Hong Kong Highlights

Our Hong Kong Highlights are not a tourist list of things to see rather what we discovered, walking the streets, during our brief visit to Hong Kong in October, that stuck in our hearts and minds.

Armed with a map, we picked up at the train station, we set out each day with the plan only to discover a new area of the city of Hong Kong.  Each day as we hoped, we were amazed at the colours, culture and fantastic food we discovered.

Here are our Hong Kong highlights which were overlaid, everyday and everywhere by two things; the vibrant colours and juxtaposition of eastern and western cultures.

CITY OF LIGHTS & COLOUR

Hong-Kong-Highlights-skyline
An obvious highlight; the Hong Kong skyline, famed for its brightly lit skyscrapers.  The nightly ‘light show’ spectacular from either side of the harbour and quite stunning from the Star Ferry.

We were more amazed also by the colours and lights in every street…
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There must be almost as many neon lights as people in Hong Kong!
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EAST MEETS WEST

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The juxtaposition of eastern and western cultures is constantly highlighted, and for us sometimes uncomfortable, in Hong Kong; smart-dressed city types relax in the many western style bars, seemingly oblivious to the (more often than not) Chinese making everything work in the background.

Contemporary stores selling fine goods sit along side traditional Chinese stores and workshops.Hong-kong-highlights-chinese-tradition

High above the bustling streets, hidden away roof top bars offer breath-taking prices to match their viewsHong-kong-highlights-roof-top-bar

whilst below in the narrow streets and alleys make-shift street cafes serve fantastic, simple local food to eastern and western people alike.Hong-kong-highlights-street-food

An amazing array of ingredient in even the simplest dishes…
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TEMPLES

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Though the peace and tranquility is spoilt in some by camera clicking, indiscreet tourists others remain serene and sacred places the Taoist and Buddhist temples remain one of our Hong Kong highlights.

In most temples we came across I only stood close to the entrance and watched the people perform their ceremonies for a few minutes.  If the temples were empty, and it felt appropriate, I took pictures.
Hong-kong-highlights-traditional-temple

In the smaller, less tourist visited temples the deep red of the messages to the gods, the aroma of the constantly burning incense coils particularly highlight the contrast of east and west in Hong Kong.

Even surrounded by ancient eastern culture and religion the modern, western influenced city and its skyscrapers were never far away.Hong-kong-highlights-incense-spirals

APPRECIATION OF STYLE & NATURE

The of our most surprising Hong Kong highlights for us was the evident appreciation and application of style.
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These two perfectly, almost eerily, coordinated girls caught my eye on Hong Kong harbour.  Their use of colour perhaps not as vibrant as others but such simple, understated and elegant style made a real impression.

Even the modern shopping malls revealed an appreciation of style.  These ‘retail temples’ were worth visiting to see the emphasis given to style and use of natural materials.  Even the ladies rooms were spectacular!
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Thankfully nature still rules in many places throughout Hong Kong and is appreciated sometimes simply for the shade it provides
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and, in such a fast developing and fast moving city like Hong Kong, it’s fascinating to see nature appreciated and interwoven with a special attention to detail and effortless style.

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THE PEAK

Not for the experience of the Peak Tram which, though a wonderful site making its way slowly up the hill, we avoided and walked up to the Peak from the city instead.

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Rather again for nature and the dominance of it so close to the city.  On the path up to and around the peak it was wonderful and unsettling at the same time to see how quickly nature takes back over after people have cut their path and laid their mark.

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A year in the French alps

It’s been a busy year living in the French Alps…

When the builders completed the transformation of the shell of our 1850s Savoyard barn in August we spent a fun, exhausting and fascinating five months completing the renovation ourselves. From fitting floors to building furniture.
here is how we renovated a tumble down barn to boutique ski chaletbarn to boutique chalet

Finishing just in time for winter season we had a busy year; enjoying time with friends old and new to enjoy winter season in the French Alps. Getting just a little better at snowboarding, learning to ski again.
Here’s our winter season captured in pictureswinter season Portes du soleil

We were also busy during this first year living in the French Alps managing our holiday rental business in the UK and building up to the sale of the business in May and June.

