Saturday, November 29, 2014

My 4-Day Trip To Hong Kong: Day 3

The third day of our trip to Hong Kong was reserved for Ngong Ping and the cable car ride. We had seen some ads for the place on the way to HK Disneyland the day before and it was actually on the same route as HK Disneyland except instead of getting off at Sunny Bay on the Orange Line, we just had to take the Orange Line until the last station. Since we hadn’t visited the famous night markets yet, we also planned to stop by Mongkok, Jordan and the Shim Sha Tsui public markets on the way back.

We also planned to go to Macau on the fourth and last day of our Hong Kong trip so we decided to spend the morning looking for the ferry harbor to Macau. I took a look at the map we had the night before and saw that it was actually just a few minutes away from the Chung King Mansion on foot. We set off at about 9:00 AM.

Starting at the iSquare mall, we kept going forward or parallel to the mall and according to the map, we should just take a left turn when we couldn’t keep going forward anymore and that would take us to the Harbour City malls and finally, the Macau Ferry Harbor.

The weather was cool as usual, but by this time, I’d gotten acclimated enough to the cool air that I didn’t even feel like wearing my varsity Jacket anymore. Unfortunately, we found that we couldn’t go left any further just as the map said because there was a small group of makeshift bungalows that blocked the path and they seemed to be some kind of noodle houses. Thus, we went the opposite direction to the right looking for a place to get across to the street where the ferry was supposed to be located. We had to go back all the way to the Clock Tower before we could finally cross.

With that little setback out of the way, we were finally on the street to Harbour City and the Macau Ferry. My mother still showed signs of anxiety every now and then that we were on the wrong path, but I was more than confident that we were going in the right direction. After fifteen minutes of walking, we finally reached the Macau Ferry.

It was actually quite surprising because the ferry was actually located at the third floor of a shopping mall – which was nice. We checked out the ticket prices and then saw a bakery selling all kinds of sweet and savory pastries. We bought a few items for the trip to Ngong Ping and then decided to eat brunch inside a McDonald’s in the mall.

After a quick brunch, we went back to our Hostel room to prepare for the trip to Ngong Ping. It was only about 11:30 AM. Once again, we took the iSquare mall entrance to get to the subway station and from there, it took us about 30 minutes to get to the last station of the Orange Line wherein we could take the cable car to Ngong Ping.

We were pleasantly surprised to see a huge mall there. We decided to take a little walk around it later after we were done with Ngong Ping. Asking for directions from a security guard, there was a five minute walk to the cable car area. Upon reaching the place, we found that there was a long queue to get to the cable cars – about two 50 meter ramps full of people. My mother was once again anxious that we didn’t buy a ticket for these cable cars first and that we shouldn’t be lining up here. I took a quick glance that the signs and reassured her that the tickets were sold at the top and that we just had to stay in line.

There was around a 45 minute wait before it was finally our turn. We decided to take the normal cable cars instead of the glass ones and I didn’t bother downloading the tour guide app which was being recommended by the advertising posters. My mother discovered that they gave discounts for HSBC credit cards, so she decided to use hers and we got a 10% discount for the tickets – about 270 HKD for two round trip tickets.

When it was finally our turn to ride the cable car, they set aside a single car for the both of us because apparently, there weren’t that many people visiting right now.

The cable car ride was nice and pleasant with a great view of the surrounding environment. We could also see the giant Buddha statue from there. It seems that Ngong Ping was actually a small island and that the Tung Chung station was near the airport. The ride took around 25 minutes before we finally reached Ngong Ping proper. Upon descending from the cable car, a few uniformed employees greeted us selling souvenirs with our pictures on them.

When we finally got to Ngong Ping, which was just outside the cable car station, we discovered that it was a tiny village that looked a lot like the kind of Chinese Village you’d see in the Once Upon A Time In China films. There were various small attractions designed especially for tourists such as a greenscreen make your own movie booth, several souvenir shops and at least two restaurants.

It was nice and cool and despite there being a good amount of tourists, it didn’t really feel all that crowded. We took a few photos left and right and I even got to pose as Bruce Lee in one of the cardboard cut-out promo materials. There was also a film being shown inside one of the houses called “Walking With Buddha,” but we decided to skip that one since we had come to Ngong Ping to actually experience the sights and not watch some documentary.
As a side note: I actually DO know how to use nunchaku. Video because it did happen:

Checking my watch, it was almost 2:00 PM. The village opened a path to a wider area that led to the Buddhist temple and to the left was the path to the giant Buddha. We saw a street vendor selling some kind of Chinese waffles and decided to try one.

There were several benches scattered throughout the area since it was wide and open in the path past the village houses that led to the Buddhist temples. We chose an empty bench and sat down to eat some of the pastries that we’d bought from the bakery earlier along with the Chinese waffle.

