Travel Thru’ the Lens: Hong Kong Feb 2012

Hong Kong has been one of those places that will be permanently cheaper than Singapore by at least 7%, the taxi fare is always reasonable without those pesky and idiotic surcharges and lastly, the food, no matter where you eat, will always has a minimal quality standard unlike Singapore’s hit and miss food courts and ‘new generation’ hawkers.  Therefore Hong Kong has always been my perennial favourite place not because I am a glutton but also because I will have stuff  that will always be cheaper when it comes to all things IT and Photography.

The motivation to go is always there but there is always other reasons to stop me from going. This time round is when there is a perfect condition for me to go. One of which is the ridiculously cheap price of $98 for 4 days 3 night stay in Hong Kong and the other is both my wife and my own birthdays over the weekend and of course the need to get some IT and Photography stuff on the cheap.  As for airfare, we don’t have much of a choice unless the full fledged air services are giving a huge discounts and so we settled for the budget airlines.

The requisite plane shot: Taken at HK Airport At Dusk. It was a hazy trip this time round.

Speaking of budget airlines, I have always wondered why these companies can survive on such low fares. Of course one way is for them to charge you for the check-in luggage and the other is the food. When you are hungry, you would pay ANYTHING just to fill up your stomach. Even Tiger Airways air stewardess announced that no outside food is allowed so they can have their captive audience up in the sky. What can you do? Take up a parachute and jump? Just eat your full when you are flying them.

There’s also another important aspect that a lot of people did not really know.  To save a bit more if travelling in a group on budget airlines, consider one way tickets for both ways. I have saved about $200 for 4 persons and best of all, the time management was better generally. I was still able to catch public transport (no, not the taxis) when I go to the airport and back from it.  It was used to be more expensive when travelling one way because the airline would want you to be with them for the whole trip. It seems that the table has turned over time as people would want some convenience when booking for flights and would not check one way on another competitor or even in the same airline. Here’s another tip: Book the air ticket back from the country you are visiting and pay their local rates as it can be cheaper. During this trip, I saved even more when buying Tiger Airways ticket in Hong Kong Dollars.  Of course if one is travelling on your own, then all these exercises will surely tire you out but the extra effort is worth it if one is booking for a group.

Ok back to the trip itself. We arrived in Hong Kong without much of a hiccup. It is ALWAYS a pleasure boarding a flight at Terminal 1/2/3 rather than the budget terminal. I mean yes it may be budget but Changi has taken it a wee bit too literal. We are on a holiday and lugging cabin bags for hundreds of metres to a far away gate is not my idea of fun at the Budget Terminal.  And so it was way better to go for a holiday from the main terminals IMHO.

We stayed at Newton Place Hotel.  By God’s favour it was not the hotel we have paid for as the original hotel was Harbour Plaza Resort City which was fully booked during our trip. A quick check on Hong Kong Map and one can see it is at Tin Shui Wai, easily an hour’s trip to and fro the city centre by Light Rail Transit, train (yes train, not MTR) and then the subway. Newton Place Hotel is not exactly in Hong Kong Island/Kowloon but at least it is near where the action is. Really have to thank God for this as this was really an upgrade. We not only got a better location, but we got a really fantastic view as well!

That’s the room. Really Grace brings us to the 31st Floor of the hotel, the tallest and the room overlooks the harbour.

The view from the top floor of the hotel of Kowloon Bay. On the left is Hong Kong Island and on the right is Tsim Sha Shui/Hung Hom Area. Can vaguely see the 3rd Tallest building in the world: ICC . Would have gone up the observatory but the fog was really bad, making the trip quite meaningless. Right in front was the run way of the old Kai Tak international airport and just in front is the Kwun Tong typhoon shelter. 

Newton Place hotel is located in Kwun Tong area. You can say that it is the Jurong of Hong Kong where car repair shop, flatted factories and warehouses are located. Yes it does make one feel ‘dirty’ just by knowing this but I am pleasantly surprised by the hotel’s cleanliness, its location with respects to the MTR Kwun Tong/Ngau Tau Kok Stations and then APM/Telford shopping mall. As a photographer, you would also appreciate the fact that the hotel is where the real life action is where people stay, eat and commune to work/study everyday.  Of course, being so near to such places means there are a lot of Hong Kong Cafes to choose from. There is also the traditional bread shop that serves piping hot bread every morning. Who needs that hotel buffet breakfast anyway? (and it is wise to close it down as it was during our stay).

