Nepal Diaries 2019 – 1st Edition – Travel to Kathmandu To Get it Started

Nepal Diaries 2019 – 1st Edition – Travel to Kathmandu To Get it Started

Travel to Kathmandu, a great idea I thought in the later parts of 2018 when deciding where to go next.

An ideal chance to witness a destination that is like something I have never seen before and was certainly different to what I am used to when travelling to other parts of the world.

In the end of my Kathmandu trip, I have no regrets, because I always have little regret in terms of travel and it certainly was an eye-opening experience to visit Kathmandu, one the most interesting travel destinations I have ever been to in my life.

Personally, I felt it topped Ho Chi Minh City, in terms of chaos, or maybe I have lost the plot a little and simply forgotten how crazy Saigon had been.

Yet, the Kathmandu trip opened my eyes to a whole new kind of craziness in terms of traffic on the roads, the narrow lane ways, horrible road conditions and the pesky locals asking me if I wanted to go trekking, buy drugs or check out their local Mandala paint store.

My Kathmandu travel experience was not a long journey, which was a solo adventure this time.

This Nepal adventure was about spending some time in the city, going on a short trek into Chisapani and Nagarkot and finishing up in Kathmandu one more time before flying back home to Australia. unfortunately, on this occasion, I missed out on a Polkhara trip.

By the end of the trip, the Nepal travel experience was certainly an interesting adventure, but It was still a fantastic trip, that had moments of wanting to fly home to my family and other moments where I was continually eager to explore the tourist places in Kathmandu.

At the end of the day, the temples were amazing, the atmosphere electric, even if a little in your face, and the majority of the locals were wonderful people. At the end of the day, Nepal really is a safe country to visit, it truly was.

Let’s get into the travel diaries and the first edition of Nepal Diaries for 2019 – Travel to Kathmandu.

 

Related Article: Check out this Ultimate Guide to Backpacking in Nepal!

 

travel to kathmandu

Travel to Kathmandu and witness culture at its very finest.

 

 

Nepal Diaries 2019 – 1st Edition – Travel to Kathmandu Gets started

 

 

Taking Singapore – Silk Airlines to Fly to Kathmandu

How lucky does it get, flying with Singapore Airlines for the third trip in a row, beside the slight disappointment of it being Silk Airways in the Singapore to Kathmandu leg of the trip, but only a slight let down with not having a TV screen in front of me. It did, however, give me time to do some much-needed typing and Silk still gave me a good feed.

Flying to Kathmandu was smooth sailing, the airlines were great, it was mainly comfortable if not a little too warm, both flights departed on time and we all arrived safely, which is naturally the main thing. Upon landing in Nepal, it was time to begin exploring the different Kathmandu attractions.

Find amazing cheap flights to Kathmandu from all over the world with Skyscanner!

 

flights to Kathmandu

Going Silk Airlines from Singapore to Kathmandu.

 

 

Staying at the budget Hotel Horizon Kathmandu

When you travel to Nepal, you’ll always find hotels in Kathmandu at a bargain price.

The first hotel I stayed in during my Nepal trip was the very basic, quite run-down Hotel Horizon Kathmandu. I wasn’t complaining, not when I only paid about AUD$12 per-night for a single room with a warm shower and a very fulfilling breakfast.

As far as hotels go, it was a shithole, but I would still recommend it to any traveller looking for privacy at a real bargain price, who don’t mind a sub-standard room.

The Hotel Horizon was a no-frills hotel, with no daily housekeeping service, no television, no air-conditioning/heating and no tea or coffee facilities, which I missed the most. Lucky that coffee in Kathmandu was really cheap.

 

You can find your own rates at Hotel Horizon Kathmandu with Booking.com!

 

hotels in Kathmandu Nepal

Not one of the worst hotels in Kathmandu Nepal – The Hotel Horizon Kathmandu.

 

Helena’s Restaurant and the stunning rooftop views

Stumbling along the streets of Thamel while looking at places to visit in Kathmandu on the first evening in the city, I came across The Helena’s Restaurant, a rooftop bar that served food and drinks.

At the front of the shop before going up five flights of stairs, read a sign that said it was the “home to the best sunset views in town,” so with the sun going down over the KTM Valley for the day, I thought, why not.

The first night I wanted something a little more traditional to Nepal, so I tried the Buffalo Momos, a kind of dumpling, I can tell you now, the Momos were delicious and it went down perfectly with a bottle of local Everest Beer.

Oh yeah, the views on a clear Kathmandu view, overlooking the Valley and the Monkey Temple were sensational.

 

kathmandu sightseeing places

helena’s rooftop restaurants, one of the best Kathmandu sightseeing places to drink local beer.

 

 

A Thamel City Walk

What can I say about Thamel, it’s where all the tourists go to when in Kathmandu and is the home to most boutique hotels/hostels in Kathmandu. In saying that, it meant it’s where many of the locals go to make a buck.

You can’t walk 10-metres in Thamel without being stopped in your tracks by a local offering a trekking trip, a taxi ride, a rickshaw ride, drugs, local souvenirs items and to check out the Mandala paintings in hope you’ll spend $500 big ones. I can tell you it all gets very annoying and it seems you get more attention being a solo traveller.

However, Thamel is the place to be and you won’t be able to help yourself to explore the unique township with narrow laneways. Inside Thamel, you’ll find retail outlets that sell local merchandise such as cashmere, singing bowls, Nepalese puppets and local souvenirs you may be tempted to buy.

There is also massage parlours, café’s with WIFI, restaurants, Kathmandu travel guide outlets and a whole lot more in the busy city complex.

Once you get use to the approaches from locals, the area is really not too bad, and you’ll even make a few friends in your short stay in Kathmandu City.

 

Find the cheapest hotels in Thamel with Booking.com!

 

travel to Kathmandu

Looking over Thamel with the mountains in the background.

 

 

A Walk-through Kathmandu Durbar Square (UNESCO world heritage site)

To begin with, it started walk through the central part of Kathmandu city and venturing south until I reached Durbar Square. Being my first morning of my Nepal trip, the eye-opening experience well and truly began during a walk to my first lot of Kathmandu attractions.

It seemed the city was one big market place as I wandered through the crowded narrow laneways, with many locals keen to purchase the fresh produce or a range of local merchandise that were for sale all throughout the streets. It stayed that way until I reached my first sightseeing in Kathmandu City – Durbar Square.

There are quite a few Durbar Squares within the Kathmandu Valley, such as the popular locations of Patan and Bhaktapur, which I visit down the track.

For now, it’s about the Kathmandu version.

The Hanuman-Dhoka Durbar Square (Kathmandu), has an abundance of temples and shrines throughout the grounds that represent the two main religions of Nepal, being Hindu and Buddhist. Up until the 20th Century it was the home to the King of Nepal, albeit these days, there is longer a royal family in Nepal.

Kathmandu Durbar Square, like many areas within the Valley, was affected the horrific 2015 earthquake that tragically killed 9000-people. During my visit, a few structures were still in the process of being rebuilt, with construction taking its time.

Of course, it is still worth the visit, and for most tourist the entrance fee is 1000-rupees to wander around and capture the culture of Kathmandu, visit amazing temples, be flocked by a thousand pigeons and enjoy a coffee in a nearby café that overlooks the Durbar Square.

 

Klook.com

Find an amazing and affordable Kathmandu sightseeing tour with Klook!

 

Kathmandu Durbar Square

The crowds flock to Kathmandu Durbar Square.

An evening Secret Food Tour

When you travel to Nepal, you’re constantly thinking about the local foods, therefore, I purchased a brief two-hour food tour to get a feel of the local ways and the places they eat away from the tourist areas.

The tour only had a guide and me included, so it made it easy to ask a lot of questions about the city and the food we were tasting.

Some food we tried was certainly unique on the taste buds, although the Nepalese favourites The Momos, Samosas, Veg Chatamari and a unique hot lemon drink had hit the spots and definitely passed the test of unique eat enjoyable foods.

I enjoyed the experience and if you do get a chance to go one of the food tours in Kathmandu, take the chance to try something a little different, it won’t cost much and the guide is a lot of fun.

 

 
Kathmandu tour

Trying local foods with an awesome food tour.

 

 

A wander through Patan Durbar Square (UNESCO world heritage site)

Patan is around 4-km away from central Kathmandu City and it takes approximately 35-40 minutes to get there by taxi on a good day. That, in itself, let’s you know how chaotic the streets of the city really are with cars and, buses and bikes going in all directions.

Patan, which is located in the city of Lalitpur, was more affected by the earthquakes, meaning their Durbar Square was also going through a phase of construction. Again, this Durbar Square has many temples and shrines in the main grounds which again represent both Hindu and Buddhism.

The main tourist attractions within Patan Durbar Square is the Ancient Royal Place (museum), the Krishna Temple and the Mul Chok courtyard, amongst many other gorgeous structures, temples and religious artefacts located in the area.

