It was early this year when Jen and myself thought of taking a vacation to Hong Kong. And as the weeks and months passed, that plan came to fruition last month. It started with just having the both of us and Janine on the plan, then Jen’s sister and her family joined us. So from the three, we became a group of seven. And from the original plan of 3 nights in Hong Kong, the plan evolved into a 6-day/5-night stay in Hong Kong and another 2 nights in the neighboring city of Macau.
Being the most experienced in travelling among the group, I arranged our whole itinerary. We bought our plane tickets online with Cebu Pacific Air flying out of Manila on-board flight 5J108 departing 5:40AM on October 23 to Hong Kong and flying back home from Macau on-board flight 5J363 departing 10:15PM on October 30. It was fortunate that since August this year, the long mothballed NAIA Terminal 3 has been opened and we will be able to use the terminal for both flights.
Due to budget constraints, we have only looked for the cheapest possible accommodation that we can find online. And through my research through hostel booking websites like Travellerspoint, Hostel Bookers, Hotel Club, etc, I was able to find Lucky Hostel located at Chungking Mansions at the Kowloon side through Hostel Bookers. I got a fairly cheap accommodation for the 6 of us adults. My baby Janine is still free all that we’ve booked. Online, I only paid online 10% of our total costs and the balance will be paid in cash upon our check-in at the hostel. For Macau, looking for a cheap hotel was not as easy as Hong Kong. So we ended up with the cheapest that I found online, Hotel Sun Sun of the Best Western group located on Macau island.
Prior to the trip, I have researched all the spots that we shall be visiting and putting them on a tentative schedule. Among our target spots was Hong Kong Disneyland, Ocean Park Hong Kong, The Peak and Victoria Harbor in Hong Kong and the Ruins of St. Paul, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Venetian in Macau.
The day came after a long planning time. We all met up at the NAIA Terminal 3 at around 2:30am as we have planned to try to arrange our luggages before we check in. Since we are bringing Janine with us, we have brought about 15 liters of distilled water, a can of milk which we have repacked, and dozens of diapers. We have brought with us 2 luggage bags, Janine’s sterilizer, stroller, and baby bag. We had to ask my sister in law, Jenith to add on of our luggages in their checked in bags.
At 5:15 AM, we boarded our plane where we were seated at the 5th row. Throughout the flight, we’re happy that Janine did not have a problem with the pressure change at take off and touch down. And upon arriving at Chek Lap Kok Airport in Hong Kong, we decided to let all passenger alight first. When only a few are left deboarding, we asked the stewardess if we can have Janine have a picture in the cockpit.
At the airport, we had some of our US dollars exchanged into HK dollars since we know that money changers outside the airport can offer better rates. Also as we exchange money at the airport, we also procured our Octopus cards. We bought one that is meant for short term tourists costing HKD 220. The card is for a one-way trip on board the Airport Express and an unlimited ride for 3 days on the MTR trains.
And so from the airport, we boarded the the Airport Express and alighted at the Tsing Yi station to transfer to the MTR Tung Chung line. Then from Tsing Yi, we connected to the Tsuen Wan line at Lai King station and alighted at Tsim Sha Tsui station which is nearest to the Chungking Mansions.
At around 10:30 AM, we arrived at the reception desk of Lucky Hostel at the 15th floor of Chungking Mansion’s building C. On the 15th floor is the Carlton Hostel which is the reception area for Lucky Hostel which is at the 12th floor and other hostels in the building. Unfortunately, check-in time is at 12 noon and we were asked to leave our bags and come back at 12. At 12 noon, the owner instead checked us in on Carlton which was a relief as we wouldn’t need to go down three floors with our heavy luggages. It was a nice and clean hostel.
That afternoon after taking some rest and having a late lunch, we decided to go to the Tian Tan Buddha, the largest bronze Buddha statue in the world. It was reachable through the Ngong Ping 360 degrees cable car system. And so from Tsim Sha Tsui, we again took the same route to Tung Chung station near the airport. From the station we just had a short walk to the cable car. We arrived there at around 5PM and we were told that the system closes at around 6PM giving us only a short time to see the Buddha. The cable car ride costs HKD88 each and one-way trip takes about 25 minutes. The cable car crosses a body of water then goes up to the mountains. It was quite a long ride but offering a good view of the sea and the Hong Kong Airport. Due to lack of time, we only took pictures from the Ngong Ping Village having the view of the Buddha at the background.
By 6PM before the cable car closes we headed back to Tsim Sha Tsui. From there, we walked to the Avenue of Stars in front of Intercontinental Hotel and facing the Hong Kong Harbor. We arrived there around 7:30PM, just in time for the 8PM lights show of the Victoria Harbor. Nightly at 8 PM, a number of building on Hong Kong island and in Kowloon side join this show where the buildings light up with the accompaniment of music from the Avenue of Stars. It’s a nice site to see but not as I have expected. Only a few buildings are lit up. I recognize only the Wan Chai tower, Bank of China Tower, HSBC Building, Standard Chartered Building, AIG Building and the IFC2 Building which lit up.
