the top, you’ll be treated to panoramic views of the city. The fortress walls are also quite impressive.

Experience the Vibrant Culture of St. Petersburg

We’ve covered some of the ways to experience the unique and diverse culture of St. Petersburg. Few cities have aesthetic values built into so much of everyday life, from the buildings and squares to the Metro. You can spend many days or weeks exploring this large and multifaceted city. While you can visit St. Petersburg as part of a wider tour of Russia, make sure you leave yourself enough time to take in some of its unrivaled charms.