Thursday, March 31, 2011

Meeting Family in Macao

When I told my mother that Matt and I were planning to go to Macao, she insisted that we stay with my "aunt" while we were there.

Let's be frank here, this "aunt" isn't really my aunt. She's my mother's first cousin from Burma who is now living in Macao with her husband (whom I've never met). My mother hasn't even talked to my "aunt" since we last saw her (briefly) in Burma a number of years ago. I can't remember ever exchanging a word with this "aunt." On top of all this, I was quite uncomfortable with the idea of Matt and I staying with a virtual stranger who was, without a doubt in my mind, going to report every single move we made back to my mother.

"Family is family" my mother told me and the situation was settled. Matt and I were to stay with my "aunt."

When we arrived in Macao, I was a bit nervous as I didn't know what to expect. I didn't even know if my "aunt" and I would recognize one another! As Matt and I came out of the Macao ferry terminal, my anxiety vanished as I instantly recognized my "aunt" and the big grin on her face showed that she had recognized me too.

Meeting my distant "aunt" in Macao
"You look just like your father!" she exclaimed and started taking bags from my and herding Matt and I towards the taxi stand.

The week in Macao with my "aunt" turned out to be a fantastic week and Matt and I both grew very fond of her and her husband, Stanley. The two of them showed us boundless hospitality and we really enjoyed spending time with them in their home sharing midnight tea, eating fabulous food all over Macao and gambling at the famed Macao casinos (revert to Matt and my gambling addiction blog). Stanley even treated Matt and I to a fabulously luxurious day at the incredible Malo Clinic Spa at the Venetian, complete with 180 minute aromatic massage and an afternoon in the jacuzzis!

Here are some of the fun photos Matt and I took while meeting and getting to know my extended family in Macao!

Tired after a day of walking around Macao

Do you see any family resemblance with me and my aunts?
Gorging at a local seafood restaurant
The new family portrait
Although I was a bit hesitant to meet and stay with my extended family in the beginning, I'm really glad that I did! Matt and I ended up having a great time and now we stay in touch with my "aunt" often. Now that we're living just a short ferry ride from Macao, Matt and I are planning to go back to visit them!

My mom was right: Family is family, no matter the distance and even if you've never met before!

Have you ever met distant relatives while traveling? What was that like?

© Connie Hum 2011

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

#TTOT Round-Up: Adventure Travel

Every Tuesday it's Travel Talk on Twitter! Follow the #TTOT tag to see what all the commotion and Tweets are about! There are two sessions to join, one at 9:30am GMT and the other at 9:30pm GMT.

Here's the round-up of this week's #TTOT: 

Q1. How do you define Adventure Travel? (submitted by heliyes)
  • LiveShareTravel: Anything where I can't wear heels! 
  • : Anything that gives you that feeling in your gut 
  • : Adventure Travel is traveling without and itinerary or a toothbrush 
  • FearfulGirl: Anything with a high probability of death
  • : Adventure travel is going to a country the State Department says to avoid
  • corduroy08: Eating somewhere where you know the odds of you spending the next 24 hours on a toilet are high
Street-side dining in Yangon, Burma could lead to toilet praying...
Q2. Where is the best place in the world to visit for adventure activities and what is the best activity there? (submitted by OysterWorldwide)
  • HayleyJWeber: South Africa! World's highest bungee jump, great white shark diving, abseiling down the face of Table Mountain...need I go on?
  • raineenyte: I loved Alaska! Zip lining and glacier trekking were amazing!!!
  • redheadedtravel: New Zealand! I'd say whitewater rafting but hell, mountains, water, air, there are so many options
  • WomanSeeksWorld: Ice swimming in Helsinki! I had to check if my heart was still in my chest afterwards!
  • : CANADA- east, west, mountains, Great Lakes, prairies, badlands, rivers, Arctic. You name, we got adventure
  • 25travels: I think the world is too awesome, that being anywhere is an ADVENTURE in itself
Blondini006 lives the extreme dream in New Zealand 
    Q3. What was the wildest and/or strangest adventure you had on your travels? (submitted by traveldudes)
    • Rhiannon_FitzG: Travelling around Kenya on my own was pretty wild - not knowing who I was going to meet, where I was going. I climbed Kili too!
    • : Escaping from village in Indonesia jungle where I'd been taken against my will on back of moped!  
    • laurenameliaw: Trusting some random in Morocco to pick us up and not kill us. That's another thing: trusting strangers is a new adventure!
    • alexplim: Being guided around the Amazon rainforest by a machete-wielding cocaine addict called Julian
    • : Got bit by a crazy monkey in Thailand
    • eculturesjon: I'd say hitchhiking across Jordan. Amazing time!
    corduroy08 goes extreme with a bow and arrow in his travels
      Q4. When does adventure travel become extreme? (submitted by OysterWorldwide)
      • MalloryOnTravel: When you need to change your underwear after completing it?
      • : At the hospital getting your toe sewn back on
      • Roopunzel: When ur hearts beating so bloody fast that u need a cup of tea to calm u down
      • : When you realize you can't find your passport
      • WillJackJones: When you can't tell the difference between excitment and fear
      • : Adventure travel is pushing personal limits. It becomes extreme when it creates issues for self or others
      You know it's extreme when needs a walking stick
       Q5. What's on your adventure travel bucket list? (submitted by tripofourlife)

