The South China Sea Holiday- Hong Kong and Back Home, Day 6

What the fudge I was supposed to schedule this post but it didn’t get published somehow.

Ahh the South China Sea journey is coming to and end!

Onto Day 6… Stared the day late, had dim sum brunch at Tao Heung 稻香. I liked the porridge in particular- smooth and very flavourful. Packed away the char siew and polo bun for our late lunch to eat at the airport. The char siew bun cheated my feelings because 1/3 of it is filled and the remaining is empty.

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We went to the branch at Nathan Road, within walking distance from our hotel.

While waiting for our food I went to the 7-11 just downstairs to buy snacks. This particular outlet happened to be big so lucky me!
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When overseas, of course you grab all the things you don’t see in your own country! Here’s my 7-11 snack haul!
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Got them at a slightly cheaper price. 2 Bourbon snacks cost HKD13.25, while 1 pack usually cost $2 in Singapore. And because HK is also home of Disneyland, there is disney Tsum bourbon.

Bought chewing gum back home as well. The sweet with ice-cream on it contains rum. I forgot the price but it was a steal.

Went back to the hotel to pack up and set off to the airport. Technically there should be a shuttle bus service to the airport, but the staff told us to take a taxi there lol. They kindly helped us flag a cab outside the hotel cos we have a lot of barang.

Total journey from Tai Kok Tsui to HK International Airport is about 30min, fare is 20 SGD.

Last minute shopping at the HK Airport’s Disney Store. The shop was damn crowded.

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Since disney items are more expensive, you gonna exercise your discretion to see which ones are more value for money. I paid HKD 88 for 16 pcs of chocolates, HKD75 for 18pcs of sesame biscuits and HKD95 for strawberry&chocolate biscuits. Some of the boxes are pretty but the quantity of snacks is really little.

The 2 paper clips were some sort of lucky dip. The staff handed me this ipad and asked me to spin the wheel lol.

And I gave a lot of my haul away okay. Dont start making comments like “Kids in Africa could have eaten the earrings”.
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Watched Solomon’s Perjury on the plane. Best movie ever. Was halfway into part 2 when the plane landed (Technically I could finish it but I slept a bit), and now I can’t find the movie anywhere online.

Okay onto the rest of my Day 1 shopping loot:

Haul from Sasa. Sasa is everywhere in HK, and prices are generally cheaper for most items. The Rosette facial cleanser cost HKD48, while I paid SGD23 on qoo10 and waited 2 weeks for it to be shipped from HK -_-

Trying Majolica Majora’s make up bases at the moment and realised that prices are retailing about the same as Watsons in Singapore.
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Didn’t know that students will receive discounts if they shop at Sasa. The cashier was asking me if I am a student, but I told her I am a tourist. Then she said that the discount also applies to foreign students as long as I present my student pass. But too bad I didn’t bring! Who brings their student pass overseas?

Haul from Argyle Centre, Mongkok. It’s the Bugis Street of Hongkong, if I have to make that comparison. Shops popping up here and there selling kpop inspired trends with narrow walkways, and there is this disorganised-environment-but-i-am-still-enjoying-my-shopping kind of feel.

Didn’t buy clothes cos I still have a lot of hand-me-downs so I settled for bling instead. The dangling earrings cost SGD3 (I forgot the shop name) while the studs are buy 2 get 1 free at HKD20 from Natural Island. Necklances also from Natural Island but they weren’t cheap in SGD.
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Also got this huge ass bag with musical notes printed upside down. I brought it to school to fit my entire semester’s worth of notes. It can also be folded from the sides to make it look smaller so that people wont feel annoyed with your huge ass bag blocking their way in the crowded MRT.

1 bag, 2 looks, HKD50 (about 10SGD)
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Last but not least… a review of our hotel. We stayed at Silka West Kowloon Hotel, which is nestled among old looking buildings. It is within walking distance to Mongkok if you walk along Nathan Road instead of confusing yourself by turning about in the small streets.
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The rooms are tiny! The distance from the bed to the washroom is only about 6 feet. The doorway is about the size of 1 and a half opened luggages. But it’s okay, we are in Hong Kong.
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The room also comes equipped with a handset which you can use to serve the net. Plain water is chargeable so be sure not to take. Their buffet breakfast cost about HKD60+ and selection is limited, but the main point of eating breakfast as a tourist in HK is to try their local food.

