Chinese Year of the Monkey – 2016

Chinese Year of the Monkey - 2016The high-spirited Year of the Monkey begins on 8th February 2016. Each animal in the Chinese zodiac is divided into elements with slightly different characteristics – this new year is a Red Fire Monkey. Fire brings more energy to the animal, so magnifying its behavior.

Monkey People
monkey faceMonkeys are popular, naughty, very competitive, forceful, and control freaks. They’re playful, clever, imaginative, crafty, witty, and have a magnetic personality. As well as emotionally truthful, engrossed in the opposite sex, and intrusive at finding unconventional solutions to old problems. Their self assurance makes them fast learners and determined leaders. However, monkeys are also reckless, stubborn, aggressive and selfish.

If you are a Monkey
Chinese Year of the MonkeyYou should be lucky in everything except health this year. Improve your lifestyle and well-being, especially in finance where you enjoy a competitive edge. Wealth and career are positive, but be cautious when investing.

Your perfect partner is a rat or an ox, although you flourish with a rabbit or a dragon – you are least harmonious with a tiger or pig person. Your ambition and drive will do you well in finance, with a career in sales, marketing or advertising. Monkeys also prosper in law, medicine, writing, and many are famous movie stars.

Predictions for this Year of the Monkey
This will be a year of optimism and adventure. Anything can happen. Everything
will be fast, including settlement of conflicts. Although people will be more
boisterous, they also become more docile and open to change.

Travel accidents or catastrophic events are probable. Many will die. However, its a time to investigate, discover, create and take risks. Luck can strike any time. Seize opportunity and go for it!  Break the routine. However, monkeys can be unpredictable
and jealous.

Wealth will reward risk takers because of energy from the fire element. People and money will whiz around the globe even faster with business prospering, yet political upheaval will slow. Courage and originality will succeed – but you need to be able to hang onto the ride even if you have to bluff your way through. Keep fit.

Monkey Years
Monkey year 2016If you were born during these dates, then you are a Monkey:
20/02/1920 to 07/02/1921, 06/02/1932 to 25/01/1933, 25/01/1944 to 12/02/1945, 12/02/1956 to 30/01/1957, 30/01/1968 to 16/02/1969, 16/02/1980 to 04/02/1981, 04/02/1992 to 22/01/1993, 22/01/2004 to 08/02/2005, 08/02/2016 to 27/01/2017.

Famous Monkey People
Bette Davis, Charles Dickens, Danny De Vito, Diana Ross, Jeff Beck, Elizabeth
Taylor, Leonardo da Vinci, Pope John Paul II, Harry Truman, Ian Fleming, Joan
Crawford, Joe Cocker, Johnny Cash, Jimmy Page, Mel Gibson, Mick Jagger, Nelson
Rockefeller, Peter O’Toole, Little Richard, Rod Stewart, Will Smith.

Monkey Likes
Colours: white, blue & gold.
Birthstone: Peridot.
Western zodiac equivalent: Leo.
Lucky numbers: 4, 9,1, 7, 8.

Click to get your Lucky Chinese Jade Monkey Pendant
For a lucky jade pendant of Other Chinese New Years Jade Pendant
See my video of a wild Chinese New Year in Hong Kong

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Sometimes trips don’t workout – Singapore & Malaysia

You can’t win them all – travel is what you make it!

Don't Fly JetStarThis holiday should have been Singapore and relaxation in Bali. Jetstar spoilt the fun by cancelling our flight to Bali – because of ‘volcanic activity’ they said. Yet other planes got through. Budget airlines are at the bottom of priority in a backlog.

Rather than risk getting stuck (return cancelled too), we visited Malaysia instead. Picture: Jura Beach, Pulau Tioman.

Jura Beach, Pulau Tioman Island, Mayalsia

Singapore Night7th November 2015: Hong Kong to Singapore. Great evening dining open-air in China Town. Despite looking like Hong Kong, food at double the price, slow cooked, and beer three-times more.

These days Singapore is horribly expensive, but the palms and flora everywhere is beautiful. If you’re on a budget, one night is enough. More western than Hong Kong, with everyone speaking English.

Singapore Toilet SignSingapore, along with South Korea and Japan, is the cleanest country in the world. The Government controls everything. Mao Zedong said “water too pure, breads no fish” – but the tiny City State does OK.

Marina Bay Sands Bar, Singapore

8th Nov: Singapore’s excellent and free Botanical Gardens, a £12 pint at Marina Bay Sands Bar, the new Gardens By the Bay followed by a river cruise in the evening. The Sands Bar is one of the highest in Singapore, and just above the public viewing platform which costs about the same as one drink to enter.

Malaysian FlagMalicca9th Nov: To Malacca in Malaysia. Bus to border and another 2-hours to Johor Bahru bus station for the 4-hour ride to Malacca. Malacca is very-Portuguese and well worth a visit.

River Song Residence, Malicca10th: Another river cruse late afternoon. Heavy rain closed restaurants at 9pm, but we found a late drink. Malacca is for relaxing and watching boats.

We considered catching the daily ferry to Sumatra in the hope of joining our friends in Indonesia, but the port there is so out-of-the-way.

Tioman Island Ferry11th: Therefore we took the 4-hour bus to Mersing for the ferry to Tioman Island, called Pula Tioman, for a Bali substitute. Tioman is the largest of the east coast islands at 20kl  long. However, during monsoon-season most businesses on the island are closed, with only one daily ferry.

12th: Clambered off the 10am 2-hour boat at Salang, only a few rundown eating shacks opened and we run out of ringgits. Not only were most hotels closed, but all public transport.

Boat at Pula TiomanSo we hired a boat to Kampung Teke, the Island’s capital with the only ATM. Lucky, because it’s one of the few villages with alcohol – available at duty free shops and Chinese restaurants.

 

 

Jo - Turtle at Tioman Island, Malaysia13th: Hired a man with 4-wheel drive to take us across the island to beautiful Juara Village where we visited the turtle rehabilitation centre.  There they collect the hundreds of eggs each turtle hides in the sand and manage to hatch over half.

Best beach on the island – 2 km of powdery white sand.

MersingPicture: River at Mersing

14th – 15th: Ferry and bus back to Singapore and flight to Hong Kong. I thought the bus from Mersing to JB was too cheap at £2 for the 100-miles: in heavy rain it broke down, so had to catch a taxi for £30.  Pleased to reach the airport early.

Hotels
Singapore – 5Footway Project Chinatown 1: S$83 = £38 a night.
Mayalsia – River Song Residence, by the river in Malicca: RM155 = £23 a night.
Bluewater Hotel, Mersing: : RM 95 = £14 a night.
Tioman Island – Babura Seaview Resort at Kampung Tekek: RM 155 = £23 a night.

Beer in a Muslim country

Tiger BeerCheap Singapore restaurant: £4.50. 7-11: £1.40 large can.

Cheap mainland Malaysia restaurant: £2.50 large bottle. 7:11: £0.90 large can.

