Hong Kong

Disneyland: Bringing out the child in all of us

For me, a trip to Hong Kong won’t be complete without visiting Hong Kong Disneyland. While I have been to Hong Kong thrice already, I still choose to go to Disneyland over Ocean Park all the time. I know I maybe missing out by insisting on going to Disneyland all the time but hey, the little kid in me is quite loyal to the Kingdom of the Mouse.

Entrance to a Magical Place

Of course, playtime in paradise does not mean that there won’t be small things that threaten to put a damp on your happy camper kiddie mode. Here are some of my tips to maximize your stay at Hong Kong Disneyland!

1. Buy your tickets ahead – there are many ways to secure your Disney tickets ahead of time. You can buy online through the Disney website, buy through recommended travel websites like AsiaTravel.com or choose to purchase your ticket through your hotel or guesthouses. During our planning, I insisted on buying our tickets ahead of time and even asked the guesthouse if they were selling Disney tickets.

Some of our Disney tickets bought ahead at City Econo Guesthouse

Think of the long line you will have to weather if you ended up buying your ticket while on site. Good thing if it’s a slow day, but who can tell? Especially on the number of tourist groups and school field trips usually scheduled within the day. Buying it ahead saves you time — time which can be sent lining up on attraction. Plus, if you are lucky, buying your tickets ahead can save you money. In our case, we were able to get our tickets for just HKD380 (original rates at HKD399). I might be just HKD19 saved, but it’s money that can be used if you want to eat or buy something inside the park later.

2. Get to the park early and leave late (or at least, after the fireworks show) – When we first visited Disney, we arrived at noon and ended up missing a lot of the park’s attractions. The long line in all of the rides and shows didn’t help either. This time, with mom and dad in tow, we arrived at the park at 10AM just in time for the park opening. And since we have our tickets ahead, we strolled immediately to the entrance and started lining up for attractions and photo opportunities with the Disney characters.

3. Never miss the fireworks show – For me, the Disney Fireworks Show at the end of the long day (usually happening at 8PM or 9PM – check your schedules) is one of the highlights of the whole visit. When I first watched it four years ago, I was crying by the time the final strains of “A Whole New World” faded. Well, guess who cried when she saw it again three weeks ago? Yep, crybabies represent! Aladdin was my favorite Disney cartoon growing up and somehow, the familiar strains never failed transport back in sixth grade where I always wanted to grow up like Jasmine and marry a guy who will invite me on “a magic carpet ride, and show me the world — yes, shining, shimmering, splendid of course!”

The magical castle, in all its glory

4. Get your Park Map and schedules – Usually located by the entrance and at the City Hall, the maps will help you plot your way around the park, while maximizing your time in order to see the rides an attractions of your choice. The schedule meanwhile indicates the time where the characters usually appear for photo op, as well as the show schedules. For me, one of the biggest time eaters is the photo op with characters, lining up usually takes a lot of time especially if we are talking about Mickey and Minnie Mouse here. Knowing when and where they appear saves you the time and energy of lining up.

TIP: Mickey and Minnie Mouse is usually found on the first gazebo that you will see upon entering the park.

5. FASTPASS – know it and use it to your advantage – Fast passes are tickets that will allow you to jump a line at a specific time period. They are usually found on attractions that has a lot of crowd and lining up usually takes 30-45 minutes, like the Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. You can only use your Fast pass one at a time. To do so, you have to insert your ticket on a special fast pass machine which will print out your fast pass. You can only use your fast pass at the specified time period. The Disney Cast Member will advice you when to come back. In the meantime, you can see other shows and enjoy other attractions.

6. Try Dining in, even just once – I will not sugar coat it. For a budget traveler, everything inside Disneyland is EXPENSIVE. Mineral waters sell for like HKD20 while soda goes for HKD25. Bringing in of food is also prohibited except for snacks like a chocolate bar, candies or biscuits. If you are on a budget and keeping rehydrated is important to you, you can also bring in your mineral water bought outside and refill it in any of the refilling stations inside the park. (TIP: Water refilling stations are usually near the comfort room. Whenever there’s a comfort room, you can pretty much bet there’s a water fountain nearby.)

curry rice for only HKD46.

But even if you are on a tight budget, I would recommend to at least try one of the many dishes sold inside the park. We chose one of the food houses nearest Space Mountain and the food was to-die-for! Plus, at HKD46 per serving, it’s not as expensive compared to the other food choices inside the park. The servings are also huge! Will pretty much fill you up until late dinner where you have the option to splurge (read: eat at restos) or eat a light snack at the bakery over at Main Street and have a late dinner when you got home.

