Listed City Guide - T
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TAIWAN

Taipei Travel Guide

Taipei, the capital of the island nation of Taiwan, is hot, crowded, chaotic and cosmopolitan, one of the Asian ‘tiger’ cities that throbs with life day and night. The city skyscrapers reach up from a basin in the north of Taiwan, which is separated from the Chinese mainland by the narrow Formosa Strait. For decades the recognition of the independence of Taiwan has been an issue domestically and internationally, and the dispute is still simmering.

Considered to be one of the major hubs of the Chinese-speaking world, Taipei itself has grown from a swampy farming settlement into a modern metropolis in an extraordinarily short time, most of this development having taken place since World War II. Now a city of incredible contrast, with a unique sense of both the modern and the traditional, Taipei has a richness and depth of character seldom matched elsewhere.

The districts of Taipei swarm with a conglomeration of cultures going about their business in streets choked with unruly traffic. A bustling city, it is packed with incredible attractions, excellent restaurants (it is renowned among gourmands) and magnificent hotels. The city also gleams with glitzy shopping malls and wonderful museums; and when the noise and excitement gets too much there are also temples, spas and peaceful gardens for those in search of tranquillity.

Whether visitors are just stopping over for a short while on business, or staying on to enjoy this unique Asian city, Taipei is an eclectic and interesting destination which will certainly make for a memorable stay.

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THAILAND

Bangkok Travel Guide

Bangkok, meaning the ‘city of angels’, is often described as crowded and noisy, yet the city is full of culture, historic sites and beautifully authentic food:

Travelling to Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, is like throwing yourself into a mad melee of a metropolis, decadent and often squalid, but extremely traveller-friendly. Locals welcome those who holiday in Bangkok with wide smiles and amid all the chaos and congestion there are hidden gems to discover. Bangkok is also the gateway to Thailand’s legendary beach resorts and is ideal for those travelling on a budget.

A Bangkok holiday is particularly popular among young backpackers, simply because they are catered for in many cheap hostels. There is, however, a vast array of accommodation to suit all budgets in this tourist-oriented city. Despite popular belief, the city is also very child friendly and with many zoos, play parks and educational museums, the city even caters for families who have young ones.

Best time to visit Bangkok

The best time to travel to Bangkok is between November and February, although with its tropical climate a Bangkok holiday offers high humidity and temperatures all year round. It is best to avoid the hottest months of March, April and May, and the rainy season between June and October. Read more on Bangkok’s Climate and Weather.

What to see in Bangkok

-Visit the Bangkok National Museum.

-Marvel at the Temple of the Reclining Buddha (Wat Pho).

-Take in the sights at Wat Benchamabophit (Marble Temple).

-See the Royal Barges National Museum.

What to do in Bangkok

-Get lost in the maze of stalls at Chatuchak Market.

-Experience the national sport of Thailand, Muay Thai.

-Take in a piece of history at Jim Thomson’s House.

-Admire the unique Damnoen Saduak Floating Market.

Beyond Bangkok

Bangkok is the perfect doorway to a number of regions of Thailand, including the Phuket and Chiang Mai. As the capital city, Bangkok is easily accommodated on any travel itinerary of Thailand, not least of all because it is easy to get flights into the city from all over the world. Most parts of Thailand are easily accessible from the central hub of Bangkok with various forms of transport to each location, including bus, train and plane. A popular excursion from Bangkok would be to visit the hisorically rich Kanchanaburi, famous as the site of the Bridge Over the River Kwai.

Getting there

Flights to Bangkok land in Suvarnabhumi International Airport, located 19 miles (30km) east of Bangkok; and Don Mueang International Airport is a small secondary facility located 15 miles (25km) outside of Bangkok. There are flights to Bangkok from various cities in the UK, US and many European cities. Get more information on Airports in Bangkok.

Did you know?

-Some Bangkok bathrooms offer a third gender option for ladyboys.

-All of the temples pictured on Thai baht coins are in Bangkok.

-Bangkok holds the record for longest capital name in the world.

