Shannon Did What / Travel + Lifestyle Blog

A Layover in Hong Kong

TravelShannon Guerrero9 Comments

It’s a tough choice to make between seeing as many places you can see and really getting to see enough of a place.  On my most recent trip to Southeast Asia, I ended up having 3 stops where they were just short layovers.  A 10-hour layover.  A 12-hour layover. A 24-hour layover.

I just went through how much I was able to see during my 24-hour stop in Taiwan.  Read about it here.  24-hours seems long compared to 10-hours, though.  It’s over twice the amount of time actually.  

So, how much can you do and see on a 10-hour layover?  I think it really depends on where you have your layover.  I think Hong Kong really is a perfect place to venture out and explore during a layover.  Partially because Hong Kong’s transportation is extremely easy and also for an American, you don’t need to attain a visa to leave the airport.

After you make it through immigration, head to the train, which is conveniently located inside the airport.  No need to purchase a ticket before hopping on.  You purchase your fare when you get to your destination.  It is about a 30-minute train ride into the city.

one.
MONTANE MANSION

Hong Kong is full of such cool, scenic spots and I knew I wanted to make it to one of the major Instagrammable spots while there.  Montane Mansion won because of it’s location and proximity to the other stops I picked.  I think the draw of Montane Mansion is how unique it is.  The amount of apartments that fill this one area is astonishing.  You literally can’t comprehend how close of quarters this must be.  

Do take note that these are actual homes for these locals.  It easy to forget that people are going about their regular lives when you stop by for a photoshoot.

two.
VICTORIA PEAK + TRAM

I don’t think I realized how beautiful Hong Kong was until getting to see the view of it from above on Victoria Peak.  You’ll be able to see how Hong Kong’s skyline of tall skyscrapers are  encompassed by vast tree groves.  It may just be one of the best views of the city.

The best way to get up to the peak is by the Victoria Peak Tram funicular.  By the way, up until last year I didn’t realize that a funicular was just a tram.  This tram is over 100 years old and often feels like you’re going up the hill at a 90 degree angle, but is a fun experience.  Get here early as the lines can get insanely long.

There are a ton of great restaurant options at the top with, of course, incredible views of the city.  One fun thing I loved doing at the top at the observation deck was to lean slightly over the railing.  It’ll be so windy once you reach over the side just slightly.  It’s quite the rush.  Obviously, be careful if you try this.

three.
FERRY

We had plans to try to stop by the Ritz Carlton hotel for more views of the city or even experience the cable cars at Ngong Ping 360 and stop by to see the Tian Tan Buddha.  Instead, we opted for walking around the city aimlessly.  

From the Victoria Peak tram, we headed toward the bay and spontaneously decided to hop on the Ferry to cross the river.  We had no idea where the Ferry would drop us off.  It turned out great, for just a few dollars, and we had some great views of the skyline from the water.  The ferry ends up in the Kowloon area.  After walking around, you can head to the nearest train station and hop back on to head back to the airport.

The great thing about Hong Kong is that it is pretty small.  You can see a good amount of the city even with just a short amount of time.  I would love to head back and do this city right.  I know I just scratched the surface of this amazing city.

Yours Truly // Shannon

24 Hours in Taipei

TravelShannon Guerrero15 Comments

I am seriously regretting not having higher hopes for visiting Taipei because this is one underrated country!  I really just thought of Taiwan as a a stopover, an overnight layover really, at the beginning of an almost three week tour around Southeast Asia.  

I was so wrong - Taiwan has so much to offer!  I can’t wait to go back again to explore more of Taiwan, its food, its culture and venture outside of the city.  I’ve heard the nature explorations are amazing here, especially on the coast since Taiwan is an island country.

How much can you really see in just 24 hours in Taipei, Taiwan? I’m here to argue that there are tons of things you can do in such a short period of time. I want to be able to return to explore more of this beautiful country but I am so glad to have been able to scratch the surface a bit.

PEACE PARK

The first stop on your quick but thorough visit should be to Peace Park.  It’s also a great way to start the day because you’ll get a peaceful walk around a beautiful park.  This park is filled with everything - a pretty temple, sculptures, a play ground, a stone foot path and is a nice tribute to memorial victims.  The stone foot path is more like an area and seemed to be really well used by the locals.  We actually saw an older man rolling around on the stones.  He sure was taking full advantage of the free massage on the stones!

CHIANG KAI-SHEK MEMORIAL HALL

We originally ventured over to just see the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial and were pleasantly surprised to find way more than we were expecting.  The hall sits in the Memorial Hall Square that include the National Concert Hall and the National Theatre along with the elaborate main gate that sit directly in front of the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall.  

The square is incredible and seriously giant.  I felt so small standing in front of these massive and impressive structures.  The buildings are beautiful.  Both the National Concert Hall and National Theater look almost identical.

Currently, the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall is undergoing construction, but Taipei even makes the construction zone look beautiful.  I didn’t realize there was scaffolding around the hall until I remembered the building is usually white.  Gorgeous still.

MAOKONG GONDOLA

Venture a little outside of the city at take a ride on the Maokong Gondola.  Have you been on a gondola before?  It’s an incredible experience.  You soar above the beautiful, green landscape in a cable car.  Each cabin fits up to 6 people.  

You can choose between a regular fare ticket for the traditional cabin or choose the crystal cabin.  The crystal cabin has a full glass bottom floor so when your sailing high above the ground, you can see all there is to see.  The only downside to the crystal cabin is that its a big draw meaning there might be a long line.  The reason the line takes long (besides more people) is that there are a limited amount of crystal cabins.  Only every 4 cabins or so has a glass bottom.  We chose the regular cabin and it was just as great!

