So I’m back in Los Banos, Laguna, Philippines. I promised myself and you guys as well that I’d write a more detailed post about my trip to Hong Kong and everything else I’ve done in the past 2 1/2 weeks so here it is. Tonight’s the last night I have before I have to head back to school tomorrow, so let’s recap what I’ve done. I’m going to divide my vacation into different posts since I spent it in two different areas.
But let me warn you–since this post is about to cover about a week of my vacation, this will be relatively long. I’ll break it down day by day, so you can skim the blog for anything you might find interesting. But yeah, this took a long time to write and may take just as long to read. And since I’ve given you the disclaimer, we can begin.
So let’s get started…
MY TRIP TO HONG KONG!
Day 1 – October 19, 2010
Arrived in the Hong Kong International Airport and was picked up by my girlfriend. It was interesting going through customs and being in the arrival area of the airport for the first time. I’d traveled through this airport at least 10 times before but never actually got to leave the airport to explore the area, so I was quite excited to come by.
The girlfriend greeted me happily and she handed me an itinerary of things she had planned for my week stay, down to the hour. It was great having a plan. Especially since I was basically a tourist and didn’t want to waste any time getting lost. So first stop?
I mean seriously, I still had my luggage with me and didn’t get to check into the hotel first. I picked up an Octopus card (which was a really nifty way to carry some cash around since it’s a smart card you can put money on) and headed for some public transport. We hopped on the MRT train and took it all the way to Penny’s Bay in Lantau Island to the lovely Hong Kong Disneyland. I stored my luggage at the front gate, bought our tickets and we were on our way!
The park in comparison to their American counterparts, Disneyland in California and Disney World in Orlando, Florida is extremely small and is in fact the smallest of all the Disney Parks in the world. There were many familiar rides (e.g. It’s a Small World, the Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Dumbo, etc.) but some new ones as well. I got to sit in on many performances that aren’t available in the US parks, such the Golden Mickey performance (which is basically an awards-type show featuring a few of Disney’s hit movies) as well as a new Lion King show that featured a 360 degree rotating theater. What was more interesting about all the attractions was that all of the main Disney characters spoke Cantonese! Which made sense and made things more interesting, being in another country and all.
Although the park was small, it still had the feel of a Disney Park. Lots of cool gift shops, parades, and characters were out to play and give autographs. It was basically, a very miniature Disney Park. I kind of laughed seeing their Sleeping Beauty’s castle. Seriously that thing couldn’t have been more than 4 stories high. They sell one day passes and seasonal admissions, but in all honesty, the one day passes in themselves may be a bit too much already. Me and my girlfriend covered the entire park within about 6 hours, and we were taking our time (this included most of the performances that were showing at different times as well). If someone had decided to really plan their trip by the minute and hit up every single ride then you could possibly complete the trip within a shorter period. The admission price was $350 HKD a person which isn’t bad actually considering this is probably less than what you’d pay at an American Disney Park, but still, for that price you better just do everything you can. Gifts and food and drinks are of course extra, depending on how much you want to spend and they’re mostly your regular theme park type foods, with a little Hong Kong twist. Don’t expect to find anything authentically Cantonese here, but you can still find some pretty nice dishes (albeit more expensive).
Checked out a bunch of cool parades (it was around Halloween then, but they weren’t running the Halloween parade the day we visited) including a High School Musical and regular parade which featured all the famous Disney stars.
We arrived at the park around 10:30am We actually left the park around 5pm and decided to skip the fireworks at 7:30pm (when the park was to close), since we were so bored by that time. (We took the train around the park for a round just so we could do something to kill time.) Fireworks were just fireworks, so we headed back into the MRT and then went to the hotel to check in. It was a little hectic since it was rush hour but got back to the hotel and settled in within an hour.
j eventually took me to a pretty nifty Japanese restaurant around the corner from the hotel for some sushi. After 9pm the sushi (which comes around on a moving conveyor belt) is half-off and so we picked up pretty much every type of sushi there was and tasted it. Needless to say the food was great. We both must’ve downed about 20 plates together. And yes, I was pretty happy about that.
