Archive for asia

Hong Kong’s Big Buddha

Posted in Asian Winter Odyssey 2010-11, Travel Asia with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 4, 2013 by Yarn Over New York

During my Asian Winter Odyssey of 2010-2011, I made several short stopovers in Hong Kong.  It was a convenient location to rest for a day or two between trips and also to meet up with friends from Macau.  One on of these stopovers, my friends and I went to Lantau Island to see Hong Kong’s Tian Tan Buddha (Heaven Buddha) and Po Lin Monastery.

Big Buddha

To travel to the Buddha from Central, you need to take a ferry to Lantau Island and then a bus to the site.  All in all it takes about an hour and a half.

As you may or may not know, Hong Kong is a fairly polluted city.  The air quality and visibility are usually pretty crappy.  Our visit happened on an average day, so the photos seems a bit yucky, but at least you can actually see the Buddha and surrounding hills.

Before heading back to Central, we had a tasty vegetarian lunch at the Po Lin Monastery.

Me and Marshall in front of the monastery

I fully recommend taking a trip to the Big Buddha if you visit Hong Kong.  It’s a peaceful location and there are several hiking trails nearby.


See more photos of Hong Kong here.


The One Where They Tried to Scam Me

Posted in Asian Winter Odyssey 2010-11, Travel Asia with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 4, 2013 by Yarn Over New York

In December of 2010, I made a very quick (and very rainy) trip to Shanghai.

Oriental Pearl Tower in the Mist

Wikipedia says, “Shanghai is the largest city by population in the People’s Republic of China and the largest city proper by population in the world. It is one of the four province-level municipalities of the PRC, with a total population of over 23 million as of 2010. It is a global city, with influence in commerce, culture, finance, media, fashion, technology, and transport. It is a major financial center and the busiest container port in the world.”  That being said, I didn’t find it too crowded or uncomfortable.  Maybe that’s because the weather was yucky the whole time and people were hiding indoors.

A very empty People’s Square

To tell the story of my trip, I’m going to go out of chronological order and tell the story of my near-scam first.  After that I’ll share the nicer highlights of Shanghai.

One of the most popular things to do in Shanghai is to walk along the Bund and view the skyline at Pudong.  Despite the rain, I trudged through the business district from my hostel to the Huangpu river to catch a gray and misty view of Shanghai’s famous skyscraper skyline.

At the hostel, there had been warnings posted on the bulletin board.  Handwritten notes said, “If someone offers to take you to a tea house- SAY NO- It’s scam.”  This piqued my curiosity but didn’t over concern me, so I set off towards the Bund.

On the way, I saw this AWESOME Chinglish sign.

While looking at the limited view of the buildings, a group of three Chinese tourists approached me and asked me to take their picture.  I obliged, of course, and then one of the girls started asking me a bunch of questions.  “Where do I come from?” “How long do I stay in Shanghai?” “Do I like China?” etc.  I barely had time to answer a question before she was asking another.  She said they were students from Xian and studying English.  After a few minutes of intense questioning, she asked me to go to a teahouse.  I said no that I don’t drink tea and hightailed it out of there.

Initially, I was shocked and appalled!  First, I hate being seen as a target. I’m a traveler, a woman of the world! I’m supposed to be better than that.  However, I am whitey-white-white-white and I guess that can mean “easy mark” to some people.

And then I was pissed, I should have done something.  I should have stalked them and prevented them from talking to anyone else.  I should have yelled and caused a scene.  I should have done something more than just walk away and let me move on to someone more gullible.

Later back at the hostel I googled (well, yahoo searched because google is banned) the “Shanghai Tea House Scam” to see what the deal is.  Basically, if I had gone with them to the tea house, I would have been served some decent tea at super-inflated prices and been expected to pay for their tea as well.  Other tourists have ended up with bills of $200 to $500 USD when clearly no tea should cost that much.

Luckily I dodged the scam.  I don’t even like tea anyway.

What a view, eh?

My trip to Shanghai wasn’t all the bad.  I had a nice drink at the original Blue Frog bar (only important because the Macau branch was a popular hangout when I lived there).

Armed with my trusty umbrella, I also saw a lot of the city on foot.

A welcoming shrubbery

Trash collection bikes

No visit to Shanghai would be complete without the obligatory stop at the Shanghai Museum.  It’s huge, it’s free and it’s filled with all manors of cool Chinese art (bronze, ceramic, stamps, jade, etc).   It can be a challenge to take it in at your own pace because the Chinese tourists stop and take a photo of every single object.  I’m sure they thought I was crazy because I only took pictures of the pieces of genuinely liked.

The Shanghai Museum- even the building is art.  It’s shaped like a ding (bronze vessel).

A favorite ding from inside the museum. Too bad the building doesn’t look like this one…

Some other highlights.