From a personal point of view, the Patan Durbar Square, while quite impressive, didn’t reach the same heights as it’s neighbour in Kathmandu or Bhaktapur, although that may be only my opinion and they obviously vary from individual viewpoints.

I admit, once reconstruction is complete, my tune may change and in years to come upon return trip to Kathmandu, I am sure it will look better than ever.

 

Klook.com

Find an amazing and affordable Kathmandu sightseeing tour with Klook!

 

Patan Durbar Square

Patan Durbar Square.

The peace and quiet in the Garden of Dreams

This is my favourite Kathmandu place, well one of, the Garden of Dreams.

Not that it was the most spectacular gardens I had ever seen, far from it, but in a city like Kathmandu where you have the chance to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, the gardens were a perfect setting to chill in nature with no one bothering you.

Surrounded by a big concrete fence that more represents a heavily protected Royal Palace, the entrance fee to the Gardens of Dreams is 200-rupee, which is only a couple of dollars and worth the admission fare.

Many people visit to relax, read a book, enjoy a little more expensive coffee or meal but in lush surrounds and to take a stroll in the pleasant garden scenery.

Put the Garden of Dreams high on your Wish list of tourist places in Kathmandu when you’ve had enough of the noise in the city, it promises to be perfect.

 

Garden of Dreams

The breathtaking Garden of Dreams.

Going to Great heights at Swayambhunath Stupa – The Monkey Temple

When it comes to places to visit in Kathmandu, the Swayambhunath Stupa is compulsory for all tourists in the city.

Once you ascend the 365-steps (apparently to illuminati) to the hugely popular Swayambhunath Stupa, also known as the Monkey temple, you are hit with the incredible views that overlooks the spread-out city below and out towards the surrounding mountains seen in the distance.

It certainly makes for great Kathmandu valley sightseeing and if you are arriving at sunrise or sunset, those Kathmandu Nepal views only get better.

The name of Swayambhunath Stupa is Tibetian and means “sublime trees” for all the different variety of trees that are on the hill of the Stupa. Once at the top, many people are getting their cameras out for the fantastic views in front of them ad capture a giant glimpse of the Stupa which stands high above.

At this Nepal tourist place, you can also wander further around the area and see other religious architecture such as the Statue of Peace and the Maha Manjushree Sarashwati Temple, where the large crowds often disperse and is not such an issue, but yes, there will be more steps to navigate if you decide to return to the main Stupa.

Returning is not compulsory however, as things to see in Kathmandu include the Amideva Buddha Park, which is nearby the Stupa and the home to the three Buddha statues that sit side by side to each other.

Although on my visit, only one buddha was fully recognisable as the others were going through maintenance work. Such is the life when you travel in Kathmandu Nepal.

That concludes a busy few days during the first edition of Nepal diaries of my time in Kathmandu, I can tell you now, it’s the next stage of this Nepal travel adventure that things get even more spectacular with a short trek that includes stunning views of the Himalaya Mountains.

When it comes to places to visit in Kathmandu, the Swayambhunath Stupa is compulsory for all tourists in the city.

Once you ascend the 365-steps (apparently to illuminati) to the hugely popular Swayambhunath Stupa, also known as the Monkey temple, you are hit with the incredible views that overlooks the spread-out city below and out towards the surrounding mountains seen in the distance.

It certainly makes for great Kathmandu valley sightseeing and if you are arriving at sunrise or sunset, those Kathmandu Nepal views only get better.

The name of Swayambhunath Stupa is Tibetian and means “sublime trees” for all the different variety of trees that are on the hill of the Stupa. Once at the top, many people are getting their cameras out for the fantastic views in front of them ad capture a giant glimpse of the Stupa which stands high above.

At this Nepal tourist place, you can also wander further around the area and see other religious architecture such as the Statue of Peace and the Maha Manjushree Sarashwati Temple.

Where the large crowds often disperse and is not such an issue, but yes, there will be more steps to navigate if you decide to return to the main Stupa.

Returning is not compulsory, however, as things to see in Kathmandu include the Amideva Buddha Park, which is nearby the Stupa and the home to the three Buddha statues that sit side by side to each other.

Although on my visit, only one buddha was fully recognisable as the others were going through maintenance work. Such is life when you travel in Kathmandu Nepal.

That concludes a busy few days during the first edition of Nepal diaries of my time in Kathmandu, I can tell you now, it’s the next stage of this Nepal travel adventure that things get even more spectacular with a short trek that includes stunning views of the Himalaya Mountains.

 

Check out more information on travel to Kathmanduat GPS MyCity!

 

Klook.com

 

Swayambhunath Stupa

The monkey has no fear at Swayambhunath Stupa.

the Amideva Buddha park

The one and only of the 3 Buddhas visible at the Amideva Buddha Park.


 

Check out helpful tours in Kathmandu with these awesome day trips!

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Macau & Hong Kong Diaries: The Top Macau Tourist Attractions we Visited

Macau & Hong Kong Diaries: The Top Macau Tourist Attractions we Visited

The East Asia adventures continued from Hong Kong, this time, visiting one of the unique destinations I have ever been to in my life, Macau.

With only three days in this vibrant destination with the family, the schedule was hectic visiting several Macau tourist attractions.

Macau tourism is literally in your face from the moment you get off the Macau ferry, with neatly dressed women in their high shorts handing out flyers to the casinos they represent.

It’s at that moment; you realise Macau is a real adult destination with gambling, a vibrant nightlife and mesmerising Macau shows that are a hit with the public. That being said, Macau is certainly suitable enough for families too.

However, the nightlife and casinos are just a small part of what Macau attractions represent. Plenty is going on with old Portuguese Heritage Buildings, the busy city streets which endlessly leads you to the best Macao attractions.

When it came to finding out what to do in Macau in 3 days, our family entertainment never ended. By the time the trip concluded, it’s fair to say we were exhausted hopping from one place to another.

If you only have a few days in your Macau travel schedule yourself, follow this similar itinerary, because I can assure you that it’ll work for you and there are plenty of things to do in Macau that won’t cost you a dime.

Let’s check it out; Fai Dinkum Traveller’s very own special edition of Macau Diaries.

 

Are you heading on a Macau Holiday? Find fantastic hotel rates at Booking.com!

 

macau tourist attractions

Go with the crowd and visit the mesmerising Macau tourist attractions.

 

Macau & Hong Kong Diaries: The Top Macau Tourist Attractions we Visited

 

 

How to Get to Macau from Hong Kong

Catching the Hong Kong to Macau Ferry is the best way to travel between the two destinations, and it’ll only take about an hour of sailing through the waters to arrive at your destination, whichever way you are going.

I have written an in-depth article of the Hong Kong Macau Ferry system, which you can read with this link.

In a nutshell, there are two ferry companies TurboJet, and Cotai Water Jet. Each ferry departs or arrives at the Hong Kong- Macau Ferry Terminal and travels between the two main Ferry terminals in Macau.

All ferries run regularly throughout the day, so don’t have to worry about missing out on a ride, with the first ferry usually departing either terminal at 7 am and the last boat of the day leaving just before midnight.

The cost of a ferry can vary depending on class, but tickets usually go from HKD$160 for an adult.

 

Klook.com

 

Hong Kong to Macau by Ferry

The Hong Kong Macau ferry will get you between the two destinations.

 

 

The Macau Hotel we Regrettably Stayed in

Luckily, we only stayed in Macau for two nights, because the disgusting cigarette smell in our non-smoking room at the Emperor Hotel was deplorable, that the huge money we spent for this particular Macau Hotel would have had us going crazy.

The hotel had all the fundamentals to be brilliant, and for some tourist, it would be the case. The hotel had big and clean rooms, and there were complimentary snacks in the mini-bar fridge.

The hotel served a substantial buffet breakfast, had a free shuttle service to the Macau Ferry Terminal, and a central location, with proximity to the Macau Casinos and other Macau best attractions.

What was the problem?

The problem and this is a big problem. When you pay AUD$314 a night for a non-smoking room, you expect the odour not to wreak of that horrible stench which was constant throughout our stay.

Upon complaining about the strong smoking odour in the family room to staff, they insisted the room is smoke-free, although it’s located on a smoking floor, and the smell tends to get through the vents.

Call me crazy, but that seems to defeat the whole bloody purpose of a non-smoking room if the smoke can filter through from other rooms, not to mention the cigarette butts in the ashtray provided near the elevator.

Unfortunately, there was not much else to do but to put up with the stench. As I said, we spent two nights in Macau, and we didn’t spend a heck of a lot of time in our hotel room.

If you are looking for great hotel rooms in Macau that is hopefully a perfect fit for you, check out Booking.com for great rates.

 

Macau hotel

The Emperor Hotel – Macau.

 

 

Macau International Parade

How fortunate we were to arrive in Macau on the very same day that Macau International Parade was happening.