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Chiang Mai Travel Guide

A holiday in the ancient city of Chiang Mai is an essential element of any visit to Thailand and a gateway to the north:

A holiday in Chiang Mai is an essential element of any visit to Thailand. This ancient city, with a cooler climate and greener aspect than frenetic Bangkok, is set in the foothills of the Himalayas, and is known for its elephant-back safaris, magnificent temples and famed Night Market. This popular tourist destination also has plenty of other attractionsand excursions to enchant visitors, from orchid farms to puppet shows. Travel to Chiang Mai is for anyone who thinks they would enjoy an entertaining and interesting taste of Thailand and especially families, as there are a number of fantastic attractions for children. A vacation in Chiang Mai appeals to anyone who is intent on learning more about the Thai way of life.

Best time to visit Chiang Mai

The best time to visit Chiang Mai, like elsewhere in Thailand, is between November and May when cooling winds blow through the city, ensuring warm to mild days. Chiang Mai is generally cooler and less humid than Bangkok and December and January can be on the chilly side. Read more on Chiang Mai’s Climate and Weather.

What to see in Chiang Mai

-Learn something new about the culture of northern Thailand at the Chiang Mai City Arts and Cultural Center

-Experience a unique way of life at the Lisu Hill-Tribe Display.

-Marvel at the lush gardens at the Bhubing Palace.

-Be amazed by natural mystery of the Naga Fireball Festival.

What to do in Chiang Mai

-Take the kids to the Chiang Mai Zoo to see the pandas.

-Feel the love during Loy Krathon festival.

-Visit the elephants in one of the many sanctuaries around the city.

-Tour any of the hundreds of Chiang Mai Temples.

Beyond Chiang Mai

There are many fun and adventurous excursions from Chiang Mai into the surrounding countryside and to nearby villages: the Pai district draws many tourists for its rural scenic beauty and the Doi Suthep mountain is famous for its beautiful temple (Wat Phratat) perched on the summit. Chiang Mai is also the perfect base for trekking into the northern regions of Thailand occupied by the ancient Lisu hill tribe people.

Getting there

Flights to Chiang Mai land at Chiang Mai International Airport, situated two miles (4km) from the city centre. Get more info on Airports in Chiang Mai.

Did you know?

-Chiang Mai means ‘new city’, even though it is far older than Bangkok.

-Chiang Mai is home to Thailand’s highest mountain, Doi Inthanon.

-The Chiang Mai city area has over 300 Buddhist temples.

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Phuket Travel Guide

In the Andaman Sea off Thailand’s west coast, the holiday hub of Phuket, or the ‘Pearl of the South’ as it has become known, is connected to the mainland by the Sarasin Bridge. Thailand’s largest island, Phuket is incredibly diverse with rocky and sandy beaches, tall cliffs, forests, waterfalls and temples.

Phuket caters to all, with a variety of holiday resorts offering accommodation from backpackers and simple guesthouses to modern luxury hotels, though the beachfront bungalows on unspoilt stretches of white sand are rarer now than they used to be. There are numerous activities in or near Phuket to enjoy on holiday, including mountain biking, bungy jumping and golf. It is even possible to go elephant trekking. A variety of tours offer day trips to the cliffs of nearby Phang Nga Bay, Koh Phi Phi, and the beaches and islands around Krabi. There is plenty to do on the island, whatever your budget, and several offshore islands are good for snorkelling and scuba diving.

Phuket has a huge variety of goods and shopping establishments, from markets and street stalls to department stores and specialist shops, and a range of restaurants from Thai seafood to Indian and Western cuisine. Phuket also has its own airport, making it easy to get to and from Bangkok, and although the island hosts thousands of tourists in peak season, its sheer size allows visitors to escape from the madding crowds. Patong Beach is the island’s most famous and developed beach resort, offering a wide choice of holiday activities, dining options and nightlife. It is situated nine miles (15km) from Phuket City.

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TUNISIA

Tunis Travel Guide

The capital of Tunis is Tunisia’s largest city and stretches along the coastal plains and surrounding hills of the Gulf of Tunis. Steeped in a rich and fascinating history, Tunis is home to the famous Roman ruins of Carthage, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and popular tourist attraction, dating back to the fourth century BC. Tunis has witnessed the passage of the Phoenicians, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Turks, Spanish and French over the last 3,000 years.

Other attractions in the city include the National Museum of Bardo which tells the stories of Tunisia’s history from the Phoenicians right through to modern-day times, while the old Medina in the centre of Tunis co-exists with the modern architecture of the new city (Ville Nouvelle), linked by labyrinths of alleys and covered passages infused throughout by the magical aromas, vibrant colours and sounds of bustling souks.

