Sure- Fire Ways to Improve your Finances

Money is not important in life, but of course it only makes the world go around. It is not to be all,but it gives the people happy and related to the quality of life. If you have lack of financial source, then you don’t worry, you are not alone. Most of the people are in bad financial situation. One can do freely anything with the money, having more free time and independent and those who don’t have to struggle a lot. Many of us feel as we are imprisoned by the debt and in the middle class families no money is left at the end of the month.Due to this many people are trying to develop their financial position. If you are willing to improve your finance hopefully many websites are giving helpful tips, then click to look at this site.

  1. Set financial goal clearly

One of the important way to improve your finance is you have to set up clear crystal goals about the finance. The goal should be a real one and for the long term ideally for five to ten years.Once you had set up the long term goal, then go for the short term goal of one year from now onwards. Figure out how much amount you can get at the end of the year. If you are in debt, set a goal to eliminate the debt by next year with the date.It will give clear transformation to your mind.

  1. Create financial milestones

The bridge is made by the financial milestones to your goals. It is considered to be very important as it targets the small. Keep specific milestone for easy tracking, for example on a weekly basis, if you have to pay the debt for nearly one year means it is 192 weeks as per the financial milestones.

  1. Track all expenses

We are not aware of spending money and fail to track this every day. It leads to overspending and due to this more you will develop the habit of overspending and your financial life is transformed.For this, use spread sheet or use notepad and write down all the expenses with the detailed information.Follow this method for three months and you may notice some changes in your finance.

  1. Save 15% of your income

Due to poor saving habits, some people are not able to save the income.About 15%of our income should be saved and invested and it results in the accumulation of money.

Trading: Earn in Style!

Everyone deserves a happy life with all comforts and sophistication on this beautiful planet, Earth. Money is essential not only to achieve happiness but also to survive every single day. There are two ways through which we can make alot of money. One is, we should look for the right set of circumstances to inflate the income. Secondly, we should invest the money, which we have saved for yearsin the right place. Investing gradually grows wealth.Opportunities for earning come in streams in several forms like Trading, setting start-ups,home-based jobs etc. Depending on our personality, comfort level,and expertise, we can choose the best-earning platform for us!

Trading, in particular, has evolved in many ways over decades. It has seen the industrial revolution, the digital revolution and matured in umpteen aspects to serve the customers better. Decades before, trading happened between buyer and seller, with due diligence.They met, talked about the price, discussed terms and conditions, finally achieved consensus and the products are sold for good. Now, trading is possible between the buyer and seller, who doesn’t know any single detail about each other, thanks to the Internet! Online trading can be even taken as an auxiliary job, as it doesn’t require the trader’s presence all round the clock.

Cryptocurrency trading is the recent sensation among the traders as it has attained phenomenal growth and maturity in a short span of time.Bitcoin is the undisputed king in the empire ofcryptocurrency. BTC exchanges proliferate across the globe, making it easy and jiffy for the traders to perform the buy and sell.In addition, a handful of cryptocurrency trading robots has been launched to clear the way for the newbies and also experienced traders.Beware that many of them are bogus, and their ultimate objective is to suck all our hard-earned cash. Choose and invest in the right tool after careful analysis and reading online reviews and testimonials.

For instance, the Bitcoin Loophole is one such genuine robot, which has become an integral part of every trader’s life. The tool has been developed with autopilot capabilities and specifically created for integration with the cryptocurrency world. The tool helps to minimize errors caused due to emotional disturbances and we can optimize the tool according to our needs. Huge benefits and the rest are assured!Online trading is an ocean, dive in with prudence to enjoy the pearls of fortune.

The Little Prince

After a short hiatus, the Dragonfly Theatre Company returns this November with four performances of the stage adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s masterpiece, The Little Prince.

First published in 1943, the Little Prince has been translated into 210 languages and dialects, and has sold over 150 million copies around the world. It has inspired musicals, ballets, stage productions, operas, comics, graphic novels, museums, movies and TV series.

Directed by Jaime Zuniga and starring TV celebrity Lan Phuong, the Dragonfly production recreates the interplanetary journey of The Little Prince from asteroid B-612 to planet Earth. A magical and poetic theatrical experience, according to Dragonfly, this production will excite devotees of this classic children’s tale while at the same providing a modern and explosive reinterpretation of the story’s famous characters and unforgettable episodes.

