Guest Post: Four Reasons to Love Hong Kong

Photo Credit: Flickr.com

As the perfect place to explore Asian culture, Hong Kong is the melting pot of East meets West. This duty-free port, located at the Southern tip of China, is known for so many things; from their shopping destinations, enriching culture and history, to the visually stunning views, Hong Kong will appease any type of traveler. Before you travel to Hong Kong…. First, before you worry about the language barrier the majority of residences may speak Cantonese, but because of an international presence, English is widely spoken. One of the best seasons to plan your trip is from September until February. During this season the climate is warm and sunny; flights are also cheaper during non-holidays and weekdays. For overseas travelers, a passport is required; however, certain countries are granted visa-free access or visa-on-arrival. Upon arrival from the airport, renting a car seems atypical for tourists, but plan on taking public transportation to avoid high costs, heavy traffic, and expensive parking; numerous modes of public transportation are available. For easier payment when traversing public transportation use an electronic access card, also known as the Octopus card. Major credit cards (Visa, MasterCard, etc.) are accepted, but it’s probably simpler to exchange your currency for the Hong Kong dollar (HKD. As a safety precaution, look for money exchangers authorized by the Quality Tourism Services Scheme (QTS).

1. Ngong Ping Village

Photo Credit: Gonodoloproject.com

A culturally themed village and one of the top attractions of Hong Kong, Ngong Ping Village is located on Lantau Island, the largest island of Hong Kong. Despite having a commercialized atmosphere, Ngong Ping’s traditional Chinese architecture reminds visitors of the cultural roots of Ngong Ping Village. Upon arrival at this quaint village, visitors are treated to a shopping and dining expedition. After tiring of shopping, travelers can wander over to the several adjacent attractions: The Big Buddha, Po Lin Monastery, the Lantau trails, the Monkey’s Tale Theatre and the Ngong Ping Tea House.

View of the 25 minute cable ride to Lantau Island Photo Credit: malaysianingermany.blogspot.com

To travel here, visitors hire cable cars at Tung Chung for a 25 minute cable ride, which provide a 360 panoramic view of the area. Be warned, the lines can get long during high tourist season and the cable car expense can get costly. Despite this, former visitors to Ngong Ping Village recommend when traveling on the cable cars, hire out the crystal cable car for the added experience and the gorgeous scenic view.

2. Nightly Multimedia Shows

Photo Credit: Flickr.com

Cap off your night with what the Guinness Book of World Record named as the World’s Largest Permanent Light and Sound Show. To make this nightly multimedia show a phenomenon, more than 40 buildings collaborate on both sides of the harbor. If on your honeymoon, this is a perfect excuse for a romantic stroll to impress your new spouse with a delightful experience. The shows are a synchronization of both music and narration made apparent by the use of search and colored lights. Each staccato and breathtaking note moves to 5 major themes: Awakening, Energy, Heritage, Partnership, and Celebration. The best places to viewthis are along the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront or the promenade outside the Golden Bauhinia Square.

3. Tantalizing Food

Photo Credit: eskimo.com

Follow the locals to their chosen and most frequented restaurants. Here are three different types to choose from when planning your next hearty fare.

Dim-Sum: Steamed

Originating in tea houses, dim-sums are scrumptiously served steamed or fried. Most locals prefer the steamed version, especially in the morning. Translated as “touch your heart,” these snack-sized portion pairs well with delicious tea; also, known as “yum cha.” Usually steamed, these dumplings come in so many varieties and have more than 150 ways of preparation. Find everything from steamed pork spare ribs, shrimp dumplings with translucent skin, or mini spring rolls. Find the best shrimp dumplings at U-Banquet or nibble on delicious shao mai, the concoction that combines pork, shrimp, mushrooms, ginger, and seasoned with rice wine and soy sauce.

Siu Mei: Chinese barbeque

Slowly cooked, this delicious, flavorful meat is prepared either roasted on a spit over an open fire or in a wood burning rotisserie oven. The meat flavor is glazed with special made rubs: honey, spices, or fermented rice wine. Choose between beef, pork, duck, or goose. This type of dish is indicative to Chinese communities because of how they are presented in the restaurants: visibly hung to entice any passerby both by smell and sight. The perfect pairing to this succulent dish is with rice or noodles. Try goose. Thinly sliced, the crispy skin, and served with an accompanied sauce, usually plum based, make this a popular choice of Siu Mei.

Hotpot: Chinese Fondue

While the name speaks for itself and best eaten during colder months, hotpot is best enjoyed and shared amongst friends. Similar to the alternative of the European version of fondue, a hotpot is cooked inside a metal pot and heated by a portable gas stove. Contained inside the hotpot is a seasoned broth while the main ingredients are placed on dishes for diners to mix into the broth: thinly sliced meat (beef, pork, chicken, fish, lamb, or goat) and vegetables (bok choy, spinach, ginger, shiitake mushrooms, etc.). Dependent on the type of ingredients used, cooking time varies, but the main focus of this fare is to enjoy the company.  Even without a social experience and only for one person to enjoy, the ingredients of this stew showcase the local flavor and preferences: custom dipping sauces, spiciness of the broth, etc.

