Early last December, my family and I went on a 3-day trip to Hong Kong. I wanted to go to Japan instead, complaining that there was nothing to see or do in Hong Kong but shop. I didn’t even want to go to Disneyland, reasoning that it would just be a waste of money (tickets cost around P2,500). Good thing I was wrong on all counts!
HONG KONG INT’L AIRPORT, THE MTR, BUSES, AND THE OCTOPUS CARD
I’m sorry to say this, but our local airports don’t hold a candle to Hong Kong International Airport. It’s definitely one of the best-looking and most spacious airports out there. There was a rack full of brochures for tourists, including a map of Hong Kong. I grabbed a lot of those brochures but didn’t get to read them until I got home.
First order of business after immigration was to grab Octopus cards. This stuff is the bomb! No more digging for change when riding public transportation. I really, really wish something like this could be implemented in the Philippines; it saves time and money.
I won’t get tired of saying this: the MTR is amazingly well-organized, especially to someone like me who comes from the Philippines. You won’t hear of people jumping to their deaths on the tracks (and causing a massive and extremely annoying hold up) because they’re protected by glass walls and doors, which only open once the train doors are also open. There are clear signs everywhere regarding where the trains are headed or where you’re supposed to exit, so if you know the landmarks to where you’re going, it’s hard to get lost. People don’t need to stuff themselves into the train like sardines in a can because there’s one every minute. And the trains are very fast and quiet.
Buses are another major form of transportation. You also use Octopus cards on the bus; the alternative is paying the exact fare because the drivers don’t give back change. The buses only load and unload passengers on designated stops, unlike here in the Philippines where the buses stop wherever they please. As might be expected, traffic is not heavy.
If we had something like the MTR and the buses here in the country, who needs a car?
My brother booked two rooms for us at the quirkily decorated Microhotel on Nathan Road. One room had a twin bed for two people, while the other had one twin and one single for three. It’s a really small place occupying a small part of the fifth floor. There were only around 8 rooms there if I counted correctly. This is a good place to stay in if there are only two of you (especially if you’re really comfortable with each other) as the rates are affordable and the rooms are clean. My two siblings and I stayed in one room and it was really cramped. There was barely enough room to place all the luggage in. It was difficult to take a shower and dress in the tiny bathroom; you had to place your clothes in a strategic location or they’d take a shower too. Also, the towels were also tiny, the size of hand towels! So bring your own towels if you’re gonna stay here. Good thing they had mini blowdryers so I didn’t have to rely on the mini towels to dry my hair. Also, they provided drinking water for free.
I almost never saw any of the staff, which says a lot about how efficient the hotel is. You can even leave your payment inside the room.
And oh, the wifi is extremely fast!
After checking into the hotel, we rode the Star Ferry to Hong Kong Island to get to Victoria Peak. We queued for around 2 hours then rode a tram to The Peak Tower, where we went up and up until we reached the Sky Terrace 428. Night had fallen by then, so it was rather cold at the top.
You have a fantastic view of Hong Kong from the top, but in my humble opinion, The Peak is one of the tourist spots that you may skip. Maybe I’m just not enamored by the view of the urban landscape 428 meters above sea level, but er…I’d rather spend my money on the HKD 30 Museum Pass, which grants the bearer 7-day unlimited access to 7 specific museums.
Day 2 was dedicated to Disneyland. It has a special MTR line, with special trains; the windows are shaped like Mickey’s head. It was very sunny as it was noontime when we arrived, but it was also pleasantly cool.
There are no ride or attraction restrictions in the park; as long as you got in, you can go to any ride/attraction you want. With a price tag of approximately P2,500, that had better be the case! You will only need your ticket inside the park if you want to avail of the express passes in order to avoid long queues.
Oh, make sure to get a map of Disneyland before plunging in!
Unless you’re a really jaded person, Disneyland is a magical place that will bring out the child in you. That was certainly the case for me. It was like being in a dream, with friendly staff and background music everywhere, even in the toilets. One of the best things about the place is that you can get drinking water for free at the water fountains near the toilets, which are located at the entrance of every “world”. So make sure to bring a tumbler!
You can’t help but be attracted to the souvenir shops; they’re certainly well-decorated, warm, inviting…and they’re everywhere! My parents bought a bunch of stuff, which in my opinion are overpriced, but well, you certainly can’t buy them anywhere. They even got two Mickey and Minnie shot glasses (HKD 68 or ~P391 each)! Cute. Because we paid for the stuff just before 12PM, we got a 10% discount on the total bill. Sweet. You don’t get your items immediately after paying for them; you can get them at least one hour later, if I’m not mistaken, from a claiming station outside the entrance gates. That way, you can enjoy strolling around without having to worry about your purchases.
I won’t go into detail about every attraction we saw because that would be tiresome. I enjoyed each and every one of them, though! I don’t recommend lining up for every ride because you might not get to see everything. Just go for the ones you’re really interested in. You’ll start at Main Street, USA, then you can choose to go left or right from there; circle Disneyland so you can see and experience every “world”, and you’ll eventually end up back in the middle in time for the fireworks display at 9PM. Here are my recommendations going counterclockwise from Main Street:
Stitch Encounter (Tomorrowland): This is an interactive show; Stitch can actually see and talk to you even if he’s just on the big screen! Highly entertaining.
