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World-Class Galleries and Museums in Singapore

Singapore acclaims itself as one of Asia’s cultural capitals today and it is one of the countries in Asia with many galleries and museums to visit. World class exhibition of art are displayed in various galleries and museums in Singapore with great collection that showcase Singapore’s art and cultural histories. The Singapore government aims to make their country as a cosmopolitan gateway between the East and the West. Steps taken to attain this include the promotion of their art through the Singapore Arts Festival and the opening of numerous art galleries and museums.

Singapore’s National Museums

The National Museum of Singapore is Singapore’s oldest museum built back on 1849. It merely started as a library of the Singapore Institution and eventually became the national museum of Singapore. It specializes in Singapore history and is known with its cast collection of zoological artifacts which were now transferred to the National University of Singapore. Among its precious artifacts are the Singapore Stone, Gold Ornaments of the Sacred Hill, will of Munshi Abdullah, and portrait of Frank Athelstane Swettenham among many others. One can also find one of the first photographs of Singapore, the Dagguerreotype of Singapore.

The Asian Civilisations Museum is one of the three museums of the National Museums of Singapore. It specializes in pan-Asian cultures and civilizations and showcases the significant history of China, West and South Asiam and Southeast Asia. You can trace the diverse ethnical group ancestors of Singapore here. Among the museum’s highlights are the different decorative art involving calligraphy, export porcelain, statues of Taoist and Buddhistic origins, and other porcelain figures of Chinese collection. Broad spectrums of statuary collections are also found like the Chola bronzes. Buddhist arts of India are also popular that are hailed from Mathura and Gandhara schools. They also display broad Southeast Asian collections of ethnological material.

The Peranakan Museum is another world-class museum that specializes in Peranakan culture. This is the first museum in the world that explores the Peranakan cultures and other previous Straits Settlements in Asia. Being the sister museum of the Asian Civilisations Museum it has an extended wing to its artifact collection that houses the Old Tao Nan School building. About 112,000 visitors are expected annually from the museum making it one of the most visited museums in Singapore. The museum has 10 galleries specializing on Peranakan arts and culture.

Among the highlights of the Singapore Art Museum are the national collections of arts of Taiwan, South American and Singapore. One can find about 7750 pieces of modern contemporary art of Singapore and Southeast Asia with the expansion of New Asian and International Contemporary Art collections. It is one of the museums in Singapore with the international standard for museum facilities in Southeast Asia and become a part of the growing leagues of new generation of museums throughout the world with its exhibitions of art and building different community outreach programs.

Apart from these attractions in the Singapore Art Museum its location is strategic for tourists to visit being at the center of the shopping district of Singapore just near the Waterloo Street Arts Belt and other major visual arts and performing arts institutions with accessibility to public transportation.

Where To Get Souvenirs From the Lion City

When visiting a country, tourists usually make sure that they grab souvenirs as their giveaways to friend or for keepsakes. When going to a country, you should make a little research first about the place and the country’s icon. Like when you are visiting Singapore, it is a common knowledge about the merlion icon and its national flower Vanda Miss Joaquim, a kind of orchid.

Souvenirs that you can see around can be cheap or expensive authentic choices. So decide which one you are going to get. Aside from the two prominent symbols of the country, there are other cultures that settle in the country since the population is comprised of mainly Chinese, Mayas, Indians and Eurasians.

One can get Chinese souvenirs, Paranakan, Nyoya or Indian souvenirs. If you choose Chinese, Paranakan, Nyoya souvenirs, you can conveniently get them in Chinatown while Indian souvenirs are teeming in Little India. You can buy souvenirs almost everywhere in Singapore. Tourist attractions like Singapore Flyer, Singapore Zoological Gardens, Jurong Bird Park and Sentosa are few places you can pleasurably explore at the same time get some souvenirs.

It would be great also if you spend a day to find and shop for souvenirs so that you can compare prices and do some haggling if allowed. Chinatown is a good place to find cheap Singapore souvenirs and if you are intending to buy in bulk. But this cheap option may give you items that quality is compromised. Singapore Mint is a good place to get authentic souvenir and being sure that you are not get cheated. In this place you can get orchids and merlion souvenirs which you can resell at a higher price once these souvenirs are out of production.

Singapore pressed pennies are good souvenirs also. Singapore’s first and only pressed penny machine is found in Suntec City Mall. This souvenir items are good for coin collectors and there are four different unique designs that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. You can manipulate the machine yourself and can be an exciting activity for you and your friends.

So if you are planning to go to Singapore and wondering where to get unique and exquisite souvenirs, then take time to roam around and explore different shops around the city. Other places where you can get souvenirs include major department stores, shops and hotel shopping arcades. Little India is a good place not only to get souvenirs but to have a look on the Indian culture.

The Singapore Botanic Gardens shop have commemorative gift to offer tourists like natural history books. If you are interested in Chinese opera items like bamboo flutes, opera hats, ladies’ embroidered vests are found in Eng Tiang Huat on River Valley Road. If you are looking for a wide array of fragrance oils, they are available in Aljunied Brothers along Arab Street.

There is actually a long list of souvenir items and shops that you can visit in Singapore. This place is a huge shopping area and all you need is enough energy to do the exploration and ample amount of money to pay all the items you want to grab.   

The Singapore Arts Festival

The Singapore Arts Festival is one of the most awaited annual arts festivals in the world. It started in 1977 which showcases the local arts in Singapore and for years it became to be Singapore’s iconic symbol that reflects the country’s cultural and artistic life. From a local art festivities Singapore arts festival gradually transformed the city to become one of Asia’s cultural capital today.

The National Arts Council organizes the annual art festival which is held during mid-year with month-long activities of theater arts, visual arts, musical shows, and dance festivities. The art festival used to be a local celebration by region in Singapore but as it became grown to be popular throughout the world international artists began to participate with the event. The Singapore arts festival has a touch of Asian culture with distinctive contemporary arts.

Organizers of the Singapore Arts Festival take the extra effort of planning non-stop activities to entertain people from various countries who are expected to participate and visit Singapore for their most-awaited art festival. They plan specific venues which they call the Festival Village at the Esplanade Park where wonderful artworks are showcased and different stage performances are held for quality entertainment. Spectacular shows are held in the village including stage performances, art gallery exhibits, and other striking installation of cultural and art displays. For better entertainment among the visitors the organizers usually allow guests to make their own art for souvenirs. Workshops, salon sessions, and master classes are also available.

