Sunday, November 20, 2016

Singapore, New Zealand, Hong Kong & Macau Trip Report

This was a fantastic holiday.  A whole three weeks away.  The only other time I've ever taken three weeks off was when I went home to Atlanta, Prescott, and Irvine back in 2012.  Singapore, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Macau.  Wow!

Krasimir and I met up at Heathrow and then we had a 13 hour flight to Singapore.  We enjoyed our time in Singapore.  I'm really glad that we had a four day layover here because it really broke up the travel time to New Zealand.

It was fun seeing the diversity in Singapore.  All of the unique architecture plus everything from Chinatown to Little India.  The hawker centres were fun and the food was incredible.

While it was fun, I don't have a burning desire to go back.  Don't get me wrong, I would for sure do a layover here again to break up another long trip but, I feel like we got the full experience.  One of the highlights was Changi Airport.  This has to be the best airport ever!  It is one of the busiest airports in the world and it focuses on travellers.  I've never been in an airport that provides art galleries, multiple gardens, a swimming pool and free movie theatres.  For Christmas I really want one of the foot massage machines that are in the terminals.  

From Singapore we had a 7 hour 40 minute flight to Sydney with an hour layover before our +3 hour flight to Auckland.  New Zealand really is far away from everywhere else.  Auckland was fun and we got to spend time with our favourite Kiwi.

We did all kinds of fun things...hiked up a volcano, saw a gannet colony, saw the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and even saw Priscilla.

Then it was on to Napier which was nice little town.  It was so wonderful to see the Pacific Ocean again.  This was my first experience with Jetstar airlines which was so much better than any Ryanair flight I've ever taken.

I was shocked however by airport security in Kiwiland.  For domestic flights security is way more relaxed than it is in Europe or the USA.  On some flights we just boarded the plane.  Others when we did go through security there were no restrictions on liquids.  I was shocked seeing being going through with water bottles.  Awesome!

After Napier we were in Dunedin on the south island.  The best part of Dunedin was going out to see the Moeraki Boulders.  Again, I got to see the Pacific Ocean.  It may not seem like a big deal but when you grow up in California and now live in a landlocked country it is a very big deal.

Then it was on to Wellington.  This really is a fab city and I wish that we had had more time here.  It was so great staying with Nat's folks and Robyn and Roger took such great care of us during and after the earthquake.

Leaving Wellington Airport

We were so lucky to have not been on our own on the south island when it happened.  One of my favourite things was sitting down to a Sunday family night dinner.  Everything was so delicious!

Then it was on to Hong Kong via Sydney.  I caught a view of the Sydney Opera House from the plane.  This has sparked a fire so maybe we'll have to head to Australia in 2018, and perhaps a return visit to Wellington (minus the earthquake).

I knew that we would enjoy Hong Kong but...damn!  It was so much better than I had pictured.

Hong Kong (and a day in Macau) in four days just let's you scratch the surface.  There is so much that I still want to go back and see.  If only I had unlimited holiday time.  

Oh well, next came the +13 hour flight back to Heathrow, a three hour layover before my flight back to Vienna and my Student Agency bus home. At least I've got time today to do some laundry before returning to work tomorrow.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Hong Kong, China

Hong Kong, 香港, borders China's Guangdong province and is 60 km (37 miles) from Macau.  With 7,3 million people in an area of 2,755 km² (1,064 sq miles) it is the world's 4th most densely populated country.

As a Special Administrative Region of China it has its own immigration and border controls.  I had to fill out an immigration card upon arrival and was given a paper ticket to hold on to until I left.  The ticket takes the place of stamping your passport.

A skyscraper is any building that is 150 meters (492 feet) or more tall.  With 316, Hong Kong has more than anywhere else in the world.  And they are still building.

At night the entire city is lit up.  The most impressive lights are on the Hong Kong side of the harbour and the best views of it at night are from the Kowloon side.

Government House was built in 1855.  It is the official residence of the Chief Executive of Hong Kong.

The Cenotaph was unveiled in 1923.  It commemorates those who died in both world wars while serving Hong Kong in the British armed forces.

The Court of Final Appeal was built in 1912.  During WWII, the Japanese used it as the military police headquarters while they occupied Hong Kong.

St. Stephen's Church was completed in 1980.  It was renovated in 1995 and serves the local Catholic community.

The Rosary Church, built in 1905, is the oldest Catholic church in Kowloon.

The Hong Kong Council of the Church of Christ in China serves the Protestant community.

The Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens is one of the oldest such centres in the world.  It was founded in 1864 and was opened to the public in 1871.  There are over 600 birds, 70 mammals, 40 reptiles and over a thousand species of plants.

At Duddell Street are the city's last four remaining gas lamps.  They were completed in 1899.

The Dr. Sun Yat-sen Museum opened in 2006 to commemorate the 140th birthday of the Chinese statesman.

The Ohel Leah Synagogue was built in 1902.  Its renovation in 1998 won the Outstanding Project Award of the 2000 UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage Awards for Culture Heritage Conservation.

This Hung Shing Temple is one of six on Lantau Island.  It used to be next to the Silver Mine Bay Beach but was moved here a few decades ago.

The Po Lin Monastery is also on Lantau Island.  The Buddhist monastery was founded in 1906.

Next to the monastery is the Tian Tan Buddha.  Completed in 1993, the Big Buddha is the world's largest outdoor bronze statue.

Nearby is the Grand Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas.

On the Kowloon waterfront is a replica of the Olympic torch used in the Beijing Olympic Games.

The Golden Bauhinia sculpture.  At this square was where the handover ceremony took place when the UK handed Hong Kong back over to the Chinese in 1997.

The pilar is in commemoration of the return of Hong Kong to China.

There are a few Man Mo temples but the largest is on the Hong Kong side in Sheung Wan.  It was built in 1847.

The Western Market opened in 1858.  It is the oldest surviving market building in the city and it takes up a whole city block.

The Observation Wheel opened in 2014.  It overlooks Victoria Harbour.

Victoria Peak is the highest mountain on Hong Kong Island.  The Peak is a great place to get the best panoramic photos of the city and to get an appreciation for all of the skyscrapers.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Macau, China

Today we had a day tour of Macau.  From Hong Kong the easiest way to get to Macau is by ferry.  The TurboJet takes about an hour to cover the 64 km (40 miles).

As a Special Administrative Region of China, Macau (and Hong Kong) have their own immigration policies, so passport checks are required when travelling between the two former colonies.  We had to exit through Hong Kong immigration before boarding the ferry.  Once in Macau we went through immigration again.  

There are no passport stamps because both issue paper tickets that you have to hold on to instead.

Macau澳門, is home to about 651,000 people, all of them in about an area of 30,5 km² (11,8 miles²) making it the most densely populated place in the world.  Unlike Hong Kong, in Macau there are height restrictions on the buildings so there's not a sea of skyscrapers.

Macau's currency is the pataca.  Fortunately, almost everyplace accepts Hong Kong dollars (or debit cards) so we didn't need to exchange money.

The Historic Centre, which includes around 25 sites which were collectively declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005.

The Ruins of St. Paul's is what's left of a 17th-century complex.  The Jesuits built it from 1602 to 1640.  At the time it was one of the largest Catholic churches in Asia.  It was destroyed by a fire in 1835 and only the façade remains.

The Fotaleza do Monte was a fort built from 1617 to 1626 to protect the Jesuits from pirates.  From the top of the fort are great views of Macau.
The Macau Museum opened in 1998 and covers the city's history as a former Portuguese colony.  The museum is on the hill of the Fortaleza do Monte.

The Na Tcha Temple was built in 1888.  It was built for the child god of war and people believed that it ended a plague which was effecting the region back then.

The Cathedral of the Nativity of Our Lady, known as the Sé Cathedral, was rebuilt in 1937.

St. Dominic's Church was completed in 1587.  The current building dates back to the early 17th century.

The A-Ma Temple was built in 1488 and is one of the oldest in Macau.

Gambling is huge in Macau.  Lots of Chinese millionaires come over here to gamble.

It's the Asian version of Las Vegas but I believe that Macau is even more profitiable.  One of the major casinos is Casino Lisboa.

The Maritime Museum opened in 1987 and the current building, which opened in 1990, is built on the site where the Portuguese explorers first landed here back in 1553.

Santa Sancha, also called Macau Government House, was built in 1846.  It is the home of the Chief Executive of Macau.

Macau Tower opened in 2001.  It is 338 meters (1,109 feet) tall making it the 10th tallest freestanding tower in the world.  It was based on the Sky Tower in Auckland.

Senate Square is located in the old town.  The wave-patterned stones definitely has a Lisbon feel to it.  Many tourists really seemed to like the area because it feels like Europe in Asia.  While it's a nice area, I already get to see the real Europe in Europe.

The Macau Grand Prix takes place every November and it is the biggest event of the year.