Visiting Picturesque Miyajima Island

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Miyajima Island has long been a draw for tourists and locals alike for its serenity, nature, and shrines.  Visitors are consistent in voting Miyajima Island one of the top scenic spots in Japan. A quick look on a map and you’ll find that Miyajima’s actual name is Itsukushima.  In Japanese Miyajima means Shrine Island, and the nickname has stuck. With easy access by boat, Miyajima Island makes for a perfect day trip when visiting nearby Hiroshima.

Sunset on Miyajima Island - Itsukushima, Japan

Sunset on Miyajima Island

Traveling to Miyajima Island

You’ll find Miyajima Island in Hiroshima Bay.  Travelers visiting Hiroshima can add an extra day in the region to visit Miyajima Island.  It is easy to reach Miyajima Island from Hiroshima.  The trip is less than an hour and makes for a perfect day trip.  Visitors will reach Miyajima Island from Hiroshima by train and boat.

To reach Miyajima Island most visitors in Hiroshima will board the JR Sanyo Line to Miyajimaguchi Station.  The JR Line is the fastest way to reach Miyajimaguchi Station.  The popular Japan Rail Pass that many tourists use to travel around Japan covers the JR Sanyo Line.  Those that did not buy a Japan Rail Pass have two options to reach Miyajimaguchi Station.  The fastest route is to buy a round trip ticket for the aforementioned JR Sanyo Line.  The cheaper, and slower, alternative is to take the Number 2 Tram Line from central Hiroshima bound for Miyajimaguchi.

Upon reaching Miyajimaguchi Station follow the signs to the Miyajimaguchi/Miyajima Ferry Port.  This short walk leads you to the boats sailing to Miyajima Island.  At the Port, Japan Rail Pass holders may use the entrance marked JR and board the next available boat bound for Miyajima Island.  Those without a Japan Rail Pass will need to buy tickets at the nearby kiosk for the next available sailing.

Travelers without a Japan Rail Pass can reach Miyajima Island without boarding a train.  Two other docks, at Hiroshima Peace Park and Hiroshima Port, offer direct boat rides between Hiroshima and Miyajima Island.

Arriving at Miyajima Island

Regardless of which boat you take to reach Miyajima Island you will disembark at Miyajima Pier.  From the Pier turn right and walk along the path next to the waterfront.  As you walk along the path, and throughout Miyajima Island, you may come upon deer roaming free.  These deer appear tame and comfortable around humans, as long you do not bother them.  Visitors enjoy taking photos with the deer, but be sure to treat the animals with care.  Remember, the deer are wildlife.  Approach the deer with caution, stay at a safe distance, and do not touch or feed the deer.  The deer will eat paper tourists are holding in their hands.  Be mindful if you are holding maps or brochures near the deer.

To the left of the waterfront pathway you will find local owned businesses on the streets of Omotesando and Machiya.  Miyajima artisans are fond of using wood to create everything from trays to containers.  You can even find pieces of woodwork with etchings of various Miyajima sights.  Rice scoopers are one popular item the wood makers craft.  As you walk among the stores keep an eye out for a display featuring the largest rice scooper in the world.

Itsukushima Shinto Shrine

At the end of the streets with stores and restaurants you will come upon Itsukushima Shinto Shrine.  The Shrine’s buildings, along with the nearby Five-Storied Pagoda and O-Torii, have the honorable designation of being a UNESCO World Cultural Site.  Most visitors are familiar with Miyajima Island because of the O-Torii, or Grand Torii Gate.  The O-Torii is first visible from the boat one takes to reach Miyajima Island.

Viewing the O-Torii is a different experience depending on whether you visit during low tide or during high tide.  Upon disembarking from the boat that brought you to Miyajima Island visit the nearby Information Booth for a posted sign with times for low and high tide.  Pre-planners can find tide times posted online if you need to know the times before your visit.  High tide is the perfect time for photos as the O-Torii sits surrounded by water.  Low tide offers visitors the chance to see the O-Torii up close as you may walk up to the Gate.  The ground is wet, muddy, and slippery, so wear proper shoes for the walk to the O-Torii during low tide.

Mt. Misen (the Sacred Mountain) and Observatory

Included in the World Heritage designation is Mt. Misen, known as the Sacred Mountain.  The landscape of the Island has drawn many spiritual beings to Miyajima.  As you hike Mt. Misen, you will find large rocks and trees amidst temples and religious statues.  To hike any part of Mt. Misen requires being in good physical health.  It is possible to hike from the base of Mt. Misen to the top.  Most visitors will ride the Miyajima Ropeway, which will allow you to bypass a large part of Mt. Misen.  From the waterfront follow the signs to the Momijidani Station and use the Ropeway to reach either Kayatani or Shishiiwa Station.

Even taking the Ropeway to the furthest point, Shishiiwa, still leaves hikers with a strenuous trail to the top most observation deck.  The reward in reaching the observation deck is stunning views of Seto Inland Sea and the surrounding Islands.

 

Daishoin Temple

With its deep connection between nature and spirituality, Miyajima is home to many temples.  One in particular, Daishoin Temple, is one of the grandest on Miyajima Island.  The grounds for Daishoin Temple makes it one of the larger temples to explore on Miyajima Island.  The easiest way to locate Daishoin is if you position yourself with the Miyajima Ropeway behind you, and the O-Torii Gate in front of you.  At that point turn left to reach Daishoin.  Take your time walking and admiring the serene grounds, various halls, and thousands of religious statues.

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Miyajima Island

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Miyajima Pier: 34.302092, 132.322270
Omotesando Street: 34.299070, 132.321860
Machiya Street: 34.298441, 132.322490
Itsukushima Shinto Shrine: 34.296083, 132.319915
Five-Storied Pagoda : 34.297129, 132.320752
O-Torii Gate: 34.297253, 132.318134
Miyajima Ropeway: Momijidani Station: 34.293247, 132.326782
Mt. Misen Observatory: 34.279436, 132.319529
Daishoin Temple: 34.291864, 132.318628
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Miyajima Pier
Visiting Picturesque Miyajima Island
Miyajima, Japan
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Omotesando Street
Visiting Picturesque Miyajima Island
Miyajima, Japan
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Machiya Street
Visiting Picturesque Miyajima Island
Miyajima, Japan
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Itsukushima Shinto Shrine
Visiting Picturesque Miyajima Island
Itsukushima Island 広島県, Japan
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Five-Storied Pagoda
Visiting Picturesque Miyajima Island
Miyajima, Japan
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O-Torii Gate
Visiting Picturesque Miyajima Island
Miyajima, Japan
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Miyajima Ropeway: Momijidani Station
Visiting Picturesque Miyajima Island
Miyajima, Japan
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Mt. Misen Observatory
Visiting Picturesque Miyajima Island
Miyajima, Japan
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Daishoin Temple
Visiting Picturesque Miyajima Island
Miyajima, Japan

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Hiroshima: Memorials and a Modern City

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Hiroshima, the Japanese city forever linked with history.  As the site of the first use of a nuclear weapon on a city, it’s impossible not to think of World War II when hearing the word Hiroshima.  The atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 and afterwards the city and the world was never the same.  First time visitors to Hiroshima wonder what they will find upon arriving in the city.  Hiroshima has rebuilt itself from the ashes of destruction into a beautiful and modern city, one whose mission now is to spread the message of peace to the world.

Welcome to Hiroshima

The easiest way for visitors to reach Hiroshima is by train.  From Kyoto, visitors can arrive in Hiroshima in just under three hours.  Once you arrive at Hiroshima Station exit via the South Gate and head to the city’s main form of public transportation, the streetcar (Hiroshima Electric Railway).  These trams ride through the city on railway tracks.  The streetcar’s run on nine, color coded, routes that cut through the entire city and will have you at your destination in no time.

Hiroshima’s streetcars are fast, efficient, and easy to use.  Passengers need not buy tickets before boarding the streetcar.  Board the streetcar through the door marked “entrance”.  Smaller streetcars have entrance doors at the back of the tram.  Longer streetcar’s entrances will be in the middle of the tram.  When you arrive at your stop, disembark via the exit doors near either the driver or the conductor.  Before exiting deposit the flat rate for inner city travel, 160 yen, in the provided coin slot.  Those without exact fare will receive their change from the coin slot machine.

If you plan on using the streetcars multiple times in one day, consider buying a day pass.  Day passes are available to buy before entering the streetcar or on board from the conductor.  A day pass for adult riders is 600 yen and 300 yen for children.  For those that need unlimited rides in the city and ferry access to nearby Miyajima, a one day streetcar and ferry pass is available.  This pass costs 840 yen for adults and 420 yen for children.