7. Patience at all times! – respect other people’s cultures and as much as possible try to be polite and patient, even if you think some people are rude. Nothing ruins the “magical vibe” more than a silly spat over standing in line!

8. Slather on SPF or bring an umbrella, especially if you are coming on a very hot day – It can be quite hot, especially when you are sitting on one of the curbs at Main Street waiting for the Afternoon Parade to start. Slather on SPF or bring an umbrella to avoid burning to a crisp. The parade can be quite long, and there are times when the giant floats stop moving to wait for the tail end to catch up. Skin cancer is not okay!

These balloons are pretty! They also sell for HKD150 each.

Mr. Donald Duck

9. Remember that you don’t have to see all the attractions and the show. Choose only what you like! – Life is too short to spend wallowing on rides that bore you to death (I am talking about you, Slinky Dog!), no one will judge you if you insist on riding the Racer or Space Mountain four times! Remember, you are a kid — you play where you want to play! If you are in a group, you can agree to check out the rides you want and just meet up after a while on a designated spot. This works well of course, if you’re mobile phone is on roaming.

10. Don’t be a killjoy. It’s okay to be a kid, even for just one last time – No one’s gonna judge you if you happen to morph back into your ten year old self the moment you see Mickey or Minnie or Donald. Relive your childhood by enjoying the rides, eating the junk foods, gushing over Minnie’s dress and telling Mickey you love him! Ride the carousel if you want or sing along to the theme of “Beauty and the Beast” at the Golden Mickey if you wish. Believe and be swept away by the magic of 3D at Mickey’s Philharmagic Orchestra.

Lastly, if you feel like crying once the fireworks start dazzling the sky and the familiar refrains make your heart beat faster then ever, do it. Childhood is a wonderful thing where our worries are only limited according to our imagination.

Hong Kong, Travel Diaries

Enjoy the sights, sounds and tastes of Hong Kong for PHP15,000

In one of my earlier posts about the Le Trip to HK with the Fam, I mentioned that I will include in this blog a breakdown of our expenses while in Hong Kong. I also posted a challenge to myself to keep the expenses down to Fifteen thousand pesos, inclusive of hotel and airfare (if possible).

There is a reason for this post. I have always been hounded by friends and colleagues that I seem to have the bank account of a Hilton due to my endless meanderings. Truth be told, I have zero savings following the trip to Seoul in March and I even wonder on my capability to go out of the country in spite a very limited budget. I always tell myself this is because of my ability to find cheap deals and even wrote about how to spend cheap and still get to see new places.

As a supplement to this piece, here’s the breakdown of our total expenses while in Hong Kong:

The total of our expenses in HK

Well, we pretty much kept the budget below PHP15,000.00 for the whole trip inclusive of lodging, meal for three days and entrance to some attractions. We also included the budget for groceries for late night snacks and the Octopus Card loaded for HKD150 on our first day and topped up with HKD30 on our third day.

We booked our tickets three months ahead via Cebu Pacific and was able to secure round trip tickets for six for just PHP24,000 or PHP4,000 per head, round trip. I don’t know if any of you had problems booking with Cebu Pacific using their online booking system, but we had to try a lot of times before we even get through the first step. Frustrated, we decided to call the Customer Service Hotline where a very patient agent handled our booking.

A month and a half prior to trip, we booked our lodging through City Econo Guesthouse (see my review here) which I found after searching online. Since October has always been a “conference month” for Hong Kong, majority of the hostels and guesthouses I inquired in were all fully booked. City Econo Guesthouse is a highly recommended lodging at Pinoy Exchange and while reviews are pretty scant online, I decided to take a risk and reserved online. You will not be required a deposit, except the commitment to confirm your booking three days before the trip.


Nathan Road and me

I’ve always been curious about Nathan Road, that long stretch, starting from the boundary between Kowloon and HK Island and known for its numerous guest houses, hustlers, high end stores and malls as well as a melting pot of various nationalities. I have always been curious on the allure of its curious lights and the incessant noise, the buses careening through it. The aging buildings, housing a collection of guesthouses, girly bars, vegetarian restaurants and acupuncture clinics, had the beauty of decay and life mixed together. In spite the curiosity, I always chose to be on the safe side and booked a room somewhere in HK Island — first in Northpoint and the next, in Wanchai. But for this trip, I insisted on staying in Tsim Sha Tsui, right at the heart of Nathan Road. I figured the parents will love the bright lights and the endless stream of people. I, of course, was right. Upon waking up, mum and dad would walk the long stretch and go around the block, enjoying the locals and the thrill of meeting an occasional Filipina.

enjoying the local color

Near the guesthouse was many shops, both those catering to Western tastes but more interestingly, the Chinese medicine shops, the curio places, an old hole in the wall selling dumplings and xiao long baos and vegetarian snacks and a bakery selling goodies that would shame even Bread Talk’s best creations. These, and the amazingly cheap wares available made this a very good choice.


