Have you ever been to a place where minutes before you landed, you already plan on leaving? I have. And in a span of four days, things turned upside down as well. I started hating Hong Kong on my first day only to leave on the fourth day already planning my next return visit.
Why I hated Hong Kong? Read it here. For why I learned to like it please continue reading below. 🙂
We spent all our nights in Australian Guesthouse inside Chungking Mansion. I’ll cut this short. No matter what happens, never book a hotel in Chungking! Chungking Mansion is an entire building with cheap guesthouses every horror-movie-like floor. It’s cheap but you’ll regret it. Might as well spend a little higher for hotels that are clean, safe, and at least comfortable if not aesthetically pleasing.
Australian Guesthouse (and Chungking Mansion) is located at Block D, Flat D7, 16th Floor, 36-44 Nathan Road, Chung King Mansion, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, Hong Kong. It had cost us just Php10,200 for 4 days of stay. Two beds were given for triple sharing. Water in the bathroom smells so don’t you dare drink from the tap.
A Filipina was in charge of the reception when we checked in. It’s a plus point but still, you’ve been warned!
We have to be accustomed to the city. On our first day we just wanted to take it easy. As for me, I still feel nauseous because of what happened on sail Turbojet the night before. So no itinerary, just wherever our feet could take me.
Marlyn on the other hand had this agenda of buying Gundam replicas. While she was at it, I was busy checking and trying on some of the brands I don’t get to see often in Manila. Luxury brands abound malls and streets of Hong Kong. If you’d ask me of suggested budget, I’d say, it varies greatly depending on your goal when visiting Hong Kong. Because if you want to take shopping seriously, you can bring Php1M and still be short!
I love perfume and I found Jo Malone store in one of the malls. I was able to test some of the more popular scents. I have White Jasmin and Nectarine Pearl bought from online stores so I made sure to compare my purchase to the real thing. In all fairness, those online stores deliver their claim.
My next perfume would be “Chance” by Channel. I’m captured!
So I have this black Salvatore Ferragamo handbag from one of my ninangs. Quality is so good despite being used-stored-used for years so I decided to check out one from the store. Lo and behold, the cheapest wallet is at around Php26K. I’m just not ready for that yet. Window shopping is fun, though.
It was still raining the entire day in Hong Kong. Storm signal no. 3 was raised (storm signals here are up to signal #9) which is somehow equivalent to signal #1 in the Philippines. It sorts of dampens the mood but this trip has got to be one of the most educational for me so far.
We observed Filipino communities on the streets of Hong Kong – mostly made up of domestic helpers. I learned that they are to spend their days off compulsorily outside of their employer’s household. The unwritten rule is like, if you want to live in my house, you should be working. So for domestic helpers who don’t have enough money to spend on actual recreations during their days off, they have to slump on the streets, lay their mats there regardless if its raining, and end the day there. It’s just the happy spirits Filipinos have despite adversities that made those gathering look merry and worthwhile. Taken from another perspective, that’s their sad plight. Of course, some domestic helpers are fortunately employed by humane families but for the rest, don’t expect to be treated like family.
By tram, we also went to the Ladies’ Market to buy some souvenirs. Ate Tere knows of a stall where the kind vendor also speaks some Tagalog phrases. She was accommodating and nice in dealing with customers, too, which I appreciated.
AVENUE OF STARS
After our purchases and some stroll, we took a short ferry ride to Avenue of Stars. So all in a day’s city tour I was able to ride the tram, MTR and ferry for the first time. In all of these modes of transportation, the octopus card can be used. Ate Tere lent us her Octopus Card preloaded with HKD100. If not for her, we also could have deposited HKD50 for the octopus card.
Because of the weather, the Symphony of Lights was announced cancelled in the Avenue of Stars. Avenue of Stars is comparable to Manila Bay, I should say, only better. Peace! Of course, the walkway is more interesting because of its Chinese Hollywood appeal. I also appreciated the fast internet government wifi here. The view overlooking the sea and Hong Kong’s towering buildings beautifully lighted at night is just so relaxing. The view, the bench, the wind, the jazz music from an ongoing open concert and the fast internet connection just got me. This is the life.
Note: Free wifi are usually free for the first 30minutes. After that you will be prompted to log in to continue. Maybe that’s for a fee already but no worries. There are lots of wifi detected anywhere so you can just transfer connection after your first 30 minutes lapsed.
Still because of the weather, our plan to ride glass cable car to Big Buddha through Ngong Ping 360 was busted. Instead we had to wait for an hour queuing up a long line to a bus that could take us through zig-zag roads to Big Buddha. View was spectacular though. Rain. Forest. Mountain. Sea. It’s everything. I played Enya songs all the while to complete the senti mode. Joy ride, I should say. 🙂
Hong Kong roads are left-hand drive. I fret when the bus runs at high speed on zig-zag roads on the left side. Like I wanted to step on the brakes myself.
What’s praise-worthy in Lantau Island, is that it’s very serene inside. There are spots especially inside the museum/exhibition hall (directly under Tian Tan Buddha’s bronze statue) where cameras are not allowed and we gladly obliged. Anyway the view from outside of Buddha’s museum are scenic already.
