TRAVEL: Hong Kong 2015 (September 26-30, 2015)

Nightfall on Harbour City

Attraction List

  • Nan Lian Garden and Nunnery
  • Ocean Terminal and the Peak – View of Victoria Harbour (day and night)
  • Avenue of the Stars (Tsim Sha Tsui)
  • Hong Kong Museum of History

After visiting Macau and Lantau Island, we spent a few more days in Hong Kong. We last visited Hong Kong in 2010, so this entry is more of an update of the attractions one can visit.

Nan Lian Garden & Nunnery

Nan Lian Garden and Nunnery is a classical Chinese garden built among modern sky rises in the Kowloon district. As you pass through the gate, the left side houses the Chinese Timber Architecture Gallery, which houses models of historical sites from China.

Nan Lian Garden & Nunnery

The rest of garden is built in a circular fashion allowing one to take a pleasant walk under the trees and admire the flora and birds. At the center, there is a Tang-style pagoda with a red bridge leading up to it. The overall attraction is worth visiting if you enjoy viewing Chinese architecture.

Nan Lian Garden & Nunnery

Nan Lian Garden & Nunnery

Victoria Harbour is the iconic view of Hong Kong. The best views are from the Ocean Terminal and the promenade along Tsim Sha Tsui. Continue reading

TRAVEL: Lantau Island 大嶼山 and Tai-O 大澳, Hong Kong (September 25, 2015)

Lantau - View from Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car

Lantau Island (大嶼山)

  • Ngong Ping 360
  • Po Lin Monastery
  • Tian Tan Buddha
  • Wisdom Path 

Ngong Ping 360 is one of Hong Kong’s newest attractions. The cable car takes you from the terminal in Hong Kong to Ngong Ping Village in Lantau Island, allowing an aerial view of the lush verdant landscape surrounding the bronze Tian Tan Buddha. At Ngong Ping village, you can explore the various attractions: Walking with Buddha and Motion 360.

Ngong Ping 360 Village

Nearby you can ascend several steps to the Tian Tan Buddha surrounded by various deities presenting offerings to the Buddha.

Lantau - Road to Big Buddha

Big Buddha's Deities & Their Offerings

Erected in 1993, the Tian Tan Buddha, according to the Hong Kong Tourism Board, faces north toward mainland China. The statue is modeled after the sculptures found in the Longmen Grottoes, which date from the Northern Wei to early Tang dynasties. Continue reading

TRAVEL: Macau 澳门 (September 24, 2015)

Macau From Above


  • Macau Fisherman’s Wharf
  • Penha Church
  • A-Ma Temple
  • St. Paul’s Ruins
  • Monte Fort
  • Hac Sa Beach (Coloane, Macau)

In the southern Guangdong province of China lies the autonomous territory of Macau (澳门). Macau was once under the Portuguese during 1550’s to 1999. Since 1999, Macau is considered a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, meaning that the territory enjoys a high degree of autonomy with no or less control by the Central Government of China.

Macau is considered the “Las Vegas of Asia” with its main skyline dotted with world-renown hotels and casinos as noted in the first photo. The main languages are Cantonese and Portuguese. During our stay in Hong Kong, we visited Macau as a quick one-day trip (about an hour trip via ferry from Hong Kong). We arrived in the Outer Harbor area of Macau and rented two passenger vans since we traveled with several family members.

The weather was hot and humid, which warrants sun protection and plenty of water to keep hydrated. The first stop we visited was Macau Fisherman’s Wharf. According to Travel China Guide, it is a theme park and shopping area that utilizes different architectural themes: Dynasty Wharf (Tang dynasty), East Meets West Wharf (European), and Legend Wharf (a gaming area).

Fisherman's Wharf and Convention

Fisherman's Wharf and Convention

The vans took us to a panoramic sight on the hill, where Penha Church is located. It afforded a great view of the Macau Tower and the surrounding high rises. The church itself dates back from the 1622 and is still in use today. Continue reading

TRAVEL: Taipei, Taiwan in 72 hours (3/3)

September 22, 2015

Hazy Morning in Taipei from Park City Hotel


  • Taipei Confucius Temple (台北市孔廟)
  • Linsheng Garden (鄰聖苑牌樓)
  • Dalongdong Bao’an Temple (大龍峒保安宮)
  • Taipei 101 and Mall

Mascots of Confucius' Temple

During our final day in Taipei, we visited some of the major sights of the city. After breakfast, we took the subway to the Datong District– an area that has several cultural attractions. First we visited the Taipei Confucius Temple (台北市孔廟); originally the temple was built in 1875 during the Qing Dynasty.