Just behind the hotel is this Hung To (鴻圖)Restaurant where a fruit stall would open during the late afternoon till late at night and a newspaper stand from morning till mid day.

There are fruit stalls galore in and around the area showing that the area is full of people residing there.

One of many snack stalls shop fronts one would find if hungry

One of the alleyways in Kwun Tong

Traditonal food/snacks are the way to go.

Always good to have some greens in the staid urban jungle that is Hong Kong. Located on the pedestrian bridge from Millennium City Jos Tower towards Ngau Tau Kok (牛頭角)  MTR Station。

On the Station Platform

Interestingly there are new office complexes dotted the flatted factories and Ubi style office buildings. This one is Landmark East. And the more prominant ones are the Millennium City Towers and buildings

One of the more prominent Millennium City Development would be the APM Shopping Mall.  Like Telford, they are like suburban shopping malls of Singapore such as Northpoint, Compass Point, Tampines Mall etc located just next to the MTR/MRT stations. APM is located next to Kwun Tong station. 

Trying to be hip and trendy?
Trying to be hip and trendy? Akin to the Trexi Figurines ( 

It look huge with multiple levels and it even have UNIQLO, Broadway and Jusco Supermarket. To top it all off, a cinema is on the top floor. Still in terms of shop offerings, it is not that huge but is a good start to the trip.

Got this DSLR “Know It All” Taiwanese Book at less than S$20 from an APM book store. It speaks of techniques in the most direct way possible.  I have grown to appreciate the Chinese/Chinese Translated Japanese-American Photo books that cost less than half of equivalent books and yet gives much much more in terms of contents and knowledge. Still reading it and using it are two different things.

What am I doing eating food court food in APM when there are tons of fantastic food around?

The Cheese Wrapped Tonkatsu with Tomato Rice, Eggs, Wedges, Fresh Vegetables….Yummy~! 

Char Siew Ramen with Stewed Pork rice. Very Familiar….

The Gyoza~!!

For dessert: Ice Cream made with Chinese herbs. Unique and great taste!  Can be found at the Jusco Supermarket Chinese Medicine shop. 

There are really nice street art as well or very nicely placed posters if you must.

If the $98 4 days 3 nights package sounded too good to be true, it usually is. One of these groupons thingie is the need to go for the half day tour around Hong Kong. Half day to do what?  The Aberdeen floating fishing village, the golden bauhinia, Repulse Bay and of course the Hong Kong Jewellery Store.  For the price I am willing to just sit out and relax after knowing for the umpteenth time where Jackie Chan house is, where Li Ka Shing’s mansion is and how wonderful the jewellery is.  I would say I got immune to all the sale tactics which is a good thing. I still wonder how a jewellery piece that has a turning wheel would attract blessings and hearing it close is like coins raining down on you (and coins raining down on you would mean certain death, not immense wealth). Still I sit through it all, wait through it all it and take photos at the requisite places again and to go through the pain of looking at the souvenior plates being printed with my face on it.  I was glad it started early and done by lunch time.

The Golden Bauhinia. Yes it marks the handling over of Hong Kong from the British to the Chinese.  I notice the word Olympus more than the flower. The sacrifice of being a photographer where you notice things that was once not obvious.

You mean the crab and crayfish we ate are from the bay itself?

JUMBO Floating Restaurant. Brilliant Idea, Not Brilliant Price and Certainly Not Brilliant Food (many people said that but I have not tried it). I guess it is the novelty of taking a boat to a feast rather than a chauffeured car that does the trick. And of course because of THAT book/film (The World of Suzie Wong) that brings us to Aberdeen, the last floating fishing village. Got to remind myself to really have a look at that movie somewhere.

The boats are a bit more modern now. People are berthing the boats and return home on land instead of staying.  The village has shrunk in size considerably and there are more condominiums being built since I last visited the area.  A couple of more years and this place will be in the pages of history books.

