No matter how, when, why or where you travel around the world you are sure to receive one of the best educations of your life.  The lessons you learn may be small and unnoticeable or they may be huge and life changing.

A foreign culture may make you realise something you didn’t know about yourself and sometimes even move you to tears.  My visit to Bhutan took me to a state of peacefulness I’ve not found anywhere in the Western world.  I can’t begin to describe the effect the tiny kingdom had on me except to say when I viewed photos and video from the journey, tears rolled down my cheeks.  It’s a mystery to me why the tears came even today.  All I know is Bhutan touched me beyond measure.

The taste of new food, aromas, colors and even travel sounds can leave an impression on you well after you leave a destination.  The sensory elements of travel may inspire you to add them to your own creative adventures in cooking or music or handicrafts.

You may be in awe of Big Ben or Mont Saint Michel glowing against the night sky.  Istanbul’s Blue Mosque or the Old Medina in Marrakech send your senses into sensory overload.  A sunset on a beach in the Caribbean or Bali may change the way you look at the world.

But most of all, it is the people you meet along the way who will touch you in ways you never though imaginable.  Maybe you’ll understand that we are all just trying to make it in this world.  We just happen to speak differently or pray a little different.  Inherently, we’re all good people.

And so when I wanted to show the many places I’ve travelled throughout the world, I decided to do it in one go in one epic video presentation which I’ve titled “Travel Around The World With The Gentleman Wayfarer.”  There are approximately 3000 photos in the fast-paced presentation that span all the way around the world.  The places and people I’ve included have impacted my life in one way or another.  This is my tribute to every one and every place that has made a difference in my life.

Travel with an iPhone or any mobile phone is very common today.  If you are keen to improve your travel photography skills, a mobile device is a great way to do it.  Phones are easily accessible, they fit in your pocket and you really don’t have to think too much.

Consider these iPhone Travel Photography Tips during your next journey.

1) Strengthen your travel photos with different focal lengths.

The iPhone is equipped with two lenses, a wide-angle 28mm and a portrait lens, 56mm. Different focal lengths tell different stories. A wider angle generally gives a better sense of place, while a telephoto brings the viewer into the details of the subject.  Consider this while you’re shooting and experiment with both.  And remember – one key element to great photo composition is filling your frame.

2) Keep Using Your iPhone in Low Light

Some of my favorite images have been shot well after the sun has gone down.  I love the challenge of low light photography.  In the past, I would have put my iPhone away thinking the images wouldn’t be usable, but now with a new sensor and faster aperture (f/1.8), the iPhone autofocuses and captures substantially better in low light.

3) Be In The Moment But Also Think Ahead

Travel photography is about capturing the unknowns and unexpected.  Always be looking forward, and consider using the iPhone’s burst mode so you don’t miss a moment as it happens.   To use burst mode, press and hold the shutter button until rapid fire begins.

4) Buy An Unlocked iPhone So You Can Switch to Local SIM Cards.

Communication is super important while traveling.  If you’re roaming internationally, the cost can be astronomical.  Buy a local SIM card as it allows you to make new plans, call someone, google something, and more, while you’re on the go. In photography, this means your GPS data will be recorded with your photo.  The iPhone’s memories feature can organize your images together by location and create simple and fun video vignettes.

Later, you can also look on a map in Photos and see exactly where you captured different photographs.  I use this feature as I don’t always remember the names of the places where I’ve taken photos.

5) Bring a Small Tripod

A small, compact tripod can be helpful and is a great way to capture time-lapses, low-light images, and more. While the iPhones now all have a stabilizer built in, the extra support from a tripod can be especially helpful with the iPhone optical zoom.

Keep in mind that shooting with a longer focal length, like the iPhone optical zoom, amplifies camera shake.  You’ll find it will naturally be more difficult to get a sharp clear shot while shooting with 2x, especially in low-light environments or unstable foundations, like a moving vehicle.  To compensate, use a mini-tripod or experiment with burst mode. Sometimes I’ll shoot a 20-shot burst just to ensure that I have the sharpest shot possible.

6) Upload Your Photos to the Cloud Daily

Thanks to a the iPhone’s water-resistant feature, you won’t be losing our pictures during accidental swims, but it could be left at a hotel, or worse, picked from your pocket, which happened to me in Ecuador. At the end of the day, the iPhone can be replaced, but your pictures can’t. Don’t get two weeks into a trip only to lose them all in a moment.

If you don’t have your laptop because you’re traveling light, consider a SanDisk iXpand.  It’s essentially a USB flash drive with a Lightning connector, so you can quickly and easily off-load your images each day.  I love mind and take it everywhere I travel.

Be sure to keep your backup and your iPhone in separate bags for extra safety.

7) Play it safe.

