Tarifa, Spain

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Known as la ciudad de viento (literally translates as the city of wind) every year, Tarifa attracts hundreds of windsurfing enthusiasts.
Also, since this city is located at the southern tip of Spain, many visitors came to this city to catch a ferry to Morocco and venture into Africa. That was my original plan too. But when I stepped onto the soft sand of La Playa de Los Lances, I knew I was in great trouble.

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The Atlantic Side of Tarifa

Having visited a couple of beach towns in Spain, I thought I’ve found the nicest beach already. But this beach has proven me wrong! The long stretched beaches of Tarifa have made it difficult for me to resist the temptation of lying on the white pristine sand. It is also a prime location for watching sunsets!

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Sunset of Tarifa
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Sunset of Tarifa

Another interesting fact about Tatifa is that this is the place where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic. So visitors get a choice to either go for a relaxing swim in the calm and still Mediterranean Ocean or to challenge oneself in the active and wavy Atlantic Ocean!

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The Mediterranean Side of Tarifa

And if you ever get bored with lying on the beach, the old town of Tarifa is a good place to walk around. White washed walls are paired with pots of colourful flowers on the balconies, giving the town a sense of tranquility and harmony.

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Old Town of Tarifa
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Old Town of Tarifa
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Kutna Hora, Czech Republic

I’ve got a thing for weird and crazy architecture. So when I heard that there is a chapel that’s made up of human skulls and bones, I knew I had to go to Kutna Hora. Being an hour away from Prague, Kutna Hora is a popular choice for day-trips.

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Located 10 minutes away from the train station on foot, the Sedlec Ossuary, aka the Bone Church, is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Czech Republic. Looking from the outside, this chapel looks just like any other ordinary chapel. But inside it contains the bones of 40,000 people. The chapel is not big in size yet the way how the human skulls and bones are artistically arranged surprised me. I couldn’t tell if it was a good or bad surprise.  A small staircase leads to the centre of the chapel, where an impressive-looking chandelier dominates the whole scene. The chandelier contains at least one of each bone from the human body. Looking closely at each of the skulls at the entrance, I thought even though those skulls represent different lives of different people, they all look alike when they are being reduced to these ghostly remains. To me, the whole visit was very surreal. It was as if I’ve entered into a movie set. The Bone Church has simply left me overwhelmed by awe and amazement.

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While this impressive and unique chapel is one of the major highlights of Kutna Hora, many people often neglected another important UNESCO Heritage site – St. Barbara’s Church. If you were to arrive at Kutna Hora by train, you could take the local bus to the historical center. Do ask the tourist information centre outside the train station for a bus schedule as those local buses are not very frequent and they are scheduled to meet nearly all express trains.

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The historical center of Kutna Hora is pretty small, so all the attractions are within walking distance. Follow the sign posts on the street and you will soon find yourself at the St. Barbara’s Church. This Roman Catholic Church is one of the most famous Gothic churches in Central Europe. I adore the path leading to this remarkable church as it reminds me of the bridges that are lined with gargoyle-like statues in various Disney cartoons. It is worth paying a little to get into the church and take a walk around it, admiring the grandiose of this structure, the elaborately decorated vault and the colorful stained glass.

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Tai Mo Shan Country Park, Hong Kong

Thanks to my very traditional English education in Hong Kong, I’m trained to write essays/speeches on one of the most cliched topics of all – Is Hong Kong a great city? How would you describe Hong Kong to foreigners? Typical approaches to this topic would be to describe Hong Kong as the Pearl of the Orient, a shoppers’ or foodies’ paradise. Or if one is feeling a bit negative and bitter, you could look into the topic of pollution or criticize the education system of Hong Kong.

