Ávila: a town for everyone

Ávila is a Spanish fortified city located in the autonomous community of Castile and León, and is the capital of the Province of Ávila.

It is sometimes called the Town of Stones and Saints, and it claims that it is one of the towns with the highest number of Romanesque and Gothic churches per capita in Spain.

If you are in Madrid on holidays and you still have days ahead, this city is highly recommended to visit, as well as its neighboring city Segovia. For these two cities, it does not take more than a day to visit all its secrets.
It is advisable to leave early in the morning and return late at night.
To go to Ávila from Madrid, there are daily buses on this page. Another quick and also economical alternative is to use Blablacar. For less than € 8 you can go to Ávila in 1h30m.

What to see in Ávila? These are the most recommended places to visit in this little city

1. Visit the Cathedral of Ávila

Location: https://goo.gl/maps/h97VpmyUrEWcDshz5

Austere Romanesque-Gothic cathedral built into the city walls, with a striking stone interior.

2. Walk by Plaza de Santa Teresa de Jesus

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Location: https://goo.gl/maps/De2o2xCjLCdJNDQq9

Located in the heart of Avila, it’s just in front of Puerta del Alcazar

3. Walk over the walls of Avila at Puerta de la Adaja (Adaja’s Gate)

Location: https://goo.gl/maps/BWUaeuj4a6eixJb86

There are several entrances to the walls of Ávila so depending on where you are, you can entry to the walls from several points.

SCHEDULE

From October 27 to March from 10.00 to 18.00 31. Closed Monday,
From march 29 to June 30 from 10.00 to 20.00. monday open
From July 1 to August 31 from 10.00 to 21.00. monday open
From September 1 to October 27 from 10.00 to 20.00. monday open
Last access Gate of Álcazar: 30 m. before closing. The house of Las Carnicerías, the gate of El Carmen and the gate of El Puente 45m before closing

PRICES

General Price: €5.00
Reduced Price: €3.50
Free: Tuesdays from 14:00 to 16:00 except public holidays and eve of public holidays. BIC monument

More info here if you want to buy tickets online

4. Visit the Roman bridge of Ávila

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Location: https://goo.gl/maps/Tet7y12itY6iz5qx8

Beautiful bridge located near the walls at the South of the city next to Adaja’s Gate. This Roman bridge was built in the early-1st century A.D

5. Visit the highest Viewpoint of Ávila (4 postes)

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Location: https://goo.gl/maps/UUo438Lgn62Qd7Jm9

Here you will find the best views of Avila and its walls. Perfect for sunset and end the day

Ávila still have few more places to visit so if you have more time ahead do not hesitate to drop by the following places!

6. Palacio de Polentinos

Location: https://goo.gl/maps/9cZv3mhBV9AFxgMF8

7. Plaza Mercado Chico

Location: https://goo.gl/maps/JubjzNFEzoYBFXgN9

8. Basílica de San Vicente

Location: https://goo.gl/maps/CAhJMUjth8tVfeGG9

Shenzhen

Shenzhen is a major city in Guangdong Province, China; it forms part of the Pearl River Delta megalopolis, bordering Hong Kong to the south, Huizhou to the northeast, and Dongguan to the northwest.

So if your a planning a short trip to Shenzhen (no need more than a week unless planning to move around), I’d recommend you visit these particular places:

1. Walk in Shenzhen Bay Park 深圳湾公园

Shenzhen Bay Park 深圳湾公园 is the longest coastal park of Shenzhen (China). If you really love cycling or long walks this place will be perfect with great views of Hong Kong New Territories on the other side of the bay and Nanshan & Futian districts. Ideal for night!

To get there take metro Line 9 at Shenzhen Bay Park station (深圳湾公园站) exit C.

2. Explore Shenzhen Central Park 深圳中心公园

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Central Park 深圳中心公园 is located in the heart of the Commercial Business District (CBD) of Futian, Shenzhen (China). It is free entry and considered one of the most underrated parks of the city

To get there take the subway to Huaqiang North Station and Exit A on the orange line and then straight ahead for almost 400 meters

3. Walk & chill at OCT Loft

OCT Loft 华侨城创意园 offers a different side of Shenzhen with its green paths, areas and parks. In additional, OCT Loft is one of the main points of interest for art and photography lovers, yet for coffee lovers as this place offers plenty of cafeshops

To get there take metro Line 1 to Windows of the World 世界之窗 and then transfer to Line 2 to Qiaocheng North Station 侨城北 and take exit B. The easiest way is following the OCT Hospital indications, since is near to the area.

