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.

STAYING IN NATHAN ROAD

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.

ENJOYING CHEAP EATS

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.

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Travel Diaries

My Travel Journals and I: All great journeys begin with a stroke of a pen

A journey of a thousand miles begin with a single step.
In my case, it’s with the simple stroke of a pen right after the tickets have been confirmed and a confirmation of flight has been forwarded to my email address.

I have always been the type of girl to search for the tiniest details each time I plan a quick get-away, whether where to sleep, stay or even exchange foreign currency. In our family, I was the type to plot a trip in MS Excel with grids dedicated to itinerary, budge and number of recommended hours for travel and commute.

Tedious as it may sound, I find simple joys in looking up attractions, interesting B&Bs, cheap accommodations and even the occasional to-die for restaurant where we can splurge and enjoy a great meal.

I’ve had three travel journals since 2007. The first one, a thick tome with cutesy shojo manga drawings and barely discernible English quotes, covered my trips from 2007-2009; the second one from 2010 to 2012 and latest one for an upcoming family trip to HK alone.

Two of my three journals. The first one (not pictured) contained copious notes about Singapore and HK. From the eyes of a first-time traveler.

My second notebook was a thick, black hard-bound rectangle notebook with the picture of a black cat on the cover. Inside was three sets of writing pads which was perfect for quick notes and easy reminders. This notebook served me so well when I went back to Singapore in 2011 and of course, during the Great Seoul Searching Trip.

travel journal

Notes on how to go around Busan, with foreign currency translated into pesos. Indicated was the cost of transportation via the airport bus from Gimhae International Airport to Busan Train Station (KRW5,000 = PHP189)

Finalizing the room reservations at Zaza Backpackers, Myeongdong, Seoul

I am currently using a small orange colored Moleskine-type notebook, with the words “WanderGrrrrrrl” drawn in front. I drew this one day during a really slow day at the office. Currently, this notebook contained notes and plans for an upcoming trip next week. The notebook also contained budgets, hostel choices and a few directions going from one attraction to another. At the back, I stapled a small copy of the MRT map in Hong Kong. While I know that maps will be easily available once we landed in Chep Lap Kok, the OC girl in me is happy and at peace with the fact that I have a map stapled at the back of my notebook.

This notebook is small and compact and can easily fit my pocket or small day bag. I think this one is perfect when my very dysfunctional-ly funny, but dearly beloved family (mum and dad included!) takes the streets of Tsim Sha Tsui for the very first time.

If you will notice in the pictures, there are tabs highlighting the sections: one section was allocated for our first day plans, another one is for the second day and so on and so forth. Each section contains commute, budget and itinerary as well as some recommended side trips like a trip to Ikea, etc.

I am now down on my last twenty pages and I am sure that before this trip draws to a close, I will again be breaking out a new notebook to serve me on future trips both locally and outside the country.

In this day and age where everything can be found in just a few clicks in our smartphones and iPADs, you might ask me why bother writing it all down in paper.

I don’t know, but for me — there’s a certain “order into things” whenever I summarize all the information out there and write them (in order). It gives me the sweet sense that I am going somewhere and that I have truly prepared for it. The same notebook serves as a reminder of the things I’ve seen, the things I’ve enjoyed and the “not-so-much”. The writings, no matter how hurried or out of place some of them may seem, hold a certain gravitas and memory. After a few months or so, you will look back and remember that great food you have somewhere on the backstreets of the city; or the number of the hostel you booked online and forgot about.

People buy keepsakes of their adventures, I tend to write them down. To me, all great journeys-good and bad memories-begin with a single stroke of a pen.

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