travel

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Aylene Escapades Day 6 Macau

So today started off a little earlier than usual, only because we were heading out to Macao and thought it best to get a semi-early start.  With Gluten intolerance on the mind we headed straight to starbucks and grabbed some drinks then slowly trekked towards the MTR and the Ferry terminal. For those who haven’t done this before do not forget your passport!

Aylene and I enjoyed the ride and chatted or napped the 45mins or so it took and when we arrived we headed for maps to make a POA (Plan Of Action). Ay wanted to visit at least one of the big hotels so we went all the way to the Vienna  Hotel thinking they would have food options for her and also because it is lovely to see during the day. We found a burger joint, yes a burger joint, and ate a little something there looking over a lovely set of maps. We decided it was time to leave the hotel and proceeded to spend the next 45 minutes to an hour trying to get out. We asked for directions, three times. They gave us these vague directions that got us more turned around than ever and just as we started to feel a little trapped we found our way out.

Our first job was to grab a taxi and head towards the four sided Buddha which was on our side of the Peninsular, after that we had to try find a bus back to the other end but the bus stop we were directed to was no longer in operation. It really was just a comical bit of bad luck we were having. We finally got on the bus and crossed the bridge, Ay decided she wanted to see something so we got off at a different stop and slowly meandered our way towards St Paul’s Cathedral and all the toursityness surrounding it.

After much hiking up hills and walking around looking at the different ruins we went to look at a lovely garden and spent some time in there. Ay wanted to get a custard tart so we went in search of that,  it took us forever to find. I decided she needed to learn to read an actual map and not just one on the phone so we took a while to get where we wanted to be. On the bright side she found the delish egg tarts that she wanted and due to the gluten could only eat the custard part. eish. Finally with the sun going down and the exhaustion setting in, we found our way to a bus that would take us to the Ferry and home.

I definitely enjoyed Macau more this time, it’s a lot more fun going with someone else and sharing it with them!

 

Avenue of the Stars

After a lovely warm day basking in the sun we were ready to continue our day and actually make it to The Avenue.

Retracing our steps and walking along the harbour towards The Avenue you will find that there are a few people offering to take photographs for you. Once taken they let you choose the size you want and they print them out, obviously this is a paid service. Once you get to the official start of The Avenue there is this large statue, very difficult to take photographs of due to the plethora of photobombers.

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We walked the entire Avenue and while it was fun do not expect too much from it. There are tons of stars, keep an eye out for the ones with handprints in them, there are also really funky statues along the path. There are not too many of these but it’s still pretty fun.

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Now I am not sure if this happens to all foreigners or if it only happens to those of us who look very odd. S is super pale with platinum blonde hair and tatts, you don’t see that combination very often and at the time I had super (almost shocking) red hair so we made quite an impression on the mainlanders who were visiting. To the extent where we were taking photos and posing for each other, having a great laugh, when we caught the mainlanders taking pics of us. We did have this really sweet group who wanted us in their pictures and the fastest way to get them to leave was to just stand and smile. They found us later on and asked us for a group photo as well. It was really funny, I have never had so many people taking photo’s of me. Also very awkward!

I am looking forward to redoing The Avenue with a darling friend who will (hopefully) be visiting. This time though I think I will go for sunset and have us do The Avenue at night when it is supposed to be really lovely.

Has anyone been to the Avenue at night or does anyone have a suggestion for a day outing there? 

 

 

 

 

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HK Harbour

A little while ago S and I went off to explore the Harbour at TST. The plan was to spend our Sunday walking The Avenue of the Stars and so we headed in the general direction. As usual  we decided to not check on the exact directions. Lets be honest though, so far this has worked wonders for us. We meandered down the street in the general direction of the harbour following the ever faulty google maps navigator.

Now just before you get to the beginning of The Avenue you will come across a big dome. It looks very intriguing but actually wasnt. However as we headed towards it with curiosity we did find 1. The Avenue and 2. The Hong Kong Museum of art, which seems to be in the process of moving as it was closed and had a large sign. Now my favourite thing here were these large wooden statues that reminded me a lot of my big sisters final year sculptures. 

