Saturday, 16 June 2012

The Macau – Hongkong Escapade

It was early dawn of March 6 when Ech and I hardly have a good night rest – out of excitement, uneasiness and yes lack of sleep.

Our flight bound for Manila from Cebu was 5am via Philippine Airlines.  We are due to arrive Manila 6am and need to go through NAIA’s Immigration process prior to embarking on the plane bound for Hongkong 8am. After paying the terminal fee amounting to P750, we transferred to the long queue for immigration.
It was a bit too crowded compared to Cebu’s Immigration queue and far too lingering – perhaps because it was our first encounter with NAIA’s immigration officers. The original plan was to line up with the lady immigration since she was sort of friendly and was the only one smiling amongst her colleagues. However, we eventually got separated by an airport staff tasked to control the queue; we ended up with different immigration officers. I was the first to face the immigration officer. He looked at me several times, stared at me couple of times and ogled numerous times. Nevertheless he stamped my passport and I was relieved. I then waited for Ech who was at that time next in line with a different immigration officer. Seeing him getting his passport was also such a relief for me.

But the joy we felt was only short-lived.  We have been stopped unexpectedly by an immigration supervisor. What comes after was a bombardment of questions like if we have money, why are we travelling from manila to hongkong instead of cebu to hongkong and if we have jobs here in the Philippines. We answered only what was asked - less talks less complication. So again we got through.

Past 10am we arrived at the Hongkong International Airport and as usual, the apprehension is awaken by the mere thought of enduring again the immigration process, this time by the Hongkong immigration officers. I was called first to move forward and the lady immigration officer asked me if I was travelling alone and I said no, I am travelling with someone. She then asked me to call Ech so she can interrogate us together. She was asking how many days we are going to stay in HK and if we have a hotel booking already and I answered 4 days and yes we have a hotel booking. She was looking for the hotel booking document and I answered it was not given to us yet and explained to her that a friend booked us at JJ Hotel Wan Chai. Determined to crush our enthusiasm, she then questioned us if we were on a tour or job hunting which we responded with confidence that we are there to visit the place and not to look for a job. She demanded us to present our identification – I showed my SSS ID and Ech showed his MCIA ID which earned him a nod from the lady immigration officer. She then inquired how much money we were bringing for the said tour and if it was enough to shoulder the expenses of our trip. We told her how much US dollar, Hongkong dollar and Philippine Peso we were bringing.  After another lingering interrogation, this time the relief was no longer short-lived. We are in.

After claiming our baggage, we finally got out of Terminal 1 with the dilemma of how to meet Ech’s niece Irene. Upon meeting her, she gave us the Kabayan Sim Card powered by China Mobile, our Octopus Cards and our single trip ticket from Airport Express to Central, Hongkong. This was the start of our unending walks.

We met up with Jela, a friend of Irene’s at KFC IFC mall. We bid goodbye to Irene since she was not allowed by her employer to accompany us in Macau and we said hello to Macau by buying the ticket for the Macau Ferry which cost us HKD146 one way. The ferry was to leave hongkong 12 noon and bound to arrive Macau 12:45 to 1300. The trip was not actually pleasant perhaps because of the weather tickling the waves to pummel the ferry every now and then. Bonamine where were you when I needed you most! Sigh.

God must have heard my prayers because we arrived in Macau safely and in one piece. We were fetched by Jela’s friend and on we went to our first pit stop – The Venetian. We rode a bus with “The Venetian” name on it.  From Venetian where we ate our lunch, we hopped from one Casino to another and Hotel to another Hotel.  We went to Hard Rock Macau Hotel (where staffs are mostly Filipinos), City of Dreams (where we applied a lifetime membership card) and Grand Emperor Hotel Macau (owned by Jackie Chan with 78 pieces of authentic gold bars placed underneath the casino’s lobby floor) where we ate our dinner.

Aside from Hotel and Casino hopping, we went to the ruins of St. Paul and the busy Macau market where Pork Tapa (marinated pork strips) are limitless to your heart’s desires.  We then visited one of the world’s largest diamonds and emerald at the Casino Grand Lisboa. We also watched the dancing fountain at Wynn Macau and witnessed the magnificent Tree of Prosperity at Wynn Macau before heading to the Macau Ferry Terminal bound for Hongkong.

We left Macau 10:30 pm and arrived Hongkong 11:30pm. We reached Nang Remy’s Place for backpackers past midnight with a sore feet and a happy soul.

On our second day, we went to Disneyland Hongkong on our own. We ate breakfast at KFC near Wan Chai Market and was quiet delighted with their breakfast meal – shell macaroni soup with omelette and coffee. Indeed yummy.

From Wan Chai Station, we went to Central and bought our tickets at worldwide plaza with a discounted price of HKD320 instead of HKD350. From Central Station, we rode the MTR bound for Tung Chung and disembarked at Sunny Bay to wait for the Disneyland Train.

