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Far East Asia

Far East Asia, Travel

She’s a little bit of magic, is Hoi An

22 June, 2017

It’s an epic tourist trap in so many ways…but Hoi An’s got a bit of magic to her as well. Maybe I just got lucky with the sunset on my first day in town, always so crucial in evoking feelings about a place, but something here just, clicks.

It’s busy, and many visitors, like all the others I’ve seen on this trip so far, are of that gap year variety, backpacking their way through one of the cheapest, but yet somewhat civilised parts of Asia in an attempt to broaden their perspective before the inevitable return to reality. There are a healthy handful of other FE Asian tourists thrown in for good measure too though, witnessed by the unrelenting sea of selfie sticks that render the streets a battlefield in attempt to keep your eyes from poked out.

The locals are nice but, given the environment, are understandably ruthless in getting your attention to make a sale. It does affect the experience somewhat, but they have families to feed too, who are we to begrudge them that?

The photos in the above gallery are somewhat reflective of where I’m at right now – having been effectively homeless for a month, I’m now going back to London for summer. Some of the shots are out of focus, but capture the light, or are busy and scattered, with no focal point. This is how I feel right now – with no place to call home, I haven’t really had the head space to process how I feel about leaving Hong Kong, even if temporarily, though maybe for longer than that, who knows. Being in Vietnam has been less like an escape, and more like something pulling me back to who I am – happily wandering the world by myself. Maybe that’s all I really need more of.

Far East Asia, Travel

Wakeboard fun in Stanley

15 May, 2017

One of my friends was surprised when she found out the other day that I had quit my job. She said based on my relatively well curated social media gallery, my life seemed golden. These accompanying images of wakeboarding in calm, quiet waters, would appear to be testament to that perceived idyllic life.

But how does not having a job, make my life anything less awesome than it is? Isn’t the beauty of life, the sheer unpredictability of it? I moved halfway across the world, to a place where I knew no one and nothing, and get ridiculed on an almost daily basis for having a funny accent when I speak the local language – no mean feat considering this is the first time being fully immersed in the Chinese language. I quit my job and I’m trying to stick to this somewhat ridiculous budget (it’s not going that well by the way), and to me, that’s what adventure is. So maybe it’s time we re-adjusted our definition of what a perfect life is – mine is one where I have no idea what’s around the corner and am perfectly happy and to content to live in a state of not knowing. And that’s what I hope is shown in my social media feed – real moments that were not planned or posed, but simply happened as a result of me living the life I intended.

Consequently, that very way of living is how I ended up shooting my friend wakeboarding this day – he’d rocked up from Mexico for business a few days prior and this is what he wanted to do. I hadn’t had to wake up before 11am for at least the last two years so asking me to be at a boat dock by 8am, at a place that takes an hour to get to, was a challenge to say the last. I got lost because I’m not a real Asian who can properly use the 16-seater mini bus system, and then I almost got squashed by several cars and buses on a stupidly narrow road before finding a shortcut that led me down a path so unused it was covered with cobwebs. Needless to say, by the time I got to the boat, I had been eaten alive, bug spray or not.

I’d also never shot action before, so I had absolutely no idea what settings I needed on my camera, as testified by the countless number of immediately deleted blurry images. But I got there in the end. I think. And it was mostly just fun to hang out on a boat again. Haven’t done that since the good old Whistler days, in that cold, but infinitely cleaner, Green Lake. 

 

Far East Asia, Travel

New buildings, old boats in Aberdeen

11 May, 2017

Day 3 of $50HKD / day budget challenge was a raging success. It was also a wildly productive day. Thanks to my old mate insomnia randomly waking me up at 4:30am, I was charged and ready to go, getting in breakfast of oats and a banana, followed by lunch of watermelon, while getting some long overdue studying in. But because I’m a pretty shit student, I got bored about a page in, and decided to go explore and shoot instead. Hence all the pictures of buildings and boats.

Aberdeen used to be the main fishing area that supplied most of Hong Kong, and is still one of the primary feed ins today. It also has a pretty promenade that was definitely not there fifty years ago. And lots of boats – old and new. Though mostly old and funky looking – sampans. Less rickety looking than I remember when I got on one when I was little to head over to the infamous floating restaurant, Jumbo.

