A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: katierichaards

Macau? More like Mac-wow!

On the 25th we spent the day in Macau, an island that was previously colonized by Portugal. It is now considered "the Las Vegas of Asia" and is home to the worlds largest casino (according to Wikipedia) The Venetian. So of course we went to check it out. This casino is absolutely massive. It is a hotel, a casino, and a shopping mall all under one fabulously adorned roof, and it even has a mini Venice inside. The shopping area is made to look like you are walking the streets of Venice, complete with a river full of singing, paddling gondoliers just waiting to give you an incredibly expensive ride through the middle of the "city". Did I mention this is on the third floor of the building? The ceiling is painted to look like a partly cloudy sky and lit to resemble mid afternoon sunlight. I was completely taken aback as we walked from the regular shopping center (where we enjoyed a mcdonalds lunch - the cheapest option) into what at first glance looks like the outdoors.

It was in this mini Venice that we also discovered that blonde haired white girls are apparently somewhat of an oddity in Asia and are therefore the object of many middle aged Chinese women's camera lenses. I was even asked by multiple women to take a photo with them. I felt like a celebrity.

We decided to gamble a little bit (who wouldn't in this venue?) so we played the nickel slots for Brent's Granny. We lost everything, all 10 Hong Kong dollars that we played (I will let you figure out that conversion rate on your own).

After our affair with the slots we headed to see the old historic area of Macau where you can still see European Christian influence. There is a wall, just the front wall, of an old cathedral that was apparently brought down because of a number of earthquakes, but somehow the front wall has managed to stay intact. You can also see a TON of tourists. It was impossible to get a photo without at least 30 other people in it and yet we still saw two different couples taking wedding photos there. We wandered around and took some photos, got some dinner (soup with dumplings) and slowly made our way back to the ferry terminal. By this time it was dark and we had an inexplicable craving for Dairy Queen but we did not pass one on the way. We did however find an outdoor exercise park and had a hilarious time trying out the equipment.

We took the ferry back to Hong Kong and went straight to bed, exhausted after a long day of sightseeing.

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Posted by katierichaards 17:56 Comments (0)

Hong Kong? More like Hong Kon-sistently having a good time h

Hong Kong was big and fun and expensive and also quite beautiful for a city. It is divided by water into two halves that overlook each other and the views are incredible. On top of having two mirrored harbour fronts, it also lies amongst mountains. There is shopping, hiking, temples, markets, bars - you name it and you can find it here.

On out first day we arrived in the afternoon exhausted after going to bed late and getting up early so we accidentally took a nap for 3 hours. By the time we left our nice little apartment (in a very old and rather sketchy looking building with only a very narrow four flights of stairs and a faint smell of urine to get to our room) it was dark and we were hungry. So we found some - you guessed it - cheap but delicious dumplings to eat and headed to the temple street night market. There are considerably fewer Engrish tshirts in Hong Kong unfortunately.

We went back to our apartment and (as it was almost my birthday in Asia) I facetimed my family for the first time of our trip. Now when I say I facetimed my family I really only mean most of my family, and not all at once. I got to talk to my mom who was home in ancaster and exclaimed "I've never done this before!" (Facetiming, not talking to her daughter). After a nice long chat I then talked to my dad who was in Las Vegas for business (who also had never facetimed before) and then PJ who was in Kamloops, BC. I got a message from Graham and Jessie who were in Greece at the time, but no live chat unfortunately. I think it might be the first time all five of us have been in completely different parts of the world. And I'm sure mom was having the most enjoyable time out of all of us gardening at home in ancaster :)

The next day was my birthday! We made the theme 22 With A View so we planned to do everything (as the title clearly explains) with a view. Brent bought me a bottle of champagne and the plan was to pop the top off into the harbour at the avenue of stars, however the bottle was actually a sneaky twist off so I was a bit confused and disappointed about that. Then we took the ferry across to the island and took the team up to the peak to see a rather cloudy and rainy view of the city. We rushed back to our apartment to change into our fancy clothes that we bought for super cheap in Taiwan and had high tea on the 102nd floor of the Ritz Carlton, a swanky hotel with an amazing view! We finished off the day with drinks and a lights show on the harbour. A perfect birthday.

The following day was shopping and eating (of course) more dumplings at a delicious dim sum restaurant called Tim Ho Wan. We spent the evening at Causeway Bay and had dinner at a quirky little restaurant called _______ that supposedly served Asian comfort food. We both ordered "macaroni" and expected (as any Canadian would) some sort of macaroni and cheese dish, but instead we received bowls of an unknown broth full of macaroni noodles and slabs of meat. I had luckily just stuck to "Ham Macaroni" so mine had about four large slices of Christmas dinner style ham. Brent on the other hand had ordered "House Macaroni" which had approximately five different types of meat in it including what was unmistakable ox tongue. Yuck. Maybe it's just me but I have no intention I tasting something that can taste me back. Overall the restaurant was good though, and we spent the rest of the evening walking around Causeway Bay, drinking 7Eleven pear Somersby, and sitting with our legs dangling over the water watching the stars and lights from the buildings and fish jumping out of the water.

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Posted by katierichaards 08:56 Comments (0)

I made it!

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View Temples and Bitchez on katierichaards's travel map.

So I made it to Singapore and I found Brent miraculously after only giving him the information "my flight arrives at 12:20am" without a flight number or even the airline I flew with. After spending more than an entire day on planes and in airports I arrived exhausted, excited, and very very hot.