For some reason the toilet sink is super low, about a child’s height.

Overall I would say that the location and staff service is good. Personally I don’t mind the size of the room because I would be too tired to move about after a day of travelling.

I hate to say this, but that concludes the trip folks. Till next time!

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The South China Sea Holiday- Hong Kong, Day 5

Making use of the last day of the long SG50 holiday to write this post! Still have work and school stuff to settle but my procrastination mode is turned on.

Went for yoga class again in the morning. After which heard from the family that the Chinese breakfast selection at Genting Palace was very limited. Moral of story: I would recommended Western food and International buffet for meals, but no harm trying Chinese food just for once.

Ate Western for lunch at Genting Palace. The main course fish took ages to come as the chef prepares the fish in batches, so the waiter kindly offered us another appetizer from the menu before the fish are served again.

The dessert is pretty! I couldn’t scoop up the chocolate that was plastered on the plate. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be eaten.

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After that went to look at the sea and the islands, indicating that we are reaching shore soon.

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Mum makes random appearance.

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The tugboat which pulls the cruise ship to the dock.

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Went to collect our passports at the theatre at 3.30pm. There are different disembarkation areas and timings for the various nationalities. For “other nationalities” it means everyone else on board excluding PRC, Indians and Hong Kongers. The process was very messy as the staff were short handed in locating the passports and there was a long queue jamming up the exit.

Bye Superstar Virgo! Till we meet again!

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From Harbour City we cabbed back to our hotel. Flagging a cab was quick for us as we happened to be in a dense pedestrian and traffic area. We just have to move and act quickly or else we would be obstructing the traffic flow. Our luggage couldn’t fit into the boot so the cabby did this. I was so afraid of our barang flying out if the hook becomes loose!

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HK cabs actually accommodate up to 5 passengers. You just have to look out for the sign.

Our relatives were waiting for us at the hotel lobby when we reached!
Took MTR to Sheung Wan and ate at  this restaurant called Quan Zhang Ju 泉章居 (Chuen Cheung Kui). It specializes in Hakka dishes and is famous for its Salt Baked Chicken 盐焗鸡 and Chicken with Onions 霸王鸡. Their wintermelon soup is good and savory in my opinion. It is served from the melon itself which was quite creative. The Salt Baked Chicken is too salty for my liking… or is it supposed to be that salty?

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Anyway their business is really good. All tables were filled so I guess they should be well known.

While googling for the restaurant I found out that they have different branches. This is the address of the one we went to: Shop C & 1/F, Alliance Building, 133 Connaught Road Central, Sheung Wan.

After which we head to The Peak for sightseeing. Took MTR to Central and cabbed up to The Peak Tower, which was located on the summit. Initially we wanted to take the tram but the queue was sibeh long even though it was already nightfall and it was a weekday!

On the way up I was trying damn hard not to puke cos the route was full of bends and the cabby was driving as though he was in a F1 race. Total fare from the bottom to the top was about HKD60. I would strongly recommend to take the tram if your itinerary isn’t of a rush.

Took the escalator to Sky Terrace 428. It gets its name because it is located 428m above sea level.  Admission is HKD48 for adults.

Presenting the HK skyline

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The Peak is also a residential area for the rich, since they would need a car to go downhill everytime. At least they won’t have to worry about air conditioner bills and such because the air is naturally cool!

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Our next stop is Causeway Bay. Side question: Why is every country in the world now building ferris wheels?

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Spotted a Mr Softee Ice Cream van!

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There is only vanilla flavour and 1 cone costs HKD9. The ice cream lives up to its brand name cos it is soft, and melts pretty fast cos of the hot weather.

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Took the Star Ferry (again!) across the river. Payment is made using Octopus card.

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Approaching our stop at Tsim Sha Tsui Star Ferry pier. This is the Tsim Sha Tsui Clock tower. It looks small from the photo but it towers at 44m and is built in 1915, a remnant of Hong Kong’s steam age. IMG_2251

Then went to walk along Avenue of Stars. Somehow I couldn’t get the wow factor from this attraction. When I was in HK in 2008 I remembered there were tons of celebrity names and handprints cemented on the floor and had to stop every few steps to snap photos! Now the floor isn’t worth to look at cos the handprints and names disappeared.