The waffle was nice and crunchy with some kind of sweet filling what I thought were just empty air bubbles at first. It looked yellowish, so I presume that it was custard.

After we were done with our snacks, we decided to go up to the Giant Buddha first. Upon arrival at the entrance, we discovered that it was a very long walk upstairs – possibly 20 flights of 30-40 steps each. This is just a rough estimate and I’m sure you can find more accurate info on this if you actually look it up. Actually, the walk upstairs reminded me a lot of some Touhou stages.

We had to stop every two flights of stairs since my mother has a heart condition, but after around 20 minutes, we finally made it all the way up.

There were dozens of people taking pictures of all the sights there – and there were a lot of them. You could see the landscape below, the very grand giant Buddha, and then the several smaller statues at the four diagonal sides of the Buddha starting from the entrance.

There was a souvenir shop inside the building on which the Giant Buddha was sitting on as well.

Once we were satisfied that we’d seen everything there was to see there, we made our way down. Fortunately, descending from the Giant Buddha’s temple was much easier than going up to it.

It was about 3:45 PM now. My mother suggested that we make our way back to the cable car, but I saw that there was one more place we hadn’t visited – the Buddhist temples. We made our way to that area and it was a really pleasant place.

Despite all the souvenir shops and tourist accommodations purposely placed there, you could still feel a solemn air to the place – even though I’m about as un-religious as they come. The Buddhist temples were positioned sort of like what you’d see in affluent Japanese mansions in anime. There were several buildings and one central building and there was a sort of park just outside where there were several incense-burning pots. Unlike the Taoist temples in Cebu, they actually allowed tourists to take pictures inside the temples – although flash photography and noise was discouraged.

I took several pictures of the different statues they had – they were mostly golden in color and I wouldn’t be surprised if they were actually gold-plated, or perhaps even pure bronze.

Having toured the entire area, it was now time to go back – and it was just about time since it was approaching 5:00 PM. We stopped by a souvenir shop on the way back and my mother bought a red delicious apple for 4 HKD and I got a bamboo katana for 28 HKD.

We made our way back to the cable car and because of the rush of people going back to the Tung Chung station, we had to share a cable car with two Caucasian couples. I could tell that the taller, middle-aged ones were British from the way they spoke, but the two younger ones (looked younger than me, actually) spoke some kind of non-English European language.

It was quite cold inside the cable car and my mother was shivering as well as the two British passengers. The younger Caucasian couple didn’t seem to mind at all – which leads me to believe that they’re from Finland (a little in-joke there. I’m sure those of you who know me caught that one.)
My mother struck up a short conversation with the British couple and talked about the line with a stream of small flashing lights right next to the cable car and how she was perplexed at what they were for. The guy said that they’re probably for the planes – which made perfect sense, since the cable car lines actually ran along the airport strip.

After about a 15-minute ride, we were back at the cable car station. We entered the Gateway mall that we’d seen earlier and discovered that it was really a shopper’s paradise – if you like branded items that is. The mall basically consisted of factory outlet shops for just about every brand you could think of from Prada to Louis Vuitton, Adidas, and Coach.

In any case, it was already getting close to 6:00 PM, so we decided to have an early dinner in there so that we could go straight home after visiting the night markets on our way back.

Once again, dinner was at McDonald’s inside the Gateway mall and this branch was quite a bit more crowded than usual, although we still found a place to sit. I could tell my mother didn’t find the food at McDonald’s all that appetizing since that’s all we’ve been basically having since we got to Hong Kong. In fact, I could tell that she’d lost quite a bit of weight in the 2.5 days that we’d spent here.

After dinner, we took a short walk around the shops and I asked my mother if she wanted me to buy her birthday present here, but she refused after taking a look at the prices. In general, you can expect the prices in Hong Kong – even for the factory outlets to be at least 500 pesos more at the minimum than what you can get the same item for in the Philippines.

Finally, it was time to return to the train station and stop off at Mongkok for the night market. My mother was a bit tired at this point considering the trip to the Giant Buddha, so we decided to just see the Mongkok night market instead of visiting all the other night markets on the way back as we’d originally planned. We actually had to find the train station again from the mall, but thankfully, the signs are very easy to read in Hong Kong.

We made it without a hitch to the train station and it was already about 7:00 PM by then. It was good timing since the night markets were apparently most active at 7:00 PM and up. We got off at Mongkok on the red line at about 7:20 and from there, we had to find the night market on foot. I saw what looked like an appliance store that also sold video games and we went inside. I was hoping to find some cheap PS Vita games since the Asian PSN is based in Hong Kong after all. Unfortunately, the shop only sold Xbox 360 games. We exited from a different side of the store and then suddenly, we found ourselves smack dab in the middle of the Umbrella Revolution with people in tents with umbrellas on top lined up in droves – no kidding.

