18 December 2014

New York

Yes, the skyscrapers exist. And so do the yellow cabs, as well as the world-famous Brooklyn Bridge. New York is all that. However, New York is all that and more. You can come here for all the above, but also to visit a truly multicultural and diverse city, a city of neighbourhoods and pretty parks. Enjoy your visit, for the city is like no other.

This post will focus only on Manhattan, as I simply did not have the time to visit the other boroughs! However, that certainly does not mean that they have nothing to offer.

CITY MAPPING
New York is a city of five boroughs, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens and Staten Island. Two of the airports serving the area, JFK and LaGuardia (LGA), are located in Queens, the largest borough while the third, Newark Liberty airport (EWR) is located in New Jersey.

The island of Manhattan is long and thin, and can be broadly divided into Downtown (the southern part with the main financial district), Midtown and Uptown. These definitions are not precise, and are used here simply for the purpose of this post.

SIGHTS
Downtown
New York's downtown is home to some of the city's globally famous icons, such as the Statue of Liberty.

Statue of Liberty and Battery Park
"Liberty ... is one of the greatest blessings that Heaven has bestowed upon mankind"
                                                                                                 - Miguel de Cervantes

A supreme symbol of friendship, the Statue of Liberty was a gift from France to the United States, the Statue of Liberty is the first sign many new immigrants saw of America- a symbol of freedom. A large proportion of newcomers arrived in these very waters, and were processed for entry at Ellis Island, where the immigration center now houses a museum.

Statue of Liberty
There is only one licensed operator which takes you by ferry to Liberty Island, where the statue is located. Tickets come in various classes, the tickets to the crown sell off months in advance, and even tickets to the pedestal level face a demand-supply mismatch. You can directly buy tickets over the web and turn up at the ferry terminal at South Ferry in Battery Park, or you can buy them on the spot (you can expect queues) at the nearby Castle Clinton.

Security is tight, and there will be a check just as you enter the island, and another one to go inside the statue (provided you have applicable tickets). Lockers ($2 per hour) are available at the second security check, where all food items and big backpacks must be stored, as only small personal bags and cameras are allowed in the statue. 

There is an interesting museum in the statue, which details the entire history and story of the statue, with models of the statue's foot and ear, as well as newspaper clippings showing the reactions of the statue. The pedestal level (where I went till) offers good views of the city. 

View of the city from the Statue of Liberty

The tours go until Ellis Island, however I didn't go there. 

Battery Park offers nice views of Statue of Liberty, as well as Downtown's skyline. It is home to Castle Clinton, America's first immigration station, now a national monument.

Battery Park to Wall St
If you walk north on Broadway as soon as you leave Battery Park, you will come across the beautiful facade of the National Museum of the American Indian. Continue walking straight and you will come across the Charging Bull, also known as the Bull of Wall Street. The bull is a symbol of financial optimism and this sculpture was installed following the 1987 stock market crash. Tourists are constantly huddled around the bull for photos.

The Charging Bull
At the junction of Broadway and Wall St is Trinity Church.

Interior of Trinity Church
Built in the Gothic Revival style, the Trinity Church has a small chapel with certain relics, such as the foundation stone of the church.

Wall Street
Center of global finance, with some of the most important financial institutions in the world, Wall Street has a large impact on the entire world. Some great architecture here includes the buildings of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and the Federal Hall.

New York Stock Exchange
City Hall and around
The area around City Hall Park is home to some grand buildings which house major municipal institutions, such as the City Hall and Civic Centre.


Very nearby begins the Brooklyn Bridge, connecting the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn. Completed in 1883, the bridge was an engineering marvel of the time as it was the first steel-wire suspension bridge. Pedestrians and cyclists have a nice path offering good views over both the boroughs.

Brooklyn Bridge, looking towards Brooklyn
City Hall to Little Italy
New York is truly a multicultural city. You can experience this first-hand if you walk into, say, Mulberry St and enter Chinatown. There are a great number of Chinese and Vietnamese shops.

