Saturday, December 31, 2011

Oh Hong Kong, one day is not enough

OK, so technically we had nearly 48hrs, but subtracting for travel to and fro the airport and this nasty thing called jet lag (is it better to fly west or east?), we really didn't seem to have that much time here.

Julie and I kicked off our travels with the first debate of the trip - how to get to town from the airport. For future reference the train and an Octopus card are the best bet. The train includes a free shuttle to your hotel once you arrive at Kowloon Station.
We used the last of my Holiday Inn points to get a nice room at the Holiday Inn [sing it] right on Nathan Rd in the heart of Kowloon. Primo location next to MTR stations and loads of action. However our plans of watching the fireworks from the rooftop pool were dashed when Julie went up there and found you couldn't see a thing besides the walls of neighbouring buildings.
In a strange twist of east meets west, HK puts on Winterfest, where they pretend to be in the north. Just like we saw in Singapore last time round, the city was ablaze in Christmas lights and decorations and carols jingling from every loudspeaker. It's certainly a pretty sight and for us Winnipeggers it's a treat to walk around a festive atmosphere with only a sweater on. (I'm guessing temps have dropped to more normal levels back home?)  There are decorations EVERYWHERE; Tiffany’s sponsors giant Christmas trees and a carousel in Statue Square and we even found a skating rink that had real ice!

 Julie poses in front of the Tiffany's carousel

Due to our time restraints we didn’t get to see too much. I had hoped to go on a walking tour after downloading an app onto our tablet and we didn’t even get back to Julie’s favourite global party place of Lan Kwai Fong. But we did happen upon what may be a serious contender to our magical little bar further up the harbour.  Pier7 has a prime spot right below IFC, which is the tallest structure on the island. The view from here completely made up for the long flight and jet lag – I’d do it again and again just to see this skyline.

We did some investigating to find ourselves a party for NYE, and we found numerous options: HKD380 for a rooftop party @ the Harbour Plaza hotel, HKD500 for a party at the Intercontinental on the waterfront or HKD2400 for an extravagant 8-course meal with harbour view. By the time we made a decision we missed getting in on the cheap option - typical!


<<original draft written Dec.31. finished in Winnipeg Feb.19>>

more photos online @

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The dragon awakens

Beijing Capital International Airport never fails to impress me: the 60ft+ ceilings swoop in graceful lines between the towering support columns and I'm pretty sure it's the largest indoor space I've been in.
It's finally sunk in that we're travelling again. We're in China! It's colder than Vancouver. And as soon as we stepped out of the tunnel into the airport it smelled like China - you know what I mean. (Chinese restaurant smells)  As we landed I saw the main doors where we stepped out into our first Asia experience three years ago and got even more excited to burst through the doors this time around. But gotta wait one more flight...
The flight from Winnpeg to Vanvouver was a rough one - some of the most up-and-down, side-to-side turbulence we've ever encountered. We had a bit of a scare for our trans-pacific flight - we could not check in online and when we showed up the plane appeared fully booked and we were sitting apart in different sections of the plane. Fortunately we were plenty early for that flight and Julie managed to find an actual Air China employee to nicely rearrange our seats for us. They fed us twice on the flight; breakfast at 3am Vancouver time and then lunch at 3am Beijing time, separated by two movies and about five hours of semi-valuable sleep.
I've just finished my second "Chinese breakfast" of the day (rice porridge, an intoxicated egg, and some sort of pickled vegetable) and continue my inability to sleep on a plane. (forgot my sleeping mask...)

Sure am looking forward to Hong Kong and waffles, bubble tea and that spectacular skyline!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Away we go again!

I'm not really sure I'd recommend taking a substantial trip just after the Christmas holidays - because it's one level of stress to plan the holidays, and to add another level for trip planning seems a bit unnecessary.  So in between shopping for other people, we've been shopping for hotels and flights for ourselves. :)
No matter, January follows December and by golly, we're going to skip most of it!
Here's the rundown: 
New Year's Eve in Hong Kong.
Jan 1-8 in Cambodia, split between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.
Jan.9-12 float down the Mekong to Saigon on a private boat that Julie's found us.
Jan.12-14: Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
Jan.14-16 in Bangkok for our first nights in this metropolis.
Jan.16-20 in the Phangna region north of Phuket for some scuba diving and rain forest hikes. 
Jan.20-23 flying home via BKK, Singapore, Tokyo and Vancouver.
When we first started planning this trip, we were torn between focusing on places that we liked the last time we were through SE Asia, and discovering new places and seeing new things.  The latter option has won the day.  We're no longer going to spend a week on the idyllic island of Phuket, Thailand. Rather, we're aiming for a small little island near Burma called Koh Phayam.  That's after we spend a week or so in Cambodia, exploring Phnom Penh and the temples of Angkor Wat.  In the early stages of planning I was relishing the thought of kicking back on the southern coast of Cambodia down near Kep - but as details got worked out, that dream was dashed due to lack of time. Nuts. But we are rendezvous'ing with another couple from Winnipeg in PP. And that shall be exciting to travel with some friends - sort of a first for us.
Andrew's luggage - Julie's is bigger
What to pack for such a trip? A vast assortment of gizmos, from two cameras to a tablet pc to a blackberry.   This time I've splurged on fancy Exofficio underwear that reportedly can be worn and washed nightly. Fancy stuff. Our friends managed to only pack carry-on for their trip - I am amazed at their talents. 

It's 3 hours till airport time in Winnipeg. The strange thing hasn't sunk in yet.
Yet I'm sure it'll be a mad dash to the finish line to get everything sorted!

Wish us well!

...I really wish I'd properly finished this blog from our big trip.  What good is a story that just abruptly ends??  bogus...