Malaysian duty free island: £0.90 large bottle. Duty free shop: £0.50 can of Tiger.

Flight
Jetstar 3 1/2 hours Hong Kong to Singapore: about £100 return. Very cramped seats and only a voucher promised for the cancelled connecting flight to Bali.

Best time to go: April to September.  Not when we visited – November to March!

Malaysia Map

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10 Reasons Why I Want To Live Back in Britain

People think I’m crazy – most I know would jump at the chance to exit Blighty.

Sunset On The Norfolk BraodsAbout 300,000 British citizens a year are emigrating for more money and a better life. Adding to the 4.7 million Brits already living abroad.

I’ve been in China for over 25-years. Now I’m trying to move back to the UK. There’s many personal reasons:

 

  1. Great real ale pubs
  2. Quaint countryside, architecture & seaside
  3. Still have lots of friends in the UK – but where I live, many are leaving
  4. Clean air & blue skies (a lot of the time!)
  5. I love driving to a slightly different culture in just a few hours
  6. Outdoor music and other festivals
  7. Cruising my boat on the Norfolk Broads
  8. Bigger rooms and a garden
  9. Almost everyone speaks English. Not anymore in Hong Kong
  10. I believe I can make more money. This one ain’t easy compared to a land of near-zero tax, but I’ll give it a go!

Middlewich Folk & Boat FestivalSome say I’ve developed rose tinted glasses. However, last year I spent 6-months in the UK, and although I haven’t experienced an entire winter, I’m not naive. I quite like the weather. It’s improved with global warming – whereas blues skies in Hong Kong and Guangdong are now a rarity. If you think feeling warm is good, read my Living In a Tropical Country blog.

 

Nigel  & Friends on RoseyOf course, I’m familiar with exorbitant travel costs with restricted public transport, bad food, limited mobile phone reception, early closing, and darkness most of winter. None of which are common in the Far East. But the UK feels comfortable and after all I am British! I’m even thinking of buying a TV license.

Despite my wife of 12-years having a hard time obtaining a UK residency visa, even after 20 trips to Britain. I’m voting UKIP because they don’t discriminate against non-Europeans!

See My Personal Site: NigelHayMckay.com


Macau for Backpackers

 

St Pauls Church, Macau

Where is Macau?
Macau is a Chinese territory near Hong Kong, composed of a peninsula and two small islands connected by bridges. It was Portuguese for about 400-years – the first and last foreign colony in China. The only place in China proper-gambling is allowed.

I’ve enjoyed the food, drink and Mediterranean aura there for over 20-years, before the Portuguese handover.

Macau Accommodation
Macau Hotel Backpacker’s accommodation used to be under US$10 a night. Now, finding a budget hotel is akin to getting a cut-price lobster dinner in London.

Since casino revenue exceeded four-times Las Vegas and Chinese mainlanders are allowed in their millions, the cheapest rooms are over US$60. Despite a clamp down on gambling government money.

Nevertheless, real bargains can be had online for plush 4-star hotels’ for around HK$800 off peak – about 1/3 walk in price.

Cheap Rooms
Backpackers have a harder time. With the cheaper rooms less value, grubby, with beds as hard as wooden doors. However, although a little more than Hong Kong’s Chung King Mansions, they’re easy to find in the right area.

Travessa Do Mastro - MacauAt the ferry terminal, collect a map and ask questions at the Tourist Information Office. Then backpackers should take a taxi (about HK$25 – use Hong Kong money) to the main square, called Senado Square, pronounced ‘San Marlo’. Walk five-minutes further down the main road and take a lane on the left called Travessa Do Mastro. Around there are the cheapest lodgings.

Van Va Hotel, Cheap Macau HotelThe backpacker’s favourite is Van Va Hospedaria, up the steps from a doorway along a traditional street, left off Travessa Do Mastro. Bring your own towel or buy a cheap one in a supermarket. There’s a few similar hotels nearby.

Is It Worth It?
If you’re calling on Hong Kong, don’t miss Macau. Its different! Even a day-trip is worthwhile – the ferries are 24/7, taking just over an hour and about HK$175 each way.

You can also do a three-way thing: Hong Kong, Macau, and Zhuhai, mainland China. It’s just a short walk across the border from Macau to Zhuhai and high-speed trains connect to Guangzhou South Station.

Must See
Rua Da Felicidade, MacauGold shops and banks are everywhere, but there’s much heritage to explore. A short walk from the main square brings you to the Ruins of St Paul’s – what’s left of a 17th-century Portuguese cathedral, dramatically perched at the top of so-European steps.

Other sights not to miss are the Fort, built in 1626 – just behind St Paul’s (take the escalators up and walk down), and the 150-year old Guia Fort & Lighthouse.

Macau Food
Alies Curry House, MacauMacau is famous for its egg custard tarts, made from Portuguese pastry and served hot. Intruded by an Englishman, Andrew Stow in 1989 in a Coloane Village, but now available everywhere. A few years ago they were just HK$4 each, but now sell for $9.

Most restaurants serve a combination of Portuguese and Cantonese food. Best bargains are away from the main square. My favourite is Ali Curry House, opposite the tower, Avenida da Republica no 4-K. Great open-air location with fantastic quality Portuguese food and good wine, not just curries.

Macau

See My Personal Site: NigelHayMckay.com


Chinese New Year of the Goat – 2015

 

Chinese Year of the Goat - 2015The Year of the Goat, or Sheep, begins on 19th February 2015. The eighth of the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac and so believed to be lucky. Every animal is divided into elements with slightly different characteristics – this New Year is a Green Wood Goat. Wood Goat people are generous, very trustworthy and always help others.

Chinese new year of the goat - 2015Goat Characteristics
Goats can be loners, but prefer to be with others. They are meek, calm, curious, and intelligent, but also proud and possess a stubborn streak. They have fantastic balance and quickly learn from each other. If one finds a flaw in a fence, other goats will mimic the opportunity. Their harmonious yin energy explains why they represent peace.

Goat People
Are easy-going, intellectual, witty, loyal, thoughtful, but tender and worry a lot. However, it’s a lucky year for those born during this sign. Anything is possible, with relationships, wealth and career shining. Goat’s popularity is just as well, as they crave security for everything, so valuing love, friendship and their home. This makes them good partners – best with pig and rabbit people, but with the ox there is little harmony.

Goats like working with their hands, so best jobs are in caring, medicine, architecture or anything arty. They lack ambition, preferring to work with others. Alternate careers are an actor, teacher, writer, florist, musician or a hair dresser.

Predictions
Chinese New Year of the GoatGoats are creative animals that move forward, so this is the year to use your imagination without distraction.  Calm and tranquility will dominate 2015, balancing the international economy. The sheep’s nurturing will ensure wisdom and good will prevail global conflicts. Respect to alliances will encourage unity to combat evil. Everything will slow with a drive back to basics, compromise and healing.

Creativity and arts will flourish, as will all luxuries and holiday travel. However, although goats are un-materialistic, they like to spend on splendor and beauty prompting debt. Furthermore, beware of turmoil in the spring, and early-winter 2016.

