Most Important Historic Sights in China (I)

Author: George Augustine

Most Important Historic Sights in China (I)

Most Important Historic Sights in China: Nanjing Road


Formerly known as Nanking Road, this was the street that ushered in the era of modern consumerism in China, with its department stores, display windows, and mass-produced goods. Although it's often referred to as China's "number one shopping street," the truth is, that was back then, not now. Which isn't to say it isn't packed with shoppers – it's often a madhouse – it's just that the best shopping in the city these days is in the French Concession and its western extension, Xujiahui.


Most Important Historic Sights in China: Nanjing Road – What's here?


You come here mainly for the experience and the swirl of neon lights at night. It's partly pedestrianized and a handy way to get from the Bund to People's Square, so if you're going between the two you may as well walk it or hop on the mini train that shuttles along its upper half. 


If anyone invites you to a tea ceremony here, ignore them: it's a scam.


Metro: East Nanjing Road, People's Square



Most Important Historic Sights in China: Pingyao


One of the few walled towns in China left standing in its entirety, Pingyao is without a doubt a unique. Few places provide such insight into life during imperial times, from the Confucian Temple that served as a school to local government offices, tiny dilapidated shrines to ward off evil spirits and the luxurious traditional courtyard residences of local merchants. 


Surrounded by a huge wall upon which you can stroll – each watchtower has an inscribed excerpt from the Art of War – Pingyao fulfills many travelers' expectations of a trip to China. If you take the time to spend the night in a historic residence (try Jing's Residence or the Harmony Guesthouse), you probably won't mind that there are so many other visitors here besides you. 


Most Important Historic Sights in China: Pingyao – What's here?


Just outside of town are several possible daytrips, including Shuanglin Temple and the Wang Family Compound.


Best Places to Stay in California (I)

Best Places to Stay in California: Andaz West Hollywood – Vacation like a rock star


Famous in the 1970s for hosting LA's most riotous rockers and parties, the Andaz hotel is West Hollywood's newest darling. Elegantly remodeled in 2009, the 14-story, 238-room hotel is the perfect base for touring Hollywood, with a cornucopia of A-list attractions nearby, including the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.


The Andaz Lounge, with its golden-berry psychedelic patterned carpet, has a nice gallery of local art and photography. Upstairs, the Andaz sundeck — the highest rooftop pool in Los Angeles — is home to a heated pool, cozy chaise lounges and private cabanas. Check out the latest hotel deals and offers.



Best Places to Stay in California: Avia Napa Valley – Your own personal tipster


This boutique chain, centrally located in downtown Napa, has 141 rooms and suites, just steps from wine country's top tasting rooms. What sets it apart is its personalized Tastemaker concierge services and insider itineraries, featuring the advice of in-the-know locals.


By day, explore the Napa Valley wineries and Oxbow Public Market, or take a tour on the Napa Valley Wine Train. By night, watch a show at the 1870s Napa Valley Opera House, or tour the area's salons and bars. The hotel's AVIA Kitchen and Wine Bar serves up small plates, craft beers and small-production wines from California and the Northwest. Check out the latest hotel specials and packages.

Where to Stay on the Mayan Riviera (V)

With the hundreds of destinations that line the 80-mile stretch of this white-powder Caribbean sand, how do you decide where to stay on the Mayan Riviera? Whether your goal is to party all night long with friends, learn how to scuba dive and swim in the cenotes, discover the fascinating world of the Maya or simply relax and become one with the sun and the sand, we've picked a few of our favorite places…knowing that more will be added to the list with each visit…


Where to Stay on the Mayan Riviera:

Adults Only / All-Inclusive

Live Aqua Cancun


This extravagant 4-star beach spa and resort is located across the road from La Isla Shopping Mall and at very short distance from some of the best restaurants and shopping malls in the city. The Live Aqua Cancun All-Inclusive is a place of luxury designed to pamper you, and create a memorable experience. Live Aqua Cancun's 371 elegant lodgings feature plush bedding with Egyptian cotton sheets, flat-screen Television, Home Theaters and DVD players, aromatherapy supplies, high-speed Internet access, marble bathrooms with separate showers and tubs and private balconies with beautiful views. Visitors will love the magnificent beachfront with secluded cabanas (surcharge on Deluxe Rooms), eight enormous pools overlooking the Caribbean Sea, spa, state of the art fitness center, three exquisite diners, five taverns featuring signature liquors and conference facilities for up to 1,000 visitors.


