Tag Archives: Hong Kong Travel

An Island Experience in Cheung Chau

If you are like me who grew up watching Hong Kong TVB Cantonese drama series, undoubtedly you would have come cross the name of the place “Cheung Chau“. Ever since I have moved to Hong Kong, more than twenty years after my TVB-influenced childhood days, I had always wanted to visit this island, one of the very few inhabited outlying islands of Hong Kong.

Today was the day I made my own wish come true.

The Streets of Cheung Chau

Cheung Chau may look tiny on Hong Kong map, but it has far more to offer than it appears. With coastal trails, beaches, small rural valleys and temple-dotted villages, Cheung Chau boasts plenty to see and do in a day; and plenty to eat once you have seen and done.

The Fishing Village at Cheung Chau

After a 45-minute journey from Central Ferry Pier No. 5 (costing some HKD12), I arrived at Cheung Chang at 10 a.m. in the morning. From afar, the waterfront of Cheung Chau looked like something out of an European postcard. Quaint-looking buildings lined the waterfront, while multi-colored fishing boats bobbed up and down with the gentle waves.

San Hing Praya Street, Cheung Chau

You’ll hit the main street of Cheung Chau, simply known as the Praya, once you come out from the ferry pier. From here I turned left, walking along the waterfront being snap-happy (Cheung Chau is among the last fishing communities in Hong Kong, and is definitely the largest) towards my first destination, which was some 200 metres away.

At Pak Tai Temple, Cheung Chau

Pak Tai Temple is the oldest temple in Cheung Chau. Every April/May, this temple is the focus of the annual Cheung Chau Bun Festival, which is a dedication to the Taoist deity Pak Tai, translated as the “Supreme Emperor of the Dark Heaven”.

At Pak Tai Temple, Cheung Chau

Legend has it that the early settlers of Cheung Chau brought an image of Pak Tai with them from Guang Dong. When the statue was carried through the village, Cheung Chau was spared the plague that has decimated the populations of nearby island. The temple was a dedication to the deity, built some years after the incident.

Tricycle for Rent in Cheung Chau

From here, you can approach one of the smaller shops in front of the temple to rent a bicycle. I rented one (no, not the tricycle above, but that would have been fun!) which I rode the whole time I was in Cheung Chau. It was HKD10 for an hour, HKD15 for two, and HKD20 for unlimited ride until 6 p.m. I think the rate is much cheaper than those touts along the waterfront. Do note, though, that you are not allowed to ride the bike at the ferry pier area and along the beaches from 12 p.m. on Saturday to midnight Sunday.

Northern Part of Cheung Chau

To my immense enjoyment, I do remember how to ride a bicycle (hehe) and the trails around Cheung Chau is definitely easy. Oh, did I mention that no cars or motorbikes are allowed on the island? Which is not surprising, considering the narrow alleyways and crowded side walk that made up the roads of Cheung Chau. Save for one police car, one ambulance and one fire engine (all mini-sized, and yes I saw all of them), the roads were free from annoying horns and traffic jam. What a relief.

Cheung Chau Tung Wan Beach

Without much effort, I hit the Tung Wan Beach, which is definitely the most popular strip of beach in Cheung Chau though far from being pristine. From the coastline, I can see the Kwun Yam Beach (also called the Afternoon Beach) and the one large hotel on the island, Warwick Hotel. From here I also get to see some windsurfers – apparently this was where Hong Kong’s only Olympic gold medalist was born and trained.

Really, Cheung Chau is so small that within an hour you can literally get everything within sight, even if you didn’t get to visit them one by one.

A Break at Tung Wan Beach

By then, the sun was scorching hot and I can feel my back was drenched with sweat. Time for a break, and what else would be a better choice than ice cold beer! This bottle of Heineken cost me a mere HKD22. I was a happy boy sipping on the deliciously cold beer while watching athletic looking folks running up and down the beach. Nuts, I called them, but damn their tan looked good.

Signboards at Cheung Chau

From here, I cycled back towards the main street of Cheung Chau in search for the venerable Banyan Tree, supposed located at Tung Wan Road although I didn’t managed to find it. The tree was so revered by the islanders that in recent years a restaurant opposite was knocked down instead of the tree to make way for a road extension.

