Hong Kong: 24 hours of chaos

So, I’ve been very bad with my blog recently and a short time ago, on a trip to Wales we found my friends travel blog from when we did SE Asia.  Not only could I not believe it had been 5 years since then, I also could not believe how funny it was and how many of the little things you forget… cue blog.

This time my adventures are taking me East again, to Hong Kong.

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My trip started the night before, when I set off to London to stay with my friend Clemency.  Unfortunately, as I was on my way down I received a message saying her key had broken and we wouldn’t be able to get into the flat, as it was too late for a locksmith and her boyfriend was away.  Luckily, she has family nearby, so disaster averted and we were taken in by her aunt and uncle for the night.

The first real obstacle came early next morning, about 6am, when the tube tram in front of mine hit some metalwork on the track.  As a result, the line was closed and I was unable to proceed to Heathrow.  For once in my life (with Clem’s help) I had left with enough time to spare and managed to get the bus halfway around London to Paddington, catching the express with just enough time to check in (and be upgraded to business class!).

The flight went relatively smoothly until HK itself, when due to the worst storms in recent years we were unable to land.  The cabin crew did their best efforts to keep us all informed but we were kept in a holding stack for what felt like hours until we were finally re-directed to land in Taiwan until the worse passed.

Several hours later we were successful and landed safely in HK despite Typhoon Pakhar’s best attempts to prevent us.

 

 

 

 

Now, despite August often being a wet month for HK, two typhoons in 10 days is exceptionally rare and I’ve only come this time of year to meet my friend Jezebel who is currently travelling in Asia.

Landing on my feet as always Jez had already booked a nice hotel to ‘treat’ herself between travels.  All I had to do was jump in, perfect!

However, I was flying in a day before and as I was in London looking at hotels for the following night I was struggling to pick between an extra, more convenient night at her hotel vs. satisfying the traveler in me.

Needless to say I picked the less practical option.  Instead of a fancy hotel I chose to spend a night in a rather interesting alternative.  Less of a hotel and more of a complex.  Only after my nights stay did I decide to actually search for the place I had stayed in..  In fact, all I had to do was type in the name of my hotel to see that it had once been described by a HK professor (who studied it for four years) as a ‘world hub of low end globalisation’.  Rather condemning.

Turning up I was ambushed by people in what was essentially a maze of indoor markets.  I fought my way through with my case and found the lift upstairs.

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The receptionists were nice enough and at least the hotel offered the unique experience I had been looking for.

Normally I would opt for a dorm in a hostel, as it’s a good way to get to know people and get some travel tips for the city.  This time, as I was only staying the night and likely to have jet lag, I had opted for a private room.  This was definitely the best choice.

In fact, I slightly dread what a dorm would have been like, considering of all the places I have stayed, this was definitely the worst.

The single bed filled the whole room, except for a small fridge which not only smelt very offensive but had a pool of water collecting in the bottom.  Water seemed to be the theme in this room, as although having the luxury of an en-suite, the shower head was literally over the toilet with just enough space to stand and left the whole room swimming in water after use.

Finally the additional opulence of air con was made less luxurious by the fact it was leaking.  Dripping water constantly onto the view-less window sill and the bottom of the bed itself.  In an attempt to be helpful, the staff gave me a towel free of charge (so generous) to place under the ceaseless drip.

The air-con proceeded to stop and start all night long to a huge whurring noise, which didn’t actually concern me half as much as the frayed and exposed wire to the broken fan underneath it!

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Thankfully, as I’m writing this, I miraculously made it through the night without being electrocuted.  Hurrah!

Having said all of this, it was bearable and my memories would have perhaps been fonder if I’d have been less optimistic.  Always eager to explore a new city, I left my room and never one to wait for the lift, skipped to the stairwell with enthusiasm and bounded down the first few flights.

Anyone else may have been deterred by a completely empty staircase.. but as they say ignorance is bliss and I jovially made my way down past the crumbling concrete; damp, peeling walls and exposed wiring.  I happily made it down to about the fourth floor when I noticed a man sitting sprawled on the stairwell, shoeless.  In a typical English manner, I slowed out of politeness, in order to give him space as I passed.  This was my first error (or second after booking the hotel!).