Where to Stay on the Mayan Riviera:

Adults Only / Secluded / Intimate

Viceroy Riviera Maya in Playa del Carmen


Upon arrival, a Mayan Blessing is performed for guests by an authentic in-house shaman. This blessing releases visitors from their cares and worries into a new beginning at the resort. The 41 villas each have a private plunge pool and terrace and outdoor shower. Mayan healing techniques and traditions infuse every aspect of the spa concept, and one-of-a-kind experiences are enjoyed in an Herbal Steam Room, Jungle Spa Suite for Two, Outdoor Rain Room, Fertility Spa Suite and traditional Mayan Temazcal sweat lodge. Located on a sea-view loft, La Marea accents time-honored traditional recipes with innovative ingredients to create a tableau of flavors. The seaside Coral Grill features a Mexican-Mediterranean menu cooked on wood-burning grills and a bar know for its creative mixology. Among the amenities are a lagoon pool, a fitness center offering a variety of classes, day beds at the beach, and a pier where guests enjoy massages and savor private dinners. 

Historic Hotels in Madrid, Italy (II)

Historic Hotels in Madrid, Italy: De Las Letras Hotel – A beautiful Neoclassical hotel on the Gran Via


This was one of the delightful, grandeur-filled early 20th century buildings along the Gran Vía during its heyday. 


Built in 1917, the De Las Letras Hotel, has been declared a part of the historic heritage of the city. 


The Neoclassical exterior and beautiful marble and ironwork staircases are preserved. 


The rooms are modern and comfortable.



Historic Hotels in Madrid, Italy: Hotel Casa de Madrid – 18th century Madrid reincarnated


Hotel Casa de Madrid is owned by Marta Medina who renovated her own apartment in this 18th century structure to house this lovely little hotel. 


Made to feel like a home away from home, the Hotel Casa de Madrid is near the royal palace and the opera house, the Teatro Real. Staying here enhances one’s imagination for the feel of 18th century Bourbon Madrid.



Historic Hotels in Madrid, Italy: Hotel Ritz Madrid – Hotel built by and fit for a king


The Hotel Ritz Madrid is near the Thyssen Bornemisza and Prado Museums. It was built in 1910 by King Alfonso XIII when he wanted to create the perfect guest space from which to show off his city to distinguished visitors.

Sports and Activities in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (II)

Sports and Activities in Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Dubai Desert Classic – World-class golf in the Gulf


Held at the Emirates Golf Club, this is the region's leading golfing event, first held in 1993 and now established as a major fixture on the PGA European Tour. Past winners feature a virtual who’s who of golfing greats, including Ernie Els, Tiger Woods, Colin Montgomerie and Seve Ballesteros.



Sports and Activities in Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Dubai Ice Rink – Cool off with a spin on the ice


Located in the Dubai Mall, this state-of-the-art, Olympic-size ice rink offers a range of activities, including open-to-all public sessions, plus “disco sessions” and learn-to-skate classes – a pleasant way to cool off from the heat of the desert outside.



Sports and Activities in Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Dubai Marathon – Go the distance in Dubai


Running (as it were) since 2006, this leading international marathon attracts top distance athletes like three-time champion Haile Gebrselassie. The race starts and finishes in the Marina, with runners heading all the way up the coastal Jumeirah Road, and then turning around and running all the way back down again.


Best Places to Eat in Thailand (I)

Best Places to Eat in Thailand: Chic's Dim Sum – Dim sum and then some


Offering more than 50 types of dim sum, Chic's Dim Sum is a fun place to go for a snack or an entire meal. (We liked number 2: cream buns, though they seemed to be filled with sweet egg yolk rather than cream.) 