Don’t put your iPhone—or any valuable—in the tray when going through security. Instead, put it in a pocket of your bag before sending it through the x-ray.  This way it’s protected from being accidentally—or intentionally—carried off before you get through the metal detector.

8) Play To The Strengths of the iPhone

One of the greatest strengths of the iPhone as a camera is its agility.  You can focus on getting to the best shoot spots instead of worrying about lugging gear. Don’t weigh it down with a bunch of unnecessary DSLR lens adapters.

Try leaving your DSLR at home and travel super light.  The iPhone  doesn’t replace your DSLR, but it’s plenty powerful and a really fun way to experience and capture the environment around you.  You’ll love leaving the extra chargers, batteries, lenses, and big tripod at home for a change.

The tradition of night markets in Hong Kong reaches back to the days when the region first became a major trading centre.  The days were hot, and with no air conditioning back then, the best time to go shopping was in the evening.  Night markets were located throughout Hong Kong though over time and re-development schemes the markets disappeared one by one.

Temple Street Night Market is the last remaining example of a traditional Hong Kong night market.  It has been a fixture of the Jordan/Yau Ma Tei District since the 1920’s and perhaps even before.  The market takes its name from the nearby Tin Hau Temple and you may have seen it as a backdrop in a number of movies.

People visit to buy inexpensive goods from bags, fashions and accessories, or jewellery, trinkets, electronics and gadgets.  Plentiful delicious street foods tease any passerby whether its a feast of snacks, noodles or congee that is all served well into the wee hours.

The market is a popular place for visitors and locals alike to congregate in the evenings.  Various forms of entertainment are common while you meander up and down the buzzing street.  Expect to find mystic fortunetellers or tarot card readers from whom you can receive glimpses into your future.  There is a long tradition of fortune telling in and around temples tho’ the fortunetellers are not located inside the market.

The fortunetellers and tarot card readers are closer to the Temple itself as they have always been.  Simply walk along Temple Street Night Market northwards, go past Yau Ma Tei Library until you reach the Temple gardens. 

A variety of methods are used including the examination of hands or ears and the use of Chinese astrology.  Be sure your fortuneteller knows sufficient English or you may leave a bit confused.  Personally, I find Eastern philosophies fascinating so I’d go just to satisfy my curiosity.

After you know your good fortune continue up the road and turn right into an area where the opera singer tents are located.  In the tents, you’ll find opera singers who perform Cantonese Opera.  If you’re unfamiliar, Cantonese Opera is a unique singing style with its own music genre which is different than what you and I know.

Amateur singers come together to practice and perform in order to encourage one another and develop their craft.  You’ll find amateurs from all skill levels, from professional quality to beginners.  It’s said that a few singers from Temple Street have gone on to professional careers in Opera Houses.  You can listen to the opera singers from 8:30 pm until 11 pm most nights except Wednesdays.

Hong Kong is the epitome of a modern metropolis.  Hidden away in Temple Street you’ll find a thriving cross-section of traditional and modern Hong Kong culture, cuisine, commerce and society that you’ll be hard-pressed to find anywhere else.  Temple Street Night Market is an enduring example of theatre and festivity of a traditional Chinese market.  And, it’s on show nightly.

Gallery of Photos of Temple Street Night Market

Where Is Temple Street Night Market?
Temple Street Night Market GPS Coordinates ::  22°18’21.20″ N 114°10’11.53″ E 
MTR Yau Ma Tei Station, Exit C, turn onto Temple Street at Man Ming Lane; or, 
MTR Jordan Station, Exit A. Turn right onto Jordan Road and then take another right onto Temple Street.

Map Showing the Location of Temple Street Night Market

You might also be interested in 12 Awesome Reasons To Visit Hong Kong


A relatively new way to explore Hong Kong arrived at the Hong Kong TramOramic tour.  With the purchase of a ‘Golden Ticket’, you’ll have two days to get the most out of your purchase.   And, though the tour is included in its name, don’t expect a tour guide.  Be prepared to conveniently travel through the bustling city and hop off at various points to explore on your own.

The stylish trams are reminiscent of those used in the 1920’s and a brilliant way to discover Hong Kong without the frustration of getting lost.  The historical trams are open-top so you can clearly see major landmarks along the tram network and learn about daily life in the city.  The TramOramic tour is an hour long though with the purchase of the Golden Ticket you have two days to also use the regular Hong Kong Tramway network to explore Hong Kong on your own.

Listen to the sounds heard while riding  Hong Kong’s Tram ::

Tramoramic Golden Ticket (Images)

 The hour-long tour itself begins at one of two starting points.  I used the Western Market Terminus as it is convenient to Conrad Hong Kong.  The other terminal is Causeway Bay Terminus.  (See the route maps below).