We retraced our steps a bit and finally, we’d found the Mongkok night market. Basically, it was an outdoor row of stalls like the kind you’d find at Divisoria in the Philippines. In fact, they even sold very similar items such as “I Love Hong Kong” shirts, sets of keychains, umbrellas with samurai and gun handles, flashlights, survival equipment and fake branded shoes and bags.  Basically, they sold stuff that you’d most likely find at
My mother was interested in a set of keychains but found that the price was too high at 100 HKD a set. Just when we had walked about two stalls away, the vendor called us back and tried to negotiate a good price with us. My mother is pretty hard to convince however, so we went our way. We’d soon discover that this was how the vendors here operated. They always expected you to turn down the initial price, so they’d call you back and try to get you to agree on a lesser price once you try to walk away.

The night market was set up in one line from start to finish and the train station entrance was actually at the very center, so we had no fear of getting lost there. Also, the umbrella revolution was located at the end of the night market just left of the train station entrance.

I found only one place selling anime-related goods there and was quite disappointed to see that they sold nothing but bootlegs with anime figures painted even worse than what you’d normally find at Comic Alley in the Philippines. Still, they sure had a lot of Miku-related items – that’s a plus, I suppose. I was almost tempted to get a Miku wall scroll, but decided against it considering that it would only add more bulk to the already considerable amount of luggage we had to take back to the Philippnes.

There were actually lots of Filipinos browsing the goods there. It was easy to tell since they were speaking in Tagalog. The night market vendors themselves could actually speak in simple Tagalog.

After some bit of haggling with a particular stall, my mother finally settled for 7 “I Love Hong Kong” shirts at about 80 HKD. It was a good price actually. She also bought a set of keychains for the same price.

With that out of the way, we were both tired, so it was time to go back to the Hostel. It was already about 9:30 by the time we got back to the Chung King Mansion at Tsim Sha Tsui via subway. Fortunately, Tomorrow would be our last day at Hong Kong and we’d already reserved it for a trip to Macau. Over-all, the Ngong Ping trip was quite a refreshing break from the excitement of HK Disneyland although the Mongkok night market wasn’t as impressive as it was hyped up to be.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Hayate The Combat Butler Chapter 474: Kittens And Girls Are Cute -- Synopsis And Review

Aika is now officially the sexiest girl in the Hayateverse based on proportions
Synopsis: We begin with Hayate asking for some advice from the love master, Aika. She doesn't believe Hayate would make such a straightforward declaration that he was becoming too popular at first, but he reveals that he had inadvertently made a girl fall in love with him.

For some reason, Aika shows him a picture of her boyfriend and Hayate agrees that he is quite handsome. She continues her story and tells him about her trip to Tahiti with him wherein he never even once approached her -- in short, nothing happened on the trip except for him calling her "milady" for the entire trip. She also saw him happily speaking with a local girl.

And you'd better not forget that, son!
Done with her story, Aika tells Hayate that half-hearted kindness can earn great anger.

We cut to a flashback with Hayate and Konoha together looking for a part-time job. She asks him if he is dating Ayumu and he responds the same way he always has that he's Nagi's butler and that he can't have a romantic relationship.
Lol that "tugging on your sleeve attack" gets em everytime!

However, Konoha proposes that it doesn't have to be romantic between them and that it would be enough for her if they could just keep getting along.

We return to Hayate and Aika and he's totally perplexed by what Konoha meant. Aika concludes that Hayate is popular and that the girl is in love with him... obviously. She also adds by saying that she thought that he was only popular with flat-chested girls and assumes that Konoha is a large-breasted girl by what she said.
Shut up, Aika! Flat chest is a status!
She warns him that girls in love are especially cute and will often talk in a sweet voice that you never hear anywhere else when they are speaking with the one they love... just moments before her boyfriend calls her and she starts speaking in said cute voice.

Of course, Hayate wasn't supposed to hear that and she slaps him one after the conversation with her BF.
No caption necessary.

After that, she gives him some advice for dealing with Konoha by basically luring her into the dark and seducing her into kissing him. Hayate follows her advice for some reason and it actually works and she ends up confessing to him and then kissing him -- which is what Ayumu saw in the previous chapter.

Hayate rushes back to Aika to complain, but she is surprised to hear that he didn't want to date Konoha after all.

Review: Okay, so it really was a misunderstanding between Konoha and Hayate, but the kiss was certainly real. Anyway, It's going to be interesting how this turns out.
New girl is super-aggressive!

On the other hand, it doesn't have to lead to anywhere because Hayate has already found a job for Konoha and doesn't really have to do anything with her now... except that he's somehow suckered himself into a pseudo-dating relationship with her.

