Haw Par Villa 

Decided to go there for a walk with the family. The last time I went there was for history orientation camp. The place still looks the same. Or rather I might have forgotten what I saw 5 years ago.

Shan’t go rambling about it’s history and exhibits. It has been rehashed a time too many. I will just let the random photos do the talking.

The out-of-place tableau which juxtaposes the busy roads and MRT which is just right beside it.

The spirit of the Aw brothers encapsulated neatly in 2 idioms. 1) Being assidious and able to overcome adversity. 2) Showing gratitude to their sources of benefit.

There were quite a sizeable number of visitors when we went there. Interestingly, most were foreign workers who wanted to find a hideout to pass the time on their day off, or take photos with bizzare sculptures for amusement’s sake. What a far cry from the heydays (although I wasn’t born yet to experience it).

Rubbing the tummy for luck.

The prelude to the main attraction. Literally translated, the inscription means that The sea of bitterness has no bounds, turn your head and see the shore. But context wise it is a Buddhist teaching educating people that Buddhist enlightenment can allow one to shed off the abyss of worldly suffering.

Entertainment/ edutainment in its rawest form without the assistance of technology.

The main reason why visitors come to Haw Par Villa – be fascinated with the grotesque depiction of hell and let their imagination run wild.

Other random statues lining the way.

A wishing well in it’s derelict form. Is it still potent enough to grant wishes?

The legend of Mdm White Snake, out of nowhere in a corner.

Sakyamuni Buddha on a still waterbed.

Another corner of a stagnant waterbed. It’s as though time has frozen; even the water is not moving.

Leopard and tiger motifs everywhere to illustrate the Aw brother’s pervasive presence and watching over the theme park.

Confused Confucious makes an appearance.

Ask and you shall receive.

More statuettes mishmashed on rocks mimicking Chinese style waves. It will leave you wondering the reason for their existence.

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Guan yin ma. The sculpture may look tacky now but probably it was one of the main attractions when the park was booming, since one had to climb up so many flights of stairs to view this statue and there were large, empty pockets of space surrounding her.

My expression when I realise tomorrow is Monday.

More intricately carved statuettes depicting scenes from Chinese literature.

An amphitheatre structure in the middle of a well-patched field. One can’t help but wonder what these unexplained points of attraction were once used for.

East meets west!

It is impossible to relieve the thrill of the boat rides and the sounds of visitors gawking at these exhibits now. But when only memories remain, let them be beautiful.

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Chelsea vs Bayern 

Watched Chelsea vs Bayern play at National Stadium live for the first time! I just had to get tickets for the occasion. It’s not everytime Singapore gets the spotlight as a destination for European clubs’ pre-season tours.

Because of budget constraints I bought CAT 4 tickets, behind the goalpost where Chelsea’s side for the first half is. There was no hard and fast rule where supporters should sit so it wasn’t surprising to find some opposition fans in the section you are at. Worst case scenario was seeing “fans” in blue but cheering when Bayern scored. How plastic can that be?

(Okay but to be frank, I also look out for teams from different leagues so I probably don’t know who to root for if it was Chelsea vs Barcelona. My colleague once called me TLC when I wore different jerseys to work. TLC as in Totally Lost & Confused.)

Recommended timing to reach is 1 hour before kick off, and to avoid the queue at the security area. Surprisingly the bag and body check was fast so human traffic was smooth.

The players warming up when I managed to locate my seat.

View around the stadium. Yes I was one of the losers who went alone. There were plenty of lost sheep who went too. By that I meant fans wearing Arsenal, Liverpool, Man Utd, Deutscheland jeresys to the match. Okay everyone loves watching an exciting clash of the titans anyway.

Kick off!

And conceded 3 goals within 27 minutes. Seriously……………….

I won’t go into details like who dived/ who fouled/ who deserved a card/ the times when the referee could have awarded a free kick but didnt etc. Leave it to the professional sports commentators and match reporters.

Chelsea only started playing sharply during the 2nd half. Alonso scored during the 1st half stoppage time and suddenly all the players woke up. And also because Conte might have scolded them during the half time break.

