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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Get Up and Go

For most Filipinos, Hong Kong is the usual destination if one just wants a few days out of the country, the travel time is short, and the place has something to offer for everyone. So it was for us one weekend. The centerpiece of the trip though, was to return to Disneyland, and have another bite of those black and white mickey waffles which somehow stayed on in my daughter’s memory for six years.

Hong Kong is actually an easy city to navigate. It is one of the tourist and children friendly places I know. But unlike Manila, where the pace is slower, one is required to be quicker on the uptake. And unlike Manila, where things are informal, Hong Kong kind of requires you to dress up starting on the smart casual side.

To maximize my trip, I read up on the place a bit more than when I was there on two occasions. I find the MTR routes easier to understand, and quite faster of course as it can take us in between islands faster than their taxis or buses (what with the city traffic going on). A case in point would be when on the afternoon of our arrival, we headed off to Lantau Island to reach Po Lin Monastery. My companions and I bought the Octopus card with the standard HK$100 value plus the HK$50 deposit, which can be used just about anywhere to pay for your MTR, bus or even taxi rides, and some dining and retail establishments as well. Coming from Kowloon, more specifically the area of Tsim Sha Tsui, it was quite a long way towards Tun Chung, but we were able to cover it in around 20 minutes via the MTR. From there, we treated ourselves to a ride on the cable cars called the Skyrail, and take in the breath taking views of the Lantau Island skyline over the top of the mountains that dotted our way toward Ngong Ping.

The Po Lin Monastery was founded in 1906 as a religious retreat. On top of this structure sits

the Tian Tan Buddha, said to be the world’s tallest seated outdoor Buddha made of bronze. The Buddha itself weighs 250 tonnes and sits high at 34 meters or 110 feet. One can see a glimpse of it from the cable car hundreds of meters away. It’s quite a challenge to climb the steps toward the Buddha, but reaching the top comes highly recommended and enjoy the view at your own leisure.

While we would have loved to be able to sample the vegetarian dishes being offered at the canteen style restaurants at the foot of the temple, we weren’t able to make it as they usually close at 5 o’clock in the afternoon. I take it that this would be another reason to come back and bring other people to share in the experience. Po Lin Monastery is off the usual tourist track, but quite a number have discovered it, and offers a refreshing view of Hong Kong, quite more tranquil than the city center buzz that comes 24/7.

We went back to Kowloon that evening to catch the Symphony of Lights that happen every 8 in the evening at the Victoria Harbour facing Hong Kong Island, with background music supplied by local bands to accompany what should be one exciting light show. We were, however, disappointed. Nothing came off from the skyscrapers except what looked like a random play of multi colored lights that just went on and off here and there. I didn’t get a feel that there was a show at all. So there we were, flat footed from all that walking, hungry, and cold.

We opted to go off towards Temple Street Night Market for some serious bargain hunting and eating. The place, however, proved to be another disappointment as well. Maybe because I’m Filipino, but the merchandise on sale weren’t anything new to me. I can find the same things back home, and at dirt cheap prices to boot. Most vendors didn’t even lower their prices significantly to consider haggling worth while. So except for a few toys, and children’s wallets/purses, the night market for me, was a bust.

Another main attraction in Hong Kong would be to eat dim sum. It is nothing short of a
requirement to eat it where it is made famous, even as there are hundreds of Chinese restaurants in Metro Manila alone. For an affordable and authentic sampling, we went to Jade Garden, located at the 4th floor of Star House, 9 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. It offers dim sum specialties from 10am until 5pm. It pays to come early enough for the lunch hour to get a table with a good view of Victoria Harbour. Service is fast and friendly, and serves exactly what I was expecting of what a dimsum should be. It was just the right thing to cap off our weekend visit.

1 comment:

  1. Bonjour Karen,
    Moi qui ne connais pas Hong Kong, j'ai trouvé ton reportage très intéressant. C'est toujours par des anecdotes qu'on apprend le plus d'un pays.
    Bonne journée!