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20150913_153353We spent  a bit of time playing around here and then continued our20150913_153459 trek to the right of sculptures, we were following the music we could hear. Boy did we stumble upon something fantastic! They were having some big dance competition or rather, dance battle, going on here. We were at the cultural centre and there were judges and contestants as well as the fluctuating audience.

We watched one or two of the ‘battles’ and then continued our trek,20150913_154547we wanted a great view of the skyline and we found it. They have this platform area with places to sit and relax which happens to have an amazing view of the harbour. While walking along this we looked down and noticed this wondrous spectacle, a Lantern Sculpture for the Mid-Autumn festival (we found this out later.)

The harbour seems to be another area where people gather on a Sundays. We walked down the stairs of the platform for a closer look at the lanterns and found many people. There were two kids who were attempting to sketch pieces of the display, they were doing a remarkable job. There were selfies,kids playing and families chatting and under the platform there were more families, on blankets.

There were Junk boats loading and off loading, a pirate ship that stopped for passengers and some actresses from the theatre nearby.There was sun and life and so much laughter, I loved it! The best part of it was the ocean smell, it reminded me of home and my amazing family. While you cannot spend an entire day at the harbour, you can definitely spend some time relaxing there before you hit The Avenue.

For some more photos have a look here Gallery

 

 

 

 

Mid-autumn Festival

 

A few weeks ago we had the Mid-Autumn festival which promised to be a wonderful event. We read up on other blogs and checked out the HK tourism site and everything pointed to it being an unmissable experience. Of course this meant that S and I had to go, we had already missed one or two events that we had wanted to go to so we thought we would make sure to go to this.

The warm up to the festival included lots and lots and lots of Mooncake adverts, as well as some eating. 🙂 My Center Owner bought some and gave us each one on the day as we were working the Saturday. Also the Lantern displays were up for a few weeks before hand at TST and in the New territories somewhere as well.

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The official ceremony was on the Sunday night but one could go and look at the lantern displays from the 23 -28th of September(before the festival)they were open every night from 6:30pm to 11:00 pm.

At the same time there was going to be a fire dragon dance at Tai Hang that I wanted to go to. Luckily though instead of having to choose between the two the village extended the fire dragon dance to join the mid-autumn festival at Victoria park for that one evening.

We left semi early because there was supposed to be a lot to see and do at the festival grounds and we did not want to miss a thing. Off we trekked in excited anticipation and grabbed the MTR. We took the red line to central and then grabbed the exit my gps told us to. In the end we just had to follow all the people and the lights but when we first got out of the exit we were not sure which way to go and so we used our innate South African sense of direction, clued in by the lights, to go towards the arena.

The whole festival took up a large amount of space as it was spread out nicely so we weren’t crushed by hoarders of people. When we entered we saw a booth selling all sorts of lighted headbands and bracelets.There were also first aid booths, drinks, food, jewellery and other random booths that you could buy stuff at. These were all along the length of the park on the one side while the lantern displays were in the middle of the park.

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They had other booths as well along the opposite side of the park. Here we found them craft items such as amazingly crafted art on olive pips and they showed the making of the Chinese opera head pieces. They also had a bunch of selfie style stations in to put your face through and they had a large area where you could line up, get dressed in traditional wear and have photographs taken.

We walked around and took photographs of the lanterns, looked at the booths and watched one or two performances. Taking photo’s of the Lanterns was a mission though, the people walked in front of us as we were trying to take photo’s. they stand right in front of the displays so that no one else is able to take pics and then they spend like 15minutes blocking the view. It was really frustrating even trying to just look at the displays because of this. However we did get some good shots and got to see everything. The organization was pretty good as well, they had volunteers walking around that would take photo’s for people and help them out.

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As to I t being unmissable, I suppose that is a matter of opinion. I enjoyed looking at the displays, they were phenomenal and if we hadn’t been waiting for the fire dragon dance we probably would have just left shortly after we saw everything. Unfortunately we really wanted to see the fire dragon dance. The dragon was awesome but it really was not worth the log wait. By the time it started it was after 11pm. They had about 30 minutes of speeches and then they did a dedication of sorts for the dragon, then there was another 15 minutes or so of watching Scottish folk dancing ( no Chinese dancing)with bagpipes, before the dragon finally made an appearance. It looked amazing but I could have left after a few minutes. We couldn’t see much as everyone was standing and shoving. We stuck it out to almost the end and finally managed to get closer to the front and see the dragon properly.