Signpost with the inscription "May Peace Prevail on Earth" - Hiroshima, Japan

Signpost with the inscription “May Peace Prevail on Earth”

Peace Memorial Park

On August 6, 1945 at 8:15am the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima.  With the city reduced to ruins, the significant impact of what happened that day permeates the city.  Yet from the destruction a beautiful remembrance to the victims and a beacon of peace has arisen.  The Peace Memorial Park ensures visitors never forget that infamous day and gives hope that the event that transpired never happens again.  As you approach the Peace Memorial Park, you should see a sign post that reads “May Peace Prevail on Earth”.  Repeat this phrase in your mind as you walk through the various memorials built to remember what occurred there.

Those visitors that wish to learn the history of the atomic bomb being dropped on Hiroshima will want to visit the Peace Memorial Museum.  After the Museum head to one of the main memorials, the Cenotaph for the Atomic Bomb Victims.  This stone chamber, in the middle of the Park, has a list of the victims who died by the atomic bomb.  From the Cenotaph, you can see, and walk to, the Peace Flame.  The Flame will continue to burn until no more nuclear weapons exist on Earth.

Children's Peace Monument - Hiroshima, Japan

Children’s Peace Monument

Children’s Peace Monument and Other Memorials

The Children’s Peace Monument is a memorial for the children who died because of the atomic bomb.  A girl by the name of Sadako Sasaki inspired others to create the Children’s Peace Monument.  In 1955, Sadako was twelve years old and diagnosed with leukemia.  The disease resulted from her exposure to the radioactive aftereffects of the atomic bomb when she was two years old.  Sadako believed if she folded a thousand cranes she could defeat the leukemia.  Sadako could not beat the sickness, she died the same year as her diagnosis.  Classmates of Sadako’s petitioned to have the memorial built and ever since people from around the world have continued Sadako’s tradition of making paper cranes.  Glass boxes surround a statue of Sadako and contain every paper crane ever made in remembrance of Sadako and the children who died because of the atomic bomb.

Other notable memorials include the Korean Victim Monument, A-bombed Gravestone, Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound, the Bell of Peace, and the Peace Clock Tower.  The Peace Clock Tower chimes quarter past eight every morning, the same time as when the blast occurred on August 6, 1945.  Across the river, the A-Bomb Dome is the only remaining building from before the atomic bomb dropped.  Prior to the bombing the building was the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall.  Now, all that remains of the building are structural beams and blown out walls.  Flood lights used at night illuminate the remains of the building.  Near A-Bomb Dome is the Aioi Bridge. Aioi Bridge was the target of the bombing because of its distinctive “T” shape.

Modern Day Hiroshima

The memorials draw visitors to Hiroshima to remember and to pledge to bring peace to the entire world.  Around the Peace Memorial Park is a metropolitan city.  Rebuilt after the war, Hiroshima has modern buildings around the Park.  Here you will find the residents of Hiroshima living out their daily routines.  Among the buildings you’ll find shopping arcades and restaurants serving traditional Japanese dishes, such as okonomiyaki and ramen, made with a Hiroshima twist.

Modern day Hiroshima - Hiroshima, Japan

Modern day Hiroshima

Besides buildings, shopping arcades, and restaurants what you will find are the country’s friendliest people.  Hiroshima locals are quick to smile and offer help to visitors from every corner of the world.  The heart wrenches thinking of the utter destruction that befell this city, and yet it warms the heart to know beauty has come from such destruction.  The beauty of the Peace Memorial Park and the inner beauty of the Hiroshima people gives us hope that one day peace will prevail over the entire globe.

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Hiroshima Memorials

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Hiroshima Station: 34.396228, 132.475438
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum: 34.391521, 132.453064
Cenotaph for the Atomic Bomb Victims: 34.392976, 132.452573
Peace Flame: 34.393445, 132.452776
Children\'s Peace Monument: 34.394103, 132.452976
Korean Victim Monument: 34.394208, 132.451847
A-bombed Gravestone: 34.394208, 132.451847
Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound: 34.394650, 132.452025
Bell of Peace: 34.394865, 132.452397
A-Bomb Dome: 34.395464, 132.453471
Peace Clock Tower: 34.395415, 132.452370
Aioi Bridge: 34.396198, 132.453403
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Hiroshima Station
Hiroshima: Memorials and a Modern City
広島駅, Hiroshima-shi, Japan
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Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
Hiroshima: Memorials and a Modern City
広島平和記念資料館 (Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum), Hiroshima-shi, Japan
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Cenotaph for the Atomic Bomb Victims
Hiroshima: Memorials and a Modern City
原爆死没者慰霊碑 (Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims), Hiroshima-shi, Japan
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Peace Flame
Hiroshima: Memorials and a Modern City
広島平和記念公園 (Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park), Hiroshima-shi, Japan
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Children's Peace Monument
Hiroshima: Memorials and a Modern City
原爆の子の像, Hiroshima-shi, Japan
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Korean Victim Monument
Hiroshima: Memorials and a Modern City
韓国人原爆犠牲者慰霊碑, Hiroshima-shi, Japan
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A-bombed Gravestone
Hiroshima: Memorials and a Modern City
韓国人原爆犠牲者慰霊碑, Hiroshima-shi, Japan
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Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound
Hiroshima: Memorials and a Modern City
原爆供養塔 (Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound), Hiroshima-shi, Japan
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Bell of Peace
Hiroshima: Memorials and a Modern City
平和の鐘, Hiroshima-shi, Japan
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A-Bomb Dome
Hiroshima: Memorials and a Modern City
原爆ドーム, Hiroshima-shi, Japan
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Peace Clock Tower
Hiroshima: Memorials and a Modern City
平和の時計塔, Hiroshima-shi, Japan
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Hiroshima: Memorials and a Modern City
Hiroshima Tokushimaken, Japan

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Kinosaki: A Hot Spring Town in Japan

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Kinosaki Onsen, or Kinosaki for short, is a popular destination for tourists and people living in Japan.  The town’s various onsen, hot spring baths, account for Kinosaki’s reputation as a top destination.  Most visitors flock to Kinosaki for the chance to relax in the warm and restorative hot spring water.  Besides the onsen people will find a quaint town full of charm.

Manhole Cover - Kinosaki, Japan

Manhole cover in Kinosaki

Train Station - Kinosaki, Japan

Kinosaki Train Station

Arrival in Kinosaki

Accessible by train, tourists reach Kinosaki via Japan Rail from Kyoto or Osaka within three hours.  Tourists spending the night will stay either at a hotel or a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn.  Upon arrival at the Kinosaki train station, tourists with lots of luggage and reservations at a hotel or ryokan should stop at the nearby Hotel/Ryokan Information Center.  Located across from the train station, you can use the Center’s luggage check service.  For 50 yen per piece of luggage, the Center will send the luggage direct to your hotel or ryokan.  This will free you from the constraints of your baggage and allow you your first opportunity to explore Kinosaki on foot.

Street in Kinosaki, Japan

Street in Kinosaki

Restaurant serving crab, a local specialty of Kinosaki, Japan

Restaurant serving crab, a local specialty of Kinosaki

The Town of Kinosaki

Kinosaki has few cars, making it ideal for walking.  Upon exiting the train station, notice that buildings reach only a few stories high. You won’t find skyscrapers or subways, but instead a peaceful town where time saunters at a slow pace.  Head west from the Kinosaki Onsen train station to one of the town’s main streets.  Here you will pass by souvenir shops, storefronts, and restaurants.  Those visitors not staying at a ryokan that includes meals should eat at restaurants that serve Kinosaki’s local specialties of crab and beef.  For meat eaters make sure the menu serves the local Tajima beef, the root of the beef known the world over as Kobe beef.

Daytime in Kinosaki, Japan

Daytime in Kinosaki

Night in Kinosaki, Japan

Night in Kinosaki

At the end of this main street, you will reach a river that flows through the town.  Here you can walk along the river, using small bridges to reach both sides of the street.  Sprinkled throughout the town you will find various temples.  From the temples, to the buildings, the river and bridges, makes Kinosaki charming whether it be day or night, sunny or rainy.

Onsen – Japanese Bathhouses

As you walk around Kinosaki, you will see visitors wearing yukata.  Yukata are light, casual, versions of kimonos, the traditional Japanese garment.  Those wearing yukata are most likely heading to a bathhouse, known as onsen.  The yukata allows for quick changing while at the onsen.  Kinosaki has seven public onsen.  Those staying at either a hotel or ryokan should receive free passes that allows access to each of the seven public onsen.  Anyone visiting Kinosaki for the day may pay an entrance fee to access a particular public onsen.  If you prefer a more private bathing experience check with the various ryokan in town.  A few ryokans may offer, with a reservation fee, private hot spring rooms.

