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Friday, April 30, 2010

Part 1: Macau/HongKong (Of Ferry, Famous Markets & NgongPing360)

Almost missed our flight cause I somehow thought I saw an sms a month ago telling me our flights has been rescheduled to 9am+ instead of 6am+.  Luckily I double checked a day prior to departure.  Otherwise, I could not imagine how it would be like, missing our flights and wasting away all our prepaid hotels.  Lucky lucky....
Rearranged with our cabbie on the timing and got to the airport on time ;).  Checked-in and had some hot breakfast at OldTown Kopitiam.  Nice having something hot in the stomach at that ungodly hours in the morning!

Oh, forgot to mention.  This time round, we'll be going to Macau/HongKong and when I said 'we', I meant me & my man.  Not mom, hehehe...
Landed on Macau 3 hours 45 minutes later.  Wanted to hail a cab from the airport for Cotaijet jetty but was informed by the tourism counter that all we needed was bus no.11.  Meaning, our legs. :p Out of the arrival hall, turn right and walk straight on and we'll see the jetty.... we both had a good laugh over it.  I picked Cotaijet out of the rest cause it's jetty is nearest to the airport but I definitely didn't know it was THAT near... lols...
NOTE: There are altogether 3 main ferry companies in Macau operating the Macau-HK-Macau route and they are Turbojet, First Ferry and Cotaijet.  Turbojet and First Ferry operates off 'Macau Maritime Ferry Terminal' on the main Macau island whereas Cotaijet operates off Taipa Ferry Terminal on Taipa island where the airport is.  Fare wise, they are more or less the same with difference of a dollar or two only (Macau-HK cost HKD142/person).  Eventhough they stated that they depart every 15 minutes, it is usually based on the number of passengers.
The ferry was very comfortable.  More legs room than Air Asia's seats.  Can stretch, cross or anything you wish to do with your legs.  No problem.  Wanted to disembark at Tsim Sha Tsui but the particular ferry departing at that time dock at Sheung Wan instead. Hopped on anyway.  Dont wanna waste precious time waiting for the next ferry.  Afterall, SheungWan is just 5 minutes away from Tsim Sha Tsui thru MTR.
NOTE: If you plan to travel around HK, get an Octopus Card (something like our 'Touch n Go' card) instead of buying single tickets all time.   With an Octopus Card, you get 10% discount on your tickets.  It can be used for anything at all - trams, buses, MTR, purchases at 7Eleven & etc.  The initial amount for an Octopus Card for adult is HKD150 (HKD50 refundable deposit when you return the card + HKD100 value) and it can be purchased at the counter from any MTR station.  Over our 5d/4n in HK, we spent approximately HKD120/person on transportation.
The weather was pretty bad when we got off the ferry an hour later.  Rain and strong wind greeted us.  I remembered the weather forecast I checked prior to our trip did mentioned that it gonna rain on the first day we arrived.  How accurate!  I hoped they were accurate too with their forecast for the next 3 days which was stated to be sunny!

The lunch crowd at ShunTak Mall (connected to the jetty) was total madness when we got out of immigration.  Every restaurant have a queue of at least 5m waiting for next available seats.  We decided to just grab a quick bite from McD's Cafe Takeaway Counters instead before we proceed on to our hotel at Prince Edward.

It was still drizzling lightly when we got there.  Umbrellas were extreme expensive.  About HKD50+ for a ugly small foldable ones.  Ridiculous!  Don't they rain in HK?!  Anyway, I was pre-warned of the overpriced umbrellas and was advise to carry one with me prior to our trip.  But laziness overruled.  I was never an umbrella girl to start with.... :p