4. Visit the Phoenix Mountain 凤凰山公园

Phoenix Mountain (凤凰山公园)  is located in Bao’an district of Shenzhen (China). This place is a great option for a walk and see a small nature side of Shenzhen with its lake surrounded of mountains and trees. A walk to the top you’ll have views of Bao’an district and a temple with its little pagoda

To get there can take Didi, the bus M433 or metro to 塘尾 Tangwei and walk or grab taxi from here to the mountain

5. Explore Nantou Village 南头

Nantou Ancient Village 南头 is a historical monument in Shenzhen, China. It was the former administrative centre of Xin’an County. This place is perfect if you want to see the traditional side of China within a small neighborhood despite this places has been renewed and became commercial. Stroll through its narrow streets gives you the chance to see how the locals are living here.

To get there take metro to Taoyuan exit B and walk for 10-15 minutes or grab a taxi

6. Drop by Tulip Streets 荷兰花卉小镇

Tulip streets or Netherlands Flower Town 荷兰花卉小镇 is an European-styled town located at Nanshan district in Shenzhen (China) which has been re-opened on 2011.

This little town offers a strange combination of plants, flowers, pets & cafe shops near a park, which makes it a good place to visit if you want to spend few hours of chilling

To get there you can walk for about 10 minutes from Nantou Village or by bus. The bus station is Xinghai Mingcheng (星海名城站), many buses can take you there, such as 42, 201, 223, 324, b623, b688, b699, b702, b813, m364, m370, m375.

The nearest metro station is Daxin Station at Line 1, take exit B and walk for few minutes to the north.

Alternatively, can grab a taxi/didi. By typing in Didi app (English version) “flower”, you may see that the first option is this little town to select

Address: 3008, Yueliangwan Avenue, Nanshan, Shenzhen

地址: 南山区月亮湾大道3008号

7. Walk through Shenzhen Bay Park promenade 

Shenzhen Bay Park Bridge may be an alternative to Shenzhen Bay Park. Both places are connected through the same promenade but the starting point are located in different sides. Through this walk you can see a little port in Sea World, the bridge that connects to Hong Kong and Talent Park. The walk takes roughly more than an hour

To get there take metro to Sea World and walk towards the sea passing by Nanhai Rose Garden, keep walking to Shekou Fishing Harbor and keep coasting to Shenzhen Bay Park Bridge or Talent Park farther ahead. Then you can come back by metro in Wanxia or Haiyue Stations

8. Visit Dafen Painting Village 大芬

Dafen Painting Village 大芬 is a suburb of Buji in Shenzhen, China. The area is an artist village for the production of replicas of masterworks and outsourcing of original art creation. Great place for a stroll and enjoy the traditional art of China

To get there take metro to Dafen Station exit A1 and walk straight away until finding the neighborhood

9. Hike up to Nanshan Mountain

Nanshan mountain also known as Nanshan Park, is one of the most popular mountains in Shenzhen. Great place for an amazing cityscape of Shenzhen. From the top of the mountain you will see mostly all Shenzhen. Highly recommended to visit or stay at night. The “hike” is paved with stairs and lights so is basically a walk to the top and safe to visit or back at night

To get there take metro yo Sea World exit D and head towards the mountain and then follow the indications to Nanshan Park.

10. Day/Night Hike to TanglangShan 塘朗山 郊野公园

Tanglang Mountain 塘朗山 郊野公园 is located in Nanshan District, Shenzhen (China). With an elevation of 430m, Tanglang Mountain is the third highest peak in Shenzhen.

This mountain has two routes to reach the summit: road and paved stones trail. The climbing takes about 1-2 hours in relax rate or 45 minutes in good rate.