It was a very long day that first day of ours in Hong Kong. On our second day, we went to Hong Kong Disneyland which I’ll detail on a separate blog. It was also a long day and tiring that on the third day we decided on going to Victoria Peak instead of our original plan to go to Ocean Park.
And so, from Tsim Sha Tsui, we took the MTR and alighted at Central station where from there we walked to the Peak Tram station. The Peak Tram serves as the main means of transport to The Peak on top of the mountains. At the Peak Tram station, we bought our tickets at the Madamme Tussauds ticket booth for our round trip ride on the Peak Tram, access to the Peak Sky Terrace, and entrance to Madamme Tussauds. Our ticket costs HKD170 each.
And so upon arrival at The Peak, we went directly to Madamme Tussauds. Madamme Tussauds Hong Kong is the city’s version of the Wax Museum. It is a museum of wax statues of famous celebrities in Hong Kong and internationally. It also has images of famous people in history and politics. They’ve got wax images of Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, the British Royalty, Hitler and Saddam, Marilyn Monroe, Yao Ming, Tiger Woods, David Beckham, The Beatles, Michael Jackson, and more.
After that nice experience in the wax museum, we headed to the Sky Terrace which is on top of The Peak. The Peak is a shopping center on top of the Victoria peak and offers the best viewing area of the whole Hong Kong Harbor. It’s something one should visit to get to see the whole of Hong Kong from above.
And going back down to the city, we head back to the Kowloon side to start our shopping day. We alighted at the Mong Kok station. Mong Kok is known for being a good spot for bargain shopping. From the MTR station there are about 6 blocks of shopping areas. One road is known as the Ladies Market to where we went to try to look for souvenirs and other items. Here our lady companions were in heaven for there are so many stalls to choose from. It took us up to dusk shopping in the area.
Next day is Sunday and so we went to have mass. I’ve intended for us to go to the Immaculate Conception Cathedral near Hong Kong Park but we end up getting to the St. Joseph’s Church where many Filipinos know of. From the bus that we road we were pointed to the said church. We were lucky that we arrived at the church in the nick of time as they close the church when the mass starts. During the mass, something unexpected happened when the priest suddenly fainted. Anyway, at around 10AM the mass continued.
After the mass, we head our way to Central which is just walking distance from the church. Sunday is the common day-off of most domestic helpers in Hong Kong. And when we passed by the the Central area, the Central Park is filled by domestic helpers where they sat on the pavements chatting with other friends. There are even a group celebrating their praises in the park. Some are having some kind of an presentation. Also, we noticed that even the ground floor of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank Building is filled with domestic helpers which we think are mostly Filipinos.
While in Central, we decided to take the chance to have lunch in the Jollibee branch there. And as we have expected, it was filled by people that the queue was very long. It took us some time to have lunch right there. Well I’d say the food there is not as tasteful as other Jollibees back in the Philippines.
After lunch, we headed for Wan Chai. That morning we had loaded our Octopus cards to allow us to ride the Hong Kong Trams using the octopus card. The trams in Hong Kong has been one of the main tranport system on the island which has been in service for a very long time already. From the tram stop in Wan Chai we walked to the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center to see the Golden Bauhinia Square. We we got there we took some pictures of the building and the skyscrapers that line the Hong Kong Harbor and the Kowloon side.
Then, we head back to Kowloon on board the Star Ferry. The ferry ride is very much recommended on travel books so we had to try it. There is a terminal there in Wan Chai that leads to the Tsim Sha Tsui terminal. We used our octopus cards to pay for our fare so I was not able to see how much it costed. The ferry ride took about 10 minutes. The ferry is mostly not air-conditioned except for the front side. It was a hazy day so the harbor view is not as clear that day.
From the Tsim Sha Tsui terminal, we just walked to the Avenue of Stars to have another set of pictures. The Avenue of Stars is Hong Kong’s version of the Walk of Fame in Hollywood. It is a stretch of path walk by the coast that featured stars with the names and hand prints of Hong Kong stars. They’ve got stars for Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, Chow Yun Fat and others which we are not familiar. It also has statues that has a movie theme.
The day after, we mark our visit to Hong Kong’s Ocean Park. I’d again write a separate blog for this trip. Then the next day, we set our trip to Macau.
From Chungking, we took a cab to get to the China Ferry Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui area. There we bought our ferry ticket to Macau on board First Ferry. We got a 1PM trip to Macau. Since Hong Kong and Macau are both Special Administrative Regions of China, both has different immigration process. This made us pass through Hong Kong and Macau immigration. I’d continue in a separate blog our trip to Macau.
Our trip to Hong Kong has been a tiring one but definitely something worth to remember.