2 days hidden highlights of Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a great place to visit either as a destination on its own, or, as many people do, as a nice 2 day stop over between flights.  I’ve lived in Hong Kong for 8 years, so . . . I’m biased . . . but also keen to share some tips to make sure you get the best from the place
The biggest overall tip I can give – many people when they think of Hong Kong think of the skyscrapers, the busy neon light lined streets, the sheer hustle of one of the most densely populated places on earth etc etc – and it is indeed all of these things.  But it is also 75% undeveloped and 40% national park.  In short, it is a world class city, with a tropical paradise a short ferry / taxi away.  That is why, for this review, I am focusing on some of the more unusual things to do in Hong Kong for a first time visitor
Should you want to check out the classic Hong Kong highlights – see my entry for 2 days for the famous highlights of Hong Kong

Rapid 2 week roadtrip around the US West Coast States

My favourite road trip – the contrasts of natural landscape along the way with snowy mountains, red / yellow deserts, and temperate rainforests; the tasters of the different culture snapshots of the US with conservative cowboys through to uber-liberal SoCal and Pacific North West; the sheer world-fame of some spots like Las Vegas, LA, Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon; but more than anything – its a trip that is simply perfect for driving.  The distances involved, the way the US in particular is set up for the drivers and the scenery to take in in between the obvious highlights is just world-beating

It’s also a super high octane trip – 4200 miles / 6760km of driving – the sort of thing you rattle off in your 20s, when you have the energy, 2 weeks of vacation and are keen to see and do everything.  There’s something just so incredibly fun and fantastic about seeing one world-famous site one after the other in rapid succession – one day being in the likes of Yellowstone National Park, the next in Arches National Park, the next the Grand Canyon, the next Las Vegas, the next LA etc etc.  An exciting whirlwind that creates a feeling most will never forget . . . and in a way equally spoils / sets the bar incredibly high for any other trip

A bit rushed? – on the trip itself, we didn’t feel overly rushed.  Again, we had 2 weeks vacation and wanted to see as much of this part of the world as possible.  For example, I actually found a day / half day in each of the national parks perfect to do a basic walk, see the main attractions and get the feel for them.  But of course, it would have been nice to spend longer in each – perhaps take a 3 day hiking trip across one of them.  Or perhaps see some of the other pieces we of course missed along the way.  Ultimately, I always suggest avoiding the mass tourism standard experience on offer, and I shudder just thinking of trying to do this again, but in a part of the world that has world class sites one after the other, the gorging on them was great fun

Soaking up the atmosphere around Santa Monica

LA is vast and sprawling, with so many things to do.  But often these things are a little underwhelming – trips to the Chinese Theatre, seeing the Hollywood sign, downtown LA . . . all a bit meh.  Whereas strolling around in the afternoon in Santa Monica was cool, and would be my recommendation for a place to stay for a first time visitor

Staying in Santa Monica was a small part of a whirlwind road trip around the Western US states.  See the itinerary and tips for this adventure here – Rapid 2 week roadtrip around the US West Coast States

The theme parks of Orlando, Florida

Yes its super busy, yes its the definition of commercialisation, yes its often endless queues of people,  but even despite all that, its just a fun experience.  The famous spots like the Universal Studios, the thrills of the ever-growing rollercoaster parks, the amazing waterparks – they’re all great and worth the visit alone.  But the highlight by far for me was the attention to detail that the Disney parks and their surrounding venues provide.  Yes it is mass tourism, but where on the planet does it quite this well?

It was years since my last visit, so only a short travel entry and a few key tips:

  • Try to go just after it pours it down with rain in the morning.  The main group of fellow tourists will typically avoid using up their full day pass, but you’ll find the reduction in queue numbers worth it, and its when many of the locals go
  • I’d recommend all the Disney places – Magic Kingdom, EPCOT Centre, Hollywood Studios, Blizzard Beach, Typhoon Lagoon
  • Others that are great – Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios
  • Further afield definitely worth it – Bush Gardens (full on rollercoasters) and the Kennedy Space Centre
  • If have time – SeaWorld
  • If you’re into Disney – consider staying in one of the Disney Hotels.  They are basically an extension of the Disney experience, often done just as well as the parks

God its cheesy, but fun