For better convenience, the organizers of the Singapore Arts Festival also provide a one-stop shop that caters to the needs of the festival guests where they can buy tickets for their favorite shows, read about the history and other relevant information about the festival and buy limited edition of Singapore Arts Festival merchandise.

The festival also opens an avenue for children to learn different works of art and to discover their ability to become artistic. The festival is a perfect occasion to encourage young artists to develop their craft and discover their talents in art. Children as young artists are able to learn to become more creative and improve their skills as they discover their potential as artists. The Kids Arts Village is also located at the Festival Village at the Esplanade Park. What makes this undertaking more fun and interesting is that the activities are managed, curated, and performed by children themselves. There are great foods and drinks available during the festival too on top of the wonderful entertainment for all ages.

Because the Singapore Arts Festival has become an international event, the Artsfest Club was created in order to provide better services and benefits to those who intend to attend and participate to the event. Members enjoy the privilege of booking their favorite art festival shows at wonderful discounts with a seat reservation benefit. They are also updated with the latest activities during the festival through email and enjoy more discount privileges on other merchandise and festival activities. With good food, wonderful work of art, galleries, and international performances combined, the Singapore arts festival is no doubt one of the most awaited Asian cultural and art festivities by many.

The Best Culinary Pickings in Singapore

When you think and hear the country Singapore, there are lots of ideas that you associate with the place like soaring economy, a place for shopping spree, pulsating nightlife, good food and a perfect getaway. When it comes to feeding your appetite with exquisite food and exotic local cooking, Singapore is the right place to go. Sprawling almost everywhere is a place to satisfy your craving with special cuisine and local Singapore food that you should definitely try.

In order to give you idea about the top places to begin your delectable gastronomic experience, there are lots of best places to eat in Singapore. This island country is a haven for fine dining and street-side gourmet that you should definitely undergo so that your dining experience is made complete. Forlino is among the best restaurants in the city. It is synonymous to Italian fine dining and flawless service and located in One Fullerton Road. Customers enjoy the food and at the same time the best views of Marina Bay.

Bacchus Boathouse is an old yet romantic place. This place serves the sumptuous contemporary European cuisine. Equally impeccable is the panoramic view that the place offers its customers as well as a breathtaking view of the bay and the city lights. This place only seats limited guests and so if you want to savor an intimate dining with your loved one, this place is just as perfect as you want it.

Society Bar is not only good for its drinks but surprisingly it wide range of choices when it comes to food and dessert menu. It is also a place good to hang out with friends and do people-watching. Enjoy the best views of the area as the grand Fullerton Hotel is located on one side, the Marine Bay on the other and the Merlion in between.

If you want to tasteful seafood, you are all welcome at the Palm Beach Seafood located near the famous icon of Singapore Merlion and offer a great view of the Marina Bay Sands. Over-all, both the scenic view and mouth-watering seafood will surely fill your heart and stomach with unforgettable experience.

Do you want to try the exciting local Singapore food? Then you’ll never go wrong when you head to the Glutton’s Bay. It serves a collection of various local flavors of Singapore in the style of old retro street food carts. For tourists, this is one good place in order to taste and experience Singaporean culture. The mentioned restaurants are only few of the best places the country has to offer. Singapore is a haven for a comprehensive cuisine of your choice, whether it be local or international.

Among the local Singaporean food to try out are the chili crabs, Hainanese chicken rice, satay, laksa, Bak Kut the, Roti prata, rojak, char kway tow and a lot more. Their names are quite interesting and so are their tastes. Make your stay in Singapore fun and get ready to explore lots of possibilities while in this country.

Singapore As A Book Lover's Paradise

Reading books has been an old time passion and hobby for many of us. This is where we get inspirations and ideas that are practicable in life’s situations and at times be entertained. For serious booklovers and collectors, it is always their goal to find books, accumulate them and form a huge collection.

Booklovers always make it a point also to get books from their travels as a souvenir and add up to their unique collection. Coming to Singapore is an exciting experience. You get to the best places in the country as most travelers visit, spend a day or two shopping and go to quiet places to pursue your passion in reading.

Don’t forget to stop by the following bookshops where you can find lots of interesting books and just kill time. Borders Bookstore is located in Wheelock Place (Orchard Road). The other branch is located in Parkway Parade. One good thing about this place is its location where it is surrounded by classy coffee shops. Once you have already bought your favorite book, you can grab a seat and start reading. Borders Bookstore is a good place for casual reader who likes fiction. The store has also a good selection of professional books and literary texts.

Kinokuniya is a good place to visit. It holds an interesting collection of manga, graphic novels, Chinese, Japanese and English magazines. And with this collection, no bookstore can match in the entire Singapore. Aside from its main branch in Ngee Ann City Takashimaya Shopping Centre in Orchard Road, the two other branches as in Bugis Junction and Liang Court. Finding the book is easy, you can ask assistance from the staff or do it yourself by typing the book on the finder machine. The machine can even print a map for you on a piece of paper.  

Page One is a great place to browse books and read as the store provides few choice seats with spectacular view. One can also sit on the floor in the quiet corners of the area. The store has a good collection of coffee table books and reference books. A great feature of this bookshop is their children and young adults book section which provides a wide range options and with large area for it. They also provide a small play area for children to read books. So if you are bringing your children along with you, this place is a good one.

The Book Café is a unique place where you can actually do two of your passions, your passion for reading and a tasteful treat for your palate. This place is a euro-styled bistro with an independent bookstore and you can also dine outside in the shaded walkway or just sit comfortably on their overstuffed couches while you scan the pages of your favorite book.

San Bookshop is a good place for those who like to read books but on a tight budget. There are many cheap options on this bookshop and books that are sold here are either brand new of second hand. Another interesting about this bookstore is that readers have the option of returning the book after they are done with it and get partial refund of their money.

Shopping Destinations During the Great Singapore Sale

Great Singapore Sale has been existent for over a decade today. It has been supported by many sponsors and this event is an important landmark on the Singapore calendar. The country has emerged as one of the best shopping destinations in Asia considering that neighboring countries like Hong Kong and Thailand are huge shopping places as well.    This annual shopping festival happens in the month of June and July.

