HK: Random Shots

I wanted to take lots of photos during this trip, since it’s our first trip abroad as a family. And to that end, I even got myself a decent camera. Hihi. 😀

Goofing around the train station
Super clean! It’s an old coach but look how spotless!

We found a nice little resto (sadly, I forgot the name) a few meters from our hotel which served yummy noodles and dimsum. And most importantly, chicken (the brat would not eat any other dish except if it has chicken)!

Soo cute. I still can’t believe this cute boy is mine. Hahaha. So cute several tourists would approach him and smile at him, and I would overhear some of them commenting how cute he is. I therefore conclude Joey’s cuteness is universal.

Loved this meal! I think it’s one of the best we had during this trip.

I didn’t get to shop (ridiculous, but true) but we did manage to get some trinkets at Disneyland (more out of necessity – had to buy the umbrella and rain coat since it was raining cats and dogs when we arrived, and had to buy the sunglasses for Joey on our last day). Our total purchases entitled us to get the cup and saucer at almost 70% off, so we got those too.

The train stations are very clean and have decent stores (unlike here in Manila, where everything is mucky in the train stations), and we found some really cool cakes:

I would have bought this, if I thought we could eat it. But, we’re not big cake fans.

Yellow love!
On our last day, hubby insisted on going to this obscure Catholic bookstore. I’m glad we did though, coz we found an exorcist book which I am dying to read (hubby’s taking forever!) and look who else we saw on a side street?

Jollibee! Of course, it was full of Pinoys inside (although I spied a couple of Caucasians as well)

Right along the corner from the jolly little bee, is BDO. Too bad, you can’t withdraw from this bank using PH atms (we tried our BPI atms and they didn’t work)

We weren’t planning on going anywhere after that, but figured, why waste our last day in HK? So off we went to the Peak Tram to ride the steep funicular.

 

Here it comes!

Standing room only. Good thing hubby and I were fast enough to grab seats.

Didn’t really want to go to the wax museum, so we just walked around and headed back to our hotel (it was super hot that day, I got sunburns!), but not before a glimpse of this:

View of the city from the peak

Spent three hours waiting for the symphony of lights, which turned out to be a waste – it was way simpler than from our trip in 2010. I was actually disappointed as only a handful of buildings had dancing and laser lights. And it seems the San Miguel Corp sign on top of one of the buildings had been taken down as well.
The view was still marvellous, though:
Pirate ship? We should have just taken a cruise.

Couldn’t resist adding some sunset glow to the photo. Taken using my trusty iphone.

The HK harbour

Til our next trip (the brat and I are already planning on another Disneyland escapade on his birthday)!

Ocean Park

One of our last stops during our family vacation in Hongkong was Ocean Park. The boybie and I had a somewhat funny exchange on our last day at Disneyland hotel, as I was telling him we were transferring to another hotel.
Joey: Mom, why do we have to transfer to another hotel? I like it here, I want to stay here.
Me: You want to stay here forever?
Joey: Not forever. I still want to go home. But maybe a hundred days. 
Me: We have to move to another hotel because this one is too far. We’re going to Ocean Park tomorrow.
Joey: But mom! I didn’t ask to go to Ocean Park! I only want to go to Disneyland! Why did you plan on going to Ocean Park???
Fine. So I forgot to consult the five year old when I was drafting our itinerary. 😀
Anyway, all was forgotten when Joey saw the our ride: a double decker bus! We don’t have this in the Philippines (saying it out loud, Joey-style) and in fact, Joey only rode a bus once for his field trip so this is a new experience for him.
This is not the exact same bus we took (this one’s on display at the Ocean Park) but looks quite about the same.

A little mishap almost prevented us from getting into the park. See, I booked all our park tickets (Disney and Ocean Park) via asiatravel.com and our hotel rooms via agoda.com (for the Luxe Manor) and the Disneyland website (for the Disney Resort Hotel). But it seems that while I got the confirmation voucher for Ocean Park, it didn’t have the barcode that the park needed. And horror of horrors – it was a holiday in HK that day so I couldn’t reach our travel agent. A good thing that I know for a fact that Asiatravel has offices in Manila so after several phone calls, emails, and internet browsing (and yeah, I got the shock of my life when I got home to a Php21,000 Globe cellphone bill – I should have just bought new tickets instead of making those calls), I was finally able to get our precious tickets. Perhaps a tiny mishap but it almost ruined my birthday! Thanks to the Manila office and the park’s very attentive and nice guest relations officers, we managed to salvage half of the day.

