re: Macau

Part two of my guided adventure.

Arriving at the Ruins of St. Paul was a little underwhelming, although I have a tendency to imagine things much bigger than they usually are, so don’t be dissuaded from my thoughts. Somewhat surviving three fires, it is still quite a magnificent structure to visit and marvel at its determination to remain standing throughout such unfortunate circumstances. Since we arrived around 5/6pm, the site itself was incredibly crowded, making it difficult to get a photograph without someone in the background. Instead, we took advantage of the remaining sun and relaxed on the steps with a cup of milk tea and grass jelly before heading off to the next location.

To be truthful, I was actually pretty amazed with The Venetian. There’s a certain charm to all its artificial beauty and it was fun to see what is basically a giant shopping centre structured in this way. There are real, working gondolas equipped with gondoliers to explore its artificial canals, but which we skipped on account of the huge queue and limited time we had there. A very quick breeze around the shops and a visit to Lord Stow’s for their famous Portuguese egg tart (delicious, but a little too greasy) was pretty much all we had time for before we headed back to the port to try and get an earlier ferry back.

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If you find yourself with a return ticket far later than you wanted to stay on Macau, you are able to wait in a reserve queue for an earlier ferry. At the front of this queue, it’s very likely you’ll be admitted on board! We were thwarted by huge reserve queues for earlier ferries, so ended up taking the ferry back at the original time. It’s also worth noting that you can take the ferry back to either Hong Kong Island, or Kowloon, depending on which is more convenient for you! (The ferry does not dock only in Kowloon as my friend Sandy adamantly insisted).

Although it’s only an hour from Hong Kong to Macau, I’d like to return and stay for a night or two to fully explore the city and nightlife. While the private tour was great in allowing us to see the main sights for that day, we really didn’t have much freedom to just walk around and discover sights for ourselves. I’d love to go back and walk around Macau’s old town as well as walk its strip of famous casinos in the evenings!

re: Macau

A story in two parts.

When my family visited we took a trip to Macau, on a brisk whistle-stop tour of the SAR’s main attractions. It was our second attempt to visit since no one thought to bring their passports (and I also forgot to remind them, oops). An easy mistake to make, but even then, our second attempt wasn’t without event. As usual, the ferry ports were ridiculously busy and we ended up purchasing a late afternoon ticket with late evening return.

With 8 members of my family in tow and an age range of 12-65, I was anxious we wouldn’t get round to seeing all the sights in time. However, the benefits of travelling with your family (and to an extent, a large group) revealed itself when we arrived in Macau. Approached by a lady, we managed to arrange our own private car to drive us around for the day at a pretty respectable price! Feeling a bit luxurious as we were chauffeured around, my worries subsided (after we were sure this wasn’t some scam) and we were able to see Macau’s main sights in the short period of time we had there!

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Stopping first at the Kun Iam Statue, which was quite stunning to view but really offered not much to do otherwise, we hopped back in the car to A-Ma Temple. We were greeted with a serendipitous performance of traditional Portuguese Folk dancing before we wandered off to explore the little temple and its surrounding area where we found stalls selling freshly made snacks! I loved the little streets and buildings around this area, which due to the Portuguese administration were refreshingly different from the typical Chinese style I had become accustomed to. If it wasn’t for the Chinese signs, it was almost as if we had gone on our usual European holiday.

This feeling only intensified as we walked around Senado Square and also reminded me of Ho Chi Minh City (or more chronologically, HCMC reminded me of Macau – my posts have become a bit disorderly since returning!). I really enjoyed being surrounded by this style of architecture, it appealed greatly to my love of quaint pastel designs (I mean, The Grand Budapest Hotel is a dream to watch, heart-eyes all around)! Most sights are within walking distance from here and there’s plenty of great street food around this area so we stopped for a quick bite.

Part II coming next week!

re: Hong Kong

Off The Beaten Track, pt. I.

I called my first posts on Hong Kong unmissable sights, but that’s not to say the following things should be missed when you visit. Once you’ve ticked the main locations off your itinerary, do something a bit different to bolster your experience. I managed to write about some places before, my favourite being the near-fail of a hike to see the waterfalls (please learn from my mistakes), but there’s also the hike (another one) to the highest peak on Kowloon and tasting the rainbow via multi-coloured soup dumplings! Let’s add another two to the list to fuel your curiosity:

Lion Rock

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So I’ve already written about two hikes, why not introduce another? The city battles with the mountainous terrain of its natural landscape and you’ll soon find that every day is leg day when walking in Hong Kong. For stunning views inside the city, Lion Rock is a famous landmark amongst locals and the perfect counterpart to Victoria Peak’s harbour views. Named for its resemblance to a lion, the trail can be accessed upon leaving Won Tai Sin MTR station (exit B3).