An annual event in December that celebrates Macau’s handover back to China from the Portuguese, and aren’t the streets humming on this festive day.

It started at the St Ruins De Paul and ran through the busy streets of Macau, bypassing many Macau attractions in the process.

The streets were lined up deep with proud locals and curious tourist, to capture the festivities of the day, as various organisations showed off their skills and danced through the street providing fantastic entertainment and colour to the dazzled onlookers.

By accident, we got to witness the event, and by golly, it was fascinating to see the happy people participating in the parade or passing by and capturing the festivities of a proud nation. It kicked off our Macau trip in excellent style.

 

Macau Itinerary

Free entertainment is alive on the streets of Macau.

 

 

The Ruins of St Pauls – A Famous Macau Attraction

The Ruins of St Pauls is one of the top 10 macao tourist attractions and is undoubtedly one of the hottest Macau tourist spots to see during your visit.

I’m sure in your research, you’ve read about the famous church which was almost wiped out during a typhoon in the year of 1835, leaving a half-standing church you see today.

What remained a tragedy back then is now a tourist goldmine, because what is now standing of the Ruins of St Pauls, and gathers millions of tourists every year.

Keen travellers march their way through the busy streets to view the ruins and enjoy the atmosphere surrounding the half-standing church.

From the moment you climb the steps of the church to the top and by-passing many other visiting tourists.

You can wander through St Pauls and discover historical facts about the church. Read about the horrific disaster and even take a few selfie photos in amongst the crowd of tourist, because everyone else is doing the same thing, so why not you too.

 

Macau trip

Away from the crowds – Inside the church that is the Ruins of St Pauls.

Walking the streets of Macau

In the main Macau City area, things liven up with tourist attractions popping up all over the place, while having the chance to be your very own Macau Tour Guide.

I found it fascinating to walk the streets and discover an area dedicated to delicious Asian soups, another strip dedicated to Beef Jerky with free tasting samples and finding good bakeries shops located through the city. The famous Margaret’s Café e Nata made the delicious egg tart, and the waiting lines could be quite excessive.

It’s through the city walks you’ll find churches, the Ruins of St Paul, Historic Macao attractions and other tourist places along the way by random. It’ll never hurt to get your hands-on a Macau Map to assist you in your travels.

 

Macau city

The streets get a little crowded in Macau.

 

Wander through the Historic Senado Square

The Historic area of Macau tourist spots continues to liven up on the busy streets with Senado Square. Once again, you’ll need to put up with the crowds, but that’s life during your Macau City Tour.

It’s a real Portuguese flavour to Senado Square, offering plenty of photo-taking opportunities of the Heritage buildings which make up the famous Square.

Inside you’ll be able to do shopping at a variety of retail outlets or market stalls, enjoy a delicious cappuccino at a nearby café’ or sit down for a delicious meal in a top restaurant.

The atmosphere is through the roof at Senado Square, so take your time to enjoy it and take everything in slowly; it’ll only make you appreciate it more.

 

 

 

Senado Square

Senado Square.

The Churches of Macau – There are Plenty

I could tell you about every church or cathedral I attended in Macau, but I’ll either bore you or require a separate blog post as my memory begins to test me.

Catholic Churches are common in Macau, and quite often you are stumbling upon them by accident while making your way around the city or even the backstreets.

A few notable churches we saw during our Macau trip, taking away the obvious of The Ruins of St Paul, is the Cathedral of the Nativity of our Lady, Macau Diocese and the St Domini’s Church.

However, enjoy a self-tour at your will and see what you find when discovering unique things to do in Macau.

 

Cathedral of the Nativity Of Our Lady

Cathedral of the Nativity Of Our Lady.

 

The A-Ma Temple

The picturesque A-Ma Temple is one of the Oldest temples in Macau, dating back to the 15th Century and many people come to the temple for further Macau sightseeing and to worship if that is what their beliefs happen to be.

The A-ma temple ascends a slope of steps showcasing various structures along the way such as buildings, artwork and religious relics that are seen throughout your brief journey in the famous temple.

You’ll also come across great views from a higher vantage point that overlooks the Inner Harbour towards Mainland China.

 

A-Ma Temple

A-Ma Temple in Macau.

Wynn Macau – Casino

I visited Wynn Macau on a couple of occasions, mainly because this mega-casino was situated so close to our hotel.

It’s also an elegant Macau casino that offers entertainment, classy restaurants, expensive retail shopping and a range of café’s/bars for a quiet drink.

Of course, it had the regular gambling areas in the games room of slot machines and roulette tables, but I chose not to participate.

My favourite part at Wynn Macau was at the Rotunda. An area located at one of the entrances, with a quick five-minute show appearing every half hour, of either The Tree of Prosperity or the amazing Dragon of Fortune.

Another show would look outside the main lobby area of Wynn with the Performance Lake, a fountain show that appears every 15-minutes and is even better during the night.

 

Wynn Macau

The Dragon of Fortune ignites the guest at Wynn Macau Casino.

 

Venetian Macau – Casino

For the remainder of the Macau trip, before returning to Hong Kong by ferry, we spent several hours in the Taipa area of Macau with attractions such as Galaxy Macau, The Wynn Palace, The Parisian and many other fabulous tourist locations.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have the time to visit all the Macau places, but we did make our way to Venetian Macau.

You know the one, the casino known for its fabulous Shoppes at Venetian, an indoor city which gives you a taste of little Italy, and the ever-popular Gondola ride with the sounds of Italian opera singing.

 

Klook.com

 

Venetian Macau

The gondola ride at Venetian Macau.

The House of Dancing Water Performance – Must See Macau Show

While browsing through the Klook travel App at a few of the tourist attractions in Macau. I stumbled upon the House of Dancing Water, a dazzling performance which had incredible reviews.

While this particular Macau show is not cheap, especially for a family of four, we went about booking the tickets through Klook and saved a few dollars in the process.

I’m glad we saw the performance because the whole event was mesmerising from start to finish and it had the entire audience hooked from the get-go.

The House of Dancing Water is what you would call a circus act, but with a great story of love, friendship and perseverance.

In the gripping story with a duration of around 85-minutes, there are fantastic dance sequences, acrobatics from great heights, and even a motorbike spectacle which dazzled everyone in the audience.

The most amazing part of this performance is how the main stage keeps turning from a pool of water to a stable platform in the blink of an eye.

Everything about the Water Dance was five stars, from the epic love story, the amazing choreography, the transformation of the stage and the sublime individual performances from the actors and dancers involved in the show.

Yes, five-stars and to anyone visiting Macau, make sure you are getting a ticket to the hottest show in town. You won’t regret it.

 

Klook.com

 

What we unfortunately missed in our Macau Trip

Three days in Macau is obviously not enough, nor is it enough in most destinations around the world.

Therefore we missed a few Macau attractions in the process. Like a few of the mentioned Macau Casinos in Taipa, The Macau Tower which we saw from a distance and the famous Fisherman’s Wharf.

They’re the breaks when travel is for a short time. However, didn’t stop us having a trip of a lifetime with many positive experiences in the process, and a few setbacks along the way (curse that hotel).

Macau is a unique Asian destination I have ever visited, and at the end of the day, I’m glad I chucked it on the bucket list.

 

The House of Dancing Water

The House of Dancing Water.

Enjoy a full day in Macau with these Awesome day tours!

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Klook.com

Klook.com
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Hong Kong Diaries – 2nd Edition – Hong Kong Family Holiday Concludes

Hong Kong Diaries – 2nd Edition – Hong Kong Family Holiday Concludes

Hong Kong Diaries – 2nd Edition – Hong Kong Family Holiday Concludes

 

To rest, simply wasn’t an option on this trip, not in a destination like Hong Kong which has so much to divulge, so much to see and with such little time available in our schedule to get it done, it was important to keep on the go and get in as much as possible. In that case, the second edition of our holiday in HK was always going to be full-on, as the action-packed Hong Kong family holiday continued its momentum.

To begin with, you can find all the events in the first edition of Hong Kong Diaries with a click of this link, and the highlights were plentiful right from arrival. We visited attractions that included a family package tour to Hong Kong Disneyland, the vibrant Tsim Sha Tsui and the impressive Tian Tan Buddha, the list would only continue to expand the further we explored the vast regions during our Hong Kong tour. Even if at that stage, we had only scratched at the barrel on our Hong Kong vacation.

In the final days, the action didn’t stop either. For the second leg of our trip we headed over to Hong Kong Island and their famous Peak, we got mesmerised by Cheung Chau Island and even had a last-minute spur of the moment idea to cross the border into mainland China to Shenzhen city.

All this and much more, were the major highlights of the second and last edition of Hong Kong diaries, as the Hong Kong Family Holiday concluded.

Find hundreds of hotels and various prices with Booking.com!

Hong Kong family holiday

The Hong Kong family holiday concludes, but not before some great highlights.