Our sampan ‘pilot’

Rayban advertisement anyone?

Re-conditioning the whole diesel off board engine at the workshop

The Repulse Bay area for the Filthy Rich. Jackie Chan’s apartment is on top of the hill on the right.  Ocean park is just behind.  Nice view as always but with more buildings. The road network is much better than last time actually. Now is more accessible and with wider roads.

Ah yes the best pose that girls always use.

Nice beach shack. I am sure it is for one of those make shift drinks stall when the weather is much hotter and the beach is much ‘crowdier’

The bus left us in Tsim Sha Shui’s Cameron Road and as it is already passed lunch time, the stomach made up the itinerary first. Going up the street, we passed by some restaurants and the first thing we go for are roasted meats at Guangdong restaurant. After we had our fill, we went to Hong Kong Island, visited Uncle Yeung and family at Mid Hill, SoHo area, Lan Kwai Fong and of course Stanley Street where the camera equipment shops are. I did find some shops chief of which is Tin Cheung’s speciality store for Leicas. It is nice to know they also have stuff for the x100. There are also some small stores to check the price of the lens and they are equivalent to the shops over at Excelsior Hotel/Peninsula Plaza in terms of feel, look and price.  They can certainly be cheaper if one actually stay put and be friendly to the staff. I was in a hurry unfortunately and I was not in the market for lens and bodies so I did not stay long.

SoHo is getting a bit more exciting but the opposite can be said of Lan Kwai Fong (LKF). LKF is now more of a backwater part of the happenings in Hong Kong and was really quite for a Thursday evening out. There is also Wyndham Street where things are more Zouk like but I personally like the energy of SoHo. A sophisticated sense permeate the area and it is more like Holland Village in terms of feel.  Would love to sit down in one of the cafe and watch the world go by a bit.

There’s definitely more to do at night so we went back to Kowloon and visited Temple street. Hmm. Temple street has always been the quieter of the two (the other being Ladies Street) but this time round it is way too quiet.  So we walked towards Mong Kok along Nathan and do the tourist thing at the shops. Was quite surprised to see Espirit Outlet at Mong Kok itself but unlike the last trip where I was on a lens hunt, this trip would be more of a toy hunt.  Using the guide book that Kim passed to me, the shopping mall that has touted itself as toy city, the CTMA centre is devoid of shops and it was like 9pm?  I think the shops there have moved and I actually went to another shopping plaza called Sino Centre (信和中心) which is along Nathan Road that has 3 levels of toys, anime, manga and Hong Kong comics. I got what I was looking for: the Baby Milo Revoltech Figurine. Why a 30+ year old guy get such things?  Good question. All in the name of photography!

Charlie Brown Cafe. We have one in Singapore so not really something I would want to spend time and money on. I agree the food may be better (usually better. Somehow Singapore’s food quality dropped a lot) but I am for the local fare more.

This is what I call Roast Meat! Oily, Succulent, Flavourful, Chunky, Juicy…itadakimasu!

The other must have: The pork chop burger. I wonder how they did it. I can just eat the pork chop and it came off clean and nothing gets between my teeth. Not to mention the seasoning is top notch too.  The buns are made of the traditional way that I have missed so much no thanks to Breadtalk, Four leaves, Gardenia etc.

I love my tea thick and a hint of acidity. 

Wash it down with the thick tea after the Roast Meat is really next to heaven!

Oh! Cute….i would really like to have these cups!

Very nice deco. A Jap restaurant just outside.

One of Soho’s watering holes. Very british!

Long trek up Uncle Yeung’s house at mid hill. Good thing they have the elevators. Going down is another thing altogether but the kids seems to have fun. It is funny that I get to see more babies in Hong Kong.

The graffiti says it all. “Everyone Would Buy One”

Emo a bit…

On construction?

A Flower Shop still open at this hour? Oh yes, some late late Valentine’s day dinner for the last minuters.

The Whiskey Priest. The very same watering hole that caught my eye so many years ago. It still caught mine this time round. I just like the name of the pub.

