Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Hong Kong secret spots (as printed in Manila Bulletin)

My first EVER published article! I'm giddy with excitement! Grab a copy of Manila Bulletin today - Travel and Tourism section C-3

Hong Kong secret spots

This Hong Kong trip has to be by far my best travel for this year. Maybe because it was:

Photo grabbed from Manila Bulletin's site
1) Unplanned

2) I won the trip (thanks to Joey and Andi’s segment on Magic 89.9 and the HKTB)

3) The company was superb

4) The food was great

5) The hotel was new and very modern

6) I found new secret addresses!

The trip was totally unplanned – who would have thought that I’d be one of the three winners! Not me in a million years! When they asked who I would be bringing – without batting an eyelash – I answered, ‘my mom’.

My mom loves Hong Kong; it’s the vacation spot for her. She says that despite the fact that she’s been to HK many times before, it’s still her favorite city. To be honest, it’s mine too! Whenever I am asked where I want to go for a short trip, I always say Hong Kong, mainly because of the good food, the good bargains, and the great city.

The purpose of the trip was to find your own secret Hong Kong address in the two short days we had on our own.

Here are the addresses (some secret and some not so secret) that I found on this trip:

Secret Dining Place #1 Din Tai Fung – This resto just opened January of this year. It’s not a secret to many, but I think it’s a secret to most Hong Kong residents. My dad was the first one who introduced me to this restaurant years ago in Taiwan. I’m so happy that they finally opened a shop in Hong Kong!

I was so proud to introduce this to our tour coordinator Fred. He first was skeptical about its existence since he hadn’t heard of it yet. He was actually convincing me and my mom to try another restaurant that served great Xiao Long Bao, but we insisted.

When we got there, the place was packed. Luckily, the hostess found us a table immediately. Since it was Fred’s first time, my mom and I ordered for us. We got the famous Xiao Long Bao and some other dishes. When the orders arrived, I was so excited to have Fred taste the uber-famous dish. And so when he took his first bite of the famous Xiao Long Bao, he declared to us that it was indeed the best Xiao Long Bao he’s tasted! Even the famous Yu Yuan Garden Xiao Long Bao in Shang-Hai did not compare, he said! I was so happy for him! He now has a newly discovered restaurant to which he can bring tourists. Yipee!

Secret Dining Place #2 Golden Bull – My mom’s friend has been raving about this resto for years. I always thought that this resto closed down years ago, but I was wrong. Apparently, they just underwent a full renovation.

Hong Kong is known to have the best Chinese restaurants around, but for a change, we decided to dine here for dinner since it’s a Vietnamese restaurant. The food was fabulous, the location was so perfect! It was by the harbor, and during dinner time, one will be able to see the world-famous Symphony of Lights show.

We ordered a lot, but we downed them all and were so pleased. The roasted chicken we ordered was so good! It tasted even better when dipped in the special sauce. We also ordered prawns and frog legs. The pineapple fried rice is the best dish to sample. Although quite pricey, it was worth it because each person was given one piece each of abalone and prawn on top of the fried rice.

Secret Dining Place #3 Sweet Dynasty – I had honestly not heard of nor seen this place before, so when my mom and I passed by the resto, we knew we had to try this place out after dinner, as it served desserts Chinese style. The restaurant may seem small when you look at the entrance, but as they say, don’t judge the book by its cover because when you enter the restaurant, there is a second floor.

They do not only serve desserts but also hot meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It was after our lovely dinner at Golden Bull that we decided to sample some desserts. Because we were in Hong Kong, we opted for the Sweet Beancurd, locally known as Tau-Hwe (to us, it’s Taho). It arrived in a bamboo container with a special ladle. It also came with a siding of tapioca (sago to us) and syrup for added flavor. As I scooped the beancurd to the bowls, it was so light and smooth. I was impressed. But it didn’t end there. When I tasted it, it was so light, smooth, and fine. The syrup wasn’t heavy, and the tapioca was just perfect! It’s such a good way to end the night.

The next day, we were treated to a tour to two of Hong Kong’s tourist areas, The Peak and Hong Kong Disneyland! I’ve been to the Peak before it was renovated, and this was my first time after the renovation. I have to say, it has improved so much!

It was my first time to see Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum in Hong Kong. There were so many figures of Asian and American personalities that were on display. I was so happy to see my favorite couple, Brangelina, together that I had to ask my mom to take my picture with them! We were also treated to experience the new exhibition of the museum called ‘Scream.’ As you enter, you’ll see a sign that says ‘Please do not harm our actors,’ which made me wonder what actors were they talking about?

So, as we reluctantly entered (because we knew it was going to be a sort of scary experience), we heard a lot of screaming from Mojo and Grace Lee of the Good Times radio and TV show (they went ahead of us). It was so funny because they were screaming like crazy, and there was camera capturing every moment. As we lined up to enter, I realized that it was a ‘walk-through scare the guest’ kind of experience. And being third in the line, the scare-fest wasn’t as bad (as I thought) because we saw the actors waiting to scare us before they did. The experience was funny and scary. It was really fun and different.

We next went on to visit Hong Kong Disneyland. It was our first time to visit the newest Disneyland franchise. To be very honest, we were not too keen on going. We surmised that since we’ve been to the other Disneylands, they were pretty much the same. But as we entered, we noticed that it was different. I for one totally forgot what a Disneyland looked like. What I had in my head, well, it wasn’t Disneyland after all. We went with Sandro and Sheng (one of the other winning pairs) who were sweet enough show us around (as they had been here earlier this year).