 

 

Getting Around Hong Kong Island

Hong Kong Island is a tourist phenomenon that you’ll more than likely visit on a couple of occasions during your stay. That’s assuming you haven’t booked accommodations on the island already. The HK island is famous for Victoria Peak which gives you gorgeous harbor views over the city, scintillating shopping malls, abundance of ferry terminals taking you to various ports in Asia and a lengthy Esplanade full of entertainment that looks over Victoria Harbour to Tsim Sha Tsui.

Our accommodation was situated on the mainland of Hong Kong in an area called Tsuen Wan and the best way to get to Hong Kong Island was via MTR using the Octopus Card and catching the red line all the way to its last stop at Central station. Although there are other ways to the island, either by car using a taxi or Uber, buses, or the Star Ferry services.

Let’s cover a few of the highlights of our adventures in Hong Kong Island.

 

Hong Kong Island

Admiring the views on Hong Kong Island.

 

It’s all happening at the Victoria Peak

There is no argument in the matter, when you have a Hong Kong holiday, you’ll visit Victoria Peak.

The only decision you’ll need to make is how to get to the Peak itself. There’s a couple of good options to take you there, you can pre-purchase tickets from Klook to catch the Tourist Peak Tram and enjoy a scenic ride to the top or take the bus number 15A from various bus stops on Hong Kong Island using the Octopus Card.

On this occasion, we elected to take the regular bus service to the Peak, mainly to avoid the large queues that came with the tourist tram, plus it’s much cheaper to go by bus and it takes around 30-40 minutes, depending on traffic at the time.

Getting off the bus at the terminal on arrival at The Peak, the first thing we did was to make our way to The Peak Tower, a unique designed building used for multi-purposes such as a shopping mall, a tourist zone with family-fun attractions, number of fine-dining restaurants with great views and an Observation Sky Terrace that gives you 360 views of the surrounding areas.

At the forefront of the Tower there is a bit going on also, you have the stationary tourist tram where you can take a few photos, enter inside for a rest or receive information from the staff member at the desk, who’ll give you helpful information of the best walking tracks to take around Victoria Peak. More on that later.

Inside the actual Peak Tower, you are spoilt for choices with numerous attractions, while we didn’t visit them all, there were a few great things we did do during our travels, but I’ll give you brief run down on what is happening.

As previously mentioned, there is an Observation deck at top of the Peak Terrace to capture the gorgeous views that includes the picturesque Victoria Harbour.  You can take dazzling photos inside the Madness 3D adventure, where you can try and trick your family and friends back home that you were doing terrifying stunts during your holiday in Hong Kong. I know my boys had fun with this one, perhaps I did too.

Of course, for those who need retail therapy, you can spend your hard-earned dollars and go shopping with a large range of retail outlets to browse through (I still love that black jacket I bought), indulge in a choice of stylish restaurants even though we settled for Burger King, tempt your taste buds with a delicious ice-cream that is sure to hit your waist-line (but it sure was delicious) and find many more fun things available to the tourist if you simply take your time to wander around and take it all in.

Naturally, when you visit the Peak, you’re going to want to take a brisk walk along one of the trails to capture more mesmerising views. On this occasion we took the Peak Circle Walk, which starts close by to the Peak Tower, and is a around a 90-minute loop walk that has ample stopping areas to take that memorable photo over Victoria Harbour. I can only hope the day is clearer for you as it was for me when you visit, but that’s life when you travel to Hong Kong in winter.

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Victoria Harbour

On an overcast day, the Victoria Harbour views are still pretty good from the Peak.

 

The Promenade at dark and the Symphony of Lights Show

Due to the fact we came back from The Peak during rush hour, it took a good hour to arrive at the The Promenade precinct and the Hong Kong night lights were well and truly in affect with the usual 5:30pm sunset in the middle part of December.

We got off the 15A bus at Queensway Plaza and wandered through the mall, cutting through the streets and stepping over the footbridge, until we reached Tamar Park and the Central and Western District Promenade, where a dazzling lighting experience awaited us. Because let’s be honest, Hong Kong at dark with the towering buildings and Christmas lights looks spectacular.

During the month of December, in fact, it ran from November-29 to February-24 2019, there is a Hong Kong Pulse Light Festival showcasing a range of lighting arts throughout the promenade. The lighting show is perfect for all kinds of travellers, be it a family experience or a couple romantic stroll, and you can admire the dazzling event all the way through to the Hong Kong Observation Wheel and Ferry Terminal.

Not only can you appreciate the light show, you can look across Victoria harbour to watch the ferries and cruise boats flowing through the water and further towards Tsim Sha Tsui where more buildings in the distance are looking delightful in the night sky. Hong Kong is a city that is completely lit up.

It’s at 8pm every evening, all through the year, that everyone searches for a great vantage point to watch the Symphony of Lights show. It’s a lighting performance from the high buildings on Hong Kong Island as the lights beam over the harbour and dazzle the on-lookers.

Usually the best spot to watch the show is from the Tsim Sha Tsui side looking back towards HK Island, however, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it from Hong Kong Island where we were located, with good vantage points from the ferry terminal, as we did, or from the Golden Bauhinia Square.

For those who want to watch the Symphony of Lights show in style, you can view it from Aqua Luna cruise. A popular tourist cruise that runs daily and has a variety of sessions throughout the evening to further appreciate the night lights. This short cruise is ideal for lovers as you set sail on the Harbour, receive a complimentary alcoholic drink and admire the views hand in hand from unique looking cruise boat. You can purchase your Aqua Luna tickets from Klook for the cheapest prices.

 

Hong Kong family trip

The Symphony of Lights show.

 

 

Crystal Jade Dining Experience at Queensway Plaza

After admiring the night lights, it was time for a later than usual dinner. It was back to the Queensway Shopping Mall, where we previously set our sights on the Crystal Jade restaurant. It’s a fine dining restaurant, that doesn’t come too cheap, but the food of mainly Hong Kong cuisine is top quality and it capped off the day perfectly, before catching the train back to the Royal View hotel and making it a late finish to a hectic day.

 

Aqua Luna

The Aqua Luna Cruise is ideal for lovers in the evening lights.

A day in Shenzhen – China

Visiting Shenzhen for the day was certainly a spur of the moment idea that provided a few dramas for the family. Not the fault of the city, but the lack of my own research when studying about going to Shenzhen from Hong Kong and the Visa requirements needed to enter into mainland China.

I don’t want to bore you with all the details here, because I have written a separate article in which can be found with this link and will cover most things you’ll need to know for entry.

To get to the bottom story, we originally went to the wrong border area at Futian Checkpoint, where they don’t hand out on the spot Visas. Since we had already scanned our passports to exit Hong Kong, we had to get marched back through to Hong Kong, back to the MTR and took another train to Lo Wu checkpoint. The train ride only took around 10 minutes to Lo Wu, where we got our five-day Visa for China and before we knew it we were in Shenzhen. At least, it seemed that straight forward, but please see that Shenzhen Visa article for a detailed description.

Hong Kong to Shenzhen Visa

On the way to Shenzhen from Hong Kong.

 

The decision to go into Shenzhen was really inspired by my oldest son, he has a fascination with large buildings and Shenzhen is the home of the fourth tallest building in the world and I speak of the Ping An Financial Building. It’s a flush building only recently completed in 2017 and is well guarded by security detectors at most entrance points.

The Ping An Centre as a whole is a business district and a mega shopping mall, that at the time we visited was half empty due to its recent opening, but it was simply superb modern layout, with retail outlets and fine-dining restaurants which looked five stars.

The main purpose of visiting the Ping An building was to visit the Free Sky Observation deck, it cost 200 yuan to go to the top, in which I felt the admittance fee was worth it, even if our views were spoilt by a foggy day. Up the top of the observation area you can capture the birds-eye view of Shenzhen and beyond, take a ride on the virtual slide down the building, learn a few facts of the building and buy a souvenir item or two from the souvenir shop.

Now, I was only in Shenzhen a short time, so I am not your ideal travel guide to the city, there are plenty of other resources for that. In our short time in the Chinese city, we wandered the streets of Shenzhen, got lost in the large MTR system, explored the underground world of malls that in lead to the MTR stations and visited the boutique —- shopping mall.

A busy day in mainland China well spent after all the drama of the morning, before going back on course and continuing our travel tours in Hong Kong.

 

 

 
Ping An Financial centre

Ping An Financial Centre in Shenzhen.

 

A day trip to Cheung Chau Island

Cheung Chau Island, WOW!!! One of the best tourist attractions to visit and certainly a tourist destination that needs to be added to the list for travel in Hong Kong with kids.

A rare perfect sunny day embraced our day on Cheung Chau and many tourists had the same idea make their way to the picturesque island by ferry. On Cheung Chau Island, there is no skyscrapers, no modern buildings or any no motorised vehicle. You need to either get around the pretty island by foot (the preferred and safest option) or hire a pedal bike from several locations that are quite affordable. The only modern thing you’ll find on the island is a McDonalds fast-food restaurant and to be honest that is truly wasted with a number of delicious seafood restaurants that over look the harbour.

