Holiday in Hongkong

Here’s to share some details of my recent trip to Hongkong , just in case someone would need a good reference.

Airfare

Promo fares are real sulit deals.  Although Philippine Airlines got my and thousand other people’s ire for their problematic Real Deal promo last April, its Way to Go Promo in June 2009 was a successful recovery.  Where before tickets can only be bought from the airline’s unreliable website for only a day, the Way to Go, as if an act of apology to disgruntled customers, allowed customers to purchase tickets from all of PAL’s distribution channels (web, travel agencies, ticketing offices) and lasted for three days. 

Damage:  US$ 151.40 or $50.46 per person (approximately Pesos: 2,422.50)

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Hotel

We were billeted at Park Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui, East Kowloon.  From outside, the entrance to the hotel is just a wide two-door glass door that opens to a narrow hallway where one can find four elevator cars at the end.  Up on the 4th floor is the busy reception area and a line of incoming guests.  The check in process took us only a few minutes, thanks to the responsive and courteous hotel staff.  After that a bell boy escorted us to our room on the 6th floor.  No tip as the bell boy was gone before I can finish figuring out how much a respectable tip should cost me.

Everyday is a feast in Hong Kong, as cuisines from all over the world are easily accessible.  Chinese cuisine presents itself in many varieties:  Cantonese, Shechuan, Hong Kong. From street food to hotel food, hole in the all to usual american fastfood, eating out in Hong Kong is a delightful experience.

Food. Everyday is a feast in Hong Kong, as cuisines from all over the world are easily accessible. Chinese cuisine presents itself in many varieties: Cantonese, Shechuan, Hong Kong. From street food to hotel food, hole in the wall to usual american fastfood, eating out in Hong Kong is a delightful experience.

Our well-appointed three-bed room was a pleasant surprise.  It has a wide window facing the C Road and the park beyond.  There was ample space to move around.  Same with the bathroom. When I turned on the TV set, a personalized welcome note was flashed on the screen.  What I liked most, and this occured to me only after a day of walking around the city, was the pipe in soothing classical music that made us to soundly fall asleep at night.  Downside:  no complimentary drinking water and it did not mention anywhere either whether the tap water was potable. 

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Breakfast the next day was a feast of dimsum,congee,  bread and pastries, noodles, yoghurt, fruits and juices and the usual bacon and eggs, sausages, cold cuts and cheeses.  Brewed coffee was of course delightfully bottomless.  Downside:  As in most hotels, food does not vary from the first day to the last. 

Damage:  US$206 per person or around P3,296 per person per day.  This includes the daily free breakfast,  airport transfers both inbound and outbound and a half day city tour on board a tourist coach.

Tour

The city tour was very organized.  Tour group operator was at our meeting area at the agreed time.  There were 24 tourists on board the airconditioned bus, mostly family on vacation from countries like the USA, Philippines, India and Australia.  Our tour guide was a Hongkong local, young yet authoritative but without being bossy or difficult.  He was very articulate and seems to be perfectly matched with what he does.

Steel.  Technology is a friend to Hong Kong.  They have built almost everything from underwater tunnel, multi-level escalators, breathtaking bridges and skyscrapers, to railways and funiculars making transport and travel fast and easy- be it horizontal, vertical or diagonal.

Steel. Technology is a friend to Hong Kong. They have built almost everything from underwater tunnel, multi-level escalators, breathtaking bridges and skyscrapers, to railways and funiculars making transport and travel fast and easy- be it horizontal, vertical or diagonal.

Man Mo Temple

Hong Kong’s magnificent Man Mo Temple is among the oldest and most well-known temples in the territory. It was built in 1848, during the early years of British rule in Hong Kong. Though it’s been rebuilt a number of times, much of the original structure still remains.

 The words Man Mo mean “civil” and “military”, and this temple, like many other Man Mo Temples located throughout China, is dedicated to two very different gods. Man Cheong is the God of Literature while the name Mo refers to Kwan Yu, the god of war or martial valor.

The Victoria Peak

Victoria Peak is the highest point of Hong Kong island where tourists can enjoy a bird’s-eye view of Hong Kong.  The best and most enjoyable way to reach The Peak Tower is via the Peak Tram, one of Hong Kong’s oldest forms of transportation. This funicular railway first went into operation in 1888 and has since become a vital transportation link as well as a popular tourist attraction.

Aberdeen Fishing Village

A 20-minute boat ride on board a traditional sampan or chinese junk, this part of the tour is where the modern meets the ancient Hong Kong, where boat people lived on floating boathouses against a backdrop of skyscrapers.  Our guide emphasized that the boat people may have survived the modernization of Hong Kong, but not until 6-10 years from now, as most of the young ones have decided to abandon their water-based past and has already opted for a life onshore.  

Water.  As a peninsula, Hong Kong has a long romance with the sea- as a source of income, dwelling, transportation, etc.  As a small islands city, the sea has in several occasions sacrificed itself in favor of the more in demand land space.  Reclamation projects are still going on in Hong Kong, creating artificial lands by eating the water out.

