First of all, I did this trip with my father and my best friend in the world! It is easy to see why the company made Hong Kong all the more appealing. We only had 4 days and 3 nights and we wanted to see the famous city skyline and experience living like a local with foods and travel. Hong Kong is populated with about 7.3 million people, so the first thing you will notice is the crowds at most places and super tall and packed buildings! There are brand new shiny ones and there are old dirty ones! Good thing is they're a mix around the city! I think it is fair to start by saying that all hotel rooms in Hong Kong are on the smaller side so best not to expect too much and just embrace the experience. We stayed in a family room at Butterfly on Morrison (4 stars) near causeway bay MTR and we felt it was the best location with great staff! You can easily take the bus and MTR places you wish to go and honestly, do take the local transport as its the best way to explore Hong Kong. The hotel gave you free rental of WIFI devices, selfie sticks with clip on lenses to help you take nicer pictures!
So, we spent a day trekking the famous Victoria peak! Let me be honest and say we started around 12 ish in the afternoon as we were told it would not be too crowded. Truth be told, it was indeed quieter than later in the evening. We took the bus up and it was very easy and relatively cheap! Here is where there could be a confusion. All the tourist went to the tower peak to take pictures! Up there on the deck you are required to pay to enter or you could stand on the sides outside the tower to take pictures which is still beautiful and worth it. What we did though was very different. We decided to walk to the actual peak. It was a steep trek up the hill and we got lost several times as many of the little routes were either shut or led you to satellite towers or water stations? we were not sure, but we know it was definitely prohibited entry. The good thing is on the trek, you will pass nice parks and also a few peak points you could take nice pictures of the other side of Hong Kong. Yes, you will sweat like crazy so make sure to have snacks and water with you. If not, there is a little shop at the peak with a nice old lady who will sell you water and whatever drink you fancy. She also sells traditional snacks like fish balls and steamed dumplings!
Another place to explore is central Hong Kong! Let me suggest you get the old town map and walk around using the traditional method without google. You will find that amidst the high street there are little streets that maintain street culture. Not forgetting the tall skyscrapers all closely packed together. We had the most delicious egg tarts from Tan Cheong bakery and 2 mins away you will find a street milk tea stall! Its simply mouth-watering delights. We also explored tsim sha tsui promenade and wow'ed ourselves with the city skyline. Okay, so coming from Singapore I was concerned about the wow factor here. But I should say I was impressed at how densely populated Hong Kong was and how all these buildings came together perfectly. Lastly, temple street! If you want to skip the crowds and fortune tellers, go late around 9pm. There are shops that sold all kinds of quirky gifts. We had space to walk around and also managed a lovely meal at a street stall with the best eggplant fried with garlic! So simple but amazing how it bursts in your mouth. Highly recommend it to all eggplant lovers.
Jun and I spent our last night partying at the famous Lan Kwai Fong which was 5 minutes from where we lived and only cost us 40 HK dollars by taxi. Okay, truth be told, for some strange reason we were offered so many free shots that night (by bouncers at the bar). We thought it was to attract men to the bar if they saw ladies drinking. Anyways, Graffiti club was great for dancing! We had most of our drinks at Tao bar because the people who worked there was nice and we made some expat friends! I will end it by saying we had a really good night out with one of us having one of the worst hangovers of our lives ( I won't be pointing fingers now!).
Hong Kong was a delight for food! Make sure to have your dim sum fill! Ask the locals for the nearest banquet and they will guide you. I will waste no time with words and indulge you with pictures! For this reason only, you should embrace Hong Kong and give this city a chance!
We started our adventure in Cebu! What a beautiful city, I should say that from the moment we landed we were amazed with how clean it was! Coming from Singapore we had low expectations but Cebu surprised us. Upon arrival, we got our SIM cards with data for a week right outside the airport and it cost us 500 pesos for about 7GB data (this information may be important for those of us who need to make calls home, especially since we were going to the islands with poor connection). But, if you are adventurous and want no connection, by all means do it!
In Cebu, we stayed in an airbnb "Myra's bedsit" in Horizons 101 condominium for 3 nights. This cost us 47 SGD each person which was really cheap considering it was clean and at a great location! We would definitely recommend it to anyone planning a few nights in Cebu.
Osmena peak and Kawasan falls
We booked our tour about a month earlier just because we were on a tight schedule and wanted to be prepared. We booked with Cebu tours and it cost us 61 SGD each person. This tour included the driver and lunch. The journey to osmena peak took us 3 hours by car depending on traffic as sometimes it could be longer! Osmena peak is worth the journey and money! The view was magnificent! The trek up takes about 20 minutes but be warned it could be slippery with loose rocks. It is considered a beginners route but we did find out that there is a harder route that takes about 2 hours so you may consider that if you like. We had a guide who was very kind and patient! He spent quite some time taking pictures of us and even climbed higher peaks to help us take the perfect picture! Tip here would be remember to bring a jacket, it gets a little cold up at the peak.
After the peak, it takes about an hour to get to Kawasan falls. When you get there you will need to walk for about 15 to 20 minutes to get to the falls. It is required that everyone wears a life jacket as the locals say the water is very deep and can be rough from the falls. When we took our first dip we were freezing! The water was very cold, we could not sit there for long. Maybe it was just the cloudy day? As we know this time of the year it gets chilly and rainy. One tip here would be to know if you take a picture with the "I love kawasan falls" be prepared to pay 50 pesos! There will be an angry guy standing there demanding for the money. Overall, we were underwhelmed with the falls, I would suggest you do canyoneering if you did Kawasan falls!
