2 Days in Hong Kong

2 Days in Hong Kong

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     This post is all about my first time in Asia, Hong Kong to be specific!  Technically we spent 4 days in Hong Kong, but since we flew in so late the first day and flew out in the morning of the fourth day they don't really count.  This is honestly a city I never thought I would see because it was so far and I just didn't really think of China as the top of my travelling list.  Since we had to have a layover there anyway, we figured we should see it in case we didn't make it back to the area.  This was such a great decision because it changed my whole perception on Asia.  In two short days we saw an area we had no idea about and as it turned out; Hong Kong is not an intimidating place, it's quite easy to navigate and really a fun place to wander around!


The harbor view from our room at the Conrad Hilton

     On day one we set out to see the Tian Tan Buddha statue on Lantau Island.  While it may have been easier to hire a tour, we like to do things on our own so that we can make our own time frame and get sidetracked if we want to.  With that in mind, we Googled for a while and discovered we could take the metro the majority of the way and then take the cable cars up the mountain.  We were staying at the Conrad Hilton so the closest metro station was Admiralty.  We went there (about a 10 minute walk) and bought passes to Tung Chung Station.  We used the customer service booth to purchase our passes because we had larger bills than the machines would take.  



     Once in Admiralty Station I was shocked to see there were so many shops and restaurants, it was nothing like the subways I have seen before.  We boarded a train to Central Station because that's where the lines change.  We then got on a train to Tung Chung Station.  This is also how you would get to Hong Kong Disneyland we soon learned, it's the stop right before Tung Chung Station.  This was so easy to figure out, even considering we don't regularly use metros.  It also was very cost effective because it was about $50 HKD round trip per person from Admiralty to Tung Chung.  I would say in all the trip took about 45 minutes-1 hour.  

     Once we arrived at Tung Chung Station we walked out and straight across the open area, there were plenty of signs to follow, to the Ngong Ping Cable Cars.  We read this was the most scenic way to see Hong Kong, while getting to the Buddha statue.  The tickets were $210 HKD per person for a round trip standard cabin, there was no way either of us was getting into the crystal cabin that featured a glass floor!!  The line was minimal and we were actually in a car with only two other people.  




     The views were truly amazing!  Even me, who hates heights, was okay on it.  You got to see the whole skyline of apartments that were next to the water, the airport, the mountain area of Lantau, and a view of the Buddha.  It was absolutely worth it and the cabin was comfortable.  The Buddha looked huge even from the cable cars.

     We got off and started towards the statue, first buying some ice cream of course.  Side note: the limited edition Haagen Dazs Lavender & Blueberry flavor is delicious!!  The area did have a lot of tourists, but it didn't feel packed.  The only time I really felt frustrated was when I wanted a picture without people in it, but honestly if you're patient and can wait a few minutes it's possible.  I think this was the lesson Buddha had for me while I was there because as soon as I started to be patient and not annoyed by the people, I was able to take some great photos without any tourists in them!  Once we had spent the time we wanted to walking around, we got back on the cable cars and did the exact reverse route on the metro to get back to our hotel.  A note about the metro passes: once you've arrived to your last station and are leaving, you don't scan your pass anymore, instead you insert it into a blue card slot on the turn-styles.     


Romper (similar) | Sandals (similar) | Dress (similar)



A cow from the monastery on the grounds of the Buddha statue 

     Going to the Tian Tan Buddha statue did take most of the day, but it was completely worth it.  It is incredible to see in person and the whole area is beautiful.  It is a different side to Hong Kong's bustling city.  The only thing I would change is to spend some time seeing the fishing villages on Lantau while we were there.     
     
     On our second day we decided to stay in the city and venture to the Sheung Wan Market area.  This was also easily accessed through the metro fortunately!  We took the metro from Admiralty to Sheung Wan for $9 HKD round trip per person.  We used the machines to buy our tickets this time since we had smaller bills now and it was very simple.  You just click the area on the map you want to go to and it gives you the price and you insert your money, then a pass comes out in the bottom.  

