He Said/She Said: Top 5 Cities

He Said/She Said: Top 5 Cities

Independently and together we’ve visited hundreds of cities worldwide.  These glimpses into the lives, food, design and culture has opened our eyes to the different ways people live.  Even as we continue to travel we reminisce about our favorite places, places we dream to live, which for each of us is a little different.




I like big cities, I love the energy, options, and mix of cultures that you can find by crossing the street.  Without traveling I can be transported to different worlds.

  • New York City.  At my core I’m an American, I believe in the promise of America: opportunity, self-determination, and choice.  What I hate about America is the lack of cities, our urban areas are sprawling catastrophes of soulless places such as Applebee’s and Wal-Mart.  Standing proud and tall is our only true city: NYC, it has public transit that can get you almost anywhere, unparalleled food options, a mix of people that represents the globe, and entertainment galore.
  • Hong Kong.  Part of everyone loves Chinatown.  It’s a place where anything is possible.  Please check your laws and morals at the gate and go searching for what you came for: fireworks, shark fin, hell I even bet you could find yourself a Panda from more enterprising “legitimate business people”.  Now imagine Hong Kong is one giant Chinatown, with tons of money, great food and the world’s best public transportation system.  Find out more about what we experienced in Hong Kong in our Travel Guide by clicking here.

    Nan Lian Garden, One of Hong Kong’s beautiful public parks

  • Paris.  Insert any superlative here, it has been said and is true; Paris is a wonderful place.  It starts with the food: sparing no butter, animal part, and expense, French cooking is sublime.  From the pastries to the duck, it’s food I’d love to eat everyday until it caused cardiac arrest.  Beyond the food is the tasteful, clean architecture, the mix of cultures, the art and entertainment.  Paris is a city I would love to live it up in.
  • Hobart, Tasmania.  Representing the little guys, Hobart isn’t really a city, it’s a town.  It’s hard for me to consider anything with less than 1 million people in a metro area a “city”, after traveling I think it takes more like 5 million makes a city.  Even so, the charm of a small town life attracts me as I said in this He Said/She Said: Under Tasmania’s Spell.  There is something about walking down the street and having people know your name, having the people in restaurants know what you want, not having the constant noise of city life around you.  In this Hobart exceeds every whim, including oversized art and entertainment led by the MONA art museum.
  • Tokyo.  There’s something about 30 million people keeping an internal clock to the second that captivates me.  While calling it a beehive of activity may seem to slight it, that’s the best comparison I can make, what seems like frenzied activity from the outside is actually highly coordinated work going on, producing some of the most precise things humans ever have.  I love Japanese food, the pristine streets, sake and beer.  No city I have ever been to made me want to learn their language and move in like Tokyo.  Click here to read about our experiences in Tokyo.




When I thought of my favorite cities in the world, many of the places that came to mind were favorites because of a certain memory or time in my life.  It’s so hard to pick just five standout cities, but these five hold a special place for me more on a personal level than their must-see status.  For me my top five cities will always change as I create more memories around the world.

The idyllic zen gardens and gorgeous temples of Kyoto make this city one of my favorites.

  • Kyoto. Japan is an incredible place and while I love Tokyo (it could have easily made my top five) Kyoto offers the best of big city life as well as a quiet retreat from the crowds.  The first time I visited Kyoto was with my family at the age of ten and it was the first major trip abroad that I can remember, which makes it a special place in the long list of cities I’ve visited in the world. To see more photos of this wonderful city click here.
  • Cusco. The endlessly enchanting small town of Cusco, Peru offers charming cafes with balconies overlooking cobblestone streets and a small square to enjoy the afternoon sun.  This laid back city holds a special place in my heart because it is the place that I fell in love with my husband ten years ago.  Little did either of us know that it would lead to a life of vagabonding together.
  • Healdsburg. While many people wax poetic about the Napa Valley in Northern California, the real charmer is Healdsburg in Sonoma County.  I almost didn’t want to include it in this list for fear it will be discovered by the masses.  But it is an important place to me as the city that I first worked in after college and introduced me to an amazing group of people that have left a wonderful lasting impression.
  • Hoi An. The small Vietnamese tourist mecca of Hoi An is where you go to get suits tailored and handmade shoes created just for you.  But it captured my attention because of it’s romantic river side cafes, delicious food and lively games of evening Bingo.  This is a place that I could disappear to for a long time and is one of the first cities on this trip (We started our journey in Vietnam) that I truly fell in love with.

