A Travellerspoint blog

A short Australia update!

semi-overcast 48 °F

Well, we made it! Don't have tons of updates (or pictures!) so this will be a short one.

Last night, we boarded the plane and took off around midnight. We each got much more sleep on the plane than we had expected, which was great, and had just a short layover before our flight from Adelaide to Melbourne. The second flight was equally as uneventful, and we went through customs without a problem (we were nervous they were going to take away all the cheap snacks we have accumulated, since apparently they're pretty strict here!). We had a nice ride from the airport with Skybus, which took us right to our hotel, and got to see a bit of Melbourne.

After a quick nap, we each headed out for a run by the Yarra River and the Royal Botanic Gardens, which were gorgeous. There is a nice 3.8-km loop around the Gardens called the Tan, on which several famous runners have run, so we did a few loops there. Two things of note - first, it was soo nice to run outside after 16 days of treadmills! But it is chilly here - about 48 degrees since we've been here, although highs will hit almost 60 the next few days. Second, Kevin got called "a chicken" twice by people he passed ... anyone know what that means? We don't think it means a "scaredy-cat," like we usually think of chickens, since he was running fast, but we can't think of anything else! Picture here is from Botanical Gardens website.
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After showering, we walked around Melbourne a bit to explore and look for places to eat. Man, this place is expensive! The water bottles we were getting for $0.30 in Beijing are now $4.50! And restaurants were expensive as well. (Note that I'm not saying this to complain, as I realize we're so lucky to be able to afford the more expensive food, so even if I mention that we looked around for cheaper places, please don't think I'm complaining or feeling deprived!). We ended up at what we think/ hope was a local diner-type place, and it turned out great (even though it was "open air" so we were a little chilly!). I got minestrone soup and a Greek salad, and Kev got lasagna (with "chips" and salad). We each got a glass of wine, and the meal ran us $60!
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We're going to get a good night's sleep tonight and hit the ground running tomorrow! Cheerio, mates ;)
-Megan and Kevin

Posted by megandkev 04:34 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

An "extra" day in Hong Kong

semi-overcast 90 °F

Well, when the Typhoon Flag 8 (out of 10) was raised last night before we went to bed, we decided to skip our planned tour of Lantau Island, as I mentioned. It seemed like the safe, smart decision. This morning, though, when we woke up, the skies looked OK and the warning was down to Flag 3, which basically means just really fast winds ... several of the activities for our full-day tour were still cancelled (like the cable car; and many others may have been miserable in the blowing winds), but my heart still broke a little when our pick-up time came and went. I really did want to see Lantau Island, but I know that Kevin was the wiser voice - we were advised to stay away from the coastline, after all! Anyway, with a full, unplanned day ahead of us, we slept in, had some coffee while we researched what else to do and did a bit of work for our mortgage, got in a good workout, and headed out for the day. Our plan was to be as "weather-proof" as possible, so that if we had to sneak inside at any moment, we could.

