Hong Kong

Travel Blog by Yves (September 2009)
I had my first international trip last Sept 10-13, 2009. It was unexpected and it also coincided with my birthday week. Feeling anxious and excited at the same time, I was able to enjoy the trip not just by myself but with 29 Tourism and HRM students behind me. Yes, my first trip out of the Philippines was also my first time to escort an international tour group too! I really prepared for this-- researched the must-see places, set an itinerary for our trip, charged batteries for my camera and most importantly, armed myself with a friendly Hong Kong map!
Our PUP Tour Group:

Our Philippine Airlines flight arrived in Hong Kong at 10:00 am. Seeing the massive Hong Kong International Airport was one of the highlights of my trip. I watched Discovery Channel's special episode on how Chek Lap Kok Airport was constructed and I was thoroughly impressed with the architecture. And believe me, it was as grand as what I had in mind.


We started our city tour right away. Our first stop was the New World Center at Tsim Sha Tsui. We were able to view Hong Kong island and see Avenue of the Stars. It was much like Hollywood's Walk of Fame, only they featured artists of the Hong Kong film industry, Jackie Chan and Jet Li included. Upon seeing the famous Star Ferry, I was finally convinced that I really was in Hong Kong. Our second stop was at a Jewelry Factory. I got the chance to talk to a Cantonese sales person and she told me that Jackie Chan owns the factory. She showed me some diamond, even tried putting some bracelets around my wrist, telling me that they all look good on me. She wasn't too lucky though. Buying jewelry wasn't part of my itinerary. Had she shown me a Hello Kitty made of diamonds, her look would change instantly! Our last stop was the Aberdeen Fishing Village. We were too hungry and tired to really explore the place so we just took pictures of the Jumbo Floating Restaurant. Finally, it was time to check in at the hotel.

At the Avenue of the Stars:

With Bruce Lee behind me:

A star for Jackie Chan:

Jumbo Floating Restaurant (Aberdeen Fishing Village):

Panda Hotel is located in Lantau Island, out of the city. Making up for this are the many convenience stores surrounding it. It had its own mall located on its first and second levels. It also had a footbridge connecting two of the MTR stations (Tsuen Wan and Tai Wo Hau) making it very accessible for us to get to the city.

As soon as we finished unpacking, we went to the sunny street of Tsuen Wah and headed to the nearest MTR station going to Tsim Sha Tsui. We wanted to catch the Symphony of Lights but the show was cancelled due to bad weather. Talk about major disappointment!

We walked the busy streets in search of a good place to grab dinner. We found this Chinese restaurant just on the street beside Tai Wo Hau Station. The noodles were superb. The broth was flavorful and the noodles were cooked al dente. As we walked towards our hotel with full stomachs, we were all giddy with excitement because it's going to be Disneyland time tomorrow!

DAY 02: And the magic begins in DISNEYLAND!
We arrived in Disneyland at 10:00 am. Disneyland was great! Nostalgic. There's something about the place that reverts your brain to a 5-year olds, innocent enough not to notice that Winnie the Pooh does not wear pants! It was magical. Disney characters walking everywhere and flocked by children as if they were real-life celebrities.

Park Tickets:

The Castle of Sleeping Beauty:

Star-struck with Minnie Mouse:

But I have to admit that visiting HK Disneyland while it was raining is not that great. Riding the Orbitron with an umbrella wasn't exactly my idea of fun. My personal favorites were:

a) Mickey's Philharmagic
A theater where you don special 3-D glasses to watch Donald Duck fumble his way in retrieving Mickey's hat. It was funny how people were reaching out for the holograms especially when Ariel threw all her jewels at the audience.

b) Jungle River Cruise
I enjoyed this a lot because I felt I was in a movie set. All sorts of explosions, gunfire, charging animals, bathing elephants, hunting cannibals, and a live volcano could be seen and experienced in this ride.

c) Winnie the Pooh's Story Ride
Riding a pot of honey around Hundred Acre Wood is every child's dream.

d) And last but not the least, my most favorite: "It's a Small World"
One of the theme resort's newest attractions and definitely, one of the highly-recommended rides. In a nutshell, it was a boat trip guests take to replicas of the different regions on the world with their own landmarks and audio-animatronics dolls dressed in national costumes singing "It's a Small World" in different languages. Not be missed of course were favorite Disney characters, including Peter Pan, Aladdin and Pinocchio who were making their appearance for the first time in this Asian edition of "It's a Small World."

The Disney Parade started at 3:30 PM and lasted for about 30 minutes. Amazingly, almost half of the Disneyland performers were Filipinos!

The Fireworks Display started at 7:00 PM. I was smiling while watching the show. Little did I know that the students were touched too much that they started tearing up, wishing their loved ones were with them!


One of the highlights of the trip was visiting Lantau Island, the largest in Hong Kong, and catching a glimpse of the awesome Giant Buddha. It is the world's largest outdoor seated bronze Buddha.

We rode the MTR from Tsuen Wan Station and got off at the Lai King Station to transfer to the Tung Ching Line. It took us close to one hour to get there.

We also got the chance to experience the Mickey Mouse-themed railway ride at the Sunny Bay Station since it's just a station away from Tung Chung.

There are two ways to get to the Ngong Ping Village and see the famous Tian Ran Buddha. One way was to ride a bus and the second way was by riding the Ngong Ping cable cars. Unfortunately, the cable cars were not operating at that time.

It was scorching hot when we arrived Ngong Ping Village. We climbed the 268 steps with no hesitation to see the Giant Buddha up close. It was no easy task but we forgot about the exhaustion when we saw the Buddha. Undeniably blue skies and the magnificent mountain tops contributed to the sense of serenity we got from the whole experience.

Ngong Ping Village is a perplexing mix of Chinese architecture and Western modernity. Although the building were definitely oriental, the shops were not. You get to see some western cafes, popcorn stalls, even a Starbucks.

We left Ngong Ping Village at around 4:00 PM and we headed to Central Station to do some shopping. We met a Filipina working as a cook in Hong Kong who volunteered to tour us around. If it wasn't for her, we wouldn't have known some significant places in Hong Kong Island.

We went to Nathan Road and got off at Prince Edward Station. We wanted to see how the shopping areas looked like. It was like a Divisoria for me. Tiangges along the streets, sidewalk vendors and wet markets. We had lunch at a nearby restaurant in Mongkok. We didn't spend too much time here as we had to check out of the hotel.

Yes, it was time to say goodbye to Hong Kong. We left the hotel at 5:30 PM for the airport, not knowing that our flight was delayed due to some radar problems in Manila. We arrived in Manila at 2:30 AM the next day. Ha! It was back to reality indeed.

The over-all outcome was overwhelming and worth the hard work and preparations. If I will be asked whether I'll go back, my answer is a definite yes. But next time, with no students behind my back :-)

(Pictures from Yves Cruz and Jen de Guzman)