20130828_223613The night view beside Victoria Harbor is what Hong Kong is known for

Part of my on-going search for a cure for my serious case of wanderlust after my year of abroad is to look at my birthplace, Hong Kong, from a tourist’s point of view. I wanted to discover a different side of Hong Kong. Having lived here for more than 20 years, I can’t help but to feel bored about all the multi-storied shopping malls and delicious but cheap street food. Also, as a result of my favorite life motto – “Eat First, Worry Later” – I knew I needed some serious exercising. So I’ve chosen to hike around Hong Kong, trying out different trails and exploring the natural landscape of this city.

I used to hike around Hong Kong with my family when I was a kid and I hated it. Mostly it was because I was always forced to run up the hill with weights tied around my ankles as part of my training for the athletics team. I stopped hiking years ago when I quit the athletics team and joined the fencing team instead. So, when I picked up hiking once again 6 months ago, I decided that I need a route that is easy but at the same offers breathtaking views. And I managed to find it in the end.

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You can actually see parts of Shenzhen from this viewing point!

To give this route a try, take bus no. 51 from Tsuen Wan MTR station towards the direction of Kam Sheung Road. Get off at Tai Mo Shan Road and walk up the that road. Roughly an hour later, you will find yourself at a viewing point in Tai Mo Shan Country Park. And this is one of the best spots to watch sunset in Hong Kong.

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20131130_180019Amazing sunsets in Hong Kong

If you’ve got more energy to spare, you could also choose to go all the way up to the top of the hill. Tai Mo Shan is the highest peak in Hong Kong, with an altitude of 957m.

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Once you get to the top, you could either retrace your footsteps and return to where you’ve started. Or as an alternative, you may choose to walk towards the Ng Tung Chai Waterfalls.

20131123_134242Simply follow the signs and you’ll get there 🙂

 

The Ng Tung Chai Waterfalls are a series of 4 waterfalls hidden somewhere within the country park. They are quite accessible, except for the Scattered Fall.

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IMG-20131123-WA0011Scattered Fall

20131123_162631Main Fall 

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                    Bottom Fall                                                                                        Middle Fall

Years ago, there was serious landslide that happened on the path that connects the Scattered Fall and the Main Fall. Hence this part of the route was closed down for years. Lately, some hikers have rediscovered this path. Nowadays, you might find a fairly well-used path there. I highly recommend giving it a try since it’s not a clearly marked path, but do take caution when using it.

IMG-20131123-WA0018Walking down the rediscovered path…

Naxos, Greece

Confession: I know I’ve neglected this blog for ages but finally I’m done with all tedious and boring bits of uni life, so I guess I’d better speed up my writing before I embark on my upcoming summer trip again!

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Naxos

If I were to say that Santorini has satisfied all my expectations about Greece, Naxos has completely blew my mind. Despite being only 4 hours away on a ferry, I would highly recommend spending several days relaxing on Naxos. I was lucky to have picked a hostel which is literally 3 minutes away from the beach on foot. So when I got in late afternoon, I instantly dumped my backpack in the room and rushed to the beach, just to catch some sunshine before the sky went dark.

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I could literally see the beach at the end of the road from my room!

One of the most iconic historical sites on the island is the Portara (i.e. the huge door). Located on a separate island that is linked to Naxos by a causeway, this  doorway is the entrance to an unfinished temple that faces towards Delos, Apollo’s birthplace. Hence, some scholars believed that this temple was dedicated to Apollo. The construction of the temple started 530 BC by the tyrant Lygdamis, who vowed that he would transform the buildings on Naxos into the biggest and most glorious ones in Greece. However, Lygdamis’ promise was never fulfilled and up till this moment, all that is left are some scattered remains of the foundation of this temple and this rectangular marble doorway. On a warm summer’s day, this spot becomes a popular place for sunset watching.


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The marble doorway that leads to nowhere…

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I heard that there are a couple of amazing beaches on Naxos but most of them involve a bit of driving to get there. Given that I had zero experience in driving and I couldn’t be bothered to look for another person to share a quad with me, I chose to stay and hang around the central part of the island. And to be honest, that was more than enough for me.  What makes Naxos a perfect Greek island for me is that not only does it possess all my favorite elements (beach, sunshine, sea and  blue-and-white-themed houses), it is also nearly tourists-free. This allows me to spend a fair amount of time exploring and wandering around the old town, walking into random stores and boutiques and taking breaks from time to time to enjoy traditional Greek yoghurt with fresh fruit toppings along the harbor.