Goat Years
If you were born during these dates, then you are a Goat: 17/02/1931 to 05/02/1932, 05/02/1943 to 24/01/1944, 24/01/1955 to 11/02/1956, 98/02/1967 to 29/01/1968, 28/01/1979 to 15/02/1980, 15/02/1991 to 03/02/1992, 01/02/2003 to 21/01/2004, 19/02/2015 to 07/02/2016

Famous Goat People
Andy Warhol, Bill Gates, Bruce Willis, Charles Dickens, Empress Dowager Cixi, George Burns, George Harrison, Jane Austen, John Denver, John Wayne, Laurence Olivier, Mark Twain, Michelangelo, Mick Jagger, Muhammad Ali, Pamela Anderson, Robert De Niro, Rudolph Valentino, Thomas Edison, Whoopi Goldberg

Goat Likes
Element: fire & earth, Colour: green & yellow. Birthstone: sapphire, jade & moonstone. Western zodiac equivalent: Cancer

For your lucky Chinese jade Year of the Goat Pendant click Year of the Goat Pendant – only US$3.99!  For other Chinese New Year animal pendants click here
For our oriental store click OnlineOriental
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What Will 2015 Bring? Predictions for the New Year

New Year - 2015

Old Moore’s Almanack
Old Moores AlmanackThe 348-year-old prophecies of this little book have been uncannily accurate. For 2015, it paints a rosy year.

Old Moore says 2015 will be in two parts. Life will be much easier on the surface, but behind the scenes there will be difficulty with more correction. Change is necessary because ‘the insiders have cheated the outsiders’.

In the UK there will be cries of anarchy, but latter in the year British creativity will flourish. Although inflation may return to the UK, Europe as a whole will finish the year more stable.

The mood of US citizens will ease, and globally 2015 will be a year of optimism and hope. This is especially so during the second half of the new year when planetary pressures will ease, bringing a feeling that a huge burden has lifted.

Chinese Year of the Goat
Chinese Year of the Goat - 2015The Year of the Goat (or Sheep) begins on 19th February 2015. The eighth of the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac and so believed to be lucky.

Calm and tranquility will dominate, balancing the international economy. Goat’s nurturing will ensure wisdom and good will prevail global conflicts. Respect to alliances will encourage unity to combat evil. Everything will slow with a drive back to basics, compromise and healing.

Year of the GoatGoats are creative animals that move forward, so this is the year for imagination. Creativity and arts will flourish, as will all luxuries and holiday travel. However, although goats are un-materialistic, they like to spend on splendour and beauty prompting debt.

 

For more on the Year of the Goat click Chinese New Year 2015
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Palawan Island, Philippines

Port Barton, Palawan Island, PhilippinesPalawan was recently voted best tropical beaches in the world. The crystal aqua-blue sea is always warm there, and every beach has white powdery sand with overhanging palm trees.

Last week was my second Palawan trip  – arriving in the capital, Puerto Princesa on a short flight from Manila. Then taking a van for 6-hours to El Nido.

El Nido
Big Lagoon, El Nido, Palawan, Philippines“El Nido” is Spanish for “the nest” – ref to swifs that live in the karst cliffs. My favourite thing to do there is eat barbecued seafood by candlelight on the beach, with lots of iced beer. Island hopping is the best daytime pursuit. For US$16 per person a small outrigger will take you around all day, including  snorkeling, swimming, and a huge barbecued seafood lunch. The colourful coral there is spectacular.

Port Barton
Port Barton, Palawan Island, PhilippinesSeafood Lunch, Palawan, PhilippinesPort Barton is a remote west-coastal village about 5-hours from El Nido. It’s laid-back, friendly atmosphere is popular with backpackers seeking solitude and natural beauty.

There are no paved roads all the way there, no banks, no ATMs, doctors, or electricity before 6.30pm to midnight. Internet is limited to wi-fi dongles on Globe network.

Jambalaya Beach Resturant, Port Barton, Palawan, PhilippinesJambalaya Port Barton beachfront cafe owned by a Scotsman and his Filipino wife.

Nigel On Beach, El Nido, Palawan, PhilippinesAccommodation

Manila: Citadel Inn, Makati City – US$44

El Nido: The excellent Devayn’s Inn, Town Centre, but across road to beach – only US$22.  All new – A/C, balcony, and wi-fi. Best Restaurant: Spider Bar on the beach.

Port Barton: Besaga Resort: US$27. Basic, but on the beach with friendly and helpful owner.
Floral Villarosa Hotel, Puerto Princesa, Palawan, PhilippinesPuerto Princesa: Floral Villarosa. Beautiful hotel with large pool owned by a Swiss guy and his Filipino wife – US$50. Close to airport.

Transport
Philippine Air Hong Kong to Manila US$194. Air Asia Manila to Puerto Princesa US$71. All round trips with tax.

Six-hours Puerto Princesa to El Nido. Private van for US$110 (6 people). 4-hours El Nido to Roxas – then 1 1/2 Jeepney to Port Barton, very rough road, not possible in rainy-season (private boat costs US$120)

1 1/2 hours back to Roxas jeepney, then 2-hours van to Puerto Princesa.

Palawan Island, Philippines

See the video of my previous trip to Palawan Island on YouTube

See my personal site: www.NigelHayMckay.com

 


Hong Kong Beaches

Hap Mum Bay Hong KongPresumption
Most people view Hong Kong as a concrete metropolis with little green space.  Yet around 3/4 of the territory is rural – with many sandy beaches, rocky foreshores, hills and mountains.

Sai kung BBQ - Hong Kong BeachHong Kong Facilities
These areas are protected with National Park status and generously provided with footpaths, shelters, benches, barbecue pits, and litter bins. Most public beaches have lifeguards, toilets, showers, BBQs and shark nets. Not that sharks are common, but there were incidents 20-years ago.

Easy-Going
People squash in urban Hong Kong. Mongkok in Kowloon has almost double the population density of Manhattan, with 130,000 per square kilometer. However, few live in rural Hong Kong – although some beaches get crowded weekends.

Nigel on Stanley Beach, Hong KongThis makes Hong Kong ideal for beach hunters who appreciate conservation and scenic sub-tropical landscapes. Although the best beaches are a little remote, some are within 1/2-hour of the city.

Where Are the Beaches?
Popular Repulse Bay can be reached in a 20-minute bus ride from Central. This south side of Hong Kong Island has many sandy beaches.  My favourite here is cozy Deep Water Bay – because it faces soft tree-lined sand, rather than concrete high-rises.

Shak O Beach, Hong KongFurther east on Hong Kong Island has one of the best beaches in the region: Shek O.  This can be reached on the Island MTR line to Shau Kei Wan, then a bus for another 20-minutes.  Nearby is Big Wave Bay, popular with surfers.

