Posted November 18, 2010 by BookingBuddy
Muscat is small in size, but it’s certainly big on fun. The attractions in Oman’s capital range from historic ruins, to bustling souks, beautiful wadis and more. Escape to the Corniche to enjoy cool breezes blowing in from the sea, enjoy a cup of tea from a cafe, or even pick up some fresh seafood from the merchants lining the promenade. Muttrah Souk and Sabco Centre are both great spots to if you’re keen to pick up some Omani handiwork, or souvenirs for those back home. Cool off with a dip in the refreshing emerald pools of Wadi Shab, or head to Qurum National Park and feast your eyes on lush greenery.
Nakhal Fort – Nakhal Fort is a dramatic sight, and certainly worth the 40-minute drive from Muscat. First built in the 17h century, Nakhal Fort has been wonderfully restored, and backs onto the foot of the Jebel Akhdar Mountains. Climb up to the flat roof for beautiful views over oasis and desert surrounding it. Rooms have been decorated with ornate Omani rugs and striking artefacts, to give visitors a glimpse into life at the fort.
Mumtaz Mahal – The Mumtaz Mahal sits on a hill just above Qurum National Park, and the view from the restaurant is impressive, especially when night falls and twinkling lights cover Muscat. The menu has a range of Indian dishes – tandoori chicken, spicy curries and biryani rice with different kinds of meat. Other dishes to try include Machli Masaledar (spicy fried fish fingers), Murg Angaarey (garlicky chicken pieces), and the restaurant’s ‘homemade’ ice creams.
The Chedi Muscat – The Chedi combines traditional Omani architecture with cutting edge design, all to great effect. The stark white buildings lie in the midst of an oasis-like setting, and the rooms within are designed to make the most of the breezes blowing off the Gulf of Oman. The spa, with seven treatment rooms, is an indulgent retreat after a day of sightseeing in the arid desert climate. Room rates start from about £290.
Check here for Muscat travel information.
Posted October 5, 2010 by BookingBuddy
Visit Beijing to discover a city where the past and future intermingle. China’s capital is a massive metropolis, but the flatness of its terrain makes it perfect for exploration. It is fairly easy to get around on public transport, taxis are cheap to flag down, or follow the locals and make your way around on a rented bicycle. The Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square are probably the most popular attractions here. The Summer Palace is remarkably beautiful, even with throngs of tourists. The Great Wall of China, about an hour outside the city centre, is another unmissable attraction. Get on a cable car for an easy ride to the top, or join the backpackers and hike up a mountain to get to a quieter section. Wander through Beijing’s atmospheric hutongs, or alleyways, to get a sense of the city’s history, and enjoy some tasty street food while you’re there!
Spring Garden Courtyard Hotel – Complete your Beijing experience with a stay at a traditional siheyuan, or courtyard house. This compound has been converted into a luxurious, off-beat hotel, with rooms decorated in traditional Chinese style. Located in the Xi Cheng district, the hotel is not far from the Forbidden City and other attractions. Rent a bicycle from the front desk and explore Beijing at your own pace. Room rates start from £70, and includes complimentary breakfast.
Quanjude (Hepingmen Gate) – This huge, busy restaurant is famous for its Beijing-style roast duck, which it has served since opening in 1864 (check out the counter by the entrance to see how many ducks have been served since then). There are other dishes on the menu here, but most patrons visit just for the duck. Enjoy the spectacle of a wait bringing the duck to your table and slicing slivers off it with a huge cleaver. The platter of crispy skinned duck is served with plenty of thin wheat pancakes, savoury plum sauce, and plenty of cool cucumber and spring onions.
The Summer Palace – The Summer Palace is quite a sight as it raises out of the massive, manmade Kunming Lake. You’ll need a whole day here to take in the many buildings and parks in the compound. The Long Corridor certainly lives up to its title – this covered walkways spans over 700 metres, and is intricately decorated with paintings and carved woodwork. Climb up Longevity Hill to visit the Tower of Buddhist Incense, and take in the wonderful view from the top.
Check here for Beijing travel information.