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Exploring around the old market of Naxos…

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Once again, I’m deeply attracted by this kind of blue-and-white house!

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Even kitties take their time to enjoy the warm sunshine outdoors

 Yet, the highlight of my stay in Naxos (and probably of my entire trip to Greece) is my one-day sailing tour with Captain Panos. As I was taking a walk along the harbor one night, I suddenly came cross the sailboat of Captain Panos and thought a sailing tour sounded like a good idea. Although it was slightly out of my budget, it was money well-spent. With the tour, I visited a couple of secluded beaches, went swimming inside the Rina’s Cave, had an amazing lunch on Koufonisia, an island nearby and most importantly went cliff-jumping. TWICE!

Captain Panos and the crew were the friendliest and warmest people that I’ve ever met. A picture is worth a thousand words and so here are a few of them, proving what a fun time I had on that tour.

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One of the many secluded private beaches visited that day

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Swimming in Rina’s Cave

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The picturesque island of Koufonisia

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Underwater photo by the photographer on the tour 🙂

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My all-time favorite photo!

P.S. To all first-time cliff-jumpers, speaking from experience here, unless you want bruises all over your abs for a week or so, always jump with your feet first into the water and hug your arms tight to your body!!! Never attempt the pose as shown in the photo above!

My Top 10 Sunsrise/Sunset Moments

As I was going through all my photos, I realised I’ve developed a kind of obsession for sunrise and sunsets. So here’s my top 10 sunsrise/sunset moments so far:

(All the photos below are unfiltered and are taken with a Samsung Note/Note 2 mobile phone)

10.  Tai Mo Shan, Hong Kong

20131130_173534Since I’ve lived in Hong Kong for more than 20 years, it wouldn’t make sense if I hadn’t seen one single gorgeous sunset in this city!

9. The Sir Walter Scott Monument, Edinburgh

20130612_215152This Victorian Gothic monument is one of the most prominent features of the skyline of Edinburgh.

8. Lisboa, Portugal

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Summer in Portugal means endless sunshine and fantastic sunsets everyday.

7. Tai Po, Hong Kong

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Perhaps I’m a bit biased over here, but it’s my blog and I could do whatever I want, right? :p Those little boats scattered over the lake remind me of how Hong Kong used to be a fishing village, before all the skyscrapers dominate the whole city.

6. Naxos, Greece

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I’ve struggled quite a bit in deciding whether I should pick a sunset photo from Santorini or Naxos. In the end, I went with the latter one because I thought Naxos is a wonderful place and deserves more attention from travelers. The arc shown above is the Apollo Temple’s entrance and is currently the best spot to watch sunset in Naxos.

5. Old Town Square, Prague

20130319_185615Before heading off to Prague, a friend of mine warned be to keep an eye for the “mysterious blue” on the sky because to her that was the most beautiful color she has ever seen. I thought that was an overstatement but when I finally saw it with my own eyes, I was left standing in the middle of the street, dumbfounded.

4. Durham, United Kingdom

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Oh Durham, Durham! How I’ve missed you! Having spent a year living in this little town that is roughly 3 hours away from London, I was lucky to be given a room with such a stunning view of my college.

3. Oslo, Norway

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Speechless…

2. Sunrise in Taichung, Taiwan

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Sunrise is a popular topic for many traditional Chinese poets and now I know why. I had to wait in the cold for 3 hours for this sunrise and it was totally worth it.

1. Skyline of Prague

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I know Prague has been on the list before, but I just couldn’t help it. Just when I thought most sunrise and sunsets are a mixture of yellow and orange colors on the sky, this sunset in Prague proved me wrong. Prague is definitely one of my favorite European countries.