Sunday, December 5, 2010

Hong Kong sidetrip -- Night 3

Hong Kong (Nov 14, 2010) -- After seven days overseas, it was time to fly back to Manila. As we ate dinner while waiting for our evening flight, I reviewed the weekend's tour (that excludes Disneyland and Victoria Harbour) around Hong Kong.

City Tour Shopping
A part of the city tour we signed up for was the shopping stops. In this trip, there were two: JW Jewellery and Global Export Outlet, Ltd. Many pieces in the jewelry shop were beyond my price range, and it's not surprising that many tourists end up buying the cheapest of the lot (bracelets that are said to ward off arthritis and other joint pains). I got myself one, not to improve blood circulation, but because I found a pretty coiled two-colour bracelet among the mix. After buying this particular piece, I saw what I really wanted... a white-gold tennis bracelet. Here's the catch: it cost HKD 238,000. That's roughly P1.3M!! That's one Honda CR-V right there! Di bale na lang! The shocker of a tennis bracelet faded when we arrived at Global Export to buy pasalubong. Scooby Doo cookies caught my eye so I bought a packet, along with some potato chips. I didn't get other things because my luggage was already heavy, thanks to the tripod.

Victoria Peak
I think I missed this stop during the city tour... or did we actually stop? I was expecting a trip to the look-out point where we could see the view of the Kowloon side. Instead, I saw (expensive) residential areas of the Mid-Levels. Now those were real houses, not the high-rise buildings people stay in within city limits. 

The view from the Mid-levels

I understand the expensive part: there were a lot of trees and the area is cleaner than the rest of the city. The view of the central business district from the Mid-Levels reminded me of the overlooking view of Manila from Antipolo, only closer).  

Avenue of the Stars
Hong Kong's take on Hollywood's Walk of Fame. Being exposed more to American movies, I wasn't star struck with the names of Asian film industry celebrities whose names and hand prints peppered the walk... until I saw JACKIE CHAN, JOHN WOO, BRUCE LEE, CHOW YUN-FAT, MICHELLE YEOH, and JET LI. 

I've been a fan of Jackie Chan since I saw In the Eagle's Shadow (1978); John Woo since Broken Arrow (1996), and Jet Li since Once Upon a Time in China (1991). I got acquainted with Chow Yun-Fat in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) and with Michelle Yeoh in Tomorrow Never Dies (1997). And who in the world would not have heard of Bruce Lee?!?

Statue in honour of Bruce Lee at Avenue of the Stars

The harbour during the day wasn't as impressive as during the evening (it's all in the lighting). However, the avenue gives clear views of the different architectural styles on Hong Kong Island. Since we dropped by in November, the wind was becoming nippy, and yet it was still pleasant enough to walk while the sun was up.

Hong Kong traditional culture, up close and personal!!

Our tour guide said that Hong Kong got its name from the incense-smelling harbour of Aberdeen. As we approached the ferry station, we were met by sampans, flat-bottom wooden boats propelled by a motor, that would tour us around the floating village of Aberdeen's southern typhoon shelter. We rode one driven by a woman who barely talked with us. She just drove us round and round the village, showing the different aspects of life on the water. However, she did point at important things in the village.

Despite living in the floating village, these people are far from derelict. The sampan tours are a way to earn additional income during the times when the fishermen aren't out in the ocean. Their boathouses are equipped with the latest electronic devices, washing machines... I bet residents have internet connection and laptops on board as well. While these houses have trappings of modern life, the people still remain fishermen: the marks of the trade could still be seen on these boats. Fish are hung to dry and for tourists to gawk at. I wonder if the birds flying close by get to catch such easy prey. 

The floating village of Aberdeen against a backdrop of skyscrapers

Ocean Park
I was excited to visit this theme park the second time around. The last (actually, the first) time I was here, I was a high school freshman. At that time, the highlight of my trip to Ocean Park was the Raging River, a long and winding water ride through simulated rain forests culminating with a breath-taking (and drenching) slide. Of course, no trip to Ocean Park would be complete without a visit to the Atoll Reef; at the time, however, I wasn't too impressed not because it wasn't an awesome experience but because I just finished reading "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" (Jules Verne, 1869) and I expected a submarine ride to see the reefs. The Middle Kingdom all made up for that though, because that part of the park brought visitors back to the old days of China... back when it was the Middle Kingdom.

Fast-forward to 2010 (16 years later)... I was raring to go back and see the Middle Kingdom one more time. I was excited to see the fish and I wanted to ride the Raging River again. The cable car ride was fun, I was amazed at how far up we were from the sea, and I thought I saw the yachts parked in Aberdeen's typhoon shelter. I was a bit sad that the polyglot parrot wasn't by the escalators anymore, but I was happy to see the Talking Tree and the Owl. There was a sea lion show by the Pacific Pier and there were goldfish in a pavilion. I realised that I had a much better appreciation of the Atoll Reef and the Chinese Sturgeon Aquarium than when I first visited. I didn't have a chance to ride the Raging River nor the Crazy Galleon, but I did ride the Ferris Wheel and the rotating deck (both gave fantastic views of the park and the sea). The highlight of this visit: GIANT PANDAS!!! It's my first time to see these gorgeous creatures up close. They were huge! Of course, there were red pandas roaming in a neighbouring enclosure. Hello, Master Shifu and Po! Now if I could find Master Oogway among all the animals in the zoo – ahem! – in Ocean Park!

Panda statues in Ocean Park
What a trip! Although I've enjoyed it, I think I'm ready to go round this city WITHOUT joining a tour group. Next time, I'm skipping Disneyland and Ocean Park, the Ladies' Market, and Victoria Harbour altogether. I will go to (1) the HK Space Museum in Kowloon, (2) the Giant Buddha statue on Lantau Island, (3) Hong Kong's nature trails.