Sorry for just blabbing on my first 2 Hong Kong blog posts, and forgot to tackle the basics. Thank you to my friend Cords for asking me FAQs, which made me realize that I haven't posted some useful information for you guys who are going to or planning to go to HK soon.
The struggle of traveling alone: self-timer cameras and photo bombers, hehehe.
So, here goes!
Money Exchange: Since I was not prepared for the trip, I withdrew my baon in NAIA's ATM, and exchanged my peso into HKD sa Hong Kong na, in one of the many money exchange centers in Causeway Bay (UAE Exchange Hong Kong LTD - Matheson Street). I bought HKD at .15 (pwede na). Don't forget to bring your passport with you as most currency exchange centers ask for it!
It was a rainy third day! Money Exchange Centers are EVERYWHERE.
Commuting: I remembered using an Octopus card during my 2009 Hong Kong trip (a reloadable card that you can use not only in trains, but also in buses, 7Eleven, and other participating merchants). But for this trip, I either rode the taxi (rates posted HERE) or the MTR.
I love Hong Kong's MTR! I think it's one of the easiest to navigate in all the places I've been to. Aside from the map, they also include highlights / places to go to for each station:
Signs are EVERYWHERE. It's impossible to get lost.
Estimated time of train's arrival + List of stops. What I love with Hong Kong's MTR is that inside the train, the trail map has these little dots where light pops on the next stop in case you missed the automated station announcement.
You'll immediately see the stall selling these cards at the MTR, near the ticket booths. Plus, you can use this unlimited pass not only for the whole day, but for 24 hours starting from your first entry time.
#OOTD: It was either cloudy or rainy during my trip last January 1-5, and most of the time temperature is about 19-21 degrees (Tagaytay weather). I can go for just light layers, no heavy coats or scarves na. Just the right weather to go around the city, and hindi ka mahuhulas sa init or mangangatog sa OA lamig!
If you're traveling anytime soon, don't forget your payong! Biglaang umuulan for the past days.
So there! Now on to my kwentos!
By the third day, I was getting sawa na of the malls. I decided to explore the city on my own, and started the day really early.
Went around our area muna to look for a breakfast place. I was actually trying to navigate through my saved map (mahirap ang walang internet! Hehe) for the recommended Coffee Academics.
I can't seem to find it, but chanced upon Victoria Park - Hong Kong's own version of the Central Park:
Insert ME here, hehe:
It is an oasis in the middle of the busy Causeway Bay, where locals conduct Tai Chi classes in the morning (gusto ng Daddy ko to!), or just hangout and read a book.
Super hungry ko na talaga, and so I gave up on Coffee Academics and entered an IKEA:
I've been to Ikea in Singapore, and always enjoy eating in their canteen. For the Causeway Bay branch, they only have a small bistro version with fewer food choices but pwede na.
Classic Ikea unlimited condiments section:
I had the Potato Cheese balls, Veggie Ball with Sesame Sauce, and coffee. Yum!
Went around the large furniture store for interior ideas. I always enjoy an Ikea tour, and still dreaming of an Ikea (and Muji) house! :)
After breakfast, I headed to the MTR for my Hong Kong exploration.
My original plan was to go to Wan Chai for the Oddies Foodies, as recommended by my friend @edrelyns via Instagram.
I was only relying on my screen caps of the map, and was having a hard time to navigate. I decided to take a break when I saw a TEN REN tea place - Ava's recommended milk tea when I went to Taiwan! Since it's not in Manila yet, I bought a cup (at the same time, asked the person at the counter nadin where Oddies Foodies is, hehe).
I walked and walked till my feet hurt, when I saw this Adidas store.
Which is...... Just across a Coffee Academics!!!
I call it a miracle because after entering millions of sneakers shops for the past 2 days, this is the branch where I saw a unique, ORIGINAL, all-white, VELCRO Adidas sneakers. ON SALE. AT 1500 PESOS ONLY.
Meant to be! Nalimutan ko na si Oddies Foodies, lol.
I wore my pair and enjoyed my coffee and vegetarian meal at The Coffee Academics. It was lunch time, and things were falling into place.
Before leaving the cafe, I took advantage of their wifi to post and also do my on-the-spot research. Thank you technology! Through Viber, Sarah taught me how to go to the Nan Lian Garden and Chi Lin Nunnery.
Headed back to the MTR, and navigated my way to the Diamond Hill station.
Upon exiting the station (C2), I knew I was at the right path when I saw Plaza Hollywood:
Didn't go in the mall, but just went right and followed the visible signs leading to Nan Lian Garden and Chi Lin Nunnery:
The place is a bit big, so it's best to allot a few hours when you plan to visit.
The best part is... NO ENTRANCE FEES! When you see a counter, there are free maps and friendly guides where you can ask for the directions and tips!
I really like this garden because it reminded me of Japan. It even looks like Spring time on one side:
And then fall on the other!
Nan Lian Garden was built during the Tang dynasty, a meticulously landscaped 3.5 hectares of land (following certain rules and standards). Inside, you can also visit permanent exhibitions of Chinese timber architecture, rocks and potted plants, and try the vegetarian restaurant and teahouse.
Meanwhile, I just enjoyed the garden. There were tourists, but not so much since it's not yet a popular destination.
Meanwhile, the Chi Lin Nunnery is just connected to the garden.
Also built during the Tang dynasty, Chi Lin Nunnery is a large temple complex where Buddhist relics and lotus ponds reside.
I'm not sure if OA lang ako, but I felt a bit emotional while strolling the garden. In a way, this sidetrip made my whole Hong Kong trip even more worth it! Maybe it's because of the change of scenery? Or the perfect weather? Or the solitude that I finally felt? Anyway, the visit to the Nan Lian Garden and Chi Lin Nunnery gave me a different perspective of Hong Kong.
Back to Plaza Hollywood!
I had to go inside the malls from time to time to avail the free wifi and still communicate with my travel buddies. Still no dinner plans, so I decided to stay for a while and try Govida, since we don't have one pa in Manila (?).
Then I went to Mongkok station for pasalubong shopping (thank you @aaeeao1990 for the reco!).
Ang overwhelming nya, so I just strolled around for a few minutes before heading back to the MTR (sulit talaga ang Adult Tourist Day Pass!).
Back in Causeway Bay for dinner, and gusto ko nang lubusin ang "best day ever". So, I decided to look for Ichiran after learning that it has a branch in my area! Ichiran is my most favorite ramen place since I tried it in Osaka last March!
It started to rain again, so I thought a hot bowl of the most perfect ramen is just fitting for dinner.
I finally saw it by just following my screen capped map!
Line was also long in this branch, but I patiently waited.
Finally, I was lead to my own cubicle, and Osaka memories came rushing back. :)
It's more expensive here, pero keri lang:
Life is good! Slurp! Slurp!
O diba, even water nila delicious! Haha!
Minsan lang ako makaubos ng ramen bowl. :)
I stood up satisfied, and went to the counter by the exit to pay for my bill.
Here's where I saw the difference between Ichiran Japan and HK, can you spot it?
Met my friends afterwards, where we had the local Yee Shun Milk Company for dessert. Food trip kung food trip tong araw na to!
From this trip, I learned that HK is still 70% unspoilt countryside and mountains, and their plan is to conserve the 40%. It might not be visible if you're always bound to go to their popular cityscape with the skyscrapers and "concrete jungles", but that's just a small 30% of the country! I am happy that this trip made me appreciate Hong Kong beyond their famous shopping centers and theme parks.
To be continued...