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Month Seven: February

As it’s almost April, it feels like the time has come to tell you all about February, and our little trip to Thailand.

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One of the biggest benefits of living and working in Hong Kong is the sheer amount of holiday that is thrown your way – China Day, Buddha’s Birthday, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Establishment Day (rolls off the tongue doesn’t it?!) and the big one – Chinese New Year.

I did really fancy staying in HK to experience Chinese New Year, as I felt it would have a significantly beaten  the Birmingham Chinese Quarter’s efforts that I saw last year. But with my time in Asia getting closer to the end, I decided it was time to drain my savings for every last penny and so I headed off to Thailand in search of food and sunburn, and with the strong hope in my heart that Leo would still be hanging around somewhere.

So, as the Year of The Horse began Martine, Taz and I set off to Krabi. We hadn’t organised anything beyond the first night but as we arrived in Ao Nang we were pretty sure we weren’t going to be staying long. Mcdonalds, Ladyboys and Fat Northerners were exactly what I had pictured when I had heard how spolit some of Thailand has become, but we were determined that wasn’t going to be our overriding experience off it. So, the next morning we caught a long boat and, on the recommendation of a few people in our first hostel, headed off to Tonsai.

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Although just ten minutes down the coast, Tonsai was a different world to Ao Nang and we gratefully accepted the offer of a hut with no wifi and electricity that was on for just 4 out of 24 hours.. After the hectic pace of Hong Kong, we were so happy to just chill and enjoy the fresh air, good food (amazing food) and cold singha beers.

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The following day we did something I have always, always wanted to do… Elephant trekking.  Having done our research, we stayed well away from companies advertising baby elephants and circus tricks and instead went with ‘Nosey Parker’s’ – the longest standing Elephant riding company in Krabi. I was so impressed with their treatment of the animals, and the laid back nature of  the trek and our guide was an absolute babe. Here are some of my favourite shots….

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Casual.

After our Elephant-ing, we were taken to a wonderful Thai restaurant in the jungle, before heading to a freshwater lagoon/pond type thing (great) and a fish farm (not so great).

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The next day, we headed off to nearby Railay (beautiful and possibly our favourite place that we visited), hit the jackpot with the last room going in a lovely resort and decided to go on an 7-island tour of the vicinity. Turns out, calling it ‘7’ islands was exaggerating slightly, as essentially about half of them were just giant rocks in the sea, but we had a wonderful day nonetheless.

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The next day, we made our way to Party Island Koa Phi Phi to meet Lucy and her sister Kayte. Phi Phi is famous for it’s Buckets and The Beach. Unfortunately, day one in Phi Phi coincided with the start of food poisoning, so no buckets for me but I wasn’t going to let that stop me experiencing it’s other claim to fame. So, with the aim of joining hundreds of Chinese tourists snapping the very same sand that Leo himself had walked, we went off on another boat trip around Phi Phi. Looking more like refugees than holiday makers, you can see how the boat took it’s toll from the start of the day to the end of the day….

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Being a jammy sod and getting a space at the front of the boat, I was a lot more chilled about the situation…

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Anyway, the views were spectacular and, although I didn’t get to experience Phi Phi’s nightlife, the rest of the island certainly impressed me!

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For our final few days, to ensure we had fully wound down we popped off to nearby, quiet and un-developed, Koa Lanta. We had heard mixed reviews about Lanta, and many simply stated ‘Don’t Bother’…but I’m so glad we did. Much larger than any of the other island, Lanta requires taxis or Tuk Tuk’s to go anywhere and so doesn’t have quite the same atmosphere as our other stopping points, but still has so much to offer. To be honest, we didn’t explore the island nearly as much as we could have, but with money running low we decided to have a relaxed few days, and when we happened upon this resort with a private beach and it’s own swimming pool for a mere 6 quid a night, we decided we were all more than content spending the end of our holiday laying by the pool and reading. ( FYI, my book of choice was Wild Swans, Daughters of China  and I thoroughly recommend!)

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And so that draws us to the end of my trip to Thailand. But, this post would not be complete without mention of Justice, who worked at the Department of Justice for the Netherlands, who we met on our way back to Bangkok and – armed with several garments – entertained us thoroughly. What a man he was.

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Month Six: January

I was almost going to give up on this, but seeing as I have already given up my new years resolutions (be less messy and do one exciting thing everyday) I didn’t think I could legitimately give up another thing, and also there are only a few months left now, soooo half a month late – here are my ramblings about Jan 🙂

Returning to HK from Boracay, The Philippines with massive post-holiday blues myself Lucy and Eleanor felt very excited and lucky to be packing ourselves off somewhere else for the final part of our extended Christmas Holiday. Having booked a cheap deal back in November, with virtually no knowledge about the city barr knowing that is has some very tall towers (they are sick) we didn’t really know what to expect of our 4 days in Kuala Lumpur, but were very keen. I did a brief amount of research before I went, and was excited to visit a city described as ‘very multicultural and diverse, with endless amounts of different foods from around the world.’ For an international city, Hong Kong is surprisingly un-multicultural and is quite  homogeneous, especially as it does not particularly promote difference and individualism, so I was looking forward to seeing somewhere that was very different!

