Category Archives: Asia

Top Five Cultural Destinations in Sri Lanka

Photos by Dave Stamboulis

A country steeped in faith and spiritual history, Sri Lanka is home to a host of edifying locations and places of transcendental inspiration.

the stilt fishermen of southern Sri Lanka perched on their poles

Magnificent structures, some used, some abandoned, are scattered about the cities and mountains like great deities surveying their worshippers. Whether religious or not, visiting these culturally significant sites makes for an incredible experience and regularly provokes a feeling of peace and a sense of enlightenment even in the most hardened of cynics.

Take a look below at five of the most inspiring destinations that should not be missed during your holidays to Sri Lanka.

A mountain peak near Anuradhapura that is reportedly the place where Mahinda, the monk attributed with bringing Buddhism to Sri Lanka, preached Buddhist doctrine to the king and his people. Pilgrimages are made to the mountain every year, and the site is known as one of the most significant spiritual places in the country. The hills that make up Mihintale are also home to a ruined hospital and the beautiful Kantaka Cetiya stupa – a structure beautifully decorated with sculptures and carvings.

Dalada Maligawa
The stunning shrine within this temple, adorned with turrets and a golden roof, holds what is claimed to be a tooth of the great Buddha. Located in Kandy, the second largest city in Sri Lanka and the final capital of the era of the kings, shrine plays host to regular Buddhist worship and weekly ceremonies where water scented with flowers is passed among those gathered there, in order to heal them.

An ancient palace surrounded by gardens once sat atop this gigantic rock formation, built by King Kasyapa between 477 and 495 AD. It was abandoned after his death, then used as a monastery for some years, but the incredible structure still remains, and provides a stunning sight against the landscape of the Matale District. It is also called The Lion Rock after a huge sculpture of a lion that Kasyapa built at a gateway to his palace, which stands guard to this day.

Gal Vihara
Some of the most famous images of Buddha can be found carved into this cliff face near Polonnaruwa. Once part of a monastery, these three huge and beautiful figures were created in the 12th century, and each is purported to depict a different stage in Buddha’s life.

Sri Lanka by Dave Stamboulis

Dambulla Cave Temple
Places of worship in Sri Lanka are often strikingly beautiful, but this temple is one of the most stunning of its kind. Made up of a network of five different caves within a towering rock around 47 miles north of Kandy, the inner walls are emblazoned with intricate carvings depicting famous stories from the life of Buddha, and the temple itself is filled with sculptures of kings, gods and goddesses.

10 Largest Cities in the World by Population

Traveling to big cities can bring huge rewards and culture shock. Have you ever wondered what the cities with the largest population in the world are? Fifteen year old guest blogger Paulo Seval tells us the top ten.

The world is growing at an alarming rate. There are a huge number of estimates on the number of cities in the world, but it certainly would be safe to say that there are more than 300,000 cities in the world currently. world's biggest cityOf course, this depends on what one defines a city. In most cases, a city is considered to be a place that is large and well-populated, and assumes more importance than a village or town. Now assuming more importance leads to several things, like better living conditions, more choice in all respects of life, and so on. These are what lure people to cities, and make cities experience population growth. Because of the large population, cities are generally managed by an authority, which in most cases is the municipal corporation of the particular city, and this body looks into all the things that make up the city. A typical city consists of further sub-areas, called districts or precincts in most places. This division of a city into smaller parts helps in better administration and ultimately leads to providing better living conditions.

For the traveler, the largest cities in the world can be an intense experience as the sights, smells, sounds, and sometimes the feel of the population can be exhilarating.

10. Tokyo, Japan

With a population of over 8.8 million, the capital of Japan ranks 10th among the World’s largest cities. Famous for its
sushi, Tokyo is one of the most advanced cities in the world, a top tourist destination and is also well known for its technically innovative  products. Being that Tokyo is a popular tourist destination there are 26 luxury hotels in Tokyo that offer the best accommodations in the

9. Beijing, China

China is the most populated country in the world and its capital is no exception. Ranked 9th with a population of 10.1 million, Beijing, one of the greatest cities in the world, hosted the 2008 Olympic Games.

8. Seoul, South Korea

With a population of just under 10 and a half million, Seoul is ranked number 8. It has been in existence from over 2000 years and is one of the oldest cities in the world as well.

7. Moscow, Russia

Moscow ranks 7th with a population of 10.5 million. Russia is the biggest country in the world, and its capital is just as diverse. Featuring some of the greatest churches and cathedrals in the world, Moscow is an enchanting city.

6. Sao Paulo, Brazil

Sao Paulo is ranked 6th with a population of 11 million. It is the largest city in Brazil, and is named to honor Saint Paul. Featuring one of the largest helicopter fleet in the world, Sao Paulo is also famous for its majestic skyscrapers.

5. Istanbul, Turkey

Formerly known as Constantinople, Istanbul ranks 5th, with a population of 12.5 million. One of the largest cities in Europe, Istanbul is a major business center, and many of its monuments have been classified as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.

