Tai Po Waterfront Park

Tai Po Waterfront Park is a lovely large park in, unsurprisingly, Tai Po in the New Territories area of Hong Kong. As the name suggests, it’s on the waterfront and looks out over the Tolo Harbour to Ma On Shan on the other side.

Getting to the park isn’t quite as easy as I had hoped, mainly because it’s not that close to Tai Po Market MTR station. We decided to take a taxi from the station to the park, but other alternatives include the 20C or 20K minibus which go pretty close by. On the way back we actually walked back to the MTR station, which was a really nice walk alongside cycle tracks and took 20-25 minutes. Alternatively, you could catch the 75X bus from Kowloon City (get off at the terminus, Fu Shin Estate, which is adjacent to the park) or the 72A from Tai Wai (get off at the Yue Kok bus stop and walk down Yuen Shin Road to get to the park).

Once you are in the park, there is lots to explore. Our taxi dropped us off at the entrance by the bowling green on Dai Fat Street. We walked past the bowling greens (via a pit stop at the toilets) and came to a playground. It was a pretty nice, big playground so we let the twins run around there for a while.

Tai Po Waterfront Park playground

Isobel liked this shiny ball in the random minimalist area of the playground intended for older kids.

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This playground was situated in the vicinity of several themed gardens. You can see where the Palm Garden got its name from!

Tai Po Waterfront Park palm garden

Beyond the Palm Garden we found the waterfront. Surprisingly, we couldn’t get right up to the waterfront in the park because the cycle track running from Sha Tin to Tai Mei Tuk goes along the waterfront below. But that doesn’t really matter, as you still get the great views over the Tolo Harbour from the park. We followed this path along the edge of the park, past a lovely open grassy area which was signposted as a kite flying area and came across this lookout tower.

Tai Po Waterfront Park lookout tower

One of the nicest things for us was that the spiral path meant we could push the stroller up to the top! (although Tom might not agree that it was a great thing to do as he was the one pushing the heavy double stroller…)

The view from the top was lovely, even on a grey day like we had. This was the view over the harbour…

Tolo Harbour view from Tai Po Waterfront Park

…and looking back, over the park…

Tai Po Waterfront Park view from lookout tower

You also got a great view of the kites flying above the kite flying area (and indeed, the whole park) from part way up the tower.

Tai Po Waterfront Park kite flying

Moving on from the tower we came across another playground where we stopped to allow the twins to run around (I think we saw 3 or 4 playgrounds in total), and then beyond that some more beautifully manicured gardens (called the Western Garden). Next to this garden was an area filled with Chinese lanterns. Very picturesque!

Tai Po Waterfront Park Chinese lanterns

Finally, we walked back through the centre of the park, past an outdoor theatre and some random elephants made of (fake) flowers.

Tai Po Waterfront Park elephants

We really enjoyed visiting this park and spent a good couple of hours there, although you could spend much longer if you brought a picnic and wanted to chill out on the grass or try all the play areas with kids. The views were beautiful as well, and would be amazing on a clear day.

Thanks for reading!

Rachel

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The park on top of the Kai Tak cruise terminal

I don’t think we’d have even known that there is a park on top of the new Kai Tak cruise terminal but for the fact that my lovely husband is a structural engineer and he worked on this building. He’s wanted to go ever since it opened and see his work up close so last October we headed on over.

The cruise terminal is built on the end of the runway of the old Kai Tak airport, which was notoriously one of the world’s most difficult runways to land on! So I suppose in a way it’s quite apt that the cruise terminal is also quite difficult to get to ;) Access to it is on a small road from Kowloon Bay and you can get the number 86 green minibus from Kowloon Bay MTR to the cruise terminal. Other ways to get there are listed here. I have to admit, we just took a taxi (although it’s hard to get a taxi home again as there are so few that visit the cruise terminal). The park is on top of the building (I think it’s listed as roof garden or RG in the lift) and there are also shops and restaurants on the roof and on lower floors, although I don’t think any of the ones on the roof were open when we went.

I have to admit that the park is really nice. It’s beautifully landscaped and immaculately kept, with winding paths and pretty flowerbeds, and even the odd patch of grass (a rare thing in Hong Kong).

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I don’t think that many people know about it so when we went it wasn’t that busy at all, even though it was a lovely Sunday afternoon.

And it has great views out over the harbour.

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There is another park on the end of the runway at ground level called Runway Park, which you can see in the picture below. We didn’t go, but it looks like a nice wide piece of grass (although I’ve heard it’s not the greatest grass ever).

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Our main reason for visiting was really to see the two arches, which are the bits my husband worked on. They’re pretty cool.

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Jack and Isobel certainly enjoyed themselves (weren’t they so much smaller then?!) and so did we. I’d really recommend it if you’re looking for a quiet spot to enjoy Hong Kong sometime.

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Thanks for reading!

Rachel

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Chung Hom Kok beach

For the first part of the Easter weekend the weather in Hong Kong was lovely – sunny and warm, but not boiling hot (somewhere around 28°C) so we thought we’d take the babies for their first trip to the beach. Our requirements were to find a beach that was fairly accessible, ideally not too busy and where we could hire a sun shade. So we thought we’d give Chung Hom Kok beach a go, never having been before.

