Chinese New Year

My Chinese New Year adventure was one of the most amazing things i’ve ever done in my life. It was filled with new experiences, it was scary, it was exciting, it was simply amazing (well mostly). 

The start of our trip was incredibly rough. Unfortunately I was sick and stayed sick throughout the first week of the trip. Raj also decided the day before our flight he was going to move out of his apartment, so we spent all night and morning of our flight moving all of his stuff. This made packing both of our things into one suitcase extremely complicated. He definitely took over the suitcase; who packs 17 sweaters on a trip around Southern Asia? Raj. I never stopped complaining that I couldn’t buy souvenirs because of his sweaters. And might I add this guy originally wanted to travel for two weeks with just a carry on…I’m rolling my eyes just typing that.

After we finally finished packing, moving an entire apartment’s worth of stuff, and almost missing our flight, we were beyond ready for this great adventure.

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Macau

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The Strip, Macau

Our first stop was Macau, known as the Vegas of China, but it was one of my favorite places that we went. I’m so glad this was our first stop. We stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel, which was amazing. It was a perfect way to start off this vacation. Our room was amazing, with a great view of the strip and the incredible Venetian hotel. It was in the center of the City of Dreams, which had loads of high end stores and was centrally located on the strip. The weather was perfect and we started most mornings with a cup of tea in the hot tub. When you left the strip, it was filled with great small towns, filled with lots of culture and history. We went to these beautiful coast towns, Coloane Village and Taipa Village, which reminded me of my favorite place as a child, Sea Port Village in San Diego.

When we arrived in Macau we checked into our hotel room, took much needed naps and showers, and then headed out. We went to the Hard Rock Cafe for dinner and enjoyed some live music. Then we took a walk around the strip and saw a water and lights show in front of the Wynn Palace, then took a sky tram ride over their lake and through the hotel. It was beautiful. 

The next day we started with our tea in the hot tub and then headed to explore the Venetian Hotel. We ate a Michelin Star Indian buffet at the Golden Peacock, which was beyond good. We also tried Black Sesame ice cream from the Venetian which was not good. We then headed to Coloane to go to the Panda Pavilion. While we were at the Panda exhibit we found a nature trail and decided to take a hike. We definitely were not prepared for it, Raj was wearing a button down and crocs and I was wearing skinny jeans, but when the trees cleared and a statue appeared, it was all worth it. We had taken a hike to the beautiful statue of the goddess A Ma. On the way down we had found some beautiful hidden temples. We headed back to Cotai, which is where our hotel was, and planned what to do next. We decided to go the the Macau Peninsula and explore some of the historic district at night. We went to Senado Square, St. Domingo’s Church, St. Paul’s ruins, Monte Fort, and saw the light house from a far. The square was filled with lights and lanterns for Chinese New Year, and the rest of the historic district was beautifully lit. Here we tried durian fruit ice cream, that was not good either.

The next day we headed back to Coloane, this time we didn’t take any nature trails, instead we explored the village. It was filled with lovely old shops and beautiful colored houses and buildings. We also tried the famous Portuguese egg tart, from Lord Stows, the bakery that originated it. I’m really glad I tried it, even though I wasn’t a fan of the texture. Next we headed back to the Macau peninsula to the Grand Prix Museum and the Wine Museum. We then had lunch at the Fisherman’s Wharf. Raj had a traditional Portuguese dish, while I was limited to pasta. We went back to the hotel to relax and freshen up before a night out. We went to a great Italian restaurant, Bene, for dinner. We then walked around the strip some more, this time exploring the Parisian and Studio City hotels.

We started our last day in Macau in the hot tub with tea like usual. We packed up our things and headed to Taipa. Taipa is another beautiful coastal town very similar to Coloane. There we had lunch at a local vegetarian restaurant, the Blissful Carrot, and it was amazing. We walked around and explored some of the beautiful streets and colorful buildings. That afternoon we headed back to the Macau side to take what they called a ferry to Hong Kong. In reality it was a huge speed boat, that roughly sped across the sea for an hour. Thanks to Dad for getting me used to the choppy waters, unfortunately Raj didn’t handle it so well.