To be honest, Jan feels quite a long time ago now, and so the trip is a bit of a blurr, but overall it was great. We spent the first evening wandering the streets of China Town near our amazing hostel (shout out to Reggae Reggae Mansion), stopping to eat at as many opportunities as possible. We also happened upon this beautiful Hindu temple nestled away in a small side-street and were very impressed with our first few experience of the city.

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hindu china town

We had heard that our hostel arranged a tour to see the ‘seven wonders of KL’ and after spending the night drinking on the roof, were persuaded by our new Austrian friends to sign up at 5am. Managing to get up at 8am ready for the tour of our lives we were told by the hostel staff that writing our names across the sheet of paper and crossing off other peoples names didn’t get us a place. However, I wasn’t going to let this ruin our day and so armed with a map decided I didn’t need no tour guide, and that I could take us around the seven wonders myself.

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I had carefully constructed a route beginning with the central mosque and we set off to see the city with the tour bus driving on past us. I was very confident in my tour guiding abilities, but it didn’t start well and when we arrived at the mosque it was closed… After that, I accepted that perhaps my career didn’t lie in tourism, but we spent the rest of the day wandering as much of the city as we could and taking in the sights. Unlike Hong Kong, KL is very quiet and really enjoyable just to explore on foot – especially as it has such interesting and diverse architecture.

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We spent the morning sightseeing and then headed over to spend the afternoon in Little India, a district of KL with a dense Indian population and crammed full of interesting shops and amazing food. I loved it there, it was so vibrant and interesting and the people were so friendly, it also reminded me a lot of certain areas of Birmingham so that was nice 🙂 Also, the food was probably the best Indian food I have ever eaten, so all in all well done Little India.

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After eating a ridiculous amount we headed back towards Sentral to see the famous Petronas Towers. The tallest twin towers in the world did not disappoint and we joined the hoards of people crouching awkwardly to try and get a photo that truly represented their size.

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Following another night drinking on the roof with our European buddies (turns out England…not all that popular in Europe) and the crazy hostel owner Mr Chow (personality entirely modelled on the Mr Chow from the Hangover) we were more than a little hazy headed as we set out on our next day of exploring. We headed back to the central mosque, which despite being open this time was pretty disappointing and was not nearly as beautiful as other mosques we had seen dotted around the city. Essentially it was quite like a large community hall  and I wasn’t very fond of wearing a Burqa but it did make for quite hilariously awkward photos.

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After the mosque, we headed out of the city for the our final attempt at getting close to seeing these ‘7 wonders’ to see the Batu Caves, which were pretty cool and big competition for HK’s Big Buddha. Unfortunately, the Hindu shrines were quite run down, but it was still naturally beautiful and quite a sight once you made it up the steps.

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We spent our final night drinking on the roof again and looking over the skyline of the city, before heading back to Hong Kong the following morning very hungover and reluctant to go back to work.

It was a great trip and start to 2014 and all in all…..

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Other January highlights included a visit from our Austrian buddies that we met in KL (who were distinctly unimpressed with HK!), Taz’s Birthday night out and a day trip at Ocean Park 🙂

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On the last day of Jan I headed off to Thailand, and will fill ya’ll in on that soon 🙂

Month Five: December

I am getting worse and worse at posting on time but December was a pretty exciting and blog-able month and seeing as I  still haven’t posted the postcards I wrote back in September, I think I’m doing alright at updating this.

So, I had been excitedly (and admittedly very lamely) been counting down to my parents arrival in HK and couldn’t believe how quickly December came around and they were stepping off the plane. With neither of them having been to Asia before, I wasn’t sure what they would make of Hong Kong and was slightly nervous about showing them around my new city and was hoping that they would love all the things I love about it too.

Saying that, I  think they arrived at just the right time – the novelty of the big city was wearing off a little and I needed to see it with fresh eyes again, which is exactly what happened. Plus, having your parents come to stay always means good food and nice drinks right? And with those being two things I thoroughly enjoy – I knew it was going to be a great visit.

As they came to stay whilst I was working, we tried to make the most of every chance we had together for me to play tour guide and show them all the best sights. These included many of the places I have already blogged about (such as TST Harbour, The Peak, Soho, Sheung Wan and Wong Tai Sin Temple) and as much as I repeat myself in person, I wont subject you to more ramblings this time, but I will treat you to some photos.