Chinatown
Along the way, Chinatown blends into Little Italy.

Washington Square and around
Around W 4th St in Greenwich Village is Washington Square Park, one of the city's most well-known parks. 

Washington Square Park
The surrounding neighbourhood is home to New York University.

Union Square to Madison Square
In the Flatiron district, Union Square is located at the junction of Broadway and W 14th St. It has a very popular Christmas market in December.

Walk north on Broadway until you reach Madison Square, another city park. The junction of 23rd St and Broadway is home to the Flatiron Building with its unique triangular shape, built in 1902, and one of New York's icons.

Flatiron Building
Midtown
Midtown is home to a vast array of sights, from beautiful churches and busy street corners to famous skyscrapers. 

Herald Square and around
Herald Square, the corner of W 35th St, 6th Av and Broadway, home to Macy's flagship store. A block east, at the junction of W 34th St and 5th Av is the jaw-dropping Empire State Building, one of the world's most famous skyscrapers. 

Empire State Building
When completed in 1931, it was the world's tallest building, a title it held for around 40 years. 

A few blocks west, at W 33rd St and 8 Av is Madison Square Garden, a major indoor arena. At the same corner is the beautiful building of the United States Post Office. 

Walk further a couple of blocks west to 10 Av to reach the entrance of the High Line.

High Line
A glance at Manhattan's map would show you how precious any available space is. The High Line therefore is an ingenious plan- some greenery and jogging space above ground on disused rail tracks. It goes south till the Meatpacking District, at the corner of Gansevoort St and Washington St. There are great views of streets to be had from there. Definitely worth a stroll!
High Line
View of a Chelsea street from the High Line

Times Sq and around
Not a square in the usual sense of the word, the 'Crossroads of the World' is an X-shaped junction of Broadway and 7 Av in the heart of Midtown. Famous for its brilliant lighting day and night, Times Sq is effectively in the Theater District. 

Start your Times Sq adventure by taking in the views of the square from the staircase of the TKTS ticket booth at the junction of Broadway, 7 Av and W 46th St. 

View from the TKTS ticket booth
Walk to the heart of Times Sq at 42nd St and turn left. At the corner of E 42nd St and 6 Av, you will find Bryant Park, a piece of serenity in the buzz of Midtown. During Christmas, there is a beautiful Christmas tree and skating rink. There is also a nice view till the Empire State Building.

View from Bryant Park
Right next to Bryant Park is the New York Public Library.

New York Public Library
Walk down E 41st St from the library to have a look at some literary quotes.

At the corner of E 42nd St and Park Av South is the Grand Central Terminal. Now only serving trains to Upstate New York and Connecticut, this station used to serve the Amtrak too, until Amtrak train services were shifted to Penn station in 1991.

Grand Central Terminal
Visitors can enter the station to marvel at the interior.

Interior of the Grand Central Terminal
Only a block away, and easily visible from outside the Grand Central Terminal, is the Chrysler Building, an Art Deco skyscraper which was the tallest in the world when built in 1930, only to be surpassed 11 months later by the Empire State Building.

Rockefeller Plaza and around
This section considers the area between 6 Av, 51st St, Park Av and 49th St.

At Park Av between 50th and 51st St is St Bartholomew's Church, with a lovely neo-Byzantine interior.

St Bartholomew's Church
Interior of the church
At the corner of E 50 St and 5 Av is one of New York's most touristy and popular churches, St Patrick's Cathedral. Built in Gothic style, the cathedral is renowned for its stained glass. 

St Patrick's Cathedral
Interior of the cathedral
Rockefeller Plaza, bounded by 6 Av, 50th St, 5 Av and 49th St is a particularly festive place during the Christmas season, with a skating rink and an impressive Christmas tree. Home to the commercial buildings of Rockefeller Center, visitors can go up to the Top of the Rock observatory for amazing views over New York. 

View from the Top of the Rock
Columbus Circle and around
The south-western junction of Central Park, Columbus Circle is a large traffic circle, home to a Christmas market during the season. Also located around is the Maine Monument, to commemorate the 260 sailors who died when their battleship exploded in Havana in 1898.

