Hong Kong Day 3 – Ocean Park

As much as I loved my first Disney experience, the rides at Ocean Park were far more of an adrenaline rush. We needed to take the MTR as well as a bus to get there, and we were completely blown away by this park. There are trimmed hedges in various animal shapes all around the area, and such great attention to detail. There is an aquarium, animal section, cable car ride as well as the actual theme park.

In order to reach the theme park section, you need to take a cable car journey to the top of the park.

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Hair Raiser – It deserves its name!

The first ride we went on the the Hair Raiser coaster. It has a creepy clown face entrance, and the ride felt like it was on the edge of  the cliff. Poor John looked like he was going to be sick while he was still in the queue – so much for Mr big talker! This was a definite adrenaline rush, and by far the best coaster I had ever been on. We ended up doing this one three times as the queues weren’t too bad.

11066520_10153266445588968_7909187761078684393_nWe tried most of the various rides, but the other 2 that need special mention would be the tummy drop, which is when you go straight up to the top of the tower, and then you drop down fast. When you are at the top, there is such an amazing view but you are terrified of what is to come, so this ride needs to be done at least twice to enjoy the sights – if your stomach and heart can handle it! The second one was a ride that flipped us upside down over the tarmac. It was also a terrifying one for me, being suspended  with concrete below did not feel natural! We went on various other rides, but none of them came close to the same adrenaline rushes previously experienced. One of the rides needs a poncho! It is a water ride in a large tube, and as you go through the rapids, staff members stand of the bridges with a water gun to ensure you get wet.

In the afternoon there is a seal and dolphin show. We were lucky enough to get pulled down backstage, where we changed into wellie boots and walked out on stage to do various signals with the seal. It was so cool! When the seal act was done, we took our seats in the audience and watched the dolphins do various jumps and tricks. When the show was done, we took the cable car back down to the lower park, and spent time going through the aquarium and animal park. It was my first time seeing a panda in real life, and John was excited to discover a red panda.

10259784_10153266446068968_2166709709822698624_nAfter doing some shopping in the park, we eventually made our way home to freshen up. We hopped back on the hotel shuttle to ladies market, where we spent some of the evening walking around and bargaining. John was feeling particularly brave, so we ended up on the side of the market, eating from a street food restaurant. The kind where seafood is still alive in buckets on the pavement. I can honestly say that the spring rolls were delicious!

*just an add in, the superhero flash drive I bought worked once, and died a very quick death. The lady who sold it to me was nice enough to plug it into her laptop to show me that it worked, and it worked once after that.

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Hong Kong Disneyland

On our second day in Hong Kong, I finally ticked off my major bucket list item – Disney! Even though I was suffering from some major jetlag, I was like a kid on Christmas morning. I set my alarm to wake up at 7am, and as soon as the buzzer went off, I shot out of bed like an arrow. I was ready in record time, and had to nag at John to get a move on. I know it was silly, but I had dreamed of visiting Disney since I was a child. This may not have been the Paris or Orlando one, but I was just as excited for it.

 

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On the train to Disneyland.

Although it is a very small theme park, it is still a lot better than the small parks we have in  South Africa. We took the MRT, and when we switched lines to the Disneyland line, we were transported into the world of Disney automatically. The train has wonderful decor, including mickey mouse shaped windows, mickey mouse hand grips, and beautiful little statues in glass casings. The seats were a rich velvety blue – a luxurious feeling compared to the plastic seats from the previous train. My excitement was bubbling over .

11024703_10153266446368968_5581969442346914001_nWe arrived half an hour before opening time, and wandered around the outside area. The magical music was playing from speakers, and there was a fountain with mickey on a surfboard, riding the water from a whale’s blow hole. That probably sounds very wrong, but it’s the only way I can describe it! We were very fortunate to get complimentary entrance, as our one friend is a Disney princess. She met us at the entrance (they allowed a water bottle), gave us our passes and off we went! Because it was a small park and we had all day, we didn’t stress too much about timing our rides. There are a few fast pass options, but we didn’t use them at all.

