Hong Kong Highlights
After having lived in Hong Kong for 2 months, I´ve managed to visit most of the symbolic places. I´ll talk about my personal favorite places and would highly recommend a visit to anyone coming to HK. The first place is called Tian Tan Buddha, or Big Buddha. Going up here is really fun as you can take a cable car up a mountain and pay a little extra for a crystal clear cabin. Paying extra for the transparent cabin is definitely worth it, you get a really nice view and a scary sensation. Once you arrive at the mountain there’s a monastery and a couple of touristic attractions that are worth checking out. Then if one goes up a hill with approximately 268 steps, one will see the 34-meter Buddha statue laying with his right hand up and the left hand resting. The statue is made out of bronze and it faces north which is a unique characteristic of this Buddha. There is also another monastery called 10,000 Buddhas which is on top of the hill and it was golden buddhas all the way to the top. This place is amazing as it has so many different statues of buddhas, and the monastery is filled with Buddhas. If you are into hiking highly suggest Dragons back, and Suicide cliff. The first one is an easy hike that ends at the beach, and the second one is a really challenging hike with an amazing view. Lastly, Chi Lin Nunnery is one of my favorite monastery´s to visit as it is really peaceful but it still feels like it lies in the middle of the city. This place has gardens nearby, and the entire temple is surrounded by bonsai trees which give the place the right feng shui.
During the second month, I had the opportunity to visit my cousin at Bangkok. This was my first solo traveling trip. As I was meeting him for a few days and just staying alone in the city. Bangkok is really a massive city, it is Thailands capital and is known for multiple films. During my stay at Bangkok, I got to see Wat Pho temple which is where the reclining Buddha lies. I visited the Jim Thompson Museum, which resembles the importance of the silk industry in the country. The Grand Palace is another must stop if you ever visit Bangkok. Bangkok has a monarchy, with it´s Royal family being one of the wealthiest in the entire planet. The Thai Royal Family has a higher net worth than Britains royal family. It is amazing how that one family influences an entire country, as the pictures are in the bill and everyone has pictures and loves the king. One could say it is still a dictatorship but the locals seem to be happy with it. The Grand Palace used to be where the royal family lives, and today it is the home of the Emerald Buddha and multiple breathtaking temples. About 94% of Thailands population is Buddhist, so most of the people are super friendly and helpful. It is not rare to accidentally bump into really amazing temples, but it is unpredictable how the city changes at night. At night this Buddhist city transforms itself into a sin city. Walking around the red district you can notice the prostitutes and ladyboys just chilling in the streets. I visited the famous Hangover rooftop bar, and Soicowboy and other Hollywood acclaimed districts of the city. It is honestly really wild, which is nice and nasty at the same time.
This trip was planned for Chinese New Years. I was originally planning to go by myself but this Spanish girl named Carolina showed interest in joining me. We decided to stay in Hong Kong to see the carnivals and celebratory activities for Lunar New Years and then leave to the Philippines. Our flight landed in Manila which is the capital, ended up spending two days in this city. Nothing special about Manila, it is like Bangkok 2.0 as in the city is fairly crazy with red districts full of strip clubs, old man, and the best attraction midget fights. Then from Manila, you take a flight to Puerto Princesa in Palawan and this is where the journey really begins. From Puerto Princesa, you take a 7-hour bus ride to El Nido. This is not your typical bus ride, Google says it only takes 2 hours by car but trust me google is not always right. The roads were extra narrow, and the curves were super sharp. Making it impossible for drivers to keep a constant speed, but this didn´t stop them from trying. In every curve, they had to be switching lanes and trying to pass everyone. Those 7-hours where basically me trying to keep my eyes closed, as we were to close from death. Finally, we arrived at El Nido and let me tell you it´s a beautiful little corner of the world. The boats are super rudimentary which makes it great for pics, and the sunset just lays a beautiful canvas full of colors as the moon rises. Met amazing people in a hostel called outpost, I mean people all over the world including a friend name Devin which I ended up visiting in Taiwan. After renting some motorcycles and touring the islands nearby I decided it was time for me to take a visit to Coron. The easiest and cheapest way to get to Coron from El Nido is taking a ferry. Unfortunately, I wasn´t aware there were two ferries a fast one and a slow one to go to this island. I ended up taking the slow one by accident which took me around 8 hours. I was furious when I finally arrived nobody told me it was going to be that long, and I honestly wasn´t thinking it was going to be worth it. I went to Coron because of its internationally acclaimed World War 2 wrecks. this place is one of the best spots to go wreck diving and I really wanted to challenge myself. The next day was a pure diving day, with three wreck dives which were one of the best dives I´ve done in my entire life. Descending at approximately 46 meters below the water surface and contemplating 150-200 meter boats that have machine guns and cannons it is absolutely life-changing. Just to think that this boats where sunken 70 years ago and now fish and coral have taken over is incredible. The ocean took those boats but the sensation of all the people that died was still present. I was lucky enough to be in good diving conditions, as our divemaster decided to take us inside the wrecks with proper flashlights and equipment. It was a real adrenaline rush, as some of the chambers are tiny and require a diver to have good buoyancy control. We all survived the dives which are important, after that we celebrated our success with fellow divers in a nice reggae bar. After that, I basically had to take all the super long transport back to Hong Kong. Starting from the boat, leading to the bus and concluding with two flights.
This island is 45 min away from Hong Kok. This place is basically the Las Vegas of Asia, they have a mixture of all the famous hotels like the Venetian, the Parisian and many others. It is fairly simple to get a visa and cheap to get a ticket. I´ve visited a total of two times and spend just one night. The island used to be a Portuguese colony, so you can imagine it´s really hard pronouncing Portuguese streets for Chinese people. China took over the island and decided to make gambling legal, and target that specific market. There is old Macao which is where all the old European buildings are found, and there is also the new Macao where you find all your fancy hotels. It is a really nice place to go out and clubbing, but it´s relatively expensive. The city center is nice and it offers quie a bit of history. Defintatley worth at least a day trip.
While I was staying at El Nido, I met a couple who didn´t stop talking about Taiwan. They mentioned they had a nice apartment, and that there are loads of things to do in the city. At first, I wasn´t that convinced but as the conversation grew longer and they started showing me some pics of the things to do, I decided that maybe visiting Taiwan was not such a bad idea. So as soon as I got back from the Philippines I make up my mind and decide I’m going to Taiwan. The city is amazing, they have a similar system with the metro and the octopus card, with one very cool addition. You can rent bikes out with your metro card, the first day we biked around the city and had Japanese & Taiwanese food. We went to a couple of night markets which is the best place to get street food, and we also went up a cable car which they call gondolas for some reason. The food was cheap, the people were extremely nice and the city was surprisingly clean. I say surprisingly because they barely had any trash cans, but the people and the culture of them still managed to keep it the place clean. I ended up staying with my friends from El Nido and they were amazing hosts, showing me all the cool spots around the city. I could definitely see myself living in Taipei, as it is still a pretty advanced city and surprisingly I felt it had more Spanish speakers than Hong Kong which was fun.