Ah, Hong Kong! A cultural melting pot of East meets West, with great shopping, good eats and good-looking people. It’s a big city with people running around, streets that are gloriously confusing and a vibe that can only be exciting. Having said that, a 3-day jaunt on “Asia’s World City”, seems like a taxing endeavor especially when you are going to do it all by yourself (i.e. good riddance, boring tour packages!). However if you are well-traveled and have been there once or twice before, it should be fool-proof, right? Probably true. But sadly, not for us We admit that once we’ve been to a place before, we tend to be pretty stubborn in our ways. And lazy. Big time. This could be due to too much sun and salt water exposure. Or you know how you seem to be good at Physics and you think you got it so you end up not studying for the exam and then when you take the exam you “surprisingly” fail? Well, that’s kind of what happened on our Hong Kong trip (And I really thought I was good at Physics!). So we end up missing the last cable ride to see the Big Buddha in Ngong Ping, not having time to see Takashi Murakami’s exhibit at Gagosian Gallery in Central HK and (gasp!) having our dinner at Mc Donald’s (a first in our international jaunts, mind you. KFC is of course another story). When will we ever learn that in big cities like Hong Kong getting from point A to B will take a lot of perseverance and time? This is a whole lot true when about thousands of people are also wanting to do the same things as you are planning to do and you are taking mass transportation– because you are not on said boring tour package. Such are times when an itinerary is kind of important and time is sort of golden (aren’t I the epitome of adulthood?)
Despite this setback, the art of being lost is not entirely, uh, lost in us. Like travel yogis, we found silver linings in the clouds of disillusionment and disorientation. Most are in the form of clothes and food– not exactly prudent but then let’s not forget that practical and handy nugget of wisdom: You can’t buy happiness but you can buy (insert material things and food that you love here), and that’s kind of the same thing.
1.The OCTOPUS CARD is your best friend
|(Phot courtesy of discoverhongkong.com)|
In every country, public transportation is your best bet to get around on the cheap. However, if you are a lazy girl you probably could care less about cheap and would just want to get to wherever in minimum effort as possible. Good thing in Hong Kong there is the octopus card which you can use for the MTR, buses and taxis. Just one card. No more fishing for loose pennies in your suddenly bottomless bag! And no more lining up at the tills to get tickets! The card proves to be even more indispensable once I learned that convenience stores all over the city also accepts it. So whenever you want some gum or a bottle of water, just scan it over the counter at a 7-11 and voila! You are saved from the perils of the city jungle.
Cost: HK$150 (HK$100 for the card with a HK$50 load which can be used up to -HK$0.39, then when you run out just reload it at the tons of reloading machines at the MTR stations.)
2. CENTRAL and CAUSEWAY BAY is where it happens
|“Central” image via erratic-static.tumblr, ‘Causeway Bay” image via ste94072 @ flickr|
Before we start with anything else, if you plan to shop then there are only two MTR stops you should know: Central and Causeway Bay. Shuttle between these two like a mad person and you’ll never not come out without your hands full of shopping bags. You find your well-loved high street brands here: H&M, Uniqlo, Forever21, Cotton On etc. as well as stores that we dare not go in because our bank account balances quietly reminds us to step back and calm down. (By the way, H&M in Central is pretty cray on weekends! If you can, go to the one in Silvercord, TST– fewer people, more time to think things over– like, ‘must I have those flats in all colors?’ Hmm…).
3 . IKEA is a home furniture wasteland
|Go in. Take design notes. Have some meatballs. Repeat.|
All of us here love IKEA. Yes it’s true. Somewhere in our disorganized lives we dream of a well-designed closet or shelving solution that will clear away all that clutter and IKEA has that. From cabinets, tiny kitchens, empty chairs at empty tables (Just watched Les Miserables the night before this, sorry!) and everything in between, we were lost in a house improvement wasteland and we loved every second of it. Heck, we even shamelessly took photos while lying in model beds and couches! Cleverly- designed furniture tends to bring the inner-Inday in us. P bought some cabinet handles per her mom’s request, T spotted a nice solar lamp, C felt a connection with the reasonably-priced quality cutlery set and I hoarded HK$10 chocolate bars and Daim candies at their food store. Everyone is happy and even more so when we finally get to snack at the Ikea Cafe. To eat cinammon rolls and swedish meatballs after hours of home inspiration sighting just seems natural, right?
Go There: IKEA Causeway Bay. Upper Basement, Parklane Hotel, 310 Gloucester Road, Causeway Bay. Get Off at Causeway Bay Station of the MTR and take exit E.
