Tag Archives: Big Buddha

China highlights – Hong Kong

We had the pleasure of ending our trip in Hong Kong and stayed there for five days.

It’s a vibrant, bustling city with plenty of activities to keep you busy.

It was our first time there and we adored the city. We stayed on the Kowloon side in the absolutely amazing Intercontinental hotel. Thankfully this hotel also had an awesome gym so we could run on the treadmills and use their strength equipment.

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view from our room during the day

Again, we walked for hours every day and wouldn’t get back to our hotel until well after dark each night.

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view from our room at night

Here are some highlights from our stay in Hong Kong:

Big Buddha and Po Lin Monastery

The Tian Tin Buddha on Lantau Island sits over 30 metres high and faces north to look over the people of China.

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We hopped on a glass-bottomed cable car and had incredible views of Hong Kong, the airport, and the lush mountains.

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You can climb nearly 300 steps to get a closer look at Buddha and the sweeping ocean views.

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There is also a monastery with beautiful gardens and vegetarian food.

Hong Kong Disney

We are Disney fans and were really looking forward to escaping the city and acting like little kids.

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It was magical there, just like the other Disney parks. We had a blast on the rides, at some of the shows, seeing the little girls dressed as princesses, and watching the parade and the fireworks.

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Ocean Park Hong Kong

All the locals we talked to encouraged us to hit Ocean Park. I’d describe it as Seaworld with crazy rides and a picturesque location on the cliffs overlooking the ocean.

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We spent a day there, and after a rocky start, loved our time at the park. I’m afraid of heights and this cable car ride nearly did me in! It was beautiful, but I was terrified the entire ride!

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I wasn’t in the mood to scare myself more so opted out of the scary rides Kelly went on.I enjoyed some tame rides and a lot of animal exhibits!

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What I liked best about Ocean Park was their conservation efforts and education. I would highly recommend this park.

Shopping

We had a blast walking through the crowded streets and stopping to shop along the way. They had a couple fun markets: the Ladies’ Market and Temple Street Night Market, which were both great for haggling for good bargains.

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Victoria Harbour

Our hotel was right on Victoria Harbour and we had sweeping views of the skyline and the boats as they passed.

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It was also a skip to the Avenue of Stars and to watch the Symphony of Lights, a nightly laser show.

Hiking

We were awed by the contrast between city and urban and rural. On our way up to Big Buddha, we were surprised to see hikers underneath the cable car. On our last full day in Hong Kong, Kelly and I decided to go back and hike up.

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It was an amazing, challenging hike. It was hot and humid, and the majority of the hike was up steep stairs. I was breathing heavily and mopping sweat off my forehead in no time!

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We didn’t make it to the top, as there was a pack of wild dogs that I refused to pass! We still had an absolutely incredible time in the lush green hills and caught some great views.

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Once of the best parts of Hong Kong was that you could do ‘big city’ attractions, or take a quick train ride and feel like you were out of the city. Their public transportation was very user-friendly and safe.

We had such a great time in Hong Kong and really enjoyed experiencing China with Kelly’s parents.

Our entire 32 days were a whirlwind of incredible sights, fascinating culture, foreign food, and fabulous memories.

(Read the other recaps: Bangkok, Thailand; Pattaya, Thailand; Koh Samui, Thailand; Beijing and Tianjin, China; Xiamen, China.)

Have you ever been to Hong Kong? What’s your favourite Disney park? 

Thailand highlights – Koh Samui

Koh Samui is an island in the Gulf of Thailand with powdery white sand and emerald waters. It has high-class resorts, cheap hotels catering to backpackers, and everything in between.

We have great memories from this place in 2004 and were beyond excited when we landed at the picturesque airport.

We checked into the gorgeous Amari Palm Reef on Chaweng Beach and walked along the beach to our favourite restaurant to see if it would still live up to its reputation. It did, and we ended up eating three meals there before forcing ourselves to try something different!

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Chaweng Beach is the most popular on the island, and also the most beautiful. When we first got our feet sandy, it truly felt like we landed in paradise.