 

The Little Prince will be staged in English with Vietnamese subtitles. The performances are on the following dates:

 

Evening: Thursday Nov. 8 and Thursday Nov. 15 at 7.30pm

at the Phu Nhuan Cultural Centre (70-72 Nguyen Van Troi, Phu Nhuan)

 

Matinee: Saturday Nov. 10 and Saturday Nov. 17 at 10am

at the Saigon Superbowl (A43 Truong Son, Tan Binh). Close to the airport.

 

General admission: VND250,000

 

McSorley’s Opens in District 2

Join a grand celebration of good friends, good spirits and good liquor at the opening of Saigon’s newest Irish Bar and Restaurant, McSorley’s on Saturday Oct. 13 from 8pm.

Come along for free pints and snacks and enjoy the atmosphere while the live band sets the background for a jolly evening.

McSorley’s is at 4 Thao Dien, Q2, Ho Chi Minh City. Tel: 3519 4659. As the old saying goes, God created liquor to keep the Irish from conquering the world!

 

Romeo, You Idiot

We don’t often think of it, but students must be bored with always presenting the same types of plays.

As ISHCMC knows all about ‘young people these days’, they’re giving their secondary students the opportunity to bite into something that appeals more to their rascally little hearts — the Tim Kochenderfer adaptation of the Shakespeare classic. Set in Verona, Romeo meets Juliet and faces down obstacles both familiar — warring families and star-crossed fates — and funky, like vampires and cacti.

 

Romeo, You Idiot will run from Nov. 24 to Nov. 26, 7pm to 9pm, at ISHCMC, 28 Vo Truong Toan, Q2, HCMC. Tickets are currently available at VND50,000 a pop — contact drama teacher Amy Penn at

 

June Travel Promotions

Before you travel this month it’s worth checking what deals are on offer. Time to save a few bucks

Allez Boo Resort

www.allezboo.com

We would like to correct last month’s promotion: Enjoy a summer promotion with rooms priced at VND1,490,000 (not VND490,000) on weekdays and VND1,690,000 (not VND690,000) on weekends. Prices are based on two people sharing and include daily breakfast, a welcome drink and a fruit basket. The offer is valid until Oct. 15. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

 

Mia Resort Mui Ne

www.mianhatrang.com

 

The resort is offering a special “stay three nights pay two” package for all expats and local residents of Vietnam. The package includes daily breakfast for two people at Sandals Restaurant, free Wi-Fi and in-house guest cocktail hour vouchers. Prices range from VND4,080,000 for a Sapa House Room and VND5,800,000 for a Superior Garden View Bungalow to VND7,020,000 for a Deluxe Garden View Bungalow. Valid until Aug. 31.

 

Novotel Phan Thiet

 

Escape for a weekend and enjoy their seafood Saturday night. The package includes two nights stay from Friday to Sunday or from Saturday to Monday, seafood barbecue buffet dinner on Saturday night, American buffet breakfast and daily use of tennis courts and fitness centre. Prices start at VND2,721,000 per person based on double/twin share. Valid till Dec. 23. Email info@phanthietresorts.com for more information.

 

Novotel Nha Trang

www.novotel-nhatrang.com

 

Vous Spa launches a new Vietnamese Traditional package — a combination of traditional Vietnamese massage with herbal footbath followed by a natural Vietnamese facial and scalp massage. A cup of Vietnamese tea completes the experience. The package is 2 hours and 50 minutes. Priced at VND1,800,000/person. When ordering any package at Vous Spa this month, enjoy one body massage or body scrub for 60 minutes.

 

Sheraton Nha Trang

www.sheraton-nhatrang.com

 

Enjoy their School Holiday Getaways package that includes accommodation in a Deluxe Ocean View Room, daily buffet breakfast for two adults and two children below 12-years-old and more. Prices start at VND2,700,000++ per room per night. Book before Jun. 15 for a holiday between Jun. 1 and Aug. 15. Minimum two nights stay and only open to residents of Vietnam. For more information email reservations.nhatrang@sheraton.com and quote rate code “HOTSKOL”.

