A Travellerspoint blog

"Hong Kong, Several Years After the Hand-Over"

"Hong Kong, Revisited"

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I imagined how enormous the degree of engineering efforts that were done on the construction of Hongkong MTR lines. Majority were constructed underground, while our Manila’s MRT lines are built above ground! Hongkong MTR definitely pales in comparison to the european railways (Germany, Belgium and Netherlands) where the railways were also built underground but have more than five levels built one on top of the other while Hongkong’s MTR has at most only two levels. However, it is already very significant if one has to consider not only the technical feasibility but more importantly the construction costs involved.

From the Mongkok MTR station, we simply took Exit D to walk up from the underground railway and just walked for three minutes along Argyle St towards Sincere Building. Sincere building is right at the corner of Tung Choi St. and Argyle St. and on its 7th floor is the Dragon Hostel.

No doubt, as sociologists would say it, the best way to understand the culture of a people is to live with them. Although we did not intend to understand the Hongkong chinese culture in four days, suffice it to say that the hostel that I had booked through the internet was ideally located as it gave us the opportunity to stay in the place considered within the heart of Mongkok, Kowloon side of Hongkong.

Sincere Building houses several hostels frequented by european and asian budget-conscious tourists. Likewise, it has residential units occupied by chinese families, commercial units used as chinese restaurants, shopping stalls etc…

After checking-in, we went down and looked for a chinese restaurant to have our first hongkong lunch. I remembered Mongkok restaurant in Quezon City and thought that probably it got its name from this area in Kowloon, Hongkong. I immediately looked for chicken feet on its menu which is my favorite in the Mongkok Restaurant in Quezon City. I was disappointed that the chicken feet is not in the menu in the restaurant where we decided to have lunch. We shared a bowl of noodles with a lot of meat (chicken and pork), vegetables prepared for two persons for lunch. It was great at HK $ 85 (P510)!

After that heavy chinese lunch, we immediately walked along Tung Choi St where the Ladies’ Market occupies the street to explore the chinese goods (hand bags, dresses, t-shirts, neckties,jewelries, etc…). It is similar to Bangkok’s Night Market but the prices are more expensive than its counterparts at 168 Mall in Binondo and at the Greenhills tiangge. Imagine, a ladies blouse costs HK$ 38 which is already P228 while in Greenhills it could be bought at only P150!

We walked along the stretch of Fa Yuen St, another shopping street, where the prices are similar to the goods in Tung Choi. We spent the rest of the afternoon, walking along the stalls of the shopping areas.

Considering that these are Hongkong bargain shopping areas, and moreover, it is now suppose to be a Sale season , the prices of the goods may be cheap for the local chinese and the tourists, but since my wife is a veteran Greenhills shopper, we decided not to shop there but instead I promised to just give her shopping money for her to do shopping in Greenhills, here in Metro Manila, Philippines where similar items are definitely lot cheaper!

Nagmamahal,

Edgar Sandalo

Posted by E. Sandalo 20:14 Archived in Hong Kong Tagged train_travel Comments (0)

"Hong kong, Several Years After the Hand-Over"

"Hong Kong, Revisited, Part 2"

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The Cebu Pacific flight number 5J 110 promptly left Manila as scheduled at 8:00 a.m last August 2. One hour and thirty minutes later, the first island of Hongkong came to my view through the window of the plane. By the way, this easy reading article and more are also in my other blog:www.inbetweentakes.com.
Slowly, the next islands came into view and it started to amaze me as multitude of high rise condominium buildings are already dominating the islands! I thought it would be just for the first island, but no, almost all of the islands that the airplane passed are all “planted” with condominium towers! This was not what I saw during my first flight to Hongkong only nine years ago!

As we slowly made our landing, Hongkong’s new Chek Lap Kok International Airport reminded me of my landing in Europe (Netherland’s Schipol International Airport) in 1988! Yes, Hongkong’s airport is comparable to its European counterpart but with a unique distinction: it is a reclaimed land! Just like the land where Henry Sy had constructed the Mall of Asia, Hongkong’s airport used to be part of the sea and through a gigantic reclamation work, it transformed the sea into what it is now – a modern international airport!

As commonly said, “first impression is important because it will linger in a person’s mind forever” I told myself my first impression on Hongkong’s International Airport while we were still airborne must be sustained as we finally stood up from our plane seats to start our four-day Hongkong vacation.

