A Little Travel Talk

Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong, at night

Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong, at night

Since I mentioned my recent trip to Southeast Asia in my last post, I’ve received several requests for more details about the experience. Although the topic of travel is only tangentially related to minimalism (in so far as keeping a minimal itinerary and luggage), it’s near and dear to my heart—and as such, I never turn down an invitation to talk about it. :-)

I do realize, however, that most of you come here to read about minimalism, not travel, so I will do my best to keep it short and sweet. Instead of writing a full travelogue, I’ll simply touch on the highlights of our trip:

Hong Kong:

* Wandering through the Mong Kok district, and experiencing its vibrant street life and traditional markets (selling everything from food to clothing to electronics to jade)

* Taking a breathtaking cable car ride to Lantau Island (photo)

* Climbing up the 268 steps to the Tian Tan Buddha (photo), and having a delicious vegetarian lunch at the adjacent Po Lin Monastery

* Spending an afternoon riding the Mid-Levels escalators (a giant outdoor escalator system on the steep slope of Hong Kong Island), and jumping on and off to explore the neighborhoods through which it passed

* Enjoying vegetarian dim sum in a traditional Hong Kong tea house

* Having a picnic dinner along the Victoria Harbour waterfront, while admiring the brilliantly-lit Hong Kong skyline (photo)


* Awakening to the sound of tropical birds every morning, even though we stayed in the heart of the city

* Sampling the amazing array of cuisine (Singapore is a food lover’s dream). We ate everything from Peranakan (a blend of Chinese and Malay) to Indonesian to Japanese

* Discovering old Colonial buildings among the skyscrapers (photo)

* Spending a warm and lazy afternoon strolling through the lush Singapore Botanic Gardens (including the gorgeous National Orchid Garden)

* Stumbling upon a crowded and colorful Chinese New Year market late one night on an after-dinner walk

Kuala Lumpur:

* Sharing a bottle of wine (literally—we had no glasses) with my husband in our incredibly-small and somewhat-grimy sleeping compartment on the overnight train from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur (an adventure in itself!)

* Seeing forests of palm trees en route across Malaysia (photo)

* Staying at the very posh Shangri-La hotel (Luxury hotels are surprisingly affordable in KL, and it was a welcome treat after our train accommodations!)

* Marveling at the contrast between old and new, traditional and modern, gritty and clean while wandering the streets

* Eating wonderful Malaysian food!

* Going to the top of the KL tower for magnificent views of the city (photo)

Several of you also asked how we could possibly travel with just carry-on bags, given the restrictions on hand luggage. To be honest, we find it very easy! We bring whatever liquids we need in small bottles, and generally have enough to cover the trip; if we run out, we simply buy more at a local store. I don’t even bother to bring soap, shampoo, conditioner, or lotion as the hotels we stay in usually provide nicer products than I have at home. :-) To minimize the amount of clothes needed, we take a few travel packets of laundry detergent and wash our stuff once or twice (in our hotel sink) during the trip. If you’d like a peek inside my carry-on, please see my previous post Minimalist Travel: What’s in My Suitcase. I can’t emphasize how wonderful it is to travel with the lightest load possible!

Well, I hope today’s post answers some questions, and doesn’t upset anyone with its off-topic nature. I promise next week to return to our usual minimalist programming!

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22 comments to A Little Travel Talk

  • Mia

    Hi MM! Thanks for sharing your trip! Did you have the time or chance to go to Hui Lau Shan in Hong Kong? I’m from Southeast Asia (the Philippines) btw. :)

    • miss minimalist

      Hi Mia! A friend told me about HLS just before we left, and I had all intentions of going there. (For those of you who are wondering, Hui Lan Shan is a famous dessert chain in Hong Kong.) We stumbled upon two of them, once on our way to dinner, and once just after we had eaten (and couldn’t fit another thing!). We kept thinking we’d eat there eventually, and then it just slipped our minds. Grrr…I really wanted to try the mango pudding!

      BTW, I’d love to visit the Philippines someday! :-)

  • A simple guy

    Sounds like a great trip. I too prefer to explore places on foot and eat the local cuisine, instead of spending my time in museums or on tours.

    • miss minimalist

      A simple guy, I know sometimes we’ll miss a famous monument or work of art — but I think absorbing the local culture makes up for it.

  • Terese

    Mmm, vegetarian dim sum…that sounds wonderful!

  • Ohio Jim

    I was in Hong Kong two years ago and really liked it. Did you go up to Victoria peak? Great views of the city from there.

  • standing still

    Okay, I can see washing your clothes in the hotel sink, but how do you get them to dry? I’d be kind of embarrassed to have my stuff hanging all over the place when housekeeping comes in.

    • miss minimalist

      LOL, standing still. (I’m picturing our socks and underwear hanging from the lampshades and headboard.) :-)

      Actually, we take a thin, super-absorbent towel, and roll the clothes in it after washing to get out the excess water. Then we hang them on a travel clothesline stretched across the shower or tub. Everything is usually dry by the morning. If not, we use the hairdryer on them!

  • I read your blog. I live in Hong Kong. Glad that you enjoyed the trip to HK!

  • miss minimalist

    Great to hear from you, Louis; you live in a wonderful city! (Wouldn’t mind living there myself some day!)

  • Drew R

    As I read this article, I looked up from my desk at the painting of HK harbor that I brought back from my trip over there three years ago. My gf is from HK and her parents still live there. Your post made me realize how much I miss it despite only spending 3 weeks there. Hopefully my newfound minimalism can free up the funds for another trip! You’re an inspiration! And oh how I miss the multiple mango desserts from HLS – mango sorbet in mango puree with fresh chunks of mango, yum! I’ll just have to make sure I don’t shop like crazy in Mong Kok ;)

  • Shauna

    Glad that you love singapore. Will you be dropping by the place again? I would love to meet up with you and be your tour guides. It would be great if you can spread your minimalism to singapore :)

  • Anne

    I like to read about your travels – it is a window into your minimalist philosophy that I find very interesting. One thing I do to minimize toiletries – I use my shampoo to do my laundry. I figure soap is soap. It seems to work and I only have to bring one small bottle.

  • How do you handle languages barriers? Have you ever felt that traveling to exotic places comes at the cost of stress or confusion due to not knowing the language? That’s always my fear when I think about traveling…

    • miss minimalist

      Hi Sarah! I always try to learn (or at least write down) some key phrases in the native language: things like “hello,” “goodbye”, “yes”, “no”, “how are you”, “please”, “thank you”, “where’s the bathroom?”, and “may I have the bill?”. People always appreciate it if you *try* to communicate in their language–and more often than not, will know a few words in English to help you out. Definitely don’t let language barriers keep you from traveling; I’ve never found it to be much of an issue (especially in major cities).

  • Tina

    Have not been to Asia. Travels in Europe and middle east only. I like reading how you travel with very little luggage as that is what we do. That way we can take public transportation wherever we go.

  • We used to go to a city, stay in a cheap hotel, bring very little luggage, and take public transportation everywhere. Then we went on bus tours with many stops and walked a lot. Now we go on a cruise and stop at various cities. While waiting for the shuttle to our ship, we saw a woman with four huge suitcases for a seven night trip. People bring as much luggage as students who will live abroad for some months.

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