See more photos from the Shanghai Museum and the rest of Shanghai here.

Read more about my other Asian Winter Odyssey travels here.

Try Taipei

Posted in Asian Winter Odyssey 2010-11, Travel Asia with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 1, 2013 by Yarn Over New York

My first solo expedition of my Asian Winter Odyssey was my brief stay in Taipei, Taiwan.  Now, let me tell you, I LOVED Taipei.  It is clean and efficient.  Even though it’s crowded, the people are orderly and polite.  Honestly, before moving to Asia I had an image in my mind of “what Japan would be like.”  Now having visited Japan and Taiwan, I can tell you that Taiwan is what I thought Japan would be like and Japan is ten million times MORE than what I thought.

Harvey Milk

I am not ashamed to admit that my first destination in Taipei was the Hello Kitty Cafe.  It’s so very Hello Kitty.  Everything is pink and adorned with bows.  It was so kitsch, I could not resist.

My Hello Kitty iced coffee with Hello Kitty coffee ice cubes, Hello Kitty tiramisu with macaroon and white chocolate cone with Hello Kitty sticker.
And for dessert…

Seriously, I didn’t order the Hello Kitty jello.  They simply brought it to me after I had finished the coffee and the dessert with two sides of dessert that I had ordered.  Actually I only ordered the tiramisu and the coffee, the macaroon and chocolate cone were complimentary side dishes.

After my sugar-overloaded lunch, I wandered through the artist district enjoying parks and galleries.

And a weird yellow cow
At the AIR (Artist in Residence)

If I were an actual artist, I would SO apply for a residency at this place.  AIR Taiwan.

I was fortunate enough to be visiting during the Taipei Flora Expo.  It a huge international event featuring beautiful flowers from around the world as well as eco-friendly innovations and fashion.

A cactus for La Femme Cactus

Nifty wall planter things

My favorite part was the EcoArk, a huge building made entirely of recycled water bottles!

I also did the super-cheesy-but-totally-worth-it visit to the top of Taipei 101.  No, it’s not the world’s tallest building anymore but it’s still pretty cool.

First off, it’s shaped like BAMBOO!
The view
Fun facts
The world’s only visible damper
What could be cuter? Damper Baby

My final tourist destination was Maokong via the Maokong Gondola.

View of Taipei 101 from Maokong

See more photos of Taipei here.

Weekly Travel Themes: Benches

Posted in Life in Singapore, new york, Travel Asia, Travel Europe with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 16, 2013 by Yarn Over New York

I have to say thank you to my friend Luc, who prompted me to write a new blog post.  It’s been ages and I have no good excuse other than laziness.  So merci, Luc!  No more laziness for me!

Anyway, I’ll offer another segment of Weekly Travel Theme and this week it’s Benches. I am particularly inspired by this theme because my favorite way to see a new city is to walk.  I often set off with no direction and just wander and watch.  Benches provide a wonderful resting point during my travels.  I’ve sat upon some beautiful benches in beautiful spots.

Get on the bench. The banana bench. Prague, Czech Republic.

Even Rubber Ducky needs a rest in Dublin, Ireland.

A very welcoming bench in the port of Kusadasi, Turkey.

Aya and Sita save a spot for me at Lou Lim Ieoc Park in Macau.

This bench tells it like it is in Naples, Italy.

Dragon bench in Bruges, Belgium.

Don’t mind if I do in Singapore. (I think this is the ONLY graffitied bench in all of Singapore)

Dali’s lip bench in Berlin, Germany.

Comfortable? In Hangzhou, China.

A Gaudi-esque mosaic bench at Grant’s Tomb in NYC.

The real deal in Barcelona, Spain.

and lastly…

Not exactly a bench…but freaking cool. Marshall poses with “Blue Guy Sitting”*

* part of “The Art of the Brick” exhibit by Nathan Sawaya at the ArtScience Museum in Singapore.

Let’s Pretend I Didn’t Go to Delhi…

Posted in Asian Winter Odyssey 2010-11, Travel Asia with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 12, 2013 by Yarn Over New York

In late November 2010, my Asian Winter Odyssey continued as my friends Kevin and Matt and I boarded a plane from Kathmandu to Delhi.

Our time in India was split between Delhi and Agra.  I won’t write much about Delhi in this blog entry because most of my time was taken up by spending 2 days in the hospital dealing with my dog bite.  Read all about the dog bite here.

Delhi 25, 26 and 29 November

Delhi wasn’t all bad, I did have a bit of time outside the hospital.  I chose to spend that time away from the crowded touristy areas.  I wandered around more residential areas of the city.  I was inspired by the bright colors of the clothing, flowers and buildings.  Here are some photo highlights.

Agra 27 November

Agra was awesome!  Yes, it was touristy.  Yes, it was crowded.  Yes, it was dirty.  But I still had a lovely time. We visited the Agra Fort, the Mosque and Palace at Fatephur Sikri and, of course, the Taj Mahal.  We also met a couple of British guys that were traveling around the world on bicycles!