Cheung Chau gets your attention on initial sight, first of all you’ll see hundreds of boats anchored in the harbour and as you look into the distance, you’ll see an open highland that creates beautiful scenery from lower ground of the main town ship area. The best part of the Island will be wandering the back alleyways into further stores, marketplaces, restaurants and even run-down apartment buildings where the locals live. It’s all quite fascinating.

The further you go around Cheung Chau, you’ll find many wonderful things to see and do. You’ll stumble across many small temples that are hardly any masterpiece, but they are there, nonetheless. You can view mesmerising coastlines that offers scenic views over the bay and even provide a chance to take a refreshing swim in the several beaches available to you.

There are rock cravings, nature walks, lookout towers to capture even better views and the island even has a Mini Great Wall that is perfectly located on the oceans edge. A full day is well spent on Cheung Chau Island and it’s a must to visit for all tourists to Hong Kong and don’t forget to have a seafood lunch with a glass of beer, it was delicious, and it capped off our time on the island perfectly.

 

Cheung Chau Island

A day trip to Cheung Chau Island.

 

What’s Next? Macau

Our Hong Kong Family Holiday has concluded with Cheung Chau Island pretty much the last attraction we visited, and I have no doubt our time was spent wisely during the trip as you have figured out in our Hong Kong diaries.

The trip to the region has not quite ended there, however, with a ferry trip to Macau that followed Hong Kong immediately. Now, all you need to do is wait and check our adventures in Macau, a destination like I have never seen before.

 

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All smiles in Hong Kong.

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Hong Kong Diaries: 1st Edition – The Hong Kong Family Trip Begins

Hong Kong Diaries: 1st Edition – The Hong Kong Family Trip Begins

There is always something special when venturing into a international destination for the first time, especially a place like Hong Kong that is renowned to be a spectacular tourist destination and has so much activities going on all round the clock. You only need to think about the world-class attractions in Hong Kong such as the action-packed Disneyland, the vibrant Tsim Tsa Tsui, the mesmerising views from Victoria Peak on Hong Kong Island and the extravagant shopping malls like Harbour City instantly come to mind, but all those amazing attractions are only the beginning on what’s in offer in the amazing Asian destination and that’s what gets you excited during your pre-trip research.

It’s all those hours of research that had me long anticipating this trip in December of 2018 months I advance, a trip that I thought would never arrive but when it did, our Hong Kong trip truly lived up to it’s high standards. On this occasion, it was a Hong Kong family vacation to saviour, a trip that was exciting, fast-paced, required extreme patience and was at times, totally exhausting. However, thinking back on the family getaway, I wouldn’t have it had it any other way, for it truly was an educational, eye-opening experience to simply cherish.

In the first edition of Hong Kong Diaries, there will be two editions all up to cover our 2018 trip, I delve into how we got to the country, the accommodation we stayed in and the major highlights of the busy trip that hardly ever stopped, and if we did it was to get some wonderful Hong Kong food into us. Let’s get into this edition of travel diaries where the Hong Kong family trip begins in style.

 

Heading to Hong Kong for your own adventure? Find great deals at Booking.com.

 

Hong Kong family trip

Even on an overcast day, Hong Kong is full of great city views across the harbour.

 

The Highlights of Hong Kong Diaries: 1st Edition – The Hong Kong Family Trip Begins

 

Flying Singapore Airlines to Hong Kong

Singapore Airlines is fast becoming a favourite airline carrier of mine. To say it’s worth the few extra dollars for choice of air travel over a budget airline is an understatement. Especially when flying on long hauls and with children by your side. For the kids, they’re easily entertained with a selection of games and newly-released movies, and for the adults, all we need is a good movie, a glass of wine (take your pick of red or white) and a nice meal, from there, the duration of the flight should be relatively stress free as it was for us.

On this occasion, we left Perth International Airport at 7am, had a brief stopover at Changi Airport in Singapore, before arriving at our destination at around 6pm. A long day indeed, but our Hong Kong travel getaway had begun as we stepped outside the airport for the first time and took an Uber drive to our hotel.

 

Staying at Royal View Hotel

For the duration of our stay, there were eight nights in total before we hopped over by ferry to Macau, we stayed at the Royal View Hotel. It may not be the best place to stay in Hong Kong or cost effective for that matter, but it still was a nice hotel that offered plenty for the guest with few nice amenities, including a couple of dedicated kids rooms, and we were far from disappointed with our overall stay.

We stayed in a large single room that had two double beds, a small bathroom, a television with limited English channels, and WIFI that was rather good for a large hotel. The room was a little cramped for four people, especially with aging kids and I would have preferred to pay extra for an extra room, but it wasn’t in the budget.

The hotel did have a lot going for it, however, with a solid restaurant that served a quality buffet dinner & breakfast, gym and fitness, a nice outdoor swimming pool which was closed during the winter months, and a shuttle bus service that took you to the Cheng Wen MTR station every 15-minutes, for the Royal View Hotel is a little away from Central Hong Kong, but the free shuttle bus service helps close the gap somewhat.

If you do want to consider the Royal View Hotel for your Hong Kong trip, whether for family purposes or not, check out booking.com for all their latest prices by clicking on this link, but do your required research that you think will suit your individual needs.

 

A day trip to Lantau Island

When you tour Hong Kong as a family, or any sort of travel for that matter, you are bound to head over to Lantau Island on a couple of occasions. Firstly, it’s the home of Disneyland and that is a must go to attraction, and secondly, it’s an area you capture great Hong Kong views on the Cable cars and visit the famous Tian Tan Buddha.

 

It Begins at Tung Chung

When you’re making your way to the cable cars, you’re normally going to travel to the Tung Chung MTR on the Orange Tung Chung Line. In the area, you’re not going to do a lot, there is a boutique shopping mall and a few restaurants, but generally you’re going to head straight to the cable cars and that is where you’re going to a fair bit of waiting, at least that is what happened to us during our trip.

 

The Ngong Ping 360 Cable Cars

Is the Ngong Ping 360 Cable Cars worth it? Yes, it is, once you’re up there looking at the gorgeous views, most certainly. Is it worth the two and a half hours too queue up for the cable cars? That is entirely up to you and it often depends on the company you’re travelling with.

That’s right we waited two and a half hours before we finally got onto the Cable Cars, and if we hadn’t pre-purchased our tickets through Klook (where we saved quite a few dollars), we may have taken the bus over to Ngong Ping Village instead, which I can assure you is another and cost-effective option for when you are looking at what to do in Hong Kong with kids. Even though we travelled on quite an overcast day, with a few of our views hindered, the views and scenery were quite brilliant throughout the half-hour approx. journey over the highlands to the Village on the other side.

We ventured over and above the Hong Kong Airport and saw the planes coming and going, we saw the great views of the harbour below, the mountains above and soaring Tian Tan Buddha as we started to descend into Ngong Ping Village. The Cable cars was worth the money for sure, a pity about the queue’s, but in Hong Kong those things can’t always be helped. At least on the way back, the queue’s only last around about 45-minutes, which felt like a hundred-metre dash compared to before.

Book your Ngong Ping 360 Cable car voucher in advance with Klook. 

 

Hong Kong trip

A Hong Kong family trip included a ride on the cable cars.

 

Ngong Ping Village

The Ngong Ping Village is the first thing you’ll see once getting off the cable cars, even better at ground zero, Ngong Ping a beautifully designed tourist village that has a range of activities, entertainment, restaurants, and retail/souvenir shops spread-out through the busy pedestrian thoroughfare that is buzzing with happy tourists.

The best view from the streets of the village will be seen when you’re walking through the main village and the Tian Tan Buddha stands large in front of you, only a few hundred metres away. On the day I was there, it looked sensational amongst the mountain backdrop, with the thick white cloud surrounding the large buddha statue.

 

Ngong Ping Village

The Tian Tan Buddha, as seen from Ngong Ping Village.

 

Tian Tan Buddha

We saved the best for last, the Tian Tan Buddha, which sits on top of 268 steps. You’ll think on first vision there is a lot more steps to encounter and your tiring legs feel every step as you begin the climb, but I am assured it stands at the number 268. You only have to go back until 1993 when Tian Tan was completed in construction, so it’s certainly a short history in time, and the large buddha statue was made to harmonise relationships between man and nature.

Like the Monastery, it’s free to go up the steps to the buddha and take in the gorgeous views around the area, there is an entrance fees if you wish to go inside the exhibition halls, which includes a meal in the restaurant to further enhance your Tian Tan Buddha experience.

