Monday, May 20, 2019

Singapore - A Weekend Well Spent

As a disclaimer, before going to Singapore most of my knowledge was from the movie "Crazy Rich Asians" and just knowing that it was an advanced city. So with what I expected there was still much wiggle room.

I know, I know, I am so behind on my blogs! I have trips to other places in Taiwan I am dying to tell you about. So expect some back to back posts! The end is just coming so fast, and I am definitely making the most of my time left here in Asia. 

With all this in mind, two weekends ago five friends and myself set out to fly to Singapore. (If you are traveling to, or through, Taiwan the Taipei airport is usually the cheapest airport to go through.) What I expected was like I said before, mostly modern skyscrapers and expensive food with really clean streets and business men walking around. What surprised me so much was the diversity and the way the city/country accentuated it. Not only did the downtown city center area have some of the most amazing buildings, light shows, and attractions, but the surrounding areas really highlight the best of different cultures. Outside of the main city was smaller suburban areas that almost transported you to another part of the world. Places like Arab Street, Little India, and China Town had buildings, food, and people all looking, tasting, and dressing exactly like their home country with a Singaporean spin on it. Singapore was really a culmination and celebration of a mixture of cultures all coming together to create this gorgeous city/country. So here is a list of places we visited over the long weekend with pictures! I think the pictures really speak for themselves! 

1) Changi Airport Waterfall 
This water fall had just opened a couple months ago after starting construction in 2014.
2) City Centre (day/night)
Famous Marina Bay Sands Hotel



In the evening from the base of the mall by the Marina Bay Sands, there is an exquisite light show that dances across water that last for roughly 15 minutes and was a huge highlight of the trip.

3) Gardens by the Bay (day/night)
Famous Super Trees 
There is also a 15 minute light show underneath these trees in the evening. And again another spectacular site!

4) China Town
Buddha Tooth Relic Temple


5) Little India
Indian Temple


6) Arab Street
Mosque

Street Stores
7) Sentosa Island
Famous Sentosa Lion
Gorgeous lookout over the city
Something to note, not only in Singapore but in most of Asia, is when going to mosques, temples, or other holy places it is usually common for them to require you to cover yourself. So, no tank tops or shorts. But the good thing is that many of these places have clothes you can borrow wrap yourself with for free. But it is a good thing to read the reviews before, or have a light something in your bag you can throw over your shoulders or around your waist just in case. 

One interesting thing is Singapore's laws. They are pretty strict and could come with hefty fines. Like crossing the cross-walk on red, or spitting chewing gum on the sidewalk. Kind of cool! Also, Singapore is pretty small land-area wise, so a long weekend was plenty for all of us to be satisfied with the highlights we saw. Also, the metro can take you almost anywhere in Singapore, and cards can be picked up on arrival at the airport. 

Happy Travels,
Ayla 

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Hong Kong & Macau - Spring Break Trip 3/3

Update - midterms went well! Teachers have yet to grade and return the exams, but I am feeling decently good about them. In other news, one week ago the island of Taiwan experienced a 6.1 magnitude earthquake near Hualian, which our city felt roughly a 4.5 magnitude earthquake. Sadly, I was napping and slept right through it (which I would have really liked to experience it if it is going to happen😅). Friends and others said that things really shook, enough for some things to fall over. But there was really no damage as it only lasted for about 20 seconds. In talking to the locals, earthquakes are just common things here on the island. They just said that thankfully there was no tsunami or flooding that followed it. Typhoon season is June - October, so I think I will be missing most of that.

     But back to my travels... The last part of the journey took us to Hong Kong and Macau. Which are independent countries but still parts of China as I came to find out. Each has their own currency, and it is a 1:1 trade. (So if you visit, don't worry about paying to exchange money... they accept both in both places and you'll just waste money to convert - which I learned the hard way, haha.) Hong Kong is a beautiful city. It is a big city, like New York, but much cleaner. Lot's of development was happening there, and it just felt like walking into a beautiful movie.




