Commuting 101: Getting around Hong Kong

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What I love the most about Hong Kong is their transportation. It’s easy to go from one place to another, be it through their MTR system, the traditional TRAM, bus or the Star Ferry. All you need is one access card to pay for the fare. This access card is called the Octopus Card. It’s like your stored value card used in the MRT in the Philippines.

Since we stayed in Hong Kong for 6 days & 5 nights, we bought an octopus card for easy transport. Being a DIY Traveler, the Octopus Card has become our friend during our stay there. An Octopus Card costs HK$ 150 (Php 827). This card has a credit worth HK$100 (Php 551.00) while the HK$ 50 served as a refundable deposit. When you leave Hong Kong, you can return the card and you get your HK$50. But if you don’t like commuting from one transportation to another, then try the hassle-free tours to Hong Kong.

The next important thing is to get a map. As soon as you arrive at the airport, get maps. These maps would really help you do your trip at your own pace and time. I would share our itinerary in a different post.

Types of Transportation in Hong Kong: 

  • Tram– The tram is one of the icons of Hong Kong. You shouldn’t miss riding this. Getting around via the tram would only cost you HK$2.00 (Php 11.00). But you should also be careful when you alight, you might get yourself into an accident since there are at least three railways. We almost got ourselves into an accident when we were there.
  • Star Ferry– The Star Ferry is one way of enjoying a scenic ride from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island. You should do this when the sun is about to set or at night time. Fare is HK$2.20 (Php 12.00). On our way back to Kowloon, I saw this junket cruising.

  • Bus– There are numerous buses around Hong Kong. But you should be aware of the codes corresponding with the routes of the buses. The maps or other tourist brochures would guide you.

  • TAXI– You can always hail a cab if you want but flag down rate is HK$18.00 (Php 99.25) and sometimes the driver asks for an additional HK$15.00 (Php 82.70). Yes, they’re similar to drivers in the Philippines.
  • MTR– Commuting around Hong Kong via the MTR is very convenient. They have 7 lines. The MTR from Kowloon Station also connects you to the airport via the airport express. So when you’re on a rush to chase your flight, this is your best option. You should expect a large number of commuters during rush hours. When taking their elevators, hold tight because the elevators are fast too. If you have a smartphone, you can download their apps to plan your trip

FARES and DESTINATIONS (based on what we spent in Dec 2010): 

via MTR (You can check out updated rates here)

  • Jordan (Kowloon Island) to Central Station- HK$ 7.90 (Php 43.55)
  • Going to Ngong Ping Village- Central to Tung Chung (Ngong Ping Village/ Lantau Island) – HK$ 13.8 (Php 76.00)
  • Going to Disneyland- Central (HK Island) to Sunny Bay Station (gateway to HK Disneyland)- HK$ 16.6 (Php 91.53)
  • Going to the Airport- Airport Express -HK$ 70.00 (Php 385.97)

via the Bus

  • Going to Ocean Park- From Admiralty Station (MTR), you can take the bus 629 going to Ocean Park. Fare is HK$ 10.00 (Php 55.13)

 via the TAXI

  • Salisbury to Kowloon ( Tung Chung Line for Airport Express) – HK$ 24.00 + HK$15.00 (additional)= HK$ 39 (Php 215.00)

via the Star Ferry

  • Going to Victoria Peak – Take the Star Ferry at the Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon. Then alight at Pier 7 in Hong Kong Island. Fare is HK$ 2.20 (Php 12.00) From Central, take bus no. 15 C (It’s a maroon open-top bus) just a few meters away from the pier. Fare is HK$4.20. This bus will bring you to the Peak Tram Station, your gateway to the Victoria Peak.

via the Peak Tram

  • This tram gives you a 45 degree-angle ride when going to the Victoria Peak. Return ticket (roundtrip) costs HK$40.00 (Php 220.55). The Peak is where the Madam Tussauds Wax Museum is.

How I wish the Philippines is well connected too. But with 7,107 islands, how can transport system be connected? hehe. Nonetheless, in the Philippines, commuting is more fun–that is through island hopping.

Theater Acts you shouldn’t miss in HK Disneyland

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Golden Mickey Theater by Izah Morales

Going to Hong Kong Disneyland in December was magical. It seemed like yesterday but it has been a year since I lived my childhood wonders of seeing my favorite characters. It’s every child’s fantasy land, especially for those who grew up watching Disney movies. I was one of them.

The popular theme park in Lantau Island, Hong Kong covered hundreds of hectares in land area and a day of roaming was not enough. Hence, Mama and I had to choose what to see and experience. A map would be given to you as soon as you buy your ticket at the park’s ticket counter.

Being art lovers, Mama and I chose to watch the Theater Acts: Golden Mickey and the Lion King. These were two of the attractions that you shouldn’t missed when you’re in Hong Kong Disneyland.

The schedules of the acts can be seen on the map. We chose to watch the Golden Mickey first. The Golden Mickey Theater was huge. It has two screens on the side where English Translations were displayed.

