Monthly Archives: December 2014

Hong Kong 2014 – Visit #1

This was my second time in Hong Kong and, just like last time, I really enjoyed my time there! It was Jacquelyn’s first time and I feel as though it’s a pretty good follow-up city to Singapore and a good destination before entering China mainland.

We ended up doing quite a lot in Hong Kong: watched the light and laser show, ate at a Michelin star restaurant (yummy!), watch the horse races, repaired the cracked iPhone screen, visited a Buddhist nunnery, went up Victoria Peak, and ate a lot of yummy food. We haven’t seen a lot of Americans in Asia and Hong Kong was no different. We thought we found an American at the horse race track since she was wearing a “USA” sash (think Ms. America sash that drapes across their shoulder and hip) but it quickly became clear that she was very Russian. Bummer. Someday, we’ll find Americans again.

The reason we went to Hong Kong wasn’t completely for tourism. I have a visa for China because of my last job but Jacquelyn did not. We were able to find a agency to get us the visa with minimal hassle: no invitation letter, no trip itinerary, no proof of income / savings or proof of a return ticket. No idea how exactly the agency was able to get us the visa as all those items are required in the application but, after four days, Jacquelyn ended up with a 10 year, multiple entry, tourist visa!

The Michelin star restaurant we visited is one of the cheapest, if not the cheapest, Michelin star restaurant in the world. They serve dim sum dishes so everything is pretty small. We showed up at 11:30AM and there was already a half an hour wait for a table. We were glad we stuck around because the meal was pretty tasty! They packed a ton of people into this rather small place – the table had to be pulled out for me to sit down! I don’t think the fire marshal would have been happy.

Hong Kong is a great half-step into China since it’s like “China-lite”. The people aren’t quite as gross (spitting, coughing, eating with mouth open), rude (in the way, yelling on phones), pushy, or quite as crowded and it’s very easy to get around with Hong Kong’s awesome public transit system. It’s a great place to experience some of the benefits of China without the vastly different cultural norms. It’s possible to find whatever western thing we had back in the US in Hong Kong. We were looking to take a cooking class in Hong Kong and I couldn’t even find a place that would offer authentic Chinese food! It was very easy to find French, Italian types of cooking.

There was only one small bummer and that was the hazy air. The last time I visited a typhoon rolled thru so all the pollution from mainland China was knocked down or blown away. The seven days we were in Hong Kong were rather dry and not really windy so we had to deal with slightly worse views. There’s some beautiful cities in China, I look forward to the day when there’s sufficient pollution controls so people can enjoy the views!

We have been homeless and traveling for a little over four months. We’re starting to find things that we like while traveling and then do our best to find those items while traveling. The best example I can give is coffee. We love coffee in the morning and we love tasty coffee to-boot. We’ve tried a lot of instant coffees and most are quite dreadful. Somehow we stumbled across G7 instant cappuccino in India and we’ve tried our best to get that coffee everywhere else. We started to run low in Hong Kong so we started our search. We found other types of G7 coffee but we didn’t want that crap; we ended up spending an evening wandering around to different pharmacies and grocery stores looking for the coffee. Alas, we found a place with many, many, many boxes of what we were looking for and bought out their stock! Win! We’re hoping this will last us through our trip in China. Jacquelyn’s backpack is now about 1/3 filled with instant cappuccino. Totally worth it.

We left for China on train. It was really cool, we rode a train from downtown Hong Kong to the border and walked into Shenzhen, China. I was a bit nervous about Jacquelyn’s visa since it kind of seemed too good to be true but we had no problems and quickly found ourselves in China. We chose this route because it’s a lot cheaper to fly from Shenzhen to anywhere in China vs. flying from Hong Kong to anywhere in China. We thought it’s because Hong Kong is still it’s own country and it would be considered an international flight. We also used a website called Ctrip to book all of our travel because Ctrip flight costs were about 50% of the same flight in the same plane on the same day when booking through Kayak, Expedia or the airline’s own website! This means we were able to get flights that were in similar cost to sleeper trains so we obviously chose flights since it’s way better to take a two hour flight than a 13 hour train ride!