Finally!

I had only three goals at the Ocean Park: see the pandas, ride the cable car (had wanted to try Ngong Ping but we didn’t want to move around too much, so had to nix that off the itinerary), and ride the hot air balloon. Well, the last one was a no-go (sadly; guess I’ll have to squeeze in that DHL hot air balloon next time) but I can finally cross off the pandas from my to do list. 😀

This one beats all the other cable cars rides I’ve taken. The view was breath taking.

We only had to wait ten minutes or so for our turn. Wanted the yellow car but had to settle for a red one.

The park’s revolving tower, where guests can get 360 degree views of the area while sitting comfortably in an airconditioned room

Hongkong’s harbours are very beautiful, whichever side you’re on.

View from the cable car

View from the tower

And yet another view

And another…

Going on the park tower was a nice touch as it afforded us a great view of the park, the harbour, the islets, and the endless ocean, all while seated inside this huge revolving room.

We saw this from afar but it looked too scary – look at those legs dangling from midair!

We wanted to ride the boat thing (forgot what it was called) and were prepared to get wet, but the line was too long and our legs weren’t up to it. A good thing we found a spot where passersby can use water guns to drench those in the boats.

Joey had a blast shooting the boats. haha!

Our last stop was the aquarium and the pandas, which were close to the entrance gates.

By far, Joey’s favorite among the bunch. Fish he dubbed the squishies.

Went by several souvenir shops but didn’t find anything I liked (except the panda stuffed toys, but an officemate had already given me one).

A juggler outside the aquarium

Pandas!

There were many rides and attractions at the park, but most of them were for adults (read: nauseating and scary) and well, I am not a big fan of those so we just took pictures, roamed around, and called it a day. 


But not before having our photo taken just a few meters from the gates (and quite coerced into buying snow globes and key chains with our faces on it). Well, might as well get a couple for souvenir right? 😀

Food Trip: Atelier 317


I guess it’s no secret that hubby and I love to eat and as much as we have our favorites, we are always on the lookout for something new. And lately, I’ve been quite addicted to monitoring the deal sites, and that’s how I ended up buying two vouchers for Atelier 317. 

The name of the place itself was intriguing – like a work of art or something. Plus the menu sounded good. On the week of its expiry, I managed to nag the hubby into coming with me and after a bit of an adventure (getting to the place was quite a feat – it wasn’t located somewhere we were both familiar with, although, on hind sight, it sort of was as it was just a stone’s throw away from Rockwell), we finally located the quaint two-story townhouse. 
Actually, what came into my mind when we saw the place was, is this it? Did we get lost? I mean, it was in an unassuming residential community and the townhouse was rather small and too cozy. 

Inside were three tables, two of which were good enough for two people, and another one good enough for four (I’ve read that they can only seat 15 people at a time but given the size of the place, I’m not sure how they would be able to accommodate them at the same time). Ambiance was quite romantic, with soft lighting and music playing in the background. 
little trinkets

Appetizer was served as soon as we were seated. In fairness, the lone waiter was very courteous and unobtrusive, and explained each dish to us. I loved the pumpkin soup which had a subtle hint of spice, and the tomato with white cheese – I don’t really eat tomatoes when they’re cut this big (I prefer them sliced, diced, and mixed with lots of other veggies in my salsa) but the cheese nicely completed the juicy taste of the tomatoes.
Flamed Kesong Puti Caprese Salad,
Gourmet Cheese Pimiento Tartine and Spiced Pumpkin Soup Shooter.