Tai Long Wan, Si Kong, Hong KongSome of the most pristine beaches can take hours to get to like Tai Long Wan on the Sai Kung Peninsula.  My favorite there, and easier to reach, is Hap Mum Bay on Sharp Island – catch a sampan there from Sai Kung Town waterfront (HK$40 return weekends).

Other nice Hong Kong beaches are on islands accessible by regular boats from the Central Ferry Pier. Like Lamma Island (don’t be put off by the nearby power station), Cheung Chau, and Cheung Sha Beaches on Lantau Island.

What to do on the Beach?
Hong Kong Beach FunI’m not one for lying around – I can’t relax sprawled on the sand. Not even reading or listening to music. I’m fearless of the “Not Allowed” signs, but it’s usually too hot for me on the sand to do more than gulp iced beer.

I like to swim and play in the water. The sea’s warm all year. The coldest at 18c is in February, and hottest in September, around 29c. Hong Kong’s good for this as there’s no coral or rocks, and beaches are clean and picturesque.

Hong Kong Beach SignHong Kong No Smoking Beach SignSigns
Although these warnings are not for fun, anyone who has seen a Mainland China beach will appreciate the reserve!

Conclusion
Hong Kong’s not a destination just for beach holidays – but lounging on the sand and swimming in clear water never cooler than 24c, makes a busy business or shopping trip more civilized.

Hong Kong Map

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Experience Canton – More Than Amazing Cuisine!

Guangzhou Guangzhou, previously Canton, is 75-miles north of Hong Kong. The third largest city in China houses over 15-million – the God of Wealth has attracted 105-million to the whole of Guangdong Province, and expanding fast.

Guangzhou Underground TrainHundreds-of-thousands arrive with little more than their shirt, hoping to earn enough to send back to their village. Everywhere is busy. Expect to wait for restaurant tables’ and queue for everything. Rapid urbanization has resulted in Guangzhou’s underground railway growing in 16-years to the 9th longest globally.

History
Before the Tang Dynasty Guangdong was a poor backward region far from the Emperor. Later, Arab traders, Jesuits, and other foreigners flourished there  – until 1757 when the only place immigrants could live in China was restricted to tiny Shamian Island on the Pearl River in Guangzhou. Until British drug dealing opened the country after the Opium War.

Cuisine
Cantonese FishI believe the birthplace of Cantonese food is the best place in the world to dine. Subtle seasoning ensures the freshness of the food is not masked – and everything is eaten, from chicken feet to dog. All meat is chopped into cubes, bones and all, so easily eaten with chopsticks.

Popular is roast pig, goose, chicken, steamed fish and seafood. Breakfast dim sum is ace – shrimp dumpling, steamed siumai, vermicelli roll and sticky rice wrapped in bamboo leaves. In winter hot pot is fun. Lightly boiling delicacies like live shrimp, mushroom, chicken and tofu dangled in a pot on the table, with lots of cheap beer and tea.

Guanzhou Pavement ResturantEateries are everywhere – Guangzhou once boasted a restaurant for every 500-citizens. Stay away from rip-off famous places and gorge yourself at one of the many al fresco pavement cafes. Be like a local: have fun and make a mess!

If you’re yearning for Western, my favorites are the Brazilian BBQ and Sultan Turkish Restaurant near the Garden Hotel, Lucy’s outdoor American diner on Shamian Island; and one of the Japanese Italian chain called Saizeriya, like on Liwan Square.  Best area for pubs is around the Hill Bar, close to the Sultan. Happy Hour finishes at 8pm.

Top Tourist Sights
Pearl River, Guangzhou, ChinaGuangzhou Tower1) Evening Pearl River cruise – now goes close to the dramatic Dutch-designed Canton Tower. Illuminations only on from 7.30pm to 10pm and boats leave about every 20-minutes.
2) Shamian Island retains many colonial buildings and parkland.

Liwan Square, Guangzhou, China3) Pedestrian street in Li Wan & Li Wan Park – great at night.
4) White Cloud Mountain – take the cable car.
5) Guangzhou museum in Yuexiu Park – take the subway there.
6) Six Banyan Tree Temple & Flower Pagoda – over 1,000-years old along Liurong Lu.

Getting There
High Speed Chinese TrainIf you’re from Hong Kong, the easiest transport is the Through Train from Hung Hom, a 2-hour trip. Or MTR to the Lo Wo border, cross into China, and ride a 120-mph train – five-an-hour and takes about 70-minutes. Guangzhou’s new international airport is only an hour from the city centre by underground train or taxi.

If you arrive by air and have a connecting flight out of China, you can stay visa-free for 48-hours. Otherwise most foreigners need an expensive visa. Easily arranged in Hong Kong, or with much form-filling from your home country.

Guangzhou TempleSo if you’re doing South East Asia, don’t miss China, or at least nip into Guangzhou. A couple of nights there and a couple in Hong Kong are the minimum. And if you have longer, I’d highly recommend a few days at Yangshou, near Guilin – Either fly or take the night train from Guangzhou.

I’ve had a place in Guangzhou for over 15-years, so if you have any questions, I’d be pleased to help – Leave a reply.

SGuangzhouee My Personal site at NigelHayMckay.com
My Yangshou Blog


Chinese Year of the Horse – January 31st 2014

Chinese Year of the Horse - 2014The  new Chinese Year of the Horse begins January 31st 2014.

The twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac are divided into  elements, each with slightly different characteristics – this year is a Wooden  Horse. With slightly weaker traits to other horses, but clear thinking and the  power to replace old for the new. Free spirited, volatile, with dynamic yang  energy. All horses are considered fortunate and bring good luck.

Chinese Year of the Horse - January 31st 2014Horse Characteristics
Horses represent freedom and are graceful, generous and noble. Adults sleep  standing because of their weight, but only for 3-hours a day. Their ears can  swivel 180-degrees and they have larger eyes and memories than elephants. Horses  have sensitive skin and gallop from danger at up to 50-mph, but if necessary can  defend themselves. They love crowds.

 

chinese year of the horse manHorse People
Horses  are happy, loyal, intelligent, unselfish, enthusiastic and fun. Although they  talk too much, and are impatient hot-blooded stubborn pessimists, needing  support. Their wasteful spending is bad for finance, but they’re  un-materialistic. Horses like to dance and travel, hating silence and  discipline. Their flamboyance stems from independence and not listening to  others.

They easily fall in love, yet get their hearts broken – and mix well with  tiger, dog, or goat people; but not rats, monkeys or rabbits.

Those born during this year will have a good 2014. Independence will bring luck and prosperity, but also health issues and accidents. Careers  may suffer: good jobs are an athlete, teacher, technician, driver or politician.  Don’t be afraid of new ventures, but control emotion and think twice before  marrying. A good year for having a baby.