      FearfulGirl's top travel adventure includes scuba diving
      • itchyfeetegypt: Great white shark diving and safari in Kenya
      • Travelbite: Mountain-biking down death road, Bolivia
      • : My travel bucket list is a world atlas
      • HerrFlyiboy: Trying to find the lost city of Atlantis 
      • kirstyabrown: Love to do the Three Peaks, climb Kilimanjaro, hike in Patagonia and explore Alaska
      • eurapart: I don't have a bucket list. With a mind open to adventure, it will find me 
      Trekking the Himalayas in Nepal was my biggest adventure yet
      And there you have it, "Adventure Travel!"

      Next weeks #TTOT topic is: "Oceania" submitted by HollyGalbraith. Submit your questions here! And don't forget to tune follow the #TTOT every Tuesday at 9:30am and 9:30pm GMT!

      As always, a HUGE travel community thank you to our #TTOT hosts and organizers: traveldudes, , , , , , and !

      Have you got anything to add? 

      © Connie Hum 2011

      Sunday, March 27, 2011

      Montage Monday: Nostalgic Hong Kong

      Step back in time with Matt's photos and glimpse into the world that Hong Kong once was and, if you look hard enough, can still experience today! Matt's modified (and self-painted) Holga camera gave the streets and people of Hong Kong a nostalgic look. The effect is pretty dramatic! 

      One of the things I love most about Hong Kong is the fresh produce markets you can find dotted around the city. It's a refreshing sight from all the modern office buildings and glittering shopping malls that overtake most of Hong Kong!

      Apartments in Hong Kong toward overhead, making you feel small and almost claustrophobic at times. With air conditioners and laundry hanging precariously out of windows, the apartments also give you an eerie sense that the world just might cave in on you at any moment.

      The area of Sham Shui Po in Kowloon has a flea market that sells just about any and everything you can imagine! Most of it's rather useless like old cable wires, VCR units and chintzy fake jade jewelry, but it's always interesting to stroll along the stalls and see what's up for grabs.

      An old man selling household goods at the Sham Shui Po flea market. I love the contrast of the shiny goods to the left and the old man half hidden in shadows on the right. To me, this photo is a perfect metaphor for Hong Kong as a whole.

      Hong Kong is not complete without street vendors selling snacks along the side of the roads and this man is no exception! His weary expression reveals how exhausted he must be from his long hours. I can just imagine his father selling street food at the same stall decades ago!

      Do you like seeing Hong Kong in this nostalgic way? Which is your favorite photo?

      © Connie Hum 2011

      Wednesday, March 23, 2011

      Blog4NZ: A Local Tells You Why You Should Visit New Zealand

      Julie Crisford is a native New Zealander and a good friend of mine. I asked her to help me write a blog for Blog4NZ, a worldwide blogging event to help raise awareness and promote tourism to New Zealand despite the devastating earthquake in Christchurch. 

      Here is why Julie thinks you should come visit New Zealand!

      First thing: Do come visit us. We love visitors. And we need them. New Zealand's economy is small with a population of only 4 million people and tourism is a major part of New Zealand's economy. With the earthquake in Christchurch and a tsunami in Japan – where a lot of our tourists come from – New Zealand needs people to come visit and help spur the economy. 99% of the country is still open for business and we’d love to see you!

      Now, I’ve traveled the world, but I’m always drawn to my home in New Zealand. There’s so many things I could tell you about New Zealand. About how we’re bigger than the UK, but have 15 times less people, so we have SPACE. About our mountains, our glaciers, the volcanos you can ski on, our beaches. But, instead, I thought I’d just show you some of my favorite photos from places I have traveled in the last three years since I’ve been home in New Zealand.

