If you combined London, New York, ancient China and Bladerunner, you would get a city almost as incredible as Hong Kong.
Gleaming towers, full of shops that sparkle, red double-decker buses passing you on the main streets. Modernity like a decorative lace edge to a complex brocade of vast history. Glass towers next to decades old buildings, both surround spectacular temples.
The narrow streets and alleys, tucked between those shining towers, lure you into a different, yet just as wonderful world. Even when the alleys are packed with people streaming from one destination to another. Market streets overflow with bargains, treasures, junk, essentials and baubles.
Restaurants set up under umbrellas and tarps, on sidewalks, dimly lit by street lights and the glow of your cellphone. You’ve had to wait in the shelter of a nearby door way, or under your own umbrella, for a seat to become available. But the crowded tables tell you the food is worth the wait in the rain.
Chinese bakeries, almost hidden, are running out of stock as you stand outside. You realize if you don’t get in there RIGHT NOW, you won’t get any of the coconut mango mochi. Not getting freshly made coconut mango mochi, when you knew you had the chance, would make you cry yourself to sleep that night, and kick yourself for days. So you walk in, point to the glorious pillows of coconut mango mochi, and politely let the shop keeper know that you will take all that remain. All of them.
To appreciate my deep and abiding love for coconut mango mochi, imagine a food item you ADORE. You love it so much, that you kind of want the world to know about it. You want your friends and loved ones to taste the glory of that exquisitely delicious morsel. You love your friends and family – you really do! But, if you gave one of your precious morsels away, it would be one less experience of your precious….So, If you are ever with me when I buy coconut mango mochi, and I give you one, you will know that I really do consider you a true and worthy friend.
People ask “Where is your favorite place you visited?” It is always a hard question to answer, but Hong Kong may be my favorite. I got all of the above amazing experiences, plus made some beautiful friendships. There is just something about friendship that makes every experience that much more powerful and fulfilling. I really do feel as if I have a brother and sister in Hong Kong…but that is a subject for a different post.
Back in 2014, in May, I spent a couple of amazing weeks in Hong Kong. I recovered from “The Best Italian Pizza, from a Mexican Restaurant, in all of South East Asia” – (This will turn into a link as soon as I write the post!) Most of the time I felt like I was swimming through the streets, it rained so much. I walked for days through the rain. I learned that I had to have a different definition of self beauty in 100 percent humidity. I was humbled by my flipflops. I was raised up by beautiful friendship. My heart is full when I think about Hong Kong.
The last photo of my post is of my HK metro pass…it is so freakin cute, and I’m saving it for the next time I get to HK.
This photo was taken November 2013. I spent a bit more than a week in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica, learning how to surf. My goal was to stand up at least once…
I stayed at the Blue Surf surfing camp. The room was comfortable, the staff were wonderful, and I had a 7 day package, which included two surf lessons a day, and breakfasts at the local yoga retreat.
It would seem that surfing twice a day for seven days is a thing, especially since they created a package. By day five I was so freakin sore, and I felt like a wuss, but I told the staff that I had to take a break, and could I trade my lessons that day for a massage.
Apparently they were shocked that I had lasted that long and were possibly taking bets on when I’d have to take a break, because one of the staff replied, “Well, we were wondering how you were doing it every day. Even we don’t go every day…”
I’m happy to report that by the end of my lessons I managed to stand a couple times, so my expectations and goals for that trip were met.
The photo above is just one of the amazing vistas I saw each morning walking the beach to and from the yoga retreat for breakfast.
This is a photo I took in 2012, in Cancun. I hadn’t fully embraced the beach vacation concept. I still felt that I had to DO SOMETHING on a vacation, so I had decided to get my SCUBA – PADI Open Water Dive certification.
About two weeks before I left for my trip I did all the book learning and test taking online. I realized early on in the studying that I was not so much learning how to SCUBA, but really “how not to die”. I studied very, very hard. I passed my exams online, and was ready to do my practicals.