Maine Monument

Uptown
Home to the city's largest park, Central Park, Uptown too has a large range of sights to keep visitors interested.

Upper East Side
This area covers Uptown east of Central Park.

The area is home to some of the greatest museums in the city. Most are located on Museum Mile, the stretch of 5 Av between E 80th and E 92nd St.

Occupying a portion of Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum of Art straddles 5 Av between 80th and 84th St. With an eclectic range, from ancient Egyptian to Byzantine to Renaissance, one can spend hours in the museum.

The suggested donation is $25 per adult but you are free to pay below that amount.

The highlight of the Egyptian section is the Temple of Dendur, moved from its Nile-side location to the museum.

Temple of Dendur
Other interesting sections include the Byzantine and medieval European art.

The Italian Renaissance section includes the studiolo walls from the Ducal palace at Gubbio. 

The studiolo walls

ACCOMMODATION
We stayed at The Lucerne Hotel, located in Upper West Side.

Rooms- 7/10 Good rooms, though small (yes, it is Manhattan). No minibar or kettle in the room was very surprising though.
Staff- 8/10 Helpful staff, no special comment here.
Location- 9/10 Great location- just a block from the subway, two blocks from Museum of Natural History and Central Park. Many dining options in the vicinity.
Overall- 24/30 Recommended.

FOOD
With its stunning diversity, New York offers a large variety of cuisines.

UNION SQ
Maoz Vegetarian- Get your sandwich and add any toppings from the salad bar for free. Very nice apple cider too.

Max Brenner- Very popular place for all things chocolate. A bit overpriced and overrated in my opinion, though.

TIMES SQ and around
Abitino's Pizzeria- At Broadway between 40th and 41st St. Tasty, if a bit too oily, pizzas by the slice.

UPPER WEST SIDE
Zabar's- A New York landmark, Zabar's is both a supermarket and a restaurant next to each other at the corner of W 80th St and Broadway. Good sandwiches, and the supermarket has interesting items too.

Cafe 71- At Broadway and W 71st St. Wide variety of sandwiches.

TRANSPORT
Within Manhattan, subway is generally a good way to get around. A single ride costs $2.75. If using the machines to buy, note that machines will not dispense more than $8 in change, and tickets can only be bought individually so if buying single-ride tickets, have coins (pennies are not accepted).

Walking is also a great way to get around the island.

If taking taxis, note that Midtown especially is prone to terrible rush-hour traffic.

SAFETY
The tourist areas of Manhattan are generally safe during the daytime and shouldn't cause problems while walking. As in any big city, trust your instincts.

The subway has become much safer and cleaner over the decades, but as always, watch your pockets and bags when the car is crowded.

Last visit- Dec 2014
No of visits- 2
First visit- May/Jun 2002















05 October 2014

Hyderabad

Hyderabad is truly one of India's great cities for history, reflected in its beautiful palaces and museums. Located in the southern Indian state of Telangana, Hyderabad is on the banks of the Musi river.

While many South Indian destinations like Hampi, Mysore and Goa are very popular, Hyderabad is relatively overlooked. I recommend this city to all history and architecture buffs, as well as those looking for Islamic influence in South India.

CITY MAPPING
Many sights are located in the Old City, south of the Musi river. Go around 7 km north and you will reach the artificial Hussain Sagar Lake, in the centre of which stands a 17 meter tall Buddha statue. Around 5 km west of the lake is the area of Banjara Hills, a relatively upscale central neighbourhood comprising many hotels, malls and restaurants.

Hyderabad's Rajiv Gandhi International Airport around 30 km south of Banjara Hills.

SIGHTS
Home to several dynasties across the centuries, and being the richest princely state prior to India's independence, Hyderabad is a treasure-trove of attractions.

Old City
A bustling warren of tiny streets packed to the hilt, with shops selling everything from pearls to footwear, the Old City exudes images of chaos and exoticism at the same time. The area is home to Hyderabad's most famous remainders of its past grandeur. The following is a non-exhaustive list of them, beginning from the north to the south.