I will definitely not go out of my way to take part in the festival again, but I really did enjoy seeing some of the crafts on display as well as the lanterns.

 

 

Getting to LKF

 

Directions:

MTR to Central

Exit D2 and turn left, walk along  the road. Turn left into Theatre Lane, and up D’Aguilar Street.

MTR

The MTR generally runs to half past 12 at night and starts at half past 5 in the morning; so if you leave too late take a taxi or look for a green minibus at the bottom of the main street. (down the hill look to your left)

 

 

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Getting to Monkey Mountain from Mong Kok

 

We took the MTR from Yau Ma Tai to Cheung Sha Wan and then bus 72. You will need to take the Tseun Wan line (red line).

http://www.mtr.com.hk/archive/en/services/routemap.pdf

We got of at exit A3 but I would suggest taking exit A2 as you can see.

Cheung wan to the bus

By bus:

You can take bus 81 anywhere along Nathan Road from Jordan Road onwards. Check out the bus stops and look for the correct number. We got dropped off at the stop by Mong Kok Station. You may have to try out several bus stop before you find the one servicing 81.But make sure that you are on the correct side of the road! Bus 'map'

On the right is an image I took of the bus stop we were at. it shows where you are and which way the bus will go.

Get off at the Shek Lei Pui Reservoir stop just before the bridge. Check out the KMB website for further information.

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To reach the park from the road, follow the access road next to the toilet block. It will take you down to the southern end of Kowloon Reservoir from where you can join  one of the various smaller walks.                    IMG_1852 IMG_1843

 

 

 

 

Doctor visit

A good rule of thumb when moving to Hong Kong is that within the first month most people get sick and need to take sick leave. In my training group several of the new teachers did just that. Some of us stuck it out, but almost everyone got sick to some varying degree. The good thing about Hong Kong is that you can find Doctors all over the place.

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HK Disney

 

Once you have taken the appropriate amount of photo’s with your friends and the must have ‘Selfie’, it’s time to head into the park. Where you will find a smaller version of Florida. Now remember we are in Hong Kong so things will be very different. There is no animal kingdom nor Epcot. But there are different and smaller versions of these.

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MTR map

MTR

 

I love the MTR, it’s absolutely fabulous, I can get to pretty much anywhere with the train. There are buses that arrive and depart on time and taxi’s that are not over priced and safe to drive in. But more on them later.

Now Namibia, my beloved country, and South Africa are very similar in many ways. Neither country has a very good public transport system. There are buses, mini buses and taxi’s. Buses are often running late or stuck on strike, but invariably at some stage they will be late. Taxi’s are not always the greatest in SA or in Nam, actually they can be rather scary to drive in.

To be honest I have never been in a taxi back home, they are not the safest and I’ve been lucky enough to have friends and family able to give me a lift or loan me a car. In SA we have one high-speed train, The Gautrain, now its lovely and all that but it is super expensive and is only in Gauteng with stations between JHB and PTA. The commuter ‘rush’ has nothing on the rush here in Hong Kong. But then, nor does the Gautrain.

The MTR has several payment options; a one-way ticket, an Octopus card and some of the banks even seem to have a special Octopus card. The Octopus card seems to save about HKD 1-3 every trip compared to the one way ticket. Now as I said in an earlier post it was the first thing I bought on arrival in Hong Kong. Best  purchase ever!

Since my first trip on the MTR on Orientation day I have used the train almost daily. I use it to go to my centre in the New Territories every day, I actually have to switch lines every day. I’ve now been on it when it is super busy and when it is super quiet.

My lovely ex-colleague and friend Nontobeko was chatting to me on skype and I was telling her about the MTR. Something she reminded me of is that we have all seen movies shot in Asia showing masses of people jammed into the trains and on the streets. I never really thought of it but I realise that like her I always thought that they over dramatised it to make it look bigger. I have to say though that since then I have literally been in a train several times where we were jammed into a car like sardines. The movies give the right image, there are people jammed on top of each other.