Nine years after the Hand Over, Hongkong is now an epitome of a modern-day and progressive engineering technology! The airport facilities continued to impress me no end as we walked on the walkalators, rode the airport train to the terminal, passed through immigration and customs, airport bank branch to change my US dollars to HK dollars and finally to purchase our Mass Transport Railways (MTR) 3-Day Hongkong Transport Pass which is price at HK $ 220 per person. This already included Airport Express single journey and with 3-day unlimited MTR rides! This started my mental calculation: everytime I pay in Hongkong Dollars, I will multiply the amount by 6 to get the approximate peso equivalent! Thus, for HK$ 220 (about only P1,320.00), a person can already ride the Airport Express Train from the airport to Sunny Bay MTR Station and will enjoy an unlimited MTR rides to any point of its seven lines for three days. As the Airport MTR station is connected with the airport terminal, it is very convenient unlike well, our Ninoy Aquino International Airport where it is five kilometers away from the nearest MRT station! On the first place, our Filipino transport planners did not have any intention at all to make travelling convenient for all incoming passengers (both foreign tourists and filipinos) and on the contrary must have intended to let the passengers suffer at the hands of the greedy pinoy taxi drivers!

We conveniently arrived at Mongkok MTR Station by taking the trains transferring from one MTR line to another only twice! With the modern-day high tech train system of Hongkong, who needs a taxi?

Nagmamahal,

Edgar Sandalo

Posted by E. Sandalo 20:03 Archived in Hong Kong Tagged transportation Comments (0)

"Hong Kong, several years after the Hand Over"

"Hong Kong, Revisited"

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“HONGKONG – REVISITED”

My wife and I used to celebrate our wedding anniversaries with private dinners together with our daughters. For our 27th wedding anniversary last August 2 last year, however, as early as January 2007, we decided to give ourselves a break and we carefully planned a Hongkong vacation!

Of all places, friends asked, why Hongkong? Personally, I have only one reason for choosing it over say Bangkok or Singapore or Palawan or Boracay. I was in Hongkong in April 1998 before the Hand Over (i.e., before the England turned over Hongkong back to China) and I want to make a comparison of what was Hongkong then and what is it now after the Hand Over.

As the planner in the family, I carefully planned the Hongkong vacation and of course asked for my wife’s opinion and concurrence along the preparation process! We decided that instead of booking for a packaged tour, we would book months ahead for a Cebu Pacific flight to take advantage of its great plane fare discount! We did the booking on-line by logging in cebupacificair.com and paying the fare using my credit card. We got a fairly reaonable plane fare for round trip Manila-Hong-Manila for two at only P 9,678.16.Cheap, is it not? Since we had to pay for the Philippine travel tax of P1,620.00 each and the Ninoy Aquino International Airport terminal fee of P750.00 each, we spent only P14,418.16 for plane fare! Imagine, it was a lot cheaper compared to other airlines and other destinations!

The next thing I did was to goggle search for affordable clean hotels in Hongkong again using the internet. I was able to compare the hotel rates until I decided to book on-line and pay the 10% down payment again using my credit card. I paid the balance in cash when we checked-in.

I reasoned out that since we do not intend to stay in our hotel room most of the time but rather we intend to be outdoor on sightseeing, we would choose a budget hostel rather than a fancy hotel. We finally chose the Dragon Hostel located in downtown Mongkok, Kowloon side, with only the ratings made by previous occupants as basis. Our room was only P800.00 per person per day for Thursday and Friday and P900.00 per person per day for saturday!

Finally, I applied for an official leave from my office for August 2 and 3 since we had chosen our vacation to be from August 2 till August 5.Having made all the necessary preparatory activities, we were confident that we were ready to take our flight at 8:00 a.m. last August 2!

Nagmamahal,

Edgar Sandalo

Posted by E. Sandalo 19:52 Archived in Hong Kong Tagged lodging Comments (0)

"Come Back, Come Back to Palawan, Philippines"

"Come Back to Palawan, the conclusion"

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“Come back, Come back to Palawan, the Conclusion”
I started my series of articles on our recent visit to Palawan with the same title above. I guess I owe you an explanation on why I chose this title that is why I would be writing about it in this concluding article on Palawan.

During my first visit to Palawan in 1987, I met a lot of people in line with my work at the Department of Agriculture with the implementation of the Palawan Integrated Area Development whom later became my close friends. Before I left Palawan for the first time, those new friends warned me then that I will become a victim of “kambak, kambak”. I did not understand that they were saying. So, I asked them to explain what is kambak, kambak. One of them told me a story to explain it. He narrated how one soldier was assigned in Palawan. He was smitten with a local lass. The soldier courted her. This article and more are also posted in my blog:www.inbetweentakes.com.They became sweethearts. When the time came for the soldier to be recalled back to headquarters in Manila, he told his girlfriend not to worry because he would come back to her. After a few months that he was recalled to Manila, fate would have it that he would be reassigned again to Palawan. So, he was able to be back to Palawan to be with his beloved. However, when the time came for the soldier to be recalled again, the headquarters told him that it would be his last assignment in Palawan and he would never be assigned in Palawan again. The day of his trip back to Manila on board a naval vessel, the soldier jumped into the sea and swam back to the Palawan shore to be with his beloved. He had to be physically pulled out from his sweetheart and tied like a crazy person so that he could be recalled back to Manila. I could not help but laugh after listening the story!