When this grand sale happens, you are sure to buy quality products and gadgets for less. Aside from shopping which you can also do even late night, there are lots of attractions, partying and numerous performances to let you fully enjoy your stay in the country. Make sure to ring along with you lots of money and your credit cards for surely you will be tempted and all you can do is to indulge.

Shopping in Singapore during the great sale is a better choice because you are assured that you are getting the best quality of products and other stuff that you intend to buy. The country itself follows strict rules to make every customer get the high quality of goods and services. You don’t need to go further if all you need are right here. Many of the shoppers find their great Singapore sale experience superb as they avail of 20-30% up to 70% slashes on prices.

Tourist shoppers are overwhelmed by the shopping madness as you rush into the central shopping belt of downtown Orchard Road and Marina Bay, bordering centers like Marine Parade and Toa Payoh up to the Changi Airport area. Singapore is a huge shopping destination, so prepare you pocket and gear your feet with sturdy shoes to begin your shopping marathon.

If your intention in going to this island country is to shop, it is better that you stay in the hotel closer to the shopping centers. Book your hotel accommodation near Marina Square and the Suntec city mall. There are street-side shops where you can grab some souvenir items that you can bring home. Across the island is the 12 air-conditioned shopping malls that take turns in extending the shopping hours up to 12 midnight and even beyond.

Aside from the great shopping experience, you can take a break and enjoy the city’s attraction. You can walk through the underwater tunnel aquarium or take a trip on the night-safari at the Singapore Zoo. The scenery in the city is also breathtaking as you look up the tall and gleaming skyscrapers of Singapore cosmopolitan or be refreshed at the Sentosa Island. 

So the next time you take a trip and enjoy shopping spree, make Singapore on top of your list. Plan your trip ahead and make sure to take part on their great sale so that you’ll get more out of your budget. The place is also a good venue to feed your cravings with delicious local and international cuisine. Fun and partying is never ending as the country takes pride on their lively nightly entertainment and international performances or concerts.     

Nightlife Scenes and Activities in Singapore

Singapore transforms itself from a bustling business center in the morning to a vibrant nightlife filled with fun and exciting activities that anyone can enjoy when night comes. The cosmopolitan has a small but well-developed clubbing scene, theater performances, arts scene and more. Tourists and residents are able to experience pleasure which is complete and truly amazing. Entertainment destinations include bars, discos, clubs, karaoke bars, street opera, night market, multiplex cinemas, river cruises, international shows and many others.

If you want to feed your palate with exquisite tastes of both local and international cuisines, then you can head toward Bugis Street, Changi Village and Holland Village. Changi represents the face of the old Singapore but converts to a lively nightlife destination. Enjoy looking at its elegant architecture as you dine out and have some drinks while in awe of its splendor and the view of one of the world’s most attractive and functional airports.

Holland Village is among city’s most visited nightlife venues as it is packed with restaurants, nightclubs and bars. This is the favorite place of most young crowd and travelers of the island. The place also promises to feed your appetite as it offers everyone a wide range of dining experience and almost any sort of cuisine.

The Club Street or Muhammad Sultan Road is a must-visit place in Singapore and feel liberated with the wide range of nightlife experience that pubs, nightclubs and wine bars can give you. This once old street has become upbeat and a haven for fun and bubbly events during the night.  

The two huge resorts at Marina Bay and Sentosa will bring you closer to nature. Feel the soothing Sentosa harbor front nightlife. The place is unique since it’s a blend of enjoying the nature while taking advantages of the best bars around the area. This is a great treat for friends and families including those who want to shake off stress brought by busy schedule.

Marina Bay nightlife is a must-try especially for expatriates. If you want to be refreshed and take some time to just start anew, then this is a cool place for retreat. Slow down for a while and seize that moment and explore the site. Clarke Quay and riverside is a place to be when you want to enjoy dinner with you loved one, party with your friends or to relax after a tiring day at work. You will be surprised to know that the pubs and clubs are old Chinese shop houses and godowns which were refurbished.

Orchard Road is alive and dazzles when night time comes. This road is a famous shopping belt and teeming with great clubs. For an upscale experience, you can go to Brix which is located in the luxurious Grand Hyatt Hotel. The underground place is romantic as it is lit up with candles. Feel the warmth of the place and enjoy their great wine bar.

Singapore is a great place for business and pleasure. It is a place yet to be explored by travelers like you. When you come to this place, allow it to embrace you with opens arms and let loose of yourself and experience pure fun.

Exploring Little India in Singapore

One of Singapore’s popular tourist attractions is the Little India which occupies the short stretch of Serangoon Road in the western side of the island country. This place is historic and has been preserved yet maintaining its lively and authentic spirit. Coming to this place, you can do exciting and fun activities which you will not surely forget.

One noticeable mood of this place is its lively buzz unlike other attractions in the country. If your visit is timely for the festival, you will surely feel the energy and the vibrant need of this Little India stretch. This place is colorful too. You will see this on their bright billboards, paints of the buildings without any color coordination and other obvious scenery you can see in this place is the abundance of colors.

You will also have that indicator to know that you are already in the place. There is that certain smell in the air which is a combination of perfumes, incense and spices that may seem overwhelming to the nose for most first time visitors. Another unique feature of the place is the sounds of the Bollywood tunes that resounds in the entire place since most of the time the music is played in full blast. For some it may be annoying but eventually it will add to the feel of the place that you are already in Singapore’s Little India.

Since Little India covers a few block of the Serangoon Road, it is easily explored by foot. Get ready for this walk and make sure to prepare your sturdy shoes. Make your first stop at the Little India Arcade where you can find different handicraft items. Head on to Buffalo Road if you are interested in buying traditional Indian merchandise like saris, incense and Bollywood flicks.

On this stretch, you will find spice stores. Next to these stores is a goldsmith’s store where you can buy gold jewelries which are intricately designed according to Indian tastes. This is a good souvenir that one can get when visiting Little India. One good thing also, you can haggle over the prices. There are shops that sell traditional Indian attire. If this one appeals to you, then you can buy one and become part of your collection. For more traditional shops, you can take a slight detour to the Campbell Road.

Enter the Sri Lakshmi Narayan Temple, a North Indian styled place of worship which is usually filled with bustling activities and often host Hindu weddings. It would also be nice if you happen to stop by and see the actual ceremonies and people don’t usually mind you entering the place to watch. The Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple is an example of South Indian temple architecture and the Little India’s oldest temple.