Just outside Hard Rock Cafe. Have always buy a pin as my souvenior at Hard Rock.

Temple Street. Note the yellow line? There’s where the stalls supposed to be but it was empty. There are stalls at the other end but a bit too quiet.

This is where the famous ping pong sized wanton is sold. Long Ji Yun Tun!

Look at the size! Our kuching kurak sorry excuse of a wanton is a laughing stock!

Whole Prawn with chunky meat ball resides in flavourful MSG-less broth. What can you ask for?  All these for less than 6 SGD? Go Figure!

Got some T-shirts at 5 for 100 HKD. 

Street Artists on Sai Yeung Choi Street

The hustle and bustle.

Street Performers. The above is one super handsome ang mo gwai lo. Look at how the girls on the right are clasping their hands and watching him gleefully?  And what did he do? Just somersaulting, hand standing and winking and smirking, melting the girls’ hearts. I can say it should be that 8 packs. I only have One big one LOL. 

For those who are hunting for lens and camera bodies, Man Shing (永成)is one of the places to check things out at Sai Yong Choi Street.

Sunglasses Galore. Too fanciful for my liking.

Special Mention: The Man Who Lives Up to 殘而不廢 (an able disabled). He do not have hands but his skills in making play-doh figurines makes us those with hands shrink away in shame.  The rose in front of him is made up of play-doh petals and leaves and he did it with nothing but his arms and a piece of plastic tool. Amazing!

There’s a lot of things being said about Hong Kong Disneyland. Even our guide says the best place to be is really at Ocean Park!  I got to agree after visiting it in some ways as Disneyland do not have a huge roller coaster ride. And since it is winter, looking at water creatures is at best a freezing experience. And I guess there’s a part of me that wanted to get out of the real world and Ocean Park is more fun rather than escapist. So I  opt for Disneyland.  Of course there’s a catch, I have to make do with some bait and switch for the itinerary and so we went to the Factory Outlets over at Tung Chung Citygate Outlets Complex which is basically next to the airport.  If there’s someway to compare, I would say the JB Factory Outlets and the French Outlets near to Paris Disneyland would be the closest. However in terms of price reductions, I find that the one in Hong Kong is a close 2nd to the French version and JB is really light years far far away in 3rd. Of course I have heard that the States side is much better (after all they are retail heaven isn’t it?).

The outlets. Nice place to walk around I guess. A lot of rich main land Chinese. 

We walked past a couple of shops from the MTR station and went to the top floor. Make Up Forever is there to welcome mum and wife.

Wife did some try-ons. She said the price there is great and the brand don’t do sales at their retail shops too so this came as a surprise for her.

Continuous Light Up with Umbrella. Seems like make up did good!

I thought I would never need to see this place. So unfortunate as the shopping mall do not have a nice place to eat. Would have love to venture the surroundings more but not enough time for Disneyland. Have to make do lah!

Shanghai Express: Vege Soup, Fried Thick Noodles and Xiao Long Bao.  Food Court standard. Not fantastic but still better than those we have in Singapore.

Another Pork Chop rice. 

Cute Train

Hanging on to Mickey’s arse LOL!

This is weekday. Weekend? Oh dear…

Sounds really cliche…

We are in time for the parade!  Talk about perfect timing!

The parade was anything but boring.  I understand they have to do this everyday and yet they looked really fresh. I wonder if Chingay can be of smaller sized and closer to the people, more intimate and more energy is put into doing up nicer but smaller floats and have dancers that are lesser but have better dance moves, would it be better?

Mickey Waffles. I guess biting one’s ear off is a satisfaction in itself. Isn’t that right Mike Tyson?

I sat on the same type of ride way back at Paris Disneyland. Shot nearly the same stuff using the Fujifilm S602 then and now with the x100.  My relationship with Fujifilm has come full circle.

The rides are really kid level. They are so mild even my butts got bored stiff. I guess the most exciting ones should be the Space Mountain (if space have mountains) and this Race ride at Toyland which I did not get to enjoy spending too much time at the safari ride.  Even the racer is quite mild as compared to the one at Australia Movie World where we nearly went flying if not for the emergency brake.

