I always believe in what people say, “there’s always a second time”.
Yes. May 29 to June 2 was my second time to visit Hong Kong and Macau. When my friends asked me which place that I’ve been to would I like to go back, Hong Kong is basically one of them. Macau, however, is included in the visit since it is just a short trip away and can be enjoyed in just a day tour.
Why go back to Hong Kong? Primarily because it is in Asia, no need of visa, and just a 2-hour airtrip away from the Philippines. It is not really the people that neither interest nor excite me but the variety of destinations to go back for, over and over again. Most especially the Ocean Park and the Disneyland, the two most interesting theme parks I would love to spend once in a while. Why not the people? It is because despite being colonized by the English, the Hong Kong populace never learned to speak English nor, shall I say, speak the way we Filipinos speak English. Well, some of them know how to speak English, particularly those who schooled, but the general population we tourists come across with in our tour really had a hard time to communicate with. You should first ask if they speak English otherwise it would be useless to ask them directions, to order food and drinks, to ask for information.
Language barrier is the main issue when one travel in China, Hong Kong and Macau included. I remember last time I toured in Hong Kong with my friend Dupong and we settled in one of the eatery along the Temple Street. Our order of one friend chicken and two cups of rice were taken by an old Chinese waiter. We simply pointed the order from the menu and signed our fingers for the number of order. We were shocked when the order was served to compose of two orders of fried “birds” (we never thought that birds for Filipinos were chickens in Hongkong) and two platters of rice. Yes, we were both hungry after striding the full stretched of the Temple Street night market, but for God’s sake we can not consume the platter. We can not even devour the fried parts of the bird on our plate. We were more stunned and disappointed when we were charged HKD200; that was worth at least 1,200 in Philippines peso, more expensive that the eat-all-you-can in Dad’s restaurant.
And here I was again on my second round of Hong Kong and Macau tour. What made it different from the previous year’s was because Erick, my boyfriend, accompanied me this time; my bestfriend Dupong has a separate schedule of visit in this states later this June with his mother and his priest-brother. Another difference was that we flew our way in via Clark Airport in Pampanga, apart from the usual NAIA in Manila. And that this time, there was no more AH1N1 virus scare that almost held Dupong and me up last year. Plus I swear this time, I won’t go back to the night market and eat in any restaurants along or around the Temple Street.
I promised this time I would venture new ways, new modes, new escapades and experiences. To start with, I proposed to Erick that we will ride the bus to Tung Chung station from the airport upon arrival. This is entirely different from last year that we rode the Airport Express train on our way to the city. Well, we Dupong and I arrived there late in the afternoon; this time it was yet ten o’clock in the morning. Our check in time is supposed to be at two in the afternoon. We took advantage of available time for tours; we took the Ngong Ping 3600 cable car, which was not available during our visit last year. We enjoyed the almost space ride to the Ngong Ping Village, to climb up the Giant Buddha, and to enter the Po Lin Monastery. Dupong and I reached the place through a bus ride because the cable car was then due for repairs and maintenance. The construction of the entrance hall was still going on. I observed this since last year. We reached the top of the 252 step-stairs (hope this is the right count) at hard-breath where the Giant Buddha sat and then headed back down after gaining some air. We went straight to the Po Lin Temple and Monastery and cancelled our idea of reaching the Wisdom Path which is about a kilometer of walk away. The cancellation was due to threat of rains and that the backpacks we were tugging along from the airport was now seemed heavy to carry. So we took the bus on our way back to Citygate Mall at Tung Chung bus and train (MTR they call it) station. To ride the cable car back is expensive and no longer enjoyable because of the thick fogs that came along with the rain. After taking our lunch at McDo, we boarded the MTR going to Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon to check in the Hostel we reserved. I knew the place well because it was where we stayed last year.
Yes, I have been here once before but the one year interval has so much changes to offer. I thought that since it was my second time, it would be easier for me to locate the ins and outs of every way, to and from one destination to another. I was wrong! In fact we exited the wrong way when we arrived at the Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station. We appeared from the exit that was two blocks away from the supposed exit; we took the Cameron Road exit marked B1 instead of Tsim Sha Tsui East marked D1. Nonetheless, I am already familiar with the place so we reached the right hostel thirty minutes after 2pm’s check in time.