It's going to be interesting to see how the other girls react once they hear of this from the hamster -- assuming that Hayate doesn't sort out this misunderstanding first.

Still, this new girl is certainly super-aggressive, but she doesn't have Ruka's charm for me. She just seems to be a rather plain, poor girl with a nice body and a cute face -- that's all. 

In any case, Hayate hasn't been shown to have any real feelings for her the way he did for Ruka, so I can't really see this ship taking off any more than it already has -- but, you never know with Hata-sensei.

One thing that I found interesting aside from seeing Aika flustered once again is her perception of Hayate as being a flat-chested tsundere magnet only. It's interesting to see how the characters view one another within the Hayate-verse since it's very different from what you would see as the manga reader.  The case of Aika and her view of Hayate is one example, but another example would be Wataru and Saki only finding out just recently that Ayumu was in love with Hayate all along. The fact that the different characters all have incomplete information regarding one another really serves to make their interactions that much more realistic for me.

Anyway, no speculations for now, but I liked this chapter. Oh, and I liked that one panel with Hina and Nagi in a rather fanservicey pose as well... I'm a lolicon, that's why. Anyway, it seems the next chapter will be released on Nagi's birthday, so that's going to be something special, I hope.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

My 4-Day Trip To Hong Kong: Day 2

Day 2 of our Hong Kong excursion was reserved exclusively for Hong Kong Disneyland. I’d spent some time the night before looking at a physical map of the subway system to figure out how to get there. Of course, we were running a bit short on HKD due to the unforeseen expenses from the day before. Thankfully however, it was my sister who shouldered the ticket expenses for Disneyland. We’d also brought a few hundred USD with us in anticipation of the higher forex rates in Hong Kong when compared to the Philippines. We exchanged one 100 USD bill for 735 HKD and we were good to go. At this point, I’d already gotten used to the cool air in Hong Kong.

First off, we had breakfast at around 9:00 AM at the Café De Coral inside the CKE mall, which was just beside the Chung King Mansion. It was a nice place with reasonably cheap prices. The menu mostly consisted of brunch-type meals including eggs, pancakes, ham, toast, spam, macaroni soup and a few other breakfast staples for about 20-26 HKD for each meal with your choice of free coffee, iced tea, or juice.

After a nice, relaxing breakfast, we bought a 1.8 liter bottle of water for 8 HKD inside one of the stalls at the ground floor of the Chung King Mansion and then went back to our hotel room to shower and get ready for our trip to Hong Kong Disneyland.

Descending from the hostel, we went back inside the iSquare mall from the previous day and used the subway entrance from inside the mall to get to the Shim Sha Tsui MTR Station. It took us a moment to figure out how the Octopus card works because you just had to wave it in front of the scanner at the stall entrance and it automatically opens up the stall. We were used to having to insert the card/ticket into the feeder at the stall entrance from the MRT stations back in Manila.

Inside the train, my mother overheard a group of people speaking in Tagalog and she struck up a conversation with them. It was a good thing because she needed some company from familiar people after the events of day one. Just like us, they were also on vacation – a family of about 8 including several kids. They were getting off at Lai King Station to take the orange line just like us, but we had to get off earlier at Sunny Bay while they were moving on to the last station to get to Ngong Ping.

We switched trains together with them and continued to chat a bit until we had to get off at Sunny Bay station. From the Sunny Bay station, we could take the special express train directly to Hong Kong Disneyland. The train arrived after about a 5-minute wait. One thing I’ve noticed is that the trains never seem to get particularly crowded here in Hong Kong when compared to the almost all-day rush hour of the MRT stations in Manila.

The Disneyland train was really something else. It had Mickey-Mouse shaped windows with glass cases containing monochrome statues of various Disney characters in-between the seats. The ride lasted for about 15 minutes before we finally arrived at the entrance to Hong Kong Disneyland. Upon disembarking, we were surprised to come face to face with a neighbor (from my hometown Iloilo) who had actually taken the same train as us. He was an elderly gentleman who was also here on vacation with his entire family – about 10 of them in total including about two kids. We took a picture together and then went our separate ways. Checking my watch, it was around 11:15 AM.

We took our time snapping pictures on the way to the actual entrance to HK Disneyland. Just outside the entrance, there was a fountain featuring that giant whale from Pinocchio and the mouse from Dumbo. We’d heard about how strict the security procedures before you’re allowed to enter could be at HK Disneyland, so we’d made sure to bring only a small bag each with some bottled water. Fortunately, the frisking process went by pretty fast and they really didn’t seem to meticulously go through your bags as we thought they would. In fact, the staff from HK Disneyland are very warm and friendly – including the security personnel.