Voila! Hongkong Disneyland!

Since I am not a “rides” fanatic, I was only there to experience the magic that only Disney can offer – sights and sounds that we have grown accustomed since childhood days. We went to several shows like the PhilharMagic, a 3D movie featuring scenes from Classic Disney Films. We also get to experience the Golden Mickey’s – described by google as a 50-minute musical live show with characters from Disney films nominated for awards such as heroism, comedy, villains, friendship and romance. We failed to witness the Lion King’s last show though and captured other beautiful display of Disney’s wonder due to a drained battery of our DSLR. Nevertheless it was a fun-filled Disney experience for both of us feeling young; ate Mickey Waffle, ate Mickey chocolate coated ice cream and ate mickey mango pudding. It’s all about Mickey. Laugh.

The third day was jam-packed with Lantau island getaway, a visit at The Peak and Madame Tussauds, viewing the Symphony of lights at Avenue of Stars and a visit at Mongkok market.

Lantau island’s Ngong Ping 360 was a 25 minute cable car ride with a choice of crystal cabin and a regular cable car. We rode the crystal cabin (glass floor which means everything beneath you is visible from the seawater to the trees) and paid HKD230 each inclusive of round trip ticket, monkey’s tale theater (which we failed to watch due to time constraints) and walking with Buddha (an immersive, multimedia attraction allowing visitors to follow the life of Siddhartha Gautama - the man who became Buddha - and his path to enlightenment; as described by the Ngong Ping’s website).

After visiting the Big Buddha and the Po Lin Monastery, we were on our way back to Hongkong Island to visit the Peak and Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. We get off at Central MTR station, and walked underground the MTR station and exited at J2. From there we need to walk for another 10mins, about 500metres to the Lower Peak Tram Terminus. The walk has been quite tiring for us since we came from Lantau Island and mostly because it goes uphill. We were able to pass the church of St. Augustine on our way to the peak tram. As relayed by Ech’s friend Jela, if you do not want to walk, you can take bus no.15C from the station. We paid HKD180 instead of HKD 196 for the combo package of round trip peak tram and a visit to madame tussauds wax museum. It was already a discounted price since peak tram fare is HKD36 round trip and entrance to the wax museum is HKD160 giving a total of HKD196. We paid another HKD25 for the Sky Terrace at the Peak.

The wax museum was an outstanding plethora of celebrities look alike formed by using wax only Madame Tussaud can create. Celebrities like Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Meryl Streep, David Beckham, Bruce Lee, Madonna, Gaga Lady, Michael Jackson, Johnny Depp and a whole lot more grace the place. You are free to take pictures with all the celebrities except Jackie Chan.

We ate our early dinner at Hongkong Day (a restaurant located at P102 at the Peak) and ordered their delicious baked pork chops with rice paired with yummy lemon juice with mixed fruits - a concoction like no other. Then we went up at the Sky Terrace to see hongkong’s array of skyscrapers that seemed to be beside one another, underlined with colorful lights and swathed with the coldness of the air.

After another drained battery, we went down the peak and decided to go to Avenue of Stars to experience symphony of lights. Armed with no camera, we were still able to capture the lights using a blackberry handset.

Even with a sore feet and tired eyes, we decided to visit Mongkok which is one station away from Tsim Sha Tsui where we came from. Mongkok was filled with many people and can be likened to Manalili and Colon Sts. in Cebu City. The only difference was there were more branded stores, gadget shops and boutiques surrounding the area and again more people.

Feeling dizzy with the people crowding the area, we decided to go home and rest. So we headed back home on board MTR bound for Central, we get off at Admiralty Station and transferred MTR bound for Chai Wan.

Upon arrival at Wan Chai Station, we went home to sleep and snored. Wink.

On our fourth and last day, we went back to Tsim Sha Tsui to take photographs at Avenue of Stars. Drank Hazel Nut Latte at Starbucks along the avenue and ate their delicious blueberry cheesecake. After given warmth by the delicious coffee, we decided to explore the place more and went to the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade. We visited the 1881 Heritage place, took pictures using the Marco Polo Hongkong and Hermes as backdrops. We went back to the Avenue and headed back to the nearest MTR station. We ate our late lunch at Chili Thai Wan Chai District – ordered Nam Thai Chicken Rice paired with soda. We went home after a sumptuous lunch and fetched our things and then we were on our way to the MTR station to transport us to the Central station. From Central station, we checked-in our things at IFC Mall and then bought a single trip ticket bound for Airport Express from Central.

We bid adieu to Hongkong after an enjoyable treat of Popeye’s delicious combo of chicken, fries and coleslaw. Goodbye Hongkong. Hello Philippines. Until we meet again fragrant port.