Heather Hapeta lives in Aotearoa-New Zealand: real travel, real adventures, real stories, real photos. Recent destinations Vietnam, Cambodia, Taiwan and Hong Kong – now NZ destinations due to COVID travel restrictions
Its caused a roadblock in my international travel writing days. Luckily New Zealand is relatively free of the virus ( except for kiwis returning home and who are put into quarantine for 2 weeks) so I can travel freely in a country known as a fantastic travel destination – save your pennies and one day you too will be able to visit us 🙂
A three week holiday (vacation) in Samoa, Tonga, and Hawaii saw me instantly have to stop at this roadblock. We had had other warnings too.
Kīlauea is an active shield volcano in the Hawaiian Islands that last erupted between 1983 and 2018. (I was there in ’94) It is the most active of the five volcanoes that form the island of Hawaiʻi. Located along the southeastern shore of the island, the volcano is between 210,000 and 280,000 years old and emerged above sea level about 100,000 years ago.
It was amazing to see, in the dark, a river of red lava pouring down the side of the volcano.
“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.” ― Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest
I feel the same way about my photographs. I’m never bored as going through them I get to travel the world yet again and for that, I’m really grateful.
I feel sorry for those, in these times of the Covid -19 pandemic, who have saved and planned for years and who have had their one big dream travel trip cancelled – mostly with their money down the drain. I too have had trips cancelled, but at least I’ve had years of travelling the world, mostly solo, and have accumulated numerous memories. My photos are merely prompts – I even have a box of photos for friends and family, or dementia ward staff, to use to prompt me. Just a little forward planning for something I don’t think will happen is luckily for me, there has been little cognitive degeneration and my family. Here’s hoping that continues.
I look at my walls and my living area and see photos of, the salt plains of India, a Buddha in a tree trunk rubbish bin, sunrise over a river in central India, a promiscuous monkey at a national park in Malaysian Borneo, and finally, post 2010/11 quakes in Christchurch, a huge bronze bull on top of a bronze grand piano. The stories behind each of these photos, like Oscar’s diary, give me sensational memories.
Here are some more photos, each which have a story behind them, and right now, in fact, especially now – in lockdown, I can write a story in my mind as I wandered down my memory lane of travels. I’m grateful for the life I’ve had, the places I’ve been, the people I’ve met, the things I’ve seen, and all my memories.
When travelling, it’s always great when plans come to fruition. At our arranged meeting point I meet my friend whose LAX flight arrived 20 minutes before my New Zealand one. After a coffee, we find the bus into town, and get off at the correct spot – our 5 weeks of SE Asian travels are beginning well. And, we’re off to stay in a mansion!
Chungking Mansions to be precise – and despite the name, these mansions were the cheapest accommodation we could find in the centre of Hong Kong. Fantastic we thought.
As we approach the doorway, dragging our wheeled suitcases, half a dozen men offered us their cards – touts for suits, dresses and jackets that we could have made. Silk, linen, cotton, a sari perhaps? All we wanted was to check-in and start exploring.
This huge block is actually a collection of 5 buildings each named A, B, C, D or E -and each block has 2 lifts – one stopping at all the even numbers, the other at all the odds. Despite the rabbit warren confusion, we found the appropriate check-in place. What we hadn’t realised there are hundreds of tiny guesthouses, and once checked-in we were taken to our accommodation – in a different block.
My room is across the hallway from my friends one: it’s tiny, spotlessly clean, has air-con, a bottle of water and is windowless. It’s also shoebox-size, with an even tinier bathroom. I have no problem with that, I only want this room to sleep in as I know I’ll be out exploring – this is my first time in Hong Kong!
We stayed here for 3 or 4 days, and then after our travels, I stayed another couple of days before returning to New Zealand.
This is not only full of guesthouses but also restaurants, shops and moneychangers. As someone said you could have a holiday in Hong Kong and never leave the mansions. No matter what you want it will be here: fruit, biscuits, bread, curries, pizza, computers, or kebabs; new luggage, new phone, Sim card, umbrellas or batteries, they’re all here -and of course suits, dresses, jackets, or a sari. In fact, anything you want. We had our delicious, early morning, Indian breakfast, on the ground floor, every day.
This United Nations of people seem to come from, largely, Southeast Asia and Africa, and in conversation with a young Hong Kong woman on the ferry, she was astonished at our bravery. ‘I’ve never been allowed there’ she said. ‘My parents would never let me go anywhere near there. Is it safe? It’s full of drug dealers I think.’
There is no doubt about it, for years it’s had a notorious reputation, and at any one time, among the 4 or 5000 people who live, and or work, there. I’m sure there are drug dealers, illegal immigrants, and sex workers.
Over the years it’s cleaned up its act, and despite still being a fire hazard, I never saw anything that concerned me. However, over the past few years, there have been assaults and even murder (s?)
Originally built as middle class, one-family flats or apartments, many families, seeing an opportunity to make money, bought other flats and converted them into guesthouses to serve American soldiers on R&R from Vietnam -it was then that the sex workers started hanging around the entrance.
Would I stay there again? Of course! Would most my friends stay here? Of course not!
Been searching – on some old CDs – of old pics taken and these took my fancy for no particular reason – except for the Peackok Fountain photo which I think is my best one of it! Next time I’m in Christchurch I will try for a better one with no buildings to be seen! 🙂
It’s 2 weeks since I flew out of Hong Kong. I’d been travelling for 5 weeks around the region, (Taiwan, Vietnam, and Cambodia) and, despite all the warnings about getting to the airport really early, there were very few protesters – and they were all in the arrivals area.