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My parents highlights were already firm favourites of mine – Lamma Island, Peng Chau Island, Chi Lin Nunnery as well as the Big Buddha, which I had saved for their arrival. Wanting to still be impressed with a new sight in Hong Kong, I had been waiting for months to take the cable car up to the ‘largest sat down Buddha in the world’. Although the weather let us down and we had to give the cable car a miss, I think the eerie mist added a relaxing atmosphere to the top of the mountain, and of course the Buddha, in all his sitting down glory, was pretty spectacular. I was quite disappointed to discover that the statue was actually relativity new and not the historical cultural monument  I had been led to believe that it was, but overall I think its still one of the best sights of Hong Kong and definitely not one to miss. Here are a few more photos from their stay:

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After a rather tear-y goodbye, they headed back to the UK and I was left to countdown the days to my Xmas holiday! A week later, and after the 22 hour journey from hell (I am aware that I actually could have joined them in England in that time) myself, Lucy and Eleanor landed in the Paradise Island of Boracay, Philippines.

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Staying at the Isla Gecko Guest, an adorably cute guest house about 2 minutes from the beautiful White Beach we quickly got into the Filipino festive spirit. With aims of spending the week doing absolutely nothing, we spent the first few days settling into Boracay life – spending hours on the beach stopping only for (incredible) food, mango shakes, cocktails and massages.

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boracay again

What stood out most for me about Boracay was the amazing friendliness we experienced everywhere. Now, I am not saying that the Hong Kongers aren’t friendly, but chatty they ain’t and the Filipino’s nature certainly put them (and the Brits!) to shame. By the end of the week I had fallen in love with pretty much every person I met, and didn’t want to leave. The atmosphere of the island was unlike anywhere I have been before, and especially came to life in the evening when the beach turned into one long strip of sandy (non-tacky) bars – obvious shout out going to Tribal Bar which served possibly the worst drinks I have had in my life, but always with a smile.

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For all of us there, it was our first Christmas away from family, so it was always going to be slightly weird but we made the most of it – and even had turkey! I was lucky enough to have some presents to open on Xmas morning, and then we headed out to go paddle boarding with the owners of the hotel before having a ‘traditional’ Mongolian Christmas lunch and heading back for the standard Christmas walk along the beach, which was rather different to any Christmas walk along the beach that I have done before! We spent the evening sipping wine and looking at the sea as we tucked into a Xmas buffet, before heading back to tribal bar to continue the night in a slightly less sophisticated way. Here are some pictures of our very non-traditional Xmas:

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The next few days weren’t much more active, although we did venture across  the island to Puka Beach on a slightly death-trappy tricycle ride that gave us a brilliant view of inland Boracay. We ended up experiencing this type of ride again on our last night, which turned from a sophisticated drink to returning from a kareoke room in very rural Boracay with 10 barmen at 7am. I sang Eminem ‘Lose yourself’ if your wondering. It went down a treat. Here is our triumphant return, and the sunrise that awaited us back at White Beach.

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Returning to HK with serious post-holiday blues, I had a few chilled out days before it was time to celebrate NYE, nervously sipping mulled wine (I was wearing white) and admiring the HK skyline from a Junk Boat sat in Victoria Harbour (casual). The fireworks were epic, and it was a brilliant way to welcome a year I am very excited about.

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Month Four: November

So, I left you hanging at the end of October with the promise of talk about Halloween, Sheung Wan and HK International Food Festival, and I am not a blogger that goes back on my word.

Fresh off the MTR with Friday Feeling, I transformed (little bit of facepaint and hair in a bun) myself into Black Swan to celebrate (play beer pong in fancy dress) Halloween! We went to a flat party in TST to celebrate the occasion and had a fun night, but possibly what was the most amusing was travelling through Hong Kong in fancy dress as we received a lot of looks of utter confusion and surprise from Hong Kongers. You would think that as it was Halloween our appearance would be self explanatory – but evidently not! My flatmate Amy particularly enjoyed winding the locals up with her rather impressive zombie noises as we travelled on the tube:

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The following day I felt a little bit worse for wear so instead of the usual ‘escape the city’ Saturday, we decided to have a leisurely stroll around up and coming, slightly hipster, and ‘oh so very cool’ area Sheung Wan.  Sheung Wan is kind of like an area of London, or Bristol, or any UK city with a quirky side, has just popped up in HK, merging western trendiness with Asian tradition. I love it. Any place that offers a maze of streets filled with cute, arty cafes and design orientated boutiques, is my kinda place – especially as it doesn’t have quite the same pretentious expat feel of Central Hong Kong…. and you do still feel like you are in China, which is always good when you are! We spent a lovely afternoon wandering around the galleries and trying to play it cool when we looked at the price tags in the shops – $270 dollars for a ceramic skunk with a Hitler face? No thanks. Nonetheless, I think Sheung Wan is pretty sick if you fancy indulging in a little bit of hipster action for the day.

