My First International Trip: Hong Kong Escapades

Surprisingly, I enjoyed my local trips more than my trip in Hong Kong, maybe because I am more of a beach and cafe person, and of course, though I had access on them, everything was just more expensive there . . . even coffee. However, nothing can replace the thrill of traveling with my friends overseas for the first time and for vacation.

Company

I traveled with Nini and Mic, my friends since 2002 whom I first met in Assumption Antipolo, the school I attended in elementary, and Mic’s boyfriend Den. We clicked after sharing the same interests in anime and wrestling, and I even remember Mic and Nini crushing on Yu Yu Haksusho‘s Yusuke (Eugene) and Hiei (Vincent), respectively, while I on Kurama (Dennis).

Airport Preparation

Here are the things I brought and were prepared for before our trip:

  • a small pouch where my phone, passport, and money could fit
  • enough clothes (no extras, just well-planned outfits for each day)
  • wet wipes (even some luxurious comfort rooms in Hong Kong do not have bidets)

Airport Hullabaloo

Have a copy of your itinerary, your plane ticket back and forth, and the address of the place where you will stay. All of us slightly forgot about me being a first-time traveler with no stamps on my passport yet and let odds be when I lined the last among us four. So when it was my turn to be reviewed by the immigration officer, I only had “it’s with my friend” as an answer when she asked me, “Where’s your itinerary?” and “Where’s your plane ticket?” She even asked, “Why do you have so many luggage?” and I had to explain that all our luggage, including my friends’, were only under one name.

The other officer whom I was sent to also asked me what my work was, how much do I have, who I was with, and if I had a picture with my friends (and damn it when I found out I wasn’t carrying any picture of us three together). I had to be reminded three times to keep my phone, but what the hell, how am I supposed to contact my friends that I was quite in trouble? But I understand it’s for security measures. Good thing the officer allowed me to get my friend (who was already outside the immigration part). She gave him the copies of itinerary and tickets as proof that I was with them.

The thing was . . . I was also stopped upon arriving in Hong Kong. I was already anxious by this time, thinking if I looked like some criminal or if they were discriminatory about brown-skinned people with colored hair. Whatever it is, sabi ko na lang, “Baka kasi masyado akong maraming ambag sa Pilipinas kaya ayaw nila ako paalisin?”

Hotel and Room

We decided to stay in a cheaper room as we will spend most of the day outside and only use the room as a place to sleep. After looking at the reviews, we chose to stay at Joyous Guesthouse in Chungking Mansions, booked by Micah for Php 15,894 last December. Our room was airconditioned, and it consisted of one double bed and one single bed (to which Nini and I had to fit) and one small bathroom with a heater but no divider. Amenities inside the room also include the following:

  1. fast WiFi connection
  2. four toothbrushes with small tubes of toothpaste
  3. four towels
  4. thick comforters for each bed
  5. six drinking glasses
  6. one refrigerator
  7. one universal extension cord
  8. tissue rolls
  9. shampoo and body gel

Hot water and coffee are provided in the hallway outside the room.

Our stay was satisfactory as our basic needs were provided—fast WiFi connection, towels were changed every day, warm comforters. Chungking Mansions being near shopping areas and the MTR station made our stay more convenient. However, we expected two double beds, and each of us took turns to organize our luggage as the room lacked space.

Expenses

Me being the poorest among us three, lol not lol, we planned our expenses. I should only be spending Php 30,000 for the whole four days, inclusive of ticket and accommodation, or Php 12,900 or HK$1,720 exclusive of them. Here’s the breakdown, all rounded up, with currency rate of Php 1.00 is to HK$7.50:

Pretrip Expenses

  • Php 9,430 ~ HK$1,258 – Plane ticket back and forth (PAL, discounted)
  • Php 3,974 ~ HK$530 – Agoda (accommodation for four nights)
  • Php 3,700 ~ HK$494 – Disney ticket (via Klook)
  • Php 400 ~ HK$54 – Sim card (via Klook, 5 days of 3GB data)

During Trip

  • Php 1,875 ~ HK$250 – Octopus card reload (transportation for four days; this includes bus ride from the airport to Chungking Mansions, which costs HK$33)
  • Php 2,000 ~ HK$267 – Disney food
  • Php 5,400 ~ HK$720 – Non-Disney food (nine meals, max of HK$80 per meal)
  • Php 3,095 ~ HK$413 – Pasalubong

Itinerary

Nini mostly planned on our itinerary, including the “how to get there” and the addresses of each place, but there were several changes along the trip because of unforeseen circumstances, such as that one-hour waiting time for a bus arrival at Ngong Ping. In unindicated time intervals here, we usually commute or walk from point to point. We depart from our room at exactly 9:15 every day.

