Porto, Portugal

Porto is a coastal city in northwest Portugal known for its stately bridges and port wine production. Here are my recommendations:

  1. Livraria Lello – The Guardian and travel website Lonely Planet picked this as the world’s third most beautiful bookstore. More than a century old, Lello is an art nouveau pearl with gothic details, stained glass and a fabulous red staircase, said to have inspired the one in Hogwarts (JK Rowling once lived in Porto). You have to pay to enter but you also get that money back if you purchase a book.
  2. Sao Bento Railway station – you can see the changes in modes of transport from one end of the ceiling, looping back around (horse carriage to train) IMG_5305
  3. Ponte de D. Luis 1 Iconic Metal Bridge (walk on the top and the bottom!) and take in the beautiful colorful buildings of Porto
  4. All the port brands are across the bridge on Gaia side where you will also see traditional boats along the way. They are now used as decoration and advertises the differenr brands but in the past, it was how the transported the barrels of port.
  5. Sao Francisco church IMG_5518
  6. Torre dos Clerigos bell tower which you can climb for sky high views – It was opened in 1763 and is blessed with a beautiful barrage of Baroque motifs thanks to its Italian designer Nicolau Nasoni. Given its prominent position, you can get some amazing 360° views of the city from the top, but you’ll have to climb 225 steps to get there.IMG_5292
  7. Lion fountain and the two nearby churches, one with pretty blue walls. You could never guess that between the church is the smallest house in Porto! I initially looks like one big church till you observe the architectural differences more closely.

     

  8. McDonald’s Imperial – super grand McD!
  9. Duoro Valley Day trip
  10. Old town for narrow cobbled streets, ancient houses and bags of character, and consider a Riverside biking tour (they provide electric bikes for the uphills)
  11. Majestic Cafe
  12. Brasao or Bulha are fancier restaurants to check out
  13. Francesinha is their famous dish – basically a meat sandwich with cheese and drenched in tomato like sauce
  14. Visit the beach by taking Linha 1 tram line, the most scenic route that follows the banks of the Douro River to the Foz district.
  15. Eat natas all day for only 1 euro. They tend to eat their nata’s cold other than at ” the world needs nata”
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Accom: Stayed at Feel Porto Apartment downtown town house – amazing Airbnb

Day trips from Taipei

Having been to Taipei several times now, I decided to explore the countryside a little bit more. Here are some day trip options even though I chose to stay over night at Jiu Fen to make the trip a bit more relaxing and to avoid large groups of tourists:

  1. Jiu Fen and Jing Gua Shi – Jiufen is a mountain town east of Taipei. It’s known for the narrow alleyways of its old town, packed with teahouses, street-food shacks and souvenir shops. It is also known as the back drop for the movie Spirited Away! Don’t forget to try Grandma Lai’s famous mochi type dessert opposite the post office along the old street.Close by, the Gold Mine Museum in Jing Gua Shi traces the town’s history as a mining hub during the Japanese-era gold rush. Be sure to check out the golden waterfall too which you will surprisingly find just by the main road.

    You can easily take a public bus from Rui Fang station to Jiu Fen and from Jiu Fen to Jing Gua Shi.

  2. Jing Tong to Ping Xi to Shi Fen to Rui Fang – Buy a day pass or use your easy card to access the Ping Xi line train that connects all these must see villages. This area is rich in history and is famous for the sky lantern experience. I chose to do the sky lantern at Ping Xi station instead of the famous Shi Fen one because of the number of tourists! Releasing a sky lantern starts from 150NT depending on the number of colours you want on your latern as each color represents a different meaning (this matters to some people). Shifen is also known for it’s waterfall so be sure to check that out (closes at 4:30pm) – photo in my Taipei blog post.
  3. Ying Ge is famous for the production of porcelain and an abundance of art studios and shops. It was good fun learning to make pottery! Note that it take’s about a month for it to be fired and colored so it might be useful to have a Taiwan friend help you pick this up as I’m not sure that they do international deliveries. It cost 150NT to make and an additional 150NT for the firing process etc.

