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January 30, 2008

Hong Kong - Part 1 (this one's for Pauline!)

(Hong Kong from Victoria Peak)

Okay. I know. In my last entry I promised to get back to current events... Apparently, I lied. Well, I didn't really lie. I just forgot that I had promised Pauline (Pauline is my sister's husband's mother. Anyone know an easier way to say that?) ...

(Pauline and her granddaughter Beth. Photo from Christmas 2005)
(Due to certain comments and confusions I am now trying to be clearer about who people are not not just assume that you all know what I'm talking about.)

some Hong Kong travel advice as she is going to be there very soon (like tomorrow) for about two weeks during Chinese New Year. Since I get these kinds of requests often and sometimes don't quite get around to writing everything out for people, I thought perhaps I should just post it all here on my little blog. This way anyone can refer to it whenever they choose.

So that's my explanation for lying.

And, probably because the my photo album is organized from present to past... I'll share my photos from my third trip to Hong Kong first.

I flew from Auckland to Hong Kong on Jan. 27th 2007. Exactly one year after leaving Canada. I had to fly on this date, because otherwise I would've lost my flight and been forced to buy a new one. I guess that's a good thing because otherwise who knows how long I would've put off leaving New Zealand.

I know, I know... I take too many photos out plane windows.

I was extremely excited to meet up with Kelly, (ex-flatmate from Toronto and friend extrodinaire).


Kelly on the Lantau Island cable car

Kelly flew all the way over from Canada to spend one whole month with me exploring Hong Kong and Thailand. Our Thailand adventures are chronicled here.

Alright. I promised some HK travel advice... So here's my first piece of advice: Base yourself in Causeway Bay. There is so much to see, amazing shopping, its close to the Metro (with a tourist information booth in the station) and you don't have to deal with all the annoying "Hey Lady! Buy a watch/suit/whatever" guys who constantly yell at you in the streets of Kawloon. If you are travelling on a limited budget (ie. Hostel Budget) check out Wang Fat Hostel. It ain't the prettiest or the most comfortable (some beds are rock hard, traditional apparently, and others are more western style comfortable), but it sure is cheap (and clean enough). And the guy who runs it (can't remember his name) is very very nice.

Second piece of advice: Drink loads of mango aloe jelly drinks. Or any other jelly drinks. I'm not sure how they make them, but they sure are yummy.

Third: Go to the tourist information center as soon as you can. There's one in the airport as well as others dotted around the city. At different times of the year there will be tonnes of promotions. The first time I went there were free Duk Ling Tours of the harbour (photos in another entry), free cooking classes, free feng shui classes... just to name a few.

Forth: Take the tram up to Victoria Peak before nightfall and then wait around. (See first photo)

Fifth: Go check out all the markets. There are so many and they're all pretty great. My favourites were the Ladies Market (there's lots of stuff for men too) and the Mong Kok Computer Centre (yes I am a geeky girl who loves gadgets). Both are in Kawloon and are fairly close together. Mong Kok Computer Centre is actually a mall rather than a market and has an incredible amount of shops packed into a four-story building. And has much better prices than what you'll find in the more touristy shopping areas.

Sixth: Watch the Symphony of Lights. It happens every nice evening and some of the evenings its timed to music. It happens both on the Hong Kong side and Kawloon, but is best view from Kawloon's "Avenue of Stars" on the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront. I went a bunch of times and saw it from both sides. We even timed it one night so we could take the ferry across and watch it from the water.

Okay, enough of that... back to photos.

Kelly and I did a few amazing outings. (Its actually very difficult to do anything boring in Hong Kong.) I'm not sure which one would be a favourite, but if you need to get away from the hustle, bustle and pollution then a trip to Stanley could be in order.

Stanley is on the southern tip of Hong Kong Island. Its a traditional fishing village with a lovely beach, temples, a famous market and of course all the other amenities like restaurants, galleries, etc.


(naw... just look at the lil' temple. everything's always cuter when it's little)

Another brilliant outing is Lantau Island to visit the Tian Tan Buddha (more info here), or more simply, the Big Buddha. At 34 meters high, he is the largest outdoor seated bronze Buddha, or something like that. At any rate... he's real big. You have to take the train back out towards the airport and then a really really long cable car ride to get to him.