We elected not to pay the entrance fee, much like most other travellers who venture to the Buddha, instead we took in the Tian Tan buddha up close, taking a few a photos of the surrounding areas, including the large buddha above and admired a few of the sculptures that are awaiting at the top of the steps that always represents something meaningful and looks a masterpiece. I do recommend the Tian Tan Buddha when you visit Hong Kong.

 

Tian Tan Buddha

Say hi, to the Tian Tan Buddha.

 

Disneyland Hong Kong

They say Disneyland is the happiest place in the world. It’s hard to argue with such a statement, because a Hong Kong Disneyland trip is certainly an epic day out for the whole family and is worth the price of the admission fee.

Once again, we paid for our family package tour to Hong Kong Disneyland, using the Klook travel App to purchase our tickets and meal vouchers which had us saving around $400HKD for the day. An absolute bargain and is a very useful way to pay for adventures, not only in Hong Kong but throughout many Asian destinations.

It was the first time we had visited a Disneyland of any sort and it certainly lived up to expectations from start to finish. The day begun at 10am and finished in the dark amongst the stunning lights after 8pm. We got there with ease by train, getting off at the at Sunny Bay MTR and taking the Disneyland express train to the Disneyland Resort station. The Octopus Card will get it done for you.

Once you get through the main gates, which didn’t take too long at all, you struck by the main village, which hosts a lot of souvenirs stores, restaurants, café’s and any major street parades that take place during any part of the day. In the background, you’ll notice the famous Disneyland Castle and because we were there in the month of December, the Christmas decorations were out in full force and that would only get better at night.

Where do you start when you go Disneyland, it really is hard to say? On this day, we went to the left and ventured through many themes like Toy Story Land, Fantasy Land, Grizzly Gulch and Tomorrow Land. We waited in line for a few rides, watched a few magnificent shows with the Lion King performance absolutely a standout and we used our meal voucher pass for lunch and dinner. Many times, during the day, it’s great to wander around and capture the magnificent architecture, landscapes and the bubbly atmosphere that we were surrounded in. It was a great day and more often or not you’ll be tempted come back for a second day which is possible with a two-day pass.

During the evening, we enjoyed a few more dazzling shows, The We Love Mickey Street Parade, which was an amazing cartoon sequence on the side of the buildings and the evening tree lighting session gave you a magical touch of Christmas and concluded the long day nicely. You could say it was sad to leave the theme park as the curtains drew on the day, but on the other hand, we were knackered, and it was a sound sleep that night in our Hong Kong hotel room.

Get your Hong Kong Disneyland Package tour from Klook and find the deal that best suits you. 

 

Hong kong Disneyland

The train goes by at Hong Kong Disneyland.

Tsim Sha Tsui

There is so much going on in Tsim Sha Shui, it’s little wonder it is one of the most vibrant and busiest tourist hotspots in Hong Kong. Best advice to tackle Tsim Sha Tsui  is to get off the train at the Tsim Sha Tsui MTR on the Central red line or come across from Hong Kong Island via the famous Star Ferry and go from there. For now, I’ll go over a few of our highlights in the busy district.

 

Harbour walk along Tsim Sha Tsui

On this occasion, our harbour walk on the Tsim Sha Tsui side was unfortunately hindered by a lot of construction going on in the area, just about everywhere on the Promenade was closed off. That included famous spots such as the Bruce Lee Statue and the Avenue of Stars which are promptly located as part of the Harbour walk.

The only chance we had to see the Bruce Lee statue was from the viewing point from the edge of the Middle Road’s Children Playground, which is worth a trip up the stair case to see more views across the harbour towards Hong Kong Island. Just because the Avenue of Stars promenade attractions was ruined for us on this trip, doesn’t mean it will be for you, completion is due to be finished within a few months of publication of this article.

 

Tsim Tsa Shui

Great views are seen along the harbour of Tsim Sha Tsui.

 

Great city Shopping on the city streets

Street shopping may not entertain the kids too much, but once you get off the MTR, you’ll land in a haven of street shopping. Whether it’s window shopping on the city streets or going into one of the malls in Tsim Sha Tsui you’ll find a way to to catch up on some retail therapy. The men will even get asked whether they want to buy a suit by a tailor who’ll be eager for your business.

 

Harbour City Shopping Mall

A gigantic mall, a fabulous mall, Harbour City is located right near the Star Ferry terminal and over looks terrific harbour views, hence the name.

It’s a mall with the lot, with many brand name outlets, women’s cosmetics, fashion outlets, sports stores and an awesome food court area to grab a feed and an appropriate rest. Be warned, not a lot comes cheap inside Harbour City, that’s not to say you can’t have a good look around and buy a delicious ice-cream that the kids will really appreciate after hours on their feet.

 

Harbour city Hong Kong

Christmas is alive at Harbour City.

 

Step out onto the Temple St Market

Starting from 5pm every evening, the popular Temple St Market comes to life, when tourist flock to the large pedestrian street market to look for a bargain, then after have a bite to eat in a number of surrounding seafood restaurants, you’ll see what I mean during your travels.

Temple St Market has a lot of the merchandise you’ll usually find in most famous markets in Asia, local souvenirs such as fridge magnets, mobile phone accessories that are hardly top of the range, microphones, headphones, handbags, a few clothing options ad a heck of a lot more. Just remember one thing, be prepared to barter the price down to save yourself a few more dollars.

 

Temple St Market

Enter the gates of Temple St Market.

 

A Hong Kong Dinner at Ming’s Kitchen

You’ll always find a great restaurant when wandering the streets of Hong Kong, it’s a food kingdom Afterall. Ming’s Kitchen is a major franchise in Hong Kong with various stores located throughout the city streets. The Ming’s kitchen we ate at is not far from Temple St Market and Jordan Station, but let google maps guide you to the closest restaurant.

The food at Ming’s Kitchen is a mixture of Dim Sum’s, roast duck, assorted Chinese dishes and a whole lot of more yummy Chinese cuisines. The food in the upscale restaurant doesn’t come cheap, but it was a delicious feed with much appreciated ice-cold beer to conclude a very busy day.

That is a recap of the first edition of Hong Kong diaries, kicking off the Hong Kong family trip in fine fashion. The activities certainly mounted up, but that really is only the beginning, in the second edition of Hong Kong Diaries there will be a whole lot more, which includes a trip to Cheung Chau Island and even Shenzhen, which is past the immigration border gates into mainland China.

 

Ming's Kitchen

Enjoy great food at Ming’s Kitchen.

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An Epic Journey of a Volunteer in Laos – Travel Adventures

An Epic Journey of a Volunteer in Laos – Travel Adventures

The kids look up to you with intrigue in their eye, sitting on the dusty concrete floor, slowly eating their lunches as curiosity floats through their mind as to what these strange foreigners are doing in their school.

They have seen foreigners before, it’s not unusual to the school kids to see a volunteer teach english in Laos, but to wander through the school grounds with fellow volunteers from abroad is an experience to saviour.

They stare at you with curious eyes, some smile, a few frown and some of the kids run up to you as if you are a Rock star here to perform a hit concert.

However I am far from Rock stars, not even close, I am a volunteer in Laos here to lend a helping hand and hopefull y make another persons day better.

However, you wave, smile and hand out a few high fives, and it instantly hits you at what you’re doing in Laos and you have sudden pride in the decision to volunteer abroad.

It’s an experience like no other to be volunteering in Laos, travelling into an undeveloped country with little infrastructure and dodgy roads full of pot holes.

The smell in the air is different to what you are used to at home and their way of living comes unique to the standards of western civilisation.

Yet, you don’t let it deter you. It’s why you choose to do volunteering in Laos duties and to support those who need it most.

Of course, you can’t change the world, but for a fleeting moment, you can change the experience of someone’s life and bring happiness to others.

The life changing moments are achieved by doing little things in life, and you create a lasting memory which will last a lifetime.

 

Wanting to visit Laos for an incredible experience? Book a hotel in Vientiane on Booking.com!

 

Volunteer in Laos

A group shot with monks and volunteers in Laos.

 

An Epic Journey of a Volunteer in Laos – Travel Adventures

 

 

What triggered the decision to do Volunteer Work in Laos?

I have travelled to some fabulous destinations throughout Southeast Asia, stayed in some luxury resorts, drinking booze by the pool and have been on some incredible adventures through a variety stunning scenery.

I felt the need to do something different this time, to give back to a community that needed a helping hand. Therefore, I made the decision to do some volunteer work overseas and the only decision to make next, was which organisation to volunteer with? And which country to visit?

I searched a few voluntary services overseas on the internet, studied the many countries available, the prices and the programs on offer. Some organisations were quite hefty in price, so I went with the more affordable International Volunteer Headquarters (IVHQ).

At the end of the day, the IVHQ organisations were professional and thorough; the only thing to do was to pay the fees and choose which country to do my volunteer travel experience.

Amongst several eye-catching destinations, I narrowed it down to Nepal and Laos, and for no particular reason, I chose to volunteer in Laos.

