Saturday, January 28, 2012

Hong Kong Disneyland (December 22, 2011)

In all my 43 years of existence, I've never set foot in Disneyland ... until December 22, 2011. Imagine that!

A few days before Christmas, we decided to have an early start and shoved off to the amusement park to see Mickey Mouse and his friends.

Unlike Universal Studios in Singapore where it was sooo warm and humid, exploring Disneyland in 14 deg. C weather was quite pleasant.

We took a bus across the street from my sister's flat and alighted at the MTR station. From Hong Kong station, it is a scenic 25 minutes ride all the way to Sunny Bay station where you alight to transfer to the Disneyland train. (15 minutes ride)

I was amazed that the train was jam packed with people even though it was a weekday. So I guess they were mostly tourists (like us) visiting Hong Kong. Naturally there were long queues to all the rides. My parents were with us so we were quite selective when it came to the rides. So no roller coasters (not that I would even attempt) and no rides where you might get wet.

But everyone agreed that we would all go on the carousel. After lining up for almost 20 minutes, it was our turn. Here's where it turned into a funny incident. When it was my turn, 'the horse' was quite high. I couldn't reach the pedal to haul myself over it. I was getting flustered. My parents were bowling over in laughter. While D who was a few horses away had no idea of my predicament and by that time he was already in his 'photo shoot' zone.

After several embarrassing tries to get on the horse, I nearly gave up. Until D finally realized what was going on so he practically carried me so I could ride the carousel. It was way too embarrassing. I was laughing so much I almost peed in my jeans. It was an experience I would never ever forget! Until now they still tease me about that hilarious carousel ride. :D

My favorite part is when darkness fell and the entire Disneyland was all lighted up. I bought a Minnie Mouse headband and didn't feel embarrassed at all even if I looked like a kid!

The fireworks display near the main Tinkerbell castle at 9pm was amazingly awesome!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Photographs and Memories

They say that when you travel with your partner that's when you truly discover his/her true personality. Well I'd have to admit that is quite true. On our recent trip to Hong Kong, I discovered that although D is quite adept in packing and repacking matters, he was/is the ultimate photo trigger happy person. He took pictures of everything and I mean everything!

The thing is we are the proud owner(s) of only ONE digital camera. Heck I would even go as far as saying that it is MY camera. It was a gift from my sister and I'd had it way before we got married. But since I'm a kind person, if I may say so myself, I would let him use it.

You see, D has developed this keen interest in photography. I admit he has a good eye when it comes to capturing unique angles. My sister has her iPhone which she now uses for everything even taking pictures. So I 'borrowed' her Sony digicam for the entire duration of the trip. So D had 'my' digicam at his disposal.

Eventually '' totally irritated me to no end. There were moments when I had to stay behind and let my parents and sister go ahead because I had to wait until he got back from God knows where to take pictures. He is what you call a 'slow' photographer, for want of a better word. He would wander off and study the area, position himself from awkward angles just to snap a picture of let's say the dome of a church. He would also take pictures at his own pace which in my opinion is quite slow.

At one point, I was so irritated I just left him and went ahead with my family. When he was finally able to catch up with us, I gave him the silent treatment for 2 days. It isn't in my nature to do so but enough was enough. :D I believe he got the hint because the next day he gave the digicam back for me to use.

My main issue was not the fact that he was hogging the camera. Honestly I didn't mind. What I minded was his slow pace. He was traveling with 4 other people who had to constantly wait for him to 'show' up. It got on my nerves.

For me, a trip is about bonding together and enjoying the scenery. It goes without saying that we should take pictures to capture the moments. But when the trip turns into a big photo shoot opportunity then it ruins the entire picture.

Speaking of pictures from this recent trip, I've been quite busy sorting out the thousands of photos he took. He wants me crop and edit the pictures before he uploads them on FB. So while he is quite adept at taking pictures, he isn't patient enough to do his own 'editing' since he is busy with work. Me, I'm not open to the idea of 'photoshopped' pictures. I posted the ones I took as they were taken. Naturally I picked out the ones where I didn't look like a fat cow. :D

How about you? Do you edit your pictures before you upload them on FB or Flickr? I'd like to hear your comments on this tedious chore.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Gastronomic feast

They say the best way to immerse in the culture of a nation is by partaking of their local cuisine. Eat where the locals eat to truly enrich your visiting experience. But after a while, your taste buds tend to savor something different than the usual fare. Thankfully, Hong Kong has an interesting mix of various cuisine to offer!

Since it was very chilly outside, hotpot where you cook your own food was a favorite hangout. This was taken at the Budaoweng HotPot Cuisine located at iSquare Mall, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. It is located at the 23rd floor of the mall so it offers a fantastic view of Hong Kong.

Ebeneezer's had really appetizing shawarmas. It has several branches all over Hong Kong. After we explored the Lan Kwai Fong area, we decided to take out from this kebab place. It was yummy!