 

Fusion Maia Resort Danang

www.fusionmaiadanang.com

 

The hotel’s summer deal, available until Jun. 30, invites guests to stay in their own private villa with swimming pool, sunken bath, living room and sun lounger. Guests can enjoy breakfast and treat themselves to inclusive spa treatments. There is also a free shuttle service between the hotel and Hoi An. Rates are VND4,725,000++ per night. For more information email reservation-dn@fusion-resorts.com

 

Novotel Halong Bay

www.novotelhalongbay.com

 

Enjoy a relaxing one-night stay with a buffet breakfast and 60-minute foot reflexology at In Balance Spa. This offer includes complimentary usage of outdoor swimming pool. Priced at VND1,450,000++/person (for twin or double occupancy) and valid till Sep. 30.

 

Super Saturday Poolside BBQ is back, serving a variety of Ha Long seafood with a live music performance. Priced at VND525,000++/adult and VND262,500++/children. The offer includes one-hour free flow of local beer, house wine and soft drinks.

 

Caravelle

www.caravellehotel.com

 

Deluxe single from VND4,065,000++ per night with buffet breakfast and airport transfers includes complimentary unlimited use of internet in room, daily buffet breakfast and two-way airport transfers. Minimum two-nights stay. Valid till Sep. 30. For more info email rsvn@caravellehotel.com

 

Renaissance Riverside Hotel Saigon

www.renaissance-saigon.com

 

Enjoy a stay in a Deluxe City View room. Choose either a 30-minute foot massage at The Renaissance Spa or a cocktail at the Atrium Lounge. Priced at VND3,520,000++ / night for 2 persons based on a minimum two nights stay.

 

Groups meetings can enjoy a welcome cocktail for one hour for all participants, an upgrade to river view rooms (maximum of five rooms), 1 person on complimentary basis for every fifteen paying rooms and a late check-out till 3pm. Offer valid until Sep. 30 based on a minimum two nights stay

 

Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre, Ho Chi Minh City

In Saigon, the Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theater is the leading performer of this traditional art form, where brightly painted wooden puppets ‘act out’ tales of rural folklore on a stage made of water. Not to ruin the magic, but the puppets are controlled by hidden bamboo sticks and string from behind a bamboo screen, designed to look like a temple. All performances are in Vietnamese but an abundance of bright colors, simple effects and a live orchestra of traditional folk music combines to create an atmospheric and watery little opera.

 

Puppetry is a traditional art form closely connected with the long-standing spiritual life of the Vietnamese people. There are many kinds of puppet-shows in all the corners of the country, with different kinds of puppets. However, puppetry art has been developed and diversified, as well as popularized, mostly in the northern midland areas, and the plains of Vietnam.

 

The word “roi” (puppetry) has become part of the proper name applied to villages, to pagodas and even to ponds. Examples include puppetry villages at Y Yen and Nam Dinh Province; as well as puppetry pagodas at Phu Xuyen and Ha Tay province.

 

The Abandoned Valley

Set up in late 2015, Phong Nha has a new day trip for those not lucky enough to get on the tour to the largest cave in the world. It’s worth every penny. Words and photos by Nick Ross

Until a couple of years ago, the problem with heading to Phong Nha, the home to the largest cave in the world, was the lack of cave visiting options that were available. There were a couple of two-, one- or half-day alternatives to Son Doong — Phong Nha Cave, Dark Cave, Paradise Cave and Tu Lan — the two-day trip to the third-largest cave in the world, Hang En, and of course the visit to the monster cavern itself, a five-day tour that costs VND67.5 million. Yet places are so limited that getting on this trip is a lottery.

 

Fortunately, with new caves opening up to the public, the travel industry has found a remedy. Caves such as Hang Va and Hang Tien can now be visited with local tour operator Oxalis, and other trekking-cum-caving options are on their way.

 

A day trip that has received rave reviews is to the Abandoned Valley. Once an integral part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the supply line used to transport supplies and soldiers from north to south during the war, when the trail was paved in the early 2000s, this little section was left off the grid, leaving it to merge back into the jungle.

 

The tour includes four hours’ worth of jungle trekking, a 300-metre foray into the front end of Dark Cave, a barbecue and then a swim into E Cave, one of the most accessible river caves in the area. Based on my own experience of visiting the Abandoned Valley, it’s one of the best tours around.

 

No Pain

 

I’ve now done four treks in the Phong Nha area and each time I ask myself the same question: Why am I paying to put myself through such pain? Described in the brochures as “challenging”, the trek in the Abandoned Valley requires descending and then at the end, ascending the side of a mountain, while the 300-metre excursion into Dark Cave sees you scrambling over razor-sharp rocks and through a murky underground river.