Up next was the main course, rather, sampler – as we had three dishes. It was actually smart of them to offer these items in such small servings as I don’t think I could have finished an entire plate of truffle mushroom lasagna. It was okay but not something I would rave about; too much mushroom for me. The hubby loved it though. 
I didn’t get to finish the chicken so I guess that means I didn’t like it. It wasn’t tasty enough for me that I couldn’t even guess what it was supposed to be. On the bright side, the chicken was well-done with no icky blood oozing anywhere; again, hubby loved it (am I developing a more discerning palate than the hubby???).
I did love the adobo, but would still rate it below Sonya’s Garden’s sinful adobo. And the hubby’s own.

Beef Adobo, Truffle Mushroom Lasagna, Red Rice, and Bicol Chicken Express

Last was dessert – which I thoroughly enjoyed. The cupcake was simply delish! I heard they serve cupcakes by Patti (the Etc host) and I must say, she has a future in baking. They were very pretty, what with the gold “beads” and they tasted sweet and milky, but not too sweet as to make me gag. We also got some ice cream (according to the voucher, it was white chocolate black truffle ice cream and we should have had green tea mousse as well, but anyway, I was too full by then or maybe they changed it) which I loved.

I think dessert was my favorite part of the night’s food trip.

Mini Cupcake, White
Chocolate Ice Cream

We washed down everything with some decaf – quite the perfect way to cap it all off. Honestly, I don’t take coffee after meals but it worked well enough for me. 
The cup reminded me of the little ceramics I bought in one of my business trips to Indonesia
Verdict? Food was okay. It was definitely not bad, a few hits, some misses. And it was quite pricey if I hadn’t gotten a deal online (I think I paid only 50% of what would have been Php1,900 per head). So, the  probability of me going back there is slim, unless I find another deal online. But if you like taking your meals in private, well, this one’s for you.:D

The Luxe Manor

To be honest, I had a hard time deciding on our second hotel when we went to HK last week. I wanted to find a big enough room in a good location, with breakfast, free wifi, shuttle service, and most importantly, affordable. I’m not very picky when it comes to rooms but I really need a good bathroom and a nice bed. 
And I also wanted to stay in a unique hotel.
Fine, I am picky. The hubby accuses me of splurging too much on hotels. Hahaha.
So, it took me weeks of googling before I decided on The Luxe Manor. Fickle-minded me booked only one night via agoda.com (which by the way, I recommend – hassle free. I’ve been booking hotels for myself and our family using this site for years) in case I change my mind, but after thinking it over for a couple more weeks, decided to book the remaining nights at this hotel.

A boutique hotel built sometime in the mid 2000’s, The Luxe Manor’s location was idyllic for us – it was in Kowloon, but tucked into Kimberly Avenue, one turn from major thoroughfare Nathan Road (Joey and I counter – it was only 100 steps from the intersection of Nathan and Kimberly). It was close enough to the Tsim Tsa Tsui station, too so you can fairly go anywhere from this point.

We almost missed it because there were no big signs on the building – so thanks to google maps, which said I was standing right in front of it. Hahaha.
The hotel doors – which is kept close most of the time as it serves more as a side entrance; guests would usually take the front door- a nondescript glass door with a small plaque bearing the hotel’s name)

Inside, the hotel looked (and smelled!!!) every bit as promised on their website. It was chic, romantic, and very unique. We were greeted with a lot of black and red furniture, walls, and ghost chairs.
The lobby to the Dada lounge (I heard it’s a bar, but as we were travelling with a kid, we didn’t get to try it)

Pardon the shot, I think I took this using my iphone which was by then, running on its last bits of energy.
The reception – so chic!

All floors were decked in patterned red carpet, and the walls in rich browns, which made it look so opulent.

The room wasn’t as big as Disneyland hotel, but by HK standards, it was pretty big. Mind you, I’ve seen hotel rooms so small, the bed was pushed to the wall with the windows hugging both its sides!

I love what they did with this antique-looking cabinet – open it and voila! You have a refrigerator.

See that gilded mirror? It’s an LCD TV!

Like I said, I wanted to stay in a hotel that already has free breakfast in its rates. Unfortunately, it was only for two adults so Joey had to phoney up HK$150 for his buffet. He didn’t eat much, just the fries and apple juice, so we figured, spending that much wasn’t ideal. So the next day, we opted to just buy him a big breakfast at the nearby which was cheaper at HK$25 and which he actually enjoyed more – he finished off everything!
I want that chair!