The hike is pretty easy and safe what makes it is perfect for a night hike by following the road. The night views from the top are pretty amazing

To get there take metro to Taoyuancun Line 7 and Exit D. Walk forward until seeing the mountain in the right side. Then walk towards the mountain and will be visible the Trail starting point

11. Watch the Lights Night Show at Lianhuashan Park 莲花山公园

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Lianhuashan Park 莲花山公园 is a hill and urban park in Shenzhen, China. It is located at the northern end of the Futian Central Business District and covers an area of 150 hectares. Atop the 106-metre hill is a large bronze statue of Deng Xiaoping and views of Futian Central Business District. This park is very popular for its night lights shows, so is highly recommended to come before night and find a spot at the top to have a look to the night show. It usually starts at 8pm and last about one hour

To get there take metro to Children’s Palace exit F2, cross the park until finding the stairs up to the top

12. Hike at Yangtaishan 羊台山

Located in Bao’an district of Shenzhen (China), Yangtaishan 羊台山 is a mountain of about 587 meters in height. It’s not as high as Wutong mountain but the summit will surprise you with its stunning views of Bao’an, Nanshan & Longgang districts.

To get there take the bus 769 or 635. If you take the bus 635, you may transfer bus at Shiyan Bus General Station and grab the bus 769 to Yangtai Mountain Station.

Otherwise, you may take Didi or taxi to get there. We grabbed a taxi from Shenzhen North Station to Shiyan entrance and costs 45RMB

13. Escape to Dapeng Old Town 

is a well-preserved town located at the east of Longgang District in Shenzhen (China). Through its narrow streets can get to the Fortress and at 5-10 minutes driving distance can get easily to Dongshan temple. By walking distance should be about 30-40 minutes though

To get there:

CAR

This is the way how I got there since is the easiest and recommended way. The journey takes about one hour departing from Louhu/Longgang district. Find a friend with car or rent it totally worth it.

BUS

This is the slowest and the last alternative. Usually takes about 2 hours or more

-From Yinghu Bus Station: Bus E11 to Dapeng -> Bus B756 to Dapeng Suocheng

-From Futian Bus Station: Bus H92 to Dapeng -> Bus B756 to Dapeng Suocheng

-From Longgang: Bus 833 to Dapeng -> Bus B756 to Dapeng Suocheng

-From Longgang Bus Terminal: Bus 818 to Dapeng -> Bus B756 to Dapeng Suocheng

 

Macau

Macau was formerly a colony of the Portuguese Empire, after Ming China leased the territory as a trading post in 1557. Macau is the gambling capital of the world. Its economy is heavily dependent on gambling and tourism, with the largest gambling revenue since 2006

Since Macau is the gambling capital of the world, the whole place is full of Casinos & Hotels which provide FREE shuttle buses to different destinations. So if you are not in the rush, this transportation system may make you save a lot of money

1. The Venetian

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One of the most popular hotels & casinos, people visit this place especially for The Grand Canal Shoppes

To go there, take The Venetian Shuttle Bus from the Ferry Terminal directly

2. Taipa Village

Taipa Village is a well-preserved non-gaming destination which offers a perfect alternative to the city’s casino resorts. Perfect for dining & souvenirs shopping.

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Through its streets you can easily find a lot of Portuguese restaurants with a really great food quality. Try there bacalhau à brás is a must!

To go there you can walk from The Venetian. The journey takes about 20 minutes and there are indications along the way

3. Taipa Houses-Museum

At the East of Taipa Village is located these colonial houses. Along the path to the south is located Our Lady of Carmel church & the Wetland

4. Senado

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Senado Square is a paved town square in Sé and part of the UNESCO Historic Centre of Macau World Heritage Site. Worth to have a look since it is on the way to the Ruins of St. Paul

To go there walk from Taipa Village to City of Dreams and take a shuttle bus to Grand Emperor Hotel & walk

5. Ruins of St. Paul

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The Ruins of St. Paul are the ruins of a 17th-century complex in Santo António. This place is a must too see but is often packed with thousand of tourists. However, worth to have a look

To go there walk from Senado to the Ruins. The journey takes about 10 minutes and there are a lot of shops along the way

6. Monte Fort

On the right side of the ruins is located the Fort. The top of the fort offers great views of the north of Macau

Shifen

Shifen is located in Pingxi district and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the north of Taipei that can’t miss to visit. The Old Streets are famous for its sky lanterns and the railway track across the town, as well as for its Waterfalls!

