My January Trip Highlights – Month 5

This is the fifth post in a 12-part series detailing my monthly highlights from a year long trip around the world. To start at the beginning: click here

And here we go for month 5 of the 12 month journey. January features my trip to Hong Kong and the majority of my trip in South Africa, my favorite country. Adventures include: an amazing host family in Hong Kong, finding out what it’s like to be seven feet tall, an African safari, one of the worst shots I’ve ever had, a hike to the world’s tallest waterfall and homemade beer in Lesotho.

Postcards

One of my good friends has a long tradition of sending out postcards whenever he travels. I decided to adapt the tradition and made an offering on Facebook: anyone who sent me their address would get a postcard from me sometime during my trip.

I woke up to an inbox of 33 addresses! Some were good friends and others were acquaintances I have fallen out of touch with. Regardless, I loved postcard, stamp and mailbox hunting in all the different countries and then sending off my thoughts from the road. I hope the postcards made it to everyone safely!

Meeting Amos and Family

One of my top pieces of advice when people ask me is: TALK TO PEOPLE.

If you gain, you gain all. If you lose, you lose nothing. -Blaise Pascal

This is a perfect example of what can happen. Backstory: on my seventh day of the trip while I was in Cairns, Australia, I met Freddie. When I told Freddie about my trip and how I’d be heading to Hong Kong in four months, his eyes lit up.

“That’s where I’m from!” he proclaimed.

Freddie took me to school and educated me on the facts: Hong Kong doesn’t have the best hostel system for budget travelers and it’s very overwhelming to get around. He put me in touch with his high school friend, Amos, who currently lives in Hong Kong. The end result of this chance encounter was having Amos offer to host me at his place while I was in Hong Kong.

A few days before arriving, Amos sent me a picture of his mom so I knew who I was looking for when I arrived. She picked me up at the bus station and took me back to the apartment (public transport is so easy with a local) to meet the entire family and eat dinner.

The Peak and Tsim Sha Tsui

The Peak offers a 360 degree view of Hong Kong up above the tallest buildings. Tsim Sha Tsui hosts the Avenue of Stars, Hong Kong’s version of Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.

SONY DSC SONY DSC

Tung Chung

Located on Lantau Island it is home to the Big Buddha, the Yin Hing Monastery, and the wisdom path. The wisdom path is dotted with tea fields and ends in a spectacular display of Buddha’s teachings etched on erected tree trunks. On the way back we stopped at The Tea Garden Restaurant to enjoy tea grown in the fields 15 feet away.

Big Buddha - Tung Chung

Big Buddha - Tung Chung

Buddha's Teachings - Tung Chung

Tea

Tea Tree

Cheung Chau Island

Cheung Chau is a small island 6 miles southwest of Hong Kong and is nicknamed the “dumbbell island” because of its shape. It’s a perfect day trip–it has loads of great food to snack on and offers beautiful views. I recommend stopping in at The Hometown Tea House. The owner is a sweet lady who loves chatting with foreigners. She gave me a postcard and let me sign one of her travelers journals, and the handrolls and tea were delicious!

At the end of the day we rushed back to the ferry and made it just in time for the last boat back to Hong Kong. As hundreds crowded together to get onto the ferry, I realized I was experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence: I was one of the tallest people in the room!

Cheung Chau

Cheung Chau

Preparing seafood meatballs

Rollin' In The Benz

Rollin’ In The Benz

Hometown Tea House - Cheung Chau

Amos and I with the owner of the Hometown Tea House on Cheung Chau

Goodbye to Amos and his family

Saying goodbye is never a highlight but reflecting on the experience always is. I’m amazed at how quickly being complete strangers disappeared. It felt like I was their long lost cousin. They included me in their family dinners at home and took me out to dinner with their extended family. Amos took the time to show me his country, teach me some customs and answer my incessant questions.

On my last day Amos and I ate dim-sum with his mom and grandma and then the whole family got together to take me out to a goodbye dinner at the nicest, most swanky Pizza Hut I have every seen. I’m talking waitstaff in dress shirts and slacks, cloth napkins and high end pizza, pasta and seafood dishes. They all walked me to the bus station, wished me well and let me know I was always welcome.

Thank you Amos, and thank you to your family. I hope I can repay you in the future!

Featured on Tom Bihn’s Official Blog Page

Tom Bihn makes a great product. I can say that definitively after putting one of their backpacks through the gauntlet of a 12-month trip around the world. Apparently they were pretty stoked on what I was doing with their product and decided to feature my gear post on their blog. It was the first time this blog had been featured anywhere noteworthy.