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sheung wan

Afterwards, we headed down to Victoria Harbour for the Hong Kong International Food and Wine Festival and it was incredible! This was just the perfect example of how much HK can offer- and at a reasonable price! For just $10 entry (less than a pound) we were in my kind of heaven (live music, nice wine and lots and lots of food). With a latino band playing on the big stage, the sun setting on HK skyline and a feast of parma ham (very rare in HK) in front of me – I sat back and thought ‘yeah this is good.’  I didn’t actually take any photos which is a shame, so thank god for Google:

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The following weekend saw Amy turn the big 2-5, and this provided us with the perfect opportunity to try a Korean BBQ. Now, I had heard good things, but nothing could prepare me for just how good it was going to be! For $98 (about £7.80) we were offered an all you can eat buffet of meats, fish, vegetables, salads…..and candyfloss. In the middle of your table is a grill and you just pop everything on the BBQ and eat until you sweat…..and then eat some more.

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We continued the birthday celebrations into the evening with cocktails on Knutsford Terrace in TST (a lovely european style street of bars and restaurants) and then headed off to LKF for a dance. The following day was nice and chilled, and we spent the afternoon watching the day go by in possibly the best Starbucks in the world (situated on the avenue of stars with a large balcony looking over at the famous HK skyline.)

The following weekend we opted for a nice slow change of pace and decided to explore the island of Peng Chau. Just half an hour from HK, Peng Chau is an undiscovered gem. With no cars and literally no pollution, you could be forgiven for thinking that you had been transported across the world to a Greek island. Taz and I decided to hire bikes and go for a gentle ride along the sea front and around the island.We did this, but of course it only ended in a Bridget Jones style disaster, with me falling off my bike and into a large ditch of manure….and then walking into the sea with my shoes on in attempt to clean off. Classic.

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The following day, I decided to head off to Hong Kong Park as I had not been yet. I was slightly disappointed by it’s size, but was still impressed with how I felt like I had completely escaped the city, even though I was still surrounded by sky scrapers. I’m sure my friends at home will be really surprised (and hopefully proud) that I attempted to get over my bird phobia and by braving the aviary. I even almost enjoyed it. To be fair, the birds were beautiful – but they still had sharp claws, and you know how the claws bother me! I also ventured to Hong Kong zoological and botanical gardens. I would say that the word zoo is a slight exaggeration, and I was actually quite upset to see such large animals in such small cages. However, the entire park is free entry and so I would say it is worth a visit just for the gardens.

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The following weekend saw all of us escape into the country to Tai Po for a day of relaxing outdoor pursuits. It was beaut. Tai Po is up in the New Territories towards China, and is home to some stunning scenery. We spent the day cycling, walking, barbecuing and boating on and around a gorgeous reservoir. It was an amazing day, and just shows that even when Hong Kong gets too much, you don’t even have to leave to escape it.

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On Sunday, I headed back out to the New Territories to the Ping Shan heritage trail, which takes you on a walk that allows you to see some of the old remaining signs of Chinese heritage in Hong Kong. Included on the trail is one of the few Hakka walled villages that still exists and an array of temples and village buildings. However, although the buildings themselves were beautiful and interesting – it was very touristy and the area itself is fairly unimpressive.

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And so that brings us up to this weekend. This Saturday, I ate. Alot. I had my first fry up since arriving in HK (amazing!) and in the heaving had a proper jokes night at all you can eat chinese cafe, Mr Wongs. Mr Wong took a particular shine to me this time, and asked me to be his number one wife. He even offered to buy me a cow, and when he discovered that I am allergic to milk, he promised he would drink all the milk for me. What a babe. Here we are, in the most awkward pose ever:

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On Sunday, Lucy and I decided to kick start our ‘get fit for the beach’ routine, whilst giving a little back. We joined HK volunteer meet up group to hike to Tam Tai Reservoir in aid of Philippine relief. Expecting a nice gentle stroll, we were slightly surprised by the intensity, but were amazed by the views that we saw. Situated in the middle of Hong Kong island, Tai Tam is a little haven which I would definitely recommend. We had a brilliant day, and the event raised more then 2 thousand pounds!

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So, see ya November! Next month I will have tales of my parents visit to Hong Kong, Christmas on Boracay Island in the Philippines and NYE on a boat in Victoria Harbour!

 

 

 

Month 3: October

Firstly, I would like to apologise  to Rachna Rachna Shaha for the delay in posting my October antics – I know she has been waiting on tenterhooks. But, here it is: month three – and almost a third of my time here – gone!

