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Location 55, 56, 57, 58: Hong Kong, Macao - China & Andaman Sea, Phuket - Thailand

HONG KONG | Thursday, 15 September 2016 | Views [317]

Hong Kong, Macao- China & Andaman Sea charter, & Phuket - Thailand

The last two weeks of this incredible journey were a bit different than any of the traveling prior to this.  I flew from Bangkok to Hong Kong for a quick four day trip to one of the coolest big cities I have ever been to.  Hong Kong is structurally comparable to some of the best skylines in the world, but in addition to the beautiful city it sits right on the water with massive container ships and helicopters hovering out in the harbors.  Upon arriving into Hong Kong I took the airport bus into Kowloon and checked into my hostel.  The hostel itself was in a massive high rise and each room was setup with smaller rooms.  I was in a tiny room with three others, but I spent very little time in the room itself, so it served its purpose.  I dropped off my things and then grabbed dim sum, which ended up being one of my favorite meals during the entire stay (returned to this restaurant one more time before leaving).  I finished eating and then headed out to explore the city, which ended up taking me across the entire island of Hong Kong.  Around 5pm I decided to get in line to take the tram up to Victoria Peak, which is the highest viewpoint in the entire city.  Fortunately and unfortunately I had to wait for close to an hour in the line before I actually was able to board the cable car, but this worked out in my favor.  I made it to the top just after 6pm, which ended up being perfect because I got to see the skyline during the daylight hours and then I waited for approximately 45 minutes till the city turned dark and was able to see the entire city illuminated by the lights of HK.  I took several photos and then hustled back to the tram line to beat the rush down.  Once I took the subway back to my burrow (subway in HK is top of the line, extremely functional, very clean and exceptionally reliable) I grabbed dinner at a nearby Korean restaurant.  At this point I was tired from wandering around in the humid weather, so I decided to return to my air conditioned room and figure out my plans for the next day.

In the morning I woke up around 6:30am and went to the HK pier to purchase ferry tickets to Macao.  The ferry terminal in Hong Kong has a boat departing every hour to the island of Macao.  Macao is very much like Hong Kong in that it has its own currency, and has its own immigration system when you arrive onto the island.  Macao and Hong Kong are technically still part of mainland China, but they operate as independent territories, so you don't actually receive passport stamps, but instead you get an entry card.  Once I passed through immigration I took a free shuttle bus to the Venetian hotel on Taipa , which is one of two islands that comprises Macao.  Once I arrived at the Venetian I realized I had basically made it the Vegas strip.  The hotels and casinos are amazing and look like they were all built yesterday.  I took a walk through the different lobbies and then just up and down the rows of hotels, but truthfully I am not in a financial position to go gambling, so I opted to take the bus across the bridge to Macao City.  Macao City is infested with tourists spending money in all the different shops.  I saw hundreds of bakeries specializing in Chinese candy, many clothing stores like Nike and Addidas and even more cafes.  The city itself can easily by covered in one day, so I made the most of it by walking around for close to 6 hours.  I grabbed lunch at a place serving authentic Macanese food (Chinese food with Portuguese influence) and then found my way to the perimeter to see the skyline of Taipa.  I grabbed another free shuttle from one of the massive casinos and headed back to the ferry terminal.  Once back in Hong Kong I grabbed dinner at another highly recommended dim sum restaurant and headed in for the night.

On my final full day in the city I got up early and met a friend (I met him in Krabi back in April, he was in HK on business) at a subway station to take the train to Lantau Island.  Lantau Island is near the airport and has an extensive cable car track that goes from the ground and travels 500 meters up to the top where you can see The Giant Buddha (made completely out of bronze).  The structure itself was pretty incredible and it definitely was a fun sight to see.  I had seen this particular Buddha on many different travel shows and guidebooks, so it was cool to experience firsthand.  Once we had sufficiently wandered the island we took the cable to car back down to grab lunch near the subway.  It was great to catch up with a buddy and also do something productive before the lines of tourists grew exponentially.  We managed to make it to the top and back down before having to wait in any line, once we made it back to base we saw the line wrapping back and forth from the entrance.  We said goodbye and then I headed back to the hostel to hang for a few hours before grabbing a final meal.  