Macau was a great introduction to the things we would see and try for the rest of the trip. Macau was a beautiful city and definitely the best way we could have started the vacation. I already didn’t want this trip to end. 

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Coloane, Macau

Hong Kong

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Hong Kong Disneyland

Our next stop was Hong Kong. I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first time I went to Hong Kong, but I still had a good time exploring. The weather was pretty cold and rainy in Hong Kong, which left us with lots of foggy pictures and wet clothes. (This was the only time I complimented Raj for hogging the suitcase with all of his sweaters.) Our hotel was also incredibly uncomfortable. I’m pretty sure it was smaller than the room on my parents boat, bathroom included. Also, if you’re planning to go to Hong Kong, DO NOT go during Chinese New Year. That was our first mistake. We were there the day of Chinese New Year and it was incredibly insane, almost impossible to move on the streets and subways.

Our first day in Hong Kong, we went to the Po Lin Monastery to see the Big Buddha. It was a beautiful area, right in the middle of the mountains, an hour away from the city life. There were cows roaming freely and incense burning. It was a crowded area but still really peaceful. It was also incredible to see the Big Buddha, the largest sitting Buddha statue in the world, in person. The amount of detail and the size of it was incredible. It felt like I could stare at it for hours. For dinner that night we went to Ashley Road! A famous road we stumbled upon filled with bars and restaurants, how fitting. I had delicious mac and cheese, a very rare find in China. We also headed to the famous Temple Street night market and I got some bead bracelets. Thanks to Raj for being so cheap, I got two bracelets for less than the price of one. 

The next day we spent at Hong Kong Disneyland! Per usual, HK Disneyland was amazing and I finally got to see their parades. Of course it rained a little, because it always rains when I go to Disney, but we still had a great time and nothing was cancelled because of it. 

Our last day in Hong Kong started with a trip to the horse races, a climb to see the Ten-Thousand Buddhas Monastery (amazing!), and then a journey up to Victoria Peak. That night we went to the Ladies Market and we tried famous HK Dim Sum at DimDimSum apparently one of the top 100 restaurants. I did not enjoy it at all but at least we can say we tried.

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Po Lin Monastery, Hong Kong

Cambodia

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Angkor Watt, Cambodia

Next we went to Cambodia! We spent the most time in Cambodia and it was definitely one of my favorite experiences of the whole trip. In Cambodia we went to three cities and definitely had unique experiences in all of them. First we went to Siem Reap. Although we were greeted by some not so nice people at immigration, the rest of the journey we encountered some very nice people. The first being Jamad, our private TukTuk driver for the next four days. A TukTuk is basically a wagon attached to a motorbike, which was pretty scary as the roads in Cambodia aren’t paved very smoothly – if at all, but feeling the warm air blow through your hair was something I missed so much. Our hotel was really lovely, even if we had an encounter or two with some lizards and mosquitos. It was simply decorated but very welcoming and warm (literally). By the end of our first day we had tried some local cuisine (food is definitely not what Cambodia is known for), got a couples massage, bought elephant pants on Pub Street, went dancing, and saw people eating spiders and snakes on a stick! Watching them made me nauseous, Raj didn’t believe me until I ended up puking in the hotel room. 

The next day we woke to see the sunrise at Angkor Watt; I was speechless. Truly a beautiful and breathtaking temple. We spent the next few hours exploring the many temples, climbing the steep stairs to the top, and being blessed by a monk. Our driver then took us around to Ta Prohm and Angkor Thom, explaining some of the history to us and posing us for lots of pictures. We saw the tree of life and other trees growing through and on top of temples for centuries. Everything about it was incredible. We ended the night on Pub Street again with a not so good vegetarian meal. 

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Our last full day in Siem Reap was truly one of my favorite experiences ever. We woke up just after sunrise to ride an elephant through Angkor Thom. It was so thrilling. The ride was so rocky, as soon as you thought you had the rhythm figured out, it would change. But riding this beautiful animal through the kingdom of Cambodia was one of the most amazing things i’ve ever done. It was so calming and peaceful, but exciting and scary at the same time. The rest of the day was pretty thrilling as well. After finally having a decent meal we spent a long drive in the TukTuk to go to the floating villages. We boarded a private wood boat and took a ride through the brown river of the floating villages. It was heartbreaking and humbling to see people who live in these villages. Seeing them bathe in the river, try various ways to catch their fish, we even saw what looked like a wedding reception. We were meant to stay for sunset but it was pretty foggy so we turned back early. That night we went to dinner at a nice hotel with some live jazz, where Raj had the chef prepare me a special meal since there was no vegetarian items on the menu. 