The Queen and I enjoying HK’s street foods

While it is understandable that we will look for the usual things we eat back home (McD’s, KFC and the like), we have to admit that one of the best things about traveling is tasting delicacies that never get to find in our various localities. In HK, the family and I feasted on various offerings found in Temple Street Night Market. We also walked along Nathan Road and found a family-run place selling to die for fruit shakes. (This is near Tsim Sha Tsui Police Station) Beside it was a small establishment selling yummy fried scallops and fish balls.

Take your pick! You will find this near the TST Police Station along Nathan Road

This establishment sells the best sea food. A standard meal for six can be had for HKD200 – inclusive of drinks and a humongous San Mig Light (for dad)

Yummy seafood!

You can pick your seafood of choice and they will cook it according to your specifications. In the Philippines, we also have restaurants offering this kind of service. We call it paluto.

This humongous meal can be had at HK Disneyland for only HKD46

If we will factor in our plane fare, our total expense will go up to PHP15,272.00. Since it was a family trip, we really didn’t indulge in shopping. In fact, on our last day, I just bought a new wallet for HKD50 (less than PHP300) plus a Bruce Lee t-shirt for me and the hubby. I also made a quick trip to Ikea Causeway Bay to get a gift to a friend getting married in December. It was also a conscious effort on my part not to spend as much since the priority for our parents to experience Hong Kong.

We were also able to see the places we wanted while ensuring that our elderly parents will get to experience the joy of Hong Kong. My parents, being children of older times when the Philippines struggled with poverty, were like kids in a toy store every time, especially when we brought them to Disneyland. It was truly worth it, the happiness in their faces while they line up to take their picture with Mickey and Minnie Mouse is truly priceless.

On my next post: Why Disneyland brings out the kid in all of us.

Hong Kong, Traveling on a Budget

City Econo Guesthouse – cheap, centrally-located and comfortable.

Here’s the first of my many posts about my recent vacation in Hong Kong.
Don’t worry, one of these is definitely the revelation of my PHP15,000 Vacation Challenge as mentioned in my previous post. I will just finalize the tally of the total expenses and I’ll be all set to reveal if I am indeed successful.

First, I’d like to give credit where credit is due. I stayed at the City Econo Guesthouse, located on the 5th and 6th floors of Cumberland House in Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon — exactly parallel to exit C of the Jordan Station of the MTR.

I found the guesthouse during a harried, lodging-scouting period where most of the boutique hotels and guesthouses were booked due to the October conference month. Tired after being rejected by about six accommodations, I quickly searched PinoyExchange and found it as one of the recommended places by Filipino budget travelers. I fired a quick email to Jenny, the property owner and received a prompt reply the next day. Suffice to say, I was able to book the room without any deposit, but with strict instructions to confirm reservations three days before the trip.Email correspondence with Jenny is very quick and efficient–hence, I honestly don’t think you need to pass through a third-party agent.

We were given instructions to take the A21 Cityflier bus from the Hong Kong International Airport and alight at the Prudential Centre stop, roughly the 11th bus stop from the airport. The hotel is just across the road. I recommend you take the back entrance (along Bowring and Pilkem Street) to avoid the narrow and steep stairs facing Nathan Road. Upon check-in, go directly to the 6th floor and look for Jenny who will assist you during the whole check-in process. You will also be asked to settle the entire bill during check-in.

the narrow but very clean hallways leading to the bedrooms

Room Comments
The rooms were basic: clean, comfortable and safe — just what we needed after a long day of sight-seeing. We really didn’t stay much indoors. We are pretty much out of the room by 9AM, only to return by 10 or 11PM. We were tired, cranky and just ready to sleep.

City Econo Guesthouse provided us what we need minus the frills and without the hassle.

Double Room for mum and dad. Our room was just across the hall.

our spacious quadruple room and with the equally spacious bathroom. and these three are my constant room mates!

the spacious T&B for the quad room

We were given six bottles of free mineral water upon check-in, but these were not replenished during our four-day stay. Didn’t bothered us though because we also decided to stock-up on water following a visit on the supermarket located at JD Mall.

The room was roomy and airy, did not smell that old building smell (common on guesthouses) and seemed newly renovated. Wifi was free but spotty, plus there’s also telephone and working TV (with 4 channels only). At noon (most likely) someone comes in to tidy the place, throw the thrash and replenish the tissue paper inside the bathrooms. There were also shower gels and shampoo provided, as well as towels which are freshly changed everyday.