      Fifteen minutes driving from the South Coast of Wellington, where I live, you can walk around the rocks to a place where seals come to play in the winter. Wellington weather is quite mild, and on a sunny day in winter it can get up about 12-15°C (54-60°F). Don’t get me wrong, in winter it can be horrible even without snow, but when it’s nice, it’s nice.

      Summer in the top of the South Island near Abel Tasman National Park is just about perfect. My good friend from high school got married and the day after his wedding, a group of us went to the beach. A beautiful summer day to chill out after a gorgeous wedding.


      New Zealand is, along with Ireland, one of the two places in the world that doesn’t have snakes. We also don’t have any native mammals, so our birds have evolved mostly without predators until people started showing up 500 years ago. Settlers bought predators which eat bird eggs, thus endangering New Zealand's native aviary population. Pukaha, Mt Bruce, 2 hours from South Wellingon, is a wildlife sanctuary where they have many programs to protect New Zealand’s endangered birds.

      A view of my hometown, Wellington, from near my mum’s house. You can see the harbour, the wooden houses nestled in the hills and how we’re surrounded by trees. In the bottom right hand corner is the business district, but it spreads right along the waterfront.

      So there you have it, my thoughts and photos of New Zealand. I’m pretty bad at taking photos actually, so if you want to know more about New Zealand visit Tourism New Zealand.

      If you do come visit New Zealand, and are a friend of Connie’s, please do come say hi!

      Finally, if you want to help, but can’t quite plan your vacation yet; please give to the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal.

      Thanks Julie, you know I'm planning on going to New Zealand as soon as I can. READERS, has Julie persuaded YOU to visit New Zealand?

      © Connie Hum 2011

      Tuesday, March 22, 2011

      #TTOT Round-Up: Non-Tourist Travel

      Every Tuesday it's Travel Talk on Twitter! Follow the #TTOT tag to see what all the commotion and Tweets are about! There are two sessions to join, one at 9:30am GMT and the other at 9:30pm GMT.

      Here's the round-up of this week's #TTOT: 

      Q1: What defines non-tourist travel? (submitted by OysterWorldwide)
      • MalloryOnTravel: The tourist seeks souvenirs, whilst the traveller seeks experiences
      • AlexPlim: Non-tourist travel is heading wherever the wind takes you, which takes guts when you've only got a finite amount of time
      • : Going with the flow and see what and where seems a good idea on the spur of the moment. No: packages, resort hotels, plans
      • AnthonyOFlynn: Traveling instinctively and putting down the guide books- make your own plans and immerse yourself in culture
      • : Non-tourist travel is when don't have a predetermined agenda. Doing something you didn't hear or know about before arriving.  
      Going off the beaten track in India
      Q2: Describe your most shameless (or embarrassing) touristy moment. (submitted by athomeaway)
      • markosul: Switching "bottoms" with my wife so I could swim in a speedo-only pool in Brazil 
      • MyPostcardFrom: Buying plastic clip on Koalas from Sydney. We gave them away to family on our return. Too embarrassing to have around the house.
      • 25travels: Eating at McDonald 
      • WFTristan: Having to wear a cotton wool nappy after taking most of the skin off my backside whilst in France 
      • WomanSeeksWorld: A 17-night, 12 country Contiki tour when I was 20...I hang my head in shame thinking about it now
      Buying "tacky" souvenirs at The Grand Bazaar, Istanbul
      Q3: At what point in your travels do you start feeling more like a local than a tourist? (submitted by conniehum)
      • beforeiam35: When I don't get stared at anymore!
      • TotalTravelBug: When you stop paying tourist rates for everything!
      • : When the dogs stop biting me and start licking me
      • insidetravellab: When I can use the underground/metro/subway without looking at a map!
      • : I feel like a local when I begin unconsciously swearing in a foreign language. "Merde!" Excuse my French
      Navigating NYC's subway system like a local
      Q4: Best experience with locals? (submitted by trekkingnut)
      • chippy2u: A homestay in a small village with locals in Yap, Micronesia. Ate betel nut, husked coconuts, home cooked island food each day
      • : A samba contest in the countryside of Salto, Brazil
      • Being taken for a tour of the Amsterdam red light area by a former prostitute
      • QunoSpotter: Kissing the boys and making them cry in Le Marche, Italy
      • jetsetgisele: I lived in Mombasa for two months and everyday I would get a "Jambo" and a hug from the local fruit lady 
      Eating with local Bedouins in Petra
        Q5: When have you felt most at home when traveling? (submitted by OysterWorldwide)
        • NickAtFeynan: Sitting in a Bedouin friend's tent near Feynan, listening to his family's stories and sipping sweet tea by a fire
        • : Always feel at home where ever there's Charmin in the restroom 
        • monaibra: When staying with a Persian friend's family in Montreal and eating authentic Persian food in my PJs! 
        • KirkShack: Finding Vegemite in a shop in Vietnam
        • : Of course Stockholm is my holm away from holm
        • : Any time I have the time to unpack the ENTIRE contents of my bag
        • InAForeignLand: Home is where my backpack is when traveling 
        Feeling at home with my backpack
          And there you have it, "Non-Tourist Travel!"

