5 reasons you should avoid Halong Bay

Halong Bay in Vietnam is a beautiful and mystical place. But is it really worth visiting? We’ll tell you our top 5 reasons to avoid Halong Bay

Halong Bay is this beautiful, magical, mystical place in Vietnam… or rather, it should be.  It was voted one of the New 7 Wonders of nature.  It’s on so many people’s bucket list.  It was supposed to be the highlight of our trip to this ancient South-East Asian country.  We looked forward to our cruise for weeks.  We imagined being on this cool-looking junk boat, floating amongst the karst limestone mountains jutting out of the water.  But what we experienced was far from this dream.

Tour boats in Halong Bay Vietnam
Tour boats in Halong Bay

The tour packages

Each company will have some specific things that are unique to it, but trust us when we say that there is not much creativity with the service providers in Halong Bay.  Having shopped over 15 different cruises, here is what we found were the main options.

Tourists kayaking in Halong Bay Vietnam
Tourists kayaking in Halong Bay

Mostly, all providers will take you to the highlights of Halong Bay.  This includes a trip to Sung Sot (Surprise) Cave, kayaking at Luon cave and the lookout at Ti Top island.  Usually, food and water bottles are also provided in the package.  Most tour operators will offer transfers to and from your hotel in Hanoi.  All you have to do is decide how long you want to stay in Halong Bay.

  • 2 days / 1 night on the boat: Keeping it short and sweet so you can experience the Bay and the main highlights.
  • 3 days / 2 nights with Cat Ba island: You will spend one night on the boat, another on Cat Ba island.  You also have the chance to sleep at Monkey Island (on Cat Ba, just a different location), though you will pay a premium for this.
  • 3 nights / 2 days on the boat: This is the option we went with because we wanted to get the most out of our time in Halong Bay.  It included everything mentioned above, and was supposed to include a trip to the Virgin Cave, time on a beach, a visit to a traditional pearl farm and floating village, and kayaking at a different cave than Luon.

As for the cost of the cruise, it can vary from one boat to the next.  There are luxury boats and more basic ones.  We chose a middle range boat, paying $500 US for the both of us, but it seems like even that was not ‘good enough’.

A cruise in Halong Bay is not cheap.  In fact, compared to other things you can do and see in Vietnam, it is a lot more expensive, especially since these boats are geared toward ‘tourists with money’.

Derek riding a long boat in Halong Bay Vietnam
Derek riding a long boat

Looking back at this trip now, we wish we had known more about visiting Halong Bay.  Not only would we have skipped out on this experience, we would have saved a ton of money, our environmental impact would have been lessened, and we probably would have had a better time overall.

So here are all the reasons we would highly recommend you avoid Halong Bay when you head to Vietnam.

Environmental reasons

This will always be our main concern when we travel.  We are always super conscious of what our environmental impact is.  This world is beautiful, and we want to keep exploring it.  The best way to do this is by making sure that we have the least negative impacts on the places we visit.

Ti Top beach Halong Bay Vietnam
Ti Top beach, Halong Bay’s premier beach

Unfortunately, when you visit Halong Bay, your impact is huge, and you can feel it all around!

Food waste

Every single meal we had on our boat was plentiful.  Although delicious, there was too much variety and the quantity of food was almost a joke… but not a very funny one!

Making spring rolls onboard our boat in Halong Bay Vietnam
Making way too many spring rolls onboard our boat

At the end of the meal, everyone would feel so bad seeing barely-eaten plates leave the table.  We brought it up with the staff, asking them if they could make less food considering there was so much waste.  We were told that this is how they do things and there was no way to change this.

Sure, this food was then thrown overboard to feed the marine life, or used to feed the pigs.  Some may argue that it’s not wasted if it’s being eaten by others, but we beg to differ.  Just think of the amount of time and resources it took to make these meals.  They could have fed so many other people.  For us, this is a waste!

Plastic pollution

From providing plastic bottles, single-use condiments or toiletries, rubber gloves for the staff handling food, the amount of plastic on the boats is shocking.

Beautiful karsts in Halong Bay Vietnam
The beautiful karsts of Halong Bay

What’s more shocking however, is that most of these plastics end up in Halong Bay.  The staff (and probably a few tourists) just throw everything off the boat.  We’re no longer surprised to see plastic bottles floating around, but during our 3 days in Halong Bay, we were dumb-struck when we saw rubber gloves, chairs, life vests and bits of styrofoam floating around.

That is the part of Halong Bay no one talks about.  Sure, the limestone karsts are beautiful.  Sure, the mood created when floating around is mystical.  But seeing this much plastic is just disgusting.  A sad reminder of what we have done to our planet.

The pollution created by these cruises is the main reason we would recommend skipping this experience and avoiding Halong Bay.  But there are many more reasons!

The service providers

While surely some tour providers do have nice boats in their fleet, many of them are old.  Most show signs of not-so-gentle use, and even more boats are in need of repair… or at least a new paint job.  The tour that we took was of the latter variety.

Sailing through Halong Bay Vietnam
Sailing through Halong Bay

You won’t get what you paid for

After talking with the others on our three different boats, we all realized that we all didn’t get what we paid for.  Those who had paid for bigger rooms had the same thing as everyone else.  The activities we were supposed to do were not as described.  Most were either rushed or had us surrounded by hundreds of people doing the same thing, making it rather unpleasant!

A ton of tourists at the virgin pond in Halong Bay Vietnam
A ton of tourists at the virgin pond

We were supposed to have a deluxe room, which we did not get.  We were supposed to have time on a beach… that didn’t happen.  Instead, we stayed docked in the middle of Halong Bay, near the pearl farm, for nearly two hours.  The pearl farm was actually just a ploy to get unsuspecting tourists to buy things in order for the cruise operators to get a kick-back.  And the kayaking we were supposed to do at different caves, well… we were taken to the same cave three times.

You may think that this was only a stroke of bad luck for us.  But having spent time on three different boats, and having spoken to three different groups of people, we realized that this was par for the course.  The overwater bungalows that people had booked on Monkey island were falling apart (despite costing a premium) and had no windows and mosquito nets with holes in them.  The rooms people were given on the boats were sub-par or simply not what they had requested.

Carine gazing out the boat in Halong Bay Vietnam
Carine gazing out of our boat

Had we been the only ones who had an unpleasant experience, we would have been quick to dismiss this, but we spoke to so many people who agreed that had they known what they were going to go through for the next few days, they would have avoided coming here as well.

The hosts and staff are unpleasant

Because this trip to Halong Bay is one of the most popular tours in the country, you can feel it in the attitude of the hosts.  Each boat has their ‘guide’ who usually shares tidbits of history and lore behind Halong Bay and its various sights.  Because these guides work almost every single day, you can feel their lack of enthusiasm during the whole stay.  They obviously give the same speech day-in and day-out!

If it were only the lack of enthusiasm, we would have understood.  However, when we brought up the problems we had during our stay, and the fact that we didn’t get what we paid for, the staff, both on the boat and at the sales office, became extremely rude and disrespectful.  This is when we understood that we had just been scammed by a very large and ‘reputable’ business.

We don’t complain often.  We always try to find the silver lining in every experience.  And when we do complain, we do it in a respectful and solution-oriented way, in the hopes that we help the business improve their services so others can have a better experience.

However, this time was different.

A long boat in Halong Bay Vietnam
A long boat cruising in Halong Bay

We were called liars when we told the cruise provider that we had never been to the beach we were supposed to go to.

We were called stupid when we said we had been taken to the same kayaking spot three times.  They told us that the spots just looked the same to us… come on.

The view from a lookout in Halong Bay Vietnam
The view from a lookout in Halong Bay

We were met with insults for every complaint we had.  Not only from the cruise provider, but from the staff at our hotel where we booked this cruise as well.  You can only imagine how annoyed and insulted this whole experience left us.

Too crowded

At this point, do you expect anything different?!  Halong Bay was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site twice, in 1994 and 2000.  It’s called the “descending dragon bay”.  It spans over 1,553 square kilometres.  It’s made up of 1,969 islands and thousands of limestone karsts.  Basically, it’s what Vietnam travel dreams are made of!

But when you think of something so mystical and beautiful, you know that there will be a ton of people there.  After all, there are over 550 cruises that operate in Halong Bay.  In 2017, the Bay was host to close to 3 million tourists. The numbers have only increased in the following years.

A ton of tour boats in Halong Bay Vietnam
A ton of tour boats clogging up Halong Bay

This means that the peaceful experience you are looking for likely won’t happen, unless you pay a pretty penny.  Almost all boats leave and arrive at the same time.  They all have a rotation of highlights that they visit.  Every single place we went to was swarming with tourists… even the “lesser known” spots!

The Ti Top island lookout was so packed that it felt like we were being herded up the mountain like goats, up a narrow staircase, just wide enough for two.  When we got up there, we were surrounded by people posing for selfies, pushing others around them to get ‘the shot’.  After five minutes up there, we were ready to throw ourselves down the hill.

The Sung Sot Surprise cave was much of the same.  Crowds of people being pushed down the same path.  Guides pointing at the same rocks with the same old jokes.

Look! This one looks like a penis!” *Insert awkward laugh.

Look! That one is a monkey with a big penis!” *Insert odd look and even more awkward laugh.

Look! That one is a hole. You know, like a lady hole” *Insert final eye roll.

Ok! Can we turn this into a drinking game already?!

Carine heading to the virgin pond in Halong Bay Vietnam
Carine heading to the virgin pond

It was the same thing at the ‘secret’ Virgin cave.  Same again for the tourist-trap pearl farm.  It seemed like every single stop was packed with tourists.

And at night, if you had the ‘luck’ of being parked next to a party boat, well, you got to know just how crowded 1,553 square kilometres actually feels.

Tips to have a better experience

All hope is not lost.  You can still have a great experience in Halong Bay, but at least now, you know what to expect.  Here are some other tips to make the cruise even more enjoyable.

Choose a less touristic spot

Instead, of going to Halong Bay, we heard only wonderful things about Bai Tu Long Bay.  Although the karst islands are more spread out, you will have a more peaceful experience there.  If we were to redo this experience again, we would choose Bai Tu Long Bay.

Spend less time on the boat

Actually, just spend less time in Halong Bay.  Sure, we were wrong to pick the 2 nights on the boat, as it seems like it was more of a kayaking trip than we anticipated for.  However, our friends who went to Cat Ba island didn’t have a great experience either.

Karsts in Halong Bay Vietnam
The famous karsts of Halong Bay

Instead, we would recommend you save your money and either only do a day trip to Halong Bay from Hanoi.  If living on a junk boat is on your bucket list, then opt for a one-night/ 2 day cruise.  You will see the best of Halong Bay, without getting over-whelmed by the crowds and pollution.

Take the eco-friendly route

There are a few cruise providers that are eco-friendly.  They don’t waste food, try to reduce the amount of plastic that they use and even have clean-up efforts to make Halong Bay in Vietnam more beautiful.  Pick one of those providers!

Also, make sure to bring your own toiletries, and a reusable water bottle like the LifeStraw Go.  This will make a huge stride in trying to reduce the amount of trash and plastic that end up in Halong Bay.

Plan your timing

Although we had pretty good weather during our stay in Halong Bay, most mornings and nights were overcast and grey.  Don’t let bad weather spoil your trip, because nothing is worst than going to Halong Bay and not seeing what you came to see.

Cave in Halong Bay Vietnam
One of many caves in Halong Bay

From March to June are the best times to visit.  Low season is from June to September, so expect to get better deals, but also expect some storms.  Make sure you keep an eye out on the weather forecast for that!

October and November are high season and it will be sunny.  December is going to be cool, cloudy but dry.  While January and February are cold, foggy and drizzly, so maybe not the best time to go.

Sailing through Halong Bay Vietnam with many other boats
Sailing through Halong Bay Vietnam with many other boats

Sure, some people might then say, “You know what, the tour wasn’t great, but at least you got to go to Halong Bay!  It’s so beautiful, I can only imagine what it must be like to be sitting on the deck of the boat, taking in the beauty and serenity of this natural wonder!”

And they would be right.  Halong Bay is beautiful.  Unlike anything we have to offer here in Canada, or in many of the countries that we visited.

The view from a lookout in Halong Bay Vietnam
The view from a lookout in Halong Bay

The unfortunate truth however, is that Halong Bay is taking the same path as places like Maya Bay in the Phi Phi Islands of Thailand, Borocay Island in the Philippines, or Machu Picchu in Peru.  All of these places are limiting the amount of tourists who can visit because of the negative impacts of this mass tourism.  Some are even closed indefinitely to allow them to return to their previous splendour.

If tourists keep flocking to Halong Bay the way they have been the past years, it too may need to be shut down.  While doing so would help the area, the loss of jobs would devastate the local economy.  The fact that the amount of people visiting Vietnam in the past 3 years has doubled and that tourism accounts for a significant part of the country’s GDP should be motivation to find a sustainable solution.

Getting to Ti Top beach by longboat in Halong Bay Vietnam
Getting to Ti Top beach by longboat

Have you ever been to Halong Bay?  How was your experience?  We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.


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5 reasons to avoid Halong Bay in Vietnam. As beautiful as it is, there are tons of reasons to remove Halong Bay from your bucketlist. Wediditourway #vietnam #halongbay #travelguide #ecofriendlytravel

Top 10 churches to visit in Armenia

There are a ton of things to do in Armenia, but visiting the churches is probably a must. Here are the Top 10 churches to visit in Armenia, the first Christian nation in the world

Armenia is a country known for its churches.  It’s no surprise, since it was the first nation to accept Christianity as a state religion, all the way back in 301 AD.  It may not seem like it now, but this was quite innovative at the time!  And since the beginning, Armenian churches have played a central part in the history of the country, and the daily lives of its people.  It’s no surprise that most tours of Armenia will include quite a few stops at these impressive monasteries.

If you’re not so much into churches, that’s ok too, because Armenia has a lot more to offer as well!  But if you want to full Armenian experience, make sure you check out a few of these amazing religious sites.

The architecture

Most of the Armenian churches were built in medieval times.  The ones that were destroyed during wars and earthquakes have usually been rebuilt as per their original plan, with some modern touches.  Although the Armenian churches built in different periods have distinct features, they also have quite a few common characteristics.

All saviors church Gyumri Armenia
All Saviours church in Gyumri, Armenia

Here are some ways to spot typical Armenian churches.  Their pointed domes resemble the volcanic funnel of Greater Ararat and are attached above arched ceilings.  Often, the vertical accent of the whole building and its height exceed the length of the church.  They are almost entirely made of stone and have arched, stone ceilings.

The 10 best churches in Armenia

It’s important to note that these churches and monasteries are not presented in any order.  They all hold something unique and beautiful to discover.  Although we’re not religious, it’s hard to deny the work and dedication the people who built these churches had.  If nothing more, the churches are works of architectural art.

Khor Virap

This is probably one of the most important churches in Armenia.  Its history is also quite impressive as it is said to be the birthplace of christianity.  The story dates back to 287, when Tiridates III was put on the throne by the Romans.  His predecessor had been murdered by St Gregory’s father, but the young Gregory managed to escape to Cappadocia where he became a Christian.

Khor Virap from above Armenia
Khor Virap is probably Armenia’s most famous church

He then came back to Armenia to start converting others to the religion.  This didn’t work out too well since Tiridates threw Gregory into an underground pit where he remained for thirteen years, surrounded by snakes and rats.  You can actually go down into this pit when you visit Khor Virap.  It’s tiny enough as it is, it’s hard to imagine what it was like back in his time!

The story says that God struck the King with a terrible illness.  The King’s sister, obviously the wise one in the family, said that the best way to cure him was to release Gregory.  As a result, the King miraculously recovered and converted to Christianity, along with his court.  It was in 301 that Armenia was declared a Christian country.