So – I left you in September in a hungover daze after the warehouse party. The following weekend was much more active and saw us escape the city once more as we took on the Dragons Back Hike. As a girl who used to catch the bus down Digbeth High Street, I’m sure it will come as quite a surprise to many that I am a fan of hiking now. It wasn’t the most strenuous of Hong Kong hikes, but with very hot temperatures and lots and lots of stairs it was still very satisfying when we reached the top of the hill to views like this:

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The Dragons Back gets it’s name from being a series of hills that, well, look like a dragon’s back and it offers stunning views before you reach the end about two hours later at Big Wave Bay. I didnt  take any photos of Big Wave Bay, but essentially it was a lovely small-ish beach (as in a bay) with rather large waves so, again, pretty much what it says on the tin. What I was surprised to have waiting for me  was a lovely cute thai restaurant just by the beach where I thoroughly enjoyed an excellent pad thai. Once again, I can only apologise for the lack of photographic evidence.

I spent the Sunday to this weekend doing exactly what I always do when I cant be bothered to venture very far. I headed to Kowloon Park, which is a lovely city centre park very close to where I live. The main appeal of the park is the large outdoor swimming pools but it is also lovely just to wander around as there is always a really nice atmosphere, and things to watch like this:

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Of course, a trip to Kowloon Park is never complete without a wander into TST and going to Pressed for the best western-style sandwich you can get in all of HK. I have raved to many people about the delights of this sandwich cafe, but after months of excessive amounts of noodles and rice I really will never cease to be amazed by chicken, bacon and avocado and all of it’s yumminess.

Anywayyy, the following weekend was a bank holiday (again) and so we had three long days  to enjoy! We started the weekend on Saturday by setting off to find a natural infinity pool in Tai O that we had heard amazing things about. Of course, we didnt find it. However, there is still a happy ending to this story as we found another smaller natural pool at the foot of beautiful waterfalls. It was a beautifully hot day so we couldn’t wait to get into the ice cold water and enjoy our gorgeous surroundings.

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After spending a very relaxing day by the water, we headed to the beach to meet up with some more friends for a BBQ. With the thought of freshly BBQed honey chicken and pepper pork we were so excited to start eating. Unfortunately, the ability to make fire was lacking and it wasn’t until many many hours, new techniques, and defeated attempts later that we started tucking in. I’m sure was pretty hilarious watching us all desperately screaming at the fire to start – but that chicken did taste greatttt after our efforts.

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The following day, we headed back to Lamma island for a day of chilling on the beach and eating excessive amounts of seafood. I always like going to Lamma for a relaxing day out of the city but make sure you venture to the far side of the island if you want your seaviews to come without a large industrial powerplant. The day did not disappoint, and as we sat down to a mass of seafood we overlooked the sun setting on the fishing village.

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For the final day of the weekend, I met up with Queenie and some of her friends for another Junkboat! Unfortunatly, the weather wasn’t quite on our side and it was a little chilly and choppy. Queenie and I really struggled to find our sea legs and we decided the best way to deal with it was to just stay in the water as long as possible. We tried to swim to a nearby beach but came back defeated. However, we weren’t going to let that stop us! Armed with a kayak, an oar and determination we made it all the way to the beach, a beach that would have been quite beautiful if it wasn’t for the horrdenous amount of litter that decorated it. Here are some photos of our journey and triumphant return (you can see by our different facial expressions who had done most of the rowing!):

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Unfortunatly, I seemed to catch a bit of a chill in the water and spend the rest of the junk boat trying to get warm (impossible) and it felt like quite a long time to be out at sea. Returning to land felt incredible, made all the more better by  the seafood that awaited us. Luckily for you, Queenie loves taking photos of food:

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The following weekend, I decided a relaxing day wandering the city was needed. It has started to cool down slightly so its much nice to walk around and appreciate where you are! I treated myself to a facial however, this was much less of a treat when the woman rudely pointed out to me how wrinkled, freckled and discoloured my skin was – but then that was to be expected in HK. She did say that I was too tanned as well, and as a ginger I can only take that as a compliment! After having needles poked into my skin I wandered to Life Cafe in midlevels to treat myself to a vegan cake!

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Life cafe is a little gem in Central which offers an array of vegan goodies. It comes at quite a hefty price but ya’ll know how much of a treat eating cake is for me! After indulging I went take a look around the art gallery. I wasn’t particularly impressed with the gallery, although it did have some good photography and it was nicely curated and enjoyable to walk around. One of the best things about the gallery is it’s location on the avenue of stars in TST which offers the best view of the HK skyline:

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On Saturday evening, I had a little (not very little) visitor in the shape of my newphew Isaac who was on a fleeting visit to HK with his Dad. It was lovely to have some fam in HK with me and made me even more excited for my mum and dad to visit in December. They treated me to a lovely western meal in causeway bay and then we headed off to Temple St Market in Jordan for some typical tourist activity:

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With his first taste of Asia, Isaac was desperate to see some ‘Chinese’ buildings and so I took him to Wong Tai Sin Temple and the Nunnery mentioned in last months post. It was a nice relaxing day and he was really impressed by what we saw. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures of  when we were there but you can take my word for it that it was a lovely time. After Isaac headed off to China I headed back to TST for the History Museum which was amazing! I am always a fan of a museum and this one was particularly interesting and engaging – I thoroughly recommend it!

