November 23, 2012
Four months after my last international trip, I found my self falling in line at the immigration counter of NAIA terminal 3 and boarding an international flight again. It was not a planned trip but because my high school friends Melvin and Katrina really wanted to celebrate their birthdays abroad (November 23 and 15, respectively), we booked the cheapest airline promo we saw last September.
I was the only one who had an experience traveling internationally so all the research and itinerary-making were assigned to me. It was very tasking but I enjoyed every part of creating the itinerary. I felt I was already transported to Hong Kong and Macau while doing it especially while searching for photos or looking at google maps.
Before the trip, I made sure to exchange HKD and USD in the Philippines. Although most blogs would say that PHP is acceptable in Hong Kong, I wanted to make sure to have a ready HKD when we arrive. Most airport money changers have low exchange rates and it would cost us more if we will exchange our money there. So I researched about the best money changers in Manila and HK. I found out that Czarina’s in Greenhills and the Sanry’s Western Union money changer in Robinson’s Galleria were giving the best exchange rates. Because Greenhills was farther from me, I just went to Galleria. That day the selling rate was $1= Php42.00 and HKD1=Php5.50. I bought $255 USD and HKD1500.
My friends and I were known for being talkative and active in high school and we were able to carry those traits on our trip. While on our flight, we talked the whole time about possible airplane turbulence and occasionally about old friends (tsismisan to the max!). An hour after the plane took off, the flight attendant said that there will be a game and on board prizes will be given. That’s when we started living out the theme of our trip – “Competitiveness”. The flight attendant would mention a letter and a category and we should be able to enumerate 3 things related to those 2 criteria. The FA asked for 3 animals that started with letter E. Melvin immediately raised his hand to call the FA’s attention. Then she called Mel and we helped him answer the question. We got all 3 answers and we won a special prize! Cebu Pacific’s small bag. Since that day was also Mel’s birthday, we gave him the prize.
After two hours, the plane landed at the Hong Kong International Airport. We really did not know what to expect. We grabbed our bags and immediately went to the immigration counter. Our next stop was the HK Tourism Board located just after the immigration. Excitedly, we hoarded all the maps and guides that we saw. We got maps for Disneyland, Ocean Park and Ngong Ping, as well as transportation and shopping guides. There were a couple of money changers, however, the rates were very low. Melvin and Kat only had USD with them. Since we needed to buy Octopus card and pay the guesthouse that night, they exchanged some dollars at Travelex.
After leaving the Arrivals area, we went straight to the Octopus card ticket booth. It was a circle booth located at the Arrival Meeters and Greeters hall. We bought the card for HKD150 – 100 for the stored value and 50 for the deposit. You may claim the HKD50 deposit upon returning the card and before leaving HK. Aside from the MTR and buses, the card can also be used to pay at participating establishments in HK like 7-11.
Then we headed to the terminals outside to take the Airport bus to Kowloon. That’s when we felt the chill of the air outside. I asked 2 of my friends who went to HK before me and they told me that the temperature was just fine. But it was a different story when we arrived. We were chilling and we immediately took out our jackets.
We went straight to the Bus Information board and looked for bus A21 (HKD33). We were very excited to take the double decker bus but unfortunately we were assigned to a single decker bus. We used our Octopus card for the first time. (Blooper 1: Mel and Kat didn’t know how to use the Octopus card. Mel swiped the card when he should just tap it at the sensor. Luckily, nobody saw him.😀 Buti nalang na experience ko na ‘to sa SG.)
After about an hour and enjoying HK by night, we arrived at TST, Kowloon. We were overwhelmed – with the weather, with the fashion, with the shops and with its extravagance. We immediately went to the Yiu fai Guesthouse located at Flat E, 5/FL., Golden Crown Court, 66-70 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon.
Our room was a triple room (HKD500/night) – One double and one single bed. It was actually more spacious that I imagined it. I read reviews about hostels and guesthouses in HK and most of them said that the rooms were small. I think we got a larger and more decent one. It had a small organizer drawer, a telephone and an overhead tv. The bathroom was also a lot cleaner and spacious. I was hoping for the worst but I definitely got one of the best. It had a common fridge, microwave oven and free coffee, sugar, tea and drinking water. The staff also cleaned the room everyday which was a plus.
We paid our room bill, gave our dried mangoes pasalubong, left our bags, and went out again. It was already past 11:00 pm but the shops were still open. We tried to feel the vibe of the place. I already wanted to finish my first task which was to buy small perfumes for my colleague. We were about to enter the Bonjour store when the saleslady said that they were already closing. Since it was late and most of the stores were actually closing, we decided to go back to the guesthouse to rest and call it a day. Day 1: I already love Hong Kong!
Php550 – Terminal Fee
Php1620 – Travel tax
HKD150 – Octopus Card (Less HKD33 for the Cityflyer A21)
HKD500 (triple room/night)