Getting to Chung Hom Kok beach is actually very straightforward. Just get on the 6X bus to Stanley (not the 6, it doesn’t go through Chung Hom Kok) and get off at the Chung Hom Kok Beach stop. We had to get another bus to get from the Kowloon side to the Island first, but it was still a pretty simple trip.

There are two things I need to warn you about though! First, the 6X goes on quite windy (meandering, not gusty) roads and depending on how your bus driver drives you might feel a little nauseous! Secondly, when you get off the bus there are a LARGE number of steps down to the beach (although luckily I didn’t find it quite as bad going back up them to get the bus home as I was expecting!). Please note that there are two bus stops on opposite sides of the roundabout at Chung Hom Kok beach because the bus does a U turn to get to the beach stop and out again so you need to check you are at the right stop to get your bus home!

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After going down all those steps and through a little park you finally hit the beach (it’s only about a 5-10 minute walk). As you reach the beach you’ll see a lifeguard station in front of you, a little shop on the left (where you can hire sun shades and get cold drinks), and changing rooms with showers and a BBQ area on the right. When we went the beach wasn’t that busy but the BBQ pits were all in use, although I think if we had wanted one we wouldn’t have waited too long for one to become free.

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The beach itself was nice and quiet, and was pretty clean with decent sand. The water was lovely and clear, and also very clean (although in Hong Kong that is highly dependent on weather patterns, so we were just lucky that it was a good day). But the water was also very cold! Of course, it’ll get warmer as the summer goes on though.

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The beach has a nice view too, looking across to Ocean Park and various islands out to sea.

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It was nice to sit on the beach and paddle (although the babies didn’t enjoy the paddling because the water was too cold!), very quiet and relaxing. The other people we were with enjoyed swimming in the sea too. If shell collecting is your thing then there were lots of shells there to choose from. I collected quite a few pieces of sea glass, which I think are really pretty although I think it is a poor reflection on the cleanliness of Hong Kong’s water and beaches that it was so plentiful! We only stayed for an hour because the babies started getting a little too hot and tired but if you don’t have babies as a limiting factor you could definitely stay a lot longer!

We really enjoyed our little trip out and would definitely go back to Chung Hom Kok beach again!

Thanks for reading!

Rachel

Places to visit – Langkawi, Malaysia

Langkawi was the last stop on our 2-week Malaysian holiday earlier this year (if you don’t count our stopover in Kuala Lumpur on the way home). Our primary reason for visiting was to do as little as possible on the beach!

We stayed at the Tropical Resort on Pantai Tengah. The hotel itself wasn’t on the beach but a very short (2 minute) walk down to the beach. It was a complex of 1 storey rooms and some communal areas, all very clean and well maintained. We thought it was very good value for money!

Pantai Tengah and the adjacent Pantai Cenang are the two main beaches on Langkawi and are fairly touristy, although the beach at Pantai Tengah is a lot quieter. It suited what we wanted well: there were lots of shops and restaurants near to the hotel, and Pantai Cenang had a large selection of bars and restaurants on the beach itself which was a lovely way to spend an evening. We took quite a few sunset photos!

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My only complaint about Pantai Tengah was the lack of shade. It was very exposed for most of the day, apart from very early in the morning and our hotel did not provide sun shades. This made it difficult to spend too much time in one go on the beach! We would go for a little while and spend some time in the sea, and then have to go back to the hotel to cool off!

We didn’t do that much while we were in Langkawi as we just wanted to relax, but here are some things we did do:

Cable car and waterfalls

The Langkawi cable car on the north-west side of the island will take you up to the top of Gunung Machinchang, where there are some great views over Langkawi.

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There is also a ‘sky bridge’ up there but it has been closed almost since it was open from what I can gather.

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We went by taxi from Pantai Cenang and it wasn’t that expensive. The cable car is situated in a very strange purpose-built touristy “village” which was pretty much deserted when we went. But the cable car was good fun and we got some fairly decent pictures from the top. Having read reviews online, the best advice is to pick a clear day to go as you’ll be in the clouds otherwise!

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Nearby are the Telaga Tujuh waterfalls, which are about a 15 minute walk from the cable car. Unfortunately, once you get to the bottom, there are a large number of steps up to the top! It’s quite a climb but doesn’t actually take too long. Also, you have two options: you can go all the way to the top, or stop halfway at the base of the waterfall which gives great views of the waterfall itself.

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However, if you continue up to the top, you get to the beautiful pools where you can slide from one pool to the next! The water was cool and this was lots of fun. I think we went at quite a dry time of year (January) but you could still slide between the pools.

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Boat trip

There are lots of reasonably priced boat trips which will take you round some of the outlying islands. Our hotel recommended one that was organised by a nearby agent so we went with that. For the price it was pretty good value! Plus, our boat was a lot less crowded than some of the others so I guess we picked a good company to go with (unfortunately I don’t know the name).

The first stop on the boat trip was to the Island of the Pregnant Maiden (Pulau Dayang Bunting). This island has a large freshwater lake in the middle where you can have a swim or go on a pedal boat. Unfortunately I didn’t get a photo of the lake but it really was a beautiful spot. There were a lot of monkeys though, and they were trying to grab anything they thought might be food.

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Our next stop was at a bay where they fed sea eagles. It was certainly an impressive sight to see all the sea eagles flying around, although afterwards we heard that they attract the sea eagles by feeding them chicken skin which isn’t nourishing for them and means that they have problems forming eggshells for their offspring.

