Wednesday, 25 December 2013

2013 Wrap Up

Year 2013 has been kind to me and  I was able to visit 3 countries that have been in my travel plans for a while. In March, I paid a visit to "The Land of the Gods" -Bali, Indonesia. It really lived up to it's reputation as I lost count on the temples that I have visited and passed by. We were immersed in the cultural ambient of the Balinese and captivated by the beautiful scenery. The 5 days tour was short but a fruitful one.

At Uluwatu Temple, Bali Indonesia

In June, I finally got to visit Angkor Wat-The Temple of the God Kings. My company was different as I traveled there with only my cousin and friend (instead with my wife and daughter) for a short 4 days outing. I done my research before going to Siem Reap and realized that there were many other interesting temples beside Angkor Wat. Nevertheless, Angkor Wat is top of the lists at Siem Reap for good reasons. You have to visit there to experience it's greatness. The only thing I regretted was failing to witness the sunrise at Angkor Wat due to weather reasons.

At Bayon Temple, Siem Reap Cambodia

Finally, we visited Taiwan at end November this year. I brought along my parents with my family for this trip. It was a 10 days trip and all of us have enjoyed the stay there. The weather was cooling compared to the high humidity at Bali and intense heat at Siem Reap. Being not frequent travelers, my parents found the weather a bit cold for their liking. But it was a great trip having met the objective of family bonding and relaxing ourselves. This was my third trip to Taiwan and it has brought back some good memories. My last trip there before this one was almost 10 years ago.
At Sun Moon Lake, Taichung Taiwan
Year 2014 is arriving and I have already made some travel plans. At year end, it will be my usual yearly trip to my in law home at Hong Kong. We missed it for this year. Despite having visited there for more than 10 times already, I still like the feeling to go back there every time. Japan is also in my list for next year. Having visited there once before our marriage, my wife and I missed our time in Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto especially. Despite hearing some grunts of protest, I also include in my plan a trip to Yogyakarta, Indonesia. I have always wanting to visit the cultural sites Borobudur and Prambanan and it will be a wish come true if I can visit them.

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Hope all your wishes come true for the coming year!

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Family Bonding Tour at Taiwan Formosa

Sun Moon Lake

Just back from a 10 days tour in Taiwan. We traveled in a group of five-My parents, wife, daughter and myself. Before the trip, I joked with my friends that I relished the challenge of planning the trip for the different age groups for the tour. My trip plan was mostly focused on the western bank of Taiwan with the exception of Jiufen which is located at the Northeastern end of the island. With the help of the various transport systems-the MRT (Mass Rapid Transport), HSR (High Speed Rail), trains, public bus services and taxis, we visited the various attractions at Taipei, Hsinchu, Taichung and Kaoshiung.

Yeliu Harbour
Yeliu Geo Park
The highlights of the trip must be having family tea (Yumchai) at a tea inn at the top of Jiufen, taking a tour round the renowned Fo Guang Shan Monastery, witnessed a religious ceremony at Lotus Lake, taking an early morning stroll at Sun Moon Lake and enjoying the sunset at Tamsui. I will share those experiences in  my later blogs. The most important thing about this tour is of course the family bonding we got to enjoy. My parents (especially my dad!) surprised me with their sporting attitude to try anything I recommended (and not recommended!). They tried almost all the challenging rides at the Eda Theme Park after the disappointment of not allowing to try them at Leofoo Village Theme Park due to age restriction. I gave them a big thumb up for these!
CSK Memorial Hall and Taipei 101 Tower
Leofoo Village Theme Park
Family Photo at Yeliu Geo Park

I hastily went through my photo stocks and handpicked some Taiwan photos that I like to share with all of you first. Hope you will enjoy them. More of Taiwan ventures in my later blogs. Cheers!

For those interested, the following were my itineraries for my 10 days trip at Taiwan:

Day 1: Arrived at Taipei
Day 2: Yehliu
Day 3: Leofoo Village Theme Park-Shilin Night Market
Day 4: Jiufen-Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall-Tapei 101
Day 5: Kaohsiung-Liuhe Night Market
Day 6: Fo Guang Shan-Dragon Tiger Pagoda
Day 7: Eda Theme Park
Day 8: Taichung-Sun Moon Lake
Day 9: Taipei-Tamshui
Day 10: Departed to Singapore

Related Posts: Early Morning Walk at Sun Moon Lake , Taiwan Travel Tips

Dragon and Tiger Pagoda
Formosa Boulevard MRT
Eda Theme Park

Fo Guang Shan Monastery 


For Your Pinning

Friday, 8 November 2013

The Fishing Village-Tai O, Hong Kong

Tai O, The Fishing Village
We visited Tai O last year December during my almost annual "pilgrimage" back to Hong Kong to visit my in laws. The Hong Kong Tourism Board has been promoting this attraction furiously in recent years and for the longest time, I harbored thought of checking this place out. It made an ideal side trip when you planned to visit the Great Buddha and Po Lin Monastery at  Lantau Island. It is almost a 15 mins trip from the Great Buddha to Tai O and vice versa  by bus.

