February 23, 2010

My Macau-Hong Kong Birthday Celebration - Part III

Our adventure continued with a plan to cross Victoria Harbour and head on to The Peak. Again, we strolled down Nathan Road and turned right on Haiphong Road and turned left on Canton Road. We passed by Louis Vuitton, Gucci and other high end designer shops.

We also stumbled into the Harbour City Ocean Centre which was filled with decors for the Chinese New Year.

We went inside the mall and went to Toys R Us where I was able to purchase a My Melody watch for my second daughter. It just cost HK$ 130 (or roughly Php 819). I would have gotten a Barbie doll with a set of clothes for HK$ 99 but they ran out of stock. My youngest daughter would have loved it. Sayang!

We strolled some more and saw the Clock Tower, another Hong Kong landmark.

Then we boarded the Star Ferry, Hong Kong's popular and inexpensive mode of getting to Central and Tsim Sha Tsui and vice versa. Fare is HK$ 2.5 (roughly Php 15) per person.

The harbour views were simply breathtaking

When we got to Central, we decided against going to The Peak as it was quite cloudy. My DH thought that we wouldn't be able to see any view and I agreed. And so we just had dimsum for lunch in

That night, we ventured out into Jordan Road and Temple Street.

I wasn't impressed with the items being sold in the Ladies Night Market. We simply ended up buying souvenir key chains for our girls.

The next day, which was our last day in Hong Kong, we turned to the Observatory Road, crossed Chatham Road and ended up having breakfast in McDonald's inside this mall

which was inside this park/garden

We strolled some more and came across the Charlie Brown Cafe in Cameron Road.

Our flight back to Manila wasn't until 10pm but we decided to check out of the hotel at 1pm. With luggages in tow, we took the MTR (our first for this trip) to get to Citygate Mall in Tung Chung. The Filipinos we came across guided us in deciphering the touch screen ticket vending machine but we still had our share of bloopers when we switched trains in Lai King. When we finally exited the train at Tung Chung station, we proceeded to the information booth so we could pay the additional fare which we failed to pay when we switched trains.

Inside Citygate Outlet Mall, I happily finished off my remaining HK Dollars. Ha ha!

From there, we took the bus to get to the airport. We were finally homeward bound.

My Macau-Hong Kong Birthday Celebration - Part II

Since our kids didn't come with us for this trip, we decided early on that we will not go to Disneyland nor Ocean Park. We'll save those destinations for that time when the girls are with us.

With that in mind, I made arrangements to stay in Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon Island. I specifically wanted to see the Symphony of Lights and the Avenue of the Stars and explore the shops in Granville Road.

After checking out of the hotel in Macau, we boarded the ferry which took us directly to Tsim Sha Tsui. At the pier, we took a cab to get to the Empire Hotel where we were booked.

This was the view from our room

We then headed out to explore Kimberley Road and crossed Nathan Road where numerous shops abound. We particularly explored this strip

and then walked some (well, a lot actually) more to the direction of Victoria Bay. Along the way, we passed by the ChungKing House and I couldn't resist taking a shot

We laughed as we remembered all the reviews about the accommodations in this building posted on the Net.

We also passed by the Hong Kong Museum of Art

and then we finally reached the Avenue of the Stars

where my DH made a wacky pose

For dinner, we each got this steak sandwich from a bar called Berlin

and this was on the table

How apt.

As for the beer, well what can I say? My DH is a die-hard Filipino!

Afterwards, we turned into Cameron Road (which is just a parallel street to Nathan Road) and surprisingly stumbled into Granville Road

Most of the shops sold boots and winter clothes. I resisted the urge to buy as I knew I wouldn't be able to wear them back in Manila. I saw a Bossini Outlet Store and patiently went through the jeans section. I emerged triumphantly with a size 24 stretch jeans which I got for only HK$ 99!

Right beside it is another shop called Cotton On where I grabbed a couple of dresses for HK$ 90 each (which I will share with my eldest daughter, haha, excuses, excuses), ballerina-style shoes and a pair of aviator-style sunglasses.

With that, DH firmly led me back to the hotel.

Next: Our adventure in Hong Kong continues... My Macau-Hong Kong Birthday Celebration - Part III

February 22, 2010

Road Trip to Laoag

Our last business trip took us on a road trip to Laoag. It was sort of unexpected, as the original plan was for us to leave Monday night. However, due to conflicting schedules, we left Manila last Thursday night and drove to Laoag for 10 hours.

We reached the Fort Ilocandia Hotel at 5am on Friday. I was the only girl in our group and got my own room:

We freshened up and proceeded to a breakfast meeting at the hotel. After about an hour or so, I rested for 30 minutes and we were off again to another meeting. I was finally able to get some much needed zzzzzz's at 4pm until about dinner time at 8pm. Our group retired early for the night.

I woke up early on Saturday morning, with the sun just about to set. I opened the curtains and saw this view:

I stepped out to the veranda and took advantage of the tranquility.

After breakfast, I was able to take a few shots:

and take a quick look at the mini zoo:

Fort Ilocandia Hotel is highly recommended for families. There is everything for everyone here. No one will surely get bored. They have numerous facilities and offer various activities ranging from archery, billiards, shooting range, paintball, horseback riding, all terrain vehicle and even hot air balloon riding. They also have a casino and 2 different bars inside the property. Their golf course is located about 10 minutes away.

(Shameless plug: The hotel now offers free WiFi access to their guests.)

