Bookmark Your Life

(Orignally written for a university project. I have published it on many blogs and also contributed it to heruni.com. I just thought it was a local article about life in Falmouth, Cornwall. Let me know what you think)

It’s a beautiful day in the seaside town of Falmouth and the usual crowds have returned to immerse themselves in the spectacular views of the harbour. But before stopping to have that well deserved coffee break, you must pay a visit to the book store on the corner of Arwenack Street.

‘Bookmark’ is a family run business in the heart of the Falmouth high street. Currently renting the shop from her Father, Tasha Burkes decided to swap her life in the big city of London and return to her home town to carry on the family business.

Tasha reflects on the history of the building, “It was a family called ‘Blackers’, it sold tobacco and myrtle. My dad bought it from a man as a fishing tackle shop; it also had a hair salon in the back and sold tobacco, he bought it in 1968 and continued it as a fishing tackle shop.” She also goes onto explain the shop used to be a house for a sea captain and his daughters; who tragically went missing at sea, bringing the house into the hands of a business development.

It’s hard to imagine the journey towards becoming an antiquarian book shop specializing in maritime and nautical literature after its previous occupancy. “Well the two ladies who bought it made it into a book shop and I kept it as it is”, she says. Tasha has gained an expert knowledge of maritime literature since residing in Falmouth, “It’s an old Maritime town, steeped in history of sailings, if you looked it up you get the really famous people that came here, the Cutty Sark and the first black slave Joseph Emidy, who was finally released in Falmouth and he’s buried now in Truro. You still get around the world yachts and serious sailors and I’m there first port of call, that’s why I stock Maritime books, that’s the way forward really.”

Tasha is hoping to encourage the younger generation to start recycling old books. Rather than purchase a birthday card that will gather dust in a drawer before being disposed of, she hopes an old romance novel will convey those special messages to our loved ones instead. In years to come she wishes to look back at her book case and reminisce her life, expressing that neither a computer nor a kindle can provide this.

With the difficult trade in books and having to compete with the likes of ‘Amazon’ and online book traders, it questions how any independent book retailer stays afloat. “I’ve made it work, I believe down to business skills and finding a niche market and been clever at what I do and been good at my deal, so my plan is to stay here and run it as a shop, it’s the most beautiful shop it’s not actually what it looks like, it’s what it gives me.” When not sharing stories, she shares a passion to learn more of the previous book owners. “The stories I find from people that have died, the letters I find, the romance of the shop is steeped in history, its deaths, romance and passion, I meet the people, the widows that have died, I try to get a bit about it, to get to know about the person , you get really interesting people that come in here, who want to come here, not because they have too , they actually want to come in here, they do really shape my life, the stuff I’ve learnt on the way.”

“I want to keep the bookshop going, they give much more to a community and town.”

With a warm welcome from Tasha and a captivating journey with the turn of every page, ‘Bookmark’ is everything and more than your conventional next day web delivery. Wherever it be you’re looking for the beautiful classic or a romantic novel, ‘Bookmark’ is always here for you.

Image Source – Local Data Search

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An Afternoon In Sai Kung

It was a Sunday afternoon and I was contemplating what I should do before returning back to a full week of work. I know, it sounds quite depressing! But when living in Hong Kong, we are quite lucky as you can escape the city for a few hours or so to relax. I decided on a short mtr ride and a mini bus away to the sunny Sai Kung. (Although it was quite a gloomy afternoon away)

Sai Kung is a wonderful place and a tourist hub for westerners on the weekends. Most visitors enjoy the food, the hikes and most of all the small boat trips you can take from the pier. Here a few photographs I took to show you guys what it’s all about. DSC00018

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Sai Kung is very popular for the floating fish farms/markets. Although, I do think it’s very cruel. It seems to gather quite a crowd on a Sunday, with locals promising the best fish in town.

Along the sea front, masses of sea food restaurants decorate the pier. Not one for local sea food myself, I opted for a curry! Not really in the spirit of it all, but in my defense my chicken jalfrezi was quite the delight.

If you’ve visited Sai Kung before, I’d love to hear all about it. Where do you think the best places are to eat? Have you hiked before?

🙂

An Ocean Park Adventure – Originally written for Her Uni

Ocean Park is one of Hong Kong’s most popular tourist spots. The wonderful theme park first opened in 1977. Situated in southern Hong Kong, the park is divided into two parts, one on each side of the mountain.

The park includes 35 attractions and currently has over 15 rides as well as 11 animal exhibits. Those featuring an Aquarium, Jelly Fish Exhibition, Red Panda and Wild Panda House, Dolphin and Sea Lion Shows and The Rainforest, not to mention the numerous amount of other things to do and see.

The visitor has the choice to take a cable car ride or train to the other side of the mountain. The views from the cable car are simply enchanting. The tourist will witness one of the world’s most beautiful coastlines including that of Repulse Bay and Stanley. (Which cannot be seen on foot or by car, so it’s truly a rare experience).