The easiest way to get there is by taking the bus 795 from MRT Muzha Station. Once getting out from the MRT Station, cross the main road and get to the bus stop (the one with red bus info). The bus stops at Shifen Old Streets and Shifen Waterfalls. Can use EasyCard!

Within Pingxi district can find the following spots that should be visited once! Please note that these places are accordingly to what I visited, I am sure there there will be more places within Pingxi district 🙂

1. Shifen Old Streets 十分老街

A must see! Very popular for its sky lanterns and the railway track across the town. Through its streets can find many souvenir shops, groceries stores, street food,…

One of the most popular attractions there is to fly a lantern! Simply buy one, write down your wishes and the vendor will help you giving instructions on how to hold it and let it fly!

2. Shifen Waterfalls 十分大瀑布

Shifen Waterfalls are about 15 minutes walking distance from the Old Streets. Another way is to take the shuttle bus to get there.  The place is really great if you are lucky to don’t find crowds. The path towards the first waterfall is chilling once you cross the first suspension bridge. Unfortunately for me was impossible to get a little space for the famous waterfalls. This location is a main attraction for schools and tour agencies…so don’t be surprised if you find them out there!

On the way back to Taipei may stop at Pingxi and have a look as well which is also highly recommended!

Jiufen 九份: a Golden Village

Jiufen is a mountain town in northeastern Taiwan, east of Taipei. It’s known for the narrow alleyways of its old town, packed with teahouses, street-food and souvenir shops.

This village is quite popular so it’s not a surprise to find crowds and waits to take decent photos. As suggestion, the best to visit this area is during weekdays to don’t get stuck into the crowds and have a decent walk through its narrow streets. Although during weekdays still a bit crowded but is bearable

The easiest way to get there from Taipei is by taking the bus 1062 (Keelung Bus) to Jinguashi and alight at Jiufen. The bus station is located outside of MRT Zhongxiao Fuxing Station (忠孝復興), Brown Line BR and Blue Line BL interchange at Exit 2. The ride is about 1 hour and the fare is NT$98

The other way is by train north to Ruifang Station and once there take the Keelung Transit bus towards Jiufen/Jinguashi. You can use EasyCard for both ways!

Which places can visit in Jiufen? I did the following!

1. Jiufen Old Streets

The most popular place that can’t be missed! Walk through its streets, try its food, snacks, bubble milk tea…stinky tofu..!

2. Hike Keelung Mountain

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Hike Keelung mountain for a stunning landscapes of Jiufen and its surroundings. The Keelung Trail is about 10 minutes walking distance from the Old Streets and the hike takes about 30-45 minutes

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3. Golden waterfalls 黃金瀑布

Since you are here, worth to have a look to these waterfalls. There is a shuttle bus from Jiufen to these waterfall every hour. Another way is by walking to this place. The walk takes about 40 minutes road down

4. YingYang Sea

Continuing road down you will pass by an old village and abandoned factories. The Yingyang Sea is about 5-10 minutes walking distance from the Golden Waterfalls and also worth to have a look since you are there! There is a bus station next to the road and the shuttle bus pass by there every hour. Please note that the bus has to be taken on the road way up! Can use EasyCard!

Enjoy your trip! 🙂

Note: As told by Taiwanese friends, this place is really beautiful at night, so if you have the chance to stay till late night, find a spot for landscape views and walk through the streets!

Mérida: Back to Roman Empire

Mérida is the capital of Extremadura, western central of Spain and has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1993.

Mérida is a well-know city by its well preserved Roman monuments which make you feel as if you were back to the past during the Roman Empire.

I have the chance to visit this beautiful city again on May 2018, shooting and walking through its Roman remains and despite it was my third time there, still leaving me stunned

Through its streets you may see the following monuments among others

Roman Theater

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Roman Anphitheater

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Surroundings

My visit here was really short and unfortunately I couldn’t see all the monuments within the city. Temple of Diana, aqueduct of Miracles and the Roman bridge are among the most important monuments in Mérida.