The modern city of Tunis is located just through the Sea Gate which has remained unchanged since it was erected in 1848 and is also known as the Bab el Bahr, where the Champs- Élysées of Tunisia – the grand Avenue Habib Bourguiba – crosses through the middle. Colonial architecture can be found here illustrating the history of this culturally diverse and historic city.

The spicy foods and flavours of local dishes may blow the socks of some tourists, but to others, the fragrant heat of the fiery red chilli paste known as harissa is an essential accompaniment to ones’ Tunis experience while the Tunisian coffee, much like the Turkish variety, is world-renowned for its rich flavours and energising properties.

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TURKEY

Ankara Travel Guide

East and west fuse together perfectly in Turkey’s capital of Ankara, where shades of the mystical east and ancient civilisations lie partially hidden among office buildings, shopping malls, and government offices. The city is imbued with the spirit of modernity and youth: a student town filled with language schools, universities, and colleges. It also has a vast ex-pat community (most of it diplomatic), which adds to the cosmopolitan atmosphere.

Situated on a rocky hill in the dry, barren region of Anatolia, this humming city can trace its history back to the bronze age, and has been a part of historic events through several great civilisations, including those of the Phrygians, Lydians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Galatians, and Ottomans. Alexander the Great was one of the conquerors who stayed in the city for a while, and today’s tourists are spoilt for choice when it comes to unearthing the city’s historic attractions.

With a population of well over four million, Ankara is a deserving capital city, aptly described as the ‘anchor’ of Turkey. While it is perhaps not always sought after by tourists it is certainly entertaining and hosts many business travellers and those seriously intrigued with ancient history. The old heart of the city, Ulus, is centred on an ancient citadel on a hilltop, where many historic buildings have been restored. Many of these buildings have been turned into restaurants served traditional Turkish cuisine. In this area there are several Roman archaeological sites, and narrow alleys shelter shops selling eastern delights like leather, carpets, copper, spices, and jewellery.

From the old city outwards, the buildings spread across various hills in carefully planned fashion. This planning was undertaken by European urban planners when revolutionary-turned-statesman, Mustafa Ataturk, set up provisional government in a small dusty town in 1920, just after the first World War. Ataturk is buried in a grand mausoleum called Anitkabir, in a green ‘peace’ park which is open to visitors.

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Istanbul Travel Guide

Istanbul is the only city in the world reaching across two continents, with its old city in Europe and modern Istanbul situated in Asia, separated by the Bosphorus Strait:

Travelling to Istanbul is also unique in having had capital status during two successive empires, namely the Christian Byzantine and Islamic Ottoman empires, so visitors can have the experience of taking in the cultural legacy from both of these great civilizations which is still visible in the city today.

Istanbul’s location on the water made it a much coveted site as a commercial shipping port and military lookout, and as capital of the Roman Empire, Constantinople, as it was known, became extremely desirable as a centre of world trade, until Mehmet the Conqueror claimed it for the Ottoman Empire in 1453 and it became the imperial seat of the sultans. After the War of Independence the capital was moved to Ankara, but Istanbul still remains the commercial, historical, and cultural heart of Turkey today.

The charm and character of Istanbul lies in its endless variety and jumble of contradictions. Its fascinating history has bequeathed the city a vivid inheritance of Byzantine ruins, splendid palaces, ancient mosques and churches, hamams (bath-houses) and exotic bazaars. Modern Istanbul also exudes a thriving nightlife scene with trendy bars and nightclubs, alongside western boutiques, office blocks, and elegant suburbs. The call to prayer heralds the start of each day and the city comes to life with over 14 million inhabitants forming a chaotic social and cultural mix. All of which makes for a captivating and frenetic experience for tourists, who flock to the city for shoppingsightseeing, and everything else this magical city has to offer.

Best time to visit Istanbul

The city enjoys hot, humid summers, and summer is the season most choose to travel to Istanbul. It is probably best to plan Istanbul holidays for either early or late summer, though, to avoid the high season crowds and inflated prices. Winter is cold, wet and there is often snow, so holiday-makers tend to avoid travelling to Istanbul between November and February.

Read more on Istanbul’s Climate and Weather.

What to see in Istanbul

-Visit the magnificent domes of the Blue Mosque.

-Soak up some culture at the Turkish and Islamic Art Museum.

-Marvel at the remarkable architecture of Hagia Sophia.

-See the ruins of the ancient Hippodrome of Constantinople.