Bathing in an Onsen

Anyone new to using Japanese onsen will want to know the rules associated with visiting a hot spring bathhouse.  Public onsen have separate bathing facilities for men and women.  You will bath without clothing, not even a swimsuit.  When you arrive at an onsen use the provided lockers to disrobe and to store your clothing and belongings.  Before entering the hot spring, rinse yourself with the showering stations set along the wall.

At the shower station, wash yourself with the provided soap and shampoo.  Rinse the soap and shampoo off before entering the hot spring.  This way you are clean when you enter the bath and no soap or shampoo chemicals will get into the hot spring water.  Place the small towel provided by the onsen either on your head or beside the bath.  Do not put the towel or your locker key in the water.  Nothing but your skin should enter the hot spring or touch the water.  Once in the hot spring sit back and relax in the natural waters.

Hot Springs Alternatives

Kinosaki’s hot spring water isn’t found just inside the onsen.  In a few locations around the town you will find foot massage pools.  Here you can dip your feet into water pools full of fresh hot spring water.  These spots are a perfect way to rest those tired feet after strolling around town.  Near one particular foot pool is Chaya.  This food stand serves drinks, ice cream, and a unique egg experience.  First, buy a small sack containing three eggs.  Then tie the sack to the wooden plank hovering above a pool of hot spring water.  Leave the eggs in the hot spring water for twelve to thirteen minutes and you’ll have a delicious soft-boiled egg.

Hot spring drinking water - Kinosaki, Japan

Hot spring drinking water stand in Kinosaki

Hot spring drinking water - Kinosaki, Japan

Hot spring drinking water in Kinosaki

Besides foot pools and egg cooking you’ll find around the town hot spring drinking water fountains.  These fountains are not your regular drinking fountains.  You don’t push a button for the water.  Use the provided cups by the fountain to capture the water to drink.  The drinking water is helpful for those suffering from chronic digestive organ problems or chronic constipation.  Be aware though that signs near the fountain will warn you not to consume the water over a long period of time.  The reason being that the water has sodium chloride and calcium chloride.  Infants and those with kidney disease, high blood pressure, or are prone to swelling should not drink the water.

Entrance to Kinosaki Ropeway - Kinosaki, Japan

Entrance to Kinosaki Ropeway

Kinosaki Ropeway gondola cable car - Kinosaki, Japan

Kinosaki Ropeway gondola cable car

Kinosaki Spa Ropeway

Another popular site to visit is the Kinosaki Spa Ropeway, for its panoramic views of Kinosaki.  In total the Ropeway has three stations along a mountain.  The first of these stops is at the foot of the mountain, next to the earlier mentioned food stand Chaya.  Buy tickets for riding the gondola cable cars at the first station.  Those not wanting to ride the Ropeway can use pathways to walk up the mountain.  The pathway is not an easy hike, and it takes up to an hour to reach the top of the mountain.  Taking the gondola cable cars is a much faster way to ascend to the top of the mountain.

Statue found at the mountain top of the Kinosaki Ropeway - Kinosaki, Japan

Statue found at the mountain top of the Kinosaki Ropeway

View from the mountain top of the Kinosaki Ropeway - Kinosaki, Japan

View from the mountain top of the Kinosaki Ropeway

At the second station of the Ropeway you will find the Onsenji Temple and Kinosaki Art Museum.  The top most station of the Ropeway has a viewing platform.  Here you can see Kinosaki, the surrounding town, Maruyama River, and the Sea of Japan.

 

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Kinosaki

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Jizouyu Bath: 35.626658, 134.812567
Kinosaki Train Station: 35.623680, 134.813460
Goshonoyu Bath: 35.625903, 134.807370
Mandarayu Bath: 35.624462, 134.805707
Satonoyu Bath: 35.624288, 134.813457
Chaya: 35.625585, 134.804290
Kinosaki Spa Ropeway: 35.624004, 134.800590
Yanagiyu Bath: 35.675147, -224.121094
Ichinoyu Bath: 35.626448, 134.810470
Kounoyu Bath: 35.626260, 134.804486
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Jizouyu Bath
Kinosaki: A Hot Spring Town in Japan
Kinosaki Onsen-eki, Japan
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Kinosaki Train Station
Kinosaki: A Hot Spring Town in Japan
Kinosaki Onsen-eki, Japan
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Goshonoyu Bath
Kinosaki: A Hot Spring Town in Japan
御所の湯, Japan
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Mandarayu Bath
Kinosaki: A Hot Spring Town in Japan
まんだら湯, Japan
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Satonoyu Bath
Kinosaki: A Hot Spring Town in Japan
さとの湯, Japan
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Chaya
Kinosaki: A Hot Spring Town in Japan
Kinosaki Onsen-eki, Japan
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Kinosaki Spa Ropeway
Kinosaki: A Hot Spring Town in Japan
城崎温泉ロープウェイ, Japan
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Yanagiyu Bath
Kinosaki: A Hot Spring Town in Japan
Kinosaki Onsen-eki, Japan
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Ichinoyu Bath
Kinosaki: A Hot Spring Town in Japan
一の湯, Japan
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Kounoyu Bath
Kinosaki: A Hot Spring Town in Japan
鴻の湯, Japan

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Impressions and Sights of Osaka, Japan

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Osaka is the city often overlooked by visitors to the country of Japan. The flashier Tokyo or the temples of Kyoto draw millions of tourists, yet those that stay away from Osaka are missing out. Walk around Osaka and you will find yourself in a beautifully understated city.  Morning-to-night locals and tourists alike enjoy every corner of Osaka. As with any other top-notch city you will find plenty of shopping, great eats, wondrous sights, and an active nightlife.

With easy access from Kansai International Airport, Osaka is a great starting point for your trip. This is especially so if you are primarily focusing your trip on the Kansai region of Japan. If you have just arrived in Japan, Osaka is a great city to sync up into the rhythm of Japan and help you get over your jet lag. From Kansai International Airport take the Kansai Airport Express JR Haruka and you will reach Osaka within an hour.

Numbers of Days to Spend in Osaka

Although Osaka is not nearly as overwhelming in size and scope as Tokyo, you will still need at least three full days to capture the essence of the city. Two days are only enough if your focus is on sightseeing, as Osaka has fewer sights than Tokyo or Kyoto. If you enjoy eating and shopping, two days will go by in the blink of an eye. To truly experience Osaka you will be happy you added a third or even a fourth day in this relaxed and laid back big city. Osaka has multiple districts and you might miss a couple of districts if you are trying to cram everything of import into just two days.

Those that enjoy the nightlife will want to schedule their trip to Osaka to coincide with the weekends. Fridays and Saturdays are popular nights with people enjoying the city late into the evening and into the next morning. Partygoers will find plenty of bars and clubs in the city. Even late at night, popular restaurants have long lines of foodies and partygoers looking to fuel up on good food. Or if the evening air is warm enjoy walking the streets and the water-lined walkways of Dotonbori canal while soaking in the atmosphere that is Osaka.

Osaka Castle Park

The top sight in Osaka is Osaka Castle Park. The grounds of the Park are free to visitors. From the grounds you can get great photos of the various buildings on the grounds, including the main Castle itself. Entry into the Castle will cost an admission fee. Osaka Castle Park is a great place to visit during the spring or fall time. At those times of the year the grounds come alive with cherry blossoms or the autumn colors of the turning of the tree leaves.

Umeda Sky Building

Visit the Umeda Sky Building for amazing views of the city. This architectural astonishment, in the shape of an upside-down U, has a viewing platform on the very top floor. Ride an elevator, followed by a short escalator ride, to the 173rd floor and the Floating Garden Observatory. Take in views of the city by sitting inside on the various seating available or by heading outside to stand on the viewing platform. Whether inside or outside, you will be in for a treat, with stunning panoramic views of the city of Osaka.

After you’ve enjoyed the views of the city, ride the elevator to the bottom of the Umeda Sky Building. Under the Umeda Sky Building you will find Takimi Koji Alley. This floor is a recreation of an old Japanese town, with “streets” that house various restaurants and izakaya. Enjoy this peaceful section of Osaka as you stroll the “streets” and unwind while eating fantastically good food.

Dotonbori Walk

Dotonbori, or Dotombori, is one of the main districts of Osaka. This popular part of town runs along the Dotonbori canal, making this a picturesque part of the city to walk. Dotonbori is close to a section of the city known as Amerika-Mura. Here you will find a hip youthful vibe with stores selling new and used/vintage clothes. For neon lights, restaurants with big signs made to appear as food, and more shops visit the parts of Ebisu-bashi and Dotonbori Arcade. For even more stores you can stop by Shinsaibashi Station. If you need a break from the active buzz of the city, be sure to visit Hozen-ji Temple, a serene spot in the city.

