After my long trip and a few shorter ones, I returned to Singapore in search of a new career as I wasn’t brave enough to continue travelling forever, unlike some people.
Even though I have no regrets about quitting my job to travel, I must admit it is not for everyone. For those who are still thinking if you should take a career break to travel, I will have two posts on the pros and cons of leaving your career to travel.
I did thought about taking a break until 2014 but then I would be leaving 2013 hanging. Strangely, I do not feel an urge to look back, like I did in 2012.
Maybe it’s because I’ve been updating you guys about my RTW along the way and I feel bad about repeating whatever you will have read by now. Maybe it’s because there are just too many places to write about that it gives me blogger’s block.
Still, let’s take a look at what happened in 2013.
Now that I’m back in Singapore, I can finally take a break from travelling and take a good look at my 4.5-month round-the-world trip.
My friend M asked me to summarize my trip in a list of Top 5 best and worst things about my RTW. Since it’s an interesting way to summarize the trip, I will share with you my two Top 5 list today and next week.
Since I’m a “bad news first” kind of person, we’ll be looking at the worst things things that happened during the trip. In one of the next posts, I’ll share the other side of the trip: the Top 5 worst things that happened. Check out the rest of the post…!
[I am now blogging at Hong Kong International Airport. I’ve managed to misplace my camera (as well as break my glasses). I dislike posts with no photos so I’ll be recycling some of my Twitter photos of the day. That also means there’s only photo of food. Boo.]
Like yesterday, I woke up at an ungodly hour. However, I’ve made improvements with my jetlag and today wake-up time was 4am instead of 2am.
After posting my posts and a bit of Facebook games, I packed my suitcase for the final time. Since I only bought 20kg with AirAsia this time, I had to strategize my packing.
I packed most of the liquids into my suitcase and other lighter things such as clothes into my backpack. If I discover that the suitcase is overweight, Ill transfer some of the things to my backpack. If the suitcase is underweight, I’ll toss my backpack into my check in quota.
After everything was ready, I head out for breakfast. There wasn’t much choice around before 8am so I went back to the porridge place and got their signature dish as well as a “spring roll”. That meal was actually for 1.5 persons but I didn’t have dinner last night so let’s all forgive me for being a glutton.
After breakfast, I walked around the area, thinking up places to visit. Sadly, the shops weren’t open so I did the next best thing: Eat more food.
Next on my list was the egg tart from the cafe in Excelsior hotel. I had them on the first day and the memories of the flaky pastry is still in my mind. Plus, they have a coffee and egg tarts set. I’ve not had coffee for three days.
After coffee and desserts, I needed to pass time before check out time. As usual, I opt for the most comfortable way of sightseeing–public transportation! I took the tram from Causeway Bay to one of the terminals and back to the same place.
While I was on the tram, my sister helped research things I could eat nearby. One of her finds were a “bolo bun” place which I noted on Foursquare.
I got back to the hostel and checked out. Since the reception area was in another building, I had to drag all my things there. The landlady allowed me to leave my things before my bus to the airport.
Now that checkout is done, it’s time for more food. My stomach couldn’t handle a full meal so I head to the “bolo bun” place with the aid of Foursquare.
Despite the name “bolo”, meaning pineapple in Cantonese, the bun does not contain any pineapple. It’s supposedly in the shape of a pineapple, thus the name.
After the meal, I still have about 2.5 hours to waste. I decided to take the tram to Happy Valley where the horse race tracks are. Coincidentally, this is where a few foot massage shops are (according to Foursquare, again).
I found the recommended foot massage place and sat for 50 minute of good-painful massage. The masseuse kneaded my foot like it was dough. While slapping my lower leg, he even commented that it was very stiff. Four months of travelling does bring stiff legs.
After the massage, it was about time for me to head back to the hostel and to the airport. Before I went to get my luggage, I checked out a few skincare shops (Watson and Sasa) to find something my sister requested.