That afternoon, we took a short drive to Paoay

and had a late lunch at Herencia Cafe, which is right across the famous Paoay Church. The restaurant has an old Filipino ambiance, with antique wooden furniture. What caught my attention was that some of the table legs were actually that of antique sewing machines. We ordered the restaurant's Ilocandia Pasta and Ilocandia Pizza. The pasta was so-so, but I loved the thin crust pizza topped with slices of Ilocos longganisa

Herencia Cafe also serves the famous Pinakbet Pizza, but our group wasn't brave enough to try it, haha.

We went back to the hotel in time for another meeting. Afterwards, we were all drained and homesick. We had a couple of beers that night and ordered Crispy Pata for pulutan.

On Sunday morning, we finalized the renegotiated deal and fine details. We checked out of the hotel at 11am. We were finally going home!

A road trip to Ilocos would not be complete without a stop to Vigan

We had empanada and okoy for lunch

I also bought Vigan Longganisa and Royal Bibingka as pasalubong for my girls.

To avoid the traffic in San Fernando, La Union, we took a diversion road which winded just before the turn to Poro Point on the other side of the road. Our next stop for a quick cigarette break was on the side of the road somewhere in La Union

We made another stop in Rosario, La Union to gas up and stretch our legs. We decided to stick to the National Highway rather than take the alternate route in Pangasinan as it was getting dark. Luckily, Urdaneta in Pangasinan was not congested with traffic. For dinner, we stopped in Caltex along the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX). We were shocked with all the people who were there. The parking lots and restaurants were all full. We wanted to dine at Razon's but the line was too long and there were no vacant tables. We settled for Kenny Roger's Roasters instead. Because we were all homesick, we lamented that the other people were about to end their weekend while ours were just about to start ... boohoo.

I finally got home at 11pm. It was a 12 hour trip back.

Business Trips

I just arrived last night from a business trip.

I missed a whole weekend with my girls and I missed their school activities which was scheduled last Saturday and Sunday. Good thing my DH attended all the programs and videotaped my girls' performances.

Business trips for me are "bittersweet". Those trips are usually hectic, with meetings one after another. And the meetings are, more often than not, draining. Negotiating with top-level hotel executives are usually tough. On a positive note, business trips also allow me to explore the different provinces of our country. Because of my work, I've gone to Subic, Bataan, Tarlac, Pangasinan, Cabanatuan, Baguio, Batangas, Tagaytay, Cavite, Iloilo, Bacolod, Cebu and Davao in our search for viable hotels and offer our company's WiFi services. After our meetings, we manage to squeeze in quick tour to a locale's attraction and do what most sightseers do. We also get to try the various specialty dishes of each province.

my favorite business trip pictures
(clockwise: Pearl Farm Resort in Samal Island, Davao, road trip from Pangasinan to Subic,
Bataan Death March marker, Magellan's Cross shrine in Cebu, Microtel Davao, Bolinao Church,
Lighthouse Marina Resort in Subic, Cebu Pacific plane, Cape Bolinao Lighthouse)

Business trips also allow some "me" time. Don't get me wrong, I love my family very much and would do anything and everything for them. But going away on my own once in a while allows me to recharge. I've come to realize that it's also important to find fulfillment outside our home. I miss my family terribly when I am away but somehow, I come home renewed in spite of being physically tired from the trip.

And nothing beats the feeling of coming home to the welcoming shrieks of my girls.

February 13, 2010

My Macau-Hong Kong Birthday Celebration - Part I

To celebrate my 36th, hubby and I (with emphasis on hubby and I only, no kids in tow!) flew to Hong Kong, stayed overnight in Macau and ferried back to Hong Kong.

As always, we took advantage of Cebu Pacific Airline's promo fares and booked our trip as early as November. We were supposed to fly in to Guangzhou, China but there were obstacles in obtaining a visa. We decided to rebook our flight and go directly to Hong Kong instead.

Arriving at the Hong Kong International Airport at around 7:40am, we were shocked to see that it was raining heavily. We knew it was winter there but almost all the internet sites we checked out prior to the trip said that it never rained during February. This is a perfect example of the global warming effect, we thought.

We went directly to the turbo-jet ferry ticketing station and paid CNY 215 per person (they accept HK Dollar and Chinese Yuan). We skipped Hong Kong's immigration and customs and they took care of our luggage transfer. We wandered around the airport shops, sat down and took advantage of the free WiFi service to while away the time as the first ferry to Macau wasn't until 10am. At around 9:30am, we entered the gate and took a short train ride to get to the ferry boarding dock called SkyPier.

The ferry ride to Macau was a comfortable one and took approximately 40 minutes. It was still dark, gloomy and rainy.

Upon docking at the pier, we quickly went through immigration and proceeded to claim our luggage. Outside the ferry terminal, we got confused as we were previously told that there were free shuttle buses going to our hotel. We couldn't see our hotel's bus and decided to take a cab then. It was a 10-minute ride to downtown Macau.

Later on, we found out that we docked at the Taipa temporary pier and that the free shuttle buses were only in Macau proper.

We checked in at the Holiday Inn Hotel,

freshened up a bit and went out to get lunch at a small restaurant across the street. I loved the lechon macau and Bacalhau Rice, which was yang chow (fried rice) with bits of dried and salted codfish.

After a short rest back at the hotel, we headed to The Venetian Resort Hotel.

DH could not resist going inside the Manchester United Experience merchandise store.

The next day, we walked 20 minutes to get to the Leal Senado Square. Decorations for the Chinese New Year were on display at the center of the square.

We followed directions going to the Ruins of St. Paul Cathedral. On the way, there were a lot of stalls selling tapas

and egg rolls.

After 5 minutes of walking, this came into sight.

We walked some more

and went up the steps to get a closer shot.

Then we asked a fellow Filipino to take our picture.

Next: Part II of our Macau - Hong Kong Trip