Tramoramic Tour Route Map (Eastbound)
Tramoramic Tour Route Map (Westbound)

Simply hop on board the 1920’s vintage double-decker tram for an enlightening journey where you’ll see sights such as Statue Square, Macau Ferry Pier, Tak Wing Pawnshop or Man Wa Lane.  You’ll also see important Hong Kong landmarks like the Bank of China Building, the Supreme Court, Times Square, Lippo Centre and Tai Yau Plaza.  You’ll even pass by Happy Valley Race Course and Jockey Club as well as Happy Valley Cemeteries.

You’ll hear pre-recorded commentary along the way which points out the various sights along the journey from one terminus to the other.  Do know there is an onboard ‘host’ to answer any questions you may have.

The beauty of the Hong Kong Tramoramic Tour is you can use it as hop-on-hop-off transportation to see sights on your list of Hong Kong things to do or even have lunch.  Hong Kong Tramways provides suggested sights to see, which I’ve included below.  Feel free to download the guides to create your own enjoyable experience.

Download the Hong Kong Tramways Colonial Tour Guide

Download the Hong Kong Tramways Heritage Tour Guide

Download the Hong Kong Tramways Art Tour Guide

Download the Hong Kong Tramways Foodie Tour Guide

Download the Hong Kong Tramways Shopping Tour Guide

Quite honestly, I was reluctant to buy a Golden Ticket for the ‘tour’ simply because I avoid structured tours.  I’m pleased I did because this service provides an easy way to explore Hong Kong at your own pace and allows for you to explore on your own.  No one is herding you on and off a tram, nor is anyone rushing you.  I like to take a travel experience as it comes and the Hong Kong TramOramic is fully flexible to allow that.



For roughly 12 USD or 95 Hong Kong Dollars, Star Ferry’s Harbour Tour is a real sightseeing bargain.  More importantly, Star Ferry offers splendid views of Hong Kong you can’t see otherwise.   There are few sight-seeing activities I’ll partake in these days, but this ferry is worth breaking my rule.  A ride on the water is especially nice when there is a golden sunset ready to glisten on the harbour’s waters.

Star Ferry itself is a beloved Hong Kong icon.  Until 1978 Star Ferry was the only way to cross between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon.  It shuttled Hong Kong residents for over 120 years until the Cross-Harbour Tunnel opened.  How remarkable the ferry runs as a means of transportation even today.

The harbour tour is an excellent choice for touring Victoria Harbour in roughly an hour.  National Geographic Traveller names crossing Victoria Harbour as one of the “fifty places of a lifetime.”  NG Traveller is enthusiastic it seems, though I’d agree if you should add a ride on the water to your list of things to do in Hong Kong at least once.

You’ll board the tour at Tsim She Tsui Star Ferry Pier at the tip of the Kowloon Peninsula.  A stately double-decker “Shining Star” replica from the 1920’s version awaits you.  Do beware of over-exuberant Australians who are willing to fist fight over the front seats. Thank goodness this gentleman wasn’t involved, though I did witness such sordid behaviour in disbelief.

That said, choose your space, sit back and relax.  Enjoy the glorious Hong Kong views and wonder how the high rises piece together in such neatly packed developments.  I chose to stay on deck for most of the journey with my GoPro attached to the bow of the boat.  You can view sights from the Star Ferry Harbour Tour in the video above.

Star Ferry also offers a night tour and a Symphony of Lights Tour for a higher price, though still affordable for any traveller.

Gallery of Photos from Star Ferry Harbour Tour

Star Ferry’s Harbour Tour Route Map

Star Ferry Timetable

Where Is Tsim Sh Tsui Star Ferry Pier?
GPS Coordinates of Star Ferry Pier ::  22.2938° N, 114.1687° E

Map Showing Location of Tsim Sh Tsui Star Ferry Pier




Macau is often referred to as the “Las Vegas of the East”, though the truth is Macau is the gambling capital of the world. Macau is a modern city with a unique old-world charm and a rich heritage of Chinese and Portuguese culture for visitors looking for attractions beyond the gambling tables and slot machines.

I visited Macau purely because of curiosity.  What I found was unbelievable.  I had known Macau was a growing gambling mecca though I didn’t expect the magnitude of the casinos and construction of more all around me.  Like other popular destinations around the world, Macau stays true to its roots and culture which is evident mere steps away from the glittering casino lights.

I explored both the casino areas and the authentic neighbourhoods to get a true sense of the area.  It’s easy to be ‘wowed’ by the glitz but it’s Macau’s genuine side that won me over.

When you plan to visit Macau, consider the following interesting facts:

Macau was considered a de facto colony of Portugal and was returned to China on 20 December 1999 Macau was initially leased by the Portuguese merchants in 1557.

The area functioned as a trading centre, shipping gold, silk and spices back to Europe until the 18th century.

