7.19.2014

The Unspoken Truth About Travel Lows

You're in paradise yet today you can't shake your mood. It's something you've probably not heard often. Never? I'm not surprised. Who would complain when they have their feet planted in white sand, glasses on and beer in hand?

My generation is the generation of "you can do anything"s and "take a gap year and travel the world"s and "quit your job and find yourself before you settle down"s. So you've followed your dream, done some soul searching, made friends, drunk Chang, seen the world but this morning, think week you're just grumpy. And your friends are at home studying for exams, slogging at an internship, working as a lifeguard at the local pool on minimum wage. You feel bad complaining and they wouldn't understand anyway.

Ask anyone about their trip away and they will say it was amazing, unforgettable, awesome, but what about those times where you just wanted a hug, a bowl of coco pops and a delayed first great western train?

This the the truth. You can't be happy every day for months on end, unless your high on something strong and intoxicating. Like 'normal life' there are some days and weeks where you're just not feeling it.

I've had a couple of these and for many reasons including isolation, phobias and panic attacks, loneliness and illness. Two illnesses in a week and a half (including a severe bout of couples food poisoning on Josh's last night) really took it's toll and I was all but ready to chop a month off my trip. I knew in my head it didn't make sense, as I deferred Uni (twice) partly so I could travel for more than the length of a uni holiday and here I was considering ending it at 14 weeks.


In the end what helped was a long ass journey. I sat down with my lonely planet book and started from scratch. For my last month what did I want to see and do? I settle on sun, city, yoga and nature. I read at the inspiration at the beginning of the book and considered a whole new country - Malaysia. I had planned to go to Myanmar and had met half a dozen travellers who talked avidly about how amazing it was and how amazing the people were, but it would help me achieve my new list so I made the decision to cull it.

Some ideas to get back your travel mojo

  • Pick a random page in a guide book or find a travel blog and start reading to be inspired all over again.
  • Phone home and talk only about quantum physics, where lost socks go or fluffy... Anything to take your mind off things and stop you overthinking.
  • Book five nights at your next destination with no plans. Settle in to a routine - lie-in, eat western food and do some exercise. Go against every travel 'rule' to break away from 'should and must do's.
  • Do something normal that makes you feel more in control eg. do some laundry, chuck out old toiletries bottles, repack your entire bag, sort your photos in to albums.
  • Send postcards to your family with ByPost telling them your highlights so far and that you're missing them. This will help you focus on the positive and combat the feeling of being alone in the world.
  • Find a quiet viewpoint and do some deep breaths, read a book or listen to music to help you relax.
  • Pamper yourself with a hair mask, massage, nail varnish, facial etc. to boost your confidence.
  • Make a non-specific bucket list that can be ticked off at any time eg. meet someone with a story to tell, find a secret spot, find a great novel at a book exchange, find your new favourite food. This will give your travel new purpose and focus without the pressure.

 

 

7.17.2014

Hong Kong - "And the rest.."

It seems I really did pack in a lot to a short stay. Hong Kong and Nutella turned out to have a lot in common - I love them both and my appetite is endless. In fact Hong Kong would make it to the first page of destinations I'd most like to return to. Here is the best of the rest of my trip.

By chance, me and Jeremy decided to go to explore the museums on some sort of national museum day (he wouldn't go to disneyland). On the plus side, entrance was free to all the museums, but with this comes the crowds and kids.

 

Hong Kong Museum of Art

Next to many of the other museums, right on the river by Tsu Sha Tsui pier (Kowloon Side), this museum has size on its side. Although there was some interesting pieces and some of it was well labelled, it didn't 'grab' me. I did like this duo though.

... And I would definitely hang this up in my house.
It was interesting to find out what some of the symbols for luck, money, health etc. were and it kept us entertained for an hour or so. Maybe have this one on the back burner for a day with torrential rain?