Chinese year of the horse yearsHorse Years
If you were born during these dates, then you’re a horse:  30/01/1930 to 16/02/1931,  15/02/1942 to 04/02/1843, 03/02/1954 to 23/01/1955,  21/01/1966 to 08/02/1967, 07/02/1978 to 27/01/1979, 27/01/1990 to 14/02/1991,  12/02/2002 to 21/01/2003

Famous Horse People
Barbara Streisand, Clint Eastwood, Genghis Khan,  Isaac Newton, Jimi Hendrix, Neil Armstrong, Oprah Winfrey, Paul McCartney, Ray  Charles, Rembrandt, Sean Connery and Teddy Roosevelt.

PredictionsPredictions
2014  is posed to be very energetic with all feelings amplified. Many will change the  energy around them bringing surprise to financial markets. March bears a highly  volatile conjunction with Uranus by Mars and Aries. Keep cool and vigilant. This  is a good year to travel: the further the better. There will also be the  opportunity to develop spirituality.

 

Chinese year of the horse predictions for 2014Under  a horse year there is no middle ground with conflicts. Rising oil, food costs  and extreme weather will bring protest. The US will prosper economically, but have continued gun trouble. Western Europe may  struggle politically and economically, however, a leadership change in Southern Europe and  the Middle East helps. The Far East and China continue to boom, and China will begin to innovate rather than copy, but will have problems with natural  disasters.

Professor Boyle  of CambridgeUniversity thinks a ‘doomsday moment’ will happen in 2014. He claims that during the last  500 years, a catastrophic international event occurred in the middle of the  second decade of each century – and the present financial crisis could be a  trigger. He fears the US with its military dominance and falling economic power. Saying “everything  depends on whether America can react more imaginatively to decline than Britain did before 1914”. Claiming “peace is only possible if the world realizes that an  age of individual nations is over and a system of global governance is  introduced”.

HorseHorse Likes
Western Equivalent: Gemini Colour: Orange & black Number: 8 & 1 Gemstones: topaz

For a Lucky Chinese jade Year  of the Horse Pendant Click Here
See my video of last Chinese New Year in HongKong:  Year of the Snake
See my personal site at NigelHayMckay.com

 


Travel Visa Problems

I’m no stamp collector, just travelling on
To the next bus, from a list that is long
So please Mr Border Man, let me pass
I’m only seeking fresh air, mountains and green grass

Visas are becoming not just a problem, but a major expense. In an average year it costs about £1,350 for this bureaucracy for my wife and me.

too many visa stamps in passportTwenty years ago stamps were cheap and easy. On an overland trip from the UK to Hong Kong, all that was needed was to go to each embassy in reverse order of the route, a few photos and some cash.  Iran asks for a letter that you’re allowed to travel there, but easy to get. You can go anywhere with a British passport, but others like the US, have limitations.

Reduced airfares and more travellers from once-poor countries have now created a lucrative market for hard-up governments, just like parking tickets for local councils. British visas are exorbitant – a 2-year tourist stamp costs £850, plus agency fees if you can’t do it yourself. And if my Filipino wife of 10-years wants a spouse visa to stay more than 6-months a year in the UK, it costs at least £2,300.
China F VisaBeijing has retaliated by increasing visa fees on the principle of reciprocity. The cheapest multi-entry costs £430 a year in Hong Kong, and a single-entry for China in London is around £90, more for certain nationalities or if you’re in a hurry. Communist countries are quick to learn capitalism. The Republic of China (Taiwan) visas are free.

Then there’s the expense of transporting your passport to and from the embassy.  This can range from £14 secure post in the UK, to an airfare and hotel in another country.  Some nations help by allowing registration online, like Vietnam – and others, like Turkey let you buy a stamp on arrival.

Cambodia visaAnother problem is many visas are too big.  I used to get through 48-pages every 2 ½-years – and when I complained at the British consulate, they said “you’re lucky; some need a new passport every two-months”!  Hong Kong and Israel are more considerate, replacing a stamp with a slip of paper.

passport visa stampsA trick on a new passport is to lightly pencil 5-vertical and 5-horizonal lines on each page. This usually works a treat allowing more stamps per leaf. However, once entering Cambodia by boat I was accused of defacing my passport.  I just explained the reason and asked for an eraser to rub them out – they waved me on!

The whole visa thing is complex, with different rules for different nationalities and arrivals. Once I entered Vietnam overland with a by-air-visa by rushing past the gate, but was fined on leaving.

If you’re planning a trip somewhere interesting (and you should be), then Google your visa requirements long in advance. Sometimes it’s best to use an agent – their fee can save you a lot of time and disappointment. Photocopy your passport and air-tickets, and don’t be intimidated by visa conditions of a hotel booking – just printout a reservation online without paying!

See my personal site at NigelHayMckay.com


Train Travel Tips – Trains Are For Travellers, Planes Are For Tourists!

Chinese TrainI’ve been roughing it on long-distance trains for over 30-years – jolted across China, India, Russia, and all over South East Asia and Europe.  Many being non-stop journeys overland to and from Luton and Hong Kong via Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, India, Nepal, China and Tibet.

The most fun was from Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan into China.  One of the easiest rides was Beijing to Moscow – 5 1/2-day sleeper for about ₤120 – but to London, via Warsaw, cost more.

Chinese Hard Sleeper TrainNow I’m enjoying a bottom bunk on K648 from Guangzhou to Xian – a ₤48 28-hour ride up the backbone of China.  Although it left on the dot, it arrived 6-hours late. However, Chinese trains have improved immensely – open windows are replaced by clean air-conditioned carriages. ‘Hard sleeper’ is comfortable and easy to snooze.

In Norfolk, trains are 2-carrages: in China over 20 with around 3,000 passengers.

Chinese Soft Seat TrainTwenty years ago, if I couldn’t get a ticket for a Chinese train, I’d crash the barrier and hide in the dinning carriage.  Sometimes for 40-hour!

When I first back-packed in China I had to go ‘hard seat’ where everyone chain-smoked with all-night lighting.  The only way to nod-off was to get very drunk, but you paid for it in the mornings.

In those days they swept the aisle every hour and threw out the window a mountain of spit, cigarette butts, water bottles, empty rice & noodle boxes, orange peel and dirty tissues. Passengers hurled beer bottles out for entertainment. At every station an army of hawkers would hassle outside your window peddling rice boxes, drinks, boiled eggs and chicken legs. 

Burma Train Toilet SignToday, every long-distance carriage has two squat-toilets, washbasins and a hot-water tank for noodles or tea. Lights are out at 10.30pm and you can switch off the stream of military music and propaganda blasted from speakers everywhere. The only hardship is finding cold beer and queuing for early-morning toilets.

 

High Speed Chinese TrainSome say China has more high-speed rail than the rest of the world put together. Not sure if this is true, but they do have more than any other single country. With most bullet trains averaging just under 200mph, and some going up to 400klms an hour.

However, the only thing consistent in China is the inconsistency, and rail travel is no exception. One week you enjoy fresh prawns, iced-beer, even cocktails at a bar – and on a repeat of the same journey, instant noodles and bottled water is hard to find.

