Traveling – Hong Kong!

B and I just got back* from a fabulous, amazing, incredible vacation in Asia. Neither he nor I had been to Asia before and had started planning a trip to Vietnam (plus surrounding areas) earlier last year. Well – we finally booked it and started our trip out east in Hong Kong over the holidays.

We had four full days in Hong Kong and the city did NOT disappoint. From the moment we got off the plane I could feel the excitement (We’re in ASIA! I whispered probably too loud to B) and when the Airport Express train went above ground and the blue sky, blue water and SO MANY tremendously large and wild looking buildings came into sight I was pumped.

Some highlights from the trip:

The food (for the most part):

Because our hotel package came with a pretty good free breakfast (western, european AND hong kong style – congee), we didn’t end up going out for breakfast or dim sum during our time in Hong Kong. We did, however, have some other great meals including awesome dumplings (my favorite!), fresh duck, tons of soups and noodles and some pretty interesting meals as well (including a few places where we pointed to pictures on the wall because the menu was not in English). B did end up getting food poisoning on our last night – but we had eaten the same food all day long so I’m not sure what did him in.

restaurant with no english at all

One restaurant we ate at with no english at all

inside said restaurant - great noodle soup!

great noodle soup!

first meal - spicy cauliflower!

first meal – spicy cauliflower!

Spending a day in Kowloon

Kowloon is another island that’s part of Hong Kong. I really loved Kowloon! The island was bumping, crowded, energizing, etc. To get there, we took the Star Ferry across the harbor and spent pretty much the whole day there. While there we checked out the bird market (so many birds just flying around and in cages!), flower market, the local parks, the jade markets (and did some bargaining), the Promenade, the Avenue of the Stars and more.

so many goldfish on this one street

so many goldfish on this one street



one of the many bird cages on this street in kowloon

some of the many bird cages on this street in Kowloon

playing the role of tourist on the Avenue of the Stars - me and Jackie Chan!

playing the role of tourist on the Avenue of the Stars – me and Jackie Chan (and tons of other Asian tourists)

Walking around Kowloon

Walking around Kowloon

Viewing the city from the top of Victoria Peak

B and I took the tram up to Victoria Peak on our first full day in Hong Kong and it was a great way to start off our trip. We walked to the tram station from our hotel (about a 40 min walk) and got a great view of the entire city (and it was so clear out!) during the walk and from our viewpoint atop the mountain. At the top, there are also self guided tours you can take that point out what you’re seeing in the distance – again, great way to start the trip and get our bearings.

B and I and the view!

B and I and the view!

The view from the top. So lucky to have a gorgeous, clear day!

The view from the top. So lucky to have a gorgeous, clear day!

Day Trips – Stanley and Aberdeen and the Big Buddha!

We spent most of our time in the central main district and in the western part of Hong Kong (where we were staying) so on our last full day there we decided to take the public transportation system to other parts of the island, including Stanley and Aberdeen. Aberdeen used to be a fishing district and it was cool to see the people still fishing (and then filleting) their meal. Stanley is a gorgeous beach town with upscale shops, touristy areas, a market and a few beaches for locals and tourists to enjoy. Both cities offered a different view than we had witnessed during our stay in the other parts of the island and on Kowloon.

Beach Day! Spending Jan. 1 in Stanley.

Beach Day! Spending Jan. 1 in Stanley.

Loved the streets of Stanley

Loved the streets of Stanley

Selfie in Aberdeen

Selfie in Aberdeen – check out all the boats behind us. Some had people fishing, some had people filleting their fish!

Another day we trekked to yet another island, Lantau Island, to the top of a hill to find the Po Lin Monastery, famous for its Big Buddha. The monastery and some temples sit on top of a large mountain with great views of the surrounding areas, a temple with many gold Buddhas and more and of course- the Big Buddha.

At the top of the hill

At the top of the hill – monastery behind me ad mountains

Also at the top - great views!

Also at the top – great views!

B looking at the Big Buddha

B looking at the Big Buddha

The light show at night on the harbor

Each night, there is a light show over the waterfront between Kowloon and Hong Kong. It’s not like anything I had ever seen before – it’s lights (not fireworks, as I at first thought), lasers, and the buildings are also all lit up. Because it was the holidays the buildings were all lit up with “Merry Christmas” and “Happy New Year” – something I had not expected to see while in Hong Kong!