After a few months, I had that mystical feeling that Palawan has that magic that would mystify its visitors and lead them back to her again and again!. You see, after that first trip, opportunities (mostly official travel) just came my way to be back to Palawan!

However, this time, I have now a more rational justification why people would simply keep on coming back to Palawan: unlike other places which one would be able to see all the tourist destinations in just one visit (for example, Boracay or Singapore or Baguio), you could not see everything of Palawan in just one visit. Having experienced a nice trip to one destination in Palawan, one would crave for more of Palawan, one would simply be back for more!

If you have not been to Palawan, it is bout time you make that first trip and I am sure that just like me, you would not have enough of the place the first time, you would simply come back for more!

Nagmamahal,

Edgar Sandalo

Posted by E. Sandalo 19:43 Archived in Philippines Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

"Come Back, Come Back to Palawan Philippines!"

"The Other Tourist Destinations in Palawan, Philippines"

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The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park is not the only top grosser tourist destination in Palawan. In fact, it is just one of the many tourist destinations with similar strong capability to draw in the tourists with their money!

Honda Bay is another top grosser. It is the body of water in front of Puerto Princesa City which can be viewed from the balcony of the ranch of late Speaker Ramon V. Mitra. But, viewing it is far from the thrill and excitement that one could feel when one will do island hopping of the breathtaking Honda Bay! For only P1,200.00 per person, and a maximum of 6 persons you can have island hopping on board a pump boat that will take you to the fantastic islands in the bay. I was not able to do Island hopping this time. Let me then share with you my experience the last time I island-hopped Honda Bay. It started with a 15-minute motorcycle ride from the City to barangay Tagburos, which is where the pump boats are anchored. We departed Tagburos at 7:00 a.m., the pump boat took our group from one Island to another (Starfish Island, Cowrie Island, Dos Palmas, Snake Island, LULI for Lulubog Lilitaw sandbar etc…) which are all fine white sand Islands where we had snorkeling and spent time viewing the fantastic virgin corals with themulti-colored fishes. We also did fish feeding, swimming and sun bathing. Once we felt bored in one island, we asked our pump boat operator to move us to the next island. We had our lunch in the island of our choice.

The Honda Bay island hopping would have some variations like you may opt to spend a day or two in one of the island resorts like Dos Palmas or you simply want to spend the entire day in one Island say Cowrie Island.

Another popular tourist destination which would surely be of interest to the scholars and the scientifically-inclined individuals is the Tabon cave in the municipality of Quezon down south of the province. For only P1,500 per person in an air-conditioned van from Puerto Princesa, one will have the chance to see the archeological diggings of the famous relics of the Tabon man, which as Wikipedia describes it,

“The Tabon Man is a term used to reference a particular set of remains of Homo Sapiens. The Tabon Cave in Quezon, Palawan, Philippines, was a burial site of Homo sapiens. Carbon-14 dating tests reveal that fossil remains date back to 22,000 to 24,000 years before 1960 to 1967 (the years the excavations were held). However, at the deeper 160 cm level, the estimates dating of flake assemblage is from 45,000 to 50,000 years ago, probably over 60,000 years. The anthropologist Robert Fox, who directed the excavations, deduces that the Tabon cave was a habitation of man for a period 40,000 years, from 50,000 to 9,000 years ago. Tabon man was believed to travel here by land bridges from other countries to Palawan. The bridges disappeared after the Ice Age ended which caused the ice to melt and therefore drowning the bridges.”

The rest of the more popular tourist destinations are up north, to name a few: the Calauit Island, Coron, El Nido and the Tubbataha Reef. I have not been to these places though. The farthest place up north that I have been to is the town of Taytay. The road network from Puerto Princesa is not yet concreted that is why it is not advisable for tourists to go to the north with Puerto Princesa as the take off point.

The north will be our next destination. There is WG and A Superferry that sails from Manila to Coron and Puerto Princesa. I anticipate that I will have a lot more to share with you after our trip to the nothern part of Palawan!

Next post: Come back, come back Palawan, the conclusion!

Nagmamahal,

Edgar Sandalo

Posted by E. Sandalo 19:39 Archived in Philippines Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

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