4. Delhi, India

India is the second most populate country in the world, and its capital is the 4th largest city in the world, with a population of over 12.5 million. Delhi is one of the oldest cities of India, and is home to the Parliament and Supreme Court of India.

3. Karachi, Pakistan

Karachi is ranked 3rd, with a population of 12.9 million. It is the largest city of Pakistan and also serves as is financial center. It features all major businesses in Pakistan, and is also one of the best study destinations in the Islamic world.

2. Mumbai, India

The second Indian city to feature in the top 10, Mumbai is ranked second with a population of 13.8 million. Erstwhile known as Bombay, Mumbai is the entertainment capital of India, home to Bollywood and many architectural wonders as well.

1. Shanghai, China

Shanghai has been the largest city in China from quite some time, and now it’s the largest in the world as well. Once just a fishing and textiles town, Shanghai grew quickly because of its port, and it is the world’s largest cargo port since 2005, and attracts millions of tourists every year, who flock to the city, which has got many attractions, with the City God Temple, the Oriental Pearl Tower, and many more.

Paulo Seval is fifteen years old and lives in the city of Ontario, Canada. He dreams of finishing his studies and traveling the world. So far, he has been to three different Canadian provinces, the United States, and in his imagination also took a trip to all of the cities in this article and Antarctica.

Want to try your hand at travel writing? Submit a guest post to and see if you can become a Vagobond Writer.

Singapore Hotels and Hostels

Singapore is just one of those places that you have to visit at least once in your life. In terms of travel, nothing could be easier. Everyone speaks English, it’s modern, and it’s easy to get around. You can fly there from all over the world or if you are in Malaysia you can take an easy bus ride for about $30 U.S.

singapore hotelsI went with First Coach out of KL and enjoyed the ride. Comfortable, air con bus with a stop for food at a big roadside plaza.

Once you arrive you will realize that there are literally hundreds of hostels and hotels in Singapore to choose from.
As you know, one of my odd hobbies is wandering in and out of hotels and here are a few that are worth taking note of. The 1929 Hotel was right in the heart of Chinatown and at first looked like a classic Victorian style hotel, which I like – but when walking in I found that there was something ultra-modern about 1929. I toured the rooms and was blown away by the glass walled bathrooms and the iPod docks in the rooms equipped with Wi-Fi, a Jacuzzi on the roof and a nice garden. The restaurants smelled delicious though I was full on street food so didn’t stop to sample.

Another amazing boutique hotel in Singapore is Wanderlust. Wanderlust is clearly a hipster concept hotel and it is a place for 29-50 year old people who have some money (that’s not me by the way, but I still admired the concept) For those who don’t know wanderlust is a noun that means an irresistibly strong desire or an impulse to travel far away and explore different places. I felt like this hotel was worthy of the name.
boutique hotel room
From their site:

Wanderlust is a left-field and totally experimental boutique hotel set to draw madcap voyagers and curious travellers to its doorstep. Located in Little India – a bustling cultural enclave where Indian immigrants once settled, and the building was originally an old school built it 1920s.

With four thematic levels of 29 rooms by award winning Singapore design agencies, each group was given full creative freedom.
– Lobby Level – Industrial Glam by Asylum – A juxtaposition of the surrounding’s setting and contemporary design.
– Level 2 – Eccentricity by :phunk Studio – Colours everything from the walls to the neon lights and the rainbow corridor leads to a outdoor deck with a customised mosaic-tiled jacuzzi.
– Level 3 – Is it just Black and White by DP Architects – Walk across the black corridor and enter into the contrasting white rooms to discover Origami and Pop-Art works.
– Level 4 – Creature Comforts by Furious – Get cosy with friendly monsters in each room that presents a different vibe and be assured of a fantasy-filled experience.

Those looking for a less eclectic high end experience can simply head to the iconic Marina Bay Sands where they can swim in the pool that pours over the edge of the odd spaceship thing docked on top of the three towers. This is an integrated resort like nothing else you’ve ever seen and even if you aren’t staying there, it’s worthwhile as a tourist stop.

Skypark pool at Marina Bay Sands

Now, I’ve gotta admit, I’m a sucker for names and when I heard the name of the Celestial Resort Pulau Ubin Singapore, I just needed to check it out. Then I looked online and said….eh…not so much. Reviews included the words bloodstained, worst service ever, mosquitos, and hell. I decided to pass since it was a bit out of the way. If you check it out, let me know.

Singapore lion cityOn the budget end of the scale there are a lot of options. Most of them I saw were on the level of Backpackers Inn – Chinatown. Not that clean, not that fun, not that interesting. I can’t particularly recommend any of them since River City Inn offered me a free nights stay but when I was delayed by a day sent me an invoice and Ark 259 was cheap and had rooms but was perhaps the loudest hostel I’ve stayed in. Here is a list of all the hostels in Singapore.

And for those looking for something more enjoyable,here is a fairly complete list of hotels in Singapore.

What hotels do you recommend in Singapore?