The next day we woke early to take a long uncomfortable bus ride to Phnom Penh. The ride there we saw things that felt straight from a movie. Pickup trucks with loads of people standing in the bed, kids driving motorbikes, dirt road highways, and rest stops selling fruit. The ride was much longer than we were told, but we made it there in one piece. As soon as we got to Phnom Penh, I felt uncomfortable and out of place. We took a TukTuk from the bus station to our hotel, when an older kid begging for money jumped into our wagon and wouldn’t leave. That was the most frightened I’d felt in a very long time. We weren’t in the hotel for an hour and Raj had already booked us tickets for a bus to Sihanoukville. A nice coastal town on the Gulf of Thailand. (Jamad had recommended this city to us when we told him our next stop was Phnom Penh.)

Eight hours later we arrived in Sihanoukville. We checked into a cute beach hotel, which included a lizard on the wall, and went to a restaurant for Thai food. When we got there, it was closed but the owner was nice enough to cook for us and we stayed there for a couple hours eating and drinking with the owner and his friends. It was just another example of the kind people we encountered on our trip through Cambodia. The next day we spent finding seashells and starfish on the beach. We had a great lunch at a beach bungalow restaurant, then headed back to the bus to return to Phnom Penh and catch our flight early the next morning to Malaysia.

Cambodia was definitely one of my favorites. It was beautiful, it was heartbreaking, it was scary, it was exciting, it made me feel so many things, and was constantly surprising me. I’m so glad we decided to go to Cambodia.

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The Floating Villages, Cambodia

Kuala Lumpur

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Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur

We arrived in Kuala Lumpur in the afternoon and checked into our room, which had a jacuzzi in it. We first went to see the Italian Symphony and the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra in the Petronas twin towers. It was amazing. I was so happy to have seen a live orchestra again, it made me miss playing so much. We then walked around the mall in the Petronas towers afterwards, and I had an Auntie Anne’s pretzel! We then headed to the Sky Bar at the Traders Hotel for a late lunch with a view. Later that night we headed to Little India, went to a temple, and ate the blessed meal the temple offered.

The next morning we headed to the Batu Caves. This was an incredible sight. The hundreds of stairs leading to the three caves filled with temples and shrines, the huge statue at the bottom guarding the entrance, the hundreds of monkeys roaming freely, it was all so great. I don’t think the smile left my face the entire time we were there, despite the 100 degree weather and blazing sun. We watched a monkey take a coke bottle, open it, and drink from it. We watched another bunch of monkeys fight each other for a sip of water, and another chasing for a piece of an orange. One monkey even tried to walk away with Raj’s sunglasses. The caves itself were amazing to see and walk through. They were considerably cooler than the stairway leading to them. They were filled with temples and people praying. I don’t know the proper name for this, but the shape of the caves and the way certain parts were melting towards the ground was so cool to see. There was one part that I could stand perfectly between the tip and the ground. We we got back down to the bottom we had some Indian street food and started making our way towards the city. We went to Nando’s for lunch, a favorite of Raj, and my first time. A couple hours later we were roaming through the streets looking for the Bird Park. The Kuala Lumpur Bird Park, has the worlds largest walk in aviary and it was amazing! I felt like a kid walking around taking close ups of the many different kids of birds they had, and being amazing when one would start eating, talking, flying, and even stealing someone’s coconut. For dinner we headed back to KL Center and went to an Italian restaurant. We ended the night roaming China Town and Little India.

Our last day in KL was spent mostly on the bus but before hand we had some time to explore some more of the city. We saw some of the historical district, the famous train station, government buildings, and even an old theater. We then headed to KL tower to see the view of the city and sit in the glass box! That was cool! And for the record, Raj was scared, not me! For lunch we found a Wendy’s! We then headed on another long bus ride to Singapore. Kuala Lumpur was a beautiful city but also felt like a tropical paradise, in the less crowed parts. I really enjoyed our time in Kuala Lumpur, all of the western shops and restaurants made it feel so familiar while still feeling the many different cultures that occupy Malaysia.