2nd half had a few heart-stopping moments. Bayern kept coming close and Tibo/Eduardo had to keep making saves. And then there were times when the blues nearly found the net but missed.

Highlight was when Luiz and the club’s newest and most expensive signing Morata were subbed on.

Batman scored at the 85th minute to save us from losing so badly. Well at least it wasnt an ugly scoreline of 5-1 or something. The team were resilient and came back strong from a demoralising 1st half instead of choosing the path of surrender. The youngsters were also given game time.

Overall it was an entertaining match, especially the tackles between Moses and whoever that Bayern guy he is marking. And to be able to watch the big names play in front of you makes the experience even more worth it, even though I demand a partial refund for watching a disappointing first half.

Last but not least, here’s the shot I liked the most from my photos taken today. I actually didnt take much photos during the match cos I was more engrossed watching where the ball went. But anyway here’s the backstory of this photo.
A young fan (about 8-9 years old maybe?) and his mum were sitting in front of me. They were Bayern fans but somehow ended up in the section with more blues. The boy came in holding this simple little banner made out of a toothpick, tape, paper and markers. Throughout the match he kept shouting Bayern whenever the Chelsea fans were chanting. While it may come across as amusing, what else could be more innocent than a child’s support for his favourite team? I don’t know how to put this scene into words, but somehow my brief encounter with this kid warmed my heart. My hats off to you.

Should I buy tickets for Chelsea vs Inter Milan? Only a few more days left to decide!

How did I become an overnight alcoholic?

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I salvaged leftover Beer Lao from my project mate after our Southeast asian history presentation!

Our project theme is on foreign influences on Southeast Asian food. We conveniently excluded Thailand from our presentation on the basis that it wasn’t colonised. Both of us did the area on Indochina because the artificial entity is too big and diverse. And as discussed as a group we have to bring some local food together with foreigner-introduced cuisines, so I bought banh mi and rice vermicelli from Wrap and Roll which was conveniently located at Kent Ridge Mrt while she got the beer and unopened coffee lol.

Back to the main story. Technically we weren’t supposed to consume alcohol on school premises, but since this was done behind closed doors and no one drank a whole can/bottle (One of our group mate brought Myanmar beer)… so no one gets hurt yeah? And I only drank the rest (3/4 of the bottle) once I got home so I wasn’t drinking on campus. I mean come on… this photo was taken at home before consumption. Why would I bring back an empty bottle just to take a photo of it?

Anyway I found the aftertaste of Lao Beer quite bitter, as compared to Myanmar beer which was sweeter.

WAIT WHY AM I TALKING ABOUT BEER AND COMPARING BEER TASTES?

Oh no. From some one who hated drinking… I have became an alcoholic, quite overnight too! How on earth did it start? I did pick up a San Miguel during the orientation party (around 1st week of the project) at Pinoyland, but I don’t recall drinking more than that. Then during the 3rd week (If my memory didn’t fail me) I was drinking Red Horse at Palawan. And when we came back it escalated to more Red Horse, Asahi, Sapporo and Tequila shots. And when we came back to Singapore…hahaha more beers and cocktails.

Observing our module mates’ reactions to Laos Beer was quite intriguing, from the perspective of an alcoholic. We served the beers using the sample size cups for foods like yoghurt/icecream. Some came back for more and jokingly volunteered to finish the bottle. Some drank a sip and got turned off maybe because they don’t drink, and asked others to help them finish. Some said they don’t drink so they totally abstained from trying the beer. Some just tried for the taste.

At the end of the day I think I am the most alcoholic of them all because I bottled the remaining beer home and consumed it with the banh mi (after heating the baguette up of course). Don’t waste food you know. Okay I could have given it to someone else to finish but the inner alcoholic in me said no.

My my my. Oh dear.

My AIESEC Journey (Week 1.5)

Wow it has been a shit-ton of ages since I last updated.

There is currently a typhoon (typhoon Melor) in Philippines but fortunately it didn’t affect the area where we are staying. For the whole of yesterday and today morning it was raining almost the entire day with some breaks in between. Initially there was a road trip scheduled for us but it got cancelled as the typhoon warning signal has been raised.