Namba Yasaka shrine - Osaka, Japan

Namba Yasaka shrine

Osaka Shrines

The shrines of Osaka are peaceful oases in the bustling city. If you visit only one shrine, be sure to visit Namba Yasaka. The grounds for this Shinto shrine are small but the massive lion head makes the trip worthwhile. Use the time at the shrine for peaceful contemplation before heading back into the city.

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Osaka Sights

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Osaka Castle Park: 34.687315, 135.526201
Umeda Sky Building: 34.705384, 135.489614
Dotonbori: 34.668515, 135.502552
Ebisu-bashi: 34.669054, 135.501296
Shinsaibashi Station: 34.674413, 135.500310
Hozen-ji Temple: 34.667877, 135.502613
Namba Yasaka Shrine: 34.661625, 135.496691
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Osaka Castle Park
Impressions and Sights of Osaka, Japan
Osaka Castle Park, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
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Umeda Sky Building
Impressions and Sights of Osaka, Japan
Umeda Sky Building, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
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Dotonbori
Impressions and Sights of Osaka, Japan
Dotonbori, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
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Ebisu-bashi
Impressions and Sights of Osaka, Japan
Ebisubashi, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
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Shinsaibashi Station
Impressions and Sights of Osaka, Japan
Shinsaibashi Station, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
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Hozen-ji Temple
Impressions and Sights of Osaka, Japan
Hōzen-ji Temple, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
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Namba Yasaka Shrine
Impressions and Sights of Osaka, Japan
Nanbayasaka Shrine, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan

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Visiting Whistler with Gray Line Tours

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During a trip to Vancouver we found ourselves with a day with nothing planned. To fill that day we researched what day trips we could do from Vancouver. We took a look at the map of British Columbia and one city jumped out at us, the iconic ski resort of Whistler. Even though our visit was during the springtime, we knew we still wanted to travel to Whistler.

We didn’t have a rental car and had to explore other options for reaching Whistler. It was our understanding that a train ride in Canada is a great way to see the country’s landscape. As appealing as that sounded a train from Vancouver takes an entire day to reach Whistler and we’d have to spend the night in Whistler. To keep the visit to one day we had only one practical choice, riding a bus service to our destination.

Gray Line Tour Bus - British Columbia, Canada

Gray Line Tour Bus

Gray Line Tours

A few companies offer direct bus service between Vancouver and Whistler but we opted for the tour company Gray Line. Gray Line has a 10-hour tour with stops at Whistler and Shannon Falls. We’d used Gray Line before in other parts of the world and knew how reputable a company they are. By choosing Gray Line we knew we’d have the opportunity to stop at other places besides Whistler and be escorted by a knowledgeable guide.

On the day of our excursion the Gray Line bus arrived at our hotel in the morning. Our driver/tour guide for the day was Jack, a Canadian who’d lived in Vancouver his entire life. After we got on the Gray Line bus Jack continued on to pick up the other tour travelers from their respective hotels. With everyone on board Jack made his way through Downtown Vancouver. Along the way Jack pointed out sights and added historical commentary related to the various regions we passed. At this point in our trip we’d been in Vancouver a few days. The insights provided by Jack added clarity and perspective to the sights and districts we’d seen and visited on the days prior. Once out of Downtown Vancouver the bus made its way to Highway 99, the Sea to Sky Highway, and the main road to Whistler.

Porteau Cove - British Columbia, Canada

Porteau Cove

Howe Sound - Porteau Cove Provincial Park, British Columbia, Canada

View of Howe Sound from Porteau Cove Provincial Park

Sea to Sky Highway 99

With traffic being light the morning of our tour our driver/tour guide Jack made extra stops along the way to Whistler. These stops were a pleasant surprise since they did not appear on the original itinerary. The first of these stops was Porteau Cove, a provincial marine park. At Porteau Cove locals can camp by the waterfront or launch boats from the dock. Visitors to Porteau Cove see stunning views of Howe Sound, crystal blue water, and towering green trees.   Those lucky enough to visit Porteau Cove after dark can stargaze on cloudless nights. They might even have the chance at viewing the Aurora Borealis during the right parts of the year.

After Porteau Cove we made our way to our first official itinerary stop, the Squamish Adventure Centre. Those traveling through this region with a rental car will want to stop at the Squamish Adventure Centre. The Visitor Centre has information, brochures, and a booking desk for those looking to partake in outdoor activities. Those interested in the history of the First Nations, Canada’s indigenous people, will find informational exhibits throughout the Centre. In addition, the Squamish Adventure Centre has restrooms, a cafe, and a gift shop.

Squamish Adventure Centre - Squamish, British Columbia, Canada

Squamish Adventure Centre

Alexander Falls - Whistler, British Columbia, Canada

Alexander Falls

Whistler Olympic Park and Alexander Falls

With time still in our favor from the lack of traffic we made an unscheduled detour up a road that leads to the Whistler Olympic Park. The Olympic Park was the location for many of the athletic events for the 2010 Winter Olympics. Close to Olympic Park is a waterfall called Alexander Falls. Our bus parked in a gravel lot with access to a viewing platform. Without having to hike we walked to the platform and had a direct view of the waterfall.

As we walked back to the Gray Line bus one of our travel mates pointed out something the rest of us had missed. In a grove of trees a good distance from the parking lot the tops of massive trees were swaying even though there was no breeze. Our eagle-eyed companion had spotted a black bear and her cub that had climbed up to the top of the tree. Although the bears were a good distance from the bus, we could still see them well enough from our location. To see bears in their natural habitat awed the bus full of city folks and we knew we’d gotten more than our money’s worth for this tour.

Whistler Village - Whistler, British Columbia, Canada

Whistler Village

Hunter’s Bowl at Stonesedge Kitchen - Whistler Village, Whistler, British Columbia, Canada

Hunter’s Bowl at Stonesedge Kitchen

Roast Duck Mac N Cheese at Stonesedge Kitchen - Whistler Village, Whistler, British Columbia, Canada

Roast Duck Mac N Cheese at Stonesedge Kitchen

Whistler Village

From Alexander Falls the Gray Line bus made its way to Whistler Village. The sprawling pedestrian avenues of Whistler Village beckoned us with its stores and restaurants. We’d arrived in Whistler Village at noon and had three hours to ourselves to explore Whistler. Our first order of business was lunch and for that we went to Stonesedge Kitchen. This restaurant prides itself in serving “comfort food” and it did not disappoint. We ordered the Hunter’s Bowl and the Roast Duck Mac N Cheese. The Hunter’s Bowl has venison with rigatoni, mixed in a tomato cream sauce. Besides the dishes we ordered two beers from a local brewery, Whistler Brewing Company. We had the Bear Paw Honey Lager and the Whiskey Jack Ale. The beers paired great with our dishes and we left Stonesedge Kitchen satisfied, renewed, and ready to tackle Whistler Village.

Walk around Whistler Village and you can’t help being smitten with the quaint and charming buildings. Even in springtime the chalet architecture gives you the sense you are in a snowy wonderland. You might think that Whistler Village in the springtime is a ghost town. It turns out the opposite is true as every store and restaurant was open for business with plenty of vacationing folks walking the pedestrian pathways. Even the ski lifts were operational, allowing visitors the chance to reach the top of the mountains for gorgeous views. Plus in the springtime there may still be snow on the top of the mountains and even limited skiing available.

Ski lifts at Whistler Village - Whistler, British Columbia, Canada

Ski lifts at Whistler Village

Rebagliati Park - Whistler Village, Whistler, British Columbia, Canada

Rebagliati Park

Whistler Olympic Plaza

Throughout Whistler Village walkways connect the various hotel properties. These non-strenuous walks take you by roaring streams and tall trees such as those found in Rebagliati Park. Around the various hotels you will find more shops and restaurants. First-time visitors will want to see the Whistler Olympic Plaza. The original use for this location was for the medal ceremonies during the Whistler Olympics. Now people come to Olympic Plaza for concerts, to hangout, relax, and soak in the surrounding views of nature. The Olympic Plaza is home to the Olympic Rings, a perfect photo spot. Near the Olympic Rings are plaques listing each of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games medalists.