4. CITY SUPER is a super wasteland
|Photo via hongkonghustle|
An Aha! moment happened to me just now. We just wasted our time mostly on retail wastelands in Hong Kong. Oh well. But among the wastest of wastelands (did I just typed wastest? Guess I did. And I am not changing it), City Super’s LOG-ON is probably it. Everything cute and weird and both practical and useless and everything else you do not really need is here. I spent 10 minutes doodling on a magic-board like gadget. Almost bought it but the Ilocano in me persisted. It said: Walk away, dear. Walk away… Then I spotted a Doraemon iPhone case and bumped into pretty paper stuffs. You bet that the Ilocano in me is having a nightmare whilst in the store. City Super also has a supermarket where they house a wide selection of foodstuffs– like Coke made from different countries (and when I mean Coke, I meant Coca-Cola. We do not ruin lives here, people!), if ever you need to educate yourself of grocery items from around the globe. Hello Kitty Sparkling Wine from Japan? Interesting…
Go There: City Super at Times Square (located at Basement 1). Get off at Causeway Bay station. There’s a direct link from the concourse to Times Square. (Times Square also has nice shops, check it out.)
5. CITYGATE outlets
|Photo via hongkongtripguide.com|
We were really bummed when we missed the last cable car ride to Ngong Ping to see the Giant Buddha. So on our way back to the MTR station we passed by CITYGATE outlets and did some retail therapy to nurse our wounded spirits. Kidding. We already checked out the stores even before we went to the cable car station! If you are into popular, big name brands like Nike, Adidas, Esprit, Calvin Klein, etc. then this should be your mecca. Just to share, I got a really really nice and cool Roxy moto-jacket for about HK$229 or around Php1,500! It is one of my prized purchases because rarely do I find things that I will lust over forever that doesn’t cost less than Php3,000.00. I felt so lucky, like I rubbed a giant Buddha belly.
Go There: Take the Tung Chung Line from the interchange at Hong Kong Station, Nam Cheong or Lai King Station. Get off at Tung Chung (it’s the last stop). The entrance of Citygate is at exit C.
6. THE PEAK
|Stunning views and people. Lots of them.|
Before you all think that we just wasted our time in Hong Kong on shopping and stumbling upon things (wonderful things, I might add!) There is a sight that even the laziest girl should behold on a trip in Hong Kong: the city skyline. At dusk is probably the most beautiful but since we’re being consistent here, we were late, so night time it is! But what a stunning view! The lights are all lit up against the black canopy of the night sky. It is the stuff of urban romance. Save for the tons of people and that kid wailing endlessly at our ride to the Peak Tower, let’s just say the view is worth it. We got a Peak Tram Sky Pass ticket (HK$ 65) which includes a return trip using The Peak Tram and a ticket for the Sky Terrace. You could also opt to ride a bus to the Peak tower but I think riding the tram will further enhance your experience. You will get breathtaking views from a different perspective as you ascend/descend on the tram. And you get that feeling that it can derail while you are on a steep ascend and so it’s like an amusement park ride that way. (Of course they are safe. Do not take me seriously.)
To go there: get off at Central Station and exit at J2. Make your way up to Garden Road, passing by St. John’s Cathedral. You should see The Peak Tram signage a few blocks ahead.
7. TIM HO WAN is worth the wait
|Patience is a virtue for these Michelin-starred Pork Barbeque Buns.|
Now, now of course we cannot go on without fuel. Every major lazy girl’s favorite activity is of course eating, and not just any other eating but good food eating. Marie Antoinette did it with her french confections as she stuffs her mouth with macarons in her boudoir and before that, who could forget that image of Cleopatra, lounging jadedly as servants feed her grapes? We on the other hand only share a few things with these infamous ladies and not among them are riches and servants. So, to have food that feels like a million bucks (which in these modern times is measured in Michelin stars)– we line up for queue at Tim Ho Wan. For 3 hours. No joke. Well of course we didn’t just stand there for 3 hours, we… Okay, I feel like we have to do some public service here…
Tips to get a seat at Tim Ho Wan:
1. Be Early. But since we are lazy ( and if you are reading this thus far, chances are you are, too), we are never early so, go to tip 2.
2. Once you are there, squeeze yourself up to the receptionist at the front door and get a pink slip.
3. On the pink slip are the list of menu items. Tick out the ones you like and indicate how many orders you would like for each. On the topmost portion of this slip are Chinese-characters that have blank spaces after them which would indicate that you have to fill them up, but do not be afraid if you don’t know this, we’ll tell you (wink). The first space is for how many persons are there in the group, and as for the second and third ones,well, we left them blank because we don’t know what they mean (hey, we got in anyway. Probably no that important) Then there are two boxes on top right with a character each: the one above means day- if you are eating for the day and below it is character for night- if you are having your order at night.
4. Please have a pen with you to write on that slip. Do not bother asking the receptionist for one. She doesn’t have time. Nor does the guy next to you– he is competition. I couldn’t stress this enough: You do not go anywhere without a pen! (Maybe it’s the writer in me but you can also stab someone else with it– for self defense. Handy stuff.)