Posted September 21, 2010 by BookingBuddy
Ever wanted to experience life in the richest city in the world? Then book yourself on a flight to Abu Dhabi for a glamourous break! This little slip of land in the United Arab Emirates plays host to the headquarters of many big companies, and houses many spectacular skyscrapers. Many buildings here are very eye-catching, such as the over-the-top facade of the Emirates Palace Hotel. The hotel’s interior is just as ostentatious, featuring suites furnished in marble, with gold fittings all around. There is also a quieter side to the city. The peaceful Qasr al-Hosn is one of the oldest buildings in Abu Dhabi, while Khalifa Park is a great spot to relax and enjoy a picnic. Shoppers might want to keep a close eye on their wallets – Abu Dhabi is famous for its shopping centres. There are many high-end brands to be found here, although bargains can be found in the smaller, independent boutiques and shops too.
The Corniche – Abu Dhabi’s playground is the Corniche, the 7 kilometre long promenade that stretches along the city’s waterfront. Early evening is the best time to stroll along the Corniche, as the evening breezes help cool the city down after a day of baking heat. There are beaches with swimming areas, as well as umbrellas to help shade beachgoers. Thrillseekers can have a go on the go-cart tracks, or you can just sit back and enjoy the performances put on by various groups.
Vision Hotel Apartments – Accommodation can get fairly pricey in Abu Dhabi, but you won’t have to pay through your nose for luxury at this hotel. The Vision Hotel Apartments offers spacious studio-style suites only a short way away from The Corniche. The suites come with kitchenettes, so you can prepare home cooked meals yourself. You can also have meals at the Vision Cafe, which has a wide range of local and international dishes on its menu. Room rates start from about £65.
Al Mina Restaurant - The Al Mina Restaurant is looks out over Dhow Harbour, and offers diners picturesque views, especially when the sun sets in the evenings. Start your meal off with some fragrant tabbouleh, or a plate of stuffed vine leaves. Other dishes of note here include locally caught seafood as well as grilled hammour (grouper). The kebab Sultani comes with tender chunks of mutton, on a bed of spiced saffron rice.
Check here for Abu Dhabi travel information.
Posted September 2, 2010 by BookingBuddy
Can’t afford your very own paradise island yet? Why don’t you just hop on a cheap flight to Phuket instead? This island off the south coast of Thailand is a popular holiday spot, renowned for its sandy beaches, balmy temperatures and vibrant nightlife. Head over to Patong Beach for cheap shopping and accommodation. Head to Band Pae Waterfall for a refreshing dip away from the crowds – the waterfall is also a great picnic spot, and is home to a Gibbon Rehabilitation Centre. Phuket Town has many lovely old European-influenced buildings still standing, and boasts a number of lovely shrines and temples. Phuket is famous for the quality of its seafood, so when hunger strikes, take a trip to a krachang, or floating restaurant, and enjoy some of the freshest seafood on offer.
Kan Eang@Pier –Kan Eang@Pier is famous for its 200 metre long outdoor dining terrace, so guests can indulge in Thai seafood dishes while enjoying a magnificent sunset over Chalong Bay. You can select your own seafood and have it barbequed, steamed, fried or grilled. The restaurant also serves traditional Thai dishes such as Tom Yang Goong and Green Curry.
Boomerang Village – If Patong Beach is too busy for your tastes, then why head over to Boomerang Village instead? This laidback hotel is located on a hill overlooking Kata Beach, and offers peace and tranquillity, as well as some seriously wonderful views. The chalet rooms are furnished in traditional Thai style, and are airy and bright. The buffet breakfast offers a generous choice of food – choose from coldcuts, sausages, eggs done in different styles, cereals and fresh tropical fruit. Room rates start from £30.
Phuket Old Town – Step away from the crowded beaches and take a peek into Phuket’s past with a trip to its Old Town. The streets here are full of character. You’ll see plenty of century-old shophouses – family houses with businesses attached to the buildings – as well as Portuguese-influenced mansions and hotels. Soi Romanee has an interesting past as the town’s red-light district, but these days, you’re more likely to see hip Thai youths and tourists enjoying a drink at the cafes lining the street.
Check here for cheap flights to Phuket.
