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Hong Kong, Pearl of the Orient

semi-overcast 15 °C
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Next on my list was therefore Hong Kong, after having had an unsuccessful attempt to visit it before my trip to Korea, because of the Chinese New Year's celebrations. Indeed at that time (around February 1st), the Chinese New Year occurring at the same time meant that all cheap accommodations were already fully booked and the prices were rocketing high. But two weeks later, it seemed that everything was back to normal and I had no problems finding a hostel to stay in.

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The first thing which strikes any visitor coming to Hong Kong for the first time is the multitude of skyscrapers. It seems that every company wants to have a higher and bigger building than their neighbours, and more shining as well with lightning effects. Inhabitants face also a space issue, because there are too many people for the space the Hong Kong island has to offer, then people usually live in tiny flats in 15 or more storeys buildings. Unless you make a lot of money I think it must be very hard to find a decent sized accommodation not too far from the centre. And my hostel was no exception to the rule: in what probably used to be a normal flat on the 14th floor of a building in the Tsim Sha Tsui busy district, there was now a hostel with dorms rooms, with at least 12 beds in a 12 square metre room... you see the picture... But I was not coming to HK for its quality of life but more to catch a glimpse and understand why people nicknamed long time ago this lively city Pearl of the Orient.

Actually from the beginning of the 90s, people also started to refer for Hong Kong as the "Golden Egg" because anybody could come, start up a business and make a good fortune, a bit like the American Dream.

And I actually quite enjoyed my days there, it was not as hot as it could be with temperatures averaging the 15 degrees, and humidity was not an issue either (I have been told that during other months the humidity levels can reach 100%!). As usual, staying in a hostel meant that I could meet a lot of people who were like me willing to explore the city and its surroundings (an hour away from the centre, there are actually very nice hikes to do and beaches to relax on), and even managed to fit a day trip to Macau, one of the two "Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China" with Hong Kong. Macau was actually quite interesting with its mixed Portuguese/Chinese heritage and its new massive Casinos which makes it Las Vegas' little brother.

But one week was enough (at least for this world trip) as Hong Kong is far from being cheap and after a week I realised it was time to move on to South East Asia if I wanted to make my bank account happier... Overall I had a great time there, met nice people and I would definitely recommend to spend at least a few days in Hong Kong if you are in the area!

  • Hong Kong

Hong Kong "by night" is quite impressive and photogenic!

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  • Dragon's Back hike

One of the nice hikes available only at a short distance from Hong Kong island.
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  • Lantau Island

Lantau Island is the largest island in Hong Kong, where is located the 85-foot (26 m)-high bronze Tian Tan Buddha (or "Giant Buddha") statue, once the world's largest seated outdoor bronze Buddha statue. Walkers can ascend from Tung Chung to the monastery in two hours. Visitors can also take a 25 minute ride on a Ngong Ping 360 from Tung Chung to the Ngong Ping Plateau via a 5.7 km cable car journey with a cultural themed village and easy access to the Tian Tan Buddha Statue.

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  • Macau

The streets, old fort and casinos of Macau.

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Posted by manolo84 07/04/2014 19:30 Archived in Hong Kong Tagged cities english treks Comments (0)

Instant musique à Séoul

Musical interlude in Seoul...


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A few months ago, a friend of mine made me discover a amazing musician called Yiruma, a famous Korean pianist. His music is, how I would say? inspiring, and the perfect companion to my long bus journeys through South America and beyond.

And by pure coincidence, when walking in a subway station with the same friend, we spotted a few people setting up a piano and a banner announcing a musician playing a few minutes later. Turned out it was Yiruma! Hope you will enjoy it too! (I will try to get the end of the video translated soon).

Posted by manolo84 06/04/2014 09:52 Archived in South Korea Tagged music english Comments (0)

How to subscribe to the blog

Comment souscrire au blog

Just a quick post to answer a question some people sometimes ask me: How can I subscribe to the travel blog?

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Some of you might just have my blog in your favourites' bookmarks or type the address each time you want to access and check if new articles have been posted, but for those who did not know there is also a way of getting an automatic email every time I post a new article with pictures.
In order to achieve this, nothing is more simple, just click on the Subscribe button on the right side-bar and enter your name and email address. That is it, next time there is a new post on the blog, you will be warned immediately!

(And you can also achieve the same result with the RSS feed if you want)

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Posted by manolo84 23:06 Tagged english Comments (0)

Detour via South Korea

in a Gangnam Style...