And so it’s a free day today arugh.

But from the bottom of my heart I feel as though I haven’t been doing anything constructive for the past 1.5 weeks. Well maybe it’s because I am a workaholic who can’t stop working. But up whatever it is, we really haven’t been doing much for the community engagement.

Anyway here’s an update of my extended vacation, and some details potential EPs would like to take note of, should they decide to take up any project in Philippines. It is not fully comprehensive since I am only typing this off my mind, and giving a day-by-day account would be too long (since I have been procrastinating in blogging only until now). Will add in more input in time to come.

Airport pick-up

There was no AISECer airport pick-up for some of the EPs and I happened to be one of lucky ones. So they arranged for an Uber to take me to the accommodation after I bought a sim card and contacted one of the local AISECers about my arrival. Sim cards can bought at the airport terminal and also street side vendors, but I would say airports are a safer option. Fortunately the Uber came rather fast (after clearing immigration stuff it was about 5 plus) but the traffic was horrendous.

Reached Project 7 (our lodging area) at 7 plus. Wanted to ask for a receipt from the cabbie for the reimbursement but was told that it was electronic and will be sent to the AISECer in charge instead. The sun sets really fast in Philippines too, at about 6pm.

Accommodation and Near-by amenities 

The lodging is a 2 floor house, with 6 bedrooms in total and 2 toilets wtf. 19 of us people are staying in the house and one of the sinks went bust and the toilet became flooded with dirty water. Just imagine the queue for the bathroom everyday.

Other facilities include an old school washing machine (luckily, because I thought we would have to handwash our clothes), rice cooker, induction cooker and tiny (by my standards) fridge. The lighting in the house is quite dim and there are freaking mozzies. The wifi is surprisingly fast though.

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The location is quite convenient (by Filipino standards) as it is about 10 minutes walk away to Walter Mart- a giant supermarket, and the MTR station, and 15 minutes to SM North Edsa. For an even bigger mall, there is also Trinoma which takes about 20-30 minutes by foot.  Along the way there are also sari-sari stores (ie convenience stores). Other than that there is also water delivery service, at 90 pesos for 3 large gallons, just a phone call away.

 

Walking along the road can be a nightmare simply because of the noise and air pollution but it is the only way to get there. We are broke students anyway.

Food and such

Meals are relatively expensive since the shopping malls are located in prime districts. A regular meal (as a gauge) costs about 190 pesos at the foodcourt. And they are either very fried, very salty or very sweet. There is also Jollibee everywhere, which is the staple fast food for Filipinos. But seriously, there is no way people can survive on meals prepared outside for 6 weeks. Not only it burdens on the pocket, but also on health.

It will be a big bonus if you can cook, because you can just buy groceries from the hypermart and they can last you for a few days. Initially we set up a house fund to buy breakfast supplies like cereal, milk and bananas, but currently now we have split up into smaller groups to share the grocery cost for dinner and lunch because everyone has different dietary preferences.

And being someone who doesn’t even cook at all, I had to learn the life skill lol. Yesterday 3 of us tried cooking fried rice, but it turned into fried porridge instead because we poured in 1 cup of water at the last minute as the rice was sticking together.

This morning was a free day and so I made a salad for breakfast. For lunch I cooked the remaining chicken and veggies. Was quite happy with how the chicken turned out. *pats myself on the back*

Tried balut as well! Sadly mine was too hard-boiled. There will be a street vendor shouting Balut and you reply with the same response.

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Transportation 

We mostly commuted by jeepney because uber/grab car and taxis are money sucking. Jeepneys have start/stop locations printed on the car bodies. Rides range from 7.5 to 12 pesos depending on distance. You board them at jeepney stops or terminals. Sometimes street artisans will hop onto the jeep and start performing (and obviously asking for money). Quite amusing actually.

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There are also motobikes with cabins attached as a mode of transport. Usually it takes only 3-4 people, but there was once the driver allowed the 6 of us onto 1 vehicle while we were travelling to Uni of Philippines. It was maddness. He was going full speed on the road and I was one of those sitting at the driver seat. Fares are slightly cheaper than the jeepneys.