Khor Virap Mount Ararat Armenia
Nestled at the foot of Mount Ararat, Khor Virap is beautiful to discover

Not only is this church beautiful, but its surroundings are as well!  Its backdrop is non other than the stunning Mount Ararat.  This is probably the best spot to see this impressive mountain.

Noravank

Noravank, about 2 hours out of Yerevan, was built in the 13th century.  It’s a great example of the ornate architecture of the period.  On the site, you will find three surviving churches, each decorated in intricate designs and religious reliefs, mainly created by Momik.  He also carved many “khachkars”, typical Armenian religious monuments that usually consist of a cross surmounting a circular symbol.

Noravank Monastery Armenia_
Noravank monastery, Armenia

The monastery is best known for its two-storey Surb Astvatsatsin (Holy Mother of God) church.  You can climb up to the second level by a narrow stone-made staircase jutting out from the face of building.  Luckily, there is a rope to help you up.

IMG_3839
The surrounding rock walls at Noravank

The church is also set in the most beautiful place.  Up on a cliffside, surrounded by tall rock walls.

Geghard

The monastery of Geghard is probably one of the most impressive in Armenia.  Most of the monuments here were built between the 4th and 13th century, and large parts were carved straight out the mountain it sits on.

Geghard monastery Armenia
Geghard Monastery dates back to the 13th century

This beautiful complex of medieval buildings is surrounded by great natural beauty, at the entrance of the Azat Valley.  With high cliffs that surround the northern side of the monastery, and a defensive wall that circles the rest.  It’s clear to see why this medieval monastery is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

What makes Geghard even more special is that the spear, which had wounded Jesus at the Crucifixion, was allegedly brought to Armenia by Apostle Jude, and stored amongst many other relics at this church.  The name “Geghard” actually means “spear”.  But don’t expect to see the spear at the church, it has since been moved to Etchmiadzin.

St Grigor Lusavorich cathedral

This is the newest of the churches on this list.  Its construction started in 1997 and was completed 4 years later, in 2001.  The Saint Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral, which is also known as the Cathedral of Yerevan is currently the world’s largest cathedral of the Armenian Apostolic Church.  It’s also the largest Armenian cathedral and is conveniently located in the central part of Yerevan, in the Kentron District.

St Grigor Lusavorich cathedral Yerevan Armenia
Saint Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral in Yerevan, Armenia

As if it wasn’t big enough, it’s also considered to be one of the largest religious buildings in the South Caucasus.  It’s also home to the relics and holy remains of Saint Gregory the Illuminator, brought from Naples, in Italy.  Make sure to go during the day, and at night.  It looks quite different when it’s lit up!

Saint Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral at night Yerevan Armenia.jpg
At night, the church is beautifully illuminated

Tatev

Tatev monastery is probably the furthest to get to in Armenia.  The route there will take about 3-4 hours from Yerevan, but it’s well worth it.  Not only is Tatev a beautiful monastery, but it has a really cool mode of transportation to get there.  The Wings of Tatev!  This is the World’s longest reversible ropeway, measuring a whopping 5,752 m.  The views from the tramway are just epic!

Tatev Monastery Armenia
Tatev Monastery viewed from the wings of Tatev, Armenia

This monastery was built in the 9th-century, on a large basalt plateau.  The monastic complex stands on the edge of a deep gorge and offers spectacular views of the mountains and valleys.

Tatev gorge Armenia
You must cross the Vorotan gorge to get to the Tatev Monastery, Armenia

Tatev played a significant role in the history as a centre of economic, political, spiritual and cultural activity.  Back in the 14th and 15th centuries, it hosted one of the most important Armenian medieval universities, contributing to the advancement of science, religion and philosophy, reproduction of books and development of miniature painting.

Today, parts of the monastery are under renovation to restore it to its past glory.  The experience of getting to Tatev, combined with the beauty of the complex and the impressive surroundings make it one of our favourites!

Etchmiadzin Armenian Apostolic Church

About 30 minutes outside of Yerevan, in the city of Vagharshapat, this cathedral is a very important landmark of the Armenian Apostolic Church.  It’s basically like the Vatican for Armenians and is considered to be one of the first and oldest cathedrals not only in Armenia, but the whole world.

Etchmiadzin Cathedral Armenia
The Etchmiadzin Armenian Apostolic Church is one of the most important churches in Armenia

The original church was built in the early 4th century by Saint Gregory the Illuminator.  We hope you guys remember who this guy is after everything we’ve mentioned about him!  It was believed that the church was built where where Christ had struck the earth with a hammer.  But after many archaeological studies, it was shown that beneath the cathedral, there is in fact, a Roman temple.

Etchmiadzin Armenian Apostolic Church Armenia
The entrance to Etchmiadzin Armenian Apostolic Church, Armenia

The shape and structure of Etchmiadzin are actually the blueprint for most Armenian churches that were built after it.  The museum of the church is quite impressive to visit as well.

Sevanavank

This is one of Armenia’s most visited churches, mainly because it’s set on the beautiful and beloved Lake Sevan.  The monastic complex of Sevanavank is set high atop the peninsula of the Lake.

Sevanavank church lake Sevan, Armenia
No trip to Lake Sevan is complete without going up to Sevanavank

Fun fact (that’s not so fun): the monastery was initially set on top of an island, but because of the artificial draining of Lake Sevan during Stalin’s era, the island turned into a peninsula.  The water levels dropped 20 meters, which is considerable (and a shame).

Lake Sevan Armenia
Lake Sevan, Armenia’s largest body of water

The church is small, but really beautiful.  It’s a short climb to get to it, but the views you get up there are really stunning!

Haghartsin

Built between the 10th and 13th centuries, Haghartsin is near Dilijan, about 2 hours outside of Yerevan.  It’s actually situated in the Dilijan national park and is a stop on the Transcaucasian Trail, a long-distance hiking route.

Hagartsin’s name actually comes from the eagles who soar above it, as it means “games of eagles”.  That’s probably why the image of this proud bird can be seen on its walls.

Haghartsin Monastery DIllijan Armenia
Haghartsin is nestled in the forest mountains near Dilijan, Armenia

Sitting atop the the canyon, Haghartsin is one of the most mysterious places in Armenia.  On the site, you will find 3 churches, St. Gregory church (11th century), St. Astvatsatsin church (1281), St. Stepanos church (1244) as well as the 13th century chapel, the tomb of Bagratids (12th century), the refectory (1248) and various premises built in the 12th & 13th centuries.

Again, the surroundings of the church make it even more beautiful to discover.  Make sure you walk around to get a full sense of how impressive this whole site is.

Churches in Artsakh

Some may argue that Artsakh is not part of Armenia, but we beg to differ.  Artsakh has been inhabited by Armenians for generations, and it was only when the maps for the post Soviet Union were drawn that this beautiful plot of land was given to Azerbaijan.  Today, the Republic of Artsakh is a de facto independent country in the South Caucasus.

If you are in Armenia, we strongly urge you to visit Artsakh.  It is very safe to go to, you just need to get a visa at the border, and you’re all set!  When you’re there, there are 2 main churches to visit.

Gandzasar monastery

Built between the 10th to 13th century monastery in the Mardakert district, welcome to Gandzasar monastery.  The monastery holds relics believed to belong to St. John the Baptist and his father St Zechariah.  It’s also the seat of the Archbishop of Artsakh appointed by the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin.

Gandzasar monastery Artsakh
The Gandzasar Monastery in Artsakh

“Gandzasar” actually means treasure mountain or hilltop treasure in Armenian.  It’s probably because it really does look like a treasure atop the hill.  The surrounding mountains and valleys are also a beautiful sight to see… just don’t make the same mistake as us and go when it’s still light out!

Ghazanchetsots

Ghazanchetsots is in Shushi (or Shusha) and is the seat of the Diocese of Artsakh.  Although the cathedral was recently rebuilt, it is quite a historic place.  They started building the cathedral in 1868 and it was consecrated 20 years later, in 1888.

Ghazanchetsots Shushi Artsakh
The Ghazanchetsots Cathedral was right across the street from our host family’s apartment in Shushi, Artsakh

During the 1920 massacre of the Armenians, it was heavily damaged and it only fell into a decline in the following decades.  Then, during the Nagorno-Karabakh War in the 1990’s, Azerbaijan used the cathedral as an armoury, knowing Armenians would never attack a church.  When the Armenians won the war, they restored to its current glory in 1998.

At 35 metres (115 ft) high, Ghazanchetsots is one of the largest Armenian churches in the world.  It’s also a beacon of hope and a beloved landmark of Shushi and Karabakh.

There are a ton of other beautiful churches to visit in Armenia.  Seriously, a ton!  From Saghmosavank, to Zvartnots, Goshavank, Vahramashen, and Sanahin, the list goes on and on!  Depending on your style of travel and what you like to see, you can easily cross a few of these off your bucketlist, as most are easy to get to.

Have you been to Armenia?  What were your favourite churches to see? Let us know in the comments.


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Top 10 churches to visit in Armenia. There are a ton of them, but these ones were particularly beautiful and striking to us. Armenia was the first Christian nation so it's no surprise that there are so many churches to visit.   www.wediditourway.com

8 amazing day trips from Yerevan

Armenia has a ton to offer.  From quaint little villages, to hikes, local markets and festivals, and so much more.  Here are the best day trips to do from Yerevan, Armenia’s capital.

Armenia has a ton of things to offer.  From quaint little villages, to hikes, local markets and festivals, and so much more.  A good 2 weeks are needed to fully enjoy the beauty of the country, but if you’re tight on time, here are some of the best day-trips to do from Yerevan, Armenia’s capital.

Some might say that the best things to see in Armenia are the churches.  There is also a ton to do here that is not limited to churches, so get out there and explore it all!

Getting around

Depending on the size of your group, there are many ways to do these excursions.  You can either go through different tour companies and opt for private or group tours.  You can rent a car and drive yourself.  You can grab a GG in town, asking the driver for a set cost before leaving.  You can grab shared taxis or marchutkas to the villages.

Or finally, you can hitchhike.  We were told it’s easy to get around this way in Armenia, so you can always try that if you’re feeling adventurous!  Just be warned, most of the time, your ride will offer you a meal and drinks at their place before dropping you off at your final destination!

Lake Sevan

Lake Sevan is Armenia’s largest body of water, and it is beautiful.  Head there in the morning to take full advantage of its beauty.  The route should take you about 45 minutes to an hour.

Lake Sevan Armenia
The beautiful Lake Sevan, Armenia

Once there, you can climb up the peninsula and visit Sevanavank, the beautiful church at the top of it.  Then, head down to the shore and enjoy a walk on the beach.  If you love swimming in cold water, jump on in!

Sevanavank church lake Sevan, Armenia
Sevanavank monastery on the shores of Lake Sevan, Armenia

You can either prepare your own BBQ khorovats meal on the beach, check out one of the many restaurants on its shores, or head back on the road and stop by Semoi Mot to have the famous fish there.

Dilijan

Dilijan is named the Switzerland of Armenia, and rightfully so.  Nestled in the mountains, this city is just beautiful!  The trip there should take you 1.5 to 2 hours.  If you leave early enough, and depending on what you want to do, you can fit Lake Sevan and Dilijan in one day trip.

Wediditourway Parz Lake Dilijan national park Armenia
Beware of the killer ducks at Parz Lake in the Dilijan National Park, Armenia

Dilijan has many beautiful things to do.  If you love hiking, you have many routes there, including the TransCaucausus Trail, the Dilijan National Park and many more.  There is a beautiful hike that will take you to the quaint Parz Lake.

You can also visit the Tufenkian hotel, where they have recreated a beautiful village with 19th century architecture.  They have even included intricately carved balconies, displaying the region’s historical love for fine woodwork.

CouplePIctureDilijanArmenia
Having fun taking our pics at the Tufenkian hotel in Dilijan, Armenia

For your meal, we recommend Kchuch, a delightful restaurant where you can have an array of wood oven cooked meals.  Everything we had was delicious, but the mushroom pizza/flatbread took the cake for us.  For your coffee fix, we recommend Caffeine, a beautiful little microroastery.

Garni, Geghard, Tsaghgazor

This trip is an awesome one.  This day trip is one of our favourites.  Garni is about 30 minutes away from Yerevan, Geghard, another 30 from there, and Tsaghgazor is another 30 from there.

Garni temple Armenia
Temple of Garni, the only standing Greco-Roman colonnaded building in Armenia and the former Soviet Union

Garni is home to an old pagan temple.  It was thought to be built in the first century AD, as a temple dedicated to the sun god Mihr.  It’s really a unique site in Armenia, not only because of its structure, but also because of its beautiful setting at the top of a cliff, surrounded by mountains.

Geghard monastery Armenia
Geghard Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kotayk province of Armenia

Geghard is one of the most spectacular monasteries in Armenia.  It’s a true architectural beauty!  The name “Geghard” means “spear”, as it is thought that the spear, which had wounded Jesus at the Crucifixion, was allegedly brought to Armenia by Apostle Jude, and stored here amongst many other relics.  What makes Geghard even more special is the fact that it is partially carved out of the adjacent mountain and its surrounded by cliffs.

Ski lift at Tsaghkadzor Armenia
Take the ski lift at the Tsaghkadzor ski resort to get a breathtaking view of the Kotayk Province of Armenia

Finally, make sure you stop by Tsaghkadzor, a spa town and one of the most popular health resorts in Armenia.  You can either indulge in one of the many different spas there, or make your way up the mountain on the ski lift.  Up there, you have beautiful views of the mountains and valleys.  A gorgeous spot!

Letters Monument, Amberd & Byurakan Observatory

This little trip will only take you a few hours, but it’s well worth it.  If you can, try doing it later in the afternoon so you can finish at the Observatory to see some stars.

Letters Monument Armenia
Find your initials at the Letters Monument in Artashavan, Armenia

First stop is the Letters Monument that was built in 2005, when the Armenian alphabet celebrated its 1600th birthday.  To commemorate the important date, a gift of 39 giant Armenian letters carved out of stone were erected near the final resting place of Mesrop Mashtots, who created the alphabet.

The Letters Monument is set against the beautiful backdrop of Mt. Aragats, the highest peak in Armenia.  This is a fun little stop to make, that shouldn’t take too long.  Make sure you find the letters of your name!

Amberd fortress Armenia
Amberd fortress, built in the 7th century in the province of Aragatsotn, Armenia.

Next, make your way to Amberd, the “cloud fortress” or fortress in the clouds.  This is a beautiful 7th century fortress overlooking a gorge on the cliffside of the mountains.  There, you will also find the 11th century Vahramashen Church, and a bath house dating between the 10th and 11th centuries.

This whole complex is located on the slopes of Mount Aragats, right where the Arkashen and Amberd rivers run.  The setting here is just beautiful, especially in the fall, when the leaves start changing colours.

Finally, check out Byurakan  Astrophysical  Observatory (or BAO) on a clear night.  The observatory was founded in 1946, and located on the slope of the mountain Aragatz.  The BAO focused its studies mainly on the instability phenomena taking place in the Universe.  You can contact the Observatory and set up a tour.  Entrance is just 1,000 dram (roughly $2USD).  But make sure you call before to confirm your tour, because it does depend on the weather.

Khor Virap, Areni Caves, Noravank

Get ready to step back in time on this tour.  The furthest point of this trip is about 2.5 hours away from Yerevan, so with long stops, this will be a full day of exploration.

Khor Virap is probably the most famous monastery in Armenia.  Not only does it offer beautiful views of Mount Ararat, but it’s also the birthplace of christianity in Armenia.  They say that Gregory the Illuminator was imprisoned in a pit here for 13 years by King Tiridates III of Armenia.