We had Beijing cuisine at a small nook on Caine Road. The restaurant is called Hometown Dumplings and it served mostly mainland (Beijing) Chinese food.

I ordered this Hokkaido Scallop Ramen from AjiSen Ramen, a Japanese restaurant. It was huge but I was famished so I managed to gobble it all down.

We dined at Thai Pad on New Year's day. They serve authentic Thai food which aren't too spicy for our discriminating palette.

Naturally we had Portuguese food when we visited Macau. This oxtail stew at NOW Cafe was delicious!

We merely had to cross the street from my sister's flat and voila a hotpot restaurant for you! We loved it so much we ate at Ying Kee Hotpot Restaurant quite frequently due to its very convenient location.

This 3 kinds of roasted meat was one of our orders at a restaurant in Queens Road West. Until now we don't know its name since the sign (as well as the menu) was in Chinese characters. We had a difficult time communicating with the staff who didn't speak English and ended up ordering by pointing at the pictures on their menu!

It was German cuisine at King Ludwig Beerhall located at the Murray House in Stanley. Huge platter of different kings of sausages filled our tummy after a long day of exploring Stanley.

We had lunch at Cadogan Pho, a Vietnamese restaurant after hearing mass at St Anthony's church. We were too hungry to take pictures of the food and only remembered to snap a shot of the place after we stepped out into the cool breeze.

For Christmas lunch we ate at Bayi, a Mongolian restaurant. Their menu consists mostly lamb dishes like this lamb stew with cumin.

Here we are all smiles at The Corner Cafe in Disneyland, Hong Kong. Their American fare was quite filling (huge portions).

A few tips while dining out in Hong Kong:
1) Portions are quite big for one person. My hubby and I would normally just share one dish.

2) Most menus are in Chinese but some restaurants have English menus so always ask before you enter the premises.

3) Bring your own tissue paper because they don't serve napkins.

4) They don't have fork and spoon so you must learn to use chopsticks. My father never learned to use chopsticks so we always brought along a pair of cutlery for him to use whenever we dined out. At one restaurant, we completely forgot about it and it was cleared along with the dishes after we had finished dining. Boy oh boy, we had such a hard time explaining to the waitress (who didn't speak English) that the fork and spoon were ours. After several hand gestures and sign language she finally understood and ran off to the kitchen to retrieve the fork and spoon.

5) Lastly, bring along your sense of humor as well as huge amounts of patience because frankly the inability to communicate with the servers can be very very frustrating, annoying and quite irritating to say the least! hehehe

Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy Lunar New Year!!!

Let's usher in the year of the dragon.

Gold dragon hanging on the ceiling at the City of Dreams in Macau.

Dragon display in the Wanchai district of Hong Kong island

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

First impressions

1982 was the very first time I set foot in Hong Kong. We were going back to Manila after spending 10 years overseas. So they (my parents) thought it was a good idea to stopover in Hong Kong for a few days before we headed back to 'home base'.

It was the month of August in the year 1982, Hong Kong was sweltering in the summer heat. Ergo, my very first impression of this city state wasn't very pleasant. I remember sweating profusely due to the humidity (big adjustment as we had just come from Europe) and the very warm summer weather. The place where we stayed was small and dusty and it was located in some dark alley. The streets had this distinct "oriental" flavor/odor that was quite revolting for someone who was raised in Europe. Kadiri talaga!

Fast forward to 2009. My sister and I were planning a trip for our parents 41st wedding anniversary. She suggested Hong Kong. I said sure why not? We availed of a package that included airfare, accommodations, HK city tour + a day tour to Macau. We only spent 4 days and 3 nights in a three star hotel in Kowloon during the winter month of February. But I tell you, it (the short trip) completely and utterly changed my whole view about Hong Kong in a heartbeat!

2011 - my sister got a new job and had to relocate to Hong Kong. Her flat isn't as big as her 2 bedroom unit in Singapore but we (all 5 of us) managed to fit in nicely. Her 8th floor studio was fully furnished with all the basic necessities. Her Bathroom Floor Tiles were a sparkling shade of grey. The flat itself is in a building that is centrally located in the dried goods district of Hong Kong. All modes of transportation were easily within reach of her front door. But by far, our favorite means to get around to explore Hong Kong was the double decker tram. Cheap, comfortable and quite cute! :D

I'm glad that I had a chance to erase my horrible first impression of this city state. I saw with my very own eyes how much it had progressed since 1982 and I fell in love with its enticing charms.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Stanley, Hong Kong (December 21, 2011)

My sister has been so busy in her new job that she barely finds the time to explore Hong Kong. She told us her list of places to visit was quite long. Besides it ain't really fun to venture out to new places by your lonesome self.

