Tainan 台南

Amongst many of my friends, even those that live in Asia, a trip to Taiwan has merited only a brief few days in Taipei. For those that have stayed a little longer, the whispers of Tainan’s charm has drawn them to venture south and explore this incredible city.

Tainan’s history is an interesting one and this accounts for a lot of its architecture. It was occupied by the Dutch during the 1600s and was once the capital of this little island, before the Japanese moved it to Taipei. As such, walking down its streets can equate to walking down a long road from China, to Japan and then to Holland. Expats tend to fall in love with this city, myself included, because of its rich cultural heritage, its beautiful temples and its seemingly forever sunny weather.

But there is one other thing that attracts locals and expats alike to this city and that’s quite simply the food. Tainan is rumoured to have the best food in Taiwan and the sweetest food throughout the whole of Asia. In fact, Tainan’s occupants hold the prize for the highest rate of diabetes in the whole of Taiwan and once you have a chopstickful of anything on any given street, you’ll immediately understand why. In fact, I have multiple friends dotted around Taiwan originally from Tainan and upon telling them I was going, the first thing every one of them did was send me a list of things to eat and where to find them. Continue reading “Tainan 台南”

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Osaka

img_2225Osaka is the second biggest city in Japan and for those of you that might look at Tokyo as a somewhat intimidating place, Osaka can be seen as its more approachable little brother. There are a lot of people that love this place, but for me it just didn’t tick all that many boxes. Traditional Japan isn’t really found here, but that being said there’s a lot of other things that you can’t find in traditional Japan. If you’re looking for a city with some excellent street food and excellent nightlife then Osaka will most likely keep you a very happy bunny.

Continue reading “Osaka”

Okinawa

img_2174Okinawa is just one of many gorgeous islands that make up the Ryukyu islands situated between Japan and Taiwan. It’s home to beautiful coral reefs, and thus some incredible diving, long white sandy beaches and that kind of blue water that makes you think you’re in a photoshopped postcard – in other words, Okinawa is a tropical paradise. As a place, it’s pretty unique and has a culture that is a perfect combination of sixties America and traditional Japan. Driving around here you’ll have no trouble spotting the military camps and you’ll most likely meet as many Americans as you will locals – one street might have a sixties diner next to a traditional take your shoes off and sit on the floor Japanese fish restaurant and somehow the combination works wonderfully. You’ll also find that Japanese and American cuisines are blurring together on to the same plate nowadays – yes, taco rice is a thing and it should be consumed on a regular basis. Continue reading “Okinawa”

Tokyo

Where do I even begin with this insane city? I don’t think I’ve ever walked down a street anywhere else and felt the same kind of shock/astonishment/surprise as I have wandering the streets of Tokyo. There’s a sort of ‘anything goes’ attitude existing here and it makes every day an adventure in itself. Sure, it’s absolutely fine that there’s a 40 year old Japanese woman dressed as Cinderella as a genuine outfit for the day; no worries that every arcade is packed with people, young and old and middle aged, passing the time at any hour; and you want a pancake the size of a pillow and sushi at 4am? – this is the place. Continue reading “Tokyo”

Kenting (垦丁)

img_3858My love affair with Taiwan was well and truly sealed upon visiting this gorgeous area in the South of the island – think tropical paradise and you’ve hit the nail on the head. Part of the reason I moved to Taiwan was because I had heard and partially seen what a breathtaking and diverse landscape it had – Kenting is definitely no scratch to this reputation. It’s home to beautiful sandy beaches, amazing surf, mountains, amazing food (as is always the case in this country) and the most southern tip of Taiwan. A weekend spent watching the world go by here will not fall short of gorgeous. Continue reading “Kenting (垦丁)”

Nara

If you’re in this area of Japan, then Nara makes a perfect little day trip. It is home to some of Japan’s oldest temples (seeing as though it was Japan’s first main capital), gorgeous parks and lots of opportunities to interact with deer, which I feel is reason enough to visit anywhere. I spent less than a day here exploring, and I wouldn’t suggest that you need any more time dedicated to it. It’s beautiful and culture-rich, but it’s also pretty doable in a day. Continue reading “Nara”

Langkawi

If you’re looking for a place with long white sandy beaches, gorgeous waterfalls to chase, lots of nightlife and most importantly, cheap cheap cheap beer, then I’d book your plane ticket to Langkawi immediately. Besides being an absolutely gorgeous group of islands, with plenty to do both day and night, Langkawi also has the added benefit of being totally tax free. Tempting isn’t it? I’m not by any means suggesting that this place should be a priority on your list solely because of this attribute, but nobody hates cheap beer on the beach do they really? Continue reading “Langkawi”

Kyoto.

 

When you think of traditional Japan, you’re thinking of Kyoto. Everything I expected about rich Japanese culture came to life in this beautiful city – geishas, temples, green tea – Kyoto has it all going on. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of reading ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ then you’ll be pleased to discover that Kyoto is still very much the same place as it is described in the book. For me, walking through the streets of Gion felt almost familiar because of it.Kyoto was Japan’s capital city for a very long time, although now it can only be called the seventh largest city throughout the whole of Japan. It’s hard to find evidence of the modern anime, technology culture now associated with Japan within Kyoto. (If you want that, Tokyo is your turf) Instead the city sticks to tradition and for that reason it’s well worth a visit. You could spend a week here solely devoting your time to temples and palaces and you probably still wouldn’t get through them all, but there are certainly some things that you shouldn’t be missing when stopping by. Continue reading “Kyoto.”

Penang.

Of the handful of places I’ve now visited in Malaysia, this is hands down my favourite and I decided that within about 30 seconds of entering Georgetown. If you’re looking for a place that’s steeped in culture, this is it. Picture Chinese temple, next to an old colonial style building, with a shop in the bottom that’s probably blasting out Indian music and selling gorgeous silk, and then a couple of street food carts outside selling the most delicious food you’ll ever eat – that’s Georgetown in a nutshell. In fact, it’s so steeped in cultural heritage that in 2008 it was listed as a UNESCO world heritage site.  Continue reading “Penang.”

Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysia’s capital KL, seems to be, at least amongst those I’ve spoken to, a marmite kind of place – you either love it or you don’t. It’s a mixture of culture no doubt, you’ll find Chinese, Malay, Indian and British influences in various parts of the city, as well as first class infrastructure, like the Patronas towers, alongside run down blocks – but for me at least, the blending of all these things in KL doesn’t seem to work. Compared to other Asian capitals, there’s something I really don’t like about the place. That being said, it’s always worth a visit and there are a long line of people who’ll argue that it’s the best city in the world and you’re more than welcome to disagree with me. There’s no denying that the city is home to delicious food, culture, markets and more and the various districts are worth an explore.  Continue reading “Kuala Lumpur.”