Sit down, pick out your buns, and enjoy. There's also a large selection of Chinese teas. 



Best Places to Eat in Thailand: Horm Lamai – "Ancient" coffee and dumplings


On the main road outside Lamai beach, this place does excellent "cafe boran" (ancient coffee), dim sum, and kanom jeem. Run by a Chinese-Thai, Horm Lamai also has an espresso bar in the back. It's well worth the visit. 


Horm Lamai closes in the early- to mid-afternoon. 



Best Places to Eat in Thailand: Jok Sompet – Thailand's favorite breakfast, 24 hours a day


If you haven't tried jok (a rice porridge commonly served with pork in the north and seafood in the south; also called "congee"), head to Jok Sompet. This 24-hour restaurant is almost always busy, and it specializes in jok. A bowl of pork and egg jok is the same price as it is at a street stall: 35 baht. There are several protein options as well as a vegetarian option. The menu is printed in both English and Thai. 


There's plenty of other options on the menu, including dim sum, pork belly in a chili turmeric curry (65 baht) and other, more basic dishes. 


Best Tourist Attractions in California (II)

Best Tourists Attractions in California: Alcatraz – Spend a day on The Rock


Gangsters like Al Capone, George “Machine Gun Kelly” and Robert Stroud were among the infamous residents at this San Francisco prison, which operated between 1934 and 1962. 


Several ferries depart from Fisherman's Wharf daily to Alcatraz Island. Alcatraz Cruises (the official ticket source) leaves from Pier 33. After a 10-minute ride, you'll arrive on the island, where you can pick up their highly regarded cell house audio tour and begin exploring. 


Plan on at least 3 hours for touring the island and cell house, which averaged roughly 275 prisoners at a time. During its operation, 36 men attempted to escape from Alcatraz. The most famous escape was in 1962 when John and Clarence Anglin, along with Frank Morris, created plaster dummies and fake vent coverings to fool the guards. 


Best Tourists Attractions in California: Alcatraz – Tips


If you want to avoid the crowds, book the Early Bird Tour, which departs Pier 33 at 9 a.m. The spooky night tour leaves at 4:20 p.m. Be sure to buy your tickets at least two weeks and up to 90 days in advance. They are rarely available the same day. For discounted fares, consider buying a San Francisco CityPass. Blue and Gold Fleet offers an "Escape from the Rock" tour which circles the island.



Best Tourist Attractions in California: Angels Flight – Shortest railway in the world


Dating back to 1901, these black-and-orange funicular railway cars were the darlings of LA's stylish Bunker Hill. Closed in 1969, the Beaux-Arts style cars were relocated and opened again in 1996, connecting Hill Street to the California Plaza Watercourt. Today, you can ride all 298 feet for just a quarter.


Most Important Temples to Visit in China (II)

Most Important Temples to Visit in China: Hanging Monastery


Built into the side of a cliff nearly 250 feet (75m) above the ground, the Hanging Monastery has a spectacular setting that conjures up visions of esoteric monks who have cut all ties with the world, or perhaps a secret brotherhood of staff-wielding adepts who went into hiding.


The real story behind the temple's spectacular location, however, was the sporadic flooding of the nearby river (now dammed), which forced the monks to raise the buildings far off the valley floor, supported by long stilts propped up against the cliff face.


Although it's about halfway between Datong and Wutai Shan, there's no place to store luggage, so it's best visited as a day trip from Datong. You can also visit the nearby Wooden Pagoda at the same time, which was built in 1056 without a single nail and which has survived numerous earthquakes. Unfortunately, for the time being you can no longer climb the pagoda.



Most Important Temples to visit in China: Jade Buddha Temple


As far as Chinese temples go, this is a relative newcomer. It wasn't completed until the late 19th century, after five jade Buddhas were brought back from Burma by the monk Hui Gen, and it was later moved in the early 20th century.


Hui, originally from the sacred island of Putuoshan (off the coast south of Shanghai), had earlier gone on a pilgrimage, traveling from the two Buddhist mountains of Wutai Shan and Emei Shan to Tibet and then on to Burma. There, he met an overseas Chinese by the name of Chen Jun-Pu, who donated the statues. 