We think we amused and inspired the team at Travel Chapter (the new owners of the Sheepskin brand and UK holiday property collection) in equal measure by choosing to camp in our VW camper van throughout the six week sales completion process.
Just for fun here’s our business sale ‘adventure’ in picturesIMG_4539

Business sale complete, at the end of June we were off on the road with Adam’s parents this time for two weeks sharing some of our favourite places with them on a camper van trip as part celebration of their 60th wedding anniversary.
A day in Provence, ten days in Italy and back to the French Alps….ten day motorhome holiday Italy Pastum

In July, back to home in Montriond in time for the bikers to arrive in force. 10,000 Harley riders, two BMW riders (us!) and one Triumph rider (my dad!). We made the most of the Harley Days Festival with two ride outs on Harleys, a night at the Blues Brothers concert and a quiet evening BBQ at Lac du Montriond.
All in all a great Harley Days Morzine 2017Harley Days experience tour

In August the mediterranean sea and sunshine were calling us but so were the peaks around our home in the French Alps so in August we completed our quest of walking the four peaks that we can see and that inspire the artwork in our home; Roc D’Enfer, Nyon, Ressachaux and Nantau and a few other wonderful alpine walks with friends too.
Walking in portes du soleil.walking portes du soleil

So that is the whistle stop summary of our year in the french alps, from August to August.

Of course we didn’t sit still in September,  we’re still busy and I’m busy writing so stay tuned….

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Off-piste, back country Snowboarding

Serene-snowscene-Avoriaz

Off-piste, back country is what snowboarding is all about for many keen snowboarders. Previously, we now know, we have been, reasonably safe, ‘side-country’ off-piste snowboarders.

Off-piste, side-country snowboarding is what most snowboarders do, it’s the type of off-piste snowboarding that is likely to be covered in your travel insurance, it’s normally easy to find (not far from or in-between the pistes), doesn’t involve hikes or walks, so long as you keep a lift in sight somewhere, however it does mean you need to be an early bird to get first tracks and fresh powder.

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backcountry-guide-morzine-luke-rees
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Helen-snowboarding-offpiste-backcountry-luke-rees

There is so much more off-piste snowboarding to discover in the back-country!

We are both reasonably good snowboarders and love exploring independently so over time we could get to know the back-country off-piste in the Porte du Soleil however we are also both very impatient.  Rather than spend lots of time searching ourselves we saw the value in joining a guided group on a week long off-piste back-country course and chose the ‘off-piste back-country ‘ with Mint Snowboarding in Morzine.

We had high expectations of the week off-piste and David, our Mint snowboarding guide / guru (the ‘green giant’ disappearing off into the mist below), did not disappoint.

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misty-backcountry-hike-offpiste-luke-rees

When the group, of six, met on the first morning David asked each of us what we wished for from the course; the answers were all reassuringly similar.  To have a better understanding off-piste conditions, to improve our confidence riding in the twists, turns and powder of back-country conditions.

A couple mentioned they’d like to do some cliff drops which scared and excited me all at once.  During the week we practised (and landed!) several cliff-drops which all felt, and looked from above, a lot bigger than they do here)…

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helens-cliff-drop-luke-rees
helens-cliff-drop-luke-rees

But before we went into the back-country search of fresh tracks off-piste first a refresher for us all on avalanche safety.  We all had avalanche transceivers, probes and shovels and had been on avalanche training courses before and all agreed you can never have too much practise using your equipment, practising avalanche situations and understanding as much as possible about weather and mountain conditions to hopefully avoid the avalanche in the first place.

After practise using our transceivers and probes we dug a snow pit to investigate the snow pack which fascinatingly and worryingly showed a few weak layers.  Here I am separating off one of the weak layers…

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offpiste-avalanche-training-mint-snowboarding-rob-palmer

I hasten to add I am stood in a hole here which makes David look even more like the Jolly Green Giant towering over little me – one of the group, Rob, took to calling me ‘Ninja’ from this picture I can see why ;-).

One thing we learnt quickly was that although it is great to snowboard the ‘off-piste’ that you can find easily from the lifts you are amply rewarded if you hike a little off-the-beaten-track and into the back-country.

