Posts Tagged 'hotel'

Macau Trip!

Recently, a few friends and I went to Macau for the weekend. Macau is the SAR next to Hong Kong, about 1 hour’s ride away on the jet ferry from Hong Kong, and at a pretty affordable price.

We went early on the Saturday morning for our trip, with the feeling of really going abroad when going through customs when we reached there. The free casino buses were eager to take us to their casinos, but people just use them to get around the city for free! We boarded one to take us to the Old Town part.

There we did a lot of photography and sightseeing, particularly looking at the Façade of St Paul’s Cathedral, the only remaining wall of it. We grabbed some lunch from the stalls around that main tourist hub, including some traditional Macanese pork chop bun.
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As it got later, we headed to the night-life sector where all the brand new, huge super-casinos are. Having never been to Vegas, this place gave me that awe-inspiring ‘Vegas-feeling’ and more! Brightly lit up in the dusk, and later, night sky, they were amazing.

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We headed to The Venetian first, which had a mock-style canal similar to Venice (complete with gondolas!). We tried out a few of the casino games there too, only a few bets though. It’s a shame we did not get to see a show this time round, but will try and come again soon.
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After a long night of checking out the casinos, we headed to our hotel. With this being a weekend trip, we stayed at a hotel we found through Hotelclub.com for the night. A much needed rest after the long day we had!

The Sunday, being our last day, we headed out again to check out the Macau tower. This thing is huge! The views were amazing from the top, and, even though we were too chicken to do the skywalk, that looked amazing too. You can actually walk around the outside of the highest point of the tower (safety harness on, of course). This would make a great birthday/Christmas gift for someone who is an adrenaline seeker for sure.

With our last few hours, we headed back to the old town to explore some more and walk the streets. We went past the Lisboa, the most famous and one of the oldest of the casinos there. With it being time to head to our ferry port, we caught an evening ferry back to Hong Kong, ready for work on Monday morning.

All in all, I thought Macau gave the tourist everything they would want. Great food, a new culture to experience, many modern and old places to visit and a great atmosphere. With the price of a ferry from Hong Kong, it is definitely worth a visit if you’re around Hong Kong and have a couple of days to spare.

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Singapura Singapore

I’d heard a bit about Singapore from colleagues or students. Before I went I had the impression that it was a smaller, more expensive Hong Kong – British colonial relics surrounded by newer, modern economic buildings of a Tiger economy, boasting an international population living in harmony.

They were right about the expensive part: Nat and I took $380 between us for the weekend and had $27 left for Sunday! Suppose though that you spend what you want and a day can be as cheap as you like if you’re willing to budget.

Our hostel was in the Arab quarter, an area with short, colonial-looking architecture with bars, hostels, restaurants and shops on the ground floors and a Mosque on the street. A really lively place, and very welcoming – not a closed off region of the city one might get the impression of. The hostel we stayed at was the Inn-crowd Backpacker’s Hostel – lots of backpackers from around the world, and it was reasonably priced.

We visited the Mustafa Centre (a renowned shopping place) which more or less reminded me of TK Maxx or something. I had to buy some shorts there as it was 31 degrees and I’d only brought my skinny jeans for the 2 days, what an idiot. But it was a decent place to buy stuff.

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We then headed to Chinatown, which. despite its name, had a huge Hindu temple in the middle of it – the Sri Mariamman Temple. There was a small ceremony going on when we got there with a guy with all his Hindu gear on throwing sheets of cloth into a fire pit while chanting. Having been surrounded in Buddhist temples in Hong Kong and Taiwan for 7 months, this was a welcomed change in seeing different cultures.

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Of course, there was a huge Buddhist temple down the road too – the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, which is named because it claims to have a tooth of the Buddha in the temple. We didn’t see this tooth, so they may have put it in a statue or urn or something, but was beautiful inside. Again, there was a service on where the monks were spraying the congregation with water from a blessed pot while chanting.


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We headed outside and the famous Chinatown markets were there – old fellas playing Mahjong, stalls selling food and souvenirs etc. We went to a Vietnamese restaurant for lunch and bought some stuff. We took the MRT (subway) to the Marina Bay area – a new area (clearly funded from Singapore’s recent economic boom) with the Singapore Flyer (big wheel, think London Eye) and the casino/hotel Marina Bay Sands (weirdly designed building of 3 separate adjacent buildings with a long roof garden connecting all 3). We went on the Flyer, took some amazing pictures there, then had a chill in the midday sun in an outdoor Greek theatre with a Tiger Beer, which was proper nice. We check out the Pit Stop for the Grand Prix circuit too – weird seeing this after seeing it on TV for the past couple of years, a definite highlight!


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View from the Singapore Flyer

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Me at the Singapore Grand Prix Circuit

We headed to a place further around the bay, where the canals begin to flow into the city. Here there were an array of old colonial relics, interestingly preserved. One was the Fullerton Hotel by the quayside, the Cavanagh Bridge, Victoria Theatre and Museum of Asian Civilisations.

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We then did, for me, the highlight of the trip – we headed to the tallest point of Singapore – the roof garden Altitude Bar. It’s on the 62nd floor of a bank building and the views were spectacular. S$25 entry, with a free drink – which of course had to be a Singapore Sling cocktail. We stayed from 6pm to about 9pm there so got to see the sunset too with Malaysia on one side and Indonesia on the other – amazing!