5. After you have filled-out your pink slip, hand it over to the receptionist and wait for her to put a number on your slip. She will then give it back to you. Wait for your number to be called. Your number will be 130 or higher if you have more bad luck than us. And the last one they called is 55.
6. If you are the most boring person ever wait there, but since you are not, walk around Mong Kok (Item 8 on our list) for an hour. Then go back.
7. You’ll find that of course they are just on 70. Walk around the area some more for an hour. There are interesting stuffs in Mong Kok, apparently.
8. Once you are back, be patient. They are now serving 127. So how come they managed to let in a hundred people in a restaurant that seats only 29 people in just 3 hours? And the average eating time of a person is 1 hr.? This is not a math problem ( hate math) but rather a perfect example of human nature. Most people don’t want to wait (like, er, us) and so the people who do (not fun people. I am sure.) would get the seats once people inside are done simply because they are there. At the right place and at the right time. Patience is a virtue at this point.
9. Pray that no one from number 127-129 gets back while the receptionist is calling them out. Then when your number gets called, hold your pink slip up. Higher, my fellow petite sister! For among tall Caucasians and weirdly lanky Chinese men, you are chosen to dine in the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant. Congratulations!
10. Get on your seat, hand the slip to the waiter and wait to be served like a king. Or queen. In Cleopatra and Marie Antoinette proportions. You deserve it.
|The tower of Dim Sum. (Photo courtesy of Clarisse Hernandez)|
Order: The BBQ Pork Buns (This is where the star came from. I could eat this all day), vermicelli stuffed with shrimp, any dim sum you fancy, and quite frankly really anything.
Go There: Aside from the flagship store at Mong Kok, Tim Ho Wan has 3 other branches: Central, north Point, Sham Shui Po. But the one in Mong Kok is the one which earned that coveted Michelin star in 2009. (The one in Sham Shui Po also earned a star on the 2012 Michelin guide). While waiting in queue, we also noticed a post on the front door that said something along the lines of the Mong Kok store closing and moving to Olympian City 2, Hoi Ting Road. It is said to be larger so you might not be needing our tips but still… those Pork BBQ buns can cause a riot. Better be prepared.
8. GET LOST IN MONG KOK
|Spotted while walking around Mong Kok: a guard dog taking its job seriously.|
While waiting for your turn at Tim Ho Wan (or not. Refer to note on item 7) walk around the nearby area. There’s a nice bakery shop next to exit A2 of Yau Ma Tei Station that makes really good egg tarts comparable to Lord Stow’s. There’s the Ladies’ Market (Tung Choi Street) not too far from Tim Ho Wan (or what used to be Tim Ho Wan) where you can bargain your way into buying things you fancy but might cost you an arm and leg (My friend C asked for magnets and when she found them too expensive at $20, the lady selling them pulled her arm begging her to buy the magnets as she incrementally lowered the price down to $9! I was literally playing tug-of-war with her because she wouldn’t let C go! Consider yourself warned). There’s also another nondescript bakery near the market where freshly baked bread anything is sold and being swarmed at. And in so far as our escapades go, anything swarmed at is good. Unless it’s a swarm of flies, then it’s most likely a rat’s carcass (ew).
9. AS A LAZY GIRL WHO’S NOT RICH, STAY AT NICE HOSTELS (yes there’s such a thing)
|Yes Inn Image via tripadvisor|
If you would rather spend your hard-earned money on a spanking new wardrobe and good food like us then you’ll do well on modest accommodations. Modest, of course, means teeny-tiny rooms and a shared refrigerator (or shared bathrooms which we would never consider– at the moment). They are called hostels and before you think creepy hostel-mates and seedy hallways, there are a few good ones. This feature on The Guardian came handy. We stayed at Yes Inn @ Fortress Hill. The building in which it is in might scare you away but once you do get inside the room, you are greeted by a pleasant and friendly receptionist who is Filipina so you can cross-out “shady receptionist” on your “signs that your hostel is creepy” list . Even more surprising are its modern and well-lit rooms and shared spaces, a complete contrast to the run-down facade of the building it is in. A room per night should cause you a little less than HK$200– cheap, right? And it’s about a 5-minute walk to Fortress Hill MTR station and there’s a bus stop practically about ten steps away from the building. Convenient, Clean and Cheap– 3 C’s that go well in hostel lingo.
But just a tip, when we entered our room, albeit clean, it smells of something weird that we can’t pinpoint so we bought some Airwick spray at the grocery and then our room smelled nice after. It’s pretty good actually, not too harsh, just clean and foul-odor obliterating. Highly recommended. As “travel yogis” we like to attract good karma and so we left the spray at our room when we checked-out, a sign of goodwill for the weary traveler who’ll be using our room after. Namaste.
|A sweet-smelling room attracts good karma.|
Well there you go. I apparently had to say a lot for doing so little. But you have to admit, you did get some travel wisdom, right? No? So much for being travel yogis. Next time we’ll do an Eat, pray, love. Promise.