The trains run smoothly and usually within 2-3 mins of each other, yet for some reason you will see people literally running to the train and almost getting squashed by the doors just to be on the train leaving that very minute.

Now ignoring all of that horrible imagery of sardines, the MTR is really quiet marvellous. The system is vast, it reaches all the way to the HK/China border and goes to the Island. The lines are colour coded and you can always tell which station you are at as the trains will always tell you. The stations are also colour coded and during busy times you will see marshals making sure that no one gets too close to the train.

For more information on the Octopus card go here:

http://www.octopus.com.hk/home/en/index.html

 

 

 

Ferry ride to Macau

 

So today I braved my alarm clock and headed off to Macau. I had an 8am ticket and I still do not know why I did that to myself.

I will do a write-up about why I needed to go to Macau and other useful things you may need to know at a later date.

First and foremost though, you can buy a ticket one of two ways; online or in person. I bought mine online before I left SA. Have a look here for more information on schedules and prices for TurboJet :TURBOJET FERRY

Needless to say I arrived late after having gone to the wrong ticket area because I was rushed and asleep. Being my first month in Hong Kong I seemed to be doing a lot of silly things,like being late for things when I rarely am and leaving behind my credit card when I know I will need it. I bought my ticket to Macau online as was suggested so of course I would need it. Somehow as I grabbed my stuff this morning, looked at my cards and decided that I would not need either one and best to keep them safe at home. Great thinking. 

So eventually, after heading to the wrong ticket counter because I wast paying attention, I made it to the correct counter and tried to get my ticket. I was late, I didn’t have my CC and I had no hope. Thankfully here the are a lot more understanding than back home! The guy behind the counter listened to me explain that I got lost and oh no I dd not  have my CC with me to claim my ticket and I was really really sorry, I just knew I would have to pay for a second ticket so I wasnt even going to argue.  was after all completely in the wrong. The next thing I knew they were refunding me on my CC and saying I could get a new ticket if i had the cash on me, I did yes, so within 5 minutes I was sorted and told to head down to immigration and the ferry. Can I just say wow, I definitely have someone watching over me!

From the ticket counter it is a relatively simple path to immigration, you follow the signs and head on through. It is really painless! Once you are through immigration you can go down to the boarding gate and wait in line for your ferry. Make sure  that you go to the counter at the gate if everyone has already started going through the door! Otherwise you wont have  a seat number oopsi! Luckily I had a super helpful official who told me to quickly grab a  sticker.

Of course being my trip there was some poor guy who lost his breakfast, before we got onto the ferry!

We boarded the ferry and it was not at all what I had expected. from the way others had been talking I had expected that the economy class we were told to buy would be super icky. It was actually rather nice, I sat at the window and we had comfy seats. The boat does obviously take forever to undock and head out of the bay into open water. There is a lot of bobbing about and a few people were definitely feeling queasy. Out we went and we got to see the stunning ocean. Most of the trip is pretty boring so be prepared with some music or  a book or even have a nap, you will see some boats and as you get closer to Macau it will start to look great. You will see the Macau skyline and it really is rather lovely.

After about an hour you will have arrived in Macau, well you still need to go through immigration that is.Immigration was so easy again though so other than waiting in line if it is busy it isn’t too bad. Once through immigration follow the people to find your way out. now here it get tricky. If you don’t have a map of Macau handy or know where you want to go you could feel a little lost. So once you go down towards the exit you will see a tourist center at one door as well as information desk. I went to the tourist center and grabbed a bunch of pamphlets and one or two mini maps. They were really helpful. I semi planned my way out and left the building, as far as the free wi-fi would take me that is. I had to try figure out which bus I wanted and what stop I would then need. When you exit you will see the road, taxi’s a bus stop and a second further bus stop (you can casino hop with these). I used the closer bus stop because I didnt want to go to the casino’s. While their command of English is not great do ask for help, I got a really helpful old guy that showed me which buses and how much to pay.

More on Macau here Macau 🙂 

On a last note, in Macau your HK Sim Card wont work, so you can ether buy a new one when you get there or just spend the day unreachable 🙂