The Town of Sai Wan

Moving southwards, I cycled my way towards the small “town” of Sai Wan… if you can call a collection of short buildings and a small sampan pier a town. This is where the famous Cheung Po Tsai Cave and the Reclining Rock are located at.

The Reclining Rock of Cheung Chau

The trail towards this spot is uphill, so I had to leave my bicycle behind. By then I was severely sunburnt and half wishing for another bottle of beer. But I pushed on, climbed the steep trail… only to be faced with a daunting-looking stairs leading downwards into some forest, where the reclining rock is supposed to be at. I took one look at the weed-infested stairs, and moved on.

The Cheung Po Tsai Trail

The Cheung Po Tsai trail is another 150 metres away from the reclining rock. The walk was not that unpleasant despite the scorching weather, what with the public toilet (ah, water, I love ya!) and family picnic area (deserted, of course). The sea view from this high vista is pretty lovely. And so I took the trail eager for some cave action…

At Cheung Po Tsai Cave

… only to be confronted by this dismal sight. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the Cheung Po Tsai cave. Said to be the favorite hiding place for the notorious pirate Cheung Po Tsai, the cave is nothing more than a hole in the rock. Not sure if you can climb in – apparently you can rent torches from somewhere – but I am not going in there. Sore with disappointment, I made my way back to my bicycle and rode as quickly as possible back to the Praya for food.

Yes, I was starving! :D

New Baccarat Seafood Restaurant

There are many seafood restaurants lined up the waterfront near the Praya. The usual rule of thumb applies – look at where the locals are dining at. Also for Cheung Chau, where the islanders take their seafood very seriously, never ever order from a set menu. The cheaper price means frozen seafood, which is a far cry from the fresh, swimming variety in tanks. Pay a bit more for superior quality. In my case, I choose the way further away from the pier, a charming little place called New Baccarat Seafood Restaurant.

Steamed Fresh Fish - HK$100

Don’t be daunted by the Chinese menu; there’s an English version, just ask for it. This streamed fresh fish cost HKD100 and was pretty good. Not fantastic, but good enough I am not complaining on the price. Actually the prices here are pretty similar from one stall to another. You can check by looking at their displayed menu at the store front.

Deep Fried Squid with Special Sauce - HK$48

This deep fried squid was worth every penny. At HKD48, it is crunchy without making your lips oiled all over, and the meat was fresh, succulent and juicy. This was served with a special kind of salt and soya sauce. Use them sparingly; a little too much of these might spoil the taste.

Stir Fried Spinach with Shrimp Paste - HK$35

Shrimp paste is yet another specialty of Cheung Chau, and I just have to order a third dish. This stir fried spinach is pretty good but the portion is just too huge… or maybe I should have the sense not to order the dishes for one person. LOL. The vegetable dish, good for two meals, was priced at HKD35.

After such a satisfying meal, it was close to one p.m. Yes, because of the scorching weather, I only managed to last all of three hours on Cheung Chau. Nevertheless, I think I have seen most of what this island has to offer, and for a return visit I will definitely NOT do so during summer, and to come with friends for the company.

Deluxe Class in First Ferry

Oh, on the way back I took the First Ferry. There are two types of ferries servicing the Central – Cheung Chau route. The fast ferry is not airconditioned but will shorten your journey 15 minutes. The ordinary ferry will take 45 minutes and you have choice for either a general class, or deluxe class. I went for the Deluxe Class, of course, which cost a mere HKD18 for the trip back to Central.

Now excuse me while I go nurse my sunburnt :(

Click here for the full set of photos I took at Cheung Chau today.

Virgin Trip to Macau

When someone says Macau, what does that bring to your mind? Perhaps it was the glittering streets peppered with countless casinos. Some swear by its incredible fusion of (and inexpensive) Chinese and Portuguese food. Or maybe, just maybe, one’s memory will be of those seedy little shops with bright facade advertising massages at incredible rate, but often with hidden price for a “happy ending”.

For me, Macau equals to all these, and more.