The following weekend started nice and slow as I went for a wander in Shatin along the river. I really want to go back and hire a bike there as the view is really beautiful – especially as the sun is setting.

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On Sunday, we headed off to Tai Po in search of the ‘Wishing Tree’. Upon arrival, we discovered what we had expected that the wishing tree is essentially just like any other tree but the location was still beautiful and it had been a stunning bus journey up into the mountains. It was a really relaxing place once we escaped the tourist traders trying to sell wishes for a fiver.

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This month has also been a busy one week-day wise with lots of lovely meals, yoga-ing, hip hop dance class-ing. It has also been a month of firsts – the first time I have tried a swing dance lessons (very fun although I kept trying to lead) and the first time I have tried Cantonese Class (very hard and my vocab is extremely limited).

So this draws us to the end of October. JOY GEEN (that’s me saying see ya in Canto)

PS. As we are already in November I can give you a little hint about what next month’s post will include: Halloween, more vegan delights from Life Cafe, wandering around the boutiques and galleries of HK’s coolest area Sheung Wan and indulging in European delights whilst listening to live latino bands at the HK international food and wine festival. How great does that post sound?!

Month Two: September

Oh heyyy again.

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I can’t believe that I have now been here long enough to be able to write about month number two. What is even less believable is that my flatmate Taz and I have just had to spend the last half an hour working out what we have done each week in order for me to write this post! This is probably the main reason I am writing this – to make a little diary for myself so that I can look back and remember that when I was 22 and living in HK, life was pretty sick . Also, y’all know how anal I am and how I will want this to be in the correct chronological order of events.

SO, September has kind of been the start of ‘real life’ in Hong Kong as work has begun and I am living the 9-5. I have never had the ‘living for the weekends’ feeling quite as much as here and although work is fun ( personal highlight so far – establishing a love of Oasis in 50 Hong Kong teenagers, and informing them that no Mika is not cool in England) I just love how every single weekend still feels like a holiday.

I think this photo pretty much sums up the ‘weekend holiday’ lifestyle

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This was taken at the first ‘Junk Boat Party’ of the year, and was possibly my favourite day in HK, although I have said that about quite a few days. Apparently the word ‘junk’ originates from when boats literally used to be made form old bits of wood and bamboo. Nowadays, there is nothing ‘junk’-like about them and we felt like we were living the celebrity high life, although that was only until we saw some of the other boats cruising the water that had actual real owners…..

We spent the  day basking in the sun (I paid for it of course) swimming and banana boating – which was so much fun! I also made sure that I rose a glass or five to my sister Vicki and her fiance Richard as it was the day of their engagement party back in Brum.

This is a photo I took as we waved away to the madness of the city and sailed off the coast from Sai Kung.

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The following day, we decided to explore the village and beach of Stanley. Stanley is a lovely little seaside town on the south of Hong Kong Island. We enjoyed wandering around the cute shops and markets before sitting down on the seafront for some lunch. We were amazed to find this little tiny ‘pub’-style bar serving gorgeous non-chinese food. Bar the jukebox and friendly staff, my favourite thing about this place was the messages. On every single inch of wall and ceiling were messages from travellers from all over the world that had passed through the Smugglers Inn in Stanley. Of course, we added our own.

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Weekday evenings have also been busy as Hong Kong really is a 24 hour city. So far, I have spent my evenings trying different dance classes, eating in amazing restaurants (shout out to Dim Dim Sum in Mongkok), hunting down cocktail happy hours, ‘loving my body’ at yoga and am soon starting Cantonese classes. However, I don’t have photos of any of those activities, so they don’t make for particularly interesting blogging.

I do, however, have photos of my winning evenings (plural) at Happy Valley Race Courses. Yes, that is right I have successfully gambled and won on two occasions. One of this ‘winnings’ made me a mere $6 HKD richer – which is the equivalent of about 50p – but as you all know I bloody love winning, so that is what counts. Happy Valley Race Courses hold Happy Wednesdays every week where you can go and watch the horse races for as little as ten dollars! Gambling here is technically illegal ( there are signs everywhere saying ‘don’t let gambling ruin your life’ which puts a slight dampener on things) but Happy Valley gets around this rule by working as a not-for-profit organization.

happy

The middle of September welcomed ‘Mid-Autumn Festival’ to Hong Kong. Despite my best efforts to ask as many Chinese people as possible I still do not entirely understand the basis of this public holiday. One teacher at my school told me ‘Well once there was a man on the earth and I think he fell in love with a fairy from the moon but now she is bank on the moon with a rabbit or something’ so that didn’t help me very much. However, what I could see is that Mid Autumn is a beautiful and relaxing festival in HK, with families releasing lanterns into the sky and stunning decorations everywhere.