The fishing theme continued with a jaunt down to Repulse Bay, with local, actual Chinese reading friend in tow, who was able to point out tons of culture stuff I probably wouldn’t otherwise have picked out while strolling down the beach. The Goddess of Repulse Bay – the deity who overlooks the sea, keeping an eye on the fisherman out picking up goods to feed the fams. There were also a bunch of Thai deities, which neither local mate nor myself could figure out.

Was pretty timely exploratory day too, since the Dragon Boat Festival is hitting town end of the month and I need to get my spot picked out!

Total spend for the day: $0. BOOM.

Far East Asia, Travel

The $50 a day challenge, Hong Kong edition

10 May, 2017

Remember how I said it’s been an eventful time since my last post from Chile, that I moved to Hong Kong? Well, it’s actually slightly more eventful than that, since I also quit my job in the last month. Yup, I am jobless and carefree. It’s great – absolutely no sarcasm.

Turns out being a lady of leisure suits me. However, having indulged in a spur of the moment trip to Thailand, where it’s cheap but I ate (and therefore spent) way too much, and with an eye on rent for next month, means I’m having to do what I’ve never had to do before: live on a budget.

As overprivileged as that sounds, it’s because I’ve always worked – I don’t remember the last time I didn’t have a job since I was 16. So while all this freedom suits me, living without an income is going to be a challenge. Mostly eating – if the last two days have shown anything, it’s that my money is literally only spent on food.

So, I’ve given myself until the end of May to find a job, and until then, I’m giving myself a budget of $50HKD a day. Impossible you say? Yes, probably – I’ve already had to turn down two party invitations because I don’t want to be a charity case Buzz Killington – but I won’t know until I try!

Yesterday was actually a relatively okay day – I dusted off my trusty camera that hasn’t seen the light of day since last summer, and hopped on a bus to Stanley – better a week day than the weekend, when it’s probably teeming. It was actually lovely and quiet yesterday, nobody to bustle shoulder to shoulder with as I meandered through the market. And I only had to wait for one lovestruck selfie taking couple, one time, in order to get one of my shots.

I did get slightly carried away at the sight of a restaurant that has duck in every dish – Pinot Duck, in case you wondered – but total spend yesterday was $193. Oh wait, plus $45 for a salad at lunch. Balls.

 

Far East Asia, Travel

Fushimi Inari

18 June, 2016

Well it’s like they say, better late than never! Somehow I missed the spot of the thousand torii gates the first go round in 2012, but after getting pitted amongst the Hokkaido powder back in January this year, I met up with my mum and managed to get back to Kyoto, just for Fushimi Inari. Seems a bit of an odd detour, for one item on the agenda, right? But oh, was it worth it.

In this golden age of social media, it’s all too easy to go from no inspiration to a bucket list that seems to know no end, in one simple scroll down your Instagram feed, and while this may pain some, I choose to see the bright side – the pervasiveness of social media allows me to get a sneak peak of what I’m going to witness for myself, not from the perspective of a travel site that might get paid for an article they write, but from other travellers, just like me.

At the advice of those who’d gone before, we set out relatively early – though not at the crack of dawn, as we didn’t arrive in Kyoto until pretty late the night before – to beat the masses. The subway in Kyoto is not difficult to navigate, though, like public transport in the rest of Japan, it’s necessary to note that there are two different companies that operate transit in the city (despite its tiny size!) so one ticket won’t work for all lines. We arrived at Fushimi Inari around 8:30am and while there more than a few early risers already pottering about, it was everything you’d expect from a shrine in one of Japan’s former imperial cities – tranquil, beautiful and well maintained but with a slightly used charm indicative of its history.

Not wanting to get caught in the hoards of tour groups that we had heard would descend upon the site within the hour, we set off to explore the thousand torii gates we had come to see.

It’s funny how monotony seems inescapable in our every day lives but when you’re in a new place, seeing new things, that word seems such an alien concept – for a solid hour and a half, maybe two, we did nothing but walk through gate upon gate – none any different from the hundreds that we had passed before, but for some reason, we couldn’t stop. There was something captivating about those reddish orange square arches, embedded in a sparsely covered forest, ascending the gentle mountain which the path of the torii climbs. I confess to knowing nothing about the shrine or what the gates meant prior to walking through them, but I did find them strangely calming. And sometimes, maybe you don’t need to understand the history of a place, or the stories it has to tell, to feel the very nature of it. All you have to do, is feel it.