Sunday, December 7, 2014

My 4-Day Trip To Hong Kong: Day 4

The final day of our trip to Hong Kong was set aside for a trip to Macau. We started with breakfast at Café De Coral at about 9:00 AM. After that, we went back to the hostel room and made sure that our passports were ready for the ferry trip.

Getting to the actual ferry terminal was a simple task since we’d already scouted out the area the day before. Once again, I led the way. This time, we found the street leading to the ferry terminal much faster. It was still about 15 minutes to get to the mall on which the ferry terminal was located on foot from the Chung King Mansions though.

We arrived at the mall by about 10:15 AM and we still had some time before we had to leave by around 11:30. After a short walk around the mall to see what it had to offer, we decided to buy our tickets early.

We chose one of many travel agency stalls which were located right next to the actual ticket terminals and bought two round trip tickets to and from Macau. The attendant told us that we could return at any time before the last boat leaves Macau at 10:30 PM, what we wouldn’t find out until later is that we were just chance passengers on any other timeslot before 10:30 and we had to catch our flight back to the Philippines at 2:00 AM later.

Anyway, we queued up for the 11:30 AM trip and got through customs and immigrations checks without a hitch. My mother was all excited about all the wonderful stuff we’d do at Macau including trying out the free samples of food and the free bus transportation there, but again, the skeptic in me kept telling me, “ideal vs. reality.” Yes, I’m cynical that way, but this is what life has brought me up to be after all.

The boat came at 11:30 AM as scheduled and once we found our seats, we were finally on our way to Macau… what I hadn’t bargained for is that it would be at last an hour and 15 minutes by boat between Macau and Hong Kong.

I’m very prone to motion sickness, so I was a bit dizzy after the trip, but I didn’t let on because my mother worries too much about these things.

Anyway, there was another custom security check after the boat ride, but all we really needed were our passports.

Outside of the Macau ferry terminal, we got some instructions from one of the ladies (at least I think it was a girl… could be a trap :D) promoting the different hotels and casinos and got on the free bus transportation to a place called The Venetian Macau.

Inside the bus, we got acquainted with a Filipino who was actually working at that place and he offered to give us a tour before he assumed his duties there.

After a 15-minute bus ride, we were finally at the Venetian Macau. It was a huge Hotel and Casino and was most definitely a 5-star hotel. It was also going to be the host of the Pacquiao vs Algieri fight and had promotional material of the fight all over. We couldn’t enter the actual Cotai Arena, but there was a replica ring with some promotional posters just outside of the West Lobby of the hotel.

Our volunteer guide took us to some food stalls where we could sample some of the pastries that they were selling. I wasn’t really into that kind of stuff, so I chose not to sample any although my mother tried out quite a few.

We cut through the Casino and I had to take out my passport because the guard was skeptical that I was over 21. Inside the Casino, our guide grabbed a few bottles of water for us and told us that it was free.

After that, we made our way to the indoor replica of Venice and the artificial clouds. They even had actual gondolas and oarsmen who sang as they took passengers across the artificial indoor river, which was about a kilometer long. Incidentally, our guide told us that we could ask them to let us ride for free if we wanted because the oarsmen were actually Filipinos. We decided to give it a pass since it wouldn’t be fair to the long line of customers queued up for the ride.

It seems people also liked to throw coins into the lake.  The river path was lined with brand-name shops to the left and right. Finally, we reached the food court area where our guide was working. We said our thanks and parted ways there.

Since we’d seen enough of The Venetian, we decided to go back to the West Lobby and ride the bus back to the ferry to see some other part of Macau.

The Venetian was so big that we got lost quite a few times before we finally found our way back to the bus stop. It was about 2:30 PM now. The traffic was quite dense during the bus ride back, so it took us about 30 minutes to get back to the ferry terminal. We still had some time before we planned to return to Hong Kong by about 5:30-6:00, so we asked for some instructions from a different set of Casino ladies this time – and one of them just happened to be a Filipina once again, and decided to go to the Grand Lisboa to see San Malo.

Grand Lisboa was just a short 5-minut ride from the ferry, se were already there by about 3:12 PM. Just like The Venetian, it was also a very large Hotel and Casino. We overheard some security guards speaking in Tagalog and asked for instructions from them on how to get to San Malo. We tried following their instructions at first, but quickly lost our bearings, so we decided to return to the Hotel to ask again. This time, another Filipino who wasn’t working there offered to take us along to San Malo.

We followed him as he took us a few blocks across the hotel to where San Malo was. It turned out to be some kind of thrift shop/market just like the Mongkok Night market. My mother decided that she wouldn’t be buying anything from there, so we just decided to try finding the Ruins of St. Paul. Unfortunately, the signs in Macau are not as clear-cut as they are in Hong Kong and they were either in Spanish or Chinese.

We ended up somehow hiking our way to the top of some kind of small hill that led to Macau’s Museum. At this point, my mother was too tired from the hike up to even traverse the stairs that actually led up to the museum. I decided to take a look at what was on top and I saw the ruins of St. Paul that we were looking for from there. It was actually quite a few blocks back from where we had walked.

It was already nearing 5:00 PM at this point however, so we decided to make the long walk back to the Grand Lisboa to catch the bus trip to the ferry terminal.

After a long, tiring walk back to the bus stop at the Grand Lisboa, we discovered that we needed to buy some kind of ticket to ride the bus from there, but we didn’t carry any Macau currency nor did we know where to even buy the tickets. The woman assisting the passengers there turned out to be a Filipino once again and she told us to just get on and that we didn’t need any tickets.