On the Friday, as we had a day off, we decided to make the most of the sunshine and went swimming in Kowloon Park’s outdoor pools. It was beautiful and surreal to swimming in a pool be surrounded by skyscrapers. In the evening, we ventured back to Stanley for a mid autumn festival party with a language exchange group. A half and half split of English and Cantonese speakers took over Stanley Beach with the aim of celebrating the festival whilst improving their language abilities. It was so lovely to enjoy the holiday in a relaxed way, sitting and chatting to locals whilst looking at the lanterns reflect on the sea.

party

On the Saturday, as we had heard such good things about it, we headed off to Cheung Chau Island for a day of wandering and beaching. Similar to Lamma, which featured in my equally informative previous post, Cheung Chau is a fishing island about half an hour away from Hong Kong. Given that it was bank holiday, it  was heaving but we intend to return as you can hire bikes  to explore different parts of the Island. We spent most of the day on the beach before strolling down the seafront whilst the sun was setting. I feel it would be unfair to Cheung Chau not to mention that I had the biggest and best candy floss I have ever eaten there, so here is a photo of that along with some others of my day.

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After exploring the Island, we headed back to Hong Kong to ensure we saw the lantern show in Victoria Park before it ended. I had not yet been to Victoria Park, but this was a beautiful way to enjoy it as it was lit up with the most fantastic lantern displays that you could imagine. Very different  to Vicky park back in Paignton.

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All of Sunday we were being warned of a T8 level Typhoon heading straight towards HK and were under strict instruction not to venture too far. So, we decided to explore a little closer to home and see some of the sights of Kowloon. We had such a peaceful and relaxing day as the rain trickled down and we wandered around Wong Tai Sin Temple, Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Garden.

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After a busy week at work, were determined to make this weekend a ‘sort out lives out’ weekend – banking and sorting out our flooded flat and boring stuff like that – but we did manage to fit in a sneaky little warehouse party.

warehouse2 warehouse

SEE YA IN OCTOBER!

 

Month 1: August

So here I am.

One month down the line and, as of today, officially a resident of Hong Kong! I thought now would be a pretty ideal time to update you on all of my activities so far, and try to explain a little bit more what life is like living in the other side of the planet, in the world’s busiest district. In other words, explain how my life is pretty bloody different to what it was back in Galmpton in July!

So, HEY!

I am going to attempt monthly updates about HK (lucky you guys!) and hopefully once I have some holiday time to travel you may even get a few other countries thrown in along the way.

To take it right back to the beginning I arrived in Hong Kong on August 9th feeling very jet-lagged and smelling of curry (Jet Airways). I managed to have a very confusing conversation with a taxi driver and made my way out to the New Territories to be met by Queenie and Ryan. Straight away I wanted to explore and so Queenie took me out for my first taste of the city, and of Mong Kok.

Not knowing I would end up living in Mong Kok, I was completely overwhelmed and in amazement of how busy and exciting it was as we made our way to the Ladies Market in search of a fridge Magnet. (Great first day, cheers Q). If you think that being such a big and busy city would mean that people would rush around like they do in London, you could not be more wrong. People in HK have a tendency to walk really really bloody slowly, resulting in what we now call the Mong Kok Shuffle, where you move about five metres every minute, unless of course you’re English and rude. Which I am.

My first time doing the Mong Kok Shuffle

After Mong Kok, Queenie showed me how to order HK Street Food (ie, stand next to her whilst she speaks in Cantonese and explains about my extensive allergies) and I had my first taste of a new fave, and one of the only things I can say in Canto, Chow Sui Bow (BBQ pork in a sticky slightly sweet bun).

As Q+R were working all weekend I decided to put my (metaphorical) tourist hat on and go and explore. I did what is probably the first thing anyone going to HK does and went up the Peak. The Peak is the top of a large mountain which overlooks Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, and gives you the most amazing view.

The Peak

I also have photos of the Peak at night still to come in this post, so that’s something to keep you reading. I also went to the beach, which although was lovely, I have since been to far better beaches that aren’t so pumped full of the city’s chemical waste so I wont waste your time with pictures of there. I’ll just show you the real gooduns, you’re all more likely to come and visit me that way.

