Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Our Hong Kong Escapade '09

Gä has just graduated from Nursing. She hasn't left the country yet. It's summer. A round-trip worth of my Asia miles is expiring. Company bonus was just given. Hmmmmmm (Thinking... Thinking...) Do you know what that means?! Yes, vacation! Our stop - Hong Kong baby...


Months before we're already eyeing on a summer vacation after gä's graduation. She was so busy at school that we finally decided to schedule it during the Holy Week, since after graduation, she still has whole day reviews 6 days a week.

It was a month before when we finalized our plan, booked our Marriott hotel (I have Marriott points) and Cathay Pacific flights (And I have Asiamiles). At first, I chose between Rennaisance and Courtyard among the Marriott hotels in Hong Kong. Rennaisance is a category 5 hotel and costs 25000 points a night. Courtyard is a category 4 hotel and costs 20000 points a night. It was a good thing that when I called Marriott, it will only cost me 15000 points a night. My total points were about 44814, just off by a few hundred points for 3 nights worth of stay. You can buy per thousand points though at a cost of HK$12.50. Not bad. So we scheduled it on April 10-12, 2009. Then I booked us our flights. But it was too late to get a direct flight from Cebu as these direct flights are fully booked. So as for me, next time I need to book our flights 2-3 months ahead. Also consider the time of the year. It's summer and it's peak time for vacation. So we took local flights to Manila via Cebu Pacific. So we got a CBU-MLA flight on April 9 and back on April 13.

Experience Hong Kong as you read through our HK escapade! =)


* Arrived in Hong Kong...

Since I'm a Marco Polo club member (as an AsiaMiles frequent flyer), we were invited at the VIP lounge. The staff were kind enough to accommodate us. It was just a short flight from Manila to Hongkong. Click on the pics to see more photos.

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After 2 hours, we're in Hong Kong. It was gä's first time abroad and all those imigration questions were kind of intimidating the first time.

Immigration officer: "Do you have a return ticket?"

gä: "Authenticate?"

Immigration officer: "Re-turn Ti-cket"

gä: "Ow... I see... "

Hehehehe. The first thing we did is inquire at the tourism booth just beside the train ticket booth. We asked the lady attending at the booth and she was kind enough to give us tips as we shared our plans for the day.

We have prepared our itineraries for each day in our HK stay but didn't strictly follow it. Changes in our itinerary turned out to be all better. Earlier, we planned to buy a Visitor 3-day pass Octopus Card (more about HK MTR). This is worth (HK)$ 220 with a ride at Airport Express (one way ride using this is $100), and $300 which includes round-trip ride via Airport Express. This has an unlimited use at MTR (except Airport Express line) for 3 days. Counting starts upon first use of card. The back-to-airport ride using Airport Express will expire in a month. $50 is refundable upon returning the card.

From our itinerary, we will just have a few rides in the Kowloon and HK Island area, and expect a lot of walking. On the next few days, such as the day for Ocean park, we will take the bus. So the unlimited use of MTR ticket may not be maximized anyways. So we decided to take the $100 consumable card which costs $150 (where $50 is refundable). We can top this up with additional value in MTR stations, 7eleven stores, McDonalds, and other establishments. This can be used in the MTR, bus, trams, and even paying at McDonalds.

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For day 1 in Hong Kong, we decided to visit the Giant Buddha and Disneyland right after arriving from the airport since they are just located in Lantau Island. Courtyard is located in Hong Kong Island.

* The Giant Buddha...

We were excited while on board the double decker bus. We took a lot of pictures! The more expensive option to the Giant Buddha is through the tram. For that day, the lady at the tourism booth in HKIA said the rate for the day is $107/ea. Our option was to take the double decker. It was also a fun way of touring Lantau island with all the view from the deck, and we sat at the front for nice shots. The road was nice. We also saw some bikers along the way. Upon arriving at the monestary, we asked the driver if that was already the place where the Giant Buddha is. He answered, but not in English. And it wasn't a casual tone for conversation. The reason? Well, we found out when we went back.