Advice

When planning your trip to Ocean Park, make sure you decide which attraction that you want to see first. The park has over 2000 visitors a day, so be diligent and plan your trip well in advance, so you can see all the shows on offer. Try to stay away from public holidays; this is the busiest time for the park.

Usually the sea lion show is the first on the list. Take a walk through the panda house and you will be guided towards the sea lion enclosure, home to the parks resident seal, Whiskers. Enjoy a thirty minute show meeting the friendly sea lion and find out some quirky facts about the sea creatures.

Before moving onto the next show, take a look at Lee – lee, the parks eldest panda bear. She’s a very shy panda and only peers through her bamboo at meal times. Try catching a glimpse of one of China’s deepest treasures and also a nearly extinct animal. If you’re lucky you may even get a photo! Don’t forget to have a browse at the gift shop on your way out for all those panda themed gifts.

After strolling through first half of the park, it’s now time for the cable car ride. On your journey, see if you are able to spot the Hair Raiser Rollercoaster. With its windy drops and upside down turns, this ride will leave your hair looking like Marge Simpson. Definitely not a ride for the faint hearted. If you do dare take a chance on this ride, purchase yourself a keychain of a photograph of your unforgettable experience. The rides are divided into separate areas such as Thrill Mountain and Adventure Land. Recommended rides to try are The Rapids, The Whirly Bird and the Bungee Trampoline. Be sure to leave plenty of time to cue up for some of the bigger and more popular rides of the park.

Above – The exhibition had special light installations in place, giving the feeling of another world encounter

Before going to watch the Dolphin show in the afternoon, you must take a dark walk through the jelly fish garden. This is by far the coolest and most educational part of the park. With over 1000 species, all shapes and sizes, this is one of the world’s most superb collection of the sea creatures. You will be truly swept into the underwater world, with unique music and special effects; you will spend at least an hour in here. The mirror maze is fantastic, almost like a ride in the park; you don’t know which wall is real. Be sure to take some photographs in here, not something you see every day!

Now it must be nearly time to visit the parks infamous Dolphin theatre show. This event usually accumulates a large amount of people at each showing. Arrive at least twenty minutes of so before, just so you can get the right seat to take those special snaps. The latest show is called ‘Sea Dreams’, a story about a grandfather explaining to his granddaughter about how humans and animals can be as one, and be friends. This is an Oscar winning production and features a beautiful soundtrack. The Dolphins put on an excellent show.

You may have had time to walk though the Polar Adventure and the Rainforest but when it’s nearly 5pm, take a train back to the entrance of the park. Once back, take a stroll through the Grand Aquarium, one of Ocean Parks greatest attractions. Like the jelly fish garden, you are taken on a unique journey through the oceans depths of the Great Barrier Reef and beyond. On your way don’t forget to say hello to one of the oceans hungriest predators, the Hammer Head Shark.

Your journey through the glass house guides you towards the notorious bubble tunnel, where you can glance up at some of the seas most wonderful creatures. A truly magical and phenomenal moment into the underwater abyss.

When you finally arrive to the end of the tour, this is where you will take a moment to look over the big tank. It really makes you believe you are in the ocean yourself. With the sound of the waves crashing through and the harmonious atmosphere, this is a calming and relaxing experience after your busy day.

After your under the sea adventure, have a romantic meal at world famous Neptune’s restaurant and bar which overlooks the Grand Aquarium, the perfect ending to what was a perfect day.

Expat Focus – A Weekend in Kyoto, Japan

A few weeks ago, Hong Kong celebrated the westerner’s equivalent of Christmas, the Chinese New Year. The New Year is a very important celebration for the Chinese. It’s a time for family, good food and a well-deserved holiday.

To escape the mayhem of shopping and numerous meals out, my partner and I decided to take a short trip away to Kyoto, Japan. We chose Japan for a numerous of reasons. Firstly, because Taiwan and Korea are the number one destinations to visit around the New Year, as they are incredibly close to Hong Kong and secondly, it’s a new place for us both to explore. Even though we both had to pay a fraction more than usual for the flight ticket, it was a trip well worth it.

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Surprisingly enough the city is the seventh largest of Japan and was previously a capital before Tokyo slotted into first place.

Even though travelers are in one of the most heavily populated cities in Japan, Kyoto still manages to make you feel you’re in a faraway destination.

The itinerary was set for three days to explore the city. Day one was dedicated to sampling as much of the local cuisine as possible. We tried Dumplings, Shrimp Tempura, Udon and the traditional Japanese Hotpot. For the evening time we explored the Gion district, one of the oldest districts of Kyoto. By night, this area is vibrant and filled with some of Kyoto’s best bars and restaurants.

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My first impressions of Kyoto ticked all of the boxes. I’m not sure if it was the brisk morning air with the light snowflakes that made this place so appealing but it really is a beautiful, beautiful city. On morning walks, I paid close attention to the impressive detail of the architecture and hidden pathways.

