A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: cooneys

Hong Kong

A very very big, very very humid Donegal Pass - well not quite:)

sunny 32 °C
View Simon & Michelle Down Under on cooneys's travel map.

Hi everyone!
This is a very short entry - We've just arrived back home after spending 3 nights in HK and are only getting an opportunity to update the blog with a few new photos now.

Over the last 10 years, we've been lucky enough to have visited some very busy cities such as London, New York, Rome and Istanbul, but Hong Kong is by far the busiest, most vibrant city we've ever been in.

There is a real buzz and energy about the place and it really comes into it's own in the evenings under thousands of neon signs. Shopping seems to be the real religion there and at 11pm at night the streets are packed with shoppers. There are countless shopping malls, and one shopping mall (Harbour City) has over 700 shops! Crazy!
We also witnessed queues outside stores such as Chanel and Dior - there's certainly no lack of money in HK!

Despite all the British street names, we were surprised at just how Chinese HK is. 99.9% of the people were Chinese as was the vast majority of tourists on many of our journeys on the brilliant and cheap public transport. We were often the only westerners and this was something we enjoyed.

What we didn't enjoy so much was the humidity - about 90% humidity and 32c; at night it "cooled" to 28c!
HK really was an assault on the senses - and a fantastic experience and we're glad we did it on the homeward leg of our journey from Oz as it would be much less enjoyable with jet-lag.

To conclude this entry and indeed this entire blog, here are a few of our highlights in Hong Kong.
We've enjoyed keeping in touch with you all via this blog over the past 3 weeks or so.
Hope you have enjoyed our ramblings too!

Hong Kong Highlights
1. Taking the Star Ferry at night from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island - one of the world's great journeys and the upper deck only costs 21 pence!
2. Watching the 8pm Light Show when 40 skyscrapers put on a synchronised light show either side of Victoria Harbour
3. Taking the Tram up to the Peak and the fantastic view from the top
4. Visiting the chilled seaside village of Stanley Bay (on south coast of Hong Kong island) - only 5 miles from the skyscrapers, but a world away in outlook
5. Visiting the Giant Buddha (by Cable Car)
6. Eating 'real' Chinese food in back street restaurants and being the only westerners there.


Simon & Michelle

Posted by cooneys 00:07 Archived in Hong Kong Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Port Douglas & The Reef

Port Douglas & Fishy Tales

sunny 27 °C
View Simon & Michelle Down Under on cooneys's travel map.