One of the places in her (long) list was Stanley. This waterfront town located in the southeastern part of Hong Kong is a favorite hang out for the locals and expats. A peaceful and serene environment along with the fresh sea breeze are its main attraction. The journey aboard a double decker aircon bus is a scenic route through narrow zigzag roads. It offers a fantastic view of the whole of Hong Kong island especially if you sit on the upper deck. You pass by posh bungalows and towering condominiums in the Aberdeen area. You also get a panoramic view of Repulse Bay with its pristine beaches.

Once you reach Stanley, the must see places are the Stanley Market, a bazaar (tiangge), the Murray House ( a Victorian era colonial building that now houses various fine dining restaurants), the Stanley Plaza an upscale mall. It also has a waterfront with a wide promenade. A nice place for a date or a pleasant venue to simply soak in the fresh sea breeze.

Friday, January 13, 2012

HK Day One (December 17, 2011)

The eve of our departure I was so tired I could barely sleep. Our flight was at 5:40 AM but if you live in this fair metropolis, you would know that you need to make sure you got ample time to make it to the airport. The airlines demand you be there 3 hours before your flight. So by 2:30 AM we were on our way to the airport. There was a slight drizzle when we got out of the condo and it became heavier as we approached the airport. There were long queues everywhere. At the entrance to the airport, at the X ray machines even the the check in counters. It seems everyone was leaving on that day for the holidays.

But eventually it was time to pass by the immigration counters. If you have ever gone through the customs/immigration counters at our local airports, you'd know it's best you have all the necessary papers/documents to be shown upon their request.I was well prepared. I had photocopies of my passport, our return e-ticket, my credit cards as well as my sister's HK identity card. The exchange was pleasant enough. It was like small talk, she asked where D worked, what I did for a living, asked us if we were going for vacation, how long would we be away etc. She stamps our passports and we were off to the security check counters when suddenly I heard someone say 'excuse me' twice.

I turn around and it was the immigration officer who wanted to clarify something with us. She was addressing D: "Excuse me po, di ba state U ang PUP?" We nod, yes. "Kung ganoon po eh dapat meron kayong travel authority kasi government employee po kayo." At this point, I must have turned pale as my heart sank. This is the first time (since we got married and we've traveled together) that we were asked to produce this document. D looks at me and shrugs. Since we didn't have this document, we were asked to seat down while she went to verify this requirement with her superiors.

At this point, D tells me if he is prevented from leaving that I should just go ahead and he would re-book and just travel the following week. I was livid, I told him I wasn't leaving without him. This was preposterous. Travel authorities are only required under martial law. D was trying his best to calm me down. To make the long story short, she comes back and tells us: "Sige po sa ngayon makakaalis kayo pero sa susunod po kailangan meron kayo travel authority kung may biyahe overseas." We turn around and almost ran off lest we were prevented from leaving. :D

D kept laughing during the flight as he recounted how I seemed like I was about to faint and/or cry when we were questioned. I admit I was aghast. Then I was angry. Then I simply chalked it up to some nuisance or 'aberya' that people in 'high' places do to harass people from leaving. Not fair at all but it happens!

Anyhoo! Onwards to our first day in Hong Kong. Here we are on the Airport Express. A super efficient train that transports you from the Hong Kong International Airport to the city in just 20 minutes. It was clean, it was fast, it was cheap and a very convenient way to get to the city. Fabulous, I'd tell you!

After we dropped off our luggage at my sister's flat, we were off to explore HK. After a quick lunch at the HK Convention Center, we took the star ferry to cross over to the Kowloon side. Our first stop (on foot, mind you!) was the 1881 Heritage.

This majestic mall is located on Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui. This area of 130,000 sq ft. features a shopping mall, a heritage hotel, and an exhibition hall.

The original site of 1881 Heritage was the headquarters of the Hong Kong Marine Police from the 1880s to 1996. The buildings' unique Victorian architecture epitomizes its rich colonial background.

It was a weekend so I believe most of HK was out shopping. Nathan Road was jam packed with people so we entered another mall to escape from the crowd.
K11 is a shopping mall with 6 floors and it is located beneath the Hyatt Regency Hong Kong in Tsim Sha Tsui.

It is described as the world's first art mall. There are artworks everywhere. The venue also plays hosts to several foreign film festivals. This Mona Lisa mural is made up entirely of loaves of bread.

Their Christmas decor was themed Renoir Christmas Dance which featured the setting of the masterpiece "Le Bal au Moulin de la Galette" by the leading French impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

Then we walked all the way from Tsim Sha Tsui to the Avenue of the Stars. This waterfront promenade offers a fantastic view of the skyscrapers at the Hong Kong island side. This also features the hand prints of famous Chinese stars like Jet Li, Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan to name a few.

It was late in the evening and temperatures were starting to drop. So it was time to put on my woollen blazer and my hoodie to protect me from the strong winds. It was chilly but I loved it.

The view across was fantastic especially when darkness set upon us and the building were all lighted up for the Yuletide season.