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Forgot what time we reached the hotel. Was so tired from all the walking that I just crashed on bed.

Day 6 coming up soon, combined with my HK loot and a review of our hotel!

The South China Sea Holiday – Halong Bay, Day 4

Hello world. Blogging this during National Day. Had a super long public holiday over the weekend but didn’t feel like going anywhere but to laze at home. Okay I did go out but not the whole day. Spent my entire Saturday afternoon in the school library printing a semester’s worth of notes. The last thing I ever want to do is to fight tooth and nail with the rest of the students over the printers when school reopens.

Ok onto Day 4 of the South China Sea Holiday!

We booked our shore excursion to Halong Bay at the last minute on Day 3 because most of the tour packages didn’t offer meals due to the short stopover time. The cruise is supposed to land at 7am and depart at 1.30pm. In the end we settled for a ferry around Halong Bay and land tour with lunch priced at 480 HKD. Other excursions include Thien Cung Grotto, Quang Ninh Museum (More of looking at the architecture) and another cultural show. Would love to visit Quang Ninh Museum in the future to see how they curate history.

Anyway we set off at around 7.45 in the morning with the sun already beating strongly. All visitors have to present the Vietnam Immigration Officers a passenger landing card which is issued to you when you embark the ship. Boarded the ferry to tour the rocks.

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Welcome to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam!

Halong Bay (Bay of the Dragon descendants) is a UNESCO Heritage Site and one of the “New Natural Wonders of the World”. Initially the James Bond movie The Man with the Golden Gun producers wanted to shoot at this location, but the Vietnam authorities refused due to lingering anti-US sentiments and Hollywood movies don’t put Vietnam in good light. At that time of production it was the early 1970s so the Vietnam war has yet to end.  In the end they shot it at Phang Nga Province in Thailand.

Usually only about 10-12 people are allowed on the upper deck but all of us ended up there to take photos.

A lone rock, the sea, mum and I.

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A Vietnamese Hawker Boat. The hawker will pop his head into any ferry passing by and attempt to sell his wares to tourists, mostly fruits. Actually hawkers are banned in this area cos the authorities wanted to make Halong Bay more tourist friendly (and they didn’t want hawkers to harasses tourists) but I would say that it is intriguing to look at how the local folk coexist with tourist-friendly environments.

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The Halong Bay Rocks. Legend has it that the Jade Emperor sent Mother Dragon and family to help Vietnam fend off invaders. The dragons sank the enemy ships by throwing jade to form a defense wall, which then became islands of different shapes after thousands of years. The Mother Dragon and her family stayed behind to help the locals develop the country, so the locals named the area after the dragons. It’s kinda like using legends to claim to legitimacy as descendants of the dragon, similar to how mainland Chinese always call themselves 龙的传人. Not forgetting that Vietnam was part of China since the Han dynasty and both shared a conflicting relationship cos China invaded Vietnam every now and then during the Imperial period. Okay I have gone too far.

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Vietnam is also home to the world’s largest cave that cost USD 3K for a week’s tour. Only 10 tourists are allowed and 25-30 locals have to accompany them. Apparently it is booked till 2017.

Saw Vietnam Ocean Park which is still under construction from the distance. It is quite symbolic since it represents how Vietnam is in the process of opening up to tourists and developing its economy/infrastructure and such. And passed by Bãi Cháy suspension bridge in Vietnam. It’s dark history is that it is also a well-known place for suicides.

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The floating village while we are approaching the shore. People still live there making an honest living (maybe illegal from government perspective lol) fishing and selling their wares to tourists.

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And here is one of the Vietnamese Sailing Junk, without the sails put up. The government actually decreed that all junks have to paint their hulls white as they want to portray a clean image of Halong bay. And just like the Singapore government they also launched clean up programmes of the bay.

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Another side of the shore shows Vincom Centre, with its striking, very clean European architecture. It is a shopping mall and is home to international fashion and culinary brands. Talk about Vietnam entering modernity (as defined by the world) lol. The dingy hawker boats in the foreground offer the very stark contrast.