Khor Virap Mount Ararat Armenia
Khor Virap at the steps of Mount Ararat, Armenia

You can actually visit the pit where he was said to spent these years, surrounded by snakes and rats.  He is said to have survived by the grace of God and the help of the king’s sister.  When he got out, he became the religious advisor to the king, and in 301, Armenia was the first country in the world to be declared a Christian nation.  This is why Khor Virap is one of the most visited pilgrimage sites in Armenia.

Khor Virap from above Armenia
Khor Virap, said to have imprisoned Saint Gregory the Illuminator for 13 years, on the plains of Ararat, Armenia

Next, make your way to Areni, in Vayots Dzor.  This region is known for the production of wine, not only today, but centuries ago as well.  In 2007, the earliest known winery in the world was said to be found at the Areni-1 cave complex.  It was estimated to be 6100-years-old.  In 2008, the world’s oldest leather shoe was found.  Then in 2011, that the discovery of a straw skirt dating to 3,900 years BCE was reported.  It’s quite an impressive site to see.

Areni winery Armenia
Armenia is said to be the first place in the world to produce wine, if you ask an Armenian!

In the same region, you can go do some wine tastings.  We recommend you skip the Areni winery, where the lines are long and the wine is not so great.  Instead, head to Momik’s WineCube for some amazing wine in a lovely setting.  You can also opt to stop here after you’ve visited all the sites, all depending on what time it is, and how hungry you are… if you’re like us, that’s all the time!

Noravank Monastery Armenia_
The Noravank monastery, near the town of Yeghegnadzor, Armenia

Another awesome monastery to see that’s a few kilometres from the Areni-1 cave is Noravank.  This is a 13th-century monastery is known for its two-storey Surb Astvatsatsin church.  You can climb up to the second level by the narrow stone-made staircase jutting out from the face of building.  Luckily, there is a rope to help you up.  The setting of this monastery is gorgeous!  It’s in a narrow gorge forged by the Amaghu River.  The gorge is known for its tall, sheer, brick-red cliffs.  It’s a beautiful place.

Gyumri

There are many ways to get to Gyumri, but the most enjoyable and easy one is to take the new electric train.  This train only runs on weekends for now (including Friday).  From the main station in Yerevan, grab the 10am train to Gyumri.  Tickets cost 2,500 dram, or about $5 USD.  You’ll get there around noon.

Gyumri train station Armenia
Another example of why you should always look up. The chandelier at the Gyumri train station, Armenia

Gyumri is a beautiful city that is just building itself back after the 1988 earthquake.  It used to be the cultural centre of the country and strives to regain that title today.  Here, you can walk around Vartanants square, explore the beautiful Holy Saviour’s Church and the black fort.  There is also a market street by the church where you can by delicious local fare.

All saviors church Gyumri Armenia
Holy Saviour’s Church in Gyumri, Armenia

Right off the main square, there are a few beautiful pedestrian streets to stroll on.  Lined with bakeries, restaurants and shops, they are perfect to explore on a day trip.  And, if you have time to spare, check out Central Park, and the old soviet amusement park.  It’s a real trip back in time!

Gyumri Armenia
Gyumri was rocked by the 1988 earthquake, and though the effects still show today, the city feels rejuvenated!

If music or technology are your thing, then you can also check out the Tumo Center for Creative Technologies.  It offers free after-school education to local youth in areas such as music, robotics, computer programming, and a variety of other non-classical educational subjects.

Make sure you make it back to the train station before 5pm, to grab the train back to Yerevan.  You can also spend a night in Gyumri and take more time to explore the city.

Mount Aragats

Mount Aragats is Armenia’s highest peak, at 4,090 m.  It’s actually a four-peaked volcano massif that you can climb with the help of a tour guide.  The best time to hike this peak is between June and October, as the peak gets snowy and difficult.

If hiking is not your thing, you can drive up to Kari Lake and relax at the hotel and restaurant there.  During colder months, the restaurant is known for its khash soup.  This is a traditional Armenian soup made of cow hoof.  It’s eaten with copious amounts of garlic, lemon, lavash bread and vodka!

Etchmiadzin & Zvartnots temple

The route to Etchmiadzin is about 30-45 minutes away from Yerevan.  You can stop at Zvartnots on the way there or back.

Etchmiadzin Cathedral Armenia
Etchmiadzin Cathedral is like the Vatican for Armenians

It’s considered the mother church of the Armenian Apostolic Church.  According to many scholars, it’s the first cathedral built in ancient Armenia, in the early 4th century.  It’s considered to be the oldest cathedral in the world as well.  In 2000, it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Zvartnots Cathedral, on the other hand, is a 7th-century cathedral.  Although it is now in ruins, it is a beautiful site to see.  It was only at the start of the 20th century that the ruins of Zvartnots were uncovered.  They discovered the foundations of the cathedral as well as the remains of the Catholicos palace and a winery.  After more excavations, it was revealed that Zvartnots stood on structures that dated back to 680 BC.

Both sites are quite close by and really beautiful to visit. Make sure you head out on a sunny day.

Longer trips

Some people may include these stops as part of a day trip, but they are quite far, so it makes for a really long day.  We’re talking about 12-14 hours.  You can do these separately or together, it’s totally up to you.  Just know that it is quite a journey!

Karahunj

Located on the route to Tatev, Karahunj, or Zorats Karer, is said to be the oldest astronomical observatory in the world!  This place is really magic.  Unlike Stonehenge which is blocked off, you can explore Karahunj freely.

Karahunj astronimical observatory Armenia

The site is made of six different parts, and a total of 223 stones of which 80 have a circular holes.  Studies showed that 17 of the stones were for observing sunrises or sunsets at the solstices and equinoxes, and 14 for the lunar extremes.

Karahunj stone Armenia
Many of the stones at Karahunj have these circular holes, used for viewing astrological phenomenons

This place is one of the coolest we’ve seen and you can really feel the energy when you’re there.  It’s a magical spot that is well-worth the visit.

Tatev

The route to Tatev will take about 3-4 hours from Yerevan.  Not only is Tatev a beautiful monastery, but it has a really cool mode of transportation to get there.  The Wings of Tatev!  This is the World’s longest reversible ropeway, measuring a whopping 5,752 m.  The views from the tramway are just epic!

Tatev Monastery Armenia
The Tatev monastery as seen from the Wings of Tatev, Armenia

The monastery, although under construction, is still a beautiful sight to behold.  Set on the edge of a cliff, it’s breathtaking.  And if you don’t want to see the church, that’s ok too!  You can go hiking in the area, do some wine-tasting, or even go paragliding!

Kndzoresk

Past Goris, Kndzoresk will take you 4-4.5 hours to get to.  Access to this site is not for the faint.  The swinging bridge to get here swings and bounces quite a lot.  But it’s quite awesome to see what’s on the other side.

Khndzoresk suspension bridge Armenia

Khndzoresk is a village and rural community in the South-East of Armenia, right by Goris.  It’s an old village built into the side of the mountains.  With caves and ruins for you to explore, it’s such a cool place.  Especially since it was inhabited until the 1950’s.

Yerevan is a great place to do these day trips from.  If you want to, you can also visit these spots on a continuous route as part of a 2-week Armenia road trip.  The possibilities are really endless.

What do you prefer? Long road trips or day trips from a home-base?  We like to have the option of doing either, mainly because we love road trips!


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8 amazing day trips from Yerevan, Armenia's capital.  From churches, monasteries, astronomical sites, temples, Lake Sevan and so much more.  Here are all the amazing sites you can visit right from Yerevan.   www.wediditourway.com

 

15 things to do in Armenia that are not churches

Armenia is an ancient country, with tons to see and do. Most concentrate on the churches, but we found 15 awesome things that are not churches

Armenia!  This beautiful old country, full of history and wonder… and churches!  Not many people know where Armenia is, or can point to it on a map.  Things are slowly changing for this country as more and more people are starting to explore the Caucasus and adding Armenia to their list.  And we can’t blame them.  Armenia is awesome!

Being the first country in the world to accept Christianity as a state religion in AD 301, it’s no surprise that most famous sites here are churches.  Impressive, we know, but there is so much more to this magical place than see the monasteries!  So here are the top 15 things to see and do in Armenia that are not churches.

Karahunj astronomical observatory

Welcome to what is suspected to be the oldest astronomical observatory in the world!  Before Stonehenge, there was Karahunj, or Zorats Karer.  It’s a prehistoric archaeological site near the town of Sisian.  As its name indicates, these are Speaking Stones or Standing Stones.

Karahunj astronimical observatory Armenia
The impressive sight of Karahunj, near Sisian, Armenia

The site is made of six different parts: the central circle, the north arm, the south arm, North-East alley, the chord (crossing the circle) and separate standing stones.  There are a total of 223 stones of which 80 have a circular holes.  After many studies, it was found that 17 of the stones were associated with observations of sunrise or sunset at the solstices and equinoxes, and 14 with the lunar extremes.

There is so much history and mystic coolness associated with this place.  It’s almost like you can feel the energy when you’re there.  We highly recommend you stop by on your way to Tatev.

Wings of Tatev

Ok, this one is kind of part of a church, but not really!  The Wings of Tatev are the record holder for the World’s longest reversible ropeway, at 5,752 m.  With epic views over the valley, this ropeway will take you to the beautiful Tatev Monastery.  If you don’t want to see the church, that’s ok too!  You can go hiking in the area, do some wine-tasting, or even go paragliding!

Tatev gorge Armenia
The epic view from the platform of the Wings of Tatev, Armenia

Khndzoresk

Access to this site requires a strong heart.  The swinging bridge to get to the caves is not for the faint.  Be warned that this guy swings and bounces quite a lot.  But if you can get across, it’s quite awesome!

Khndzoresk is a village and rural community in the South-East of Armenia, right by Goris.  There, you have an amazing view of the steep slopes of Khor Dzor (Deep Gorge).

Khndzoresk is an old village that has been built into the side of the mountains.  With caves and ruins still up for you to explore, it’s quite a site.  It’s such a cool place and well worth the detour if you go to Tatev, Goris or Artsakh.  It was inhabited until the 1950’s.  How freakin’ cool!

The climb down to the bridge is long (even longer on the way up).  You can take a taxi to get back to the main road, though if you’re slightly fit, you don’t need to.  The steps there make it a pretty easy hike.

Explore Armenia’s traditions on a tour

Armenia is a beautiful country full of natural riches and traditions.  We had a great time doing various tours of the some of the countries exports.  The typical tour is a wine tasting.  The Areni region is known for producing great wines, so find a wine you like and go do a wine tasting at their vineyards.  If wine is not your thing, then you can head to the Ararat brandy distillery and get a crash course in the tradition of brandy making in Armenia.

Megerian carpet company music phonograph
The beautiful rugs at Megerian Carpet factory, in Yerevan, Armenia

Next, you have the traditional carpet making tour.  We had a great time exploring the Megerian Carpet factory near Yerevan.  We learned how they make these carpets with the traditional Armenian double knot, visited their museum and warehouse, and so much more.  It was super interesting.

And finally, for those who love natural and organic cosmetic products, you can tour the beautiful Nairian lab and production facility.  We had a wonderful time seeing what plants and herbs are used to make their natural products.  They even have a shop where you can try and buy these.

Shaki waterfalls

This little waterfall is just magic.  You need to hike a short 5 minutes to get to it, but it is gorgeous.  Lush and abundant, it’s somewhat surprising to find this waterfall in an arid Armenia.  But there it is, tucked in a beautiful natural setting, on your way to Tatev.

Shaki waterfall Armenia
The beautiful Shaki waterfalls in Armenia

There are plenty of tables and places to hang out before getting to the waterfall, so do as the locals do and set up a little BBQ.  It’s the perfect setting to take in the surrounding beauty.  Unlike the locals, pick up your trash when you leave.  This place is too beautiful not to care for it.

Hike the trails

Armenia is slowly getting noticed for its amazing hiking trails.  Through valleys, mountains and beautiful scenery, there are so many trails that run deep through this country.

Dilijan khatchkar Armenia
The beautiful hikes in Dilijan, where the Transcaucasian Trail passes

Whether you want to do multi-day hikes, a loop circuit or get from point A to B, there is something for everyone.  For those looking for a challenge, you can hike up Mount Aragats or Mount Aghzahad.  There are beautiful lush forest hikes in the Dilijan National Park, what we call the “Switzerland of Armenia”.  You can even hike to different countries on the Transcaucasian Trail.  To find the best hikes, check out HikeArmenia’s website.

Mt. Ara Armenia
Mt. Ara, one of the many mountain hikes you can do in Armenia

Eat. A lot.

In case you didn’t know, the food in Armenia is just delicious.  Most of the produce is grown locally, and cooked with care.  In fact, cooking and food are an important part of Armenian culture.  If you know any Armenians, even if they are not living in Armenia, chances are, every time you see them, they try to offer you insane amounts of food to eat.  Yeah, we all have that in common!

So if you want a good glimpse the beautiful and generous culture of this country, we highly recommend you eat as much as you can.  Prices are low, and the food is so delicious!

Here are some of our favourite dishes.  Obviously, we prioritize the vegetarian ones (or versions):

  • Lavash:  This traditional Armenian bread is a staple of every meal. Thin and cooked in a tonir (clay barrel).
  • Eggplant rolls:  Grilled eggplant, rolled with a mix of cheese, dill and walnuts, sprinkled with pomegranate. Yum!
  • Vegetarian manti:  Manti is a traditional Armenian dumpling (ish), served with broth and yogurt.  They have the non-vegetarian version too.
  • Cheese platter:  Simple, but the locals cheese here are amazing. Derek’s new favourite is Lori cheese, the perfect mix of squeaky and salty.
  • Garden salad:  Another simple dish, but when the veggies are this fresh, it’s delicious!
  • Lahmajoon: Also known as Armenian pizza. It’s a thin dough covered in meat.  Some places have the vegetarian lahmajoon, if not, go for the za’tar!
  • Khorovats:  Basically, this means BBQ.  The veggies, the meats, it’s all delicious!
  • Gata:  A typical Armenian coffee cake.  Each family and city makes it a certain way.  Regardless of how it’s made, it’s delicious, especially when it’s fresh out the oven!
  • Surjukh:  Known as Armenian Snickers, this dessert is a string of walnuts dipped into a mixture of fruit juices and spices, then dried.  You’ll find them sold at groceries, on the side of the highway, and at major tourist sites.

Take in the art

Armenians have always been a very artistic culture.  It’s no surprise that we dance, sing and play music, every chance we get!  There are art museums, galleries, statues and street art around every corner of major cities.  At most tourist sites, you will find a local painter selling his art, or a musician playing traditional Armenian songs.

PaintersVernissageYerevanArmenia
Find beautiful paintings at the Painter’s vernissage in Yerevan

In Yerevan, you are spoiled.  You can find any type of gallery, museum or handcraft.  If you want to get traditional pieces, ranging from household goods, to jewellery, painting to instruments and so much more, head to Vernissage or the Painters’ vernissage.

Walking around the streets, you’ll also find statues on almost every street in Yerevan.  You can take in the beautiful art installations at Cascade.  Even Cascade itself is a beautiful piece of art, with stunning views of Ararat!  If you’re lucky, you may spot some cool street art around the city too.

Musical nights

Whether you are into the ballet, the opera or musical performances, you can always find tons going on, especially in Yerevan.  From the National troupes, to local musicians, from jazz shows to traditional Armenian classics and funky rock/Armenian fusion, there are shows going on nightly in certain bars around the city, at the National Opera or in coffeeshops.

Opera Yerevan Armenia
Home to musical performance and ballet, Opera in Yerevan, Armenia

Honour the past at Tsitsernakaberd

Armenia has quite a bloody past.  Although it is working hard to move past it, it’s still important to recognize what happened over 100 years ago.  That’s why, no tour of Armenia would be complete without visiting Tsitsernakaberd, the Armenian Genocide memorial complex.   This is Armenia’s official memorial dedicated to the victims of the Armenian Genocide of 1915.  The monument was built in 1967, which is quite rare to see from the strict Soviet regime, and a trip there is quite moving.

