Chinatown, Melbourne.

Chinatown, Melbourne is packed with Asian ethnic shops and restaurants.

Havasu Falls

The Havasu Falls are located in the Grand Canyon. Hiking trails and guided tours go from Havasupai Village.

Jarlshof.

Jarlshof is a settlement dating back to the Bronze Age on the Shetland Mainland.

Chefchaouen, Morocco

Chefchaouen is a blue, fortified city in the north of Morocco.

Sky Lantern Festival.

The Sky Lantern Festival is celebrated all across Asia but Pingxi is best known for it.

Chinatown in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Chinatown (at Little Bourke Street) in Melbourne, Australia came to be in the mid-1800s when Australia experienced a 'gold rush' of its own. Gold had been found in Victoria, attracting many Chinese looking for riches. At the time there already was a small Chinese community in Melbourne, and it provided the immigrants with what they needed for their ventures. Over time the small Chinese community grew as it purchased land and built clubrooms to serve as meeting places. Eventually, as the gold rush subsided, the Chinese who did not return home settled in Chinatown.

Nowadays, while many of the historic buildings are preserved and the neighborhood maintains its original character, Chinatown is full of shops and restaurants. To quote the website of Chinatown Melbourne:
The Supper Inn
"The area is dominated by restaurants from fine dining to laneway and arcade noodle houses, and is home to a number of Asian grocery stores, Chinese medicine and herbalist centres, bookstores, fashion boutiques and other retail outlets in arcades such as the Village Centre, The Target Centre and Paramount Plaza. True to its name and predominantly of Chinese ethnicity, you will also find Melbourne’s Chinatown is truly cosmopolitan with a myriad of cuisines like Thai, Japanese, Malaysian, Vietnamese, Contemporary European and Australian
to tempt your taste buds."
Additionally, for those looking for something a little more upbeat, traditional festivals and activities take place in Chinatown throughout the year.

TripAdvisor reviewers seem to agree Chinatown Melbourne's two best restaurants are the Supper Inn and the Shanghai Dumpling House.

Sky Lantern Festival, Pingxi, New Taipei City, Taiwan

The Sky Lantern Festival is an annual celebration that takes place every 15th of January of the Lunar calendar. While it is celebrated all across Asia, Pingxi (a mountain town not far from New Taipei City) is best known for it.


About its origin Fest 300 says:
'According to the elders of Pingxi, the Sky Lantern Festival originated in the Xing Dynasty, more than two thousand years ago. At that time, bands of outlaws frequently raided the lowland villages, forcing residents to seek refuge in the lush, verdant mountains. Village watchmen used  “fire balloons” as signals to inform the refugees that their houses were safe once again. When those hiding in the hills saw the celestial flares, they knew it was time to go home.'
Nowadays the lanterns serve a different purpose. People write their wishes and dreams on the lanterns, hoping their release will help them come true. Aside from these individually owned lanterns, there are main lanterns owned by the official organization. According to Wikipedia, these lanterns are over 10 meters tall and correspond with the zodiac signs of Chinese astrology.

The festival is massively participated in. There is a main stage with big screens, TV cameras, celebrities and musicians. The lantern launches take place three times an hour throughout the evening. Those looking to participate will find all the information they need at the official Pingxi Sky Lantern website. Among other things it has tour guide information, transport information (shuttle buses, trains, and tourist shuttles), and a map guide. 

As for accommodation, in Pingxi there is the Herwan Hotel (website entirely in Taiwanese). Some 12 miles down the road is Nantong, offering more accommodation possibilities. New Taipei City is an hour's drive away and offers plenty of accommodation as well. 




Chefchaouen, Chefchaouen, Morocco

Chefchaouen is a fortified city in the province of the same name in northern Morocco. It was founded in 1470 by the Ghomara tribes to fight the invading Portuguese. In Chefchaouen all houses are painted blue, which is a tradition originally started by the Jews who settled there after the Spanish Reconquista. And as the city was taken and held by the Spanish a good while later, a lot of Spanish is still spoken there today.

Chefchaouen is widely known for its local produce. It boasts arts and crafts that aren't found anywhere else in Morocco, making it a popular destination for both tourists and Moroccans. Some of the local products are goat cheese, blankets, rugs, leatherwares, metalworks, and spices. Marijuana and hash are not uncommonly traded and offered in this city, but both are illegal so visitors shouldn't be tempted.

