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What to Do in Lantau Island When You Only Have One Day

A ferry or a metro ride away from Hong Kong is Lantau Island. Here, Hongkong’s concrete jungle is replaced by a real one and the city’s thrumming noise fades into serenity. There are many things to see and do in Lantau Island, but for first-timers like me who are on going there for a day trip, Here’s what I would recommend:

1. Take a cable car to Ngong Ping Village.
To get to Lantau Island, you can either go by ferry (from Victoria Harbor to Mui Wo) or by metro. However, I suggest you start your journey to Lantau by taking the MTR to Tung Chung station – It’s the same line going to Disneyland, but one stop farther – then taking the cable car to Ngong Ping Village. A one way standard cabin trip costs $115 HKD, but if you want to indulge, you can take the crystal cabin (glass floor) for $180 HKD.

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The great thing about the cable car is that not only is the trip faster than taking a bus (25 minutes versus 2 hours), but you also get stunning views of the island even if you don’t take the crystal cabin. Trust me, when you only have one day to explore, you’d rather spend your time seeing the sights rather than sitting on a bus.

Once you reach Ngong Ping village, you’ll quickly realize that it’s a tourist trap. It’s really a real village per se, but a cluster of souvenir shops and restaurants. Don’t despair, however, as a more worthwhile attraction is nearby (see number 2).

2. Go up to see the Tian Tan Buddha.

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One of the well-known attractions in the island is the Tian Tan Buddha located at the peak of Ngong Ping village. Although it’s not the biggest Buddha statue in the world, this bronze and metal statue is still a sight to behold especially since you have to walk quite a long way to get to it. After the exercise, you can see the Buddha up close, go in to the mini museum inside, and just take in the sights.

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By the way, from the photo above, you can see the Po Lin monastery in the distance. That is also one of the places you can go before going up to see the Buddha.

3. Ride a bus to Tai O Fishing Village or Cheung Sha beach.
At this point in time, you might have to make a choice of whether to go to the Tai O Fishing village (a traditional village where fisher folk still live in houses on stilts) or go Cheung sha beach for a swim (if the weather permits). Why? Please peruse the map below (from NgongPing 360’s website):

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Tai O Fishing Village and Cheung sha beach are in opposite directions. If you’re pressed for time, then it’s best to choose just one of the two so you can better enjoy and savor each spot. Of course, you can totally go to both places if you so desire.

Getting there: There are buses from Ngong Ping village going to either location. You might need to ask help from a local to determine which bus hoes where.

Tip: Ask someone to help you know when to get off the bus as the stops are written in Chinese.

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4. Swim, catch the sunset, pick up some shells… In short  enjoy yourself at Cheung sha beach!
Because we very much wanted to go to the beach (clean beaches are non-existent in Guangzhou), we decided to forego Tai O Village in favor of Cheung Sha beach. It’s a long strip of beach, nestled within a cove of jagged rocks and lush greenery. At the time we went there (some time in February when it’s too cold to swim) , the place was deserted except for a lone woman
walking her dog.

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It was so cold, I had to wear an extra shirt brought by my boyfriend who warned me earlier about the cold, but whom I chose to ignore. We ended up just walking along the beach, taking photos, and sitting on some rocks by the shore to talk while eating some roasted seaweed.

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We even found a small pagoda on top of a hill by the shoreline. There, you can get a great view of the beach.

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In the summer, Cheung sha beach might be great spot for surfing as I saw some surfboards for rent as well as for a picnic with friends since there are toilets and changing rooms in the area too.

5. Take the ferry at Mui Wo pier back to Victoria Harbor.
When you’re done with the beach, there’s a bus stop right across the street from Lower Cheung sha beach where you can get a bus to Mui Wo pier (usually the last stop). It’s better to leave early as I noticed that the buses stop operating early too.

At the pier, you’ll find that ferry ticket prices es are relatively cheaper (around $20+ HKD if I remember correctly). I think the trip back took around 30 minutes, but I’m not completely sure as I fell asleep somewhere along the way because the movement of the ferry made me a bit queasy. Taking the ferry, though, is a good opportunity to get an unobstructed view of Hongkong’s city line.

If you’re planning a quick day trip to Lantau, I hope that this post helped you. Hong Kong is a great place, where the hustle and bustle of city life lies just a ferry ride away from the serenity of nature.

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What I’m wearing: Jacket and headband from Forever 21, jeans and shoes from H&M.

