Hong Kong: Asia's World City - A Couple's Adventure

Starved of sleep but full of excitement and anticipation, my partner and I boarded an early morning Air Asia flight to Hong Kong. This was my first Air Asia flight from the Philippines to Hong Kong. While I always enjoy finding a great deal on a low cost carrier for a short flight, it never compares with the Cathay Pacific experience even for the short journey to Hong Kong. I have always been fond of Cathay Pacific's attentive service, delicious food, and superior in-flight entertainment. It never fails to leave an impression.

Although Clark Airport is still undergoing renovations, the check-in was smooth and we departed on time. I enjoy Clark Airport because of its size making it quick and easy to navigate from check-in to boarding. But there is still much improvement needed on transportation options to and from Metro Manila. I heard much about Hong Kong from many friends and I have been eagerly awaiting this trip for a long time especially our day at Hong Kong Disneyland.

air asia hong kong
Air Asia prepares for an early morning flight to Hong Kong from Clark Airport


A modern, global city...

The first thing one will notice when you step off the plane in Hong Kong is the stark contrast between this lively, vibrant city and the rest of Southeast Asia. It's clean, it's modern, and showcases some of the latest technologies. Self-proclaimed as Asia's world city, Hong Kong is the city where east meets west. I can't think of a better example of an Asian city that has embraced and showcased diversity through the marriage of its traditional Cantonese Chinese heritage and the contemporary themes of its past British influence to create a modern culture and global city. The modern world is definitely a first and lasting impression right from the time you enter Hong Kong's Chep Lap Kok Airport terminal right through to each and every adventure on Hong Kong's vast public transit network. My partner kept remarking how clean everything was particularly the harbour. What a difference compared to Manila. It's a sign of a first world nation understanding that cleanliness and pride for one's environment comes with the absence of poverty.

star ferry victoria harbour
A Star Ferry crosses Victoria Harbour connecting Hong Kong to Kowloon
We booked a room at the Ramada in the Kowloon area, the most populous district of Hong Kong. At one point, it was the most densely populated place in the world. This is well reflected in the size and cost of hotel rooms relative to western standards. The real estate prices here are some of the highest in the world. Today, Kowloon offers a mix of street markets, shopping malls, and residences amidst a sea of hotels. We wanted to be near Tsim Sha Tsui which is the main tourist drag. This would provide us great access to Hong Kong's MTR Rail System giving us convenient and affordable access to the rest of the city and walking distance to the harbour. It didn't take long for either of us to fall in love with Hong Kong with the great selection of food, modern amenities and very comfortable climate. I think both of us wish we had the opportunity to relocate here.

Three full days of adventure and exploration...

DAY 1

After riding the Airport Express train to the hotel, we settled in and pressed on with our day. We walked down towards the harbour and took in the breathtaking sight of the skyscraper lined skyline. The harbour was filled with much activity from Sunday family excursions and curious tourists to wedding photo shoots. The harbour boardwalk was laced with the tempting smell of barbecued squid which I must admit was incredibly hard to resist. As you walk along the boardwalk, you will eventually encounter the "Avenue of the Stars" which is the Hong Kong version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I think the only names we recognized along the walk were Jet Li and Jackie Chan. The "Avenue" is also a great lookout point to witness the nightly "Symphony of Lights," a spectacular light and laser show that is synchronized to music. Lasers are shot into the sky from the peaks of the tallest buildings in Hong Kong across the harbour to make up this nightly spectacle. Sadly for us, the weather drowned out any possibility of a dramatic and spectacular show.

hong kong skyline night
The nightly Symphony of Lights laser show that lights up the Hong Kong Sky
We closed off our first night with a visit to the Mong Kok neighbourhood which features a high concentration of shops and street markets in less than a square kilometre. It's a typical Asian market where you haggle for the best price on knock off clothing, hand bags, watches, etc. A word to the wise…start your negotiations at 80% off the quoted price! While these knock off products tend to look pretty good, I find that you often get what you pay for in these markets so we didn't give them too much attention.


victoria peak hong kong
The View from Victoria Peak of the Hong Kong skyline
DAY 2

Our second day in Hong Kong started off with a search for traditional street food which was surprisingly difficult to find. We boarded a Hop-on Hop-off tour bus to explore the city. The main player in the market is Big Bus and you will be flooded with their sales people at every corner but in spite of that, we managed to find their only competitor, the much more discreet, "Rickshaw Sightseeing Bus" which is operated by the local transit authority. Although the Rickshaw Tour is less comprehensive and less extensive with less routes and less stops, it still gives the Hong Kong visitor a solid basic overview and the price is a fraction of the competition at only around $15 each for a day pass.

