Hong Kong Flower Market and Yuen Po Street Bird Garden

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

I did not know it first but this little expedition of mine to see the Flower Market on Prince Edward Road and the subsequent Bird Garden on Yuen Po Street gave me both joy and sorrow in a single trip. Both of these are in the same place, well, almost. To get there, just hop on to an MTR train, get down at Prince Edward Station and leave the station from Exit B1. Turn left, walk just a few steps and turn left again on Prince Edward Road. A 15 minute straight walk on this road will bring you to flower shops first, then a left turn into the main flower market, and if you keep walking straight without turning left you will reach the corner of Yuen Po Street from where you can climb a few steps up to enter the Bird Garden. The Flower Market is pure joy but the Bird Garden, at least to me personally, was a disappointment even to extent that I wished I had not gone there. Keep reading...

Saving Money In Hong Kong With Octopus Card

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The underground railway system in Hong Kong, called 'MTR' is a very expensive mode of transport. Unfortunately it is kept artificially expensive by the Hong Kong government. Yes, this is true. In 2015 I stayed in Hong Kong's Fortress Hill area (YesInn @ Fortress Hill) for several days at a stretch and tried to see and feel Hong Kong's local life from up close. I watched a local TV channel called 'Pearl' (TVB Pearl) every evening. There was a show on Pearl on which they invited a politician in-charge of the local transportation and asked him some tough questions - "why were Hong Kong's underground trains so crowded?", "why was the capacity of the MTR system not being increased?", and "why the government wanted to increase the already high passenger fares when the MTR Corporation had earned a profit of 15 Billion HKD during the previous year?" The politician cut a sorry figure in the show. He had no answer to the overcrowding problem. About the fares he said that although the government was the majority owner of the MTR Corporation, it was a public entity listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and hence profitability mattered. He further explained that there was an inflation linked formula that decided the passenger fares and as inflation rose, so did the fares. What he did not say was that when MTR fares increased, inflation increased further as a result and the people of Hong Kong, as also the tourists, were caught in an endless vicious cycle. Keep reading...

Street Markets of Mong Kok - Ladies Market, Sneaker Street, and Goldfish Market

Sunday, July 10, 2016

There is more to Hong Kong than Disneyland. I mean, a tourist on a short vacation in Hong Kong barely gets a glimpse of what all this wonderful city has to offer. Many of the most interesting places to see in Hong Kong are meant for the local residents rather than for the tourists, but a tourist who dares venture out to explore these treasures is no doubt richly rewarded. The street markets of Jordan and Mong Kok figure in most of the tourist literature about Hong Kong but unfortunately all the emphasis is laid on souvenir shopping in some over crowded street shops. If one can get past the Ladies Market and is willing to walk and explore a little, the Goldfish Market offers a close look into the local life. I know tourists do not come to Hong Kong to buy live goldfish, but this street - Tung Choi Street - has a lot of dogs and cats too in addition to the fish. Keep reading...

Lowest Minimum Bets For Table Games in Macau

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Gone are the days when one could play Blackjack with a 100 HKD minimum bet in Macau's top casinos. In 2015, the minimum bets increased to 500 HKD in popular casinos like Wynn, MGM, and Venetian. Baccarat tables at even 500 HKD became scarce and rather started at 1000 HKD. And if you happened to be playing a game like Three Card Poker, where a total of three bets are placed for a single game (Pair Plus, Ante, and Play), you would end up betting 1500 HKD to be able to compare your cards with those of the dealer. In Indian Rupees (July 2016), that would be INR 13500 for a single game that will take a couple of minutes to complete. In such a setting if you are not getting lucky quickly enough, you will run out of your bank roll before you know it. During my 2015 Macau trip, I incidentally landed in Wynn (Macau Peninsula) before any other casino because I wanted to change some Singapore Dollars into HKD. I have found sometimes that Wynn offers better exchange rates for some currencies in Macau than other casinos nearby. Anyway, that was the first time I realised that there wasn't a single table of Blackjack, Three Card Poker, or Caribbean Stud Poker with a minimum bet of less than 500 HKD. During my earlier trips I had played in many casinos at 200 or even 100 HKD bets. So what had really changed? Keep reading...

Gambling At Marina Bay Sands Casino Singapore - What To Expect

Monday, June 27, 2016

The casino at Marina Bay Sands is one of the two casinos operating in the city-state of Singapore. Marina Bay Sands can be reached via MRT (subway train) alighting at the 'Bayfront' station on the Circle Line. It is open 24/7 and entry is free for visitors / tourists in Singapore. Singapore nationals or permanent residents, however, need to pay an entry levy of SGD 100 per occasion or SGD 2000 per year to enter the casino. Minimum age for a person entering the gaming area should be 21. Passports / national IDs of foreigners are scanned before they are allowed entry. It is much like the passport scanning at an international airport. They even ask people to remove their eye-glasses so that the image on the passport can be compared with the person's face. The immigration stamp on the passport and the departure card are also examined, and not only while entering the casino but while leaving it too. These are funny rules but that's how it is. Keep reading...