Today, the temple houses two of the original five jade Buddhas. After your visit, stop by the temple's vegetarian restaurant around the corner. 


Address: 170 Anyuan Rd (安远路170号)


Metro: Changshou Rd


Winter Bargains in The Romantic Caribbean (III)

It is no secret that winter is high season for the Caribbean. It's the coldest, snowiest, iciest time of year for many places, and some folks have just had enough of it by January and February. In fact, some folks figure they'll need to 'hunker down' and wait out old man winter through March. But that doesn't mean there are no travel deals to be found to make your 'Great Winter Escape: In fact, there are plenty, and some experts believe that the best time to book your winter bargains in the romantic Caribbean is from New Years to early March, when airlines are slashing prices before the big spring-break rush.


According to Yahoo Travel, there are great deals for hot spots like Jamaica, undiscovered charmers like Bonaire, and romantic paradises like St Thomas.


So check out this list for romance in a Caribbean Paradise and start packing!


Winter bargains in The Romantic Caribbean: Dominican Republic

This ever-popular destination draws tourists from spring-breakers seeking low-cost beach thrills, to families looking to make sandcastles in the sun. A wealth of all-inclusive resorts clustered around Punta Cana offer a lot of 'bang for your travel buck' this season.


Deals and Bargains: According to Yahoo Travel, round-trip flights to the DR are unusually inexpensive this year, with flights from Chicago in the low $400s. Take advantage of cheap airfare, and consider a number of budget-friendly hotels, through April 18.


Winter bargains in The Romantic Caribbean: Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico, a U.S. commonwealth, has it all, from golfing to gambling and from salsa dancing to surfing. Beyond San Juan's vacation condos, the island abounds with waterfalls, colonial history, and the national rainforest of El Yunque. The best part? You don't even need a passport to get there.


Deals and Bargains: According to Yahoo Travel, in late January and early February, flights are as low as $329 from New York on JetBlue or Delta. (And right now, JetBlue Getaways is offering amazing deals on four-night packages, including airfare, accommodations, and resort credits, starling at $745 per person.) Inexpensive hotel options aren't hard to spot, either Wad, with a travel professional; travel pros will probably be able to find even more deals. You will probably find the cheapest rates clustered around San Juan. 

Sports and Activities in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (I)

Sports and activities in Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Abi Dhabi Desert Challenge – Rallying and racing in the desert


Formerly known as the UAE Desert Challenge, this is one of the Middle East’s leading motorsports events (doubling as the opening round of the FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup), with rally drivers, bikers and quad-bikers racing through the deserts of Abu Dhabi emirate.



Sports and activities in Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix


The single biggest event in the Middle Eastern sporting calendar, first held in 2009. The inaugural race was the first ever day–night race in F1 history, while the second race provided a dramatic conclusion to the F1 2010 season when Sebastian Vettel snatched victory in the drivers’ championship from Fernando Alonso.


The race is held at the spectacular new Yas Marina Circuit outside Abu Dhabi on the road to Dubai – a stunning location, although tickets are predictably expensive, from around US$400.



Sports and Activities in Dubai, United Arab Emirates: DP World Tour Championship – European Tour's season-ending finale


First held in 2009, this is one of the world’s richest golfing events. The championships forms the grand finale to the season-long European Tour, with the tour’s sixty top players battling it out for $7.5 million in prize money at the spectacular new Greg Norman-designed “Earth” course in Dubailand. Lee Westwood won the inaugural championship in 2009, while Rory McIlroy won the 2012 event.



Sports and Activities in Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Els Golf Club – Something Els


Located in Dubai Sports City in Dubailand, this so-called “desert links” course was opened in 2008 to a design by Ernie Els. The course makes the most of its setting in the hinterlands of the city, with greens and fairways surrounded by rolling dunes and untouched desert scenery. The course features four different sets of teeing areas and hole lengths to suit different abilities, offering a total playing length of 7538 yards.