I will not chronicle the trip on a day to day basis because too many have done that. Instead, I’ll write by category depending on my mood.
First stop, the places where we spent the night. Since booking made the trip definite, the next problem for us was where to stay. We were on a really tight budget and I was going bonkers scavenging the net for great deals. I found none, however. Our criteria was simple, less than 1,000 pesos a night with bathroom. Everything else was negotiable.
Our trip was from March 29 to April 5 and believe it or not, we arrived in Hong Kong with only a hostel booked for March 30 to April 1, thanks to Rochelle’s dad. Up to now, I am still amazed of the string of good fortunes that let us survive those nights.
The first thing we did after arriving at HKIA was to look for a place to rest that is within budget. I realized you cannot simply go in a hotel’s doorstep and book a room unless you’re wiling to pay huge fees. Off I went to the nearest phone booth. I dialed a couple of numbers of hostels I (thankfully) wrote on my notebook. Half of the people I talked to did not speak english, 25% were fully booked and the remaining 1/4 were out of our budget.
Fortunately, good things happen and thanks to Reyma’s friend who lives in Hong Kong, we met Ate Lydia. Ate Lydia is a Filipina who married a Chinese National. She currently lives in Hong Kong and she owns a store there as well as a couple of rooms she rents out to budget travelers, mostly Filipinos. The place is in Kennedy Town, a bus ride away from downtown Hong Kong. It’s a condo-type place with a room, a bathroom, non-functional kitchen and a living room which can also be a bedroom. Since space is a luxury in Hong Kong and almost 90% of the population lives in condominium type buildings, we were considered lucky.
Among all the places we stayed at, I liked this one best because it felt like we were just having a sleepover in a friend’s condo. There were 11 of us (at some point 13) and up to five squeezed ourselves in one queen-sized bed. Plus, the air conditioner was really cold. Pardon the mess. That’s what you get when 13 people with luggage of their own stay in one place. Who needs water beds when you have a comfortable one at home? We came to Hong Kong to travel, not to sleep. As long as we’re not out on the streets, we’re fine.
We paid 1000 HKD a night for the entire room, water and electricity included. Divided among twelve, that’s 83 dollars each (or 498 pesos). Great right? In addition to Ate Lydia’s hospitality and the feeling of being with Filipinos, she has this amazing store where you can buy Filipino products from Tanduay Ice to 555 Sardines to Lucky Me! Noodles. Plus, she cooks Filipino dishes like Adobo and Tinola. Most important of all, Wi-Fi is free as long as you are in the vicinity of the store. Thank you very much, Ate Lydia!
To return the favor, you can contact her at Tel no: 2818-3873 or Mobile no: 9252-0349. The address of her store is Shop 17. G/F Blk. A Hoi Dao Building. 7-11 Belcher St. Kennedy Town, Hong Kong. If you stay there, please say hi to her for me and look for our picture because she took our photo on our last day and I realized there were pictures of random people posted on the room, probably those who have been there. We stayed on the nights of March 29, April 3 and 4.
The next day, we commuted with our luggage to Tsim Sha Tsui because Rochelle’s father booked three rooms for us at Venetian Hostel Kowloon, Mirador Mansion.
At first, I thought Venetian Hostel was a regular hotel, you know, one building and all only to realize it was like a condominium (or a tenement?) where different business-minded people bought lots of units and then turned those units into smaller rooms. The first to third floors are full of stores. Anything you can think of buying — from boots to food to high end SLR cameras to HK souvenirs — were available. The remaining floors were a mix of residential areas, hostel rooms, and a couple of stores from internet to laundry shops. But it was not that bad. Actually, the place was nice if not for the lack of window and the corridors which remind one of horror films.
Another sad part about Venetian Hostel is that we were in 3 different rooms and the rooms are not beside each other. Dai, Edcel and I were in the 13th floor while Rochelle, Jaq, Abi and Nicka were in a room on the 10th floor near the elevator. Meanwhile, Bianca, Adams, Kirk, Reyma and Ysa were also on the 10th floor albeit on the far end. Of course there were elevators, actually there are two. Unfortunately, they are closed after midnight and one only caters to even-numbered floors while the other, to odd-numbered ones. 13 and 10 are so not compatible.