Any museum session deserves a treat, enjoyed in the fresh air. Call me sad, but there nothing like a skinny hazelnut cappuccino to remind you of friends, home and rushed lunch breaks.

In the vicinity, there was also some big sculptures on show which can be enjoyed before or after the nightly lights show (or of course during the day).

Hong Kong Space Museum

This museum in particular was popular with mothers and their darlings. It was fun to wander, but honestly the best part was the toy shop... Ooo and the 'walking on the moon' simulator. There was a little queue for it and a selective height and weight limit, but it was worth the harness rub for 10 mins of fun. The museum seemed a little dated, but had lots of interactive displays and mixed up the itinerary. It's right by Tsim Sha Tsui/Hong Kong Museum of Art/here...


Hong Kong a Symphony of Lights

As if the skyline wasn't impressive enough, every night at 3pm the buildings get their jazz hands out and razzle dazzle for those on the river banks.

You can view the debacle from both Hong Kong Island and Kowloon side, but there was great atmosphere Kowloon side and it's supposedly the better side to watch from, as there is music and English narration. Crowds can get a couple of people deep, but I'm short and didn't have too much trouble getting a good view and I arrived maybe 15 mins before the start.

Seeing as this is a freebie, you'd be silly not to try and catch it, but ...*whispers* if you miss it then you're not a complete donkey.

Mong Kok

This is an area of Hong Kong rather than an attraction, but when I met up with Gloria (who's a HK native that I met in Osaka) she took me here for a local experience. It was such an awesome area to wander around.

It made me want to spin round in circles with my arms rasied like they do in the movies. I held back and had a bog standard grinning photo instead. It's a great place to try out some Hong Kong munch on the go (see last post).

Mong Kok is only one stop away from Tsim Sha Tsui.

LKF

Anything that can be identified with only three letters is going to be infinitely cool. At the weekend this is zee place to be, yarzzz. Everyone heads here, buys their beers from the 7/11 and just unwinds on the street.

It's like a street party with expats, tourists and locals mingling. You could stay on the street all night, grabbing a huge pizza slice on your way home OR you could bar hop and go to a club. Note if you're going in to a club, it's worth making an effort as girls and guys do get dressed up (dresses, heels etc.) - flip flops are certainly not the done thing.

Like I've already said, I'd love to go back to Hong Kong and still feel there are half a dozen things already on my list. A huge thank-you to Gloria for her recommendations and for coming out to party the night before your flight!!

 

7.16.2014

Eating in Hong Kong - Locals Choice

I wouldn't be loyal to my foodie routes without covering the food in Hong Kong.

Dim Sum @ Tim Ho Wan

Actually during my first stopover in Hong Kong I only had one proper meal after I got served rice with luke warm chicken and had a minor freak out. The next morning, ravenous we went to Dim Sum at Tim Ho Wan and balance was restored. It remains one of my favourite meals from my entire trip. It was mentioned by Gloria (my HK friend) and both sets of hostel staff. It's actually Michelin Star (!!) dim sum and incredibly reasonable. I love the aubergine below, sticky rice in banana lead and pork buns, all of which blew my mind and burnt a lasting impression in my mind. There are locations across the city and at central you can expect a loooooong wait. Whilst in the queue they will give you a little form to just tick the boxes. Don't think, just get one of everything - you'll finish it if you're a group of about 4 and you can always take it away. We ordered more BBQ pork buns JUST to take away.

Find out more.

All Day Hong Kong Breakfast

I couldn't see this coming at ALL. There are two elements to HK breakfast. On a plate you get toast, scrambled egg and a Frankfurter-type sausage. And in the blow you get macaroni, chunky vegetables and an almost tomato sauce that Heinz would be proud of. This is food comforting and reminded me off home. A surprising hit.

Bubble Tea

You might already be familiar with bubble tea as it's really taking off across the world. In Hong Kong it's huge. You can get a whole range of flavours and also have these balls in the bottom. Gloria generously let me try the bubble tea before telling me about the numerous 'sucking balls' jokes and taglines that people use.