Visit the H.E.H The Nizam's Museum to see many items owned by the Nizams (rulers, of the Asaf Jah dynasty, which ruled from 1724 until independence). Like many other museums in India, many items are of significant importance, and are very interesting, but the infrastructure isn't the top- when we went, the power was out and torches were being used! Nonetheless, to appreciate and get a sense of the history, make a visit here. All the items are in gold and/or silver.

Many of the items on display were gifts from dignitaries from various parts of the world. One of the most famous item is the Nizam's huge wardrobe- the Nizam never wore a piece of clothing more than once.

The Nizam's wardrobe
The museum is open every day except for Friday. Timings from 10 am to 5 pm.
Fees: adult/child Rs 80/Rs 15; still camera/video camera Rs 150/Rs 500
Best time to visit: as early as possible

One of the principal monuments of the Old City is the Charminar (which means "four minarets"), a mosque built in 1591. You can climb to the top, expect lots of crowds and queues, particularly on holidays. Closed Fridays. 

The Charminar
Very near, south-west of the Charminar, is the Mecca Masjid, one of the oldest mosques in the city, and among the largest in India. It is named so, as the central arch was made by soil brought from Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The mosque is home to the tombs of the Nizams and of some of their family members. 

Mecca Masjid
Women must cover themselves with a shawl while visiting. 

A little bit to the south is the opulent Chowmahallah Palace, the official residence of the Nizams during their reign. 

The first interior you will see is that of the Khilwat Mubarak, the heart of the palace, and it is very beautiful. 

Khilwat Mubarak

Ceiling of the Khilwat Mubarak
Upstairs are various halls, such as the Hall of the Heritage Crafts (home to beautiful portraits, for example). In the other halls,have a look at the furniture and furnishings too, in particular the ornate screen.

Outside are the other palaces which make up the compound. You can also see some vintage cars, from jeeps to convertibles. 

Also located outside is the famous Khilwat Clock tower, in operation for well over a hundred years. 

Khilwat Clock
The palace is open from 10 am to 5 pm, and is closed on Fridays. 
Entrance fees: adult/child/foreigner Rs 40/10/150. Still camera/mobile phone for photos/video
camera: Rs 50/50/100

About 4 km south is the Nizams' most opulent palaces of them all- the Falaknuma Palace, now a hotel operated by the Taj group. If you're not staying, you cannot just enter the hotel- you need a reservation at one of the hotel's restaurants. Once in, you can roam around the hotel or take a half-hour palace tour. Among the highlights include a snooker table built specially for the Nizam, the world's longest dining table, as well as the sheer opulence of the palace.

Unfortunately, photography isn't permitted in the interior.

A chandelier at the Falaknuma Palace
Koti
Koti is a neighbourhood located just north of the Musi river, about 3 km from the Charminar. Koti Main Rd is just as packed as the Old City, with the absence of the towering minarets. 

For a change, enter the Koti Women's College (part of the Osmania University) from Koti Main Road to check out the British Residency, a grand building virtually ignored by the masses of tourists. 

The Nizam, keen on attaining independence, had to accept a British resident who acted as an advisor. The grand building signifies the strength of the British empire. 

Visit this brilliant blog for more details on the Residency, including its historical context.

Access to the Residency may be difficult, particularly on working days. I visited on a holiday without problems, and was surprised to find a movie shooting taking place. Therefore, going inside the building was not possible.

The British Residency
Hussain Sagar Lake and around
The Hussain Sagar Lake was built during the reign of the Qutb Shahi dynasty, in the year 1562. The road around the lake is known as Necklace Rd, because when lit at night, the road looks like a necklace. 

Access to the Buddha statue in the middle of the lake is via Lumbini Park (entry Rs 10). Find your way to the jetty, where you need to buy tickets for the boat ride. You can take speedboats around the island, but the only boat which will get you to the island is the standard mechanised boat (adult/child Rs 55/35), from 9 am to 9 pm.