Tsitesnagerb Yerevan Armenia
The stele and slabs of Tsitsernakaberd

The monument is made of 2 structures.  First, there is a 44-meter stele that symbolizes the national rebirth of Armenians.  Then, you have 12 slabs placed in a circle to represent the 12 provinces lost in present-day Turkey.  At the centre of this circle, there is an eternal flame dedicated to the 1.5 million people killed during the Armenian Genocide.

Eternal flame at tsitesnagerb Yerevan Armenia
The eternal flame, in the heart of Tsitsernakaberd

On the same hill, you have the genocide museum.  It is a brutal recounting of the atrocities that the Armenian people endured during the Genocide.  It is a stark reminder of the cruelty humans are capable of, and moreover, it’s a warning sign to ensure no such atrocities are ever committed again.

Byurakan astronomical observatory

Byurakan  Astrophysical  Observatory (or BAO) was founded in 1946.  Located on the slope of the mountain Aragatz, Armenia’s highest peak, the observatory focused its studies mainly on the instability phenomena taking place in the Universe.  Since its opening, the observatory has discovered special star clusters – stellar associations (1947), more than 1,000 flare stars, dozens of Supernovae, hundreds of Herbig-Haro objects and cometary nebulae, and hundreds of galaxies.  However, after the breakup of the Soviet Union, the observatory fell into hard times.

It still runs today, and it’s possible for you to visit the observatory on clear nights.  It’s quite an experience to see the telescopes, get a sense of how things work and gaze at our beautiful galaxy.  A must for any astronomy fans!

Soviet amusement parks

In most major cities, mainly Yerevan and Gyumri, you will find these old soviet amusement parks.  They are a mix of scary, thrilling and creepy!  But they are kind of fun to check out, if only to wonder how these rides are still operating, and if they’re still up to code!

Certain rules are stricter than in other parks, like you can’t bump the bumper cars, but you’re sure to have some fun.  If you want a real thrill, we suggest heading up the ferris wheel, that creaks and sways with the wind, or with the slightest movement!

Another cool timepiece left from the soviet era is the children’s railway station in Yerevan.  The station itself looks like a castle out of a fairytale.  The trains and locomotives sitting in the back yard are also pretty cool.  If you’re lucky, you may just get there when the trains are operating and you can go for a little ride with the kids.

Chill by the water

Armenia is a very arid and mountainous country, but there are some places you can relax by the water.  Being a landlocked country, don’t expect to see any oceanic beaches, but you will find some beautiful lakes!

First is the beautiful Parz Lake.  When you come to Armenia, you have to visit Dilijan.  Nestled in the mountains covered with lush forest, Dilijan is truly a unique place.  Your trip there would not be complete without driving (or hiking) through the Dilijan national park, making your way to Lake Parz.  There, you will find a lovely restaurant, a floating restaurant, as well as a ropes course, for those who need more action.

Wediditourway Parz Lake Dilijan national park Armenia
The beautiful Parz Lake with its changing leaves, Dilijan, Armenia

Then, you have the famous Lake Sevan.  This is the largest body of water in Armenia.  Sure, there’s a monastery at the top of the peninsula, but that’s not what we’re here for today!  There are tons of cafes, restaurants and bars around the lake.  If not, you can do as the locals and set up camp by the shores, make your own BBQ and take in the beauty of this massive lake.  If you’re brave enough, you can also jump in, but be warned, because the water is always cold!

Lake Sevan Armenia
Lake Sevan, Armenia’s largest body of water

Finally, there is Kari Lake, at Mount Aragats.  This lake is by a hotel and restaurant, renown for serving khash, a traditional Armenian soup made of cow hoof.  The lake is also the starting point for hiking Mount Aragats.  It’s a beautiful lake, and if you don’t want to hike all the way up to the peaks of the mountain, you can go until the top of the nearby crater.

Go fortress hunting

There are a ton of fortresses around Armenia, all quite old and full of history!  Luckily, the main ones are near Yerevan.

The first is Erebuni fortress, located just outside the city centre.  Some also call it Arin Berd.  It is an Urartian fortified city and one of many fortresses built along the northern Urartian border, dating back to 782 BC.  This place used to be one of the most important political, economic and cultural centres of the vast old kingdom.

Next, you have Amberd fortress, which literally translates to “Cloud fortress” or Fortress in the clouds.  This 7th century fortress is located on the slopes of Mount Aragats, right where the Arkashen and Amberd rivers run.  It’s a beautiful fortress, overlooking a gorge on the cliffside of the mountains.

Amberd fortress Armenia
Amberd fortress in Armenia

Finally, you have Smbataberd, a 5th century fortress located between the villages of Artabuynk and Yeghegis in the Vayots Dzor.  You will notice that Smbataberd was built in a very advantageous position.  It’s on the southern end of a ridge, guarded by steep cliffs on three of its sides. Its large ramparts with its towers are still relatively intact on the exterior, making it quite a site to see.

Celebrate

If there’s one thing Armenians know how to do well (ok, it’s one of the many things they do well), it’s party.  You already know they love to sing and dance, well, they also like to celebrate while they’re doing that!  During our 7 weeks in Armenia, we saw fireworks at least 4 times.  That’s almost every other week!  For the best parties, be sure to be in Yerevan.


During national celebrations, the city’s streets shut down, becoming pedestrian walkways.  There are concerts, shows and kiosks all around the capital, all for free.  Street performers, bands, face painting, and of course, fireworks!  Expect to have a ton of fun during these days!

Not only are national holidays cause for celebration, but you will find tons of bars, clubs and wine bars where you can get the party started any day of the week.  If you want to experience the real Armenian joie-de-vivre, we highly recommend you head out for a night on the town!

Although the history of Armenia is very rich, and that churches are an intricate part of it, there is much more to the country than some of what the traditional tours offer.  These churches and monasteries are beautiful, and true architectural wonders, having stood through wars, earthquakes and the tests of time.  But if you want to truly discover all the beauty of this ancient country, we recommend going off the beaten path and seeing the other beauties it offers.


We put a lot of time and effort into the content we create.  Please like, comment and share, every action on your part helps us out tremendously and is very much appreciated.

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Discover the 15 top things to do in Armenia that are not churches. From hikes, food, arts and so much more.  www.wediditourway.com

Armenian carpets – thousands of years in the making

The tradition of making rugs in Armenia dates back to pre-Christian times, nearly 30 centuries ago. The Megerian Carpet Company showed us just how it is done. Come see for yourselves!

We live in a world of products largely made in China, by people in conditions we can’t even fathom.  Or by machines that are quickly killing manufacturing jobs around the globe.  So when we were invited to the Megerian Carpet Company‘s factory in Yerevan, Armenia, we were really excited.  It was with great pride that they shared with us the history and beauty of their company.

For over 100 years, the Megerian family, originally from Armenia and now living in New York City, have been producing unique, handmade rugs and carpets.  They are made from local wool, and dyed with local Armenian ingredients.  That is why they last for centuries.

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Natural dyes sourced in Armenia

The tradition of making rugs in Armenia dates back to pre-Christian times, nearly 30 centuries ago.  We were taught that Armenian rugs can be identified by their unique Armenian double knots.

They even had one of their workers show Carine how it is done.  They told her that all Armenian women should know how to weave this special knot before they get married, something I wish I had known 3 plus years ago!

She couldn’t quite keep up the pace so, needless to say, she won’t be quitting her day job anytime soon… oh wait, she doesn’t have a day job!

They showed and told us a few things that really blew our minds.  Most of their work is done with sheep’s wool.  Each square metre of carpet has 160,000 Armenian double knots.  It takes them between 35-40 days to weave a small rug, and between 6 to 9 months for larger rugs.  They make some rugs that are 100-square metres, so just imagine how long those must take!

They also make rugs from silk, which can have up to 1 million double knots per square metre!  How crazy is that.

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A special carpet with an amazing story

As they brought us through their rug museum, we were shown the rug pictured above.  The story behind it was simply amazing.  Made over 160 years ago in Armenia, you can see in the picture that it was ripped in half down the middle.  At the time of the Armenian genocide a mother ripped in two, wrapping each of her two daughters in it.

They were split up in the chaos that was the genocide.  The mother’s wish was that one day, her daughters be reunited.  60 years later, they finally were, and the rug was stitched back together.

The Megerian carpet company weaved a handful of rugs commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.  They gifted them to prominent figures such as Pope Francis, Serj Tankian of System of a Down and the late Charles Aznavour.

They even have a reception area where they host weddings and special events.  They also have a restaurant that can feed hundreds of the visitors who come to their facilities, like we did.

We were blown away by our tour of the Megerian Carpet Company, their history, their craftsmanship, their dedication, and of course their beauty.  But don’t just take our word, take a look for yourself!


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Your ultimate city guide to Langkawi, Malaysia

Tips, tricks and recommendations to make the best of your time in Langkawi, Malaysia. What to do, where to stay, where to eat and everything else to enjoy this island in Malaysia.

Our time in Langkawi was unlike anything we have done so far.  For the first time during this trip, we stayed put for a whole month.  No running around, less crazy exploration. We set ourselves down in the middle of some rice paddy fields, got ourselves a routine with our Workaway, and loved the simple and relaxing island life.

You can enjoy Langkawi and do most of what there is in 3 days, but if you really want to disconnect and immerse yourself in the sweet island life, then give yourself a good week.

Things to know

Langkawi is a predominantly Muslim island, so just be respectful of the locals with how you dress and how you address them.  You shouldn’t touch someone of the opposite sex.  And easy on the PDA when you are around them.

Also important to note that there aren’t many ATMs on the island.  The main ones are at the airport and in malls.  Not many places accept cards, so make sure you always have money on you.  But don’t worry, the ATMs don’t charge fees here.  Win!

Getting around

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The best and easiest way to get around Langkawi is by scooter.

There is no public transportation on the island so the best thing to do is to rent a car or a scooter.  We had the joy of driving around on a scooter the whole time we were here, and can say that it’s quite safe and easy.  Just make you you always carry your license and helmet with you as police road blocks are quite frequent.

Another easy and quick way to get around is through Grab.  Make sure you download the app before getting there.  You can easily get someone to come pick you up and drop you off and it’s super cheap.

Things to do

This island offers quite a few things to do, from fun activities to lazy beaches. There is something for everyone and every budget.

Beaches

There are 3 main beaches on the island, though you will find other small ones too.

Cenang

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Cenang beach on a beautiful afternoon

This is the main tourist beach, where you will find all the bars and restaurants.  You also have tons of resorts on this stretch of beach.  You can also find any water sport that you may be interested doing on Cenang beach.

The sand is white but very hard and full of shells.  The water is nice, but clarity depends on the number of boats running around and if it rained that night.  You can rent long chairs to lounge on or do a ton of activities here, but those aren’t free.

Tanjang Rhu

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Go all the way to the end of the road to find an empty Tanjang Rhu beach

This is where you will find the luxury resorts like the Four Seasons.  The beach is fairly secluded as it’s in a more quiet part of the island.  The best place to enjoy it is all the way at the end of the strip, near where the mangrove tours leave.  There, you have a few local restaurants and shops.  Expect clear waters, calm seas and beautiful sunsets.

Skull beach (Pantai Tengkorak)

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Our favourite beach in Langkawi, Skull Beach

This was our favorite beach on the island.  Soft white sand, clear blue waters and more importantly, barely anyone around.  The first time we went there, there were only a handful of locals.  The next times, there was barely anyone else there.

The entrance for this beach is a little odd: There are a few huts and cottages around and the main area around it is gated, but rest assured you can go and enjoy the best beach on the island.

Other beaches

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We found this stone lighthouse near Pantai Kok

There are a few other beaches too, but when we find one we like, we just stick to it.  You can do the same!

  • Pantai Kok is north of Cenang beach.  It’s small and in the lagoon with tons of boats around, but it’s quiet and lovely.  For an added photo-op, there’s a cute stone lighthouse around the bend from the beach.
  • Pantai Tengah is just around the cliff from Cenang beach.  It’s quieter, smaller, but offers better sand.
  • And finally, Black Sand Beach (Pantai Pasir Hitam), 4 km southwest of Tanjang Rhu, is a stretch of black sand that looks amazing at sunset!

Dash Resort

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Dash’s infinity pool overlooks Pantai Tangah beach

Ok maybe Dash resort is not a beach, but it has a beautiful pool!  It’s quite different than anything else you’ll find on the island, so it’s pretty cool.  If you want to lounge around a beautiful resort pool, Dash is the place.  All you need to do to have access is to order food, or a drink, then the place is all yours!  Ok, you might have to share the pool with others, but each time we went, the crowds were pretty small.

The theme at Dash is “down the rabbit hole”, a theme inspired by Alice in Wonderland.  You will find statues, paintings, and all other kinds of art from the iconic children’s story.

You can even head down to a nice white sand beach, Pantai Tangah.  This beach is quieter than Cenang, and has nicer sand, so win-win if you ask us.

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Dash’s “down the rabbit hole” theme from Alice in Wonderland is out of this world

Waterfalls

The 3 main waterfalls to see on the island are the 7 Wells,  Air Terjun Temurun and the Durian Perangin waterfalls.  As you can imagine, the best time to see these waterfalls is during the rainy season, as they are barely alive during the dry season.  It was only the start of the rainy season when we were in Langkawi, so the falls were not as active.  Entrance to all these falls are free.

7 Wells Waterfalls (Telaga Tujuh)

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Usually, there is a lot more water flowing down the 7 Wells waterfall

Situated near the Cable Car (you can see them from there), these falls are actually seven natural pools that are connected and fed by seven separate waterfalls in Mount Mat Cincang.  To get to the wells and the observation deck, you will need to hike up some 690 steep steps, or about 10 minutes.  But be warned, it’s a hot and sweaty trek.  Is it worth it?  Yeah, after all, these waterfalls are said to be Langkawi’s most wonderful natural attraction… during the rainy season!  They were barely full when we were there!

Locals believe that the Telaga Tujuh Waterfalls are home to fairies, but it’s probably due to the fact that the nature around the falls is so lush and beautiful!  If the heat doesn’t get to you, you can climb to the top of the falls, past huge rocks and through the seven pools.  It will take you around 45 minutes, but you’ll be sure to spot plenty of birds and animals.  There are no bins along the way, so be sure to take your trash back home with you.

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This contraption above us is a viewing platform, where you can see the bottom portion of the 7 wells waterfall

After your hike, you can cool off at the pool that’s situated at the bottom of the 7 Wells. Many locals go to swim there, so it may be uncomfortable for some women as they do tend to stare a little too long for my liking.

If you’re still looking for more to do there, you also have tons of activities at the foot of the hills, like ziplining through the forest.  Make an day out of it and have some fun. These waterfalls are also a short drive from the cable car and Skull beach.

Getting here:  As with everything around the island, you will need to get here by your own means (scooter, car or Grab).  Just put the name of the falls in your GPS and it will lead you there.  If not, here is a handy link on Google Maps.

Air Tenjun Temurun

These waterfalls are in the Mat Cincang Nature Park of Datai.  A perfect place to cool down with refreshing waters coming down from the mountains.  The cascade down is about a 30 metre drop, with a nice pool below where you can swim.  Because the rainy season had barely started during our stay, we skipped these falls.  They are only full after the rain, if not, expect more of a trickle than a waterfall.

Getting here:  Same as for the other falls, just put it into your GPS or find them here.

