Tag Archives: Soho

Hong Kong, 2013: Part 2

One afternoon, my husband, daughter and I caught one of the double decker trams to Soho. For a toddler, the journey is often better than the destination and for my husband he very much enjoyed revisiting one of the Soho bars that he went to last time he was here for work.

I liked that the bar was cool and had an indoor fountain as well as tasty cocktails. We also took a ride on the longest escalator in the world and saw some local market stalls in the area.

On the way back to the hotel we stumbled upon some modern art installations inside a train station. There were mural of rainforests, kites and a Chinese dragon.

The next day we took the iconic Star Ferry to Kowloon. The colourful ferry was striking and the old wooden boat was lovely.

On the other side, we were greeted by the tall stone clock tower and the views back to Hong Kong were great. The buildings on this side were older, apart from the modern museum, and had flashing neon signs.

We stumbled upon a children’s fun run sponsored by Kinder and took a walk along the strange Avenue of Stars that had bronze statures of film makers, Bruce Lee and the handprints of Jackie Chan.

The Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade was a bit of a disappointment, but it did have a cool modern dragon fountain. They sure do love a fountain in Hong Kong as we were to discover even further with a visit to Kowloon Park which was basically a park of fountains, lakes and even a waterfall. Plus the cartoon art installation featuring Dragon Ball-Z and a big Panda that we found.

Lunch was had in an modern air conditioned café near the ferry terminal where high chairs were not a problem, before we caught the ferry back to Hong Kong.

Hong Kong was not as overwhelmingly busy as I expected and there was more to see than I had thought. It was an easy and cheap stopover with a one year old and I could see why so many expats enjoyed living here.

Related posts: Hong Kong, 2013: Part 1, It’s an Asia Thing

It’s an Asia Thing

My first foray into Asia was to India. I marvelled at the temples of Tamil Nadu, spent Christmas in KodaiKanal and saw the sunset at Cape Cormorin. There was a visit to a strange circus in Kerala, a boat trip in Cochin and lots of ice cream in Goa. We went to markets, met Mormons, climbed Cape Rama Fort and left through the gateway to India in Bombay.

Next was a school trip to Indonesia where we were educated in all the traditional arts and crafts from batik to silver making. We travelled through Lombok, Bali, Java, Sumatra and Kalimantan. The highlights were the vast Borobudur temple and the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre.

On the way home we went through Sentosa Island in Singapore. There have been many trips to the land of the Merlion since then to explore the food in Chinatown, the shops on Orchard Rd and visit friends, now expats of the city.

Close by is my favourite Asian destination of Malaysia. The fabulous food halls in Malacca, the life of Penang and the beautiful islands of course. So far I have visited Pulau Kapas, Pulau Pangkor and Pulau Tioman twice. Each island is special and interesting in its own way for the monkey in a hammock, the snorkelling or the sunsets.

The first time I went to Bangkok in Thailand I thought it was a big dirty Asian city. I thought Phuket was incredibly spoilt by tourism and I was sure I would never return. How wrong I was, as the island of Koh Lanta was to become the special place where I became engaged and later married. The little town of Ban Saladan and the beach at Kaw Kwang will forever have a piece of my heart.

Vietnam was a pleasant surprise, largely untouched by the greed of making a buck when I went there. I loved Hanoi, the city built around Haan Kim Lake and was fascinated by the other side of history as the story of Ho Chi Min unfolded before me. Halong Bay was undoubtedly beautiful and the little French colonial hill village of Tam Dao was a rare treasure.

When you think of places to go in Asia, South Korea is probably not at top of mind. However, I found I very much enjoyed discovering the two sides of Seoul. One deep in the traditions of markets, gates and palaces; and the other slightly crazy side of shopping centres, theme parks and off beat fashion.

I wish I had visited Hong Kong before the English handed it back to the locals, just to see how much it had changed. The modern world could clearly be seen here, but there were still the remnants of old. Like the Star Ferry and the fact that the city still had many large green spaces that had not yet been bulldozed by development. The smog of Victoria Peak reminded me that it was still Asia, but back on the ground there was always a drink in Soho to cool you down.

Yes, Asia can be hot, dirty and tiring; but it is also exciting, enticing and an assault to the senses. Riding in tuk tuks, bargaining with the friendly locals and appreciating the simple things in life. Asia has a lot to teach us and I sincerely hope that modernisation doesn’t engulf it to the point where it can no longer be recognised for the glorious cultural explosion it is.

Related posts: It’s a Sri Lankan Thing, Destination Thailand, 2010, Thailand, 2009, South Korea, 2008, Malaysia, 2006, Vietnam, 2003, Thailand, 2002, Sri Lanka, 1998, Sri Lanka and Malaysia, 1994, Indonesia and Singapore, 1994, England, Singapore and Malaysia, 1988, India, 1987- 1998, Part 2: The Journey North, India 1987- 1988, Part 1: The Road South

New York, 2005, Part 1: Taking a bite

Ah, New York- where every street feels familiar as it is out of a TV show or movie that I have watched.

