Saturday, November 29, 2014

My 4-Day Trip To Hong Kong: Day 3

The third day of our trip to Hong Kong was reserved for Ngong Ping and the cable car ride. We had seen some ads for the place on the way to HK Disneyland the day before and it was actually on the same route as HK Disneyland except instead of getting off at Sunny Bay on the Orange Line, we just had to take the Orange Line until the last station. Since we hadn’t visited the famous night markets yet, we also planned to stop by Mongkok, Jordan and the Shim Sha Tsui public markets on the way back.

We also planned to go to Macau on the fourth and last day of our Hong Kong trip so we decided to spend the morning looking for the ferry harbor to Macau. I took a look at the map we had the night before and saw that it was actually just a few minutes away from the Chung King Mansion on foot. We set off at about 9:00 AM.

Starting at the iSquare mall, we kept going forward or parallel to the mall and according to the map, we should just take a left turn when we couldn’t keep going forward anymore and that would take us to the Harbour City malls and finally, the Macau Ferry Harbor.

The weather was cool as usual, but by this time, I’d gotten acclimated enough to the cool air that I didn’t even feel like wearing my varsity Jacket anymore. Unfortunately, we found that we couldn’t go left any further just as the map said because there was a small group of makeshift bungalows that blocked the path and they seemed to be some kind of noodle houses. Thus, we went the opposite direction to the right looking for a place to get across to the street where the ferry was supposed to be located. We had to go back all the way to the Clock Tower before we could finally cross.

With that little setback out of the way, we were finally on the street to Harbour City and the Macau Ferry. My mother still showed signs of anxiety every now and then that we were on the wrong path, but I was more than confident that we were going in the right direction. After fifteen minutes of walking, we finally reached the Macau Ferry.

It was actually quite surprising because the ferry was actually located at the third floor of a shopping mall – which was nice. We checked out the ticket prices and then saw a bakery selling all kinds of sweet and savory pastries. We bought a few items for the trip to Ngong Ping and then decided to eat brunch inside a McDonald’s in the mall.

After a quick brunch, we went back to our Hostel room to prepare for the trip to Ngong Ping. It was only about 11:30 AM. Once again, we took the iSquare mall entrance to get to the subway station and from there, it took us about 30 minutes to get to the last station of the Orange Line wherein we could take the cable car to Ngong Ping.

We were pleasantly surprised to see a huge mall there. We decided to take a little walk around it later after we were done with Ngong Ping. Asking for directions from a security guard, there was a five minute walk to the cable car area. Upon reaching the place, we found that there was a long queue to get to the cable cars – about two 50 meter ramps full of people. My mother was once again anxious that we didn’t buy a ticket for these cable cars first and that we shouldn’t be lining up here. I took a quick glance that the signs and reassured her that the tickets were sold at the top and that we just had to stay in line.

There was around a 45 minute wait before it was finally our turn. We decided to take the normal cable cars instead of the glass ones and I didn’t bother downloading the tour guide app which was being recommended by the advertising posters. My mother discovered that they gave discounts for HSBC credit cards, so she decided to use hers and we got a 10% discount for the tickets – about 270 HKD for two round trip tickets.

When it was finally our turn to ride the cable car, they set aside a single car for the both of us because apparently, there weren’t that many people visiting right now.

The cable car ride was nice and pleasant with a great view of the surrounding environment. We could also see the giant Buddha statue from there. It seems that Ngong Ping was actually a small island and that the Tung Chung station was near the airport. The ride took around 25 minutes before we finally reached Ngong Ping proper. Upon descending from the cable car, a few uniformed employees greeted us selling souvenirs with our pictures on them.

When we finally got to Ngong Ping, which was just outside the cable car station, we discovered that it was a tiny village that looked a lot like the kind of Chinese Village you’d see in the Once Upon A Time In China films. There were various small attractions designed especially for tourists such as a greenscreen make your own movie booth, several souvenir shops and at least two restaurants.

