Top Five – My Hong Kong Favs


Still relishing in my Hong Kong travel memories I have decided to post a Top Five of  my favourite places/things about Hong Kong:

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Incense coils at Man Mo Temple

  1. Mo Temple
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    Koi Pond at Nan Lian Gardens

  2. Nan Lian Garden
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    Orchids at the Mong Kok Flower Market

  3. Mong Kok Flower Market
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    Big Buddha on Lantau Island

  4. Lantau Island
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    Craft Beer!

  5. Craft Beer (Everywhere) – The craft beer scene in Hong Kong is great! Many many places serving local brews. I made a point of checking out a places everyday.  Heroes Cereusly IPA was my favourite.

Notable mentions:

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Star Ferry

  1. Star Ferry
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    The view of Hong Kong from Ozone Bar on the 118th floor

  2. Ozone Bar at The Ritz-Carleton – Asia’s highest bar at 118 floors. I had to check it out. I liked it. Thoroughly modern with some great views it was a good way to enjoy a drink.
  3. MTR(throughout Hong Kong) – Can you actually love a subway system? If so then I love the MTR. It is by far the most efficient subway system I have ever used. The stations are big and signs are clearly marked. The place is busy but runs smoothly. And loading and paying for items well beyond your fare with the Octopus Card is the best!
  4. Food(Everywhere) – Need I say more? Hong Kong is a food mecca! Local and worldwide cuisines abound. I will be making a post soon about my favourite foods and food places.

All photos taken and owned by Eeva Valiharju / Wanders The World

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Sunday Special – Yangon, Myanmar


Today’s post takes us to Yangon, Myanmar. A city that I have actually visited. I have to say that the few days I spent in Myanmar made me fall in love with the country especially the area of Bagan. I did not see much more of the country so I do plan to return one day.  I can’t really explain it but it was, for me, a magical place. Which is why I was so horrified and saddened to learn after I returned about the genocide and conflict occurring there (which you would not know was going on in the areas that I was in). But this post is not a political one. It is simply to showcase the largest city in this Asian country.

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Yangon view from Sule Pagoda

Yangon (formerly Rangoon) is Myanmar’s largest city although it is not the capital (that title belongs to the city of Naypyidaw). It is however the commerce capital of the country. To be honest, Yangon is not my favourite city. Not even close though it does have some areas that I enjoyed seeing. Some of its sights are impressive and then other areas are less so. The state of wear of many of the buildings and failing infrastructure was a bit of a surprise to me especially coming from Malaysia where it was much more modern. Yet it still holds its own charm. I must admit that part of my time where was plagued by an uneasy tummy so at moments I wasn’t up to my usual wandering speed.  However, I did always encounter kind people. Yes, many wanted to sell me items, often assertively, but that is to be expected. Many were curious especially since I was a female travelling solo. Yet they were mostly polite (unlike the cab driver who overcharged me but I was desperate to get back to my hostel as I need a toilet so I only mildly argued with him). 

So what can you see in Yangon?  Let’s take a look (those marked with an * are places that I visited):

  • *Shwedagon Pagoda – The most significant of all pagodas in Myanmar this stunning sanctuary is a sight to see. It stands 110 m / 360 ft and is covered in gold plates and studded with diamonds. There are smaller temples, stupas, and statues surrounding the grounds. It truly is an incredible place.

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    Shwedagon Pagoda

  • *Chinatown – This is the neighbourhood that I stayed in. Plenty of markets and some Chinese temples in the area as well.  Known for night markets and street food  I did not actually visit these areas in the evening as I had some early mornings.
  • *Sule Pagoda – The first pagoda and sight I visited in Yangon as it was close walking distance from my hostel. It was where I prayed to Buddha to find me space for the sold-out hot air ballooning  in Bagan and he listened. Or it was luck. Either way I was happy.

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    Followers listening to a teacher at Sule Pagoda

  • *Bogyoke Aung San Market – Built in 1926 in a colonial building you can find many items and souvenirs here. T-shirts, textiles, jade, jewellery, antiques, paintings, handicrafts and food are the main wares found in over 2,000 stalls. This is one of my favourite markets that I have visited during my wanderings.
  • Kandawgyi Park – Get away from the bustle of the city and relax along the lake and take in views of the traditional barge, Myanmar architecture, and a view of the golden Shewdagon Pagoda.
  • Botataung Pagoda – This is another pagoda of importance to the Myanmar people. It is located by the Yangon River and claims to house a relic of Buddha himself (a sacred hair). During WW II this pagoda was completely destroyed and was rebuilt in 1948.
  • Rangoon Circular Railroad Ride – I did not go on this train even though I was aware of it. I am not certain why though I wish I had. Built by the British in 1954 this railway line does a 45.9 km / 28.5 mile circuit stopping at 39 stations. It is a way to see some of Yangon’s local life.
  • *Chaukhtatgyi Paya / The Reclining Buddha – This was my favourite sight in Yangon. I had not seen a Buddha quite so large and was quite fascinated by the experience of taking it all in. The Buddha is 66 m/ 217 feet long. Built in 1966, it is a replacement of the Reclining Buddha built in the same location in 1907.

