Unless you are suffering from motion sickness, have a fear of flying, have had a bad experience on outdoor adventures, or just a lazy couch potato, you probably enjoy traveling. And what seemed to be an ordinary company perk turned out to be such a pleasant surprise–a three-day, all-expense trip to Hong Kong during the holiday season.
It was my first out of the country trip! So things to take note at this point are: paying the travel tax upon entering the airport, checking in of baggage, presenting of passport, travel tax ticket and flight ticket, choosing seat no., remembering your gate number, filling up the Immigration form, paying the terminal fee, and having your passport stamped. Then, after the stewardesses danced and the airplane taxied, off we flew to dreamland! Well, not really. 🙂
After two hours of impatience, anxiety, and excitement, we arrived at the Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA), which is like a huge shopping mall. After managing to purchase Octopus Card for each of us (we were almost 20) using alien language transaction and alien money, we grabbed one of each free glossy pamphlets of whatever there were in the stack of travel maps and guides, as if we were going to read them, and as if we could. Afterwards, we took a free shuttle ride going to Kowloon, then took a K3-bus in groups of four going to the Holiday Inn. From there, we half-walked, half-indulged in the cool, tourist ambiance of the brick-paved streets of Tsim Sha Tsui, going to Yui Fai Guesthouse at Golden Crown Court, along Nathan Road.
Day 1.| Our plan of tasting local cuisine failed as we headed towards–of all places–McDonald’s. But of course, where else does one go when he’s in a bit of a hurry but to a fast food restaurant. After feeling like we’re still in the Philippines where we have golden arches at every corner, our group split since we have different itineraries. My friend and I headed straight to Disneyland while others went to the Ocean Park.
The thrill of going to Disneyland lies in getting lost and confused with the train stations. And you bet, we did experience the thrill. I won’t go into all the ride queues, picture taking, sight-seeing, and getting lost. The highlights of my Disneyland experience were first, braving the RC Racer in Toy Story Land after agonizingly waiting in line for an hour, and second, successfully using the bathroom.
Then, we had dinner at the worst eatery I’ve ever been–the Aberdeen Fishball and Noodles Restaurant. There, you have to choose the food you’re going to order outside, because apparently, they don’t have the luxury of waiting for you to decide. It was pretty cool because they’ve got the menu pictures outside. But since we can’t read Mandarin, we solely relied on the images, hoping they’ll be the same pictures inside, and at the same arrangement as the scheme of things in the menu matrix outside. The ordering and payment went smoothly as planned until they had as waiting for an hour before the food was served (That was after following it up; imagine if we didn’t). Actually, I forgot that I was starving. What rings at the back of my mind was–in big, bold letters–DISCRIMINATION. What else could it be? Chinese customers who got there after us finished eating while we still wait there and blink.
Day 2.| I spent the whole day at the hotel because it was Sabbath day. At sunset, we went to the main street also known as the shopping or commercial district where tall buildings of competing signature clothing and apparel lines bristled out the pavement. And yes, it was indeed another picture taking session where you take a picture of yourself with another girl in the background taking a picture of herself with another girl in the background…yeah, you got the point. It was supposed to be what the world calls “New Year’s eve” so people gathered around the town square to watch the fireworks display or stare at an enormous screen showcasing it. We had about four or five attempts of going towards where the crowd was going only to go back and re-route six or seven times. We decided to settle at the hotel and sleep.
Day 3.| The last day was spent buying souvenir items and pasalubong, strolling at the Kowloon Park while watching the dragon dance, and as if we haven’t taken enough photos yet, picture taking. Then, we proceeded to HKIA to head back home. The most unforgettable moments of this day were: one, the Chinese lady at the Elegant Tang Dynasty store who computed everything I’ve got in my hands even if I am not yet ready to pay. Second is the Chinese guy food clerk at the HKIA who took a deep, disappointed, why-are-you-so-damn-stupid sigh after I asked for the price of Sola that I ended up not buying anything to drink. And lastly, well, the four-hour delay of our departure flight due to the fire cracker smog in Manila.
TIPS FOR FIRST TIMER TRAVELERS~
1. Travel light – Believe me. If you think you’ve packed enough, unload some more stuff.
2. Hand carry – Your hand carry should weigh lighter than 8 kg. and must not contain bottled drinks, umbrella, and pointed objects
3. Checked-in luggage – Don’t forget to lock your checked-in luggage and put an info tag in it.
4. False alarm – Money is not declared at the immigration, relax.
5. Look presentable – You don’t want to be held and interrogated at the immigration!
6. Unspent coins – Unlike bills, you won’t be able to have them exchanged back to your local currency, so better spend them before going home. I was able to buy a satin-covered doodle pad with my remaining coins!
In my two and a half day stay in HK, I’ve noticed a couple of things. One is that, Chinese people there are extremely fashionable you want to dig a hole and hide yourself and your rag doll outfit. Second is that, the cliche “There’s no place like home,” from the story The Wizard of Oz is true. It’s true not because we experience homesickness but in this case, whenever I’ve got a chance to look at a Chinese man or woman in the eye, I yearn for the warmth found in Filipinos’ gaze. We really are a bunch of friendly folks, eh? That’s why when I’ve finally found it, she is indeed a Filipina. We didn’t speak. We just smiled and felt like home.~