Once you get to the top of the mountain there are plenty of things to do besides see the Buddha, like drink tea (and look out this window at the Buddha):

Or visit the museum, eat a vegetation dinner at the monastery and of course, shop for tacky souvenirs:

Of course, the Buddha ain't bad either.

The stuff around the Buddha is real pretty too....

Hmmm... I guess I should post some photos of Hong Kong proper... This one was taken from Kawloon, looking towards Hong Kong Island. (There's a better one I posted ages ago here)

Some street photos in Kawloon.

Some random suburb (not sure, but maybe close to the Big Buddha?)


January 29, 2008

and just a few more underwater pictures

How exciting for me... I've almost finished telling my story of Western Australia. The only bits that have been left out now are the few days between my flight from Exmouth to Perth and Christmas 2006. I had originally planned another bus tour of the southern tip of Western Australia, but they cancelled on me and so I rented a car and followed my nose. I made stops in Rockingham (for dinner by the water) and Bunbury (to visit more dolphins), but my favourite stop was Busselton; home to the longest pier (or wooden structure in general) in the Southern Hemmisphere. (more here) It stretches out for an impressive two km!

Of course I grabbed my snorkel gear and a camera and went for a swim...

snorkelPier2.jpg

If you ever find yourself in Busstelton and wish to see the fishes without getting wet, you can head to the end of the pier to visit the underwater aquarium.

On my way back towards Perth was when I stopped in Fremantle and was unexpected and unhappily relieved of my wallet. (You've already heard this story way back here.) So I spent much of Christmas eve chatting with police officers instead of visiting the lovely island of Rottnest. If any of my readers have ever made it to Rottnest, I'd love to hear about it.

Hmmm... I still have more unpublished photos of Oz, mainly the east coast, but I think I will save those for another time and return to the more recent events in my travels. More tales of Europe coming right up!!!

January 27, 2008

Happy anniversary to me!!!

Two years ago today, my lovely friend James drove me to to the airport and to see me off on an adventure that would start in Hong Kong and end... well... who knows where. Today I sit in my room in Dublin a little bit amazed at all I've seen and done in the last two years. I am still very happy with my decision to run away. And sometime in the mid to end of the upcoming summer, I'll be just as happy to set up shop once again on Canadian soil.

I have a whole bunch of back-logged photos of Australia sitting on my hard drive and so I might as well continue with the Australia momentum and post more Oz photos now. (Sorry about the randomness of my postings.) The first set were taken on the last day of our bus tour before reaching Exmouth.

After checking into our hostel, which turned out to be a relatively nice trailer park we drove across the peninsula to this very beautiful beach which I can't remember the name of:

And we did some snorkeling:

That night we had a little party and said goodbye. Most of the travellers headed back south, but a couple of us stayed on to do some diving. I had heard wonderful things about the Ningaloo Reef and although it wasn't as spectacular as the Great Barrier Reef, I wasn't disappointed either.

The water snake in the photo below is meant to be one of the most dangerous snakes in the world. Apparently when I was diving is not the season when it is on the attack, but I still snapped my photo and swam away as quick as I could.

The dive trips were in the morning, leaving the afternoons and evenings free to explore.

The next two pictures are of the grounds around my little Exmouth home. I loved this place because after the rest of my group left, I had whole trailer all to myself with double bed, loads of cupboard space and a decently stocked kitchen in my cabin.

But don't let the above photos fool you. Despite some nice scenery, I came to the conclusion that Exmouth is the most boring place in the world. (Or at least as much of the world as I've seen.) I guess there's only so much of never ending stretches of red sand that any one person can take. They were in the middle of building up a whole new section of the town, so who knows... perhaps its a little more interesting now. At any rate, I was quite happy when the time came to hop on a plane back to Perth.

P.S. I added a some more photos of Perth to an earlier entry. If you'd like to take a look, you'll find the entry here.

January 7, 2008

xmas time ... part 5 ... and while we're on the subject...