There were a lot of people. But of all the people, I think we're the only ones bringing a stroller bag, and big knapsacks. What do you expect? We just came from the airport. =) On the way back, we waited for a few minutes for the bus. Filipinos may not look that different from people from HK. There were locals trying to talk to use in their language. "Oh, we're foreigners! English please..." Hehehe. Anyway, some locals don't know how to speak English either, but sign language works. =)

Upon boarding, we saw a signage: "It is an offence for a passenger to talk to the driver". Hmmmmm, we figured, maybe the bus driver we talked to earlier was talking something about his. Maybe, maybe not. Anyways. It was past noon, our feet are tired from walking and climbing a couple of hundred steps stairs, our shoulders aching from our heavy backpacks, we were tired but enjoying. Remember, we are still going to the place where dreams come true -- Disneyland! =)

* Disneyland...

We took a few minutes nap from time to time while heading back via bus to the train station that will take us to the pink MTR line. The Disneyland line is unique from all train lines since it was designed with, of course, Disney characters. The windows are shaped like Mickey mouse. Inside, there are figures of more Disney characters. We also met a very cute baby.

At Disneyland, the atmosphere of "where dreams come true" are more realized by the background music from Disney being played, while a number of people, especially the kids, are all smiles. From our plan, Disneyland rides and attractions are targeted to kids. There were no thrilling rides for our age. So we just checked out the welcome area. There we saw Moby Dick with Mickey surfing above it's blowhole, and more Disney characters. We were tired but still happy to reach Disneyland.

From there, we are finally heading to the hotel. We are already excited to see our room. We took the Disney train (pink line) back to the orange line that will take us to Hong Kong Island. Check out this MTR map.

* Courtyard by Marriott hotel...

It was a fun and tiring first day here in HK. Both gä and I enjoyed the day! Sulit! There was not a minute and HK$ wasted. We ate our lunch late since we opted to visit the attractions first. From the MTR map, Courtyard is nearest to Sheung Wan MTR station. From there, we took out our GPS and began walking towards the Courtyard waypoint that I plotted earlier in Google Earth. We decided to walk towards the hotel direction. But I underestimated the distance. It was a two-kilometer walk. This vacation even helps in calorie-burning. We should have taken the tram but it's our first time familiarizing with the public transports in HK. It's part of the adventure anyway! =)

After walking thru a couple blocks, we finally, yes finally, arrived in Marriott Courtyard. We checked in and what do you know. We got an upgraded/better room overlooking Hong Kong harbour. We were on the 18th of 25 floors. In our floor, there were just about 10 rooms. And as a Marriott gold member, we were offered complimentary breakfast in the lounge. Internet use was minimal though, just a 15-minute complimentary internet use for us, just enough to check emails or confirm addresses of places we need to visit.

Tired from the morning events of HK day 1, we took a few hour nap and woke up around 7pm. And now for HK Day 1, night itinerary. Yep, the day isn't over yet. Earlier, we planned to go to Avenue of the Stars and the night market. But after talking to the attendant in the executive lounge (in 6th floor?), we changed our plans. Avenue of the Stars has a Symphony of the Lights show every 8pm. So we decided to do this in Day 2, night plans. She gave us tips on how to get to the night market, what streets offer what stuff. We decided to head straight to Mong Kok area. She also gave us tips on how to get to Victoria Peak and Macau (which is for Day 3). We did a lot of walking at Mong Kok area, and of course, bought stuff! We had a first hand experience of negotiating at the night market.

gä: "How much for this one? (gold glittered bag)"
store attendant: "$280..."
gä: "Okay... (Not decided to buy it...)"
attendant: "How much you want?"
gä: "Well just come back.."
attendant: "No, you don't understand. How much you want?! (showing us a bond paper sized calculator!)"
gä: "We'll think about it"
attendant: "How much you want?!"
Mitch: "$100"
attendant: "Wuw... " With the shocked face and hands held up (hehehe. exagerrating... )
attendant: "$220. This is good quality!"
both of us: (thinking...)
attendant: "Okay.. $190.."
both of us: (thinking.. thinking..)
gä: "We'll just come back..."
attendant" "$180!!"
both of us: "Deal!"

Hehehe. How's that for negotiating? And we didn't even have to use our own handy calculator.

