Hong Kong layover – what to do on a quick trip!

Recently, we planned our way home from Sri Lanka with a Hong Kong layover of 16 hours.  Hong Kong is a great place to spend a day, as they issue a visa-free entry to holders of most passports.  With a clean and highly efficient transit system, you can easily get yourself around the city and back to the airport. 

The immigration entry process was super fast, only taking about 15 minutes.  Comparing that to our several hour wait time to enter mainland China in nearby Gaungzhou, we were quite happy to get an early start to our explorations. 

Here’s the vlog all about our quick Hong Kong adventure!

Our first stop on our Hong Kong layover was the Tian Tan, usually referred to as the Big Buddha.  Normally, you can take a cable car directly to Big Buddha from near the airport, but it was down for maintenance for three days so we had to take a bus.  This was ok though, as it only took around 45 minutes.  To get thier by bus, take the bus from the airport to Tung Chung, then change to the Ngong Ping bus.  It’s not super easy to find this second bus, but after looking around for about five minutes we saw the line of tourists waiting and new we were in the right spot.

big buddha hong kong

The ride to Tian Tan Big Buddha was really pretty, winding it’s way through the foggy mountains.  The ocean would pop up every now and then, and before we could soak it all in we were at the Big Buddha.

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The Big Buddha is a 34-meter high bronze statue on the top of a 268 step structure.  You have to pay to get inside of the Buddha, but the fee is worth it, especially since you get lunch included.  We opted for the “snack” price and we’re glad we didn’t get the full meal because the snack was a lot of food.  The Buddha was really impressive and we spent about an hour exploring the grounds around it.  The adjacent temples and monastery buildings were very beautiful as well and it was amazing to see the difference in style from temples in other parts of Asia.

big buddha food hong kong
Our “snack”.

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After the Buddha we had to venture back to the metro which passed near the airport.  From there we made a couple stops that were not so interesting before finding our way to Causeway Bay.  This was what we were looking for!

We had the great opportunity to meet up with a friend who we had met many years ago through Couchsurfing.  She was one of our favorite Couchsurfers, so it was a real treat to see her in her home element. 

Reunited with our Couchsurfing friend Pinky!

We got a ferry across to the main land.  This was referred to as “the dark side” because things were cheaper there and it lacked the super extravagance of old Hong Kong.  It was still extremely modern though, and safe at all hours, apparently.  The view from the ferry was something out of a sci-fi film, with buildings reaching the clouds surrounding us 360 degrees.  The lights on the buildings were also impressive, with Christmas already the prominent theme in mid-November. 

hong kong skyline
Make sure you watch our vlog to catch these views on video!

hong kong skyline

We ate at a very busy local spot in a basement that I could never locate again if I tried.  Our friend’s boyfriend joined us to eat, and they enjoyed ordering strange things for me to eat.  Cow fallopian tube, for example.  It was a fantastic meal that we had to eat fast at the end because, even though we had just gotten there, our time in HK was running short.  

Hong Kong food

The city had the rushed New York City-esque thing going on, but without being rude, dirty, or as in-your-face.  We took the bus back to the airport, our friends anxiously hurrying us so we wouldn’t be late.  We really couldn’t have had half as much fun without their help, and it really puts a smile on our face when we get to hang out with such truly friendly people. 

Tired and stuffed with Chinese food, we pushed our way through the security lines into the airport departure area.   We had seen so little in this Hong Kong layover, but it was really as much as we could have done.  It’s nice to hang out in new cities for a day, getting a feel for it just in time to leave.  We always hope that it will make it easier the next time, and sometimes that’s true.  Until next time Hong Kong.  We’ll be back.

Like this story about our Hong Kong layover?  Check out our Youtube channel with tons of cool travel videos!

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Auntie Orn’s Organic Cooking Class – Chiang Mai, Thailand

While in Chiang Mai, Thailand, we had the opportunity to attend Auntie Orn’s Organic Family Cooking class.  The class takes place on a organic farm just outside of the city, giving participants the opportunity to see a working organic farm in action.  Auntie Orn’s family and helpers are all some of the nicest people you will ever meet, and the whole experience makes you feel good on many levels.  We learned how to cook three classic northern Thai dishes: Khow soi, tom yam, and panang curry!

Auntie Orn-11Auntie Orn

We were picked up a little before 9am and driven to a very local market in the countryside outside of Chiang Mai city.  We were very excited about learning to cook Thai food, as taking a class had been on our list since our first days in Thailand.  At the market Autie Orn met us and showed us around.  We sampled a few of the local items and we picked up a few things for the class.  We were the only farang (foreigners) in the market and the locals got a kick out of me sampling some ant larvae which was in season and harvested in the jungle.  It had a real interesting flavor and texture, even better with hot sauce.