We made it just in the nick of time to catch the 6:00 ferry to Hong Kong from the Macau Terminal – at this point, my mother’s anxieties were rising and it was compounded even more by the fact that we had discovered that we were to be chance passengers on the boat. We could only ride if there were free seats since our tickets were booked for 10:30 PM.

The man who was queued up right behind us reassured my mother that we were very near the line so we’d definitely get seats there. She was very anxious at this point that we wouldn’t have enough time to prepare for our 2:30 AM flight back to Iloilo. The kind stranger turned out to be a Nepalese man who managed a business in Hong Kong as a resident there. He made some small talk with us, which served to calm my mother down.

Finally, it was our turn to take our seats and as the man had said, we made it for the 6:00 trip. The trip turned out to be a very rocky one. Since I was very prone to motion sickness, I had to concentrate all the time on making my breathing study and making sure that my eyes were focused on a single object all the time.

By the end of the rough trip that included several power fluctuations inside the boat, my hands were clammy and I could barely stand up, but I managed to prevent myself from throwing up… which I couldn’t say for the old man seated perpendicular to me who had to grab the barf bag.

Once again, we had to go through some customary security check, but were finally back in Hong Kong. We were once again inside the mall by 7:15. I suggested that we go back to the hostel room so I could rest up first and we could do some final checks before we went to the airport.

After walking back to our Hostel and a short rest, we went down to have dinner at about 8:30. This time, my mother was worried about which bus we should take on the way to the airport. We asked a few different people, including two policemen and they gave us different directions each time.

Worry was once again plastered all over my mother’s face. We went to have dinner at the same KFC from day two, but I ended up eating most of our orders up myself since my mother as too paranoid at this point that we might miss our flight – even though it was only about 9:00 PM. She saw a young man who had some distinctly Filipino facial features enter the restaurant and she asked him if he knew how to get to the airport. Unfortunately, it turns out he’d only been here for around 7 days and wasn’t really sure.

At this point, I knew I had to do something before my mother killed herself with anxiety, so I told her, “I didn’t buy anything for myself here in Hong Kong, right? So what we’re gonna do is we’re gonna reload our Octopus cards with 100 HKD each and we’re going to use those cards to take the airport express train from the subways so that we don’t have to worry about a thing. So for now, please enjoy your dinner.”

Of course, she still couldn’t eat much, but I definitely saw the fear and worry draining away from my mother’s face  as soon as what I’d said had dawned on her. She agreed with my suggestion, so we stopped by a 7-11 store on the way back and had our Octopus cards reloaded.

After going back to Chung King, we took our heavy luggage, checked out of the hostel and then made our way to the subways. It was only a few stops before the airport express and the airport express train itself was really nice. It had separate seats for everyone and even had a luggage area where you could stow away your luggage. The trip itself took about 45 minutes because we had to switch trains at least twice.

Finally, we’d made it to the airport terminal 2 (as it said on our tickets) by about 11:15 PM. We had to spend a little bit of time finding the check-in counter for the Cebu Pacific flight since there were hundreds of rows of check-in counters inside the airport.

We asked for directions from one of the airport employees and finally found the Check-In Counter for our flight. There was a medium-length line there and one could tell right away and we even got a little taste of “Pinoy” behavior during the queue when a middle-aged man tried to cut in line in front of my mother by pulling his cart in faster when a new check-in counter had just opened up and the employee motioned for my mother to line up there. Fortunately, the employee behind the counter told him that my mother was next in line and not him – much to his embarrassment.
They had to check our luggage and I have to admit that I was a bit worried when they said that they had to send my laptop through their scanners again for a re-check, but not really THAT worried since I’m pretty sure I’m not a drug courier.

After check-in, there was a very long walk that must’ve been at least 1.2 kilometers before we could get to gate 31 where our flight would be. Fortunately, the moving walkways made the trip much faster. We met up with the young couple that we had met in day one. We made small talk and shared our experiences in Hong Kong. It turns out that the Taxi Driver couldn’t figure out where they were staying in Jordan and just left them there in the middle of the street. Just like us, they also had to find a McDonald’s wherein they could wait the night out.

We had a pleasant time chatting about our experiences in HK (mostly my mother, actually) until it was time for our flight. They had to move the terminal from number 31 to 24 about 15 minutes before the flight.

I was still feeling a bit dizzy, so I once again had to concentrate 100% not to give in to the feeling for the 2 hour flight.

I had planned to buy some water when they started selling them later since I really needed a drink. My mother took out the apple that she’d bought at Ngong Ping and suggested that I take a bit just to moisturize my throat a bit – so I did.

At one point during the flight, I bought some water from the flight stewardess and the woman who had the seat next to my mother wanted to buy one too, but she only had a 1000-peso bill and they didn’t have any change, so I took out the loose change in Philippine pesos that I still had and bought one for her as well.

I was feeling very nauseous after the flight, but I was also relieved to be on solid ground wherein I could get up on my own two feet again. I felt the worst when I had to sit down and just endure the plane ride.

It turns out that they were monitoring for Ebola as part of the post-flight security check. We were the last in line because I took some time to catch my breath after the plane ride, but fortunately, we made it through without a hitch.

Outside the airport, my cousin was waiting to take us back home in the car. It was 5:00 AM.

Finally, this concludes the last portion of my 4-day trip to Hong Kong. It had its highs and lows, but over-all, it was a trip worth having and I really have to thank my sister for this opportunity to have our first trip outside of the Philippines.

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