Nine months ago, we launched Paupers Without Travel as a platform to express the joy experienced by our souls every time we touched a place new or familiar, tasted foods known and unknown and discovered deals that would help us fund one more trip without breaking the bank. Did we expect to get a few readers? We’d be lying if we said no. But what we did not anticipate is the warmth, love and support shown by so many of you in liking and commenting on our posts and more importantly, sharing your journeys and experiences.
We were tickled pink when we got an email from WordPress last night telling us that 5,000 people attended the Aspen Food and Wine Festival. This blog had about 32,000 views in 2012. If each view were a foodie, this blog would power 6 festivals….
Ok, so to kick off the New Year, here is a tribute to some of the people we were blessed to see and learn from around the world.
A single firecracker explodes, its fiery tails plummeting down to the Grand Canal. Its echoing noise bidding farewell to the day and welcoming the festive night to come. The last of the sun vanishes along the horizon as the beautiful full moon comes into sight. Lovers kiss on the Rialto, a gondolier paddles by, a baby cries in the distance. The shopkeepers pack their things and file into the labyrinthian streets of Venice as the sweltering day comes to an end and gives birth to a carnival.
An array of colored lights begin to flicker as if the circus is rolling into town. A troop of harlequins enter from the left, wearing animated masks and galloping through the silent streets. It is then that the city comes alive. Children run out on the streets, their sparklers crackling like a bonfire, their endearing smiles aimed at the man with the gelato cart.
More firecrackers go off, and an array of saxophones and guitars provide the night with a soundtrack fit for a Woody Allen movie.
Young lovers sit on the edge of the canal, their bare feet skimming the surface of the sparkling waters below. The man looks into the woman’s eye, chuckles, and lightly kisses her cheek. The smell of fresh gelato and steaming Italian coffee fills the air as people line up to grab one last snack to put an end to their day.
The band plays on. The harlequins and jesters dance. The children play. The lovers kiss.
On the corner is an older man, hands tucked in his navy blue sweater as he gazes into the horizon. His face is emotionless. He gets up and walks towards the canal, his feeble hand trembling as he reaches for the pocket of his neatly pressed khaki pants. He pulls out a coin and gently tosses it into the water, closes his eyes, and makes a wish.
The night is a masquerade, painted with the costumes of Halloween, the warmth of Christmas, the romance of Valentine’s Day, and the hope of New Year’s. It brings people together like the coldest of winters, while setting them free like the most beautiful summers. It is a time to reflect, to wonder, to love, and to dream.
Staying at airport hotels has never been a part of the way we like to travel. We love getting a place, no matter how small it is, in the heart of the city so that we can walk out the front doors in the morning and be swallowed by a new life and new culture. Much of the thrill of adventuring has been in trying to live in the epicenter of all action. But sometimes, booking a hotel during peak seasons on a budget proves to be a very trying task. Especially when you’re in one of the most popular cities in the world around Christmas and New Year’s time.
Last December, after spending winter break in Tokyo, we decided to stop in Hong Kong before coming home because it has mutually remained one of our favorite cities in the world regardless of how many new places we experience. Hotel prices in the soul of the city were ludicrous. So we decided to stay at the Marriott Sky City, located just a few minutes away from the airport.
Sitting right on the banks of the stunning South China Sea that is geographically the touching stone of so many oriental landmarks, Sky City feels like a luxury resort on every level. An indoor pool, full service spa, expansive golf course, and tremendous gym with specialized amenities (it was my favorite part of the hotel. I could work out at three in the morning and watch the planes land gracefully in the distance against the nighttime lights) are only a few among the many perks of paying less during peak season and staying near the airport. The buffet breakfast (additional cost) at the SkyCity Bistro was very comprehensive and ensured a filling, uplifting start to long days of fun and exploration in Hong Kong.
Another highlight was the complimentary shuttle service to the Tung Chung MTR subway station, which was how we connected to the rest of the city. It’s about a 35-40 minute ride to Tsim Sha Tsui, the hub of all culture and action in Kowloon (and to this day one of my favorite places on the planet). The commute isn’t ideal, but time flies watching locals and observing the beautiful seascapes through the train windows.
If you’re not visiting Hong Kong during the peak holiday season, then try to look for a hotel near Tsim Sha Tsui. Deals surface constantly. But if you are visiting at a time when hotel prices are through the roof, consider staying close to the airport at Marriott SkyCity. It was worth every penny.