One of my many guilty pleasures in life is traveling to Hong Kong. What’s not to love? The food is great, the weather is cooler than Manila’s, it’s just less than 2 hours away and I can window shop as much as I want. This time around I was lucky enough to have been able to take a trip with a few of my closest friends. It was not very easy to plan a trip for 8 people with totally different schedules, budgets and expectations. But after months of planning we finally pulled it off.
Philippine Airlines (www.philippineairlines.com)
My husband has always been keen on keeping tabs on airline promotions. Early August of last year, Philippine Airlines had a special treat for their loyal Mabuhay Miles customers – The Great Miles Getaway, where miles (to limited destinations) were 50% off. Instead of the usual 10,000 miles to get to Hong Kong, we only needed 5,000 miles but in turn had to pay 4,804 Php per person for the tax. Another plus with taking Philippine Airlines was the departure/arrival times were reasonable and we had free food! We only paid for the 750 terminal fee and didn’t have to pay the travel tax fee of 1620 Php at the airport (which is usually an additional expense when buying tickets online).
Goldencrown Hong Kong (www.goldencrownhk.com)
Admittedly, I was least excited about this. We tried looking for a hotel that could fit 4 people in a room yet didn’t burn a hole in our wallet and found none. After researching online and after making sure that this hostel/guesthouse wasn’t located in the Chungking Mansions or Mirador Mansions we decided to give it a try. We stayed for 4 nights. The rooms and bathrooms were clean, albeit small in size and there was free wifi! The location was perfect – along Nathan Road and near the D1 exit of the Tsim Sha Tsui stop. We were all happy with only having to pay around 750 Php per night per person (room price was 500 Hkd per night).
Octopus Card (www.octopus.com.hk/home/en/index.html)
As soon as we arrived, we purchased our Octopus cards from the Airport (150 Hkd = 50 Hkd deposit & 100 Hkd load). I don’t think I’ll be able to survive Hong Kong without one. It can be used at the MTR, McDonalds, 711, Watsons and a lot more. Before we left, we also got a refund at the Kowloon Airport Express Station for the load that wasn’t used as well as the deposit minus a 7 Hkd fee.
We wanted to get to our guesthouse as quickly as possible and opted to take the Airport Express. Luckily there was a promo for same day, one way travel tickets for 4 people. We ended up only paying 50 Hkd per person to get to the Kowloon Station. The regular one way fares were 90 Hkd per person for one way and 160 Hkd round trip. When we arrived at the Kowloon Station, we took the free K3 shuttle that dropped us off at Holiday Inn Golden Mile. This was the nearest stop to our hostel and was only a 5 minute walk.
Hong Kong has a great MTR system – fast, reliable and cheap! There are stops/exits everywhere so it’s also very accessible. Taking a taxi is very expensive so I wouldn’t recommend it unless you get stuck late at night. On the other hand, they also have a lot of buses but I personally cannot understand their bus system since there are too many destinations and too just too many of them! But their buses are also cheap and a good way to travel if you know how to use them.
We had 3 full days to go around. Our original itinerary wasn’t very feasible since it literally had almost all the traditional tourist spots (it was some of our friends’ first time in Hong Kong).
We arrived at the hostel around 10:30 pm. After checking in, we proceeded to one of the night markets and ate in one hole in the wall restaurant.
We weren’t able to start day 2 as early as we intended but we were able to take the Big Bus Tours as planned (www.bigbustours.com). We bought tickets online to get discounted tickets ($34.85). This was a bit expensive considering most of the hop-on hop-off tours we’ve tried in Europe were cheaper but because we were pressed with time it was the best compromise. It came with free Peak tram tickets (which was very helpful since we didn’t have to fall in line to buy tickets) and free Star Ferry passes.
Since we bought the bus tickets online, we had to look for one of their stops along Peking road to have our tickets validated (Stop #13 which was the nearest stop to our hostel). I assumed that they would have signs all over the place like we were used to in other countries but after looking everywhere and calling their office, we were just advised to go to the Star Ferry Pier to look for their staff. Apparently their buses do not stop unless they see people waiting at the exact meeting point. Luckily when we got to the pier, the Big Bus Tours’ personnel were all over. Another plus was they were mostly Filipinos and were more than willing to help us (thank you Ms.Wendy and company!).
Our first stop was Causeway Bay. Ikea to be exact! For lunch we ended up in a terrible restaurant that served food literally swimming in chili. After, we rode the tram to Victoria Peak (www.thepeak.com.hk). We went up the Sky Terrace (25 Hkd per person) and visited Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum (www.madametussauds.com). We were able to buy our Wax Museum tickets from the Big Bus Staff for the same price of 160 Hkd per person. We stayed there for a couple of hours and took a taxi down to Central (for a whopping 200 Hkd per cab!) and enjoyed a scrumptious dinner at Yung Kee (www.yungkee.com.hk).
Day 3 was mostly spent in Stanley Plaza (via the Big Bus Tours again) and Mongkok for the boys and Harbour City for the girls. We decided to split into 2 groups after Stanley since the girls didn’t really want to shop for electronics and we wanted to go to Uniqlo and Toys ‘R Us to buy gifts for our kids. In Stanley, we had lunch at Shu Zhai – a lovely two-level Dim Sum Tea House (80 Stanley Main Street, Stanly). The food was great and the prices were reasonable for the quality. For dinner, the girls ate at Spaghetti House (TST) while the boys ate at Ajisen Ramen.
Since we had a track record of not being able to start the day early, we ended up spending our last day at the Citygate Outlets at Tung Chung (www.citygateoutlets.com.hk). We had a late lunch at the food court (great food choices!) then headed back to Tsim Sha Tsui late afternoon because one of the guys flew back to Manila that night. When we got back we were all too tired! We decided to just shop at the nearby stores. We bought take away from the mall across our hostel and had dinner in our rooms.
This was indeed a memorable trip. Hopefully, within the next year or two, we’ll be able to come up with another adventure that we’ll be able to take as a group. Until then… 🙂