The Portuguese first arrived in the 16th century and the last Portuguese governor left in 1999; thus Macau is the first and last Asian country to remain a European colony.

Macau was once a human trafficking point for Chinese slaves to Portugal.

 Before the Portuguese arrived, Macao was originally known as Haojing, meaning Oyster Mirror, or Jinhai, which literally means Mirror Sea.

Locals believe the name Macau derived from Matsu, a deity who is the goddess of seafarers and fishermen. It’s believed Matsu worshipped at A-Ma Temple built in 1448.

Portuguese and Cantonese are the official languages of Macau.

The area has its own dialect of Portuguese called ‘Macanese Portuguese’. There is also a distinctive creole generally known as ‘Patuá.

95% of Macau’s population is Chinese. The population density of Macao is the world’s highest at 20643 people per square kilometre.

50% of Macau’s residents are Buddhist.

The official name of Macau is Macau Special Administrative Region.

Macau is governed under the ‘one country, two systems’ arrangement for fifty years from 1999 by an elected local authority. In the year 2049, Macau will revert to Beijing’s full control.

One of the most convenient and affordable ways to travel between Macau and Hong Kong is by ferry. The Hong Kong International Airport even allows visitors to bypass Hong Kong Immigration and transfer directly into a ferry to Macau. 

Macau is the only place in China where gambling is allowed.

 50% of Macau’s revenue comes from gambling. It’s no surprise that 20 % of its population is employed by the casinos.

The impressive Venetian Macao is owned by the Las Vegas Sands and is the largest casino in the world. The Venetian is also the largest single structure hotel building in Asia and the sixth largest building in the world by floor area.

New hotel rooms were constructed at a rate of 16 per day to keep up with Macao’s exploding tourism industry.

In 2012, Macao had the world’s fastest-growing economy.

The original Casino Lisboa and 15 stories round Lisboa Hotel tower were built in 1970 making it Macau’s oldest casino.

One of its most famous residents is ‘The King of Gambling’, Stanley Ho Hung Sun, who had a 40-year government granted a monopoly of gambling in Macau.

With the non-stop development of casinos in Macau, it has become the world’s largest gambling market, far outgrowing iconic Las Vegas.

Gambling revenue in Macau is five times the amount in Las Vegas.

There are more than four times as many gambling tables per 1000 residents that hospital beds. The Cotai Strip is often referred to as the largest tourism project in the world.

Cotai Strip is named after the Las Vegas Strip and is a major land reclamation joining the islands of Coloane and Taipa.

 The entire area of Macau is no larger than the size of 700 football arenas.

The Historic Centre of Macau (also known as “澳門歷史城區” in Mandarin and “O Centro Histórico de Macau” in Portuguese) inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2005 is actually a collection of 25 historic monuments and public squares which bore witness to the assimilation and co-existence of Chinese and Portuguese cultures in Macau.

The Cathedral of St. Paul, built by Jesuits around 1580-1625 AD formed Macau’s ‘Acropolis’ and was the largest Catholic church of its time in East Asia. The baroque five-tiered façade and the 66 flight of stone steps leading to it are all that remains of the Cathedral of St. Paul.

Monte Fort (also known “Fortaleza de Nossa Senhora do Monte de São Paulo” in Portuguese and the “Fortress of Our Lady of the Mount of St. Paul” in English) constructed from 1617 to 1626 was principal military defence structure and held off the attempted invasion of Macau by the Netherlands in 1622.

The Guia Lighthouse dating from 1865 was the 1st modern lighthouse on the Chinese coast.

The A-Ma Temple existed in 1488 long before the city of Macau came into being and is an exemplary representation of the true diversity of Chinese culture, inspired by Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism and multiple folk beliefs.

Plan Your Visit With This Collection of Macau Tourist Maps

Where Is Macao (Macau)?  
GPS Coordinates of Macao ::  22.1987° N, 113.5439° E

Map Showing Location of Macao


A visit to Big Buddha, or Tian Tan Buddha, is regarded as a must when you visit Hong Kong.  

The impressive Buddha statue, erected in 1993, sits 34 meters high (that’s 111.55 feet) as a landmark atop a hill amongst superabundant green vegetation. Clouds swirl around Buddha then swoop into the valley below.  It’s like Mother Nature dancing before your eyes.  One of my best memories during my visit was the fast-moving clouds that engulfed me as I wandered the site.  

The majestic statue draws pilgrims from all over Asia as well as numerous tourists such as myself on this day.  And, despite the constant chatter and selfie-takers, the setting is rather peaceful.  There is a calm brought about merely by nature itself.

 The cable car itself is called Ngong Ping 360.  You’re promised an inspiring 25-minute cable car ride to Big Buddha. Without a doubt or hesitation, I can say the ride exceeds anyone’s wildest expectations.  In fact, I’d go as far to say the cable car ride to Big Buddha is the best part of the experience.