It was nice and cool and despite there being a good amount of tourists, it didn’t really feel all that crowded. We took a few photos left and right and I even got to pose as Bruce Lee in one of the cardboard cut-out promo materials. There was also a film being shown inside one of the houses called “Walking With Buddha,” but we decided to skip that one since we had come to Ngong Ping to actually experience the sights and not watch some documentary.
As a side note: I actually DO know how to use nunchaku. Video because it did happen:

Checking my watch, it was almost 2:00 PM. The village opened a path to a wider area that led to the Buddhist temple and to the left was the path to the giant Buddha. We saw a street vendor selling some kind of Chinese waffles and decided to try one.

There were several benches scattered throughout the area since it was wide and open in the path past the village houses that led to the Buddhist temples. We chose an empty bench and sat down to eat some of the pastries that we’d bought from the bakery earlier along with the Chinese waffle.

The waffle was nice and crunchy with some kind of sweet filling what I thought were just empty air bubbles at first. It looked yellowish, so I presume that it was custard.

After we were done with our snacks, we decided to go up to the Giant Buddha first. Upon arrival at the entrance, we discovered that it was a very long walk upstairs – possibly 20 flights of 30-40 steps each. This is just a rough estimate and I’m sure you can find more accurate info on this if you actually look it up. Actually, the walk upstairs reminded me a lot of some Touhou stages.

We had to stop every two flights of stairs since my mother has a heart condition, but after around 20 minutes, we finally made it all the way up.

There were dozens of people taking pictures of all the sights there – and there were a lot of them. You could see the landscape below, the very grand giant Buddha, and then the several smaller statues at the four diagonal sides of the Buddha starting from the entrance.

There was a souvenir shop inside the building on which the Giant Buddha was sitting on as well.

Once we were satisfied that we’d seen everything there was to see there, we made our way down. Fortunately, descending from the Giant Buddha’s temple was much easier than going up to it.

It was about 3:45 PM now. My mother suggested that we make our way back to the cable car, but I saw that there was one more place we hadn’t visited – the Buddhist temples. We made our way to that area and it was a really pleasant place.

Despite all the souvenir shops and tourist accommodations purposely placed there, you could still feel a solemn air to the place – even though I’m about as un-religious as they come. The Buddhist temples were positioned sort of like what you’d see in affluent Japanese mansions in anime. There were several buildings and one central building and there was a sort of park just outside where there were several incense-burning pots. Unlike the Taoist temples in Cebu, they actually allowed tourists to take pictures inside the temples – although flash photography and noise was discouraged.

I took several pictures of the different statues they had – they were mostly golden in color and I wouldn’t be surprised if they were actually gold-plated, or perhaps even pure bronze.

Having toured the entire area, it was now time to go back – and it was just about time since it was approaching 5:00 PM. We stopped by a souvenir shop on the way back and my mother bought a red delicious apple for 4 HKD and I got a bamboo katana for 28 HKD.

We made our way back to the cable car and because of the rush of people going back to the Tung Chung station, we had to share a cable car with two Caucasian couples. I could tell that the taller, middle-aged ones were British from the way they spoke, but the two younger ones (looked younger than me, actually) spoke some kind of non-English European language.

It was quite cold inside the cable car and my mother was shivering as well as the two British passengers. The younger Caucasian couple didn’t seem to mind at all – which leads me to believe that they’re from Finland (a little in-joke there. I’m sure those of you who know me caught that one.)
My mother struck up a short conversation with the British couple and talked about the line with a stream of small flashing lights right next to the cable car and how she was perplexed at what they were for. The guy said that they’re probably for the planes – which made perfect sense, since the cable car lines actually ran along the airport strip.

After about a 15-minute ride, we were back at the cable car station. We entered the Gateway mall that we’d seen earlier and discovered that it was really a shopper’s paradise – if you like branded items that is. The mall basically consisted of factory outlet shops for just about every brand you could think of from Prada to Louis Vuitton, Adidas, and Coach.

