Bangkok Pt. II

Finally! At last, I have managed to publish all my travels from my winter holiday in Asia: Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Kyoto, Osaka and Nara, Manila and Boracay, and Bangkok. Keep browsing downwards to check it out. As for this post, here are a few photos from five days of re-exploring Bangkok since my last visit back in 2016. 

Looking back at all these memories make me miss Asia... But summer is just around the corner, and this year I've booked a trip to somewhere completely new, so I'm looking forward to that already. Meanwhile, the next couple of months will be busy with exam preparations but I'll try my best to update on Paris and Riga, and of course my most recent trips to New York and San Francisco! 

Boracay Island

A perfect island getaway in the heart of the Philippines with powdery white sands, turquoise-blue waters and palm-fringed beaches. We had three relaxing days, strolling along the island, exploring the different stations, and eating fresh seafood from the fishmarket. And of course, every day was beach day.

My favorite (and highly recommended) activity was island hopping, which was a half-day boat tour that takes your around to different islands around Boracay. The offer included lunch, snorkling, visiting Puka beach, crocodile island, crystal cove and more - for less than $20 USD per person. Great value for money, and totally worth it.

Exploring Manila

My first time in the Philippines was spent in the capital city for five days, followed by a three-days beach escape to sunny Borocay Island. Manila is an interesting city filled with a lot of history and cultural juxtapositions, which I'm glad to have visited. My sister did her internship with the UN there for six months so my parents and I took the advantage to visit her while exploring new places in Asia.

Kyoto

Hello there! Here's a few of my favorite shots from my trip to Kyoto in January. I actually started this blog post one month ago, but somehow it never got posted. Time flies so fast, I have no idea how we're in the middle of April already. I'm sorry it has come to the point where I'm so far behind on my travel updates, but if you have been following me on IG you know that I've been traveling quite a lot since February and in between I've been studying and writing exam papers... so needless to say I have had other priorities. But I'll do my best to catch up in the next few days!

Visiting Kiyomizu temple, walking through the Fushimi Inari-taisha shrines, exploring the Gion district, Arashiyama bamboo forrest and Tenryū-ji temple, were some of the activities we got to do during our three days in Kyoto. Out of all the Japanese cities I've visited so far (Tokyo, Osaka, Nara and Hakuba), Kyoto is my favorite. So beautiful, and too many things to see so there's no doubt I'll be back one day to explore the rest. 

Deer, Nara

We had one extra day in Kyoto, so we decided to make a day trip to Nara Deer Park. My family and I love animals, but we don't like zoos as we'd rather see animals be in their natural habitat. Fortunately, Nara is known for its thousand and more deers roaming freely around the city, which is why we loved this place so much. The deers were adorable and very friendly to humans (at least the ones we encountered). They're even so polite that they'll bow three times before they receive their deer crackers.

Tōdai-ji Temple

An extra bonus was the several shrines and temples within the park with the most significant of all being Tōdai-ji - one of the world's largest wooden buildings housing a 15m tall bronze Buddha. Getting to Nara Deer Park was also just a 35 minutes train ride from Kyoto Station directly via the Kinetsu line, so I would recommend it to anyone who's staying in Kyoto for three days or more, to go check it out!

Macau

During our week in Hong Kong, we decided to take a day-trip to Macau which is an hour boat trip away. Macau is very similar to Hong Kong in the way that the government is independently set up, yet it's still connected to the Chinese mainland. Did you know that in Macau the revenues from casinos make up more than half of the economy, hence being globally known as the "Vegas of China"? Such a true mecca of gambling and glitz.

Once we arrived in Macau we took a taxi into Macau Old Town where we started our sightseeing with strolling through St Lazarus Quarter and ‘Senado Square’, witnessing picturesque Portuguese-style architecture. Of course we saw the Ruins of St. Pauls, which was unsurprisingly packed with tourists. We also went to the Museum of Macau, which was actually less crowded despite it being one of the main highlights.

Having heard so much about it, we decided to check out the The Venetian Macau. It was situated quite far away from Old Town so we took a taxi to get there before returning to Hong Kong. The luxury hotel and casino is a replica of its sister casino resort in Las Vegas and if I'm not wrong, it's the biggest casino in the world. I still haven't been to Las Vegas, but I can imagine how grande it must be considering what I witnessed in Macau. However, places like this, for me, just feels so superficial and it's not really something that fascinates me (except the fact that they probably spend billions and billions of dollars building it, because wow...) Now I'm also a person who will never understand the purpose of gambling or the need to spend ridiculous amount of money on stuff, so perhaps this is more of a place for those who do. Nice to have seen anyway, but once is enough.

Also, I know I haven't been updated the blog as much as I originally planned to but there are so much more coming, so please be patient with me. Next post, Japan!

Back in Taiwan

A few photos from my second trip to Taiwan. My family and I visited the National Palace Museum, tea plantations in Maokong village, and Taipei 101 amongst many other activities. 

New Years 2018 in Hong Kong

“Traveling—it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”

Hong Kong is one of my favourite places in the world. This is where I have shared some of the best memories with friends and loved ones, and perhaps where I've captured the most scenic photos too, yet it's also one of the least documented on the blog for some reason (along with Edinburgh). I've been wanting to post more photos at least, but then I also want to make this blog more than just another caption-less online photo album where "the pictures speak for themselves". I want to write a bit about each place and event, give it some context if you will. But then, how do I put all these moments into words? When there are so many memorable ones, that at the same time literally leave me speechless half of the time. But let's give it a try anyway.