So, for me, apart from having to show my travel documents, there were no disruptions. However, I was frustrated that Air New Zealand, and no doubt other airlines, had encouraged us (by text messages) to check in early – but the check-in counter didn’t open until the normal time! My plan, and others I spoke to at the airport had been to check-in, get rid of our bags, go through security, and then hang out in the peace and quiet of the gate areas. It was not to be – we had to hang out by the boring check-in counters.
I wrote a little blog about it (see it here) and someone complained that I didn’t talk about the real protests, however, I am a travel writer, not a journalist, and all I do is give a snapshot, an opinion of a moment in time, what I experienced, notices, or observed – and those airport photos showed what it was like for me (quiet) on the morning of 10th August 2019.
There are many reputable sources of informed articles about Hong Kong, China, the protests, the results, and concerns. My travel blog is not one of them :).
Nevertheless, here a is a small photographic tour of what little I saw of the protests in Hong Kong – apart from the airport one, all were taken on my first day ( of my first ever trip to HK) in Hong Kong ( 7/7/2019)
watching in suport
messages of support near the underground
protesters unknowingly walking towards police violence at the train station
How do you decide who to follow on Instagram or other such media?
When I have someone follow me, and Instagram suggests I follow them back, I have a quick look at their photos and almost instantly make a decision – are these photos I want to see or not?
Life is too short to engage with photos that don’t interest me for many reasons. It may sound judgemental, but it’s nothing to do with the person posting, making a judgement as to how I want to spend my time. So, here are the photos I do like to see.
Travel photos that show the culture that person is exploring; travel photos that are natural – that is, no filters or colour enhancers – I want to see what your eyes saw – not a camera adjustment! Selfies, or photos of you, doing yoga or muscle poses, (for example) in exotic places – for me that does not make it a travel photo. It is self-promotion, and although I’m sure many people love to see them, it’s just not my cup of tea.
I don’t follow Instagram pages that have numerous quotes, sayings, homilies, and the stream. If I see one or 2 that’s fine, but not screeds of them.
If they are family photos and I don’t know you, I’m not interested.
What a curmudgeonly old woman I sound, but one of the beauties of life is that you don’t have to, and I don’t have to, follow or please everybody by posting the photos they want to see. We all take and post the photos we want to post
So what photos do you like to see,
What ones don’t you want to see
Or, do you just follow everybody if they are following you?
It’s not about right or wrong, it’s just about our taste – or lack of taste you might think 🙂
I’m looking forward to hearing how you choose who to follow or not on Instagram, Facebook, or any other social – let’s face it, each of our opinions is totally valid. Is that old adage says, one man’s meat is another man’s poison – or your junk is my treasure.
How do you make contact with locals? Or maybe you prefer not to, or don’t care?
I first noticed the use of mobile phones separating people from the places they were travelling in on a train in Thailand. A young British couple, were both on their phones were talking to different people back in their homeland. I found it amazing that they weren’t even looking out the window at the beautiful scenery.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with keeping in contact with friends and family every now and then – however, it also means you are not living in the now, in the present moment – the very place where life happens.
I guess I’m biased because when I travel, I very rarely contact home – I ‘m always working on the premise that no news is good news :-).
That being so, I’ve noticed in my city, Wellington, New Zealand, that it is harder to engage with locals when you are using a phone to guide you around the streets. Sure, Google Maps does sort of show you the way, but you get no interaction with the people in the area you are visiting.
Perhaps this doesn’t bother you, but for me, travelling is all about the people I meet; the questions I ask them; the directions I get from them, and knowledge about their lives.
We Kiwi, are considered pretty friendly and when we approach you on the street, especially if you’re looking at a map, we are not trying to sell you anything or take you to our cousins’ shop for instance – we are just trying to be helpful and friendly and help give you a 100% pure Kiwi experience.
(Note: ‘one hundred per cent pure’ was never intended to be about our environment – like everywhere else we too have environmental problems. The hundred per cent pure was to ensure all tourists got a genuine Kiwi experience and holiday. Sadly, this was not how it was understood overseas. Even New Zealanders now claim we are being false in our ‘advertising.’ As an older kiwi – who was travel writing when it was coined – many years ago. I’m very clear about its original intentions – one of the advantages of age 🙂 )
I frequently ask, ‘can I help you’ of those who look like tourists and are gazing at their phone or a map.
So, many especially those new into New Zealand I suspect, almost jump back in horror at being spoken to. ‘Oh no, what does she want!? Will she rip me off?’ I see it in their faces. Happily, at least 50% of them value me answering their questions and often thank me for being ‘helpful.’ And hopefully, that little interaction contributes to them enjoying their time in New Zealand and having 100% pure Kiwi experience, and knowing most of us are kind, caring and really want to help – for no reason but to be helpful!
So next time you pull out a phone to find your way from A to B just pause, look around, is there a local to ask instead?
This works from Alaska to Turkey, from Thailand to New Zealand. It’s the brief connections and a smile or a laugh with a local that can make your day. Don’t let technology separate you from the very people in the country you wanted to visit.
Are you a slow traveller? What is slow travel? I’m sure it means different things to different people.
For me, slow travel means pacing my travel, not having every moment accounted for, and therefore leaving time for the unexpected. The unknown and the unplanned for. Leaving time to sit in the coffee shop and watch how locals live and interact.
For me, the difference is about the difference between being a tourist and being a traveller. I like to think I’m a traveller. It means going to a country but only visiting one small region, not rushing around so you can take off everything on the must-see or must-do lists. I like to create my own list with lots of gaps 🙂
So are you a slow traveller? Tell me, what does it mean to you? I do understand people taking tours, but I guess I’m selfish and self-centred and really just want to leave when I want to leave, to stay longer when I want to – or to jump on a bus and get the hell out of somewhere. 🙂
In particular, I want to have an early breakfast and get out exploring not waiting for other people to wake up have their breakfast and then join a bus group. It is easy to see why most of my travels have been solo 🙂