Dave's Photo & Travelblogue

Photo shoots. World travel advice. Tips on Munich & environs.

Around The World Update

As my regular readers may remember, I’m doing a trip around the world this summer! Here’s an update of the itinerary:

May 08-May 17 Peru
May 18-June 02 Hawaii
June 04-June 18 New Zealand
June 07-June 11 Side trip, NZ to Sydney
June 19-July 04 Japan
July 04-July 27 Thailand
July ??-July ?? Side trip, Thai to Malay/Vietnam?
July 28 Return to Munich

If you’re in any of these spots at the same time, let me know, perhaps we can meet!


So, what’s left on my to-do list? A LOT, believe me! I need malaria tablets, zip ties, luggage locks, DEET bug repellant, a few more vaccinations… and I have to learn a bit of Spanish and Japanese.

What can you expect from the blog while I’m on this trip? I’m not 100% sure yet, but here are some of the ideas I’ve been kicking around:

  • Short post with a photo-a-day (delayed slightly due to spotty internet access)
  • Tales about a bottle of Blair’s Death Sauce I’ll bring with me (haven’t decided what flavor)
  • Mini-reviews of the places where I stay: mostly hostels
  • Descriptions of hikes and other sights I see (maybe after I return from the trip)
  • Anything else you’d like to see or hear? Leave a comment and I’ll see what I can do!

I’m also interested to get any special tips you might have about the countries I’ll visit. To give you some ideas, I’ll start with a few of my own hot tips from the last year:

  • Hong Kong: Sushi One has half-price sushi after 10pm. And it’s some of the best sushi I’ve ever had, with a huge selection of a la carte items I’d never seen before!
  • Taiwan: In the town of Hualien, near Taroko Gorge, there’s a huge restaurant with fantastic (and cheap) food. It’s full of locals, and it was super-tasty. Probably a taxi driver could find this full-city-block restaurant:


  • Austrian Alps: Fantastic skiing can be had during the pre- and post-season at Hintertux Glacier. For the non-skiers they have a very cool limestone cave at the Spannagelhaus, and an Ice Palace cave at the very top of the mountain. The limestone cave (and probably ice palace as well) are open all year round, in case you’re a summer visitor.
  • Vienna: You must see the Iron Man near Vienna’s Rathaus (city hall). There are hundreds of thousands of nails pounded into this wooden statue and pedestal.


Happy traveling on your own vacations, and hope to see some of you along the way!

Posted 12 years, 2 months ago at 2:24 pm.


Lantau Peak – Day Trip from Hong Kong

Lantau Island is a fantastic little patch of green nature in Hong Kong.  In fact, you might be surprised how much greenery there is in and around the city — hiking and trees are never far away.  I took the gondola from Tung Chung to Ngong Ping, a small touristy village of ice cream shops and souvenir shops (no one lives there).  Here’s a shot on the way up:

A view down the Ngong Ping 360 cable car route

A view down the Ngong Ping 360 cable car route

The tourist office gave me directions to Lantau Peak and said it would take about 1.5h.  I bought an extra bottle of water at 7-Eleven and headed out.  Past the Wisdom Path is where the trail begins.

On the way to the trailhead I went past Big Buddha.  I think it is billed as “the largest outdoor bronze seated Buddha in the world.”  That’s a lot of specifications.  I am the most famous American fantasy novel author who plays Ultimate Frisbee and lives in Munich.  Anyway, one can climb up almost all the stairs to the base of the Buddha for free.  To go inside where there is some kind of museum, you have to pay (sort of).  They are very clever, since paying to see a holy monument is probably prohibited.  Instead, you must buy a lunch at a nearby restaurant to enter the Buddha (for overcrowding reasons).  I didn’t hear any rave reviews about the museum, so I saved my HKD.  But it was very cool to see, especially from above with my 70-300mm zoom lens (after I was on the Lantau Peak trail):

Big Buddha from high above. Can you spot the tourons?

Big Buddha from high above. Can you spot the tourons?

Continuing along the trail there is a fantastic view of a reservoir with turquoise-blue water:

Shek Pik Reservoir, on the way to Lantau Peak

Shek Pik Reservoir, on the way to Lantau Peak

I should point out that at this point, I was damn hot.  The trail is basically just stairs built out of stone for 90% of the way.  The ~500m climb from Ngong Ping to Lantau Peak is akin to walking up stairs to the roof of a tall skyscraper, only you don’t have air conditioning.  The day I hiked, it was well over 30C, very humid, and full sun.  Here’s a short video showing just how hot I was — I could barely talk properly.  The clouds near the peak saved me from losing another 0.5L of water through my pores:

YouTube Preview Image

At least I was nearing the top.  Just a few more rises to go along the ridge…

Near Lantau Peak, almost in the clouds

Near Lantau Peak, almost in the clouds

Finally I made it, and was greeted by fantastic views of Ngong Ping, Big Buddha, the reservoir, and the Hong Kong Airport.  There is a storm shelter up there too, in case you are caught in bad weather; though I would strongly suggest to avoid being up there during a thunderstorm.