We finished at a tropical beach on a small island. Unfortunately, our boat was doing the same trip as a number of other boats so whilst we were the first to arrive and enjoy the soft sand and clear sea, it wasn’t long before it was overtaken by a number of other people! It was a nice stopover though, and the beach had lots of shade and some food and drinks vendors.

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Rampant Sailing day trip

This was our ‘splurge’ whilst we stayed in Langkawi as it was pretty expensive, but I have to admit that it was totally worth the money! This day trip aboard a beautiful catamaran promises that there will be no more than 10 of you on the boat (there were 8 the day that we went) and sails around some of the small islands around Langkawi.

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The couple that own the boat are lovely and treated us like royalty the whole day! We were supplied with cold drinks whenever we wanted, and they provided an amazing spread for lunch. The views from the boat were wonderful, and we were never bored as there were activities to do as well – from a jacuzzi-like experience in a net being towed behind the boat, to kayaking, relaxing in hammocks in the water and a stopoff for a jungle trek where Tom saw a monitor lizard!

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So, that finishes my little summary of our Malaysian holiday, which covered Kuala Lumpur, the Cameron Highlands, Penang and Langkawi. We had a great time and would recommend Malaysia to anyone.

Thanks for reading!

Rachel

Places to visit – Georgetown, Penang (Malaysia)

After leaving the Cameron Highlands on our 2-week holiday in Malaysia, we took another bus (and another long 4 hour journey) to Georgetown on the island of Penang.

Georgetown is well known for its history and its food. I think I read somewhere that it used to be one of Malaysia’s most prominent ports, but at some point this changed and the commerce moved elsewhere, leaving Georgetown virtually undeveloped. Today, Georgetown has become a large tourist attraction because of the sheer quantity of historic buildings, and I for one was very glad that it had not had the modernisation of so many cities today!

Here are some things to see in Georgetown:

Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion

This was a real highlight for us. The blue mansion, which was built by a very wealthy Chinese businessman, has been lovingly restored from a fairly ruinous state by a group of locals and today you can have a tour round it led by a lady who is obviously a key member of that group and is very passionate about it! She was great. The house is beautiful, and you can also stay there if you want a bit of luxury during your time in Georgetown. Tom and I were sorely tempted!

Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion Georgetown

Inside Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion

Penang Peranakan Museum

This was another old mansion house that has been restored and filled with beautiful artefacts. Unlike the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, this is a private home and its contents have been bought to the owner’s taste rather than to be authentic to what the original house would have looked like. Still, there is a free tour round the museum (we were rather startled to be approached by a tour guide and taken on a tour as soon as we entered, we thought he must be looking for payment but he wasn’t!) which was very informative, and it is a beautiful house.

Inside Paranakan Museum Georgetown

Paranakan Museum Georgetown

Khoo Kongsi

This is the largest of the clan houses (kongsi) in Georgetown and is very elaborate with several buildings to look at. If I remember correctly, there are several areas in Georgetown where each clan lived in the houses which surrounded their central clan house and this was their little protected community. The clan house itself looks more like a temple, and contains shrines and ancestral tablets. It has been beautifully preserved and I believe it is still active today.

Khoo Kongsi Georgetown

Inside Khoo Kongsi Georgetown

Street art

Georgetown has some great street art, which we enjoyed spotting!

Armenian Street Art Georgetown

Cintra Street Art Georgetown

Bicycle street art Georgetown

Other sights

Here are some other things that we saw whilst walking around Georgetown. Firstly, St George’s Church:

St Georges Church Georgetown

Cannon on the edge of Fort Cornwallis:

Cannon at Fort Cornwallis Georgetown

The Eastern & Oriental Hotel (the Georgetown equivalent of the Raffles):

Eastern and Oriental Hotel Georgetown

Old Chinese shophouses (which are everywhere):

Chinese shophouses Georgetown

Chinese style temple:

Chinese temple Georgetown

Komtar

The Komtar building is the tallest, and possibly, the ugliest building in Georgetown. For a very small fee you can take the lift to the viewing deck at the top of the building. This was one of the worst tourist attractions I have ever been in! It felt like no-one had been up there for about 30 years and the viewing area you were directed to with signs actually faced the wrong (non-historic) side of Georgetown! Needless to say, we were the only ones there, apart from a very bored-looking lady with a jewellery stand. On our way back to the lift we thought we’d try the other side of the (round) building and came across another viewing gallery which was unlocked but looked totally abandoned. This one actually looked out onto the right side of Georgetown so I got a photo or two (although the windows were a bit grubby) but I’m not actually sure if we were supposed to be in there. It was a pretty funny but awful experience!

View from Komtar Georgetown

Food

Georgetown is a magnet for tourists looking for cheap, great food. It has been called the food capital of Malaysia! We certainly ate well and cheaply while we were there. We visited a couple of the hawker centres for lunch and had a Malaysian or Chinese dish each for less than £2 altogther! We also had some great food in Little India, which lies between Lebuh King and Lebuh Queen.

In the evening, food stalls pop up on many of the streets. We didn’t eat at them, but they did look good!