Sadly the Disney castle had some construction at the time, so my lovely castle view was a painted cardboard castle covering the construction. We were very fortunate to not have any queues that day – the longest being about 15 minutes. We had carefully gone through the list of rides before our trip, so we knew what we wanted to do beforehand. Here are my thoughts on the rides we went on (gave them a heart rating out of 5, 5 being the best in my opinion):

♥♥♥♥♥ – Big Grizzly mountain: We had no waiting at all for this ride, we ended up doing this one about 5 times in a row. The animatronics (I think that’s a word?) on this ride were awesome! Big grizzly bear, fake explosion, rollercoaster changing direction half way through, all in all an amazing coaster!

♥♥♥♥♥ – Mystic Manor: The lifelike effects of this ride were incredible! It looked so real that I found myself ducking from shooting arrows that were not real. We did this ride twice and I was in such amazement each time.

♥♥♥♥♥ – Space Mountain: This was the first ride that we did, and we ended up going back to this one another 2 times. It is indoor, and you find yourself spiralling through space.

♥♥♥♥ – The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh: Although this ride is aimed at kids, I loved it! It takes a fast pass, but we didn’t need it, the queue was just a 5 minute wait. We hopped into the honeypot and went through the story book.

♥♥♥♥ – Cinderella Carousel: This was my first time on a proper carousel, and it made me feel like I was sucked into a scene from Mary Poppins – I was in my element!

♥♥♥♥ – Jungle River Cruise: Some people might find this cruise a waste of time according to previous reviews I had read, but I loved this cruise! Our guide was trying very hard to make it an entertaining and funny trip, even though she struggled with English. The animals and tribesmen were realistic, we had a great time.

♥♥♥ – Dumbo the Flying Elephant: This ride takes you up in a circular motion, giving you a nice view of the park. It was sweet and light-hearted fun, but I wouldn’t wait in a 15 minute queue for it.

♥♥♥ – Slinky Dog Spin: This was a small rollercoaster in the Toy Story part of the park. It was cute, but very tame compared to the other coasters there.

♥♥♥ – Parachute drop: fun, but not terribly thrilling. More of a relaxed ride, unless you are deathly afraid of heights!

♥♥ -Buzz Lightyear laserquest: John had quite a bit of fun on this ride, but my laser gun wasn’t working the first time, so we had to do it again. I was still disappointed the 2nd time around.

♥♥ – Orbitron: I wasn’t very impressed with this one either, Dumbo was enough for me.

Unfortunately “It’s a small world” was closed for renovation, so I can’t rate that ride.

11081486_10153266447698968_8646559444355847901_nAs far as character meet and greets were concerned, I had the pleasure of taking pictures with the following characters:

  • Mickey Mouse
  • Minnie Mouse
  • Winnie the pooh
  • Jessie
  • Woody
  • Donald duck
  • Pluto

10984159_10153266448968968_7023223869851595786_nIn order to meet the Frozen princesses, you had to book the meet and greet in the morning, and they sold out quickly!

11053654_10153266448428968_158053075643379151_nWe didn’t take photos of our sleeping beauty friend, but we took a photo of her in the parade. There are lockers which we made use of, and refilled our water bottle as it was quite pricey. We made our way down to watch the 3pm parade, I was in awe! The music, characters and float made me feel like I was living in the Disney dream. Next up on my agenda was the shopping! I went a little bit crazy, buying souvenirs for everybody. I got myself lovely silver and rose color mickey mouse earrings, some mugs, ornaments for our Christmas tree, and a few other bits and bobs. John was a real trooper, I dragged him through each and every single store many times, going through all the merchandise carefully. I bought myself a light blue mug with a 3d Olaf, and a slogan than says “I like warm hugs” and “do you wanna build a snowman?”.

11071818_10153266448848968_4842878972719223199_nFinally it was time for me to take a breather, sit down and eat something. I had bought a takeaway turkey leg in between rides, but I had spotted a mickey mouse waffle that I was salivating over. We ordered one, and filled one ear of the plastic plate with syrup, and the other ear with chocolate sauce. I was in sugar heaven! The price for a waffle wasn’t too bad, I think it cost hk$45. I also indulged in cotton candy and a slushie 🙂

We ended up leaving at 5pm and missing the evening light show, as I still wanted to find the Charlie Brown Cafe in the city. I turned and had one last look at the disappointingly cardboard castle, and then left the park. Our hands were full of shopping packets, and my heart was full of happiness, the kind only Disney can bring. We hopped back on the trains to our hotel, and had a quick shower and freshen up.