NOTE: So tuck a small umbrella away in your bag if you are not much of a rain person.  :)  I love rain.  hehehe....
Found our hotel easily 10 minutes later.  It was pretty hard to get lost in HK.  Everywhere we turn, there bound to be a map somewhere.  At the MTR stations, at the parks, at the corner of streets and so forth.    Clear street names are everywhere.  No Ah Long's stickers or 'Mann Cream' adverts sticking all over it... I am sure you know what I mean  ;)
Our hotel is pretty ok.  Though small, the interior was very nicely done up.  When we got to the room, I was like... 'this gotta be the world smallest room'.... lols... At any one time when one of us is stand and walk, it is best the other just sit on the bed to avoid injuries, hahaha... And I thought Eaton Hotel was the smallest when I was in HK with my family years ago!  Compared to this, that was spacious.  :p
Freshened up, map in hand, we set out to explore the city.  From our hotel, we zig zag thru the many blocks of buildings towards Jordan/Nathan St intersection.  As it was pretty cold, along the way, we hopped into a little eateries for some hot soya bean milk and 'yao char kuoy'.  It was simply yummy!  Or maybe I was hungry.  The only problem we faced with food was just the menu.  They were all in Chinese.  Most of the time we just identify the few characters we know and guessed the whole phrase :p  When it gets too complicated, we will either (1) mini myni mini mo to simply point to something or (2) admit to the waiter that we are just some useless Chinese who doesnt read them.  :p  We managed to figure it out somehow most of the time.  
We noted that instead of using metal scaffolding like we do here in Malaysia for constructions, they used bamboo like this everywhere.
Other than those little eateries, there were many little takeaway stalls selling various snacks everywhere.  No chance to get hungry at all.  The first of the many snacks we had was this curry fishballs.  You can practically finds them at every turn of a corner.
There are two famous jewellers along Nathan Road - namely, 'Chow Sang Sang' and 'Chow Tai Fook'.  Whenever you see one, there sure to be the other nearby.  Their outlets were impressive.  The first impression when we chance upon them was... "Buying gold must be Hongkies no.1 favourite pastime!", hahaha... It was that big!  We looked into their showcase windows and their pieces were really intricate.  Very nice, very fine workmanship.  Not sure how are their prices though... 
Everywhere we walked, it was packed with people.  Literally rubbing shoulders.  Everyone seems to be rushing off to somewhere.  They walked in that manner.  Fast.  Unlike us here, leisurely most of the time.  Even their escalators moves much faster than those we have here.  Reminded me of Singapore.  With population like that on a small island, it is inevitable to see crampy flats like these everywhere whenever we look up.  
We got to the famous Ladies' Market on TungChoi Street after a short walk.  Combed thru the area - Sai Yeung Choi Street (electrical goods), Fa Yuen Street (sports goods) and lots of little alleys around it.  Shopping is good here if you are into bargaining.  Otherwise, look see look see also ok as they sells lots of cute stuff.  As it was still early, and a weekday too, there were not much crowd.
Got into one of the plaza there that sells lots of paintball guns (I think) and exquisite miniature figurines.  The guns look so real.  Wanted to get a small one for myself but thought better of it.  I doubt it can get thru immigration.
A street market tucked away in one of the many alleys.  The vege were extreme fresh.  Saw lots of cute little HK Kailan!  Hehehe... Fruits wise, nothing special.  We have everything they have there.
This cute schnauzer & cat belongs to a sports shop owner.  They are allowed to roam around the shop freely as customer browse thru the goods.  How free!  Something which will never happen on our soil!
Saw many people queuing up at this stall for some noodle.  I joined the queue.  Bought a bowl of noodle which tasted weird.  It numbs my tongue.  Yucks!  

NOTE: If you wish to takeaway, don't ever say 'tapau'.  In HK, 'tapau' means 'mati kudasai' (died)... lols...  Just tell them 'dai chau' / 'lor chau' (take away).
Next to the yucky noodle stall is a stall with a long queue of customer lining it's front.  We later found out that all that they sold are just some plain baked sweet potato.  Strange. 
Bought some of these too along the way.  Some kind of jelly - kei chi, mango and soy flavour each.  Love it! 
Had these for breakfast the next morning in a little eateries few blocks away from where we stayed.  Mini myni mini mo-ed breakfast set A & C, something with turkey ham.  That much we know.  Lols... It was exciting sitting there anticipating not sure what we've ordered... hahaha... Found out eventually that Set A comprises of macaroni & ham in soup, toast bread, sausage, fried eggs and HK milk tea.  Set B - toast, bread, sausage, fried eggs, ham and HK milk tea.  Simple & nice...  It cost us only HKD40.  Not expensive at all!

