Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Three weeks in Asia, a preview

Two weeks today, Drew and I will be arriving in Hong Kong to begin a three-week vacation in south-east Asia. Neither of us have ever been, and our decision to go was aided by a few things. First, Drew will be officially done physiotherapy school next Friday (yaaaaaay!!!), so it's a good time for him to take the kind of big trip that gets more difficult to do when one has a full-time job. Second, my good friend Melissa has been living in Asia for years, first in Indonesia and now in Hong Kong, and I've wanted to visit her all that time but didn't have the resources. With our other friends, Zac and Anna, moving to Singapore, and Drew and I both having the ability to travel right now, it seemed like the perfect time.

This also helps make sense of how we decided where to go. South-east Asia is a big place, with so many countries that I want to visit. We decided to pick three so that we could do a week in each place. Hong Kong and Singapore were already on the list.

Though visiting Melissa is the primary motivation for visiting Hong Kong, I'm also really excited to see this city. It has an interesting history; having been a British colony since the 1800s, it only became a part of China in 1997, and it remains somewhat separate from China as an 'autonomous region.'  Hong Kongers don't consider themselves to be Chinese, and there is a deep cultural distinction between being a Hong Konger and a 'mainlander.' English is one of the official languages of Hong Kong, and many streets and areas still have their names from colonial times, like Victoria Peak (the highest mountain on Hong Kong island) and Aberdeen Harbour. The food in Hong Kong is supposed to be amazing (dim sum! hot pot!), and so is the shopping. I'm going to need to practice haggling for this trip. The weather is going to be hot, humid, and rainy. I will be in permanent hair-up mode.

Some goals for our time in Hong Kong:
- climb up to Victoria Peak (maybe take the trolley down)
- check out the Temple Street Night Market, and others
- take the ferry to Lamma island to eat at Rainbow Restaurant
- visit former Portuguese colony of Macau - Las Vegas of Asia (only much, much wealthier)

Singapore is mostly on our travel list because we want to visit Anna and Zac, but after researching it and hearing about it from them, I'm really pumped to check it out. Not only is Singapore going to be the cleanest and most well-organized city in the region/on this planet, apparently the food is going to be amazing. We're spending the first two nights in a basic hotel in Little India, and then the next few nights in Anna and Zac's tiny apartment. Rental accommodations in Singapore are unbelievably pricey, so our friends don't have a lot of spare room. No big deal - we will be happy just to be there. Like Hong Kong, Singapore was also once a British colony, and became independent from Britain in 1963 to join Malaysia, from which it gained independence two years later, in 1965. This year is their 50th anniversary of independence, so I hope that we get to check out some festivities. Since becoming independent, Singapore has become a powerful and wealthy city-state, with incredibly low levels of poverty and illiteracy. It's pretty hardcore. It's also hot and humid, but apparently air conditioning is everywhere and constantly blasting, so I'm going to try to remember to pack a sweater (!) just for climate controlled places. There are a lot of rules in Singapore, but as tourists we should be OK. We'll just have to try to blend in and not do anything stupid.

Some goals for Singapore:
- eat. a lot.
- experience a hawker market
- check out the night safari at the zoo
- maybe spend a day in Malaysia for more delicious food
- don't break any laws (!!)

Finally, our third place. There are tons of countries in Asia that I want to go to, but we couldn't do all of it. I've always wanted to check out Vietnam and Cambodia, and Thailand, but how to choose? There's so much to do. Finally, because we were having a hard time deciding, and because Drew and I have never taken a beach vacation, we chose Bali.

Bali is a small island of Indonesia, and a traveller's paradise. Bali has everything: volcanoes, jungles, coral reefs, beaches, temples, markets, and more. We decided to split our time, to try to get a taste of some of the different parts of the island. After flying into Denpasar, we'll spend the first couple of days in Ubud, a town towards the interior, where there are mountains and rice paddies all around. Bali is home to much of the Hindu population of Indonesia, while the majority of the country is Muslim, and there are lots of Hindu temples on the island. Monkeys are sacred (the monkey-god Hanuman might have something to do with that?) and I'd like to check out the sacred monkey temple in Ubud, and maybe see some Balinese theatre. After that, we'll travel to the southern tip of the island to a place called Uluwatu, and stay there. We'll spend the rest of our time learning to surf on some of Bali's smaller breaks, and sipping beverages when we need a rest. Many have told me that Bali is to Australians what the Dominican Republic is to Canadians (and Mallorca is to Brits). As someone who hasn't been to the Dominican (or Mallorca) but has heard about the co-ed all-inclusives, this seems unsettling. I get what they're saying: Bali is heavy on drunk Australian youths. Fortunately, we'll be there just before a break in Australian semesters, and we're also avoiding the most touristy places (Kuta, especially), so I think our exposure will be limited. Bali is going to be hot and humid, with maybe a bit of rain. You'll find me on the beach, no matter what.

Some goals for Bali:
- check out some art and Balinese theatre
- see the monkey temple in Ubud (do not get bitten by monkey)
- visit the cliffside temple at Uluwatu
- learn to surf
- appreciate paradise

1 comment:

  1. Very informative post. Thank you so much for sharing.