 

Vientiane, Laos

A view of Vientiane, Laos

 

The Green Lion Volunteer Organisations

Once your dealings with IVHQ are concluded, you are more or less handed over to the organisation running the organisation in Laos, which is The Green Lion, tot that contact with IVHQ is ever lost. Two great guys run the Green Lion in Laos, brothers, in fact, Micky and Ticky.
They pick you up from the airport and help prepare plans for a weekend away. Micky and Ticky also work through any translations required with the locals and provide the schools or monasteries to teach English during your volunteering work.

The accommodation is a little away from the Laos Capital, Vientiane and there is not a great deal to do at the placement, except to visit a few local markets and play sport with the locals and other volunteers.

The rooms are dorm style, with three bunk beds in each room and a small bathroom. Thankfully, it’s not fully occupied, although you’re still not alone in the dorms.

In the placement area on the Green Lion grounds, there is a kitchen and dining area. A common social area under a terrace that overlooks the fields and a small water feature. There is occasional WIFI, and a boutique sports field made entirely of a gravel playing field.

 

The Green Lion

Volunteer in Laos at The Green Lion.

Volunteer in Laos

Playing sport is a popular past time during volunteering.

 

A Splash of Culture when you Volunteer

Entering the Green Lion organisation, it’s not just about getting into the nitty and gritty of your volunteering work.

The program begins with a step through a little educational Laos Culture, starting with making flowers for the monks and delivering it to their very own temple where they lived their every day lives at the Vat Pana Khoun Temple.

Not only did we offer the monks the hand-made flowers but we received a spiritual and deep meditation lesson from the gracious monks themselves. Learning and doing new things had well and truly began.

The culture trip in our Loas travel continued through the week with a day trip into the capital city in Vientiane, where we learnt about the tragic tale of the cluster bombs, a tragic tale that destroyed many innocent lives long after they were ejected from a U.S war plane during the Vietnam War.

We wandered the streets of Vientiane, making our way into a few low-key markets, shopping malls and the Patuxai War Monument which is a proud landmark of the country.

The best bit, however, was entering the Golden Palace, a stunning Buddhist temple, decorated with symbolic statues seen regularly throughout the South East Asian countries. Laos tourism has a lot to work with to get more travellers into the country.

 

COPE museum

A display of cluster bombs at COPE museum in Vientiane, Laos.

 

Further into the week we ventured deep into a local village, a real highlight of work in Laos, as we walked down the dusty gravel road and witnessed how the locals lived during a typical day.

The houses are made of wood, and there are no windows. Everyone is smiling, and the kids are playing on the streets without a care in the world. It’s terrific to see a different world to what you’re used to.

A hike through some beautiful Laos bush-lands in humid conditions capped off culture week, finishing on top of a rock with a great view of the countryside in Laos.

It was the perfect spot for a picnic lunch with the fellow volunteers, although there was no respite from the heat. The food prepared was a treat with a variety of different Lao meals to go around.

 

Laos Village

Hard work in Laos Village.

Lying Buddha at Golden Palace, Laos

Lying Buddha at the Golden Palace.

 

 

Teaching English to the Monks

From an outside perspective, I have always viewed the monks as extraordinary people, and they are exactly that, special and fantastic gentlemen.

To approach a monk, to even communicate or to even shake one’s hand, from my perspective, I always thought it would be on the forbidden side.

Not that I had previous dealings with monks beforehand, and any knowledge I did obtain was simply a guess. I had to volunteer in Laos to change that perspective and how wrong I had been.

It was a privilege to be in the presence of the monks, to talk with them, to teach them and to even laugh with these great men.

In life, no matter the person or their position in the world, everyone is a human being first a that is a great lesson to know. That rule is no exception to the monks.

They have a great sense of humour, full of wit, character and at times, even a little cheeky. If that’s not enough, the monks in Laos also go on Facebook, and if you befriend a couple, you’ll see they’re quite active throughout their day.

Besides their excellent character, sense of humour and their obsession with Facebook, the monk’s willingness to learn English was astounding and they were simply a pleasure to teach.

Communicating at times was quite tricky, but they never shied away from the challenge of learning English and their development over time gradually improved. Even if our time as a global volunteer in Laos was short-lived.

 

Volunteer in Laos

Teaching Monks, a great way to Volunteer in Laos.

Teaching English to the monks

Teaching English to the monks.

 

The Challenge of teaching English to the primary-aged kids

I always knew this journey would be a challenge, I mean not one of the volunteers are teachers by profession, we only know how to speak English.

The kids idolised the volunteers from the moment you walk into the school grounds, but to maintain the focus of a child who couldn’t speak our language, was another challenge completely. Although that’s the life of an international volunteer abroad and that’s the challenge to overcome such obstacles.

They had the fundamentals of English, in terms of counting, shapes and the alphabet, but to go further than the basics was when the roadblocks began.

All over again, I had to learn kid songs and basic games to hold their attention(my kids had passed that stage). To the best of my ability to teach English, I tried to entertain the kids when boredom started to sink in, trying being the keyword.

It was these kinds of challenges that made me sign up for the Laos volunteer programs in the first place.

The unbridled joy came when everything clicked together, and the students would burst out in full voice, to make everything seem worthwhile. It was hard work but high reward daily.

 

teaching English

School kids look on in the classroom.

teaching English

Teaching the primary kids is a lot of fun.

 

 

Getting along with fellow volunteers from all over the world

An unknown when volunteering abroad is who will be joining you on the adventure.

Upon entering the program, you anticipate a lot of things, and you expect volunteers to be of different nationalities and different age groups.

You can imagine my surprise when I rocked up at the Green Lion Organisation, and a majority of the volunteers were university students. At the tender age of 35, I was the oldest at the program by a considerable margin.

During my time at the placement, there were seven French people, two Danish girls, two Malaysian women, a Dutch woman, an Englishmen and a Canadian. I was the lone Aussie.

All the volunteers were youthful, at least to me, but they’re great young people, who had good intentions. We’re there for a common cause, to volunteer and to lend a helping hand any way we could.

It was a pleasure to meet such fine people, and forever there will be great memories of the time spent together. Especially during those tense volleyball matches against the French.

 

Settling into Volunteering

Settling into Volunteering/

 

An Experience that I will Never forget

To volunteer in Laos, is an experience that I’ll never forget and a journey I am glad I participated in at least once in my life.

Memories were created, friendships were made and I can only hope that I reached out to people who needed a lending hand or to even have a good laugh for a short while.

It was an incredible adventure and there were challenges when venturing into an underdeveloped country.

If you ever have a chance to volunteer, and the finances permit, take the journey into volunteering organisations and give back to travel where you can, because it is a rewarding experience that you will never forget.

 

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Mediatation time

Meditation time.

Vang Vieng, Laos

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Osaka – Kyoto Diaries:  Days 7-8- Expect the unexpected in Osaka

Osaka – Kyoto Diaries: Days 7-8- Expect the unexpected in Osaka

Expect the unexpected in Osaka. Why is that you ask? Because sometimes on your adventures around the world you make plans, but mother nature has other ideas in mind, as it did on one routine Monday morning in Osaka that threw the whole city out of whack, with an earthquake that rocked the northern part of the town while I was on a train to visit Nara.

I will give you more on the earthquake down the track. Right now, it’s a recap of my Osaka Kyoto Tour.

It’s the farewell edition of the Osaka-Kyoto Diaries and how sad it is to be saying goodbye to a beautiful country that surpassed my expectations. My first visit to Japan only lasted around nine-days, not enough to be an expert but enough to know that the two cities I visited were full of beautiful attractions, breathtaking scenery and beautiful people.

Osaka is where I finished my journey, and it was an important city that had beautiful features. For instance, the lively city locations in Umeda and Dotonbori, the impressive Osaka Castle where you receive a real history lesson of the Osaka, and the pleasure to enjoy excellent river walks and drink coffee at riverside café’s.

In a mad rush to get in as much as I could during the final days of my Osaka Kyoto tour, which included a few hours of interruption, I created many highlights that I’ll remember for a long time to come in the final edition of Osaka-Kyoto Diaries – Expect the unexpected in Osaka.

Heading to Osaka for an amazing journey? Look for hotels on TripAdvisor!

 

expect the unexpected in Osaka

Osaka-Kyoto Diaries – Expect the unexpected in Osaka.

 

Osaka – Kyoto Diaries:  Days 7-8- Expect the unexpected in Osaka

 

Earthquake in Osaka

I don’t want to dwell on the shock too much in this segment, because I have written an article about my experience, which can be found here.

However, the earthquake that rocked Osaka on the 18th of June 2018, tragically killed three people and injured hundreds of others. While I was out of harm’s way throughout the whole situation, it was an eye-opener to be involved in would be my first earthquake experience.

