HK TRAVEL DIARIES: City Rides, Long Walks, Temple Run, etc.

You must be tired of my HK stories by now but really, there’s so much to tell about this wonderful city especially if you cease to become a tourist and start wearing your TRAVELER’s hat.  Now that we’re done braving the queue and squeezing in through the crowds of the major tourist spots,  it’s time to get  local.  No more rushing.  Just experiencing, blending in and enjoying.  Here are snapshots of my HK experience with short annotations.  Don’t worry, just anecdotes and comments.  Let’s leave the history lessons to Google and Wikipedia :).

THE OCTOPUS CARD

Probably the most important item on your purchase list, the Octopus Card is a stored value card usable in MTR, Trams, Peak Trams, Star Ferry, Buses and some minibuses.  It can even score you a beer in 7-11!  The ones we got entitled us discounts in Disneyland and Ocean Park.

The Octopus Card is so easy to purchase and use.

THE TRANSPORT SYSTEM

Speaking of transportation, we went around HK mostly by foot and commuted our way through the city but I never felt a bit stressed at all. A refreshing change when you’re like me who grew up in Manila and is now living in Jakarta where traffic situations can be really daunting.  This experience only re-affirms my belief that an efficient transport system is key to progress and development.  Efficient transport system means getting to your destination on time therefore making people more productive (less time on the road, no time wasted on traffic).  This is my dream for my beloved Philippines.

The HK double-decker city bus

The HK city tram

The very efficient MTR. They even apologize for a 5-minute delay!

THE CENTRAL – MID LEVEL ESCALATOR

They say this is the longest escalator in the world reaching three stories at point and offers great views down into the wet markets, restaurants and pubs.  This escalator is elevated above street level and covered; it allows the transportation of about 60,000 people everyday.

One of the views from the escalator

CENTRAL DISTRICT

This business and commercial district hosts a number of offices, shopping malls, hotels and banks.  Some of Hong Kong’s most distinctive skyscrapers can be found in Central.

The HSBC Tower. I've caught an episode of NatGeo Mega Cities calling this building the "Lego Building" because it can be dismantled, relocated and rebuilt depending on the outcome of the China turnover. HSBC Tower is also believed to be overflowing with good feng shui.

On the other hand, BANK OF CHINA is said to have the worst feng shui in the city given the negative energy in and around the building.

The JARDINE HOUSE is hard to miss because of its trademark "moon gate"windows. I read somewhere that this was once the headquarters for opium trafficking.

LIPPO CENTER. These twin towers have walls intended to suggest koalas climbing trees.

When the APPLE STORE opened in 2011, the queue reached until the Victoria Harbour pedestrian overpass which was already outside the mall (inset)

Shoe shine on the go for the busy Hong Kong executives.

Probably among the most photographed part of Hong Kong is the LAN KWAI FONG road. Surrounded by high-end luxury shops, the street leads up to more shops AND PUBS. It could get really crowded at night.

Iba ang may pinagsamahan!

A few more steps along Central and you'll reach HOLLYWOOD ROAD.

They also call this ANTIQUE STREET because the whole strip is known for its well, antique shops...

...and there are a lot of them.

Take a peek down LASCAR ROW and discover a "whole new world" of antique charm

I just love the old world vibe of Lascar Row.

Old loan certificates, stamps, calendars, etc.

Souvenirs

Significant Chinese icons

I was tempted to buy Mao Tse Tung's Little Red Book.

Interesting story from the local vendor: In the olden days, these wooden boxes were used to keep people's valuables AND they use them as pillows too for safekeeping. Ouch.

Walk back up Hollywood Road and you’ll reach MAN MO TEMPLE, one of the most popular temples in HK built in 1847.

The imposing door of MAN MO TEMPLE along Hollywood road.

You'll be welcomed by giant coils and incense

At this point I met a very nice Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW), Ate Carmel, who came to Man Mo with her equally nice employer.  They are regulars at the temple because her employer prays for her six children who all now reside abroad.  The old lady was kind enough to teach me the temple rituals  in Chinese while Ate Carmel interpreted the instructions in Tagalog.

Tried the moon blocks/divination blocks. My question/prayer initially got a NO for an answer. They asked me to do it again and this time got a YES for the same question. Whatever hehehe...

Lighting the incense with Little Boy. He was also made to touch Man Cheung's writing brush (pen) because according to the elders, those seeking office or academic success for themselves (or their children) pray to him for assistance.

We must've stayed inside Man Mo Temple a little too long, we all smelled like katol and Little Boy looked stoned, haha!

