Tag Archives: Asia

Sunset over Victoria Harbour #HongKong #

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Sunset over Victoria Harbour #HongKong #travel #vacation #wanderlust #boating

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5 Things to do in Hong Kong in 24 hours

Hong Kong is a transient city I’ve moved to 3 times in the last decade.  Call me an expat turned local.  But if I were visiting for 24 hours for the first time, here’s what I’d do:

1)Victoria Peak-For the active ones, there are both steep/short and long/winding hikes to the top.  The shorter hike starts at the end of Old Peak Road (take a cab to the end of old peak road and you won’t miss it) and is a steep but tree lined shady hike to the top.  For the average fit person it should take about 20 minutes, but be forewarned, the hill will certainly get your blood pumping.  Otherwise get to the peak tram in Central and take a leisurely uphill tram to see the view.  It’s not necessary to goto the skydeck, the free views are the same.

2)Dimsum-There’s nothing dim about dimsum- the wheeled carts of food feature brightly decorated delicacies made for sharing.  It’s Chinese tapas.  I typically take visitors to the Maxim’s on the top floor of city hall (with a view to boot)-don’t forget the baked savory pineapple pork buns and indulge on that fresh mango dessert at the end.

3) Ding ding-The easiest and cheapest transport in HK is the 2 dollar tram.  Well it might be 2.50 HKD by now, but not much more.  Go on the top deck for open air views and you can ride from the west side of HK island to the east. (or vice versa)  The tram line traverses major roads and is one of the best ways to experience the island.  Apparently also easy to catch Pokemon.

4)Star Ferry-A ferry between HK Island and the Kowloon peninsula (which is the closest to China).  Also a cheap transport, hop on at Central (HK) or TST (Kowloon) pier for a short ride and plenty of photo ops.

5) Temple street night market-Beginning early evening (by 5pm) vendors turn a couple of streets in Mongkok into open air markets. (Get out at Mongkok mtr and look for signs) These are extremely diversified markets selling clothes, wallets, purses, (“LV”, “Gucci”, “Prada”, etc)  knick knacks, toys, and all sorts of bits and bobs.  Even if you’re not a shopper it’s an experience you want before shopping goes the way of the world wide web and drones.  Do bargain.

Bonus round: Goto Lan kwai fong for a nightlife district on steriods.

 

 

Huangshan..China’s Magic Mountains

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Why visit Huangshan? 

Traditional Chinese calligraphy paintings often used Huangshan as inspiration to paint mountains shrouded with clouds.  Each peak has a smooth surface interrupted by jutting pines or other granite rocks.  They range from a coffee toned brown to gray, shifting with the intensity of sunlight.  Clouds are often drifting lower than the line of sight, adding a mystical air.  In fact, the standout features of these mountains are the pines, the rocks, the sunrises, and the clouds.
The scenery is plentiful and melts into a Rorschach that speaks to the imagination or level of drunkenness of whoever named the spot.  Each scenic spot tells its own tale.  Can you see the monkey’s back as he’s overlooking the ocean?  Do you see the soaring pines that are 2 tigers chasing one another?
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Best season to go?
The weather can be temperamental, with sudden bursts of rain from the low hanging clouds.  I took a picture where it looks like I’m blowing on clouds-they are THAT close.  I went the first week of September and the last week of April, and I lucked out with perfect weather both times.  Apparently the beauty of the mountains changes with each season, so it’s touted as a year round destination, even during the snows of the winter.  For temperature comfort I’d recommend the spring or fall (basically the times I went).  I was 1 out of 2 on a clear sunrise, but even shrouded in the clouds it was breathtaking.  It’s even better than the sunrise over Angkor Wat.
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How long do I need to visit?
Huangshan can be “seen” in a 3 day trip, spending one night on the mountain, if you’re in a rush.  Even a day trip is doable.  But I’d recommend spending 2 nights up on the mountain, one on the  western side near the Yuping “Jade Screen” cable car and one night on the eastern side near the Yungyu “Cloud Valley” cable car.  The eastern side is clearly where you watch the sunrise, and the shuffle from the Beihai Hotel begins before the crack of dawn.   Because there are a limited number of rooms on the mountain, after the day crowd leaves the mountain displays a serenity I would normally not associate with China.  I think even some of the tourists are fatigued from climbing, so when my Mom and I explored paths later in the day, we were alone with nature. It was her first time in China and the scenery and cleanliness have probably spoiled her for future travel there.  But then you understand why Chinese poets and painters scrambled up these cliffs without cable cars or paved steps.
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Where is it and why haven’t I heard of it?
Nearest airport is Tunxi.  3 hr flight from Shenzhen , 1
  hr flight or 4hr drive from Shanghai (also trains), 1.5 hr flight from Hangzhou.  Huangshan (Yellow Mountain in Chinese) is a marquee Chinese tourist spot, kept impressively clean.  It is a household name in China, but has not really been marketed internationally.  With a billion potential customers China doesn’t need to raise its international profile anyway.
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Scaling Sri Pada(Adam’s Peak)

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along the drive from Sri Pada

Maybe it’s because I’ve lived in a few amazing cities (Philadelphia, NY, LA, HK, Singapore), but when I’m traveling, I’m blown away by natural beauty.  Sri Lanka is one of those unmistakably awe-inspiring countries.  Its lush, untouched lands have appropriately earned it Garden of Eden references.

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that tip is Sri Pada-taken on the way down
Why is it called Sri Pada/Adam’s peak?
This 2,243 m (7,359 ft) mountain has the distinction of being a holy site for Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, and Islamics.  Sri Pada means “sacred footprint” in Sinhalese (native language of the largest ethnic group in Sri Lanka).  The footprint shaped mark at the summit is claimed by each respective religion to be the footprint of Buddha, Hindu god Shiva,  St. Thomas, and Adam.  Islamics and Christians say this was the first spot Adam set foot on Earth after getting kicked out from paradise, which is why the mountain is called Adam’s Peak.
How bout that footprint?
The elements have probably taken its toll on the footprint, so it’s enshrined in a small temple at the top.  After waiting in line to see the footprint, I stared at the area for awhile, baffled, but honestly couldn’t tell what anything was supposed to be.  My husband thought the footprint itself was actually covered.  Online research indicates  “the real footprint is believed to be set in jewels beneath the visible rock.”  Don’t go up expecting to see the footprint, but do climb the mountain for the views.
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view from the summit
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Since it’s a religious site, there is a constant flow of devotees making pilgrimages.   Weekends/holidays apparently get the most crowded.  We went on a weekday in March and it wasn’t teeming  with people.  The shortest route is the Hatton route beginning in Dalhousie.  Once you arrive, there are no shortcuts for the 5200 steps, but they are well paved, surrounded by safe railings, and during pilgrimage season the mountain is well lit.  Hiking takes anywhere from 2.5-4 hrs.   We started walking up the steps at 3am so that we wouldn’t miss anything.  Relatively active people can finish the hike in under 2.5hrs.  It gets cold at the top while waiting for the sunrise, so bring a warm layer.
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waiting for sunrise

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What will I see?
Travelers climb at the crack of dawn to catch the sunrise and the triangle of Sri Pada, a shadow of the mountain imprinted on the clouds, only the 2nd place in the world where this phenomenon occurs.
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Triangle of Sri Pada