December marks the end of a long grueling year for those in the workforce as well as those students who have studied so hard for their finals. So what better way to celebrate the holidays than to go on a vacation? I’m not sure about you but it has been our (with Bf) tradition to travel before the year ends. We’re still touring Asia because our financial means are limited. Hence for this holiday, we had chosen Hong Kong as our travel destination! 🙂
Like our previous vacays, our trip was an impromptu one as we had only decided where to go two weeks before our departure. Our itinerary for 6 days and 5 nights in Hong Kong was only planned two nights before, based on recommendations on Lonely Planet and blogs. We made our bookings through Expedia once again and surprisingly, the rates for the air tickets and hotels were still rather affordable. However the airfares did not include checked baggage so we had to fork out additional money for that. We also paid extra to book our desired seats (S$5 per seat if I remember correctly). On the whole, we spent about $700 each for airfare and accommodation. Quite reasonable, if you ask me!
Hong Kong International Airport has two terminals – 1 and 2. Our plane landed at Terminal 2 but we had to take the free shuttle bus to Terminal 1 because that’s where the arrival immigration clearance is done. Quite troublesome though. As signage was not very clear, we were for awhile unsure of where to collect our luggage. So we kinda followed the crowd and had to ask one of the airport ambassadors for directions.
But to be honest, I was really anticipating this trip. Watching a truck load of Hong Kong serial dramas from a young age has definitely strengthened my desire to visit the city. The show Triumph in the Skies (one of my favourites), for example, had made me really excited to be at the Hong Kong International Airport. Being clean and modern, it serves as a very good comparison to Changi Airport. I also like that the arrival hall is surrounded with glass windows to allow sunlight through, making the place look really bright and cheery.
This post would cover only the first two days of the trip.
* * Day 1 * *
(Getting the necessities, Cosmopolitan Hotel & Keung Kee Roasted Meat Restaurant)
Our first thing to do upon arrival at the airport was, of course, to get a prepaid SIM card with 3G data. We had a few recommendations for that from travel blogs but we managed to narrow the list to one which had unlimited data usage for our entire 6-day stay in Hong Kong. If you’re interested, you can get it from booth A04 at Terminal 1. Each SIM card costs about HK$200 (S$35). You can also get other necessities like the Octopus card for tourists (their version of EZlink card) and Airport Express Travel Pass (AETP) from the same booth. If you have travelled with Tigerair, you can also buy tickets to Hong Kong Disneyland at a discounted rate (10% off) from there.
The AETP is very useful if you’re not planning to take a cab to your hotel. Mind you, taxi hires in Hong Kong are not as cheap as you think. If you get caught in a jam, you’re gonna chalk up a lot of money for the ride. I’d say the fares are comparable to those in Singapore. Furthermore, I feel that taking the train is a lot faster than a cab due to possible traffic congestions.
For the AETP, you can opt for a single or return journey (on the same day) ticket but the price of one depends on the station you’re alighting at. My destination was Hong Kong station, which is the furthest on the Airport Express Line (AEL) . Hence, my ticket was on the pricier end. The entrance to the AEL is conveniently located next to McDonald’s. Speaking of which, we had McDonald’s for lunch! It was where I made my first order entirely in Cantonese (so proud of myself)! I’m not very fluent in Cantonese myself but I’d tend to feel pressured to “fit in” when they speak to me in their language. In fact, the cashier probably thought I was a fellow Hong Konger until I hung my camera around my neck HAHA.
At Hong Kong station, we were supposed to wait for the (complimentary) shuttle bus to our hotel but the next bus would only arrive in an hour’s time! It was already getting dark so we decided to flag down a cab instead. But the queue for the taxi was astonishing long, we ended up waiting for an hour for a cab too 😦
Our taxi ride was another 45 minutes because the road was jam-packed. It was madness! Plan your itinerary well and avoid commuting by taxis during peak hours. everyone!
