February 27-28, 2014: As a visitor to the Philippines, you are supposed to have an outbound ticket to show at immigration on arrival. I usually buy the cheapest one-way ticket to Hong Kong that I can find and simply throw it away. This time, however, I decided to use it. I’d never been to Hong Kong before and I have a friend that lives across the bay in Macau. It’s also really close to the boatyard in mainland China where MOKEN was built, so I could easily squeeze in a quick side trip.
And so a plan began to take shape. Fly from Clark airport to Hong Kong where I’d spend two days applying for a visa for China and checking out a few of the sights. Take the ferry to Macau to visit Jen and her family. Cross over to Zhuhai, China to go to the Seahorse Marine factory and pick up some replacement boat parts before returning to Macau for my flight back to Clark. Easy peasy, for the most part at least.
At the airport in Hong Kong, I picked up a SIM card for my phone, an Octopus pass for the transit system and a ticket to Hong Kong on the airport express train. I was soon whisked into the center of the city and after wandering about aimlessly for a while, I finally managed to find the stop for the free shuttle to the hotel. Only I’d just missed it by a few minutes. Next one in 45.
I dropped my stuff at the hotel in Wan Chai and walked to China immigration to apply for my visa. Apparently it might be possible to get a rush visa on demand when you cross the border from Macau to Gongbei, but I didn’t want to risk being turned away. After wading through the throng of applicants and arriving at the counter, I discovered that I also needed a copy of the company’s business license to accompany their letter of invitation. Thanks to the miracle of technology, I had a copy of the license emailed to me in minutes and was back up the hill to the hotel to get it printed. Then back again to the end of the immigration queue after lunch. Everything went smoothly this time, so I could return the next day to pick up my passport after 3pm.
Hong Kong was a nice change of pace after spending so much time in the Philippines. It’s such an easy city to get around and everything is so efficient and clean. Granted it’s a lot crazier and more crowded than Subic Bay, the people aren’t as warm and friendly as Filipinos generally are, and the weather was rather chilly, but I was happy to wander around gawking at everything and popping into tiny noodle houses, dim sum restaurants and coffee shops to warm up from time to time. If you are planning a visit, make sure you download the Open Rice app. A great resource for deciding between a bunch of noodle shops on the same corner.
I had a list of things to see and do as long as my arm, but knowing my time was limited, I ended up only picking a few. There’s always next time, right?
First up, I tried to find the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club but with all the road construction in the area there just didn’t seem to be any way to get there on foot. That idea was eventually abandoned in favour of watching the Symphony of Lights from the waterfront on the Kowloon side looking back to Hong Kong island. I took the Star Ferry across and joined the big crowd that gathered there. It’s amazing how they can orchestrate the lights on dozens of buildings on both sides of the harbour to synchronize with the music, although a major part of me still prefers to watch fireworks.
On Friday morning, I got thoroughly lost trying to find the tram to Victoria Peak. But if it hadn’t been for my wide detour, I never would have found the LockCha tea shop where I purchased a handmade tea set (which I then proceeded to lug around with me all day). I finally found the tram station, and while the ride up was fun, the views from the top were virtually non-existent. From here I decided to walk down old Plantation Road, which is closed to traffic. It was incredibly steep. I had a lot of admiration for the people who were walking up!
Back on level ground, I returned to Wan Chai, picked up my passport and later met up with Philippe at Wooloomooloo’s rooftop deck overlooking the city. Chris and I met Philippe last year when we were in Puerto Galera with Richard and Dawn, so it was fun to hang out with a friend and get some insider insight on places to go. From there we met up with another friend of his and made a couple of new friends along the way, and my original plan to check out the Peninsula Hotel and go to the Temple Street Night Market was also abandoned.
All too soon it was time to say goodbye to Hong Kong and hop a ferry to Macau. Seats book early, as I discovered when I arrived at the pier the next morning, so I had a fair wait. I looked all about for a noodle house, but surprisingly there weren’t any to be seen. I had to settle for sushi instead. For some reason it didn’t feel quite right to be eating Japanese food in China, but somehow I managed to overcome my misgivings.