THE PEAK

I wanted to see the  “fabulous panoramic view” of Hong Kong so a trip to The Peak was definitely on the list.  We took the Peak Tram which, as the story goes, had been without a single accident for over 100 years.  Amazing isn’t it?  Especially if you think about the very first time it became operational in 1888 making it the first funicular in Asia.  Again, another grand dream for my dear Philippines…

Here it goes...

The TRAM that takes you to the highest point within Hong Kong

Unfortunately, it wasn’t a clear day that day. The temperature was around 15 degrees and the sky was foggy.

There goes our "fabulous panoramic view".

But it didn’t dampen our spirits, we just spent the morning walking at the highest point of HK and goofing around the camera. WARNING: Touristy shots ahead 🙂

UP NEXT (yes, there’s a “next”. ang sarap mag-kwento eh🙂 ):  The people, parks, food, wardrobe, shops,etc.

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DOMESTIC DIVA GOES TO DISNEYLAND part 2

By this time, I was officially a wide-eyed six year old girl walking around what they call The Happiest Place On Earth.  A happy place  indeed because one would wonder who was even more excited between me and Little Boy, Dear Hubby must have felt like he was in the park with two kids.  If I had my way, the fan girl in me would have had photos taken with ALL the mascots that we saw.  Sadly, the queue for  photo-ops were quite long and standing in long lines are not my boys’ greatest strengths.  I didn’t get to enter Sleeping Beauty’s castle as well because I was outnumbered by boys who did not share the same enthusiasm… which, in hindsight, was good news because I was re-assured of their masculinity hehe :).  It was never a problem at all because all these things that I missed just gave me very good reasons to go back.  In the meantime, this is my half-full perspective through the lens…

This is his Mickey Mouse pose

THE JUNGLE RIVER CRUISE in Adventure Land

If you have a kid like mine who sometimes thinks he’s a creature of the jungle, then you have to try this mini-cruise.  It features jungle animals like zebras, giraffes, crocodiles, etc. and as you go along the river, you’ll see a family of baboons and a safari camp that has been taken over by gorillas. Dramatic waterfalls and what seemed to me like an erupting volcano were part of the attraction too.  Total awesomeness for mah boys! 🙂

THE GOLDEN MICKEY SHOW

This show made the same impact on me the way the Disney Parade did.  Once the show started, everybody around me became invisible and I just totally zoned out.  As each scene brought back episodes from my really fun childhood, I felt tears rolling down my cheeks.  I couldn’t believe that these characters from my  daydreams and fantasies actually came to life.  Oh well, I’m weird this way, haha! 🙂   In between sniffles, I could have sworn my mouth was open in awe the whole time :).  Truly breath taking. Each part just gave me chills and the performers were outstanding! And why wouldn’t they be?  There were Filipinos in the cast. 🙂  Each segment made me recall all the movies I’ve watched when I was a little girl and seriously, I want to watch them all again.

MY  KICK-ASS DISNEY PRINCESS

I don’t know about you, but my all-time favorite Disney princess is MULAN.  Well, she’s not exactly a “princess” but more like a heroine.  I like the fact that hers wasn’t a damsel-in-distress type of character but someone who’s strong-willed, independent and assertive.  When all the other princesses wait around for their Princes Charming, Mulan is busy saving China.  Aaand where else in Disney stories would you find a lone Disney princess skinny-dipping with male soldiers!  How cool is that?! 🙂

BUZZ LIGHTYEAR ASTRO BLASTERS

I just looove this attraction over at Tomorrow Land where you have to shoot aliens and defeat Emperor Zurg!  You get to  pretend that  you’re Star Command raw recruits and hit the targets with a laser gun — you earn points every time  you shoot the targets.  I had so much fun but I only got 50,000+ while Dear Hubby got 300,00+ points… while taking pictures!  I wanted to do it again and again until I beat him, but I knew it was impossible.  At least I got higher scores than Little Boy (competitive much? haha!).

DISNEY FIREWORKS

I don’t think this Disney experience would be complete without watching the fireworks.  I’ve always been amused with them- always stayed up on New Years to watch them  and even had them on our wedding reception.  I was fervently praying Little Boy wouldn’t be cranky by the time the show starts at 8PM because aside from it was already close to his bed time, he hates fireworks!  “It’s too noisy” he says.  And like a six-year old girl begging her dad, I was practically telling him “last na ‘to, promise” (this would be the last).