Tokyo, Japan

The last time I visited Tokyo was during a school trip back when I was 12! All I could really remember was sticker photos, Disneyland and Universal Studios. This time I got to do my own research on what to do and had the privilege of having many friends take me around too. Here are my top recommendations in Tokyo/from Tokyo:

  1. Watch a Sumo fight in Ryogkoku. Check when sumo season is on, I was lucky it was tournament season but when I tried to get tickets on the spot, it was sold out! So pre-booking is vital.
  2. Harry’s Hedgehog cafe Harajuku (you can hold em!) 30min or 1h time slots with unlimited free drinks from the machine.
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  3. Takeshita Street Harajuku is my favourite because it has everything. Shops, cool cafes such as the Owl cafe, vintage shopping, and street food (plenty of crepe and unique desserts). Kawaii culture came from there so you will also find maid cafes.5AA4836E-114C-4239-9ADE-6CADE8FC494B
  4. Ichiran Ramen. You will start to realise Japan can be quite anti-social when it comes to amazing food places. Booth and bar stool culture where you just eat and then go. They are so efficient that you pre-pay for what you want from a machine before you enter.
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  5. Enjoy a free city view from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building in Shinjuku15195ADA-D520-4E43-B21A-2FE95A4F5061
  6. Shibuya Crossing and the view from the Mag building where you pay 300yen to go up and 1000yen extra if you want the drone type shot!C80A2BD4-A26E-460E-A2AB-E9468F263949
  7. Consider trying the Robot restaurant
  8. Visit Sensoji, Asakusa – the older temple with traditional shops all around 

  9. Meiji Shrine in the city forest near Harajuku station 

  10. Tokyo Tower
  11. Rainbow bridge and Giant Robot 

  12. Team Lab – Borderless or Planet exhibition. Pre-buy tickets to avoid lines. E9F8602F-6A66-4475-8822-F2AAA97CD6C5
  13. Hachi statue, a very common meeting spot in Shibuya8863933B-B642-4F49-90C0-4AC38B860117
  14. Dancer’s collection for all your Hip Hop gear
  15. Sky tree885C85C7-709A-403C-9C87-D82398F5943E
  16. Akihabara – all your tech in one place
  17. Don Quijote – 24h shop with everything! They have branches all around
  18. Kura, Genki, Uobei and Sushi Ro for good sushi
  19. Geisha/Samurai show
  20. Bonus if you can catch cherry blossom season
  21. Day trip to Mount Fuji

 

Extra: My food list

  • Melon breadEB7A3296-4469-4CE1-9D27-F94A59FE4B95
  • Katsu Curry
  • Katsu Don
  • Ramen
  • Tsukemen
  • Yakitori
  • Crepe (they are everywhere especially in Takeshita)A071727F-B6A6-4F6E-9C72-468A60ADE22B
  • Rainbow toastie00C7E095-ECAC-490B-A07F-F7D2C8877FDE
  • Anura Soba – my fave! 

  • Cheese hotdog
  • Train Sushi
  • Takoyaki (Originated in Osaka)AF3CF433-AE0C-468B-9066-744CE7A5436F
  • Wagyu beef
  • Chicken Karaage
  • Gyudon (beef bowl rice)
  • Tsukiyaki
  • Okonomiyaki C27D61C9-B0F6-4132-9964-7CB06318270B
  • Monja (only in Tokyo)
  • Gyoza
  • Tamago DE95E859-622E-4C65-BA53-B0A8B69920C8
  • Chawanmushi
  • Daifuku D5E16C6C-10BD-496A-BB1A-0611AFCFD21F
  • Mocha (handmade, red bean inside) A8B91988-68A7-485B-9A32-E39617A3E0B9
  • Dango (plain mocha on skewer)
  • Taiyoki (fish shape waffle)
  • Piyanee Thai Milk Bubble tea (amazing bubble tea in Shibuya near H&M) 540A9E0C-2127-4E00-81BF-CA3A2D15C6BB

Melbourne, Australia

Melbourne is the coastal capital of the southeastern Australian state of Victoria. People always compare Melbourne and Sydney but it’s really up to you to decide which city your prefer as they both have pros and cons. Melbourne is known for being more artsy but you could get four seasons in one day! Here is a list of things to do in the city, a few eating recommendations and near by road trips you can do too.