 

It requires a reasonable level of fitness. Yet despite bring drenched in my own sweat (my body doesn’t do heat), it’s worth every laboured step, every moment of wondering how you are going to make it back to the top. As I discovered, it wasn’t just me who was having such thoughts.

 

The game-changer here is the river cave. Normally groups of between eight and 10 people reach the cave by 1pm, just in time for lunch. But we were in a group of 16 and the going was slow. When we arrived at the river cave, Hang E, just before 3pm, we were ravenous, hot and exhausted. Trekking during the middle of the day, even with the jungle for shade, is hot work.

 

Yet the river is icy cold, and that plunge into its depths and then later the swim into the pitch-black cave is the perfect tonic for both the heat and exertion. There is a reason why marathon runners like to submerge themselves in an ice-cold bath after 42.195km of pain — it cools the body and relaxes the muscles.

 

I had been dreading the final ascent out of the valley, but after the ice-cold river I felt so refreshed that it was easy. Three years before I had tried a similar ascent at the end of a three-hour trek coming back from Hang En. My knee collapsed. Ashamed and broken, I crawled my way to the top. This time I finished the trip with energy to spare.

 

On Our Doorstep

 

People travel thousands of miles to experience the tropical lure of Vietnam, yet most who live here have never heard of Phong Nha, let alone been there. The experience — the jungle trekking, the caving, the swimming in crystal clear pools and rivers, the lure of rural Vietnam — is the ultimate tropical adventure that this country has to offer. Yet it is mostly the travellers who are taking advantage of it, not the expats or locals.

 

Now that there are more cave and trekking options available in Phong Nha, the hope is that people will start swapping their urban jungles for the real thing. It’s something I try to do a couple of times a year and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

 

 

The Trip

 

The Abandoned Valley tour is organised by Jungle Boss and costs VND1,500,000 per person. The fee includes safety equipment, lunch, pick up and drop off at the hotel, snacks and water. Due to poison ivy along one part of the route, Jungle Boss recommends that trekkers wear long sleeves and long trousers. For more information click on junglebosshomestay.com or call 094 374 8041.

 

Getting There

 

Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is located in Quang Binh, about four hours north of Hue. Regular daily flights with Vietnam Airlines, Jetstar Pacific and VietJet Air now serve the main provincial city, Dong Hoi, from both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Alternatively, you can take an overnight train from Hanoi or hop on the Open Tour bus from Ninh Binh or Hue. The cost of a taxi from the airport to Phong Nha is VND500,000.

 

Accommodation

 

Phong Nha has some beautiful countryside accommodation a few kilometers away from the main town. A couple of stand-outs are Phong Nha Farmstay and The Pepper House (facebook.com/PepperHouseHomestay). Both are set in a rural environment to a backdrop of one of the most beautiful areas in Vietnam. Another well set-up option is the recently revamped Chay Lap (chaylapfarmstay.com), now run by the travel company Oxalis. Chay Lap is the closest accommodation to the National Park. In town the options include Easy Tiger (easytigerhostel.com), a hostel catering mainly to the backpacker crowd and a number of homestays including Ho Khanh’s Homestay

 

A Journey To The Land Of Whispers

North Korea feels frozen in time. It lies somewhere between a 1930s Soviet Union and a futuristic vision of society, as imagined back in the 1970s.

When asked about my experience it’s hard to find a relevant reference point, as the Hermit Kingdom, which the country has come to be known as, is unlike any place I have ever been, seen or experienced. Visiting the northern section of the Korean peninsula has been more than a trip — it’s been a plunge into a whole other reality, which outsiders were never really meant to see. I was one of the select few.

 

Despite being allowed to film, most of my footage was taken through dirty, rainy bus windows, from the top of a deserted 50-storey hotel or with my camera concealed. In the same way every observation, every conclusion was based on blurry glances, on often incoherent stories from the tour guides and on the little glimmers in people’s eyes, because their mouths never opened to tell their stories. I’m good at reading eyes, but in a country where the national mythology is indistinguishable from reality, it is up to every person to read between the lines and to draw their own conclusions.

 

Preparation

 

In the week prior to my trip, I kept receiving mysterious phone calls in the middle of the night. At one point, I heard breathing; another time, the other side just hung up. I rejected them as someone probably wanting to buy my number and not expecting a foreigner to answer. Soon enough, I found out it was in fact Korean officials, calling to confirm my travel plans.