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5 Things I Learned From Living Alone in a Foreign Country

I still remember the day of my flight to China. It was my first time to travel abroad alone, let alone to a place where I knew no one and didn’t speak the language. Surprisingly though, my worry at that time was not about how I was going to cope with living alone in a foreign country, but whether or not I will get through immigration without any hitch. I was not afraid of going; I was afraid of not being able to go. And that’s what my first realization is about.

1. All it takes is courage to go where you have never gone.
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Everyday in China is a lesson in courage – from overcoming the language barrier to exploring places I’ve never been.  It took massive amounts of courage to leave the comfort and safety of home, and now that I’m here, it is courage that gets me through unfamiliar situations. Believe me, I am not a brave person. I have many fears that cripple and prevent me from being the best I can. Yet here, I am challenged to be bolder to get what I want, because no one else will do it for me.

2. Good relationships are essential to a happy life.
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My life in China would have been miserable without the supportive community of fellow expats who are my family here. Being away from my family and friends in the Philippines is very difficult. Yet, it is important to leave the nest so one can discover one’s place in life. The key is in learning how to maintain old relationships and develop new ones. Being away from home gives me a better appreciation of my family and friends and also challenges me to be more open and accepting of new people and relationships. As long as you have people around you who truly value you, then you will be fine.

3. Although it’s not the be-all and end-all of existence, money (or should I say good money management) should be a priority.

Saving for me is a constant struggle due to my shopaholic tendencies. When you decide to live alone, however, you also have to be financially independent. Thus, learning to properly manage your finances is a must for survival. You don’t need to deprive yourself of all luxuries and save all your money, but at least you should have a cushion to allow you some mobility when you need it. I can imagine how being stuck in a foreign country with no money can be an absolute nightmare!

4. To survive, you need to adjust, adapt, and be flexible. image

You wouldn’t believe how many cultural and social differences you need to overcome once you step out of your own country. Guangzhou is only 2 and a half hours away from the Philippines, but the cultural gap can definitely be felt. For many expats (myself included), there is a tendency to complain too much about these differences. In fact, during my first few months here, all I did was compare how things are in China versus the Philippines. This is natural, but there should come a time when you realize that these differences are there to stay. You either move on, or deal with it. Complaining and lingering on these different not only gives you a negative experience instead of an exciting one (come on, you’re in a new country that’s full of new possibilities), but these may also hinder you from forging new, meaningful relationships.

5. The world is smaller than you think, and it’s waiting for you to conquer it.
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Before I left the Philippines, the idea of traveling the world and living in different countries seemed far-fetched. When I left, I realized that it was all a matter of perspective. When you’re in a bubble of familiarity, you are lulled into thinking that the world is limited to the borders that are within your view. Once you step out of your bubble, however, you begin to see that the rest of the world is just a step away! The possibilities open before you and you realize that all are ripe for your picking. Today, China. Tomorrow, the rest of the world!

I hope this inspired you to pack your own bags and seek an adventure in a foreign country. Good luck!

What I’m wearing: white button down from Zara, jeans and ballet flats from H&M, coat from Banggood.com

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Best Places to Shop in Guangzhou

Shopping is something I cannot live without,  hence why this blog is aptly called Mich eats and shops. Although I’m now trying to limit the amount I spend on my shopping binges (thanks mostly to ghastly consequences portrayed in Confessions of a Shopaholic), I have still managed to gain quite a sizeable knowledge of where to go when you need a shopping fix in Guangzhou.

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1. Shipaiqiao Metro Station (石牌桥站) Let’s start with the place where you can find most of the international brands that are familiar to foreigners. Looking for Zara, Mango, Sephora, H&M, and L’Occitane? Want to indulge in Chanel or Louis Vuitton? Then go to Shipaiqiao (line 3). Take exit A to go to OneLink Walk, where you can Zara and Mango or take the exit that leads you straight to Taikoo Hui, where you can find Sephora and luxury brands like Chanel. You can also go from exit A and walk along the street, past Zara then Mango, towards Grandview Mall (beside Marriot Hotel). There, you can find H&M, Ochirly, and the Nike Brand Experience store.