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    The Reclining Buddha

  • *Visit a Teahouse – Tea is more than tea in Myanmar. Tea houses are common and a place for socializing for the locals and visitors alike. When I researched a tea house to visit, one popped up often: Rangoon Tea House. It did not disappoint. I enjoyed 2 cups of tea and curry lunch.

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    My tea and a book I bought from a seller on the street

  • *Drinks at The Strand Hotel – The Yangon climate can be a bit warm and humid for a northern gal like me. So when I had my fill of the warm afternoon sun I checked out Sarkies Bar at The Strand Hotel. The AC was welcome and the design was reminiscent of 1900s prestige and luxury that is still associated with the hotel. And the drinks were quite good too.

I’ll be back Myanmar. =)

All photos taken and owned by Eeva Valiharju / Wanders The World

 

Sunday Special – Varanasi, India


India is a large country and quite varied at that. Although I spent nearly a month in India, mainly in the north and in Goa, I have longed to return to this place that brings a wonderful influx of sensations. The abundance of colours, the ongoing din of the streets, and the assault of smells and aromas give it an energy all its own. At times India is not easy yet it is worth it. It would appear from my research that Varanasi is one such place. Having not yet experienced this northern city on the Ganges River I imagine that this revered sight will keep me rapt and enticed while testing my travel endurance. 

The religious history of Varanasi is vital to Hinduism and Jain, considered the holiest of places. It is also credited as the birthplace of Buddhism. Those of the Hindu faith consider dying in Varanasi to bring about their salvation and many make the trek here when they are close to their end. Cremation services are common along the Ganges at ghats (steps built along the river) reserved strictly for that service.  Other ones observe different uses and significance such as the washing away of sins by bathing in the river. Since this is a city of religious significance there is an abundance of temples with Kashi Vishwanath Temple being of the highest importance. Many are Hindu though others are of various systems of belief.  It would seem that the two best ways to see this intriguing city is by boat along the Ganges and by simply wandering around by foot. Who knows what you will see and learn?

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Ahilya Ghat as seen from the waters of the Ganges River – Photo credit:  Ken WielandAhilya Ghat by the Ganges, VaranasiCC BY-SA 2.0

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Evening worship (aarti) in Varanasi – Photo credit: Eric Laurent from Le Havre, FRANCE, Evening aarti, VaranasiCC BY 2.0

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Ceremony along the Ganges in Varanasi, India –  Photo credit: Davi1974dVista de Varanassi. Ciudad Sagrada. Rio GangesCC BY-SA 3.0

 

 

Sunday Special – Siem Reap, Cambodia


If there was ever a town built around one tourist attraction it would be…Orlando, Florida. Because Disney World is huge. Things are built around it and cater to it. That is what I hear. And with that, what I say next may be considered sacrilege by many. Here goes:  I have no desire to visit Disney World. None whatsoever! There I said it (whew! that wasn’t so painful).  BUT…what does this have to do with today’s Sunday Special? Well Siem Reap in Cambodia is similar to Orlando in that it has one main draw – the grand Angkor Wat (Angkor Archaeological Site) And that IS a place I want to visit. Stretching out 400 square km / 155 sq miles it encompasses temples, old remains, and forested areas. I understand it takes several days to meander through it. I’m getting excited just knowing I’ll see it in the future! But I know nothing else of what there is to see and do in Siem Reap. Kinda like Orlando.

So let’s find out what else this northwestern Cambodian city has to offer.

  • Food: One of my favourite topics. Food tours and bountiful restaurants are plentiful. There are even some places where the adventurous foodies can taste  bugs, such as deep fried tarantulas.
  • Get Around: Rent a bicycle, moped, or e-bike (electric scooter) to see the area at your own pace. Alternately,  you can also rent tuk-tuks to get you from one place to another.
  • Markets: Siem Reap has a healthy selection of markets to peruse. Some of the popular ones are the Old Market, Angkor Night Market, and Central Market. If you would like to learn about buying ethical handicrafts, check out Angkor Handicraft Association.
  • Floating Villages: There are a few floating villages in the area that you can visit. Do your research as some are more authentic than others from what I have read online.
  • Angkor National Museum: Visit this museum to learn not only about the temples in the area but the history of the Khmer Empire and the relics and artifacts of Angkor.
  • Pub Street: A good place for restaurants and eateries during the day and the go-to place for pubs, street entertainment and bars at night. In fact after 5:00pm it is closed off to motorized vehicles. 
  • Cooking Classes: You’ve tried some of the food, why not learn how to recreate it at home. There are several cooking classes you can join up for in the area
  • Other Temples: Although Angkor Wat is the largest temple in Siem Reap it is by not means the only. There are plenty of others to see. Mainly Buddhist temples but there are a few Hindu ones as well.

Well, I am fairly certain I will enjoy Siem Reap once I make my way there in the future. I hope you do to should you decide to visit.

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Puok Market in Siem Reap, Cambodia – Photo credit: FREDPuok.MarketCC BY-SA 3.0

 

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Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia – Photo credit: Ziegler175ICAngkorWatH01CC BY-SA 3.0