hop on hop off bus hong kong
Rickshaw Sightseeing Bus sitting outside Star Ferry terminal 
While we did not take the opportunity to do much hopping off, we did take the time to explore the residential neighbourhood known as Mid-Levels because it is neither up nor down the mountain that it sits on. We heard there was a place in the area full of street food vendors and while we managed to successfully locate it using our hungry appetite and sense of smell, we thought it best to err on the side of caution to ensure neither of us gets sick of possible food poisoning. Street food can be incredibly delicious but is not intended for the weak stomach that has not trained for it. I can recall a previous holiday where a dose of food poisoning from an overly eager appetite nearly consumed my entire vacation.

While in the area, we also discovered the famous outdoor escalator which runs from Central all the way up the hillside and through the neighbourhoods. It seems almost like a stairway to heaven which never ends. Following our neighbourhood exploration, we boarded a bus to Hong Kong's Times Square where we boarded one of their double decker street trams. The trams, sometimes referred to in Cantonese as "ding-ding" are a great way to see Hong Kong from a local's view. The route that covers the length of Hong Kong Island's centre passes through many of the popular tourist areas and is likely the cheapest sightseeing tour in town. Plus they are fun to ride! We finished the night at APM Shopping Mall which is open every night until 2:00am! Talk about night life huh?

The Happiest Place in Asia...


sleeping beauty castle hong kong disneyland
Sleeping Beauty Castle at Hong Kong Disneyland
DAY 3

The most anticipated day was our third and final day in Hong Kong where we enjoyed an entire day at Hong Kong Disneyland. This was especially exciting as it was our very first trip to a Disneyland park as a couple. It was my first trip to one of Disney's foreign parks and Hong Kong Disneyland certainly did not disappoint. We rode the special Disney MTR line to the park which features a Disney themed train with Mickey Mouse shaped windows. Although we chose to stay in Kowloon, the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort offers tourists a much closer place to stay if the focus of your trip will be Disneyland. Hong Kong Disneyland does not offer as much as its American counterpart, but it still includes Disney favourites like Sleeping Beauty Castle and Space Mountain along with all of everyone's favourite characters.

We made it a point to have our picture taken with every character we encountered. The park is still under development and new rides are on the way. Our favourite ride was the roller coaster in the area known as Grizzly Gulch which is exclusive to Hong Kong Disneyland and just opened in July 2012. "Grizzly Gulch" reminisces an abandoned mining town set amidst mountains and woods. In addition to the rides, there was no shortage of entertainment. We enjoyed two live musical stage productions, "The Golden Mickeys" and a tribute to the Lion King. Both shows were excellent! We also got a front row seat to the Flights of Fantasy parade and the closing fireworks finale, "Disney in the Stars" where fireworks and pyrotechnics are coordinated to orchestrated classic Disney songs.


roller coaster hong kong disneyland
Grizzly Gulch: Newest Addition to Hong Kong Disneyland
A day at any Disney Park is always a great day spent. The value that you get in terms of the top notch entertainment, rides, and shows is truly incomparable. The Lion King performance was especially remarkable and equally as good as a stage production in any major theatre. At the end of the day, all we can say is that nobody does it like Disney. Whether you are in California or Hong Kong, the Disney magic never fails to create the happiest place on earth.

flights of fantasy parade hong kong disneyland
Toy Story Characters perform in the Flights of Fantasy Parade
Overall, Hong Kong is a fantastic world-class city to visit. Our three days were packed full of adventure and exploration. The city is well connected by public transit and very friendly for walking. Although three days seemed to be adequate to capture the essence and basic overview of the city, I am confident there is still much more to discover which will no doubt bring us back in the future.

TRAVEL NOTES

Hong Kong is well served by several carriers competing from a number of Philippine cities. This typically guarantees travellers an excellent opportunity of grabbing a cheap airfare to Hong Kong.
We stayed at the Ramada Kowloon Hotel which offered an affordable place to stay in a very convenient location. However, Hong Kong is filled with a number of great hotels to suit any budget and any style. If you want to remain close to the action, Kowloon is a great district to stay in. Other favourites include:

4 comments:

  1. Hi gudevening mam, ask ko lang kung may promo kayo sa zest air? Thank u.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Please visit our Flight Centre for the latest Hong Kong Flight Promos: http://philippineflightnetwork.superstore.travel/flights

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  2. Hello po. Mam. Gud evening pwd po mag pa book Jan 22.my promo po ba.? Thank you.

    ReplyDelete


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