Hong Kong Airport from Lantau Peak

Hong Kong Airport from Lantau Peak

After ten minutes enjoying the view, I headed down.  At Big Buddha I bought a 700mL Powerade, which I finished in about 5 minutes.  I drank another 500mL bottle of water at the 7-Eleven in Ngong Ping.   And this was after consuming almost a liter of water during the hike itself.  The clerk declined to let me lay down in one of their freezers.  D’oh!

Overall, it was a fantastic experience, although I like to push myself.  I would recommend this day trip to anyone; just fine-tune your itinerary based on your fitness AND the temperature.  i.e. Skip hiking to the Peak if you’re there with small children and it’s 30C+… there’s plenty more to do around Ngong Ping that’s not so extreme!

Getting to Lantau Island:

  • Take the Tung Chung Line to its terminus at Tung Chung Station.
  • Walk to the Ngong Ping 360 gondola station, and buy a cable car ticket.
  • You can save if you bundle your ticket with attractions in the (tourist trap) village of Ngong Ping.
  • Walk to the Big Buddha and other points of interest like monasteries.
  • If you are up to it, hike Lantau Peak (approx 1.5-2h up, 1h down; ~500m vertical climb).

Posted 12 years, 10 months ago at 12:00 pm.

1 comment

Lamma Island – Day Trip from Hong Kong

I met a friendly Brit in Hong Kong when I was hiking up Lantau Peak.  He advised me to check out Lamma Island, but warned me about spiders.  So I’ll pass that along now: there are a lot of spiders on Lamma.  A metric arse-load, to be exact.  And we’re not talking about teensy-weensy spiders here like the one that climbed up the water spout; these are 3″ long beasts that look like they could tie up a small hobbit.  There are several pictures of them in this post, so prepare yourself.

It’s an easy day trip, or even half-day trip, to Lamma Island.  You can take the ferry there (half an hour or so with lots of departures), hike across the island for about an hour or two, and then take a different ferry back from the town at the end of the hike.  I walked from Yung Shue Wan to Sok Kwu Wan, ate at the very tasty Lamma Hilton (mmm, garlic chili tiger prawns!), and then headed back to Hong Kong Island.  There’s a beautiful beach near Yung Shue Wan:

Panorama of Hung Shing Yeh beach

Panorama of Hung Shing Yeh beach

I had seen a couple of spiders in webs above the trail before arriving at Hung Shing Yeh beach.  But after that they grew in size, and the webs spanned the trail.  All were well above my head, but I was still a bit nervous that the spiders would fall off in the breeze and land on me.  Here’s one of ’em:

This qualifies as a SMALL spider on Lamma Island

This qualifies as a SMALL spider on Lamma Island

This guy was probably the largest spider I saw.  He was over 3″ in length.  I had to crouch down to get far enough away to snap some shots (one drawback of the 70-300mm VR is the ~4′ minimum focus distance).  This made me pretty nervous, being directly under a massive spider that’s only hanging onto his web by a few legs.  Notice his protege in the background.  “Let me show you how it’s done.  Look at that tourist quiver in fear!”

Nightmare spider

Nightmare spider

Some of the webs were truly impressive in their size and perfection.  Here’s one that was backlit rather nicely by the sun:

This is a BIG web

This is a BIG web

Finally I reached Sok Kwu Wan at the other side of the island and had some dinner, well away from any spiders.  Seafood on Lamma Island is fantastic: I recommend the Lamma Hilton, which was as good as promised by my anonymous British tipster.  Thanks, anonymous!

View of the bay at Sok Kwu Wan

View of the bay at Sok Kwu Wan

Getting to Lamma Island:

  • Depart from the Central Ferry Pier on Hong Kong Island (Pier #4 at the time of writing).
  • Make sure to get exact change after checking the current price (there is a change booth at one of the piers)!
  • Take the ferry to Yung Shue Wan.
  • Hike across the island on the (paved) trail.  Avoid the spiders!
  • Take the ferry from Sok Kwu Wan back to the Central Ferry Pier.

Posted 12 years, 11 months ago at 3:19 pm.

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