Inside Turbojet Ferry from Sheung Wan to Macau

It was my virgin to Macau, a 45 minutes ride from Hong Kong by ferry. Incredibly, the terminal where we were to board the ferry was a mere 5-minutes walk from my house. It was a work-trip, a workshop for the Classified team, and I was invited as “guest”.

Views of Macau from Sofitel Hotel

The workshop took place from Saturday morning right to Sunday afternoon. The group of some 30 of us stayed at Sofitel Macau, an incredible hotel which was so luxurious I swear that I will never be able to afford one of such on my own. The bedroom, the conference room, the bathroom… everything was so well adorned I felt like a king for all of 1.5 days.

The Street of Macau at Night

On Saturday night, of course we spent the evening out trawling the confusing streets of Macau. After a wonderful dinner, some of us went out in search of a “decent” massage parlour. Without really realising it, we walked for more than an hour from the restaurant to the massage parlour. The walk was tiring, but I relished it because of the sights of Macau. The youngsters walking in opposite direction as us towards the harbour to catch the firework display (apparently, Macau does this every weekend in the month of September), the peddlers selling authentic homemade ice cream only found in Macau… it was a great orientation to Macanese’ life.

The Street of Macau at Night

And so on to massage. Finally we found the place tucked in a building full of… err, bars fronted by ladies dressed with a tad too little to leave much for imagination. I was tempted to snap a pic, but that might spur them on to coax my colleagues and I for “some happy time”. LOL. Anyway, we paid good money for sauna and a 2-hour massage, which were a very relaxing experience. Food is provided. We were so relaxed that I almost felt asleep in the resting lounge. Maybe we were just too tired from the day’s activities and all the walking.

Typical SIghts of Macau

The next day, after another long workshop in the morning and hugely satisfying lunch at the hotel, we were free to do whatever we want. Most of my colleagues have been to Macau so many times the novelty must have worn off. So I went off on my own armed with my Lonely Planet (what else?) to explore the streets of Macau.

Ruins of The Church of St Paul, Macau

My first stop, of course, was the Ruins of The Church of St Paul, one of Macau’s most famous landmarks. The Ruins of St. Paul’s refer to the façade of what was originally the Cathedral of St. Paul, a 17th century Portuguese cathedral in Macau dedicated to Saint Paul the Apostle. In 2005, the Ruins of St. Paul were officially enlisted as part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Historic Centre of Macau. Built from 1582 to 1602 by the Jesuits, the cathedral was the largest Catholic church in Asia at the time, and the royalty of Europe vied with each other to bestow upon the cathedral the best gifts. With the decline in importance of Macau, which was overtaken as the main port for the Pearl River Delta by Hong Kong, the cathedral’s fortunes similarly ebbed, and it was destroyed by a fire during a typhoon in 1835. The Fortaleza do Monte overlooks the ruin.

Ruins of The Church of St Paul, Macau

The ruins now consist of the southern stone façade — intricately carved between 1620 and 1627 by Japanese Christians in exile from their homeland and local craftsmen under the direction of Italian Jesuit Carlo Spinola — and the crypts of the Jesuits who established and maintained the Cathedral. The façade sits on a small hill, with 66 stone steps leading up to it. The carvings include Jesuit images with Oriental themes, such as a woman stepping on a seven-headed hydra, described by Chinese characters as ‘ Holy Mother tramples the heads of the dragon’. A few of the other carvings are the founders of the Jesuit Order, the conquest of Death by Jesus, and at the very top, a dove with wings outstretched.

Musuem of Sacred Art at Ruins of The Church of St Paul

Resisting calls for the dangerously leaning structure to be demolished, from 1990 to 1995 the ruins were excavated under the auspices of the Instituto Cultural de Macau to study its historic past. The crypt and the foundations were uncovered, revealing the architectural plan of the building. Numerous religious artifacts were also found together with the relics of the Japanese Christian martyrs and the monastic clergy, including the founder of the Jesuit college in Macau, Father Alessandro Valignano. The ruins were restored by the Macanese government into a museum, and the facade is now buttressed with concrete and steel in a way which preserves the aesthetic integrity of the facade. A steel stairway allows tourists to climb up to the top of the facade from the rear. It is customary to throw coins into the top window of the ruins from the stairs, for luck.