In the few seconds I slowed to pass him, he lunged and tried to grab me.  Luckily and ironically, out of courtesy I had given him a wide birth.  He just missed me and although he brushed my bag, my reactions were quick enough to dodge and pull my bag with me so I wasn’t held back.

In my complete naivety and shock I turned around and gave him an incredulous look.  I could not for the life of me work out why he had tried to grab me!  Retrospectively, I’m a moron and should have run, but it took a couple more slightly less enthusiastic flights of stairs before I realised I needed to get out of this completely isolated, rundown stairwell.

Only then, I couldn’t find a way out and obviously couldn’t go back the way I came.  I stumbled upon the second floor equally deserted, full of empty street stores and came to the conclusion this was not the place to walk around on your own, especially not later on and into the night.

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Once outside, the typhoon was still raging and despite my raincoat, I was soaked within seconds.  I attempted to explore the streets with no map and no idea where I was, looking for food but all in vein.  All I could seem to find were stores selling fried fish balls, chicken feet or intestines…. After 25 hours travelling I can’t say it was top of my list.  Instead, I finally found a small place serving dim sum, so opted for the safe option of spring rolls and pork dumplings.

Obviously, that was when I was hungry and desperate.  The next day in the same area I could find nothing but delicious looking restaurants… but I guess that’s just how it goes sometimes.

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I made the wise decision to go to bed early and sleep off the jet-lag.  Luckily, I was exceptionally tired and not kept awake (much) by the warm, damp smelling, fire hazard room that I was staying in.

Welcome to Hong Kong…

Flax and Kale

This place was so good, it deserves its own post.

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Now like most millennials I love brunch and as the current trend is to enjoy a delicious but healthy brunch with friends, who am I to go against the flow?

Priding its self in healthy, flexitarian food (yes, I know, I think they are just inventing diets now) Flax and Kale is one of Barcelona’s best restaurants.  Their motto: eat better, be happier, live longer.  Who wouldn’t want to try this?

 

 

 

The restaurant itself is beautiful and we were lucky enough to find a table on the terrace with a view over the square.  Sat at wrought iron tables with trellaces all around and a bottle of cava I can’t think of any better way to start the day.

The food was stunning: presented beautifully and absolutely delicious, what more could you ask for?

 

If anyone is looking for a spot of brunch in Barcelona then I cannot recommend this enough.

Top tips:

  1. Due to its high popularity it is normal to queue so I would advise you to go early unless you want to wait 30 minutes for a table
  2. Try the paleo bread.

BCN Again

Back in Barcelona. Well, sort of.

We flew from Leeds this time as it seemed easier but as I was partially responsible for booking the flights we obviously flew to Gerona instead.. oops.

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The flight itself was an eventful one and never one for the quiet life I ended up being responsible for a medical emergency mid-flight.  As a result, and on my say so, we diverted to Paris for an emergency landing.  Needless to say, I’m not sure I have EVER been under as much pressure.  So, when finally arriving in Barcelona itself (by bus), we were in dire need of a drink!

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We settled at a bar in the sunshine outside the Born Cultural Centre, near to our friends apartment.  There we enjoyed a couple of beers whilst recounting the journeys excitement and waited for our friend to finish work, ready to greet her with a pretty bouquet from the beautiful almond flowers.

Now, Barcelona is one of the worlds most notorious cities for pick-pocketing.  Having learnt my lesson previously when I had my entire suitcase stolen, passport included (even though it was right next to me!) this time Katie and I were taking no chances.  As a result, ribbon is now an essential item in our hand-luggage.

Spanish tip:  ‘mi maleta es robada’  will come in handy if this ever happens to you and you find yourself at the Barcelona Police Station!

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Barcelona is the most beautiful city and we were fortunate enough to have the first real sunshine of the year.

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My friend Millie, being a local, took us to some of her favourite places which was great, as we didn’t have to plan anything at all and dined like royalty all weekend.