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Went to the local market for souvenir shopping once the ferry touched the port. The cruise doesn’t exchange for Dong, but fortunately USD, HKD, RMB and Dong are accepted in Vietnam. Just be prepared to headache over the exchange rate conversion. Most of the stuff are typical souvenirs like the Vietnam doll figurine which you get from everyone who visits Vietnam, tons of other knick-knacks and made-in-China looking products.

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The hawkers are really pushy salespeople since the bulk of their customer base are tourists who “will definitely spend money to buy something related to Vietnam back home”. Get ready to bargain and be discerning.

Got an Uncle Ho T-shirt because I have a thing for cult-of-personality souvenirs. I forgot how much I paid for it though.

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Our tour guide’s parents own a shop that distributes premium cashew nuts, which is one of Vietnam’s popular local products. They are come with a shell, and are bigger and crisper than those salty cashew nuts we eat during Chinese New Year. We paid about RMB 32 for a box. Here’s the empty box to show that we finished all the cashews.

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On our way to the hotel for lunch and passing by the streets of Vietnam. They look deserted and the buildings are sparse. It costs a lot to own a car in Vietnam so that’s probably one of the reasons why, and maybe the area we are at has many hotels.

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After that we waited at the lobby for 20mins cos the bus had to ferry other passengers to the “Tender store”, according to the tour guide. At first I couldn’t figure out the word and my parents thought it was “Thunderstorm”, so it was weird cos one part of Halong Bay is experiencing a storm while it was damn hot outside the hotel! Got back to the cruise and then realized he meant “Tender Stop”, which is the Old Ferry Station where Tender Boats are docked -_-lll

En route to the Tender Stop- the more rural, messy part of the Halong Bay area. We took the ferry back to the cruise cos the waters are too shallow for the cruise to dock directly there, and omg the weather was terrible.

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I was too tired to go anywhere else on the cruise so I napped for a few hours while the rest of the family went for tea break and settled bills (with the worst travelling partner making a lot of noise but I missed out the drama). Had dinner at the Mediterranean buffet area.

Then went to look at the seaview at Deck 12 and 13. We took the illegal route to Deck 13 by using the outdoor staircases, because we couldn’t be bothered to figure out how to access the deck through the lift.

The trail left behind by the ship and the sunset.

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The wind was goddamn strong as well! Was so worried that my phone will get blown away.

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Last activity of the day. Watched a dance cum magic illusion performance. The dancers were great while the illusionist was meh.The tricks were predictable. Didn’t take any photos though.

Day 5 coming soon- back to Hong Kong!

Happy Birthday Singapore!

Whenever I go overseas and people ask me where I am from, I would proudly say “I am from Singapore”.

I know there are times where I feel disgruntled living here- like the stressful exam system and the competition.

But from the bottom of my heart I feel blessed to grow up in a safe nation which has braved through many odds to achieve what it is today.

Happy 50th Birthday Singapore, and here’s to more 50 years to come!

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P.S Let me complain a little here: Seriously this SG50 rhetoric has been grossly misused since people now turn it into a profit-making opportunity. Omg just stop those SG50 shopping promotions already!

The South China Sea Holiday – San Ya, Day 3

Yet another long week has passed and blogging about this trip is taking forever! Anyway I totally forgot about module bidding until I subconsciously asked my friend if she secured her modules during our catch up. Logged into CORS and found out that it was already the closed bidding round, and I only got allocated 1 out of 3 modules. Fortunately I managed to get the modules. This is what internship does to you.

Speaking of internship, I will be staying on part time with the company. Since I have 3 free days I might as well make use of it. Now let’s hope I won’t go crazy. Okay onto Day 3!

The cruise was supposed to dock at Sanya at 11am so we had some time in the morning to spare before disembarking. Went for this dancercise thing at the swimming pool and the cruise staff asked me and 3 other people to join him at the podium as his backup dancers lol. Luckily the rest of the audience were rather enthusiastic and if I happen to be caught on camera, I will be somewhat famous. Went to treadmill at the gym after that. *End of morning routine*

Here we are at Sanya. It is located in the southern most part of Hainan Island, China, and is recently opening up to tourists.

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Main tourist attractions (and what was offered by the cruise) include this Deer Turning Head Park 鹿回头公园, Yalong Bay , a 108m Guanyin statue. We chose to sign up for the Li and Miao Minority Village tour. Will talk more about it later.