Posted July 21, 2010 by BookingBuddy
Discover a refreshing blend of East
and West in Shanghai. Undoubtedly the most modern city in China, Shanghai’s
skyline easily rivals that of other big cities such as New York, Hong Kong and
London. Impressive sights such as the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Metro help
provide the city with a space-age feel. However, hidden among the skyscrapers
are little alleyways and shikumen lanes
that will take you back to the Shanghai of two hundred years ago. Shopaholics
will enjoy spending time (and money!) on Nanjing Road, a pedestrianised stretch
filled with shops catering to every budget.
Mansion Hotel – This hotel used to belong
to a crime boss in the 1930s, and its decor celebrates this glamorous and insalubrious
past. The Mansion is located in the French Concession, with quirky shops and
well-known restaurants right outside its doorstep. The dark wood furniture and
plush carpets help transport you back to the glamour of ‘old Shanghai’, while a
meal at the Rooftop Restaurant provides spectacular views of the modern-day
city. Room rates start at £180.
Nanxiang Bun Shop – No trip to
Shanghai is complete without a taste of the famous xiaolongbao – steamed soup dumplings – and the most authentic ones
are from the Nanxiang Bun Shop. There are now several branches of this
restaurant around the world, but the daily, snaking queues outside this branch
testifies to its popularity. The pork filled dumplings are probably the most
popular, although the crab roe filled ones give them a run for their money too.
Avoid serious hungry by biting a small hole in the wrapper first, before
savouring the steaming hot broth and then dipping the rest into a tart vinegar
Zhujiajiao – This sleepy little town
on the outskirts of Shanghai is the Chinese version of Venice. Hire a gondola
to take you around the picturesque canals and catch a glimpse of the townsfolk who
still live in the Ming dynasty houses along the waterways. Zhujiajiao’s most
famous features are the 36 bridges spanning the canals – most are narrow wooden
constructions and date from the Ming or Qing dynasties. You’ll also be able to
visit a well-preserved Qing dynasty post office, with exhibits of old postcards, and letters written on bamboo.
Check here for Shanghai travel information.
Posted June 10, 2010 by BookingBuddy
The thriving metropolis of Tokyo is a
favourite holiday destination for many, and it’s easy to see why. It’s a city
of contrasts – the huge city is one of the most populated centres in the world,
yet there are many tranquil pockets of greenery to be found everywhere. Seek
out the latest fashion or technology in the popular shopping districts of
Shinjuku and Harajuku, or discover Tokyo’s history in historic centres such as
Asakusa and Ueno. Before you leave, remember to spend some time sampling Tokyo’s
cuisine. The sushi is justifiably famous, but there are all sorts of less
well-known snacks and dishes to try out too!
Ghibli Museum – Studio Ghibli has charmed
the young and old alike with their whimsical, heart-warming films, so a visit
to this museum is a must if you’re a fan. The museum was designed by Hayao
Miyazaki himself, and features both permanent exhibitions, and a series of special
shows dedicated to animated films. Fans of Ghibli’s movies will recognise the
large, plush toy ‘catbus’, and the giant robot soldier from Laputa, Castle In The Sky. Tickets to the museum can be purchased from
Lawsons convenience stores around Tokyo.
Daiwa Sushi – You may think it’s
insane to queue for an hour (at 4.30am, no less) for some sushi, but the
sacrifice will be worth it when you receive your sushi. Daiwa Sushi in Tsukiji Market,
Tokyo’s famous fish and seafood market, so the fish is as fresh as it gets. Opt
for the omakase (chef’s choice) and feast
on the fruits of the sea presented to you on little lacquered plates. The
selection depends on what’s available that day, so your breakfast may range
from razor clams, ruby-red tuna, succulent prawns, sweet grilled eel or fish
you may not even know the names of.
Sumisho Hotel – Sumisho Hotel is
situated in the centre of this busy city, but you’ll feel like you’re in the
serene Japanese countryside once you’ve entered it. The hotel looks and feels
like a tradition ryokan, or inn, and
has a selection of Western-style rooms, or Japanese-style rooms with futon
mattresses. The Japanese-style rooms look traditional, but are equipped with
all the latest modcons, and seem very spacious, especially once the futons are
rolled away. Relax in the hotel’s baths after a tiring day trekking through the
city, or enjoy a sumptuous meal in the attached restaurant. Room rates start
Check here for Tokyo travel information.