Day 2 – October 20, 2010
The morning, after a breakfast at one of the local street marts (which was delicious by the way), we headed back to Lantau Island, but this time to a different destination: the Tian Tan Buddha located at the Po Lin Monastery. We took the MRT to a place where we could pick a cable car to the area.
j and I decided to take the Crystal Cabin, which is basically a cabin where the floor is just a reinforced piece of tempered glass, so you could see everything below you. For someone like me with a fear of heights, I was a little daunted at first, but being the one who suggested we take it, I was excited at the same time. The cable car ride took about 30 minutes, and we were paired with another family of four who were there also touring Hong Kong. There were some amazing sights to behold on the ride there and I can’t really explain what it looked like, so I’ll just show you in pictures.
Apparently, there’s a trail you can take to walk the entire distance. I don’t know how anyone would be able to do that within a day… it seemed pretty long.
Once we got to the Ngong Ping station at the end in the middle of Ngong Ping village, we walked to the monastery and up to the Buddha. The amount of steps were quite daunting… we saw a couple of people having respiratory problems on the way up, but the sight was beautiful. I couldn’t take any pictures outside but the Tian Tan Buddha is one of the largest in the world. Many different gods are stationed around the main statue holding different offerings and it was just amazing.
For lunch, we trekked down the stairs again and hit up the eating area in the monastery which served vegetarian food. Me and j each bought a meal ticket for a regular meal, but what came out were basically pretty well-portioned (and might I add, really tasty) vegetarian dishes. We started up with a nice soup, accompanied by some steamed vegetables, some luscious mushrooms and a corn and carat salad, which was great! Of course rice and tea were provided, and for what we paid, it was pretty generous. I loved the food and was glad we could taste a little bit of what the monks there ate.
Visited the main temple after lunch, taking pictures and making some offerings to the gods ourselves. Then we headed to explore more of the surrounding wooded area. Met a couple of cattle on the way and then decided to head to Cheung Chau, which is an island off the southwest coast of main Hong Kong Island, known for its seafood. j and I shared a scrumptious seafood meal there with garlic and chives lobster and chili crab, which were both amazing.
Cheung Chau is a small island, filled with a small village and no cars. Everyone gets around on bicycles and the restaurants and shops line the coast near the port where ships come in. Barges and small ships line the docks, and it definitely had that island feel to it. Seeing the local folk there was pretty cool I have to say. There were lots of local shops and restaurants to explore. In fact, j found a little shop selling little snack cakes that she couldn’t find in the US which were pretty tasty.
We ended up also visiting a local temple there, which was in the middle of the small village. j decided to make some offerings and so I did too. A very genuinely Chinese experience.
Around 8 or 9pm, we hopped the ship back to Central Hong Kong and then hopped on a mini-bus back to our hotel where we crashed. It was an enjoyable day, filled with lots of cool things to see.
Day 3 – October 21, 2010
The initial objective of this day was to visit Ocean Park, which is basically a theme park and outdoor aquarium in one. However, Typhoon Megi (which seemed to follow me from the Philippines), hampered those plans when all of Hong Kong was placed under Signal 1 typhoon warning, meaning that there was a typhoon within about 800km of the area. All the outdoor rides for Ocean Park were closed for the day, so we decided that it wasn’t worth it to head there.
So we had to replan. After some thinking we decided the following.
After a little trouble trying to find the right bus to the area, we finally hopped on the right one to the park. You see, an area of Kowloon used to be occupied by many military officials and was often used as a base camp of sorts. Over the years, different military operations shifted in an out eventually leaving a place where crime and deteriorating structures thrived. Eventually, the entire place was leveled and reconstructed into a park (which was completed in 1995), leaving a few historic landmarks in place.
When me and j visited the area during the early afternoon it was pretty empty. Only a few tourists and locals were found within the walls. We had a nice walk for about an hour or two and there were exhibits inside allowing us to see what life was like in certain areas of the Walled City. It was a nice park and extremely relaxing. Many places were there filled with places to meditate, practice Tai Chi, and just explore.