China Rail is OK, but Thailand and Vietnam better.  There the bunks have reading lights, curtains and superior service. The worst I’ve experienced is in Burma, where the track feels like it hasn’t been maintained since the British left.  India is slow and good, but paperwork and too-many classes make hard-work booking.  Iran beats British Rail’s comfort with some carriages sporting three arm-chairs abreast. With any train trip, the key is planning – Google your route for the best options and book well in advance. 

Thailand trains can be booked online over 2-weeks ahead and you can printout your ticket, and a similar (but not as good) system exists on Vietnam Rail.  In China it’s more difficult, but mainland train tickets can be brought in Hong Kong at Hum Hong Station and in the mainland little offices can print you a ticket up to 10-days in advance. Always book sleepers at least two-days ahead as they sell out fast. Use Google Translate to printout the Chinese of your journey to make booking easy in Mainland China.

smart staff on a japanese trainExpect a lot of noise on all Chinese trains, except in Taiwan, where they copy the Japanese with signs advising passengers to talk softly and not to use their mobile phones. And in Japan itself, trains are so clean, you could eat your noodles off the floor!

Trains have many advantages over flights and they can be faster door-to-door.  I like the feeling of adventure when you arrive and the opportunity to read, gaze through the window or socialize.

Trains are for ‘travellers’ where planes are for ‘tourists’.  The relaxation far outweighs discomfort.  I find trains a wonderful way to travel, giving the opportunity to read and relax.  When I’m not on the move, I’m either working, in a restaurant or sleeping. However, if you have a long journey, boats are best, followed by trains, planes, and finally (if there is no other option) busses.

Chinese Subway TrainTokyo Subway TrainMost large Chinese cities have underground rail, and this is the best way around any big city. It’s fast and usually easy to navigate. However, study the map and don’t assume because you’re on the right platform and direction, the next train is the one you want.

In the West long-distance trains are more expensive than flying, but booking 6-weeks ahead online can save over 75% of the cost. If you’re not backpacking and have a lot of luggage, bear in mind most stations involve steps with limited lifts or escalators. When I’m travelling from Heathrow to Liverpool Street Station in London, I go the long-way via Kings Cross to avoid lots of stairs.

See my personal site and follow my travels at NigelHayMckay.com

 


Result of Progress – China’s Pollution

All across China millions are being killed.  One report in April 2013 estimated one-in-a-thousand premature deaths by air pollution – that’s 1.2-million.

face maskSo far this year in Beijing, smog levels are almost 30% over the same period in 2012. Newspapers say fossil fuels are the culprit. Burning coal and oil creates minuet particles that embed deep in the lungs, explaining why so many wear surgical masks. The US Embassy there recorded these particles 35-times higher than the World Health Organization’s guideline.

The Government is doing all it can – in Beijing along, they’re spending US$16 billion over three-years on the problem, but citizens will still need mobile-phone apps to report pollution levels. On the worst days, the old and frail are advised to stay indoors.

Traffic in Guangzhou, ChinaEveryone in China wants a car and many can now afford one, adding to over 5.2-million vehicles in the capital.  New emission standards similar to Europe should cut nitrogen oxide by 40%, but only to the latest vehicles and most trucks still burn low quality diesel.

No wonder air filter sales in China are booming – soley for the rich and they only work inside. The only sure way of avoiding the perils of over-industrialization is to move to the mountains, but everyone needs work.

Polluted Hong KongHong Kong has among the best of Chinese urban air.  Understandable with a population of only 7-million and few factories – however, the University estimates that in December 2012, 253 citizens died early and 576,890 visited their doctor because of pollution. I just have an occasional light cough.

Ten years ago in Hong Kong the sky was blue and everything bright.  Now it’s hard to see the Peak.  Last Sunday I could just about make out shapes the other side of the harbour from the Star Ferry.  The TV weather forecast includes a pollution report that often says roadside levels are ‘dangerous’ – but Beijing’s rein of the media prevents broadcasting ‘severe’.


Travelling to Paradise – Yangshou & the Li River

YangshouWe’ve just returned from one of my favourite places in the world – a wonderland of peaks, winding rivers and “pre-historic” bamboo groves that inspired 19-centry paintings of China.  A gem of a place I used to enjoy 6-times a year for a quick charge from the city and to balance with nature. 

 

View drom Moon HillYangshou is a little town near Guilin, in Guangxi Province, China. About an hour flight north-west of Hong Kong, famous for its karst peak landscape. Around 200-million years ago an eruption under the sea forced limestone up creating an unusual effect of over 70,000 karst peaks in this area alone – and gradually running down the east of Thailand to Northern Vietnam into Halong Bay.

Over twenty-years ago, so many foreigners visited it was the only place in China where even the beggars spoke English.  Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter loved the solitude. However, since 2005, growing affluence has made it overrun with Chinese tourists. The cormorant fisherman with faces like bark, make more posing for pictures than catching fish. Nevertheless, nothing can spoil the natural surroundings.

Lads at Monkey Janes, YangshouYears ago it was 28-hours boat up the Pearl River from Guangzhou, then 12-hours bus. Now my favorite way there is sleeper train from Guangzhou, taking just 12-hours.  It’s fun, easy to sleep – and when you wake up, you’re in Guilin, just 1 ½-hours to Yangshou.  Some take a sleeper bus, but although faster and cheaper than the train, it’s very uncomfortable. Flying is out for me, what with an apartment in Guangzhou and the distance to airports with harsh Chinese security.  However, if you’re coming from Hong Kong you can fly direct to Guilin, or cross the border and use Shenzhen Airport.  If you arrive early, take a boat along the Li River to Yangshou for about US$15.

Yangshou - Rafting on the Li RiverThere’s a lot to do in the area: boating, climbing, caving, cycling, swimming and walking.  Although I’m happy just eating and drinking at the many open-air roof-top cafes and a bamboo boat ride to the next village. It’s great for foreigners looking for home cuisine – I love Chinese food, but it’s nice to eat homemade shepherd’s pie, chocolate cake & ice-cream occasionally.

Old ChinamanTo hire of a bamboo raft with an outboard and driver for four, for 4-hours along the river including waiting in Fuli for the return, costs around US$24. Hotels from US$8 a room/night. Sleeper train from Guangzhou is around US$32.

See the video of this trip here
See my unusual Chinese collectables at OnlineOriental.com

See my personal site at NigelHayMckay.com


Learn from Hong Kong’s Budget

goodeconomy

While Britain, the US, and most of the entire western world struggle, Hong Kong has more money than it knows what to do with.  By the end of this March, the local administration’s reserves are expected to balloon to £63 billion (US $94 B) or £9,000 per citizen.

Last week’s Hong Kong budget showed an embarrassing surplus of £5.56 billion for the year, despite the government giving every resident £514 (US$770) cash, high inter-structure expense and subsidizing electricity. And although Hong Kong is part of China, under the agreement between London and Beijing, it is run like a separate country.

cuttaxAlthough only the well-off pay any tax, to keep residents from marching against greed, the finance secretary pledged even lower taxes and more help for the poor and elderly.  Policies that western governments with their increasing squeeze couldn’t dream of.  The top rate of 17% income tax remains, but corporation tax is to be reduced from 17.5% to 10% for small companies.

centralbuildingsHong Kong is already the freest economy in the world, with no tax on goods or services, dividends, interest or capital gains. Only cigarettes and fuel attract revenue of significance – although transport costs a fraction of UK prices. Wine tax was abolished the other year, and a can of 5% beer can be brought in a shop for as low as £0.22 (US$0.33).