Day 1 (Day of Arrival)

We limited our trip to places near our stay so we would not get too tired and still have the energy for Disneyland the next day.

  • 14:30–15:30 Lunch at Marugame Udon
  • 15:40–16:30 Rest time and preparation
  • 17:00–18:30 Kowloon Park
  • 19:00–20:00 Clock Tower, Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade
  • 20:00–20:10 Symphony of Lights
  • 21:00–21:30 Dinner at Joyous Guest House

Day 2

  • 10:00–21:00 Disneyland
  • 22:00–23:00 Dinner at Mong Kok

Day 3

  • 10:30–11:30 Breakfast at Pret a Manger
  • 11:50–12:50 Trip to Lantau Island
  • 13:00–14:00 Big Buddha
  • 14:00–14:30 Po Lin Monastery
  • 14:30–15:30 Lunch at Ngong Ping Village
  • 15:40–16:45 Waiting time for bus arrival
  • 16:40–17:40 Trip to Mong Kok
  • 17:40–19:40 Shopping at Mong Kok
  • 20:00–21:00 Dinner

Day 4

  • 10:00–11:00 Nan Lian Garden and Chi Lin Nunnery
  • 11:15–12:15 Lunch at Sapporo Ramen
  • 13:00–14:00 Picture-taking at Choi Hung Estate
  • 14:30–17:30 Picture-taking at Hollywood Road at Central
  • 19:00–19:30 Dinner at Tsim Sha Tsui

Kowloon Park
22 Austin Road, Tsim Sha Tsui

Kowloon Park is free, good for strolling, jogging, and anything you would like to do in silence. Nowadays it is surprising to find parks like this with an aviary free to view.

How to Get There from Tsim Sha Tsui

  1. Get out from the station through exit A1.

Clock Tower, Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade, and Symphony of Lights

I am almost aghast that I do not have OOTD pictures in the colorful streets of Hong Kong, but at least I was able to see the Symphony of Lights. It was a sight, but unfortunately, during my stay, I could not hear much of the music.

How to Get There from Tsim Sha Tsui

  1. Get out from the station through exit J.

Disneyland

This should have been the highlight of our trip, but the wild side of me disagrees. As much as I would love to be in wild roller coasters and exciting fast rides that could literally turn me upside down, most of the rides there were for kids, which was, to be fair, Disney just being passionate and true to their objective of letting kids enjoy their stay.

Too bad the castle, which I was really looking forward to seeing, was closed.

Of course, as a souvenir for myself, I bought Disneyland’s rose gold Minnie Mouse headband that costs HK$158. Yep, it’s that expensive.

Here are the rides and attractions we’ve experienced, arranged from the most to the least I liked:

  1. Big Grizzly Mountain (roller coaster, no loops)
  2. Space Mountain (roller coaster, no loops)
  3. Iron Man Experience (amazing 4D show)
  4. Mystic Manor
  5. Toy Soldier Parachute Drop (a “calmer” version of the Extreme ride in Enchanted Kingdom)
  6. It’s a Small World
  7. Jungle River Cruise
  8. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
  9. Fairytale Forest (featuring Disney princesses’ castles and other gimmicks)
  10. Mickey’s PhilHar Magic (3D show, loved the ending)

Numbers 4, 6, 7, and 8 are like the Lion King ride in Star City but way, way, way better. Mystic Manor was my favorite. The artworks and engineering were cool af.

I wish I could have experienced RC Racer, but since my friends didn’t want to go with me, I thought of riding it maybe next time (would cost us a lot of time if they waited for me, so never mind).