Confucius' Temple

Confucius' Temple

The original temple was destroyed during the Japanese occupation and later was rebuilt during the 1930’s. The temple walks the visitor through the story of Confucius and highlights the principles of Confucianism, such as social rituals and human virtues. The temple’s layout is very similar to that of the clan ancestral temple and has shrines to the Confucian sages, the Twelve Philosophers, and students of Confucius who made significant contributions to Confucianism. Continue reading

TRAVEL: Day Trip to Yehliu and Jiufen in Taiwan (2/3)

September 21, 2015

Yehliu Port


  • Yehliu Geopark (野柳地質公園)
  • Jiufen (九份)

Located to the north of Taipei are two destinations that warrant a visit for its beautiful rock formations (Yehliu) and historical gold mining town (Jiufen). From Taipei, one can take the local bus to either of these sights. From our hotel, we took the subway to the Taipei City Hall exit and then walked to the bus terminal. Here we took Bus 1815 towards Jinshan. It was about a 45-minute ride to the nearest stop (Gang Dong Road) to the geopark.


Admission to the geopark during our visit was $80 national Taiwan dollars per adult. The geopark contains unique rock formations that have been shaped by sea erosion. The first part of the park shows several mushroom rocks.


The second part shows rock formations that have been given names; one may see and line up for a photo opportunity with the iconic Queen’s Head.

Yehliu - Queen's Head

Yehliu - Pineapple Bun

Finally, the last part takes us over to the steep hill on the other side of the cape. Continue reading

TRAVEL: Taipei, Taiwan in 72 hours (1/3)

September 20-23, 2015

Map of Taiwan (courtesy of Nations Online Project)

Map of Taiwan (courtesy of Nations Online Project)


  • Mengjia Longshan Temple (龍山寺)
  • Ximending (西門町)
  • Red House (西門紅樓)
  • National Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall (中正紀念堂)
  • National Revolutionary Martyrs’ Shrine (國民革命忠烈祠)
  • Shilin Night Market (士林夜市)

During the end of September 2015, we found ourselves an opportunity to visit Taipei in Taiwan for three days before heading to Hong Kong for a major family gathering. After hearing so much about Taipei from one of my classmates, I was decidedly excited to see and experience for myself the Taiwanese culture and history. September is one of the better times to go; the weather starts to cool off although there may be a typhoon.

We stayed three nights (September 20-22) at the Park City Hotel- Luzhou Taipei located above the Saint Ignatius High School subway exit. The hotel room is very clean and the hotel offers free self-service laundry facility, which we used before we left for Hong Kong on the 23rd. Upon our arrival to the hotel after the 12-hour flight on September 20th, we were too early to check in so we stored our luggage with the hotel staff. We then washed up and refreshed ourselves before heading down to the subway.

At the station, we purchased Easy Cards for each member of the family. Each card requires a $100 deposit of national Taiwan dollars and then you may add your desired monetary amount to the card. It saves time from having to buy a fare for each trip on the subway. See the Taipei Rapid Transit website for more information. On our trip, we deposited $2000 national Taiwan dollars total and this covered the entirety of our trip and the bus ride to Jiufen (side trip on September 21).

We took the subway to the Mengjia Longshan Temple (龍山寺), a temple that was damaged during World War II but renovated to its current revered state. The elaborately carved dragons guard the tiled roofs.

Longshan Temple

Inside, one can see people praying and chanting. There are also several Buddhist, Taoist, and Confucian statues. There are deity charms and jade bracelets in the temple shop. It was definitely worth visiting.

Longshan Temple


Longshan Temple

After exploring the temple and paying our respects, we walked to the Ximending (西門町) district along the busy streets. On the way there, we encountered the red-bricked buildings of Bopiliao Historical Block (剝皮寮歷史街區).

Old Taipei Street

It was still early in the morning and some shops were in the process of opening. We were lucky that a pork and beef jerky shop had just prepared a fresh batch of jerky when we popped in to buy some for ourselves and relatives.