Durian Perangin

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One of the best places in Langkawi to take a dip in some refreshing “cold” water

The Durian waterfalls are near Tanjang Rhu beach, just about 15 min away.  Thankfully, they don’t smell like durians, but instead, are quite lovely!  This is actually a 14-tier waterfall that cascades down Mount Raya, the island’s tallest mountain.  The falls are a stone’s throw away from the hot springs in Kampung Ayer Hangat.

To get to the top of the falls, you have to hike up a few steps, nothing as crazy as the 7 Wells.  The hike up here is well worth it, again, especially if it rained before.  The locals usually swim at the bottom of the falls, so we had the whole place to ourselves for a good 45 min.

Getting here:  You know the drill, just look up Durian Perangin waterfalls.

Langkawi Skycab

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What a view from the Langkawi Skycab

This is probably the most popular tourist destination on the island: the Langkawi Skycab!  At 950 metres high, it’s the longest free span mono car in the world.  The views from the top here are pretty amazing, especially on a clear sunny day.  While in the Sky Cab, you get a 360 degree view of the lush vegetation, the surrounding islands, the 7 Wells waterfalls and pretty much everything else!  The thrill of going up a super steep cable is also pretty cool and exhilarating, but probably not for those who are scared of heights.

Included in the RM55 per person price tag is the Sky Dome, a 360 degree movie experience that as about 7 minutes long; the Sky Rex, a 4D dinosaur ride that stopped working halfway through; and the 3D trick-eye museum.  However, the Sky Bridge is not included and costs an additional RM5, and if you want to take the Sky Glide, a weird-looking, slow-moving elevator that takes you from the Sky Cab tower to the Sky Bridge, add another RM10 to your costs.

Our advice would be to head there early for 2 main reasons. First is the obvious heat.  It gets super toasty up there when you’re that close to the sun.  You can’t bring water with you so try to avoid the 11AM to 2PM window.  Second, the crowds won’t be there.  This is one of the main attractions on the island, so expect tons of people.  Try to get there before 10AM or after 4PM to avoid them.

Although the views and the overall cable car experience was fun, we have one major complaint about the place.  They continuously force you to take pictures in front of green screens so that they then slap some random background in back of you.  Even when we refused to take the picture, they would not let us pass until we complied.  What a waste of people’s time, of paper and ink!  They print out all these forced pictures and sell them to you later in various shapes and forms.  We found a trick to avoid them printing it: We would cover our faces or make really ugly grimaces.  It worked like a charm!  No paper or ink wasted on us.

Getting here:  There are signs all around the island that direct you to the Sky Cab. You can follow those, or use Maps here.

Top of Mount Raya

At 881 meters, Mount Raya (Gunung Raya) is the tallest mountain on Langkawi.  Located in central Langkawi, you’ll find the Gunung Raya Golf Course at its base.  The mountain is covered with lush rainforest and creates a beautiful backdrop to the island’s landscape!  There are two ways you can get to the peak of Gunung Raya, either drive or trek.

The easiest route is obviously to get a ride up there and should take you about 30 min.  Take the not-too-steep but narrow winding road Jalan Gunung Raya that starts at its intersection with Jalan Ulu Melaka.  Be careful at the turns as many cut corners around here.

Then, if you like to hike, strap your shoes on and get climbing!  There are tour operators that will guide you up there, but from what we heard, you can trek on your own as well.  It should take between 1 to 1.5 hours.  There are no facilities on the way up, so bring food and water, and take your trash back down with you.

Once at the top, there is a resort and a watch tower, with an entrance fee of RM10.  You will get the same views as you do at the top of the Cable Car, but there are barely any people here.  It’s also a great place to watch the sunset.

Duty free shopping

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This is the best place to get alcohol and cigars in Langkawi, and at pretty cheap prices!

In case you didn’t know, Langkawi is a duty free island.  Fun fact: in 1987, the Malaysian Government declared Langkawi duty free in order to boost tourism.  So you know what that means, right?!  There are tons of shops that will sell you tax-free chocolates, alcohol and tobacco products.  Just note that there is a limit to how much alcohol you can buy and you will need to present your passport when making these purchases.  Duty free shops are clearly marked and can be found all over the island, though they are mainly around Cenang Beach and in Kuah.

How good are the deals?  Depending on what you buy, it can be quite cheaper than what you pay back home.  For example, a 1-litre of rum back home will set us back CND$55 but cost only RM30 on the island.  That’s CND$10.  And that friends, is a great deal!

Island exploring

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Located off the west coast of Malaysia, Langkawi is an archipelago of 99 islands in the Melaccan Straits of the Andaman Sea.  So as you can only imagine, there are a ton of islands around Langkawi that you can go explore.  Most are uninhabited and are just thick forest, but they are beautiful.  The famous Pregnant Maiden island is the most popular and is where couples wishing to get pregnant go because of the legend that made this island popular.  Apparently, jumping in the lake there will help you conceive more easily.

If you want to tour the islands, don’t book anything online, as it tends to be more expensive.  Instead, you can check with your accommodations, or even walk along Pantai Cenang and ask the vendors there.  The competition is quite fierce, so you will likely find something in your budget.  Just note that some islands have an entrance fee (around RM6-10) that are probably not included in the price of your ticket.

Drive around

Because there is no public transportation in Langkawi, the best way to explore the island is to drive around.  This may not sound like much, but it’s the perfect way to discover island life.

Go find some water buffalo in the rice paddy fields, stop at the local fruit stand to chat with the vendor and get some insanely fresh fruit.  We found the best mangos we have ever had while in Langkawi.  Drive along the coast and admire the natural beauty of the island.  You’ll find tons of cute little restaurants that will serve you delicious food for a small price tag!

Activities

There is no shortage of activities to do on the island.  There is something for everyone, every type of traveler and every budget.  Most vendor stalls along Cenang beach will offer these to you, and so will your accommodations, so scout out prices and go have a blast.

Here are the main activities you can do:

Mangrove tours:  These were probably the most popular of the tours offered on the island.  The tours take off near Tanjang Rhu beach, starting off on the open ocean before diverting into the narrow tributaries of the mangrove forest on the north eastern part of the island.  These tours are guided and expect to see tons of animals.  A lot of the tours include other activities as well, like feeding eagles, fish farms and lots more.

Parasailing:  All around Cenang Beach, you will find tons of boats and vendors offering to take you parasailing.  The best time to go is probably at sunset, as the ones on Cenang beach are some of the best we’ve seen!

Jet ski tours:  You can also hop on a jet ski and go explore the islands around.  Tours are usually sold in blocks of 3 hours and a guide will be with you to show you around.  Again, if you are hoping to go on some of the islands, expect to pay an entrance fee.

Boat tours:  There are a ton of boat tours available on the island.  They range from more budget-friendly options to higher-end sunset cruises.  Take a look around and find one that best suits your needs.

Zipline:  As we mentioned before, you can go zipline right at the foot of the 7 Wells waterfalls.  They have a whole course in the lush forest in the hill.

Our experience

Like we mention in the beginning, our experience in Langkawi was different than any other place we’ve been.  A few things made it so:

Malaysian Elections

First, the hotly contested Malaysian elections were held during our time on the island.  It was really cool to see the flags of the opposing parties placed all over the streets.  Residents would proudly display their preference on their front door and even their cars.

More than once, we were held behind a procession of cars parading down the streets to show their support.  The main candidates were the current prime minister at that time, who was caught in a corruption scandal, and Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the longest running prime minister who had bowed out of politics in the early 2000’s.

It was really cool to see the people rejoice after the Doctor won, making him the oldest leader in the world.  It’s always nice to see a people stand up and demand change from a corrupt government… but don’t get us started on world politics!

Ramadan

Next, during our last 2 weeks on Langkawi, we bore witness to the Holy Month of Ramadan.  Ramadan is a celebration held by all Muslims around the world where they commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad.

During this whole month, from mid-June to mid-July this year, Muslims around the world fasted from sunrise to sunset, not even drinking a sip of water.  They also refrain from smoking, and engaging in sexual relations, and must steer clear of any sinful behaviour that may negate the reward of fasting.

The purpose of this month is not only to cleanse the soul by freeing it from harmful impurities, but it also teaches them self-discipline, self-control, sacrifice, and empathy for those who are less fortunate.  It was really great to see so many people practice this old tradition in solidarity.

During this time, a lot of businesses were closed or changed their working hours, including some local restaurants, tourist attractions and stores.  Also, our favourite night market moved, and it took us a good week to find it again.  The upside was that the night market was replaced by the Ramadan Bazaa, which was held every day, both in Kuah, and near the airport, where Muslims would head out to after sunset to break their fast.

Workaway

Finally, the last thing that marked our special experience on Langkawi was that we did our first Workaway here.  Basically, we stayed put for 1 month and helped a couple run their Airbnb’s.  But more on that later.

Where to eat

Night market: The night market in Langkawi is in a different spot every night of the week.

Monday: Ulu Melaka, Jalam Makam, Mahsuri Lama
Tuesday: Kedawang, near Cenang beach
Wednesday: Kuah Town
Thursday: Temoyong, Mukim Kedawang, Pantai Cenang (Less than 5 minutes walk from the house towards Cenang Beach).
Friday: Air Hangat, Padang Lalang
Saturday: Kuah Town
Sunday: Padang Matsirat, opposite of the Field of Burnt Rice

These night markets were some of our favorite spots to eat in Langkawi.  You will often find the locals eating here, so you know it is good.  Some of our favourite dishes were the Murtabak, the potato dumplings, noodles, these markets have everything you need.  We would often stock up for a few meals here, and the food costs next to nothing!  Just beware that food for vegetarians is limited, but you can find some pretty awesome fare still.

Burgersmith: We loved this place since they offered vegetarian burgers that you could dress with your choice of toppings.  There burgers come with fries and a drink, and all together will run you about 30RM, not bad for some good western food.

Tomato 24: Looking for great, cheap Indian food?  This is the best place on the island to find it.  Situated near Asean resort, it doesn’t look like much, but it’s delish, especially good for you vegetarians out there.  The options are limitless.  We absolutely loved the paneer masala, with rice and naan bread!  If you want to treat yo’self, splurge on the naan bread with cheese and garlic.  And by splurge, we mean spend the extra $0.50.

Where to Stay

Of course, we’re going to recommend the places we were running!  These Airbnb units are cute and homey, and the hosts who run them, along with their Workaway help, are awesome.  You can find the 3 different places here.  To help make your choice, here’s a bit about them:

Sawah Padi Villa

Set on a rice paddy field, Sawah Padi Villa is where you’ll see tons of water buffalo and some of the most amazing sunsets ever!  This home can accommodate up to 5 people and comes with a full kitchen and living area.  It’s about a 20-min walk to Cenang Beach, so you have both the peace and quiet of country living, while being close to the action.

Halia Village

A lovely unit with a full kitchen and living area as well, Halia Village accommodates up to 4 people.  This place was great for us, as it boasts a kitchen and living room.  After all our traveling it is rare that we get the space that Halia Village gave us.

The unit is 15 minutes away from the beach and set in steps away from the rice padi fields

Rama Rama

We help set up Rama Rama, so we hope you like it!  These units are more of a peaceful retreat, with breathtaking sea views and nature.  Still close enough to the action, but far enough that you can enjoy nature in peace.  With your own private veranda, a gazebo and a spot to sunbathe, you may never want to leave this  tranquil haven.

If this is your first time using Airbnb, you can use our code to get a discount off your first booking.

Getting there

There are 2 main ways to get to the island. And you’ve probably guessed them by now.

Fly

There are flights from most major destinations like Kuala Lumpur and Penang from local providers.  The flights are usually pretty cheap and quite frequent.  From Kuala Lumpur, it should take you about 1 hour, and a mere 40 minutes from Penang.

Ferry

Yup, that’s the other way you get to an island.  You get on a boat.  The ferry takes about 3 hours and leaves twice daily to and from Penang.  It cost about RM70.  However, be prepared.  From what we’ve heard, it’s quite a choppy ride.


We loved our time in Langkawi.  It’s not a very touristic island, and there’s enough to do that you can get away from the crowds if you want to.  With tons of activities, delicious and cheap food, friendly locals and pristine waters to just chill and enjoy island life, Langkawi is a perfect little paradise in Malaysia!


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The ultimate city guide to Langkawi, Malaysia. Everything you need to know about having a great time in the city. Tips, tricks, what to do, where to eat and where to stay. www.wediditourway.com

Penang street art – A photoblog

A photoblog about the best street art in George Town, Penang, Malaysia. A handy map to find the best pieces.

One of the main reason people choose to visit Penang is to see the street art in George Town.  And we can’t blame them.  The scene here is so cool and hunting down the art is so much fun!  There are a ton of maps available that show you exactly where all the art is, but if you want to have some fun with it, just walk around and see what you find.  That’s what we did.  So of course, there is a ton more artwork out there to discover, but let’s leave some for you to find!

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Before you get started, here’s some history on how this whole art scene movement got started.  Back in 2009, George Town, a UNESCO World Heritage city held a contest to revive its vibe and create an outdoor living musuem.

The winning idea was from local artist Tang Mun Kian, under the theme “Voices of the people“.  You can find 52 steel-rod sculptures around the city showing elements from the everyday life of locals.  The streets of the city are named after the trades, people and events that give a unique spin to each street.  Having these sculptures at key areas puts the story back into the city and brings it to life in such a fun way.

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There are many other artists who have contributed to the art around the city.  The most famous are the interactive art pieces created by Ernest Zacharevic or the beautiful murals by Julia Volchkova and Louis Gan.

The works that Zacharevic were commissioned in 2012 by the Penang Municipal Council.  He called the body of work ‘Mirrors George Town’ which include about 9 large scale murals in different location of the old town. His paintings represent characters and scenes that celebrate the energy and playfulness of life in the inner city.  His work has truly transformed the vibe of the city, but they are quickly fading, so we’re quite lucky to have seen most of them.  Some are already gone, but make us wonder if they will be replaced.

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But that’s not all.  There are also 12 murals depicting cats and dogs all over the city.  These were drawn at the George Town Festival 2013 and were dubbed ‘101 Lost Kittens’.  This is the work of a group of artists by the name of “Artists for Stray Animals”.  Their objective was to create awareness for the needs of strays, which are all over the city.  Their message was to help protect animals and get people to foster a love for pets.  This is totally a message we can get behind.

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The street art vibe is so alive in the city that even hotels, bars and restaurants that have participated in the fun.  We can totally appreciate the work that everyone has put into making the city a true living museum.

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If you are looking for more things to do in Penang, you can check out our City Guide with tons of tips and tricks on how to make the best of your time here.


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Discover the beautiful street art in Penang, Malaysia. Includes some tips and tricks to ind the best art in Georgetown. www.wediditourway.com

 

Your ultimate city guide to Busan, South Korea

Tips, tricks and recommendations to make the best of your time in Busan, South Korea. What to do, where to stay, where to eat and everything else to enjoy the second largest city in Korea.

So, you’re heading to Busan?  Amazing!  Get ready!  “Attache ta tuque” as we say in Québec, you are about to head to one of our favorite cities in Korea.

Situated in the South of Korea (yes, the South of South Korea) Busan, or Pusan, is the second most populated city in the country, after Seoul, of course.  It’s quite popular with tourists and locals alike as it’s a gorgeous beach city.  It’s modern, it’s clean and it’s a whole lot of fun!

How to get there

There are a ton of ways to get to Busan.  If you are in Seoul, you can get on a flight to reach the city in a jiffy.  Check local providers like Jeju Air, Air Busan and Korean Air, they will get you there in less than an hour.  You may even find the flight tickets are cheaper than taking the train.  A few little tips for you here – weekday flights are cheaper than on weekends, and sometimes, you can fly even cheaper to Ulsan and take the bus to Busan from there (about 30 min).