Whistler Olympic Plaza - Whistler Village, Whistler, British Columbia, Canada

Whistler Olympic Plaza

Whistler Olympic Rings - Whistler Village, Whistler, British Columbia, Canada

Whistler Olympic Rings

Shannon Falls

After an afternoon in Whistler Village we boarded the Gray Line bus and began the ride back to Vancouver. Along the way, again on the Sea to Sky Highway, we stopped at a scenic viewpoint. Here we had panoramic views of snow-capped mountain ranges and fields of green trees. From the viewpoint the bus took us to the last of the scheduled itinerary stops, Shannon Falls. A short walk from the parking lot led us to a viewing platform where we could gaze at the waterfall. We were fortunate that we undertook this tour in the springtime. The recent winter’s snow had melted off the surrounding mountains. That was why the waterfalls, rivers, and creeks we’d encountered during the day’s trips were full of rushing water. Shannon Falls was no exception, and magnificent to view.

Sea to Sky Highway 99 Viewpoint - British Columbia, Canada

Viewpoint along the Sea to Sky Highway 99

Shannon Falls - British Columbia, Canada

Shannon Falls

From Shannon Falls our driver/tour guide Jack drove us back to Vancouver. Along the way he made one last diversion through West Vancouver, offering us views of local neighborhoods and the skyline of Downtown Vancouver. From West Vancouver Jack deposited travelers back to their respective hotels. Everyone one of us left the tour bus with smiles on our faces. Each of these added stops and detours made our trip to Whistler extra special. On a direct bus we’d have seen just Downtown Vancouver and Whistler Village. If you plan on visiting Vancouver and have a day with nothing planned we recommend you explore Whistler with Gray Line Tours.

View of the skyline of Downtown Vancouver from West Vancouver - Vancouver; British Columbia, Canada

View of the skyline of Downtown Vancouver from West Vancouver

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Gray Line Tours - From Vancouver to Whistler

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Porteau Cove Provincial Park: 49.557121, -123.236311
Squamish Adventure Centre: 49.707029, -123.145871
Whistler Olympic Park: 50.139143, -123.113705
Alexander Falls: 50.135199, -123.127904
Whistler Village: 50.115743, -122.956334
Stonesedge Kitchen: 50.114190, -122.956994
Rebagliati Park: 50.115830, -122.950342
Whistler Olympic Plaza: 50.118817, -122.954993
Shannon Falls: 49.669969, -123.156460
West Vancouver: 49.334897, -123.166785
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Porteau Cove Provincial Park
Visiting Whistler with Gray Line Tours
Porteau Cove Provincial Park, Squamish-Lillooet D, BC, Canada
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Squamish Adventure Centre
Visiting Whistler with Gray Line Tours
Squamish Adventure Centre, Loggers Lane, Squamish, BC, Canada
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Whistler Olympic Park
Visiting Whistler with Gray Line Tours
Whistler Olympic Park, Callaghan Road, Whistler, BC, Canada
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Alexander Falls
Visiting Whistler with Gray Line Tours
Alexander Falls, Squamish-Lillooet D, British Columbia, Canada
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Whistler Village
Visiting Whistler with Gray Line Tours
Whistler Village, BC, Gate Way Drive, Whistler, BC, Canada
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Stonesedge Kitchen
Visiting Whistler with Gray Line Tours
Stonesedge Kitchen, Whistler, BC, Canada
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Rebagliati Park
Visiting Whistler with Gray Line Tours
Rebagliati Park, Whistler, BC, Canada
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Whistler Olympic Plaza
Visiting Whistler with Gray Line Tours
Whistler Olympic Plaza, Village Stroll, Whistler, BC, Canada
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Shannon Falls
Visiting Whistler with Gray Line Tours
Shannon Falls, Squamish, British Columbia, Canada
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West Vancouver
Visiting Whistler with Gray Line Tours
West Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Stanley Park: Vancouver’s Urban Park

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Next to Vancouver’s West End district lies a massive public space called Stanley Park. Here people commune with nature just minutes from the busy urban city center of Vancouver. Paved paths allow bikers, roller bladders, runners, and walkers the chance to exercise. Fields, picnic areas, and beaches give people a chance to relax in a natural setting. For first timers a visit to Stanley Park is a daunting task, what with over 1,000 acres to explore. It won’t be possible to explore the entire grounds and nothing ruins a vacation more than running out of time. This article will be your guide for spending just a few hours at Stanley Park.

The Stanley Park Bus

Although within walking distance from most of Vancouver’s various districts, save your energy for once you reach Stanley Park. Regardless of where you are starting from in the city the easiest way to reach Stanley Park is by boarding the #19 Bus. The #19 Bus routes through the city on major streets such as Kingsway, Main, Pender, and Georgia. The last two stops on the route headed to Stanley Park are Stanley Park Drive at Pipeline Road and Stanley Park Loop Bay. Although you might be tempted to ride the #19 Bus to either of these stops we recommend getting off at W Georgia and Denman Street. At this stop you’ll be able to catch the start of the Seawall, a pathway that follows along the waterfront.

The Search, a statue near Devonian Harbour Park - Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

The Search, a statue near Devonian Harbour Park

Seaplane at Stanley Park - Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Seaplane at Stanley Park

Stanley Park Trail - Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Stanley Park Trail

From Bus to Seawall

You’ll exit the #19 Bus at W Georgia and Denman Street, and Devonian Harbour Park. You are at the correct stop if you see a statue of a woman searching through her purse. The artist J. Seward Johnson Jr. sculpted this statue. Known as “The Search”, you’ll often find fresh flowers either in the statue’s hair on in the purse. From the statue continue walking on W Georgia Street with the water and Devonian Harbour Park on your right-hand side. At the point where W Georgia Street becomes Lions Gate Bridge Road use the path that heads straight to the water. Continue to the path that runs along the waterfront and use this path to reach the Seawall.

Harry Jerome statue in Stanley Park - Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Harry Jerome statue in Stanley Park

View of Canada Place from Stanley Park - Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

View of Canada Place from Stanley Park

View of Vancouver from Stanley Park trail - Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

View of Vancouver from Stanley Park trail

Stanley Park’s Seawall

Walk along the Seawall to appreciate Stanley Park and Downtown Vancouver at the same time. You’ll pass boats docked in Burrard Inlet, the trees of Stanley Park to your left, and the tall skyscrapers of Vancouver across the waters to your right. These stunning views afford wonderful photo opportunities. As you’re taking your pictures you may even see a seaplane sail overhead and land on the waters in front of you. Continue along the Seawall until you see the statue of a runner. This statue is of Harry Jerome who took part in the 1964 Olympics and won Canada a bronze medal for the 100-meter run. From this statue continue walking until you hit a plaque on the Seawall that is the Port of Vancouver lookout.

At the lookout you will have a photo perfect view of Canada Place, the skyscrapers of Vancouver, and maybe even a cruise ship. From here you will walk to the farthest point of Stanley Park that this guide covers, Brockton Point Lighthouse. Built in 1914, from this Lighthouse you will have a view of Lions Gate Bridge in the distance. After you’ve soaked in the view head back the way you came along the Seawall.

Brockton Point Lighthouse in Stanley Park - Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Brockton Point Lighthouse in Stanley Park

View of Lions Gate Bridge from Stanley Park - Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

View of Lions Gate Bridge from Stanley Park

Totem Poles in Stanley Park - Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Totem Poles in Stanley Park

Totem Poles

As you’re walking back from the Brockton Point Lighthouse make a right at Stanley Park Drive. Follow the signs to the Totem Poles. You will come upon a grove with eight Totem Poles. A nearby plaque illuminates visitors to the fact that the Totem Poles were coat-of-arms for the British Columbia Indians. According to the plaque Totem Poles are only found in British Columbia and Alaska, which makes it well worth your time to visit this grove. From the Totem Poles make your way back to the Seawall and retrace your steps to the #19 Bus stop.

Time Needed for Stanley Park

Google Maps lists the walking time from the #19 Bus Stop, at W Georgia and Denman Street, to the furthest point in this guide, Brockton Point Lighthouse, at 30 minutes. With that in mind, set aside another 30 minutes for the return walk. Add another hour if you plan to walk at a leisurely pace and will stop for photographs. This guide should take you around two hours to complete.