Our first stop was Hong Kong Park, which was close to our hotel, but I had read online that it wasn't really worth seeing. We are so glad we got to see it, though! It was a really nice park with several man-made lakes, an aviary, an "Olympic Square" stadium, a cave, and fountains. When it started raining, we went into the Conservatory, which we never would have gone into otherwise, but it was very interesting! We saw lots of new plants (including a "bat flower" that really looked like bats), and I learned the difference between spices and herbs - herbs are from the leafy part of the plant and are found fresh or dried; spices are from the seeds/ fruits/ bark/ roots of the plant, and are almost always dried. There were thousands of plants there, from cinnamon to pineapples to cacti to lychee - we thought that if Pat were here, she would want to get hired!
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After the Park, we meandered through downtown Hong Kong a bit more, and marveled at the number of people streaming through the streets at all times. We had 3 separate recommendations to go to Mak's noodles, so we headed there, and were very impressed! We each got the wanton noodles with shrimp dumplings, and a side of vegetables (which I think was kai lan). We were impressed that it wasn't very touristy and was very tasty!
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After lunch, we headed to Kowloon to see the Hong Kong Museum of History. Embarassingly, neither Kev nor I really knew much about the history of Hong Kong prior to our trip. We spent 3 hours learning about the ancient civilizations there, the progression through history, the Opium Wars, the British takeover, the Japanese invasion, and the reunification with China. Way too much to write here, but we were fascinated! Kev's favorite was a festival where the Chinese build huge towers full of buns as an offering to the gods, and at the end, the people used to scramble after the towers to get the buns to eat! He also requested to take my picture by this display, which happened to be a festival where single women pray for good husbands. I thought this was funny :).
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After the museum, we headed back to the hotel and used the gym to shower and change. We then met up with Tom, our friend from Harvard who lives in Hong Kong. We had a drink with him at our hotel, traveled to the airport with him, and hung out in the lounge for a bit with him. Great to catch up with old friends! Of note, I had my first tofu in Asia here in the airport lounge ... I've been looking for vegetarian protein options forever and expected tofu to be rampant in Asia, but it hasn't been. Anyway, we take off soon for our (connecting) flight to Melbourne ... it is 11pm now, and we expect to arrive at our hotel at 2:30pm tomorrow ... it's gonna be a looong night!
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Catch you from Australia!
-Megan and Kevin

Posted by megandkev 07:45 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (0)

Gardens, Views, and Typhoons (oh my!)

storm 94 °F

We saw a lot of Hong Kong today, and are really glad we planned our adventures in this order (for reasons we'll discuss at the end of the post!). We started today with coffee, a workout, and breakfast goodies that we had picked up from the grocery store last night (as a side note, this luxuriously relaxed timing has had me wondering how I was ever done with a workout and out the hotel door at 8am for work ... guess I'll have to figure that out again in a few weeks!). We headed on the Metro (which was very efficient, clean, and self-explanatory) to the Nan Lian Garden, which was a small but beautiful garden with several smaller "exhibits" (mini temples, waterfalls, realistic models of famous Chinese temples, etc.).
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We walked around here for a while before heading into the main attraction of the Garden ... the Chi Lin Nunnery. The Nunnery was built in 1934 (and rebuilt in the 1990s in the traditional Chinese style ... with NO nails!). The inside of the Nunnery had many beautiful Buddhas, and opportunities to learn about the workings/ teachings of each one), but unfortunately, pictures were not allowed inside. I have borrowed this one from VirtualTourist as an example, but suffice it to say we really enjoyed looking around!
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After the Garden and Nunnery, we wandered into Hollywood Plaza, one of many huge malls in Hong Kong. (Side note: we found a store called "Marathon Sports" which literally had one pair of women's running shorts in the whole store ... tried them on ... they fit more or less ... bought them! yesss!). We had a great lunch - Kev had vermicelli with chicken and, after passing up the vegetarian restaurant in the Nunnery, I really wanted something vegetarian ... I ended up with a package meal of noodles in broth, steamed vegetables, and steamed vegetable buns (all delicious, but clearly way too much food - and refined carbs - for me!!)
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After looking around for a while, we took the Metro back to the City, and walked to the foot of the "Peak Tram," a funicular built in 1888 to take people up to Victoria Peak. The views from the top were incredible! We were able to get a 360o view at the Sky Terrace 428 (totally worth the extra $3!).
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We also grabbed a drink at the Peak to extend our viewing time just a bit! It was incredibly windy up there, and while we were there, they raised the Typhoon Warning flag from a 1 to a 3. We could see the dark clouds rolling in and started getting a bit worried about our big plans to see Lantau Island and the Giant Buddha tomorrow! After very long lines to come down from the Peak and a bit of a walk, we made it to our hotel just as the skies opened up! Even though we were really excited about either meeting up with a friend or trying Mak's Noodles due to 3 recommendations from friends, we decided to research the Typhoon Flag System a bit more, avoid the rain, and hang out inside, so we picked up food from a store connected to our hotel ... sushi, salad, Brussels sprouts, and tomatoes!
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As expected, the Typhoon Flag #8 has been hoisted (meaning "fit bars into positions ... insert reinforced shutters and gates ... do not stand by windows ... move all furniture away from windows ... decide which rooms you will use to shelter" - all a bit disconcerting on the 47th floor of a hotel filled with windows :)). Unfortunately, the tour company has not cancelled our tour for tomorrow, despite several of the attractions being shut down (they do this so they don't have to refund us). Despite this, we are fairly sure we will play it safe and not go on the tour tomorrow. Thanks to my awesome sister for warning us to stay away from surrounding islands (like Lantau) from halfway around the world! Don't worry, even though we're bummed to skip on tomorrow, we are 100% safe - we may have some delays for our flight tomorrow evening, but all in all, we are so glad we got to see 2 full days of Hong Kong and know we're better safe than sorry.