That's a heck of a day 1 in HK. We really did enjoy our first day here.
For Day 2, our plan is to go to Ocean Park and spend the whole day there. They have all those thrilling rides. And as for the night market other than Mong Kok area, there is also a night market along Temple Street. We're very excited with our "Ocean Park" Day! Watch out, here we come! Ü


HK Day 2 is the highlight of our holiday vacation. We scheduled the whole day to Ocean Park.

* Whole day in Ocean Park...

We started our day by loading up with a complimentary breakfast at the Executive Lounge. They offer nice hearty food such as fruits, noodles, ham, bacon, sausage, eggs, bread (they have my favorite croissant), cheese, fresh fruit drinks, softdrinks, etc. At the lobby, we asked the receptionist for directions to the Ocean Park. We then took the hotel's free shuttle service to {station? 2nd stop from free shuttle} and took bus #75. The other option based from the HK guide we have is to go to Admiralty and take bus #629. We missed the stop to the entrance to Ocean Park. So we asked locals for directions. The challenge of doing this is to ask someone who knows English. After a little walking, we got to the other entrance of Ocean Park.

Before we entered, we took some pics of the Ocean Park from a further view. Perhaps, this could be the reason that we missed the first entrance -- to have a nicer view of the park where you can see the rides from a distance.

Ticket price is (HK)$207 pax, with a promo of a third ticket for just a dollar and can be used until June this year. The ticket can take you to all the rides already except those not officially part of the park, such as the GoGreen Ride (Segway) which was worth $50. I took this chance to try the Segway. It needs a little getting used to. It's a nice-to-have two-wheel ride other than a mountain bike.

Our first ride, The Raging River. We had to fall in line for an hour. The ride gave us an 'appetizer' of the thrilling rides ahead. We expected to get wet, so our sweater came in handy. I wanted to take a video and pics while on board the log when riding it on the raging river, but worried it could get wet too and ruin the day without a camera in Ocean Park so i just kept it. And then... Wuuhhoooow! We slid, screamed, and got wet. I'm the thrill seeker type, but it was only then that I was skeptical of riding the extreme rides for the day. I thought my bladder could burst anytime thinking of the roller coaster and the vertical drop rides. It was like having a job interview or speaking in front of a public. Maybe even worse. More to that on 'The Dragon' and 'The Abyss' later.

The next ride is the Mine Train. From the entrance where we came in, we thought it was the roller coster (The Dragon). This is the 'soup' of our Ocean Park adventure. I was able to take pics and videos while riding the Mine train. Gä tuned up her screaming voice. It was fun! =) Here's a video of our Mine Train ride.
Now came in the main entree for today -- The Abyss. Feel the thrill of falling 60 meters in split seconds! The line was short. There are not enough brave souls to try it. That made it even more thrilling coz you don't have an hour along the line to prepare your mind for the drop. They have sticter rules when riding the vertical drop ride. I had to take of my glasses and too bad I can't bring my camera while riding for safety reasons. We were finally seated on oneside overlooking the sea, trees, and mountains. This was better than looking at a bunch of people laughing at your scared face after the drop! And slowly, we went up. Gä was already screaming on the way up. As we reached the top, we felt our butts up from our seats and the moment of silence was broken by a million decibels of screams only the two of us can hear! It was the best ride ever!!! We screamed like there was no tomorrow. For a moment halfway from the drop (Gä still screaming), I reflected on my dream of doing skydiving. It was scary but after imagining I was skydiving, I was able to relax and felt flying (Gä still screaming. Hehehe). After the ride, I grabbed the digicam in video mode.

ako: "So unsa man imong ma sulti sa ride?"

Gä: "Huh.. chicken!"


We weren't able to take videos of the succeeding rides as they don't allow it for safety reasons. I googled a few of these videos and some are in fact able to sneak their camcorders. Check out this Abyss video.

Our next stop -- The Dragon. It was a roller coaster ride that turns your world upside down, and not just once but thrice. Again, the rules are stict. No eyeglasses and digicam while on board. And then, it was finally our turn. Slowly we went up the ramp, overlooking Hong Kong. That moment, I reflected and thanked God for giving us this opportunity to enjoy. My emotional mode was cut short by a sudden rush going down, gä screaming, pausing, then screamed again. My scream can get passed the turns that I have to prolong it too. Gä said she wanted to say something to me during the rush ride but she felt she couldn't go on speaking and felt her eyes being push to the back of her head! We tilted side ways. We flipped upside down, three times. We screamed and screamed. And screamed! It was really fun... =)

Again, too bad we can't bring our digicam. But hey, internet comes handy. Check out a video of the Dragon ride.

Whew! So much for the extreme rides. Time for the "dessert" rides. After those rides, we now
declare eating as safe, safe from throwing up. Hehehe. We had some snacks and later went to Atoll Reef, a big aquarium housing hundreds of fish, sting rays, sea turtles, and lots more.

A whole day at Ocean Park is not enough to check out everything they have in store. So we decided to ride the most exciting rides and visit the most interesting sites in the park. And we're happy that it turned out as planned. After riding the thrilling rides, we took the cable car to go to the other side of the park, The Lowlands. Check out this Ocean Park map (Headland, Lowland). It was an amazing experience. It was our first time to ride a cable car, and the view was the best! Ocean Park is so big you have to ride a bus from one of its entrance to the other entrance. Or it will take you around 15-minute ride in cable car.

Most rides in the Low Lands were meant for kids. But we are still kids at heart so we still checked out what's in there for us. We were able to ride the helium balloon. People were already thrilled with the ride. Wait and see when they already go to the extreme rides on the other side. For us, it was already a cool down ride.

And oh, we also saw the fiercest of all creatures in HongKong -- Meow Ming. hehehe.

We were able to see real pandas. Well, all we see them do is eat, drop a bomb, then eat, walk to another pile of leaves to eat, sleep, eat again, grab another panda's food, and eat once more. Hehehehe. They're cute though! First time to see their awesomeness and attractiveness! =)
There were nice flowers in the park as well.

We had a fun day at Ocean Park. It was really an experience to remember. For me, my dream of doing a sky diving was partially fulfilled, at least I got to experience how is it to free fall. And it was the happiest for the both of us. Enjoying the thrilling rides together. We screamed and laughed together. We had a great day enjoying! Ocean Park will always bring happy memories. I've been browsing our pictures and I can see that gä's smiles show she had real fun that day, and I'm happy to see that.

But wait, the day isn't over. We have yet to do some night market shopping, but that's after going to the Avenue of the Stars where we saw 'A Symphony of Lights'.

* A Symphony of Lights at the Avenue of the Stars

A Symphony of Lights features lights coming from buildings across the harbour synchronized with the orchestra-like music from where we are seated. Imagine an orchestra where the players are the buildings and the lights are their instruments. Each building shows off a different character. And from all the buildings, here is the show-off building of all -- The Bank of China Tower. Too bad I had no enough space from my 2gig memory card in my digicam to capture more pics/vids since it was all used up in Ocean Park. They hold the show every 8pm. The good side of having a full memory card is that I got to give my full attention to the show itself rather than tweaking the digicam. It's a romantic moment for the both of us. Just be mesmerized by the lights and music along the Hong Kong harbour with the cold breeze and fog, the more reason we need to get closer to each other to get warm. =)

Check out this Symphony of Lights video from youtube.

* Temple Street Night Market...

Right after the show, we walked our way to Temple Street, another night market. Yes, we walked.. again.. With our handy map and GPS, we arrived at the market and again bedazzled by all the stuff. Well, if you think of it, it's not that cheap either. It's how you negotiate that makes the buy worth it. We ate Chinese food in one of the street corner.

We're done for the day. A tiring one but all worth it. We went back to our nice and cozy hotel room overlooking the harbour. Looking forward to our Day 3 in HK.


It's Day 3 in Hong Kong. We planned this day to be a relaxing day, just touring with no pressure. In fact, we woke up late just to rest and enjoy the hotel room. We started the day by taking a hearty brunch in the executive lounge. After preparing, we again rode the hotel shuttle to the Pacific Place 2 building. We took some pictures and planned our day's route. We saw a lot of Filipinos in that area. Mostly Tagalog. But some are Bisaya. We overheard a conversation from a group of domestic helpers:

DH1: "Uuwi ka na? Para namang na mi-miss mo amo mo?"
DH2: "Papatayin ko na nga amo ko." =)

* Hong Kong Park...

We then headed to Hong Kong Park. The park was really nice. It's very clean. There are colorful flowers all labeled up with the name of the species. There are also turtles and fishes in the ponds. The butterflies and dragonflies capture the attention of photographers, including me. The difference is that, I'm not a pro and they have the best lenses and camera kit. But we share the same passion and interest of artistry in capturing photos.

* St. John Cathedral...

Since it was a Sunday, we visited the church. We went to St. John's cathedral found in the heart of the Central district. It was a nice church. Most who are offering service there are Filipinos. This is a place where you can meet a lot of Filipinos every Sunday.

We felt good after paying a visit to the church. Being thankful in the first place that we were given this chance to enjoy a vacation in Hong Kong.

* The Peak...

The highlight of today's tour is The Peak. This is like the Tops of Cebu. We are to ride the traditional and famous tram on top of the mountain. So we head to the The Peak building to take the tram. In the Peak Tram Historical Gallery, we saw Jackie Chan - the famous Hollywood star from Hong Kong. For real? No, just a mannequin. For a fee, you can see more popular people as mannequins in Madame Taussads wax museum. This is similar to that in New York. {to link NY Madame Taussads wax museum pics}

Using our all around Octupus card, we lined up on a different line. After a few minutes, it's our batch's turn to ride the tram. We rode with excitement. What do you know.. We are in fact tilted about 45 degrees in reference to the buildings as seen through the tram window.

Check this out for more info about The Peak.

We ended the day with.. Guess what? Yes, night shopping again and this time we're back to Mongkok night market. While walking our way there, tried practicing some night prolonged shots of the streets for amateur photography. Here's one of my takes.

Whew! Sulit kaayo among bakasyon sa HK dah! Hehehe. The next day, we'll be heading back home but there are yet some errands that I need to do, i.e. buy some bike stuff in FlyingBall - a bike shop in Lai Chi Kok area.


It's HK Day 4. Time to go home. We packed our stuff and had breakfast in the lounge. We then bid goodbye to our 'sosy' room and checked out from the hotel.

* Flying Ball bike shop...

We headed to Flying Ball bike shop to buy road bike shoes for my father, and a jersey for a friend as per request. That's in Lai Chi Kok area, part of the New Territories in HK. We just followed the sketch location of the bike shop as seen in their website. I wanted to take some pics of the shop but photography is not allowed as per signage. The shop has lots of bike stuff. For more info about their products and services, just check our their site.

* Hong Kong International Airport...

Getting to the airport via the Airport Express (MTR to airport) is HK$100 pax. So we took an alternative means and that's taking the MTR to Tung Chung then take the 'S1' bus to the airport. You can save by more than half of the mentioned fare. Our flight was 10pm that day so we have lots of time at hand. So we stayed at Tung Chung's Citygate Outlet Mall with stores such as Nike, Addidas, Puma, etc. We bought puma shoes, and a few groceries.

Time to go to the HKIA. Since we're already checked in online (thru Cathay Pacific/Marco Polo/Asia Miles online), getting our boarding passes was a breeze. As a Marco Polo member, I was invited in the VIP lounge. However, I have to be a gold club member to bring a companion, or debit 7k points from my Asiamiles credits. I decided not to go to the lounge, we can save up the points for the next escapade. Hmmmm. Let me see the map... =). Instead, we strolled the airport. We have enough time to tire out our feet. And by the way, we were thankful enough that they upgraded us to Business Class. Whooow! Nice!

What a vacation =)

Overall that was the best vacation yet! We're very grateful to have this chance to just relax and enjoy Hong Kong. I was also glad that gä was able to experience how it is to be abroad as this was her first time. I'm glad she spent that first time with me.

I hope you enjoyed reading this vacation blog. Feel free to comment on this blog or email me at michelingrandeza@gmail.com


  1. Leave your comments here... =)

  2. lovely trip.planning to visit ourselves

    1. Thanks for your comment! Enjoy your trip, and please share your trip, too. :)