Welcome to Tai O
Stlit Houses with Mountains Backdrop

Our original intention was to take the Ngong Ping 360 cable cars from MTR Tung Chung Station to visit the Great Buddha and followed by the trip to Tai O. The snaky and endless queue waiting to board the cable cars made us gave up the plan. Instead we took a bus (number 11) for an almost 1 hour trip to Tai O first. It was a great idea as we got to enjoy the beautiful scenery of Lantau's mountains and sea as we headed towards our destination. Along the way, there was also this grateful local old lady who struck up a conversation with me (after I squeezed out a seat for her with my daughter sitting on my lap). She learned I was from Singapore and heaped praise on the country. I managed to converse with her in my pathetic Cantonese (in a mix of Mandarin and Cantonese) and was quietly relieved when she alighted at a village which was one or two stops away from Tai O.

Quiet spot in the village

Can you spot the Kingfisher?

Strike a pose!
We chose a good time (around 11 am and Friday) to visit Tai O as there were not many tourists around. The fishing village was built by the Tanka people, who make their living off fishing at the South China sea and made their home on stilts by the river bank. The latter have become the icons of Tai O and they are seen in almost all promotional photos linked to the village. The photos looked especially good when the stilt houses and old boats were taken with the river and mountains as the backdrop.
Old man with bicycle
Tai O Market
Starfish for dinner tonight?
The place serves as a good break away from the concrete jungles of Kowloon and Hong Kong island. Although now much commercialized, it still emits a nostalgic atmosphere. We discovered seafood (live and preserved) were in abundant as we explored the old streets of Tai O. In fact, the whole place felt like a big market with various vendors plying their trade. My wife (who has been here before) told me the famous take away native products were the shrimp pastes. They are used to add as flavor for dishes. It seems there are two extreme camps on their liking (or disliking) of the shrimp pastes. The people who love them above anything else or the ones hate them to the core. Sounds like the infamous Durians back in my country (but that's another story.) Anyway, we did not risk buying any on that day.
Salted fish...salted fish and salted fish

Tai O Tricycles
After a sumptuous meal at a local restaurant (a must do), we ventured into the village area. The crowd dwindled as we went deeper. We found few temples, a post office, a fire station and more settlements. There was a sense of peace here compared to the crowded market area.  It was ironical to think the villagers must have hated the tourists for disturbing their peaceful lifestyle but at the same time have to welcome them for the local people to earn their livelihood. One interesting thing we noticed was the transportation used. Almost all the households owned at least a tricycle with a basket at the rear. The local must have used them to transport their groceries and foods during their daily visit at the market.

Ready for River Cruise
Sight at River#1
Sight at River#2

Sight at River#3

Sight at River#4
We took a boat ride from the pier at the trademark draw bridge which brought us round the village on the river and out into the open sea for dolphins watching. Despite straining our eyes to catch a glimpse of the rare pink dolphins, we could not detect any. But we were contended enough to witness the daily life of the sea people, spotting the storks, sea gulls and other birds gliding gracefully above the sea surface while enjoying the sea breeze as the boat picked out speed on the water.

Enjoying the sea breeze
Fisherman mending the Net
Fisherman back from the Sea

Tai O is a great place to see "the other side" of Hong Kong. It was a relaxing outing for my family and a good educational tour for my daughter. For a "city-bred" child, it was indeed an eye-opener for her that other kind of houses exist beside the concrete ones that we have seen in Singapore. I am very sure your family will enjoy the trip just like us once setting foot into the rustic fishing village of Tai O :-).

Related Posts: Hong Kong-Pearl of the Orient

For Your Pinning

Family Photo at Tai O
Fishing Boats at the Harbour
Fishing Boats in line
Village view from a distance

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Mid-Autumn Festival at Gardens by the Bay

Supertrees at night
Since my visit to the Gardens by the Bay back in June 2012, I have made numerous trips to the same destination. The latest being during the Mid-Autumn festival period where fascinating and captivating lanterns of various themes were displayed.

Lovely-Dovey Birds Lanterns
Cartoon Characters' Lanterns
This event used to be held at Clark Quay. The lanterns would be mounted on boats which floated on the edge of the iconic Singapore River. This year, it has shifted "in land" to the Gardens by the Bay. I must say I was impressed by the bigger scale displays, more creative themes, massive firework, deletable food available and mostly importantly the blending into the Gardens. The themes were adored by children as they were captivated by the lanterns display at the 'Dragonfly Lake', 'Jurassic Park', 'Birds and Insects Paradise' and 'World of Fairy Tales'. There was also a section where one could take picture with your star lantern and also your fortune foretold.

Nice Reflection in the Lake
Jurassic Park

 We went to the Gardens by the Bay in the evening. Many people were already there for the same event. Families with their little ones, romancing couples,bewildered tourists  were among those in the crowd, savouring the atmosphere of the Mid-Autumn Festival in the garden. Photographers with their comprehensive gears, were capturing unique moments and scenes. I brought my camera too, not to miss out collecting photos of ourselves in this once in a year event.

Majestic India Lanterns
Little Monks Lanterns
The Three Little Pigs Lanterns
The moon was especially round on that night, as if the fabled Chang' e, the Moon Goddess of Immortality was doing her part to commemorate the celebration. On the humour side, it also reminded us on the many moon cakes we have consumed uncontrollably for the past few days ;-).

Full Moon at the Bay

Family Caption
My family and I have thoroughly enjoyed the event. A BIG thanks to the organizers, we will be back next year :-)

Related Posts: Gardens by The Bay

Charlotte with Oriental Face Mask Lantern

Myself with my Star Lantern-Pisces