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Not originally in my list of places to visit, but after hearing a lot of positive things about South Korea, I decided to make a short detour to Seoul in order to join a few friends I had met along the way and discover the Korean culture. And indeed it was quite a nice surprise, at the exception of the weather with temperatures oscillating between a chilly 5 degrees Celsius during the day and a freezing -5 degrees at night... But with some good gloves and scarf, nothing is impossible.... :)

Although I did not spend too much time there (about two weeks more or less), I absolutely loved the Korean food, was pleasantly surprised about the kindness of Korean people (although their average English level is really not that good, even worse than France if I may say so...) and was really astonished by their culture in general. It would be too long to detail all the little things which made me like this country but I would definitely recommend a visit (maybe more during spring or autumn though, when the temperatures are more mild). I had very little time to visit the countryside but I heard there is lots of hiking to be done in the high season so I will definitely come back one day to explore the back-country.

Therefore here are a few pictures taken during these two weeks, between Seoul, the capital, and Jeonju, a smaller town in the South.

The Gyeongbok Palace, the former king's residency

The Gyeongbok Palace, the former king's residency


Another house from the Gyeongbok Palace's complex

Another house from the Gyeongbok Palace's complex


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The National Folk Museum, near the Gyeongbok Palace

The National Folk Museum, near the Gyeongbok Palace


Little detour via the fish market, near Noryangjin

Little detour via the fish market, near Noryangjin


Inside the Hanok (traditional) village in Jeonju

Inside the Hanok (traditional) village in Jeonju


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The traditional dish of Jeonju: Bibimbap. Rice, meat, vegetables, all mixed in a big bowl... Really good!

The traditional dish of Jeonju: Bibimbap. Rice, meat, vegetables, all mixed in a big bowl... Really good!


Having someone who can translate Korean definitely helps! <img class='img' src='http://www.travellerspoint.com/img/emoticons/icon_wink.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=';)' title='' />

Having someone who can translate Korean definitely helps! ;)


Totems protecting the village (in ancient times)

Totems protecting the village (in ancient times)


In the Korean Folk Village, just outside Seoul

In the Korean Folk Village, just outside Seoul


My friend Bo-ok trying to fit into a Korean gama (litter vehicle)... <img class='img' src='http://www.travellerspoint.com/img/emoticons/icon_smile.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':)' title='' />

My friend Bo-ok trying to fit into a Korean gama (litter vehicle)... :)


Horse show

Horse show


Seoul too has its tower with the Namsan Tower, overlooking the city

Seoul too has its tower with the Namsan Tower, overlooking the city


View from Namsan Tower

View from Namsan Tower


The toilets inside Namsan Tower, not bad... <img class='img' src='http://www.travellerspoint.com/img/emoticons/icon_wink.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=';)' title='' />

The toilets inside Namsan Tower, not bad... ;)


That's what I call some a nice restaurant BBQ!

That's what I call some a nice restaurant BBQ!


The side dish...

The side dish...


Seoul by night

Seoul by night


Obviously I couldn't come to Seoul without having a glance at that famous area from the Song! <img class='img' src='http://www.travellerspoint.com/img/emoticons/icon_smile.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':)' title='' />

Obviously I couldn't come to Seoul without having a glance at that famous area from the Song! :)


Seoul by night, near the canal

Seoul by night, near the canal


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Seoul by night

Seoul by night


A few month ago, my Korean friend had made me discover an amazing Korean pianist, quite famous here and maybe in the world, Yiruma. And by pure coincidence, I could assist to one of his "concerts" live in the subway, which was part of a promotional event organised by Sony Music. Definitely unexpected!

A few month ago, my Korean friend had made me discover an amazing Korean pianist, quite famous here and maybe in the world, Yiruma. And by pure coincidence, I could assist to one of his "concerts" live in the subway, which was part of a promotional event organised by Sony Music. Definitely unexpected!

Posted by manolo84 04/04/2014 17:26 Archived in South Korea Tagged villages food cities palaces music english Comments (0)

Tramping in the Huxley Valley

Last post about New-Zealand....

sunny 20 °C
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Here we are, my last post about New-Zealand, which covers the last big trek I did with my friends. I think I pretty much went through all the major activities and events which occurred during these amazing 7 weeks spent in Kiwiland, and I could have stayed easily longer, if it wasn't for my bank account which was definitely crying by the time I left... New Zealand is amazing but definitely expensive when you are on a budget! :)

So that last week, I actually caught up with Thomi and his girlfriend Deborah, who I used to work with in London, but who had moved back to their home country a few years ago, in Dunedin. My other mate Seumas who was also back in NZ for some holidays joined us a day later after flying from London and Auckland, and soon enough we had our backpacks in Thomi's 4WD and were heading to the Huxley Valley to spend a few days tramping in that remote area. Having a local with you (and a car) is actually the best way to go off the beaten track, as we would see no tourists during the 3 days we spent hiking... Definitely like it should be!