I surely hope that this wouldn’t be my last visit to Disneyland having left a lot more reasons to come back.  I can always dream on.  After all, whether you’re eight or thirty-eight, dreams do come true in this magical place.

DOMESTIC DIVA GOES TO DISNEYLAND part 1

When Dear Hubby told me that Little Boy and I were going with him to Hong Kong, my heart skipped a beat.  I swear I saw these words actually flash in my head: Disneyland, Mickey Mouse, Snow White, balloons, fireworks, Disneyland, Mickey Mouse, Snow White…. I think I was about six when I started daydreaming about one day seeing them and playing with them but eventually tucked them in my memory as I got busy with school and later on work, then much later on, marriage and family.  I can’t believe that this fantasy was finally coming true now that I have a six year old child of my own!

It was a Monday (less tourists) and the temperature was at cool 17 degrees, a perfect day to visit Disneyland! Oohhh you wouldn’t guess how excited  I had been, I went to the toilet twice that morning.  Whoops, sorry… too much info :).  Forgive me, I just couldn’t believe I was finally here.

Proud of these Pinoy performers in Disney!

We had lunch at  Corner Cafe at the Main Street where Little Boy had a little scolding for being naughty.  Hence, the drama shots below.

But all’s well that ends well.  Tuloy ang ligaya (the fun continues)!  Off we went to HK Disneyland’s newest attraction which they say is the first of its kind among Disney parks worldwide, the TOY STORY LAND.  Prior to this trip, Little Boy did a marathon of the movies (yes, all 3 parts) so he knew all the characters in Toy Story.  It was just amazing to see the giant toys all around us making us feel like dwarfs.  I’m not much of a rider, just a strolling and hanging out kind of girl (in short, pang photo-op lang haha!) so it was just Dear Hubby and Little Boy who sampled the Slinky Dog ride.

THE FLIGHT OF FANTASY PARADE

One must not miss the 3PM parade when in HK Disneyland.  This is where you see all of them: Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Pluto, Lilo & Stitch, Lion King, Winnie the Pooh, the Disney Princesses, Woody, Buzz Lightyear… almost all of them are here.

Now this was the part where I zoned out and all my memories as a kid just came back.  This was also the part where I first (that means there’s a second time :)) got teary eyed.  Maybe I was too overwhelmed seeing all these characters live and in person! Well, I know they’re mascots but hey, I used to just see them on Betamax and VHS (kids, just Google them to know what they are) and now they’re right before my very eyes.  The highlight of this parade for me was when Woody shook my hand… it felt like touching a rockstar!  The last time I shrieked that hard was during the Eraserheads reunion concert. Dear Hubby was totally weirded out :).

IT’S A SMALL WORLD

We all know the song, right?  The kid in me just couldn’t stop singing the entire time that we were in this “world tour”.  I excitedly named the countries the dolls were representing as if I was in a contest.  When we entered the Asian continent, I suddenly heard something familiar “Kay liit lang ng mundo, kay liit lang ng mundo…” to the tune of It’s A Small World! And in that little corner were two Disney dolls in a bahay kubo wearing baro at saya with a tarsier by their window!  I just didn’t expect it, I’ve never felt so proud!

More stories and photos of our Disney adventure on my next post.  Thanks for dropping by, see you soon!

DOMESTIC DIVA’S TRAVEL DIARIES: First HK Day Out, Finally

After nursing Little Boy’s high fever (it reached up to 39!) during our entire first night in HK, Dear Hubby and I decided to bring him to the doctor’s clinic the next morning making it the very first official destination of this trip.  I was prepared for the worst: having my son confined and spend the rest of this holiday in a hospital.  But just as how this trip sprang to me as a surprise, the doctor declared him fever-free and fit to walk around and  Little Boy announced that he’s rrrreeeaady to rrrrummble!

We didn’t waste any more time and went straight to the OCEAN PARK as scheduled in our Sunday morning  itinerary.  Yes, this OC mom kept an itinerary hehehe 🙂 In my defense, I had to keep a schedule to make sure we’d go first to the “family places” before Dear Hubby starts  working (which was the reason why we’re all here in the first place).  I must say that today was the warmest weather we had the whole time we’re here, 23 degrees.

This is heaven for the Little Boy!

I read somewhere that China presented Hong Kong with two pandas during the turnover in 1997.  The two pandas (we only saw one though) now reside in Ocean Park and are said to be much loved.  If you visit in a warm day and the Pandas are relaxing in a cool 17 degrees Celsius, you know they must be revered.  Imagine the air-conditioning bill they must generate! Now that truly is love.