 

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Stanley Park

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Bus 19 Stop - W Georgia and Denman Street: 49.292903, -123.133972
Pedestrian Path to Seawall: 49.295072, -123.136042
Harry Jerome statue : 49.298137, -123.119166
Port of Vancouver lookout: 49.300201, -123.116398
Brockton Point Lighthouse: 49.300882, -123.117030
Totem Poles: 49.299248, -123.120802
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Bus 19 Stop - W Georgia and Denman Street
Stanley Park: Vancouver’s Urban Park
Devonian Harbour Park, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Pedestrian Path to Seawall
Stanley Park: Vancouver’s Urban Park
Stanley Park Drive, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Harry Jerome statue
Stanley Park: Vancouver’s Urban Park
Stanley Park Drive, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Port of Vancouver lookout
Stanley Park: Vancouver’s Urban Park
Stanley Park Drive, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Brockton Point Lighthouse
Stanley Park: Vancouver’s Urban Park
Brockton Point Lighthouse, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Totem Poles
Stanley Park: Vancouver’s Urban Park
Totem Poles, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Overview of Vancouver, Canada

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Ask ten different people what their favorite thing to do in the Canadian city of Vancouver is and you are likely to get ten different answers. The reason you get varied responses stems from the fact that few places in the world compare to Vancouver. To the casual observer Vancouver is just another metropolitan city. Yet Vancouver differs from other major cities because it embodies diversity. In one day visitors can hike Stanley Park in the morning and then shop Downtown among the masses in the afternoon. Foodies buy produce at Granville Island one moment and enjoy fine dining in Yaletown the next. Convention goers attend meetings at Canada Place and then lounge waterside at English Bay Beach. Tourists walk historic Gastown before slurping noodles in Chinatown. These dichotomies exist in harmony with the diverse people of Vancouver.

With something for everyone Vancouver as a tourist destination appeals to even the most discerning of travelers. First time travelers looking at a map of Vancouver might notice that the city looks like an oyster shell. As anyone who loves oysters knows, you’ll want to crack that shell open and dig into what Vancouver offers. Vancouver isn’t a difficult city to navigate but the easiest way to get oriented is to begin somewhat in the middle of the city in the Downtown district. Downtown is home to the financial and business districts of the city. Among the skyscrapers you will find the Vancouver Central Library. This stunning building is an architectural contrast to the stark skyscrapers. In Downtown you’ll want to make your way to Robson Street. This is one of the main thoroughfares in Vancouver and stretches the length of the city.

On one end of Robson Street is BC Place, a stadium where one can catch either a sporting or musical event. Continuing on and around Robson Street you’ll find a variety of shops. A number of the stores are global brands but a few, such as Roots, are Canadian brands. Few tourists will walk the entirety of Robson Street, but those that do wind up at Stanley Park. If you don’t wish to walk, or don’t have a car, you will reach Stanley Park by bus. Stanley Park is a massive public space with paved paths for bicyclists, roller bladders, and walkers. Here visitors enjoy trees, totem poles, and the waters of the Vancouver Harbour.

To the east of Downtown you will find Canada Place. If you arrived by cruise ship, you will have most likely disembarked at this spot. Besides being a cruise ship terminal, Canada Place is home to a convention center and hotel. Near Canada Place is the oldest neighborhood in the city, the historic Gastown. First time tourists visit Gastown at least once, to see the Steam Clock and a chance to shop for souvenirs. Next to Gastown is Canada’s largest Chinatown. Vancouver’s Chinatown traces its history back to 1885 and to this day is full of shops and restaurants. While in Chinatown you will want to visit the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. This tranquil spot is a wonderful place to recharge and center oneself.

West of Downtown, in simplest terms, is synonymous with food. The regions of the West End and Yaletown are quintessential foodie neighborhoods. Here you will find well-established diners among up and coming restaurants. Further west, across the waters of False Creek, is Granville Island. Here at the Granville Island Public Market are vendors galore. Visitors can buy fresh produce, straight out of the oven breads and pastries, and a plethora of other food products.

Regardless of how you spend your time in Vancouver you will find navigating the city easy. Those who enjoy walking will find wide avenues and flat surfaces. Bus routes traverse throughout the entire city. Ferries sail to Granville Island or further afield to places such as the city of Victoria. Vancouver’s rapid transit system, SkyTrain, runs through parts of Downtown. The SkyTrain connects Vancouver to the cities of Burnaby, New Westminister, Surrey, and Richmond. For those arriving in Vancouver by airplane, the SkyTrain’s Canada Line will get you from Vancouver International Airport to your destination in no time.

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Vancouver

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Vancouver Central Library: 49.279754, -123.115679
Robson Street: 49.284605, -123.124824
BC Place: 49.276750, -123.111999
Stanley Park: 49.298319, -123.137684
Canada Place: 49.289124, -123.116498
Gastown: 49.282808, -123.106688
Chinatown: 49.280600, -123.100553
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden: 49.279649, -123.103913
West End: 49.285646, -123.130621
Yaletown: 49.275702, -123.119907
Granville Island: 49.270622, -123.134741
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Vancouver Central Library
Overview of Vancouver, Canada
Vancouver Public Library- Central Branch, West Georgia Street, Central, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Robson Street
Overview of Vancouver, Canada
Robson Street, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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BC Place
Overview of Vancouver, Canada
BC Place, Pacific Boulevard, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Stanley Park
Overview of Vancouver, Canada
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Stanley Park: Vancouver’s Urban Park

Stanley Park Drive, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Canada Place
Overview of Vancouver, Canada
Vancouver Convention Centre West Building, Canada Place, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Gastown
Overview of Vancouver, Canada
Gastown, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Chinatown
Overview of Vancouver, Canada
Chinatown, East Pender Street, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden
Overview of Vancouver, Canada
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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West End
Overview of Vancouver, Canada
West End, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Yaletown
Overview of Vancouver, Canada
Yaletown, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Granville Island

Overview of Vancouver, Canada
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Vancouver’s Granville Island


Granville Island, Vancouver, BC, Canada

 

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A Hong Kong Day Trip

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A great Hong Kong day trip is one where the experience differs from that of the districts of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. Hong Kong is more than just city escapades through skyscrapers and shopping malls. Allocating part of your trip to visiting other districts of Hong Kong allows you the opportunity to see another side of Hong Kong. A Hong Kong day trip means seeing first hand a bustling fishing village or hiking lush green hills. You can pay homage to a gigantic Buddha or soak in Portuguese influence. These Hong Kong day trips give you a glimpse into how locals live on outlying islands. Four unique Hong Kong day trips are those to Cheung Chau, Lamma Island, Lantau Island, and Macau.

Boats in Cheung Chau's harbor - Hong Kong, China

Boats in Cheung Chau’s harbor

 

Cheung Chau

Cheung Chau is part of Hong Kong’s Island Districts. You reach Cheung Chau by boat in under an hour from Hong Kong Island’s Central Ferry Pier 5. Unlike Hong Kong Island or Kowloon, Cheung Chau is a bustling fishing village. The harbor is full of fisherman working on their boats. At the waterfront vendors sell fish at markets while restaurants serve up fresh seafood dishes. Besides seafood tourists will enjoy Cheung Chau’s narrow streets with their shops, bakeries, and food stalls. Cheung Chau may translate from Cantonese into “Long Island” yet the island itself is small enough to entice visitors for a few hours. This makes Cheung Chau a perfect island for those tourists on a time crunch but still wanting to explore one of Hong Kong’s outlying islands.

Check out our article on Cheung Chau for more on visiting this island: Cheung Chau: A Hong Kong Island

 

Part of the Lamma Island Famly Walk Trail - Hong Kong, China

Part of the Lamma Island Famly Walk Trail

 

Lamma Island

Lamma Island is one of Hong Kong’s largest islands and one of the closest to Hong Kong Island. The island’s proximity and size is why Lamma Island is a perfect day trip for those visiting Hong Kong. The lush green hills of Lamma Island and lack of vehicles makes this Hong Kong day trip a peaceful change of pace from Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. Lamma Island has two main villages, Sok Kwu Wan and Yung Shue Wan. These villages connect to one other by a concrete trail that takes 1-1/2 hours to walk. The trail has amazing views of the island and the surrounding waters. Besides the trail, Lamma Island has beaches that are great for hot days and restaurants that serve delicious seafood. Visitors will reach Lamma Island by boat in under an hour on direct sailings from Hong Kong Island’s Central Ferry Pier 4.

Check out our article on Lamma Island for more on visiting this island: Hong Kong’s Lamma Island

 

Tian Tan Buddha on Lantau Island - Hong Kong, China

Tian Tan Buddha on Lantau Island

 

Lantau Island

Lantau Island is Hong Kong’s largest island and one of its least populous islands. What draws visitors to Lantau Island is the giant Tian Tan Buddha. Located at the Po Lin Monastery this bronze Buddha is one of the largest seated outdoor Buddha statues in the world. Visitors can get closer to the Buddha by climbing a staircase consisting of 268 steps. Travel to the Monastery and Buddha begins by reaching Lantau Island using either MTR (Mass Transit Railway) or by boat. The MTR Station you need to arrive at is Tung Chung Station, Exit B. If you are traveling by boat you will leave from Hong Kong Island’s Central Ferry Pier 6 to Mui Wo. Once on Lantau Island you will travel on a gondola (Ngong Ping 360) or bus to the Po Lin Monastery and Tian Tan Buddha. The gondola ride leaves from the MTR Tung Chung Station and is a 25-minute ride. Buses from either MTR Tung Chung Station or Mui Wo Ferry Pier will get you to your destination in 40-minutes.