     The Sheung Wan area was really great to go to because it not only has the Sheung Wan Market, it also has the Cat Street Market, the Western Market, the Graham Street Market, and Hollywood Road all within walking distance.  We started at the Sheung Wan Market, which is actually in what looks like an office building.  It has multiple levels; the bottom is fish and poultry, the 2nd is veggies, fruits, and other meats, and the 3rd is a food court area.  I really enjoyed seeing it, though some people may want to skip the meat and fish areas because they do have very strong smells.  Everything looked so fresh and there were a lot of people shopping for things.  



Dress | Bag (aka the best travel purse ever!)

    The next place we went to was Hollywood Road.  On the way there we stopped at Oddies Foodies to try one of the famous eggette sundaes, it was worth every bite.  I got the Night Wolf, which featured chocolate and vanilla gelato, passion fruit panna cotta, brownie chocolate chip eggettes, and crunchy flakes (YUM, right??).  Hollywood Road has lots of different shops and restaurants, but we decided to skip that and go to the Graham Street Market.  This market was also mostly produce, but located on a sidewalk area.  




    After looking at the produce we headed back towards the metro station to see the Cat Street Market.  This market was fun because it had a lot of trinkets to look at, from hair sticks to bronze mementos.  This would be the place I would recommend to pick up your souvenirs!  



    Our last stop was at the Western Market.  This was indoors, a great relief since it was a little warm that day!  The building itself was beautiful to see, but aside from that there was only a few stores and a few restaurants inside.  If it's out of your way, I would say it's okay to not see it.  



    The Western Market is about a 6 minute walk from the Sheung Wan Station so we headed there and back to the hotel.  We stopped by the Pacific Place Shopping Center since it was right next to Admiralty Station.  It is filled with basically every high end designer to exist; from Hermes to Dior to Chanel, it had them all.  It was fun to window shop, but we didn't buy anything except some French macaroons.  It was very convenient though because there is a direct entrance to the Conrad Hilton from the Pacific Place Center.     

     Once we were back in our room it was still early afternoon, so we decided last minute to book an evening harbor cruise on one of the traditional Chinese junk boats.  They looked so beautiful, we just couldn't resist!  There was availability for the 5:30pm cruise for $220 HKD per person so we did that.  We chose to depart from Central Pier 9.  On the website it notes that any cruises leaving at a time ending in 45 (3:45 for example) would drop you off at a different location than where you embarked, a spot across the harbor to be exact, so keep that in mind if you book one!  Central Pier 9 was only a 25-30 minute walk from the Conrad Hilton, the other option Tsim Sha Tsui Pier 1 is directly across the harbor and would've required a taxi or to take the metro.  I figured this all out using Google Maps, so it's easy to check but be sure you do!  


Tamar Park on the Harbor, between our hotel and the pier.  It was so beautiful and had lots of people. 


    The junk boat looked like it was right out a movie, with big red sails and old looking wood accents, and lounge seats on the top deck.  We were the first group picked up so the boat was completely empty and we got to choose a comfy seat.  Next we went across the harbor to pick up the 5:45pm group, they got seats mostly on the lower deck area.  Then we spent a little over 45 minutes going around Victoria Harbour, the skylines were amazing and it was very nice to be on the water.  Our cruise included one drink and they were very willing to take photos for us.  It was a really nice way to end the day.   







    We originally were picked up from the airport in a hotel car, but on our trip back to the airport we decided to use the Airport Express because it was supposed to be much faster and cheaper.  We found out there was a free shuttle to Hong Kong Station just outside the top level of the Pacific Place Center, it stopped at most hotels in the area.  At Hong Kong Station we bought passes for the Airport Express for $215 HKD each.  We even had the option to check our bags at airport kiosks before we got to the airport.  The ride from Hong Kong Station to the airport was about 35 minutes, much quicker than the 45 minutes it took our car the first time.  I highly, highly, highly suggest doing the airport express to Hong Kong Station and then taking a car from there when you arrive to save some money, and to do the same when you leave!  It really is the most efficient option and even with luggage it's totally doable.                    
     I feel like we got to see so many sides of Hong Kong in such a short period of time.  I don't think there was anything I wanted to see that we didn't.  Overall, I expected to not like Hong Kong because it seems so packed with people and like they wouldn't be nice.  Our experience was completely different; people were very helpful, all the signs were in Chinese & English, and the city itself never made me feel scared.  I never thought I would even go to Asia, now I would love to go back and see more areas and I will be highly recommending Hong Kong to everyone!  


