When you say “Australia”, a number of icons come to mind, but Sydney boasts the most iconic man-made structures in the country and they can be seen from the same spot: East Circular Quay. To those unfamiliar, “quay” is pronounced as “key”…nothing identifies you as a tourist quicker than asking a local “excuse me, can you tell me how to get to circular kway, please?”
There is no doubt that when the sun is out and the sky is blue, you can make any place look beautiful. I know I may be biased but Sydney Harbour absolutely glistens on a gorgeous day – no photoshopping necessary – this is Sydney Harbour and East Circular Quay at its absolute best – even the locals have now accepted the apartment building once known as “The Toaster” for its flat look and the hole in the middle (and admittedly, we were jealous of those who could afford to live there).
It was just over six years ago in February that I went to Japan for the first time. As a little girl growing up in Hong Kong it was my dream to go to Japan, for no other reason than because it was the country where Hello Kitty lived. Yes, the Sanrio cartoon cat that every little girl wanted in Asia (and as it turned out, those of us who have grown up with it still want it regardless of age). I’m sure if my parents had consented to take me there when I was just a little girl, that would have been all I cared about and nothing else. As it turned out, it was probably a wise decision to leave me at home (but don’t let my mother know this! :))
With all the technological advances and gadgetry that the country is renowned for, it is sometimes easy to forget that Japan is steeped in tradition and pride. Its culture introduced us to a time when samurais were honoured to be chosen to protect their emperor with their lives; the grounds of the palace littered with pebbles so that any would-be assassins could be heard on approach (unless you were a ninja who could just glide through the air without a sound). The precision involved in a Japanese tea ceremony is one you must experience. (more…)
I thought it appropriate that my first travelogue should be about the country of my birth – Hong Kong. Although a popular tourist destination, Hong Kong has never held the same allure for me as it does many of my friends and the millions of tourists who flock there each year. Some go there for the cultural experience without too much of a culture shock (as English is still one of the languages spoken there, in addition to Chinese Mandarin and Cantonese), whilst others consider it a shoppers’ mecca. Many foreigners still live and work there given its status as a major trading centre for South East Asia. So this particular travelogue will not be so much a guide for tourists looking for travel tips as a walk down memory lane from my perspective.
Since my family emigrated from HK nearly 30 years ago, I have hardly looked back at Hong Kong with much affection, if any. I know it sounds harsh and many people may be offended by this admission, but Australia has been my home for most of my life and I hope will remain so for its remainder. The Hong Kong that I grew up in was polluted, crowded, noisy, dirty, smelly (ironically, the definition of Hong Kong in Chinese is “Fragrant Harbour”), and had signs in public parks that read “KEEP OFF THE GRASS”. So it is little wonder that I fell in love with Australia from the moment I stepped foot on the grassy pavements and the wide-open spaces.
Having said that, a lot has changed for the better in the tiny country, now formally known as Hong Kong SAR (Special Administrative Region). Old buses have been replaced by new gas and electric-powered buses, reducing the pollution levels significantly; smoking indoors is prohibited; and with the outbreak of SARS in 2003 resulting in fatalities, hygiene has become a major focus in public areas. And so, in the last few years, my appreciation for this tiny island, or rather, group of islands, has grown. It is a country that is ever-changing, and I find that the more I travel around the world, the more I appreciate all the things that Hong Kong has to offer.