          Next weeks #TTOT topic is: "Adventure Travel" submitted by traveldudes. Submit your questions here! And don't forget to tune follow the #TTOT every Tuesday at 9:30am and 9:30pm GMT!

          As always, a HUGE travel community thank you to our #TTOT hosts and organizers: traveldudes, , , , , , and !

          Have you got anything to add? 

          © Connie Hum 2011

          Monday, March 21, 2011

          Grand Opening Ceremony: Hong Kong International Film Festival

          Sunday, March 20th marked the Grand Opening of the 35th annual Hong Kong International Film Festival (HKIFF). The star-studded Grand Opening Ceremony took place at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center to much excitement and fanfare.

          Fans eagerly await the arrival of Hong Kong's brightest stars

          With my press pass I was able to get behind the scenes of the Grand Opening Ceremony and up close to the stars of the 35th HKIFF opening films,"Don't Go Breaking My Heart" and "Quattro Hong Kong 2"! It was all very exciting. The press and crowded fans went wild each time someone arrived. Here are just some of the stars who arrived at the 35th Hong Kong International Film Festival's Grand Opening Ceremony:

          After everyone who's anyone arrived on the red carpet and went in for the Grand Opening Ceremony, the press scrambled to grab their equipment and ran in to grab a good spot. I didn't get into the room in time to snag a spot on the press stage so I stayed among the crowd to get the feel of the growing excitement as the Grand Opening Ceremony progressed.

          The Grand Opening Ceremony ended with a champagne toast, a shower of gold confetti and wishes for a successful festival.

          With over 335 films from 56 countries, the HKIFF has already sold over 63,000 tickets. Several additional screenings of sold out films have been added due to popular demand. It would appear as though the 35th Hong Kong International Film Festival is well on its way to being a huge success! 

          The 35th HKIFF is currently underway and runs through April 5th at various theaters in Hong Kong. For more information on films, locations and show times, please visit to the official Hong Kong International Film Festival website.

          Do YOU love film festivals as much as I do? Have YOU ever attended an international film festival?

          © Connie Hum 2011

          Sunday, March 20, 2011

          Montage Monday: Lijiang, China

          A photo montage highlighting my favorite memories from past travels!

          Lijiang is quite a photogenic city! From the moment that I arrived, I was swept in time back to historic China. Sure, many will argue that Lijiang is just another tourist trap, another Disneyland for adults, but I beg to differ. Lijiang retains an old-world charm that can never be replicated.

          The crowds lining up at the Food Market in Lijiang are an eager bunch. There's a bit of pushing, there's a bit of shouting, but it's all worth it in the end. With so many different Chinese delicacies on offer, the Food Market is the prefect place to sample new (and delicious) foods! My personal favorite was the gigantic meat balls served piping hot in a flavorful broth.

          Perhaps my favorite part of Lijiang was the signs posted all over the town in some confusing English. I was never quite sure what the signs were supposed to mean. In any case, the signs in "Chinglish" provided humorous moments of exploring Lijiang.

          Have YOU ever been to a place that was too "touristy" but loved it anyway? Can YOU decipher the above sign?

          © Connie Hum 2011

          Thursday, March 17, 2011

          The MUST Have Item for Hong Kong

          It doesn't matter if you're just visiting Hong Kong or if you're relocating to this mega-metropolis like I am, get yourself an Octopus card right away! An Octopus card is THE absolute must-have item for Hong Kong!

          "Standard" Octopus cards

          You can purchase your Octopus card at any MTR station, either at the designated Customer Service booths or at the self-serve machines. The initial cost of a standard Octopus card is $150 Hong Kong dollars for $100 credit and $50 deposit. Whatever amount you have left over on your card is refundable upon return of the Octopus card.

          Octopus cards come in a variety of designs and colors to fit all ages and styles, such as mobile phone accessories and watches!