Posted June 9, 2010 by BookingBuddy
between an exciting city break or a laidback holiday on sundrenched beaches?
Why not just fly to Tel Aviv to enjoy it all? Tel Aviv is a relatively young
city, but it combines a laidback Mediterranean backdrop, with the exciting
cosmopolitan lifestyle usually found in cities such as New York or London. The
White City is famous for its range of eclectic building styles, from stark
Bauhaus-inspired buildings, to Modernist architecture and gleaming skyscrapers.
Cinema Hotel – This Bauhaus-style
building used to be a movie theatre in its former life, and traces of its
cinematic past can still be seen around the hotel. The walls are filled with
black and white photographs of actors and scenes from films, and there are
beautiful old projectors displayed throughout the place. The hotel also
thoughtfully provides guests with complimentary bicycles to explore the city
with. Room rates start from £130.
Jaffa – The ancient city of Jaffa has
been now been absorbed into Tel Aviv’s sprawl, but it is still worth paying a
visit to this legendary port. These days, the old city is as cosmopolitan as
the rest of Tel Aviv, and boasts a collection of mosques and churches. A stroll
through its atmospheric alleyways will help provide a glimpse into its past. Visit
the Andromeda Rock, where Andromeda was said to be chained as a sacrifice, or
make a wish on the Wishing Bridge.
The 11th Floor Restaurant –
The 11th Floor, situated on the 11th floor of the Azrieli
Centre, offers diners a wonderful panoramic view over Tel Aviv. The menu is
almost as sweeping, with offerings that showcase the diversity of cuisines
available in this city. Treat yourself to fresh sushi, hearty ribs and steaks,
and succulent kebabs. The dessert menu is sure to satisfy any sweet tooth –
Belgian waffles, Irish cream savarin flavoured with halva, Pavlovas with rich vanilla
Check here for Tel Aviv travel information.
Posted May 11, 2010 by BookingBuddy
Its name may roughly translate to ‘muddy city’, but there’s nothing backward about the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur. Often affectionately shortened to just ‘KL’, this tropical metropolis is one of the busiest and most modern cities in the world. The skyline easily rivals that of New York or Hong Kong, and its business district boasts the tallest twin buildings in the world, the awe-inspiring Petronas Twin Towers. The city has also held on to its heritage, with lots of picture-perfect buildings such as the KL Railway Station and the Victoria Institution dotted around its bustling streets. Cool off in one of the many leafy parks around the city, or in one of the city’s many air-conditioned shopping malls.
Berjaya Times Square – When is a shopping centre more than just a shopping centre? When it has a theme park situated within its premises, of course! Cosmo’s World is located on the 5th to 8th floors of the building, and features the longest indoor roller coaster in the world. It’s sure to delight children, as well as the young at heart. Berjaya Times Square itself is a sprawling one-stop complex, filled with shops, the aforementioned theme park as well as a hotel, restaurants, a huge bowling alley and even an IMAX theatre. You’ll be able to find something to satisfy any family member in here.
Nasi Kandar Pelita – Get a taste of Malaysian cuisine’s multicultural influences at this branch of a famous local chain. Pelita Nasi Kandar serves up a range of humble, yet tasty local dishes with a wonderful home-cooked flavour that many franchises seem to lack. Most dishes are bursting with spiciness, so be sure to order a large helping of steamed rice to help counter that heat. The Kari ayam – a herby chicken curry – goes well with the bland rice. If you’re after a more ‘exotic’ dish, why not try the Kari Kepala Ikan – a spicy, fragrant curry, with a fleshy fish head importing lots of flavour to the broth?
Traders Hotel – The central location of this hotel makes it a great base from which to start exploring the rest of the city. It is just a short walk across to the famous Petronas Twin Towers, and some rooms offer breathtaking views of the city’s impressive skyline. The hotel also has a rooftop pool that gives you more of those spectacular views while you work out, and is also equipped with Jacuzzis, a sauna, and a spa to help you relax after walking about in the humid city. KL is known for its wealth of dining options, but if you can’t be bothered to leave the hotel, the two in-house restaurants will provide some very tasty fare too. Room rates start at about £100.
Check here for Kuala Lumpur travel information.
