Saturday, December 1, 2007

Yatta! Hong Kong! Part 1

Sorry for the very long hiatus... Been a little busy. However I am back and have quite a few updates. For now allow me to share my latest adventure, warning picture laden post!

Early on in the blog, I established that one of my favorite places in the world was Hong Kong. I just love the place and there's nothing like going to Hong Kong around the holiday season as everything turns really festive.

This time however, we missed out on the Christmas season as thats when all the discounts happen... They like changing their inventory around the Holiday season which for Hong Kong runs from late November until February! Which means getting tickets cheap around this time is next to impossible.

Moving on... The family woke up early Thursday morning November 22 to get ready for the early AM flight. Because we were flying PAL we were required to be there 3 hours before departure... 5AM folks. Took a shower and groggily headed off towards the PAL Centennial Terminal.

That's the plane we were taking, a 747-400 Jumbo. PAL apparently only has 5 of these, they are the largest plane in the fleet and they serve HK 2x daily! Just goes to show how popular a destination HK is.

This is the terminals' over crowded departure waiting area. BTW, getting through immigration here is a chore. It really shouldn't be when we have a bigger airport already constructed and just waiting for duty free shops to populate its' innards. That's for another post entirely though. Going back, I found myself waiting for departure and very hungry. It was already 730 and we were scheduled to board soon, but I suffer from acute dyspepsia and can not go on for long without food.

Geez~ I've been up since 4AM so you can't blame a guy for wanting some breakfast.

But not this! Man, 55bucks for some unbranded burger! I have half a mind to wait for plane food rather than swallow this mindless drivel. I decided to go with a very big meat bun whose picture I wasn't able to take due to me eating it before I could do so... wink wink hehehe.

Come 7:40AM we were allowed to board the plane and low and behold not 5 minutes into the flight my sister destroys the hand rest of her seat as she tried to raise it up. So much for PAL maintenance. Hopefully the person who attached the wings didn't use the same adhesive for the seat... O_o

About a third into the flight we were served breakfast... A very sad breakfast (glad I had that rather large meat bun) that comprised of anemic tapa, really potent mushrooms that left a very powerful aftertaste, and prunes. The saving grace was the ensaymada they served with the prunes. Honestly, if you're traveling, prunes are not your friend! @_@

About an hour and a half later we landed in Hong Kong. All in all it was an uneventful flight. I was too busy playing with my PSP that I was pleasantly surprised that we had already landed.

This is HKIA, Hong Kong International Airport. Arriving there isn't very grand except when you see that the scale of their airport dwarfs ours like Grimace dwarfs a McNugget.

Here immigration happens rather quickly, in fact moving from immigration to baggage is faster than moving from the plane to immigration! Don't get me wrong, there are no lines to speak of from the plane to immigration, but it's a really long walk. Thanks to a new set of immigration documents, I only have to fill this one sheet up, and then I get a copy of my departure card all ready as well.

Also as a treat for lining up so well and organized like good children we were rewarded with candy! Actually, these are complimentary sweets they provide everyone upon passing through immigration. That way the pressure block that some passengers may still suffer from due to the flight will be alleviated by chewing on this baby... Just kidding, I honestly don't know why they stock complimentary sweets. Maybe they have a surplus of sugar?

This is the baggage area adjacent to immigration, HKIA is one of the best airports in the world and is recognized as such by many many organizations as well as a body that chooses best airports. A shining reason why aside from their really neat airport is that baggages arrive on the baggage ramp before you do.

"Sit... Sit... Stay!"

The bags piling up as they arrived before the passengers did! BTW, it only took us about 10 minutes to breeze through immigration, it's that fast.

Also, in HK, people have the psychic ability to shout orders to their bags. Apparent by the few people pointing to their bags ordering them to stay still.

This is the entry hall to HKIA, the upper ramps are for departures. It always brings me a tinge of sadness when I see these, as in a few days time I too will cross them.

For now, we are at the ground level where arriving passengers are left to their means of transportation. A train runs within and throughout the airport. The one within transfers passengers from entry gates to terminals, and the one just outside transfers passengers from the airport to the city within 20 minutes.