          Mobile phone accessory with built in Octopus

          Not only does the Octopus card work on all major forms of public transportation in Hong Kong including the MTR, Star Ferry, buses and trams, it also works like a cash card in many shops all over Hong Kong! You can use your Octopus card at vending machines selling a wide variety of products from soft drinks to iphone covers, convenience stores like 7/11, supermarkets, mobile phone shops and retail stores. Hong Kond residents can even pay bills with their Octopus card!

          My favorite place to use my Octopus card? The Mobile Softee trucks!

          No cash for Mister Softee? No problem!

          Just make sure that you don't lose your Octopus card! There's no way to trace a lost or stolen Standard card back to you! You can only submit a claim if you have a personalized Octopus card or one set up to automatically add value through your bank.  

          *Local Tip* Avoid the long lines usually waiting for you at the MTR customer service booths or self-serve kiosks when you want to recharge your Octopus and head straight to a 7/11. It usually takes less than a minute to recharge and then you're back out to exploring the wonders of Hong Kong!

          Is there any other destination that makes transportation and paying for things as easy as Hong Kong's Octopus card?

          © Connie Hum 2011

          Wednesday, March 16, 2011

          #TTOT Round-Up: Language In Travel

          Every Tuesday it's Travel Talk on Twitter! Follow the #TTOT tag to see what all the commotion and Tweets are about! There are two sessions to join, one at GMT 9:30am and the other at GMT 9:30pm.

          This week's #TTOT topic of "Language in Travel" drew in 3,400 tweets mentioning #TTOT, reaching over 240,000 followers and creating 16,680,000 impressions!

          Here's the round-up of this week's #TTOT:

          Q1. What's the MOST important word or phrase to learn when visiting a foreign country? (submitted by ) 

          Smiles always break the ice
          Q2. What was your first memorable encounter with a foreign language? (submitted by RunawayJuno)

          • : When I was 7. I thought when people got old they stopped speaking English and spoke Chinese like my grandparents
          • : I was 2 1/2yrs old when I had just moved to Kuwait and suddenly EVERYONE (except my parents) spoke a different language
          • : I grew up speaking two German dialects and standard German. That was really confusing sometimes    
          • : First OMG-I'm-speaking-another-language! moment was arriving @ CDG, starving, & ordering a baguette w/brie @ age 15. Best meal ever!

          Q3. What's the most interesting sign/label you've seen n a foreign language? (submitted via )

          • hjortur: This is a sign here in Hafnarfjordur where I live, the elf capital of the world
          • : Fave sign, for donkey rides in Turkey: "Would you like to ride on your own ass?" 
          • worldswaiting: "Please take advantage of the chambermaid" in Hong Kong  
          • : I like signs in "English"
          • : At a Spanish thermal bath, I saw a sign in English for "Heated Poo." 
          • : I love this sign found in Thailand, Koh Phi Phi

            Q4. What's your best pantomime when language barriers are too difficult to overcome abroad? (submitted by conniehum)

            • tranquilotravel: The downward-fist pump-plunger diarrhea sign
            • : Anyone else have to look up what pantomime meant? Oh, only me? Awesome...
            • travelingted: I tried to give the international sign for where's bathroom at a bar. The bartender gave me a marijuana menu 
            • : I remember me and the Catalan waiter making various animal sounds and pointing at parts of our bodies
            • : Clicking my tongue and rubbing thumb with first two fingers together for 'that's too expensive'
            The universal sign for "It's too loud in this room"
            Q5. Most embarrassing mistake you've made in another language? What were you TRYING to say? (submitted by )
            • : Using google translator turned 'Hello mate' to 'Let's have sex'
            • : In Chinese,I was trying to say "I understand your question"(wenti). I said "I understand your body"(shenti)
            • conniehum: "Thanks" in Turkish sounds a lot like "testicular" and let's just say I've made that mistake!
            • : A friend wanted to order 5 cold beer in Khmer and hit the wrong tone and ordered 5 old women 
            • : In Egypt we wanted a buy a shawl ~ he brought us a camel instead 
            Is this camel the color you wanted, miss?
            And there you have it, "Language in Travel!"

            Next weeks topic is: "Non Tourist Travel" submitted by . Submit your questions here! And don't forget to tune into #TTOT every Tuesday at 9:30am and 9:30pm GMT!

            As always, a HUGE travel community thank you to our #TTOT hosts and organizers: traveldudes, , , , , , and !

            Have you got anything to add?

            © Connie Hum 2011

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