dreaming the life | living the dream

HK & Macau travel tips

//4.30.14

For five days, I was able to explore Hong Kong and Macau and it was a poignant experience. Before my family and I went on that trip, I had bought this Lonely Planet travel guide to help me plan our itinerary and it was quite helpful for that part but when we were already strolling around Hong Kong, it wasn’t that helpful. We actually got lost a couple of times, which lead to tons of arguments, but in the end, I decided that sulking about our getting lost and allowing my nerves to boil was only going to ruin my day so I just continued to enjoy the foreign views.

I think that it’s better if travelers acquire this kind of information from fellow travelers or tourists because they’re simply of the same kind. It’s kind of like asking a girlfriend for advice on which nail salons offer the best service.

Hong Kong

Transportation

If you don’t want to spend too much money on transportation, once you arrive at Hong Kong International airport, I don’t think riding the MTR is the best solution. One ticket costs a 100 HK dollars and that’s just too much for transportation. Also, taxis are going to be expensive because toll fees have to be paid and it’s really a long journey. The best solution, for me,  is to ride the buses at the airport terminal because the fare per person is less than 40 HK dollars, which is kind of okay. These special double decker buses have bunks where you can put your luggage in and there’s a camera focused on the luggage area so you can see if someone’s trying to steal your things. Plus, riding the bus allows you to see Hong Kong, unlike riding the MTR.

Buy an Octopus card as soon as you arrive in Hong Kong. It’s so much easier to navigate through Hong Kong with this card because you wouldn’t be scouring your coin purse for coins (because you have to pay the exact amount every time you board a public vehicle), and you would be saving a little time. You just have tap. It’s perfect because it works for every mode of transportation that Hong Kong has—bus, MTR, trams, minibuses, and Star ferry. Plus, sometimes, there are discounted prices for Octopus cards, like, in the MTR, sometimes it costs 50 cents less. It’s not much but still… If you still have 50 dollars left in the card, you can exchange that credit for money.

Accommodation

Personally, I think the best place to stay at is in the southern areas of Kowloon because you’re at the center of everything. We stayed near the East Tsim Sha Tsui station, along Nathan Road, and it was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made because firstly, the train station was just a few steps away, the Avenue of Stars—which gives you a spectacular view of Hong Kong island—is like 5 minutes away, Star Ferry is also very near, and the ferry to Macau is, again, just a couple of blocks away. There are also tons of shopping malls and stores along Nathan Road which is a plus again for people who love shopping.

There are numerous hotels and hostels in this strip so I guess it would not be a problem if you just check in once you arrive. However, rates are cheaper online and at peak season, there are not a lot of vacancies. Oh and the hotels here are quite small so there are not a lot of hotels that have family rooms. Usually, hotels with family rooms are on the more expensive side of accommodation but I think that’s best if you have your little kids with you.

Shopping

Speaking of shopping, I think, when you go to Hong Kong, that is one of the things that you should do, especially if you’re from the Philippines. Things are so much cheaper here, especially Cotton On products. However, there are also some things that cost the same, such as makeup products (Mac, NARS, etc.). I have heard before that the best time to go shopping in Hong Kong is in August because a lot of things go on sale on that month.

I suggest visiting Temple Street at night because there are tons of cheap souvenir, such as fridge magnets, t-shirts, etc., that you can buy there. There are also stores that sell football-related things, which obviously made me crazy. Beware though because when you’re strolling near the Temple street area, actually north of it, you might stumble upon this lane that sells sex toys so if you’re with your kids, that’s a place you should avoid. They are literally everywhere on that part of Hong Kong and they are really, really distracting.  Check out Ladies’ market as well because there are a lot of cute items there, such as bags, and they have a lot of football jerseys there. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to buy any because I was looking for a specific one and they didn’t have it.

In Lantau Island, near the Ngong Ping cable car station, there is this huge outlet mall that has huge stores of brands such as Giordano, Esprit, Adidas, Roxy, and many more, that offer a lot of on-sale items.

By the way, there is only one Forever 21 store in Hong Kong, I think, and it’s in Causeway Bay. It’s a five-floor store near the Apple store, and it’s really really crowded. But it’s a bit cheaper compared to the Forever 21 here in the Philippines.

The Cotton On I went to was also in Causeway Bay, and it’s in this mall that also had Uniqlo and Muji (I LOVE THIS MINI MALL). As I have said, things here are so much cheaper compared to the Philippines, as in cheaper by 200 pesos, which for me is a good save because I like everything Cotton On has so I usually buy a lot. Their ‘2 for a specific price shirts’ are only 800 pesos there, when converted. Plus they have Typo here!!