 

St. Paul Ruins - Macau, China

St. Paul Ruins – Macau

 

Macau

Of the four destinations listed in this article Macau is the only one not part of Hong Kong’s Islands District. In fact Macau isn’t part of Hong Kong but its own city. As Hong Kong was once under British rule, Macau was once part of Portugal. The mix of Portuguese and Chinese influence makes Macau an interesting Hong Kong day trip. To visit Macau from Hong Kong visitors must leave from the Macau Ferry Terminal on Hong Kong Island. The trip takes an hour by boat. Tourists will want to visit the ruins of St. Paul and the Kun Iam Statue and Temple. Besides the sights enjoy walking the mosaic-tiled streets amid buildings painted in calming shades of yellow, orange, and red colors. Take your time exploring the neighborhood’s shops and restaurants. A quirky spot to visit is the Macau Fisherman’s Wharf Convention and Exhibition Centre. The Centre’s buildings are replicas of ancient Greek and Chinese architecture. Visitors who gamble will enjoy Macau’s status as the Las Vegas of Asia. There are plenty of casinos to gamble at such as the Sands Macao, Wynn Macau, Venetian MacauMGM Grand Macau, and Casino Lisboa.

 

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Hong Kong Day Trips

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Cheung Chau: 22.201618, 114.026501
Lamma Island: 22.200006, 114.135017
Lantau Island: 22.253985, 113.904984
Macau: 22.198745, 113.543873
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Cheung Chau
Cheung Chau: A Hong Kong Island

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A Hong Kong Day Trip

Cheung Chau, Hong Kong
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Lamma Island
Hong Kong’s Lamma Island

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A Hong Kong Day Trip

Lamma Island, Hong Kong
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Lantau Island
A Hong Kong Day Trip
Tian Tan Buddha, Hong Kong
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Macau
A Hong Kong Day Trip
Macau

 

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Hong Kong Transportation

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A key to being a world-class city is having accessible transportation. Hong Kong transportation doesn’t disappoint with a variety of options that will get you to where you need to go. From the moment you land at the airport to the end of your trip you’ll have made it around Hong Kong with ease.

Please note that any times, prices, and currency conversions listed below are only correct for February 2016. For up-to-date pricing visit the Hong Kong transportation websites.

Hong Kong International Airport (HKG)

You’ve landed at Hong Kong International Airport (HKG), gone through customs, and retrieved your baggage. Now you’re wondering how you will get to your hotel. Just as you leave baggage claim you will find a helpful desk that sells tickets for the Airport Express. The Airport Express is a train that runs on a track with station stops at Asia World Expo, Airport, Tsing Yi, Kowloon, and Hong Kong. Travelers with hotel reservations in either Kowloon or Hong Kong Island will want to exit at the corresponding station stop. The best Airport Express ticket for tourists that are staying in Hong Kong for three or more days is the Airport Express Travel Pass. This pass allows for round trip passage between the airport and either Tsing Yi, Kowloon, or Hong Kong Stations. In addition, the pass includes three consecutive days of unlimited travel on the Mass Transit Railway (MTR). This pass is only available to tourists and the round trip passes costs $350 Hong Kong Dollar (HKD). With currency conversion that equals $45 United States Dollars (USD).

Once you have your Airport Express Travel Pass you will walk within the airport from baggage claim to the Airport Station. This short walk has you on your train in no time. Trains leave from the airport every 10-12 minutes and will have you in Central Hong Kong within 24 minutes. Another perk is that once you have arrived at either Kowloon or Hong Kong Station you can board free shuttle buses that will transport you to your hotel. Just read the signs for which bus line goes to your hotel, board the corresponding bus, and you are on your way. This same hotel shuttle is available for you to return to the train station to catch your return trip on the Airport Express.

Airport Express - Hong Kong, China

Hong Kong’s Airport Express

Station sign for MTR, Mass Transit Railway - Hong Kong, China

Station sign for MTR

Mass Transit Railway (MTR)

Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway (MTR) is fast, clean, and efficient. You will find stations throughout the city labeled in English and Chinese.  With only five dedicated (color coded) subway lines the MTR makes it easy to get around Hong Kong without having to rely on taxi drivers.  Signs posted throughout the MTR stations make it easy to decipher what direction you need to head to find your next train. For long distance destinations you transfer between train lines and walk to the correct platform. Station stops broadcast over loudspeakers within the trains in both English and Chinese so you won’t miss your stop. The only cautionary thing to keep in mind is that if possible avoid the MTR during peak commute times. During commute times so many people ride the MTR that you might be squished into trains. If you did not buy the Airport Express Travel Pass to ride the MTR you can buy tickets at the various MTR stations. If you plan on riding the MTR multiple times you can buy a one-day Adult Tourist Day Pass. The Adult Tourist Day Pass costs $65 HKD ($8.35 USD). A single ride ticket fare depends on the distance traveled and the cost ranges anywhere from $4 HKD ($0.50 US Cents) to $8.50 HKD ($1.10 USD).

Star Ferry

The Star Ferry has just one purpose. It takes passengers between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon by sailing over the Victoria Harbour. Tourists will want to ride the Star Ferry at least once during their trip for the magnificent views offered crossing the harbor. Ferries run every 8-20 minutes depending on the time of day. A one-way adult ticket is $2.50 (HKD) on weekdays and $3.40 (HKD) on weekends and public holidays. Converted into USD the fare costs 32 Cents or 44 Cents. This low fare makes the Star Ferry one of the cheapest modes of Hong Kong transportation, and the cheapest way to get between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. Keep in mind that the Star Ferry can get packed with locals and tourists alike during commute hours.

Star Ferry with Kowloon in the background - Hong Kong, China

Star Ferry with Kowloon in the background

Star Ferry with Hong Kong Island in the background - Hong Kong, China

Star Ferry with Hong Kong Island in the background

There are three main piers for the Star Ferry. The Star Ferry runs between the piers of Wan Chai and Tsim Sha Tsui and between the piers of Central and Tsim Sha Tsui. Kowloon’s pier of Tsim Sha Tsui is within walking distance to Nathan Road and various shopping opportunities. The Hong Kong Island pier of Wan Chai is near the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. From Wan Chai Pier you can walk twenty-minutes to the Wan Chai District, where you will find many great restaurant choices. The Central Pier on Hong Kong Island is a short walk to the MTR Hong Kong Station if you need to get to other parts of the city. In addition, the Central Pier is where you will catch other ferries to any of the neighboring islands.

Central Ferry Piers - Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong, China

Central Ferry Piers on Hong Kong Island

Island Ferry - Hong Kong, China

Island Ferry for Hong Kong

Island Ferry

If time permits you may take one of the various Island Ferries to nearby islands. Passengers embark on these Island Ferries at the Central Piers (accessible from either Central or Hong Kong MTR Stations). Many of these boats take travelers to outlying islands where locals live. Islands of note that tourists may find interesting to visit include Cheung Chau and Lamma Island. The cost of a one-way adult fare depends on two factors and the first is the ferry you take (ordinary, deluxe, or fast). The second is if you travel Monday to Saturday or on a Sunday and Public Holiday. Regardless of the ferry or day you select, fares are still cheap. One-way fares range from $13.20 HKD ($1.70 USD) at the low-end and $37.20 HKD ($4.77 USD) at the high-end. One of the 10 piers serviced by Central Piers is the Star Ferry service to Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon.

Taxis

There are many taxicabs available to use as Hong Kong transportation.  Depending on your destination taxi fares are cheap. With cheap fares you may find cab drivers won’t take you to your destination if isn’t far enough or worth their time. Short distances are best traveled by the MTR. If you plan on taking a taxi have your destination written in both English and Chinese characters. Many taxi drivers are not fluent in English so having the place written in Chinese will make it easier for you to get to your destination.