OLD HONG KONG is the newest attraction (opened in March 2012) at the Ocean Park where HK in the 50’s-70’s is revisited and relived.  Streets and scenes were recreated to give us an idea of how they lived back then. i.e. tong lau (old tenement buildings), vintage trams, rickshaws, clock tower and colonial police post.  It also includes dai pai dong selling street food, and Kee Wah Bakery.

I was just so glad we survived our first day out, now we had to bring Little Boy back to the hotel for some rest.  We’re avoiding a relapse… which could jeopardize my chance to see Mickey Mouse  🙂

UP NEXT:  Domestic Diva’s Disney Adventure

DOMESTIC DIVA’S TRAVEL DIARIES: Off to Hong Kong

It couldn’t have happened at a better time, it was Little Boy’s term break and Dear Hubby suddenly had to attend meetings in Hong Kong.  So when I was asked if I wanted to tag along, I said… I’ll think about it… I mean, my wardrobe.  I’ll think about my wardrobe.  You can’t say no to this chance, can you?

AND THE ADVENTURE BEGINS

They say “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.”  So my real adventure began during my preparation for this vacation. Learning about this trip 6 days before departure date is quite a challenge if you’re packing for a family, which is like packing for a whole army.  Wait, do they even worry about how many shirts to bring in the army? 🙂 Anyway, what I’m saying is, I only had a few days to complete my mommy travel checklist: vitamins, medicines, camera charger, plug adaptor, the favorite teddy bear, toiletries, etc.  Someone’s gotta think of and prepare all these things you know.

Being the obsessive compulsive (OC) traveler that I am, I Googled the weather forecast  in HK for the duration of our stay and it said “generally foggy… average of 15-20 degrees Celsius”.  To someone who’s from the Philippines and  currently lives in Indonesia, this is COLD. And save for some scarves and light sweaters, I hardly have clothes for this kind of weather.  This means I have to avert this  wardrobe emergency in six days! Dear Hubby couldn’t quite dig the concept of mixing and matching, layering, etc. thus the need for a little shopping before leaving (hey, I gotta buy my Little Boy some cold weather clothes too hehe).  I’m only bringing two pairs of shoes: my ultra comfy black ballet flats and my ever reliable and versatile Chucks.  In hindsight, this fashion situation could be the universe’s way of telling me “Hey girl, you don’t have a beach-ready bod so Imma take you where you can wrap up!”.  I’ll take that 🙂  Besides, it saved me some pedicure time and money as well 🙂

These shoes are made for walking!

THE ADVENTURE GOES ON…

The empty Changi Airport in Singapore at 4:00AM

Dear Hubby was supposed to fly via Cathay Pacific with his colleagues but since he was taking me and Little Boy with him and the company would only pay for his airfare, he took a budget flight via Jetstar with us.  What would have been a comfortable 5-hour straight flight for him became a 7-hour trip with layover and NO MEALS.  Ooh, what we do for love! 🙂

Friday Night.  We took the 10:00PM flight because that 7-hour trip was the shortest among the flight schedules they had, we were supposed to arrive in Hong Kong around 6:00AM.  We were thinking that maybe Little Boy will just sleep and get rested during the entire flight.  We were wrong.  The flight was delayed for FOUR HOURS and there weren’t even any announcements of the delay.  We boarded at 2:00AM,  arrived in Singapore at 4AM then boarded another plane to HK at 6AM.  The stress and fatigue made the Little Boy very sick the entire time that I had to change his soiled clothes twice. It didn’t help that he had a cold that time.

AND ON…

The Airport Express, our ride from the HK airport to the Central Station of the MTR.

Saturday Morning.  When we finally reached the HK airport, we found out that our stroller wasn’t loaded on the plane.  Imagine another waiting time for desperately waiting for it on the conveyor and hopping from one desk to another asking for assistance.  Missing baggage was eventually declared. Off we went to our hotel… with me taking care of our suitcases and Dear Hubby lugging our sick Little Boy.

The hotel staff were saying it had been raining the past few days and today that the sky is clear is a perfect day for strolling.  No, thank you.  We stayed in our hotel room and nursed Little Boy’s high fever until the next morning.

THE FUN BEGINS HERE

Sunday Morning. Who would have imagined that our first destination on this trip would be the doctor’s clinic?  Miraculously, Little Boy’s fever went away but still had some heavy coughing and was just given some medicines.  This little trooper declared that he’s up for some good time so this vacay has officially begun! Let’s gerrrit ooohhhnn! 🙂

Taken right after we went to see the doctor. The fun vacation begins!

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