On to the food – it was very good. I loved that they offered Continental/American breakfast instead of Chinese (which I dreaded – to those wondering, I actually don’t like Chinese food. It’s my least favourite cuisine) so I heaped lots of smoked salmon, cold cuts, and various cheeses on my plate. Oh, and I got myself two jars of fruity yogurt and glasses of skimmed milk and apple juice. Haha.

I have to commend the hotel staff – so nice! And after a busy day at Ocean Park on my birthday, we were surprised with a very delicious chocolate cake waiting for us in our room! How thoughtful! I have never celebrated my birthday properly before (my birthday is a dreadful time for accountants – it belongs to the “closing” period, so I usually spend it working, haha) so I can’t tell if other hotels to this but really. My opinion of this hotel just went up several notches. 
Very beautiful presentation. It was almost too pretty to eat that we ended up just looking at it for hours.

Best of all? Our flight was at 830am so we had to leave the hotel at 6am – which means we wouldn’t be able to have our breakfast. The staff were so nice to prepare a breakfast box for us at no extra charge! Little stuff like this really made them stand out in our books. We are definitely coming back.

On a side note, this was probably one of my best birthdays ever as I got to fulfill several dreams – go to Disneyland with the family (mababaw ang kaligayahan ko), see pandas (seriously, I wanted to have my picture taken with the panda but it was so darn expensive! Maybe next time), and not spend a single minute of it working. 

HK Disneyland

So after a long time of nagging, our little family unit finally reached Disneyland. Knowing that I am not much for walking and with Joey in tow, I got us two-day tickets.

Lookie! Mickey express! HK Disneyland has its own station which kinda reminded us of Platform 9 3/4
And the photo vomit begins. Apologies, I couldn’t make up my mind which photos to use. 😀
The requisite family photo
Taken on our second day – it was raining very hard on our first day.

Sleeping Beauty’s castle
I don’t really like rides in theme parks (I have a fear of heights) but I knew I couldn’t leave without having my photo taken with the characters I grew up with so we spent quite a couple of hours lining up for photos with Mickey and the gang.
Pooh left before we could reach him and Tigger took his place, and well, I’m not a Tigger fan so this will have to do

Minney Mouse!
Mickey Mouse!
Pluto

Joey wasn’t too keen on queuing up for photos and he was barely tolerant after Mickey but one thing we didn’t expect was how his face lit up when he saw Donald Duck! He started shouting, “Mom, it’s Donald Duck! It’s Donald Duck!” Ipe and I ended up laughing at the starstruck kiddo who readily agreed to line up for Donald Duck!
Well, seems Joey likes Donald more than all the others combined.
There are a lot of restaurants in the park and if you prefer not having to wait and stand in line, you can have seats reserved for you at the guest relations office at the park gates. But of course, we just took the cheaper route and had our meals food court-style.
We particularly liked the Star Liner diner which was air-conditioned and not too crowded. An amazing feat actually – that the queues here didn’t take us so long even though it was a long weekend and there were lots of visitors.
Star Liner diner in Tomorrowland
They also have a kiddie meal! Yey!
Joey enjoying his corn
Most of the rides and shows here are kid-friendly. In adult-speak: BORING. But while I may be an adult in terms of years, I’m still a kid at heart and I enjoyed everything as much as Joey did.

Dumbo, a spaceship ride, Autopia (where we got to drive an electric car and the Mad Hatter’s teacups
A few months before our trip, I downloaded the Disney app on my iPhone so Joey had a pretty good idea of the park’s layout. So he was very adamant that I take him to the shooting game, which, of course, I had no idea what it was. A good thing Joey knew where it was (smart kid) – the Astro Blaster game with Buzz Lightyear.
Joey loved this ride so much we rode it three times
Shoot them daddy!

Toy Story Land and Adventure land were our last stops (we went to Tomorrow Land and Fantasy Land on our first day). Adventure land was a bit of a snooze though, but I did like the boat ride and Joey couldn’t get over the boat filled with skulls (fake, of course) and a fiery volcano that literally had us sweating.

HOT!