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After leaving Dunedin early in the morning, we finally reached Monument Hut, our starting point by mid-afternoon, saving some time by driving with the 4WD as much as we could through some rough paths. From there, it took us at least 3 more hours walking along the valley to reach Huxley Forks Hut where we spent our first night. We were lucky to be the only ones in that hut as it could only accommodate 6 people max, so with another party we would have definitely packed.

In the early morning, during our breakfast time, we actually saw a helicopter flying low in the valley and coming right for our hut. The whole scene was a bit surreal and it felt like in a movie with the FBI agents going down and starting to run away from the helicopter. Fortunately the reality didn't really match my imagination and instead of FBI agents, it was simply some people who had been contracted by the Department of Conservation to clear the paths ahead of us. Still it was still an impressive scene for 8am!

That second day, we took off early morning, leaving our big bags in the hut as we were planning to come back later to spend a second night, and started to head off towards another hut, Brodrick Hut. It was a very steady climb, and unfortunately for us some landslides and floods had washed away the path, meaning that the quickest way was to follow the bed of the river, jumping from rocks to other rocks. Not that difficult but very unpleasant after a few hours as you need to remain concentrated to avoid twisting an ankle or just falling down. After having lunch at the hut and admiring the view of the surrounding mountains, we went back the same way, and spent our second night in Huxley Forks Hut. The weather was perfect and we would have loved spending the rest of the afternoon chilling out near the river or near the hut, if it weren't for all the sandflies which were definitely considering us like their dinner. I love New-Zealand but come on guys, do something about these bloody sandflies! They are definitely worse than mosquitoes in my opinion.

Finally the third day we started going back to where we had left the car, following the river and even crossing it quite a few times. Fun and refreshing experience! A few hours and a fish and chips later, we would find ourselves back in Dunedin, enjoying a well-deserved sleep. It was definitely the perfect way to end up my Kiwi experience, thanks a lot Thomi and Deborah for hosting and showing us around!

The next day would see me flying back to Auckland with Seumas and spending a few days at his parent's, enjoying the Auckland sunshine, before flying out to the final destination of my trip: Asia. Thanks a lot New Zealand, I really had an awesome time! And as would say my dear friend Arnold, "I'll be back" ! ;)

Thomi driving us to new adventures!

Thomi driving us to new adventures!


More waterfalls, can't get enough!

More waterfalls, can't get enough!


Amazing scenery...

Amazing scenery...


Seumas showing off on the swing bridge <img class='img' src='http://www.travellerspoint.com/img/emoticons/icon_wink.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=';)' title='' />

Seumas showing off on the swing bridge ;)


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That's what happens when you spend too much time in London, Seumas is so happy to be back in NZ that he's now making love to the trees... <img class='img' src='http://www.travellerspoint.com/img/emoticons/icon_wink.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=';)' title='' />

That's what happens when you spend too much time in London, Seumas is so happy to be back in NZ that he's now making love to the trees... ;)


Thomi wondering why he bothered taking his riffle :p

Thomi wondering why he bothered taking his riffle :p


The view from the hut, where we came from. Not bad hey!?

The view from the hut, where we came from. Not bad hey!?


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Couldn't do a trek without taking at least one shot from the stars!

Couldn't do a trek without taking at least one shot from the stars!


Stream crossing

Stream crossing


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The view from Brodrick hut

The view from Brodrick hut


Our amazing group

Our amazing group


Our hiking path that day...

Our hiking path that day...


And we're back to Huxley Forks hut

And we're back to Huxley Forks hut


Deborah enjoying some sunshine (and sandflies) near the river...

Deborah enjoying some sunshine (and sandflies) near the river...


A trekking trip wouldn't be complete without a bonfire

A trekking trip wouldn't be complete without a bonfire


On our way back the last day. I found myself trying to take a "shortcut"...

On our way back the last day. I found myself trying to take a "shortcut"...


New-Zealand rocks!

New-Zealand rocks!


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We decided to cross the rivers to save time

We decided to cross the rivers to save time


What a beard! <img class='img' src='http://www.travellerspoint.com/img/emoticons/icon_wink.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=';)' title='' />

What a beard! ;)


Another swing bridge

Another swing bridge


Freedom! <img class='img' src='http://www.travellerspoint.com/img/emoticons/icon_smile.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':)' title='' />

Freedom! :)


A young couple crossing the river, hand in hand, how lovely! <img class='img' src='http://www.travellerspoint.com/img/emoticons/icon_wink.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=';)' title='' />

A young couple crossing the river, hand in hand, how lovely! ;)


Weird shaped cloud

Weird shaped cloud


The team enjoying a well-deserved beer!

The team enjoying a well-deserved beer!


Back to Dunedin

Back to Dunedin

Posted by manolo84 26/03/2014 09:04 Archived in New Zealand Tagged mountains rivers nature english treks Comments (3)

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