 

The overall process of arranging travel to Korea was surprisingly easy. The decision whether I should go, wasn’t. The only feasible way to enter the DPRK is on a guided tour with a group and little more than sending over a passport copy is actually required. But, I was concerned — would my visit be a selfish act? Would it add to hardship?

 

Looking to make my trip more meaningful, I worked out a deal: I was given the unusual permission to film my experience in exchange for producing a travel promo for the tour company. There are few places in the world previously unexplored by filmmakers. Getting the chance to capture Korea on video is what helped me make my final decision. That, and the realization that money spent on my travel is a mere fraction in comparison to the tax money funding conflicts and suffering elsewhere in the world.

Legends and Etiquette

 

My visit to North Korea was a spiritual pilgrimage. It’s not just a country, it’s a self-confident creed in late stages of formation that you’re suddenly thrust into and you feel paranoid about accidentally offending its believers.

 

During the revolutionary struggle, young soldiers apparently sketched victorious slogans into trees. When a forest fire broke out, those same soldiers didn’t take refuge in the nearby stream, but instead gave their lives protecting the slogans praising their country’s founder. A few years ago, a Korean teenager achieved the status of a national hero. During heavy floods, she gave her life and drowned attempting to save the portraits of the beloved Dear Leaders.

 

Kim Il Sung, the country’s founding father passed away nearly 20 years ago. But to Koreans, he is still the one running his country, and always will be. There’s no point asking anyone for an explanation of how that’s possible or in any way logical — it’s simply the way it is. Kim Jong Il’s birth has also been surrounded by mystery. That night, the skies opened up, a double rainbow appeared, winter suddenly ended and spring came. There was also a talking bird involved.

 

Nowadays, hundreds of Koreans still visit his birthplace, dressed in dark uniforms as a sign of respect. Koreans love and value their leaders so much that they wouldn’t dare call them by name. A front page article in the Pyongyang Times (translated into English for Air Koryo, the infamous North Korean national airline) went on for a whole paragraph listing the official titles of Kim Jong Un. Every following article did the same. Reading the paper, I barely avoided committing a grave crime — I tried to fold it in half. In North Korea, newspapers shouldn’t ever be creased or thrown out, as the disrespect to a potential image of the Dear Leaders in such paper would be unforgivable. A confused tourist apparently once had to pay for his mistake of wrapping a tour guide’s gift in newspaper by writing an apology letter to the Dear Leader. Filming and photographing images or statues of the leaders is also restricted by proper etiquette. All pictures and video must be shot from a low angle point of view, without cutting off any of their parts. Absolutely no close-ups.

 

An Inward Journey

 

A visit to North Korea is not only a matter of taking a train or a flight. For me it was very much a trip to some dark, yet strangely familiar memories; comforting yet painful feelings and thoughts that I didn’t want to face.

 

I was not allowed to film the landscapes, the people, the street. Instead, in Chongjin, I was taken to a supposedly typical show, which pushed tears into my eyes. There, a group of kindergarteners sang, danced and performed acrobatic acts in synchronisation more perfectly than I’ve seen from professionals. They perfectly strummed guitar chords stretching over four frets and they played four-hand piano compositions without missing a note. My hands were shaking and my mind was running wild — yet here, I was encouraged to film.

 

Being led through the strangely quiet school, down a very specific path, passing the two nicely decorated and well-equipped rooms, with other areas blocked off, I wondered if it was all a facade. And I was boiling in anger inside because I felt helpless and didn’t know what to believe. I couldn’t help thinking: what if I had been born there? What would my life be like? What are my Korean peers like, nowadays? In a country under a Stalinist system, unchanged for now an eighth decade, with almost no knowledge of the outside world; unfamiliar with computers, Coca Cola or the Gangnam Style dance; convinced that Pyongyang, the DPRK capitol, is as good as it gets and that it is the cultural, technological, architectural, and every other -al centre of the world. How must they feel? Do they wonder about us, or do they accept and feel satisfied with the only reality they know?

 

Back to the Future

 

A visit to North Korea was a trip in time. Somewhat to the past and somewhat to the future. In a way it was a hallucinatory journey to a parallel reality in which I constantly had to remind myself that I am in fact in what people call the modern world, in the year 2012. I had to keep telling myself that while I was in my room, in a deserted hotel reminiscent of Kubrick’s The Shining, with national mythology blasting from an old, Soviet-era, black and white TV, that at the very same time, life was going on as usual worldwide. New science was being discovered, people were having moral discussions and my family and friends were somewhere out there, perhaps wondering about me. People were updating their Facebook profiles, sending tweets. And I was there, in a reality I still struggle to comprehend.