I was surprised when I heard Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse talking in Cantonese. haha. But I know I shouldn’t be, since I’m in the Special Administrative Region of China. It just seemed so weird to hear them speaking in a foreign language. The translations on the side screen somehow helped me understand the conversation.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed the production number especially the dance of Beauty and the Beast.

Other Disney characters like Ariel of the Little Mermaid and Quasimodo of Hunchback of Notre Dame also performed in the show. The show ran for almost an hour.

Here’s a slideshow of the Golden Mickey:

Afterwards, we wandered and proceeded to the Festival of the Lion King. Unlike the first one, the Lion King theater has a smaller venue. The stage was enclosed by the benches for the audience. It’s less formal than the Golden Mickey Theater. But when the show began, it did not fail my expectations.

The production number and the props were awesome. The Firedancers and the music were entertaining. This has more audience than the Golden Mickey so be there early. There were different show times throughout the day.

Mama and I enjoyed the show but it would have been a lot better if Papa and my brothers were there with us. Nonetheless, it was fun-filled! Definitely, it’s a must-see for every kid and kids at heart.

Foodtrip: The quest for authentic Chinese cuisine in HK

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Chinese cuisine is one of the best cuisines in the world. Though Chinese restaurants mushroomed in the Philippines, it was my goal to eat authentic Chinese cuisine in Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China.

The quest for authentic Chinese cuisine began as soon as night fell one cold December in Kowloon. The temperature dropped to 13 degrees celsius. Mama and I braved the chilling weather as we wandered along Woosung Street. A few blocks away from Evergreen Hotel, we found this shabby canteen where a lot of locals dine. The atmosphere was reminiscent of Binondo’s China Town. I didn’t get the name of the canteen. It was written in Chinese characters but it’s between the New Delhi and Indian Food Resto in Woosung.

The ‘Unnamed’ Canteen

At first, Mama was hesitant to give it a try but I said, “Locals eat here. Maybe, they serve delicious food.” And so we sat down at one of the chairs surrounding a round table. The staff handed us the menu–of course everything was written in their language. So we just pointed what we like: Sweet and Sour Pork and Yang Chow.

They first gave us a bowl of tea. I remembered J’s reminder: The tea is for washing the chopsticks and the utensils. It’s not for drinking. And so we rinsed the utensils with tea.

I was surprised when the staff served our orders. Wow! Large servings of Yang Chow and Sweet and Sour pork, which can be eaten by three to four people. It was a good decision to eat at that canteen. Their interiors and surroundings may not be high-class but the food was really good.

And so the bill came (drum roll please!)…70 HKD (1HKD= Php 6.00). It’s Php 420.00 for two viands. We could have just ordered the Yang Chow. Nonetheless, the stomachs were filled. Burp!

Delicious Cafe

The following night, we tried eating at Delicious Cafe beside Evergreen Hotel. Compared to the previous canteen, Delicious Cafe has a better ambiance. It’s also airconditioned. What I like about this restaurant was their set meal. The noodle soup is partnered with a drink. It’s affordable.

Mama ordered noodle soup fish fillet cutlet with scrambled egg and honeyed lemon tea while I ordered noodle soup with porkchop and milk tea. Milk tea is love 🙂 sarap!

The fish fillet cutlet meal costs 25 HKD or Php 150.00 while the Porkchop meal costs 24HKD or Php 144.00

Another Noodle Eatery

During our last night in Kowloon, we decided to still eat noodles. After all, sipping soup in a cold night was satisfying. We went to Saigon St. corner Woosung Street where we found another eatery which signage was written in Chinese characters.

The area was smaller than the previous ones. The set-up of the tables and chairs was the usual that you’d see in an eatery.

Bowl of Noodles with Shrimp Worton– Price 15HKD  or Php 90

Bowl of Noodles with beef brisket– Price: 19 HKD or Php 114.00

Honeyed Lemon tea– Price: 12HKD or Php 72.00

Vegetables (Blanched Green leafy veggies)– Price: 6 HKD or Php 36.00

Red Lemon Tea– Price 10 HKD or Php 60.00

The taste buds and the stomach were satisfied but the wallet was not. Yes, the food in Hong Kong was not cheap. Nonetheless, I enjoyed every bit of our quest for the authentic Chinese cuisine.

Travel Notes: 

  • To save on food, eat as much as you can in your hotel during breakfast. Fortunately, Evergreen Hotel serves buffet breakfast so we made our breakfast as brunch.
  • Hawker Food and cheap eateries can be found at Temple Street, Jordan near the night market.
  • Don’t compute HKD to Philippine Pesos if you don’t want to worry about the prices that you’re eating. Just enjoy the meal.  And when you get home, that’s the time you compute. Just like what I did now. hahaha

Trip@dora meets the princesses, the dwarfs, and the famous mouse

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“Once upon a time, there was a princess who fell under a spell of a witch: deep sleep. Only a prince’s kiss will break the spell and wake her up… And they lived happily ever after.”