Once inside, there was a large Christmas tree at the center that led to a long, wide walking path with rows of European style Christmas-themed shops as well as a bakery and at least two restaurants lining the way to the actual attractions and different themes of HK Disneyland. We explored some of the souvenir shops although we had no real intention of buying anything. Surprisingly, the souvenirs weren’t as overpriced as hearsay would have you believe. The souvenirs ranged from anywhere between 20-400 HKD depending on the item. Upon reaching the square at the center, we spotted several snack stands selling reasonably priced food and decided to grab lunch from one of these stands later.

Once we got to the different entrances to the actual themed areas and rides, we started with the World Of Tomorrow area which was just to the right-hand side once you reach the end of the walkway entrance. We had actually expected our tickets to be just good for the entrance and that there were separate fees for each ride, but were pleasantly surprised to discover that this wasn’t the case when we had chosen our first ride – which was an on-rails car ride called "Autopia" wherein you had some degree of control over the lateral movement as well as acceleration of the car, but you couldn’t actually go off the rails – although it was possible to bump into the car ahead of you if you were going too fast.

I let my mother drive for this one since it’s been a long time since she drove a car because she’s afraid to drive an automatic car. She was very reluctant and we had a very slow ride all the way except when we were getting ready to disembark and she punched the accelerator while fumbling to go for the brakes – which didn’t exist since the car simply stopped by itself as soon as you let go of the accelerator. We ended up bumping and apologizing to the kid in the car ahead of us.

After getting off, we took a look at some of the other attractions in this area and decided that perhaps it was time for lunch as it was nearly 12:00 PM. We went back to the center square and bought some large sandwiches and a fruit cup from the snack stands and then proceeded to the walkway to the left of the World Of Tomorrow area that led to a forking path to several other areas. There were benches along the way, so we sat down and had lunch there.

After that, it was time to explore the other areas of HK Disneyland. We went to the entrance of the Disney castle at the very center of the theme park and found that it led to the “It’s a Small World” area. At this time, Alice from Alice in Wonderland was making the rounds in this particular area together with two guards. I was quite surprised at how in-character she was with the way she moved, walked and smiled.

Once inside the It’s A Small World Area, we decided to leave this attraction for later and went back outside. Making our way to the right-hand side of the area, we saw a merry-go-round and a Winnie The Pooh themed giant Ferris Wheel, which we weren’t really interested in riding.

I saw what looked to be a 3D theater attraction called Mickey’s Magic Show and suggested that we go there. There was around a 15-minute wait for our turn along with several other people who wanted to watch the show. We were given 3D glasses before the entrance and it turned out to be quite a nice experience which featured mostly Donald Duck going through the worlds of the different Disney princesses from Jasmine to Ariel and all singing their respective theme songs together with Donald in what appeared to be a 360-degree theater. The theater used fans, sprinklers, temperature control and even perfume to simulate actually being in the different environments that Donald visits.

Upon exiting the theater with high spirits, we kept on exploring. Still going right, we found ourselves in the Jungle Area of the theme park now. There was a Jungle Boat Ride with a tour guide and different entrances to the ride depending on your language. There was a guide who spoke that language who managed the boat ride. The wait was about 15 minutes. It was a pretty fun ride with robotic elephants who sometimes splashed water right at the boat, alligators, bears, rapids and even a cave that got lit up with actual fire – you can actually feel the heat even though the boat is actually a safe distance from the fire. The guide spoke with an accent but in totally understandable English and she really knew how to engage the riders and make them feel as if they’re really in a dangerous boat ride.

After the boat ride, we kept going and reached the Toy Story themed area where a giant Woody greeted us with a pre-recorded greeting. The rides there seemed too extreme for my mother, so we just moved on past this area into the next one – which was actually the hotel. There wasn’t much to see there, so we moved on into Grizzly Grunch wherein I saw what looked to be a tame looking mine cart ride. We decided to take that ride however, I didn’t notice until it was too late that this was actually a high-speed roller coaster ride with sudden drops and high acceleration. My mother kept screaming all throughout this mine cart ride that sped up and barreled around the course and then actually went high-speed in reverse before finally coming to a stop. Personally, I was a bit worried since my mother has a mild heart condition that requires maintenance medicine daily – but fortunately, she made it through without a mishap.