There wasn’t any of what she wanted but I managed to buy something I want. I was thinking that I was losing interest in skincare since I’ve been doing the very basic while travelling. Thankfully I still have the urge to buy things. Long live consumerism!
To the airport
Near the hostel, there’s a bus stop where the direct bus to the airport stops. After bidding the landlady farewell, I dragged all my things and waited.
The bus arrived and there weren’t a lot of people. However, more people boarded at subsequent stops and the luggage storage place was crammed full of luggage.
The bus passed the sides of central Hong Kong, went into the underground tunnel and then the bridge to Lantau Island where the airport is. From the bus, I saw shops, mountains, cable cars and the road sign to Disney Land.
Pretty soon, we reached the airport. I dragged my stuff with me to Terminal 1 for a bit of shopping. I did get one bag which will replace my current slingbag for my future travels (in September!). It was a lot pricier than I expected but I really need one as the current is breaking at the seams.
Next was to Terminal 2 where my check in counter was. There was a free-to-use weigh so I checked to see if my bags were under 20kg. The total weight wasn’t so I had to do a bit more shifting before I got the weight undercontrol.
I checked in and went to the bathroom. I managed to break my glasses. I also discovered that I couldn’t find my camera after I got into the boarding area. Thank goodness all these happened on the last day!
A break for now
After today’s post, I’m taking a 2-week break from blogging to recharge and to find a stable internet connection (my parents cancelled the home phone line so no broadband for us).
If you miss my posts (aww shucks), please do go back and read the old posts.
As I went to bed the night before at 6pm, I woke up at 2am.
Since almost everything is closed at that time and I don’t want to walk around the streets in the middle of the night and meet those scary gangsters featured in 60% of Hong Kong movies, I did a bit of blog updating and Facebook game playing.
Slightly before 7am, I decided it was time to head out for breakfast. I found out that there’s a porridge place nearby that serves food at 7am. Yum yum.
It was quite easy finding the place with a combination of Foursquare and Google Maps. However, it was 5 minutes before 7am when I reached the doors so I didn’t dare enter.
Instead, I walked around for two blocks before deciding that I really need something to eat.
I had porridge with a cup of hot soy milk. The porridge was really good as it was silky smooth and not chunky.
After breakfast, I decided to see more of Hong Kong. What better time to sightsee that early in the morning where you don’t have crowds of people to deal with?
I took the tram to one of the Hong Kong MTR station exit and let Foursquare and Google Maps do my travel planning. According to the apps, I was near the famous Central Mid-Level Escalators.
The apps were right but it was before 10am so all the escalators were going down. One of the downward escalator was also being fixed so I decided not to head to the top to take them all the way down.
A trip to Tsim Sha Tsui
Once the escalator was off the To-Do List, I made my way to the land opposite Hong Kong Island–the New Territories. This is where the famous Avenue of Stars and most museums are.
It was really cloudy and I could see heavy clouds sitting on top of Hong Kong Island, waiting to let out a flood of rain. I imagine that it’ll be a lot prettier if it was sunny or even at night when all the lights are on. (I love city lights.)
Visiting the Hong Kong Museum of Art
Looking across the narrow block of water and smelling ocean air got a bit boring so I turned my back and headed to the Hong Kong Museum of Art. The museum wasn’t open yet at that time so I waited a long while before I could get in.
I’m usually less of a fan of art museums because I find that having just paintings is kind of boring. I’ve seen enough painting during this trip and I didn’t think I would like those at the HK Museum of Art that much.
But I was surprised by how much I liked the collection there. Maybe it’s because it has a lot of Chinese art which I didn’t get to see while travelling.
After 2 hours at the museum, it was time to feed my tummy. Luckily there was one of the branches of a famous ramen place nearby. I heard that there is usually a long queue at the Butao stores but there was only 5 other people in front of me.
Since I was eating alone, they found me a seat really fast. I accidentally ordered an extra serving of charsiew. The soup was very good but I ordered the wrong type of noodles and it felt like I was eating wanton noodles instead of ramen noodles.