NOTE: Estimated HKD300/day for food which was more than enough actually.
After breakfast, we headed to TungChung with the MTR for NgongPing360, it is apparently, one of Hong Kong's 'must see' attractions in Lantau Island other than Disneyland.  :p
Our main intention was to visit the Tian Tan Buddha Statue and the PoLin Monastery.  But since we were already there, we decided to visit Ngong Ping Cultural Village as well.

Out of TungChung MTR station, you'll see a mall called Citygate Outlets.  Just walk on straight, you'll not miss the cable car terminal. ;)
There is also a post office there and I decided to send ourselves a postcard!  hehehe...  At least something to look forward to when we get back from our holiday!  The stamps cost only HKD2.40 to Malaysia.
The 'Journey of Enlightenment Package' which include a round trip cable car tickets + entry to NgongPing Cultural Village's Walking with Buddha & Monkey's Tale Theatre attractions cost HKD169/person.
The cable car journey took about 15 minutes and stretched across 5.7km.  The scenery up there was really nice.  Saw the whole stretch of HK International Airport, beautiful panoramic view of hills surrounding Lantau island and come to one point, we even get to see the majestic Tian Tan Buddha Statue perched on top of a hill! 

The only downside of the ride was, I wish it can go faster thus more adrenaline rush. Not 'chi kek' enough. Lols... I told the husband... "If only they can have roller coaster all the way instead of cable car..."... He went like o.O! He hates them.  Lols...
At NgongPing Cultural Village.  Walk straight on you'll arrive at the foot of Tian Tan Buddha Statue and opposite it, is the PoLin Monastery. 
Climbed the 268 steps right to the top.  It was not as bad as our Batu Caves.  The left side is dedicated for climbing up and the right for going down. 
When we got to the top, the scenery up there makes it all worth while.  It was cool & breezy and the scenery was spectacular. 
We paid HKD23/person to get into a museum underneath the statue which showcased some Buddha' relics.  With the entrance ticket, we are each entitle to a simple vegetarian lunch over at PoLin Monastery.  Oh, yeah, btw, prior to going up the steps, there will be booth selling some vegetarian lunch coupons which cost approx. HKD60/pax also at the PoLin Monastery.  Just different restaurant.  All these vegetarian lunches are optional. 
From Tian Tan Statue, we head down to PoLin Monastery to redeem our lunch.  Each of us are entitled to a bowl of 'taufoo fa', a plate of beehoon and 2 pcs of dessert.  The taufoo fa and the deserts was really yummy... the beehoon was a little too dry though.  The cool weather allow us to dine out in the park... nice!
We strolled around the monatery after that - the courtyards, the main praying hall... picture above are beautiful lanterns hung from the ceiling in the main praying hall. 
As it was spring, colourful flowers dotted the landscape everywhere.  Pink, red, blue, green, yellow.... it was a pretty sight!
I couldn't resist taking this picture cause I always argue with the man that we should add variety to our usual orange/pears/apples offerings come every 1st & 15th day prayers.  Like watermelon/durian/dragon fruits/mangoes.  He said cannot cause nobody offers fruits like that.  And I wonder what is that is sitting on the altar there?!  A fruit that looks like durian but not durian?  Hehehehe :p
THE VERDICT:  Not worth going to NgongPing Cultural Village.  Nothing much there actually.  Just a short street with shops housed in architectually designed replicas of ancient building selling overpriced souvenirs.  The 'Walking with Buddha' and the 'Monkey's Tale' theatre were in fact a huge let down.  It is better to just get a round trip tickets for the cable car (which cost only HKD107) and go straight for the TianTan Buddha Statue and PoLin Monastery which are located within walking distance from the NgongPing Cable Car Terminal.  Other than the cable car, you can take a bus too from TungChung MTR to PoLin Monastery.  But I heard the ride takes approximately 45minutes!