We'll try to update tomorrow, despite being on an overnight flight to Melbourne during my usual posting time!
-Megan and Kevin

Posted by megandkev 07:10 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (0)

The Calm Before the Storm

Last (half) day in Thailand, first day in Hong Kong

semi-overcast 94 °F

We made it to Hong Kong and have enjoyed our first full day here! I'm going to wrap up Tuesday as quickly as possible and try to condense today's adventures ... there's just SO much to cram in this one post!

Yesterday, we lived out our Thai "schedule" as long as possible, trying our best to deny that we had to leave that afternoon :(. Coffee --> gym --> breakfast (french toast for Kev, egg white omelet for me - with bacon for Kev) --> pool time.
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Kev even convinced me to get on board with his yoga poses ... I know these pictures are horrendous form, but they had just cleaned the ledge, and trying to balance on an infinity edge with a cliff on one side is a little scarier than it looks!
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We reluctantly packed up, showered, and were out of there by 3. We had a while to wait around for our 6:45 flight, which was then delayed. We waited for about an hour to go through immigration in Hong Kong, then "lost" our bags (our fault), then waited for a cab which took us to the wrong place, etc. ... it all commenced with us getting to bed around 2:30am (way later than our retiree-style bedtime!)
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Needless to say, we tried to sleep in this morning, but only made it until about 7:30. We took our time with coffee and working out, and then headed out to explore Hong Kong. We explored Pacific Place (a mall with tons of upscale shops), then saw Statue Square (with a 15-year celebratory display of Hong Kong reunification and the legislative buildings surrounding).
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We walked around Hong Kong for a while, often in very circuitous routes - many of the streets don't really have sidewalks and/ or crosswalks, and they make it very difficult to jaywalk or cross streets illegally! After looping around the city a few times, we've now realized that there are skywalks connecting almost every building on the 2nd or 3rd level, and this is a much easier way to get around! After looking for restaurants for a while, we ended up at Taipan, which we imagine is a Panera-equivalent. Kev got chicken fried rice, and I got a side salad and cabbage soup (not very Chinese, I know!). We ended up eating on the stairs of a metro station exit because we couldn't find a spot! We strolled through the Gage Street Market, which was tons of vendors of food/ clothing/ household goods/ everything else you could have imagined. I would have spent the next 8 hours here, but Kev was getting pretty hot and bored, so we headed on our way. We got to take the mid-level escalator, which is the world's longest at 800 meters long, and includes entrances/ exits at most major streets!
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We next explored Man Mo Temple, Hong Kong's oldest temple (built 1848), which honors both the civil god (of literature) and the martial god. The temple ceiling is full of spirals of incense to attract the attention of the gods. As we've seen in other Buddhist temples, visitors leave food (mostly fruit) and drinks as offerings; this time, though, we spotted full-on meals and opened beer cans!
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Shortly after lunch, the lack of sleep and heat got to Kev, and he decided to head home. I wanted to stroll through some more street markets and browse around some more. I also tackled these stairs to view St. John's Cathedral, the oldest Anglican church in the Far East. It was very pretty, although the iPhone pictures don't do it justice (Kev took the camera back).
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I saw Cheung Kong Park (a "green oasis" in the busiest part of Hong Kong), and of course found a Hong Kong underground supermarket (I can't help it, I'm powerless to resist exploring the foods of other cultures!).
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After resting a bit back at the hotel, we headed back out - this time across the Star Ferry to Kowloon Island, the "other part" of Hong Kong. The views while crossing Victoria Harbor were incredible! The skyline of Hong Kong really is great. We sat on a viewing area on the other side for about an hour waiting for the "Symphony of Lights," Hong Kong's Guiness-Book-of-World-Records-holding spectacle of lights, which included lit up and animated buildings, lasers, and music. It was incredible to see how they have choreographed the light changes so perfectly with the music! Kev especially enjoyed the show, as he loves skylines.
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By the time this was over, it was almost 9:30, and due to having no breakfast and a small lunch, I was very hungry (I say "hangry" for the times when I am so hungry I am angry, or at least really cranky!). We wandered into several restaurants that would have run us upwards of $100/ person, and finally settled on the closest thing possible - basically a food court in a mall. The food ... well ... kind of tasted like it was from a food court! Kev got fried rice in an egg covering, and I got a green curry (the green beans were great, everything else ... well ... ). Oh well, we boarded the ferry back to Hong Kong Island and enjoyed the 30-ish-minute walk home. (Side note: I am sore again from walking - probably about 6 hours of it again today. Still cracks me up that we can run much further and not get as tired!). On the way back, we saw HUGE crowds trying to pose with a bunch of life-sized, blue, cartoon-looking statues. Anyone know what these are?
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Off to bed for another fun-filled day tomorrow! By the way, the "storm" I reference in the title is both figurative and literal ... I hear some major storms outside right now, and there is supposedly a typhoon brewing! Keep your fingers crossed that it heads far away!
-Megan and Kevin

