A Travellerspoint blog

Hong Kong

Picking up a bargain

View 2012/13 Myanmar, Malaysia & Philippines on alexchan's travel map.

I toyed with the idea of replacing my phone. I have a Sony Ericsson Android which was getting badly scratched on the screen; it does everything but in slow motion as it has a slow single-core processor. I felt no urgency in replacing it though; I like its more compact form compared to most smartphones. But on the other hand, the compact form meant that the screen was a bit small for my deteriorating eyesight at close range.

As we had much of the day to kill, we took the MTR to Kwai Fong (changing at Lai King) and walked to the mall. It wasn’t a flash place, so I was optimistic about getting good bargains if I desired anything, including eating and drinking (juices).

I found a shop which had a variety of Androids. Some looked nearly identical to the Apple iPhone 5, Samsung SIII etc. I chose a generic-looking dual-core dual-SIM model called Zopo Libero+ for HKD1300 (NZD200). Even better, when I presented my old phone, I was offered a trade-in of HKD700! But when they realised the badly-scratched screen was in fact the screen (and not the protector), they offered HKD650. Not a bad trade-in value considering I was quoted that amount to replace the screen somewhere else in the mall.

Back at the hotel, when I had a chance to test-drive my new toy, I was pleasantly surprised at how fast it was! I don’t know how I survived with that slow Sony Xperia Ray. It appears that anyone can make an Android phone and make it well too. I don’t know why there is such a premium for certain brands if that is truly the case. A search for the internet shows that the specific model sells in various countries for around NZD260.

Departing Hong Kong on the flight to Auckland, the cabin crew were required to do a manual safety demonstration. Being longhaul crew, they obviously haven’t had much practice. They were very very uncoordinated (with the badly-scripted PA and with each other). In fact, I’ve seen AirAsia’s Singapore-based crew do a better job with a manual demo to a language which they did not speak or understand (ie. no good audio cues for them to point to or pick up various items).

Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (0)

Bye bye Philippines

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Today I leave Philippines after more than two weeks. Because the hotel breakfast was stodgy and unappealing, I went to the supermarket and bought some mini-muffins, mangoes and milk. It was a much better choice.

After lunch, I flew to Manila with a self-connect to Hong Kong where I met with Kim staying at his hotel while on a work trip.

Here are my thoughts on the Philippines …

Observations and Quirks

1. Private security carry big guns and there are weapons shop around Manila. Some travellers have been in for a look and play but I haven’t.

2. Often when I order food for myself, eg. a fried rice, I would be asked “How many, sir?”. I look around me and conclude that I’m by myself, then I look at my tummy and see that I’m not fat. So I still haven’t worked this one out.

3. In my first few days in the Philippines, I’d be met by a spray of water from above. Looking up, it appears the power lines are squirting water. But actually, plastic water pipes are overhead rather than underground.

4. Tagalog has many words in common with Malay, eg. putih, bulan, tahun, balik, kambing, biawak, asu, manok, buaya, tanggal, kanan, mahal, murah, sayang, payung, tolak. But it has diverged too much over the course of history to be comprehensible.

5. A lot of Filipinos sound the same, especially women in customer service roles. They have that pseudo-American Filipino accent.

6. I was surprised to see so many Protestant churches since I always thought it was a largely Catholic country. The Iglesia Ni Cristo churches are very prominent. They don't believe in the divinity of Jesus or the Holy Trinity. Sounds like the Muslim belief of Jesus and the Trinity; as some would say "Three in One is for coffee, not for God".

7. I grew up conditioned to speak to people in their language, ascertaining this through their skin colour and facial features. This doesn't work in the Philippines, especially in the south when they look very very Malay.

Things I liked

1. It is a relatively clean and litter-free country apart from a few parts of Manila.

2. Outside of the couple of large cities, the remaining cities are small and the surrounding areas very green and unspoilt.

3. It doesn’t have the oppressive heat and humidity that the rest of the region has (during February anyway).

4. Tourism is on a relatively low scale compared to say Thailand and its neighbours. And outside of Manila, sex tourism isn’t evident.

5. Long distance transport proved to be easier than expected from my guidebook readings. I chose daytime travel up to the north which included a combination of bus and jeepney changes. These proved seamless due to the frequency of both the bus and jeepneys.

6. I like the fact that Filipinos of all colours (fair-skinned down to very dark people) all identify themselves as Filipinos. It is a well-stirred melting pot and they don't think of themselves as full-blooded natives, half-casts, part-Spanish or part-Chinese.

Things that disappointed

1. Bad luck with the weather in Banaue and also Donsol (part of the time), but one cannot come up winning all the time, right?

2. Bad luck with no sighting of mantas at Manta Bowl. There is a bit too much hype, compared to say Komodo where things like that aren’t highly publicised or promoted. Then you get pleasantly surprised.

3. Diving in general was a disappointment because I had recently been at Sipadan. In fact, it was downright a waste of time and money at El Nido. I may sound spoilt, but most people have limited time and money for doing these things each year. So why not spend it at a place that’s more like an aquarium, eg. Sipadan or Bunaken.

4. The underground river near Puerto Princesa was yet another disappointment, possibly because I’ve been to many other caves before. Again, too much hype (American influence, perhaps).

5. Eating is quite expensive due to the lack of a suitable street food culture (unlike in the rest of Asia). One often ends up eating in the hotel or guesthouse, or nicer establishments. Typically a main course would be PHP100 to 150 (NZD3 to 4.50).

Something missing

I feel that the Philippines’ appeal is largely centred around island and beaches (plus a little bit of the highlands in Luzon). It doesn’t have the ancient kingdoms or ruins that others in the regions offer.

Together with the English-speaking locals, a clean and litter-free environment, it just doesn’t seem as intrepid. Local cuisine isn’t the most appealing to many and there isn’t much of a street-food culture.

Despite speaking English, locals aren't quite as chatty and inquisitive as say Indonesia. They are friendly and reserved. Where as in Indonesia, there seems to be a more two-way exchange (even for those who don't speak Indonesian).

For me something feels missing. For others, it could be the perfect introduction of the real Asia (after Singapore, which isn’t really “real” enough for some).

Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (0)

Killing time and catching up with an old mate

View 2012/13 Myanmar, Malaysia & Philippines on alexchan's travel map.

It was a 0600 arrival into Hong Kong and that saw me reach downtown Nathan Road by around 0730.

I’ve been let into hotels at this time before but luck wasn’t with me today. For a start, the hotel reception didn’t open till 0900 which meant that I had to go sit at McDonald’s with a big strong cuppa tea till then.

My luck didn’t get any better when the hotel offered to store my bag and ask me to return at 1400 for the key.

I did everything I had in mind in slow motion, starting with a walk to the Star Ferry to Hong Kong Island [Hong-Kong-Island-travel-guide-1347664], followed by lunch, looking for a sleeve for my laptop and a good strong (and cheap) massage at my usual place. Some malls didn’t open in earnest till midday so I had to repeat my efforts to look for a laptop sleeve and succeeded second time around.

Time went faster than expected and it was after 1500 when I reached the hotel and got into my room. I more or less headed straight out for another walk and to find my rendezvous for the evening.

At 1830 I met an old school friend whom I hadn’t seen for some 27 years! He hadn’t changed. We had a nice dinner together with lots of chats about what’s happened since leaving school.

Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (0)

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