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An occasionally belligerent mother of four and an autism parent / advocate who believes that travelling, good food and good company are vital to keep one sane.

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Sunday, April 23, 2017

SUMMER GETAWAY PLANS: Your Mediocre Wanderer Guide To 5 Asian Cities


summer plans underway? If you're heading off to some of these Asian cities, this blog is for you

Summer is very much underway in our corner of the world. Going through my blogger notes, I found some items that I should've written about, but forgot to do so. To make up for it, I am sharing these still-relevant tips in this edition of The Mediocre Wanderer.
There's so much t see, but I had to narrow the "must sees" to just 3. For those who are planning to see a little bit of Asia, here are tips to take note of, should you ever find yourself in these 5 cities:
The Great Wall of China's Mutianyu section

1. BEIJING, CHINA
Top 3 Must Sees:
1. The Great Wall of China -  Visit the Mutianyu side as it is less crowded than Badaling. You can also ride a cable car up or down the wall or be thrilled and slide down the mountain on a toboggan. Check your hotel's travel agency services instead of the ones at the airport to score great deals on tours to Mutianyu.

on a cable car or a toboggan (the tracks are below us) are the ways to get up and down this section of the wall
2. Beijing Zoo - 89 hectares/220 acres of beautiful landscapes, 950 species of land and sea animals and home of the Beijing Aquarium. Cheapest way to get there is through the Beijing subway system, which costs about 2 yuan/person/journey. Check out our TMW blog here.

cages for the animals were masterfully incorporated in the landscape of the zoo
3. The Forbidden City - A World Heritage Site, this 72 hectare complex is a good glimpse into the China's past. With 980 buildings, artworks and artifacts, it's a feast for eyes!

one of the many structures in the Forbidden City

Top 3 Tips Based on TMW Experiences:

1. After you're done going around and about, don't bring your shoes/child's strollers/roller bags all the way inside your hotel room. Leave it close to the door, as, trust me on this, you'll never know what strange gunk has been left behind on the soles of your shoes or the wheels of your child's strollers or your luggage.

The zoo's Aquarium - as nice as the grounds outside were at the zoo, MAX managed to trip and fall on someone's phlegm (aka loogie) on the ground. Bring anti bacterial wipes always when you're with your little one too

Yes, people still hock loogies wherever it's convenient for them. (insert a shudder here).

this is what you see in the hutong tour around the Forbidden City
2. Don't bother with the hutong tour around the Forbidden City. I don't know about you, but looking at the slum area or other people's front doors isn't exactly life-enriching.


There was probably that one interesting house in the area as it was Chairman Mao's #2, Chen Duxiu's residence in that half an hour ride. A total rip-off.

the haze that surrounded us at Tianenmen Square, at 9 in the AM was smog. Bring a face mask
3. Getting a cab can get to be challenge especially during the rush hour. Take the subway. And while you're out, don't forget to bring a face mask.

at the Samphran Elephant Grounds

2. THAILAND (BANGKOK and NAKHON PATHOM)
Top 3 Must Sees:

1. Grand Palace - beautiful architecture that's been around since the 17th century. Try to get a guided tour to get the most out of this experience. Also, if you're female, make sure your legs are covered when you enter. This is to give respect to the various temples in the complex. SEE TMW blog here.

got my sarong on. You can either rent or buy from the shops across the street from the Grand Palace entrance
2. Samphran Elephant Grounds, Zoo and Crocodile Farm - soccer playing elephants, a crocodile wrestling show and a ride on a 10 foot tall elephant; check out our TMW blog on this, HERE.

scariest.ride.ever!
3. Siam Ocean World - a great learning experience for you and your little ones. It's also a great way to get away from the heat of the outdoors. See our TMW blog here.

there's also a short 4D movie thrown in after you visit the oceanarium
Top 3 Tips Based on TMW Experiences:
1. If someone offers your a Chao Phraya Canal Tour, just say no! You're better off booking a Chai Phraya River Dinner Cruise.

catfish swarming to eat dog food

some parts of the view in the canal tour looks as rundown as this
The Canal tour, via  along pump boat, was nothing but a series of freaky cat fish feeding, polluted water splashing on you and overpriced items from floating vendors.