On our last night we splashed out and went to Bali Hai Seafood Restaurant on Persiaran Gurney (Gurney Drive). It was pretty expensive compared to everywhere else we ate in Georgetown, but the seafood was yummy and they had the widest selection of live seafood to choose from that I have ever seen! (this is only a small portion of it)

Seafood at Bali Hai Restaurant Georgetown

In the evenings we enjoyed a couple of beers in the bars which open out onto Lebuh Chulia, which was a very relaxing way to end a day!

We really liked Georgetown, although it was pretty hot when we were there (January) so it was hard to walk around as much as we’d have liked! Luckily, the historic centre is pretty small so you don’t have to go too far to see most of what is on offer. We didn’t explore the rest of the island or go to the beach on Penang because our next stop was going to be beach-filled Langkawi! But I hear that a lot of visitors do like the beaches here.

Thanks for reading!

Rachel

Places to visit – Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

The Cameron Highlands were the second stop on our 2-week Malaysian holiday earlier this year. The Cameron Highlands are an old British outpost in the hills north-east of Kuala Lumpur, and are known as a beautiful destination for walks, enjoying some of the colonial experience and tea plantations.

We headed there by bus from Kuala Lumpur, where we started out. We bought our bus tickets a couple of days in advance from Pudu Sentral Bus Terminal. The ticket offices are on the second floor. There are a few options for direct buses to the Cameron Highlands but after a little research we decided to go with Unititi Express. We were quite pleased with our choice: although they did run about 30 minutes late, the seats were massive and very comfortable! The cost was very reasonable too, at about the equivalent of £7. The journey takes over 4 hours and isn’t very interesting for the most part, although there are some nice views once you get up into the hills towards the end.

We stayed in Tanah Rata, probably the largest town in the Cameron Highlands, which is where the bus finishes. We stayed in Fathers Guest House, which was quite a backpacker-type place. The rooms were simple, cheap but comfortable and there were lots of areas downstairs to sit and relax and chat to the other guests.

Walks

There are several numbered walks in the Cameron Highlands, our hotel provided us with a rough map and descriptions of them. They range from a simple stroll to some very strenuous all day hikes! I can’t find a good website which describes the trails well, but this one has an overview. I think most hotels will be able to give you good information when you arrive.

On our first afternoon in the Cameron Highlands we wanted to go for a simple walk to explore the area around Tanah Rata, so we headed off on Path No. 4. It was a bit hard to find the start of the walk but once we got going it was pretty flat and straightforward, and took us past this waterfall.

Parit Waterfall Cameron Highlands

We ended up at the golf course between Tanah Rata and Brinchang so we decided to carry on to Brinchang. On our way we went past this mock-tudor style hotel (The Smokehouse Hotel). The gardens were beautiful and it really looked like a scene out of somewhere in Buckinghamshire, UK not Malaysia!

The Smokehouse Hotel Cameron Highlands

On another day we wanted to go for a more substantial walk and headed off on Path No. 10. We really enjoyed this walk but it was one of the more strenuous ones that we’ve done! The first half is steeply uphill for most of the day, to the top of Gunung Jasar. We were rewarded with great views at the top though.

View from Gunung Jasar

And then it was a fairly steep walk back down the other side through a forest with quite a rough trail. I have to admit I slipped a couple of times! The trail finishes at the top of Orang Asli village, the most ‘local’ place we saw in the Cameron Highlands, although it was very quiet so I’m not sure if people are still living there. There is also a massive construction site next door! We actually found it quite difficult to get down from the end of the trail to the road by the construction site! We eventually managed to scramble down some of the slopes. So I don’t know if we went the wrong way?

Tea Plantations

Our hotel had a range of tours that you could go on, which they organised through one of the local companies (I think most hotels do this). We chose to go on a half-day tea plantation tour which also managed to fit in a number of different activities.

There were about 8 of us on our tour. Our guide drove us up into the hills and we stopped off at a viewpoint over a working tea plantation. So beautiful! Our guide told us about how they pick the tea. It used to all be done by hand but now they have machines that move along the lines between the plants, although I don’t see how exactly they work!

Tea plantations Cameron Highlands

The tour continued to an old watchtower with a great view over the hills.

Cameron Highlands hills

Then we went into the forest nearby where our guide told us about various plants which can be used to cure different conditions. He was very knowledgeable.

Cameron Highlands tour guide

He also took us deeper into the forest to the ‘mossy forest’. This was really interesting. The ground was very bouncy as it built up on layers of moss, and many of the trees were covered in moss. It was such an unusual area, and this photo doesn’t do it justice at all.

Mossy forest Cameron Highlands

The tour finished in a butterfly farm. Our guide also showed us a range of reptiles and insects that were housed there, such as leaf frogs and scorpions! I was quite pleased with this picture though :)

Butterfly farm Cameron Highlands

Food

As elsewhere in Malaysia, the available food in the Cameron Highlands was a mix of mainly Indian, Malay and Chinese food (although there was some western food available if wanted!). We had dinner one night at a south Indian restaurant on the main street in Tanah Rata which was very good. There were quite a wide selection of restaurants and bars here to choose from and it’s a nice area to eat with a very relaxed feel.

On our first day after we finished walk No. 4 we headed into Brinchang and had dinner there. There were several steamboat restaurants to choose from, and we were very happy with the one we selected (although I’m sure they’re all good). I don’t know if there is technically any difference but a steamboat seems to be the same thing as a hot pot in Hong Kong, i.e. a bowl full of soup or broth on a burner, which you dip various meats and vegetables in to cook them before eating (fondue-style).