XOXO, Cierra
        
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Bali Travel Diary: Part 2

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     As promised, here's part 2 of the Bali series!  This post will cover the hotels we stayed in during our time there.  It's even better because the hotels nicely fit into three different price points so there's really something for everyone!  If you missed the first part of the series on what we did, you can find it here.  




     We began our trip in the Maya Sanur Resort & Spa, this hotel falls into the mid-level price point.  We arrived at the Denpasar Airport at about midnight and a hotel taxi picked us up for about $30.  It was about a 45 minute drive and we arranged this when we made our reservation, along with opting for breakfast to be included with our room charge for $5 a person.  Upon checking in, even though it was so late, we were greeted with warm towels and juice!  Overall, the Maya was very beautiful.  Each room has a balcony, which from the outside look like bird nests.  There are first floor rooms that have patios that directly open onto a pool area.  For the room choices I would opt for either the first floor with the pool patio or the fourth floor in order to have a view of the ocean (this is what we had).  On the roof level of the hotel is a beautiful garden with spectacular views that you can freely walk through.  The location of the hotel was phenomenal; on one side is a private strip of beach right outside the restaurant and bar, on the other is the main street in Sanur with shops and restaurants all within walking distance.  


The Maya beach area

 Our room
     
  
     Within the hotel itself there are 4 restaurants; Reef by the beach which is open all day, Graze an urban-deli which also features breakfast options all day, Kuu a Japanese restaurant, and the Tree Bar located between the pool and the beach with happy hour specials from 5pm-7pm & 9pm-10pm every day.  If you opt for breakfast at the hotel in the mornings it is a buffet at Graze, served from 7am-10am.  We ate there every morning and there were plenty of choices.  Typically I had yogurt, toast, fruit, waffles or french toast, and some sort of pastry.  


Reef Restaurant 

Tree Bar, all drinks came with cassava chips and fried nuts

Breakfast in Reef on one of the water patios

     The Tree Bar was our second favorite because they had the yummiest juices.  I had a watermelon, mint, lime juice & a lime, mint juice.  Both were amazing!  Another fun option they have for food is an exotic fire dance performance with a full buffet on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 7pm for about $20 per person.  Aside from food the hotel has a fitness center with a yoga studio that offers a free class for all levels everyday at 7:30am.  It also has a full service spa with wraps, scrubs, and massages.  Lastly, they offer a variety of activities like cooking classes, excursions, and roof top picnics.                


The rooftop garden

Fire dance buffet
  
     Our second hotel was the Viceroy Bali in Ubud, which is a 5-star luxury hotel and a very well-known honeymoon spot.  It's owned by an Australian couple, who we actually were able to meet during our stay.  The hotel is situated above the Valley of the Kings just outside of Ubud.  This hotel is absolutely stunning, you walk through the lobby to a staircase to the negative edge pool, open air restaurant, and just so much green!  We were given super yummy ginger, brown sugar welcome drinks with rum once we were in our room and they kindly explained everything about our room and the hotel.  We also had a very nice letter from the owners, along with a keepsake bronze elephant, waiting for us on the bed.      



The main pool 


     It is a bit of a steep walk to and from some rooms so they offer a cart service you can call for, but we rarely used it.  We easily walked to and from the one restaurant, Cascades, for breakfast each morning.  Again we opted for this to be included in our room charge and it was well worth it.  It isn't served buffet style, but you can choose anything from the menu between 7am-10am.  I had yogurt, french toast, and eggs and toast while we were there.  We only ate dinner at the restaurant one night, it happened to be the night they had a traditional dance performance, but it was very yummy with a good variety of options.  



