Singapore and Hong Kong (with a dash of Indonesia and Malaysia)

Woof. There was a stretch of time last week in which I visited five different countries in five days.

As you know, I left Australia a week ago, landed in Jakarta, Indonesia planning to travel the island of Java with my sister for a week. Unfortunately, she got dengue fever in Lomboc, and we made a hasty decision to abort our plans and head to Singapore instead. So, less than 24 hours after leaving Australia, we took off for Singapore. From there, I spent a day GoKarting in Malaysia and took off (with a healthy Lexie) to Hong Kong on Sunday.

I say again, woof.

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Our GoKart track in Malaysia – sketchy karts, but we had a blast!

We’ve had nothing but overwhelming generosity thrown our way since arriving at our aunt and uncle’s home in Singapore, which is on the 13th floor of a massive, beautiful building just outside the downtown area. As I type, I have a direct view of the Marina Bay Sands, and have had front row seats to multiple, flashy tropical storms from my bed next to the balcony.

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A view of the waterfront in Singapore.
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Literally what I wake up to each morning in Singapore. Also great seats for the regular thunder and lightning.

Singapore as a whole feels very “Truman Show,” though not necessarily in a bad way. It’s very pristine, clean and safe with huge shopping malls around every corner. The public transportation is easy, and most indoor places are well air-conditioned to combat the heavy humidity.

Though we’ve only had a couple full days to explore, our family has given us a great tour of some Singaporean highlights. Some of my favorites were getting dinner on “Satay Street” (Satay skewers, what else?), wandering the waterfront (one of the coolest skylines you’ll ever see), and spending a day on GoKarts in Malaysia, just across the border (a preview to the night’s going away party for my cousin Rachel, who is moving to Chicago, and eventually Milwaukee, this month).

Lexie and I are now using Singapore as a home base of sorts, launching our other travels through Southeast Asia. Why it took us this long to realize how smart that is, I’ll never know. But thanks to the hospitality of our aunt, uncle and cousins here in Singapore, backpacker life around this region has never been less stressful.

On Sunday, less than 72 hours after arriving in Singapore, Lexie and I booked flights for Hong Kong as she was back to full strength and our travel bugs kept biting. Hong Kong, though technically a city in China, is basically a world apart (different rules, different currencies, even different languages). Like Singapore, a lot of the buildings are built up, instead of out, to preserve land on the heavily populated islands.

As I expected, Hong Kong was more of a cultural experience than Singapore has been so far. Lexie and I ate a table-full of amazing local dim sum (and one huge beer each) for about $11.50 U.S., and each grabbed some sweet items at the night markets on the Kowloon side of Hong Kong (Me? Oh, just a kick ass Steph Curry jersey for $20, bargained down from $40).

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After hours of women’s clothing, purses, and more, this was like finding Mecca at the markets in Kowloon for me.

The downtown area of Hong Kong was also a lot of fun, with cool restaurants and bars everywhere we turned. Word to the wise, traveling to Hong Kong in the future: use the local subway system, but be prepared to spend the next 15 minutes walking out of the station – it is complex, brilliant, and incredibly frustrating, especially at rush hour.

Anyway, for $12 U.S. a night, Lexie and I got some fairly comfortable, quiet hostel rooms and for not much more than that, a few days of solid adventuring. Our second day, we decided to venture to Lantau Island, just West of Hong Kong island and Kowloon. We wanted to take the gondola up to the Big Buddha and Tai O fishing village, so we did just that.

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On the way up the gondola, Lantau Island behind us.
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Big ol’ Buddha, but only just old enough to drink as of 2014.

To be perfectly frank, the best part was getting the breathtaking views from the gondola. It was very interesting to see the big Buddha statue and the more remote fishing village, but both were overrun by tourists and we were disappointed to learn that the statue had been constructed in 1993. So much for that ancient history!

Our final full day in Hong Kong on this whirlwind trip was spent in Stanley, an area with a great market, nice beach, and some good drinking and eating options. Lexie and I met my old Wazzu pal Courtney there, who has been living in Hong Kong and working in the emerging coffee industry here since graduating four years ago. We watched the sun start to set in Repulse Bay (right next to Stanley), beers in hand, before eventually parting ways. Lexie and I made our way back to the Kowloon side to watch the famous light show (honest review? Meh. Beautiful skyline, though!) across the water. Then we hopped on the Star Ferry to head back and wrap up our last night in Hong Kong.

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Stanley, from just next to the markets.

It was really cool to explore another country while situated in Singapore, and I’m hoping I’ll have another two or three under my belt before taking off for London and Iceland on May 15th. Now, it’s just a matter of deciding. Thailand? Philippines? Cambodia? Vietnam?

The options are endless, and it’s freakin’ awesome.

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