The Gondola starts at the Taipei Zoo Station and has 5 other stops where you can hop off to see the sights including the Zhinan Temple and Sanxuan Temple.  Its about 20 minutes between most stops.

TEA HOUSE

If you take the last stop on the Maokong Gondola, Maokong Station, stop by one of the great tea houses in the area.  It’s the perfect spot to sit a while and take in the area.  You can also grab some delicious tea ice cream if you’re feeling like a cold treat instead of hot.  We stopped by the Guan Ding Tea House just outside of the station. 

If you're into a little shopping, the tea houses sell the most adorable tea cups and pots.  They are so beautifully hand-painted.  I took home two cups and they are gorgeous.

SHRIMP FISHING

Once you get back from the Gondola ride, you’ll definitely be ready for some delicious food.  I’ve heard the food in Taipei is great which is why I want to go back because I did not get to try enough of it. You have to try shrimp fishing in Taipei!

You catch shrimp and then they grill it for you on the spot for you to eat.  Pretty fun activity!

NIGHT MARKET

Night markets in Asia are the place to go after the sun goes down and always come with an appetite. The street food is delicious.  This one is a great one to check out in the Taipei area.

Reason number 129234 I wanna go back to Taiwan: Din Tai Fung originated here.  Enough Said.

Yours Truly // Shannon

Hanoi 2-Day Itinerary

TravelShannon GuerreroComment

Vietnam is one of my favorite places that I've visited.  There really is so much culture to see and it feels like you've been transported to another world.  Vietnamese food was truly the highlight of my trip which you can read about here, but wandering around the city is definitely a close second.

This is one of those cities that you can just wander and wander.  You'll really get to see more of the city that way.  Getting lost in a city is probably one of my favorite things to do.  You never know what you'll come across.  

Here's a breakdown of my 2-day itinerary:

DAY ONE
Train Street
Bun Cha
Hang Trong Shopping
Hanoi Night Market
 

DAY TWO
Taoist Temple Quan Thanh
Ho Truc Bach Lake
Tran Quoc Pagoda
Cong Caphe

Read on for more on each place!

DAY ONE
Head to the infamous Train Street.

I had seen so many photos of this street in Hanoi where the train runs very narrowly between two buildings.  It feels more like an alleyway than a street with a train track running through it.  The street goes on for miles, so there are plenty of opportunities to check it out.  I think this area is the best spot

The best part is walking up the street and exploring some of the business on the street.  We stumbled in the cutest paper store.  They make their paper using the traditional Vietnamese paper-making techniques and have the cutest designs.  They even offer a paper making tour if you have time.  Check out Zo paper, here.

Grab some Bun Cha for lunch.

Head up the train street and you’ll be just walking distance from Bun Cha was one of my favorite Vietnamese dishes I had in Vietnam.  I had actually never heard of it before.  Bun Cha (pronounced boon cha) is grilled fatty pork over a plate of white vermicelli rice noodles that you can dip in a sauce.  It’s accompanied by greens and the yummiest spring rolls.  Head to this address, for the best Bun Cha!  Read a more thorough description of where to find this place, here.

Shop til you drop on Hang Trong.

After you fill yourself with delicious Bun Cha wander around the around to shop till you drop, quite literally.  You can head down Hang Trong, Hang Gai or Hang Bong.  Each street is named for what products are sold there.  Everything is grouped.  Clothing in one area.  Artisan goods in another.  The shopping in Hanoi is amazing!  They have some great “knock-off” goods including North Face, Fjallraven, Nike, and many more.  Wandering around is the best way to discover which area is which.  

You can try to bargain a bit, but they don’t try to make as many deals as I’ve experienced in other countries.  And trust me, I’m really good at bargaining, but here they didn’t budge much in price.

Hit up the Hanoi Night Market.

After all of that shopping and wandering, you’ll no doubt be exhausted.  Head to the Hanoi Night Market to find some delicious food and even shop a little more.  The scene is pretty lively and fun.  Again, wandering around the streets is the best way to see the area.


DAY TWO

Today, head a little outside of the old quarter to explore some of the beautiful temples and buildings Hanoi has to offer.

Discover the Taoist Temple Quan Thanh.

The multi-door gate to the Taoist Temple Quan Thanh temple is everything that you would imagine a well-preserved Vietnamese temple to look like.  It’s actually quite unassuming as if I didn’t know it was there while walking by I might not have stopped.  The details are intricate and beautiful.

Walk around Ho Truc Bach lake.

Head just down the way, north from the Taoist Temple Quan Thanh to Ho Truc Bach Lake.  You won’t be able to miss it.  As you’re walking down the street, you’ll find yourself with water to both your left and right.  You can grab a coffee overlooking the lake or even rent a swan boat to go onto the lake.

Check out Tran Quoc Pagoda.

Sitting on the lake is Tran Quoc Pagoda.  It’s a great place to stop by for a quick photo or explore the grounds for a bit.  There are also a ton of great stands to buy souvenirs just outside.

Grab a coffee at Cong Caphe.

Just on the north side of Ho Truc Bach lake, you’ll find a Cong Caphe.  There are actually multiple scattered around Hanoi, but this one offer a cute view of the lake.  Cong Caphe is famous for their military, war decor.

I really enjoyed getting to see what seemed like two sided to the city of Hanoi.  The old quarter is vibrant and full of hustle and bustle.  You'll really get the feeling of the city.  When you venture just outside of the old quarter, you'll get to see more of the beauty of the traditional looking Vietnamese buildings and temples.  It's interesting to see the French influence on the city.
 

Special thanks, to my blogger friend, Kelsey, for giving us so much awesome advice on what to do while Hanoi.  So happy we were able to meet in person!  Check out Kelsey's blog, Miles of Smiles.

Yours Truly // Shannon