Line of taxis - Hong Kong, China

Line of taxis in Hong Kong

 

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Hong Kong Transportation

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Airport Station at HKG: 22.316058, 113.936503
Kowloon Station: 22.304306, 114.161475
Hong Kong Station: 22.284681, 114.158177
Wan Chai Pier: 22.283391, 114.176217
Tsim Sha Tsui Pier: 22.293810, 114.168227
Central Piers: 22.287843, 114.157384
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Airport Station at HKG
Hong Kong Transportation
Airport Station, Hong Kong
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Kowloon Station
Hong Kong Transportation
Kowloon Station, Hong Kong
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Hong Kong Station
Hong Kong Transportation
Hong Kong Station, Hong Kong
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Wan Chai Pier
Hong Kong Transportation
Wan Chai Ferry Pier, Hong Kong
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Tsim Sha Tsui Pier
Hong Kong Transportation
Star Ferry Pier, Hong Kong
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Central Piers
Hong Kong Transportation
Central Piers, Hong Kong

 

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Hong Kong: A Gateway To Asia

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English-speaking travelers will find Hong Kong an accessible gateway to future travel through out Asia. Hong Kong was once a British colony and many who live in Hong Kong today speak English. With the language barrier removed Hong Kong is a perfect city for English-speaking travelers to acclimate to life in Asia. You will find signs and menus written in both English and Chinese. First time travelers will stick to the two main sections of Hong Kong, Kowloon in the north and to the south Hong Kong Island. Victoria Harbour separates Kowloon and Hong Kong Island and to sail across Victoria Harbour you will board the Star Ferry. Mass Transit Railway (MTR) is another way to travel between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. MTR is the fastest way to reach the parts of Hong Kong you will want to visit for sights, food, and shopping. The top two sights for Hong Kong are Victoria Harbour and Victoria Peak. Those who wish to shop can find stores in Kowloon’s Tsim Sha Tsui district and on the streets around and on Hennessy Road on Hong Kong Island.

View overlooking Convention Centre, Victoria Harbour, and Kowloon - Hong Kong, China

View overlooking Convention Centre, Victoria Harbour, and Kowloon

Victoria Harbour

You will enjoy iconic views of Hong Kong while sailing across Victoria Harbour. As you sail through the harbor you’ll be able to take fantastic photos of the buildings on both the Kowloon side and the Hong Kong Island side. If you’re lucky a junk boat will pass by just as you’re snapping your photo to enhance the image. The easiest form of transportation across Victoria Harbour is on the Star Ferry. It is possible to traverse Victoria Harbour underground using the MTR but you won’t see the scenery traveling that way. The Star Ferry operates every 8-20 minutes depending on the time of day. So if you miss the ferry you know another one will be along soon. At the time of writing this article a one-way adult ticket was $2.50 Hong Kong Dollars (HKD) on weekdays and $3.40 HKD on weekends and public holidays. Converted into US currency that translates to 32 cents and 44 cents. This low fare makes the Star Ferry one of the cheapest modes of transportation in Hong Kong, and the cheapest way to get between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island.

Sailing over Victoria Harbour towards Hong Kong Island - Hong Kong, China

Sailing over Victoria Harbour towards Hong Kong Island

Victoria Peak

Besides Victoria Harbour the other place in Hong Kong to take postcard worthy photos is atop Victoria Peak. The journey to the top of Victoria Peak is part of the sightseeing. From the MTR Central Station you take the J2 exit, which places you in the middle of Chater Garden, a garden surrounded by striking skyscrapers. From Chater Garden you will continue ahead up Garden Road. As you walk Garden Road you will pass St. John’s Cathedral. The Anglican cathedral may appear out-of-place in the middle of the financial district yet this simple cathedral is an oasis of peace. The cathedral is open to the public during the day unless a religious service is taking place. Continue on Garden Road from St. John’s Cathedral and follow the signs to the Peak Tram Terminus.

Exterior of St. John's Cathedral - Hong Kong, China

Exterior of St. John’s Cathedral

Doorway into St. John's Cathedral - Hong Kong, China

Doorway into St. John’s Cathedral

At the Peak Tram Terminus you will buy tickets to board the Peak Tram. The best ticket to buy is the round-trip Peak Tram Sky Pass, which allows you passage on the tram and access to the Sky Terrace 428. The Sky Terrace 428, located atop the Peak Tower, offers stunning panoramic views of Hong Kong. At the time of writing this article the round-trip Peak Tram Sky Pass for adults is HKD $83 (US $10.64). The Peak Tram operates everyday from 7am to 12-midnight and departs every 10-15 minutes. Both the Peak Tower and Sky Terrace 428 are open from 10am to 11pm (Monday through Friday) and 8am to 11pm (Saturday, Sunday, and public holidays).

Peak Tower on Victoria Peak - Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong, China

Peak Tower on Victoria Peak

The Peak Tram can get full of tourists so the earlier you can arrive at the Terminus the more peaceful your journey will be. As you exit the Peak Tram you will find yourself right inside the Peak Tower. From here you will go either to the top of the building or outside to the ground level of Victoria Peak. There are shops and restaurants within the Peak Tower and nearby at the Peak Galleria. Within Peak Tower you will ascend multiple escalators to reach Sky Terrace 428. Once there you will see a magnificent view of Hong Kong. Included in the view is the financial and downtown district of Hong Kong Island you walked through to get to the Terminus. You will see a multitude of office buildings, housing, and in the distance Victoria Harbour and Kowloon. Once you’ve soaked in the scenery return to the Peak Tram and retrace your steps back to the MTR.

View From Victoria Peak - Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong, China

View From Victoria Peak

View From Sky Terrace 428 on top of Peak Tower on Victoria Peak - Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong, China

View From Sky Terrace 428 on top of Peak Tower

Shopping

In Kowloon shopping is king. Whether you arrive by ferry or subway the moment you disembark your form of transportation you will find yourself in front of a store. Begin either at the shopping centers of iSquare and Tsim Sha Tsui Centre & Empire Centre or by walking Nathan Road with its many stores. In the evening the Temple Street Night Market comes alive in the streets on and surrounding Jordan and Yau Ma Tei.

The entirety of this shopping goodness is in the Tsim Sha Tsui district of Kowloon. This is a mecca for shoppers looking to buy tailored suits or watches. If you are traveling to Hong Kong with the express intention of purchasing tailored clothing or jewelry you must do your research before your visit. Tourists are easy prey for con artists selling inferior products. Prior to your trip use the Internet to find reputable businesses to make sure the products you buy are of high quality and will last you a lifetime. As for the pushy sales people on the streets just smile and say “no thank you” as you walk by them.

Sometimes the hustle and bustle of Tsim Sha Tsui is too much to handle. For a reprieve and a chance to escape the crowds duck into Kowloon Park, located just off of Nathan Road. This large public park has trees, a garden, and a playground for children. On Sunday enjoy a free demonstration of Kung Fu or a lion dance. Decompress in this sanctuary of serenity before reentering the throng of people on Nathan Road.

Times Square shopping center in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong Island - Hong Kong, China

Times Square shopping center in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong Island

On the other side of Victoria Harbour, concentrated in the eastern part of Hennessy Road, is the shopping on Hong Kong Island. This section of shopping is accessible from the Causeway Bay MTR Station. Here you will find the Times Square shopping center and stores throughout the many streets leading off of Hennessy Road. Farther south on Hong Kong Island is the outdoor Stanley Market. Stanley Market is a tourist trap but even so it makes for a great place to find souvenirs for your loved ones.

 

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Hong Kong Sights

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Victoria Harbour: 22.287826, 114.174385
St. John\'s Cathedral: 22.278691, 114.159750
Peak Tram Lower Terminus: 22.278069, 114.159554
Victoria Peak / Victoria Tower / Sky Terrace 428: 22.275883, 114.145532
Nathan Road (Kowloon Shopping): 22.310549, 114.171156
Kowloon Park: 22.298716, 114.171936
Hennessy Road (Hong Kong Island Shopping): 22.279765, 114.182689
Stanley Market: 22.219052, 114.212853
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Victoria Harbour
Hong Kong: A Gateway To Asia
Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong
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St. John's Cathedral
Hong Kong: A Gateway To Asia
St. John's Cathedral, Hong Kong
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Peak Tram Lower Terminus
Hong Kong: A Gateway To Asia
Garden Road Peak Tram Lower Terminus, Hong Kong
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Victoria Peak / Victoria Tower / Sky Terrace 428
Hong Kong: A Gateway To Asia
Victoria Peak, The Peak, Hong Kong
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Nathan Road (Kowloon Shopping)
Hong Kong: A Gateway To Asia
Nathan Road, Hong Kong
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Kowloon Park
Hong Kong: A Gateway To Asia
Kowloon Park, Hong Kong
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Hennessy Road (Hong Kong Island Shopping)
Hong Kong: A Gateway To Asia
Times Square, Hong Kong
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Stanley Market
Hong Kong: A Gateway To Asia
Stanley Market, Hong Kong

 

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