Sunday, 24 August 2014

Croatia 1: Dubrovnik

Three Musketeers 
Dubrovnik Port

We arrived fresh and early into Dubrovnik and got picked up at the airport by our first guest house - a place high up on the hill above the Old Town.  Quickly unpacked, grabbed the wifi password and a map and headed down to check out the old walled city.

At first we wandered around, found the port and had an ice-cream.  Booked a sea-kayaking tour for the next day and then went on a rather unusual walking tour.  The guide was a lot of fun, bringing out terrible heavy metal puns and football jokes.  Despite being a bit weird it was enjoyable and we learnt a lot about the history of Ragusa (what the Dubrovnik Old Town was known as when it was still a walled city).   Would definetly recommend the walking tour, we did the general history one run by Marko, but there is also a Game of Thrones themed tour that will show you the filming locations.  Last activity of the day was to walk the 3km city walls, you can see the whole city from every angle as well as the sea / nearby islands.

On other days we saw that the walls are extremely busy around sunset with literally hundreds of tourists trying to get photos of the setting sun.  If thats your thing I'd recommend trying for sunrise instead.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Hong Kong Fri/Sat

British Hong Kong Flag
Chinese Flag
Modern Hong Kong Flag

So I was super excited about going to Hongkong.  I was honestly trying to not get my hopes out about it still being British - despite the mantra of "Hongkong isn't China" that I hear so often.  Grabbed a burger and icecream from Lotteria and then some beer for the bus ride.  Buses to Gimhae from Daegu run pretty regularly until about 6pm after which they're only every hour.  Got there predictably early so found the 7/11 at International Arrivals (downstairs from departures) and got a bottle of makgeolli to sit and drink whilst gossiping.  Usual Friday night haha.  Went through security and the makgeolli was much more expensive so got beers.  There were two flights leaving at a similar time to Hongkong from Busan and we thought we were on the second one which was delayed.. luckily a woman came over and grabbed us! Would've taken some explaining if we'd tried to get on the wrong plane!

Arrived and got through the airport easily enough.  Hongkong runs a fleet of night buses all over the territory, they only take Octopus or exact change and took about an hour to get onto Hong Kong Island.  When we got there though the bus looked like it was full, the guy who worked there told it to go even though there was loads of space on top so we had to wait a half hour  :-(  .  Got booked into "Hong Kong Hostel"- there are a few on Patterson Street in Causeway Bay.  This is our view on the right looking towards the harbour.

Poor Erica had to get up early to go to her TEFL course, I got up about 9 to grab a coffee and do some last minute internet research.  First stop was to walk around Time Square, a bunch of high class shops and a big food court.  Next up on the way to the ferry port I found a lovely small park to sit and have a bacon and egg breakfast roll with iced lemon tea (whole chunks of lemon!).

Next up was the ferry from Wan Chai ferry port across Victoria Bay to Star Ferry Terminal in Kowloon.  This only took about 7 minutes and cost about 2HKD.  Got talking to a high school basketball team, who spoke with flawless British accents despite being babies when HK was handed back.

Avenue of Stars - Looking over Kowloon Bay towards Hong Kong Island
Nearby the STAR ferry terminal on the Kowloon side is the Avenue of Stars along the harbour promenade.  I took a wander aroudn that and the nearby Museum of Art which was interesting.  My favourite piece was a weird spider outside.
While passing the central mosque I was stopped by an Indian guy trying to sell me a phonecard.  I pretended to not understand English, pointed at my tshirt and spoke in Korean.  After a few minutes he became agitated and stormed off telling me to "speak my own language".  Weird.
Past the strange racist anglophone Indian and I headed into Kowloon park, there is a street of anime statues to walk down and even has a big swimming pool near the north end.  Passed through the Temple Street Market before it had really started and got the 11 bus from Jordon Road towards Wong Tai Shin.  Got off one stop early at Tai Shing to look around that market before walking to Wong Tai Shin temple.

Wong Tai Shin 黃大仙祠 temple is one of the nicest I've been to.  Possibly as most of the temples in Korea were destroyed by the Japanese or North Koreans..  It's surrounded by rundown skyscrapers but manages to be quiet and peaceful.  I liked how the complexes around also had entrances.  Highlights included a walkway of the zodiac symbols, lots of incense and of course the huge inner pond.  There were lots of people milling around, bowing and burning incense. Ran into a big Korean tour group, offered to take their photo.  Only thing they could say in English was "I lobe Daegu".  Typical.  Only other Koreans I ran into outside of the airport were going into a Korean restaurant - "우아!한국 음식 맛있겠다" - "Wow, korean food, delicious!".  At least they weren't carrying around their own weight in rameon.. </kbashing> 

Sad Face
Sweaty Jono
Next stop on my whirlwind tour of Hong Kong involved taking the subway from Wong Tai Shin to central.  The subway transfers involve two stations - it means that if you're going in the opposite direction you have cross platform interchange and at the second you can simply walk across the platform for the same direction.  Ridiculously convenient, and announcements are made on the train.  Took a walk up the Mid-levels escalator, all the way to the top.  Passed by a fish and chip shop, sadly shut.  There were a bunch of restaurants and bars en route - I'm sure if I ate out for every meal on every day I still couldn't try every restaurant in HK.  I walked along the top road towards the botanics, passed by two signs pointing in the same direction, guessed up for the botanics but was sadly wrong.  Didn't notice that the signs that said "The Peak Tram" just said "The Peak".  I was about halfway up without any water before I realised!  This is how sad I looked ->

Stopped to rest a couple times, not sure what this sign says in Chinese but pretty sure its "there's a tram you idiot!".  My honest advice would be to tram up and walk down.  Anyway, good exercise and amazing views. Wandered around the top, you can see Aberdeen from The Peak!  Here's a video of when I just got up.  

