Because I am heading out tomorrow on a 3 week trip [yay for school holidays!], and am getting seriously behind in blogging, I figured I’d better dig into some of my past travels and try to catch up a little bit. The blog will be quiet for a few weeks as I don’t have any scheduled posts, but I’ll keep on trying to catch up as I have time.
One of the highlights of my Asia trip back in February was a visit to Angkor Wat, in Cambodia. As the largest religious complex in the world, (depending on your parameters) Angkor is pretty spectacular. My real reason for being interested in it, though, was the fact that it looked pretty fun to photograph. And it certainly was! Despite the crowds, and intense heat and humidity, I was still able to get a few shots that I really liked. The place would be absolutely fabulous for a photo shoot if there was no one else there!
If you get the chance to visit Angkor while on a trip to Southeast Asia and Cambodia, definitely plan to spend a while there. [They offer 7 day passes for a reason!] We only spent a few hours there and I really wished we’d had more time there!
Last week one of my au pair friends from Brisbane flew into Perth and we spent 6 days roadtripping down south to Esperance and over to Wave Rock on our way back up to Perth. I had heard a lot about Esperance and everyone always raved about the stunning beaches, so I was really excited to be finally heading down there.
But…what is a road trip without a few hiccups? To start with, the weather forecast was awful. All it predicted was rain and thunderstorms for the time we’d be down there. We knew it was wintertime, obviously, so expected it to be cold. But I hadn’t thought about the fact that we might get rain. After picking up my friend from the airport, we headed down the Albany hwy straight into Albany where we had planned to spend 2 nights. We had some pretty bad weather on the way, with gusts of wind blowing rain all over the place and huge road trains kicking up more water on our windshield. On the bright side, the rain kept all the kangaroos off the road! When we finally got down there and checking into our hostel, I discovered that I had left my backpack with literally all my clothes (minus my pjs) back at the house. That was a really fun surprise, ha. Thankfully I had all my toiletries, pajamas, and our towels in another bag so I at least had some things. We ended up walking to the nearby K-Mart and finding all the things I needed to get by for under $30.00!
We spent the next day in the Albany/Denmark area so I could show my friend all the beautiful places there. I got to see some new things too, thanks to a guy at the hostel telling us how we could climb over to a hidden beach. It was interesting trying to get there, but once we made it, it was so much fun!
The next day we drove to Esperance, stopping at Bremer Bay along the way, and visiting a lot of the beaches there. We had originally wanted to visit one of the national parks nearby, but a lady who stopped at a roadhouse we were eating lunch at, recommended we skip it as the road wasn’t paved and they had recently had rain. It was pitch black when we finally pulled into Esperance and I was so thankful we had taken her advice and skipped the park. It would have been so late when we finally got to our destination otherwise.
The next morning we had planned to drive the 38 kilometer Great Ocean Drive near Esperance, but when we woke up to a constant rain and very grey skies, we were unsure. We got up and got ready and then drove to the information office to ask about things to do when it’s raining. They didn’t really have too much to offer, although we did take their suggestions, stopping later at the glass shop and the fish leather factory after finishing the Great Ocean Drive, [the drive was FABULOUS.] The glass shop turned out to be a great stop as we were able to sit and have tea and scones and chat with the owner’s husband (I think?) and he recommended we still check out Cape Le Grand National Park even though it was raining. He said the weather was sometimes better over there and that it was still worth seeing in the rain. I am so glad we did (I had decided against it after we saw it was raining) because the stops were great even in the slight drizzle, and later the rain cleared up and the sky became beautiful! We would have missed so much had we not stopped.
The next morning we packed up and left Esperance [and our quirky hostel] and headed home by way of Wave Rock. So many Australians had told me Wave Rock wasn’t worth stopping at, but as it wasn’t out of our way to stop, we did anyways and I am so glad we did. It was so fascinating.
I highly recommend Esperance and the Great Ocean Drive and Cape Le Grand National Park!!!