What to do in Istanbul

-Get lost in the maze of stalls at the Grand Bazaar.

-Stroll through the beautiful gardens of the Dolmabahce Palace.

-Take in a piece of history at the Topkapi Palace Museum.

-Admire the unique location of a Bond film at the Sunken Palace.

Beyond Istanbul

Istanbul is the perfect doorway to a number of regions in Turkey, including Ankara and the Cappadocia region. Istanbul is easily accommodated on any travel itinerary of Turkey, not least of all because it is easy to get flights into the city from all over the world. Most parts of Turkey are easily accessible from the central hub of Istanbul with various forms of transport to each location, including bus, train and plane.

Getting there

Flights to Istanbul land in Ataturk International Airport (IST), located 15 miles (23km) west of Istanbul. There are direct flights to Istanbul from various cities in the UK, US and many European cities.

Get more information on Airports in Istanbul.

Did you know?

-Istanbul is the only city in the world reaching across two continents.

-Istanbul is the most populous city in Europe with over 14 million people.

-Tulips, the symbol of Holland, originated in Istanbul and were then sent to the Netherlands.

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Tennessee

Memphis Travel Guide

Few people alive today have not heard of Elvis Presley, legendary ‘King of Rock ‘n Roll’, and most associate Memphis, largest city in Tennessee, with the iconic deceased singer. Hundreds of thousands of visitors flock to the city each year, particularly on Elvis’ birthday, to make a pilgrimage to Graceland, the mansion where Presley lived and died.

Citing its famous singing sensation as the only draw card in Memphis, however, is failing to do this go-getter city in southwest Tennessee justice. But music makes Memphis special, for sure: not only rock ‘n roll but also the fact that the city spawned the modern musical forms of blues and soul as well. Music fans from all over the world stroll down legendary Beale Street in the downtown area, happy to be walking in the footsteps of their heroes.

Aside from touring Graceland there are several other music-related attractions to grab the attention, and a whole lot of other things to see and do in Memphis. The nightlife is world-renowned; the cuisine, particularly barbecue, irresistible; and there are fascinating museums, great gardens, Mississippi river boats, amusement parks, and some quirky cultural and natural sights to explore.

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Nashville Travel Guide

Country music is synonymous with Tennessee’s state capital, the rapidly growing city of Nashville, where the strains of the guitar and accordion are big business, drawing millions of fans to the city every year. Dozens of famous names in the music world have been nourished in Nashville since 1925 when the legendary ‘Grand Ole Opry’ went on the air, broadcasting weekly shows touting the talents of up and coming singers. It all began in the downtown Ryman Auditorium, originally a church, which became the music hall where the likes of Dolly Parton and Roy Acuff first strutted their stuff.

Visitors still come today to visit Opryland, the resort that incorporates the new Grand Ole Opry, northeast of the city. Daily shows are presented here, and just around the corner is the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Fans also flock to the area known as The District, crammed with nightclubs, bars and restaurants where country music reigns supreme.

Beyond country music, Nashville offers historical interest in the form of the old Belle Meade Plantation, a centre of thoroughbred breeding and training in the past, as well as the Tennessee Sate Museum, filled with exhibits detailing the entire state’s history from millions of years ago to the present day. The Parthenon, a full-scale replica of the original in Athens, houses a fine collection of art, and for those who want to experience a bit of Tennessee’s beautiful country scenery and rich wildlife, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park isn’t far from Nashville.

Everyone, country music fan or not, cannot fail to leave Nashville with their toes tapping!

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Texas

Amarillo Travel Guide

The city of Amarillo, about 330 miles (531km) northwest of Dallas-Fort Worth, is where the old West lives on in the commercial centre of the Texas panhandle.

Amarillo started out in 1887 as a ‘buffalo-hide tent camp’ for railroad construction workers. Today, the town named for a nearby stream, the Arroya Amarillo, boasts a convention centre, symphony, ballet, theatre, opera and two higher education facilities, Amarillo College and Texas State Technical College.

Amarillo’s fortunes have long rested on the horns of cattle ranching, but it has also become a popular stopover for tourists keen to play cowboy or cowgirl, with numerous motels and restaurants having opened up in recent years. The town is located on the major Route 1-40 east-west highway, making it easily accessible for visitors and those who come for the famed frenetic Amarillo Livestock Auctions.

At first glance Amarillo may seem unprepossessing and have little to offer apart from cowboys and cattle, but it is worth digging below the dust of the high plains to discover its attractions.

