My 5: Ngoc Son Temple, Hanoi.

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1. Ngoc Son Temple, April 2018. Hanoi’s most visited temple (translated into English as Temple of the Jade Mountain) sits on a tiny islet running off the northern part of the beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake. The temple is dedicated to a trio of famous Vietnamese men: General Tran Hung Dao (who kicked the Mongols’ asses in back in the 13th century), Lao To, the patron saint of physicians and the renowned scholar Van Xuong.

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My 5: Long Bien Bridge & Railway Station, Hanoi.

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1. Long Bien Bridge & Railway Station, April 2018. You’ve gotta love the entrance to Hanoi’s famous Long Bien Bridge: Rusting iron gates, black graffiti, slumped motorbikes, an abandoned kebab station and a confused looking dog. Which was actually reassuring, after all I’d come to get an authentic feel for one of Hanoi’s most iconic structures and its gritty past.

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The Pavilion Hotel – Shenzhen, China.

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1. The Pavilion Hotel, February 2018. I’ve always been pretty relaxed about accommodation when I’m on the road. Sometimes I’ll fork out for somewhere nice, other times I’m happy to slum it in basic guesthouses or hostels. But when we got to Shenzhen Wonderboy found himself so disillusioned with our first night at Star Whisper Spacecraft Hotel (it was a bit of a shithole) that he promptly booked himself a luxurious double in this swanky hotel situated in Huaqiang North Road.

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My 5: Shenzhen International Garden & Flower Expo Park, China.

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1. Shenzhen International Garden & Flower Expo Park, February 2018. Parks and temples, temples and parks: China! I limit myself to just one or two parks a place these days, knowing that in most cases the green spaces on offer are much of a muchness for a grisly old China veteran like myself. Wonderboy and I hadn’t even planned on hitting this 660.000 square meter municipal park until we walked right into it. Tempted in by the call of live music, we found a place crammed with excited locals out for an afternoon walk during the Chinese New Year bank holiday.

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My 5: OCT-LOFT Creative Culture Park – Shenzhen, China.

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1. OCT-LOFT, February 2018. Art lovers will find plenty to admire about Shenzhen. The city’s parks and squares are full of sculptures and statues, while a half-day visit to Dafen Oil Painting Village and its modern art museum is a must for anyone visiting the city. And then you’ve got OCT LOFT, a so-called Creative Culture Park built from the bones of a former electronics factory in 2005.

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My 5: Dafen Art Museum – Shenzhen, China.

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1. Dafen Art Museum, February 2018. Appropriately perched to the side of Dafen Oil Painting Village, this handsome art museum is well worth an hour of your time. Housed in a striking modern building on a large open square, it showcases original paintings from local artists.

2. Dafen Art Museum, February 2018. As with the adjoining oil painting village there’s no entry fee, you can just stroll in and investigate at your leisure.  

3. Dafen Art Museum, February 2018. It’s a huge air-conditioned space inside and you can take as many photos as you want. There wasn’t much of a security presence either, which added to the relaxed vibe. The whole museum takes a stripped back approach, with barely any literature at all to accompany the paintings, just the name of the painter and the year it was created.

4. Dafen Art Museum, February 2018. The museum hosts an annual Oil Painting Fair every October. There are special exhibitions and a huge live auction that fetched over 700 million RMB in 2017 ($1.1000000). I wonder how this fantastic painting, almost photographic in its clarity, would cost to take home.

5. Dafen Art Museum, February 2018. The museum is open daily (except Mondays) from 10:00-17:00.

For more on my adventures in the city, check out more of My 5s on Shenzhen.

Like these? Then why not have a leaf through my zillion articles from all around China.

My 5: Dafen Oil Painting Village – Shenzhen, China.

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1. Dafen Oil Painting Village, February 2018. Shenzhen’s world famous oil painting district was once responsible for a staggering 60% of the globe’s known replica oil paintings. Wherever you were in the world, from hotels and cafes to restaurants, offices and train stations, chances are that painting on the wall came from Dafen. These days it’s mostly a tourist curiosity, though there are still plenty of studios (about 600) and galleries among all the shops and cafes. Needless to say I didn’t pass up the opportunity to scoot over there myself to see what the deal was.  Continue Reading »