      First, right after we flew in, we stopped at a giant buddha. It was really gorgeous - right in the middle of the mountains. Here there were feral cows roaming, and they were very sweet. After this we headed into the heart of the city, and viewed the Monster building where one of the Transformers movies was filmed. At night the sky line of the city was a site to die for, and they had a light show where the buildings lit up and shown lasers to music from across the harbor. After this we viewed the Hong Kong Space Museum, because of your's truly, and it was very lovely. I would have loved to see what other museums had to offer in Hong Kong. Next we went to a night market, which sold fabulous knock-offs of any name brand item you could ever think of! I didn't take any pictures there because I was too nervous, haha. But I definitely picked up a few souvenirs.😉After this we went to the world's second tallest sky bar, the Ozone on the 118 floor of the Ritz Carlton Hotel. It was an amazing site looking down at all of Hong Kong in the night.












      After this amazing day, we really slept hard. This was the end of the journey, and we were both beginning to become very tired from the late nights and early mornings. But we got up the next day and headed to Victoria Peak, which has a very famous view of the city. And then we headed to catch the ferry to Macau. The ferry ride was about one hour, and the boat was very nice - set up just like an airplane with air-conditioning and all. Macau meets its expectations as "the Asian Las Vegas". It is just like a newer version of Vegas. Full of large lavish hotels full of gambling machines. Macau is also under development, and you can see many different large hotels being built. At the Wynn there was a fountain show, similar to the Bellagio in Vegas, and it was a truly gorgeous site, see video. From there we headed to the airport, and stayed the night there. By this time we were both feeling a little under the weather, so we didn't have a very restful night there. And upon returning back to Taiwan we slept for 12+ hours straight! It was truly a great trip, and so much fun.






























Currently I have two more flights booked to different countries, and hopefully I will visit a few more after these as well. Stay tuned to hear about what's next!
-Ayla

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Vietnam - Spring Break Trip 2/3

Last week I had two exams, and this week I have two more exams! Half way through midterms, stress is fully activated... but now I am taking a good break to blog and reminisce on much more relaxed times in Vietnam. 😌


     After traveling solo in Thailand for a few days, I flew from Bangkok into Hanoi, Vietnam to meet up with a lovely new friend who was willing to adventure to three countries with me. Upon arriving we took in Hanoi. It is the home of pho (the noodle soup), which were really good. Tried egg coffee, which is like a latte drink, but subbing the milk out for whipped egg white - tasted just like creme brûlée dessert. And spent the rest of the day relaxing before we headed off to our next adventure early the next day. 






     Early in the morning we woke up to go to Halong Bay, which is known for its "emerald green waters and limestone islands" (taken from wikipedia)... but our experience was equally as beautiful but much different. We boarded a boat, with 12 other foreign travelers and headed out to see the hundreds of islands up close. The weather was very cloudy and rainy, and stayed the same way for the entire trip. It wasn't like we had seen in the pictures online, but had a spooky and eerie feeling about it will all the fog, which made it seem more mysteriously beautiful. Island after island had its head in the clouds, and far in the distance you could make out rough shapes where other islands would be. It was all very enchanting. That day we explored a very large cave on an island, and hiked to the top of a different island that had a beautiful overlook of the foggy bay. 

 







     
















     That evening we were set to stay the night on the boat and anchored in the bay in the middle of the amazing islands. We went squid fishing, and a woman from France caught one! It was amazing to see one changing color and spots up close. After resting for the night, we headed out bright and early to kayak around more islands. This was probably the highlight of my time in Vietnam. Sadly, I didn't bring my phone to take pictures, wouldn't want it to fall in the water, but going in and out and through these gorgeous islands was really magical. At one point, we paddled into a narrow channel which let us into the center of an island. We were far from the sound of boat motors and human laughter, and were completely encircled by the solid island. Amidst the newfound silence the sounds of birds and the light pat of rain on the water flooded into our ears. It was peaceful. It was breathtaking. I could have stayed there for hours. Absolutely lovely.





     After this, we headed back to the mainland, and back to Hanoi. We finished our time off in Vietnam by chasing food, souvenirs, and a train that famously goes through the town. (We had to talk a tuk tuk, or rickshaw, driver into pedaling us across town to catch it, haha.) Overall, I found Vietnam to have the most confusing currency conversion and the craziest traffic.





    Even though the weather was poor on this leg of the journey, we didn't let it dampen out spirits. After all, there was more adventure to be had in more countries! ...Which I will write more about after my two tests! 😄

Looking forward to the weekend,
Ayla