After the market we drove a few minutes away to the farm owned by Auntie Orn.  In the front was a cute kitchen and tables and the land behind it was planted with all types of fruits and veggies.  There were three couples in the class, and the first thing each of us did was to plant a tree on the farm.  It was a great way to contribute something to the land!  After planting our banana and mango trees, Auntie Orn invited us back anytime to check on our babies.  You could tell she really meant it and we hope to make it back in a year or so to check on our baby banana tree!

Next we started preparing the food.  We used large a mortar and pestle to crush up lots of different stuff into a Thai curry paste which was the base of the khow soi and panang curry.  We pounded and pounded to extract the flavors of the ingredients and produce an amazing spicy aroma.  Our hunger grew as we saw how delicious everything was getting, and we couldn’t wait to try the final product!

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Auntie Orn’s Cooking class was about to get HOT!  She heated up three woks, helping us work our curries into shape.  The final product was a HUGE feast and we were all very proud of our labors! We ate until we couldn’t eat anymore, and maybe it was because we had made it ourselves, but we all thought it was by far the best food we have had in Thailand.

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While our food digested we went on a tour of the farm, learning about permaculture farming methods and how the farm would progress in the future.

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After the tour we learned how to make the ever-delicious mango sticky rice!  It was very easy and so so good, a great way to finish the meal.

The final part of the day was extra memorable.  We all received a very special New Years blessing along with bracelets for good luck!  The blessing was given with holy water and everything.  We felt special to be part of such an amazing ceremony.

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Auntie Orn’s classes are by appointment only and you can contact Auntie Orn to make a booking via her website!

Enjoy this post about Auntie Orns Organic Thai Cooking Class in Chiang Mai Thailand?  Check out our archives for other adventures! Also, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram @laaventuraproject and subscribe to our Youtube Channel.

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Grasshopper Adventures Chiang Mai Night Bike Tour – Into The Old City

While in Chiang Mai we were fortunate enough to go on our second tour by Grasshopper Adventures – Chiang Mai Night Bike Tour.  This was again a night time biking tour which took us though the old city highlighting some incredible temples and history.  Our guide was absolutely fantastic and his knowledge of the city was scholarly.  Here is a video showcasing our experience!!!

After meeting up at the Grasshopper Adventures Chiang Mai headquarters, we mounted our bicycles and headed off into the city.  Again, we were very impressed with the quality of the bikes offered by Grasshopper — so comfortable and with front and back lights!

Grasshopper

Our first stop was at Chiang Mai Pae Gate.  It was built as the main entrance to the walled city, easily accessible to traders coming though on the nearby river.  We learned that the city had several ways in, each for specific types of people, historically.  One exit was reserved only for the dead on their funeral marches.

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There were tons of Chinese tourists taking selfies with pigeons here for some reason?
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The Three Kings Monument

Next we rode to several amazing temples, each with Buddha relics and lots of good energy.  We used a kind of rope and pulley at Wat Lok Molee to send holy water which automatically dropped over the temple.  Apparently doing this together would guide our spirits back to each other in the next life.  “I don’t know, one life with you might be enough…” said Carrie, maybe joking but probably serious.  I am a piece of work sometimes.

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Near the end of the tour we walked through the grounds of Wat Chedi Luang, located right in the middle of Chiang Mai Old City.  The temple is partially collapsed on top and reminded us a lot of places we visited in Cambodia.

Our final stop was at the Chiang Mai Gate Night Food Market  We were treated to some amazing coconut pancakes, mango sticky rice, and some smoothies.  Food always makes me quite happy, and even though we had taken a feast of a cooking class earlier in the day, I was happy to eat again.

Grasshopper Adventures Chiang Mai Night Bike Tour was a great look into the history of the northern Thailand city.  We learned much about the Lanna empire which existed independently before they were absorbed into the Siam empire (Later Thailand) and how the younger generations are trying to bring back their historical culture.

Additional information:

Address: 87, Bumrung Buri Rd, Prasing, Muang, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand

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Website:  www.grasshopperadventures.com

Also check out our review of Grasshoppper Adventures Bangkok Night Bike Tour

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Weligama Surf Yoga Retreat – South Sri Lanka Paradise

While spending time in south Sri Lanka, we were fortunate to come across Weligama Surf Yoga Retreat.  They run monthly week-long getaways in the Bandara Watte Villa, a beautiful colonial escape surrounded by many local animals including wild peacocks.  Located in the jungle nearby Weligama, Sri Lanka, their adventures are equally focused on surfing and yoga, using experienced local surf guides and certified yoga instructors.  They also feature a “give back” volunteering day where participants visit a local school, teaching the children yoga and donating school supplies.

