What to do in Singapore?

We only had about 6 whole days in Singapore, so we had to choose how to spend our time carefully. There is a lot to choose from. In the end, we opted for the

  • Botanic Gardens
  • Gardens by the Bay
  • Marina Bay Sands Skypark

and a whole lot of time tromping around various neighborhoods like Little India, Chinatown, Orchard Rd, and Raffles City, just taking it all in visually. More on that later. Continue reading What to do in Singapore?

Hong Kong Trip, Part 5: Only in Hong Kong

In February 2012, we flew to Hong Kong for about a week. This was our first (non-business) trip to Asia. You can read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 to catch up.

Right after we took the plunge to try a vacation in Asia, we asked for your tips. Thanks — those were all very helpful.

Owing to seasonal, weather-related, or interest constraints, we didn’t

  • go to Ocean Park
  • go to Hong Kong Disneyland
  • spend much time in Kowloon
  • go to Macau
  • go to Lamma Island
  • walk the circular path around the Peak
  • hike around in the mountains
  • sail in the harbor
  • take in the view from any skyscrapers
  • check out other regions of Hong Kong Island like Stanley and Aberdeen

But we did

  • check out the Wan Chai wet market
  • visit the Peak via a tram trip
  • walk around Central at noon on a weekday just to get lost in the crowd.
  • try out the Mid-Levels Escalators to watch the demographics change on our way up and down the hill.
  • stay a week and say “Whew!” at the end of it.

We managed to take in a couple of sights available only in Hong Kong.

Po Lin Monastery and Big Buddha Is Watching You

We took a ferry from the Central Piers to Lantau Island, and from there we took the bus about 35 minutes up the mountainside. Getting out at the top, we walked past a bunch of touristy junk stands and a few street food stands and a saddening number of feral dogs on our way to the stairway leading up to the world’s largest, outdoor, seated Buddha statue.

It’s not a particularly old monument. In fact, arriving in Hong Kong from a town founded in A.D. 179, nothing seems particularly old. But inside the statue, we found some much older tapestries and scrolls on display in the museum, and commemorations of the brotherhood between the local monastery mainland Chinese and Indian Buddhists. Almost everything written there was in Chinese, so not a lot of insight for us. But it was pleasant enough to be walking around in Buddha’s lap.

Purchasing entry to do the museum inside the statue also entitles you to a monk’s lunch. This was a vegan sampling of soup, oily vegetables and rice. A little on the bland side, but nearly free, and the dining hall was nearly empty, as not many visitors bothered to make the trip at all given the foggy weather. Contributing to the cloudy conditions in my shots below were the largest incense sticks I’ve ever seen (check the last photo).

Yuen Po Street Bird Garden

Our Frommer’s guide recommended a stroll through the flower market for the sights and then the Yuen Po Street Bird Garden for the sounds. We found many hundreds — probably thousands, actually — of caged birds for sale or just out for a stroll with their little old men owners. Apparently song birds need to socialize, too. And eat, which explains the abundance of live bird food also available for sale.

Our Favorite Shots

And thus wraps up our Hong Kong Trip series. There was plenty to see, and while we’re grateful for the lack of rain the entire time we were there, it would have been nice to get some more sun in our Big Buddha or harbor scenes. Hong Kong was supposed to be our tip-toeing into Asia, and for that it worked very well. I’m sure it’s not very representative of the rest of the region — how could it be? — but even in its own right, the mixture of British Colonial leftovers, modern metropolitan infrastructure, and Cantonese culture certainly stands out as worthy of exploration. It wore us out (I’m sure we never really got over the jetlag), but we are very glad to have made the trip.

Here are some of our favorite shots from the trip. Some of these are repeats from earlier posts and some are shown only here.