The Crypt @ Ruins of The Church of St Paul

The Chapel-Crypt was built on the same location where once stood the main-altar of the Church of St. Paul’s College. In the centre, on top of the granite rock, there is a bronze cross that marks a tomb, probably belonging to the founder of the College, Father Alexandre Valignano. In the caskets embedded in the North Wall lie the mortal remains of both devotees and laymen, who were laid to rest in this church. Finally, in the glass fronted reliquaries along the side walls, there are mortal remains of the Martyrs of Japan and Vietnam.

View of the Ruins of The Church of St Paul

From the ruins, I tried to find my ways to my next destination, but being the total map klutz that I was, of course I lost my way. In the process I got distracted by some very interesting sights of Macau, like this beautiful, pastel-coloured street right beside the ruin. It looked like something right out from an European postcard.

Cute Pink Scooter in Macau

And this oh-so-cute pink scooter. I would want one myself if not for the dangerous streets of Hong Kong!

Macau Beer from the Macau Soul

The afternoon was scorching hot and I was perspiring profusely, so you can imagine how relieved I was to have found a dainty looking cafe called Macau Soul along the many streets near the ruins. Did you know Macau has its own brew of beer? It tasted absolutely delicious, and it’s not only because of the weather. The beer was really good, and I wondered why it wasn’t marketed widely, like in Hong Kong at least. Macau Soul itself was run by a foreigner couple, who was so nice to me despite that I only bought a pint of beer. Definitely worth a visit if you are in town – check out their website.

Cannons @ Monte Forte

After some more walking, I finally managed to find the way to my next destination. Monte Forte was once a principal military facility and was one of the city’s strongest defence points. In the centre of the top platform, there was a 3-storey tower fitted with cannons on each floor. There were four rows of houses that served as military barracks close by. The Fortress was also equipped with wells and an arsenal that held sufficient ammunition and supplies to survive a siege lasting up to two years. The site also served as the residence of the first Portuguese governor, D. Francisco de Mascarenhas.

Monte Forte

Tucked in a corner with a winding staircase winding down was a tiny museum detailing the construction and preservation of Monte Fort. Unless you are really into this sort of history, the museum would otherwise serve as a pretty good refuge from the scorching sun. The aircond was at full blast and I was the only visitor.

Church of St Dominic

Leaving Monte Fort, I made my way to the main square of Macau (I can’t remember the name) to visit one of its more famous churches, the Church of St. Dominic.

Church of St Dominic

A fine example of eccelesiastical baroque architecture, this imposing church now contains the Treasury of Art (Treasouro de Arte Sacra, admission free), an Aladdin’s cave of ecclesiastical art and lirtugircal object in three floors.

Church of St Dominic

I hate it when tourists don’t respect the sanctuary of churches and keep using flash in their photography. There were plenty of such ignorant tourists flashing away in total disregard to the worshipers in the church.

Inside Turbojet Ferry from Sheung Wan to Macau

After the church, it was 5 plus in the afternoon, and I was totally beat. Although I have a 9.15 p.m. ferry ticket to go back to HK, I went off to the ferry terminal anyway in hope of catching an earlier ferry. Ended up I needed to queue for almost an hour, but the relief of reaching Hong Kon three hours earlier than planned was a relief after such a long weekend.

The Cobbled Street of Macau

So will I ever return to Macau again? I am not really a casino person. Sight seeing is more of my thing, but I don’t think Macau has that much to offer. Macau is to Hong Kong what Batam is like to Singapore; a quick, inexpensive getaway from the city, perhaps for the weekend. I could do that, but for now I should concentrate on planning for my three trips by year end :)

Click here for the full set of photos I took over my virgin weekend in Macau.

A Tsuen Wan Experience

Tsuen Wan has been my home for the past three months, and during my entire time here I didn’t explore the various attractions this Cantonese district has to offer. Soon, it was my last weekend in the eastern district of New Territories. Armed with my faithful Lonely Planet, I set out for a day out around the area.

The day started off with some fuel for the stomach. With Joshua as my awesome companion for the morning (thanks dude), we set off to look for my favourite Hong Kong – the dim sum.

