Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Hong Kong SAR DIY 2016

13 December 2016

The trip may have been decided on a whim but it is a 16 year wait for a thousand reasons. I go there in search of a person I loved, an unforgettable experience, beautiful scenery and great eats. Hong Kong was always dreaded work made sane by its neon lights and after-work manic shopping. But with just the two of us past our 25th wedding anniversary and the little one safely stowed away in London, it is time to look at HK from a different perspective.

Scoot’s TR 2058 ( $806 FlyBag ), a red eye flight, is to take us into HK on the wee hours of 13 Dec 2016. I had bought the tickets on Scoot’s website. The flight is code shared with TigerAir, a fact that didn’t mean much to me until I tried to check in online for 24 hours without success. Scoot’s customer service hotline was terribly inadequate and only after upteen times did my call get through then did it dawn upon me that Scoot does not have the online check in facility for this flight into HK. I eventually made the check in at TigerAir website only to discover that our passports and important details were not ported from Scoot to TigerAir. It was resolved with a call to TigerAir customer service who did everything else on the phone for me.  Unlike the mother airline, Singapore Airlines, Scoot is far from qualified to say “ A Great Way to Fly”.

Our flight is at 2 am Terminal 2 but we had an early start simply because we wanted to try taking public transport to the airport. Bus 106 came very quickly and soon, we found ourselves on the eastbound train to Changi from Clementi Station. It may be almost 10 pm when we approached Tanah Merah, but the train was packed from town onwards and remained so when we alighted at Tanah Merah to catch the connecting train to Changi.

By 10.20 pm, we found ourselves in Terminal 2, it being connected by 2 great escalators from the MRT station. I was terribly pleased with ourselves, having saved about $20 on taxi fare.

It was an uneventful check in of our luggage at Row 12 in Terminal 2. For the next 3 odd hours, we were free to roam. The excitement of a twosome hike must have be a high caloric event because we found ourselves hungry again and resolved the problem at MacDonald’s.

Terminal 2 has undergone much changes and in the floodlit cavernous mall at the departure area, we walked up and down to while away time and making our photo taking skills available to groups of tourists who needed them.

The plane was a bone shaker and seats comfy but both of us could not get to sleep. We arrived in HK on schedule and realized that winter hasn’t quite come yet. After we bought our Octopus card at the Airport Express counter, we had our taste of HK at a congee restaurant ( He Hong Ji ). Rich and smooth can’t even quite describe it and if airport food is so good, I can’t imagine what it would be in town.

We took the A11 into town. The bus took off 35 minutes into the hour and we got on the 8.35am bus. The next 60 minutes was fighting off sleep on the bus and marveling the Tsing Ma Bridge, the populace packed in tight tall flats in front of mountains. At one stage, the entire port floored with stacked containers fringed by busy cranes and freight liners. It was a sight to behold!

Ibis at North Point was just off the North Point bus terminus and a n easy walk even with our luggage. Mapme confounded me and Pat did most of the navigation. Our room was not ready and we left our luggages in their care and decided to paint the town red.

The plan to breakfast at Tim Ho Wan was abandoned and deemed unnecessary esp after the fancy congee breakfast in the airport. We got to Kowloon Tong and searched for the columbarium where Katie rested with some difficulty. I spent time with my old friend, unable to think among the thick smoke in the tiny room.

It was almost 12 nn but my ambitious plan was to visit the walled city of Kowloon. It was a long walk in the blazing sun ( 30C ! ) some 1 km east. Not much was communicated between us by then because we were so exhausted. The walled city and its former stories could not be felt among the manicured gardens and sculptured new features. If there was anything of note, it was the lovely bricked walls that fenced up the huge garden.

We took another walk downhill towards Wong Tai Sin Temple. It was another 1 km walk in the heat. WTS was all people, hopeful devotees, tourists and smoke. We captured folks seeking for a cure and other miracles amidst the smoking incense regularly replaced by caretakers.

Lunch was a rather elaborate affair at Shanghai Teng at WTS Mall. It was Shanghainese food in a themed restaurant. The food ( 1 set 62HKD ) was lovely esp the snacks that came with the main meal. Personally we would have exchanged the mains for another portion of the snacks because they were that good.

We took a short ride to Mongkok to look for Tin Cheung Camera at the elusive 47 Shantung St. There was nothing worth buying but down the road at 610 Nathan Rd, Pat got me a fancy hiking stick at Overlander ( 12/F Hollywood Plaza ) for 250 HKD. Along the way, I saw how Women’s St has degenerated to a mass tourist trinket junk sale.

We trained back from Mongkok to North Point in silence, tired and sleepy. Our room in 1103 was adequate for we had stayed in worse.

An hour’s rest and we were out again, this time for dinner. A couple of units away at Tai Ping, we had an outrageous dinner of epic proportion for the price of 324 HKD. We had to abandon plans for dessert because of that. Instead we spent our time taking in the lights and super moon between 2 high rise blocks before calling it a day.

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