Little India is a good shopping place and equally interesting as this place fill your appetite with good food.  If you want to have a taste of authentic Indian food, you definitely come to the right place. There are numbers of restaurants that will make your gastronomic experience truly unparalleled as you try Indian cuisine. The best time to go to Little India is early in the morning before the crowd flocks the place. Don’t go either during Sunday evenings because the place is overcrowded as well.

Dragon Boat Racing Clubs in Singapore

Dragon boat racing is a festival celebrated annually in Bedok Reservoir. This competition is participated by different dragon boat racing clubs in the country. Dragon boat racing has become one of the attractions in the country. Undeniably this water sport game is becoming popular and a major competition in countries aside from Asia.

This sport has its roots in ancient China. It embodies a mystifying heritage. A dragon boat is a painted boat with a decorative dragon’s head and tail attached to it. Each team is composed of 22 able-bodied members who will row their way to success. It is composed of 20 paddlers, 1 coxswain at the helm of the boat and 1 drummer who sit in front of the boat. The drum beat sets the pace for the team and all rowers should do their action with synchronism.

Dragon boating is a popular team sports which is recreational and competitive. And with this sport come various organizations and clubs formed in order to compete and take part in this water-based competition. Aside from the private individuals who have come together to form their own dragon boat racing clubs, there are government agencies and corporate organizations who create their own group to take part in major race events in Singapore.

Aside from the locals who have formed their group, there are currently seven Dragon Boat teams within the expatriate community in Singapore. These clubs are the AustCham, German Dragons, Canadian, Okinawa, Kowloon and the Irish Dragon Boat team. These teams are sponsored by pubs or clubs in Singapore. Aside from sharing the same sport, the members enjoy their practice session and ending it by spending some time to bond and socialize with one another.

Each club has representatives who often get together and coordinate social events, fun races and other activities in order to encourage members to meet and be acquainted with the members of the other teams. Most of them organize private parties and social gatherings throughout the year. In contrast to the common notion that this sports is more on competition and hard rowing, many of the teams members are sociable and enjoy this lifestyle.

Joining a dragon boat team will not only get you hooked to this sport but a serious way to stay fit and healthy. You are free to join a competitive group and begin your training three times a week or become a social paddler and just train on Saturdays. Joining this team entails more physical activities, so get ready for some action and exposing your body under the scorching heat of the sun. It is expected the newbie will experience muscle pains all over the body. But in the end you will realize that its all the hard work is worth it.

Many are yet unaware that dragon boat racing is a sea sport practiced all over the world. It has spread beyond Asia and popularized in places like Europe, North America, Australia, Canada, Germany and even Africa. So if you happen to go to Singapore and witnessed the Dragon boat racing festival, you will surely agree that being one of the spectators of the contest is breathtaking and truly exciting.

Celebrating Thaipusam in Singapore

Thaipusam celebration in Singapore is annually held as a Holy Hindu Festival. Participants are usually engaged in a four kilometer procession that begins at the stroke of midnight. There are expected to be about ten thousand participants as devotees to the celebration every year. The procession usually starts from the Serangoon Road Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple going to the Tank Road where the Hindu Temple is located. Devotees usually profess their vows to the Hindu God, Murugan by taking with them kavadis and milk pots.

The Thaipusam celebration usually happens every January and is most valuable Indian festival in Singapore. Many are looking forward for the Hindu festival to be celebrated annually with much enthusiasm in Singapore where the largest Indian population is located outside of India. In fact Indians rank third among the largest ethnic groups in Singapore. With this statistics there are diverse cultural practices, beliefs and religions in Singapore. Although a certain percentage of Indian population in Singapore adopts a modern culture and lifestyle, majority maintain their fidelity to the practice of Hinduism and continue to celebrate traditional festivals such as the Thaipusam.

Devotees to the Thaipusam celebrate the festival during full moon as the word Thaipusam means “when the moon is the brightest.” Thus, it is celebrated between January and February when there is full moon in these Tamil months. Among the common religious practices include body piercing and thanksgiving celebration to their Lord Subramaniam, the God who represents virtue, beauty, valor, and youthfulness. Sacrificial self-mortification is also common among the devotees who believe that their God is a universal giver of favor to those who show vows and pledge of devotion to him.

The festival celebration commemorates the victory of the Hindu God, Lord Subramaniam. According to the ancient history demonic creatures plagued the celestial beings and the God helped them by sending his son, Subramaniam to defeat these demons. There were also beliefs that Subramaniam appeared to his devotees through a vision showing him to be dressed in jewels with a golden spear on his hand and rested on a chariot. Since then the Thaipusam is celebrated in commemoration with this belief with people adoring the beautifully crafted silver chariot where the image of Subramaniam is displayed.

Devotees subject themselves to the common rituals and rites of staging a sacrificial act to thank the God for the favors they receive from him. Male devotees would carry kavadis to show gratitude during the Chetty Pusam cultural event. The kavadis are steel racks of 40 kg in weight which are decorated with fruits and flowers and are attached on the body of males through hooks and skewers which pierce through their skin. Some would pierce their tongues and cheeks using spikes and skewers with fruits hanging from the hooks. In these states they would procession through a 2 mile route until they reach the Tank Road Temple with their families waiting for them who would help them remove the heavy structures from their bodies. Throughout the procession other devotees would accompany them, chanting and giving prayers to encourage the participants.

Where to find tasty street food in Vietnam

Markets and streets give you the best insight about any place; this is especially true for Vietnam. In Vietnam, markets are the busiest place in any town big or small. In every market you will come across people selling food. Vietnam is especially known for its street food which has now become a part of its culture and it is said that a visit to Vietnam is incomplete if you haven’t tasted the tasty wares sold on streets. Street food leaves you satiated and satisfied and you get a chance to sample some best cooking without burning a hole in your pocket.

Many people are skeptical about trying street food because they are afraid of falling sick. The ingredients are fresh and often meals are prepared before you. People young and old go around selling a variety of food such as freshly sliced fruits, hot buns, popcorns and the popular spring rolls. Some vendors also carry a small kitchen with them and set up a shop wherever they fancy or see potential customers. In Vietnam, you do not need to look for food, food finds you.    