One of many beautiful views in Hobart, Tasmania.

  • Hobart. We have both written endlessly about this small town on the tiny island of Tasmania that has us both itching to return.  The incredible food easy going lifestyle, fabulous people and incredible views make this a standout when it comes to cities to settle in.  I would love to open a little B & B in one of the old homes and enjoy island life.  As the first place where we both felt we could hand up the backpacks and stay awhile it definitely holds a special place for me.

If you ask me tomorrow I am sure I would pick five different cities, but I know that the above places will always have a piece of my heart.  Where have you been that grabbed you and wouldn’t let you go or a place that you just have to return to?  Share your favorite cities in the comments below.

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» Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) :
May 16, 2012

I love cities too! Though I admit that I am feeling overwhelmed by starting off our RTW in Tokyo… it just seems so overwhelming and like there’s way too much to do and I keep fretting about us inevitably missing out on something cool. I am definitely going to check out your post on Tokyo for ideas and inspiration! I realize that Kyoto is no better in terms of the number of things to do, but for some reason, I find it a little bit easier to wrap my brain around!

I would say two of my favorite cities in the world are London and Rome. Loved the way so much culture and history is blended into daily life in Rome, and I feel like London is one of those places where I would never get bored (and for a city, it’s got some beautiful parks!). NYC is also great, particularly because I am a big street food fan!
Read Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)’s awesome post Sometimes “quit” is a four-letter word

» Donna :
May 17, 2012

Well, you know without even asking that for me Salzburg is at the top of the list … would live there if I could, or very nearby. It’s a charming big city with a small town feel to it … the architecture, the mountains nearby, the Old Town, church bells, a river running through it, and very walkable. And a week from now, I’ll be there!! And I’ve shared it with so many special people over the years, which makes it even more special. And I do love Paris too, though I haven’t been there as often, but it’s a city that’s so fun to visit no matter how much time you have. A new city I just discovered a few years ago was Ljubljana and I really liked it as well … I think it comes in a close second to Salzburg. And, of course, there’s little Nierstein, hugging the banks of the Rhine in wine country … it will always be my second home! Maybe I’ll have some new cities to add when I come back from this trip!

» BKA :
May 17, 2012

Well of course I was hoping Mineapolis would crack the top 10, but no such luck!!…..we too, confirmed we are big city people on our “downunder” adventure…..Sydney has now made the top 10 and we have always agreed with Donna that Salzberg is special, but if I had your RTW money we would move to NYC…..we, not unlike Matt, feed off the 24/7 energy, but I would want to live in one of those homes we watch/dream about on HGTV selling NYC…..our feet on the ground comparisons are much fewer than yours, so may have to differ a definitive response for a year or two…..be happy where ever you are…….be safe……love dad

» Ayngelina :
May 22, 2012

I really love the dual perspective here, especially how different you feel about cities.
Read Ayngelina’s awesome post I’m so over hostels

LOCAVORista Reply:

Ayngelina, as I mentioned my favorites will change all the time, but it was fun to reminisce about some of our favorite places.

» Mom A :
Jun 5, 2012

OK, I will do the He Said/She Said thing here, too.
While I love big cities like N.Y., and wish a typhoon hadn’t kept me from exploring Hong Kong, I loved Healdsburg. May prefer to stay in Healdsburg and visit San Francisco, if I could afford it, it, than vice versa. All the things that surround Healdsburg make a wide circle of interest. I prefer Kyoto to Tokyo, although loved Tokyo. They don’t all have to be big. If I had to list my 5 favorite places, they wouldn’t all be cities or towns, just places I want to go back to whether I have to or not because I am just not finished with them.

» Shannon :
Jun 7, 2012

“Standing proud and tall is our only true city: NYC…” I’m proud to call you my friend, Mr. Chua. My thoughts exactly. No words to express how much I love NYC. Minneapolis has its perks. The Mississippi is very sparkly today.

» Jem :
Feb 25, 2014

In no particular order

New York City





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About the Author

thinkCHUA: Photographing and documenting the world on a 3 year round-the-world trip to help future travelers discover new places, travel longer and enjoy the world's great experiences.

About the Author
thinkCHUA: Photographing and documenting the world on a 3 year round-the-world trip to help future travelers discover new places, travel longer and enjoy the world's great experiences.


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