I woke up the next morning and caught the bus back to the airport.  I arrived in Bangkok around 1pm and then checked-in to a far nicer hotel than my budget would allow.  My friend Katelyn works for Google and won a trip, through work, to visit any of the global offices for two days and then use a work stipend ($$$$) to spend on a vacation.  I was lucky enough that she opted to visit the Bangkok office and then use the money she won to take a 10 day trip through southern Thailand.   We spent the first three days in Bangkok while she worked and waited for our friend Maggie to arrive.  Once all of us were in Bangkok we took an early flight to Phuket for, one night, before boarding a charter boat for two nights.  Once we made it to Phuket I unfortunately needed to head to a local hospital to get a bad allergic reaction looked at.  I ultimately had a drug allergy rash all over my back and stomach from taking a too high dosage of an antihistamine, for another allergic reaction (ironic, I know.).  Luckily the resort we stayed at generously took me to a local hospital where I was given two injections into my bottom and prescribed another medication.  I finally had an answer to this rash that had been inflamed for close to four days.  In the morning we grabbed our bags and took a short ride to the marina to board our boat.  I joked and told K & M that getting proper medical attention was my gift to them because 3 days on a boat with me, while I bitch about my rash would have been real torture.

The first day we were taken to a small island that had a relatively steep hike up to a really great viewpoint, and from there we were given time to swim and just hangout on the boat.  The boat had three cabins with queen beds, a bathroom and a great lounging area on the front of the boat.  The vessel was a catamaran, so it had sails and a motor to get us from point a to point b.  We were fortunate enough to get great weather the days we were on the boat, which was nice since there isn't a whole lot to do in the middle of the sea, if the weather is bad.  The evening on the first day we were taken ashore to a national park where we struggled a bit to snorkel during low tide, but in the morning we managed to snorkel the same area during high tide, so it worked out.  Since we spent most of the days in the sun and water, it is pretty common to head to bed early, so each night we turned in shortly after dinner, but we were up at sunrise, which ended up being lovely.  The captain and his Thai counterpart were great and really made the trip fantastic.  They prepared all our meals and also managed to fill the time with new places and activities.

On day two, after our snorkel, we headed to Koh Yao Yoi, a Muslim island in the Andaman Sea.   We grabbed a quick bite of food at a restaurant near the port and from there we made our way to a resort island where we spent most of the afternoon.  It was a very remote spot, so we had the whole beach to ourselves, a nice break from boat.  The Thai captain took us on a cruise around the neighboring islands where we were able to see toucans and eagles flying overhead, plus a view of the lagoons that are surrounded by the huge limestone cliffs.  In the evenings we played cards and hung out till the yawning became constant.  On our final morning we had a bit of rain after breakfast, but once it subsided we sailed back to the marina where we had started the journey.  We managed to get a lesson on how to sail the boat and then from there we grabbed a taxi to the other side of Phuket for our final 4 nights in Thailand.

We stayed at the JW Marriott, which is one of the most beautiful resorts I have had the opportunity to stay at it.  It is not only massive, but it is extremely well-maintained and for the size of it, it really feels quite intimate when you are lounging around.  Since most of the time we were there was spent just hanging out and reading there isn't a whole lot to describe.  One of the days we were there it was rainy, so we grabbed a taxi into Phuket Town, which ended up being a bit of a bust.  It was nice to get out of the resort for a bit, but unlike Phuket City there just is not all that much going on.  In the defense of the city- it was still raining hard, so maybe it just wasn't given the opportunity to show its more lively side.  We managed to find a few places that we really liked at the JW, which we ended up going to each day.  A beachside bar had a great happy hour where we played cards most evenings, from there we would grab dinner at one of the many restaurants and then we always ended up in the lobby bar, where a Filipino band performed songs at request.  We got lucky and met some cool people our last night, so we had some new faces to talk to.  Despite the weather not being perfect, while at the resort, we managed to stay entertained and as usual it was great to catch up with old friends in new places.

Thank you for taking the time to follow along on this adventure of mine.  It has truly been one of the best times of my life and I have more memories than I can count.  I was given such a gift to be able to go and see this part of the world and I hope that I will be able to return to these places again some day.  If any of you find yourself deciding on whether or not to visit Southeast Asia, or even if you are interested in learning more about one particular spot feel free to reach out, I'll need someone to share all I've learned with.  

Till next time… 

Neill

See photos here.

Tags: beaches, sailing, skyline, sunrise

 

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