Visit to the Hong Kong History Museum
After lunch, I was feeling the effects of waking up at 2am. I was tempted to go back to my hostel but I ploughed on. Next on the To-Do List was the Hong Kong History Museum.
The Hong Kong History Museum was great. The timeline starts waaaay back when there doesn’t seem to be any living organisms on earth to the time when Hong Kong is reunited with China.
The prehistoric parts were a bit dull but I love the second floor that talks about the different cultures in Hong Kong. They actually built houses inside the museum!
There were also audio visual halls where they show videos. I like that part because I can sit down and rest.
After visiting the permanent exhibition, I was very drained and wished to sleep. But I still have tickets to the temporary exhibition featuring clothes from the Qing royal family.
While looking at the oversized clothes, I can’t help thinking how amazing it is that we’re able to see the clothes so near. Back in ancient China, a commoner might not even be able to see it from 1km away.
After a quick stroll through the exhibition, I decided to go back to the hostel. I took a bus that went through the undersea tunnel and saw lots of concrete walls.
Back in my hostel, I set my alarm for 8pm, thinking that I should check out Hong Kong at night. Unfortunately, when the alarm rang, I was still very sleepy and went back to bed.
I learned that there are cheap, early morning movie tickets in Hong Kong. For 9am shows, the tickets are about HK$50 (S$9).
The one show that I really really want to watch here is Kick Ass 2 because I’m sure they’ll never bring it to Malaysia and even if they do, they will be a lot of censoring going on.
Even though I had to check out at 12 noon, I decided that I could still watch the movie and be back in time for check out.
The cinema is just around the corner for my hostel so I reached there about 20 minutes before the show started. I got my tickets and had to wait a while before my movie hall was open.
There were about 12 people watching the show. I guess it’s because it’s too early and it’s a weekday so everyone’s at work. I wonder if the cinemas make enough money from early screenings.
There were also a few senior citizens around. I know that morning shows are HK$20 (S$3.30) for them but I wasn’t sure this movie is for them. [Kick-Ass 2: Extended NSFW Trailer]
The show was great! Lots of action scenes and weepy scenes but too little topless scenes of Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Oh, Jim Carrey is in it as well so that’s an extra 50 points!
Moving to a new hostel
After the movie, I went to find where my new hostel was at. I found the check in counter but no one was there so I head back to the old hostel to pack up my things.
There still wasn’t anyone at the hostel when I got there so I called the phone number listed on the counter. A lady answered with, “Wai. Wai. Wai.” I tried shouting but she couldn’t hear me.
Another girl came in. As my room wasn’t ready, she told me to hang around outside until 12 noon for check in.
I headed to a Japanese restaurant for lunch. It’s been such a long time since I’ve had good Japanese food so I savoured every bite. The sashimi slices felt a bit too thick, though.
After lunch, I strolled in Eslite Bookstore, a Taiwanese chain of bookstores with the most gorgeous layout and very good collection of books. The books there are not wrapped in plastic but are free for everyone to read.
Then it was back to the hostel for me. There were three people waiting for check in so I waited a bit longer. The lady at the reception had a quick lunch of soup and rice before continuing with my reservation.
She told me that things have been really busy these days with guests coming from Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines. I found it fascinating that these foreign guests were able to find the room here because it’s rather hidden on the internet.
After paying my rent of HK$320 (S$54) a night, she brought me to a building opposite where my room was. It seems to me that guesthouses in Hong Kong have rooms all over the place and I find that pretty strange.
My new room is very nice (at least better than the hell hole ex-hostel I was at which smelled like backpackers who do not shower enough). My shower and toilet is at the end of my room. I found it rather strange showering right in front of the toilet bowl but it’s a small price to pay.
I napped a little and head out to do more sight seeing.
Awesome Hong Kong dessert
Based on a Foursquare recommendation, I went to Yee Shun Milk Company which specializes in milk-related desserts.
There was a small milk “skin” on top of my pudding. The pudding was so rich and smooth I immediately decided that I will have one of these each day before I leave.