The cable car smoothly soars through the air high above rolling lush green mountainside that seems to never end.  The panoramic vistas of Lantau Island, and well beyond, are a feast for the eyes.  If you love natural landscapes as much as I do, you’re sure to be delighted.  As an added bonus, the cable car drifts through low lying clouds for an ethereal experience.  It’s entirely possible the smile on my face stretched from ear to ear during the ride.  I felt at peace as if nothing was wrong in the world.  You can see bits of the cable car ride in the videos in this post.

Ngong Ping Cable Car is 5.7 kilometres (3.5 miles) long.  The cable car system consists of eight towers which the gondolas pass through on their way from Tung Chung and Ngong Ping, where the Po Lin Monastery and Tian Tan Buddha are located.

Big Buddha faces north towards Mainland China.  It sits atop a lotus throne and its official name is Tian Tan Giant Buddha.  The statue sits on a three-story alter modelled after the base structure found in the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests at the Temple of Heaven in Beijing.  the body of Buddha is made up of 160 bronze pieces.  The head of Big Buddha is modelled after statues in the Longmen Grottoes.  The Tian Tan Buddha was forged using bronze and gold, which glitters and glows under sunlight.  And finally, the legs of Buddha sits in the same position assumed by Sakyamuni Buddha when he attained enlightenment under the famous bodhi tree. 

The eyes, lips, the incline of the head and right hand, which is raised to deliver a blessing to all, combine to bring a humbling depth of character and dignity to the massive Buddha.  It took twelve (12) years to complete Tian Tan Giant Buddha.  As a visitor, expect to climb a healthy 268 steps for a closer look at this stunning statue.  Savour the feeling when the clouds flurry around you and enjoy the sweeping mountain views that can be seen from the base of Big Buddha.

Opposite the statue, you’ll find the Po Lin Monastery.  Po Lin is one of Hong Kong’s most important sanctums and is often referred to as “the Buddhist World in the South.”  The monastery is home to many a monk and is rich with colourful representations of Buddha throughout.  Stroll through the beautiful garden to simply take in the scenery.

If you enjoy photography or videography, this is a journey you’ll want to experience.  There are numerous photo opportunities and the brilliant part is you’ll capture Tian Tan Buddha from various perspectives.  

I visited the area via a structured tour, which I don’t recommend.  What I dislike about most organized tours are time restraints and the rush to get from point A to point B.  Make your way on your own or organize a private guide so you can enjoy the day and the experience at your leisure.

Where Is Ngong Ping 360 and Big Buddha (Tian Tan Buddha)?   22.2540° N, 113.9050° E

Map Showing The Location of Ngong Ping 360 and Big Buddha in Hong Kong

When I recall Kathmandu, I remember just what you see in the video.  Chaos and I won’t go so far as to say organised chaos.  Somehow, some way, everything works and no one collides.  The roads are free for all.  As a westerner, and one who wants everything neatly organised, Kathmandu made my head spin.
Absolutely nothing made sense, yet I think I might want to return for more one day.

There are two things that vividly stand out in my memory.  One, the overhead power lines.  The power lines were like a tangled ball of yarn tossed onto a pole.  What fascinated me more was the repairman on a rickety ladder seemingly engineering something.  Seriously, how did he know what line went to what?   

Secondly, traffic lights.  Traffic lights are everywhere and at almost every major intersection in Kathmandu.  None of the traffic lights works and they’re not even turned on.  Why are there no major car or scooter collisions every minute?  Do be aware – even as a passenger in a car with an experienced Kathmandu driver, you will be stressed if you pay too close attention to what is happening on the roads.  I suggest deeply occupying yourself until you arrive at your destination.

True, this is a case of Western sensibilities attempting to project onto a land where the rules I know do not apply.  I thought I was over-applying Western rules to the rest of the world.  Apparently not.

Discover more about Kathmandu from an earlier post.

Destination:  Kathmandu

Step away from the perpetual horn honking and mad driving in Kathmandu for a genuine travel adventure in Bhaktapur.   Every dirt road, crooked building and Temple will take you to a time read only in books.  


Travel Destination – Bhaktapur 

One of my favourite travel photos from Bhaktapur. Ganesh, the hen, and a sleeping dog. They all seem perfectly aligned in front of the weathered brick wall. Of the areas around Kathmandu, Bhaktapur was the one place that captivated me the most as it seemed to be a step back in time.

I will let this photo stand alone as for me it epitomises Bhaktapur.  This image is available as a Mini Art Photograph, printed on metal in Mark’s Art Photographs Store.

