After leaving Hong Kong, I went directly to the Netherlands to visit Rob. I had really missed him even if it had only been 3 weeks since we last met. Being in a distance relationship is hard, but I know we can do it 🙂
It was rather strange for me to go back to Europe again after 5 months in China. All of a sudden everybody looked like me again, and people didn’t stare. I felt as if I had more space again as well somehow.
I only had a few days in the Netherlands, but I had a great time. Utrecht, Rob’s hometown is really nice. The canals are really nice and I really like the buildings too. While I was there we went to the Heineken experience in Amsterdam as well and we drove to an ice-skating range, but it was closed because of really strong winds. Driving around was nice as well though, everything is really flat and you see a lot of windmills (surprise surprise).
We also did a road-trip to Belgium and a city called Antwerpen. I had never been to Belgium before, so it was pretty cool to be able to just drive there in a few hours. Antwerpen was pretty nice even if we just had some hours there. We saw the central station and the main street, but those were awesome 🙂 We also had chocolate and Belgian waffles – yummy ^^
I had a great time in the Netherlands ^^
Our last day in Hong Kong we went to see Ocean Park. Ocean Park is a mixture between a zoo and an amusement park so it was plenty to do and see. For my mother and me, the day started with a so-called dolphin encounter. We got to go into the water in wading suits and pat the dolphins, feed them and take pictures with them. It was a really cool experience and we got to learn a lot about the dolphins as well before meeting them.
Later on me and my brother took some of the bigger rides while my parents took my sister to the smaller ones. The newest roller-coaster was pretty great, it is on the edge of the mountain so that you almost feel as if you are falling down.
We all met up after a few hours to look at the pandas. Ocean Park has 4 pandas and although they were inside their shelters, they had placed cameras inside so we could still see them – really cute 🙂
Before we left we also got to see a pretty nice water-show. They used music, light, fire and water to tell the story about two dragons.
After the show it was time for me to get to catch my plane to the Netherlands, Hong Kong was pretty awesome, I definitely want to go back sometime.
Abour 1 hour by ferry from Hong Kong, Macao seemed like a great option for a day trip. We took the ferry early in the morning and were all really happy with how nice and smooth everything was – until we got to the immigration area of the Macao ferry terminal. The line seemed neverending and people were trying to cut in front of us a lot, some of the other tourists somehow managed not to understand the simple concept of filling out an entry-card (even if these cards are handed out on the ferry and everything) starting to fill them out when they got to the counter. The chaos made us all quite disapointed and at one point we were even discussing the posibility of simply taking the ferry back to Hong Kong. After about 1 and a half hours waiting we got through immigration. Im not sure if my entire family agrees, but I think the wait was worth it 🙂
Macao is a really special place – the standard of living is even better than in Norway, as there is no income tax – this is covered by the 35 casinos. There is also free health care, school, etc but it is extremly hard to move to Macao if you’re not born there. Macao was once a Portuguese colony for almost 500 years, but it was given back to China in 1999. The signs are still all in kantonese and Portuguese and there’s a strong portugese minority still living on the isles.
We ran into some guides outside of the immigration counters and decided that with a guide we would probably be able to see at least double of what we would manage on our own if we got a guide – so we did. After having breakfast we wen’t to Macao Tower, the 10th tallest tower in the world. The view from the tower is quite nice, you can see all of Macao and also parts of mainland China which is really close. The tower is a kinf of crazy place, as people get to go outside of the observatory and do a “skywalk” (with safety equipment of course) – not to mention the tallest bungeejump in the world is dwon from there as well. We saw a guy do the jump and it looked simply insane. The tower is a paradise for adrenaline junkies! 🙂
Our next stop was slightly more traditional – we wen’t to the temple of Macao. This budhism temple dates back to before the Portuguese colonized Macao and it features budha statues as well as tons of incence, you can smell the temple before you actually spot it. It was nice to see that some of the old culture still lives on in Macao as well.
After checking out the temple we drove up to a church overlooking the city centre – the view was really nice:
Next stop was the St Pauls church – or what is left of it anyways. Everything but the facade burned down, but they kept it as a landmark and it is now one of the most popular sights in Macao. The area around the facade features Portuguese style buildings, without the characters I would have thought I was in Southern Europe somewhere actually. Really interesting combo, hehe.
Our final stop before heading back to Hong Kong was the biggest casino in the world (according to our guide anyways) – The Venetian. They have actualy tried to recreate several parts of Venice, including landmarks, gondol rides, etc. We didn’t really enter the actual casino as my brother and sister aren’t old enough, but I had a quick look and it looked huge. The reception area and the outside of the casino looks pretty interesting as well though – especially since my family and I have been to Venice before, hehe. Like my mum said “tacky and cool at the same time”.
This ended up as a rather long blogpost, but it was a rather long day as well and we saw a lot. I think that if Im going to do Macao again I will try to stay at least one night – really cool place though and Im sure it’s a gamblers paradise 🙂
Our final day in Guilin, we started out by going to the Yao Mountain – the highest mountain in Guilin. To reach the top we took the 1.4 km long ropeway. The ropeway is quite convinient and you get an even better view than you would have if you went up on foot as the ropeway is higher than the trees most of the time. Not everybody was too happy with the ropeway though, my mother is terrified of heights so I think she really got to push her limits doing this. At the top of the ropeway there are golden budha statues and, of course a great view. When going down from the mountains we took the ropeway halw way down and then for the rest we took bobs, the bobs could go pretty fast and we all had a lot of fun taking them.
Our next stop was the Reed Flute Cave, a great place to look at limestone cave formations. The formations are enchanced by multicolored lights, making the cave even more beautiful. We walked around inside of the cave for quite some time as it is rather big, some of the formations looked like animals, some like trees and one they even said looked like Guilin:
As you can see on the picture, this cave is definitely worth a visit and so is Guilin. This was our last day traveling in mainland China so my next entry will be about Hong Kong 🙂
Our beautiful river cruise brought us to Yangshuo. Yangshuo is oficially a part of Guilin and it is located slightly further up in the mountains. It is a pretty small and peaceful place – but you can still find a nice place to eat or buy things. My brother and I had dinner outside looking at the beautiful rocky hills some more, hehe. In the evening we all went to a show created by the same man that made the Beijing Olympic ceremony. It was about the daily life of several of the minorities living in the Guangxi province, featuring singing and dancing among other things. As the river is a big part of the life in this province it was also used as a stage in the show – impressive! 🙂
Sadly my camera doesn’t do nightshots very well – but it really was an awesome show.
One of the greatest highlights of our family trip in China was definitely taking a river cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo on the Li River. The cruise took us about 8 hours, as the river is really narrow in the winter, making it harder for the boat to drive quickly. The Li River might just be one of the most beautifull places I’ve seen. It is surrounded by the characteristic Rocky Hills that you only find in the Guangxi province, making the view simply breathtaking. On the boat we met a really nice family from Philadelphia, America. They were all quite interesting, had traveled a lot and we talked to them a lot during the cruise – they even invited us to come visit them in America. From the boat we could see some local farmers with their animals and also some fishermen using birds to fish. The weather was nice and warm so we stayed on deck most of the time, enjoying the scenery. I think it was a great way to see the rocky hills in a relaxed setting together with other tourists in the area. Here are some more pictures:
(Me on the boat)
(How’s that for a view?)
(And a Panorama of the view – click it to see the larger version)
(Farmer taking his Bull down to the water to drink)
And yeah that’s just a few of the pictures I would like to post – but Im guessing this is more than enough already to browse – loved the Li River Cruise!