After that, it was time to do some exploring again and by this time, we had actually moved on through almost all of Hong Kong Disneyland. It was only about 3:30 PM. We walked a bit to get to the It’s A Small World Attraction, but found an attraction that we’d missed earlier that featured The Lion King. It was a 30-minute wait, but we had time to kill. Once we were inside, there were two people drumming some bongos and trying to engage the crowd. The place appeared to be some kind of circus tent. At first, we were both bored to tears and were quite glad when they finally exited the stage area after about 15 minutes of mindless bongo drumming. We were just about to leave when the music started playing and we realized that those two were just curtain raisers for the main show. The actual Lion King presentation was quite an epic experience. There were fire dances, giant robotic animals, platforms that rotated, raised and got lit up from underneath according to what was currently happening – and all of the singing was performed live by the on-stage performers. It was probably the most epic attraction inside of HK Disneyland and the presentation actually had my mother in tears. The show took about 45 minutes to complete, but I’m pretty sure that everyone who came to watch came out of that tent quite satisfied.
After the show, it was time to move on to the last attraction that we hadn’t visited, the “It’s A Small World” ride. The ride was located just beyond Disney castle at the center of HK Disneyland. It was a relaxing, slow-moving indoor boat ride with cute puppets that sang “It’s A Small World” all throughout the ride – and in different languages depending on which part of the world that the particular area we were currently going through represented. The ride covered all parts of the world form Asia to the Americas. I’m sure that kids would definitely love this attraction as all the puppets are very cute as they sing and dance to “It’s A Small World.”

It was 6:00 PM at this point and we’d finally finished seeing all there was to see in HK Disneyland. We still had some time to kill before the big fireworks display at 8:30 though, so went back to the futuristic World Of Tomorrow area to see what other rides they had there. There was actually a Space Mountain ride that we hadn’t been through yet, but it was described as a high-speed roller coaster ride, so we gave it a miss. At around this time, my mother mused that "Hong Kong is all about Disneyland" and that her birthday should have been today rather than yesterday, and I wasn't about to contradict her given what we went through just a day ago.

Still, there was some time to kill, so we walked to the center square of HK Disneyland just before the Disney Castle and tried to think of what else we could do. I took out my tablet from my backpack and discovered that the screen had been crackedfrom the Grizzly Grunch roller coaster ride earlier. I took out my back-up tablet and discovered that it had met the same fate. My mother tried her best to console me, but I just told her that I didn’t want to talk about it. It seems she misinterpreted this as a personal slight against her – which it really wasn’t. I just already knew that it was a loss for me and didn’t want to talk about it, literally. Still, it was a small loss since at least my Vita and 2DS inside my belt bag were intact.

After sorting out the misunderstanding, we decided to enter the Jungle Area again and see what the Jungle Ride looked like at night. This time around, the boat ride actually seemed much more real and terrifying and even the robotic animals that we’d seen before seemed much more menacing when they were lit up from underneath at night. Of course, it did have that been-there, done-that feel, which leads me to conclude that an experience like HK Disneyland is only magical as a once-in-a-lifetime thing and wouldn’t really feel all that special the second time around.

After the jungle ride, we took a short walk around the different attractions again before returning to the central square. We made it just in time to catch the parade of Disney stars and the Christmas Tree lighting ceremony. After about 45 more minutes of waiting, it was finally time for the fireworks display at Disney Castle. The fireworks were very impressive and looked very reminiscent of the 3D CG Disney Castle Intro at the start of most modern Disney films. It lasted for around 15 minutes and came complete with voice-overs from various Disney characters as the castle itself was lit up with different lights throughout the display.

Finally, with the fireworks display over, it was time to go home – although people could still opt to stay until closing time at 10:00 PM. We made our way back to the Disney Express train along with droves of people. I really admire how orderly the people are here. They always walk in a linear fashion in one direction without constantly stopping or swerving to the inconvenience of the person behind them.

Anyway, we met the same elderly neighbor and his family from before inside the train and they suggested that we go home together. After boarding the train at Sunny Bay, I was prepared to get off at Lai King just like before, but the elderly neighbor and his family opted to stay inside the train, so my mother stayed inside with them – forcing me to do the same. It seems they’d taken a different route to get to HK Disneyland although they were also staying in a different block in the Chung King Mansion at Shim Sha Tsui. We studied the subway system map and they saw that the route I’d chosen was actually much faster – but in any case, we were already all in this together and the route they were taking would still lead back to the same station eventually.

It took about 45 more minutes until we reached the Shim Sha Tsui station and came out via the iSquare exit once again. We’d decided to buy dinner at a nearby KFC that the neighbors had located earlier. It was actually just two blocks away from Chung King Mansions. On the way there, my mother couldn’t help but be impressed by the gold bangles and armlets on display inside the stores that lined Shim Sha Tsui’s streets. Hong Kong is filled with all kinds of garish lights at night.

It was already 10:00 PM by the time we got to KFC for dinner. We parted ways with the neighbors there since they opted for take-out while my mother and I chose to dine in. There were actually lots of empty seats inside. We each bought a set meal for about 37 HKD.

