re: Macau

Part two of my guided adventure.

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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

Unmissable Sights, pt I.

It’s crazy how fast the past year has gone, from all the shocking world events that 2016 brought, to just my own experiences travelling and embarking on my final year of university – let’s hope 2017 brings greater things! Starting this blog on my year abroad, it’s interesting to see how its focus has moved from my own musings about living in Hong Kong and more onto travelling the world. In light of this, (and because I spent an hour last night going through old photos on my Instagram feed) I want to write a series of posts introducing you to spots in my favourite city, Hong Kong.

For first time visitors, there are certain sights that you should definitely see. You’ll find them in every city guide, top ten lists, etc. etc. But don’t let this dissuade you from visiting – millions of people can’t be wrong (I mean, Brexit and Trump aside) and for many of Hong Kong’s attractions, there are a number of ways to create an experience unique from the usual tourist affair.

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Victoria Peak

A place I’ve returned to on multiple occasions, it’s worth the visit just for the view. As the highest peak on Hong Kong island, you’ll be greeted with an amazing view of the harbour and Kowloon. As a city of high rises, walking through its streets can sometimes get a little claustrophobic when surrounded by towering masses of concrete. But from the peak, you’ll find the beauty in all these stone pillars. Individual buildings come together, creating one of the most stunning cityscapes in the world. Day and night both have their own charm to bring to your viewing experience and I can’t decide myself which I prefer! For efficiency, arrive just before sunset, have dinner at one of its many restaurants and come back out to enjoy the night view. Or as some of my friends did, hike up after a night out in LKF and stay for the sunrise.

There are multiple options to get to the top, whether that be taking the scenic hiking trail (it’s an easy stroll), the bus from Central Ferry Pier or the Peak Tram. All have their own positive and negatives, but a good tip is to take the Peak Tram on the way back down. If you’re visiting during the day, this usually means no/small queues going down, whereas you’ll probably be waiting a good hour to get on one going up.

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Mong Kok

Ladies market is great for picking up souvenirs if you’re willing to bargain, although please do keep in mind fair prices! It spans the length of four blocks, but you’ll find a lot of repetition in the stalls. For cheap fashion, Fa Yuen Street is my favourite place to pick up some new clothes. I find the quality here decent, it depends on how well you treat your clothes, but I’ve not had anything fall apart on me yet! Keep a look out also for King of Coconut it’ll be the BEST coconut drink you will ever have. Made with fresh coconut, some condensed milk and ice, it’s the perfect refreshment to combat Hong Kong’s humidity.

Also in this area is the fish market where you can view (and buy if you really wanted to) hundreds of different types of fish. Lining the street walls are fishes in plastic bags and while quite a cool sight to initially behold, you do begin to question fish welfare as you move through the heat of the streets. Rabbits, kittens and dogs are also displayed in shop windows, although I think they do have the benefit of air conditioning, despite their glass prison.

Aside from shopping, Mong Kok is also great for its millions of signs cluttering (it’s more appealing than it sounds, trust me) the air above the streets. Doesn’t matter that you don’t understand them, they just look pretty! You can find streets like these in other places around Hong Kong too, but they won’t compare to the vibe of Mong Kok.

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Lantau Island

Getting to Lantau is accessible via two types of cable car, a boring normal car, or a special ~crystal~ car – basically meaning the bottom is made of glass so you can see straight through! I quite enjoyed the view through our feet, so would recommend paying a bit extra for this if you don’t suffer from vertigo. Another bonus of this car is that most people don’t choose this option, so the wait time is significantly shorter. Going there a second time with my family, we were approached by a ticket seller as we walked from the MTR station. I, for one, was highly suspicious of this man selling discounted tickets – he explained the discounts was part of a government tourist initiative (?), but as it turned out, his words were true and the tickets we bought were legit. I hope I’m not sending anyone straight into the hands of scammers, but do be aware that you may be able to get a good deal when you visit!

Lantau is also accessible via foot, the cable cars follow a hiking trail and I’ve always wanted to do the hike, but never had the time (or courage) to do so. Duration of hike aside, it does seem a beautiful route to take! Viewing from the cable cars, there’s small waterfalls to discover along the way and great resting/photography points. One day I’ll muster up the strength to do it!

Arriving on Lantau, skip straight through the theme park-eqsue shopping area and head straight to the Buddha! Along the way, you may encounter some cows, which are always surrounded by a small crowd of people trying for a selfie. At the top of the Buddha, there’s a magnificent view of the island, which makes for a better selfie opportunity in my opinion. There’s some small gift shops and a walled memorial for the deceased, you can also probably purchase a space for yourself if you have the money to invest.

Back down at the base of the Buddha is the Po Lin Monastery where the monks reside. You can peek in at the lavishly decorated hall and treat yourself to something to eat at the vegetarian restaurant on site. Highly recommended by me are the desserts, tofu pudding (豆花) and Chinese steamed rice pudding (缽仔糕) are the ones to go for!

To walk off all those calories (probably very little, to be fair), the Wisdom Path is just around the corner and gives you a look at the backside of the island. It’s a nice, quiet little scenic spot away from most of the crowds where you can take in the natural beauty of the land and contemplate the meaning of life~~~.

Stay tuned for part II…

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.