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Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Hiking in Hong Kong: Lion Rock

I never considered myself an outdoor kind of gal, but recently I discovered the enjoyment of nature trails. It must be the pleasant spring weather in Hong Kong these days, plus the relatively not-so-difficult paved trails, which make hiking in Hong Kong a fun activity even for a novice like me.

My first write-up under this topic is about Lion Rock, which is a hill in Kowloon that is shaped like a lion's head and has spectacular views of Hong Kong island, Kowloon peninsula and New Territories. It is a popular trail for locals and tourists alike, probably because of its accessibility. The hike starts at the Wong Tai Sin MTR station, right behind the Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin temple.

Before you start your hike, make sure you are well prepared and equipped with the essentials: a bottle of water or energy drink, trail food, insect repellent and probably a hiking pole. Of course, hiking shoes with good traction work best for the up and down climbs.

To get to the lion's head, you must first endure an hour of uphill walk along Shatin Pass Road, a paved road where vehicles also pass. (Alternatively, you may also take a taxi on this road to take you to the entrance of the Lion Rock Country Park.) Once you reach the entrance to the country park, just follow the signs / path. After an hour, you will see a sign pointing towards the Lion Rock Peak. Follow that sign!

After about half an hour of strenuous climb, you will be rewarded with a view like this:

Now is the time to rest, take a deep breath and just soak in the views. It's up to you whether you'd like to continue on to the Lion Rock (the rock at the centre of the photo above).

To go back to 'civilisation', just keep going and follow the trail. Along the way, you might see monkeys – don't feed them, touch them or tease them ... you wouldn't want to get into trouble now that your adventure is about to end!

Keep following the paved path until you reach the entrance of Lion Rock Park. From there, make your way back to Wong Tai Sin station by following the sign to the MTR.

Congratulations, you just conquered Lion Rock!

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Eight things to do in Macau

Here is a list of eight things to do in Macau, the gambling capital of Asia. Eight, as it is a lucky number in Chinese culture, and we need all the luck we could get to win big in those casinos!

1. Visit Senado Square

Before hitting the slot machines and those baccarat tables, let's take a tour of this old Portuguese colony and perhaps say a little prayer at the church. Senado Square is similar to a town plaza in the Philippines, surrounded by a church, a post office and a government hall. It is best to go there in the morning, when it is not yet that crowded, because Largo do Senado could get quite claustrophobic when the volume of people increases during the day. Further up Largo do Senado are the usual shops you see in a mall, which is a contrasting sight given that the area still preserves its old colonial 'look'. However, there are also a couple of old Catholic churches in the area. If you follow the street, you will find shops selling pork jerky, which you can try for free before deciding if you want to buy. At the end of the street is a hill where the ruins of St. Paul's stands.

2. Try the 'pork chop bun'

If the free taste of pork jerky does not satisfy you, perhaps the pork chop bun will. There are a lot of stalls within the area of Largo do Senado that sell these local delicacies, and I don't mind trying them all. (There goes my lunch!) For 'dessert', you can have an egg tart or an almond cookie. And while you're at it, you can also try all the various street food available, like those assorted meat (or vegetables) in skewers.

3. Climb the ruins and see what the fuss is all about

No trip to Macau is complete without the 'obligatory' visit to the ruins of St. Paul's. See for yourself why it is famous as it is. Don't forget to visit the crypt underneath what used to be 'one of the largest Catholic churches in Asia'.

4. Time for the casinos!

It's time to hit the jackpot and go casino-hopping. If you are coming from Senado Square, walk southwards along Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro until you reach the Grand Lisboa. From there, it is easy to go from one casino to another either by (1) walking or (2) taking the free shuttle marked with the casino's logo and destination. If you are coming from the airport or from the ferry terminal either in Macau or Taipa, just board any of the hotel/casino shuttle busses to get to your casino destination of choice for free.

5. Watch the free shows at the casinos

Some of the nice shows include the Dragon of Fortune at Wynn, Vquarium at the City of Dreams and seasonal attractions such as 3D lights shows at the Venetian lagoon. There are also a lot of paid shows like the House of Dancing Water, boxing matches at the Cotai Arena and exhibits at the Cotai Expo.

6. Shop 'til you drop

What better way to reward a winning streak at the casino than to go shopping. Shoppes at Cotai Central, Four Seasons and the Venetian are like a maze of brands from casual to luxury. I say 'maze' because it's like they intentionally designed the place such that one would easily get lost inside it, only to find something to buy. If you try to find your way out, you would end up inside the casino. (More spending!)

7. Live like a king (or queen) at the Royale Suite

Okay, you don't have to do this. But after a day of sightseeing, gambling and shopping, don't you just want to lie down on a big bed in a big hotel room? You don't have to be a big shot to do this; at the Venetian Macao, even the smallest rooms are big enough that there had to be two TVs inside the room. The bathroom is also huge that there had to be double doors, and the toilet even needs to have its own door. There are two sinks with gold faucets, a tub and a shower. Excuse my excitement, but I live in Hong Kong where space is at a premium.

8. Get high at the Macau Tower

Tower climb? Bungee jump? Sky walk? No thanks ... I leave these all to you. I'm fine with the indoor observation deck just as long as I don't look down through the glass floor. It's nice to visit during the day, when you can see the vista, and also during the night, when you can see the city lights. Just check the weather before coming for a visit, to make it a worthwhile experience.