MY FIRST trip to Hong Kong in 2000 was lengthy as I connected from Davao to Manila to HK. Memories have blurred like remnants of my moldy film photos, strolling through night markets, riding boats to eat seafood in a fishing village. The only clear thing I recall was entering a small book shop, and emerging with a first book edition of Harry Potter which the store owner insisted I would not regret.
Fast forward 18 years later, Cathay Pacific finally launched its first direct flight to Hong Kong from Davao. Good news for Mindanaoans since it lessens travel time via Cebu or Manila. Now flying four times weekly, it is a most anticipated escape route for a quick getaway, romantic or family-oriented. Hong Kong has long been a popular Asian destination for its dynamic and vibrant metropolis, stylish attractions, retro vibe, dizzying skylines and celebrity sightings (avid Jacky Chan and Stephen Chow fan here).
As a former British colony and autonomous territory in southeastern China, Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region (SAR) enjoying a higher degree of autonomy to preserve its economic and social systems. While officially a part of China, it is allowed to operate as an independent territory. It has often been thought of as a country because of its brand positioning as Asia’s world city since 2001, highlighting itself as a hub for global connectivity, entrepreneurship, and resourcefulness.
So how can you smartly condense a tour of HK’s sights and sounds within four days? What should you explore first in a dizzying array of culture, art, street diners, and other leisure pursuits?
There’s the shopping. A major point of interest in HK, streets are lined with chic boutiques of Dior, Prada, Armani, Hermes in the biggest shopping complex of Harbour City, or you can opt for cheap finds in the night markets of Mong Kok, and crowded stalls of Sham Shui Po.
There’s the gustatory exploration of restaurants and diners where Asian gourmet is best served in delightful surprises. Yum Cha in Central Hong Kong is an amazing place for foodies, serving authentic Chinese food in charming modern presentations, in a backdrop of striking interiors and high ceilings.
Strolling at the Old Town Central gives you a glimpse of Hong Kong history in fascinating walking routes that cover landmarks of heritage sites from temples to vibrant art alleys, food strips, and museums. Be transported back in time inside Man Mo Temple at Hollywood Road, one of the oldest in Hong Kong.
Sham Shui Po is a working-class district of markets, shops, stalls, eateries and, if you dig a little deeper for flea market treasures, you will discover in this open air strip a gold mine of electronics bargain, old school accessories and, surprising vintage finds that transports you back to a hip retro generation. Hong Kong embraces the rich diversity and duality of a contemporary urban culture mixed with historical landmarks.
A perfect way to end your evening is to watch the Symphony of Lights, a daily spectacular showcase billed as “the world's largest permanent light and sound show” according to Guinness World Records. This amazing laser light displays can best be viewed from Victoria Harbour and Tsim Sha Tsui promenade every 8:00 pm for around 15 minutes. Our residence in Marco Polo Hong Kong gave us a fantastic view of its iconic skyline coming alive with neon dancing lights and fireworks that lit the sky.
Lastly, we completed our magical journey at Hong Kong Disneyland Resort (HKDL), which is celebrating Mickey’s 90th anniversary this year with the World’s Biggest Mouse Party. HKDL is transformed into a magical winter wonderland with an all-new 18-meter-tall Christmas tree, holiday dazzling lights and ornaments, and a fabricated snowfall with nightly parades of Disney stars. A night’s stay in Disneyland’s Explorer’s Lodge took us back into our childhood dreams and adventures.
Even with Hong Kong’s penchant for modern trends and novelty, underneath its densely populated urban center is an ancient vibe hidden in the midst of futuristic skyscrapers and high-rises of posh architectural structures. It is quite an adventure to explore its unseen alleyways and go back in time.
This tour was made possible with Cathay Dragon in a partnership with Marco Polo Hong Kong and Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB), who flew in media friends and top travel agents in a 4-day trip.
To celebrate the launch of Cathay Dragon’s direct Hong Kong-Davao flights, dinner was hosted in the Cucina of Marco Polo Hong Kong where top five agents in Mindanao for 2017 were recognized with awards and prizes to its representatives: Maikka Pabalan of Century Express Philippines; Suphie Dolfo of Sunbee Tours; Cecilia Lateo of One Corp; Liz Yanten of House of Travel and Bing Pasquil of Pan Asiaworld Holidays. By a stroke of luck, I won an overnight stay for two in Marco Polo Hong Kong in a raffle.
Cathay Pacific’s dynamic team and our escorts were Robin Bradshaw (country manager, Philippines), Hazel Tagimacruz (district sales and marketing manager), former GSA Manager Cecil Marcelo, and Thesa Pangilinan (manager, Philippines) of HKTB. Special thanks to Marco Polo Director of Communications Samantha Poon for the warm welcome during our stay,
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(Jojie Alcantara is a long time columnist of SunStar Davao, who writes for publications. She blogs, travels and gives photo workshops around the country. Visit kodakerdabawenya.com)