Our cabbie didn’t know where to drop us off so he halted his vehicle a few metres from our hotel, beside a private estate where there was ample space to unload our luggage (and we later got shooed away by the security guard muahaha). What greeted us right in front when we alighted was a hill of tombs which we later discovered was a Muslim cemetery. That kinda spooked us out a little. And the best part?
Our hotel room was facing the cemetery.
We requested for a room change but we were told that other rooms were fully booked. Those that were available were all facing the cemetery. But if we insisted, we could pay a premium for a better room. By then, I had already come to my senses and accepted the arrangement, but not for my Bf who had to be persuaded further. I thought the idea of waking up to a view of the cemetery was rather cool and exotic haha. But of course, that didn’t happen because our windows were opaque and blinded. They were locked at all times so I couldn’t catch a glimpse of the cemetery from our room
Anyway, we stayed at Cosmopolitan Hotel! If you’d disregarded its unusual location, it’s actually a pretty decent four-star hotel with great amenities. It provides free shuttle services to MTR stations in the vicinity as well as Ocean Park at a relatively low rate (HK$15 per person per trip). However, do note that they’d require a deposit of HK$1000, refundable on the day of check-out. We paid by cash when we could use our credit card instead. Due to our stupidity, we had HK$1000 lesser for shopping -_-
The hotel claims to provide free premium Wi-Fi but it’s only available in their guestrooms, hotel lobby, restaurant and meeting rooms. If you want internet access, you gotta pay. However, many guests failed to realise that you can actually tether internet from the iPhone they’ve provided (hence the lobby was always crowded with people lol). You can also make overseas calls (to Singapore, Malaysia, etc.) with the phone. On top of that, you’re free to bring it out with you on your exploration! Whoa. Perhaps that’s why a hefty deposit is needed.
The room is SUPERB because it’s equipped with multiple plug sockets and full-length mirrors (useful for me only). We both brought a multi-plug adapter just in case there weren’t enough plug sockets but there was one at each side of the bed to prevent people like my Bf from hogging. I love this hotel! Besides, Hong Kong uses the same electrical outlet plug as Singapore so no travel adapter was needed at all 🙂
387-397 Queen’s Road East
Wan Chai, Hong Kong
Nearest MTR: Causeway Bay
* * *
It was almost 9pm and we were famished! We headed out, walked in the chilly and rainy weather to search for food to eat. It took us about 20 minutes to find the perfect eatery.
Here’s what we ordered! Let’s begin with the beverages that Hong Kong is widely known for.
We got this as there weren’t many choices left for soup at that hour. I was quite doubtful about the taste initially because I had never tasted any soup with coconut as one of the ingredients. But what was I thinking? It’s Hong Kong we’re talking about. They are renowned for their fine culinary skills! So this has got to be good.
*takes first sip* Oh my God, it’s reaaaaaally good. The coconut really brought out the fragrance of the soup and it’s really crunchy. Having such hot, soul-soothing soup in the cold weather just spelt bliss. It’s so awesome. If this wasn’t sold out at 9pm, it could mean that it’s one of the least popular items on the soup menu. Gosh, the others must taste heavenly then!
The eatery actually offers barbecued pork, ribs and roasted goose separately with rice on the menu at HK$46 (for pork and ribs) or HK$54. But if you’re indecisive (and hungry) like me, you should totally go for this! I hate to sound repetitive but this is REMARKABLY delicious! Hong Kongers are really generous with their rice though. I can hardly finish them in Singapore but somehow the Hong Kongers managed to changed my appetite. My plate was EMPTIED. Hahaha.
The roasted goose was the best! I was mentally trying to stop myself from spearing it with my fork but of course, they were too irresistible I couldn’t keep away from it! Thus my goose meat was the first to disappear on the plate. Haha. Having said that, the barbecued pork and ribs were equally good too! They were soft and marinated really well.
I was like, crap, the food in Hong Kong is so good. At this rate, I’m gonna balloon up by the time I’m back in Singapore.