El nido island hopping
The journey here took us ages! We flew into Puerto Princessa airport from Cebu and had to get a 6 hour van ride to el nido. It costs 450 pesos per person which was a really good price. Despite the time it took us, el nido was our favourite! it was raw and beautiful with very few tourists (but this could be due to the low season). We stayed at spin designer hostel and we gave it a high rating as it was very clean and breakfast was nice! One of the nights there was a black out in el nido but our hostel had a back up generator and we were fine. The only negative would be poor wifi (but you are in paradise, don't think you will need it!).
Island hopping is a must! We decided to go on a private tour as we read blogs about how crowded the boats get and we wanted to have the freedom over our trip. We booked with el nido paradise tours and it cost us 55 SGD each person with lunch included. We chose tour A which included the small lagoon, big lagoon, secret beach and seven commando beach.
We did some kayaking in the small lagoon, which cost about 400 pesos. It was worth it except be warned that it gets crowded with lots of other boats and people kayaking. The big lagoon is protected so you can only pass through it and they will not allow you to go into the water. The seven commando beach was a a white sand turquoise water beach for swimming and lots of picture spots. Lunch on the boat had a good variety- it included freshly made (they cook it on the boat) BBQ prawns, chicken wings and eggplant salad and lots of fruits. We told our guide that we wished to get down at las cabanas beach to watch the sunset and it was doable! So, we ended our evening with a bottle of wine watching the sunset- perfect end to the day!
Nacpan beach, el nido
You will need to book a shuttle van to take you to the beach. It costs 600 pesos each person. The beach was pretty empty! you will get vouchers for welcome drinks and a free drink at mad monkey hostel. We did try to get a seat there but it was packed and so hot! eventually we paid 200 pesos and rented a bamboo hut from the locals- best decision ever! It was cooling and it fit us all.
The water was clear and wavy! Don't think it is particularly ideal for swimmers but its great for surfers. We enjoyed jumping around in the waves and we were doing this all day. The only downside at this beach are the stray dogs. There is a pack of them and the moment you take any food out, they will jump at you. It got a little scary at times. One of the dogs jumped at my friends chicken on the table (while she was still eating).
Last night in Puerto Princessa
Our last night was simply for food and karoake! we stayed at the acacia hotel and resort and they served us the best lunch! it was huge with several grilled seafood options not forgetting the eggplant salad we loved. I wish to dedicate a whole post for food in the Philippines! One paragraph is not enough! So stay tuned for my foodie post! For now, our final verdict is we would definitely return to the Philippines! There is so much more to explore!
I feel like I did not do justice to our trip in Vietnam. It was the best one month of my life and I spent it with my best friends Jun and Jonas and a friend I met while travelling Cambodia-Lukas! We started in Ho Chi Minh city and visited the cu chi tunnels - Nha Trang for some beach days - Dalat for canyoning at the waterfalls (scariest thing I have ever done but most rewarding!) - Hoi An for culture and its tailoring (It is a pretty little town!) followed by motorbike ride to - Hue for a walk around the perfume river and a trishaw ride through town - Hanoi for culture and the secret night life (due to military curfew!) and street food was amazing! - Halong Bay we took the party boat which allowed us to meet new people; we got to explore the caves and kayak through them. Needless to say the party on the boat was fun; we made new friends and two of them eventually visited us in Singapore! Lastly, we ended up in Sapa where we did a home-stay with the local people. They took us for a 13 km walk up the mountains where we met their families and ate with them and learnt from them about their culture and what a daily day is like for them. In the day, we explored the market in town to have a look at all the natural works by the people. They made beautiful handicrafts using natural colours and materials.
I think of this trip often. It was the one time in my life I had no plans and just went with whatever I felt the next morning. Yes, I was broke but I was so happy. I always get carried away worrying about the future, and its made worse with my drive to be perfect. Now, whenever I feel myself drifting away, I think of Vietnam. Letting go all worries and just thinking for today. Thus, for me Vietnam will always be in my heart and I am glad I shared that month with my best mates.
I have not visited either of the Korea's yet but one of my close friends Luis travels so much for work he decided that he will be sending me pictures from his travels to add to my love for food. He is not a fan of Korean food but I on the other hand, LOVE my 'bibimbap' (usually short grained rice with meat, vegetables, kim chi and soup). So, he tells me that its the spice that puts him off.But honestly, is Korean food spicy? I guess some dishes could be, especially if served with kim chi. But then again, I am Indian and spice is essential in my diet.
Lets have a closer look at a typical Korean meal; they seem to be served in metal utensils and always served with kim chi, seaweed, pickled vegetables? In Singapore, Korean dishes were served with fried anchovies as a side (crispy with a sweet spicy flavour) I wonder if that is actually a norm or if it was adapted for us at home since we like our anchovies. I would like to understand Korean culture and maybe I will know better if I ever visit Korea one day. Luis does not have all the answers for me since he travels so much for work these are the little gifts he leaves me- just a snap shot of wherever he goes. Luis and I met on a long bus ride in Cambodia and ended up being friends for life! He visits me in Cork once a year and lets just say I look forward to hearing all about his travels. This one is for you, Luis! Have a lovely Friday night in Busan and hopefully you're gonna be cranking it up Gangnam style!