Yes, we rode that!
This one’s too scary for me.
At the end of the day, around 4-5PM, all the mascots gathered round for the Mickey Parade along Main Street. One nifty trick of this parade is that the mascots will drench you with water (distilled!) so I didn’t get very good shots for fear my camera will become a casualty.

We got Joey some Buzz shades and watch. 🙂

The Disney princesses! I didn’t get a picture of Snow White, though, as she tried to spray me with water and I had to duck. Hahaha!

Good thing Aurora was too far for me to get wet. 😛
Make no mistake – that vial is filled with water.
We went to grab some snacks at the Bakery along Main Street. Look how cute this tart was!

Unfortunately, my camera died a few minutes before the fireworks display and I had to rely on my trusty iphone. Too bad.
Simply magical, with lots of fireworks dancing to the tune of beloved Disney melodies.

Most travel forums I’ve visited said that one day is more than enough to enjoy HK Disneyland and a lot of them complained that it was rather small. Well, I beg to differ. Got us two-day tickets and it was still not enough. There were just too many rides, shows, and whatchamacolit to see – and mind you, queues weren’t even long. So we are definitely coming back for more! See you again, Mickey!

Hongkong Disneyland Hotel

I’m a kid at heart and Joey loves everything Disney (he doesn’t watch any other kiddie channel, although he knows about them) so it was really a no-brainer that this would be our hotel of choice. Plus, it was so convenient – all we had to do was take the train from the airport, and two stations later we transferred to what was unmistakably the Disney Express:
Look at those ears!

Guests staying at either the Hollywood Hotel or the Disneyland Hotel don’t even have to walk; they can take the shuttle to and from the park to their hotel. Waiting time was practically non-existent as the longest wait we had was probably less than five minutes.

And what cute little buses! I felt like a kid all over again.  

The hotel shuttle
This is a very kid-friendly hotel and the lobby was no exception – upon entering the hotel, smiling statues of Mickey and Minnie immediately greet you and kids can sit at the waiting area while their parents check-in; of course, to keep the kids busy, Disney Junior is playing 24/7 on the screen. Kiddo’s obviously not complaining.

Every peso (or dollar, in this case) was well-spent. And as a bonus, we got upgraded from the sea view room to the sea view with balcony with sweeping views of the pool, garden and the sea! A very nice early birthday treat for me. 
Victorian-inspired hotel, complete with turrets, amidst a lush garden and facing the sea
Look at the maze!

Me and the Boybie pretending to be lost in the middle of the maze

Joey enjoying running down a small mound in the garden

View from our balcony
The room wasn’t particularly big but and it came with a luxurious bath room complete with a tub so it was big by HK standards. What we loved about this hotel was it wasn’t pretentious. I know, it looks like a Victorian castle and all but then, this is Disneyland and we were given a Snow White-themed room. And the materials used didn’t look cheap and forced (I’m looking at you, Venetian Hotel, with all your plywood walls and fake cornices).

Yes, I squealed with delight upon seeing these!

Toiletries in potion bottles. Yep, no mistaking I’m in a fairytale.

A note of warning though: food is quite expensive here. Breakfast is not included in the room rates and the buffet can set you back upwards of HKD300. Ala carte was a bit friendlier, with each dish costing around HKD150. 
We were quite famished when we got there – me especially as I was coming straight from work with only two hours of sleep before I hopped on the plane and had not had a decent meal – so we decided to eat at Walt’s Cafe (buffets are served at the Enchanted Garden Restaurant). 
Again, I had to repress my squeal of delight as it was too cute.

The restaurant has a kid’s menu which I think offred value for money as the little kiddo got macaroni and cheese, fresh fruits, and hot chocolate.
The burger was really good.

And of course, what hotel would be complete without a gift shop? And of course, this being the Disneyland Hotel, the shop was filled to the rafters with Disney stuff. I had to stop myself from buying that crystal encrusted Minnie Mouse watch and sequined top (on hindsight, I should have bought it – hubby didn’t take the hint). Hahaha. 

We only stayed one night but judging from the boybie’s peaceful sleep that night, we will definitely come back for more. 😀

* All photos by the hubby except for the food, train and Joey shots.