Took a big panoramic photo with PhotoAF, it looks really good on my phone but for some reason I can't upload the HD version.  Found free wifi so sent off some messages and updated my fb.  Joined the queue for the tram - I thought it was large at the top but when the tram got to the bottom it was REALLY busy. Video here.

Wandered through the bird park and hothouse on my way back.  Highlights included cacti room, art space, vampire plant, turtles and koi in the pond, 300 species of butterfly, tai chi garden, weird sounding frogs (video here).  Last botanical stop was the SARS memorial built to commemorate the 10th anniversary.  The faces on it are health workers who died during the 2003 outbreak.  Walked to the top of the tower, it was quiet and peaceful.  Of the 300 people hospitalised with the virus, more than 10% of them died.

Walked past the Shangri-La Hotel, British Embassy and a huge shopping mall.  There was an architecture fair going on at the time - urban farming, floating city in the bay, waste recycling plants, hydrosufficient buildings etc.  Really cool!

Caught the road tram back to my hostel.  The centre two lanes are reserved for the tram system so even though the traffic was bad they could run without difficulty. Got some food and beer with Erica then sat and watched nighttime TV in the hostel - both of us were really tired.  Erica was not very impressed by Coach Trip - "they're just way too polite!"

Monday, 11 February 2013

Tokyo Day 2 - Imperial Palace, Botanics and Atomic Bomb Boat

Delicious Family Mart Snacks                 Half Height Subway Barriers                         Woman Only Sign

Got up super early, grabbed a snack from the Family Mart (yup, they have cheap tasty boiling food) and rode the subway downtown, was surprised by how busy it was. Similar to Kuala Lumpur there is a car reserved during rush hour for women only. Japan is also the reason phones bought in Korea can't turn off the camera sound - apparently there were too many pervs taking photos up ladies skirts on the subway. Maybe I've been in Korea too long but maybe if their skirts covered their ladyparts.. Although the ladies I saw were a lot more conservatively dressed so I'm sure it's not that. 

The Imperial Palace became so way back during 1868 when the Emperor moved up from Kyoto. The Edo castle on the grounds was originally built in 1457 and subsequently destroyed in a few fires and of course World War II. It's right in the centre of the town so you walk into it from streets covered in skyscrapers.  We wandered around, some parts like the walls and moat haven't changed in a few hundred years - such a huge change from Korea where almost the entire country was destroyed during the Korea War.

Attractions to see: A side building with pictures of the Japanese Royal Family, guard towers, moat, gardens etc. When we were wandering around too we saw an old horse-drawn carriage. Not sure why that was there!

Afterwards we wandered past protesters and marathon runners (see photos on the right) to the Sakuradaemon station - I was very pleased with myself that I could read the kanja for door/gate in 
桜田門. Next stop was the botanics to meet some couch surfers to take photos of the flowers.

Getting from Shinkiba station to the botanics involves walking under a huge elevated road (where they store construction vehicles and buses).  It's 

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Tokyo Day 1 - Asakusa and Skytree

I flew outta Gimhae first thing Sat morning - saw Laura at the airport but we were on different flights ;-(  With hind-sight I can tell you that heading home to pack at 2am slightly drunk is not the best of ideas.  Upshot is I slept through most of the plane ride.

Once I got into Narita I got 3 days worth of subway tickets (note, they are only for the Tokyo metro lines, not TOEI) and grabbed a slow train that ran as a metro service through Asakusa station - every metro line except the smaller guage K and M lines (the first two subway lines built in the city) have through running with suburban services.

Dropped luggage at our hotel and wandered around Senso-ji Temple.  It was Lunar New Year so there was a market and a lot of people there.  Saw some monks lighting incense for good luck for the next year. There was also a strange wooden block thing that the Japanese people would pay to pick at random - I couldn't read the writing on it.

Afterwards walked to the Sky Tree (it was 2 subway stops away but a TOIC line, also the riverside walk was refreshing).  If you can find out how to book online for the Sky Tree I suggest you do it - we had to queue for a time period to come back to buy a ticket!  Highly efficient but wish I'd stopped off there first!

Got some delicious marinated beef and rice for dinner and headed back to the Sky Tree.  A bit of background info - it's 634meters tall and the tallest tower in the world (second tallest structure about 190m smaller than the Burj Khalifa).  It's a lot better than Namsan Tower, we got there as the sun was setting so got the full experience.  Spent a while wandering round and taking photos and enjoying the interactive screens in addition to the amazing views.
Finally it was time for a quick snack and some beer and sake at the hotel.  Perfect end to a long day :-)