Dim Sum @ Tsuen Wan

If you are like me, who is unsure of where the best food is, here’s a hint; those cafe located away from the main street and nestled in the second floor of low rise buildings would be your better bet. This traditional Chinese restaurant – complete with China teapot and bustling trolleys – offered dim sum that were so yummy, it was only at Joshua’s restraint that I stopped at my second round.

My first time on HK mini bus!

After breakfast, Joshua has convinced to embark on my excursion using a mode of transport in Hong Kong that I never tried before, the mini bus! The experience was much better and safer that I thought. In fact it was more comfortable the shuttle bus offered by the hotel I was staying at. For a mere HKD4 the bus took me up the hill to my first destination.

Yuen Yuen Institute

The Yuen Yuen Institute is located on hectares of land around Sam Dip Tam, Tsuen Wan District in the New Territories. The area is interspersed with temples pavilions, monasteries and halls for various purposes.

Yuen Yuen Institute

It is the only temple in Hong Kong dedicated to all three major Chinese religions: Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism. The first three Chinese characters of the Institute’s name denote the essence of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism respectively, so as to advocate the integration and realization of the three religions’ teachings.

Yuen Yuen Institute

The main building at the Institute is a replica of the Temple of Heaven (Tian Tan) in Beijing. During my visit, the temple was quite packed with weekend worshipers, though I managed to brave the crowd and absurd humidity to spend close to an hour there, before making my way to the next spot.

Sign post pointing towards Western Monastery & Yuen Yuen Institute

A short distance down from the Yuen Yuen Institute, the Buddhist Western Monastery offers a sharp contrast to what’s going on up the hill. This is a tranquil complex in which to pass the time, observing points of interest both architectural and spiritual.

The Western Monastery

After being greeted by a Bodhisattva statue in the entrance, the main building lies behind, styled as a classical Chinese palace.

The Western Monastery

This comprises of the Hall of Maitreya and the Great Buddha’s Hall above it. Further behind is a another two storey building where, depending on what time of day you visit, you may witness scores of monks chanting mantras.

The Western Monastery

This building is topped by a spectacular nine-storey pagoda. You are not able to climb up the structure, but a visit inside the pagoda itself will leave you all perplexed about Buddhism and Hinduism. I didn’t realise how similar these two religions are. Perhaps I am wrong, and if so, I apologise to my Buddhist and Hindu readers.

Sam Tung Uk Museum

After a meal at my favorite Japanese restaurant at Luk Yeung Galleria (coincidentally my last at that place), I walked a very short distance from the hub of town activities to Sam Tung Uk, which means “three pillar house” in Cantonese. The proximity of this heritage site to the MTR station caught me by surprise; I must have passed this place a hundred time during my stay there, but yet I didn’t think of it as a place of significance. How uninformed I was.

Sam Tung Uk Museum

Sam Tung Uk was built by a Chan clan under the leadership of the clan patriarch, Chan Yam-shing, in 1786 (during the reign of Emperor Qianlong). The Chan clan was originally from Fujian; they had moved to Guangdong, and then to Hong Kong to engage in farming. The site has been carefully restored and opened to the public as a museum.

Sam Tung Uk Museum

The entrance, assembly and ancestral halls, and twelve of the original houses are preserved. Other rooms have been modified to accommodate a reception area, an orientation room, an exhibition hall, a museum office, and a lecture theatre.

It was here that I fully grasped the heritage of my ancestors, who are from the Hakka clan in China.

Waterfront along Castle Peak Road - Ting Kau

From the museum, I decided to hike my way back to my hotel, going past the beautiful waterfront along Castle Peak Road and Approach Beach. Usually the journey takes about 10 mins by shuttle bus; and to my horror that afternoon, it took me a good two hours to walk back under the scorching sun.

Nevertheless, I am glad that I have made the journey, and these memories will remain with me.

Waterfront along Castle Peak Road - Ting Kau

Approach Beach, Ting Kau

Approach Beach, Ting Kau

Royal View Hotel & Ting Kau Bridge

So, will I be back to Tsuen Wan again? I would think I have a good reason too… but lately I start to feel that reason is drifting further and further away from me.