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Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur

Singapore

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Little India, Singapore

Singapore was a bucket list item for me and I definitely fought to convince Raj to add it to our travel list for Chinese New Year. Our original itinerary was completely different than the countries we ended up visiting but I fought to add Singapore and i’m so glad I did! Singapore was beautiful. I loved spending our time in Singapore immersed in the many different cultures.

When we finally arrived in Singapore, we checked into the hotel and got ready to meet up with a friend of Raj’s. He took us to dinner at a local place where Raj had a mysterious meat soup, which apparently is a local favorite. For dessert we tried a rose milk drink, it was very fragrant to say the least; I think i’ll stick to using rose as a facial not a dessert.

The next day we headed to Little India. I loved this really beautiful and colorful section of Singapore. We had lunch at an Indian restaurant MTR 1924, which ended up being Singapore’s No.1 vegetarian restaurant. We noticed that sign after we left, but either way it didn’t disappoint. We spent the early afternoon exploring the many temples Singapore has to offer. This was something we spontaneously changed on the agenda, so I had to borrow robes and skirts from the temples to cover up my short sun dress. We headed to the Chinatown market and got some fresh mango juice and then a slurpee from 7 eleven shortly after. It’s funny the things you miss when you don’t have access to them. I can count on one had the amount of times i’ve had a slurpee when I lived down the street from 7 eleven my whole life, but after being in China I wanted one so badly. After that we headed to the Gardens by the Bay. We spent hours walking around there before it started to rain. It was a lovely area, but I was disappointed in the lack of flowers. We later learned the flowers are kept inside at the part you have to pay for, but we heard from various people outside that it wasn’t worth the money. We went to McDonalds for lunch, and they had veggie burgers on the menu! We also had lychee ice cream. Once the rain hit we headed to the Marina Bay Sands hotel and explored the luxury mall. For dinner we met up with Raj’s friends and we went to a Swiss Restaurant in Somerset. We walked around Orchard Street for a bit before heading to a bar to end the night with some live music.

The next morning we headed to another beautiful temple and had lunch at a great restaurant called Chemistry. I had an eggplant parm sandwich, my favorite, and Raj had squid ink pasta. We then headed to Sentosa Island to Resort World and Universal Studios Singapore. Universal was pretty small but we had fun and rode almost all of the rides before leaving. This whole trip we had been trying various flavors of ice cream and on our last day I finally found banana, my favorite flavor! For dinner we went to Chilis! We then headed towards the other side of the island to visit the beach and see the Sentosa Merlion. We ended the night watching the light show on the Merlion for Chinese New Year. We then headed back to the hotel to pack for our journey home.

Singapore was an amazing city. It was similar to Kuala Lumpur, where it felt familiar because it was so modern and westernized but you could still feel the influence of all of the different cultures that make up Singapore. Each section of city was so beautiful and clean, the people were so nice, and the food was amazing. I definitely did not want this vacation to end. But i’m really glad we ended it in Singapore. It was the perfect dose of western life before heading back to China.

We booked our flights perfectly to make it back in time for work, but we didn’t plan to not return with our luggage. Our luggage apparently wanted to spend a few more days in Singapore and never made it on the plane with us. Thankfully we didn’t bring anything too valuable with us and we got it delivered to work a few days later.

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Overall our vacation was amazing and much needed. I am so glad we had the chance to visit all of the amazing places that we did. Raj and I mostly got along the whole trip, which is hard when traveling is so stressful. He was so great about looking up great local restaurants that had food I could eat, and he carried the pink Mickey backpack for most of the trip (Thank you Raj). It really was a perfect vacation away from reality. Getting back into the swing of life in China was very hard after such a great couple of weeks. 

Life definitely isn’t how I planned it, but i’m beginning to become grateful of that. I never would have been able to visit these amazing places or see all of these incredible sights if I didn’t come to China. 

We took so many pictures on our trip that I can’t wait to share with everyone. I’m in the process of slowly (thanks China) uploading them to a new section of my blog. Check back soon!

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