Consider these interesting facts about Bhaktapur, Nepal ::

Bhaktapur—locally known as Khwopa—is world renowned for its elegant art, fabulous culture and indigenous lifestyle. For its majestic monuments, colourful festivals and the native Newars best known for their long history of craftsmanship, the ancient city is also variously known as the “City of Culture”, the “Living Heritage” and “Nepal’s Cultural Gem”. Given such unequalled opulence in ancient art and culture, Bhaktapur is more like an open museum, and the ambience here is such that it instantly transports visitors back by centuries the moment they step into its territory.

Bhaktapur has its gem in the Durbar Square—a World Heritage site listed by the UNESCO. Strewn with unique palaces, temples and monasteries best admired for their exquisite artworks in wood, metal and stone, the palatial enclave has bewitched pilgrims and travellers for centuries. Yet, they are not all though. Adding to the mesmerizing environs is the holy Himalaya that makes the backdrop of the city. Stretching all along the township, the panoramic Himalaya levitates in the skyline as if to keep vigilance on the city’s enviable beauty and splendour.

Bhaktapur, at 1,401 meters above sea level, spreads over an area of 6.88 square kilometres. It grows from a collection of villages strung along the old trade route between India and Tibet. The capital city of the Greater Malla Kingdom till the 15th century AD, Bhaktapur was founded in the 12th century by King Ananda Malla, but it was only in the early 18th century that this city took its present shape. It was at that time that many of Bhaktapur’s greatest monuments were built by the then Malla rulers.

Monumental masterpieces in Bhaktapur are innumerable, and each is more attractive than the other. Mostly terra-cotta structures supported by carved wooden columns, elaborately carved struts, windows and doors, gilded roofs and pinnacles, open spacious courts all around and, above all, the fascinating divine images presiding over the monument—many edifices have many things in common, yet their varied shape, size and designs make the one even more wondrous than the other. Furthermore, each of their components reflects the religious belief, social outlook and the economic status of the builders, and the monuments in all carry along a rich artistic tradition of the native Newars.

In Bhaktapur, visitors confront a smaller or larger monument almost at every ten or twenty steps. Perhaps stunned by the clusters of monuments, a visitor in the past had admired the Kathmandu Valley, saying that “every other building (in the Valley) is a temple and every other day a festival”. The proportion, owing to continual external invasions and natural calamities, might have changed over centuries, yet the presence of variously shaped and sized monuments in Bhaktapur is still awe-inspiring. The world-famous Nyataponla Temple, Bhairavnath Temple, Taleju Temple, 55-Window Palace, Golden Gate, Golden Faucet, Big Bell, Yaksheswor Mahadev Temple, Dattatreya Temple, Peacock Window, Taja Math, Pujari Math, Wakupati Narayan Temple, Nava Durga Temple, Chandeswori Temple, Barahi Temple, Bharbacho Gate, Terra-cotta Windows and Nepal’s largest Shiva Lingum at Hanumanghat, and such historic ponds as Ta-Pukhu, Na-Pukhu, Bhajya-Pukhu and Bahre-Pukhu (Kamal Pokhari) are simply a few among many that embellish the city’s brick- and stone-paved squares, courtyards and open fields. Besides, the presence of a great many Buddhist monuments, many of them rubbing shoulders with Hindu shrines, simply reaffirms the age-old Nepalese tradition of social harmony and religious tolerance among its peace-loving populace. Because of this time-tested tradition, Bhaktapur’s well known Lokeswor Mahavihar, Prasannasheel Mahavihar, Chatu Brahma Mahavihar, Jaya Kirti Mahavihar, Sukra-Varna Mahavihar, Dipanker Mahavihar and many other Buddhist shrines have been the places of esteem and adoration for the Hindus alike.

Bhaktapur’s Durbar Square is the gem not only of Bhaktapur but also of the entire nation. The fascinating structure here is the world-renowned 55-Window Palace. The elaborately carved windows and doors are something that visitors simply cannot help admiring. The seat of royalty before 1769 AD, the building now houses the National Art Gallery—the museum better known for its rich collection of paubha scroll paintings and breathtaking artworks in stone.

The world-famous Golden Gate rubs shoulders with the 55-Window Palace. An unparalleled specimen of repousse art dating back to 1756, it is the entrance to the marvellous Taleju Temple Complex. Getting into it leads to a number of artistically designed chowks (courtyards) including the Royal Bath, which is adorned with the well-admired Golden Faucet among others.

Another artwork that unfailing-ly bewitches visitors in the Square is the Big Bell. Big enough to match its name, the bell was erected by Ranajit Malla (r. 1722-1769), Bhaktapur’s last Malla king. It was used in those days for paying homage to Goddess Taleju, the lineage deity of Malla rulers, as well as to call assemblies of the citizens to discuss on given subjects concerning the state. Today, it is rung twice a day as a mark of tribute to the goddess. Right next to it is a smaller Barking Bell. To one’s surprise, all dogs around it start whining the moment it is run by its caretaker.