We checked in the USA Hostel and left our luggage at our designated room, now at 10th floor of Mirador Mansion. We were accommodated at the 13th floor before which was way better. We took the cheap accommodation now because we traveled on tight budget. And I personally believe that the comfort of our room won’t matter when we went home exhausted from the every whole day tour. So there’s no reason to describe our room or the amenities, just that we felt a bit of comfort in there. Since the housekeeper, a Filipina, was still making up our room, we postponed our intended retouch and headed directly to the Hong Kong Island to reach the Peak early. We took the MTR, the fastest way of getting there and actually the only means of transportation that I knew of, to cross the Victoria harbor. We brought with us no map, so I trusted my instinct and my past experience. Thus, we lost our way. I told Erick that Admiralty Station was our stop but we realized that it was incorrect when we dropped off and checked the posted directory inside the station. We got back to the next train again to Hong Kong Central Station. I followed the exit marked Lower Peak, Erick tailing me. As we reached the ground, we realized that the direction actually pointed to the Peak Tram Station. Again due to tight budget and that was our first day yet, so we can not afford riding the tram. It is faster but we chose the bus to the Peak, so we looked for the bus station. We asked every people we encountered, Chinese mostly, who did not understand English or can not speak English or did not understand our English. Whatever! It was so frustrating!
This incident aroused my grouchiness which in turn triggered Erick’s grumpiness. This was actually second freak out episode of the day between the two of us. Early this dawn the first one happened when we looked for the ATM machine back in Manila to withdraw for our pocket money. The machines, BPI for Erick and BDO for mine, near our condominium were out of service. So we got on the bus going to Cubao where the Five Star Buses, the bus which route will pass through Dau, Pampanga, were stationed. We were told by our friends that we will take the Dau-bound buses and transfer to a jeepney and then take a taxi to reach the Clark Airport. But along the way, I noticed a functional ATM machine, so we dropped there off. But then again, the machine malfunctioned. We both feared that it might capture my ATM card for it took the machine long enough to process and vomit the card. We looked around Araneta Cubao for more machines, Erick tailing me. He was now sweating and for sure irritated by this mess. We finally got the money withdrawn from his bank account. We walked back to the EDSA highway and hopped on the bus again. The Five Star bus station was just a block away from where we were but I understood that Erick might freak out more if I let him walk more. In fact we boarded the non-aircon bus this time without talking to each other and even sitting several seats apart. His shirt is soaked, his face red, his eyes angry for this inconvenience. I can not help him but to stay quiet and calm.
But here we go again; we are in Hong Kong this time. I let him walk long distances again because we lost the right direction to the bus terminal that will take us to the peak. I guess I was wrong to call it Victoria Peak the fact that nobody seemed to recognize it. Some people pointed directions here and there but looked unsure, and I seemed reluctant to follow. Until finally we found the right person, an authority I believe because of his uniform, who instructed us to climb and follow the footbridge to the other side of the road until we reached the Hong Kong MTR Station. Now I got it, the Central MTR Station therefore is different from the Hong Kong MTR Station; indeed we got off the wrong exit. Erick is pissed of with this flopped journey. And so did I. We actually wasted a reasonable time finding the right exit, the right direction, even the right bus number to ride. Sad to note, that even younger Chinese people that we asked for direction and information can not give us one. I am therefore convinced that they don’t understand English, or can not speak English, or do not understand our English. Thankfully, I found one guy, the right man, of authority to entertain tourist like us.
We immediately boarded the right bus, Bus 15 that is, and relieved to find Erick’s disappointment subsiding and later looked relax and back to adventure mood. In reality, I was also upset of myself, disappointed and angry to have lost the way. I highly expected myself to know the right direction given the fact that I have passed this way before, just last year. In fact last time with Dupong tailing me, I find it easy to locate the right spot and reached the Peak so smoothly. Maybe then I was not able to remember the spot because we have not lost. It is when getting lost or mistaken that we learn and have a good recall. Well, except for another one, the hold up at the Immigration counter on our way out of the country. Last year I was almost denied of passing because I was a government employee. Well, I was not but that was what I initially declared. Fortunately I convinced the agent that I am indeed not a government employee, that I was employed to work with government projects managed by a private consultancy firm. It was Dupong who is a government employee being the Accountant of a Water District, a government owned and controlled corporation. But of course I can not tell that fact to the Immigration agent, she might deny both of us. I totally forgot to mention this to Erick and to warn him not to tell the agent that he is a government teacher. Of course, he honestly declared that he is. Fortunately, he was given the pass when he told the agent that he is new and he did not knew about seeking a government clearance to travel abroad. I was tensed waiting for Erick inside the pre-departure area.
Here we are anyway; Erick and I reached the Peak in the middle of the rain. With rain pouring heavily, we opted to forego the climb to the Sky Terrace. Instead we flocked with other tourists at the midsection of the Peak Tower to catch the glimpse of Hong Kong at night, the skyscrapers so well-lit, full of dancing multi-colored lights. The beauty of Hong Kong at nightime ended our city tour, our first day.