Muji and Uniqlo products are also cheaper here! I swear I’ll come back just to go shopping.

And dear Nike lovers, if you wish to buy Nike products, Hong Kong isn’t really the best option. There are not a lot of Nike stores there and the sports stores don’t offer that many products either so you might just end up disappointed. But don’t fret just yet because stores in Macau, near Ruins of St. Paul Church, have a a larger selection of Nike products. As for Adidas lovers, well, you’re in luck because there are tons of Adidas stores in Hong Kong, and, man, they are all humongous.

Food

Let’s talk food and restaurants. I must say that you should really try local restaurants and not fast food chains. On our first day, since we were new and we were really famished, we were forced to eat at a McDonald’s and I personally believe that it was a mistake because the chicken wings that I got were to small and were too expensive (Well, actually, the price was not just proportion to the serving size). On our first day in Central, in Hong Kong island, again, we ate at a fast food chain well known in the Philippines, Jollibee, and the food there cost too much. But the good thing was, the food came in a sizable amount. However, eating in these chains doesn’t actually allow you to experience the culture of Hong Kong. There are a lot of restaurants or eateries—I don’t know what the small ones are called—and they serve amazing food. Unfortunately though, I have no idea what these eateries/restaurants were called because they were all written in Chinese characters but the food really were delectable. I suggest ordering those that have sauces in them, barbecues, and of course, noodles. Also, they serve a large amount of food to a single person so it would really make you feel satiated and satisfied (taste-wise) in the end. The downside is, they can be pretty costly (again, speaking as a third world resident). And, it’s kind of difficult to communicate with the waiters because they hardly speak English but they do have menus that have pictures so you just have to point at the pictures. It’s pretty fun. Also, they don’t seem to hand out receipts so don’t be surprised if they don’t give you any tiny piece of paper. For local snacks, try the egg waffle. I was able to buy the egg waffle only at night because the stores that sell it don’t open on afternoons and mornings and I don’t know why. And I bought mine near the Temple street area, so it was my shopping snack.

Check out Koi Kei bakery because their products are really delicious plus they offer a lot of free tastes so you get to eat different types of food for free. What’s not to like about that?

The Starbucks here don’t offer that many drinks on the menu, unlike in the Philippines, which means you may need to customize your own if you don’t like any from the menu.

Attractions 

When you go to Disneyland, be sure to bring some snacks because the food there is quite expensive, for me that is. A single meal consisting of fries, burger, and a regular coke, costs like a 100 Hong Kong dollars, and it doesn’t even have that special taste to it. It wasn’t awful but it wasn’t perfect either. Also, if you’re the type of person who is inclined to experience motion sickness quickly—like my Mom—don’t ride Space Mountain. Or, if you cannot resist it, take some medicine with you because a lot of their rides are nauseating—not because they’re disgusting but because they go really fast. Also, be sure to prepare to spend more than half a day there because you wouldn’t get to ride every ride if you arrive around 3. The queues don’t take too much time but it’s just going to be a race against time if you arrive a couple of hours after lunch.

Before you go to Disneyland, which is in Lantau island, go to Ngong Ping 360 first, to ride a cable car for like, 25 minutes, to see a different view of Hong Kong. At the end of the trip you also get to see Ngong Ping village, make a wish at that Bodhi tree, and marvel at the gigantic Tian Tan Buddha at the top of a hill or mountain or something. I think you should be there around 8:30 or 9:00 or earlier if possible because the line for the tickets is incredibly long. We arrived at around 10:40, I guess, and we got the tickets at around 12:00. It just took up too much time.

Another must visit is The Peak, which can be reached through the peak tram or through a minibus. Clearly, the tram is so much faster but it’s also a tad more expensive but I don’t think it should be missed because it’s basically a piece of history. The tram has been there for a hundred years so it’s really something. A roundtrip is 40 HK dollars for the tram while a single journey through the minibus is only 9 HK dollars. If you want to save then ride the tram when you’re going to to the peak tower then ride the minibus from the station, a mere 2-3 minutes away from the tower, when you’re going home.

The famous wax museum chain, Madame Tussaud’s can also be found in the Peak Tower but it isn’t really a must because there weren’t a lot of figures. I actually wanted to go there because I wanted the David Beckham and Ronaldinho figures (because I play football—yes, football, not soccer—and I am a huge football fan!!!) but they weren’t there so I was a bit disappointed. But then again, there were still some fun figures left and it’s really fun to take funny selfies with the pictures. Another thing I like about MT is Scream, even if I wasn’t able to enter because it was already late when we got there, but the concept is really appealing to me.

