I’ll always have Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s charm lies in its chaos. And yet, there’s order amid the disarray. It’s infrastructure ensures that every corner is accessible; malls and eateries are well-placed. Instead of clashing, the eclectic mix of old and new, east and west inject plenty of character to this Asian metropolis.

I embarked on this love affair with Hong Kong fairly late – my first foray was only 4 years ago, just after I turned 30 – and rather unknowingly too. My travel buddy who knows me fully well, was doubtful that I would like it much. I also had my suspicions. Would I really be able to enjoy all that the city has to offer? I’m not the biggest fan of crowds and knowing how overly-populated it was, would I be able to look past that and find something exciting?

Determined to give it a fair shot, I went in with an open mind, telling myself not to set any expectations. It’s like going on that first date. You don’t know if the person will turn out to be a huge jerk, or if he would become your lobster. But you also know that if you put too much pressure, you won’t be able to enjoy the moment.

So I allowed myself to let go and well, I guess it’s safe to say my first date with Hong Kong went pretty damn well, and it has kept me wanting more. Everything was gritty, cool, and downright delish. How could I have been so blind? It was sitting there, right under my nose the whole time! I was thrilled that therein lies a welcoming respite, a mere 4 hours away. In fact, my repeated visits have got me joking that I actually have a secret husband there (who a good friend believes to be the wan and only Tim Ho).

I’ve got date number 6 coming up this weekend. And on our 6th date, we’re going all the way……

to Disneyland.

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The Case for Bags

Check out this video. Isn’t it cool? Look at all our bags being transported from one racetrack to the next, before it finally gets loaded up onto the aircraft. But are you also seeing what I’m seeing?

All our bags go through a Baggage Handling System (BHS) that may or may not be as fancy (or advanced) as this one over in Helsinki. What is certain is that our bags will go through multiple instances of sliding and swerving, and all at a fairly great speed, making dents, nicks and scratches rather inevitable – errant baggage handlers notwithstanding.

[In case you were wondering what Changi Airport’s BHS is like, they have produced a piece informing about the process, rather than the system itself.]

Abrasions are generally less visible on soft case bags as nylon tends to wear well. Though, like all fabric, it will not quite protect your items during a torrential downpour. They are also heavier than many of the lightweight polycarbonate options out there. Yet, I like that most are expandable (for all that shopping you’re gonna do) and also, compartments. Boy, do I like to compart.

Hard case luggage has its advantages, of course: they’re supposed to do a better job protecting your belongings from hard knocks and bad weather, and they usually come in a wide array of colours. Added bonus: the super sleek-looking ones kinda make you feel like Bond, James Bond. However, unless your bag was diamond-encrusted or made of adamantium, it will almost always show signs of wear and tear after just one round on the BHS.  Now, this shouldn’t be an issue actually. After all, it’s far more important for your contents to arrive intact. But if you had spent over $1,000 on a bag, your heart is bound to break a little when that nasty gash greets you after 12 hours on a plane.

Problem is, airlines and luggage manufacturers will not likely offer any compensation/repair for surface damages. However, if the bag is no longer usable and if you do spot something amiss, report it immediately.

At the end of the day, your luggage should serve your needs and fulfill its primary purpose of transporting your belongings, without damage. Forbes has a good piece on how to choose one that is best-suited for you.

I personally prefer soft case bags for its overall functionality. What about you?

Preparing for your trip

I honestly enjoy the planning that goes into each trip. I know of many who don’t fancy it and are all too ready to relinquish this role to an overzealous travel companion or tour guide. I find it prudent to come up with at least a rough guide, so time isn’t wasted travelling from location to location in the little time you have in a particular city. Or you know, perhaps I’m actually a control freak deep, deep down.

How do I plan for my trips? They usually start with an excel sheet – yes, I’m organised like that – filled with places/attractions/food. These are later grouped according to location, before fitting them into a proper day-by-day itinerary. Throw in the operating hours and include entrance fees, if you’re on a budget.

That’s it, really. There’s no special algorithm because planning for a trip shouldn’t be a complicated process. After all, there are always going to be deviations, such as when you stumble upon a very inviting cafe that wasn’t on your list, or if a local shares with you about a cool part of town that you just have to see. The key is to keep your itinerary (and mind) open when  you travel. Don’t be too concerned about completing your checklist.

Also, buy travel insurance. I used to think it was an unnecessary expense until I saw first-hand how things can go wrong. Don’t underestimate the importance of travel insurance. It’ll cover you for all the unexpected delays and incidents that we are too stubborn to believe will ever happen to us. Alas, life is that unpredictable and the airline typically doesn’t cover whatever you expect them to cover. Like, seriously. So manage your own expectations and keep yourself insured. Here’s a good read by the Huffington Post, if you need more convincing.

With many of us depending on Google maps to navigate our way around, you might also want to consider renting an overseas Wi-Fi router. Granted, heaps of cities (and every Starbucks round the corner) offer free Wi-Fi. What the router lends, is portability. It’s also a more economical alternative to expensive data roaming charges and you can share it with your travel partners. In case you didn’t already know, Changi Airport provides a fuss-free service. I’ve used it several times and I’ve been without complaints.

Perhaps your pre-trip rituals are more extensive, or maybe you don’t plan at all. One thing for sure, your trip begins the moment you book that ticket, so enjoy the ride.

Welcome aboard

I used to blog regularly on a now defunct blog, on a now non-existent domain. Then work happened, and somehow, I no longer had the desire to sit down and share my thoughts.

Perhaps it was because I started writing to people everyday for a living and was guaranteed an audience of one each time. Yet those words were never personal, purely business. And too often, did I have to rein myself in so that the words flowing out read as professional statements. Today, owing to the added stress at work that the whole department has been experiencing over the past 6 months or so, the catharsis I had always found in blogging is once again, much needed.

The other outlet is travelling. A pricey method, I’ll admit. However thanks to my links to the travel industry, I am able to indulge in my wanderlust (all within my allotted annual leave each year, no really).

I decided to combine the two and so we have here, Nylon Atlas, a travel blog for anyone who is willing to read.

There will be travel experiences, itineraries, recommendations, useful tips, and lists. Don’t we all love lists?

So step in with me, and here’s hoping I have enough to offer. Heh.