Click here for the full set of photos I took at Tsuen Wan on that day.

A Saturday Excursion to Lantau Island

Over the weekend one of my BFFs came over to Hong Kong for a visit. I left the planning to her, and to my surprise she wanted to visit Lantau Island, a place I had always vowed to go but never did.

Lantau is a Cantonese word that means “broken head”, but Chinese call Hong Kong’s largest island Tai Yue San (Big Island Mountain), a name that refers both to its size and elevation.

Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car - Crystal Cabin

(Actually, “Lantau” also means something else in Cantonese, but I am too much of a good boy to explain it here, hehe.)

Our original plan was to visit the island at noon, but due to some mishap (a distressing combination of failed telco connection, excessive shopping, late sleep in and general miscommunication), we spent hours trying to get our troop together, during which Cheryl was evidently getting more and more anxious by the minute.

Enroute to Lantau Island

Nevertheless yours truly managed to elicit a smile from her for the camera, even while she was frantically trying to reach out to her travelmates at the end point of the MTR line, at the Tung Chung station. This is the point where we were to board the cable car up to the peak of Lantau Island.

At Tung Chung MTR

The 5.7 km Ngong Ping 360 is a cable car system linking Ngong Ping with the centre of Tung Chung, where the MTR station is located at. The two of us bought the most expensive package, which include a return trip in a crystal cabin and entry to some shoes at Ngong Ping.

Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car

So, what is a crystal cabin?

Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car - Crystal Cabin

You got it right – it’s a glass-bottomed cabin! Those close to me will know I am terrified by heights, so it was a downright reckless decision for me to even consider boarding this cabin. But board I did, and to be honest, the ride up wasn’t as terrifying as the ride down. The floor cabin felt fake somehow, like a large LCD display.

The scenery on the way up was amazing. We saw the famous Lantau Trail, which takes hours to hike from the Ngong Ping plateau to the peak of Ngong Ping Village. Every now and then we also saw some lone tombs (perhaps of famous people) which were reasonably well kept. They made me wonder, how on earth the relatives of the deceased come to visit every year? There was no visible trail, no flat ground for helipad of any sort… that remains a mystery to us.

Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car - Crystal Cabin

Finally we reached the upper cable car station is the 1.5-hectare Ngong Ping Village, just west of the Po Lin Monastery complex (under renovation during our visit) and includes several themed attractions; Walking with Buddha and the Monkey’s Tale Theatre. These were included in our package but due to the short time we had for the trip, we couldn’t make it for either shows.

At Ngong Ping Village

To be honest, I found that Ngong Ping Village is a perplexing mix of Chinese architecture with Western modernity. Although the buildings were definitely oriental, the shops are not. You get to see some Western cafe, popcorn stall, even a Starbucks. Which kind of a bummer for those looking for an authentic Chinese experience, especially with the gigantic Buddha statue nearby.

At Ngong Ping Village

On the hill above the monastery sits the Tian Tan Buddha, a seated representation of Lord Gautama some 23 m high (or 26.4m with the lotus or just under 34 m if you include the podium). There are bigger Buddha status elsewhere, but apparently these are not seated, outdoors or made of bronze.

Tian Tan Buddha Statue at Ngong Ping Village

It weighs 202 tonnes, by the way. The large bell within the Buddha (in which you are not allowed to take photos) is controlled by computer and rings 108 times during the day to symbolise escape from what Buddhism terms the ’108 troubles of mankind’.

Tian Tan Buddha Statue at Ngong Ping Village

The podium is composed of separate chambers on three different levels. In the first level are the six statues of Bodhisattvas, each of which weights around two tonnes.

Statues of Bodhisattvas at the Tian Tan Buddha

On the second level is a small museum containing oil paintings and ceramic plaques of the Buddha’s life and teachings. No photography is allowed at the museum. Entry is free if you eat at the monastery’s vegetarian restaurant, Po Lin Vegetarian Restaurant. However, you can also opt for a cheaper ticket which allows you some vegetarian snacks (redeemable at the monastery at the foot of the hill), or exchange it for a bottle of water and an ice cream of your choice.