There are many food stalls where food is sold. Language is not a problem; let your senses do the talking. The tantalizing aroma often makes people stop and pull a plastic stool. After sitting down, just point at what you want to eat and within minutes it will be served to you fresh and piping hot.

There are two types of eating places in the street markets; the up market street food kitchen which sells a variety of Vietnamese food and the small stalls which basically sell the popular Vietnamese dishes Bun Cha, Bun Ga (noodles with chicken), Bun Bo (noodles with beef) and the most demanded pho noodle soup.  In fact Com and pho are the two most popular dishes in Vietnam. Com means rice and com dishes are available in every nook and corner of Vietnam. Rice is commonly served with pork sauce or beef sauce. Pho is another popular dish of Vietnam. Pho is a soup dish with noodles and local seasoning. Meat is an important ingredient of pho and if you do not eat meat, you can ask for vegetables instead.

Eating on the streets comes with its advantages; you get to know the real Vietnam, you save a considerable amount of money and in a way you help the poor locals earn s decent living. Those who have sampled food in both restaurants and on the streets can testify to the fact that there is almost no difference in taste and quality. 

The night markets of Ho Chi Minh

Night Markets are an interesting side of in Ho Chi Minh City. No one exactly knows when and how these markets came into being but everyone acknowledges there benefits. Various items are sold at the night markets for surprisingly low prices and there are various food stalls here as well.  

The night markets are a haven for the visitors who find the sweltering heat of the city unbearable and are afraid to venture outdoors in the scorching sun especially for shopping. Shopping can be a pretty daunting task for many especially if you are in a foreign country where language can be a problem and lets face it shopkeepers all over the world often overcharge. At markets like the night market in the Ho Chi Minh, you can get some really nice stuff at a reasonable price. The night markets do not have the same glitz and glamour as the mega shopping malls but they are pretty economical plus you can bargain at the stalls in the night markets where as in the malls or other departmental stores, bargaining is simply out of question.

The night markets come alive after 6:00 pm and you can find many interesting items here such as handicrafts, garments, DVDs, Vietnamese coffee, candies, local dresses and shoes and lots of other things made in Vietnam. You can buy stuff for yourself or shop for souvenirs either way you can get good quality stuff at relatively low prices. Remember price haggling is the key to a good bargain.

There are various food stalls at the night markets as well. Here locals gather for food and drinks and travelers can get tasty food at a low price. You will be surprised to find a large number of locals eating and enjoying themselves at the food stalls in the night market. Here different dishes from all over Vietnam are available. To get a real glimpse of the local life, do visit the night markets of Ho Chi Minh city when in Vietnam.

Night Market situated adjacent to the Ben Than and is the most famous night market of Ho Chi Minh City. It opens after 06:00 pm and is crowded by tourists and locals alike with tourist more interested in shopping and locals finding it a perfect place to eat and socialize.

Other night markets of the city are Ba Chieu in the Dien Hong District, Ky Hoa, Cho Lon and the Hoa Hung. The night markets close at midnight. 

The best rivers for kayaking in Vietnam

Kayaking is a very exciting water sport. Vietnam with its extensive coastline and the mighty Mekong River offer numerous kayaking opportunities. Kayaking along the Halong Bay is extremely adventurous as you will come across enchanted islands, lovely beaches, hidden caves, coves and lagoons.

Mekong is a major river of Vietnam and has many tributaries; kayaking through them can be real fun. The mighty Mekong is the third largest river of South East Asia. In Vietnam it divides into many tributaries and canals have also been dug for agricultural purposes turning the whole Mekong Delta into islets. Kayaking along the Mekong is fun and it also gives you a cultural tour of the region.  It gives you can opportunity to observe the daily lives of the locals. You can visit the various floating markets along the Mekong Delta. Floating markets consist of numerous sampan boats laden with fresh supplies of fish, vegetables, fruits and other commodities and buying and selling is done here. You can stop at any town or village for lunch or tea and explore the area. You will mostly find bee farms, fruit orchards etc here. You can buy local handicrafts as souvenir as well. There are some interesting buildings like ancient colonial houses and pagodas you can visit. Kayaking along Mekong River is pretty interesting and the unusual sights you come across makes it all the more charming.

The Huong River is also known as the Perfume River and is 80 kilometers long. This river got name because it carries with it the fragrance from the various shrubs and plants which grow at its banks. Kayaking along Huong River leaves you with a tranquil feeling as you come across many impressive sights of nature. It takes approximately 2 hours to explore this river with the most attractive landscape. Kayaking up the Huong River will lead you to some spectacular sights. You will come across the scenic Da Vien Island, Truong Tien Bridge and the Phu Xuan Bridge.  The Royal Palace and Pavilion of Edicts are some buildings you can see while kayaking the River Huong. The view is spellbinding at night when the places are illuminated. Also if you are lucky, you can watch the most beautiful sunset ever.

Kayaking can also be done along Lake Ba Be. The picturesque Lake Ba Be is a part of the Ba Be National Park. The lake is highly suitable for kayaking and is the best way to discover the abundant beauty of the area. 

Popular Entertainment Choices in Hanoi

Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam full of interesting places The popular tourist attractions of Hanoi include theatres, museums, parks, temples, lakes, night clubs and many buildings of the French colonial era.  

There are various theatres, music clubs and nightclubs in Hanoi. The music clubs also have dining facilities and you can enjoy the performances of live bands while having the delicious food. Some clubs also invite professional artists for song and dance performances. Theatre is an important aspect of Vietnamese culture and the Water Puppet Theatre is known throughout the world for its splendid performances. There is also “cheo” this is a local theatre in which drama is enacted along with songs and music.

If you frequently visit nightclubs, Hanoi will not disappoint you. There are several nightclubs in Hanoi which play a wide range of music mostly dance numbers which pull you to the dance floors. There are some quieter nightclubs as well where you can hangout with your friends for a lively night and drinks.  

 A visit to an amusement park is a must if you are accompanied by children. Fortunately the Ho Tay Lake Water Park in Hanoi provides entertainment to people of all age groups.  There are water slides with tube rides, a tube lake and wave forming pools.

You can also visit Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum to pay respect to the dead leader. In the mausoleum, Ho Chi Minh’s mummified body is put on display; you can later visit the Ho Chi Minh’s House to find out about the great leader and founder of modern Vietnam.
   