Hong Kong Disneyland also features two parades, one happening in the afternoon and the other during the evening. At first, I didn’t get why my friends were eager to let me see the parade—after all, it was just a parade. But after seeing the artistic floats and the mascots and talents who diligently put effort into their dancing to ensure that tourists, especially kids, enjoy their stay, I realized I would be missing a lot if I would not witness these.

Souvenirs in Disneyland are so expensive that I just took a picture of them. (Besides, there are too many unused keychains at home.) These are worth HK$78 above or almost Php 600 . . . for a keychain! Nini and I even had this sort of mantra: “Gusto ko lang ‘to bilhin dahil naha-hype ako na nasa Disneyland ako.”

How to Get There from Tsim Sha Tsui

  1. From TST Station, take red line to Lai King.
  2. Transfer lines to Sunny Bay (orange line).
  3. Then, transfer to Disneyland Resort (pink line).

Lantau Island

We also explored Hong Kong’s Chinese temples by visiting the Big Buddha and Po Lin Monastery—together with Ngong Pin Village—in Lantau Island and Nan Lian Garden and Chi Lin Nunnery in Diamond Hill, Kowloon.

Big Buddha

The Tian Tan Buddha statue, also known as the Big Buddha, is 34 meters high, which can be closely seen after climbing 268 steps.

Po Lin Monastery

Opposite of the Big Buddha is the Po Lin Monastery, “one of Hong Kong’s most important Buddhist sanctums and has been dubbed ‘the Buddhist World in the South.'” We were not allowed to take pictures of the other statues inside though.

Ngong Ping Village

To relax after climbing more than a hundred steps, we ate in a while in Ngong Pin Village. This is where the cable cars are placed; however, during our stay, this was undergoing renovation.

How to Get There from Tsim Sha Tsui

  1. From TST Station, take red line to Lai King.
  2. Transfer line to Tung Chung (orange line).
  3. From Tung Chung, there are two ways to get to Lantau: cable car and public bus. We had to take the public bus 23 by leaving the station through exit B. There are two bus 23s, so make sure you are in the correct one.

Diamond Hill

Nan Lian Garden

Nan Lian Garden sits at the center of the high-rise buildings in Diamond Hill, allowing tourists and locals alike to dive into nature amid the surrounding urban life. Here you will see different plant and rock arrangements, bodies of water, and architecture galleries.

Chi Lin Nunnery

Chi Lin Nunnery, a temple containing Buddhist relics, is connected to Nan Lian Garden. We were not allowed to take pictures inside the temple, but inside are statues, some made from gold, of the bodhisattvas.

How to Get There from Tsim Sha Tsui

  1. Take red line to Mong Kok.
  2. Transfer to Kwun Tong (green line).
  3. Get out from the station through exit C2.
  4. Walk around the Plaza Holywood Shopping Center and then along Fung Tak Road until a pedestrian bridge is reached.
  5. Take note of the signs going to Nan Lian Garden and Chi Lin Nunnery.

Choi Hung Estate

Choi Hung Estate is one of the oldest public housing estates, as you can see people’s laundry in the pictures, in Hong Kong. “Choi hung” means rainbow in Chinese, hence the color of the building.

How to Get There from Diamond Hill

  1. Take the Kwun Tong (green line) to Chung Hoi Estate.
  2. Get out from the station through C3.

Hollywood Road

I have always been a sucker for wall artworks, so my friend included this in our itinerary. Besides Alex Croft’s mural of old townhouses, there are many spots in the Hollywood Road worth taking a snapshot.

How to Get There from Chung Hoi

  1. Take the Kwun Tong (green line) to Mong Kok.
  2. Transfer to Tsuen Wan (red line) to Central.
  3. Get out from the station through Exit C2.
  4. Hollywood Road is not easy to find, so we (particularly Den) had to use Google Maps. Alex Croft’s mural is at 44 Graham Street. Check the map here.

Food

While there were plenty of restaurants in Hong Kong, some of which are here in the Philippines, we chose where to dine based on the price list and how appetizing the menu looked. As stated above, I preferred meals less than HK$80; the lower, the better.