The Yaksheswor Mahadev Temple equally adds to the Square’s unparalleled beauty. Named after its builder king, Yaksha Malla (r. 1428-82), the two-storied pagoda was constructed after Kathmandu’s world famous Pashupatinath temple. It is noted for its wooden struts full of erotic carvings.

Other notable monuments in and around the historic Durbar Square are the octagonal Chyasin Mandap, Siddhi Laxmi Temple, Shiva Temple (Fasi-dega), Vatsala Temple, Bhandarkhal Complex, Chatu Brahma Mahavihar, Indrayani Temple, Balakhu Ganesh Temple, Tripura-Sundari Temple and the Char Dham symbolizing the four greatest Hindu pilgrimage sites.

The Nyataponla Temple presides over the Taumadhi Square. Dating back to 1702 AD, the colossal five-storied edifice is the country’s tallest pagoda temple. The struts, doors, windows and tympanums—each embellished with attractively carved divine figures—perfectly portray the creative tradition of Newar craftsmen. The temple is dedicated to Goddess Siddhi Laxmi, the manifestation of female force and creativity. The latest major renovation of this monument was carried out in 1997 AD by Bhaktapur Municipality using the revenue it collected from tourists.

Next to the Nyataponla Temple is the rectangular shaped Bhairavnath Temple. It houses a gilded bust of Bhairav, the ferocious manifestation of Lord Shiva. The three-storied pagoda was razed to the grounds by the 1934-earthquake, and its latest renovation was undertaken by Bhaktapur Municipality in 1995 AD.

The enclosed complex facing the Nyataponla Temple is dedicated to Tilmadhav Narayan, a manifestation of Lord Vishnu, who is one of the Supreme Triumvirate of Hindu pantheon. A few steps ahead of it, to the southwest, lies the famous Pottery Square, where visitors can see the city’s well-known potters making variously shaped and sized earthenware. The major monumental highlight of this square is a temple of Jeth Ganesh, which dates back to the 14th century.

The Dattatreya Square is Bhaktapur’s third dazzling gem. The seat of royalty till the 15th century, the area still houses a great number of historic monuments including many wondrous Maths (residential mansions) and temples.

The Dattatreya Temple is the main attraction of the Square. Constructed by King Yaksha Malla, the giant three-storied temple is believed to have been built with the stem of a single tree. Having defied series of calamities, it still bears testimony to the incredible achievement made in those regal days of the Nepalese history.

The Wane Layaku complex, which lies to the south-western corner of the Dattatreya temple, is noted for Bhaktapur’s second Taleju shrine. Enclosed with old houses, the courtyard sees throngs of people, especially during the Mohani (Dashain) festival, when a rare Ghau-batacha (Water Clock) is put on public display. During the Malla Era, the water-clock was used by the then rulers and astrologers for fixing “propitious moments” for commencing and concluding various state and social ceremonies.

The Peacock Window, which is also called the “Mona Lisa of Nepal”, is a rare masterpiece in wood. Dating back to the early 15th century, the unique latticed window has an intricately carved peacock in its centre. The window adorns the Pujari Math which, with rows of exquisitely carved windows and doors, is equally appealing. The building presently houses the Woodcarving Museum. The museum has a rich collection of unique pieces in wood.

The Brass & Bronze Museum, housed in the historic Chikanpha Math, is the next highlight of the Square. It has a wide collection of bronze and brasswares including the ritual jars, utensils, water vessels, pots, spittoons and similar other household items.

Near the Dattatreya Square is the Wakupati Narayan Temple. Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, the two-storied structure is a unique specimen of pagoda architecture. Next to it is Bhaktapur’s second Pottery Square.

Are you considering a trip to Hong Kong?  Here are 12 Awesome Reasons to Visit Hong Kong.  This is a vibrant modern city still connected to its historic past.  

Hong Kong is a good example of giving a travel destination a second chance.  In years past, I had barely a stopover or a mere two days in Hong Kong.  This is not nearly enough time to scratch the surface as the city has so much to offer.

Hong Kong is not for the faint of heart if you are on a budget.  The city lives large and a stay here can set your wallet back.  Be prepared to spend and have little except a good time to show for it.  The peninsula is beautiful and the surrounding mountains create a natural boundary for the ego-driven skyscrapers that touch the shores.

Much like New York City, you’ll feel ant size while walking beneath the towering buildings.  The stretches between destinations are further than you think so using public transportation is highly recommended.  The transport system, whether via subway/metro or Tram is very simple to navigate.

I went from “meh” to I like Hong Kong during this last journey.  Let’s see if next time I fall in love.