The first night we ate at Costa Pacifico, an amazing Mexican restaurant in Born.  It’s a fun, lively place, in fact so much so that during our supper we got talking to some locals who joined us for the rest of the meal.  The fish tacos were to die for, although we perhaps over indulged on the Margaritas a little!

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I did try to get some pictures of our food, but by the time I got my phone out most of the meal was gone.  Something I learnt as school is when eating with my friends, there is no time to waste on things like photography or you miss out on dinner!

So you’ll have to take my word for it.  The food was delicious, especially if you, like us, are partial to cerviche.

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We spent the weekend catching up and whiled away our days walking the streets of Barcelona…

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enjoying the beach,

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shopping,

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and hopping between tapas bars enjoying wine and incredible local food.

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Not to mention the essential aperol spritz or two.

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Now for any foodies out there like us who enjoy tapas Carrer de Blai is the perfect place for you! It is an entire street filled with endless eateries offering cheap pixtinos to eat at leisure.  Just grab a seat, order some tapas and when you’re done, move on down about twenty metres and repeat the whole process again!

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Obviously how much you spend will depend on how much you eat. With these girls the last time we were let loose on pix in Notting Hill we managed to devour £50 worth of tapas each!! It was delicious and by the end of our meal they had started bringing the food directly to our table instead of just laying it straight on the bar, however thankfully we did not consume quiet that much this time!

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Finally, a must do is Palo Alto Market on a sunny day.  It is a street style market in Poblenou selling anything and everything hipster and runs the first weekend of every month.

From local arts and crafts, to food, drink and live music, it’s only 4 euros to enter and definitely money well spent!  Set amongst beautiful, old, tree lined walls it’s the perfect place to sip away the afternoon like a real Catalonian.

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To round up I’m going to give you my two favourite restaurants we ate at during our stay.  The first was Llamber opposite the Born cultural centre and luckily right by Millie’s apartment.

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The food was beautifully presented and wonderfully fresh.  Naturally, we had a little of everything, including more cerviche.  Although delicious as this was, we ended lunching here following the previous nights escapades at Jamboree in Placa Reial and one of our party might have felt a little too ropey to enjoy this to the full!

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The other place I highly recommend, for those of you that are tapas-ed out, is koku kitchenIt is a Japanese restaurant in the heart of the Gothic Quarter, specialising in Ramen and buns.

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We ate upstairs in the bun restaurant and feasted on steamed buns, served in bamboo.  They came with a variety of delicious fillings including grilled pork and duck.  Not to mention, no meal would ever be complete without some sides of edamame, tempura prawns and a selection of dumplings.

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As always, I think we managed to cram as much as humanly possible into our long weekend (including a little life saving!) and I can’t wait to be back again soon!

Cursa de Bombers: Firemans Run 2017

Since 1999 the Bombers de Barcelona (Firemen to you and me) have been running an annual 10km around the city and this year we joined them.

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Picking our kit up the day before from the Olympic stadium atop the beautiful Montjuic, we were treated to magnificent views of the city we would soon be running around. Having left it too late to register, I was luckily allowed to sign up that evening otherwise the three of us had been planning ways for me to jump the barriers and join mid-race. Thankfully we did not have to resort to this.

The morning of the race, we watched everyone arrive and leisurely joined the start line which was luckily within minutes from where we were straying.  The atmosphere was fantastic; a sea of neon orange and dance music awaited as we took our places.  I was a little apprehensive as it had been a little while since I had done any exercise at all and I was relying on my basic level of fitness to carry me through.

We made good time in around 55 minutes in mid twenties heat but in retrospect I should have perhaps done a practice run as when I finished I was the same colour as my t-shirt and my muscles remained in agony for the following week.  Millie and Katie sweetly went at my pace… but I could tell they found it a lot easier than myself and could have gone much faster. Cheers guys!

We were absolutely amazed that as difficult as we found it in the heat, the local firemen not only completed it in full firemans gear, they beat us and had enough energy left for a fireman’s lift! Impressed is an understatement… I think I need to find myself a Spanish fireman.

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