4. Take a Walk on the Wild Side: Shek O Country Park

Photo Credit: Flickr.com

Located on the southeastern side of Hong Kong and away from the bustle of city life, this country park has three hiking routes ready to challenge even the most outdoor lover.

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Honesty Minute: This was a guest post. 

The Secret’s Out: I’m a Shit “Travel Blogger”

People can justify anything.

If you’re feeling creative enough; things like infidelity, cannibalism, and even littering can all seem pretty excusable.

Perhaps I’m purposefully confusing “justifications” with “imaginative explanations.”

I tend to do that sometimes. You know, mix up definitions. Mispronounce words. Mistake word-unions which I ingeniously created some night and have been using ever since, for actual established dictionary entries. (Read: the feeling of hanger, using the word “tops” to describe things other than a t-shirt, and occasionally spelling “your” with an “e” instead of those other two vowels.)

Admittedly, I also pause every single time I’m about to use “invisible” or “invincible” in a sentence. I will often do a quick Webster’s brain-check to make sure I’m using the correct one and then just kind of mumble one of them and hope for the best. And for some reason, these words come up A LOT in my daily vocabulary.

See? There I go again.

I just tried to justify my brainless mistakes by making myself seem all quirky and forgetful. But, seriously. I have never even bothered to look up invisible/ invincible in a dictionary.

I’m lazy.

And that, forgiving readers and those choosing to waste internet time on a blog like this, is exactly why this space has been dormant for the last month.

I’m lazy in the sense that sometimes, I would just rather be doing things than writing about them. (In actuality, that’s really not laziness at all, but I’ve got a theme going here and I don’t really want to waste it.)

Which is actually quite strange. Because next to the joy I experience from explaining why I don’t know how to pronounce “ambiguous,” I actually quite like writing.

So I got lazy. And for those who have never experienced the feeling of being lethargic (Tony Robbins, Carrot Top, Jimmy Fallon most days of the week), laziness can be a real dick.

Being lazy can produce these ultimate moments of self-reflection. But because you can’t be bothered to internally reflect on anything in fear of exuding even a breath of effort, you consequently can get quite down on yourself.

Battling an internal dialogue of my intentions with this blog, coupled with the suffocating overtones of apathy, I questioned myself a lot.

If I really hated a place, would I accurately write about it?

If I pulled some stupid stunt with less than favourable outcomes (but makes for a generally amusing story), would I bare the wrath of judgmental commenters and post about it anyways?

I’m not sure.

And if I can’t be honest with my own, poorly-maintained WordPress site then really, who can I be honest with?*

I want to be honest.

I want to write about absolutely hating a lot of places which I had felt pressured to love.

I want to write about the things I’ve done which would cause most mothers to shake their head and say to themselves, “Shit. I’m so glad my own daughter didn’t turn out like that.”

I want to write stories in a similar fashion to my in-person demeanor. Slightly offensive. But with 3/4 good intentions. And throwing in descriptors like “tops” which are sort of catchy in the way that you will inevitably find yourself dropping them nonchalantly in conversations next week.

So I’m done pretending to enjoy certain parts of Thailand. I’m over keeping it a secret that I spent a week on an island in Indonesia stealing other people’s flip-flops because I had lost my own. I’m sick of trying to write about my travels in a chronological order for the sake of sequential organization.

The only thing I’m still really into are justifications.

Because those handy excuses?

Well, they’re pretty much tops.

*The truth is, LOADS of people. Turns out, I’m pretty open about my own achievements with the whole “think later” methodology. But I was trying to be dramatic. I think it worked.

The Time with the Countdown, the Resolution, and Why Humans Love Both


Toothbrush Note: Initiating into the world of ESL teaching in South Korea, I believed it was standard practice to start an amateur blog.  This blog played host to riveting content like bragging about my chopstick skills, complaining about the unavailability of good cheese at grocery stores, and noting that middle school boys are internationally similar.

Perhaps it was an attempt to stay in contact with those at home. But to be honest, I probably just wanted a place to whine about the lack of gouda in my life.

Below is a post I wrote for this amateur blog. It was written while in Korea during the early hours of 2011. The tone is unforgiving (some may say “surly”) because I’m pretty sure all the pipes had frozen in my poor lil’ apartment. Beyond some actual editing and reformatting, everything remains unchanged.

I guess it’s kind of like when Michael Jordan donned the number 45 when he played for the White Soxs.

You know-numbers may change, but people don’t.

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Continue reading

Toothbrush Highlight

So remember late last week I wrote that thing about the travel blogging community (come one, ya you do…) with a whole bunch of me vs. them undertones hidden throughout the post? And remember how I was mildly surly but had just enough charm and wit to not be casted as majorly offensive?

Well I guess those kind kids over at CheapOair (offering cheap tickets) were wooed by my words (how’s that for an alliteration?) and thought it would be pretty neat if I wrote a mildly surly without being majorly offensive piece for their typepad site.