Fresh Jerky

We continued our trek and browsed a couple of the shops and temples, until we finally reached Ximending (西門町)— a popular district for fashion, hip bars, and other trendy shops.

Streets of Taipei

Continue reading

Travels in China 2012: Overview

The Great Wall of China, Mutianyu Section, Beijing, China

The Great Wall of China, Mutianyu Section, Beijing, China (2012)

Our 2012 journey to China was a private tour arranged by Great China Travel. We customized our tour so that we could learn more about the minority cultures, Buddhism, and historic sites; and try the local cuisine.

Following the Southern Silk Road (or, Tea and Horse Road), the journey began in Sichuan province. At the capital – Chengdu, we learned about the ancient Shu people in the Sanxingdui Relic Museum and how the Giant Pandas were cared for at the reserve. Then, we learned about Buddhism in Leshan and Mount Emei, one of the four holy Buddhist Mountains of China. After the enlightening experience, we went further back in time with the dinosaurs of Zigong and the Buddhist carvings of the Dazu grottos—both reminders of a world beyond us. Our final stop at Kunming was short, since it was the halfway point of our journey. Of course during our stay, we tried the spicy Sichuan food (at the mildest level as possible) and tried a herbal hotpot meal, despite the humid weather. The tour in Sichuan was organized by a single tour guide, Cathy, and driver.

China 2012

From Beijing to Sichuan province to Yunnan province (courtesy of Google Maps)

Next, we toured Yunnan province—home to the 55 minority groups of China (56 total including the Han (Chinese) people), which make up one-third of the country’s population. The Bai people are the largest group. During the time we visited, the Bai people were celebrating the Torch Festival on August 10-12, which we were lucky to witness and welcomed to join in the revelries. Here we visited several Buddhist sites, including the holy Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in Lijiang and Meili Snow Mountain in Shangri-La and Deqin. We also explored natural wonders, such as the Stone Forest and Tiger Leaping Gorge. As a grand finale, we returned to the capital—Kunming—and marveled at the Peacock Dance by the minority groups at the theater. It is to note that in Yunnan, we had several tour guides; one at each city so gratuity must be organized as such.

Our final stop was in Beijing, where we revisited famous sites: the Great Wall and the Forbidden City to see how much changed since our visit in 1998. Then, we visited the Olympic Stadium (the Bird’s Nest) and saw a Peking Opera show at Liyuan Theater. We were lucky to have organized a few things with a tour guide, who had picked us up at the airport on August 4th.

Overall, the journey was enjoyable and a great learning experience. The only concern was that we were not able to choose the food dishes; most likely this was due to the budget our tour guide had to meet. For future trips, we plan to explain to the tour coordinator that we would like to choose dishes that we would like and would meet the said budget. This would be the most ideal course to make a trip worthwhile.

Back to the China page

Beijing: A Sprawling Capital of the North (京)

The sprawling metropolitan of Beijing holds more than 11.51 million people (Wangfujing Street, 2012)

The sprawling metropolitan of Beijing holds more than 11.51 million people (Wangfujing Street, 2012)

August 21-24, 2012

Attraction List:

  • Forbidden City
  • Bird’s Nest (Olympic Stadium)
  • Great Wall of China (Mutianyu Section)
  • Beijing Opera at Liyuan Theater
Silk production is still a viable business in China (2012)

Silk production is still a viable business in China (2012)

During our stay in Beijing, including the one-day arrival on August 4th, we stayed at the Park Plaza Wangfujiang hotel—a four-star establishment with free wi-fi and continental breakfast and located conveniently. This was a much better deal than the five-star Ramada Plaza hotel, which did not have free wi-fi. We also toured this city on our own time, having been here previously in 1998.

Traveling by subway is very convenient in Beijing. There are both English and Chinese signs that are tourist-friendly. Travel by taxi is also another option if one does not enjoy walking. The city is very modern with hardly any of the old Chinese-style buildings or peach trees in sight. While there were still bicycles, the majority of the transportation were motor vehicles.

Forbidden City, Beijing, China (2012)

Forbidden City, Beijing, China (2012)

We first visited the Forbidden City, where the emperors once resided. The admission fee was 240 RMB per person. Continue reading