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2. Changshou Lu Station (长寿路站)
If you’re looking for a cultural as well as a great shopping experience, then Changshou Lu (Line 1) is the place to go. I usually start my journey at exit E (Hengbao Plaza) so I can get the full experience, but you can go straight to Shangxiajiu Pedestrian Street (the heart of the area) by taking exit D1. Located in the old part of Guangzhou, you will not only get a feel of local shopping (brace yourself for the mix of sights, sounds, and smells that will assault your senses), but you will also get to see beautiful Xiguan old houses. These are old mansions built by wealthy merchants during the Qing Dynasty, when Guangzhou was a major trade hub between China and the West. Here, you can find cheap clothes (think 20 to 30 rmb for a skirt or top), eat and shop for local food, and just walk around to see the sights. When you’re done with shopping, you can go to Chen Clan Academy (another must-see attraction in Guangzhou) since it’s only one station away.

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3. Guangzhou Railway Station (广州火车站)
Guangzhou is home to a lot of wholesalers and you can find several of them in Guangzhou Railway Station (interchange between Line 5 and Line 2). Take exit F and turn right going uphill when you reach McDonald’s. If you’re interested in starting your own buy and sell business, this is a good place to start looking as there are several shops here offering fashion items at wholesale prizes. This is also the place where you can find replicas of most branded items from bags and eyewear to shoes and clothes.

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4. Haizhu Square (海珠广场站)
Another destination that’s popular among wholesalers is Haizhu Square (interchange between line 2 and 6), particularly Yide Street. In fact, this article from Life of Guangzhou, shows the many places where you can find floor upon floor of shoes, accessories, souvenirs, and home decor in Haizhu Square. Although most shops here sell in massive quantities, several shops also sell individual items (at higher costs of course).

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5. Huangcun Station (黄村站)
This is the terminus station for line 4 and was once called the Olympic Sports Center station because it’s situated right beside Guangzhou’s Olympic Stadium (village) where the 2010 Asian Games was held. This is also where you can find loads of options for sporting goods and equipment. Just take exit b, stand facing the stadium, turn right then walk straight (past basketball courts and football fields) until you reach the GTLand mall complex. You can’t miss it as there’s a massive Decathlon sign as well as an amusement park in it. Aside from a 2-storey Decathlon that’s thrice the size of the one in Liede, you can also find outlet stores for Nike, Adidas, Li-Ning and many more in the yellow mall beside Decathlon.

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6. Online Shopping
Last but not the least, you can shop from the convenience of your home by going online. I’m a huge fan of Taobao, JD.com, tmall.com and Amazon. You can find everything you need online and they get delivered straight to your doorstep. Sometimes, they even do same-day delivery, which is just amazing for me! Just recently, I got the skirt the I’m wearing in my photos here from walktrendy.com. They have some very nice items on their site, but I chose this skirt as it reminded me of one I really liked from Miss Selfridge. Once my order was processed and shipped, I got my skirt the next day! That’s really fast!

Some advice, though: check the reviews for items before buying to get an idea about its quality. Although the reviews are in Chinese, you can use Google Translate to get the gist of the comments. Sometimes, the actual items do not match the photos so reading the reviews can really help.

Hope this list helped fellow shopaholics in Guangzhou. Enjoy your shopping and if you have other places to recommend, then do let me know about them in the comments section. :)

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Through Parks and Rivers: A Quick Love Story

Let me tell you a story.

It all started with a short walk that turned into a long one, until the kilometers just kept on adding up. By the Pear River he and I walked –

Through the blistering heat of noon,
By the vibrant canvas of sunset,
Shivering a bit from the cold of winter nights,
Basking in the silence of balmy summer dawns.

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Somewhere along those kilometers, I chanced upon the glorious sight of his grey eyes, flecked with yellow looking so ardent as he explained the elements of what makes a sunset beautiful (“It’s not the sun per se, but the perfect merging of wispy clouds and fiery lavender skies”) and I knew…

I was forever lost in his depths, like a coin tossed into the murky waters of the Zhu Jiang.

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Little did I know, somewhere along the countless backstreets, parks, markets, temples, and places we’ve been, he also took a look at me and saw someone he’d like to watch sunsets with and perhaps even kiss while light faded into dark.

And so, as we both slowly savored this realization, we continued our walk through parks and rivers, through love and life.

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The end.
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What I’m wearing:

– Layered two tops: basic long-sleeved top for Promod and meshed cropped top from H&M
– Skirt from a local store
– Jacket from Promod
– Shoes and bag from Zara

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Time Stops at Twilight

Has it really been two months since my last post? Time seems to become immaterial when you live in a bubble.