One of the biggest attractions of Hanoi is the Van Mieu or the Temple of Literature. It was built in 1070 and is a prime example of the ancient Vietnamese architecture. Another interesting historic place in Hanoi is the One Pillar Pagoda. It was built in 1049 and speaks volumes of the rich architecture of that time.  The Quan Su Pagoda is also a must see place in Hanoi; it was built in the fifteenth century and has miraculously survived destruction from fire on two occasions. It is a learning place for the young monks.

Hanoi also has some beautiful lakes such as the Bay Mau Lake, the Haon Kiem Lake, Thu Le Lake, the West Lake and the Thein Quang Lake.  

There are several buildings built by the French during their occupation of Hanoi. The Presidential Palace, the Grand Opera House, the Post Office, St. Joseph’s Cathedral etc are some fine examples of the French architecture.   

Off-road destinations in Vietnam

Vietnam is country with diverse interests; here people will find solace in the serene landscape, quiet beaches, lovely lakes and can watch the life of the locals while kayaking through the Mekong River.  Vietnam is also the ideal destination for thrill seekers as it offers some extremely challenging tracks which can be explored on motor bikes.

The off road destinations are mostly in the mountainous regions and vary from easy rides to the more exciting ones. The tours usually last from a week to ten days and the motorcyclists can rest in the villages on their way. Here they get a chance to sample some tasty cuisine Vietnam is so famous for.

Motor biking is a popular sport in Vietnam enjoyed by the locals. It is also the best way to explore Vietnam especially the northern mountainous areas where the sceneries are breathtakingly beautiful and the tracks most challenging. However not all tracks are challenging or risky; there are various routes made for all levels of abilities and experiences. You can go through the high mountain passes, explore the hidden valleys and test your biking abilities on the rugged rocky terrain. Your motor bike rides take you to lush green valleys, deep chasms and gorges, ravines and cascades and beautiful lakes. You can meet the tribes living in these remote areas as well.

There are various tour operators which provide well maintained motor bikes and riding gear.  They also provide guides who speak English as well as Vietnamese so communication is never a problem. The guides are familiar with the area and will take you to the most exotic places you have never seen before in your life. The routes themselves are exciting with twisting snaking roads, hair raising bends and the trilling dirt tracks. If you are with your family or if your partner refuses to pillion ride then they can always accompany you in the vehicle provided by the tour operators. Such tours are common and are punctuated by breaks which let your families enjoy picnics at the lake side or a beach or explore some ancient pagoda or do some sightseeing.

Mostly the  off road destination tours start from Hanoi and the Ho Chi Minh city and then you can proceed to any of these places, Cao Bang, Mai Chua, Son La, Lai Chua, Tam Doung, Da Nang, Dac Lac, Xuan Nha, Vinh Long, Chuan Doc, Phong Tho etc. Ideally it takes a whole month to tour Vietnam on a motor bike but you can go on short 5 to 7 days trips as well. 

Great handicraft finds in Vietnam

Handicrafts of Vietnam are known all over the world. Handicrafts make great souvenirs for your dear ones and mementos to remind you of the wonderful time you spent in this fascinating land.

The Bat Trang ceramics are quite popular both locally and internationally. Some of the specimens are kept in renowned museums of the world. The ceramics are quite sophisticated and are beautifully decorated with exquisite patterns. The Bat Trang Ceramics are pretty valuable and make great collector items.

The cute Vietnamese hats called Non La are another handicrafts you can take back home. Tall conical hats can be seen everywhere in Vietnam, from a farmer working in the field to a  vendor selling spring rolls on the street to the smart well dressed business women, everyone dons a conical hat to beat the scorching heat or to seek refuge from the rain. The hats are made up fresh young leaves wrapped around 16 to 18 rims of bamboo and stitched together by a special thread called doac. Some hats are plain and some have images painted on them. These hats are very pretty and graceful; as they are hand sewn, they are very much in demand abroad especially in the U.S.

Another popular handicraft of Vietnam is the hand made fan. This fan is made of bamboo silk or paper and have beautiful images painted on them. Some fans come with stands. The silk fans are a bit expensive and with the beautiful images painted on them, they make a wonderful show piece. Vietnamese fans are used in Vietnam to cool off the sweltering heat while abroad they are used as decoration pieces.

The decorative masks are a popular handicraft of Vietnam as well. They are different brightly colored masks with different emotions painted on them. These masks are made of wood and carved out by hand. Vibrant colors are used in painting them; they mostly represent characters from folk plays and theatre and often images of saints are painted too.

Silk paintings are perhaps the most popular handicraft of Vietnam. Vietnam is known for its silk.  Silk is called the national treasure of Vietnam and a lot of people are involved in silk making throughout Vietnam. The traditional hand looms have been replaced by modern power looms and the patterns are computerized. Silk is used for a lot of purposes such as the canvass for silk paintings, silk lanterns etc. Silk paintings come with white and colored black ground and have exquisite images painted on them. 

Exploring the villages along the Mekong Delta

Nature has blessed Vietnam with numerous bounties; it is an amazing country with a fantastic coastline, lovely beaches, tall mountains and lots and lots of rice fields. The mighty Mekong River is the lifeline of Vietnam. A number of canals have been dug from the river and the little towns along the banks seem more like small islands. The inhabitants of the area are very amiable people and welcome the visitors with big smiles. There are many small factories in the area such as coconut candy factory, rice husking factory etc. You can see the locals make ceramics and can visit the old houses. Visitors are also given tours of the fruit orchards and the fish farms. You can also find pagodas in the vicinity of some areas.

Vietnam has a lot to offer to the tourists in terms of tourism. The unique sights and sounds of Vietnam can be best seen and enjoyed by visiting the various towns along the Mekong Delta.  There are many towns you can visit along the Mekong Delta. Cai Be is a nice little place where you can spend a day. You can either cruise along the banks of the river and the canals or explore the town on a bicycle. Cai Be is known for its handicrafts shops and its floating market. Other attractions of Cai Be include an ancient house of French times and a rice corn factory. A short distance away from Cai Be is the An Binh islet. This place is famous for its fruit orchards. Vinh Long is another small town where you get to see scenes from the daily lives of the locals. Cai Rang is a floating market and here you will see lots of boats selling fruits, vegetables, fish, rice and flowers. You can watch the locals trade at this unusual market. Soc Trang is another interesting place known not for its fruit markets or rice fields but for its rather unusual inhabitants the fruit bats. The bats live on the grounds of the Chau Doi Pagoda.