In Chefchaouen there's a waterfall where the local women come to do their laundry. Right behind the waterfall are the ruins of an old mosque. The medina is Chefchaouen's main attraction, along with the nearby Kef Toghobeit Cave, one of the deepest caves in Africa.

Those looking to visit Chefchaouen will be pleased to know the city is very easily reached. CTM has buses going there from Fez, Tetouan, and Tangier. Its website is in French, so if that's not a language you speak you may want to contact the company directly. The nearest international airport is Tetouan/Sania Ramel (42 miles). Flights go mainly to the Netherlands and seasonally to France. The next nearest is the Tangier Ibn Battouta Airport (78 miles). There are taxis you can take from both airports or other nearby places, but read up on them as you'll want to know the essentials.

As for accommodation, there's plenty to choose from. Some random examples are Dar Zambra, Hotel Al Khalifa (including English and German version of website), and B&B Dar Dalia. For those who like it cheaper there are hostels and for those who like it more expensive there are spas and luxury hotels. 




Jarlshof, Shetland Mainland, Scotland

Jarlshof is an archeological site in the south of Shetland Mainland, the largest of the Shetland Islands. On this site evidence was found indicating an ongoing civilization dating as far back as the Bronze and Iron Age. The name 'Jarlshof' is derived from the Norwegian word "jarl", which means "Earl", but that's not its official name. The site became known as 'Jarlshof' only after Sir Walter Scott had named it as such in his novel The Pirate. Officially, the site is called Sumburgh, derived from the Old Norse word for 'fort': borg.

Some of the oldest houses found at Jarlshof are from 2500-1500 BC. Two Iron Age houses have souterrains, underground tunnels with small rooms. They were built between 500 BC and 79 AD. Other interesting finds are stone equipment like plowshares, pottery shards, and bowls made of saponite.

Later in its existence the site became inhabited by Picts (Late Iron Age and Early Medieval Celtic people) and Vikings.. The Picts left a lot of artwork, like stone carvings and painted pebbles, and even some fashion items like a bone pin with a rounded head, most likely used as a hair or dress pin. The Vikings are thought to have lived at Jarlshof from the 9th to the 14th century. They left fishing and farming equipment, fish bones, whale bones and seal bones, longhouses, loom weights, and even a structure that could've been a sauna.

Jarlshof is open to visitors in Summer and Winter. Admission fees are between £3.30 and £5.50. For more information and tickets, see the website of Historic Scotland or contact the information centre.

Sumburgh has an airport for flights within the Scottish Highlands and islands. There is a ferry going from Aberdeen to Lerwick and on the island buses go frequently. See this website for more information about ferries, buses, and cruises and yacht trips to Shetland Mainland.

Those who'd like to stay at a bit of an extraordinary location can book this self-catering lighthouse, a 38 minute walk from Jarlshof. Nearby is also the Sumburgh Hotel, or try your luck with the Shetland Accommodation Search Machine.




Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon, Skaftárhreppur, Iceland

The Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon lies in the municipality Skaftárhreppur, in the southeast of Iceland, not far from the village Kirkjubæjarklaustur. It is about a 100 meters deep and 2 kilometers long. The river Fjaðrá runs through it, ending in the Skaftá river nearby. It is easy accessible, a few kilometers removed from Road 1 in South Iceland. It is safe to walk through the canyon.

For those who'd like to see the canyon for themselves, there is a little guesthouse just an 8 minute drive or a 25 minute walk down the road. The guesthouse is called Hunkubakkar and its website is available in English.  Kirkjubæjarklaustur is an option for those who like a less remote (though still remote) location. It's an 18 minute drive away from the canyon, and has a couple of accommodations to choose from, two of which Hótel Geirland and Icelandair Hotel Klaustur. If these are not to your liking, check out booking.com. The village also has a gas station, a bank, a sport centre, a restaurant, a post office and a supermarket. It is about a one hour drive from National Park Skaftafell and the Vatnajokull glacier, and it is quite near the Laki Craters and the volcanic canyon Eldgjá.

The nearest (and Iceland's only) international airport is the Keflavik Airport (Reykjavík), an almost 4 hour drive away from Kirkjubæjarklaustur. The Fagurhólsmýri Airport is an airport for domestic flights and is a 1 hour drive away. There's a public bus service that runs from Reykjavík to Kirkjubæjarklaustur.



Kirkjubæjarklaustur

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