For a snack and some light lunch, we headed to a local restaurant selling a mix of Chinese and European food. Then off back to the hotel to decide our next plan of attack.
We then decided to head to Victoria’s Peak, which is one of the highest peaks in Hong Kong. During the evening it was especially amazing, seeing the Hong Kong Skyline from up above.
There is a complex at the top of the Peak where you can shop, eat and basically explore the area to see the amazing views. I took j out to a romantic dinner at one of the local restaurants and then went to get some gelato and ice cream for dessert. I opted for some Haagen Daz, since I don’t usually get any. Then we sat down, shared our desserts and admired the night skyline.
After heading back down from the Peak, we walked over to Lan Kwai Fong, a small block area filled with bars and restaurants filled with many ex-pats and business men. I had initially wanted to drink there for a bit, but after seeing the crowd it didn’t seem like it was right for me. So we walked around, took some pictures and headed back to the hotel via trolley.
Day 4 – October 22, 2010
Started off the day with some interesting breakfast, filled with ice cream mochi moon cakes. Also, while j was sleeping I had bought some iced coffee and some pastries for us to share.
That day, j’s uncle and aunt decided to take us out to Stanley, which is a small town in the southeastern part of Hong Kong. We met up with them both and took a bus all the way to the area. They treated us to a German restaurant for lunch, which was pretty amazing. Filled with sausages, pizza, fried pork knuckle and tiers of dessert and accompanied by a great view of the water, the place was both delicious in taste and sight.
After lunch we walked around, explored a local temple and made offerings there, and then visited some of the shops that lined the coast. Definitely a different feel than Cheung Chau in that is was much more open and had a little bit more in terms of local shops and beach areas.
Soon we headed back around 5-6pm and they introduced me to an electronics outlet which was pretty popular in Causeway Bay. I headed there with j, bought some cool designer flash drives and a cover for my iPod Touch and then headed to dinner with j’s family. Once at the restaurant I got to eat with them, talk a little (not so much since they didn’t speak much English and me of course not speaking much Cantonese), and enjoy their company. j has a lovely family and they’re all good people. I hope to see more of them in the future. 😀
Day 5 – October 23, 2010
This was quite a sad day indeed, as it was my final day in Hong Kong.
j and I did a few things that day before our flight around 5pm. We packed and stored our luggage at the front desk of the hotel while we visited j’s grandmother. We traveled by trolley to restaurant where we had eaten dinner the night before and met up with j’s uncle. He talked us to the nursing home and j, her uncle and I got to talk with her a bit. It was interesting walking the local streets of Hong Kong and finding a small area where there were a lot of elderly homes. It reminded me a lot of the nursing homes I used to volunteer at in high school and brought back a few memories.
j’s grandmother was really sweet. I brought her some souvenirs and things for her to eat from the Philippines and presented them to her and she was thankful. I couldn’t say much due to the language barrier, but I think she was happy that j and her uncle were there with her. After about an hour of talking and saying good-bye, j and I headed back to the hotel to pick up our luggage and then we hopped onto a bus straight to the airport with the help of j’s uncle.
The ride to the airport wasn’t that long, but enough for me and j to talk a little bit more before our final good-byes. We finally got to the airport and had about an hour-and-a-half to both our flights, which of course had to be inconveniently at two ends of the airport. j’s flight left half-an-hour before mine, so I walked her to the gate, kissed her good-bye and then waved her off. Later on I headed back to my gate and leapt on a plane back to Manila.
So… that was basically my trip in a nutshell. Although a really long nutshell in blog form I suppose.
I’m still uploading my pictures and videos to my Flickr account right now, so I’ll update this post with pictures at a later time. (EDIT: Done!) But for those of you who had the patience to read through all of that, kudos to all of you. I hope my post shed some light on Hong Kong and maybe it’ll persuade you to visit!