17 m tall, the statue is the tallest monolith of Buddha, and was built in 1992, by the state chief minister, who was inspired by the Statue of Liberty.

Close by is the Birla Temple (Birla Mandir- mandir being the Hindi word for temple), constructed with 2000 tons of pure white marble. Located on a 85 m high hillock, there are good views of the area, including of Hussain Sagar Lake. Cellphones and cameras are not allowed. 

The Birla Temple with its various shrines
Golconda Fort and around
Located 8 km west of the Old City, Golconda Fort was the capital of the Qutb Shahi dynasty. The outer wall measures around 7 km- there's a lot to see inside.

The fort
You can hire a guide at the entrance of the fort. They will show you, for example, the cool acoustics of the fort, feats of engineering, for example the structures are so placed that any sound from a particular point is echoed by the opposite structure and can be heard as far away as the hilltop. 

You can walk to the hilltop, passing by great viewpoints which provide a nice overview of the fort and the city too. Unfortunately, the weather is not always conductive for this, so try to come as soon as the fort opens (9 am) and pray for some cloud cover! 

One of the major structures you will pass by on the way to the top includes the Amber Khana (Royal Granary). Here, an inscription in Persian mentions that the granary was built by Khairad Khan in the year 1642, during the Qutb Shah dynasty.

The inscription

People walk up in the heat, against the backdrop of Hyderabad city

You will then come across a mosque called Ibrahim Mosque, followed by a temple. And then you'll reach the final viewpoint- on one direction will be the fort, on another the city. The boundary walls can be clearly seen.

Overview of the fort
Every evening there's a sound and light show at around 7 pm, where the history of the fort is told. An executive class ticket costs Rs 130, in addition to the price to enter the fort. For Indians, the entry fee is Rs 5 and for foreigners it is Rs 100. A ticket for a video camera is Rs 25. Open from 9 am to 5.30 pm.

Not far away are the Qutb Shahi tombs. These are the seven tombs of the rulers of the Qutb Shahi dynasty. Set in expansive green parkland, these are ideal spots to admire the architecture and escape the crowds (these tombs don't seem to be very touristy). 

Qutb Shahi Tombs
Unfortunately, maintenance is not top- expect overgrown grass and fading architecture. Particularly in Golconda Fort, people have scribbled their names on the buildings- so the fault is a two-way street.

Great photography spots
- Roads leading to Charminar (get the shots of Charminar along with the chaos of the streets)
- From the compound of Mecca Masjid (get the Charminar with the pigeons)
- Khilwat Mubarak, the main hall of the Chowmahallah Palace (capture the intricate designs)

Great viewpoints
- The compound of Birla Temple, with views of Hussain Sagar Lake
- Going to the highest points of Golconda Fort

ACCOMMODATION
We stayed in the Taj Deccan, located in Banjara Hills. Good quality, as you would expect from a business hotel of this standard. Walking distance to a few places in Banjara Hills.

FOOD
Like many other Indian cities, Hyderabad is particularly renowned for some food items.

Nimrah Cafe, very close to Charminar and Mecca Masjid, is very famous for Irani tea. They also sell biscuits- another of Hyderabad's specialty.

Kebabs and Kurries, located in the ITC Kakatiya Hotel (in Begumpet, close to the western shore of Hussain Sagar Lake). Serves brilliant biriyani and kebabs.

Check out branches of Karachi Bakery and Bikanerwala, such as their branches in Banjara Hills (they are both next to each other). They serve lots of Indian sweets, snacks etc (and good macarons too).

SPEAK
The official and most widely spoken language in Hyderabad is Telugu. However, many people you will come across (such as in restaurants) will speak at least basic English. Do not expect autorickshaw (3-wheelers) drivers to understand English. Guides in tourist attractions may speak good English.

As Urdu is a relatively popular language here, and since Urdu and Hindi are very similar at a conversational level, Hindi speakers will not have a problem being understood in Hyderabad (which is often the case in smaller cities/towns in South India).