One afternoon we also had afternoon tea at the Cameron Highlands Resort by the golf course. This is a beautiful colonial-style hotel and the afternoon tea was as excellent as you would expect for the setting. And it was also very reasonably priced! I’d recommend a visit for a spot of luxury during your stay in the Cameron Highlands.

So that was our experience in the Cameron Highlands. We found it a very laid back, beautiful area to spend a few days and really enjoyed it there. It was also quite a bit cooler than everywhere else we went in Malaysia so it was a nice respite from the heat!

Thanks for reading!

Rachel

Places to visit – Kuala Lumpur

We spent two days/three nights over a weekend in Kuala Lumpur (KL) at the start of a two-week Malaysian holiday in January, in which we travelled up the western side of Malaysia. During that time we also visited the Cameron Highlands, Penang and Langkawi.

We enjoyed our stay in KL but having visited several big Asian cities and living in a big Asian city meant we weren’t overly excited by it. I think we were really keen to get out of the city and see another side of Malaysia! But it was still a great place to visit and I’d recommend it as part of a Malaysian holiday (although maybe not as a destination in itself).

Malaysia is a very multi-ethnic country, and this is particularly apparent in KL. The mix includes ethnic Malaysians, who are mostly Muslim, plus a large number of Chinese and Indians. One thing that I noticed particularly in KL was how I seemed to stand out as I was not covered up like the local women (this despite the fact that I saw some Chinese women wearing very skimpy outfits!). Therefore, whilst it isn’t obligatory, if you are sensitive about such things you might want to wear modest clothing (covering arms and legs) whilst walking around KL.

These are some of the things we saw in Kuala Lumpur:

Chinatown

We were staying near Chinatown (our hotel was very near to Masjid Jamek station) so this was one of the first areas we visited in KL. It’s a bustling, colourful area and definitely worth a visit (especially if you don’t live in a Chinese city!). There is a large market on Jalan Petaling but we were a little disappointed with this as it is full of fake designer goods and not much else. Not our idea of a good market but if that is what you’re looking for, it’s the place to go! However, there are lots of Chinese eateries in the area. We had lunch in the Tang City Food Court on Jalan Hang Lekir which had a range of Chinese and Indian options and was very good value for money.

Away from the market, we enjoyed walking the streets of Chinatown, with its old Chinese style buildings and a mix of small shops.

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There are a few temples in Chinatown. The most interesting was Chan See Shu Yuen Temple, at the end of Jalan Petaling. It was very intricate!

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We also walked past, but didn’t go into, Kuan Ti Temple…

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…and Sri Maha Mariamman Temple

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(we’ve been to quite a few temples and to be honest are a bit templed-out these days!)

On the Sunday evening we ate at Old China Café on Jalan Balai Polis at the southern end of Chinatown, which was not as cheap as you can find elsewhere in KL but the food was excellent and it had a lovely atmosphere. I’d really recommend it for a nice meal out.

Merdeka Square

This open space is a very historical part of KL as it is where Malaysia’s independence was declared in 1957. There are some nice colonial buildings around there, including some that were built by westerners in a Moorish style so they don’t look very western, such as the Sultan Abdul Samad Building:

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There is a large mosque nearby as well, called Masjid Jamek (or Jamek Mosque) which is very intricate but we didn’t go in (although you can).

South of Masjid Jamek (on Jalan Hang Kasturi, before you reach Chinatown) is Central Market. This is a large art deco building filled with small arts and crafts shops. Some are of better quality than others, but it was the best place in KL that we found for buying gifts and we found a few really nice items in here! I’d recommend a visit.

Little India

Little India is centred around the market along Lorong Tuanku Abdul Rahman, which extends most of the way up this street. It is a colourful area and we enjoyed walking around, although we didn’t buy anything. There are lots of snacks available from vendors here so it might be a good place to visit for lunch or mid-afternoon!

We stopped off for a refreshing drink in the Coliseum Café, which is about halfway up Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman. It’s very retro – it looks like it hasn’t been redecorated for the best part of a century! It’s not exactly glamorous, but a nice step back in time so I’d recommend a visit.

Petronas Towers

Formerly the tallest buildings in the world, the two Petronas Towers certainly stand out. They’re very shiny! We wanted to go up the towers, and turned up fairly early in the day on a Sunday (sometime around 10am) but the earliest tickets they had available were for late afternoon so we bought those tickets and came back later on.

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For this tour you get assigned to a group and get given a coloured badge to wear. This means that your group gets a certain amount of time in each area and it’s strictly controlled. This is a bit of a shame for those who like to be a bit more independent but we found that the amount of time you were given was adequate.

The two areas with views are the skybridge and the roof. The views from both were pretty impressive. Here is what you could see from the skybridge:

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And here are some views from the roof:

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The Petronas Towers are part of a development with a large shopping mall underneath and a landscaped park behind with various buildings forming the park boundary including an aquarium and the Traders Hotel. The park itself is quite nice to sit in, and certainly a great place to get a few photos of the towers. It also has a fairly impressive fountain display.

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We went in the aquarium and were happy enough with it, although Tom has been in a lot of aquaria in his time and thought that he had seen better!