Mickey’s Philharmagic (Fantasyland): A 3D song and dance show by some of Disney’s most loved characters.
RC Racer (Toy Story Land): A thrilling ride back and forth a semicircular track.
Mystic Manor (Mystic Point): One of HK Disneyland’s newest attractions, and one that must NOT be missed! It’s a bit like an exciting ride through a museum.
Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars (Grizzly Gulch): An exciting, high-speed ride.
At around 8:30PM, people started sitting in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle for the fireworks show, which is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in my life. I’m not usually melodramatic, but I remember thinking during the show how grateful I was to be alive because I got to see all that beauty.
TEMPLE STREET NIGHT MARKET
There were so many pretty stuff like the jewelry boxes above, beautifully lacquered chopsticks and tea sets, and cheongsam. If only I had money to burn, I would’ve gotten a black or white cheongsam. It looks so good!
Mostly, though, the night market is just like Divisoria with lots of bags and clothes everywhere. Instead of the lovely things in the photos above, what we got were these cute flash drives. Haha! They were priced at HKD 100 for 10 pieces.
We checked out at 10AM on our last day (yes, check out at the Microhotel is early) but left our luggage for a few hours. We went to Harbour City mall, which was filled with high-end stores like Emporio Armani and Gucci. I found it surprising that there were no security checks. No one checks your bags before you enter the mall. After that, we shopped at H&M. Do you know that we could have the stuff refunded until July 2014? That’s cool.
We got back our luggage from Microhotel at around 2:30PM and went back to Hong Kong Island to meet up with my godfather, who was celebrating his wife’s birthday with their family. They treated us to this Japanese restaurant called Wada, I think. It’s an eat-all-you-can resto, but they don’t serve all the food at once; instead, you fill out an order slip and give it to the waiters. It’s expensive at HKD 170 per head because service is slow and not that accurate (I ordered green tea with milk twice and never got it). Also, you only get two hours to eat. Surprisingly, the place was full and a number of people were waiting for their turn outside the resto when we left.
We went straight to the airport after that on the MTR airport line.
NOTES ON THE FOOD
All of the restos we went to had English menus, but not all of them had staff who understood English. In the first resto we went to, the staff only understood that we wanted cold water when I wrote the Chinese characters for “cold” and “water” on a napkin. The Japanese dictionary on my phone really came in handy that time. So as you can see, it’s better if you try to learn their language. Also, learn to eat with chopsticks. Even Disneyland doesn’t have a proper spoon; they gave us soup spoons there. Your best bet are noodles as these are easy to eat with chopsticks and most people order them; I rarely saw anyone eating rice. Hong Kong food (at least at the restos we went to) is relatively expensive with noodles averaging around HKD 40 or ~P230. You can get a meal for P50 here in the Philippines. Servings are big, though; sometimes it’s big enough for two. All of the restos (except the one in Disneyland) we went to offered hot green tea; this is apparently their “water”. It’s delicious and comforting especially with a spoonful of sugar. If you can, get the tea cups yourself; sometimes the servers pick the cups up by the rim instead of holding them around the body.
NOTES ON THE TOILETS
I was confused when I read about some blogger calling Hong Kong dirty because it was very clean. I never noticed any piece of trash or spit on the streets. All of the toilets I’ve been are clean too, and there’s no excuse not to wash your hands because every one of them (even the tiny one inside one resto) is equipped with hand soap and paper towels at the very least. The ones at the airport and at Disneyland have jet dryers if you don’t want paper towels, and they have disposable toilet seat liners if you’re fastidious like that. The ones at Harbour City even have rubbing alcohol inside each cubicle. I wish public toilets here in the Philippines were like that, but first the people need to stop freaking hoarding the toilet paper like there’s no tomorrow! For God’s sake, toilet paper is cheap! Toilets here don’t have toilet paper because you people just take them home!
NOTES ON THE PEOPLE
I like how most people in Hong Kong walk: quickly, with a purpose. People here should walk like that instead of strolling slowly and getting in the way of other people. It’s said that Hong Kong people are rude, but I haven’t experienced that. Sure, the staff at stores aren’t as friendly as Filipino staff, but that’s fine as long as they do their jobs properly. There are friendly staff, though, like the ones at the airport. The guy who looked at our boarding passes smiled and said “Buh-baiii” to each of us. I guess they’re no different from staff everywhere in the world; there are friendly ones, and there are ones who are not so concerned with appearing friendly.
I also noticed that Hong Kong women do not wear too much makeup. Even the airport staff looked like they had no makeup on. Not even eyebrow powder.
The trip to Hong Kong was a great experience as it opened my eyes to the culture and way of life of other people. If I get to visit Hong Kong again someday (after Japan and Thailand, of course), I’d really like to visit their science and space museums!