Luckily, we get to go back to Hong Kong. We have nearly 3.5weeks of sightseeing planned out in China and then we’ll be coming back to Hong Kong Jan 6-9 before we move on to some other part of the world. We’ve been gone for one day and I’m already looking forward to our return!

Enjoy the photos!

Chris W.


Singapore 2014

We had a great, albeit, short, week in Singapore. We didn’t know what to expect but whatever expectations we had were blown out of the water: easy to get around, great food, great people and pragmatism found pretty much everywhere. After spending about two months in Nepal and India it was like stepping back into civilization where things worked on the first try and there wasn’t a need for a plan A, B and C. We had a mini culture shock! I kept asking Jacquelyn, “is this really happening?” because the experiences were so different than our last two months.

Singapore is a developed nation of about 5.4 million people in an area 1/20th the size of the Twin City metro. There’s no Singaporean ethnicity just like there’s no American ethnicity. Singapore was a British colony and people from all over the region settled in the area. Because of all the different cultures, most of the information signs are in four languages (English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil) making for some pretty large information signs.

The blend of cultures brings a lot of great food, such amazing food. Singapore is unique with “hawker” stalls. It’s a group of food cart like restaurants under a permanent roof. Hawker stalls are all over Singapore and it’s possible to get many different dishes. One of the larger hawker sites we visited had 200 or so stalls. Food is cheap and plentiful so only about 15% of Singaporeans cook their own meals at home!

There was a surprisingly large amount of things to do. Lots of shopping, lots of parks, museums, and performances. It seemed as though there was always a very large mall nearby; I think there’s about 100 or so malls. We were able to find goods in Singapore that we haven’t seen since the US.

I had a chance to work with some Singapore suppliers in my last job. It’s hard to describe their work ethic and work product. Maybe it’s best described as an unrelenting tsunami of exceeding expectations. After visiting Singapore I can see why. Singapore has no natural resources, it’s tiny, it’s the only nation in the world to be given independence against its will and basically started from nothing. So, Singapore people being pragmatic as they are, decided to be good at business and trade. Now, it’s a wealthy country, a financial center, the second busiest port in the world and is a huge tourist destination.

The Singaporean airport was amazing. Butterfly garden, massage areas, sleeping areas, many food options, flower gardens, orchid gardens, free movie theaters, koi ponds, gaming area and so on. I was like, “is this real life? I thought airports were the places people went to go to get groped by undereducated, underappreciated, and underpaid security personnel.” It was such a shockingly huge difference. I’ve never experienced anything like it – I actually enjoyed our time at the airport! Unimaginable!

There were only two downsides for us: sin taxes on a lot of things and the heat. Alcohol, beer, candy, unhealthy snack food were all pretty expensive. A large pack of oreos and a large beer were about the same price, ~$15. Singapore is about 85 miles from the equator so year around it’s in the 90s with 90%+ humidity. So freaking hot.

We enjoyed the water show and all the beautiful flowers of Singapore so there’s a lot of photos of both.

Enjoy the photos!

Chris W.


Goa India 2014

We left Goa, India, and are now in Singapore. We spent about a week in Goa just relaxing on the beach and getting over multiple bouts of food poisoning.

Goa was a really interesting place. It was a Portuguese colony for about 450 years. It’s located on India’s west coast about halfway down the length of the country. Hippies flocked to the area in the 60s and 70s enjoy the beaches, great food, wonderful weather, cheap food, cheap accommodation and plentiful drugs. The hippy culture still very much exists in Goa.

The Portuguese brought Christianity and European architecture to the area. It was really weird driving around on our scooter seeing the typical sights in India and then driving past Christian churches and uniquely European churches.

It was a good visit but we were happy to leave for Singapore.

Enjoy the pictures!

Chris W.