  1. Adelphi Hotel rooftop pool (glass bottom)
  2. Aga The French Patisserie
  3. Art Centre Melbourne
    DC65BBF2-F2A8-4519-809B-73571001501D
  4. Australian Centre for Moving Image
    D73538A7-F319-47AC-BE49-3F4400E113C9
  5. Ballarat day trip known for its Gold!
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  6. Bendigo Day Trip
  7. Brighton Beach for the famous colourful beach huts20180623_164239
  8. Carlton Gardens where you’ll find Melbourne Museum and the Royal Exhibition Building
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  9. Chadstone shopping centre with 550 shops, free shuttle available
  10. China Town
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  11. Cycle Merri Creek Trail
  12. Dandenongs Day trip (puffing billy railway)
    73686840-7ACC-4FEB-8FD5-0327041DCCCD
  13. Day trip to Yarra Valley with Autopia Tours
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  14. Degraves street for cafes
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  15. Eat at Hawker Chan (Singaporean food)
  16. Etihad Stadium
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  17. Eureka Tower 88 floor observation deck
  18. Federation Square
    BA06CD05-6B5F-4F02-AD53-7F5C14702AB3
  19. Flag Staff Garden
  20. Flinders Street station
    DC4965BA-20F9-498B-9359-4A20EE8123CC
  21. Forum Theatre
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  22. Geelong day trip
  23. Get a bird’s eye view from the balcony of Hamer Hall2F232308-EBE0-4D05-8C4F-EF343265EB6D
  24. Grampians

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    On the way to Balconies Lookout Point
  25. Great Ocean Road

    E4C29A92-0B59-448B-8F97-9A9914629085
    Gibson Steps Beach
  26. Hanging Rock – Macedon Ranges ( I would highly recommend Hanging Rock Llama Walking Tours hosted by Mark, be sure to book ahead)850D80D9-FE42-481F-9AFF-C3A022CE306E
  27. Heide Museum of Modern Art
  28. Hopetoun Tea Rooms – always fully booked
    D736CFD3-C926-4121-8C80-9F4AB13E72F7
  29. Hosier Lane and Centre Place for street art
    0DBDE409-E7C9-438A-8052-3078388C3E36
  30. Immigration Museum
    34FA81B9-29EF-42C8-8DE1-BAD4FFE4579B
  31. Luna Park
  32. Lune Croissanterie, always sells out
    9975A798-6BFB-45AE-A1E8-03D4D3247B8E
  33. Melbourne Museum
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  34. Melbourne Zoo
  35. Mornington Peninsula day trip with Bunyip Tours which will include either the hot springs or Sorrento and Port Sea in the morning followed by the Enchanted Adventure Gardens in the afternoon

    1FF848F4-F497-426D-B90F-454B1AD12F92
    Arthur’s Seat View Point
  36. National Gallery Victoria
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  37. Nicholas building (shopping)
  38. Old Melborne Gaol
    34A15C92-BB78-4B26-8229-96758814F64C
  39. Old Treasury Building (really good free museum)4E60113F-7576-48E9-9B62-E71BDAA82C8F
  40. Parliament House
  41. Philip Island day trip, they come out after sunset
    2A67A9EC-195A-4FF0-80F1-45DA26A8FDEF
  42. Pidapipo Gelato (try the Nutella one)
    E8891845-0940-4707-B9DB-09146EAC4F23
  43. Port Campbell (part of Great Ocean Road trip)
  44. Princes Bridge
    3503CCD1-3A52-4324-AD64-0BA004A3F089
  45. Queen Victoria Market
  46. Royal Botanic Gardens
    20180701_143622
  47. Royal Exhibition Building
    DEB6DD40-7E10-487B-B1F5-D224E2A2BD61
  48. Sofitel Hotel toilets for a view!
  49. Sorrento and Port Sea
  50. South Melbourne Market
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  51. St Kilda where you can also see Penguins for free
    20180622_233549
  52. St Paul’s Cathedral
    524258D1-E70F-4A6E-A7B8-21E9480E45F3
  53. State library
    7B9BAA02-3E1F-4E6D-9E7E-4EFF14C1965D
  54. Take the ferry from Queenscliff to Sorrento
  55. Take the free city loop tain
  56. The Block Arcade
    E6D5292B-8A3A-43D3-B9B0-7C09D5913FA3
  57. The Star – their ferris wheel for great views from up top
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  58. Town Hall
  59. Waterfront city/New Quay
  60. Yarra River