Water. As a peninsula, Hong Kong has a long romance with the sea- as a source of income, dwelling, transportation, etc. As a small islands city, the sea has in several occasions sacrificed itself in favor of the more in demand land space. Reclamation projects are still going on in Hong Kong, creating artificial lands by eating the water out.

Repulse Bay and Stanley Market were part of the tour but we have to miss these two wonderful sights for Hong Kong Disneyland.  From our hotel in Kowloon Island, we passed through HK’s underground tunnel that connects Kowloon and Hong Kong Island for the half day tour.  From Hong Kong Island, we were on our own to Lantau Island, for our Disneyland adventure.  But the real adventure actually begun when we left the comforts of our tourist bus and embarked on a circuitous maze that was the Hong Kong Mass Railway Transit (MTR).

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Thankfully, I remembered my map reading and orienteering course back in my Boy Scouts days making our commute to Disneyland a breeze.  Credit also goes to kind strangers for helping us get out of the maze.  For efficiency and ease of travel, I suggest that those visiting Hong Kong for more than two days must buy the Octopus card for the hassle-free MTR ride.  Unused credits will be refunded anyway.

MTR Damage:  HK$300 at HK$150 each (I should have availed of the senior citizen discount!), although I got a refund of more than HK$100 for the deposit and unused fare credits.

Disneyland Damage:  Just a few HK$ for meals (relatively cheap meals at the Banquet, with interesting choices at that), drinks (ugh! expensive) and souvenir shopping (crass commercialism at its worst).  Admission courtesy of a friend working for Disney.  Great times!

Gold.  Red, green and gold are the colors of Hong Kong, all three symbolizes a singular object:  prosperity.

Gold. Red, green and gold are the colors of Hong Kong, all three symbolizes a singular object: prosperity.

Side Trips

Outside of the tour package, we went to the Avenue of the Stars to witness the Symphony of Lights and enjoy the colorful play of lights and sounds at the Hong Kong harbor.  Haggling at the night markets of Kowloon and Temple Street was equally enjoyable.  Street food and seafood meal along Temple Street should not be missed out.  Burp.

Parenting the Parents

My birthday trip to the Hongkong Peninsula and Macau Islands was my first vacation abroad with my two mothers: my real nanay, Ara and my guardian-surrogate mom in Manila since 1996, Achie (Ara’s older sister).  The vacation was my gift of sorts to myself (for hitting 30), to my mother (she turned 60 last June), and to Achie (for taking care of me especially during my pimply college years).

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It was also my first travel in style, so to speak, as I always prefer no frills travel over the touristy ones.  But on this trip I half-heartedly decided to get a package tour considering that the travel was not solely for me, and that  getting around without a defined agenda would most likely become a problem with the senior citizens that I am with.

How did I survive?  Pretty well, and big thanks to Rocel of Swire Travel and to Joseph for the referral.  We had a nice hotel with a big bathroom, three beds, pipe in classical music, free breakfast, courteous hotel staff and in a good location at that.  We had a reliable transport service and a perfect itinerary for our day tours.

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The success of any package tour begins with choosing the right travel agency.  Honestly, I was a little apprehensive at first because I find Rocel difficult to deal with sometimes, but I pushed through with it confident that Joseph will not fail me.

So for four days and three nights last week, I and my two moms took a role reversal exercise, I as the nurturing parent and they, well, as the hard-headed-spoiled-kids-trying-to-be-adults.  What can be funnily worse than that?

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I have to be ahead of them when they feel like taking a stroll, but I have to look back every so often so I won’t lose them.  I have to be behind them when we are in crowded places, for the same reason.  I have to wait for them while they take their own sweet time looking at things that interest them, while they won’t even bother to stop and wait for me when I ogle at things that catch my attention.  They can be really makulit and would insist on the right direction even when it was I who holds the map and it was I who spent some five minutes to study it–diligently! 

I also took the role of the official photographer, their official photographer!  Everywhere we go, I asked them to stop so I can take good pictures of the nicest backgrounds.  But they won’t volunteer to get a photo of me leaving me by my hapless self to take my own pictures.  My real mom would not even dare touch, out of fear, either my digital camera or my iPhone as if these gadgets can cause leprosy! 

Here’s a photo that she took when I finally convinced her to use my iPhone as I was getting a little frustrated already because my digicam ran out of battery.  Darn!

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This is not at all to ridicule my parents whom I so love dearly, but only to get my message across, that sometime in the near future, we could turn out to be just like our parents.  Such is the circle of life, so it would be better if we stretch our patience longer and take time to understand our beloved mommies.  To keep me sane, I would imagine how hard it must have been for my mom to raise three naughty boys back then.  Talk about poetic justice.

All in all, that was a real exhilarating and unforgettable experience.  I was so glad that we did it, and did it great.  Now we are planning another tour, Malaysia-Singapore perhaps, and this time, more family members are wanting to come with us.  That would be an altogether different story.  Abangan!