As a follow-up to the last blog about my random observations of Tokyo, here’s a few thoughts about Hong Kong and the Philippines:
– Hong Kong has one of the best airports in the world. Their Airport Express, r.e. train from the airport to downtown Hong Kong is my favorite one of any of the major cities. Once you get through customs and claim your bag, you simply purchase a ticket for about $20 dollar and the ride from the airport to the downtown Central station is only 20 minutes away. And, it’s even better on the way back … you can check-in for your flight at the train station … then simply ride the train with your carry-on without the hassle of lugging around your luggage.
– Similarly to other major cities that are built on islands – such as Tokyo and New York – the number of skyscraper is mind-boggling. But, it makes total sense since HK doesn’t have the land mass. So, instead of spreading out, it has to build up. This is particularly interesting to a person from Washington, DC since there aren’t any skyscraper buildings in DC.
– The Star Ferry is a great way to get across the Hong Kong Bay … for about a quarter you can ride from Hong Kong’s Central to the Kowloon side.
– Victoria Peak is a must-see for people coming to HK for the first time. It’s cool to ride the trolley up the steep peak. The views are staggering and beautiful.
– The one-hour turbo boat ride from HK to Macau is also very easy and enjoyable. Macau has now surpassed Las Vegas in terms of total dollars spent gambling. It doesn’t have the Vegas strip … and LV has many more shows … but Macau is definitely now a gambling mecca (although I don’t gamble or bet).
– They have superb tailors in Hong Kong. I went to visit my favorite tailor for the first time in 5 years at the Mandarin Oriental. I purchased 3 – 4 suits from them back then and just ordered two new suits. I normally go suit shopping with a lady friend but this time I went solo – hope I did okay in picking out the right colors and texture. LOL.
– Love Lan Kwai Fong, which I refer to as the “Georgetown” of HK. So many fun restaurants and bars. And, in particular, I love the Filipino cover bands that belt out the pop, R&B and rock hits.
– A one-hour Chinese foot massage for only $20 is a great bargain. So relaxed afterwards.
– This country reminds me very much of Brazil with the disparity of income levels. There’s definitely a clear distinction between the “haves” and “have-nots.” But, what I love is that similarly to the Brazilians, the Filipinos, despite a vast majority of them not having much income or material goods, have a “joy and happiness about life.”
– I still can’t figure out how their traffic flows so smoothly without many accidents … it’s a confluence of cars, trucks, buses, jeepney’s, motorcycles, motorcycles with side cars and bicycles. Somehow, there’s a flow and they roll along without many horns honking or people cursing – pretty much the opposite of how Americans drive in the US.
– Similarly to the favela’s in Rio de Janeiro, Manila has so many poor areas. It’s hard to describe the huts and shacks that abound in Manila and its’ outlying areas. But, as noted earlier, the citizens seem happy and live life with what’s been given to them.
– NBA jerseys everywhere. And, the Filipinos seem to love the LA Lakers. I was there in Manila while the Lakes were defeating the Celtics for the NBA Championship. But, not just Lakers jerseys, I also saw jerseys everywhere for LeBron, D-Wade, Ginobli, Shaq, Rondo, etc. Soon, they’ll be sporting Wizards jersey with John Wall’s name on the back. J
– The food wasn’t as good as in Tokyo and Hong Kong, but that’s also probably because I grew up eating Japanese and Chinese food.
– The prices are ridiculously low … for nearly everything. It’s odd since it seems you’re paying a lot for items with the Pesos, but when you calculate it, it’s very inexpensive.
– I went to my friend’s cousin’s wedding in a city called Tarlac – which is two hours from Manila and where the current President is from. One of the groomsmen didn’t make it so I filled in. What a memorable experience – wearing the barong and taking in my first-ever traditional Filipino wedding. Fortunately, the families were so gracious and warm – they instantly made me feel at home. For that, I’m thankful.
Okay, back to DC now …