Posted by megandkev 08:20 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (3)

Soaking it all in ...

Last full day in Thailand

sunny 90 °F

We had a phenomenal last full day in Kamala, and are reluctant to head off tomorrow (but excited for our next adventures!) Basically, today was an exact replica of Saturday, so I'll try to be brief ...

We started with coffee on the patio and then went to breakfast. I went with the hardboiled eggs and veggies again, and tried a new fruit (mangosteen, you just eat the white part). Kevin did the coconut waffle again. I also got this beautiful flower arrangement since it was the Queen (of Thailand)'s birthday yesterday.
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We spent the day alternating between the main pool and our patio (with a little gym time thrown in, of course). Kevin got to practice his "yoga" on the edge of the infinity pool ...
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We headed out for another $9, 60-minute massage at the same place, and then went to dinner at the same place as Saturday (I know, so boring, but at least we got different things! We went a little overboard on the ordering ... Kevin started with the lobster bisque and the fried spring rolls, and I started with Spicy Thai Papaya Salad (soo good, but spicy is not an understatement!). Then, Kevin had fried noodles with shrimp and vegetables, and I had a soup of greens (I think morning glory) in coconut milk broth. Yes, I actually ordered a beer! After hearing they were out of wine, coconut water, and Diet Coke, and realizing that beer was $1, I decided to work on trying to hate beer less (9 years too late for college!)
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We took this pretty sweet lit-up open-air taxi back to the hotel, and are spending the night here relaxing.
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Oh, but don't forget the 7-11 stop for snacks ... this haul was $6 (and no, we haven't quite finished our haul from Saturday, but we figured we'd stock up now ... and this is why we work out every day, even on vacation :) ).
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I'll leave you with two last pictures from today. The first is me standing on the outside of the hotel lobby, with the 24-karat-plated floor. The second is the main pool of the hotel lit up for the night.
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We arrive in Hong Kong after midnight tomorrow night, so no promises on blogging. If not, we'll catch you Wednesday!
-Megan and Kevin

Posted by megandkev 06:54 Archived in Thailand Comments (2)

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