Cairns was nicer than what we had thought it would be. We envisaged a backpacker haven of rowdy bars. Yes, there are several bars like that, but it was also clear that Cairns has been trying to reposition itself as being more upmarket. There is a relatively new harbour side development complete with boardwalk and posh restaurants and the bay itself is quite pretty. There is also a 4800 sq metre outdoor swimming pool with beach along the promenade. On Saturday morning before we left the hire car back to the airport we went for a jog along the promenade and boardwalk and there were literally hundreds of people out jogging or walking their dogs in the pleasant morning sun. The city council also provides free sports classes along the prom including aqua aerobics and boxercise which we saw as we jogged past.
After dropping the car at the airport we caught a minibus up to Port Douglas. Port Douglas was like a bigger version of Palm Cove – too many excellent restaurants to choose from and several good bars. We would have loved to be able to stay there for a week instead of just 2 nights.
Our accommodation was less than 50 yards from ‘4 mile beach’ and on check-in the receptionist pointed out a few good bars on a street map and said that we have to try and see “George the Groper”. I immediately thought of a dirty old man rubbing his thighs in a Vic Reeves ‘Shooting Stars’ style but alas the Groper is an enormous fish. This fish often swims up to a coastal bar complex called ‘At the Inlet’ at about 5pm and they feed him. Unfortunately the Groper was shy during our stay but you might be able to Google him but I would probably advise against googling ‘George the Groper’ in work.
Along many town beaches in Australia are free barbeque facilities – you simply press a button and a hot tray heats up in about 10 minutes. I wanted the ultimate Aussie bloke experience so we got a barbeque pack (selection of meat) at the supermarket and a six pack of beer from a ‘Bottle Shop’ (Aussie for Offy). Our complex provided free eskies (cooler bags) which we filled with ice to keep the beer cold and I set to work beachside preparing what was a terrific barbie on a hot, sunny Saturday afternoon – I felt proper Australian preparing this Aussie institution. The rest of the day turned into a bit of a party – one highlight was a bar which had cane toad races where customers blew down bamboo canes at frogs to encourage them to jump and win a race – it was certainly something different and good craic.
Sunday morning – day trip out to the Great Barrier Reef!
What a day! It was absolutely fantastic. We went to 3 different sites where you could snorkel or dive – I was doing both for the first time, while Michelle was snorkelling for the first time. At the first site we both snorkelled and the experience was like nothing we had experienced before – when you faced down in the water, it was so clear – you could see 40-50 feet to the sea floor and rising out of that was amazing multi coloured coral and a huge variety of exotic fish – it really was a different world down there. One type of fish was bright blue, green and pink – really spectacular. There was also a huge, slim friendly fish, named Marvin by the crew, which was at least 4 ft long and 3 ft high who would always meet snorkelers and it was cool to snorkel above him as he swan just inches away from you – at one stage Michelle was able to stroke it! Some divers were even giving it a kiss! Michelle did fantastic for someone who had never previously been in water out of her depth – I was really proud of her.
At the next site I would be diving – I had a mixture of anticipation and nervousness, particularly during the safety briefing when death was mentioned quite a bit on the PADI form you must complete prior to diving. The training was very thorough and professional. There were also questions about ear problems and though I haven’t had any for many years it would unfortunately bring my dive to a premature end. After a lot of training I (in my heavy scuba diving gear) went in the water with 2 others and the instructor. I started getting used to breathing using the tank on my back. We had to do 3 tests before we were allowed to go deeper than a few metres – firstly, while underwater allow a trickle of water into your mask and clear it by lifting your mask slightly at the bottom and blowing the water out with your nose. This is quite tricky under water as it’s very easy to let too much water into your mask which then goes into your nose which isn’t at all pleasant when you’re a few metres under water. I got this right 2nd time around. The next tests I found easier – the first one was to remove my mouth guard which provides air, and then breathe out slowly under water and then put it back in. The last was to drop your air supply to the side of your body and then calmly find it again – this would hopefully ensure you would not panic. This went fine too. As we slowly made our way deeper while holding a rope I was starting to experience pressure pain in my right ear – it’s more difficult to pop your ears under water when you’ve a mask on which would partly alleviate it. I would signal with a thumbs up that I needed to go up a metre or so and the slight ascent would then alleviate the discomfort. I’d try and pop my ears and then go down again. I was making progress and was down to about 15 – 20 feet but the pressure discomfort kept returning in my right ear. I had learnt at the safety briefing that with diving you simply don’t take chances so I returned slowly (so you don’t suffer decompression) back up to the surface. If your physiology doesn’t allow a deeper dive there’s not much you can do about it and I was pleased that I had given it a go. At the 3rd reef stop I snorkelled. Again it was amazing and to be honest because the water is so clear you see nothing extra diving than what you see snorkelling. I saw bright blue starfish that were about 2 foot wide and then in one area where the coral gave way to the sandy seabed I saw probably 15 metres below me – a reef shark. We had been told at the briefing that these are pretty timid and that they often swim away from humans. This one was by itself under a coral archway only a metre or so from the seabed – it was about 7 foot long and wasn’t moving. Despite these sharks being less dangerous there’s still something unnerving about swimming above a shark so I moved slowly away from it while at the same time feeling really exhilarated by the encounter.
As you can probably guess by how much I’ve typed in the post, the Great Barrier Reef has definitely been a real highlight and surpassed our expectations. Tomorrow (Monday) is our last full day in Australia and we’ll be really sad to leave it. Our experiences have been amazing, the people we’ve met have been really friendly, the weather great and the beer is excellent – it’s hard to imagine that convicts used to be sent here as a punishment. We could certainly think of much worse places, like Lurgan!