 

Then came Arirang, the massive, Guinness World Record-winning dance and acrobatic extravaganza with a 100,000 performers. Impressive and at times emotional, it was like an Olympic opening ceremony, sometime in the Soviet era, in a huge stadium with no sponsor banners, with zero commercialism. Well, except for the apparently handmade posters, VND550,000 or more for some, sold in the lobby along with other overpriced and usually rather unattractive souvenirs.

People and Places

 

North Korea is picturesque and contrary to popular belief, most of the country is open to tourism — as long as you plan ahead and your guide stays by you.

 

Mount Paektu’s Heaven Lake is hidden among truly beautiful, desolate and rocky landscapes, and is so blue I wondered if it, too, was propaganda. There, even the guides seemed more relaxed and I felt an elevated sense of human connection being able to take pictures with a few locals.

 

There are the mysterious, distant villages surrounded by farmland, seemingly unchanged for nearly a century. There are waterfalls such as Rimjongsu or Ulim, where after long drives, visitors stop for an outdoor lunch. And the one image that stuck with me from the scenic drive to Chongjin were the old, mysterious factories, scattered all around the otherwise pristine land. Somewhere along all that is a forgotten hotel, where during my visit I showed a shy, local waitress video games on a fellow tourist’s tablet. Her excitement was probably comparable to the moment I got my first Nintendo years ago.

 

Wonson could easily become the key tourist highlight and a popular beach resort in Korea, if only the country opened up. There, after a stroll down a rickety pier, surrounded by fishermen and giggling children, visitors and locals alike can rest and enjoy all kinds of seafood, straight from the sea and grilled by local vendors. There’s an old, Japanese ship — a key landmark — its purpose, however, unclear, and there’s a beach where with some luck the locals will join for a game of morning volleyball.

 

And then there’s Pyongyang — secretive, Orwellian and home to the elite, but an impressive city nonetheless. It is home to a major sports centre and an ice rink, an Olympic-sized stadium and swimming pool, a surprisingly popular, western-style bowling alley and the apparently not as popular only fast food restaurant in Korea.

 

In my eyes, more important than places are the Korean people. They stand as a symbol of human perseverance and even under the harshest circumstances are no different to any other people in the world. They still laugh and they still love. The difference is that they live in a drastically different reality. To me, it might be a dark, menacing place, but I realise that to learn I must respect. I did learn and I hope I taught something, too. If nothing else, I made a friend, one of the tourist guides. I can only hope that one day, the barriers will disappear and we will be able to reconnect.

 

The Other Hong Kong

When looking at a world map, Hong Kong is usually represented by a tiny dot, or sometimes nothing at all. Other, larger countries in Southeast Asia may seem like more worthy destinations to the unknowing traveller, but maps, as we all know, don’t always accurately represent reality.

 

What Hong Kong may be lacking in size, it makes up for in originality. After 156 years under British colonial rule, Hong Kong is currently a special administrative region (SAR) to China; its dichotomous past has led to an eclectic present. The melding of Chinese customs and British intervention created a physical and cultural landscape that is distinctly Hong Kong, and can be seen nowhere else in the world, east or west.

 

Do all the things that you might otherwise miss as you rush to Victoria Peak or follow the crowds to Disneyland. As much as you can, stay outside and pay close attention, not only to speeding traffic, but also to the various anomalies you stumble across. Take time to wander different neighbourhoods and observe and participate in their quirks. Trust me, it will add a satisfying sense of adventure to your trip, and provide a story or two gratis for you to bring home with your purchased souvenirs.

 

Architecture

 

With over 7 million people living in an area only a third the size of Rhode Island, the US’s smallest state, Hong Kong has become the most vertical city in the world. The skyline along the coast of Victoria Harbour is rightfully one of Hong Kong’s major tourist attractions — even more so when lit up like an old-school arcade game in the evenings. Equally as fascinating are the housing estates that come in an array of pastel colors and include high-rises so tall and narrow they appear to be two-dimensional. One notable example is the Kin Ming Estate in Tseung Kwan O that houses over 22,000 people, but you can find housing estates, private or public, in every district of Hong Kong. Take your time admiring these Lego giants while imagining how long you would have to wait for the elevator to your apartment on the 70th floor. Whether looking at them from the street, a double-decker bus, or a rooftop, it is easy to imagine you’ve stepped into a futuristic city where people live in tiny apartments in the sky. To add to the housing estates’ sci-fi vibe, curtains the colour of hospital scrubs can sometimes be seen adorning each and every window of a building; the fast-paced lifestyle of Hong Kong must leave little time for buying new curtains.