Keung Kee Roasted Meat Restaurant 強記飯店
Shop A & B, G/F, Siu Fung Building
9-17 Tin Lok Lane
Wanchai, Hong Kong
Nearest MTR: Wanchai, Times Square
* * Day 2 * *
(Disneyland Hong Kong & Mak’s Noodle)
This day had been set aside for Hong Kong Disneyland! Bf and I were thrilled because we didn’t have the privilege to go to Disneyland when we were younger. It’s great that we’re able to relive our childhood memories now that we’ve earned our own money. More importantly, Bf finally had the chance to meet his favourite Disney character, Winnie the Pooh! He had been looking forward to this day (so don’t be surprised to see tons of pictures of Pooh later because my photographer for the day was, well, my Bf hahaha)
We embarked on our journey to Disneyland at about 10.30am. The nearest MTR station from the hotel is Causeway Bay (not Wanchai as mentioned by the hotel), which is a 15-minute walk away. There are shops along the way to keep your eyes occupied so you won’t really find the distance too great.
There was a long queue for the ride but we managed to skip it because we made use of Disney’s FastPass service! It’s a virtual queuing system that allows you to save time by reducing the time you spend in line for the attractions. But this only applies to attractions equipped with that feature. It’s really easy to use! All you need to do is to insert your admission ticket into the FastPass machine and it would give you a ticket indicating your time slot for the ride. While waiting for your turn, you are free to explore other parts of the theme park! 🙂
After the ride, we went to another “land” of Disneyland!
At around 3pm, we saw people crowding around the walkway of the plaza. I vaguely remembered from the information booklet that there would be a Flights of Fantasy Parade at a certain timing, so I joined the crowd with Bf in tow.
And here comes Bf’s favourite part. I think my camera ran out of space because of gazillions of videos and pictures taken at this point.
After the parade, the mascots went to their respective stations for photo-taking with their fans. Bf and I were running all over the place in search of Winnie the Pooh. We finally found him at one of the pavilions at Fantasyland.
Our pictures were also taken by Disneyland’s own photographers and stored in the account indicated on the PhotoPass card (the photographer’s assistant would scan the QR code on your card after that). Once you’re done with the meet-and-greet, you can hand the card to the photo booth to get the pictures printed out. Of course, this service is not free-of-charge.
Time was ticking away! We were down to only three hours before the theme park officially closes at 8.30pm. We still hadn’t explored other parts of the theme park such as the Adventureland 😦
We returned to Tomorrowland for a ride on the electric cars at Autopia.
The cars unfortunately travel on guided path to prevent collision. You need to step on the pedal to move the car but the steering wheel turns on its own when it’s needed. So you could technically drive without laying your hands on the steering wheel. Since both of my hands were free, I took some pictures while I on the track. Hahaha! Kids, please do not learn from this terribly bad example.
Seeing how crowded the first parade was, we decided to camp at a good spot an hour before the next parade began at 7.30pm. For the month of December, the “Disney Paint the Night” parade would be slightly different because the audience would be able to interact with the performers using the special magic enabled merchandise items developed for the parade. These items are the Mickey Magic Paint Brush, Mickey Glow Mitt and Minnie Glow Bow. The first mentioned changes the colour of the performers’ costume at the touch of a button. Paint the night, literally.
Bf decided to put me into embarrassment and got me two of the merchandise items – the Mickey Magic Paint Brush and Mickey Glow Mitt. -_-
I was holding the Mickey Magic Paint Brush like an overgrown kid during the parade and suddenly one of the performers came to me and urge me to tap the LED lights on her costume with my toy. I did and the colour of her costume changed! It was fascinating 🙂
After the last parade, people were already rushing to gather at the Sleeping Beauty Castle where the “Disney in the Stars” fireworks would be held. Luckily for us, we were already watching the previous parade from around the area so we didn’t have to move much.