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Austin Travel Guide

Capital of Texas, the city of Austin lies almost in the centre of the state, a big city with a small town feel, young population, casual lifestyle and reputation as a Mecca for live music shows.

Home of the University of Texas campus, Austin life is closely entwined with the energy and enthusiasm of its students, but this city that has been a state capital since 1838 does not ignore its history. Young people are drawn here too by the array of live concerts that are held frequently around the shores of Town Lake. Most famous of these events is the annual South by Southwest music festival-conference held each March. Visitors wanting to tune in to Austin’s live musical repertoire, which spans everything from blues and country to reggae, simply have to drift down the famous Sixth Street strip of pubs and clubs any night of the week.

Austin’s laid-back attitude lends itself to the great outdoors, and the city has miles of hiking and biking trails linking parks, preserves and greenbelts adding to the ambience of its leafy streets.

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Dallas-Fort Worth Travel Guide

The two biggest cities in North Texas, Dallas and Fort Worth, are 30 miles (48km) apart but have been drawn together into one urban concentration known as the ‘DFW Metroplex’ with a combined population of more than four million.

The two cities are, however, very different halves of a whole. Dallas, its soaring glass-sided skyscrapers seemingly growing like mushrooms out of the prairie, is full of glitz and glamour. Its urban landscape is vigorous and classy, its citizens enjoying the good things in life from fashionable clothing to flashy cars. This thriving city is the ninth largest city in the United States, having grown from a frontier outpost with 20 streets in 1841 to a centre for big business and big banking, helped along a little by ‘black gold’, the oil that was discovered 100 miles (161km) east of the city in 1930.

Fort Worth, the western half of the Metroplex, is the gateway to the Wild West. Having started out as ‘Cowtown’, a base for cattle drives, Fort Worth still reflects a laid-back and slightly ‘cowpoke’ attitude, although surprisingly it has also developed into a cultural centre with world-class museums and a thriving performing arts sector.

Dallas is certainly the place for visitors to enjoy a rich shopping experience and upmarket wining and dining, but Fort Worth is the venue for exciting and interesting attractions and a taste of western culture.

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Houston Travel Guide

The massive metropolis of Houston, sprawling across the Gulf Coast plain of East Texas from its busy port, is almost twice the size of the entire state of Rhode Island. Even with this heavy urban concentration, though, Houston is green and lush, sited at the end of a belt of forest coming down from the north, and characterised by marshlands and bayous lined with cypress trees in the southern reaches.

Houston, named after former Republic of Texas president Sam Houston, is hot and humid. To make life more bearable in the close-packed downtown area much activity has gone underground. The city centre sports an air-conditioned seven-mile (11km) pedestrian tunnel system full of restaurants and shops. Unlike most cities, downtown in Houston is the hub of residential development, so it remains busy and bustling long after dark.

Texas’ largest city is not generally a sought after tourist destination, being concerned more with business than pleasure and leisure. Computer manufacture, gas and oil, and a huge concentration of medical institutions account for most of the economic activity, but all those hard-working citizens have to play sometimes. There are some great attractions like excellent museums, the amazing Astrodome sports pavilion, some wonderful theatres and, thanks to the cosmopolitan mix of its residents, ethnically diverse cuisine which can be found in its many restaurants. For visitors the absolute ‘must-see’ in Houston is the famed Space Center mission control for the US space programme.

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San Antonio Travel Guide

San Antonio has the friendly, welcoming atmosphere of a small town despite being the seventh largest city in the United States. Attractions such the Alamo, where Davy Crocket famously took his last stand, and the restaurant-lined Riverwalk ensure that San Antonio is one of the most popular destinations in the country, drawing 26 million visitors per year.

The city has a unique combination of Spanish colonial plazas, downtown Germanic architecture, and vibrant Tex-Mex culture. Its music scene combines Mexican and Texan country and western strands, and its cuisine reflects tortillas and T-bones in interesting combinations. San Antonio’s Fiesta week, in late April, recently celebrated its 50th anniversary and now ranks as one the biggest community events in the nation.

The city is easily navigable on foot, particularly the Riverwalk, which winds its way along the San Antonio River, past cafes, restaurants, shaded groves and perfectly preserved colonial buildings. The Riverwalk is the heart of this charming city, linking its key attractions together and providing sanctuary from the heat of summer.

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