Make sure you stock up on plenty of water as the hike is basically one long staircase to its peak. On hindsight, it’s not a bad idea to bring lunch too! From the MTR exit, there’s two choices: follow the instructions on this blog and walk to the start of the trail, or save yourself a good 30 minutes and take a taxi (~30HKD) to the starting point. When I took my friend Hazel, I was slightly hungover so we smartly opted for the lazy taxi option.

Visiting in late February, the weather wasn’t nearly as hot or humid as in summer, but we still ended up drenched in sweat upon reaching the top. Luckily there was a light breeze to cool us off and we relaxed on the rocks, soaking in the view until sunset. I really recommend starting the hike late afternoon as temperatures will be cooler and watching the sun set over the city is one of those magical experiences you can’t miss. I’m in love with this city at night and with Lion Rock as a vantage point, it’s hard not to be captivated by its glittering lights.*

Cheung Chau (長洲)

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Popular with locals, this little island is a food heaven and only a short ferry ride from Central. First time visiting, my friend and I were amazed by the giant fish balls and the sheer amount of food. Head to the food stalls for lunch and to the harbour restaurants at dinner for fresh seafood at decent prices. Note that although the menus here come in Chinese, some do have photographs you can use for reference. For the best experience, take a fluent Cantonese speaker (friend or family) to do the hard work of ordering for you.

Come with a big appetite to sample everything on offer, but definitely don’t leave without eating the mango mochi. From the ferry pier, head left and you’ll recognise the shop by its consistently huge lines. Don’t be deterred though, this is mochi like no other. Beautifully soft mochi is wrapped around a slice of fresh mango making for a deliciously refreshing bite. To the thrill seekers amongst you, try the durian flavour for a step out of your comfort zone. Personally, I’m not fond, but you might strike lucky and find it your cup of tea!

Cheung Chau is more than its food though, keep heading right from the ferry pier and discover the reclining rocks for change of scenery and a quick get-away from the hustle and bustle of the street food scene. The crowds of people start to disperse and you can take a moment on the rocks to relax and nurture your newly acquired food baby.

[Part II coming next week!]

*Getting back down in the dark can be quite tricky, our method consisted of using the lights from our phones and keeping close to a family of three who had the good sense to bring a proper flashlight.

re: travelling with friends

A conclusion to Japan.

When travelling with others, there comes an inevitable point where things become a little tense. Personalities clash and even offhanded remarks can touch a nerve. Luckily for us, this was our last day in Japan, meaning we could soon part ways and decompress. However, if this happens in the middle of your trip, don’t be afraid to venture out on your own for a couple of hours or even the day. Providing you’re able to keep in contact with each other and stay safe exploring, it’s a great way to diffuse the situation and make the most of your trip abroad. People are often reluctant to do this, after all, it can be daunting being alone in a foreign place and you planned to go travelling together, right? But sometimes you just have to take time for yourself, be a little selfish and enjoy your time alone!

On a less preachy note, our final day in Japan started in Harajuku, where we treated ourselves to the Monster Café. The interior of this place is amazing, like stepping into a psychedelic Charlie & the Chocolate Factory. There’s four different themed areas that you can choose to be seated in, although it’s worth booking in advance to secure your favourite! Once seated however, you are free to explore the rest of the café, so don’t worry if you can’t get the table you want.

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Food here is more for novelty than taste, you can get rainbow spaghetti or rainbow burgers, but as we had already eaten breakfast, we went for the ice-cream (a tiny disappointing scoop). Our timing was pretty spot on when visiting the café as the ‘Monster Girl’ show started not too long after we ate. It was pretty exciting as I had no idea it was going to happen! It was fun to see the style and make-up of the girls and once the show was over, you were free to take pictures with them. If you’re going to do a themed café, I would recommend this one for its uniqueness and charming design!

When in Harajuku, you must also try the crepes! There are plenty of stalls to choose from, each with a display of 100+ different flavour combinations. The one I always go for includes, matcha ice-cream, strawberries, red bean and mochi balls – I don’t think there exists anything more perfect. To round up the rest of the day, we trekked all the way to Ueno in search for a Japanese souvenir jacket. Finding the shop was tricky, but we eventually stumbled upon it and I nearly fainted at the price! Despite having some money set aside to purchase one, I really couldn’t justify buying one this time around. Instead, I chose to live vicariously through Wesley’s purchase (19,000 yen, roughly £130, dayuuuummm).

Consequently, having quite an ample amount of cash leftover, we decided to go for teppanyaki – a style of cooking that uses an iron grill. The slices of beef we ordered were delicious, the only negative was that there wasn’t more! It was a nice meal to end our trip with, even typing this out now makes me so hungry.