Beet, orange, pineapple juice | Top 

 Cascades Restaurant breakfast view

     Along with the restaurant, just next door to it is the Lembah Spa.  I had a Balinese body scrub & flower bath, both treatments were lovely!  The flower bath was almost too pretty to get in, I tried my best to not mess it up but it's more difficult than I expected.  These were my first ever spa treatments and they did a great job, I felt very comfortable and relaxed.  We opted to have the services done in the spa, but they also have the option to do them in your room.  


Lembah Spa upper patio 

Flower bath with aromatic oils

       They also offer many excursions you can choose from like learning to make tradition offering baskets, helicopter tours, and trekking tours.  The thing we really used the most was the free shuttle they had from the hotel to Ubud center.  It runs from 7am-11pm and had two drop-off points; one near Ubud Market (which is what we did) and one near the Monkey Forest.  This saved us a ton on taxi fares!  We did end up hiring a car through the hotel for one hour to take us to the rice terraces, it was reasonably priced and very comfortable.  Plus, he found the terraces that hadn't been cut yet! 

     Our villa was the Vice Regal.  It had the prettiest bathroom, a gorgeous view of the river valley, and a private pool.  It was situated at the end of a corridor with beautiful wall carvings of elephants.  My favorite part was the little monkey that walked across the wall past our pool!


     
Our room 






Top | Shorts  

     Our last hotel was GrandMas Plus in Seminyak, Bali.  It's about 45 minutes from the Denpasar airport, and 1 hour 45 minutes from Ubud.  This is a super cost-effective option, especially considering it's an easy 5 minute walk to Seminyak Beach and 20 minute walk to Seminyak Square.  We were only here for one night so we didn't experience a lot within the hotel, but the location you just can't pass up!  


The lobby

     The hotel has a super cute open-air lobby, right across from the restaurant and pool.  Our room was simple, but comfortable.  There is an option to have breakfast included in your room charge, but we opted to just find breakfast at one of the cafes nearby.  They also offer free morning yoga as well.           


Our room 


    I hope this shows that no matter your budget, there really is a place for you in Bali!  One last point to mention is all three hotels had free wifi, which was really great.  I would comfortably recommend staying with any of them if you venture to Bali soon!   
             

XOXO, Cierra
     
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Bali Travel Diary: Part 1

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     I've just gotten home after spending 13 days across the world and warning this post is super long, but I wanted to be sure and cover everything :)  My mom and I journeyed to Bali, Indonesia for my graduation trip!  Neither of us had ever been to Indonesia, or on a flight as long as the 15 hour one from LAX to Hong Kong required to get to Bali.  We did some research ahead of time to get a feel for what we wanted to do and booked our hotels in advance.  

     We flew from Phoenix to Los Angeles, Los Angeles to Hong Kong (which actually ended up being detoured to Seoul, South Korea), and finally flew from Incheon/Seoul to Denpasar, Indonesia.  It was a lot of flying and we were super tired once we arrived.  There's a 16 hour time difference in Bali from Arizona so we ended up going to bed pretty early and waking up early for the majority of our time there.  In Bali they use the Indonesia Rupiah.  The exchange rate is a little confusing, but very good for the US dollar.  We used the app Currency Plus to make converting simpler.  Just be sure to add the currencies you want to be able to convert to while you have data access, then it'll work without any service!  




So wish we could've checked this place out at night, it claims to be the best bar in Sanur!  Doesn't it look crazy fun??

     We started out in Sanur, Bali, which is about 45 minutes from the airport in Denpasar.  It was the cutest little beach area on the Southern peninsula of Bali.  It's well-known for having beautiful sunrises, which we were able to catch between 6am-7am.  It also features a good amount of roof-top gardens that were so beautiful!  Our hotel had one we got to wander around one afternoon.  We came to realize over our time there and in other areas that this area has more of the "old Bali" feel to it.  By that I mean there was less traffic, less tourists, and less shopping, but not at all in a bad way, it just had a more relaxed feel.  We spent a total of three days there.  On our first day we walked the main street outside our hotel where there were a few boutiques and some street vendors selling clothing and souvenirs.  There wasn't a lot I really felt the need to purchase but it was enjoyable to wander.  I will say that even with it just being the two us of I felt very safe walking the street and beach areas, though we weren't out at night during our time there.