Your other option is taking the KTX, or Korean bullet train.  This is the fastest of the trains (but the most expensive too) and will take you about 3 hours to get there.  We didn’t take this option, but if it’s anything like the Shinkansen in Japan, it’s one hell of a ride!  It’s a great way to see the country too.  There are slower trains available, and they will take you 4 hours (ITX) or 5 hours (Mugunghwa train) and will only cost half of the KTX ticket.  Tickets for the trains are available online.

Finally, you have the bus.  This is actually what we took to get to Busan, but only because we weren’t in Seoul.  We had gone to see the Mask Festival in Andong first.  The bus was cheap, safe and efficient.  From Seoul, it should take about 4 hours, depending on traffic.  You can get your tickets online or at Seoul Gyeongbu bus terminal.

How to get around

Busan is a super organized city, and it’s quite easy to get around. And, you’re in luck, because this makes it easier to get to where you’re going.  It’s important to note that Google Maps doesn’t work in Korea – something about Koreans not wanting to share their grids with Google.  So if you need ground navigation, we recommend MapsMe or Naver.  The latter is what Koreans use to get around.  It’s all in Korean, but if you have the geographical location with old school Latitude and Longitude, or even the phone number of the place, you’ll get by just fine.

A great way to figure out how to get around is also checking the Visit Korea website.  They will often offer general direction on how to get to main places.  It’s a great site to get some background and directions all in one handy site!

A super easy and convenient way to get around is to take the Busan subway.  It’s clean, efficient and because instructions are available in English, it’s really easy to get from A to B.  The grid is pretty extensive so it’s really easy to get around.  Prices are fairly reasonable too.  You will only pay for the distance you will be covering.

Finally, there is the bus to take you around too.  Some places are more convenient and shorter to get to by bus, so make sure you give this a try too.  Either option is safe, clean, and efficient.  What more could you ask for!

What to do

Busan offers an awesome number of things to do.  One of our favorite things was just hanging out on the beach.  This is one of the few cities in Korea that offer such pristine beaches, so if you can, take the time and just chill!  But if you are in the party mood, you can do that too.  There’s something for everyone here!

Check out the beaches

There are 2 main beaches in Busan, each unique in their own way: Haeundae & Gwangilli.

Haeundae Beach

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A great way to relax in Busan is by chilling at Haeundae Beach

Haeundae Beach is the most famous beach in Busan and probably all of Korea. With beautiful white sand, clear and calm waters, it’s perfect for swimming and sunbathing.  It’s also famous for various cultural events and festivals that take place throughout the year, like the Busan International film festival.

The 1.5km long coastline is visited by both foreigners and locals, but the latter will be covered from head to toe, and barely put their toes in the water.  For most Asians, dark skin is a symbol of the working class who has to toil in the fields.  That is why most prefer to have pearly white skin.  You will notice that most of their beauty products even offer to whiten skin, something we can’t imagine in America, as tan skin is the ultimate goal!

The Haeundae Beach area is where we stayed during our time here, so we loved the beach.  Derek especially loved the 2 statues that were out on the water on the beach – made him feel like he was in a fantasy movie.  Yes! I know, I married a total nerd!

A little tip for you when you’re at Haeundae beach.  There is a great little market on the main walking street to get to the beach.  Grab some cheap and delicious food, and go enjoy it on the water.  Our favourites were the kimchi pancakes and the fried chicken.  Also, the Sea Life Aquarium and other tourist attractions are by this beach so you could spend a whole day here!

How to get here: Simply take the subway to Haeundae Station (Busan Subway Line 2), Exit 5, 7. and follow the warm call of the beach, straight ahead (about 500m away)

Gwangalli Beach

Gwangalli Beach is the second famous Busan beach.  It stretches 1.4km long, and is also reknowned for its fine sand.  In recent years, the whole area has undergone a water cleaning program, making its pristine waters even more inviting for tourists. But that’s not all, the whole Gwangalli area is lined with restaurants and cafes, as well as fashion and k-beauty stores.  Its your one-stop-shop for everything you could need.  It’s well worth a visit at night as well, when the Gwangandaegyo Bridge gets lit up.

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The view of Gwangandaegyo Bridge at night

How to get here:  Get off Geumryeon Station (Busan Subway Line 2), Exit 1 or 3. There will be stickers on the floor pointing you toward the beach, but essentially, make a u-turn and turn on the first street toward the beach.

Visit the temples

There are some beautiful and iconic temples in Busan that are worth a visit.  These are the main ones we saw

Haedong Yonggungsa Temple

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Busan’s only temple on the coast, Haedong Yonggunsa Temple

The Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is one of the rare temples located on the coast of the north-east part of Busan.  Most of the temples in Korea are built on mountains, so this one really stands out.  This lovely temple was built back in 1376 and is an awesome place to watch the sunrise.  But the view comes at a price.  You will have to scale 108 steps to see the sunrise on the coast.

How to get here:  You have to get to Haeundae Station (Busan Subway Line 2), Exit 7.  From there, take Bus 181 and get off at Yonggungsa Temple Bus Stop.  You’ll have to walk a little to get to the entrance, about 5-10 minutes, but it’s quite straight-forward once you’re there.

Beomeosa Temple

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The entrance to Beomeosa temple

This was probably one of our favourite temples in Busan.  Mainly because we went expecting nothing and ended up having an amazing day there.  Beomeosa Temple is on the eastern edge of Geumjeongsan Mountain.  It was built in 678 by monk Ui Sang.  It’s one of the three most famous temples in the Yeongnam region, along with Haeinsa Temple and Tongdosa Temple.  At least we got to see one of the top 3 temples!  If you want to take your visit further, you can do a templestay at this temple and live with the monks to learn more about the Buddhist culture and discover yourself.

How to get here:  Get off Beomeosa Station (Busan Subway Line No.1), Exit 5 or 7.  Then, walk along the main road for about 5 minutes to arrive at Samsin Transportation Bus Stop, a stop just along the road there.  Take Bus No. 90 and get off at Beomeosa Ticket Office Bus Stop.

Geumjeoungsan hike

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Queen of the world, atop Geumjeongsan mountain

This is the main reason we loved Beomeosa Temple so much.  We climbed up Geumjeongsan mountain not thinking much about it.  In fact, we knew there was a 2-km hike around Beomeosa Temple and we knew we wanted to hike it.  That was pretty much it.  We were not ready for what was waiting for us.  But more on that here.

This hike was super impressive as you had to scale up the mountain alongside the old fortress walls that protected the city and the whole country way back when.  Geumjeongsanseong Fortress is the nation’s largest fortress and leads you to Godangbong Peak, rising a mere 801.5 meters above sea level.  Once you’re up there, you have an amazing view of the mountains, the cities around and you get to meet some awesome cats!

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We manage to make cat friends everywhere!

The hike starts at Beomeosa so just follow the signs there.  Note that this is not a 2-km hike up to the summit.  Bring snack and water.  We learned this the hard way!

Centum City mall for rainy days

Centrum City is something to behold.  We’re not big shoppers, but this was a fun place to discover on a rainy day.  The Shinsegae Centum City Department Store is registered in the Guinness World Records as the largest shopping complex in the world.  If you’re looking for something, from clothes, k-beauty, electronics, books, you’ll likely to find it here!  It also features some crazy entertainment facilities like a spa and an ice rink.

How to get here: Getting there is a cinch.  Just take the subway to Centum City Station (Busan Subway Line 2).  The station is directly below the mall.

Gamcheon cultural village

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Welcome to Gamcheon Cultural Village, Korea’s Santorini or Machu Picchu

This was probably one of our favourite outings in Busan.  The Gamcheon Culture Villiage is made up of cute colourful houses built in staircase-fashion on the foothills of a coastal mountain.  It’s no wonder they call this place the “Santorini” or “Machu Picchu” of Korea.  This village got a makeover way back in 2009 by local artists and students who worked together to brighten up the community that was made up of refugees from the Korean war.  The village is decorated with tons of sculptures, works of art, artist studios, coffee shops and small museums.

You can get a map at the information centre at the entrance of the village.  They will encourage you to collect stamps all around the village and will let you know where the works of art.  You can get this map to guide you, in case you get lost, but our best advice will be to get lost while you are there.  This village is so bright and beautiful that you will want to just wander the alleyways and streets and discover all the secret places.

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Carine and “Le Petit Prince” in Gamcheon Cultural Village in Busan

It’s important to note that Gamcheon is actually home to residents, so be sure to respect their home and their privacy.

How to get there:  Take the subway to Toseong Station (Busan Subway Line 1), Exit 6.  From that exit, walk straight and turn right.  You’ll see a small bus station board in front of the Pusan National University Hospital building (Block C, Cancer Centre, aka the PNU Cancer Centre).  Hop on the local bus en route to Gamcheon Culture Village.

Go crazy at a karaoke bar

Did you actually think you were going to Korea and not going to a karaoke bar!?  Ha!  No.  So grab a drink or two before you head there (in case you need some liquid courage) and go have a blast.  There are tons of karaoke bars all around the city, mainly around the beach areas.  Grab some friends and head out to have a blast!

Where to stay

There are plenty of places to stay in and around Busan.  We stayed in the Haeundae Beach area because we’re Canadian and any reason to be close to the beach is a good one for us.

Where to eat

To tell you the truth, we found that the food was pretty awesome everywhere we ate in Busan.  The trick is to find a restaurant or a stall that has a lot of turnover.  That means they are popular and the food is fresh.

Busan Haeundae Traditional Market: You will find it all here.  Fresh fish, restaurants, pancakes, gimbap, bibimbap, dumplings, etc.  Whatever you are in the mood for, you will find it here.  We had our same 2-3 restaurants and stalls we would often go back to.  Why?  Being vegetarian, when you find a winning formula, you hold onto it.  You can’t really go wrong with much here.  Everything we had was delicious!

Punjab Indian Restaurant: Indian food is constantly our saviour when we travel to meat-heavy diet countries like Korea. Luckily, we found this place on our first night and went back a few times. The portions are well sized, and the food is tasty, although the prices are a little high. The paneer masala is delish, as are the samosas.

What to Eat

Korea was probably one of the hardest country to be vegetarian in.  Most of their food is meat or fish heavy.  They use animal by-products in their broths too, making the soups hard to eat as well.  We found a few vegetarian friendly dishes, so we stuck to those! If you are looking for other delicious things to eat, try:

Gimbap

A roll made of rice and various combinations of ham, crab, pickled radish, egg, spinach, cucumber, etc.  This is a great vegetarian meal to eat in a country short of options, though some places refused to make it without meat.

Bibimbap

The literal translation for which is mixed rice, this dish consists of a bowl with rice, sautéed and seasoned veggies, chilli pepper paste, soy sauce and either a fried egg, or sliced beef.  Obviously, we skipped the beef and loved it!

Kimchi

Did you actually go to Korea if you didn’t have kimchi?  No.  The answer is no!  Kimchi is usually made of fermented cabbage with tons of spicy pepper paste.  But in Korea, they ferment pretty much anything, so there is a wide variety of kimchi.  Be sure to try the crunchy cucumber kimchi.  It’s also delish!  Just be careful because sometimes they use fish extract for the fermenting.

Ddukbokki

A typical Korean meal, also spelled tteokbokki, is a mix of cylindrical rice cakes, triangular fish cake, vegetables, and sweet red chili sauce.  Derek loved having this sweet and spicy soup when it started getting a little colder.

Pajeon

This is the market pancake we were talking about!  Pajeon is cheap and delicious, coming in a variety of fillings.  It’s a pancake-like Korean dish made predominantly with green onions, egg batter, wheat flour, and rice flour.  Common fillings were kimchi, sweet potato, peppers and fish.


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The ultimate city guide to Busan, South Korea. Everything you need to know about having a great time in the city. Tips, tricks, what to do, where to eat and where to stay. www.wediditourway.com

 

Your ultimate city guide to Penang, Malaysia

Tips, tricks and recommendations to make the best of your time in Penang, Malaysia. What to do, where to stay, where to eat and everything else to enjoy this UNESCO World Heritage city.

Penang is a wonderful city that made us fall for its vibe, its people and its food.  We spent 2 days here, but it was simply not long enough. We could have easily spent a whole week, but if you don’t have that much time, a good 3-4 days is the perfect amount of time. Penang has a really laid back but electric feel that’s hard to describe. Chill out and revel in the street art during the day. Pork out and dance the night away. Whatever you’re in the mood for, Penang has it.

The historic part, Georgetown, became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008.  It’s also the country’s second largest city after Kuala Lumpur, though you really don’t feel it’s that crowded when you’re exploring.

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Any place we can steal a kiss is a good place, in Penang

Getting here

Depending on where you’re are coming from, there are different ways to get to Penang Island.

Fly

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Air Asia, our carrier of choice in South East Asia

The fastest way to here is the plane. Flights with Air Asia are quite cheap and run regularly from major cities around the area.

Once you get to the airport, there are different options to get you to the city. The taxi ordered at the airport will set you back RM47 to Georgetown but RM80 if it’s very late. The drive there is about 30 minutes long but will depend in traffic. Ours took about one hour but what else can you expect from a Friday 5PM ride?

The cheapest option is the RM10 bus but it’s a much longer ride, at about one hour, even if there is no traffic.

You can also take a Grab for RM20 but make sure you order it when you get off the plane because there’s no wifi at the lobby of the airport, and you’ll probably have to double back to connect.

Ferry

You could also take a ferry, either from Langkawi or from Butterworth on the mainland.  The ferry from Langkawi is about 3 hours long, leaving twice a day.  Just note that very often, the waters are choppy, so not the best option if you have motion sickness or if you get seasick easily.  The cost is about RM60 per person, which is not so different than what the plane costs on a good day.  You can also leave from Butterworth.  That ferry runs every 20-30 min, from 5:20AM to 12:10AM.

Drive

You can also drive into Penang by bus or car rental.  That means you get to drive on the famous Penang Bridge.  The Penang Bridge is a 13.5km (8.4-mile) dual carriageway bridge that connects Butterworth on the mainland side of the state with Gelugor on the island of Penang.  The bridge was inaugurated in 1985 and it is the second-longest bridge in Malaysia and the fifth-longest in Southeast Asia.  You will notice that many people have quite an affection for this bridge and talk about it with pride.

Getting around

Getting around Penang is very easy.  If you are staying in Georgetown, you can easily get around by walking to where you need to get.  The furthest we walked to get anywhere was about 25 minutes.  Then again, our hotel was super well-situated!

If you’re not too keen on walking, what are you doing here?  Ok.  Just kidding, but it is a great way to get around.  If not, there is the free CAT bus that goes around Georgetown.  There are also paying buses available to get around to different parts of the city.  They also have bikes that you can rent, called Link Bike, that are super convenient.

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Link Bike, an easy way to get around Penang

And if none of this suits you, you can always use Grab.  It’s like Uber but much cheaper and probably the most convenient way to get around the city.

Things to do

Street art

Ok, this is probably the reason you are in Georgetown to start with.  Back in 2009, the Heritage city held a contest to revive its vibe.  The winning idea was from local artist Tang Mun Kian, under the theme “Voices of the people“, with steel-rod sculptures around the city showing elements from everyday life of locals.  And there are many other artists who have contributed to the art around the city.  The most famous are the interactive art pieces created by Ernest Zacharevic or the beautiful murals Julia Volchkova and Louis Gan.

There are a ton of maps available that show you exactly where all the art is but if you want to have some fun with it, just walk around and see what you find.  There are even bars and restaurants that have participated in the fun.

Clan Jetty

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Clan Jetty alleyways on a quiet afternoon

The clan jetties are water villages that are about a century old.  The were home to Chinese clans that came to settle here.  There used to be seven jetties, but one was destroyed by a fire.  Known as one of the last old Chinese settlements on the island, the jetties are houses on stilts of various Chinese clans.  Each jetty is even named after a Chinese clan, with the Chew Jetty being the most visited one.  It boasts the most stilt-houses, the longest walkway, a temple at its entrance. It’s good to know that none of the families pay any taxes as they are not living on land.  Talk about finding a winning loophole!