For now, here are my 12 Reasons To Visit Hong Kong ::

::  Sail around the harbour on the Star Ferry.  Seeing Hong Kong’s massive skyscrapers from the water will give you a new appreciation for what a metropolis should be.

::  Public transportation in Hong Kong is efficient, clean and safe.  Navigating the city is easy even for a first-time visitor to Hong Kong.

::  The Mongkok neighbourhood with its infinity pool of neon signs is mesmerising.

::  Be adventurous and eat at any number of small restaurants or food stalls.  You’ll be happy you did, and your tummy will be happy too.

::  Temple Street Night Market should be on your Hong Kong to do list.  Yes, you’ll find some junk but you’ll also find some artistic treasures.

::  Walk amongst Hong Kong’s epic skyscrapers.  Challenge yourself by navigating the elevated walkways and arriving at the place you want to go.

::  Hong Kong is an uber-modern city, but there are elements of Old China that are fascinating.  Keep your eyes open.

::  Tai O Fishing Village is worth a stop and will give you a sense of what Hong Kong used to be.

::  The double-decker tram ride through Hong Kong is a brilliant way to see the city.

::  360 Nyong Ping is the most dramatic cable car ride you could possibly have especially when you ride through the mountains and the clouds.

::  Big Buddha is … BIG.  They claim it is the largest Buddha statue in the world.  If you avoid the shops and the touristy area, you’ll enjoy the experience.

Destination:  Hong Kong

Sri Lanka is an interesting travel destination.  The highlight for me in Sri Lanka was staying in an isolated jungle resort and the Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple in Colombo.  

I must admit my usual go with the flow laissez-faire attitude did not serve me well in Sri Lanka.  The island is far larger than one would expect and the winding roads don’t allow for quick day trips to see the sites.

Upon realising my mistake, I booked a car and headed east to the area most guidebooks stated not to miss.  The Galle area.  From Galle northward up the coast there are plentiful beach resorts with long stretches of sand.  The landscape toward the east is remarkable.  The jungles are simply eye-popping beautiful.

By doing this, I missed everything in between which means I missed a lot of Sri Lanka.  Does this disappoint me?  No.  Do I think I missed anything?  Yes and no.  I missed the tourist sites but I had an experience I wouldn’t have otherwise.

Almost immediately, I met Chameera, who worked at the resort where I stayed.  Clandestinely, I’d meet him outside the hotel after his shift and he’d take me by bus to Galle.  Chameera shared with me his Galle, his home.  I met his family, his friends and saw the area like few others would.  I still hear from Chameera and because of him, I look fondly back at Sri Lanka.

On the flip side, I had spoken to a guide who explained what he could arrange for me.  It seemed, however, I would hop around Sri Lanka for a determined amount of time at each stop which probably would have made my head spin and sour my disposition.  I obviously opted out.

All that said, keep reading for my unconventional ways to enjoy Sri Lanka ::

::  Gangaramaya Temple in Colombo is a very important Buddhist Temple.  Make plans to visit.  The actual Temple is interesting.  Watching faithful Buddhists is fascinating.  The 120-year-old Gangaramaya is not the typical Sri Lankan temple. Situated in the bustling inner-city Colombo, nearby the scenic Beira Lake, this intriguing temple complex is simultaneously a hugely popular tourist attraction, a place of worship and a learning and vocational training centre. Rather than huge, open spaces and tranquility, expect huge collections of fascinating artefacts and crowds at Gangaramaya. The temple is mostly celebrated for its lavish architecture and statues showcasing Sri Lankan, Chinese, Thai, Burmese and many other artistic styles. The exterior of the temple is boldly decorated in elaborate designs and golden adornments. The temple grounds are black slate tiled, with various statues—Buddha, lion, nymph—and china vases placed randomly.

::  A stroll through Colombo is interesting to say the least.  You’ll find contemporary buildings mixed in with what appears to be shacks.  Be aware of uneven pavements along the way and take a bottle of water, or two.

::  Take your taste buds on a culinary journey of discovery.  I was served the most beautiful displays of food though I’m still not sure what I ate.

::  Sri Lanka is laid back.  Be laid back with it and reflect on a few things you’ve been putting off.

::  When the hotel manager told me she booked my room for two nights but had arranged for me to stay in the jungle, I thought she was joking until I was literally dropped in the middle of the Sri Lanka jungle.  True that.  Go with the flow and explore.

::  Live like a local.  I stopped at a local shop in the middle of nowhere Sri Lanka and was invited to lunch by the family who owned the shop.  The hospitality in their home was overwhelming.

::  For many, riding in a rickshaw is a touristy thing to do.  When you ride in a rickshaw for twenty miles like I did, you’ve taken a ride of a lifetime.

Destination:  Sri Lanka