Since the eatery was rather small, service was curt. As soon as I cleared my bowl–and taken out my phone to take a photo of the spoon–a waiter took my bowl away. So I paid my bill and left.
Defeated by jet lag
Even though it was summer, the air was warm and humid because of the typhoon. I was planning to go on the Central-Mid-Level Escalators but the tram to the west never came.
By that time, I was sweaty, hot and sleepy so I zombie-walked back to the hostel. After a shower, I hit the sack at about 5:30pm.
[I was sleepy with jetlag on both the nights of August 15 and 16 so I wasn’t able to update the day’s blog post before midnight. Maybe nobody noticed… Anyway, here it is!]
I was fully awake at 7am even though I drifted to sleep well past midnight. It seems like it will take a lot more days before my jetlag goes away and for me to be familiar with GMT+8.
I took the chance to go to the common room to surf the internet. Wi-Fi on the fourth floor was non-existent, despite the sign outside giving the password for Wi-Fi.
The hostel that I was staying is a rather strange place. For one thing, they advertised themselves as at least 5 different hostels on booking sites. When the tourists get there, they are directed to the reception area on the third floor and then given a room or bed on another floor or at an entirely different building.
I was supposed to move out today because the bed in the 3-person room was booked. I asked the guy at the reception (who I think is the boss) about check out time and when I could move in. He was rather rude and replied me as if I’m trying to cheat him of a room even though I’ve made the booking online.
When he gave me back my change, I noticed that he gave me HK$100 less so I thought that he kept the HK$100 as the key deposit. Then I asked if I could have yesterday’s deposit back, he replied, “Of course not.”
So I pointed out that there as HK$100 less in the change, he said, “Oh.” and gave me a HK$100 note. No apology! He then asked one of the girls working there to bring me to my room.
The both of us had an awkward conversation about my travels as she spoke Mandarin with a Cantonese accent. I don’t know if in cases like these, I should step in and speak with my bad Cantonese or let her continue in a dialect she’s not very familiar with. In the end, I stuck with Mandarin.
My new room was any much better. It had a bed, a small table and enough space for my luggage to stand up straight. If I need anything from the luggage, I have to toss it up onto the bed.
Sightseeing in Hong Kong
After changing my accommodation, it was time to see Hong Kong. Thankfully typhoon day was over so the shops are open and the public buses are running.
I was excited to se e a lot of people on the streets. First stop on my to-see list was actually one of the Apple Stores. Using Google Maps in offline mode, I finally saw the place. It wasn’t as exciting as I thought it would be.
Views of Hong Kong from the tram
Since the sky was still pretty gray, I decided to take the tram to see Hong Kong. Unlike the trams in San Francisco, the trams in Hong Kong are double decker trams. The second level has open windows so it’s very breezy and is a great place to sightsee.
At HK$2.30 per ride, this is probably the cheapest way to get around, apart from walking.
I have 3G, finally!!!
After the tram ended at Kennedy Town, I gathered my courage and went into a convenience store to buy a local SIM card. I am never sure if I should speak Cantonese or Mandarin and my Cantonese is so bad that I am embarrased to say it out loud.
It turns out, they did have the SIM card for tourist that I was looking for. For HK$69 (SG$11.50), I get 5 days of 3G internet and HK$25 credit for calls and SMS.
I plugged the SIM card into my phone and was delirious with joy when the 3G sign came on. For the past 2 months, I was in South and Central America where the 3G spectrum does not fit my phone. I’ve forgotten how useful it is to have constant internet.
I felt like I have grown a third eye that allowed me to see where I am, plan my journey and constantly report my every move to everyone on the internet. [Find me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.]
With 3G, I figured out where exactly I was and where the nearest cinema was. I made my way to IFC Mall but discovered that the movie ticket was HK$90. The miserly part of me refused to pay that much money for a movie so I looked for lunch.
Foursquare told me that there is a Tim Ho Wan branch at Hong Kong station so I went off to find the famous dimsum place. The directions were a bit confusing but I made it.