Looking back over our time in Oz, our favourite Australian experiences are (in no particular order)
1.Arriving and seeing the Sydney Opera House & Harbour Bridge lit up at night (that feeling that we were actually in Australia!)
2.Bondi Beach and the coastal walk to Coogee Beach
3.Blue Mountains
4.Walking across the Sydney Harbour Bridge on our way to Manly
5.Looking out over Sydney Harbour at sunset from the bar on the 36th floor of the Shangri-La Hotel
6.Walking along Byron Bay’s beach at sunset – stunning orange sky
7.Surf lesson at Surfers Paradise
8.Patting Kangaroos and cuddling a koala at Brisbane’s Lone Pine Koala Park
9.Sailing the Whitsundays and visiting Whitehaven Beach
10.Hamilton Island – honeymoon style (and also firing a Magnum revolver at a shooting range!)
11.Spending time in stylish Palm Cove & Port Douglas
12.Crocodile cruise on the Daintree river and Cape Tribulation scenery
13.Walk at Mossman Gorge in the heart of the rainforest.
14.Great Barrier Reef

So, just 1 more night in Oz (in Cairns) and then off to Hong Kong!!!
Talk soon!


Posted by cooneys 11:22 Archived in Australia Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

Rainforest, Cape Tribulation & Friday Night in Cairns

Crocs, Rainforest and endless unspoilt beaches

26 °C
View Simon & Michelle Down Under on cooneys's travel map.

It’s been very difficult getting internet access the last few days hence you’ll notice that a lot of our recent posts are only being put up now. Broadband and wifi in Australia (apart from Sydney) is miles behind the UK. TV here is all about the general election coming up in the next week or so in Oz and one of the election pledges is to spend £30 Billion on broadband because it is so painfully slow or nonexistent. The election campaign is quite American in nature – lots of mudslinging. Another thing we’ve noticed about Australia is that Aussies love to gamble – in practically every pub there is a separate room for ‘Pokies’ (Poker machines). I don’t understand why anyone would want to spend hours playing pokies when you’ve miles of beaches and good weather on your doorstep – they evidently must get bored with beaches and good weather.
I’m typing this at our hotel In Cairns – it’s about 7pm on Friday evening here – the hotel we quickly booked is nice – you can always rely on Tripadvisor, eh!
We’re knackered from our road trip today but it was well worth it.
We did a rainforest hike at Mossman Gorge where we met no one for half an hour – it was lovely just walking through the forest hearing lots of different noises, even a bush turkey walked out right in front of us. No snakes luckily.
The crocodile cruise was fun – we saw several saltwater crocs up close including a very cute baby croc sunbathing – it must have been no more than 10 inches long – it’s mother was about 3 metres long.
The guide told us that in the past year 2 people (including a guide) had fallen off a cruise boat and onto the mudflats in front of the mother but she was so busy sunbathing she didn’t move. It would have been a different story if it had of been a male in the Australian Summer when they get very aggressive fighting off fellow males to impress a female (sounds like Lavery’s on a Saturday night).
As we drove there were rainforests at one side of the car and pristine beaches on the other side – it was pretty spectacular. We arrived at our final stop - Cape Tribulation whose name was given by Captain Cook when he discovered Australia. This is where the rainforest & mangroves meet the Pacific, only separated by a beautiful crescent of beach. Like the beach at Mission beach there were thousands of tiny little holes in the sand which we saw are made by small, almost transparent crabs. Watching a crab move sideways across the sand reminded me of how Jamie Redknapp used to always pass the ball when he played for Liverpool.
On the journey back to Palm Cove (to collect our luggage before heading a further 30 minutes south to Cairns) we were briefly halted in our tracks by 2 cassowaries crossing the road in front of us – we had been starting to think all the road signs saying ‘Cassowary Crossing’ had been lying, but no – there actually were cassowaries.
So as I said at the start of this post, we’re now in Cairns and hoping few beers will reinvigorate us
Today has definitely been another highlight of the trip and tomorrow we head to Port Douglas for 2 nights. On the 2nd day we’ll hopefully be going out to the outer Great Barrier Reef and I’m planning my first ever dive. Talk soon!

Mercure Harbourside, Cairns

Posted by cooneys 02:36 Archived in Australia Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Palm Cove

More our cup of tea!

sunny 26 °C
View Simon & Michelle Down Under on cooneys's travel map.