Weligama surf yoga retreat sri lankaUnlike a lot of the yoga camps in the area, Weligama Surf Yoga Retreat takes you surfing almost every day.  Weligama Bay near the villa is the perfect spot for beginner surfers.  For more experienced surfers there are many opportunities for close by beach and reef breaks in Unawatuna, Galle, Ahangama, Midigama, and Mirissa.  We loved how they used only local surf instructors; the guys were super nice and helpful especially for the newbies.Weligama Surf Yoga Retreat also features a “give back” day when you get the opportunity to check out a local school and lead activities for some children.  The kids really love it and it’s a great opportunity to see into the lives of little Sri Lankans.  They have so much energy, and by the end of the hour all the adults are dripping sweat, the kids still running circles.

Giving back to local schools.

The morning and sunset yoga practice is at the Bandara Watte Villa.  You listen to the sounds of the jungle while peacefully drifting into a meditative state.  If you get lucky a peacock will show its feathers.

One of the highlights of the retreat was the food!  The chef, Mahendra, creates local dishes with a twist of western fusion.  The curries he makes are some of the best we’ve had, the spices deep and complex, but comforting and familiar at the same time.

A cooking class with the chef, Mahendra.

Whether in Sri Lanka for a short time or a long trip, Weligama Surf Yoga Retreat is a great way to see and do a lot, without worrying about anything.  The staff is top-notch and the venue is classic, you’ll quickly feel at home and not want to leave!

Website: www.weligamasurfyogaretreat.com

Instagram: @weligamasurfyogaretreat

Facebook.com/weligamasurfyogaretreat

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Tuk Tuk Safari – Exploring Galle on the Sri Lanka Coast

The amazing Tuk Tuk Safari offers tours around Colombo, Galle, and Kandy.  The tours are not just in any tuk tuks, these babies have roll-back tops, coolers of beer, custom music playlists, cool drivers, and classic paint jobs!  Our driver, Donald Duck (yes, that was literally what his nametag said), picked us up in downtown Galle and welcomed us to his safari!  He wore a fun colonial safari outfit, and kept a great smile on his face as he showed us our sweet ride.

 

We hadn’t really researched the places Tuk Tuk Safari would take us around Galle, which led us to an afternoon full of surprises.  At first we drove a little ways, ending up in Kabalana where we bounced up a dirt road to a little house in the palms.  By a beautiful outdoor kitchen we were served an incredible spread of curries: jackfruit, dhal, sweet onions, cucumber, potato… plus rice and of course papadam.  The curries were super special, and we both agreed it was one of our top three favorite meals in our two months of traveling Sri Lanka.  For dessert we had some very nice pineapple, jackfruit, and soursop, along with fresh curd and treackle (coconut sap, Sri Lankan maple syrup).  So yum!

Sri Lankan curry
Homemade Sri Lankan curry!

Our second stop was to the famous stilt fishermen of Ahangama.  The Sri Lankans erect sticks into the reef areas where there are many fish.  They climb up the sticks and sit on little shelves for hours at a time.  The spot we stopped was made for tourists so you can go experience it like the locals.  I climbed up there, getting super wet in the process, so Carrie could snap this classic shot!

Stilt fishermen Ahangama
Stilt Fishermen of Ahangama

Tukkin’ down the road, we veered off after an airport and headed inland.  Down a few skinny local streets, we came to a sign: “Spice Garden”.  They had a nice garden of all the local things out back, along with boat tours around Koggala Lake.  We took a quick tour around the garden then found ourselves in their showroom where they sell amazing Ayurvedic products along with homegrown spices.  We had a lot of fun learning about everything that could be cured by natural products.  We try to not use any chemical products so we bought a few things to take on our travels.

spice garden koggalaThe next stop on Tuk Tuk Safari was the Turtle Conservation Center in Koggala, Sri Lanka.  They take in sea turtles injured by boats and nets and try to heal them or give them a comfortable place to live their disabled lives.  There is also a turtle hatchery behind the building on the beach.  One of their turtle tanks was packed full of hundreds of baby turtles!!!  Cute little tiny things.  We love turtles and we really appreciated what this place is doing to help.

sea turtles sri lanka

baby sea turtles
Babies!!!

Donald Duck now drove us to our final stop, the Japanese Peace Pagoda in Unawatuna.  Built in 2005 in an effort by a Japanese Buddhist sect to build temples in conflict zones (Sri Lanka was in civil war until 2009), the temple offers incredible views from a hilltop overlooking the bay.  The sunset was turning fantastic and the whole scene was super magical.  When the sun was nearing the horizon, we hurried down the hill and caught the last glimpse of the red ball falling into the ocean.  With a lot of light still, we walked down a path to Jungle Beach, a secluded spot with a nice beach and calm water.