It was slightly before lunch time but there was already an unorderly queue. You pick up an order form where the lady scribbles a number. You order your food and wait for your number.
I ordered enough food for 1.5 people because I was too embarrassed to order only two dishes.
After the feast, I decided to check out a second hand bookstore, Book Attic. I walked from IFC Mall to the bookstore and passed by lanes that I didn’t know existed in Hong Kong (aka I’ve not seen in Hong Kong shows).
These were medium-sized stone paths on a sloppy hill. The sides of the slopes are little stalls selling odd things. One stall was selling electrical plus, another selling colorful Chinese threads and one selling tacky for-tourist souvenirs.
At the bookstore, I browsed for a long time and finally bought one book. For a used book, HK$60 (SG$10) is kind of expensive.
While at the bookstore, I found a note left by a high school friend who’s now working in Hong Kong on my Instagram account. We arranged to meet for dinner so I had about 4-5 hours before the meet up.
I decided to take the tram again. This time to the eastern end of the tram tracks. The journey was long but it was very comfortable sitting on the upper level.
The end of the line of Shau Kei Wan is the residential area. I walked around taking a few photos before I got on another tram to the hostel.
Back at the hostel, I napped. I wasn’t ready to get up when my alarm rang 30 minutes before the meeting time. Thankfully, my classmate sent a message saying that he would be delayed for one hour. That means more napping for me!
After the quick nap, it was finally time to get out and face the world. My classmate, Lane* (not his real name), brought me to an “OK Hong Kong restaurant” as there were any spectacular ones around. The food was still good. I ate wanton noodles and beef horfun then some desserts at another place.
Lane gave many food recommendations which I saved into my Foursquare app so I wouldn’t be hungry for good food.
After dinner, I was sleepy again and went back to the hostel where I fell asleep.
According to the directions by the hostel, I could take a bus from the airport to the hostel for HK$40. Unfortunately, due to the typhoon, no buses on my route was going.
I didn’t know about the no-bus thing and was waiting at the bus stop. Then a taxi man told me about the situation and proposed driving me to Hong Kong Island for about HK$200. I told him that I was on a budget and would prefer taking the train instead.
The Airport Express into Hong Kong island was HK$100. I paid and extra HK$5 to get to Causeway Bay where my hostel is.
There was eerily few people out in the streets when I got there at about 8:30am.
Checking in a rather dodgy hostel
At check-in, I was told to wait a while for the room to be prepared. I waited a long while and had to ask again for my bed before I was shown to my room.
My hostel is fortunately not in the Chungking Mansion area. Still, it wasn’t a proper hostel area. Several units in the residential building were turned into tiny rooms/storage space packed to the brim with beds.
When the hostel person and I got into my room, one of the girls on the top bunk woke up and screamed. She only saw the man and didn’t see me. I would scream too when a strange Chinese man comes into my room while I was sleeping.
After a shower, I head out into the streets for some food and to see what happens on Typhoon Day.
Typhoon day in Hong Kong
Well, nothing much happens on Typhoon Day. Only about 2 percent of shops were open. I ended up eating egg tarts for breakfast at a posh hotel. The Portugese/Macanese egg tarts were so good.
Lunch was a very expensive takeaway from the supermarket. HK$290 for rice, a bit of chicken, roasted meat and one half of a salted egg.
I explored the empty streets with an umbrella before I got the takeaway and went back to the hostel.
The wind was pretty strong and the rain was heavy. Almost everyone on the streets were tourists, specifically Mainland Chinese tourists. I think we’re the only fools going out into the typhoon.
After I had my lunch, it was about 1pm. My head was aching from jet lag and I decided to take a nap. My nap turned out into a 5-hour sleepathon. I’m awake now and typing but I think I might go back to bed after I send this off to you.
Until tomorrow! Let’s hope the typhoon goes away and I can have some real food. Oh, I also need to figure out where I’ll be sleeping tomorrow because my bed has been booked up.