A funny story: we went on the Buzz Lightyear ride and the newly built "it’s a small world" ride. We were falling in line to go on the small world ride when Sheng realized that we had to see the Parade of Disney characters on Main Street. Since we were already in line, there was a little problem of getting out – it was my brilliant idea to go out through the emergency exit doors. I thought that these doors were for those who opted not to go on the ride. I didn’t realize that it was really for emergency cases, so as we exited using the emergency exit doors, one of the doors sounded. Sheng was alarmed, but I still went ahead and pushed the door, which led to a hallway. We pushed another door open. Lo and behold, we were lost; gone were the Disney-themed fa├žades. What we saw was an empty space, and when we tried to go back, the doors wouldn’t open. I then remembered that emergency exit doors open only one way. It was then that I realized it was really an emergency evacuation place. Good thing there was a guard who called a staff. The staff led us back to Disneyland. It was such a comedy of errors, but as they say, it’s one for the books!

We saw the Lion King show, and I was very impressed. I was surprised that I enjoyed every bit of the show as I always had the impression that Disneyland was only for kids but it was for adults too! Too bad we weren’t able to catch the Golden Mickey show as there was so little time.

After dinner, my co-winners and I (my mom decided to retire for the night) decided to visit a night market, which brings me to share my Secret Shopping Place – the night market at Temple Street in Yau Ma Tei. For those who want a less crowded Mong Kok-style night market, this is the place to go. The selection is not as voracious, but it’s almost the same, sans the crowd. There are also restaurants on every corner serving fresh seafood.

On our last day, we decided to have Fred take us to a really secret dining area where they served duck that is as good as Yung Kee’s but cheaper. He brought us to Causeway Bay to try Wai Kee restaurant. I first had to take a picture of my ultimate secret dining place in Hong Kong!

Afterwards, we proceeded to a market -- actually, a wet market. We walked through a crowd of buyers and vendors, then we went up a building, a dry market selling veggies and fruits. There were some seamstress stalls too, sort of like our own Kamuning – just cleaner and more organized. We then breezed through a walkway that led us to a fastfood type of area with tables everywhere. We looked for the restaurant he was talking about and took a table. When he got there, he then let us try the roast duck and goose. I can’t believe that such good food could exist in a place like that. It wasn’t the cleanest nor will one see tourists around. It was very authentic – it was Hong Kong I’d never experienced before. This has to be my ultimate secret address.

I just have to say that I had the most wonderful time in Hong Kong with my co-winners. Even if we spent only one full day together, they’re all so much fun to be with. I had such a wonderful time talking to them and sharing stories. I’m so lucky to have met great companions – simple, down-to-earth, friendly, and very warm. Their company made all the difference.

I have this belief that when one travels, it’s the company that can make or break a good vacation. And I am indeed lucky to have won the trip and won new friends too!

Hong Kong still has a lot of secret addresses to be found. Exploring Hong Kong in three days is too short to discover them all. I am glad that every trip I make to this magnificent city, I discover something and some place new. The secret addresses are endless!

So, do you have a secret address in Hong Kong?

The author is one of the three winners of the Hong Kong Tourism Board and 89.9 Magic’s Hong Kong Secret Addresses contest. Manila Bulletin Lifestyle is the official media partner. For more pictures on this trip, visit the author`s blog at http://candishhh.blogspot.com

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Here are the articles of my co-winners:
Sandro Paredes - So soon, Second Honeymoon in Hong Kong
Reena Francisco - HongKong surprises

17 comments:

  1. Hey Oliboy! Thanks! Thanks!! :)

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  2. Wowwww :) It's like Becky Bloomwood when she first saw her article published. :)

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  3. Congratulations. Will keep your secret addresses in mind next time I'm in hong Kong. somebody told me that City Hall has good dimsum. Haven't tried it though.

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  4. this is it! congratz! :) pa laminate mo yung copy para swerte :)

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  5. Hi Sab! Hahaha.. Thanks!!

    Hey Bny! Yes! I agreet! Hahaha.. :)

    Hello Em! I've never heard of the City Hall thingy - might try that next time!! :)

    Hi Dyanie! :) Thanks! :) Gusto ko nga ipa-frame! Hahaha

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  6. excited to go to HK for the first time this november first week and good thing i got by your blog great read and informative...
    wanna try it!!!

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  7. Hi Anonymous! Do try them all if you have time!! :) They're all yummy!!

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  8. Hi, congrats for winning! I really can't forget my travel to HK last year, kung pwede lang na bumalik ng bumalik ulit dun if budget permits. Unfortunately, we were not that adventurous on Chinese foods, the smell made me nauseous. I liked the night market in Yau Ma Tei has good finds, and its near our hotel that time, Shamrock Hotel. Gosh, I miss HK!

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  9. Hi Badet! I'm wishing I can go back too!! :)

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  10. btw, saan ung din tai fung? ive always wanted to go to taiwan

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  11. Hi! Thanks for the tip re: Din Tai Fung. We will definitely try it.

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  12. hey cool so that's how you got to Bowrington. if you come here again I'll take you to Anthony Bourdain's fave fave resto far far away in Tai Po and a hawker stall in North Point. i read about the taiwanese dumpling place opening here from a local mag, syempre i couldn't read the chinese characters, but from the pics i knew haha pag mahilig talaga sa pagkain, kahit di maintndihan pipilitin. :)

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  13. Hi! Came across your site and was wondering where exactly Din Tai Fung, Golden Bull and Sweet Dynasty located..

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  14. There was no one else there, but my hopes of finding a secret spot on the beach were quite shattered. To make things slightly more annoying, as soon as I stumbled down from the stream, I saw that there was a path leading down to this ...

    Thanks for the tips.

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    Help, please. All recommend this program to effectively advertise on the Internet, this is the best program!

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