WealthThis wonder of economics, the envy of other countries, shows how faith in the free market with little meddling pays off.  No army to invade other lands or extremes of poverty or far-flung geographical regions helps. So does oriental family values and a hard-work and save culture.  Same for no debt attracting interest and a non-democratic regime without high social welfare helps.
taxmanOf course this is an over-simplification and the rise of Mainland China has made Hong Kong rich, but western economy could learn. In the 21st-century high tax doesn’t bring in money: it drives it abroad.

See my personal site at NigelHayMckay.com

 

 


Crazy Chinese New Year Commuting

The British Government thinks its tough preventing commuters complaining about standing an hour with ever-increasing rail costs. However, with such a tiny country, about the same population as Guangdong Province, they have it easy.  Further east, the largest annual human migration in the world is on its way back.  For 40-days around Chinese New Year, 3.4-billion journeys will be swarmed across Mainland China.

From all Chinese cities millions of migrant workers travel to their home villages to visit relatives.  For most, not just a once-a-year visit, but their only holiday.  Almost everyone works 6-to-7 days a week with very little extra leave. Shops and restaurants are open every single day.

Outside main railway stations an army of police offer free hot drinks and rice porridge to the crowns waiting, often days, for a train.  In West Beijing, the largest station in the world, the campers stop traffic to make more space.  The 128,000 klm train network can handle 225-million passengers, but demand is 10-times more this time of year. And with even more working in cities for extra money, there is a record rush in 2013.

The Chinese Government expects 8.6% more travellers than last Lunar New Year.  Despite the growing train network 3.1-billion trips will have to be made by bus, especially as Chinese airlines run at near-full normally – so it’s not surprising prices have gone up and airports have been ordered to supply free bottled water and noodles.

For the past year in Hong Kong, the 7-million residents have had to breathe in for 3-million-a-month Mainland tourists squeezing in to enjoy tax-free computers and cameras.  The Government loves it as they spend about US$300 each, but it does cause problems.  Hong Kong locals hate the blitz of pushers and spitters surging through the already over-crowed trains.

Next week MiMi and I will be making our frequent scramble from the New Territories to our flat in Guangzhou, formally Canton, the 12-million-populated capital of Guangdong.  It usually takes about 3 1/2-hours door-to-door, but I expect delays.

See my personal site at NigelHayMckay.com

 


Chinese Year of the Snake

The Year of the Snake begins on 10th February 2013. The twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac are divided into elements, each with slightly different characteristics – this New Year is a Water Snake. Anyone born during this sign are able to slip through trouble like water: totally fluid.

 

Snake Characteristics
In the West the snake is associated with danger – the Scriptures say the devil was in snake form. However Eastern philosophy regards the snake as a symbol of good luck.

Snakes are mysterious, clever, refined, and masters of transition and camouflage. They can be flexible as a worm, or powerful like 37-feet pythons that can crush an antelope and swallow it whole – or the king cobra’s venom that can kill an elephant. Snakes can sense minute vibration and taste faint chemical signals with their tongues. Likewise, those born under this sign are good at judging people and identifying opportunities.

Snake People
People born in the Year of the Snake coolly slither through problems, while cunningly scheming their future. This makes them good at business and finance. They are discreet, inquisitive and secretive, say little, and yet are charming and romantic. They are passionate but jealous lovers. Snake people are wise and snobbish, but vain, selfish and stingy. Intuition drives their strong sophisticated personality.

A snake person will be charming, proud, elegant and graceful. They keep their emotions, stay cool, and appreciate comfort, beauty and good style. Snakes are loners and suspicious, and act aloof as if nothing is on their minds – yet they will use others to achieve their goals. They will seduce you, but get bored quickly, so are unfaithful in relationships. Their strong will allows them to cunningly slip away from unpleasant situations. No wonder they’re not frightened of danger or lack of money.

The snake is good at avoiding distraction and trivia, allowing him to concentrate on his goals. He is cultured and artistic as well as practical. They are materialistic, dress well and like to follow fashion. Although honest, a snake will lie if he can get away with it and tends to exaggerate. Be careful not to threaten a snake as they can suddenly strike out with carefully chosen words to cause far-reaching pain, and their long memory creates lifetime grudges.

If you are a Snake
This should be a good year, but be freer with money and flippant with life. Don’t be complacent, keep on top of things and expect to work at goals. Be less reserved with relationships. You need calm and relaxation to thrive as you stress easily, so avoid chaotic situations. You like to do a good job, so your best careers are as a teacher, writer, interior designer, philosopher or psychiatrist.

Famous Snake People
Art Garfunkel, Audrey Hepburn, Bob Dylan, Brook Shields, Chris Rock, Christie Brinkley, Elizabeth Hurley, Frank Sinantra, Grace Kelly, Howard Hughes, Jackie Kennedy, Kim Basinger, Linda MaCathney, Liz Taylor, Mao Zedong, Oprah Winfrey, Paul Anka, Queen Elizabeth 1 and Sarah Jessica Parker.

Predictions
The Dragon Year of 2012 was full of vigor – the following China zodiac beast, the snake, sheds its skin and starts afresh. This will bring change to correct excess. The Water Snake is particularly enquiring and money-orientated, and so will look for new ways around debt and the recession.

Historically, Snake Years brought correction. In 1893, many US railway companies went bankrupt in their rush to expand. It started a run on bank deposits and a 6-year depression with 17% unemployment. In 1953, the idea of hire-purchase was introduced in the UK to boost flopping sales. The same year in China, Mao Zedong launched an extreme 5-year-plan that caused future famine.

In 1955, the buildup of troops in Vietnam brought huge protests. More recently in 1977, the first home computers changed the way we work, and Deng Xiaoping came to power bringing capitalism to China. In 1989 the Berlin Wall came down and the Tokyo stock market crashed. And 2001 brought 9:11.

My guesses for 2013 are that Western Governments will try to shake debt by printing more money and then increase interest rates to slow inflation. This will further lower property prices and cause panic. To restore confidence in the US dollar, America will once again try to link its currency to gold.

New ways to aid finances will be created. Both for personal spending to help companies grow – and within the EU to help struggling European countries.

Personally, you should be thrifty, save money and plan for the future. This year of change will attract scammers – so be careful! It’s a good time to invest, but be wary in business deals or a new marriage. Stay focused and beware of complacency.

