August 9, 2015

Hong Kong and Macau: Dazzling Lights and Towering Heights

There are some cities that light up so beautifully after dark.

Hong Kong, which is one of the stops in Jules Verne's "Around the World in 80 Days", is definitely one of those. It is also one of the most popular overseas destinations for Filipinos. This is mainly because of its proximity (just two hours away by plane from Manila), being a first world country and the nearest country to find the Happiest Place on Earth. With a mixture of Eastern and Western cultural influences, this former British colony and now special administrative region of China, has much more to offer from its theme parks, local cuisine, towering skyscrapers, vibrant and romantic cityscapes, to verdant countryside to enthrall visitors for days.

It’s easy to say yes to new adventures. Nag yes agad kami kay Doc, when he invited us to tag along with him in Hong Kong. His mama, Tita Mila who has been an OFW in Hong Kong for more than a decade now, practically prepared almost everything for us – our itinerary, food and snacks, accommodations, even our Octopus cards, pagdating namin ready naGanun siya kaasikaso at kaalaga sa amin.

We had a five-day fun escapade despite the unbearable heat, non-stop walking and running, and traffic of tourists. Sa Hong Kong ata nag-we-weekend ang mga Chinese from mainland China.   

Don’t forget to bring out the inner child within you. Hong Kong is home to two large amusement parks – Ocean Park and Disney Land. We spent almost one whole day at the sprawling and mountainous 91-hectare Ocean Park, the world's seventh most popular amusement park situated in Wong Chuk Hang and Nam Long Shan.

The Ocean Park viewed from the observation tower

Team HK: Tita, Ate Jane, Brianna, Doc, Ivanya, Kristel, and Aidan

Stunning view of the sea and the mountain from the cable car

The grand aquarium has over 400 species of fishes and sea creatures

The entertaining dolphin show

Mahimbing ang tulog ng mga panda pagbisita namin

There are so many rides and underwater attractions inside the park. I particularly enjoyed riding the cable car from the Waterfront to the Summit, which provides amazing view of the nearby islands and the South China Sea. But among the rides we have tried, I will never forget the Hair Raiser, which luckily I survived. I promised myself na kung ganoon ang ride papuntang impyerno ay magpapakabait na talaga ako.

We also briefly visited Disneyland, a happy place for the young and the young at heart. Located in a 50-hectare reclaimed area in Penny’s Bay, Hong Kong Disneyland is also among the most visited theme parks in the world.

Mickey Mouse surfing on spout of a whale fountain

Lantau, the biggest island of Hong Kong, is so-far my most favorite among the places we visited. Its two main attractions are the Po Lin Monastery (a Buddhist monastery) and the Tian Tan Buddha (one of the biggest sitting Buddha statue built outdoor). But I think the real charmer of the island is Lantau Peak, the second highest peak and a popular hiking spot in Hong Kong.

Po Lin Monastery viewed from the base of Tian Tan Buddha

Intricately-carved dragon in the main temple

The dazzling Grand Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas

Ngong Ping 360 Crystal Cabin featuring a glass bottom floor

The cable car ride is the longest bi-cable ropeway in Asia

The giant Tian Tan Buddha

It would have been nice sana to hike Lantau Peak

It’s best to get to Lantau via Ngong Ping 360. Hindi na nga magkandaugaga ang mga kasama ko sa kaka-selfie kasi glass floor na cable car pa ang sinakyan namin.  

The most panoramic cityscape is perhaps best viewed at the summit of Victoria Peak. On a weekend, blockbuster sa haba ang pila sa tramway just to get to the Peak. The Peak is a landmark tourist attraction, often seen in postcards, offering sweeping views of Central, Victoria Harbour, Lamma Island and other surrounding islands.

A romantic Peak journey

We also strolled along Victoria Harbour, and enjoyed the spectacular views of Hong Kong skyline, sky scrapers, and the Avenue of Stars. Hong Kong literally means “Fragrant Harbor” in Chinese, as inspired from this deep-water harbor and history of exporting fragrant incense. Pero don’t expect na fragrant pa hanggang ngayon ang Victoria HarbourSiguro noon.