One of the things you learn when studying for your Dive certification is that you can’t go diving, then fly home within 12-18 hours…there are actually “dive calculations” that determine how long you have to wait before you can fly after diving. Here’s why:
When you dive under water, the water creates pressure on you and the air you breathe. Nitrogen is compressed out of the air you breathe, and dissolves into your blood stream. The deeper you go, the heaver the water, the more your body is compressed, and the more nitrogen is dissolved into your blood stream.
When you ascend up to sea level, there is less water pressure compressing you, and less nitrogen is dissolved into your blood stream, and your body “offgasses” the nitrogen.
When ascending from depth we are taught to pause at neutral buoyancy (float at a specific depth) every 15 ft or so – it is just good practice. These are called “decompression stops”, and allow your body to offgas, or acclimate to lighter pressure. My certification was for 60 ft deep and above, though I only went to about a 45 ft depth, and is considered within the “no-decompression” limits. For any dives deeper than 60 ft, decompression stops must be planned and taken – otherwise bad things will happen. Bad Things.
Not taking these pauses, thus allowing your body decompress, and offgas the nitrogen, will cause nitrogen to come out of solution in your blood stream, and form bubbles. This causes decompression sickness, also known as the bends.
The bends can still happen once you finish your dive, and are on dry land, if you ascend to height too quickly without spending enough time at sea level. Note I said “sea level” and not “ground” level. If you dive, then surface and climb a mountain, you can still experience decompression sickness.
Whew! Well that was just a long winded way to say that I made sure I got my practical dives and certification completed in the first three days I was in Cancun, so I didn’t have to worry about flying home. Then I spent the remaining days staring out at the ocean…when I wasn’t exploring downtown Cancun, and the Hotel Zone for the best burritos and cocktails.
I can’t tell you how long I stood on my 11th floor deck staring at this view. Probably till the sun went down – it was that mesmerizing. I’d never seen such defined bands of color in the ocean like this.
The image at the top of this post almost seems like abstract art, but it is an unaltered photo.
The underwater photos were taken by the dive photographer that came with us.
The Teatro Greco is a Greek Amphitheater built on a hill in Taormina, Sicily Italy, not far from Catania. The portion of the ruins you see in the photo were probably built by the Romans on top of a more ancient Greek structure of the amphitheater.
In the distance is Mt. Etna, which was at the time of my visit, an actively erupting volcano.
The town of Taormina is just a short walk away, and is chock full of historic architecture, shops, restaurants, and night clubs. Since the town is built on a cliff overlooking the Ionian Sea, the views are breathtaking.
I wasn’t in the area long – I had taken the bus from Catania to spend the day in Taormina. I was alone initially, but as I got off the bus in Taormina, I started talking with a Chinese family who were just starting a vacation, and a Korean woman traveling alone, who was just finishing up her world travels before returning to Korea.
There were language barriers, but it was nice for all of us to share our first experience of a new town. There is just something magical about sharing a new place with someone, even if it is a stranger. In that moment you have forged a connection with another soul, and you are no longer alone in your experience.
This is where I learned what you do on a beach vacation. Recline in the shade, and listen to the waves crash upon the shore, with a book, and no electronic devices. This was a shocking discovery to me.
From the moment I took this photo in 2010, to present day, this is the lockscreen photo on my phone. All the time. I love it so much.
Back in 2010, I was just finishing up my first year in consulting, and my firm took the entire consultant contingent to Cancun for our annual meeting. This was the best, most awesome, and incredible benefit from a job I have ever had.
Up to this point in my life, I’d always gone on adventure travel – museums, city walks, immersion in cultures – and this is still what I love. This, however, was the defining trip that broadened my travel consciousness to include relaxation, spa and beach experiences.
So, what do you do on a beach? Nothing, except allow the sound of the waves wash the mental static away. For me, the sound of waves, the caress of the sea breeze, and soaking in the solar vitamin D always make my brain feel fresh and clean.
This series of photos will have a few more seascapes…Enjoy!
Check out the TripAdvisor link below. The photo above was taken at El Dorado Royale – wonderful place!