Going further, one comes to many small towns and villages with Chau Doc being one of them. This place is a minority area where the locals are still involved in the old weaving techniques. There is a mosque and a Chinese Temple in the area. The majestic Mt. Sam stands proudly in the region and is a major tourist attraction.

Colonial architecture in Vietnam

Vietnam was under the French rule in the 19th century; The French left Vietnam but left their mark in the form of buildings in many places especially Hanoi.  The French started by demolishing the old buildings and building new ones in their place. The French wanted to give the place European look and that is why buildings were constructed on European patterns. Even today you can see boulevards lined with trees on both sides, villas and mansions in yellow stones and some extremely impressive buildings; all wonderful features of French architecture. To adapt to the new area, some local features were incorporated in the building style but the French influence was dominant.

The Presidential Palace in Hanoi is perhaps the grandest French Colonial structure. Built somewhere between 1900 and 1906, the Presidential Palace served as the residence of the French Governor-General of Indochina. The building is made of yellow stones and is guarded by wrought iron gates. It is quite impressive and heavily European with the mango trees on the grounds being the only local factor. The interior too has renaissance features like the quoins, columns and an impressive staircase. The Palace was renovated in 1990 and at present serves as a venue for government meetings. Only the spacious grounds and the lovely gardens of the Presidential Palace can be seen by the public (an entry fee is charged).

Constructed in 1886, Saint Joseph’s Cathedral is another beautiful example of French colonial architecture. Stained glass windows which throw off different hues of colors when light falls on them and tall towers are some features found in the cathedrals in Europe. The church still holds masses with the number of worshippers reaching in thousands.

The date of construction of the Hanoi Opera House is recorded as 1911 though it could have been constructed earlier. It is built on almost the same pattern as the Opera House in France. The splendor and beauty of this building is beyond description. French neo-classic patterns like wrought iron balconies, tiles and shuttered windows dominate the yellow stoned exterior. The impressive entrance is features columns and a wrought iron balcony which overlook the city. The Opera House was renovated in 1990 and with a seating capacity of 900 people; it continues to entertain the people. To see the building from inside, you need to purchase a ticket for the performance.

The National Library of Vietnam, the Post Office and the State Bank of Vietnam, Metropole Hotel are other examples of French colonial architecture.

Bike Rental Shops in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City

Motor biking is a form of recreation in Vietnam; while the locals amuse themselves by riding these two wheelers, tourists especially youngsters prefer to explore every nook and corner of the enigmatic and charming country on a motor bike.  

Owing to the growing popularity of motor biking among locals as well as foreigners, many agencies mostly in big cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh now offer motor bikes for rent. Motor bikes are available for as low as US $ 5-10 per day.  The agents usually ask for your passport as a safety measure and ask you to sign a form. You can exercise caution by getting the form translated into English (the form is in Vietnamese) before signing it. Also inspect the tyres, brakes and gas level of the motor bike before you zoom off. The roaring business of bike rental is not restricted to agencies only; you can even rent a motor bike from your hotel and that too at cheaper rates.

At Hanoi you can get good motorbikes for rent at Mr. Cuong’s Motorbike Adventure. This agency is situated on Ouven Street, Old Quarters. This place is highly recommended if you want to hire Russian Minsk Motorbike.  Mr. Hung’s Vietnam Adventure Tour is another place you can rent bikes from. You can rent bikes from his town office situated on the Dinh Liet Street, north of Hoan Kiem Lake or from his repair shop at Tran Quang Khai Street.

Off road Vietnam is a rental agency which is more of a tour operator. They rent Honda motorcycles only as they consider Honda to be more reliable than the Russian Minsk. Plus it is easier to find Honda mechanics in remote areas as well if in case the motorbike breaks down. Honda also consumes less fuel and so is cheaper than the rest. They however offer 90 percent guided tours and only 10 percent independent or unguided tours. Motorbikes should be carefully chosen as they do not refund the deposit and motor bikes can be had for a minimum of 4 days.

In Ho Chi Min City, Mototours Asia and Motorcycle Rental Service in Vietnam are two reliable and renowned online agencies which rent you your dream bike.  The Saigon Bike Rentals and Xe May Motorcycle Hire are some big names. Also in Ho Chi Minh City is Mst. Mai who runs a humble motorbike rental business from a cigarette stand at the Pham Ngu Lao Street. Such rental agencies can also be found at the Bui Vien and De Tham streets; these motorbikes are available for short durations only.

Backpacking in Vietnam

Backpacking has become a popular way of traveling around the world especially for youngsters. In fact backpacking is the most economical way of exploring any country in the world. Vietnam is one of such places which welcomes backpackers with open arms and provides them with accommodations suiting their budget and travel style. There are various hostels in Vietnam where a backpacker can stay. Besides hostels and low budget hotels, there are various family-run small guesthouses where backpackers can stay. The rent of these places is pretty low and you have to compromise a bit on the cleanliness. You can always change your room if you are not satisfied with the one allotted to you.

In Ho Chi Minh City, the best backpacker accommodations are available in the Pham Ngu Lao district. Here you will find many inexpensive hotels especially on the Pham Ngu Lao street. The rent starts from as low as $ 5. The Bui Vien Street also features a number of budget hotels which though have seven floors but have no elevator facility.  There is also a Mini Hotel Alley which has 30 hotels equipped with just the basic facilities. The Pham Ngu Lao district is best suited for those who are on a shoestring budget in Vietnam. Another reason why tourists choose this place is because it is in the heart of the city and many city attractions are in close proximity to the area. There are also several restaurants and bars where one can go for eating.

In the capital city of Hanoi, accommodations of various budget ranges are available. From posh hotels to humble hostels, every kind of accommodation is available here. The best low budget accommodations are found in the Hoan Kiem District. Hoan Kiem district is close to many major city attractions. The hostels provide accommodations to couples as well as ladies only groups. Some hostels also have kitchenettes where you can prepare your own meals.   The hostels are generally clean. For those who can spare some dollars, the Old Quarter District offers midrange hotels which are equipped with internet facility.

Hue is another interesting town of Vietnam popular among tourists. There are many low priced hostels here which provide comfortable and secure accommodations to tourists.  Hue itself is a lovely place to visit as is Hoi An. This historic town is a must visit place and has plenty of cheap accommodations. The Tran Phu Street has many low budget accommodations as well as three star hotels. 