The fireworks at the end of the day was really something. It was a good thing I did brought the tripod along and set the camera up for some spectacular fireworks.  I would even say the word ‘spectacular’ or even ‘awesome’ is a tad too underwhelming for the presentation. Fireworks should be one that takes time to show its colours and intensity and slowly bring the atmosphere to its peak at a pace that is neither slow nor too explosively fast to the point it is one whole blur.  No wonder going Disneyland is an experience.  The fireworks we have on NDP need to be tweaked to incorporate some creative flair and presentation to bring it to a higher level. As of now, it is too fast, too furious.

The last full day we have in Hong Kong is spent by visiting Sham Shui Po’s Apliu Street and Causeway Bay.  There are also street stalls but it caters more to the local tastes unlike those in the tourist areas where it is more towards souvenirs. There is also two computer centers akin to Sim Lim Square or Funan IT Mall called Golden Computer Center. Those in the know will understand that we won’t buy computer stuff at the big retailer chains and in Hong Kong,  you don’t go to Tsim Sha Shui chain stores and small shops too because of higher rentals.  This is the place to be to get the latest.  I will be in the market for Ice Cream Sandwich tablet by the end of the year so I was not going there. There is however, two camera accessories shops along Apliu street and I promptly got my LED Panel, light boxes, wireless triggers, flash reflectors, filters, 2 camera bags (my parents love the Lowepro Messenger Sling and they got the chiong ones) , 40 cm long wired manual shutter trigger for the x100 (I found that the one I had was a bit short and it limit my movement) and other stuff such as in car video camera. All the items will be the subject of another blog post after this.  All in I should have saved at least 150-200 SGD if I got them at home and that covers my airfare to Hong Kong!

After I satisfied the photo equipment shopping bug, I saw this shop selling old camera stuff. I should have asked if he has a leica hiding behind in his cabinet somewhere. Judging by the looks, it was not well taken care of. Even if I bought it, would have to send it for repairs or something. Still should have at least tried. 

The ubiquitous Chee Cheong Fan or Rice Sheet Roll which sandwiches Char Siew Pork pieces or prawns for that delicious meal

My Yuan Yang Chicken Hot Pot Rice. The frog or 田雞 has the same word used for Chicken of the feathery kind. So these two ‘chickens’ are mixed into the Hotpot rice.  It is unique and never been eaten in my life but it was heavenly delicious on the get go.  If you can forget that you see the feet of the frog sticking out…Yes I got you…you will NOT stop thinking of those.LOL.

Seven Million People in the space that is less than half of Singapore’s. That means a lot of people movement on weekends.

MTR Exits are everywhere and that makes it the transport to use in jam tight Hong Kong. Really. If they can do it without increasing train fare for 14 (yes FOURTEEN) long years and yet the train service is top notch and frequency is so much higher with much longer trains and ridership, why are we experiences intermittent jams with less daunting numbers?  Food for thought yes?  Yes MTR is the landlord for most of the best location in town so their rental yield is fantastic and that helps with the fare but still, their maintenance is also much higher too. I did not experience any “sorry we have some intermittent problems” type of announcement during the busiest peak period. At most is some poor soul’s butt that got prata’ed by the train doors that kicks in another “please do not lean against the door” announcements (again).

Actually I did not plan to eat Yee Shun Milk Company’s Steamed Milk Pudding but look at these! I should have kicked myself harder if I ever miss this best dessert ever again.  The top is the egg yolk steamed milk pudding and the bottom is Almond flavour with Chunky red beans. I would have ask them to open a store up in heaven when I migrated there.

This trip is more like a birthday shopping trip with wife and parents tagging along for the ride.  I would say this time it is a wee bit different from the first two times I have been here is because the first time I was just a teenager and that I am not as adventurous. And I have to take care of younger brother and cousins who came along. The second time around I stayed over in Macau and did not have much time in Hong Kong itself as it was a day trip. This trip is really the start of the exploration of the rest of the place including New Territories. Yes it is nowhere near where I would have done but if all goes well, SPIN will be coming back again, this time for a super duper photographic equipment shopping tour topped up with foodies gluttony trips and of course, exploration to the rest of the areas less travelled.


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