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ridge-hike-to-backcountry-offpiste-snowboarding-luke-rees

No matter where you are in the mountains there is always a stunning vista to remind you what an amazing and beautiful world it is and how privileged you are to be in the special place.  Our hikes into the back-country often rewarded us with spectacular views and special moments…

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view-worth-the-walk-in-off-piste-backcountry
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offpiste-backcountry-course-mint-snowboarding-alex-horton

On each of the five days we had a few ‘five’ minute hikes (or at least five minutes for David with legs twice as long as mine and who thinks nothing of hiking up 700m and snow-boarding down off-piste before breakfast!) and a few climbs…

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climbing-offpiste-backcountry-alex-horton
climb-offpiste-backcountry-luke-rees
climb-offpiste-backcountry-luke-rees

and more often than not beautiful powder and fresh tracks once we reached the back-country destination…

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fresh-powder-worth-walk-off-piste-backcountry
more-first-tracks-in-fresh-powder-offpiste-backcountry
more-first-tracks-in-fresh-powder-offpiste-backcountry

One of our group, Luke, is owner and writer for adventure travel website awe365.com and wrote a great article about the five day back-country course with more detail of what we did and where.

magical-mystery-tour-offpiste-backcountry
magical-mystery-tour-offpiste-backcountry

Overall it was a wonderful week when nature was kind to us with frequent falls of fresh snow to make each day different and amazing fun.

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more-snow-portes-du-soleil-ardent-mint-snowboarding-off-piste-back-country-course

Vanity struck at some points and on mellower, less demanding slopes we played with videos.

An eye-opening, exhausting, exhilarating and extremely enjoyable five days with a fantastic bunch of like-minded and fun-loving people.  One of those life-changing experiences.

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mint-snowboarding-backcountry-offpiste-group-alex-horton
offpiste-funky-views-nature-alex-horton
offpiste-funky-views-nature-alex-horton

My reason for writing, from the heart

In starting this journal it feels different than ever before.  I intend it to be not just a record of sights, tastes and experiences but of our feelings and emotions as we travel through life and I hope, to have time to tell the story of how we got here.

My reason for writing and writing from the heart is simply it’s the right time and I feel we have reached an exciting and defining junction.

For Adam this year is one of huge upheaval, it’s been a time of difficult and we know life-changing decisions but necessary and positive decisions as he leaves his role and escape from corporate world.  Leaving behind friends and colleagues that he has inspired and that have inspired him and transformed what I know sometimes felt like a futile, uphill battle into a rewarding and motivating experience.

For me (Helen) as always, challenging, exciting times managing our own business as the team and company strengthen, evolve and grow.

For us both, after four years of living apart during the week, the last of those years in a building site as we renovated our new home (more on that in another blog later), we are stronger than ever.  Confident in our decision to take a break, escape and travel for a while, enjoy time and new experiences together and to let those experiences inspire and mould what we do next…

I anticipate the journey will be a roller coaster adventure and I want to be able to capture it for me and for any like-minded people who find this travel blog and that is my reason for writing from the heart.

A new journey and travel journal begins…

As we start a new journey and a travel journal begins but my journey and travel journal started some time ago…

In August 2008 I bought a Moleskin notebook – I presented myself a challenge choosing one with plain not lined pages as I felt I needed to be completely free to use it as I may want as I set out on a new path (more on this at another time in this blog).

The first, pristine blank page was daunting and paralysed me. After lots of staring and soul searching at the white space I wrote on the first page…

“A new journey begins or is it that the journey continues down new and yet undefined paths.  Paths to be mapped and shared together…”

starting a travel journalOn the first evening of our, half-planned, trip, glasses of wine in hand watching the sunset, I turned the page, pencil poised and, still afraid of the blank page, asked Adam to write first.

He sat and stared for a while, something he does often as a Designer and invariably comes with a creative solution. As he reached the bottom of his glass of wine he put pencil to paper (neither of us like the permanency of pens) and started the journal of our travels.

We were setting off in Adam’s camper van to the Mediterranean on our very first trip together having met just a short time before.

Over the coming weeks the pages filled with thoughts, feelings and food as we travelled, got to know each other and basically enjoyed a life changing 4 weeks together. (maybe more on that later)

Food and travel diary

Now I start a different journal as we start a new journey and, as we turn a page again my online travel journal begins.

Rather than simply adding to my collection of pencil filled Moleskin travel journals that I fill and file (hide) away after each trip promising myself I will revisit, reread do something with them one day I can share my travel diary with others.  Perhaps to inspire, to influence, to entertain those that stumble upon or follow this travel blog.

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