 

Yuen Po Street Bird Garden

 

If Hong Kong were a suitor, a bird would be its prospective bride. Old men walk their songbirds in cages on sunny afternoons, and flamingoes dot the ponds of Kowloon Park. If you are looking for birds in large quantities, you won’t have to look far to locate an aviary. In most of Hong Kong’s parks you can find sanctuaries devoted to housing an assortment of bird species. The aviaries can sometimes be disappointing though, since the birds are either nowhere to be seen, or hidden behind netting and bars that are both dizzying and depressing to look through. For a more up-close bird experience, visit the Yuen Po Street Bird Garden in Kowloon. As you wind through this small but packed market, you will cross paths with escaped grasshoppers the size of mice and hyper birds performing back-flips in cramped cages. Many people also bring their pets here for the opportunity to get some fresh air and to perform for an eager audience. Perched atop a shoulder, nibbling on an ear or hanging on a finger, the birds obviously have very special relationships with their owners. Usually, neither will mind if you want to take a photo, or daringly hold the bird yourself. After you get your feathered fix, Flower Market Road is right next door, and a great way to replace the smell of birds with more pleasant aromas.

 

Domestic Workers on Sundays

 

Though 95 percent of Hong Kong’s population is Han Chinese, its minority groups have a strong and significant presence. One such group are the female domestic workers from Indonesia and The Philippines. Their one day-off from work is Sundays, and since they live with their employers, they don’t have homes of their own to relax in. As a result, thousands of them congregate outdoors, create shelters using cardboard, tarps and blankets and spend the day catching up with friends and family they haven’t seen all week. Kowloon Park and Victoria Park are some of the best places to see women in matching sweat suits performing in hip hop competitions or eating brightly coloured meals that look like edible art. Some of the domestic workers are Muslim, and in quiet areas of the parks, you can hear their music as they pray in beautifully designed headscarves. Don’t worry about casually walking by and respectfully observing different groups’ rituals; the women are accustomed to having their Sunday lives on public display. Surprisingly, the authorities not only allow the women to takeover large areas of space, but also block off entire streets for them. Though the women must not always enjoy their free time sitting on the concrete ground, at least they have a designated area to do so.

 

Outdoor Markets and Kitchens

 

Food is an integral part of public life in Hong Kong, and restaurants, bakeries and street food vendors are busy at all hours of the day. People are often munching on things that look either delicious or debatable, and what you think you ordered off the menu might not always be what you get. Dim sum and hot pot are two reliably tasty dishes, while other food options may only be for the strong-stomached. Everyone should at least get a good look at the array of ingredients Hong Kong offers, and outdoor markets are the place to do so while giving your senses an intense workout. In Sham Shui Po, you can watch as rainbow scales fly from a fishmonger’s catch, while a butcher chops and wraps up a savoury roasted duck in three swift moves. Bins containing hundreds of different types of dried fish, herbs and vegetables spill out of storefronts and exude an aroma best experienced and not described. Pieces of raw, red meat hang from outdoor stalls, while fresh fruit and vegetables are sold across the street. Blinding fluorescents spotlight tofu and egg vendors, and shoppers can be seen carrying their purchases home in small red plastic bags as taxis honk at them to get out of the street. The best time to go is during the after-work, before-dinner rush, when there is an electric feel in the air that is both exhilarating and disembodying.

 

Outdoor kitchens are also set-up during this time, and tables, chairs and a kitchen are quickly assembled on side streets to accommodate evening diners. Outdoor kitchens are like found objects, and can be discovered by pursuers in a small village in the New Territories or around the corner from upscale department stores in Central. The cook often uses several enormous woks to prepare meals for patrons, and dishes are scrubbed with hot water in large tubs on the ground. Plumes of steam rise from the cooking food, and bare bulbs dimly light the kitchen; the scene brings to mind sultry detective films from the 1940s. In addition to the outdoor kitchens’ striking atmosphere, the food is often delicious and always cheap. And the best part? It’s Hong Kong, so they’ll probably have an English menu.