11079571_10153266440108968_7719602917981903779_nAfter we had relaxed for a bit, we headed back to the subway and made our way towards the Charlie Brown cafe. I had an orange hot chocolate, which was delicious! The whole restaurant has a Charlie Brown theme to it. I had a snoopy pattern on my hot choc.

After walking around a few night market stalls, it was back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep!

 

 

 

 

Hong Kong Day 1!

We arrived in Hong Kong at 7am on a Saturday morning. The weather was chilly and the airport was buzzing. Our first mission was to buy an octopus card and load it with hk dollars. We used this card throughout our trip, and I would highly recommend using one of these to get about the subway system. We boarded the airport express to Kowloon station, where our hotel shuttle did hourly pick ups and drop offs. Unfortunately we got there just on the hour and didn’t know where to look for the shuttle, so we ended up taking a taxi to our hotel (journey cost about hk$55).

We had chosen to stay at the Dorsett Mongkok hotel because of good reviews and close proximity to the subway station (about 5 minutes walk). We were very happy with our choice. We fully prepared ourselves for a ridiculously tiny room (we had read about the small hotel rooms in Hong Kong), but we were very happy with this spot. Unfortunately we weren’t able to check-in until 2pm, but the hotel staff were nice enough to keep our luggage and allow us to freshen up in the lobby bathroom.

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25 minute cable car ride.

Once we had a fresh change of clothes and a quick clean of the face and teeth, we set off for our first stop, Ngong Ping cable car and village. Our main intention of going to visit the village was for the giant Buddha overlooking the village. The 5.7km cable car ride up into the mountains was magnificent, and considering we pay almost the same price for our 5 minute cable car journey up table mountain, we were happy with the hk$250 price tag. It was misty and overcast, which gave it a lonely, eerie feeling. When we eventually got to the top, we took a slow stroll through the misty village.

11080886_10153266438968968_7654122206238447142_nWe hadn’t realized that Chinese new year had recently been celebrated, so it was a lovely surprise to see all the decorations and red lanterns everywhere. We took a few photos before stopping for some side cart food. John was brave enough to try oily balls of fish meat on a stick, while I stuck to spring rolls. (He didn’t enjoy his snack as much as I enjoyed mine). There were lovely little shops all along the small village – mostly catering to tourists. The walk leading up to the monastery was lined with zodiac warrior statues, looking fierce and strong. The monastery was beautiful, there were mosaic details and stone carved statues everywhere. There were also a lot of people praying with large incense sticks. We peeked in a few of the temples, then set out to find what we had really come here for – the giant Buddha.

22601_10153266439743968_1416649548880653405_nIn order to reach the Buddha, you need to climb a few flights of stairs (all outdoors). We had read that you should only do this climb if you are fit, but I had to disagree. It wasn’t very difficult, and you could easily take it at a slow pace. Please don’t be scared off, it really is a beautiful sight. It also has a lovely view from the top. It was still misty when we reached the top, but as we descended back into the village, it had completely cleared up. We climbed back into the cable car and headed down into the city, catching a last glimpse of the giant Buddha sitting above the mountain trees. I would personally allow about 3 hours for this trip, cable car included, unless you are planning to eat lunch at the top. Once back in the city, we walked around a few different grocery stores to get an idea of prices, then bought ourselves some drinks and sweet snacks. Off we went, back to our hotel to finally check in.

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our hotel room view at night.

We were very happy with the view from our room – looking over tall skyscrapers and the city. Our room cost approx R1200.00 per night, which was extremely affordable for what we wanted – clean and close to the subway. We had a shower (bathroom was very small but perfectly fine for  3 nights), got changed into some clean clothes and then hopped on the hotel shuttle. This shuttle stopped at various places every hour (ladies market, kowloon station, the ferry etc). We walked around the ladies market and ended up buying quite a few things. I found myself a lovely peacock patterned silk dressing gown – I ended up buying 3 more as presents!