As mentioned in my previous post, Hong Kong was my first stop in Asia this winter. That's my fifth time in Hong Kong since 2015, which is a pretty good indiction of how much I love it. This time was extra special because I traveled together with my family, something we've been wanting to do since I was little. My dad used to live in Hong Kong for five years way back when, and it's always been his dream to re-visit. It's so amazing that it finally came true. During our trip we went to a park in Sham Shui Po where he once had his photo taken when he was in his twenties, and I managed to get an "after-photo" of him at the exact same spot. It's a long (family hi)story, but it was a pretty special moment that words can't describe it and pictures don't do it justice. 

We spent altogether almost one week in Hong Kong including one day in Macau. We did a lot of city sightseeing and dining in both Hong Kong Island and Kowloon (pictures from Hutong Restaurant in Tsim Sha Tsui), and on one of the days Rickie's family also took us out to the outskirts near the mainland borders where we could see Shenzhen city. I loved the local experience, and the opportunity to visit the Tsz Shan Monestry was definitely a highlight. This was a large Buddhist temple where we had to make an appointment two months in advance in order to enter, since there is a limited daily quota for the general public. I'm so glad Rickie's sister organised it all for us. The 76-meters tall Guanyin Buddha blessed us with a safe and happy journey for the rest of the trip.

We celebrated New Years Eve together as a family, as I have done 22 out of 23 years of my life (except for NYE 2016 in Shanghai). We joined the public countdown and watched the fireworks from the top of IFC. Later after midnight my sister and I went to TST with my best friend, Sammie, for an afterparty at Aqua club. It had the most amazing view of Victoria harbour. 

Towards the end of the week, Rickie and his family traveled to Sri Lanka while we continued our journey to Taiwan. I kind of wished I could join him since Sri Lanka is on my bucketlist, but we have so many more upcoming trips together in the future, while traveling with my parents only happens once in a while. I'm sure they appreciated my company, at least I hope! In the next two posts I'll share more from Macau and Taiwan. There are still many more countries to catch up on after that i.e.: Japan, Philippines and Thailand, and I also have more travels coming up in Europe in the next few weeks so fingers crossed for quicker updates.

Warming up in Southeast Asia

A long break from winter this winter break was exactly what I needed. As you might know, winter in Scandinavia is long and cold with the only short thing being daylight. I'd been planning my frost-escape since October so needless to say I was more than ready for sun, seas and cities in Southeast Asia - and a full month of it. 

My first stop was Hong Kong for a week with a day-trip to Macau, followed by a reunion with Taiwan for three days. Next I was off to Japan again to finally explore Kyoto, Osaka and Nara in altogether six days, before traveling to the Philippines for the first time, visiting my sister in Manila and experiencing the white beaches of Boracay Island. The last five days in Asia was spent exploring the hustle and bustle of Bangkok, Thailand. Without a doubt, it's been an amazing start of 2018 and I'm looking forward to sharing more photos from each of the places I've been to in the next few days! 

Sensō-ji

- Japan pt. 4 -

- Omikuji Paper Fortune -

Tokyo Skytree

- Japan pt. 3 -

Spot Mount Fiji in the distance

Skiing in Hakuba

- Japan pt. 1 -

When I said my dream was to travel to Japan, I never imagined myself at a ski resort in Hakuba with three of my best mates from China. Life has its funny ways of being adventures and spontaneous, and I'm so grateful for this amazing experience in the Japanese alps.

- Wonderful Winter Wonderland -

A photo posted by Martha Huynh (@marthahuynh) on

One Night in Bangkok

- All journeys have a secret destination of which the traveler is unaware -

I had a very interesting 'Night in Bangkok'. After a quite structured day with a packed itinerary, I decided to make the evening more spontaneous and ended up at Sky Bar Rooftop at Lebua, which was featured in the Hangover II movie. Note I was by myself again and it was definitely a Singapore-déjà-vu-moment. Once again my social anxiety seemed little to non-existent and I had no issue rocking up at this venue where people were having fancy cocktails with their friends while I stood there as a major loner asking for a glass of water. I probably would've avoided that scenario back in Europe but at this moment (as well as in Singapore) I just thought... Who actually gives a damn? I was having a great time enjoying this amazing view - for free! 

While I stood by the railing admiring the lights of Bangkok, another solo-traveller approached me and hence the rest of my night in Lebua was spent chatting away with this person from South Korea. I couldn't help but think how funny and coincidental it was that the very first person I met during my first days in Shanghai - and the very last person I met on my final Asia-adventure in Bangkok, were both Koreans - from the very same small town that I had never heard of before. 

As the clock passed 2am (did I mention I went for a two-hours long massage at 11pm), I got hungry (as usual) so I decided to grab a taxi to the nearest night market to get a take-away, then head back to the hotel to rest a couple hours before leaving to the airport. And in those next moments I got all these flashbacks from my last nine months in Asia... Thinking what a crazy, amazing, out-of-this-world experience this has been for me!? What a life-changing time of my life. You know, all those deep thoughts you suddenly get when you're eating Thai papaya salad at 3AM alone in Bangkok, having conversations with a sketchy taxi driver who could've been a murder or rapist for all I know. Looking back I think I was being a little crazy and naive, and I certainly will not tell my mom about this particular adventure - but as usual, everything turned out just fine. Another great personal memory for the books!

Wat Pho Temple of Reclining Buddha

Continuing my latest quest of chasing temples and pagodas, Wat Pho, Temple of the Reclining Buddha was a must. The 46m long Buddha cover was nothing short of gold ;-). Blessings after blessings.

A photo posted by Martha Huynh (@marthahuynh) on