Pilanesburg Safari

Pilanesburg Game Reserve

Pilanesburg Game Reserve

Pilanesburg Game Reserve

Pilanesburg Game Reserve

Wanna be a baller, shot caller. Twenty inch blades on the…impala

Pilanesburg Game Reserve

Drakensberg

If you ever find yourself in South Africa, make sure to stop in Drakensberg for as long as you can. Stay at Amphitheater Backpackers, which offers beautiful grounds, amazing tours and a right of passage shot (one of the worst shots I’ve ever taken) named “Banana Rush.”

  • Step 1 – Set a shot glass on a small saucer and overflow the shot glass with banana rum and straw rum (160 proof).
  • Step 2 – Light on fire and hold an upside down glass over the flame to catch all the alcohol fumes.
  • Step 3 – Set the glass with the collected fumes off to the side and blow out the flames.
  • Step 4 – Drink up all the alcohol in the shot glass and saucer with a straw.
  • Step 5 – Slide the glass of fumes to the edge of the table, stick the straw in and inhale the fumes.
  • Step 6 – Cry, hate yourself, gag, barf, cough and curse.
  • Step 7 – Loudly proclaim “TIA, TIA, TIA!” (This is Africa).
Drakensberg - Amphitheater Backpackers

The View outside the hostel

Drakensberg - Amphitheater Backpackers

The Bar

Drakensberg - Amphitheater Backpackers

Drakensberg - Amphitheater Backpackers

Dorm Rooms in converted grain silos

Drakensberg - Amphitheater Backpackers

Artwork around the hostel

The group pre Banana Rush

The group pre Banana Rush

Tugela Falls

Drakensberg is home to Tugela Falls, regarded as the tallest waterfall in the world. The day we made the hike the falls were covered in a cloud so I didn’t get to see much at the top. But, the views from the hike were absolutely breathtaking and the questionable metal ladders we used to climb down were exhilarating.

Drakensberg - Tugela Falls

The Ascension

Oopen, gleebin, glapin, gloobin

Oopen, gleebin, glapin, gloobin

Drakensberg - Tugela Falls Drakensberg - Tugela Falls Drakensberg - Tugela Falls Drakensberg - Tugela Falls

Drakensberg - Tugela Falls

Lunch in the clouds

French Cliche

French Cliche

Drakensberg - Tugela Falls

Sent this picture to my mom on her birthday

Drakensberg - Tugela Falls Drakensberg - Tugela Falls

Drakensberg - Tugela Falls

The moment we broke through the cloud

The Motely Crew

The Motley Crew

Don't forget to wear sunscreen

Don’t forget to wear sunscreen

Lesotho

Amphitheater Backpackers offers a day trip to Lesotho and part of the fee goes towards building schools there. We got to see the classrooms, meet students and teachers, go on a hike and learn about their culture.

The village we visited mainly used a barter system; when you have something to trade you raise a flag in your yard to let people know what you have. A red flag means meat, green is vegetables, white is their homemade sorghum beer, and yellow is their homemade pineapple beer.

Lesotho - School Childred

Local Students

Lesotho School

Professor

Lesotho

Local Badass

Lesotho Children Lesotho

Lesotho Livestock

Immature for life.

Lesotho Farmland

Lesotho

You can see the white flag flying, which indicates there is beer to trade.

Drinking the homemade sorghum beer.

Drinking the homemade sorghum beer.

Lesotho

Lesotho

Mother and son unknowingly being twinsies

Lesotho Lesotho Lesotho

“Turn Right at the Robot”

Looking for a grocery store I asked a local outside my hostel for directions.

“Just head down the street, turn right at the robot, walk a few blocks and the store will be on the left.”

I walk down the street keeping my eyes peeled for what should be a pretty sweet robot statue. A few too many blocks go by and I realize I’ve been led astray by a cruel local who is now having a good laugh at my expense. I double back and head back to my hostel to ask for directions. I find the owner, ask and he replies…

“Just head down the street, turn right at the robot, walk a few blocks and the store will be on the left.”

“Well how far is the statue of the robot? I just walked pretty far and never found it.” I replied, an air of annoyance in my voice.

This is when I learned stop lights are called robots in South Africa.

Coffee Bay

A small town but a must see.

Coffee Bay Coffee Bay

My submission for the new Window's desktop image

My submission for the new Window’s desktop image

Coffee Bay Coffee Bay Coffee Bay - Hole in the wall

Wilderness

Great little town to stop and relax in. Also home to the “Map of Africa.”

Wilderness - Map of Africa

The Map of Africa

To go back to Month 4 Highlights: Click Here. To go on to Month 6 Highlights: Click Here

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