Side note: on our last night in Malaysia (en route back to Hong Kong) we stayed in the Traders Hotel for a bit of luxury. We had booked the cheapest room they had which cost about £80 and didn’t include breakfast. However when we arrived we were offered breakfast at about £14 per person (pretty expensive!) or a special offer which included an upgrade to a suite, free breakfast, afternoon tea and cocktails for £34 for both of us! So of course we took it :) The suite was amazing (bigger than our HK flat!) and so was all the free food and drink. They also had a lovely swimming pool on the top floor. So we really liked the Traders!

Bird Park

To kill time between buying our tickets for the Petronas Towers and when we were allowed to go up, we headed for the Lake Gardens which are to the west of the area we were staying in. We walked through the gardens a bit but spent most of our time in the bird park there. The bird park was good fun and also a good size and we spent quite a long time there. Many of the birds are free to roam around and don’t seem to take much notice of all the humans at all! If you want something a little less city-like during your time in KL I’d really recommend the bird park.

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Bukit Bintang

This area is a great place to head for some lively nightlife and a wide range of eating options. We took the monorail to Bukit Bintang station and headed for Jalan Alor, which is a road of Chinese restaurants with loads of tables out on the street. We went on a Saturday night and it was busy (possibly mostly with Chinese tourists) but most of the restaurants had a few tables free so we picked one we liked the look of and had a great range of Chinese food there for a pretty reasonable price.

After dinner we also had a wander up Changkat Bukit Bintang which is the road across the end of Jalan Alor. This road is lined with bars, most of which had outdoor seating too. We didn’t stop for a drink but there was certainly a lot of choice!

As you can see, we managed to fit quite a lot into one weekend in KL! I think you could maybe spend one or two more days there at most and have exhausted everything there was to see, but it was a really interesting city.

Check back next week for the next stage of our Malaysian holiday – the Cameron Highlands!

Thanks for reading!

Rachel

Pat Sin Leng Nature Trail: a walk in the countryside

We walked the Pat Sin Leng nature trail with some friends in February and really enjoyed it. It’s a fairly gentle hike along the edge of Plover Cove and continues north into some fairly remote countryside close to the Chinese border, finishing at Bride’s Pool. We found the hike through the Enjoy Hiking app, but the app is pretty low on detail so we supplemented it with Google Maps! The app says that the walk takes about 2 hours. To be honest, I can’t remember how long it took us, but I don’t think it was much different to what we were expecting.

The walk starts in Tai Mei Tuk. To get to this small village, take the MTR to Tai Po Market and then hop on the 75K to Tai Mei Tuk. It takes a while but it’s fairly straightforward!

Tai Mei Tuk is a nice little village which had a very ‘holiday’ feel on the day that we went, with lots of Hong Kongers visiting from the city and cycling around or riding on pedal carts. There are several restaurants to choose from if you want lunch. We ate at a Thai restaurant (unfortunately I can’t remember the name) which was perfectly acceptable.

This was the view from the waterfront in the village:

Tai Mei Tuk waterfront view

We also went for a walk along part of the dam which has been built across the end of Plover Cove, turning it into a reservoir. This is the view into the reservoir:

Plover Cove from the dam

After that we thought it was about time we started the walk! So we headed back into the town and walked up Bride’s Pool Road until we came to the start of the walk, which is clearly signposted. The first part of the walk takes you uphill, partway up a very large hill that the Wilson trail goes over. It is a bit of a climb, but not too challenging.

Walking uphill

As you ascend, you can look back and look out over Tai Mei Tuk and the beautiful landscape behind.

Tai Mei Tuk from Pat Sin Leng nature trail

The walk is pretty wooded at this stage, but every now and again you get glimpses of Plover Cove, which you are walking around the edge of.

Plover Cover from Pat Sin Leng nature trail

As you continue past the end of Plover Cove, the views open up and you find yourself in pretty remote countryside. At this point, our mobile phones went into ‘roaming’ mode as they thought we were in China! We were quite close to the border, and saw some glimpses of a large Chinese town in the distance but I couldn’t get a good photograph of it. But other than that, there was barely an sign of human life to be seen.

Open countryside in northern New Territories

Continuing through the open countryside, the path descended, eventually hitting Bride’s Pool Road again. We crossed the road and descended further to Bride’s Pool. To be honest, it was a little disappointing as it was pretty dry – February is not the time of year to go if you want to see a good waterfall! (you should probably go in spring or autumn after it’s been raining) But it was a nice spot nonetheless.

Brides Pool in February

IMPORTANT TIP: There is a bus (275R) which runs along Bride’s Pool Road and will take you back to Tai Mei Tuk, but it only runs on Sundays and public holidays. If you happen to do the walk on another day of the week, you can either walk back to Tai Mei Tuk along Bride’s Pool Road (which will probably take at least an hour) or do what we did, which was to take a taxi! We didn’t have to wait very long for one to drive past on a Saturday afternoon either.

So, for a nice walk and a fairly straightforward way to escape the city, I’d recommend the Pat Sin Leng nature trail. Have you tried it? What did you think?

Thanks for reading!

Rachel

Maclehose trail stage 2: hills, beaches and lots of rain!