I need to wrap up Hong Kong before I head back there next month, ha! [just a long layover on my way back from Japan. but still…]
So here are the rest of the pictures and thoughts from Hong Kong [actually this is not the rest of the pictures but I’m trying not to overwhelm you]:
Hong Kong was definitely a great experience, even though I thought I was going to die from the humidity and heat [ok, not really. But almost.]. I realized later why it felt so hot to me compared to when I spent a month in Asia in February and hadn’t been as affected by the weather. When I went to Asia last time it was from hot and humid Brisbane, where I had lived for the past 5.5 months. This time, I went to Asia from Perth which is dry and cool right now. My body clearly didn’t like the change. So I presume that as Perth moves further into winter and gets colder, it will be even more of a shock to head to hot and humid Japan next month. We’ll see… =) Actually, now that I think of it, I am flying to Japan from TASMANIA, not Perth. Tasmania gets a “real” winter, with snow and such. So yes, my body will be quite shocked to arrive in Asia after spending a week in Tasmania. Who goes to Tasmania in the winter and Asia in the summer? Well, this girl normally wouldn’t travel this way, but sometimes you just gotta work with what you have. And this is what I have. So…at least I get to see Tasmania, even if it’s wintertime.
There is so much to see and do in Hong Kong. I definitely didn’t have enough time to see it all. I think on my long layover I might try to see the Big Buddha. Oh, and possibly book another night at the infamous Chungking Mansions to get some sleep. =)
These pictures are from various places around the city: the Mong Kok area, the Dragon Boat Race at Tsuen Wan District, the Kowloon Walled City Park, Victoria Peak and Hong Kong island. Definitely recommend checking out these places.
Of the three markets, the goldfish market was by far the most difficult to find. I think it’s because it’s on a much busier street that sells many other things besides just fish (and animals). It was a very busy shopping street with all sorts of things for sale. And there weren’t fish shops right on the corner of the street, so I walked right by it. I discovered I wasn’t alone, however, in finding it difficult to find (ha) when I later helped point other tourists back towards it and then that night as I talked with a girl where I was staying and heard that she had tried to find it and had given up. Had I not spotted one lone, tiny fish shop a block or so away and asked him for directions, I don’t know that I would have ever found it myself either. But I am so glad I did. I was delighted to discover that not only are there fish for sale there [all sorts of kinds of fish], there were also puppies and kittens and turtles.
Of the bird, flower, and goldish markets, I think the flower market was my favorite. For one, there were many shops along the streets that had cold air conditioning on and even if you didn’t go inside the shop, you could feel the blast of air as you walked past. But if you really wanted to cool down, you could pop inside a shop for a more thorough investigation of their plants. There were so many interesting and ornately decorated shops! Not to mention all the beautiful flowers themselves. I really wished I was staying longer in Hong Kong because I would have loved to have bought some of the cut flowers to put in a vase in my room.
The narrow walkways along the flower market were very crowded, and as most of the people there were actually doing business (I only saw a few other tourists) and I was just getting in the way by stopping with my camera, I wasn’t able to get as many pictures as I would have liked. Plus some places had signs posted saying “no photo.” But the memory of it all is tucked away in my mind. =)
When I booked my flights to Hong Kong and started researching things to see and do, I already knew that one of the things on my “must see” list was the markets of Mong Kok. Specifically the bird market, the goldfish market, and the flower market. Years ago I had read about them on a photographer’s blog and I knew that someday when I went to Hong Kong, I needed to go there, too.
The Yuen Po Bird Market was pretty easy to find (as opposed to the Goldfish Market that I will post about later). It was directly at the end of the flower market and I ran right into it after perusing all the flowers (will post about that later, too). The bird market was so noisy that I suppose you could also find it by listening for birds once you got in the general vicinity of it. =)
When I got to the street, I first saw men sitting everywhere chatting or huddled around bird cages discussing…birds, I suppose. Several men were walking around with bird cages and hanging them in the nearby trees. I hardly saw any women, and started to feel a bit out of place walking around. But no one seemed to mind. =)
I definitely recommend checking it out when you are in Hong Kong. Unless you have an aversion to birds in cages, then you will definitely not enjoy it. I did feel bad for some of the birds. There was one specific kind of bird that no matter where I saw them along the market street, they were all constantly flying from one bar to another and seemed frantic to get out (they must be a very claustrophobic kind of bird, ha. I can relate.)