Life-size statue of martial arts hero Bruce Lee at the Avenue of Stars

Hong Kong Junk

To beat the summer heat, we visited Stanley, binged on the lunch treat by Tita and her friend who lives in the area (and bakes so-yummy and to-die-for cookies), and finally cooled off in the beach.

Main Street waterfront

The kids’ sand fortress turned into mini pool

We also had a little staycation at the Harbourfront Horizon All Suite Hotel in Kowloon courtesy of Tita’s friend, Paul. The hotel has good amenities which include swimming pools, sauna, and fitness center.

Our room overlooks the Harbourview Horizon

Our cozy bedroom

Isang nakaw na shot sa pool area

Paul also treated us to a fine dining buffet dinner at Kowloon Shangri-La’s Café Kool. It was an epic seafood overload night! Plus naka-ilang balik ako sa Haagen Dazs ice cream station.

The posh hotel lobby

Fresh sushi and sashimi

Lobsters baby!

Prime rib

Berries cheesecake

Feel the gold vibes. Though originally unplanned, we were also able to squeeze in Macau in our itinerary. The former Portuguese colony and now also a special administrative region of China, is just an hour away by fast craft from Hong Kong. One of the world’s richest cities and known as the Las Vegas of the East, Macau is a place of beautiful contrast with its old world charm and dazzling new world spectacle. We visited the UNESCO World Heritage site Historic Centre of Macau, Senado Square and Ruins of St. Paul’s.  

Macau viewed from Fortaleza do Monte

The Cathedral Square

Ruins of 17th Century St. Paul Church

Pero mas nag-enjoy talaga kami magpalamig sa mga casino resorts particularly at The Venetian, with its megastructure architecture and shining, shimmering gold artworks inspired from the splendor of Venice, Italy.

Wynn Macau

Replica of Louis XIV’s Palace of Versailles on display at Hotel Lisboa

Jaw-dropping mural on The Venetian ceiling inspired from Sistine Chapel

The Venetian Golden Globe Statue

A recreated indoor canal of Venice with gondola rides at The Venetian

Sands Cotai Central

Macau comes alive at night

Macau is the only Chinese territory where gambling is allowed, kaya ganun din kadami pumupunta dito from the mainland syempre para mag happy-happyNakakatuwa rin malaman na andaming mga Filipinos na nagtatrabaho mula sa mga museums hanggang sa mga casinos. For our Macau day tour, we just availed the free shuttle services of the major hotels, which are available from the ferry station and in some designated bus stops in the city.

Find home in a foreign land. Back in Hong Kong and before leaving for Manila, we made sure to drop by the International Finance Centre and World-Wide House in Central, some of the areas where OFWs congregate every Sunday. It is touching to see long queues of Filipinos na nakatayo mahigit ng dalawa-tatlong oras makapagpadala lang ng remittances sa mga kapamilya nila sa Pilipinas. Ganun talaga nila kamahal, na titiisin ang hirap, lungkot at mawalay ng matagal sa kanila, mabigyan lang ng magandang buhay ang kanilang mga minamahal. We also experienced a weekend gathering and munting salo-salo of our kababayan.

Talo ang pila sa UP ng pila ng nagpapadala ng remittances sa Western Union

A common sight of Filipinos bonding on the walkway bridge near IFC Mall

Minsan may movie-marathon and fiesta din.
Kakapanood lang nila ng Fifty Shades of Grey

It feels good to be in the company of warm and caring Filipinos, especially in a foreign country.  

There’s so much to love about Hong Kong. I love its hilly terrain, efficient transportation system, nearness to Macau, and for serving as home for several decades to almost 200,000 Filipinos.

And there’s so much beauty to behold when your eyes lay lost in all its city lights.
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