After walking around non stop through markets, we had worked up quite an appetite! We stopped at a small yet busy Chinese restaurant that spoke no English. After using an online translator, we settled on sweet and sour chicken, and a beefy vegetable dish. the food was amazing! Once we were done, we decided it was time to climb into bed. When we had arrived at the ladies market, we hadn’t payed too much attention to exactly where we were getting out of the bus, and we ended up walking in circles trying to figure out where that spot was to be collected from again. The street are overwhelmingly large, lit up and overcrowded. Eventually we admitted defeated and followed the signs to the nearest subway station – hopping on the train back to our hotel room for a full night of peaceful sleep 🙂

Back to the East! Hong Kong & Vietnam!

Being my usual travel obsessed self, I was desperate to travel again. I had to go back to the far east, after a taste of Europe I knew I needed to head back to the stifling humidity, cheap food and affordable day trips. My boyfriend (John) and I went through the map of Asia in great detail. He wanted Sri Lanka – I am not a surfer so I didn’t fancy spending everyday on the beach watching him catch “sick waves”. I wanted Koh Samui – he had been to Thailand twice before so he wasn’t jumping up and down at the idea of saving up his hard earned cash to go back again. He then told me about his desire to walk and camp along the Great wall of China. I was also quite interested until we realized that our holiday fell in a not-so-great hiking season in China. March was still too cold. We ended up agreeing on an awesome holiday in Hong Kong and Vietnam. Time was limited so our itinerary was as follows:

3 nights in Hong Kong, 3 nights in Hanoi, 5 nights in Nha Trang and finished off with 3 nights in Ho Chi Minh City.

I had everything planned down to the last activity, and our flights were booked through Cathay Pacific. I really enjoyed this airline – dessert was a Magnum ice cream – what is there not to love?

After a long, sleepless flight, we finally arrived in Hong Kong. John had fallen asleep quickly after take off – I had not! the Johannesburg to Hong Kong leg was a grueling 12 hour flight. We landed safe and sound, and I’ll detail my Hong Kong trip in the next post 🙂

Being a tourist in my own city Part 1: Seal Snorkeling

I was ecstatic when I heard the news that my high school best friend was coming back to Cape Town for a holiday. She had immigrated to England in 10th grade, and we hadn’t seen each other in 9 years. Facebook helps with the distance, but nothing quite beats having the person, in the flesh, on a fun filled holiday! She had asked me if she could share my place for the 2 weeks, and I jumped at the chance. I had one request though…a ridiculous amount of Galaxy chocolate!

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Fully geared up.

I spent time planning an itinerary, and managed to wrangle some leave from work. There is something magical about being a tourist in your own city. It is refreshing – like seeing the place for the first time through someone else’s eyes. Since she was in high school when she left, there were so many things she could now experience for the first time. First up on the list was seal snorkeling!The price was R600 per person, which included a very thick wetsuit, gloves and all necessary gear. We decided to pay the additional R150 to rent a GoPro to capture the experience.

We departed Hout Bay harbor in a rubber duck boat, and headed out to Seal Island. It is not an actual island, but rather very large boulder coming out of the sea where thousands of seals spend their time. The water is overloaded with pirouetting seals. the rocks make a circular area, with a large sea gap in the center. The boat was slowly guided into this opening, and we were given the thumbs up to hop in the ridiculously cold water. Thankfully our 5mm suits, booties, gloves and hoodies were sufficient enough in keeping us alive.

 

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Seals swimming all around us.

The moment I put my head under the water, I was in awe. I couldn’t believe I lived in Cape Town and had not tried this amazing experience before! We were lucky enough to enjoy this trip at the right time of year – Around March, when the water is full of pups. We snorkeled around the cove-style area for about an hour. The visibility wasn’t too bad, and the swell was quite high, which made for a wonderful floating feeling.

 

vlcsnap-2014-03-28-16h11m10s142An interesting fact we learnt was that a seal’s eyes go extremely large underwater. It gives the seals an almost cartoon-like appearance. The older seals swam around, minding their own business, but the pups were full of fun and overly inquisitive. They were doing spirals around us, and blowing bubbles in our faces. Their curiosity was very entertaining.

This was an experience of a lifetime, and I highly recommend to anybody coming to Cape Town, google this activity!