fish feeding is supposed to bring you luck...my reaction begs to differ
2. If someone offers to sell you tickets to the Siam Ocean World, don't bother. Even if they tell you that it's sold in another area, don't believe it. Rates are so much cheaper online or you could get a Madame Tussaud + Siam Ocean World combo ticket, which is also bundled at cheaper rates.

our cabbie brought us to a travel agency, insisting that tickets are no longer sold at Siam Ocean Park. Turns out, he wanted to cash in on selling us tickets

3. If you find yourself done with your visit of the Grand Palace and want to do some shopping (some..ha!), head on out to Bobae Tower. It's a little under 10 minutes away from that area. It's also a building that houses 1300 shops under one air-conditioned facility. It's where you go to buy presents for everyone, for when you go home.

the wholesale mall

the hotel's interiors
They also offer shipping services to send your cargo, worldwide to prevent incurring excess baggage charges at the airport. The first 10 floors are the shopping area, while the 11th to 32nd floor houses the hotel that we stayed in.



3. SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA 
Top 3 Must Sees:
1. Angkor Wat - an ancient Khmer kingdom that once thrived in the dessert. Excellent for those into culture, history and architecture. Check out our blog here.


2. Old Market - THE place to go to if you need to buy trinkets, souvenirs, spices and stuff to bring home. See TMW blog here.

shopping for dresses at the Old Market

3. Pub Street - where everyone goes to relax and unwind. Check out our blog on Siem Reap, here.

Pub Street

Top 3 Tips Based on TMW Experiences:

1. US Dollars are the preferred currency in the country. It's what's dispensed out of their ATMs as well.  Whenever you go around paying for stuff, as much as possible, insist on getting the same currency as your change.

at the Lucky Mall, Siem Reap

2. Reputable guides to the temples wear uniforms. May sure to transact with accredited guides (ask your hotel concierge about it) before making any transactions.

legit tour guides wear peach uniforms

3. Bottled water is seriously pricey in nearly all of the food establishments that we visited. Just to compare, the PHP 15 bottle of mineral water here in the Philippines would cost around USD 2 / PHP 100 there! Before you start exploring, a quick visit to the grocery or a convenience store to hoard mineral water for the the duration of your stay, is necessary.

don't be the last to know that bottled water is pricey at Siem Reap


4. SINGAPORE
Top 3 Must Sees:
1. Singapore Flyer - 830 am to 1030 pm (sg flight $33 $21) 30 mins long. You can also eat at it's SG Food Trail (http://www.singaporeflyer.com/food-trail/about-food-trail/)



2. Sentosa - where you won't have to think of what to do next! Always check out their website for promotions! (LINK HERE)


3. Gardens By The Bay - $28/$15 9am to 9pm (free shuttle to and from marina bay sands)



Top 3 Tips Based on TMW Experiences

1. When taking a cab ride, note that not all cabs are created equal. There are limo taxis that sometime line up on regular taxi stands. There is a difference in fare computation.

2. This country has a lot of establishments and attractions that offer online promotions. Scour the net to check out the website of the place you intend to go to, just in case.

3. After all the shopping has been done, save those receipts! For receipts that are SGD 100.00 and above, you can get a GST (local sales tax) refund at the airport.


5. KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA

Top 3 Must Sees
1. Sunway Lagoon - perhaps our favorite theme park to date. Check out their website here.

a multi theme park that's sure to have a little something for everyone

2. Petronas Towers - a great place to visit, both day and night. The building offers a magnificent view of the city, and houses a science museum and an aquarium for your kids, as well as a shopping mall, among others.

3. Berjaya Time Square - it's a mall with a roller coaster inside it :) Yes, we are The Mediocre Wanderers for a reason.



Top 3 Tips Based on TMW Experiences

1. Book a Hop on Hop Off Tour! Not only do you get to see all the relevant sites in the KL, you can also  use it as the perfect transportation system to get around the city, hassle free. Check their website here.


2. As with SG, different cab sizes means different rates. Read up on that before you go.

riding the top of a double decker bus is super fun!
3. The airport is almost an hour away from the city center. Go to the lower level and take the bus. That'll save you a pricey cab ride to town and back to the airport.

And there you have it. 5 Asian Cities to see, in a nutshell. Before you go, do your research, pack smartly and keep safe, always.


From TMW, may all your wanderings be better than hours!