Don’t miss out Ocean Park, like we did, because it’s a good destination for children, especially children of this generation, because it allows them to reconnect with nature, and I have heard that the rides are insane there. Unfortunately, Hong Kong was experiencing a thunderstorm when we were there so we weren’t able to go there.

Macau

You don’t need to buy a plane ticket if you want to visit this former Portuguese colony because you can just ride a ferry—for an hour—in Hong Kong island or in Kowloon to get to Macau. The tickets cost more or less 150 HK dollars but they cost more when you go back to Hong Kong. They sell two-way tickets that cause about 40 HK dollars left but it’s only for one day travel. I suggest staying the night in Macau because you won’t be able to see a lot in one day because the attractions are kind of scattered and some close early, at 6 pm, which leaves you not enough time. I was only able to see Senado Square, the ruins, Fortaleza do Monte and everything else in that area. But if you stay there a bit longer, you can check Fisherman’s wharf, Macau Tower, and many others. Personally, if I were to check into a hotel, I would pick The Venetian because I’ve seen it in the Korean series, Boys Before/Over Flowers, and it just looks a little Venice (duh!) and it’s just so cute. Macau is said to be the Vegas of the orient so expect to see a lot of casinos. Their lights look amazing at night though. Their currency is the Macau Pataca, but you can use your HK dollars to pay for things here. I don’t exactly know why but I think it’s because they’re of the same value.

Hmmmm… what else? I can’t seem to remember the other things but if you have any queries you want to be answered, just comment below and I’ll try to reply to them. 

The College Bucketlist

There are thousands of things I wish to do while I’m still converting oxygen into carbon dioxide and that is the sole reason why it is impossible for me to write my bucket list right now. However, I think mycollege bucket list is already brewed to perfection and here it is.

In a couple of years (hopefully!), I will be walking up the stage, wearing my toga and cap and all, to shake the hand of a professor and take my diploma with a smile. Of course, there would still be another four years—of Medicine School—after that but you get the point. Graduation. Before I even set foot on that platform, before I wear that cap on my head, I want to be able to experience several things that I believe would be crucial to my growth as a person.

1. Donate blood. This was supposed to happen a few months back but it didn’t so I’m still waiting for that chance. And of course, I would not do this only once because I want this to be a regular activity of mine.
2. Watch a basketball game at the front row. I have been watching our school’s games since I was a freshman but I always end up at the balcony. It’s not that far but seeing the game transpire just a couple of meters from you is a tad much better.
3. Be an Org committee head. Well, this is kind of a far-fetched dream now but I still have plans of pursuing this. I want to join Red Cross this year and I actually want to apply as a committee head, if that was even possible. If not, well I’ll apply as a member and then apply as a committee head. I really need and want this. Okay, if none of all the aforementioned statements are possible at all, well, I guess I’ll just be an active org member.
4. Be a classroom officer. Ha! This one I never intended to include but since I was voted as the new class president, I might as well include it. I think it would be a really fun experience since it would make me more confident and more active in the school.
5. Study a summer abroad. THIS IS ACTUALLY IMPOSSIBLE. Ha. But seriously, it is. Mainly because our schools don’t give credits for studying abroad and secondly, because I haven’t saved up enough money for it. I’m planning, though, to join this exchange program being held by AIESEC but I don’t seem to have enough time in my hands. Maybe someday. Hopefully.
6. Have a roadtrip. I have been itching to ride a car spacious enough for my friends and I and just go anywhere. It would be very fun.
7. Have that summer trip with my high school friends. Preferably somewhere far from our hometown. I just want us to experience something new altogether.
8. Get in the Dean’s List. Well, it’s mainly because I’m an overachiever.
9. Score a winning goal. As a member of our college football varsity, it would be quite rewarding, extremely awesome to score a winning goal.
10. Learn a different language. I’m starting Spanish this so I’m already on the track. I also intend to study Mandarin, as it is the most widely spoken language in the world (and also because I cannot understand Meteor Garden!).
11. Win the best thesis award with my thesis groupmates. It’s the dream.
12. Have a boyfriend. Because I don’t have one and I want to experience the thrill of falling in love. Don’t get me wrong, I have crushes and I’ve had previous romantic ‘relationships’ but I just currently don’t have one.
13. Go on a weekend trip.I don’t know where, maybe as far as CamSur or Ilocos or as near as Clark or Batangas. It doesn’t matter where just as long as I have that trip.
14. Experience a festival.This I would really love to try to experience with my friends because it’s going to be a really enjoyable experience. I still have to save money though.

