Travel Flashback: Hong Kong
Date Visted: March 2012
More photos to follow 🙂
Hong Kong was my first pseudo-solo trip. I say “pseudo” because I wasn’t alone during my stay. At most I had less an a day to myself. As I wrote before, I was in Hong Kong for the L’Arc~en~Ciel 20th Anniversary World Tour, and while I made the flight there on my own, I was with my friend Karen for almost all of the time.
I had apprehensions with Hong Kong, mostly because of the language barrier. Unlike Singapore, I wasn’t confident that there would be a strong population of English language speakers. I had some difficulty making myself understood by the hotel security guard when I arrived late (nearing midnight), but everything went smoothly at reception when I checked in.
Navigating around Hong Kong is not a problem, as many signs were written in English. We didn’t really encounter problems when ordering in restaurants or asking around at stores, but at one point we had difficulty getting directions even from the concierge at Harbour Point. We even got some “Not local” replies when we tried asking some passersby for help. Funny though, an older security guard was able to help me find my way even though both of us had difficulty saying what we wanted. I guess hand gestures do help.
Even funnier, I was asked directions by someone who looked like a local herself. I could only shake my head and apologize.
Hong King International Airport is HUGE. I had no freaking idea how big it was when I arrived, only that it was a long walk from the gate to immigration. When I arrived I only saw a small portion of the airport. When I was heading back to Manila that was only when I realized its size. I loved how the trains and bus stations lead directly to the airport itself, and you can easily go from one terminal to another. After checking in I spent some time looking at the shops then browsing the Internet (the airport has fast and free WiFi). I only went to immigration a few minutes before my flight and that was a big mistake! HKIA is even bigger after you get past immigration. I had to go down two stories to get to the monorail that will take me to my gate. Good thing Cebu Pacific was late, else I could’ve missed my flight.
Prior to my trip, I had done some research online (read: Google and various online travel communities) as to what the weather was like on the dates I was going. Someone I knew had just arrived from Hong Kong a week before and said that the place was “as cold as Baguio on a regular day” and survived with just a sweater. I knew how Baguio’s like, so I believed I was prepared for Hong Kong.
March is the tail end of the winter season, and when I arrived it was still pretty cold. My jacket didn’t help at all, so I spent some time going around shops looking for a warm but affordable jacket. Ended up buying a scarf in a small side shop in Tsim Tsa Tsui. Lesson? I did my research, but it was still a little skewed. I should’ve brought more jackets.
The weather that time was ideal though. I prefer cool weather clothes over summer ones, which makes this pretty ideal for me. Next time, I’ll know what to bring.
If there’s anything that made me love Hong Kong all the more, it’s their train system. I was impressed by Singapore’s, and Hong Kong is no slouch either. I didn’t have to buy a card because Ren lent me one, so I just had to top that up. Loading cards is very easy in Hong Kong and you can do it in the train stations or stores like 7-Eleven or Manning’s. the train stations have loading consoles where you just slip in your money and tap your card to the screen to load the amount. Tap! Even if your card is in your wallet it still works (well, so long as it’s not an inch thick, I suppose).
I didn’t bother learning how much was charged when I ride the train, but there was a chart of fare rates in one of the stations if you’re interested. And the best part of these cards? You can use them to purchase things in most stores around Hong Kong. Look for the Octopus card sign at the terminal and again, just tap your card to pay.
Even the bus is awesome. There’s a station just outside the airport, and it’s easy enough to catch the one that you need to get to your destination. The same Octopus card for the MRT can be used on the bus. This trip also fulfilled one lifelong dream of mine: Ride a double-decker bus.
View from the top deck
Confession: while I did go around Mongkok, I didn’t really try anything. Ren did get some octopus, which I tried but that was it. Instead, I survived on eating in restaurants and cafes. Yeah, I had lots of money (sarcasm). My first meal was at Café de Coral where I proceeded to order by just pointing to the menu and smiling. Food is pretty good and filling, and not bad for the price. If you’ve got a hankering for Japanese curry, try Coco Ichibanya, a Japanese food chain that specializes in curry. To this day I’m still dreaming of that Creamed Mushroom Omelette and looking for a good curry place here that can at least meet the standards of that place. Then there’s Charlie Brown Café, which probably I went to mostly for the novelty. I can’t remember how the burgers tasted.
A touch of the Philippines. Didn’t go in though.
In between those our snacks and munchies were taken from 7-Eleven, which had a great selection of sandwiches. Some even had some Japanese snacks like onigiri, but that quickly ran out later in the day.
You can’t go hungry in Hong Kong. There’s so much variety of food stores that I could’ve happily spent all my money there. The train stations had them too, including bakeries, dessert shops, full restaurants and convenience stores. One store sold health drinks, and it wasn’t those that were manufactured by some company or the other. Freshly made drinks, of which my favorite was the almond milk. Real almond milk, not like the one they sell in health food stores.
Food in Hong Kong deserves its own post, seriously.
ShoppingI had this notion that Hong Kong was an expensive city when it comes to shopping. After all, for a long time it was the place where rich people would go to buy designer goods. Surprise! Most of the cost of items there were more or less the same here. Well, at least the ones I looked at anyway.
Waiting to cross to get to the mall
My rule of thumb when it comes to shopping abroad (as if I’ve done a lot of that haha): if you know can’t get it in the Philippines, buy it. If you can get it here but at a more expensive price, but it. If you can get it here and the price is the same, you can go either way.
However, I think this is my opinion because of the stuff that I was looking at. I browsed at shops like Uniqlo and HM which weren’t around in Manila at that time. I looked at cameras and notebooks and books, and more or less the prices were indeed the same. City Super, a grocery store that has plenty of Japanese products, is a dream because of the variety of products and their fairly ok prices. I never stepped into the more expensive shops.
There were toy shops that had really cheap stuff though. I got my Darth Vader Minifig LED light for a little less than PHP500, but it was being sold at the airport at nearly PHP700 (I converted the price). Runoni Kenshin Revoltechs went for around PHP400 each, which was cheap (I didn’t but it hehe).
By the way, PHP-HKD exchange rate is PHP5.56 (or so) to HKD1. And they’re tax free too. I suppose I saved plenty of money because I was more interested in going around than shopping.
Ren and I stuck mostly to malls, partly because it was convenient and partly because we didn’t really had any plans to go to a particular place. Which is why I missed Lantau Island or Victoria’s Peak (saving that for my next trip), and even Disneyland. I did go to Nan Lian Gardens, which was a nice break from the hustle and bustle of the city.
One thing I noticed is that the places I’ve been to has plenty of martial arts related statues, though I never got to see Bruce Lee’s.
I really enjoyed Hong Kong, and would definitely make the trip back.