I've decided that now would be a good time to finally finish blogging about Western Oz.

These photos were taken between December 16th and the 22nd, 2006. I took a tour from Perth north towards Exmouth where I planned to do a bit of diving. The company I traveled with was EasyRider and the tour was much more fun than I expected it to be. Our first stop was the Pinnacles Desert.

Further up the road we found a Eucalyptus Leaning Tree (caused by strong southerly winds):

The next day we found an amazing little lizard:

Kalbarri National Park:

A photo of me abseiling (a very fun activity that I was apparently naturally quite good at!!)

Stromatolites, also known as Living Rocks (really!)

Sunset in Denham:

The next morning we moved onto Monkey Mia to visit dolphins and pelicans.

Various photos from the road...

Shark Bay. Yes, there are sharks in those waters...

And now, from the wonderful world of termites. By the way, those mounds are made of termite poo and can take thousands of years to build.

The guy in the photo below is Bart, our amazing driver and tour guide.

This entry has turned out to be much longer than I expected, and so I will leave it here for now and return to Coral Bay and Exmouth very soon. And I guess I'll have to stop calling these xmas entires, since we will be out of the xmas season by then.

Ciao for now!

(Oh ya. I think some of you have had trouble viewing the video from 2 entries ago, and so I tried YouTube(ing) it. Let me know if it worked this time.)

January 6, 2008

xmas time ... part 4 ... The Year Before

Well, the season lasts until the 7th (right?), and so I think I'm still within my rights to call this an xmas entry.

Oh, what to post, what to post. I have several backlogged entries now, but limited internet time. I just had a look back though my blog and it seems as though I neglected to ever post the photos from last Christmas! The day was spent in Perth, Australia. I was at a fantastic hostel, the Governor Robinsons. The owner of the hostel put out such an amazing spread of food and drink for us that he couldn't have possibly made a dime off our being there. And so let me sell the place to you once again... Should you find yourself in Perth, Oz and are a hostel type person, do set yourself up at the Governor Robinsons, a lovely homey cozy establishment.

I don't have a lot of pictures from actual Christmas Day, but I do have two here. This one is from Christmas morning. We (we being, friends I had made traveling through Western Oz) spent that morning at the beach; lounging, swimming and generally thinking, "Wow! This isn't much like Christmas at home!

This one is from later in the day after we sneaked into another hostel's pool for some fun and then went to this park to hangout and make up new sports games :)

More pictures of Perth:


++++

After publishing this entry, I discovered some more photos that I thought should be included.

A few more photos taken of Christmas day:

The Art Gallery of Western Australia:

King's Park:

My flight on Dec. 26th, 2006 from Perth to Brisbane:

** This little update was done on the early morning of Jan. 27, 2008

January 1, 2008

xmas ... part 3 ... the HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! edition

These photos were taken during Edinburgh's annual Hogmanay party. A party so popular you don't even have to make an effort to walk, the crowd just pushes you along.

Edinburgh looked even more magical than usual; all dolled up for the holiday season.

A couple of the monsters from the "Monster Mash/Nite A Fore" party on the 30th:

And here's the first video I've ever uploaded to this blog (Click to view). Please let me know if you have any trouble viewing it.

Sitting in here my Edinburgh guest house and looking back, it seems like an obviously decadent decision to hit three cities in ten days. (Well, to be be truthful, four cities. We spent one night and an afternoon in Glasgow.) But I'm awfully glad that I did. It started very early on the 23rd when, after no sleep at all, I lugged myself to the Dublin airport to catch a very early morning flight to London:

I was thrilled by the way that the low lying fog looked like Christmas decorations across the United Kingdom.

I don't have many photos of my time in London, but here's a few:

Some slightly over-jolly Santas:

The next photo was taken on the ferry to France. We decided to take the ferry and bus combo in an effort to save money and reduce our carbon footprint:

Paris was its usual enchanting self. I love taking photos of this city, and always seem to take far too many.

The character (not Santa) in the photos above and below is the creation by the artist, Jérôme Mesnager as part of his Ghosts of Paris project.

The next photo was taken in March of 2005, the last time I was in Paris: