Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sights and Sounds of HongKong: the last in the series

Yes I promise this is the last post about my HongKong trip. We only stayed for 4 days but I've come up with 7 posts detailing it to bits and pieces. The trip was almost 2 weeks ago and I am still blogging about it! Go figure. I guess I need a diversion to avoid thinking about how much I will truly truly truly miss my sister when she relocates to the Lion City in a couple of weeks time.

A double decker bus passes by the Lane Crawford mall in Times Square, Causeway Bay

Oh look an ad showing a chimp selling what I presume are mints to freshen your breath!

This was taken on a Saturday night. It was already around 11pm but boy oh boy Hongkong streets were still chock full of people doing their weekend shopping.

The historic clock tower is a landmark from the Age of Steam. It was part of the original Kowloon Canton Railway Terminus. It survived the demolition of the rail station in the mid 1970s and it was declared a monument in 1990.

The Happy Valley Race course where I presume many a dreams have been shattered by those betting on horses which lost!

There were lanterns everywhere you looked since the Spring Lantern festival was fast approaching.

So 3 nights and 4 days were surely not enough to explore every single nook and cranny of that bustling city but I had so much fun. As I buckled my seat belt during the ride back to Manila on PAL flight PR 311, I got into a reflective mood.

I admit at first, I was cautious about traveling with my parents due to their seniority but they were always game and never complained. But I could tell they did get really tired at the end of each day.

It was also D's first ever trip overseas (yes I know I keep rubbing that fact in, huh?) so it was fun to discover his 'tourist' vibe. It was painless and he is such a great travelling companion. He followed all my instructions and was totally up to the task like carrying luggage, guiding my parents during ferry rides and generally just being his dear good hearted person self. Bless him!

And my dear sister well she is the ultimate traveler and dare I say the rock that holds the family together. She is good with navigation and directions. We all just totally relied on her wise judgment so we won't get lost in translation and in transition.

So I was deeply grateful to be able to travel yet again on a trip of rediscovery with people who matter most to me. I'm truly blessed! =)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Victoria Peak, Hongkong: Day 4 (Feb. 8, 2009)

Our last day in Hongkong, we checked out from the hotel by 11:30am. Then rushed to the Holy Rosary Church on Chatham Road for the 12:15pm mass.

We took a taxi to get to Harbour City for mom wanted to buy a small item, some last minute shopping. As I stated earlier, this trip was more like a rediscovery of Hongkong's tourist attractions not a shopping trip because the last time we were in Hongkong was in 1982 when it was still a colony of the UK.

From Harbour City, we walked to the ferry station where we boarded a Star Ferry to take us to the Hongkong island side specifically alighting at the Central ferry station.

Then it was time to get to The Peak, Hongkong. We get to the lower Peak tram terminus to ride a funicular train which takes about 8 minutes to reach the upper Peak terminus. The tram departs every 10 to 15 minutes.

At the Peak, there is a mall with numerous restaurants for dining. We had a quick lunch at Burger King. It is also the location of the famous wax museum, Madame Tussauds. We went to the Sky Terrace which offers a stunning 360-degree panoramic view across Hong Kong. It was really windy, the air was chilly but the view was spectacular!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Ocean Park HongKong: Day 3 (Feb. 7, 2009)

At 9:30am sharp, the bus picked us up from the hotel to take us to Ocean Park HongKong. The agreed pick up time was set at 4:30pm. We were then set loose at this marine themed amusement park.

We saw Le Le and An An, the cute giant pandas at the Panda Exhibit.

We rode the cable car to get to the Highlands portion of Ocean Park.

We watched the dolphin and seal show at the Ocean Theater.

We were awed by the colorful jelly fish at the Sea Jelly Spectacular and the marine life in the Atoll Reef.

The whole family rode the ferris wheel which wasn't as high as other ferris wheels. Then my sister and I had a quite a thrill on the Eagle. An amusement ride which turns in 180 degree circles clockwise going round and round as it soars all the way up then turns counterclockwise as it descends to the ground. For me though, my Gosh it was very traumatic. I was terrified the entire 8 minutes (I think) it lasted. I was screaming and had my eyes shut the whole time. After the ride touched down, I felt really dizzy and couldn't move. I admit I broke down and cried, cried and cried. It was embarrassing to say the least. A 40 year old woman crying after being taken for a "ride". But the adrenaline rush was simply too much for me to bear. I had to compose myself for a few minutes. I was sweating profusely even though it was cold. My parents kept fanning and gave me aspirin to calm me down. It is something I will never forget! And I swear I won't venture into an amusement park ride ever again. The only reason I agreed in the first place was to accompany my sister. D didn't join us because he had developed a headache by then.

I managed to calm myself down after splashing my face with water at the nearest restrooms. Then it was time to go back down to the Lowland Gardens. We were advised that it would take about 30 minutes to reach the exit so we progressed at a steady pace. My parents were already tired from walking all over the place. The way down is through the Ocean Park Escalator at 224 m (745ft), it is the second longest outdoor escalator in the world. It is outdoors, but weatherproof. There are 4 escalators and in between them, you catch a breathtaking glimpse of Repulse Bay in HongKong island.

You see the cute pink flamingo in the Lowlands Gardens

Then you wait for your bus at the assigned parking lot to come pick you up. Or you can take the city bus to take you to the Admiralty MTR station in downtown Kowloon.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Borders UK

One of my favorite activities is to browse at big bookstores. Borders has this huge branch in Singapore and I remember spending hours browsing at their extensive selection of books. I usually hang out in the travel section to check books about travel guides to get relevant information about my next vacation destinations.

Their comprehensive website, borders jan 2009 is neatly compartmentalize into different sections like bestsellers, new releases, books of the month and special offers. Aside from books, they also offer Dvds, Cds, Music, Audio Books, Stationery and Magazine Subscriptions as well as Gifts & Games and Gift cards. They also have a forum section for interactive discussions with other book lovers. The Borders Blogosphere provide informative product/book reviews by fellow bloggers. You can also subscribe to be the first to hear about their special offers, competitions and news by submitting your email.

Thank God for huge bookstores like Borders, their selection of books help fuel our quest for information about events, places and things. Now if only we had enough time to read a book. But that's another story!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Macau: Part Three of Day 2 (Feb. 6, 2009)

So after our Macau Tower experience, the tour guide dropped us off at the Venetian Macau Resort Hotel. The 'free' city tour of Macau was over. So no, we didn't get to see the St Paul Ruins, the Senado and other tourist spots this former Portuguese colony is renowned for. But I'm sure we will get the chance to return to Macau somehow, someday, sometime in the future.

So while my mother went agog at the slot machines in the casino, we (my sister and my hubby) decided to explore this huge hotel/resort casino which as the name implies was constructed to appear as the Italian city of Venice. So you have the famous bridge of sighs, the gondolas, the Venetian architecture and vast Renaissance paintings on their ceilings and the hotel is peppered with designer boutiques and luxurious shops like Chanel, Ralph Lauren and Gucci.

After we practically had to drag my mother away from the casino, we took the shuttle bus to The Sands Hotel and made our way by foot to the Fisherman's Wharf for dinner. An outdoor mall with a theme park vibe with restaurants and shops. You can also view some of the other hotels/casinos lurking their majestic presence in the background. By that time, it was already early evening so the air was a bit nippy. It added to the romantic setting of the place so it made for nice cozy "hugging" pictures. I do have to say that the place was pretty empty. For some strange reason, it didn't seem to click with the local crowd or the tourists either. Probably because most of the people who come to Macau go to the casinos to gamble away.

It was already past 9pm when we were done with dinner and sightseeing. The return fare wasn't part of the 'free' Macau city tour so we had to purchase our tickets from the ferry terminal. We walked all the way to the HongKong Macau Pier to catch the ferry back to Kowloon Island. It was a long walk from the Fisherman's Wharf. It was cold and windy. My feet were aching. I was tired since we were up since 6am. Cramming a HongKong City tour and a Macau city tour in one day is really hectic. But once we were seated in the 10pm First Ferry back to Hongkong, I was thankful for that long day and cherished the family bonding moment with glee. Trying to ignore the rough waves smashing against the ferry as it was already high tide! =)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

9th month of wedded bliss

Kindly allow me to pause from posting about my recent Hongkong and Macau adventure to come up with an entry to commemorate our 9th month as husband and wife.

Here are 9 reasons why we are so happy, together:

May 15, 2008 - Our wedding day

October 19, 2008 - my 40th birthday

December 25, 2008 - Christmas Day

December 29, 2008 - Caleruega, Batangas

December 29, 2008 - Tagaytay

February 6, 2009 - Avenue of the Stars, Kowloon, Hongkong

February 6, 2009 - Fisherman's Wharf, Macau

February 7, 2009 - Ocean Park, Hongkong

February 8, 2009 - The Peak, HongKong

We are both photogenic (kuno) and we look good, together! Teehee! =)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Macau: Part Two of Day 2 (Feb. 6, 2009)

Mr Lee (our tour guide from Win's travel) said farewell to us as he dropped us off at the ferry terminal after our half day Hongkong city tour.

Our next itinerary was a 2pm ferry ride (one way) to Macau inclusive of a short city tour. We had time for a quick lunch at the food court which is brimming with restaurants which serve different cuisine. Then we 'checked in' at the First Ferry counter, went through Hongkong immigration, painlessly. Then we walked to berth # 13 to board the 2pm ferry. The ferry ride is about 2 hours on the high seas. You are given a specific seat number but since it is not full, you can transfer to another seat once the ride begins. I took this opportunity to close my eyes and tried to sleep a bit.

Once the ferry starts its slow approach to Macau, you are greeted with a fantastic view of several majestic cable laden bridges which connect the Macau peninsula to the northwest coast of Taipa. It was a sight to behold - those suspension bridges were really magnificent! I was a bit drowsy from my nap that I forgot to take pictures besides the ferry was still moving so the pictures might be out of focus.

Anyways, our tour guide Roger met us at the terminal as we embarked on a complimentary city tour of Macau. The thing is when we bought our HongKong tour package, the local travel agency told us they have included a free half day Macau city tour. Since it is "free", we couldn't alter the itinerary in the city tour. So we just went along with the flow, so to speak.

The first stop was located on the outer harbor, this statue, dedicated to Goddess of Kun Iam (Goddess of Mercy) is 20 meters tall and made of special bronze. Then we passed by a local confectionery store which sells Macau famous pasalubong items - almond cookies of all shapes and sizes. I really don't have much patience for "store visits", so I stepped out to take some pictures of Macau from where we were located. But as I write this post I am currently munching on some mini size almond cookies which my mother bought for me. Yum.

This is the Macau Convention Center:

Here's a picture of a parking meter (something I haven't seen in a long time since there aren't any in the Philippines) notice the terms written in both the Chinese dialect as well as the Portuguese language, given that you all know that Macau used to be a colony of Portugal.

Here I noticed the huge disparity in the skyline. The contrast between an old almost decrepit residential building vis a vis a major hotel chain luring unsuspecting tourists to their luxurious suites and mostly a haven for gambling addicts to spend their time and hard earned money in the casinos.

The next stop was the famous Macau Tower. Original plan was to simply pass by it but we were willing to pay for the entrance fee (HKD 85/pax) so we could go to the viewing deck located on the 58th and 61st floor respectively.

From up there you are afforded a breathtaking view of the whole Macau peninsula, the Taipa coast and beyond. The Macau tower also offers for the adventurous at heart, several adrenaline pumping activities (for an exorbitant fee, of course!) like bungee jumping, sky walking and sky jumping! Good luck to all those thrill seekers. When we were there, there was a young guy who leaped his pants off, he chose to sky jump instead of bungee jump! We encountered him on his way back up and he was as pale as the moon, probably thinking how he was going to pay for the fee!

This is the wonderfully designed facade of the Grand Lisboa Hotel, Macau. Beautiful architecture!

I didn't know I actually had a fear of heights until I tried to look all the way down from the transparent glass area of the tower and felt dizzy! So these pictures were taken by my much more daring and adventurous sister who wanted to sky walk around the tower held only by a harness which enables you to circle around the outside walkway. Geeez. what a brave soul!

Ladies and gentlemen that seemingly barren landlocked terrain is already mainland China, specifically the town of Zhuhai. According to Roger (our tour guide), it only takes about 10 minutes to walk to this border town from Macau. Fancy that! It was my first time to have a glimpse of the sleeping giant China which I reckon isn't so sleepy anymore!