Love stories of prince and princesses, the adventures and misadventures of a young lady in another world, the adventure-seeker mermaid, the seven dwarfs, and the famous mouse whose appearance has evolved throughout the ages—these became part of my childhood.

Photo by Izah Morales/ 2010

I watched them on TV, the big screen, and on VHS. I also read their stories, which influenced me to create my own story of royalties. I remember writing a short novel back in 5th grade. I even drew gowns worn by the characters, which my childhood mind created.

Fast forward to 2010, one cold December, I thought I was in dreamland but no, I was in Hong Kong Disneyland. It was real. I felt like a kid again especially when I saw the iconic castle.

I even lined up to have my picture taken with some of my favorite Disney characters.

  • The bookworm and loving daughter who showed that beauty is beyond skin deep and that love goes beyond the physical appearance. That was Belle in Beauty and the Beast.
Belle talks to the Chinese kids

And there goes the big kid who wore a big smile for the photo-op:
  • The princess who waited in sleep and woke up to reality that someone is out there to save her—Briar Rose, the Sleeping Beauty, who was wide awake in the castle.

  • The kind-hearted lady who did not let her dream remain a dream… she attended the party in the palace and left a shoe after beating the 12 midnight curfew from her fairy godmother–Cinderella. Well, she was wearing her other shoe during the parade.

  • The young girl whose itchy feet brought her to her life’s greatest adventure–Alice in Wonderland.

  • The adventure-seeker mermaid who dreamed of having feet instead of fins and walk into the world of humans—Ariel, the Little Mermaid.
  • The princess whose skin is as white as snow and the answer of the mirror to the question, “Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?”—Snow White.

  • Of course, the Seven Dwarfs came dancing on the streets: Doc, Happy, Sleepy, Sneezy, Bashful, Grumpy and Dopey!

  • And the mouse, whose face became the icon of Disneyland—Mickey Mouse! Hey Mickey, You’re so fine! Hey Mickey!

The characters which I used to watch and read came out of the books and TV screen. It was so much fun to reminisce the memories of childhood. Disneyland has brought out the kid in me. It was where fantasy met reality.

God gave us the pen and it’s up to us, if we want to write, “And they lived happily ever after.”  The End. 

Travel Notes: 

  • How to go to Hong Kong Disneyland– Click the link & watch the video
  • Disneyland Ticket costs 350 HKD (Price last December 2010) or Php 1,921.00 or approximately, Php 2,000.00. You can buy your ticket online or you can buy it at the front office when you arrive at the park. We just bought our tickets at the park.
  • If you want to have your picture taken with the Christmas Mickey and Minnie Mouse, do it as soon as you enter the park since there’s a long queue. The photo opportunity ends at around 7pm. We didn’t have the chance since they put a cut-off time. Hence, we just had our pictures taken with the Mickey and Minnie in their usual outfits.
  • One day is not enough. We had not explored everything but we did enjoy the major attractions—I’ll write more in the next posts.

Unexpected delay becomes a blessing in disguise

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August 23, 2010 was supposed to be just an ordinary day with people going about their daily lives until a tragic news shocked the nation: a news which also affected me as a traveler.

Eight Hong Kong nationals were killed along with their hostage-taker, dismissed Filipino cop Rolando Mendoza, in a botched rescue operation at Quirino, Grandstand, Manila.

Hong Kong was in grief. The Philippines mourned. The incident stained Philippine tourism as the Hong Kong black travel ban to the Philippines continues.

Oh No! Hong Kong! Why Hong Kong? Why did it happen? I was so affected not just because what happened was a shame and inhumane, but also, I would step foot on that special administrative region of China in two weeks time: Sept. 3-7, 2010.

Fear overpowered me. How would I deal with the HK immigration if they see my Philippine passport? Their people might mistreat us. I read reports of Filipinos in Hong Kong being discriminated and receiving evil stares.

There’s no other way but to postpone the trip. Even if I badly wanted to travel then, I couldn’t. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Hence, I rescheduled my trip to December. The supposed cheap fare that I have booked months before the actual trip became more expensive due to the rebooking fee and penalties of Cebu Pacific.

Nonetheless, I thank God for giving me that chance to explore Hong Kong in December. Almost four months after what happened in Manila, I woke up with the sight of the sun’s rays peeking through the clouds and giving light to the islands. It’s 7:00 am and the plane landed at Hong Kong International Airport in Lantau Island.

My fears and worries faded after the immigration officer returned my passport with no questions asked and no evil stares. Thank God! It was not thrown at me as what happened to one official of the country.

Poinsettias and pines were in bloom. Christmas was in the air! I was totally excited for the five days and four nights of learning the culture, meeting new adventures, tasting authentic Chinese cuisine, and reliving my childhood wonders of Disney princesses.

Looking back, almost a year after, I realized that delays happen for a reason. And sometimes, delays become blessings in disguise.