My memories of the experience remain clear; I was surprised at how calm everyone was during the earthquake and how quickly the emergency response team came to the scene to assure everyone’s safety. The unexpected can happen, and when the situation arises, it’s essential to watch the locals and follow their moves, especially when you can’t understand the language.

 

earthquake

A long delay on the platform during the earthquake in Osaka.

 

A walk-through Koreatown in Osaka

My plans to go to Nara got curtailed by the earthquake, and I decided to end up back in the city where I was fortunate to end up in Koreatown. Having a Korean wife, I don’t need to add anything else to say why I value this kind of location.

Korean town in Osaka is massive; there are heaps of market places where they are selling clothes, souvenirs and street food with Kimchi and Korean style pancake (Pajeon) being the popular choices.

There is an area in Koreatown where you hit a few fancy restaurants with most serving the famous Korean BBQ. Even as a solo traveller I couldn’t resist it, because Korean BBQ is one of the meals you must experience at least once. I purchased a single serving of meats plus vegetables and grilled my lunch over the flame; it was delicious.

 

Koreatown Osaka

Wander through Koreatown in Osaka.

Wandering through Tennoji

Checking out Google Maps for the next place to visit, I found Tennoji was nearby on foot and thought I would check it out. Any excuse to see another temple is excellent I suppose. The Tennoji area is a pleasant 30-minute walk from Koreatown, going through the backstreets of Osaka and is filled with a few good tourist attractions that produce good sightseeing for a few hours.

I’ll go through the main highlights of my time in Tennoji.

 

  • Shitennoji Temple: Shitennoji Temple was the first attraction I visited. It may not be the prettiest temple in the region, there was a fair amount of construction happening at the time, but it’s still nice to look at for the complimentary price.
    The temple is regarded as the first and oldest temple administered in Japan, which was first constructed in the year 593, with the term Shitenno meaning, four heavenly kings. The temple has seen a few rebuilds in time as you could imagine with any historical landmarks around the world. It is incredible to be walking on the grounds of a building that goes back 1500-years.
Shitennoji Temple

Shitennoji Temple.

 

  • Isshinji Temple: Issshinji is a boutique temple situated next to the Tenshiba Park where many locals go to for prayer. I took a few pictures at the location but there is a fair amount of construction going on at Isshinji also, but I would recommend to too have a look when you are in the Tennoji area.
    Isshinji temple

    Isshinji temple.

  • Tenshiba Park: Tenshiba Park is quite beautiful parklands with a large lake and surrounding gardens that also has views of Osaka city. Inside the parklands, there are other attractions to visit like a Fine Arts Museum, Tennoji Zoo (a miniature version, which was closed when I was there) and the Horikoshi Shrine.

 

Tenshiba Park

Tenshiba Park.

 

  • Tsutenkaku: Another busy shopping strip that has a real Japanese vibe. Inside the Tsutenkaku there are plenty of shopping and food outlets and it’s accessible for gamers, with arcades, pokies and board games taking place in the precinct.

That’s a mini wrap of the Tennoji area. You may have a few other places of interest when visiting Osaka, but if you’re looking to fill in some time, take the train to the area and check it out for a couple of hours.

 

Tsutenkaku

Tsutenkaku.

An evening river walk

River walks are a common past-time in Osaka because there are many rivers in the city and it makes it convenient to enjoy a peaceful river walk along the banks at any time of the day. Especially with suitable footpaths that make it easier for pedestrians.

The O River was the closest to the Mitsui Garden Hotel I had been staying during my time in Osaka and often I would take advantage of a river walk that was never crowded and provided right spots to enjoy an excellent coffee at a few of the local riverside café’s.

 

Osaka River

Beautiful river views in Osaka.

 

Osaka Castle

Any traveller to the city will love Osaka Castle; it’s beautiful, very picturesque and lots of history is waiting to be discovered.

On my final morning in Japan, I walked to Osaka Castle going along the walking track of the O River, before entering the grounds of the castle, which could not be missed. Osaka Castle sits high on a hilltop and creates a significant presence in the area, which looks incredible from afar.

Around the castle is a large moat with quiet cruise boats taking paid tourists in the waters for a little tour and history lesson. I took a 20-minute ride of the boat to learn a few facts about the castle through the audio and had the chance to capture some incredible views.

From the cruise, if you choose to partake, you enter the castle over the bridge of the moat and ascend a hill for a short walk to the entrance of the castle. I recommend at this point that you do pay the 600-yen to enter inside and have an in-depth history lesson of the Osaka Castle and its construction timeline, completed in 1583 by Imperial Regent of Japan, Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

Osaka Castle was demolished in 1868 when it surrendered to Imperial Loyalists. It was rebuilt at the same location in 1995, inside there are eight levels of history facts about the castle that has to do with Toyotomi Hideyoshi and his family, the construction of the castle, important factual details on the castle and brilliant views of the city from the eighth floor, remembering the Castle already sits on high ground.

Inside on the third and fourth levels where photos are not allowed to be taken, there are real-life clothing, shields and weaponry that was used back in the day. There is much history poured into the eight levels inside the walls of Osaka castle.

 

Osaka Castle

Osaka Castle.

Exploring Umeda

Umeda is a vibrant part of the city, showcasing many buildings, shopping malls, restaurants and fun attractions to enjoy while on holidays in Osaka. It also has a trendy nightlife for those who want to get out and party and have a drink or two.

Let’s go over a few of the highlights in Umeda.

 

  • Osaka Station: One of the main train stations in Osaka that has many platforms and trains that travel near and far, including the bullet train that travels fast to many destinations in Japan including Tokyo. It’s not only a single train station, with many shopping facilities, café’s and food outlets available inside with the Grand Front Osaka Shopping Mall that is blended in with station.
    Osaka Station

    Osaka Station.

 

  • HEP Five: A modern shopping mall that is more suited to younger adults and youth with plenty of choices inside, especially for women who are looking for the latest fashion design. I only had a simple wander inside HEP Five, but the layout is quite fresh with the modern touch, and the giant red Ferris Wheel Outside the mall adds to the decoration.

    HEP Five

    HEP Five Ferris Wheel.

 

  • Umeda Sky Building: My favourite part about Umeda was visiting the unique designed high rise, Umeda Sky Building. This particular building is not even the tallest in Osaka; in fact, it sits at 19th tallest in the city. However, it’s incredibly unique design is what separates it from other buildings around the world and needs to be seen to be believed, you could almost pass it off as a Lego structure.
    Even though the Rooftop Observatory is only on the 40th floor, it’s one of the better Skydeck’s I have seen; it also has no crowds and costs only 1000-yen to enter. Inside the Observatory, you have beautiful 360-views of the city, a restaurant/bar, a café and souvenir store. Visitors are going to love, or hate, the long, almost vertical escalator that goes up or down for a very long way, it even has a few people who are afraid of heights forced to sit down on the escalator because of the fear. It’s quite fascinating I will admit.

 

Umeda Sky Building

Umeda Sky Building.

Japan defeating Columbia in the World Cup

After eating dinner at popular Japanese franchise in Umeda, Torikizoku, a restaurant popular for its chicken skewers, I was keeping close tabs on the World Cup game between Japan and Colombia. The Japanese side were big underdogs to win.

With about 15-minutes left in the match, I knew Japan was in front and on the way back to the hotel I stopped into a crowded Irish Bar to watch the closing minutes of the match. The noise in the bar was through the roof, as anxious Japanese supporters held their collective breath in the hope their side would hold on for an upset win.

When the referee blew for the final whistle, Japan had pulled off an enormous victory and the locals in the pub erupted for wild scenes that were caught on my phone. Chants of Nippon, Nippon were echoing through the bar. As everyone was leaving at the conclusion of the match, I was standing at the doorway where everyone who walked past me gave me a high-five on the way out, I couldn’t help but get involved in the celebrations.

The high-fives continued at different times on the walk back to the hotel, with proud Japanese locals out in the city, proudly wearing their blue samurai tops and celebrating a big win. It was a great time to be in Japan and I found it an appropriate that the final night in Japan was amongst happy locals.

 

Farewell Japan, it was Osaka Kyoto Tour to Remember

Farewell Japan and what an incredible journey it had been. Osaka is a fascinating city with plenty to do and see, but my heart will fondly remember the time spent in Kyoto most, a city with beautiful scenery and breathtaking temples.

It was my first trip to Japan, but it won’t be my last, because there is still so much of this country I must see, and I can’t wait to do it all over again. For now, it signs off my Osaka-Kyoto Diaries and I hope you enjoyed this journey with me in this fascinating country. Until next time, happy travels.

 

Osaka

Farewell Osaka, until next time.

 

Osaka-Kyoto Diaries – Days 1-2 – Visiting Japan for the Very First Time

Osaka-Kyoto Diaries: Days 3-4 – An Unforgettable Journey in Kyoto

Osaka–Kyoto Diaries: Days 5-6 – An Adventure in Osaka

 

 

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James Bond Island

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