In the evening time, the streets are lit with the red backdrop of the suma bridge. Taking a pleasant walk through, it opened its arms and let us both capture some of the rare moments of Japan that not many of you would be able to see by day.

The second day of the trip was off to a good start. We visited one of the infamous Japanese shrines, The Fushimi Inari. Mostly remembered for featuring in the Oscar nominated film, ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’. It’s even more breathtaking than anticipated. The shrine stretches for 233 meters long and reaches out to an outstanding view of the city. The locals invite the tourist to wander through the forest and immerse themselves in the Japanese culture. Along the shrines path, many fox statues can be spotted. The reason being, the fox represents the Inari’s messengers and is often seen with keys in their mouths.

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The Fushimi Inari Shrine is definitely a must for any visitor of Kyoto. Situated in the mountains with plenty of forestry area, this is a perfect way to start the day before stopping off in the Fushimi Village for lunch afterwards.

In the evening, we vowed to try the nation’s favorite dish, Ramen. Nobody can leave Japan without doing so! There are many ramen restaurants scattered around the city and we found the main stretch of them above the Kyoto train station. This was one of the highlights of the trip away. With plenty of choice and a comfortable atmosphere, this was great end to the weekend trip away. And not forgetting to have a sip or two of warm Sake.

Day three had easily arrived and they do say time goes fast when you’re having fun. From the beginning to end, we had ticked off Sushi, Ramen, the Gion District and The Fushimi Inari Shrine.

For the last few hours or so we ventured out with our cameras and indulged ourselves in the city that is Kyoto.

Expat Focus – Why Expats Love Hong Kong

Having been an expat in Hong Kong now for 16 months, I am already planning where to visit next. That’s the thing about being an expat, every new destination has the potential to be your new home. When arriving in the country of choice, the first thing many of us will do, is see if it has the potential to be our new home. Does it have an English supermarket? What is the tax rates and transport options? But once you have seen how easy it is and how well you can adapt to the likes of Hong Kong and Thailand, the next move won’t be so stressful. You will already know what to expect.

For many westerners Hong Kong is a popular choice to move. Expats love it for its accessible transport service, diverse food and close proximity to other countries. Most weekends can be taken up with a quick trip to Taiwan and the Philippines or just a short boat ride to a surrounding island.

If you enjoy change, a fast pace lifestyle and a place that has many western influences as well as Chinese, Hong Kong is the place to be. The city is fun, exciting and on many occasions captures the heart.

As well as the points mentioned above, Hong Kong also possesses many other things great about it. The job rate is exceptionally high for foreign nationals. Teaching, Hotel Managerial and Marketing are amongst the popular job choices.

For teaching, it’s split into various sectors. From the obvious Kindergarten, Primary and Secondary, there’s the option of the government scheme for fully qualified teachers. But even if you don’t have the necessary requirements, foreigners are still given the chance to work in local organizations. Tefls don’t seem to be on top of the list of requirements unlike neighboring countries such as Thailand and Japan.

Teaching is great for enhancing your CV. It’s the perfect chance to experience a different type of culture and education system. Hong Kong is in the top 5 academic competitors in the world and with this added extra to your CV, this may impress the future employers. The standards are very high in terms of delivering the goods to the classroom, but with the educational background of the teacher, this isn’t so necessary. As long as the teacher is a Native English speaker and is able to perform a class with phonics and fun, you will have no problems with adapting to the teaching life of Hong Kong.

Happy New Year

Hello and welcome back. It’s 2014 and hope you’ve all had a wonderful new year so far. I am sorry for the late update, but with Christmas time back in England and 120 plus school reports to do, I’ve simply had no free time. However, starting on a new note, I have a few things I would like to share with you.

Firstly, I have had the opportunity to write for Expat Focus. A website featuring idea’s, news, jobs and columnists, all discussing the experiences of moving abroad. I fell in love with some of the features before xmas, so emailed to see if I would be able to write for them too. Something quite therapeutic about sharing my experiences living in Hong Kong. My first article went live today. Check out the link here – http://www.expatfocus.com/c/aid=1415/columnists/joella-hawley/why-expats-love-hong-kong/

Next on my list, towards the end of the month I will be visiting Osaka, Japan. Me and my boyfriend are going to celebrate the Chinese New Year. I really, really, cannot wait! Luckily I do get to stay here for the actual Chinese New Year period, as I missed it last year with a trip back home. So it will be a brand new experience for me to see how the Chinese will celebrate it.

Thirdly I have vowed to start Boxing this year. It’s always been a dream of mine to start. Every time I hear ‘Eye of the tiger’, I get a certain adrenaline run through me. It’s my number one new years resolution! I’ll keep you posted on the on’s and goings of how hard it is actually to get fit! Wish me luck 🙂

And lastly, thank you very much for all the support on here. I really appreciate all the people who have taken the time to pass by my blog and give it a read. Warms the heart.

Bye!