Japanese peace pagoda unawatuna
The view from Jungle Beach

Dark now, we headed home.  Donald dropped us off at our hotel and we said goodbye.  Tuk Tuk Safari far exceeded our expectations, taking us to all new spots even though we’d already been traveling in that area for weeks.  Everything was organized perfectly and Donald Duck was an outstanding tour guide!  We really hope to do their other tours of Colombo and Kandy at some point.  Tuk Tuk Safari just offers such a cool and unique experience!

To book a tour go to the Tuk Tuk Safari Facebook Page.

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The Doctor’s House in Madiha, Sri Lanka

The Doctor’s House in Madiha is a funky and fun hostel, bar, and restaurant on the shores of south Sri Lanka. The rooms retain the original aesthetics of the crumbling colonial architecture, creating a fascinating look into the past, while maintaining a comfortable space to kick it for a few days (or a week).

Doctor's house mediha

Dorms at The Doctor's House
Dorms at The Doctor’s House

The dorm rooms are located in the quiet back of the property.  They have some cool antique furniture with new comfortable beds.  Our favorite part was the showers, which are open air with gardens inside and utilize spaghetti strainers to create waterfall style shower heads.

The bar features a variety of tasty cocktails and smoothies, and the restaurant utilizes a clay wood burning oven. They push out the best pizzas on the south coast and other western-style dishes, but with a Sri Lankan flair.

The Doctor's House Bar
The Doctor’s House Bar

The Doctor’s House also contains a newly-opened surf shop, The Box, selling boards, surf gear, and zinc sunscreen.  You can find them on Instagram at @_thebox_

The best day to check out The Doctor’s House is for their bi-weekly Saturday market. Many vendors set up in the courtyard and the beers flow along with the music from several live artists.

The Doctor's House Saturday Market in Mediha
The Doctor’s House Saturday Market
Mediha Beach Sri lanka from the sky
Madiha Beach, Sri Lanka from the sky

The Doctor’s House in Madiha, south Sri Lanka, was one of the straight up coolest places we have ever crashed.  Everything is so artfully created, so perfectly unperfect.  Actually, its really hard to explain how cool it is, so just go there!

Services Included:

Storage lockers

Wifi

Transport booking

Restaurant on-site

Bar on site

Ayurvedic spa on site

Surf shop on site

Free water refill

Websitethedoctorshouse.lk

Email: goodtimes@thedoctorshouse.lk

Dorm Prices: $14 USD (Book on their website as they sell out fast)

Address:

87 PUJITHA NEVASA, BEACH ROAD
MADIHA, MATARA 81000
SRI LANKA

tDH is located about 500 meters from 156km mark on the Galle-Matara road.  Follow the signs for Madiha Beach or take a tuk tuk from the highway.

 

 

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Factory Coffee – Bangkok’s Best Beans

I first stumbled upon Factory Coffee one day when walking down Phayathai Road in Bangkok.  Since I’m always a sucker for hipster-looking coffee joints, I had to check it out.  It’s super pricey by Thailand coffee shop standards, but you get what you pay for: super-gourmet coffee cocktails created with perfectly-roasted artisanal beans and high-quality ingredients.  

Factory Coffee - Bangkok's Best Beans

Factory Coffee is now my go-to “treat yo’self” coffee shop and I’m slowly working my way through their menu of fancy pants barista creations.  Since I don’t drink alcohol anymore and save a lot of money that way, I figure I deserve it!  I love how at Factory Coffee they actually come to you and shake, pour, and garnish certain drinks tableside!

Factory Coffee - Bangkok's Best Beans
Phayathai Citric- cool espresso, tonic, spice, and lemon
Factory Coffee - Bangkok's Best Beans
Jomthong Cold Brew

 

Factory Coffee - Bangkok's Best Beans
Tipsy glasses are super cool

Factory Coffee - Bangkok's Best Beans

You can’t go wrong here with a straight-up espresso for a quick, tasty buzz, a powerful cold brew to get you through an afternoon of work, or a coconut-ice-cream affogato as a decadent dessert and “pick me up” all in one.

It’s no wonder Factory Coffee wins the Thailand Barista Championship year after year!

Enjoy this post about my favorite coffee shop in Bangkok?  Check out our archives for other adventures! Also, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram @laaventuraproject and subscribe to our Youtube Channel.  Want your restaurant featured on our site?  Send us a message on any of our social media networks!!!

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