Going to Hong Kong? Here are some tips
Dot Ramos Balasbas-Gancayco (The Philippine Star) - September 10, 2012 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines – Filipinos know how to work hard and play harder. Hence, long weekends are meant to be savored by going to different relaxing locations in the country or, for those who have the wherewithal, or know how to budget, by hieing off to another country.

A favorite destination is Hong Kong, which this writer visited with her lawyer friends during the recent four-day weekend. Here are some tips for those who are planning to go to Hong Kong:

•Schedule your trip when climate is pleasant, or at least to your tolerance, and prepare for changes in weather (check the Internet). Those who want to take advantage of long weekends, better be ready for whatever weather greets you.

In Hong Kong, one does a lot of walking outside with steaming pavements, and inside air-conditioned buildings. It is best to have an umbrella for the blazing sun and intermittent rains, and light sweater in breezy and chilly areas. Regardless of weather, always wear the most comfortable walking shoes. For summer, don’t forget those sunglasses, sunblock and fan.

•When booking your hotel (recommended are the Salisbury YMCA and the Marco Polo Prince Hotel), consider the proximity to the places you want to visit and shop. The Causeway Bay area (where the famous Soho Department Store and the Times Square Mall are located) and Tsim Sha Tsui (where the Harbour City malls can be found) are, for me, the best.

•For shopping aficionados, bring several pieces of empty luggage for all your bargain purchases. My husband hates it but I am serious when I say that, except for my undergarments, I go to HK with only what I am wearing.

•To maximize your tour and shopping time, get the earliest departure flight from Manila and the latest departure flight from Hong Kong. On the day of your flight back to Manila, you can even check in your luggage at the Kowloon or Hong Kong train stations and make a last round of frantic shopping.

•If you are going to stay for three days or more, it is best to buy the unlimited Octopus pass which can bring you anywhere via the MTR. This will spare you the hassle of purchasing MTR passes every time you have to get far.

• If you arrive early, before hotel check-in time, deposit your luggage with the hotel concierge, and head off to the City Gate Outlet Mall in Tun Chung to buy great stuff at really good prices.

•HK is best for electronic gadgets, designer items, jewelry and antiques. But always remember that you should buy only from the reputable stores. For super expensive items like luxury watches, never hurry. Compare the prices of the different reputable shops. You will be surprised at the disparities and how much you can save.

• For the non-branded items, try the night markets, the most famous of which is the one in Mong Kok. The rule: Haggle, haggle, haggle!

Traveling with children in tow

•Go to Disneyland in the morning. Bags are inspected for food items so go on a full stomach to save on a meal. Get a map and the brochure on schedules, and plan the rides you will take and shows you will watch. Stay until the Night Parade which is spectacular.

•If there are teenagers in your group, go to the Ocean Park which has more exciting rides (including several scary roller coasters), a great dolphin show, a grand aquarium, a new polar adventure, and a cable car ride, and

• Go to the Hong Kong Museum of History. Children and adults should gain knowledge through traveling. Never ever make children believe that traveling is only for shopping. One should always learn something from each trip.

• Get the best Hong Kong harbor and skyline views by 1.) being at the Avenue of the Stars at 8 p.m. so you can also enjoy the Symphony of Lights; 2.) riding the Star Ferry at night and staying on the upper deck or hopping on a harbor cruise; 3.) going up by tram to the Victoria Peak (where there are restaurants, a mall and Madame Tussauds Wax Museum) and seeing the different views at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. (on a clear day, so know the weather forecast); and 4.) having dinner by candlelight at the Aqua Restaurant which gives one of the most stunning views at night.

•Immerse yourself in traditional Hong Kong culture. Visit temples. Go to the Giant Bronze Buddha. Have some peace and quiet at the Chi Lin Nunnery and the nearby Nan Lian Gardens. Do some Tai Chi exercises or if you are the dormant type like me, watch Chinese doing Tai Chi and see why they remain strong even at old age.

•Experience authentic Chinese food. For those on a budget, there are a lot of food stalls and small restos to choose from. (Tip: Go to where there are a lot of local customers.) For the best dim sum, go to Maxim’s Palace City Hall Dim Sum at 10 a.m. (because it will be filled up by 11 a.m.) Don’t miss out on the egg roll and the yummiest chicken feet. If you are in a big group, you will never go wrong with Peking Garden (for its Peking Duck), Jade Garden (for its lobsters), and Crystal Jade (for the best shao long bau dumpling) at the Ocean City. Yung Kee has the best Roasted Goose. If tired of Chinese food, taste unique Japanese tonkatsu dishes with eat-all-you-can shredded seasoned cabbage at the Ton Ki Chi. For the best ramen, dine at the Hakata Ippudo at the Times Square where the long queue will be worth it. At the City Super, look for the Kasho Chaya stall and order soft-served ice cream with the combined flavors of Hokkaido milk and matcha. For the best Italian buffet and after-dinner drinks, go to Spasso.

•For the young and feeling young, indulge in Hong Kong nightlife. Drop by any of the bars at the Knutsford Terrace, and be proud of Filipino world-class singers and bands at the Lan Kwai Fong (the most popular nightlife area) or even at your hotel. We had our own taste of an amazing Filipina pianist-singer at the Lobby Lounge of the Marco Polo Prince Hotel who did not hesitate to sing Filipino songs for her kababayan.

Although one can be overwhelmed by the glitziest hotels, luxury cars and designer shops pervading in Hong Kong, going there as a tourist can be inexpensive yet fulfilling. The secret? Plan ahead, make every HK dollar count, and enjoy the experience.

(Text author at 0927-5000833 or e-mail at dotgancayco@ymail.com.)

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