Ucluelet – Tofino – Victoria trip (Apr. 2 – 5, 2015)

C6bUHGUd8s-5OWW11uEUunFKK0dZLptAdVDV2OSW1QE

Catching some ZZZ on the ferry

After a few weeks of 10+ hour days, I felt that a longer weekend was overdue, so I have asked for the entire Easter Weekend off, including both Good Friday and Easter Monday. The boys have booked the ferry rides both ways (the ~$18 fee was well worth it for the sole purpose of avoiding the stress of rushing to secure a spot), leaving at 5.15 am on Friday morning, and coming back at 8.15 pm on Sunday.

Getting on an early ferry was no easy task; but we managed to not miss it, because what better incentive can you have than the punishment of losing the money paid and the humiliation of having staying in the city for the entire weekend.

Note, if you are going to Tofino from Vancouver, I recommend to go through Nanaimo to spare the extra ~1.5 hour drive from Victoria to Nanaimo, because there is only one driving route to Tofino, and it goes through the Nanaimo.

We have docked at the Nanaimo terminal at ~7 AM. On the way to Tofino we have decided to stop at the MacMillan Provincial Park to see some giant sequoias, which I have shown you during our family’s Summer RV trip around BC/AB.

PANO_20150403_083704

On the way we were caught a little off-guard by the snow on the overpass somewhere midway between Port Alberni and Ucluelet (I was trying to catch some sleep so I wasn’t paying much attention to the road). At that point I was really glad I decided to ride as a passenger, and not on my motorcycle.

NdyY53BZ72dIf3ZwYDKCZpj6f32WN4VUssQF1c-iSsU

IMG_20150404_115126At around 10.30 we got to Ucluelet to rent the surfing equipment (which was cheaper than the last time in our 2014 Oregon surfing trip); and by noon we were in our full gear and at the beach. There are several beaches along the strip from Ucluelet to Tofino; and, according to the guy who works at the rental place, the waves are diferent at each beach. He suggested we go to the top beach, as the waves would not be as big, since we were new, and the conditions were stormy.

HsSA8tDUsoD9MaDSopSYSgNCXi9BL5Zwg8Uu-czwE4U lI6kelFKMXpyo9HmiAoj-YbNYgn6kB_ehQWS4kniUEM

After a few hours of surfing, we, exhausted, went to the nearby Westcoast motel’s sauna and swimming pool (~$7 one-time admission); which was really nice after the somewhat intense workout.

1NazbALLHMlVfMmBsLjQAYwWFqsyCcIS6del930pNEwIt was raining, and it was raining pretty hard; so we decided not to risk it, and rent a hotel room (~$135 for 4 people) to stay dry at night. Before we went to bed, we decided to go for a walk and get lost, and after a 2 hour wander under the rain, there was nothing better than to take a shower and pass out.

The battery on my camera was dead, and since neither I not anyone else brought a charger (it needed the standard micro-USB plug), we went to Tofino to get one. The cables in the store were $9.99+, but there was a power bank for just a few bucks more, so I got that one instead. I highly recommend owning one for the convenience; those who don;t know what a power bank is, it is a portable device that you use to charge your gadgets, just as if they were plugged into the wall. Power banks come in different sizes and capacities; and I found that for my purpose, a 2600 mAh bank was big enough.

Once the camera had some juice in it, we went to the beach for the day 2 of surfing. The waves were just as good as the day before! There also was significantly less rain; which didn’t matter since we were wearing wetsuits anyway.

We got out of the water by about 4.30, returned our gear by 5.30; made a decision to check out Victoria, and left Ucluelet at about 6 PM. Since we were not sure about the weather, we decided not to risk it, and rent a hotel room for another night. Super 8 Motel in Duncan is where we stayed that night. Us grilling wieners on the parking lot prompted a lot of unnecessary attention from the locals, and, after being called wannabe indians and finishing our meat supply, operation “Late Dinner” has come to an end, and it was time to go to bed.

After the breakfast, we were on the way to Victoria at around 11.30 AM. We have parked near Beacon Hill Park, and made a loop starting from Douglas @ Dallas towards the breakwater, through the Fisherman’s Wharf, to the Parliament Building, and back to the car.

We returned to Vancouver a little after 10 PM, and I was home by 11.30.

5ctTel_VTqRpDhg804xx1dhAYPv-BFRbRrAXhFDrOqo


Total trip budget:

$195 for ferry, gas, food and hotel;
~$40 for the surfboard + wetsuit rental;
~40 beer and snacks;


Filmed with SJ4000. You can buy it here for USD$66.55 with free shipping – it is a 1080P camera with a waterproof case, that comes with a free monopod and a replacement battery.