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The view of Penang from the end of the jetty

Today, it seems like the jetties are mainly used as stores where they sell souvenirs and treats.  We tried the dragon’s beard, a string sugar that is wrapped around some peanuts.

Getting here: The Clan Jetties are part of the Heritage walk.  You can get to them by walking straight down from Lebuh Chulia (beside the Kapitan Kling Mosque) at Pengkalan Weld (Weld Quay).

Eat

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CF market, thanks for the tip Anthony Bourdain

If you didn’t know, Penang is a Foodie paradise.  Here, you can find tons of delicious food around every corner.  Sure, some will be expensive, but you can get some amazing local delicacies without having to pay much.  Our favourites were the rendang and laska and char koay teow.  More on that later!

Just be sure to pick the busiest stalls, that’s where the good food is.  And like they say, “good things come to those who wait“, so strike up a conversation with the other patrons waiting and get ready to enjoy some delicious food.

Walk around Georgetown

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A beautiful example of Penang’s colonial past

This may seem obvious, but honestly, there is so much beauty to discover in this Unesco World Heritage city.  So walk around, see how people live, discover local shops, and admire the beauty of the home fronts.  We spent a good afternoon just wandering the streets and taking in all the sights, sounds and smells of the city.  With a vibrant Little India and Chinatown, it’s really a great place to discover.

Penang bridge

This is probably one of the main prides of the city and island.  Two long bridges that connect Penang island to the mainland.  Our Grab driver told us stories of visitors who have asked her to drive up and down the bridge.  Because the 13.5km bridge is the second-longest bridge in Malaysia and the fifth-longest in Southeast Asia, a lot people want to see it.

Penang hill

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Great view of the city from Penang Hill

This is a view you don’t want to miss, so make your way to Penang Hill.  You can hike up the 833-meter mountain or take the funicular.  This is the region’s fastest, steepest and highest train.  It will set you back 30RM per person but it’s well worth it for the view.  Once you are up there, you get a 180° panorama of the city.

At the hilltop, you will also find a mosque, a temple, and a few restaurants.  If you walk 10 min, you will get to the Habitat, a newly created attraction that includes a canopy walk, a sky walk, multiple gardens and guided tours.  You’ll get to really become one with nature, learn about the fauna and flora, and as always, get some awesome views of Penang (you might even see Langkawi, on a nice day).  There is an entrance fee, and don’t forget comfy walking shoes, sunscreen and insect repellant.

Getting here: You can take the 204 bus to get here, or the free city hop on and off bus, for a green alternative.  If not, you can always Grab-it there.  You can ask to get to Penang Hill or Bukit Bendera.

Batu Ferringhi Beach

This is probably the second most popular thing to do in Penang, after Georgetown.  Batu Ferringhi is a long stretch of soft, white sandy beach along a winding road named Jalan Batu Ferringhi.  It’s filled with a ton of accommodations and restaurants.  The night market here is quite legendary as well.  Its waters are a popular spot for a whole slew of water sports like jet-skiing, parasailing and windsurfing.  Not sure if you want to swim in the water (it may not be the cleanest), it is however, a pretty epic spot for sunsets.

Getting here: From Georgetown, you can take Bus 101.  You can pick up this bus from many of the popular tourist areas of the city, including the Jetty, Chulia Street and KOMTAR.  The bus ride is about an hour (depending on the time of day and amount of traffic).  It’s on the same route as the National Park.

Kek Lok Si Temple

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I guess we sneak kisses all over Penang, Kek Lok Si was no exception!

This temple is about 9km from the city.  This is the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia, and one of the most important ones in South East Asia.  The complex is actually made up  of different sections including many temples, pagodas, a turtle liberation pond, shops, the four heavenly kings pavilion, gardens, and a huge statue of the Goddess of Mercy, Kuan Yin.  Because it’s on a hilltop, you also get a great view of the city from here.

What makes this temple more impressive than most is that Kek Lok Si is carved into the rock face and, at the same time, it’s perched atop the Air Itam hillside.  The main attraction is the beautiful pagoda of Rama VI.  At the centre of the complex, this 30 metre high tower is acknowledged as the face of Kek Lok Si.  This is another place to get some awesome views of the city.

There is seriously so much you can do and see here, and it’s all beautiful.  Your visit will probably take a good 1.5 hours, if not more.  The entrance to the temple complex is free, but to visit and climb the pagoda, you will have to pay RM2 per person.  To take the inclined elevator to the Kuan Yin statue, you will also need to pay RM3.

Getting here: The temple is situated on Air Itam, and the best way to get there is to take a Grab.

Mosque Kapitan Keling

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Kapitan Keling Mosque in George Town, Penang

Situated at the heart of Georgetown on what is dubbed Harmony street, you will find the Kapitan Keling Mosque.  The street is nicknamed this way because you can find buildings of different religious faiths on the street.

Built in 1801 by Penang’s first Indian Muslim settlers, it’s the largest mosque in the Heritage city.  It really is a beautiful place to see.  If you wish to visit it, mosque officials will have to grant you permission.  You will only be allowed to enter if you’re dressed properly – for women, this means longs pants or skirts and long-sleeve shirts and men will also need to have their shoulders covered and wear pants.

Getting here: The mosque is at the intersection of Lebuh Buckingham and Lebuh Pitt.

National park

The Penang National Park is located on the north-west corner of the island in Teluk Bahang.  With so much to do here, it’s well worth a day trip.  It has some of the best beaches on the island located along it’s shores, so make sure you come prepared.  You can also hike it’s many trails, do the canopy walk (you’ll need tickets for this), do some bird watching, fishing or even camping.

You can also take boat rides along the shores to visit the beaches there.  Seriously, this place has it all!  Well it almost has it all.  They actually don’t sell any food or water inside the reserve you have to bring your own.

Getting here: From Georgetown, you can take Bus 101.  You can pick up this bus from many of the popular tourist areas of the city, including the Jetty, Chulia Street and KOMTAR.  The bus ride is about an hour (depending on the time of day and amount of traffic).

Snake temple

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Snake temple in Penang

Snake temple is 17km from the city and another place that is easy to get to with Grab.  This temple was built in honour of Chor Soo Kong, a Buddhist priest and healer.  According to the legend, the monk gave shelter to the snakes and when the temple was completed after his death, they moved in on their own. After they moved in, it was believed that the snakes were disciples of the priest, so it became the home to several resident venomous Wagler’s pit vipers and green tree snakes.  They must really like it here because they are still here.

You don’t need to worry too much about the venom – first, the snakes won’t bother you much.  Then, their venom has been removed so it’s quite safe to walk around.  Just don’t tease the snakes or try to grab them aggressively.  Anyway, they seem to be sleeping most of the time.

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One of the smaller snakes at the Snake Temple

When you get past the main area, you will find a place where they will let you touch a huge python… and then offer to take your picture holding it for RM40.  There is also the snake breeding area at the back where you can spot them hanging around the tree branches.

Getting here: From Georgetown, there are three buses that take you to Bayan Lepas, where the temple is located.  The bus numbers 302, 401 or 401E.  There is not much else around the temple in the way of sightseeing attractions, mostly surrounded by factories and a highway.  If not, you will definitely want to take a Grab here, if you don’t have a car.  It didn’t cost us much from Georgetown, roughly RM25.

Religious enclave around Snake temple

Right by the Snake temple, you there is a religious enclave with a Hindu temple, a church (Gurdwara Sahib Bayan Baru) and a Buddhist temple.  Although church and the Sri Vishwanather Visalatchi Alayam Temple were closed, the Buddhist temple, Than Hsiang Temple, was quite a sight to see.

It really wasn’t what we expected, have you ever seen a temple that looked like an apartment building?  Lucky for us, a volunteer found us and showed us around.  The main temple is on the 6th floor of the building, with a 2-storey high statue of Buddha.  The rest of the building is used as a community centre, a school, a retirement home and much more.

Getting here: Walk from the Snake temple to get here.

Where to stay

Penaga hotel

This was one of our favourite stays ever.  Georgetown is a UNESCO World Heritage site, so it’s only fitting we would stay in a heritage building at the heart of it.  Hotel Penaga was the top choice.  The hotel has kept its original layout and decor but updated the facilities.  The owners were architect and artist/environmentalist and you can feel the love in everything they have done here.  It’s the first restored heritage building in Malaysia with a green rating, which is why we loved it even more!

All the details came together beautifully – the decor was stunning, the furniture was influenced by Chinese design.  The walls are decorated with works from resident artists.  Each room has some beautiful stained glass windows that add a touch of luxury and class.  The lights were replaced by LEDs to ensure they are as efficient as possible.  The roof tiles were salvaged from demolished buildings in Penang, and the timber for structures and floors came from demolished colonial buildings throughout the peninsula.  Anything new was mainly handmade, which shows the importance given to support the local economy and artists.

The staff was so friendly and attentive to anything we needed.  They were always ready to help with anything and were always smiling.  They went above and beyond offering us a mid-day snack and happy hour cocktails which were perfect bookends for a refreshing dip in their lap pool.  A perfect way to get out of the heat in the city.

More than a hotel room, our stay at Hotel Penaga felt like a retreat away from the hustle and bustle of the city, while still being at the heart of it all.  We really felt that they take pride in everything they do.

Seriously, this place has everything you can possibly ask for.  It’s just awesome.

What to eat

Usually, we do a where to eat but in Penang, you can’t go wrong.  Instead, here are some delicious meals we tried.

Asam Laksa –  This is Penang’s most famous dish, so you just have to try it!  Typically, asam laksa is a fish-based noodle soup with thick rice noodles, a tart herb broth, chilli paste, lemongrass, shrimp paste & mackerel.  The base is tamarind so it’s a lot more sour than the coconut curries and is said to have an incredibly fishy, tangy taste.  Luckily, we found a vegetarian version of this dish, so we didn’t get that fishy taste.  The one we had Yun Shui Ge Vegetarian House was amazing!

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Vegetarian Laksa @  Yun Shui Ge Vegetarian House

Rendang – This mix is supposed to have been created in Penang so we had to try it as well.  It’s a spicy meat concoction that’s rich in spices.  With the main meat ingredient, rendang is made with coconut milk and a tasty paste of mixed ground spices, like ginger, galangul, tumeric, lemongrass, garlic, shallots, chillis and a slew of other spices.  We enjoyed the vegetarian version of this dish as well, and it was delish!

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Vegetarian Rendang @ Yun Shui Ge Vegetarian House

Char Koay Teow (Fried Rice Cake Strips / Noodles) – This is one of the most iconic street food dishes in Penang and you can find it everywhere.  It means “stir-fried rice cake strips” so it’s basically made by frying noodles in pork fat with a light and dark soy sauce, prawns, briny cockles, chewy Chinese sausage, crispy sprouts, fluffy egg and chillis, often served on a banana leaf, to infuse some more flavour into it.  Derek had this at CF Food Court and loved it!

The oyster omelette – It’s also known as “Oh Chien” and is a culinary delight amongst the list of street foods in Penang.  The oysters are fried in an egg & rice flour batter (to crisp it up), with chives and served with a spicy chilli or garlic sauce.

Curry Mee – It’s a soup made with a mix of curry and coconut milk, usually served with yellow noodles and rice vermicelli, fried bean curd, cockles, prawns, cuttlefish, cubes of pig’s blood and bean sprouts.  The Curry Mee is like traditional coconut laksa found in other parts of Asia.

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Fried sesame pau @ Yun Shui Ge Vegetarian House

And since we know you love our Where to Eat, here re some of our favorite places:

Yun Shui Ge Vegetarian House:  We came upon this restaurant almost by accident, but man were we lucky we found it.  They had all of the traditional Malay and Penang specialties, but in their more delicious vegetarian versions.  We had the laksa, rendang and dumplings here.  Each was more delicious than the next!

CF food market:  This is probably one of the most popular hawker centres in Penang, mainly because Anthony Bourdain came here.  So obviously, we had to come!  This was before his untimely death, which has hit us hard, considering he was such an inspiration to traveling foodies like us.  They have tons of stalls that offer pretty much everything.  After 9pm, the entertainment starts with singers and dancers.  It gets loud and smoky, but it’s quite a fun experience!

Lagenda restaurant:  The restaurant is a unique Malay-Indonesian-western fusion eatery on Campell Street.  It offers a few good vegetarian options as well as traditional Malay dishes with a twist.  We went here with friends and although the prices are a little more steep than other places, every dish we ordered was delish!  The waiting time may also be a little long, but only because the chef uses fresh ingredients, which is great when you taste the powerful punch of herbs and spices.  You can’t go wrong here.


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The ultimate city guide to Penang, Malaysia. Everything you need to know about having a great time in the city. Tips, tricks, what to do, where to eat and where to stay. Includes the beautiful street art as well. www.wediditourway.com

Your ultimate city guide to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Tips, tricks and recommendations to make the best of your time in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. What to do, where to stay, where to eat and everything else to enjoy your time in the city.

Kuala Lumpur is as diverse of a city as they come.  The capital of Malaysia is at the crossroads of different cultures, including Tamil, Chinese, Malay and the indigenous. It’s the country’s most populated city, so it’s no wonder that there’s an insane amount of things to do here for every type of traveler and any type of budget.

We spent about 3 days here and found the time to do quite a lot, despite the rainy weather and intense heat.  Because tourism is such an important focus for the city, you will really find plenty to fill your days here.  Feel free to go off the beaten path, explore anything between the very traditional to the ultra-modern, enjoy the party life or create memories as a family.  Seriously, this city has it all!

Getting there

Chances are, you will be flying into to Kuala Lumpur.  It’s a major airport in South East Asia and a layover stop for many flights around the area. There are 2 major airports in the city, KLIA and KLIA2.  Both are close to each other and not that far from the city centre.  There is a free shuttle that takes you from one airport to the other.

Getting to the centre of town is actually quite easy.  There are a few options for you:

Public transportation:  You can either take the express train to Sentral station.  It will cost you RM55 and take about 30 minutes.  The train passes every 15 minutes during peak hours.  You can also take the bus, or Airport coach, that costs RM12, but takes about 1 hour.  From Sentral, figure out where your hotel is and take the super convenient LRT to get there.

Taxis:  They are also a cheap option to getting around!  To get into the centre should cost between RM80-100 and take about an hour in all.  For an even cheaper option, you can take a Grab, the equivalent of Uber in South East Asia.  It will cost a fraction of the price!

Getting around KL

Public Transportation

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One of the perks of taking the Kuala Lumpur LRT is the amazing air conditioning!  Oh, and it’s pretty fast too.

Did we mention how tourist-friendly this place is?  The public transportation makes it super easy and convenient to get around the city.  We ended up taking the LRT everywhere, or even just walking.  Our hotel was so conveniently located that it made walking around easy.  Also, because it was a stone’s throw away from the Masjid Jamek LRT station, we found it was so easy to get around that way as well.

There is a 2-day tourist pass available for the LRT to visitors, but make sure you will using it a lot before buying it.  Because we could walk to most destinations, this wasn’t necessary for us.

Grab

Another great way to get around, especially if where you are going is not near public transportation is Grab.  For those who don’t know, Grab is Uber in South East Asia – They actually bought out Uber in this part of the world.  You get all the convenience, like knowing in advance how much your taxi ride will cost.  It’s cheap too, which is a good bonus!

Things to do

Petronas twin towers

Obviously, this is the first thing on the list.  I know we usually do things our way, but you just can’t miss these monumental towers when you’re in town.  They’re Derek’s favourite buildings so we just had to come see them for ourselves!