The fireworks were spectacular and break-taking. Completely immersed in the show, I got flashbacks of my childhood days as A Whole New World was playing in the background, and silhouettes of Disney characters appearing on the walls of the castle. I recalled the period of time I kept replaying Cinderella on my VCD player. The experience almost brought a tear to my eye. Those were good memories I wouldn’t trade anything for 🙂
Our experience at Disneyland was mostly fun but tiring because we were constantly on our feet and waiting in line for the rides. We made a big mistake of not having our proper meal before entering the theme park because we were starving by the time we left the place. We survived the day mainly on finger foods sold at Disneyland.
So we went on a quest for a good eatery to dine at near our hotel, and eventually discovered this gem. In fact, a Caucasian lady who had just exited the restaurant started raving to us how awesome the food was when we were browsing through the menu at the entrance. We could totally see her face beaming with sincerity and that she truly enjoyed her food there. With that, we eagerly took a seat inside Mak’s Noodle and placed our first order.
We requested for a menu in English because we couldn’t read (traditional) Chinese really well.
Some pictures seem to be taken in the day because we patronised the same restaurant for the remaining days of our stay in Hong Kong. To ease confusion, I shall put together everything we ate at there.
The restaurant’s star dish is definitely the Wonton Noodles in Soup, which has been accredited with being one of Hong Kong’s best Wonton Noodles. I couldn’t agree more. The flavourful broth, the springy and light noodles coupled with the chewy and fresh prawns in the silky smooth wonton wrap make this dish the best I’ve tasted hands down.
My only quibble about this, and everything else on the menu, is the portion. Being a holder of a Light Refreshment Restaurant License in Hong Kong, the food there is typically served in small porcelain bowls that can barely satiate anyone who has an appetite of a normal human being. So ordering side dishes is a must!
All the broth, with the exception of those with beef, seemed to have come from the same pot, only enhanced by the different ingredients added to the dish. The Double Boiler (sic) Soup above tasted about the same as the broth in the Wonton Noodle Soup, but it’s a little saltier and thicker. They scallions are not crunchy but they melt instantly in your mouth. It was a joy having this awesome bowl of hot soup in that chilly night!
As its name suggests, this is fresh and thick, too.
Dry Wonton Noodles (with a separate bowl of soup) is also offered as an alternative and it’s as good as the soup version. The oyster sauce was also out of this world. Sometimes this would leave me with a tough decision to make. Soup or dry for today?!
Just dumplings and soup, if you don’t feel like having noodles. This also makes a great choice for side dish 🙂
The broth here tasted slightly different with the slight prawn essence. A bite into the juicy and luscious medium-size prawns unveiled a bed of soft and tender flesh. It’s splendid!
The beef brisket was soft, moist and cooked to the right texture. It also didn’t taste fatty at all.
The best of both worlds – combining two great ingredients into a bowl of piping hot soup. The beef-based broth was a refreshing change from the usual light Wonton soup.
And yes, the restaurant does serve congee or porridge too!
The congee is seasoned with pepper and topped with more cut scallions. It’s thick and smooth like velvet, and generously laden with the preserved egg.
If you’re spoilt for choice or hungry for variety, pick this! It has more than 2 different ingredients, guaranteed to delight your taste buds. I particularly like the beef because it’s really soft and tender. The mushrooms are great as well for the same reason. I don’t really take pork liver (can’t get pass that urine and faecal taste, ugh) so I gave most to Bf, but was forced to down one piece. Good grief, they seemed to have cleanse them of the offensive flavour fairly well as it didn’t taste that bad. But still, pork liver is a no-no for me.
Mak’s Noodle 麥奀雲吞麵世家
GF, No37 Leighton Road
Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, China (Causeway Bay Branch)
Opening hours: 9.00am to 11.00pm (last order at 10.30pm)
* * *
That’s the end of my first two days in Hong Kong. Be sure to stay tuned for the next part 😉
Thanks for reading!