SimpleHongKong – a visitors guide to the “Fragrant Harbour”

In February of 2015 I had a pleasure of being in Hong Kong for 2 weeks (well, 13 days to be exact), 10 of which I was rolling solo, and the remaining days were spent showing my family around; so I have spent the first part as a tourist, and the second part as a tour guide.

For the more detailed set of events, see My Hong Kong Vacation – February 2015; but I will be referencing the places I have visited, and my recommendations throughout this article anyway.


Simple Hong Kong.


Solo Traveller Tips for visiting Hong Kong.


What to do in Hong Kong.


Let’s start with the short list of things to know about HK:

1. Streets and public transit in Hong Kong are very clean. Eating on public transit is prohibited, and frowned upon. Seriously, DO NOT EAT OR DRINK ON PUBLIC TRANSIT.

2. There are a ton of public recreational areas, be that the soccer/basketball fields, elliptical machines, or vertical chin up bars. If you like jogging, you will not be disappointed.

3. Despite the location, there are no seagulls. Given their diet, they should thrive there; yet I have not seen a single seagull. In Vancouver, which is pretty similar in a number of ways, they are everywhere.

4. As bizarre as it is, Hong Kong has more smartphones than people. Everyone owns a smartphone, and free public Wi-Fi is very easy to find (if you need Wi-Fi, go to any mall, or to a Starbucks; the former usually has free 30 minutes per visitor every 24 hours).

5. Smoking is prohibited in most public areas, and most people seem to follow that rule. My guess the reason is the hefty fine involved in disobeying.

6. Contrary to the common stereotype, HK residents are pretty good drivers. I have not seen a single accident during the entire visit. People are just less overly cautious than in North America.

7. Consuming alcohol in public is allowed, but only a few people do it, which is odd given the wide availability and the cheap price… I’m not sure if it is a cultural thing, or if it is considered tactless, but I did not feel like I was getting any weird looks, and I’ve had a can of Guinness in my hands and 2 in my bag almost the entire time.

7/11 has deals on beer too, which are really good.

8. People are generally more reserved; and, unlike North Americans, are mindful of your personal space. I’ve had strangers strike up conversations with me only on two occasions: once by an Irish dude, and once by a local gentleman who used to live in Seattle.

Another thing, stretching or singing in public is not viewed as odd behavior. Or maybe it is, but people just choose to ignore it and mind their snarky and smarmy comments to themselves.

9. Overall, Hong Kong feels very safe. The policemen are friendly and not intimidating. They have helped me each time I was lost and asked for the assistance. There was no “us vs. them” attitude, just people helping people.

10. Giving and accepting money (and credit cards) with both hands is a sign of good tone.


What to see in Hong Kong.

Must:

1. Kowloon skyline + Laser Show (8.00-8.17 PM daily);

It looks better in real life, I promise

2. Avenue of starts + Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade - this can be done on the same day as #1.

3. Chi Lin Nunnery + Nan Lian Garden (can also be done on the same day as #1 and #2, just keep in mind that the Nunnery closes at 4 pm)

Nan Lian Garden 7 Chi Lin Nunnery 1

4. Shek-O beach.

5. Stanley (can be visited on the same day as Shek-O)

6. Ngong-Ping (Tian Tan Buddha and Po Lin Monastery)

 

7. The Peak (Victoria Peak). 

Unfortunately, the pictures that I took at the Peak are awful, so I did not make a post about it, nor will I be uploading them; but let the view be a surprise for you; just take my word for it – on a clear day it is just as impressive, if not more impressive than the view from the Grouse or Cypress Mountain.

When you go to the Peak, make sure to dress warm, as the temperature there is much lower than down in the city (it was initially built for the rich folks to escape the heat), and the winds are staggering cold.

If you are in HK for one day only, you must visit the Peak.

Read the detailed trip report of my Hong Kong trip: My Hong Kong vacation, Feb. 2015.

Chi Lin nunnery panorama

Day 9: Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Garden (5/5, must visit!)

The weather was looking promising, so without much hesitation I took off as soon as I had breakfast, hastily trying to catch a Wi-Fi signal so I could see how to get to my next point of interest, Nan Lian Garden and Chi Lin Nunnery. The nunnery closing time is 4 pm, and the garden is open until 7, so I had to assign them their own day. Besides, it was my last day alone, as my family was arriving the day after; and I have already seen everything that I had planned.