One weekend in December last year, Tom and I decided to venture out to do some hiking in the Sai Kung area, an area which we had never been to before. It’s a small(ish) town on the Eastern side of the New Territories, but is known as a great area for watersports, seafood and hiking. Many people live there and commute into Hong Kong as prices are cheaper out there and you can maybe get a whole house (unheard of!).

We decided to walk Stage 2 of the Maclehose Trail, a trail which winds its way from East to West across the New Territories (the New Territories is the name for the area of Hong Kong SAR on the mainland outside of the built up area directly opposite Hong Kong Island). Stage 2 sounded like it would be one of the more interesting stages of the trail to walk, so we plumped for that and set off to Sai Kung.

Sai Kung isn’t the easiest place to get to, although it’s not as bad as we initially thought. The best ways are to go to Diamond Hill MTR and take the 92 bus, or go to Hang Hau MTR and take the 101 minibus. It still takes over an hour to get there from Hong Kong Island though!

Unfortunately, once you’ve made your way to Sai Kung, you’re still nowhere near the start of the trail! The most straightforward way to get there is to take the 29R minibus, which starts from outside MacDonalds on Chan Man Street (timetable). We caught the 11.30am bus on a Saturday, although it didn’t actually leave till close to midday! The minibus takes you to Sai Wan Pavillion. From there, take the path down until you join the trail (which is well signposted). You get some lovely views of High Island reservoir on your way down.

High Island reservoir

When you reach the trail, turn left and keep following it! (I realise now that Stage 2 of the trail actually started a little way south of where we joined the trail but there seems little point walking back to the start just to retrace your steps again) First of all you go down to the two beaches at Sai Wan Village and then up over a headland. If the tide is out you can walk up the side of the headland, but if not then you have to use the bridge at the back of the beach. By this point in our walk it had started raining.

Sai Wan beaches

As you go over the top of the headland, you are greeted with the sight of two beaches in front of you. These are Ham Tim Wan (the closest) and Tai Long Wan (further away). Luckily the rain stopped for long enough to take a photograph!

Ham Tin Wan and Tai Long Wan

The path descends to Ham Tin Wan and goes inland but we walked across the beach and over this plank bridge to the restaurants where you can stop for some refreshments.

Plank bridge at Ham Tin

We walked straight through the restaurants and through Ham Tin village behind. At the back of Ham Tin village, before the path takes you through fields, there is a turning on the right. Follow this path round the back of the headland to reach Tai Long Wan. This beach is supposed to be the most pristine and idyllic in Hong Kong but unfortunately it was still raining and so it just looked a bit grey and wet to us!

Tai Long Wan

Tai Long Wan 2

Retrace your steps back to the path through Ham Tin village and continue through the fields and into the jungle. The path (which is very well concreted and has a lot of steps) then takes you over a very large hill and was quite hard work in the rain! You couldn’t see a lot either due to the density of trees, which was a bit disappointing.

Luckily, you are rewarded with a descent after the hard work of the climb, and this descent finishes at the deserted village of Chek Keng where the path takes you along the edge of the harbour. This is a very idyllic place, and happily for us it had stopped raining so we paused here for a while. It’s very quiet and the water was so still!

Chek Keng 1

Chek Keng 2Chek Keng 3

If you don’t want to carry on you may be able to flag down a small boat here to take you to Wong Shek, or if you head east around the harbour you get to the ferry pier where you can catch a ferry there instead (check ferry timetables first, as they’re not very frequent!).

However, after a little while it started raining again so we carried on, to finish the last part of the trail. Unfortunately, this was uphill again as the path climbs to meet the road between Wong Shek and Sai Kung. This was not fun, we were both pretty tired by this point and the rain was relentless! But we made it, and waited at the bus stop there to catch a 94 bus back to Sai Kung. We had walked about 12km, which I think was the longest I’d ever walked in a day! We caught the 101 minibus straight home as we were soaked, but a much nicer way to finish the day would be dinner at one of Sai Kung’s many restaurants.

If you fancy a long hike in a more remote part of Hong Kong, then I’d recommend this walk highly. It was pretty interesting. But check the weather forecast first – it’s not much fun in the rain!

Thanks for reading!

Rachel

Places to visit – Shanghai

We spent a few days in Shanghai directly after our visit to Beijing (covered in this post) and there was quite a contrast between the two cities! We took the high speed train between the two, which I think cost about £50 and took 4 hours. The whole experience was very smooth, although you got quite an interesting view of China from the train – lots of construction and smog-filled cities!

We stayed with a friend who has a very nice apartment in the French Concession area so I’m afraid I have no accommodation tips for Shanghai. This is a really nice area of Shanghai to live in, quite international in feel, quiet and leafy. Our friend has also lived in Beijing and he says that Shanghai is a nicer place to live but Beijing is a better place to be a tourist. We agree.

It’s not that Shanghai is a bad place to be a tourist – it’s a nice city, but it’s all just too modern. Coming from Beijing where there was so much history and so many interesting things to see, Shanghai felt a little boring by comparison! But in a way that was nice for us as we could relax a little – we were quite tired from rushing around Beijing so much.

So what did we see and do? Having left Beijing fairly early in the morning, we arrived in Shanghai at around lunchtime. We dropped our bags at our friend’s place and had a nice lunch at a bakery nearby. Then, with a few hours in the afternoon to ourselves, we decided to go to the People’s Square (which has its own metro station). The square and nearby People’s Park weren’t that interesting so we went into the Shanghai Museum on the edge of the square. This is a really good museum, full of Chinese art and artefacts. Unfortunately by the time we got there, there was only one hour before the museum shut so we didn’t see it all but it was impressive stuff nonetheless.