A good thing about Venetian Hostel is the presence of hot and cold shower. After giving up on trying to understand the hot and cold machine at Ate Lydia’s and shivering to death every time we take a bath, a warm shower in a cold weather is very much welcome. The two rooms were regular rooms. However, the room I shared with Dai and Edcel was meant to be for couples on a honeymoon as manifested by the glass-walled bathroom.
The best thing about Venetian Hostel is it’s location, situated right at the heart of Hong Kong and just beside the famed Chung King Mansion. I’ve read in internet forums that the place (Chung King) is dangerous but when you have lived in and survived Manila, Philippines, I don’t think a couple of robbers will scare you. One night, I accompanied Edcel to a nearby 7-eleven to buy his dose of caffeine. There were a lot of gangster-looking people roaming the streets and when we came back to Mirador Mansion, we found ourselves in a check point. Half a dozen guards were checking everyone that goes in. You had to write your name and your hostel. There was danger in the air but instead of getting scared, I found myself smiling. BTW, when elevators are out of order, you can always use the stairs. No worries, they’re labeled properly.
The room was supposed to be just for 10 people but we’re twelve. Besides, security’s not that tight during the day so we’re fine (though there were lots of CCTV cameras). The place was packed with backpackers of different nationalities and it elicit a pang of envy in me. I’ll get there someday. We paid Rochelle 200 HKD each for two nights because her dad did not expect there were 12 of us. Still a good bargain.
The next place we stayed at was New Century Hotel and Casino in Macau and in terms of luxury, it’s the best we experienced, 5-star baby. How did we afford such luxury? It’s thanks to Reyma. Her cousin’s husband served as our tour guide while we were in Macau and he was also the one who booked our hotel. There were 12 of us and we stayed in one really spacious room supposed to be for four people only. HAHA. I forgot how much the room cost but we paid 60 HKD each per night. The greatest deal we ever had.
The hotel’s theme is Greek mythology and the first thing you see upon entering the lobby is a huge statue of Zeus sitting on his throne in Olympus holding the lightning bolt. I felt bad because it’s as if we were cheating, three times the supposed occupants of a room! But I somehow found justification in the fact that the place makes millions a year and it would not hurt their revenue if 12 post-grad budget travelers decide to crash for two nights. It’s a way of getting something out of capitalism. Chos! We didn’t go around the hotel in one herd. We divided ourselves in groups of four and acted like the others were strangers. Haha!
Good thing 5-star hotels have nice beds. Two became four and they’re still comfortable to sleep on. Our room was even carpeted! We were about to make the most out of our hotel experience by dipping in a Jacuzzi. Unfortunately, the place was under renovation.
Plus, did I mention our hotel has its own casino? We stayed here for two consecutive nights, April 1 to 2. We lived like gamblers in Macau. It was easy, tempting and fun. We went home at around 3 am and slept till 2 pm. An experience to cherish but not live again because it is unhealthy and it’ll leave you penniless.
One time, we were just bumming around when a knock on the door sent shivers down our spines. Someone looked through the hole and saw a cleaning lady. Immediately, the rest of us hid while Reyma opened the door and said we will not have our room cleaned. The lady was happy, it’s one room less to make up. We were happy, our secret was safe when we thought we were doomed! We just laughed real hard afterwards especially when the cleaning lady, out of gratitude, let Reyma get a couple of extra blankets and towels and other hotel souvernirs without any qualms.
I realized it was God’s plan that we did not have a place booked ahead because there were a lot of fun and anxiety involved in all those hostel-hopping. We went from a condo to a hostel to a five start hotel and back again to a condo in 8 days (for others, their last night was spent at the airport for fear of missing their flight).
Can’t wait for the time when we can actually afford decent hotels HAHA!