As Monday came, so did the move to Mount Davis Youth Hostel, to meet everyone on the programme (absolute babes so that’s good) and to live on the most uncomfortable bunk bed for the following three weeks. The view from the hostel was pretty epic so it would be unfair not to include it.

Mount Davis

However, I would like to point out that this is NOT reflective of what it looked like most of the time. In fact, on our second day a typhoon hit and so this meant that we were stuck up on the mountain with no way of travelling down for food or drink. Unfortunately for me, at the point of the typhoon hitting, so did food poisoning, the water cutting out, and my birthday. I was not feeling 22  like Taylor Swift.

After the first week of team bonding (much of which I missed) we enjoyed the weekend before training began. All 65 of us descended on LKF (ex-part party central) but given the aforementioned food poisoning I wasn’t exactly on top form so its a pretty boring story. We also went to the beach, which was amazing! Palm Beach on Lantau Island is a beautiful long beach that feels a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of HK. Given the typhoon, the waves were incredible and I had my first attempt at surfing. Despite this being pretty unsuccessful, I remain positive this is going to be a new secret talent of mine, I am just yet to discover it.

Palm Beach

As training began, so did flat hunting, which was pretty horrendous. Finding a good flats in HK can be like searching for a needle in a haystack (which, Carys, I do maintain is possible) and involved lots of angry conversations between us and rip-off estate agents. At one point, after being shown a flat with an arm hanging out of the sink (he maintained it was a cleaner sat on the floor hidden amongst rubbish but I’m not entirely convinced) I did have to tell one estate agent to please leave, in a slightly less polite manner. The process took well over a week but we took the (very) occasional night off from looking around dives. One particularly evening was this one when we went to watch the Light Show at TST. This happens every single night at 8pm and all of the buildings on HK Island are lit up and set to dramatic music for the amusement of tourists. It sounds slightly better than it is, but no one can deny its pretty sweet to stand on the waterfront and look over to the skyline.

Light Show

Anyway, after about flat number 20, we found a little gem of a three bed in Mong Kok. But before we could move in, we spent another week in the hostel which was actually pretty good as it meant we got to enjoy the last bit of time of being in a massive group all the time, We had a some more nights out, including a particularly good one of completely free drinks all evening, and not even just for girls. HK slightly (more than slightly) favours women, with Ladies nights and free drinks for all girls on regular occasions. We also returned to the peak, but this time at night. Cue the photo:

Peak at night

And another, which includes my face, and a boy named Quiche who was friends with a boy named Dinosaur.

Peak

To round off the weekend we explored slightly further afield to Lamma Island, which is an absolutely stunning island about 40 minute ferry ride from HK Island. It’s a proper sleepy and hippy fishing island with a completely different pace of life to Hong Kong. We were slightly disappointed by the first beach (ruined by an industrial plant) and so decided to be active and hiked over to the other side of the island which is just beaut. After swimming and sunbathing we went and had the most amazing seafood I have had in my life. We had scallops, clams, steamed fish, prawns, abalone,calamari, garlic vegetables, fried rice etc etc for less than the equivalent of about 12 quid. (Food may become a recurring theme of this blog btw). Here are some snaps of Lamma:

LammaLammaLamma

After our final week of training, we moved into our new pad and started to explore the local area. So far the highlight has been eating at the Mong Kok Cooked Food Market. Cook Food Markets do exactly what they say on the tin and are hidden away in every district of HK and this one is in the same building as a library, looks salmonella ridden, and had locals asking to have photos taken of us, but had the most incredible authentic Chinese food once you got beyond the grime-y environment! This past few weekends has also all been about flat warmings and squeezing as many people as possible into tiny HK flats!

Flat Party

We returned back to Palm Beach this weekend, but replacing the surf was 35 degree sunshine. We all chilled on the beach all day before putting a few shrimps on the barbie, going for a night time swim and then following UV lights down the beach and crashing a local secret facebook beach party. It was so great to chat to locals and as previous nights out have felt a little too much like you could be in Malia. Here are just a few pictures of yesterday:

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And so, to take us to the final day of month number one and the end of the first blog post: Macau. A  few of us had to travel to Macau in order to validate our Visa’s, and we were so  glad we did! It is about an hour’s ferry ride away from HK, and yet is kind of like travelling back to the other side of the world! Macau used to be a portugese colony and so has a massive European influence, yet with obviously a very Asian twist. Its also well known for its Casino’s and being the Vegas of China and this makes it very popular as gambling is actually illegal in HK. As I am not exactly swimming in money right now, I decided to give the casinos a miss and instead explored the city. This is what I found:

MacauMacauMacauMacauMacau

Anyway, that should give you a slight glimpse of my first 4 weeks.

Missing ya’ll 🙂

Also, just realised this is 1600 words. If only I had written my uni essays so easily.