Mandarin's House Macau (Casa Do Mandarim) - A Must See

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

A holiday in Macau takes a lot of money even if you are not losing big in one of the numerous casinos that Macau is famous for. Hotels are expensive, food is expensive, and shopping is very expensive. Local travel by taxi can also prove to be expensive but fortunately there are cheaper and even totally free options for local travel, like the free casino shuttle buses. When in Macau, I use free shuttle buses extensively and try to save money on food but somehow I always feel that I do not have enough money there. I guess many of my fellow travellers feel the same way. Perhaps one reason for this is the undue risks that we take while gambling in the casinos thereby ending up being short of money. After a lot of struggle in the past, I have now come to believe that I can feel happier while in Macau if I keep my focus on the things other than gambling. In this pursuit, the Macau Tourism's "Step Out" Guide has proved to be a great help to me. Its a guide perhaps meant for local residents of Macau whom the government wants to step out and see their city or it is perhaps for the tourists who do not just want to come out of casinos. Anyway, its a guide book that suggests walking tours of Macau on eight different routes. I discovered Mandarin's House while trying out one such walking tour - Crossroads of China and Portugal. You can read more about this guide here, but let us talk about the Mandarin's House here. Keep reading...

Pastry Bar At MGM Macau - Vegetarian Food And Much More...

Monday, June 6, 2016

It took me over half a dozen visits to Macau to be able to discover this place. I always find MGM's casino to be the most player friendly and therefore, end up spending most of my gambling time in their main casino hall. Attached to this hall is one of their restaurants - 'Square Eight' where I usually redeem my free MGM food coupons to get a veggie sandwich or an oily shredded potato. I have covered Square Eight in my article on 'vegetarian food in Macau casino restaurants'. On one of the sides of the corridor where Square Eight is located, there is an exit from the casino hall. It does not take you directly out of the MGM but rather into a lobby sort of place in the center of which they usually have an awesome work of art, a huge aquarium or something else that will make you stop there and gawk at it. Around this huge centrepiece, you will find a couple of restaurants and another corridor leading somewhere. A short walk in this corridor will bring you to Pastry Bar. If all these directions I gave seem too confusing, just ask any of the staff at MGM where Pastry Bar is, and they will guide you. All I can say is that you will voluntarily stop at a few places on the way to Pastry Bar to admire some exhibits and take some pictures. But if you happen to be going there in the evening, just remember that Pastry Bar opens between 10.00am and 8.00pm. They do serve breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner but its all over by 8.00pm. There are several things that make Pastry Bar special, and the availability of vegetarian food is just one of them. Keep reading...

GTDC Hotels In Panjim Goa - Panaji Residency And Miramar Residency

Friday, June 3, 2016

Usually, when I review hotels where I have stayed, I will write an individual review for each hotel. GTDC hotels in Goa are, however, a different matter. In a way, all these hotels, though located in different parts of the state, are somewhat similar. If you like one, probably you will like the others too. Their advantages, problems, and prices are not much different. Two of these hotels happen to be in Panjim, the capital city of te state of Goa - Panaji Residency and Miramar Residency. Panaji Residency is in the city closer to the Bus Stand whereas Miramar Residency is on Miramar Beach. I have stayed in both the hotels on multiple occasions and always have had mixed experiences. After the recent renovation and private sector maintenance, Panaji Residency appears better but I guess the other hotel - Miramar Residency will eventually get private maintenance. In this article, I will share my experience of staying in these two hotels so that you will know what to expect if you decide to book one of these. Keep reading...

An Indian Hotel In Bangkok That Does Not Want Indian Guests - Hotel 'Smart Suites'

Thursday, June 2, 2016

It was something new for me. Even though during my several previous trips to Thailand I have come across several Thai or Farang business establishments that discriminate against Indian customers but had never been to an Indian owned business that hates Indian customers. Hotel Smart Suites at the far end of Soi 11 in Sukhumwit Bangkok proved to be a very unpleasant experience. It was roughly a 1100 THB a day room (March 2016) and I was expecting some quality after reading a few Tripadvisor reviews. Later I learned that many of those reviews were fake and had been posted by the hotel owner himself. After my review of this hotel appeared on Tripadvisor, they quickly dumped half a dozen fake positive reviews there so as to push my review down in the page. One of the fake positive reviews was from a "guest" who had earlier reviewed this hotel six times or so on Tripadvisor and was singing its praises every time. A cool strategy... whenever a negative review appears, quickly dump a few fake positive reviews to suppress the truth. Anyway, fake reviews on Tripadvisor are nothing new. Now I need to report what is wrong with this hotel. Keep reading...

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I left my day job in October 2013 and became a full time blogger. I love travel and hence a travel blog was the obvious place to start from. The result is desiyatri.com. I currently live in Bengaluru, India. - Narinder Singh. (Email: desiyatri@gmail.com)


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