I arrived in New York at midnight and immediately did the wrong thing by being talked into a black market cab, forgetting that I should have headed for the legitimate taxi rank. But it was late and all I wanted to do was get to the Big Apple hostel in Times Square where I knew my friend Phil had booked me a bed.

The next morning we woke up, grabbed a bite at the corner deli, passed the queue in Battery Park waiting to get to the Statue of Liberty and caught the free Staten Island ferry past the statue on Ellis Island. Gotta love a ferry ride- especially one with such a good view.

Back in Manhattan, the World Trade Centre was gone and had been replaced by a building site for the Freedom Tower Memorial. The surrounding buildings were still damaged.

Central Park was too big to walk the whole way from one end to the other- so we just hit the pond , took in the view of Belvedere Castle and visited the amusement park above the famous Bethesda Fountain.

I recognised the trees of the Liberty Walk, a tunnel and the handsome cabs that always seemed to be featured images of the park. I loved Central Park and wished I had more time to explore it further. We went to the MET and I absolutely adored the Temple of Dendur.

That night, we couldn’t find a bar easily near where we were staying so we went to the bar at the top of the W hotel which was quite swanky and expensive making us penniless backpackers feel a little out of place.

The following day we visited the New York stock exchange that had a huge American flag with and even bigger charging bull outside. This was the Wall St I had heard so much about.

We went to the United Nations buildings with all the flags and I relished walking down 5th Avenue passing the famous Chrysler Building, the Rockefeller Centre, Cartier and SAKS– so New York.

All I could afford in Tiffany was a key ring and the FAO Schwarz toy shop where I found the very cute American Kennel Club collection- wish we had that in Australia when I was a kid.

For something different, we went to Harlem, which didn’t seem scary at all with families having picnics in the park. I liked the Columbia University library and tried to imagine what it would have been like to be a student at such a well-known school.

From one school to another, we went to Greenwich Village and were in New York University/Felicity territory. Purple NYU banners surrounded Washington Square Park with the arch and the hanging elm.

We visited the West Village, the Meat Packing District and Soho where I found my dream loft apartment. It was Fleet Week and here the bars were overflowing and easy to find this time around.

Related posts: Argentina, 2005, Buenos Aires, 2005

England, 1997

Returning to London, I stayed with my Sri Lankan aunts and cousins in Harlesden. They took me to Marble Arch, the remains of Winchester Palace and on a tour of the kitschy London Dungeons. We saw the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace and had a lesser known great view of city from the top of the long spiral staircase at the Monument to the Fire.

An Australian friend was working as a nanny in London at the time, so we decided to meet up. We went to the usual sights together- The Parliament Houses, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the River Thames, Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus. We went shopping at Covent Garden and Camden markets.

I discovered the centre of GMT at Greenwich and one of my favourite London sights- the Tower of London. I made a pilgrimage to Shakespeare’s Globe to watch The Winter’s Tale and saw the Swan Lake ballet at the Royal Albert Hall, which remains the best ballet I have ever seen.

Family friends, Claire and Lisa, took me to Admiralty Arch, Regent’s Park and the London Zoo. We saw the Queen’s black swans at St James Park and the canals of Little Venice. They took me to Oxford St- which became my favourite place in the world to shop. By night, we went to a new restaurant chain called Wagamama and a trendy Soho bar.

The plan was to work the English summer at Perry’s – the restaurant owned by Claire and Lisa’s parents/my Dad’s friends- Alan and Viv. So, I travelled to Upwey, Weymouth to live with my grandparents.

I met Sarah at Perry’s and we became friends. When we weren’t working, we would meet our other friend Liz at Upstairs Downstairs for a coffee or go to the beach to watch Sarah’s brother’s play in the beach volleyball tournament sponsored by Jose Cuervo.

There are 150 pubs in the Weymouth area, so we also went to The Golden Lion, the Hog’s Head, The Black Dog, The Swan, the White Hart, The George Inn, The King’s Arms, The Red Lion and the Old Spa on a regular basis.

After working the dinner shift, we would go out to The Malibu nightclub where we had VIP membership and could get one pound shots on Monday nights. Sometimes we also went to Verdes, or The Rendezvous nightclub.

Around 3am, everyone ended up at Scoffers for chips, cheese and beans.

One morning, after a particularly hard night of dancing, my grandma burst into my bedroom to tell me that Diana, Princess of Wales had died. There was nothing else on television for weeks.

A family friend that visited my grandparents weekly had a cocker spaniel, so they included me on their dog walks to Worbarrow Bay, Poole Harbour, Portland Bill and to chase the swans at Poole Park.

I went on day trips to Durdle Door and the Man O’War at Lulworth Cove on the English Channel. I spent a day at the deserted Tyneham village and one at Corfe Castle.

Travelling to Swindon and Cirencester to visit my Dad’s side of the family, they showed me Chedworth Roman Villa and we strolled through the Cirencester Park. I revisited Bourton-on-the-Water and went to Bibury trout farm.

As the summer drew to a close, Sarah decided to come on my planned Europe trip with me. And so began our grand tour around 13 countries in three months.

First stop was Holland.

Related posts: England, Singapore and Malyasia, 1988, Travel rememberings, I first started travelling, By special request, Friendship: Great Expectations?, Home is where you make it, I first started writing