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Derek’s favourite building in the whole world!  The famous Petronas Twin Towers

Standing at an impressive 451.9 meters and 88 stories high, the Petronas twin towers are the pride of the city.  You can spot them from miles away all across the city, but you can’t just take one glance at them.  They are so different by day and by night that they are worth visiting twice.  We actually went before sunset and then later at night, in the same day.  The Suria KLCC mall is right there, so a perfect place to spend some time between visits.

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They are even more impressive at night.

For budget travelers like us, taking your picture downstairs is already quite impressive.  Be warned, there are a TON of people there.  A little tip: we found the best spot to take your pics are from the side – the middle is insanely crowded and someone will always be in your shot.

If you have some time and money to spare, you can go up the towers and onto the Skybridge.  This is the world’s highest 2-storey bridge that connects the 2 towers.  This will set you back 85RM per person.

Getting here: Super easy!  Jump on the LRT train and get off the KLCC Station.

Suria KLCC

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Get all your shopping needs taken care of at the KLCC mall.

Whether you are looking for the fanciest of fancy things, to watch a movie, to spend time at an art gallery or just to window shop, this is the mall for you.  With 7 storeys of shops, you can find anything and everything you could possibly need at Suria KLCC.

We’re not big shoppers, so we spent our time here at the Galeri Petronas, admiring the works of art on display.   The best part about the gallery – it’s free!  Perfect way to get cultured during one of our rainy days.

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There was no one around, so we decided to take some silly pictures at the Galeri Petronas

Another awesome way to spend your time not shopping is eating!  The Suria KLCC food court has something from all four corners of the globe.  The best part is that there are plenty of vegetarian options available.  Bon appetit!

Getting here: Easy!  If you were at the Petronas towers, just walk into the mall.  If not, head to the same KLCC station as the Petronas towers.

KLCC Park

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The KLCC Park, a great place to unwind in Kuala Lumpur.

If the weather is nice, you can grab you bite to eat as a takeaway and head down to the KLCC Park.  Situated within the KLCC precinct, it’s a “lush, 50-acre urban sanctuary” as they describe it.  We would tend to agree with this.  Perfect for people-watching and just chilling in the middle of the city, this park has something for everyone.  It boasts a two-acre children’s playground, wading pool and jogging track, shelters and benches, patterned footpaths and sculptures.

Getting here: Again, easy if you were at the Petronas towers of the mall.  Just walk outside! If not, head to the same KLCC station as the Petronas towers.

KL Forest Eco-Park

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The lungs of Kuala Lumpur, the Eco-Park is the only tropical rainforest left in the city.

A quick refuge from the city, this Eco-Park is a nice place to visit to get away from the city.  Great for adults and kids alike, there is an awesome 200m canopy walk that lets you get awesome views of the city and of the Menara Kuala Lumpur.  This park is the only remaining stretch of tropical rainforest within the city and has plenty of paths for jogging and trekking.

Entrance to the park is free (yay!) and it’s right next to the Menara Kuala Lumpur, so you can visit both quite easily.  The park is open from 7AM to 7PM daily.

Getting here:  If you are taking the LRT, Dang Wangi station is a short walk from one of the entrances.

Menara Kuala Lumpur

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The KL Tower looks just like the CN tower in Toronto, Canada… probably because we’re missing home.

Welcome to the 7th tallest telecommunications tower in the world.  With a height of 421m, Menara Kuala Lumpur is an impressive sight to see.  Although the Observation Deck is at 276m, it still offers great views of the city when you make your way up there.

On top of the views, there are also a ton of attractions at the Menara Kuala Lumpur, like a rotating restaurant, an upside-down house, an aquarium and a zoo.  Being animal lovers, we would say to avoid the last two because animals belong in the wild, not in boxes, but you do have those options.

Getting here: From the Eco-Park, you can see the tower and just walk to it. If not, you can also get off at either the Masjid Jamek station or the Dang Wangi station and make your way there.  Both are about 15 minute walks.

Walk around Chinatown

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Get ready for cheap street food, and plenty of souvenirs on Petaling Street, the heart of Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown.

What major city doesn’t have a Chinatown! KL’s is quite impressive, complete with temples, delicious food stalls, and endless shopping.  Based on Petaling Street, it is one of the most popular tourists sites, as much by day as by night.  If you have some decent haggling skills, put them to the test at one of the stalls here, although most of what you find is already pretty cheap.

The stalls here sell everything from Chinese herbs, to gadgets, imitation goods (we would recommend you avoid those) and anything else you can think of.  We’re not big shoppers (long-term travel will do that to you) and we’re minimalists too, but it was still fun to walk around and see what each vendor offers, if only to make some fun conversation with them!  The market is open every day, from 10am to 11pm.

Getting here: From the 1000 Miles Hotel, it’s a quick 10-15 minute walk to Petaling Street (Jalan Petaling).  From Bukit Bintang, it’s also about 15 minutes.  If not, you can take the Monorail to Maharajalela station which is around the corner of the southern end of Petaling Street.  If you are coming from KL Sentral or KLCC, you can take the LRT and get off at Pasar Seni.  The Pasar Seni station is just to the west of Chinatown.

Guan Di Temple

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Nestled in Chinatown, the lovely Guan Di Temple.

While you are in Chinatown, don’t forget to check out Guan Di Temple, one of the most impressive and oldest Chinese temples in Kuala Lumpur.  This temple is home to the legendary 59kg copper Guan Dao (Chinese pole weapon) that many believe it possesses a special power to bless and protect the person who touches or lifts it.  Some even believe that it has an inner force that can magically turn a person’s luck around as well.  Worth trying for sure… unless you have good luck already!

How to get here:  Just walk to Jalan Tun H. S. Lee, a small street parallel to Petaling Street and you will find it.

Sri Mahamariamman

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The impressive Sri Mahamariamman temple in the heart of Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur.

This is the oldest Hindu temple in Kuala Lumpur.  It is extravagantly decorated, with tiles from Spain and Italy, precious stones and gold.  It was founded by Tamil immigrants from southern India, who arrived in Malaysia as contract labourers to build the railways and roads or work in the rubber plantations – its primary purpose was to serve as a solace from the rigours of their working life.

Although construction began in 1873, there has been plenty of restoration and embellishment occurring over the years.  It was still under renovation when we visited!

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The designs in the Hindu temples are always so colourful

You will have to remove your shoes before you enter this temple.  They stall at the entrance will charge you 2RM per pair to keep them.

How to get here: If you were just at Guan Di Temple, walk across the street!

Merdaka Square

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Just around the corner from 1000 Miles Hotel, the Sultan Abdul Samad Building is a stunning sight across from Merdaka Square.

This is the main square in Kuala Lumpur, right in front of Sultan Abdul Samad Building (the former State Secretariat).  It is the first place that the Malaysian flag was hoisted in 1957, and here’s a fun fact for you, it is still home to the tallest flagpole in the world at 95m!  It’s a great place to take a picture, either on the fountain, in front of the Sultan Abdul Samad building, or the Royal Selangor Club.

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The tallest flag pole in the world is in Merdaka Square, Kuala Lumpur.

Getting here: Take the train to Masjid Jamek station and walk around on the bridge.  You can walk all around the square here, it’s just beautiful!

Mosques to visit

There are quite a few beautiful mosques in Kuala Lumpur that are worth visiting.  But before you go, there are a few things to note.

When you arrive at a mosque, as a non-Muslim visitor, you will need to register and will receive a robe to wear over your clothes, as much for men as for women.  This is to show respect to the members of the community here.  In line with their traditions, women need to have their head and hair covered, as well as their arms and legs.  Loose fitting pants are better suited than tight ones or leggings.  Men also need to have their shoulders covered, as well as their knees.  If not, they will also be given a robe, though they need not wear the hood.

When you are in religious places, whether they are mosques, temples or churches, it’s always important to act with integrity and respect for the people around.  It was quite frustrating to see people put on photoshoots here, imitating and laughing at certain ways people pray or act in this religious place.  We may not all believe in the same things, but it’s important that we treat others with respect, especially when they welcome us into their religious space.

Also, make sure you check opening hours for all mosques, as most of the time, they are closed to non-Muslim visitors during prayer hours.

Masjid Jamek

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Right across from the LRT station by the same name, Masjid Jamek Mosque

Masjid Jamek, known as the Friday Mosque, was built in 1907.  It’s the oldest mosque in the city and was built on the first Malay Burial Ground in Kuala Lumpur.  The mosque sits at the meeting point of the Klang and Gombak rivers, which is also the birthplace of Kuala Lumpur.  Quite a historic and significant place in the capital city.

The beautiful architecture of the mosque is a combination of Moorish, Islam and Magul.  It is really a stunning religious site and a great place to walk around and learn about the religion.  It’s important to note that the mosque is closed during prayer time for non-Muslims.  It’s open Saturday to Thursday, from 08:30 to 12:30 & 14:30 to 16:30 for visitors.

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A peak inside Masjid Jamek’s prayer hall.

Getting here: It’s a breeze!  Just get off Masjid Jamek train station and walk across the street.  You can’t miss it.

Masjid Negara

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As close as we could get in the prayer hall of the National Mosque in Kuala Lumpur.

Masjid Negara is Malaysia’s National Mosque and a nationwide symbol of Islam.  It was built in 1965 and is made of a main prayer hall with 48 smaller domes around it.  Spread across 13 acres, the National Mosque is able to accommodate up to 15,000 people, though when we went, luckily, there were not so many people there.  The Grand Hall is the most intricate part of the mosque with beautiful stained glass adorning its walls, as well as verses from the Quran.

Again, be aware of opening hours as non-Muslim tourists will not be allowed in during prayer time.  The mosque is open from 06:30AM to 01:00PM, from 02:30PM to 04:00PM, and from 05:30PM to 07:00PM.

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How beautiful is this outdoor hall in Masjid Negara?

Getting here:  We could easily walk here from our hotel, or Masjid Jamek, but if you take the LRT, it’s at Pasar Seni station.  You will then need to cross the river by one of the pededstrian walkways. The signs to the Masjid Negara are quite clearly indicated.

Masjid Wilayah Persekutuan

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Masjid Wilayah Persekutuan, the most beautiful mosque we have visited so far!

To be honest, this mosque was not on our list at first, but we are so happy we made the trek here.  It ended up being our favorite place of all.  Masjid Wilayah Persekutuan, also known as the Federal Territory Mosque, opened its doors in 2000 after 4 years of construction.  Seeing the size of this mosque, we were impressed by how short this was but the volunteers seemed to think it was long.  They should see how long construction takes in Montreal!

Masjid Wilayah is one of the largest and most modern of all the mosques in Malaysia.  It incorporates design elements, motifs and architecture from Iran, Morocco, Turkey, Egypt, Malaysia and more.

The best thing about our visit here was the free guided tour.  Two volunteers took us around the mosque explaining its details and spoke to us about Islam.  We had very interesting discussions about the differences between sexes, how women are treated and so much more… Maybe we should have warned them they were dealing with a feminist.

The free tours are available every day from 10AM to 6PM except on Eid Fitri and Eid Adha holidays.

Getting here: The Masjid Wilayah Persekutuan Mosque is a little further than the center of town.  The easiest way to get there is to take a Grab, it’s about a 10 minute ride from our hotel.  You can also take the bus there, either from KL Sentral, Jalan Stresen Sentral 3 (U83) or from Pasar Seni (B115).  Entrance into the mosque is free, with or without the tour.

Thean Hou Temple

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Thean Hou temple is one of the oldest and largest Buddhist temples in Kuala Lumpur and South East Asia.

Your visit to Kuala Lumpur would not be complete without checking out Thean Hou Temple.  It’s one of the oldest and largest temples in Southeast Asia.  Built in 1894, it’s located on a hilltop in the southwest of the city, so it offers some amazing views of KL.  The six-tiered Buddhist temple is also known as the Temple of the Goddess of Heaven and is dedicated to Tian Hou, a goddess said to protect fishermen, and is also a shrine to Guan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy.  It’s a beautiful and cheerful temple with tons of lanterns swaying around in the wind.

Getting here: This temple is not close to any LRT stations, so the best way to get here is to grab a Grab, get it?

Batu Caves

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The 200-step stairway that leads you to the Batu caves

The Batu Caves are one of Kuala Lumpur’s most popular tourist attractions and well worth the trek to get there.  The caves and the 100-year-old temples there are situated about 10km north of KL and are actually at the top of a limestone hill.  Yes, you will have to climb up some stairs, but the monkeys there will provide you with some entertainment along the way.

There are three major caves and a few smaller ones.  The limestone formations are actually supposed to be around 400 million years old, so it is quite impressive to see.  Cathedral Cave, the largest and most popular of Batu Caves, is home to many Hindu shrines.  At the foot of Batu Hill are two other cave temples – the Art Gallery Cave and Museum Cave.

The Caves are free to visit and are open daily from 6AM to 9PM. There, you can see a great view of the city below.  Because there are temples in the Caves, you will be asked to wear appropriate clothing – shoulders covered and a skirt or shorts that go below your knees.

However, there is a paying cave, known as the Dark Cave that you can enter for a 35RM fee.  This will allow you to participate in a 45-minute guided tour where they will show you all the creepy crawly creatures that live in these caves.  They actually use some of the proceeds from your ticket purchase to do conservation and research for the eco-biodiversity in this cave.

*Update: since we wrote this article, the Batu cave steps have undergone a radical transformation!  There are now painted all types of vibrant colours, adding to its charm!

Getting here:  First, you will need to get to Sentral station.  From there, you will take a bus to Sentul then a train to Batu Caves.  If the train from Sentral is running, then you can take the KTM train directly to the Batu Caves.  The whole trek will take you about 45-minutes, but this depends on when the train leaves vs when you get there. This train will cost you RM4.80 per person to go and come back to Sentral.

Where to eat

TG’s Nasi Kandar: We went to TG’s more times than we care to acknowledge for some delicious Indian food.  Can you really blame us?  The food was cheap, delicious and easy to get to.  Everything we can ask for.  Our favourites here are the veggie murtabak, the cheese roti and the butter paneer marsala.

Alor street: This street transforms into a night market during the evening, every single night.  Cheap eats can be found in food stalls all around, as well in the surrounding restaurants.  Just make sure you check out prices before you sit.  You will also have your fair share of entertainment here with all the street musicians around.  An awesome place to walk around and take in all the sights, sounds and smells.

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The always happening Night Market on Alor Street

Waterlily: Unfortunately for us, we only found Waterlily the day before leaving KL, because we would have eaten here many more times!  Being a vegetarian restaurant, this was perfect for us.  At a very reasonable cost, they will serve you set meals consisting of tofu in soy sauce, 1 of 3 types of fake meat, vegetables, rice and a drink.  Their fried noodles and steamed buns were also to die for.

Where to stay

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Our cozy home at the heart of Kuala Lumpur

This one is a no-brainer.  We picked a super convenient hotel in the heart of the city.  The 1000 Miles Hotel is a stone’s throw away from Masjid Jamek LRT station.  Conveniently located between Little India and Chinatown, a short walk away from Merdaka Square and Masjid Jamek Mosque, it’s pretty much walking distance to most of the attractions you want to see.

As if it’s convenient location wasn’t enough, there’s also the fact that the rooms are super clean, the bed is comfy and the shower is amazing.  The staff is always helpful and they have plenty of tips for when you make plans.  Above that, they are just great people to chat with.  The laid-back feel of the place made it super easy to meet new friends and the hang out in the lobby.  Better yet, there is an awesome rooftop terrace where you can drink a beer at night and just hang out watching the amazing view of the city when it’s all lit up.

Seriously, this place has everything you can possibly ask for. It’s just awesome.


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The ultimate city guide to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  Everything you need to know about having a great time in the city. Tips, tricks, what to do, where to eat and where to stay.  www.wediditourway.com