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Northland, Auckland & Coromandel

Lonely Planet Lonely Planet ePub

Northland, Auckland & Coromandel

Drawn southwards by stories of New Zealand’s legendary national parks and in particular the spectacular Southern Alps, visiting trampers often overlook the northern North Island. This is a mistake. This lush, warm and diverse part of NZ is packed with natural and historical wonders.

The region’s most famous landmark is Te Rerenga Wairua (Cape Reinga), the country’s northernmost point and a popular pilgrimage. Te Paki Coastal Track affords an opportunity to traverse this coast, taking in the epic Ninety Mile Beach. Closer to Auckland, however, are numerous rewarding tramps including the multiday Hillary Trail accessed just an hour from downtown, and many through the isolated islands of the beautiful Hauraki Gulf. On the Coromandel Peninsula east of Auckland, the Kauaeranga Forest Park affords fascinating insights into the history of NZ’s forests and the people who would change them forever.

The northern part of the North Island boasts a mild climate with long dry periods in summer. Temperatures range from almost tropical around the northern tip at Cape Reinga, to an average closer to 20°C around Auckland in summer. The islands northeast of Auckland are often a degree or two warmer, averaging 25°C from December to February and sometimes climbing to 30°C. Winters are moist, with most of the rain falling in June and July. Weather on the Coromandel Peninsula may differ between the east and west coats due to the mountain range through the interior. Generally, though, the weather during the summer is good, with temperatures reaching as high as 31°C. Torrential rain, however, can occur at any time, especially during winter.

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Medium 9781742208831

Kōrakuen & Northwest Tokyo

Lonely Planet Lonely Planet ePub

1Soaking up the peaceful, contemplative atmosphere of a classic Japanese garden. Rikugi-en is considered the city's most beautiful. Koishikawa Kōrakuen is a close second.

2Wandering the old-world alleys of Kagurazaka, an old geisha quarter with enticing shops and cafes.

3Cheering on Japan's number-one baseball team, the Yomiuri Giants, at Tokyo Dome.

4Bath-hopping at the over-the-top onsen complex Spa La Qua.

5Passing through the proud, bronze torii (gates) at Yasukuni-jinja, a shrine with deep political resonance.

The neighbourhoods northwest of the Imperial Palace are off the tourist trail, yet have some fascinating sights. If you're keen to see a traditional Japanese garden, there are some fantastic examples here. Rikugi-en is the city's most famous and well worth the detour. Koishikawa Kōrakuen, with a more convenient location, is beautiful as well. Next door to Koishikawa Kōrakuen is the entertainment complex Tokyo Dome City, which includes a baseball stadium, amusement park, spa complex and dozens of shops and restaurants. Nearby, the neighbourhood Kagurazaka, with its narrow cobblestone lanes, presents an alternative picture of Tokyo – that of a hundred years ago.

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Medium 9781743215715

The Bund & People’s Square

Lonely Planet Lonely Planet ePub

1Stroll along the Bund promenade, and capture Pudong lighting up through a martini glass.

2Load up on Chinese culture's greatest hits at the Shanghai Museum.

3Catch up with the latest trends in contemporary Chinese art at the Rockbund Art Museum.

4Dine at some of Shanghai's signature Bund restaurants, all with showstopping views as standard.

5Plunge into the neon-lit swell of East Nanjing Road.

Shanghai’s definitive spectacle, the grand sweep of the riverside Bund (Waitan) is a designer retail and dining strip; it's the address in town for the city’s most exclusive boutiques, restaurants and hotels. The best strategy is just to stroll, weighing up the bombastic neoclassical contours with the pristine geometry of Pudong over the water.

The streets west from the waterfront morph instantly into a less salubrious commercial district housed in the uncleaned shells of concession-era buildings, mixed with newer skyscrapers and office towers. Yet even the most casual of wanders yield sudden architectural gems.

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Medium 9781743210062

West End & North End

Lonely Planet Lonely Planet ePub

1Strolling the cobblestone streets, browsing the boutiques and soaking up the Old World atmosphere in the North End, then squeezing into one of the candlelit tables at Pomodoro for amazing Italian food and service.

2Gawking at the architecture and appreciating the irony at the Liberty Hotel.

3Gazing at the steeple of the Old North Church and imagining the lanterns signalling the Redcoats' approach.

4Discovering how fun science can be at the Museum of Science.

5Exploring the quaint, cramped quarters at the Paul Revere House, Boston's oldest home.

These side-by-side neighborhoods could not be more different from each other. The West End – formerly a multicultural, working class neighborhood – was virtually razed by 'urban renewal' in the 1950s. Now its streets are dominated by concrete monoliths and institutional buildings, including the extensive facilities of Mass General Hospital and many government buildings. Most visitors to Boston bypass this bleak district, unless they are catching a train at North Station or attending an event at the Garden.

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Medium 9781743214015

Heilongjiang

Lonely Planet Lonely Planet ePub

Pop 38.3 Million

Heilongjiang means Black Dragon River, and this particular coiling dragon is the separating line between China and Russia. Across the province a neighbourly influence is evident in architecture, food and even souvenirs. Capital Ha’erbin’s famed cobblestoned streets and European-style facades is ground zero for this hybrid experience.

Of course, it gets cold in China’s northernmost province, sub-Arctic cold – but that frigid weather is put to good use in winter, the peak tourist season. Ha’erbin hosts a world-renowned ice sculpture festival and the region has some of China’s finest ski runs. It gets busy but it’s worth swaddling yourself in layers and joining the crowds.

Outside the cities, Heilongjiang is a rugged, beautiful landscape of forests, lakes, mountains and dormant volcanoes. From Mohe, China’s most northerly city, you can access the remote Beijicun and Beihongcun for bragging rights to say you have stood at the very top of the Middle Kingdom.

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