A quick look to Google maps over Mérida shows the vast Roman Empire within the city

In short, Mérida is a perfect city to spend half day with your family or partner to learn a bit about the history of the Roman Empire in Spain

The Marble Mountain: Thuy Son

The Marble Mountains are on of the most popular attractions in Vietnam. They consist in 5 rocky mountains topped with Pagodas, caves and Buddhist temples located in Da Nang. Each mountain is named after 5 natural elements: Thuy Son (Water), Moc Son (Wood), Hoa Son (Fire), Kim Son (Metal or Gold) and Tho Son (Earth).

During my visit, I climbed up only Thuy Son mountain (Water), since is considered the highest and main one. From its top you’ll be able to have a stunning panorama of its surroundings.

HOW TO GET THERE

If you are staying in Da Nang city, it’s very easy to get there by taxi as is not relatively expensive.

From Hoi An (my case), we hired a taxi through GRAB app. The best choice surely is by taxi or Grab, it’s very easy to spot taxi in the entrance of the mountain.

Uber is also a good choice, it’s working really nice in Vietnam with affordable rates. However, Grab offers the cheapest rates within Vietnam

Location: 2 Huyen Tran Cong Chua, Hoa Hai, Ngu Hanh Son, Da Nang

EXPLORING AROUND

Once arrived, should get a entry ticket at 40,000 VND for adults

Opening Hours: Daily 07:00 – 17:30

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If not taking the lift at 15,000 VND, the entry tickets may be purchased at the entrance near the stairs at ticketing office (Gate 2)

Climbing up the stairs, the first spot would be Xa Loi Tower (10) & Linh Ung Pagoda (12)

Continuing walking there are few caves at the beginning which I was not able to visit the due to the crowds (8 & 11) and also due to its slippery stairs (no shoes with good grip)

Further ahead is Tam Thai Pagoda (4) with a traditional design and beautiful gardens

Leaving behind Tam Thai Pagoda and turning right there is one of the most beautiful natural caves spotted: Huyen Khong cave (6)

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The cave is quite huge but unfortunately is the main tourist spot and will be super crowded, making difficult to take nice photos of its interior

Leaving the cave, the next spot is Tam Ton Pagoda. Really beautiful with lots of flowers and gardens.

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Between Tam Thai Pagoda (4) and Van Thong Cave (8) there is a path and stairs towards the top of the Mountain. Just following indications and stairs will take you to the top which is 100% recommended to do if you wanna enjoy of a stunning views of The Marble Mountains

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To finish the visit, may have a look to Vong Giang Dai and climb its few stairs before getting out by Gate 1

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The descending will take about 5-10 minutes through Gate 1. Once got out, turn left to reach the the Gate 1 and grab a taxi back to your hotel.

The neighborhood is plenty of statue/decoration shops and a couple of restaurants. There is nothing much to see around unless you are keen to visit the rest of Marble mountains

 

 

Road trip: Hoi An

Hoi An is a well-know city for its history, streets, food and Old Town. But during my visit to this awesome town, I discovered that there are more than streets and buildings: roads with stunning views throughout rice fields and rivers.

Where are these rice fields?

Just need to cycle a bit far away from the town, exactly to the entrance of Hoi An, between Sơn Phong and Tân An.

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Green stars indicates rice fields and red arrow my starting point chosen for this awesome cycling road trip.

The beginning of the rice fields marked is a long and straight road in between of 2 rivers

Along the road I really enjoyed of amazing rice fields views, besides of the lack of traffic, people…simply silence and calm

The road trip continues towards An Mỹ with these views:

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Arriving to An Mỹ, it is a little town with few houses and farms. Really worth to pass by here and continue cycling along the river

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Cycling along this road indicated above, I reached to the main road Hai Bà Trưng. Afterwards, turned to the right and crossed the river before turning to the left as indicates in the map below. This route was recommended by a local and was really relaxing and easy. No noises, no traffic, only nature, villagers and animals.

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Ending up this road trip, simply can turn around this little village and back to Hoi An through Hai Bà Trưng road.

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This road trip takes about 3-4 hours, which may be longer relying on the stops made to rest and photography.

Besides of this trip, I would also recommend a road trip to Cửa Đại beach along the following road:

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Along this road you may find few rice fields and many villages. It’s a very funny trip and it’ll take about 1-2 hours to get to the beach. Later on can return by Cửa Đại road, which is much faster and easy to reach to Hoi An

In short, Hoi An has many ways to enjoy it despite its old town. The road is long and gives stunning views