Snake Years
If you were born during these dates, then you are a Snake: 02/04/1905 to 01/24/1906, 01/23/1917 to 02/10/1918, 02/10/1929 to 01/29/1930, 01/27/1941 to 02/14/1942, 02/14/1953 to 02/02/1954, 02/21/1965 to 01/20/1966, 02/18/1977 to 02/06/1978, 02/06/1989 to 01/26/1990, 01/24/2001 to 02/11/2002

Western Equivalent: Taurus

Snake Likes
Color: Turquoise
Number: 9
Gemstones: Topaz, jasper

For a lucky Chinese jade Year of the Snake pendant click here
To read about the other beasts in the Chinese zodiac or for a lucky jade pendant of your sign click here.

See my personal site at NigelHayMckay.com

 


Predictions for 2013

Old Moore’s Almanack

This little British book has been prophesising since 1697 – over 300-years. Like all forecasts, you can find whatever you’re looking for – that’s why they’re written vaguely!  However, at this time of year it’s captive reading.

As can be expected, it starts with finance, reminding that 2013 will be the sixth-year of economic turmoil. This is written in a positive note, predicting that we’re now 80% though the bad and will be clear of our “depressing correction” by September 2014.  More than another year to go, but at least the end is in sight.

Old Moore gives only a few clues to what may happen in 2013, but does forecast that there will be an upsurge in political extremism everywhere. In the US, the general mood will be increasingly confident, except for relationships with Europe and China being strained.

Britain will do better than the rest of Europe, and France will continue to live in a “state of denial”.  However, 2013 will “promote correction, revolution, rebirth and transformation” in Europe, although pressure will ease for Greece.

Not surprisingly it says to watch the Middle East and Pakistan, and that “radicalised religious leaders will become dangerously militant”.  There will also be some technological travel breakthrough in the UK around the middle of the year.

Chinese New Year 2013

February 10th 2013 starts the Chinese Year of the Water Snake. In the West the snake is associated with danger – however Eastern philosophy regards the snake as a symbol of good luck.

Historically, Snake Years brought correction. The Dragon Year of 2012 was full of vigour – the following China zodiac beast, the snake, sheds its skin and starts afresh. This will bring change to correct excess.

The Water Snake is particularly enquiring and money-orientated, and so will look for new ways around debt and the recession.

According to the Chinese zodiac, during a Snake Year you should be thrifty, save money and plan for the future. This year of change will attract scammers – so be careful!  It’s a good time to invest, but be wary in business deals or a new marriage. Stay focused and beware of complacency.

For more predictions of the Year of the Snake go to: http://www.mrbead.com/yearofthesnake.htm

See my personal site at NigelHayMckay.com


Hong Kong Christmas

 
Do you long to escape the cold at Christmas? Do you wonder what Christmas is like in Hong Kong?

Well, it aint as you think! The festive season is best cold – at least frosty outside.  Everyone loves snow, but icy can be beautiful too.  One does not miss something until it’s lost.

Hong Kong is not warm this time of year, 12 to 14 degrees, can be more – but with little heating, it feels freezing inside.  MiMi and I use an electric blanket.  Outside is better, wrapped up and usually dry and sunny.  Noels and carols are everywhere – but it feels hollow.  Merry, not magical – I love a cosy, quaint atmosphere.

Christmas somewhere hot, like the Philippines is no better. It’s nice to get out of the cold, but if you live in the Far East, most of the year is scorching.  Mainly were basking in air-con. You see, we can boil in the sun anytime – Christmas should be different, special.

However, here in Hong Kong we enjoy British festive TV, wine, turkey and mince pies.  That’s if you’re a gwelio, a foreign devil. I guess its nostalgia – my friends down under prefer throwing king prawns on a pool-side barbe.

Chinese New Year is more fun – especially as it brightens the New Year lull. In 2013 it’s on February 10th – Year of the Snake. Sure to rock!

Please join in the blog & comment!
See my personal site at NigelHayMckay.com
For December Horse Racing in Hong Kong Video click here










Cambodian & Thai Trip

November 2012 Cambodian Trip

Despite looking rushed, this was a good trip and I wouldn’t have wanted longer at any place.

Angkor Wat, CambodiaThe highlight was the day around Angkor Wat, followed by a sunset boat trip to a floating village.  We only had time for three temples, but I’ve been before so any more are AFTs and my friends agreed. The floating village was at the end of the river, just before the huge Tonie Sap Lake.

Seafood Platter at Sihanoukville, CambodiaEveryone enjoyed the ocean-view and food in Sihanoukville.  In particular, the seafood platter (good for two) is a bargain for US$15. I love eating on the beach at night there – but one day I’ll visit these nearby islands too.

Got ripped off at one of those Bangkok open-air restaurants along Rambuttri Road (parallel to Khao San Road) – waited over an hour for a 400 baht supposedly-fresh fish that tasted as dry as if it was BBQed yesterday.  Also paid 120 baht each for large bottles of Chang, despite knowing other restaurants sell them for half.

As always, the seafood buffet at the Park in Hong Kong was fantastic, especially the Australian oysters – and the 20-minutes sampan ride to the island in Sai Kung exalting.  If anyone has a couple of days or more there, I highly recommend both.

Schedule
November 4th – Up @ 7am to be at airport at 10am for flight HX775 HongKong Airlines at 12.10 (flight return US$270 each).  Stay Kriss Residence near Suvarnabhumi Airport .  Bill in Philippines
5th –  Catch 8am bus to border at Aranyaprathet, cross to Cambodia and bus to Siem Reap (total around 7-hours). Stay Siem Reap Garden Inn (US$30 per double room/night). 
6th – “Day off” in Siem Reap. Bill arrives in Ankor Airport at 7.50pm on Cebu Air 5J257.
7th – Private min-bus around Angkor Wat & boat to floating village (bus only US$40 + boat $10 each)
8th –  Bus to Phom Penh
9th –  MiMi & I have seen all the human bones & torture stuff there, so caught up with online work. Sightseeing for some.
10th – Bus Phom Penh to Sihanoukville.  BBQ Seafood dinner on the beach. See on Google Maps: http://bit.ly/RW4X8G
11th – Private mini-bus ( 4-hours & US$60 for 6 people) Sihanoukville to Phom Penh airport for Air Asia to Bangkok: L 17.05 A: 18.15 US$97.  Stay Khaosan Palace Hotel US$39 per double room/night.
12th – River trip around tiny waterways on a long-tailed boat (US$98 for 1.5-hours & 6 people) + day of rest eating & drinking in Bangkok.
13th – Back to Hong Kong HongKong Air 15.05 arrives 19.15. – Bill bus from airport to Guangzhou.
14th – Bill in Guangzhou.
15th – Bill in Guangzhou – to Hong Kong tomorrow.
16th – Bus to Stanley Market, tram up The Peak for sunset & seafood dinner at Park Hotel (US$44 each with “first-50” discount).
17th – Bus to Sai Kung & sampan (private hire for 6 people US$50)to Hap Mun Bay on Kiu Tsui Chau Island for BBQ & a swim. See on Google Maps: http://bit.ly/TR79M6
18th – Bill & Victor back to Florida & reality!

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See the video at http://youtu.be/J6VHhyaUvc0

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