In any case, it was already getting close to 6:00 PM, so we decided to have an early dinner in there so that we could go straight home after visiting the night markets on our way back.

Once again, dinner was at McDonald’s inside the Gateway mall and this branch was quite a bit more crowded than usual, although we still found a place to sit. I could tell my mother didn’t find the food at McDonald’s all that appetizing since that’s all we’ve been basically having since we got to Hong Kong. In fact, I could tell that she’d lost quite a bit of weight in the 2.5 days that we’d spent here.

After dinner, we took a short walk around the shops and I asked my mother if she wanted me to buy her birthday present here, but she refused after taking a look at the prices. In general, you can expect the prices in Hong Kong – even for the factory outlets to be at least 500 pesos more at the minimum than what you can get the same item for in the Philippines.

Finally, it was time to return to the train station and stop off at Mongkok for the night market. My mother was a bit tired at this point considering the trip to the Giant Buddha, so we decided to just see the Mongkok night market instead of visiting all the other night markets on the way back as we’d originally planned. We actually had to find the train station again from the mall, but thankfully, the signs are very easy to read in Hong Kong.

We made it without a hitch to the train station and it was already about 7:00 PM by then. It was good timing since the night markets were apparently most active at 7:00 PM and up. We got off at Mongkok on the red line at about 7:20 and from there, we had to find the night market on foot. I saw what looked like an appliance store that also sold video games and we went inside. I was hoping to find some cheap PS Vita games since the Asian PSN is based in Hong Kong after all. Unfortunately, the shop only sold Xbox 360 games. We exited from a different side of the store and then suddenly, we found ourselves smack dab in the middle of the Umbrella Revolution with people in tents with umbrellas on top lined up in droves – no kidding.

We retraced our steps a bit and finally, we’d found the Mongkok night market. Basically, it was an outdoor row of stalls like the kind you’d find at Divisoria in the Philippines. In fact, they even sold very similar items such as “I Love Hong Kong” shirts, sets of keychains, umbrellas with samurai and gun handles, flashlights, survival equipment and fake branded shoes and bags.  Basically, they sold stuff that you’d most likely find at
My mother was interested in a set of keychains but found that the price was too high at 100 HKD a set. Just when we had walked about two stalls away, the vendor called us back and tried to negotiate a good price with us. My mother is pretty hard to convince however, so we went our way. We’d soon discover that this was how the vendors here operated. They always expected you to turn down the initial price, so they’d call you back and try to get you to agree on a lesser price once you try to walk away.

The night market was set up in one line from start to finish and the train station entrance was actually at the very center, so we had no fear of getting lost there. Also, the umbrella revolution was located at the end of the night market just left of the train station entrance.

I found only one place selling anime-related goods there and was quite disappointed to see that they sold nothing but bootlegs with anime figures painted even worse than what you’d normally find at Comic Alley in the Philippines. Still, they sure had a lot of Miku-related items – that’s a plus, I suppose. I was almost tempted to get a Miku wall scroll, but decided against it considering that it would only add more bulk to the already considerable amount of luggage we had to take back to the Philippnes.

There were actually lots of Filipinos browsing the goods there. It was easy to tell since they were speaking in Tagalog. The night market vendors themselves could actually speak in simple Tagalog.

After some bit of haggling with a particular stall, my mother finally settled for 7 “I Love Hong Kong” shirts at about 80 HKD. It was a good price actually. She also bought a set of keychains for the same price.

With that out of the way, we were both tired, so it was time to go back to the Hostel. It was already about 9:30 by the time we got back to the Chung King Mansion at Tsim Sha Tsui via subway. Fortunately, Tomorrow would be our last day at Hong Kong and we’d already reserved it for a trip to Macau. Over-all, the Ngong Ping trip was quite a refreshing break from the excitement of HK Disneyland although the Mongkok night market wasn’t as impressive as it was hyped up to be.

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