TRANSPORT
Walking, while a great way to get a feel of the city, particularly in the Old City, requires caution in Hyderabad. First, of course, is the weather. Summer sees temperatures beyond 40 degrees Celsius, and above 30 is the norm even up to October (I went in October and it went up to 36 C). Secondly, those pedestrian lights you see serve just for decoration purposes- many (such as in Banjara Hills) never turn green! Cross with caution, and like anywhere in India, do not expect any vehicle to give way.

Hyderabad lacks efficient public transport, and autorickshaws (who may not hesitate to rip off a non-local) are the often the best choice within the city. Taxis cannot be hailed off the streets. Nationwide brands of radio cabs include Meru, EasyCabs and Ola Cabs.

To hire a car + driver for a whole day, try Savaari.

Check in advance if the driver speaks English.

Hyderabad is served by the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport.

Last visit- Oct 2014
No of visits- 1

27 July 2014

Dalian

Dalian is a coastal city in the province of Liaoning in north-east China with a population of around 3 million. It is a popular tourist destination for domestic Chinese tourists and is known as the "square city" in China, with several beautiful squares.

HIGHLIGHTS
1. Witnessing the fast-flowing traffic amid lit colonial architecture at the lively Zhongshan Sq in the evening.
2. Admiring the green and hilly surroundings in the large, calm Heng Shan Temple.
3. Roam around aimlessly the tiny inner lanes of the central district.
4. Travelling on Binhai Rd and stopping at the various viewpoints
4. Walking up to the TV Tower.

CITY MAPPING
For the tourist, most places of interest lie in three districts, namely Zhongshan district, Xigang district and Shahekou district. The airport is located north-west of the center.

SIGHTS
The Harbour area at the eastern end of Zhongshan district is a wide open area, nice to take a walk around in and feel the cool sea breeze. It is a popular area particularly in the evenings, but with absolutely nothing, it is a wide empty area and is popular with cycling as well. The entrance is on Ren Min Dong Lu, and is close to the Dalian International Convention Center.

Dalian Harbour area
Squares
From the harbour, walk west on Ren Min Dong Lu until you reach the first square, Gangwan Square which has a few pieces of colonial architecture.

Gangwan Sq
Continue walking straight on Renmin Rd and you will enter one of the city's downtowns, with many hotels, commercial buildings, restaurants and shopping centers. Keep on walking straight until you reach Zhongshan Sq, one of the city's main squares in the heart of the financial district.

Dalian was a colony of both the Japanese and the Russians and colonial architecture can be seen here, amongst other places. Most of the colonial buildings now serve as banks or other financial institutions. 

Zhongshan Sq
The center of the roundabout is a popular place for locals, especially in the evenings. Dances and other performances often take place here. Some of the buildings are lit at night and it's worth coming for great photos at night. 

Continue straight from Zhongshan Sq, and Renmin Rd becomes Zhongshan Rd. A little further is Friendship Sq (Youhao Sq), at whose center is a crystal ball. 

Friendship Sq
Further continuing on Zhongshan Rd, in Xigang district is People's Sq (Renmin Sq), flanked by major government buildings on all sides. The square is quite large, and there are nice shady places to sit in where the din of the traffic disappears.

People's Sq
Among the important buildings located at the square are the City Hall and a court.

Located in Dalian is Asia's largest square called Xinghai Sq. Around the area are major tourist attractions such as the Shell Museum and the aquarium. The Dalian International Beer Festival, which occurs every year in July-end, takes place here.

Around Xinghai Sq
The area is very popular with domestic tourists. If you can put up with the crowds, the cool sea breeze is rewarding!

Colonial architecture
See Zhongshan Sq and Gangwan Sq above.

Besides, some colonial architecture is located around Russian Street. With the development of Dalian, much colonial architecture has been destroyed and replaced by modern facsimiles of Russian architecture, however some truly old architecture does exist. Also around are many tourist shops selling Russian dolls among other items.