Tian Tan Buddha Statue at Ngong Ping Village

Cheryl and I opted for the later, of course. The weather was scorching hot, and the climb was decidedly arduous. However, it’s well worth climbing the 260 steps for a closer look at the statue and surrounding views, which was breathtaking for city dwellers like us.

Tian Tan Buddha Statue at Ngong Ping Village

After such an exhausting hike, Cheryl and I made our way down the hill and made a beeline to Ngong Ping Tea House for some authentic tea cultural experience, of which we were not disappointed.

Tea House at Ngong Ping Village

Okay, not to say I am not a cultured person, but I do think one has to go through a lot of trouble just for a tiny cup of tea.

Like Cheryl said, we should have culture with convenience. LOL.

That marks the end of our excursion to Lantau. How much did I spend? Well, we spent about HKD290 for the cable car package, about HKD50 for entry to the Tian Tan Buddha exhibition hall, and another HKD100 for the experience at tea house.

A bit steep, you say? Well, here’s a recommendation for you:

"Budget Cabin" at Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car

The budget cabin! Just make sure you remain perfectly stationary during the 25 minutes ride, failing which the fall will not make a pleasant experience…

… I am joking of course. The said “cabin” is probably for some maintenance work, but it cracked us up nonetheless.

Click here for the full set of photos of Cheryl’s trip to Hong Kong. Hope you had a blast, girl… and thanks for listening to my endless problems. I told you, your turn will come! Hehe.

Magical Day Trip to Hong Kong Disneyland

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(This is a backdated post on my visit to HK Disneyland on 19th July 2008)

Despite my previous visits to Hong Kong, both on business and personal basis, I have never visited Hong Kong Disneyland. Usually that’s because my business trips were never over a weekend when I would have the time to pay a visit.

My last trip to HK allowed me one weekend in Hong Kong, and of course I jumped at the chance to whisk myself (via HK super efficient MTR, of course) to a magical ride in Hong Kong Disneyland. At first, the weather seems rather unforgiving. Dark clouds were rolling across the horizon. Needless to say, I was rather disheartened, but soon after around noon the sky cleared.

So I headed out. The journey from where I was took about 45 minutes by train. Your magical experience begins right in the Disney train!

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The last photo is of me trying to catch myself in action. It is kinda sad travelling on alone :(

The station itself is situated some 100 m away from the main entrance, but the pathway was designed to excite you. You are entering the realm of Disney! Music was blasting from the lamp posts, each designed around a particular cartoon show. I was grinning like a mad man as I made my way towards the ticketing booth.

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So I bought myself an adult ticket at HKD350 (that’s about S$70). The queue was quick – I was kinda expecting a huge crowd considering it was over the weekend and a summer holiday – and the courteous staff quickly directed me to the nearest counter. One thing I noted was that almost all the theme park staff were youngsters. It must be a holiday job for them. And the attire they donned were tastefully designed. I was expecting something… tacky, knowing it’s HK/Chinese and all. LOL.

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My first stop, naturally, was the Main Street USA. I noticed that “Disney on Parade” will be on about 1 p.m., and it will take place at this section of Disneyland. Of all the sections here (there were four), this is my favorite. The buildings here are mainly shops, and the whole place was just infused by some kind of… festive spirit. Everyone was chatting, laughing, eating… general merriment. Eventhough I was on my old, I can’t help but got pulled into the festivities.

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Soon, the Disney on Parade got started! I simply loveeeee parades, especially the marching band. The Disney parade was a small one, but being a tight group their sound was fabulous… or maybe that’s just me drunken on excitement talking. LOL. I also got to see many, many Disney characters waving and cheering from colourful floats. It was really a great experience. Too bad the parade was really short. It was over in less than 15 minutes. They should really call it Disney on a Short Parade.

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The weather was scorching hot! I was perspiring profusely throughout the whole thing. Right after the parade, I bought some mineral water and headed to my next destination, the Adventureland.

The Adventureland emphasis on action and (of course) adventure. So characters like Lion King and Tarzan were featured prominently. Most visitors to this section will be undoubtedly attracted to the Festival of the Lion King, a half-hour show depicting the story of Simba by a superb cast. It was a spectacular performances, complete with duo-language script and animated props. Towards the end of the show, I teared shamelessly to the song of “Can You Feel The Love Tonight”. I know, I know, I am a hopeless romantic.