   These sandals were so fun to wear in Sanur because they fit right in with the pom-poms and charms!  The vibe was very casual so I was perfectly fine wearing sundresses or jean shorts and tanks like this.

     On especially clear days you can see across the water from Sanur to Nusa Penida Island.  We couldn't resist the urge to go out and see the world famous Manta Point dive and snorkel site.  Our hotel recommended Bali Diving Perdana for a half day boat trip to snorkel two sites on Nusa Penida for $80 each.  We booked for the morning of our second day and it lasted from 8:20am to about 1pm.  A taxi picked us up from our hotel and took us to the shop, where we filled out our waivers and walked straight across the sand to board the boat.  There were four crew members (1 captain, 1 first mate, 1 snorkel guide, 1 dive guide) and two other passengers (1 snorkeler, 1 diver).  From the beach it took about an hour to reach Manta Point, Nusa Penida.  



     While there were other boats around with snorkelers and divers, there was still space to look around without others being in your space.  All equipment was provided, but we used our own masks and snorkels since we'd brought them.  Once in the water there were good sized waves, but it didn't matter because immediately I saw a manta ray.  They are so huge and so gentle, it was surreal to actually be so close to them.  I'd say we saw one about every 5 minutes and they came up very close.  I saw prior to going that the water at Manta Point was very polluted with trash and after snorkeling it I have to say I completely disagree.  I really saw no trash in the area at all and there were tons of fish and deeper down the coral looked to be flourishing.  At one point a manta turned around and saw face to face with me, which was definitely my favorite part of the whole snorkel.  The water was comfortably warm, I just wore a bikini with a swim shirt over it.  Though there were some jellies present, it was quite bearable to be able to see the mantas.  We were served nice box lunches between site 1 and site 2 that consisted of egg sandwiches, an orange, a chocolate bar, and a soda or water.  The second site was a reef about 15 minutes away (as Crystal Bay was too busy).  It was blooming with life, from parrot fish to angel fish and a lot of very healthy corals.  Overall, I would highly recommend a trip with Bali Diving Perdana, I felt safe and the equipment was nice, and if seeing the manta rays isn't on your list it definitely should be!   


  

If you do venture into the water, be sure to pack some reef-friendly sunscreen to do your part to protect them!  This Australian Gold line worked really well for me without any greasy residue.

     On the third day we moved from Sanur to Ubud.  We chose to call the same taxi driver who had picked us up for the snorkeling trip since we enjoyed our ride with him.  He picked us up from our hotel at checkout time and asked if we would like to stop anywhere between Sanur and Ubud.  We didn't really know what there was between the two areas so he suggested we see the Batuan Temple, a luwak coffee plantation called Ubud Mesari Coffee, and the Tegenungan Waterfall.  If you choose to take a taxi between areas I highly, highly suggest asking if they are willing to stop at some places along the way because it will save you money from having to go back later if you did want to see it.  I also found this great site to check the prices of popular attractions so you can plan ahead!  



     We really enjoyed these three stops.  The Batuan Temple had a lot of tourists around, but it was very inexpensive (about $2 in donation each) and they provided a sarong for you to wear.  The temple was incredibly detailed and there were even women making offering baskets in one of the areas.  Ubud Mesari Coffee was interesting because they show you the whole process of how luwak coffee is produced.  In case you aren't familiar; coffee cherries are fed to luwaks, then they are collected once the luwak has processed them, cleaned, and ground into coffee powder.  The luwak's partially ferment the coffee in their intestines, which gives it it's unique flavor.  We were able to sample 13 different teas and coffees, the best part was everything was free unless you opted to buy a full size of one of the products sampled!  There is also a super trendy Bali swing on the grounds that you can get on for five minutes for about $10.  





                                                                   

     The last stop we made was at the Tegenungan waterfall.  It's one of the few waterfalls that isn't located in the mountainous areas of Bali.  It is a huge tourist attraction and was very busy when we went.  There are stairs with various viewing platforms to stop at all the way down to the waterfall, with a swimming area just in front of the falls.  We opted to only go down two levels of stairs since it was super hot out and we were getting tired, but there were plenty of people trekking down to swim.  The entrance to the waterfall area, which also features some souvenir and food shops, was only about $1 each.     