After dinner, we took a little walk around the area where the KFC branch was located. After some time, my mother got worried that we were getting lost. Actually, it was true that none of the places there looked familiar to me anymore, but we had still been walking down the same street and hadn’t left the building block, so I wasn’t really worried. We took two left turns after about 30 minutes of walking and I noticed that it was already 11:15 PM. I just reassured my mother that we wouldn’t get lost no matter what because we were still on the same block. No matter where we went, it would lead back to the Chung King Mansion eventually.

No sooner had I said this when we saw the Museum of Art right across the street. Naturally, we knew that we were only a short walk away from Chung King at this point because the Museum of Art always faced the street that led to the Chung King area.

Upon arrival at Chung King, we’d had enough adventure for one day, so it was time to rest up and prepare for our next destinations at Ngong Ping tomorrow and the Mongkok Night Market afterwards. That concludes day two of our trip to Hong Kong.

Friday, November 21, 2014

My 4-Day Trip To Hong Kong: Day 1

My mother and I recently came back from a 4-day trip to Hong Kong. She celebrated her birthday on November 17th there. We arrived at the Hong Kong International Airport about 30 minutes ahead of schedule – which was around 2:00 AM. The airport was rather big and noticeably, most of the advertising posters were in Chinese – that’s when it hit me that this was really Hong Kong. I also noticed the moving walkways/platforms that would become a normal part of the routine during our stay in Hong Kong.

After going through the immigrations and customs check without a hitch, we had to decide what to do since the Marco Polo Hostel at East Shim Sha Tsui didn’t allow check-ins before 12:00 PM. We had a long wait ahead of us. We met by chance with a couple on vacation from Iloilo who were booked on the same flight as us. My mother had made small talk with them earlier during the pre-flight check-in. We learned that they were booked at Jordan just a few days ahead of schedule.

An elderly taxi driver approached us speaking in awkward but understandable English. He offered to take us to our respective destinations for 50 HKD per person or a total of 200. The couple with us suggested that we take this chance since it usually takes around 240-250 HKD by taxi to the airport, so off we went… this was around 2:30 AM on my watch. Good thing I brought along an analogue watch which was pretty accurate and there’s no time difference between Hong Kong and the Philippines.

During the Taxi ride, I noticed first-hand just how different Hong Kong traffic is from what we get here in the Philippines. (video of me driving through Iloilo traffic. You can expect the same behavior, but with even more speed from Manila and other areas of the Philippines). The cars drive very fast, but I’ve noticed that although our driver was breaking the speed limit of 85 kph by driving at 160 kph, he wasn’t swerving carelessly to the inconvenience of the other cars on the road. In fact, drivers here often try their best not to cut-in on someone else’s line in a way wherein the car behind them has to slow down or stop just to avoid hitting them. In the Philippines, cars will swerve without a second thought as soon as there’s an obstruction in their lane. It’s your job to avoid hitting them if you’re the one behind.

Anyway, my mother and I got dropped off in front of Chung King Mansion in Shim Sha Tsui wherein the Marco Polo Hostel was located. It was actually a mid-range skyscraper spanning several floors. The streets of Hong Kong are very colorful, but also quite dirty in the early morning. The buildings are also very tall and it was rather cold at around 17 degrees Celsius – something that we would eventually get used to during our short stay here. The normal weather in the Philippines rarely goes below 28 degrees. I personally like the cold as it helps me to think better, but my mother is always shivering from the weather in Hong Kong – especially at night.

Our initial impression was that it looked like a red light district with people from all kinds of races all mixed in together in what looked to be some kind of commercial complex with small stalls.

We got some directions from an Indian individual who spoke English and he told us to go to the 15th floor of block C. Upon doing so, the doors to the Marco Polo Hostel and the Carlton Guest House were both locked and no one was answering even with several door bells and knocks. With our heavy luggage in tow and not having slept a wink since the plane ride, we decided to go back downstairs to look for a place to wait the night out until check-in time.

A police officer gave us some directions to get to the nearest McDonald’s, which was just about one block away parallel to the Chung King Mansion. We bought two egg mcmuffin sandwiches for 9 HKD each there and then sat down in an empty table to settle down. I noticed that there were several people inside – again from all kinds of races and many of them just sat down there without ordering anything. A few were actually sleeping – which was our initial plan.

Unfortunately, anxiety and worry were painted all over my mother’s face and she clearly wasn’t comfortable inside the place – although I personally would have preferred to just wait things out there. It was about 3:00 AM. After about 15 minutes, my mother overheard a group of young adults speaking in Tagalog. They honestly looked like bad company, but since she was desperate to cling on to any kind of help, she asked them where they were staying and pleaded with them to at least let us stay in the lobby of their place when she learned that they were staying in the Chung King Mansion as well in a different block.