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Two more clips from the “Festival of the Lion King” show here and here.

Another thing I realised about the crew of Disneyland here was that most of them seems to be foreigners. If I had to venture a guest, I would say many of them are from Philippines. Hmmm… perhaps an idea for our own Resorts World.

After that, I rushed over to Fantasyland to catch some shows here. Fantasyland, as its name suggests, is a whole section dedicated to the world of Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Cinderella, and the like. The games/rides here were very much catered to the kids. Well, to be honest… even if they were adult rides, I would still not have taken them. I just think it is plain silly for me to take the rides alone.

As a result, I didn’t take any of the rides here in Disney during my trip here. So don’t ask me about them – it will only get me all sad!

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On to the shows. The first show I caught was PhilharMagic. The queue was supposed to be only 15 minutes, which means the shows will run for less than that, but God was the crowd huge! Everyone seems to be wanting a piece of this show.

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As you would have probably guessed from the last photo, PhilharMagic was a 3D show, hence the stupid looking specs everyone was holding. But lo and behold, the show was damn good! Basically it tells the story of Donald Duck chasing after Mickey’s conductor hat through familiar scenes of Disney favorites, like Beauty & the Beast and Aladdin. The shows literally jumped in front of you, making many of the audiences gasping and grabbing in delight. Whooshes of air and sprinkle of water made the show even more realistic. It was so good that I returned for a second round later that day :)

The second show I caught here was The Golden Mickeys, a make-believe Grammy Award show for the bestest in various categories among Disney characters. Another good show, very cabaret-like. In fact, I was surprised the quality of the whole thing. Yes, the Cantonese portion of things were kinda off, but overall it was very enjoyable.

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I took a couple of nice videos here of some of my favorite scenes – Beauty & the Beast, Mulan, Lilo & Stitch and Tarzan.

By that time the show ended, it was late in the afternoon, and my stomach was rumbling in protest. Decided to walk to Main Street USA for a bite, passing through Tomorrowland on the way. This section of the theme park focuses on space adventure and sci-fi. Sounds cool eh? I guess it was, for the rides, of which I didn’t take, so I found this whole section a big bore… though the impromptu percussion performance by these two “cleaners” captured my attention.

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After my very late lunch, I went off to catch the “High School Musical” show right in front of the entrance of Fantasyland. The show was highly colourful and well coordinated. Though I wasn’t a fan of the Disney series, my fellow spectators obviously were, so the whole experience was rather enjoyable. Especially the part when the cast invited kids to join in the dance moves. It was truly hilarious and heartwarming to see how the kids learned so fast, on the spot!

By this time my camera is already running flat on batteries, so most of the photos and videos beyond this point were taken using my trusty Nokia. So pardon the quality :)

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After the show, I didn’t have much plans to do anything else, except to catch the fireworks show later that night which was scheduled at 9 p.m. A good two hours away! So I walked around for a bit, before finally plonking down my ass at a perfect spot and wait.

Yes, I waited for close to two hours for the show to start, but it was worth it. “Disney in the Stars” was a spectacular show of lights, sound and effects against the backdrop of Fantasyland, the castle of Sleeping Beauty. By the time the show started, I estimated there were thousands of people gathered at the courtyard, ooh-ing and ahh-ing at the sight in front of them.

I managed to snap some videos of the show:

The show only lasted a mere 15 minutes. I was kinda disappointed, especially after such a long wait. By then I was feeling all washed after such a long day here, so I lost myself in the hordes of people heading to the train station.

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The full set of photos I took can be viewed here.

So was the trip to Disneyland Hong Kong worth it? You bet. It literally transported me into my fantasy of what a Disney world will be. Somehow it worked its magic to bring much smile and happiness to is guests like me. I know that the park in Hong Kong is very small and not as exciting as those in Tokyo and US… and I told myself, if I have the chance to visit these countries, I wil definitely make a point to go to their Disneylands.

Perhaps I should make a pact with myself to visit all of them and blog about my complete Disney experience. LOL.

I am mad, I know :P