This page is about the two islands of Asia/Pacific, Hongkong and the Philippines. These are the places that will be the starting topics of this page, for the following reasons: Philippines is my country; it is located in the Pacific Region, and it is part of one of the continents, Asia.
The Asian Continent comprises of several countries. It is the largest of the continents, and with more than 4 billion, the most populous. Asia is bound by the Pacific Ocean on the East, the Indian Ocean on the South, and by the Arctic Sea on the North. When one talks about "Asia", people think not only of the countries, but of the "Asian" culture.
Those countries are China, Japan, Thailand, Hongkong. But there is more to Asia than those countries. There are also countries like Iran and Iraq, who are known to be in the Middle East, but are also part of the Asian continent. To some people, "Asia" is not just a country, but a "culture". This article will explain further.
This Asian Guide
This Asian travel guide will cover some of my favorite countries in SouthEast Asia. That includes, the Islands of the Philippines, Hongkong, Thailand, and some islands in the Pacific. Very few people that I know are aware that some of the countries they thought of as Middle Eastern countries are actually part of Asia. That includes the countries of Afghanistan, Iraq, Brunei, Bangladesh, Kuwait,etc. So, Asia is huge. It is divided into several regions: Central Asia, Eastern Asia, Northern Asia, Southeast Asia, and Southern Asia. Hongkong is in Eastern Asia, the Philippines is one of the South East Asian countries.
Hongkong Airport - One of the Best - if not the BEST!
Hongkong, a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China, with a population of more than 7 million in less than 2,000 kilometers of land, is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Here are the descriptive words that I can use when I talk of Hongkong: beautiful, natural beauty, fun, classy, shopping, deals, diverse. I was awed by its beauty the first time and every time I visited.
As soon as you land at Hongkong's Airport (HKG), (Hongkong International Airport, also called Chek Lap Kok Airport), you will notice and feel a modern metropolis. combined with the old. You will immediately notice the large diversity of its people. When you walk from the gate to the immigration area (it is a long walk - be sure you have comfortable walking shoes), you will see signs of a modern metropolis. It does not seem like you are in an "Asian" country at all. Advertisements of trade shows all over, all are written in English. Hongkong's fashion can be seen in the advertisements, from the walls of the hallways of the airport, to the moving carts. It is no surprise. The Hongkong Trade Center is conveniently located at the Airport, and can be reached by train (located at the airport complex airport, and is even connected by a shuttle train Map Route of MTR Hongkong . After you pick up your luggage, turn to the left and you will see a very modern hotel attached to the airport, the Hongkong Regal Hotel. Tired from your trip, no problem. You can immediately check in to your hotel and after a little nap (if excitement can make you sleep), you can head over to the massage therapy rooms. You can smell, see and feel the scents of a relaxing mood even before you reach your room.
If you prefer to have dinner at your hotel the night that you arrive, you may do so, although, of course, it is more expensive. Not bad if you are there for business and the company pays for it, for you will be missing a lot. Hongkong's restaurants are as varied as its people.
But if you are staying in Hongkong for only a few days, it is for your benefit to explore the city. Hongkong is for exploration. The modern train system (MTR - cost for 24 hours is about 55HKG dollars(I paid about $9.00 USD the last time I was there) can take you to any cosmopolitan, natural wonders, or any discount shopping destinations. The train itself is a modern work of art. The LCD displays show you where you are, where you came from, and where you are going. If you are sitting on one side of the train, you will see the view of the mountains. On the other side, is a view of the ocean. So, anywhere you look, it is natural beauty.
If you prefer to take a taxi, you will notice that there are 3 kinds and colors of taxis: the green colored ones serve the new territories; the red ones serve the urban areas; and those on Lantau Island (where the airport is located) are colored blue. (I was watching the lone line of taxis and wondered what the colors meant. The different colored-taxis have their own parking lines - so the passengers are not confused what taxi to take where). Of course, if you are a tourist staying in a hotel, there is always the Information or Concierge Service that can help you decide. After a one day lay-over (it was actually a flight delay in Tokyo, I was so tired to explore the city when I got there that night). I decided to explore the city the next day.
Public Transportation from the Airport
I purchased a 24 hour MTR pass and decided to go where they told me I can purchase pearls (outside China proper). I got off near the Peninsula Hotel in the Tsim Ssa Tsui area. I had the perfect breakfast buffet and continued on to explore the long shopping street of Nathan St. I am surprised to see a number of foreigners, Americans, Europeans, and people from my country who are residents of Hongkong, living and working there. I was told that if I just explore the little streets off Nathan Road, I would be able to find some signs leading to pearl wholesalers. Well, there were too many distractions. I stopped at little vendor stalls and purchased silk purses, silk souvenirs, chatted with some Filipinos on how to migrate to Hongkong, etc. I purchased several items and they were heavy for me to carry on my search for the pearls. The vendors were nice (and I trusted them) enough to hold my purchases until I come back that evening from more shopping spree.