15.  And finally, Graduate. Preferably with Latin Honors. I honestly think that this is quite impossible but I am still hoping to graduate with Latin Honors, even if it’s just Cum Laude. At least that helps for medicine school applications. And, I know that would make me feel good because as I have mentioned above, I am quite an overachiever.

I’m sure we all have different goals while we’re in college. What are yours? :)

To Whom It May Concern

As I have stated over and over again, I am a romantic—I believe in fairytales and happy endings—but more accurately, I am a hopeless romantic because, well, I always end up falling hopelessly in love with people who may never like me back. Nevertheless, I am still quite a romantic, which brings me back to the fact that I am waiting for my own Prince Charming. And while the idea of his arriving in a matter of weeks is silly, I even did something sillier—I made a poem aboutthe one .
It was actually our final examination for my English class, but I can assure you I felt a lot while writing it. The idea of writing that poem struck me while I was comfortably sitting in a Starbucks, drinking a grande Caramel Macchiato. Our exam was still months away but I felt some sort of inspiration so I opted to note the idea.
On the eve of our exams, prior to going to the airport to fetch my dad, I wrote the poem. It was like an open letter to all the guys that I’ve liked and all the others that might appear in my life. And I felt good about it. It felt like something I would normally write. I thought it was so good that I wanted to give it to my future husband.
But my best friend argued otherwise. As my critic, she suggested I give that to a future boyfriend instead, because it’s more fitting. And I agreed. So, I now decided to make a different poem for the future husband, telling him of my journey of finding him. Currently, my mind’s still blank about this but the ideas will flow once the inspiration kicks in. And I suppose it would be better if I wrote something much more detailed and specific to only him.
In the mean time, here is

To Whom It May Concern

Maybe you’re the epitome of gorgeous

—with those dreamy eyes and that tan skin and those sculpted arms and that chiseled torso.

Maybe you’re an amateur football striker with world-class skills and maybe you’re the top of your class.

Maybe you’re the type to open doors for someone else, the one who waits for all the ladies to exit before he leaves, the guy who drapes his jacket around someone’s shoulders when it gets cold

And maybe you loved riding bicycles and playing Scrabble and eating churros as much as I did.

But maybe you read all the books that I hated and loathed the songs that I adored.

Maybe you told jokes that never made sense, and maybe you snored loudly, ceaselessly every time you slept

Maybe you hate holding the umbrella for someone else when it rains.

Maybe you could hardly play the drums

or hum a single note

or dance a single step

or even hit a single ball.

Maybe you’re not as tall as I have thought

Maybe you’re not as hot either.

I know you’re somewhere out there

—it’s just that, you’re not who I think you are

—it’s just that you’re not exactly who I dreamed you to be.

But I know you’re there. I’m sure of it.

Maybe you strolled in the malls that I frequented

Maybe you jogged along the path I also jogged in every night

And maybe you’re also in the University I’m studying in, probably majoring in a program aside from Psychology

Or maybe you’re not near at all.

Maybe you’re having your adventure in the wild forests of South America,

Or backpacking through the narrow brick roads of various European cities.

Or maybe you’re just sitting on your couch at home, watching whatever’s on TV.

And maybe you’re living in an old “casa” in España 

or in a tiny loft in New York City.

I know you’re somewhere out there

—just probably not living in postcard towns or cities

—just probably not exploring the world’s nooks and crannies

But I know you’re there. I’m sure of it.

Maybe the first time our paths crossed was in that amusement park I went to when I was five

Or maybe you were watching the grade school Nativity play where I was the only brown angel

Maybe the first time our lives intersected was when your high school team defeated us in that inter-school debate competition.

Or maybe fate never allowed us to meet in the past

maybe I was looking at another guy when you happened to pass by

Maybe you were out on a date with your girlfriend when I walked in the street you lived in.

Or maybe you’re marveling at the starry night sky while here I am, cursing the blinding rays of the rising sun.

Maybe… I haven’t met you yet.

I know you’re somewhere out there

—it’s just that, now isn’t the time.

But I know you’re there. I’m sure of it.

I know you’re somewhere out there

—I just must be looking into the wrong faces

—just must be staring at the wrong eyes

—just must be smiling at the wrong people.

I know you’re somewhere out there

—I just must be searching in the wrong places

—just must be walking into the wrong streets or alleys

—just must be running in the opposite direction.

But I know you’re there. I’m sure of it.

Maybe you don’t look perfect, maybe you don’t like the perfect things

And maybe you’re not in the perfect place, maybe you don’t have the perfect timing

And maybe we are not a perfect fit.

but maybe you are the one.

And, as silly and as cliché as this may sound, 

I know that you’re Romeo and I’m Juliet,

I know that you’re Mr Darcy and I’m Elizabeth Bennett,

I know that you’re Aladdin and I’m Jasmine,

—just as I know that you’re there and I know that I’m right here

hoping

learning

praying

preparing

waiting.