Wholesale shopping sites in China (clothing and shoes)

China produces items in bulk scale and so wholesale markets are quite common in the big cities of China especially the capital city Beijing. At wholesale markets, the goods can be bought at pretty low rates. These places do not accept credit cards so you have to carry enough cash with you also as these places are crowded; you have to be extra careful about the pickpockets.

Clothing and shoes are two items very much in demand all thorough the year globally and in China too you will find many wholesale markets dealing in ready made garments as well as fabrics and shoes. Muxiyuan Fabric Market in the Fengtai district is the best place to shop for cashmere, linen, lace, silks and brocades. Most of the shops sell fabrics in rolls of 100 meters but few shops also sell by meter. Watches, clocks, belts, wallets, handbags, cosmetics, hosiery, innerwear, buttons, zips and even stationery items can be bought here. If you are looking for ready made garments in the Fengtai District then head for the Great Red Gates Costumes Wholesale Market. Dahongmen Clothing and Shandong are other wholesale markets in the Muxiyuan area.

There are many wholesale markets near the Beijing Zoo where clothes and shoes are sold. From this place clothes and shoes and other commodities are sent to northern China. Ornaments, men’s suits, shoes, ladies clothes are found here. The most famous wholesale market here is the Tinale Costumes Wholesale Market; here you can get latest fashion clothes at fabulous discounts. Tin Lok Wholesale Market is also located in the zoo district and enjoys the reputation of being the least expensive wholesale clothing market in the world. Other markets in the area are Dongding, and Jinkai Li.  The shops operate from 4:30 am to 06:00 pm.

Shanghai is already known as a paradise for shoppers. There are many impressive stores and malls in Shanghai as well as budget friendly wholesale markets. If you are a diehard clothes shopper visiting Shanghai then head for the Qipu Wholesale Market. This market comprises of three buildings located close to each other. Each building has many floors and the best thing about them is that they are centrally air-conditioned. Goods are available in bulk or in small quantities whichever you prefer and the prices are amazingly low.

For latest fashion clothes in Shenzhen city, visit the Guangzhou district. This place features wholesale markets where good quality apparel and shoes are sold for cheap prices. 

The biggest shopping malls in China

Shopping in China is an experience itself; here you can buy goods from the numerous roadside stalls or you can shop at the discount wholesale markets; however these places are pretty crowded and at times the quality of the goods sold is not up to the standard. There are upscale shopping malls as well for those used to shopping in peaceful air conditioned places where quality of goods is not questionable. Some mega malls in China are

The Beijing Great Gold Mall also known as the Golden Resources Mall; at the time of its opening in 2004-2005, it was the biggest shopping mall in China. Now it is the second largest shopping mall in China and also in the world. It is spread over an area of 6 million square feet and comprises of six storeys. It features more than one thousand stores; all big names both local and foreign. It also has a large restaurant and a skating rink for the customers’ comfort and entertainment. It is located on the Fourth Ring Road in Beijing.

The New South China Mall took over the position of being the largest mall in China and in the world when it was opened in 2005. Situated in Dongguan city in the Guangdong province, the mall occupies 892,000 meter square area and has a capacity of 2,350 stores. However due to its location, nearly 99 percent of the mall is lying vacant since its inauguration. The lack of response from investors and public led to the abandonment of projects in the mall such as the Shangri-La Hotel. The seven zones of the mall were fashioned on the theme of the famous cities of the world.  

The Great Grand Way Mall in Shanghai is situated at the base of the 262 meters high twin tower buildings. The mall itself comprises of 6 floors where clothes, shoes, accessories, leather goods, electrical appliances, cosmetics are sold. A huge supermarket, cinema and restaurant are other features of this mall. 

The Causeway Plaza is the leading shopping mall of Shenzhen city. Occupying an area of 65,000 square meters, it features the prominent Chinese and foreign brand stores and fashion houses. For the entertainment of the customers, there is an amusement park for the kids, a tea house, book store and features sports and recreation programs.

The Beijing apm, the Plaza 66 Shanghai, the CITIC Plaza in Guangzhou are some other big shopping malls in China

The best roast duck restaurants in Beijing and Shanghai

Roast Duck is the specialty of Chinese Cuisine. Though Roast Duck is available in many Chinese restaurants throughout the world, they simply cannot beat the flavor and aroma of the roast duck served in China. This delicious dish has always been a part of the royal menu. Some restaurants especially known for serving the most succulent roast duck in Beijing are as follows

The Quanjude Restaurant in Beijing is the largest roast duck restaurant in the city; situated near the Hepingmen Gate. The restaurant features 41 dining halls and the well trained staff is capable of serving 5,000 meals per day. Quanjude Restaurant, traditional methods of cooking are followed which gives the various dishes prepared here a unique flavor. The restaurant opened in 1979 and has branches in various part of the city.

Da Dong Restaurant is one of the upscale restaurants in the Tuanjiehu Beikou area. It is a trendy restaurant with a pleasant ambience. The roast duck served here is tender and delicious and they carve it right in front of you. You can also enjoy other food items along with the duck. You can also order drinks from their extensive wine list.  It is a bit expensive but worth every penny.

Jin Bai Wan Roast Duck Restaurant is also one of the restaurants in Beijing which serves the best roast duck. This restaurant has four branches in the various districts of the city and is known for its fresh and tasty food as well as comfort, convenience and service.

The Ya Wang Roast Duck Restaurant is another restaurant which serves roast duck “fit for a king”. This place has been visited by many famous personalities. The restaurant has four branches in Beijing.
Shanghai has several roast duck restaurants with Xindalu Restaurant in the Hyatt at Bund being at the top of the list. To create the distinct flavor, a brick oven has been imported especially from Beijing. Another thing imported from Beijing is the red date tree wood over which the duck is roasted. Rest assured, tasty, tender moist roast duck at par in flavor and aroma with the famous Beijing restaurants is served before the customers.

The Lao Beijing Restaurant is also located in the Bund and is quite well known for its tasty roast duck.  The place itself is quite pleasant and besides preparation, serving the duck is also an art.
Ya Wang Restaurant is also located in the Bund and is one of the restaurants in Shanghai which serve delicious roast duck, crispy from outside and tender from inside. They also wrap up the leftovers for you to take home. 

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