Speaking of Hainan it is well-known for many things- betel, wen chang chicken and especially coconuts which grow everywhere. The weather is tropical all year round and people there enjoy the highest longevity. The beaches are popular as honeymoon destinations and wedding photoshoot locations. There is even a saying that goes “If you love her, bring her to Sanya”. And last but not least there is this super expensive condo that cost 20k yuan per m2.

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The streets of Sanya.

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I remember seeing this kind of vehicle in Suzhou but I forgot the name. Surprisingly it travels quite fast. IMG_1987

Our group consists of Malaysians, PRCs and this ang moh European family residing in Singapore. The tour guide arranged us with the ang moh family at the same table for lunch cos he assumed that Singaporeans are bilingual, but nope, not the older generation. Ate a coconut lunch at this hotel and the food was WEIRD. Maybe it was due to different palate, or maybe food doesn’t go well when fried/marinated/steamed/whatever with all things coconut.

On the way to the Li & Miao minority village, which has been developed by the government into a 4A national tourist attraction. Talk about ethnic tourism. It is located up in the mountains.

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Here’s the entrance. The chinese words read 槟榔谷 (Betel Nut Park). The village is home to many betel nut plantations and some natives still chew it as a habit.

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Took the buggy uphill to watch their cultural performance which showcases the traditions of the Li and Miao group. Tourists have to pay extra for the ride, but the location is rather inaccessible by foot.

Nope this is not someone’s house, but the stage backdrop.

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In my opinion the performance was a tip-of-the-iceberg in introducing the ethnic group. They first showcased their trademark, which is still adopting the primitive way of starting a fire (which somehow evolved into swallowing and spitting it). Others include cloth weaving without the need of any machine, sieving rice, bamboo dancing, and flirting what they look for in a romance. Call me ignorant but I didn’t know they are further divided into 5 sub groups, which have different way of dressing as well. Oh and they made the geese and goats parade around the stage.

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Along the way back to the entrance cos the itinerary was of a rush.

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Random geese on the street! IMG_2073

People still live in these houses according to the tour guide… but how come I see no one?

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Apart from the performance area, everywhere else was strangely deserted except for some vendors selling miniature sized pineapples, red dragonfruit, jumbo, mango and touristy fried food. Maybe it’s because of the area we happen to be in.

Given another chance I would definitely head back here to experience something more daily life like visiting a traditional house and looking at how the minorities do their crafts. Overall the area was made for tourists and of course it doesn’t do justice to the rich heritage of the Li and Miao ethnic groups, but that is the inevitable fate of minority groups should they be earmarked to boost the tourism of the locality.

Then we head to this local product supermarket to experience the last taste of Sanya. Saw many products carrying this brand called Chun Guang 春光, so I guess it should be a popular local brand. Common food items include coconut powder, coconut milk, coconut candy, all things coconut! There’s also pepper and chili and the chili sauce was awesome. Anyway the supermarket is difficult to navigate around, partially because it is swarmed with tourists and they designed the aisles in a manner that you have to see everything before you leave.

Here’s my mum’s loot. If you are feeling adventurous you can mix coffee with coconut powder (Disclaimer: I will not be responsible for any mishap caused).

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Total for this shore excursion cost 540 HKD excluding shopping expenses. I felt it was a bit pricey especially so when the lunch was crappy, but getting to visit the minority village and sightseeing plantations along the way was a one-of-a-kind experience.

okay now back on the cruise. My mum and I chose Western food for dinner at Genting Palace cos the Worst Travelling Partner was reluctant to eat western food.  For the appetizer I had boned chicken wings which flew off the plate cos I was using utensils. Our main course was dory fillet. It doesn’t have the sea/dirt smell and tasted really fresh. Under the fillet is mashed potato and beans, with cheese sauce surrounding it. The portion was just nice as well. The Chinese food that day didn’t taste good, according to my dad.

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The cruise staff put up a show called Decades, featuring classic song performances like Footloose and Shanghai Bund 上海滩. My mum was falling asleep until towards the end where 3 guys posed as females wearing sexy clothes and did funny stuff such as hugging a male audience and propping their legs on the audience seat. The crew have really good singing voices and it was a smart move to put the crazy item as the last.

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4th day coming soon to Halong Bay!