Now for some obvious realities: the building being old, we noticed that the tiles inside the bathroom were fixed (it showed) and the cracked ones repaired (it showed). The shower curtains were also old, but still does the job (and it didn’t smell) plus there’s hot water available for those who hate cold showers.

Being a family-run establishment, you can sense the care and the sense of dedication of its owners. After we have checked in, Jenny dragged her son to change the light bulbs inside our room and have it checked to ensure all things are in order.

Jenny and her husband, along with their son, handle the day-to-day operations of the guesthouse. They are quick and efficient, hospitable yet professional. They also offer tours and tickets to some of HK’s attractions. In fact, we were able to buy Disneyland tickets at City Econo Guesthouse at HKD20 off. Talk about savings!

One of the best things about City Econo Guesthouse is its location.
It’s right beside exit C of the Jordan MTR and smack at the middle of Nathan Road in TST. Located on the next street is the Kowloon Park and directly across Pilkem Street is the famous Temple Street Night Market (named after the temple in the middle of the road).

After visiting the Avenue of Stars and the Symphony of Lights, we decided to walk from the corner of Peninsula HK to our hotel. It was just a good four blocks away and about 15 minutes by foot. There were a few “safety spots”, but the rest is simply too overwhelming and bright and fun, considering the many-colored billboard along TST.

So, if you’re the type who’s rather spend their hard-earned money shopping than splurging on a hotel room you won’t get to see much anyway, try to consider City Econo Guesthouse. It’s money well spent.

NOTE: This is not a paid advertorial. I paid for both rooms during our four-day, three night stay. They do not accept credit cards, please bring cash.

Asia, Hong Kong

A planned trip back to the Fragrant Harbor (My Hong Kong Diaries)

Picture from The Hong Kong Tourism Board website

I am currently arranging for an upcoming trip to Hong Kong and possibly, Macau this coming October.
I have been to the city twice, with my brother and sister as a pre-wedding get-away in 2008 and with the dear hubby in 2009 during our first overseas trip as husband and wife.

We are going back as a treat to our elderly parents, especially our mum who will be celebrating her 59th birthday during the trip. The upcoming trip is also our pop’s first trip out of the country. He is already 61 years old and we wanted him to experience traveling while he is still strong enough to do so. When he was 59 years old, we treated him to Bantayan Island in Cebu, and made him experience air travel for the first time. It was so priceless, like treating a kid to a candy store. Last year, my sister and I realized that we have been traveling too much in the last few years but we weren’t able to bring our parents who have yet to experience what it’s like being in a foreign country. So, we harassed them to get their papers in order in order to acquire passports. After a few months of searching for a trip for everyone, we finally settled with Hong Kong, especially since mum and pops would love to see Disneyland.

For the upcoming trip, we’ve decided to stay at City Econo Guesthouse in Nathan Road, based on the glowing reviews posted over Trip Advisor and the HK forum at PEX. Again, this is not the Hong Kong Peninsula, but we just wanted a place where we can dump all of stuff and crash peacefully/safely at night. I already arranged our stay and confirmed our reservation with the kind and efficient owner who did not collect a down payment for the stay but instead advised me to re-confirm our stay three days prior to the trip. I booked one quadruple room for HKD700 per night and one double room for HKD400 per night — cheap considering October is conference season for HK and all hotels/guesthouses gets filled up quickly.

I have yet to finalize our itinerary, but for the 4D 3N stay — we figured we’ll go to the time and tested tourist areas which my parents would love: Disneyland, the Avenue of Stars, Victoria Peak and Ngong Ping 360. Yes, we’ve been to these places before, but again this trip is not for us but for our mom and dad who would be seeing all these for the first time.

Well, HK Disneyland has always been a favorite. I love that place so much, like I was a kid once again and have managed to forgot (even for a while) all my grown up worries. (How’s this for super dork? I cried during the Fireworks Display)

HK Disneyland, 2008 (with the Queen and the little bro)

I am also trying to keep the cost down, considering that I don’t want my mom and dad to get overwhelmed with the expenses of traveling. While my sister and I will be spending for the plane fare and the hotel accommodations, I don’t want them to think that traveling is expensive. I pretty much have everything figured out: the transportation (we are taking the A21 bus to and from the airport), the budget per day, the itinerary for the three days (though we are still considering going to Macau) as well as the eateries we will check out while we were there.

Hopefully, I’ll have everything set by the end of August or first week of September. You know how OC I get when it comes to traveling.