First-time in Hong Kong
My first trip to Hong Kong was an adventure. Coming from Macau at night through ferry, the Hong Kong lights welcomed me and my friends. My Philippine passport was less than six months due to expiration. But the immigration was considerate of my case as I was a frequent traveler and allowed me to leave for Hong Kong. It was also my first to fly out of the country via Clark Air Base in Pampanga. It was also my first to go to Macau (although that one merits a separate blog post). This trip had so many firsts and it became a good foundation for my future trips to Hong Kong.
It was Halloween during our visit and Hong Kong during that time of the year was teeming with people dressed as witches and vampires. They didn’t look scary, though, as they walked through the streets of Hong Kong spreading the spirit of revelry brought about by the occasion.
Since we went there on our own, we had to rely on our maps and the locals to give us directions for a one-and-a-half day city tour. A must-see in Hong Kong is the Victoria Peak. The Tram is magnificent as we ascended the peak while enthralling at the view of Hong Kong’s jewels: the skyscrapers, the villas, and the park below. At the peak, we were happy to find a mall there where branded shops sell at a discounted price and money changers offer better exchange rates. The whole city scape was visible from there, revealing the beauty of Hong Kong by day.
The MTR is the best way around the city and from one island to another because this mode of transportation is highly convenient. You can transfer from the main island of Hong Kong to Kowloon in less time. It can also take you to various points of Hong Kong, including Disneyland.
There are a number of churches and temples that are open to tourists. You can also visit the various malls and buildings of Hong Kong. One particular building, the Hopewell Center in Wan Chai, has a mall at ground level and a revolving restaurant at the top. On the ground floor, various buses plying the Queensway route pass by. But if you want to go to Kennedy Road, take the lift to the 17th floor and you’ll find the exit there.
At Man Mo Temple, you will find the Ladder Street, a street full of steps. You can also find Antique Street a few meters away. It is where many antique items are sold at a cheaper price. At night, Nathan Road is bustling with tourists of various nationalities as well as of colorful lights. The Avenue of Stars is great place to hangout. People go there to watch the ferries and the magnificent view of Hong Kong bay at night!
Near the Avenue of Stars is the Planetarium, the Museum of Art, and other tourist destinations. From there you can take the Tsim Sha Tsui station and go down at Jordan, where the Night Market along Temple Street is found. The goods at the Night Market are relatively cheap, but compared with other Asian cities, like Bangkok and Manila, it is still a bit pricey. The food is great as you eat under the stars along the street. A few blocks away from Tsim Sha Tsui is the Kowloon Park.
There are local events at the Avenue of Stars. Money changers usually have maps and local event listings available for tourists. They are helpful especially for first-time travelers to this highly urbanized city. You can also get a lot of information in the subway and in their customer-service booths. Be sure to memorize the route of subways, the interchange stations, and other routes.
Best Way to Get Around:
Buses are available at different points. Bus stops have information about the bus numbers and the route they take. Try the double-decker buses to get a better view of the city. Better yet, take the subway, where it is much convenient to go around. If you are in the downtown area, try to walk for short distances. Taxis are available but are a bit expensive. There are ferries available that go to Macau or Shenzhen and other parts of China
It’s literally eating along the streets. With shoppers and travelers walking around, it doesn’t matter when there are lots of people passing by while delighting on the food. There are just small tables set at the side streets, while the main street is filled with shops. The food is so delicious and the best ever we have tasted in Hong Kong. The culture and the experience are all worth it.
Shopping – Art and Antiques
In Hong Kong, there’s a street called Antique Street. Now called Hollywood Street, this area is where most antiques are sold. They don’t come cheap, but if you are patient and persevering, you’ll find some good buys that are a lot cheaper than in the Night Market. Everything Chinese is found here. Jade items are also sold. Perpendicular to Antique Street is Ladder Street, a whole street of steps!
Strolling at the Avenue of Stars
There are various events that happen at the Avenue of Stars. This is the Hollywood version of Hong Kong. A souvenir shop of goodies of your favorite Chinese and Asian actors is available to fans and visitors. At night the pavement is filled with tiny lights reflecting the beautiful stars from the sky. Along the promenade the night view of Hong Kong is seen with colorful and bright ferries traversing the bay. It is perfect for dates and groups to just relax and unwind.
For us it’s not really a package tour. It’s more of an adventure. We did the tour by ourselves, relied on our traveler’s guide book, and looked for the places on our own. Finally, after several blocks and streets, we found Man Mo Temple. It’s not the usual temple I was expecting during my visit to Bangkok, but this one reveals another side of Buddhism and how I get to respect them and their faith.
Victoria Peak Tram
The ascent from Hong Kong Central, where the tram is located, to the Peak is such a wonderful experience. The sight slowly reveals the beauty of Hong Kong from the park to the whole view of the bay. Upon reaching the top there is Peak’s Galleria, which is a mall is complete with various shops, fast-food chains, and even money-changer stores. There are also small souvenir shops available. A small part of the hill is where most tourists take photos with the Hong Kong skyline at the background.
The Ocean Park is an interesting attraction because it has plenty of rides, lots of things to see, including animals that can catch your attention. It’s a cable ride at the side of the mountain to get from one part of the theme park to another.
USA Hotel is located in the Mirador Mansions building found along Nathan Road in Tsim Sha Tsui. The building in itself looks old and worn out. There are shops at the ground floor while there are apartments and various hotels in different floors of the building. It is a major consideration that it is near the night market and other major tourist attractions and convenient when taking the MTR.
It is one of those budget hotels where you can find rooms for as low as $15 per person a night. The room is modest and a bit small and the private bath is a bit cramped. However, it has air conditioning and a refrigerator where we keep our food.
My thirst for travel has also led me to an interest in learning foreign languages and reading maps. Therefore, it comes as no surprise when my friends appointed me as the navigator during the entire trip.
All three of us were first-timers in Hong Kong. To cut down on expenses, we decided not to take a travel agency’s package tour and instead do the itinerary and travel planning and coordination on our own. It wasn’t that easy but we have to rely on our guts, wit and instincts to make this adventure a successful one.
It was a long journey for us. We took a two-hour bus ride to the airport where we can take the plane to Macau. Then, we had to wait for about an hour and a half before finally boarding the plane. As we arrive in Macau, we had to catch a jet foil ferry ride to Hong Kong. For the final leg of the journey, we had to take the MTR from Hong Kong Island to get across to Kowloon. It was almost 10:00 pm when we got into our hotel.
We had to look for a cheap diner to fill our empty stomachs. It was a good thing that our lodging was right smack in Kowloon where most of the action is to be found. Neon lights were our guide as we traversed the streets of Hong Kong.
The next day, another adventure was to unfold. Armed with a travel book and a map, we set out for our journey. We would stop every now and then to inquire from locals or fellow Filipinos how to get to our next destination. And in the process, we got to discover a lot of things that were not stated in travel guides which we brought along.
What an exciting experience we had. The feeling of finding a place and surviving the trip sans tourist guide is like hitting a jackpot in a poker game–it takes a lot of patience, strategy and luck in order to win.
Well, I do not mind to be the resident navigator in our group. As long as I do it for adventure and not for anything else, I’d be content to show them around while at the same time rediscovering the place.