I didn’t grasp the whole principle of Buddhism in all its entirety. It might be impossible to do that with just a simple day trip in single spot no matter how big the statue is. But I kind of like and agree to what little I have understood. Buddha never claimed to be God and Buddhists might be 300 million people that I can somehow agree with. I knew that there is only one God all along but that day I was more convinced of that. One God, one love. As Pope Francis said, there is no Catholic God. Maybe some day there are more chances to study Buddhism?
We started our way through Wisdom Path but it was getting dark by then and because of fear that buses might leave already, we decided to not pursue. We saw different souvenir shops inside Ngong Ping Village, though, where we spent some more time before heading back for the MTR.
BIG WAVE BEACH
Original Plan: I’ll hike alone Dragon’s Back Trail where I’ll be rewarded by a dip in the Big Wave Beach while Marlyn, her mom, and Ate Tere will spend the day in Hong Kong Disneyland.
What happened: I successfully located Big Wave Beach first then reversed track Dragon’s Back halfway through. The rest of my travel buddies shopped for gundam in the morning. In the afternoon we all went our own ways to Victoria Peak, chatted for a while then parted ways again. They went to buy some more souvenirs while I decided to beat Hong Kong in a staring contest.
First of all, I’m so proud to have located Shek-O. I just followed directions from the net and braved the journey alone. The beach’s official location is Big Wave Bay Road, Shek O, Hong Kong Island. Source: http://www.discoverhongkong.com/au/see-do/great-outdoors/beaches/big-wave-bay-beach-shek-o.jsp#ixzz3qJEOgA2w
From TST Station (Tsuen Wan Line), I made it to MTR Shau Kei Wan Station (Island Line). I just followed the sign, loaded my Octopus Card in a 7-11 store, before exiting at Exit A3. Bus terminals are just beside this exit. After 20minutes or so, bus 9 to Big Wave Bay Beach arrived.
What’s good in Hong Kong’s bus transport system, is that they don’t wait for the bus to be 100% occupied, unlike in most provincial buses in the Philippines.
So, bus 9 took me to Shek-O village already. Where is the hike trail? Or at least the beach? In Shek-O village I transferred to a bus which I thought would take me to Big Wave. It was just me and the driver who cannot communicate with me – and a lady who I overheard speaking in Filipino! She advised me to just walk my way to the beach as I am near already.
I made it. Admittedly, I was also scared. I imagined Blair Witch Project coming to life while walking some 15minutes worth from the bus 9 terminal to the beach – alone. There were hardly buses or even humans passing the road and the sides of the street are nothing but forest on my left and vast, empty golf country club on the right. There are lots of things I do in life which I won’t dare do again. This is one of them.
That time, I reached the beach, there were lots of surfers (usually foreigners) enjoying the waves. They were fun to watch. Just a few minutes on the beach revealed the trail I was originally looking for. I saw people coming out from stairs of the mountain beside the beach so I decided to trace it.
View was spectacular. I’m satisfied, though I bet the view from the highest point of the trail is better. If you wanna shortcut your Dragon’s Back trail just do this reverse trail instead.
I was one with nature then. There were black birds actually which I thought would prey on me as I was climbing the stairs. Yup, stairs as Dragon’s Back is regarded as Asia’s best urban hike. Any healthy person can do it. I spent time writing in my journal under a shed I found up the trail. When I went down, it was again raining.
ST. JOHN CATHEDRAL AND CHEUNG KONG CENTER
Like a Girl Scout that I was, I followed street signs on my way to Peak Tram. I passed through St. John’s Cathedral and Cheung Kong Center.
Cheung Kong center presents nature right in the middle of the city. I saw people in corporate attires walk the park which is a beautiful sight.. This is how all cities should be.
What to do with the rest of the day? Victoria Peak, another landmark, it is! Since I already know how to commute effectively, I did not contact Marlyn until I’m already about to board the Peak Tram. Ate Tere lent us cellphones with preloaded sim (she’s just the best!). I called them once I entered Peak Market so we can meet.
I enjoyed the Peak Tram! Another realization: Architecture is to Macau as Engineering is to Hong Kong. Hong Kong has been using this Peak Tram for centuries now. Their transportation system is so amazing that if you have to go to the mountain top, they can take you there in just minutes! Imagine if we can do this with Baguio,at least for the transport of vegetables and flowers. Imagine how the prices of harvest from there would drop. Sadly imagining could be all there is for now, we don’t even have enough provisions for MRT.
On my way down, I still traveled through the Peak Tram. There is another option to return to TST and that is by bus. It’s cheaper but definitely more time-consuming. Had I done that, I will not experience the best part and that is riding Peak Tram by night.
This felt like an amusement park ride! Try going down in a mountain through a straight line. The tall buildings were inclined and you’re going down backwards because the Peak Tram doesn’t reverses on descent. Cool! Super cool.
As in our ascent, descend also entails long queue of passengers.
There are varieties of packages to choose from upon purchase of tickets so plan well and decide early so you can save some dollars. Madam Tussauds, for example comes cheaper when purchased with the Peak Tram tickets.
This is my last night in Hong Kong so I made the most of it. I walked my way from Peak Tram to Avenue of Stars again to while away time while I wait for Marlyn’s reply. She has room key by the way. I cannot enter without her. I passed through a lot of attractive buildings which might be ordinary especially to Hong Kong nationals but that’s the point of traveling, right? To appreciate the ordinary, see things on a different light.
We weren’t big on food trips during this Hong Kong-Macau trip but details of how we survived can be found here.