So we went with these people (there were around 8 of them over-all. Mostly women and about three men) – and took the elevator to their hotel, which was in D block (if memory serves me correctly) of the Chung King Mansion. There was a couch there and they offered to let us stay there. I thought that it was cramped and a bit of a dangerous decision to go with these people, but since my mother could rest better on the couch, I didn’t protest. Also, there was no air-conditioning in the lobby, so it was pretty hot.

At around 6:00 AM, my mother woke up and I suggested that we try again at the Marco Polo Hostel. At this point, I had gotten all of 45 minutes of sleep. We went up to the C block again, but still, there was no one there. We took our luggage all the way down to the main floor again and since we had relatively gotten some rest, we decided to walk around a bit more.

Still with luggage in tow, we walked by foot to the museum of art. Something I noticed was that pedestrians rarely followed the traffic lights there. If there were no cars incoming and it was safe to cross, they crossed.

The museum of art also connects to the Avenue of Stars. We walked around the harbor area a bit and saw a group of people practicing Tai Chi. My mother took off her jacket and said that she wanted to join in. I was against the idea, but she said that it was free from what she’d read. “Ideal vs reality” immediately crossed my mind. Just as she’d followed a few moves, the person next to her told her flat-out that this was a private class. The main instructor approached her and told her that it was only 40 HKD every morning, but that she was too late to join in right now.

My mother saw a small ship taking people somewhere in the harbor area. She seemed eager to find out where it went and where to buy tickets to ride there, but I was against the idea since we had no effin clue where it went. She assumed that this was the ferry to Macau, but I was pretty doubtful.

Moving on, we went back to the Chun King Mansion and all the way up to the 15th floor of C block again. There was a black person there who went inside the opposite door to the Carlton Guest House. He told us that the reception area for the Marco Polo Hostel was actually in the Carlton Guest House. We showed him our booking and he told us that we’d have to wait until at least 11:00 AM before he would give us a room. Fortunatley, he let us leave our luggage inside the lobby area. It was only 7:30 AM. Again, the analogue watch was my best friend here since I didn’t feel like taking out my phone just to check the time every now and then.

Going back all the way down again,  we decided to pass time by taking a walk around the Shim Sha Tsui area. We came upon a bakery selling all kinds of pastries, breads and buns and bought a few items from there for around 7-19 HKD each. We also bought some canned coke from a 7-11 store for 7 HKD. We walked all the way back to the park in front of the Museum of Art to eat our food there for an early lunch. Hong Kong really looked different in the daytime. The climate was very cool, like being inside an air-conditioned room and the trees and birds were really of a different variety than you would find here in the Philippines.

After passing some time there just eating and chatting, we took a little walk to explore the area and stumbled upon the Shim Sha Tsui subway station underground and found that it was actually quite pleasant there with all kinds of shops lining it. We went back to the Chung King mansion and to the Marco Polo Hostel. Finally, the same black person from the reception desk gave us our room. I was astonished to find that it was basically one big queen-sized bed raised up to around 1.5 meters in height and that the walking space was only one square meter. There was an analog TV with no cable and a hot/cold shower room with a toilet and a sink. It also had a mini-fridge. There was no place to unpack our luggage and so we had to stow all our stuff under the bed. My mother was filled with all kinds of complaints, but I just wanted to get some rest before thinking about anything else.

Waking up at around 5:00 PM, we decided to get a room with at least two beds, so they charged us an additional 400 HKD. The room was 1510 inside the Carlton Guest House and it was still just as cramped, but at least it had two beds which were positioned perpendicular to each other just so they could fit inside the room. Again, there was no room to unpack, so the luggage had to be placed under the beds again. There was a small desk where the phone was located and this time, there was so little walking space that the mini-fridge was located under one of the beds.

After a shower and a change of clothes, it was time to explore the HK area once again. It was already about 8:00 PM by the time we went outside. After a 15-minute walk, we just missed the Festival of Lights or whatever it was called near the Avenue of Stars. We took a walk around the Avenue area, but it was very crowded. So far, reality had been very far from the ideal. We saw a Disney kiosk and bought our tickets to HK Disneyland there for 455 HKD each.
My mother wanted a special dinner since it was her birthday. We checked the prices for the restaurants around the area and found that Pizza Hut was overpriced and all the other restaurants were selling weird food that neither of us would probably like. We had our dinner at the same Mcdonald’s from several hours ago.  We had a large burger and some fries each for about 35 HKD – far from a special birthday dinner, but we had to make do with what we had and we were too tired to find some better alternatives at this time.

After dinner, we walked around the Tsim Sha Tsui subway station a bit, bought our Octopus cards for the trip to HK Disneyland and then tried to make sense of how the Subway system works -- which was pretty easy. We went out of the H (I think) exit to the iSquare shopping mall and then went straight back to the Hotel for a well-deserved rest. That concludes day one of our excursion to Hong Kong; far from the ideal vacation trip, but things might start looking up in day two.