Part of Russian St
Parks
With respect to city parks, Dalian is well served by Labor Park (Laodong Park), a large well-maintained city park. It's a great place to meander along, and serves as an access point to visit the TV Tower for views.

Labor Park with the TV Tower in the background

The park has amusement park-like rides for children, particularly on the eastern edge of the park. Access to the TV Tower is also from the eastern edge- one of the ways to get there is a 1.5 km uphill walk, along a green tranquil path. On the way there will be a barrier and a ticket booth (Y50) and from there it's only a little bit more to the entrance of the tower. You then get in the tower and take a lift to the viewing platform. The weather is often smoggy which can hinder views. 

Labor Park and beyond as seen from the base of TV Tower
Temples
On the outskirts of town is Heng Shan Temple, among the largest temples in north-east China. Set in green and calm surroundings, the only sound you can hear is the traditional Buddhist music if you come on a good day. It is said to be popular with domestic visitors but I got lucky: there were only a few other visitors. 

Heng Shan Temple
Other Sights
Often called the French Riviera of Dalian, Binhai Road is Dalian's seaside road with the twists and turns, and the rocky surfaces which did remind me of the French Riviera or the Amalfi Coast. There are several viewpoints and tourist attractions, such as Tiger Beach, on the way. 

Binhai Rd
SHOPPING
Very close to Friendship Sq, around one or two traffic lights west on Zhongshan Rd, is the underground Victory Sq shopping center. You will see many entrances to it but strangely there are few exits when you are underground. The layout is confusing and signs are only in Chinese so enter only if you have enough time. There are lots of different types of shops, from hairdressers to restaurants.

Nearby is a large area with modern malls such as New Mart as well as outdoor shops and stalls. Has some global brands and food courts as well as Starbuck's, McDonalds and Haagen Dazs. 

Wen Cho shopping centre is a fine place to shop for souvenirs.

ACCOMMODATION
We stayed at the Conrad Dalian, a new property at the eastern edge of Zhongshan district, close to the International Convention Centre, Harbour and Gangwan Sq.

Rooms- 9/10 Spacious and beautifully designed very clean rooms. The bathroom has a powerful rainshower and an automatic toilet.
Staff- 9/10 Very helpful staff, particularly the concierge.
Location- 8/10 Close to Gangwan Sq and the Harbour. Next to the International Convention Center.
Breakfast- 7/10 Fine breakfast, no special comment here.
Overall- 35/40 Recommended. 

TRANSPORT
Taxis can be hailed off the streets, just stick out your arm. Flag fall is Y10 and a journey within the tourist areas shouldn't cost more than Y25. Drivers should use their meters- and they generally do. Even occupied taxis look for more passengers going in the same direction, don't be surprised if your taxi picks up somebody else or the taxi you hailed has another occupant. Taxi drivers do not speak English so have your accommodation write down addresses of places you'd like to visit, many will give a card with the hotel address and a list of important places.

Walking within the tourist district is a good way to explore some of the inner lanes and distances are not large. Pavements may be large but are always used for parking so you may end up walking on the road. Be careful while crossing, even a green pedestrian light may have vehicles turning right from the road or vehicles coming into that road. As for crossings not protected by lights, do NOT expect traffic to stop for you, cross with caution. Take particular care at squares such as Gangwan Sq, which have neither crossings nor lights, and traffic comes from multiple directions at once. No matter how beautiful the square is, watch out! For utmost care, walk around rather than through the square. As for other junctions, use underpasses whenever available. 

The main form of public transport is bus, although trams, both modern and historic, operate a few lines. 

SAFETY
Dalian is by large a safe city, with traffic being a concern you need to watch out for (see above). Take usual precautions you would in any large city, including being watchful of your bags and pockets.

TOURIST FRIENDLINESS 
Language is a major barrier with effectively no one speaking a word of English. Bring along a Mandarin phrasebook. However, people are generally helpful and waiters etc may wait patiently as you point out specific words in your phrasebook. Even a few words of Chinese will be appreciated.

Last visit- Jul 2014
No of visits- 1