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Me, a Singapore Sling and the amazing view

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Altitude Bar

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We headed to our last stop that day, the Sultan’s Mosque near the Bugis MRT stop. It too was an example of great architecture, and showed how diverse Singapore is. Unfortunately visiting times were over but it looked amazing. We headed back to the Arab Quarter and went to a curry house for dinner. I cheekily made sure we went to the one which had the Fulham vs Stoke match on and enjoyed a beer and curry before calling it a day.

On Sunday, we had a a few hours in the morning before we would head to the airport at 3pm for our flight. We headed to the old British colonial centre to check it out. We went through the grounds of St. Andrew’s Cathedral, a big white-washed Church with the British coat of arms still on its architecture. Next to that was a rugby pitch with a game on, the Cricket fields with a few guys practising in front of the Pavilion. Next to that was the Supreme Court/Government Building, which was being rejuvenated while we were there. There’s also a war memorial in the spitting image of London’s cenotaph, commemorating Singaporeans’ sacrifices in the 2 World Wars.

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A little further through the grass, English-looking public gardens, Victorian waterfalls and lampposts, we found the famous Raffles Hotel, named after Stamford Raffles, the founder of modern Singapore, whose statue had been unveiled in 1887. Definitely had to get a photo with the head porter, although my shirt does look like it’s licking him…

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Our last stop was the Merlion Park – a Fountain statue of Singapore’s emblem/mascot – a hybrid creature of the Lion and Merman. His image is everywhere on t-shirts, models, keyrings and postcards, and tourists love the dude. After a few banter pictures with it, we headed to the airport and headed home with literally S$2 to our name when we got on the plane. Pretty efficient budgeting…

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Overall, I loved Singapore. It was similar to Hong Kong with its colonial parts, which is the bit of history I find really interesting. But also the pace of life was much slower there. Things were open on Sundays but there was fewer people out and about. The MRT was never fulled to the brim like in Hong Kong’s rush hours. 4 of the world’s major religions and cultures lived and worship there – Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhist. There’s a pleasant mix of European, Chinese, Malaysian and Tamil cultures in architecture, people and practises. Things are expensive but not extortionate. It was a warmer, slower Hong Kong: a place, which, if I was loaded, could see myself spending a lot of time there. The retired, old expats and younger Europeans looked to enjoy life there, every culture on an equal footing. Definitely the little gem of South East Asia.

And as per, here’s a video I made of Spectacular Singapore:

Taiwanese Adventure!

For Chinese New Year, we went to Taipei, the capital city of Taiwan. Beautiful place there, and even though it may not be the main priority on everyone’s “Where to see in Asia” list, it is definitely worth a visit.

We visited a lot of tourist places in Taipei, and a few places we just stumbled upon or into. In the 5 days we were there, here are some of the highlights:

  • Chiang Kai-shek Memorial – a big open space in the middle of the city, the resting place for the former leader of the Republic of China, and head of the National Revolutionary Army (NRA) – the military arm of the Kuomintang (Chinese Republican, anti-Communist, nationalist party). For a brief history of the NRA, KMT and PRC (abbreviations are a big thing in this period of history…), check out this video below Adrian and I did…

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  • Taipei 101 – what can I say apart from amazing views, the Fastest Elevator in the world, one of the highest post boxes in the world, an outdoor observation landing and a really surreal experience. A must-visit place even if you’re in Taipei for only 1 hour.

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  • Longsham Temple – there’s a few temples with this name, but the main one is at its namesake MRT station 2 stops away from the Main Station.  We went on one of the big days of Chinese New Year and it was rammed… Great experience.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • Taipei Zoo – I know this is something you can do anywhere in the world, but the zoo here is pretty mint. Tigers, Asian elephants, bears and orangutans were the highlights, with the 2 resident Pandas also being the stars of the show. Cheap enter at NTD 60 (about 1.50 pounds in the UK). There is also the Maokong Gondola at the zoo which runs for 4 stops – the queue was too big for us to go on it, and it was similar to the one we’ve been on to get to Lantau island’s Big Buddha, so we gave it a miss, but it is definitely a highlight of Taipei!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • Shilin Night Market – one of the most famous night markets in Asia – great street food, quirky restaurants (we went to Modern Toilet – a toilet-themed restaurant where your food comes in little toilet-shaped bowls, you sit on toilet seats and drink from toilet cups. The toilet there wasn’t ‘restaurant-themed’ though…) and fun fair booths. For more of a feeling of this place, check out my videos below…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • Tamshui – beautiful sunsets, Fisherman’s Wharf, Fort Domingo (old colonial fort) and lots of people. What I’d call the ‘Blackpool of Taiwan’. Worth a visit!
  • Xinbeitou Hot Springs – exactly what it says – the public bathes there is $40 entry and $20 for the locker. There are 3 levels of hot springs – the highest being 45 degrees Celsius, lowest about 35 degrees. Tastes like sulphur so don’t dunk your head (my first mistake), but very good for your bones. An old guy chatted to me there, asking where I was from etc, and told me this particular hot springs gets a lot of old people with arthritis and bone aches as it’s soothing for them. The old lad came 4 times a week and was insanely happy he got a 15% discount too, good on him, great chap. There are other springs which are better for skin. Saying that, our skin felt so soft after we dried too. A definite destination if you go to Taipei!!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

While we were there we did a lot of photography and filming (clearly…). So here are 2 of my final products.

1) A general ‘family video’ of what we got up to there:

2) A more ‘artsy’ video of the scenes of general Taipei. Named after the Taipei 101, I have created this video to be a preview of Taipei life in 101 seconds (so 1 minute, 41 seconds). Enjoy and let me know what you think.