Other than that there is also the MTR. A single trip ticket using 6 stops as a gauge cost 30 pesos. The rush hour is way worse than Singapore’s. When you try to get out, you get pushed in by the crowd instead!

For buses, they have locations postered on the bus windows. They come with TV screens showing movies and shows like just for laughs gags (Filipino version) to kill time while being stuck in a jam. A bus conductor comes to collect the fares and hands you paper tickets as receipts. Kinda old school haha.

The Project

So far we haven’t been doing much related to our project. The first week was mostly familiarizing ourselves with the location, transportation, prices etc. And nope, there is no AIESECer to bring us around. We figured out the directions and everything else as a house.

For one day there was a 30 minute crash course related to the theory of urban farming by one of the Ateno students who is a horiculture(?) major. After which, everyone went drinking with him and his friends. WTF. Anyway, some of the EPs can really drink.

A day after that we went to an organic farm for yet another crash course, called “Joy of Urban Farming”. Learnt the ingredients for organic fertilizers, different ways of farming, healthy drink recipes etc. What I found insightful was how one of the staff related farming to the narrative of human creation (like how humans were created from soil and dust) and nature.

Then yesterday was a visit to the wet market. I can’t figure out the exact locations because we kept changing jeepneys here and there, but the trip gave me a closer glimpse of the local communities and the kind of food that is available. Tasted their street food like rice cakes as well. The locals really love sweet mates.

Other AIESEC Activities

So far there was a causal welcome party at one of the AIESECer’s house on the first friday. He is filthy rich. It was mostly eating, talking, playing some icebreaker games and taking care of those who got drunk.

Then there was AIESEC Global Village where we displayed items of our own nationalities. It felt like a welcome party part 2, or a family affair basically. Some projects got to work half day but for REAP we got a full day off. The event starts at 6pm and we were already there in the morning. So after setting up the booth and all… it was all free and easy basically. Fortunately it was held at UP town centre so there were some shops to check out.

Places Visited so Far 

For once I got kinda sick of shopping malls in Manila because they carry mostly international brands like Penshoppe.

A few of us ventured into Manila’s Chinatown on one weekend. It isn’t as touristy as Singapore’s one, so it was kinda nice to see something still authentic as it is (apart from Lucky Chinatown which is a shopping mall). The buildings are freaking rustic and there are plenty of goldsmith shops around. And there’s a grandiose catholic church open to public as well.

Then visited La Mesa Nature Park on Sunday. Again it was a refreshing break from all the shitty traffic on the road and breathe in some fresh air from the plants. There is a 60 php admission charge to enter the park, and even more charges for respective activities like bungee jumping and paintball.

Visited the butterfly garden which is another 60 php. Well the visit didn’t justify the fee though. According to the sign we can see caterpillars “voraciously feasting on the leaves” but mostly they look immobile, probably due to too much feasting. The number of breeds of butterflies were very limited as well. Some drowned in the water lol and they even flew out when we opened the enclosure gate to enter and exit.

Shopping

 

WTF I don’t think I shall talk about this when everyone is trying to scrimp and save. Will save it for a later topic.

Ok that’s about it. I took 1 entire free day to script this with all the distractions in between. Ciao.

Life goes on

2013- 8 of us celebrated at Manhattan Fish Market.  Nearing the end of the dinner a slice of chocolate cake with a lighted candle was brought out for the both September babies. 

2014- 7 of us celebrated at Food for Thought at National Museum. Conincidentally it was also where we did our first assignment for the summer semester. Went to Ji De Chi for Hong Kong style dessert after that.

2015- It’s the 2 of us this year. Everyone has gone on writing their own stories. We watched the match between Arsenal against Chelsea at Harry’s. It’s my first time watching a live telecast of Barclays Premier League and I don’t pledge allegiance to any football club. Apparently most of the customers there happened to be Arsenal fans. It was quite an “imagined community” experience.

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Happy 22nd to myself (6 days late).

Life still goes on.

P.S People like Diego Costa should vanish from the soccer field.

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!

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!