Posted May 5, 2010 by BookingBuddy
Head to the tropical climes of Hong Kong and enjoy a wonderful mixture of East and West. The Fragrant Harbour is renowned for being a shopping paradise, and you’ll definitely find something to suit your budget, from bargains at the raucous night markets to the hushed boutiques with their perfectly made-up sales assistants. It’s a city of fantastic contrasts, from gleaming skyscrapers to sleepy little fishing villages with stilt houses. There is also a great wealth of tasty food available, from dim sum spreads and street hawkers, to haute cuisine with prices to match.
Tai O Village – Make a day trip to the ‘Venice of Hong Kong’ and explore a slower side to this often fast-paced city. Situated on the western part of Lantau Island, Tai O is a quiet fishing village, with many houses on stilts. It’s a popular starting point for tourists to hop on a boat in search of pink dolphins that inhabit the waters nearby. For the landlubbers, there are two museums here – one run by the Tai O Rural Committee, and a slightly more interesting one, single-handedly managed by a local resident. There are also some shops; mostly selling dried seafood and souvenirs. The narrow streets can often present tourists with some interesting sights, such a rows of fish hung up to dry on strings.
Yung Kee – This Hong Kong culinary institution is spread out over five levels, and there’s always a line to get in. Yung Kee is perhaps most famous for its Roast Goose – the juicy bird is perfectly cooked, with the crispy, savoury skin covering succulent, tender meat. There are other specialties available too, like dark, creamy ‘Thousand Year Eggs’, a hearty chicken soup with plump abalone bits floating about in it, and delicious baked crab in a ginger and spring onion sauce. It’s fairly light on the dessert front, but do try the some of the egg custard tarts – the brilliant yellow custard, encased in a light, flaky pastry shell, is just the thing to complete your meal.
The Langham Hotel – The Langham is a haven of tranquillity in the midst of Tsim Shat Sui’s bustle. You’ll find rooms that are comfortable and elegant, with lots of closet space (to shove all that shopping in) and clean, classic furnishings. The rooftop swimming pool is a great place to cool off after a sweaty day exploring the city, and the hotel is equipped with a huge fitness centre, should you feel the need to work off some calories after indulging in one too many portions of dim sum. Room rates start from about £140.
Check here for cheap flights to Hong Kong.
Posted February 16, 2010 by BookingBuddy
It’s not often that you can claim to have experienced the best of both worlds, but a trip to Istanbul may just give you the chance to do so. This magnificent city straddles Europe and Asia, with the turquoise waters of the mighty Bosphorus cutting through it. Its position made it one of the most important cities in the ancient world, and consequently, Istanbul has become a cultural melting pot. You’ll find youngsters in jeans and t-shirts walking through the centuries old streets, and old men in traditional garb waiting for their coffees in Starbucks. With such a wealth of attractions hidden throughout this huge city, it can be hard for a visitor to know where to look, so we’re here with a few suggestions.
Topkapi Palace – The former residence of the Ottoman Sultans is a sprawling museum complex these days. There are a maze of courtyards and passageways, and it may take you quite a few hours to complete your visit. Many of the buildings have been restored to their former glory, and you’ll have a tantalising glimpse in to the luxurious lifestyle of the various royals that have lived in the Palace.
Ferman Hotel – This relatively new hotel is probably not the right place for those who prefer their rooms in neutral colours. Each room is opulently decorated, with luxurious brocade fabrics and a rich gold-toned colour scheme, an ode to the living quarters of the Ottoman Sultans. It is conveniently located within easy reach of most of the city’s ‘must-see’ sights, and a stone’s throw away from the blue waters of the Bosphorus. There is a wonderful rooftop terrace restaurant, with views over the Old City, and a dining hall where breakfast is served daily. Room rates start from about £80 a night.
Ciya Sofrasi – This little restaurant on the Asian side of the city is a treasure chest of Turkish cuisine. Its owner and chef, Musa Dagdeviren, is an intrepid collector of traditional recipes from all over the country. The menu is in Turkish, so if you have no Turkish friends and can’t speak the language, then be adventurous and point at it with your eyes closed and hope for the best. You may end up with some tasty surprises, such as galya, a lamb stew with chestnuts and quinces, or a bowl of ezo gelin, a spicy, savoury lentil soup.
Check here for cheap flights to Istanbul.