This was surprisingly good. The bubbles/balls are made from rice and the texture is a little chewy, but tasteless in themselves. It was an odd thing, but I actually quite liked it!

Street Stalls

Street vendors sell these I'm little cups - you only have to tell them how many you want. They come with a dash of spicy sauce and the fish balls are Gloria's favourite.

Traditional HK Eatery

Gloria explained that this is what Hont Kong used to be like back when it was under British rule and we just stumbled upon this place. She'd seen it before and it was popular despite the fact that it was certainly somewhere I would have overlooked myself.
This pineapple ice was icy cold and refreshing though so sweet it will make you wince.
We had the French toast as Gloria had never tried it and the place was known for it, but it was unlike any French toast I'd tried and looks more like battered fish. Again it was syrupy sweet. Although not entirely unpleasant, it was enough to defeat us for the night.

There was so much I didn't try and some more of roasted goose, BBQ pork rice and Wanton... But as someone said recently "That's what next times are for!"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7.11.2014

Some of the weird and wonderful markets of Hong Kong

It seems that there are dozens of markets in Hong Kong to keep a travellers' purses and wallets well attended to. Hong Kong seems to have some of the more 'out there' markets, some of which are just roads and some whose sprawling stalls will make you dizzy.

The Goldfish Market

Just a street full of goldfish. Hang on, goldfish?... There's so many species, sizes and colour of fish on sale in little bags. Simply calling it a goldfish market is like calling a liquor shop a wine shop.

Strangely the street is broken up by shops selling the cutest, most picture-pretty little puppies ever bred. In small cages they sleep peacefully or jump up for the pleasure of customers and the curious. Yes, it's cruel to keep them in these small hard cages and it's probably good that I only managed to sneak two photos (photography is banned), or else it may have made me sad to look back at.




The Flower Market

I'm certain there are larger and more spectacular flower markets across the globe, but this market is on the way from the goldfish to the bird market. I love orchids, something I no doubt got from my mother, so the sea of them brought a small wave of homesickness.

There were some more interesting and more unusual flowers than I've seen elsewhere. If walking around is getting too much, a dash in the air-con flower shops will bring some relief to Hong Kong's oppressive humidity.




The Bird Market

If you travel, you go to markets. I don't know anyone who avoids them completely. You may like the food, the atmosphere, the knock offs, the jewellery or the souvenirs, but after a while it takes something different to stick in your memory.

Hong Kong's Bird market is tucked away and having a map will help you to head away from the crowds with confidence. In Asia many houses will have a little caged bird who is there simply for its bird song. I get it. Just like stroking a cat lowers blood pressure, it's lovely to hear birdsong.

...So they need somewhere to buy these caged bird - hence the bird market. There is quite the variety, most in cages that are way too small and the occasional one that is only held prisoner by a chain around their foot. It's wonderful to see all these birds, but bittersweet to see the tiny space they reside in.

Temple Street

My local friend, Gloria took me to Temple Street but warned me not to get excited as really it was just another market. She was right. It sells the normal souvenirs, clothing, accessories, art work and small electrical items. I was rather indifferent to the market itself, but it was good to tick off the list and having Gloria there made the night interesting in itself.

One thing Gloria pointed out was the newly refirbished gates to Temple Street, which she though were rather shiny and not very authentic. This is something I would never have picked up on with my tourist goggles on.

If you walk further along temple street you will come across a wide street flanked either side by fortune tellers. Some have tarot cards and some work only with the palm of the hand. I really fancied it, but there was so much I wanted to do with Gloria, so we moved on.

The Hong Kong Tourism website is pretty good for additional information and ideas of other markets and attractions to explore, as are many of the hostels which are more European in nature than those found in SE Asia. I stayed at Check Inn and Urban Pack and I'd recommend both for their cleanliness, great friendly staff and the activities they put on for hostel guests.