Love, or Something Like It

//Before anything else, I would just like to say that I told this story to my entire class for our graded story telling. Anyway. Here it is.

I was supposed to tell you a story about football but then I realized that it was boring and that you might not understand some of the technical terms so I opted to tell this one instead. As most of you know, I’m very much into boys but I have had no such luck on this love thing. However, as inexperienced as I am, I still have certainly felt something like “love” before so here it goes.

So there’s this guy who lives across my cousin’s house in ***, who happens to be my cousin’s best friend and my former best friend’s brother. It was in preschool when we first met and it was during Christmas and New Year’s Eve parties that we would bond. Eventually, after all the time that we had spent together, I had developed a crush on him. And, yes, I was a toddler when I had my first crush.

Years later, in high school, an unknown number texted me one night. It was him. He told me that he got my number from my cousin. From that moment on, we texted each other day and night and night and day as if we didn’t feel sleepy at all. Months later, he asked me the “question”. Inititally, I was startled and delighted because finally, someone—my first crush at that—likes me back. But I was also confused because I really did not want to have a boyfriend then. So I ask my friends for guidance and they demanded that I say yes because I didn’t have a chance with Kevin Jonas anyway (I was very much obsessed with the Jonas Brothers then). So, I agreed to be his girlfriend, partly because I really liked him and partly because my friends insisted. A day later I broke up with him but we still kept texting each other because we still liked each other.

A week after that, my family and I went to *** and—surprise, surprise—he was also there. One midnight, I was talking to his sister, and just a few meters away, he was there conversing with my cousin. Apparently he was telling him that he still likes me and he thinks that I’ve thrown something great away. Coincidentally, I was telling his sister the same thing—that I still like him and that I feel that we had was “sayang” because we could’ve lasted longer. But that’s the thing with people. We only realize the value of something after we’ve lost it.

How I Learned to Ride a Bicycle

In a crowded street somewhere in the Philippines, you could always find the four-year-old me, with wild, unruly hair and dirty clothes, bustling around with my playmates. One day my playmates decided to visit the plaza that was a few blocks away from our street–which, in children’s language is like a planet away–riding their bicycles. I was invited to join their mini-roadtrip, of course, but I only had two means to get there. It was either I ride my tiny tricycle or walk for a kilometer. I didn’t pick any of these options but I still got to the plaza… by stealing my neighbor’s bicycle. Yep. I took her bicycle without her permission. But that’s not the worst part. I think. Well, let’s just say I was four years old and I had no idea how to balance myself on a rod on two thin wheels. It took me half of the trip to figure out how to ride this bicycle and enjoy the trip.

When I got back, my neighbor was pretty mad with me for what I did but she forgave me anyway, but my parents were obviously infuriated with me because I stole a bicycle. As usual, I listened to their never-ending lectures but I didn’t let their anger get into me because well, I just learned how to ride a bike by myself, with no father or mother pushing me, with no friends to teach me how to balance or how to start off, with no trainers to guide me. I had just experienced a milestone and I am not going to let anyone ruin that day for me.

I was recounting this story a few nights back when I realized that this life event has actually taught me some valuable life lessons that I’m sure we’ve all heard before.

1. Although I believe in “No man is an island”, I still firmly believe that at the end of the day, we are all alone. I learned to ride a bike by myself, without any kind of help and I think that life works the same way. You can ask others how they lived their lives but ultimately, we are going to navigate life by ourselves. We heal by ourselves. We learn by ourselves. We live by ourselves.

2. If you really want something, you should do whatever it takes to get that something. You should go out of your way just to get that something. I went out of my way to learn how to ride a bike, I had to steal a bike for crying out loud! In relation to do that, we are all responsible for our lives. If we want something to happen, we cannot just sit in one corner and wait for that moment as our entire lives pass by–we have to make things happen ourselves.

3. We have to enjoy life, whether it’s the simple things or the milestones we achieve. We have to have crazy days because those days are what we’ll remember most. Those days will lift us when our spirits are down. Those days were the moments we actually lived. When we have those days, we cannot let others make us feel as if the world is about to end. We have to live on the brighter side of life.

In relation to all of this, I’ve recently decided to start making things happen, to start living. I realized that I needed to see more of the world, to experience more, to taste more, to do more. I don’t want to grow old and think of regrets; I want to have a wealth of memories that I will treasure until the day I die, I want to grow up as an old woman, telling my grandchildren stories of how I lived. I’ve decided to have the adventure of my life, and it’s starting now.