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(In bottom photo from top left: Toronto, Chicago, Hong Kong, Singapore)

Posted by katierichaards 20:32 Archived in Singapore Comments (1)

Singapore? More like singa-RICH with things to see!

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View Temples and Bitchez on katierichaards's travel map.

I have now spent three days in Singapore and I absolutely love it. Everything is so clean and efficient and their top attractions are eating and shopping - what could be better?! It is incredibly hot here; I don't think there has been a moment that I haven't been at least a little bit sweaty. It's a good thing the dewey look is in, because between the heat and the sunscreen I am definitely following that trend. My hair has definitely gotten even bigger thanks to the humidity (it's even more full of secrets now). The food has been good so far although I have no idea what I'm eating most of the time, I've just been making Brent order things for me. No allergic reactions though so that's a success!

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(At Marina Bay)

Brent's campus is beautiful, it definitely puts other campuses to shame. When you step outside it smells like lilacs and all the buildings are white and the grass is so green. There are even water features and there is an outdoor infinity pool that we got to swim in for about 2.5 seconds today before they closed it for a lighting storm that never came.

We have done a fair amount of sight seeing so far and Brent has shown me around a few parts of the city. Everything is fairly expensive here but worth it. Last night we went to a bar called 1-Altitude, an al fresco bar on the 63rd floor of a 282 meter high building with an amazing view of the city. Brent calls this the number one thing to see in Singapore, although his "Southeast Asia on a Shoesting" book claims that Little India fills that spot. I'm sure it's a toss up.

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(The view from 1-Altitude of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel light show)

One of the most interesting things I've experienced here is the ice cream, because an ice cream sandwich looks like this. Yes that is bread, and yes it is dyed pink and green, and no this isn't considered strange here.

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(An ice cream sandwich.. Literally)

Tomorrow we head to the Philippines bright and early! I'm so excited for it but we have a full day of traveling to get up to El Nido where we are staying. At least I won't be traveling by myself this time!

Posted by katierichaards 20:30 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Taiwan? More like Tai-wasn't disappointed!

Taiwan was really enjoyable and we packed a lot into the five days we were there! Our first morning we spent a couple of hours planning more of our trip and booking flights and hostels. Then we went to the Taipei 101 skyscraper (it used to be the tallest in the world) and decided not to go up because the lineup was crazy! So instead we had a delicious late lunch of dim sum at the bottom and made complete fools of ourselves because we didn't know the proper etiquette. This began a long lasting and often sought after relationship with dumplings and pork buns. Not a day went past that we didn't eat dumplings and we didn't just eat them, we longed for them. It became a sort of game to see who could spot our next lovers haven (aka dumpling restaurant) and of course they are on almost every street corner so we were rarely disappointed. Except for the afternoon we went to Tamshui and were forced to eat wonton soup which is just not the same.

We filled our days with visiting temples, the national museum, night markets, and of course dumplings. We also took a train down the east coast and did a day hike through the Taroko Gorge (more like Tar-oh so gorgeous!) which was absolutely beautiful. The only downfall is that we were supposed to be on a hop-on-hop-off bus tour that took us to 7 different spots to hike and explore but it turned out to be more of a hop-off-and-never-see-your-bus-again tour. After getting off at one of the first stops and then spending a couple hours hiking (and laughing at the tourists who showed up in wedges compared to my yoga mom ensemble) we walked back to the bus stop and waited for our bus. And waited. And waited.

Finally we looked at a map an decided that, because the tour went in a bit of a loop, we could walk to the last stop which was only about 2 km away from us. So we did that and climbed up to some temples high up in the cliffs and around to the final stop. And then we waited for our bus again. And waited. And waited. There were tons of people there but we could not locate the orange bus that we were supposed to hop onto. Finally we asked another tour guide for help and ended up with no less than six people ranging from about age 7 to 70 (most of whom could not speak English but were very eager to help us) trying to help us decipher our very soggy bus schedule (did I mention it was raining all day?). Someone tried calling the tour company to no avail. Four people told us that the bus was supposed to arrive at 5:30 but that was the part if the schedule that we could read so that didn't really help us at all. Honestly it was quite hilarious but in the end no one was able to help us and we were left on out own to wait until 5:30 and hopefully find our orange bus.

As we watched bus load after bus load of people drive away and as we had almost given up hope, a very swanky looking orange bus straight out of the seventies pulled up beside us and said "Hualien?" Yes that's us! That's where we want to go! He must have recognized the very lost and helpless looks on our faces because he had no other reason to know that we were headed back to Hualien. I'm guessing it happens daily.

We finally did make it back to Hualien and to our hostel and got (of course) some dumplings to finish off the day. We headed back to Taipei the next day and spent the afternoon doing laundry and watching our plans of going to one last night market wash away as it poured buckets outside. So we got dumplings from around the corner and stayed in for the night.

I should also mention that we had a hilarious time reading tshirts in the stores of Taiwan. Many of the shirts are in Engrish, as we like to say, and I don't think they could be funnier if they tried.

Next stop Hong Kong!

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Making dumplings at the fancy dim sum restaurant

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Taiwanese "fast food" dumplings

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Confucius Temple

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Taroko Gorge

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Taroko Gorge temple

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Engrish tshirt

Posted by katierichaards 20:09 Comments (0)

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