Day 1 Lunch at Marugame Seimen Udon. Although I already ate lunch at the plane, thanks to PAL’s hot meal, we still opted to have another meal in Marugame Udon, iSQUARE, Nathan Road. My order consisted of regular original udon with a can of coke zero (HK$30) and a stick of chicken fillet (HK$13). Basic but delicious, a 7.5/10.

Day 1 dinner from 7-Eleven. This was the cheapest food I bought in Hong Kong, two of this costing HK$13. I am not sure what it is called, but it looks like this:

For its taste, size, and price, this falls under 9/10.

Day 2 breakfast at a cart outside Disneyland. I am not sure how much this is, but if my memory serves me right, the cost ranges from HK$40 to HK$45. Tastes like adobo; nothing special. Hence, 6.5/10.

Day 2 lunch at Disneyland’s Explorer’s Club. Mine was salmon bento combo, served with coke zero, which costs HK$139. I loved the salmon, mushrooms, and rice, but not the other side dishes as I am not a fan of toge. This one’s an 8/10.

Day 2 snacks at Disneyland. I completed my experience in Disneyland by tasting its Minnie-shaped popsicle stick and Mickey waffle. Both are expensive, the former worth HK$40 (imagine paying Php 300 for a popsicle stick); I was only able to taste two-fifths of the latter from my friend. Nothing extraordinary; just mere waffles and popsicle sticks—6/10.

Day 2 dinner at a restaurant in Mong Kok. This was my best meal in Hong Kong—which consists of pork chop, sausage, and rice—and could serve two people. Too bad I was not able to take note of where and how much this was. My 10/10.

Day 3 breakfast at Pret a Manger. I was cutting costs by this time, so I preferred their promo meal worth HK$39, consisting of two French toasts and cafe latte. This one’s a 6.5/10.

Day 3 lunch at Ngong Ping Village. I ordered noodles with minced pork from one of the food stands in Ngong Ping Village. I think this ranges from HK$40–HK$45. My friend liked it, but I was really not a fan—6.5/10.

Day 3 dessert at Chung So Dessert. My feet were sore, so I decided to stay at a dessert shop while waiting for my friends to finish shipping at Mong Kok. I ordered Mango Sorbet with Nata de Coco worth HK$45—a reason I opted not to have dinner. Boy was I grateful to live in the Philippines where I can buy a mango ice cream worth Php 15.00.

Day 4 brunch at Sapporo Ramen Miso No. 1. Nini and I shared this meal, which was worth HK$89, meaning I had to pay HK$47. The eel was average, and so was the original tonkotsu ramen. I would rate this with a 7/10.

Day 4 merienda at Tai Cheong Bakery. The line for their bestselling egg tart was long, so we gave in to curiosity. I’m not a fan of tarts, but this one’s worth a try—7/10.

Day 4 dinner from Market Place by Jasons. By this time, I realized I was liking supermarket and convenience store food more, maybe because of the price as I would never spend Php 600 for a normal meal in the Philippines. This one was worth HK$38.90. I was praying this was not shrimp, and my prayers worked; these were some sort of oyster—9/10.

Things I Loved, Noticed, and Disliked About Hong Kong

  1. Their transportation system is very, very efficient. My MTR experience was the highlight of my Hong Kong trip, actually. Pilipinas, kailan ba tayo hahabol?
  2. Their milk tea shops are usually set in stalls—no seats. Line up for the drink then leave.
  3. I thought items in Hong Kong are cheap. Definitely a scam. Everything is much more expensive there.
  4. Malls open at 10 a.m., but some stores open at 11 a.m. onward. It seems that they are not obliged to follow the mall’s opening hours.
  5. People follow pedestrian stops. They even wait for the green light even if the ped lane is just two meters long. However, there are rare occasions of hardheaded citizens.
  6. In walkalators, go right if you need to walk slowly (or rest); go left if you need to walk fast. Mainly, keep left.
  7. I was catcalled two times by sim-card sellers outside Chungking Mansions. Not a great experience though.
  8. Business as usual. Do not expect sellers and cashiers to greet you “good morning.” Make sure you know your order before lining up.

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