     We arrived to Ubud in the afternoon and it was instantly so different from Sanur.  There were big, gray, puffy clouds out and our hotel faced out to a jungle gorge split by a river.  It looked like a monkey's paradise.  To start the day we went to see the Tegallalang Rice Terraces.  We forgot to think about when the rice was harvested, since the terraces would be brown rather than green then, but fortunately our driver had scouted a field that hadn't been cut yet for us!  It was incredible to see how intricate the terraces were, they're all cut into the ground by hand, yet they all look perfectly even!  


This dress wasn't super practical for sightseeing, but since we just went to the rice terraces I had to break it out!  It was so fun to wear, though I would suggest a brighter color to stand out more against the green.

     We ventured into Ubud center during the afternoon and it poured rain pretty much the whole time.  We brought raincoats and had umbrellas, but mistakenly left them in our hotel room that day.  Even so, we explored the shops all the way down Ubud's main street, Ubud Market, and had yummy fruit smoothies with lunch at Oops Restaurant right across from the market.  The Ubud market was larger than I expected, it was about two blocks in length and a full block in width, with two levels.  It is mostly filled with jewelry, straw bags, clothing, and trinket souvenirs, though we did buy a suitcase to take our souvenirs home in there as well.  Haggling was definitely prevalent at the market, so don't be shy!  


  
     Our second day in Ubud was much sunnier.  We opted for spa treatments at our hotel in the morning, then went back to Ubud center for the afternoon.  We first stopped for a snack (smoothie bowls of course) at Binar Health Food.  Then onto the market, which was much more open since they didn't need to cover their items from rain.  I decided to buy a headband and it was life changing.  The humidity wasn't unbearable anywhere in Bali, but my hair still hated it and I didn't feel like fully doing it every day so using a headband was a great option I hadn't thought of.  If you're planning on going soon, check out these cute options: 1, 2, and 3.    




     We then moved from Ubud to Seminyak.  This is another beachy area, but it is a much more popular area and has a lot more tourists than Sanur did.  This area is known for its beach clubs, so that gives you an idea of the atmosphere.  We had dinner at The Elysian Hotel by their pool (super yummy!), then wandered to Seminyak Square at sunset.  The sunset was beautiful, though the buildings hid some of it, it is on the opposite coast from Sanur, which is why sunsets are visible.  The square had many boutiques and restaurants, along with a vendor area that had already closed up for the evening.  We somehow stumbled upon MadPops Ice Cream shop just passed the main square (I'd been following them on Insta forever and had no idea they had a shop in Seminyak!).  I tried a coconut blueberry cone, and even though it was non-dairy it was still as good as any other ice cream I've had!  Not to mention they have the cutest neon sign to take pictures with.  



   
     The following morning we walked from Seminyak Beach all the way to The W Hotel.  There were lots of joggers, dogs and some surfers out on the beach with us.  After about 2 hours we ventured off the beach for breakfast and found the cutest restaurant on our path back to Seminyak Square called Strawberry Fields.  It is a John Lennon/The Beatles themed restaurant with beautiful chandeliers, hanging plants, velvet couches, and neon lights.  We had the most delicious acai bowls and they even served water with bamboo straws, great for the turtles!!  It's just as chic and trendy as their Instagram makes it seem.  In the daytime Seminyak Square is still very lively, and the vendors market in the middle has lots of fun stuff.  That's where I picked up my new fav purse!



 These style shorts were a must in Seminyak!  So comfy, but fit right in!  





  
    Seminyak is only about 45 minutes from the airport, but there was some traffic the morning we left so it was more like an hour.  I wish we could've stayed longer there since the vibe was so trendy!  I loved the three areas we saw because they gave us a good view on the different aspects of Bali; quiet beach, bustling town, and trendy beach.  If I were to go back I would also add a stop in Canggu since it is really up and coming and seems to be similar to Seminyak.   



Check back for Part 2 of my Bali series soon, I'll be going over all our hotel details!


XOXO, Cierra
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