There were so many interesting kinds of birds! I wished I could spend more time there, but as the birds were for sale and men were walking around discussing and buying them, I felt a bit awkward to keep sticking my lens into bird cages, ha. So I got some pictures and then left in search of the elusive goldfish market.
Sleeping in an airport [or spending 16+ hours in one] is never fun, but if you have to do it, there’s no better place than Singapore’s fabulous Changi airport. Unlike some airports I’ve been at in early morning hours, most of Changi stays open all the time, apparently. I walked around at 2 am and saw airport workers going about business as usual. [In contrast to showing up once at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle at around 4 am and discovering everything closed and locked up!]
Changi has so many great things to offer, you really can’t get bored on a layover there. The last time I was there, when I visited Singapore, I hadn’t had much time to explore, but this time I definitely did. After standing at Jetstar’s counter for over an hour waiting to get my meal voucher, the first thing I did was go grab my free meal as I was already shaky from not eating and waiting so long! It felt so good to put some food in my tummy! After that, I wandered around and decided to check out the butterfly garden. When I found it, however, it was dark inside [and very humid] and one person who was exiting the room told me that it wasn’t really worth going in then as all the butterflies were sleeping. I decided to go in anyway since I had the time, but he was right. It was too dark to see much of anything except a waterfall. I left almost immediately. During the daytime, however, I am sure it is nice. Next door to the butterfly garden is one of at least two (that I know of) hotels in the airport and I stopped by to check out the prices. At around $120 per 6 hours, I decided it wasn’t worth it, and opted to sleep wherever I could find a spot.
I should mention, the best terminal to find all the fun things to do and all the free perks, is Terminal 3, which is the Singapore Airlines terminal. So even if you aren’t flying Singapore Airlines when you arrive, it’s worth it to take the train over to Terminal 3 if you have the time.
I discovered that there is a Snooze Lounge in that terminal, but it was under renovation when I was there last week, so they had moved all the lounge chairs downstairs to a small hallway area. With headphones and music [and an eye mask] it’s basically quiet and peaceful with a small water fountain/bubbler every so often along the wall to help mask the noise of people walking by.
After sleeping for a few hours, I woke up at 2 am and decided I had better get up so that I didn’t accidentally oversleep and miss my flight. I didn’t really want to spend more time than I already had in the airport and I certainly didn’t trust Jetstar to be accommodating if I missed it! An airport worker had mentioned to me that there were free massage chairs to be found, so I set off in the direction she had pointed in and soon came to feet/leg massage chairs. I asked a nearby worker if there were other chairs that were full body massagers and was told to keep walking. Basically the chairs are in a direct line down the hall from the Snooze Lounge [at least its current location]. And I was again lucky as one [of only 4] of the chairs was free! The others had people sleeping in them, ha.
After settling in and reading the instructions, I figured out how to turn it on and the machine started moving around to measure where my shoulders, etc were. There are several different pre-set massages on this handheld device, plus apparently, the option to download more massages off the internet. It’s a pretty fancy chair [OSIM’s uInfinity] and if I had the money to throw around, I’d definitely buy one. But at 8 grand, I think I might buy a car next. ;) I’ve used a few massage chairs over the years [including one we have here at the house I live in] but none can compare to this chair. It really feels like a person massaging you. I’ve never had one do such a good job on my neck and head before. I was really impressed and delighted that it was free. I tried several different massages, and as they are all 15 minute segments, I ended up spending 2 hours in the chair. I felt it the next day when I woke up sore, ha. But it was wonderful. I am sure it’s almost impossible to get one of these chairs during normal business hours, but at 2:30 am I was lucky to get to use one!
Changi has lots of fun, rotating art displays as well as things like slides that go from one level down to the next. So there is fun for all ages. =) I didn’t spend much time wandering and looking at the art features this time as I was more in the mood to just sleep and be comfortable. But last time I was there we spent some time looking at the various displays and I noticed this time that some of them had been changed.
I definitely recommend flying through Changi if you ever have the chance to choose where you have a stopover. It’s definitely worth seeing. Also, if you have a long layover, you can grab a free city tour from some of the information desks in the airport!
Have you slept in the airport before? Was it a good/bad experience?