South Mission Beach to Palm Cove
The 3 hour car journey gave me more time to get used to the car – it’s strange not changing gears up or down when you approach a junction and that there is no clutch pedal, just a massive brake pedal. Hopefully Mish doesn’t have too much whiplash!
The journey was nice and we stopped off at Josephine Falls in the rainforest for a nature trail and then at a small lake which was inhabited by crocodiles. It was strange being the only ones there knowing there could well be crocs a few yards away – I threw a bit of bark into the middle of the lake to see if a croc eye would appear at the surface but no joy.
At lunchtime we arrived at the Mango Lagoon Resort & Spa in Palm Cove.
The room was lovely and the style of the hotel was very contemporary – the grounds were great – 4 landscaped swimming pools and little Buddha statues in the gardens. We walked down to the beach which we were pleasantly taken back by – it was just as impressive as the one at Mission Beach and there were about a dozen classy restaurants and a couple of bars – we were so pleased that we had taken the gamble and left Mission Beach for Palm Cove.
The area was also teeming with nature – huge bright blue butterflies, geckos, tropical frogs leaping around surprising Mish!
Apart from an hour at the rooftop hotel in Brisbane, this was our first opportunity to do some sunbathing. We’ve just been so busy seeing new things each day – there was no point going to Oz and spending it all on a beach, you can do that in Portstewart (maybe twice a year!).
That evening we went out to a nice Thai restaurant and looked forward to the next day when we would go further north in our car and explore the rainforest and do a crocodile cruise in the Daintree – the oldest rainforest in the world.

Mango Lagoon Hotel & Spa, Palm Cove

Posted by cooneys 02:35 Archived in Australia Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

South Mission Beach

Fab beach but more life in Poyntzpass!

overcast 24 °C
View Simon & Michelle Down Under on cooneys's travel map.

Hi folks - Simon here!
After our lovely stay on tiny Hamilton Island we flew to Cairns. There was a slight delay on our flight and when we arrived at Cairns airport it would mean that we’d have to hang around a while to get a coach down to Mission Beach. So we decided to hire a car for 3 days as it wasn’t too much more expensive and would allow greater freedom.
The car was a white Hyundai Getz – which looked like it should be on the Top Gear segment ‘Star in a reasonably priced car’. When we got into the car we saw it was an automatic. No gears numbered 1-5, instead P, R, D, L etc – totally baffling. Out came the car manual and we then set off on our way to Mission Beach, about 2 and a half hours south on the Bruce Highway. The journey was good – banana plantations and sugar cane growing along the roadside and rainforest behind it. Approaching Mission Beach there were warning signs to slow your speed so you didn’t kill cassowaries, which are a more aggressive version of the emu. I reckon if we’d hit one in our toy car, the car would’ve came off 2nd best for sure!
We were staying at a cabin at a caravan park in south Mission Beach – bit of a contrast to Hamilton Island the previous day. When we arrived we asked where the nearest bar was – it was a mile away and there were no restaurants nearby either, apart from an onsite cafeteria. We were disappointed as we thought there would be at least half a dozen bars or restaurants to choose from, after all we were booked in for 3 nights.
The 9 mile beach is impressive – and we walked a mile along it to the nearest bar, the sailing club.
We thought that we might be able to grab a nice meal there and have a few glasses of wine – how wrong we were – the building had a sign “Bar Open Tues & Sat, 3.30pm – 7.30pm” - !!!! We weren’t expecting Ibiza but south Mission Beach was dead. The caravan park we were staying in was like God’s waiting room too. Over the previous 2 weeks we had been really pleased with the places we had stayed but our luck had run out. We were conscious that we were booked in for 3 nights and we didn’t want to spend it in sleepyville. We then explained to reception that we had thought there would be more life than what there was and asked if we could cancel 2 of our nights and get a refund for those – thankfully they agreed which was really nice of them. I then went on the painfully slow wifi and booked a spa hotel for tomorrow (Thursday) in Palm Cove (which according to our trusted Lonely Planet guide is the St. Tropez of North Queensland) at a bargain £60. We also booked a nice hotel in Cairns for Friday, so on Saturday morning we would leave the hire car to Cairns airport and get a coach from there to Port Douglas for 2 nights. This evening we found a restaurant and a bar in main Mission Beach which is a 12 mile return journey. The car has been so handy for this and for giving us the flexibility to change our plans.
Thanks to everyone who has been sending us emails e.g. Lou & Kris, Bill & Taylor etc.
It’s been fun reading your mails.
If you haven’t been in touch recently please send us a private message! Cheers!
So next – it’s a 3 hour drive north to Palm Cove – talk soon!!!


Posted by cooneys 01:08 Archived in Australia Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 5 of 15) Page [1] 2 3 » Next