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One phrase you often hear in Thailand is same same, but different. It describes a lot but mostly shopping and the offerings at the markets. For us, it accurately portrayed our nine days on the island!

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We fell into an amazing routine: wake early and workout; go for a huge buffet breakfast overlooking the ocean; head to the beach to read, nap, play in the ocean, and perhaps sea kayak; shower and get ready for the evening; eat a delicious dinner (possibly with your toes in the sand); walk around for a few hours bartering at the markets, stopping for delicious dessert or tropical drinks. Sleep and repeat.

Although people could argue you could do that anywhere so why fly so far, I can’t explain it well enough to do Samui justice. I’ll try.

Workouts

We ran outside a few times and laughed each time. The humidity was intense, and it is a hilly place! We ran along the road, taking in the palm trees, stray dogs, speeding tour bus drivers, and odd smells. (Unfortunately my knee bothered me a bit, so I took some days off running there.)

I tried swimming in the ocean one day. But Kelly thought it would be funny to hum the Jaws theme before I went out. It didn’t make for a long or good swim, as I kept popping my head up to survey the scene!

Resort breakfasts

A huge buffet breakfast was included with our room. The food was amazing. But even better was the adorable Thai workers. All the little ladies were so cute and friendly. The ocean views didn’t hurt either.

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Beach time

Chaweng Beach is seriously gorgeous. We applied SPF 50 (and reapplied multiple times throughout the day) and stayed out for hours, moving between the shade, the water, and the sun.

Beach hawkers can be annoying but on Koh Samui, they weren’t at all. Kelly befriended a few of them buying silk blankets, beer and water, and daily ice cream for me.

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They weren’t the only things Kelly befriended. He made many furry friends, too! He’d buy the stray dogs various treats each day and always make time to give them some pets.

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We rented a double kayak a few times and had a blast venturing out on the water.

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Dinner

There is no shortage of restaurants and variety on Chaweng Beach. All the beachfront hotels put chairs and tables right out on the beach for a meal with ambience.

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There are countless delicious restaurants on the main street as well, giving you a great spot to people watch. And then there are the carts.

Crepes

If you like fresh seafood, there is no shortage on this island! They throw all their fresh catches on ice out front so people can choose exactly what they want to eat.

We had many memorable meals.

Evening action

Chaweng Beach also has quite a night life. Walking down the main street, there are constant reminders of the places you can go. Advertising trucks drive up and down, announcing various bars and of course Thai boxing.

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There are tons of markets and shops selling anything and everything. There are also many massage parlors. I went for frequent foot massages and one Thai massage.

One night we went to a lady-boy burlesque show. They were gorgeous and performed really well. We had a blast!

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Extra activities

We weren’t total beach bums the entire stay on Samui. One day Kelly agreed to go on an elephant trek in the jungle to appease me. We didn’t get a chance to do it on our last visit to Thailand, and it’s been on my bucket list ever since!

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We hopped on a songthaew (truck with seats in the back) and went to an elephant trekking place. We hopped on Sarah and I enjoyed the ride and then feeding her plantains and sugar cane! From there, we visited a beautiful waterfall.

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Another day we went to Wat Phra Wai, better known as Big Buddha. This Buddha is 15m high but leaves a lasting impression with the ocean and sky backdrop.

Lastly, we spent another day visiting a couple other beaches: Crystal Bay and Lamai Beach.

Changes

I truly hope that someone intervenes with the damage that occurs daily on the beach. If you walk early in the morning or late at night, there is a lot of litter left out that eventually gets swept into the ocean. One night Kelly picked up over 10 empty water bottles sitting on the shore. Luckily it still appears clean but that is bound to change if nothing is done.

Thailand is truly a magical place. I can’t express how warm and kind the Thai people are. Their culture is peaceful and simply makes you calm, happy, and appreciative. I hope that if we go back in the next decade, the island is still naturally pristine.

Our time on Samui was reenergizing, so much fun, and a great way to cap off Thailand!  I’m so glad we were chilled out there, as I don’t think we relaxed once during our two weeks in China.

Up next…adventures in Beijing!

Sorry for the longest blog post ever. 

What is your favourite island?