As we had arranged for a bus to take us to the hotel, we will be passing through to HKIA's newest expansion terminal 2. Man! HKIA expanded when we cant even get our grand airport working because of govt regulations! (a govt official pokes me) ahem... because of certain technical difficulties... Mahirap madala sa PQUE kasama si Triallanes.

This is Terminal 2 and from what I've seen it adds even more "eur" to the already existing grandeur of HKIA! PAL departure terminal is situated just above those ramps, and we would learn the hard way days from now that, that's where we are supposed to be and not in terminal 1 when we depart for Manila.

The bus ride to the city normally takes about 20 to 40 minutes. However, as we dropped off a few people in other hotels, it took us about an hour to get to the hotel. This BTW is one of the longest suspension bridges in Asia... No kidding, it really is!

Around 12PM we arrive at the hotel. Once again we were staying at the Holiday Inn Golden Mile, I just love their breakfast buffet which I will cover very soon!

Room 223 this time around, and it's pretty much the same style of room we had when we were last here.

Ahh, nice soft clean smelling beds. However that will be later, getting Hong Kong Dollars is the current priority as it is already past lunchtime and all we have in us is anemic tapa!

We changed our USD's to HKD's and pretty soon we were loaded with spending money for shopping and exploring. However we were really just hungry so we headed over to Nathan road 3 blocks away for some well cooked Chinese food!

This fancy shmancy looking place is actually quite affordable by HK standards. A good meal runs you about 20 to 30 HKD, thats about 150 - 200 pesos. Unfortunately since its such a nice place to eat we ran into the HK snack crowd. Which snacks around 2pm... which it already was.

We waited about 10 minutes to get through the waiting list and were promptly seated. Ordering food from a place like this however is a different story. No one really speaks English, only a phrase or two like rice and bun and pork etc. They have a picture menu but that's incomplete, so we resorted to pointing at other peoples' food. Impolite I know... Hunger will do that.

Yum! BBQ pork Bun and BBQ pork! (Asado siopao at asado!) sarap nito sa HK!

Nothing like eating Chinese food cooked in Hong Kong! It's the best and my mouth is salivating at the prospect of the warm and moist yet steamy meat bun with sweet and juicy BBQ pork!

Tea however was not a good drink to wash down hot food. I do enjoy tea, but only after meals. We instead ordered a Coke... Which no one seemed to know what it was... We had to resort to crude hand gestures and finally we got a; "kookacoola?" from the waitress.

Their Coke bottles are TINY. 8 ounces! About two to three Filipino gulps...

After eating, whilst waiting for the adults of our party to stand up, I walked around the restaurant a bit looking at the tanks that held fresh sea food. I would see the occasional crab, fish, sea urchin, then I see this thing!

All I could say was it was some weird phallic mollusk! Ewww. What the hell is that thing?

With lunch and the bout against the phallus over with, we all do what people in HK do, window shop. Most travelers who visit HK know that buy what you can (small things) in small quantities. Then browse for the rest. Chances are down the block or at a different mall the prices for the same product can very well be a third or even half off if you have force discount ability level 3.

Honestly my mom is a master in the arts of the Jedi discount mind trick. She gets stuff half off all the time when she buys from stalls and stores in HK. I only am a Padawan discounter...

Alas, one of our favorite establishments in HK, TOYS R US! They get a lot of cool stuff from Japan, unlike ours here that has overpriced versions of those in HK.

By this time, we are a little tired from all the walking around and decide to head back to the hotel for a little rest before dinner. Here's a view of the sunset in HK from across the harbor. The sun dips in between the mountains then disappears leaving only a very cool night.

As we head back to the hotel, we notice that the malls here now sport automated "Aloe Vera Anti-Bacterial Hand Gel Dispensers" Phew, this thing works and we got handfuls of the sanitary balm to soothe and at the same time disinfect our shopping worn hands... Lolx!

The harbor by night time

A night view of the same locale a while ago. I just love the harbor here... BTW thats a Star Ferry, this time round we missed out riding it as it is cheaper and faster to go by train. Really it's more of a touristy thing, but we still usually go every time were here, but this time we just didn't have the time to.

Stay tuned for the next post!


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