Looking for Pearls - Nathan Road
Here is a video of busy Nathan Road
Along Nathan Road, I found an electronics store selling computers, notebooks, etc. They were super sellers, I can say, for when I am done with their store, I ended up spending more than $1,000.00 for an Asus netbook and a notebook, and their accessories. I did more walking, I entered some tiny malls and small streets where I purchased some more souvenirs, oil paintings and souvenir items. I was not surprised that a lot of sellers there were Filipinos. Hongkong hires a lot of domestic helpers from the Philippines, and when I talked to these Filipinos, they prefer to be selling than doing domestic chores. One word of caution: do not purchase anything electronics in Hongkong unless you are really sure of what you are doing. I found out that Asus computers are not covered by warranty in the United States. I had to go back to Manila to have it repaired. (that was a learning experience)!
Be careful when you purchase electronics in Hongkong. The warranty in some of them are not covered here in the U.S. Here is a famous electronics store in Hongkong -
The Side Street Shops and Food
I love shopping outside the malls! There are real deals. Getting hungry, I went to a little alley where there were lots of tiny restaurants. I found a pasta restaurant, tiny, with about 10 tables and I ordered one of their gourmet pastas. You will not believe the huge serving! And the flavor. I paid about $7.00 USD for the huge portion (I was able to eat only 1/3), and that could cost more than $20.00 USD at my hotel.
I did not find the signs leading to the pearl wholesale stores but I found a couple of jewelry stores. They offered me some pearls which I thought were good deals. I was even given a certificate of authenticity. Later on, back home to the U.S., I examined the pearls and they were in bad shape. There were no many scratches. I paid about $50.00 USD for each strand. I believe they can be purchased for about $3.00.
I was waiting for my Pakistani friend, Tahir, to show up at the airport but he never made it to Hongkong. He knows a lot about the Hongkong markets and he should have been my guide to shopping for pearls. Well, may be next time.
Back in the U.S., I found out that I overpaid for the ASUS netbook that I purchased. (When am I going to learn a lesson?). My mom who works at Walmart could have purchased that for me for a dew hundred dollars less. So, buyers, beware! When you go to Hongkong to shop, be sure you have a local take you to the different shops and let him/her help you negotiate for the lowest price. Do not be like me. Well, I have to get even when I get back. I think I can find those stores again.
I stopped and stared at a mosque located on Nathan Road. Looks like it is a social gathering place for the Muslim males in Hongkong.
If you are thinking of visiting Hongkong in the near future, here is a very helpful website to visit: Travel Hong Kong Tourist Attractions
This site offers you an ultimate virtual guide on how to get there, to the Hong Kong attractions and where else you can go from there. Save your time and money to your HongKong journey; know before you go.
Flying into Hongkong
These airlines will bring you to Hongkong:
Cathay Pacific (flag carrier of Hongkong), Air Asia, Bangkok Airways, Thai Airways, Jet Airways, Royal Jordanian Airlines, Dragon Air, Northwest Airlines, Air Hongkong, Philippine Airlines, South African Airways, Uni-Air, AeroFlot, Air Canada, Air China, Air France, Air India, Air Mauritius, Air New Zealand,Air Niugini, Air Pacific, All Nippon Airways, Asiana Airlines, Biman Bangladesh Airlines, British Airways, Cebu Pacific, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Continental Airlines, El Al, Emirates Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines, Eva Air, Finnair, Garuda Indonesia, Japan Airlines, Kenya Airways, KLM, Korean Air, Lufthansa, Malaysia Airlines,
Mandarin Airlines, Nepal Airlines, Orient-Thai Airlines, Pakistan Intl Airlines, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Royal Brunei Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Shanghai Airlines, Sichuan Airlines, Singapore Airlines, SriLankan Airlines, Swiss International Airlines, Turkish Airlines, United Airlines, Vietnam Airlines, Virgin Atlantic Airways, Xiamen Airlines.
The Philippines is only 1 and a half hours away flight from Hongkong. There are several airline that serve this route. I have taken Philippine Airlines and Cathay Pacific. My experience with Philippine Airline is the best! At the airport, most of the airline agents are employees of an outsourcing agent (not by the airlines). I was told that this is very common in Hongkong. An airline there employs a few employees and are supplemented by a lot of vendor agents (outsourced from a different airline company).
The Philippine Airline flight that I took used a 747 aircraft (which is really wonderful because it is my favorite aircraft - so far anyway). As soon as you step on board the cabin, you will feel that extra happy feeling. I think it is the color of the interior - and the bold colors - that made the atmosphere like a "fiesta" atmosphere. Of course, the courteous and attentive flight attendants should be credited. They addressed me "po" and "opo", and made me feel welcome. "Po" and "opo" are very polite and respectful words to address any one.
When I checked in, the agents at the counter made sure that I had only one carry-on. Philippine Airline is very strict with this. I had one small carry on (roller-type), and a standard small carry-on but they did not allow that. I had to put the small bag inside the roller one. When I worked in San Francisco, I observed this kind of packing, unpacking in front of the Philippine Airline Counter. I believe the limit that they allow is no heavier that 25 pounds. Actually, that is very good that this airline monitors the carry-ons. The Filipino people, because of their generous and gift-giving traits, bring gift to all of their family members. and I have seen them carry more than two carry-ons on some flights. But what can I say - that is how Filipinos are. If you are familiar with the "Balikbayan" box - that is a 20 by 20 cardboard box that Filipinos (and now some countries) use to put gifts and other items whenever they come home to their countries. Balikbayan boxes was invented by the Filipinos!
Anyway, next time I fly from Hongkong to Manila, I will make sure to take the Philippine Airlines flight.