On the second day, we made straight for Shanghai’s main attraction – the Bund. It’s basically a long, grand street by the Huangpu river with an esplanade on one side and a line of large colonial buildings on the other. On the other side of the river is the Pudong area which makes up the archetypal Shanghai skyline, so it’s worth a walk down the esplanade just to see this view.

Pudong skyline

Pudong at night

Pudong’s development has been pretty rapid. This blog has a great pair of pictures comparing it in 1990 to 2010.

The Bund itself isn’t that exciting. I think that it’s pretty unusual for China, so if you live in Asia or perhaps somewhere non-European you might find the buildings quite interesting. But they do look like something you see in most European capital cities! However, we did have a drink in one of the hotels one evening, which was a lovely way to experience a bit of old-fashioned glamour!

Shanghai Bund view

Bund building and bull

Bund at night

From the Bund, we headed inland to the Yuyuan Garden (this also has its own metro station, but we walked). This area was very busy! There is a shopping area there which seemed to be a nice recreation of old-style Chinese buildings but was obviously pretty new. One of the buildings housed the Nanxiang Steamed Bread Shop, a xiaolongbao restaurant which had a large queue outside for the takeaway but we went upstairs and were seated pretty quickly (I talked about xiaolongbao in this post). We had several different kinds of xiaolongbao with different meats and flavours – all of them were really nice! I think this was one of Tom’s highlights of Shanghai ;)

After lunch, we headed for the garden itself. To get to the entrance you walk along a zigzag bridge over a lily pond, past the Huxing Ting tea house. The bridge was packed and I was worried that the garden would be too but actually it wasn’t too busy. It was a really nice example of a Chinese style garden and was bigger than I expected as well. I think we probably spent an hour in there! There were lots of beautiful features such as the dragon wall and some pretty lattice work.

Huxing Ting tea houseYuyuan Garden Shanghai

Yuyuan Garden lattice

Yuyuan Garden dragon wall

As we were leaving this area, I noticed a maze of streets with smaller, more local shops. I wish we’d have taken time to explore them – I might have found a bargain or two! The shopping area by the Yuyuan Gardens was very commercial and overpriced. But we wanted to move on and see one more thing that afternoon.

Our final stop for the afternoon was Xintiandi, which is an area of old Chinese buildings that has been smartened up and turned into a pedestrian shopping area with upmarket shops. It was actually a really nice quiet area to sit and have a coffee and watch the world go by, but I don’t think we could afford to go into any of the shops!

In the evening we went for drinks in the Vue Bar at the top of the Hyatt on the Bund. The view was pretty good, but I really wouldn’t recommend the bar! Very busy and overpriced. I think there are many other bars with great views in Shanghai where you would have a better experience.

Bund from above

Pudong from above

On our last day in Shanghai, we headed into Pudong. Tom wanted to visit the Shanghai World Finance Center (at the time the tallest building in Shanghai and apparently possessing the highest observation deck in the world) so we went straight there. This is the building that looks a bit like a bottle opener, with a large square hole in the top. There are observation decks at the bottom and top of the square hole, and you get to spend a bit of time in each. To be honest, it’s not an experience I’d recommend – it’s really expensive, very crowded and busy and you don’t get a lot of time on each deck, whilst you do spend a lot of time queueing for the lifts. Plus, the smog means that you can’t actually see very much from it!

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Perhaps a better bet would be the observation deck next door in the Jin Mao tower (also a prettier building)? It’s not so high but its observation deck is cheaper, or alternatively you could visit the Cloud Nine bar in the Grand Hyatt (on the floor below the observation deck) and spend your money on a drink instead whilst looking at the view at your leisure. This is the Jin Mao Tower as seen from the World Finance Center.

Jin Mao Tower

Tom got a bit nerdy and took lots of pictures of the building work on the nearby Shanghai Tower. This is complete now (structurally at least) and is the second tallest building in the world!

Shanghai Tower construction

After leaving the World Finance Center we walked over to the area near the Oriental Pearl Tower, which wasn’t that easy to get to – Pudong seems to have been designed for cars not people! We had a bit of a walk around there, toyed with the idea of going to the nearby aquarium, decided we didn’t have the time and went back to our friend’s place. Pudong is definitely a financial area, not a tourist area!

In the afternoon we headed to the airport. We were flying from Shanghai Pudong International Airport, which meant we could get the maglev train there! Unfortunately, the train station for the maglev is in a bit of a random place (not very central) so we had to get a taxi there. I think the original plan was to continue the existing maglev line further into Shanghai but it was too expensive so the line stops very abruptly in mid-air, with houses on the other side of the road! If you decide to take the maglev, see if you can catch one of the trains that hits its top speed of 431 km/h (even if it is just for a few minutes) – the trains only do this at certain times of day. We were lucky that this matched with the time we needed to be at the airport. I can confirm that it is very fast indeed!

Shanghai is a nice city but I would recommend that you don’t need to spend more than a couple of days there to see most of what it has to offer, unless you plan to spend a lot of time sitting around in coffee houses or shopping!

Thanks for reading!

Rachel