Hokkaido University

Just to the north and east of Sapporo Station is the large campus of Hokkaido University. The university is known locally by it’s abbreviated name of Hokudai. Hokudai was founded in 1876 as Sapporo Agricultural College by an American, Dr. William S. Clark. Agriculture is still a big part of Hokkaido University.

The university is full of trees, shrubs, and all sorts of greenery. There are a few ponds and a tiny creek that also flow through the campus. It reminds me a lot of how North American universities are set up with large open spaces. Many of the buildings dated back to the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. I keep finding North American influences in Sapporo and Hokudai has plenty of those influences. A couple of the campus buildings look like they came out of the Old West.

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小樽 Otaru Day Trip

We had finished our first week of Japanese language classes at JaLS and we were upon our first full weekend in Hokkaido. We originally tried to get bus tickets to Hakodate for the Saturday, but all the times we wanted to take were sold out. So we decided to visit Otaru this Saturday instead.

Rapid Airport at Otaru Station

Otaru is a about a 40-60 minute train ride on the JR train. If you grab the Local train, then it stops at every single station. However, if timing works for you, then you can grab one of the express trains and bypass all the smaller stations. Regardless of the speed of the train, the ticket still costs ¥640 for a one-way ticket. The ride from Sapporo to Teine is all above ground and offers a view of the city from high above the streets. However, soon after Teine station, we are travelling right along the coastline of Ishikari Bay until we reach Otaru.

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Hong Kong’s Stanley

If there ever was a nice tourist trap, I think Stanley in Hong Kong would count. This tiny little area on the hilly south side of Hong Kong Island is a magnet for tourists and locals alike. The famed Stanley Market attracts travellers looking for the quintessential Hong Kong souvenir. The waterfront attracts locals looking to enjoy some southern exposure on a sunny January afternoon. Expats love to travel here for a feel of something back home they might miss. This is Stanley.

stanley market on google maps

 

Over a half dozen trips to Hong Kong and I hadn’t been back to Stanley since 1988 when I was just wee pre-teen lad. My only memory of Stanley was getting this cheap little fuzzy caterpillar toy that would move around almost magically via strings attached to my hands. It was a long windy bus ride on the upper deck. Riding along all the tight turns along the rocky edge of Hong Kong Island is an experience on its own.

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Hong Kong’s Yuen Long

Chinese calligraphy in Ching Shu Hin house in Yuen Long

Yuen Long is a large district in the northwest section of the territory. It was one of the largest town centres in the New Territories outside of the urban core of Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. I had been meaning to visit this part of Hong Kong on many occasions. I actually got there this time with my sister, parents, and mother-in-law in tow.

First off, you should know about the special day pass for the Yuen Long and Tuen Mun areas of Hong Kong. This pass is not very well advertised on the MTR website. There are only two stations from which you can buy such passes – Nam Cheong and Mei Foo. The pass allows for unlimited travel on the West Rail, the Yuen Long/Tuen Mun LRT, and MTR-run buses in the area.

Tuen Mun – Nam Cheong Day Pass

This was also the first time I ever rode the West Rail. This line was the last of all the Hong Kong rail lines for me to travel upon. I could finally check it off my list.

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Sai Kung – a local Hong Kong getaway

In my trip to Hong Kong in January, I wanted to make sure I hit up a few places that I had never been to. The urban cores of Hong Kong offer up an electric and fast-paced experience, but sometimes I just want something a little slower and less commercial. Sai Kung was one of these places that offered something less common place for Hong Kong.

choi hung to sai kung minibus route

To get to Sai Kung from the rest of Hong Kong, you have to get yourself to Choi Hung MTR station. It’s on the green Kwun Tong Line in Kowloon. From there, you have to find the #1A or #92 minibus. The minibus ride itself is its own adventure. These buses are like minivans outfitted with 16 seats. Once all 16 seats are filled with paying bums, the bus doesn’t take any more passengers. Remember not to take the seat with the wheel-well. You’ll have to sit scrunched up for the whole 40 minute ride if you do. Oh, and hold on tight when the minibus turns.

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Hong Kong’s Dried Food Shops

Apart from all the street markets, there are different types of food shops in Hong Kong. There are plenty of different stores showcasing all sorts of strange edibles.

Dried food shop on Argyle Street in Mong Kok.

If you’ve ever visited your local Chinatown, then you may have come across stores like these. This is a dried food shop. Sometimes it’s a Chinese herb, medicine and dried food store in some places. There are walls filled with glass containers of all sorts of ingredients. It’s almost as if these items were appropriate for a witch’s brew. The more exotic things I’ve seen over the years include seahorse and snake.

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Climbing Up to Hong Kong’s Mid-Levels

Hong Kong Island is one very hilly place. Most visitors and tourists would only venture up the hillside to visit The Peak. Even then, most people would likely take The Peak Tram (which in itself is a tourist attraction). If you have an extended period of time, then it may be worthwhile to explore off the beaten path into non-touristy Hong Kong.

On this January Sunday, I was meeting up with an old high school classmate. I don’t think I had seen him since my university days in Vancouver. So it was a great chance to meet up with him and his wife. We had set a time to meet at the Starbucks at Park Road and Bonham Road. Okay. I’ve heard these street names, but I had no idea where it was. Thank goodness for Nokia Maps and their downloadable city maps.

On my map, I found the intersection and ran a straight line down from there to the tram line along Des Voeux Road. It happened to follow along a street called Eastern Street. This street would be the subject of my pre-meeting exploration.

Riding the tram along Des Voeux Road

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Hong Kong – Central Ferry Piers

What do you do when you’ve just witnessed your cousin bring the bride home for a traditional tea ceremony and you have a few hours to kill before the wedding banquet? I don’t know about you, but my sister and I went for a long walk down to the Hong Kong waterfront, namely the Central Ferry Piers.

(L) Macau Ferry Terminal, (C Back) FCC Tower, (R) Central Ferry Piers

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Queen Elizabeth Park on a sunny morning

Here’s another video. This time I had a little time on a sunny Thursday morning. It was pretty quiet in the park, but still some activity going on. I’m still trying to get used to filming with my Nokia Lumia 1020, though. It’s a little odd since the camera lens is actually left of centre when I hold the phone in landscape/horizontal orientation. Anyway, I … Continue reading Queen Elizabeth Park on a sunny morning

Tai Po Market

Tai Po was settled early on about 1,000 years ago during the Song Dynasty.  So the area has a lot of history, but the population never really boomed in the area until the 1970’s when the Hong Kong government started to develop “satellite cities” in the New Territories.  One of the early areas of development in Tai Po, though, is the Tai Po Market.

Even the railway stop in Tai Po is at the Tai Po Market. The buildings in the area are shorter and older.  The streets and laneways are narrower. The shops are clustered more closely together. The market area has an more urban and organic feel to its fabric.

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