View from Kowloon - all the buildings lit up

View from Kowloon – all the buildings lit up

What a great way to kick off our Asia trip. Despite B’s sickness, we had a great time. I really enjoyed the metropolitan feel for Hong Kong,  the gorgeous and really cool architecture, how efficient everything was, how easy it was to take the busses and train everywhere, and how walkable the city was.

cool buildings

cool buildings

Some questions for you:

  • Have you ever been to Asia?
  • What’s your favorite type of Chinese food? Least favorite? I tend to like spicy dishes or dumplings. Least favorite? Anything with rice or sweet and sour chicken.

Coming up next – some recaps on the rest of our trip – Vietnam, Cambodia and Macau!

*full disclosure – while you’re reading this, if travel plans work out right, I may be in an airplane flying above you – I was able to write this post while abroad!

A Canadian Christmas Getaway (Part Two)

(Continued from Part One:  Montreal)


We got into Toronto around dinnertime and decided to do some exploring of the Distillery District, just a mile or so from our hotel in the Harbourfront area. What a cute area! They’ve converted what used to be an old large distillery into a whole pedestrian only cobblestone section with bars, shops and restaurants. We found a local brewery to enjoy dinner and a sampling of the local beers before heading back to our hotel.

A sampling of Canadian beers

A sampling of Canadian beers

SNOW! Again!

SNOW! Again!

The next day Toronto somehow ended up being a similar experience to Montreal. No, it wasn’t the biggest snow storm they’d ever had, but we got into town on a clear evening, and woke up to a snow storm the next day. The weather wasn’t nearly as bad (they probably got like 4 inches … however many cm that is) and we were able to walk a few miles to get around the city, just by foot. We first walked to Casa Loma, about 4 mi from our hotel and took a tour of the huge castle-like estate that sits on a hill at the most northern point of the city. It’s a beautiful old house that was owned by a Toronto millionaire back in the day – but now is a tourist destination that has been restored to as it was nearly 100 years ago.

inside Eaton Centre

inside Eaton Centre

in front of casa loma

Casa Loma!

After Casa Loma, B and I decided to check out Toronto’s Asiatown. It was not disappointing! We strolled around the large area of Asian (Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Thai) restaurants and stores, stopped in a few (I bought some ginger coconut candy –yum!) and decided to stop by for a snack at a dumpling restaurant. The snack turned into 15 dumplings – EACH – that we finished completely. Whoops! I guess that’s what happens when you eat “Brunch” at 2 p.m.!

Dumplings in Chinatown

I ate every single one of those dumplings

B and I left Chinatown and walked back to our hotel – but first, a stop at the CN tower! The former tallest standing structure in the world was gorgeous at night – all lit up in green and red for the holidays and bright in the now clear sky (it stopped snowing finally!).  We debated going up to the top – but decided against it at the last minute and headed back to our hotel to relax for a little bit before our last night in Toronto. My boots had broken so my feet – socks and boot liners included – had soaked through so the walk back was a slow, trudgering mess. After changing, B and I hit up our hotel’s top floor restaurant – at the 38th floor, it offered a beautiful view of the city and we were able to relax and have a drink before heading out for the night.

our approximate walking tour - included checking out Easton Centre Mall, Bloor Street shopping, and more along the way

our approximate walking tour – included checking out Eaton Centre Mall, Bloor Street shopping, and more along the way

Not wanting to walk too far after finding a few blisters on my feet and soaking through my boots, I found a bar close to our restaurant that sounded Canadian for us to check out for drinks and dinner – the Loose Moose! (Come on – if that doesn’t sound Canadian …) We found it easily and grabbed a table right in front of one of the many large screen TVs in the bar – and lucky us, within a few minutes the bar became crowded with people there to watch the Dos Santos vs Velasquez UFC fight. We stayed, ordered dinner and enjoyed our last night in Toronto.


Last night in Toronto .. the Loose Moose!

loose moose b

Guess what – the trip wasn’t quite over! After a quick workout, we left the hotel and while driving back into the U.S. we made one more stop – to Niagara Falls! B and I had been there a few years ago, but decided to stop by on our way back. It was just as beautiful with the snow-covered landscape – but way more crowded!

niagara falls

And that, my friends, wraps up our 2012 adventures. Here’s to many more in 2013!