The garden is located pretty much across from the entrance to the Diamond Hill MTR station. At the entrance to the garden is a gallery with very detailed wooden copies of Buddhist temples around the globe (you can’t take pictures of them for some reason). The garden is lovely! You have to visit it, if you are in Hong Kong; and don’t let the somewhat remote location discourage you. The atmosphere is relaxed, and the park is quiet and beautiful.

Nan Lian Garden 7 Nan Lian Garden 5 Nan Lian Garden 1 Nan Lian Garden 3 Nan Lian Garden 4 Nan Lian Garden 2 Nan Lian Garden 6

The nunnery can be accessed from the street entrance, or via a footbridge that connects it to the garden over the road.

You will notice that things in the garden are placed in a very balanced and symmetrical fashion. There is a fountain, many bonsai trees of various sizes, and several small and bigger temple rooms (don’t take pictures, or you risk getting yelled at by the security guard).

Chi Lin nunnery panorama Chi Lin Nunnery 1 Chi Lin Nunnery 2

PANO_20150215_181316

Day 8: [rain] Hong Kong Science Museum, Hong Kong Museum of History.

The first rainy day caught me a little off-guard. I mean, I did expect it since I checked the forecast, but I was not emotionally ready for it. So after the full week of straight sun, I got a reality check, and spent the first half of the day in my bed because I didn’t feel like going anywhere.

However, it was still my vacation, and I the realization that I should be more productive helped me to leave my room closer to 2 pm.

Both museums are located on the Kowloon side, and they are just beside one another; so if you plan on visiting both, it makes sense to visit them the same day. Keep in mind that the Science Museum is usually open later than the History one.

Hong Kong Science Museum (5/5).

top view 2I have decided to start with the Science Museum (which is quite similar to our Science World), because it seemed more exciting. At that time, they’ve had a special exhibition, Strange Matter, which costed HKD$2.0 (CAD$0.34) to visit, so I went for it. Strange Matter is an exhibition of synthesized materials and their use in modern applications. In addition to seeing growing silicon crystals and multiple attempts to brake a tempered glass with a cannon ball, I finally got to look at ferro liquid in real life!

Besides the Strange Matter, there are a few physical and digital biology and anatomy exhibits, renewable and non-renewable energy, broadcasting systems, and a number of others that were not that memorable to me.

Lamma winds top view 2

I have been far too modest with the time estimation, thinking that an hour in each museum would be enough; but the visit to the Science Museum took a lot longer, and I got the the Museum of History at around 5.30; which left me with only 1.5 hours to see it all.

Hong Kong Museum of History (5/5).

The History Museum is located over two floors, and has 4 rooms.

The rooms showed Hong Kong in the historic timeline; where the first room showed the ecosystems of Hong Kong, before and during the first settlers, and the last room had the most recent items.

There isn’t much I can tell you about the museum, besides the fact that it is very informative and worthy a visit if you like history.

PANO_20150215_181316 PANO_20150215_184810 IMG_20150215_175536


Bonus picture of night Hong Kong

A bonus picture of night Hong Kong

Day 7: Discovery Bay to Mui Wo.

Initially I have planned to do some island hopping, and selected the following route: Peng Chau to Discovery Bay, then hike to Mui Wo and take a ferry to Cheung Chau; and I downloaded the ferry schedules, and planned my trip almost by minutes; but forgot to check what by the first ferry leaves from. However, the ferry to Discovery Bay was leaving within a matter of minutes, and I got on it. This ferry was by far the most comfortable and had free Wi-Fi access. After a 30 minute ride I was at the destination. The weather did not look very promising – there were thick clouds, and no signs of approaching sunshine. I caught myself thinking a couple times, that I couldn’t have picked a better day for a hike: it was still nice and warm, and there was no sun, that I was hoping to avoid since I got a little sun-burnt the day before.

Discovery Bay looked like a typical touristy village with fancy hotels and cafés, so I bought a bottle of water, and went on my way.

The road took me through a series of small beaches, a village, a Christian monastery, some very nice viewpoints, and it took a little over 1.5 hours. I was looking for a cafe that had a menu in English, had an amazing $5 meal, and, since it looked like it might start raining soon, I decided to take a return ferry to the city.

D Bay (2) D Bay (3) D Bay Da bay - mui wo Mui WO (2) Mui Wo (3) Mui WO PANO_20150214_133824