New York City, USA
The Big Apple was always a dream of mine. I don’t really know why but I am guessing it has a lot to do with American pop culture. Everything I knew about NYC revolved around yellow taxis, hot dogs, pretzels, Madison Square Garden, Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, Central Park, Brooklyn Bridge, the list goes on. Well guess what…? My dream came true in 2014! And I did all the things listed above and more. My time in Manhattan also included a night at a speakeasy (prohibition-era bar), feeling cool at Smorgasburg in Williamsburg, lots of shopping, seeing a live Broadway show (Aladdin) and best of all, experiencing Independence Day – fireworks and all! I heart NYC!
My time in Lisbon was short but it became a city I am determined to return to in the near future. The night life is buzzing with people enjoying their dinner, drinks and company. Bairro Alto is where it’s at! The night I arrived, I explored the nightlife in this area with the group I was travelling with and I had a ball! The people are lovely and the Portuguese language is beautiful. When in Lisbon, you have to make a stop at Belem and indulge in Portugal’s famous egg tarts, also known as Pasteis de Nata. I’ve eaten plenty of these tarts in my life but there’s something special about having it in its country of origin.
The moment I walked into the walled city I fell in love. It was like I entered a different time in the world’s history. I was completely mesmerised as I wandered atop the castle walls, scanning my eyes along all the tiny lanes criss-crossing the city, as well as gazing beyond the walls at the beautiful coast. At ground level, there is plenty to explore between every alley, including food, drinks, museums and souvenirs. There’s usually music in the air too, either from street performers or from the bars and restaurants. The old town in Dubrovnik is simply full of charm.
Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
I experienced Rio in a special setting, as it was the year that Rio was hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2014. So perhaps my story isn’t consistent with everyday Rio. Either way, I had a blast! What I love about Rio the most is that you can be standing at one point and you will be able to see the beach, the rainforest, the city and the mountains all in one view. It’s truly one of a kind. I spent most of my time close to the beach, eating churrasco style and sipping Caipirinha. From Copacabana to Ipanema, the beach is one endless stretch of fun.
Tokyo is by far one of the most unique cities I have ever visited. It’s like Manhattan but more organised. It seems chaotic at first but once you get the hang of it, it’s actually quite orderly, despite the huge population. The people go from one extreme to the other. You’ll walk passed plenty of people conservatively dressed, and then later on you’ll witness their wacky youth in outrageous outfits. I personally think it’s brilliant. Tokyo is a massive city with heaps of neighbourhoods that are all worth visiting, from Harajuku and Shinjuku to Akihabara and Asakusa, each district has their own character. The train system is absolutely brilliant, by far one of the best I have ever used. Most importantly, day and night, I always felt safe.
I could say this about many European cities but Vienna stood out to me the most for its stunning architecture and art culture. Vienna is also home to the magnificent Schönbrunn Palace, where I spent half a day losing myself in the gorgeous gardens before taking a self-guided audio tour inside 21 rooms of the exquisite palace. Vienna isn’t the cheapest city, so if you’re a budget traveller like me, simply spending the day wandering the city and admiring all the beautiful buildings can be a fulfilling experience. I literally had only one day in Vienna so I would love to return and see more.
Similar to New York City, visiting London was also a big dream of mine. I guess coming from a small suburb in Melbourne, all the major cities around the world became dreams. Additionally, I am a fan of British pop culture, which was a strong motive. The city of London is a lot bigger than what I expected and I wish I allocated more time. There is a certain type of energy but it’s not sparkly like NYC or Tokyo. It’s quite edgy. I feel like if London was a person, he/she would be neurotic and sarcastic but still lovable. Locals will probably disagree but as a traveller, I thought the tube was fine. I loved seeing the red and blue train station names (you know the London Underground sign/logo…?). Rain or shine, London is one of my favourite cities for its history, night life, West End, pop culture and all its busyness.
Hoi An, Vietnam
Ahhh, the quaint beach city that is Hoi An. Out of all the cities I visited in Vietnam, Hoi An was my favourite. Firstly, the sea water at the beach is so comfortably warm. Like seriously, the perfect temperature! Secondly, it is super bike-friendly! The hotel I stayed at rented out bicycles so it was my main mode of transport during my stay. I was able to cycle to the beach, into the town centre and through the massive rice fields. Lastly, the town centre is beautifully lit up in the evenings with countless lanterns. I also want to add that the food was delicious but I personally believe the food is amazing all around Vietnam.
Copenhagen is another city that is very bike-friendly, probably the most bike-friendly city I have ever been to. I believe most of the population rely on bicycles, even during winter when it is freezing cold beyond any Aussie’s belief. The city centre of Copenhagen isn’t as big as London or Tokyo so you can explore it in a shorter time frame. The population isn’t as large either so navigating your way around will feel less hectic. Copenhagen is rich in history so the attractions are ample. Tivoli and Nyhavn are popular choices, and for good reason. If you want to be alternative, you can explore the surrounding neighbourhoods, including the famous Freetown Christiania. I personally loved Kastellet and Rosenborg Castle & Garden. Best of all, I felt very welcomed in Copenhagen.
I am shamelessly being biased… but home is where the heart is ❤