Until recently,  the VPN that I have been using to gain access to the Western world (and my blog) has stopped working. After almost two years in China,  being disconnected no longer bothers me that much. These two months, my world comprised of work, cooking, watching all the highly rated movies I could get my hands on, the occasional parties with friends, and my boyfriend.

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Before I knew it, my days just melted into one another until I could no longer pinpoint when one ended and another begun. Sometimes, life here feels like being adrift at sea, with the shore nowhere in sight.  Such is the result of monotony and the partial isolation of life in China.

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Don’t get me wrong, though. Life in China is quite good. Firstly, I no longer have to suffer through the long and stressful commutes to and from work. Whenever I read the news about traffic in Manila, I can’t help but feel relieved that I’m not there, because I can still remember quite clearly the agony of being stuck in the midst of a crawling traffic jam. Secondly, despite news to the contrary, I feel quite safe here. There are only a few places in the world where people (even lone females) can walk outside late at night without getting robbed, killed, etc. I believe Guangzhou is one of those places.

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Most importantly, here, I have the freedom to explore my own paths and make my own decisions (and mistakes).That, for me, is China’s greatest gift. And, despite the loneliness and isolation that I sometimes feel being faraway from home, this is an experience worth having.

What I’m wearing: Dress from Zara, cropped faux leather jacket from Forever 21

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If I Can Only Have One Thing

(This letter is for you, from the little hippo. Merry Christmas!)

If I can only have one thing, it would be someone who wakes me up with kisses and warm cuddles. Someone who doesn’t care about morning breath or how messy my hair got during the night. He’d kiss me and pull me closer, even when he’s barely awake.

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He would tell me I’m beautiful too, even on those days when I feel my absolute worst, when I can’t even be bothered to get out of bed or put on some makeup. He’d remind me about how cute he thinks my little nose is as he threatens to bite what he calls as my happy cheeks.

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When I make mistakes, he will be honest (and sometimes even ruthless) enough to bring it up and tell me that I did wrong. He will not be afraid to criticize me even when I refuse to listen, because he wants me to learn and grow.

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Most of all, I’d choose someone who cares about making me happy. He’d make me dinner even though cooking is not his thing. He’d take me to the hospital when I’m sick even though hospitals make him anxious. He doesn’t care about making himself look silly either just as long as it would make me laugh.

If I can only have one thing, I’d choose what I have at present, because right now, despite the rough and painful moments, I am at my happiest.

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Red Is for Love and Marriage

When it comes to love, the Chinese are very pragmatic. Talking to some of my colleagues, it seems that the checklist to love (at least for women), included the following as the main priorities:

  • Is he wealthy?
  • What is his job and where does he work?
  • Does he come from a good family?

Even in the Philippines, the Filipino – Chinese are known for marrying within their community and only if both parties are at the same level of life (e.g. both rich or both with family businesses, etc.) God forbid those who dare to breach what we jokingly call as the “Great Wall of China”, for heartbreak will surely await them.

In fact, to the outsider, marriage in China appears to be more often than not like a merger between two companies (families benefiting from each other) rather than the union of two people in love.

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If not for a mutually beneficial relationship, then marriage may come as the result of family pressure. A friend told me that every time he goes back to his hometown, all he hears about from his relatives are questions about his unmarried state. Apparently, this is a common experience for many Chinese singles. That’s why in Chinese e-commerce sites like Taobao, hire-a-girlfriend services are popular especially during the holidays when people who work in China’s business districts are obliged to go back to their hometowns.

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For women, the fear of being cast as a leftover is also a consideration for marriage. Chinese society, propelled by portrayals in media, consider unmarried women above 27, who have invested more time in developing their career rather than building a family, to be living a miserable and pitiful existence. Therefore, women are heavily pressured to avoid this situation by getting married as quickly as possible.

Yet come to think of it, all the points above are not exclusive to Chinese society. It prevails everywhere, except that the Chinese, at least, are more honest and open about it. Looking at it from a more cynical perspective, I see that more and more people everywhere marry for the convenience and security that such a union can provide.

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That’s not to say, though, that it’s impossible to find love in China. After all, I found mine here.

What do you think about marriage? Do you have the same experience as the observations I made above?

About This Look:

  • Red coat from a local store in Gongyuanqian Metro
  • Black jumper and gloves from H&M
  • Jeans from Penshoppe
  • Boots and bag from Zara