The site features a bunch of travel bloggers  writing about really practical things like bartering in markets, finding cheap places to stay in wherever, and you know, other things you would like to read about before you travel…or even buy plane tickets.

But other than the suggestion of bringing your toothbrush absolutely everywhere with you, I feel a bit strange offering anyone advice (reason #45 why I’m pretty much an awful social worker).  So instead, I wrote about one of my favourite travel gigs from the last year. And oddly enough, I bought tickets to China for that trip through CheapOair (How’s that for serendipitous?)

Now just so we’re clear, CheapOair didn’t ask me to call them “kind kids” or lie or anything (although I would be willing to do all of that for a higher word count, of course). But the site is pretty tops. And obviously I’m a big fan of anyone that is willing to share my mildly surly without being majorly offensive words.

Go read my words about great walls and secret-keeping (or lack there of) right here.

And then when you’re done that, go back to CheapOair (offering cheap tickets). Buy a plane ticket. And don’t you dare keep it a secret. 

Why I’m Overwhelmed by the Travel Blogging Community

  

If this past weekend’s TBEX conference in Vancouver is any indication, the travel blogging community is a serious set of dedicated, successful, and ultimately ambitious folk.

And if my disjointed writing style and general lack of information about anything travel-related hasn’t made it obvious already, I can’t really consider myself part of this blogging culture.

Besides the fact that these travel blogging cats have their shit figured out and post on a dependable (not to mention an informative) basis, there are a few other similarities within this community that I long to understand. 

But at the same time, I can’t help but feel that classic shortness of breath and habitual resistance any time I get overwhelmed by anything ever. (Sure, this is forgivable on one’s own blog. However, this is not really a viable excuse in other situations. Like that time I got overwhelmed for being solely responsible for 100 kids with special needs on a trip to the CN Tower. Ya, that one really didn’t turn out in my favour.) 

I took this shot instead of acknowledging those responsibilities.

 

For starters, I get the general impression that travel bloggers prepare for travel in a very similar way. After all, it’s the pre-travel investigating, routing, and general geeking out about all things travel that ultimately gives these guys a boatload of bloggable content.

And even though I’m a big believer that the pre-travel planning is almost as much fun as the actual travel-doing (or what most would refer to as “traveling”), I am actually having a really difficult time getting into the groove of writing about my pre-travels. (Except for the the fact that I now refer to all my booked plane tickets as “my hockey card collection.” But’s that probably has something to do with play off giddiness. Not to mention it sounds more fun than “this is what I spent my last three paychecks on.”) 

Again. I took this shot instead of acknowledging responsibilities.

 

In the end, some of the most useful information available within the blogging community is about that preparation for future escapades.

How to save the cash.

How to pack the stash.

How to pace the steps.

There are a plethora of how-to posts out there outlining the above mentioned things. For me, they were mostly helpful and even the tiniest bit motivating.  (Particularly those posts which included pictures of all your clothes neatly folded out prior to getting crammed into your backpack. I’m seriously envious of all that bad-ass organization of yours. Seriously.)

Being incessantly altruistic, I want to help people in the same way. But I mean come on, my advice would NOT be helpful.

If I was to take myself seriously and write tips about my experience pre-departure, it would probably go a little something like this…

Saving the Cash

  •  Stop buying groceries. Food should be the first frivolous expense that gets cut. Did you know that you can practically live off pancakes and that old quinoa your pal’s grandmother sent you from Montreal? (Okay, so maybe I’m only on day two of the fad quinoa diet and I’m already feeling pretty lousy. But whatever man, that next-to-nothing grocery bill equates to like one more week in Thailand!)


Packing the Stash

  • I’m all about practicality and all that nonsense but at the same time, your digs must serve a purpose. And that’s why I’m choosing to pack a worn-out sweat-stained Hold Steady shirt for the road.  Yeah the shirt basically sucks, make me look like a pre-teen Blink 182 fan, and has next to no breathability in any temperature above “warm.” But at the same time, the shirt does have a point. I mean, just imagine the insta-friendship that will form when I’m lonely at a hostel and some rad person walks in and is welcomed by this dirtball wearing a unreadable band tee and is dying for a conversation other than “this is how many more countries I’ve visited and am consequently a better person than you.” Forget trying to talk to people. I’ll just wear this dirty rag of a shirt from this middle-aged bar band. And no doubt, friends will be a flocking.

Pacing your Steps

  • Don’t even bother with this one. For me, “slow travel” might as well be a foreign alien invading my corn fields and setting up shop on my roof. Instead, just imagine yourself on The Amazing Race and start running. Absolutely everywhere. I mean everywhere. Phil is probably already waiting to check you in (and announce that “you ARE the first team to arrive) at the grocery store below your hostel, at the ticket office at the train station, and at the end of the zen garden in that solitary temple. I don’t even understand why you’re still reading this. Just go!

 

Perhaps in the end, I am just wildly jealous of anyone that can make a livable living off their writing— especially when it comes to the somewhat crowded market of travel blogging.

But hey, maybe if I keep writing borderline alienating articles such as this one, I’ll get there soon enough right!?  

low travel standards exhibit A: world's largest squirting clam in long beach, WA