Our first stop Agra Fort

Luckily, the fort was not very crowded, which made for a perfect morning of wandering around solo and chasing the multitudes of monkeys.

Hang in there, Buddy

Not a monkey

Cool doors

A view of the Taj Mahal from Agra Fort

After spending a couple hours at Agra Fort, we joined the throngs of tourists at the Taj Mahal.

A quick history

Despite being super-crowded, the Taj Mahal experience was really fantastic.  Given the steep entry price, the area was amazingly free of the hordes of hawkers, peddlers and begging children that can be pervasive in other areas.  Thousands and thousands of tourists all crowded in to the get perfect photo of the gorgeous marble building which magically changes color with the passage of the sun.

Taj Mahal says, “My future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades.”

A view back at the gate

Insane inlay details

Taj Mahal sunset

My “perfect” shot

While at the Taj Mahal, we ran into a couple of fellow travelers from our hostel.  Charlie was in the middle of a four-year world tour on bicycle.  His friend James had joined him for part of the journey, and the two were traveling from Delhi to Kathmandu.

Kevin and Matt wanted to have an upscale dinner at one of the 5 star hotels.  Wanting a more cost-effective evening, the two British bikers and I headed to the roof bar at our hostel to enjoy the remains of the setting sun and cheap beer and eats.

After a few beers, we came up with the brilliant idea to shave my head.  I hadn’t washed my hair very well in quite some time due to the rarity of running water in the past few weeks of my travels.  As we moved farther south, the weather had grown hotter and the dirt and pollution had grown thicker.  This resulted in my hair staying in a ponytail- without the aid of a rubber band.

We set out to find a barber shop and shortly found one and then began to draw a crowd as the barber began to shave my head.  Charlie convinced him to leave me a little Hari Krishna style tuft–much to my chagrin.  When I tried to make the barber shave it off, he unplugged his clippers and declared them “broken.”

Check out the crowd in the mirror!

Read about Charlie’s amazing adventures here.  He’s amazing.

Fatephur Sikri 28 November

The next morning, I awoke liberated from my former mega-dread and now sporting a comical mini-tuft.  Kevin, Matt and I headed to the nearby town of Fatephur Sikri to visit the ancient palace and mosque.

A local parrot

These guys really wanted me to take their picture

All in all, my trip to India was an adventure.  I am lucky that the dog bite was merely an inconvenience and not a major injury.  I met some awesome people and saw amazing sites.  Unfortunately I couldn’t get a good picture of how crowded the roads were.  The images will be burned onto my brain forever: people walking, scooters, cars, trucks, horses, camels (really really tall camels), trucks, cows, families of 5 on motorcycles, you name it.

See more photos of India here.

The end

Travel Theme: Gaudy- Lunar New Year Edition

Posted in Life in Macau, Life in Singapore, Travel Asia with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 11, 2013 by Yarn Over New York

Gong Xi Fa Cai

Here is a collection of my favorite Chinese New Year decorations from around Asia.  Lots of gold, lots of shiny.  This post is my contribution to Where’s My Backpack’s Weekly Travel Theme.

2011- Year of the Rabbit

Luminous child holding a branch dripping with money at Senado Square in Macau

A Chinese Opera New Year Pink Luminous Bunny in Macau

Fake blossoms and lots of lanterns in Macau

2012- Year of the Dragon

Shopping in Singapore

A Luminous Dragon at Resorts World Sentosa

Golden Dragon at Suntec City Mall

2013- Year of the Snake

Lion Puppet with Firecracker Tongue at the Ang Mo Kio Market in Singapore

Nothing Says Happy New Year Like a Sparkly Multicolor Flower Tree Light


Read more about my first Chinese New Year experience here and here.



Travel theme: Multiples

Posted in Travel Asia, Travel Europe with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 10, 2013 by Yarn Over New York

Another contribution to Where’s My Backpack’s Weekly Travel Themes, Multiples.

Multiple scorpions, bugs and unidentified creatures on sticks ready for deep frying in Hangzhou, China

Many mini Buddhas in Tokyo, Japan

Origami cranes at the Killing Fields in Cambodia

Young coconuts in Boracay, Philippines (yummy)

Several prayer wheels at the Sakya Monastery in Tibet

Candles at the Duomo of Milano, Italy

Larger than life lily pads in Uppsala, Sweden

One of the best April Fool’s Day pranks ever. My office covered in little yellow rubber duckies. (Lint, Belgium)

Multiple Marshmallows for rehearsal at Blue Man Group at Astor Place, NYC

In Amsterdam…can’t entirely say how many goldfish there actually were…

Multiples at the Playa at Burning Man 2007

Oranges in NYC