Hong Kong and Macau for the first-timers

Like what I mentioned here, my aunt and I went  to Hong Kong the day after independence day.  We slept at the airport the night before since we had an early flight.  The plane ride going there was uneventful. Thank you, Cebu Pacific!

I booked this trip in August of 2010 and we flew in June 2011. I had a lot of time to prepare for the trip. This forum thread is really very helpful. My aunt was amazed how easy it was for me to guide her through the itinerary I made. I was also her accountant. I kept her money and I pick what food to eat and what knickknacks to buy.  When we went there, it was 1 HKD= 5.5 Php. When she thinks  HKD100 is cheap, I would tell her, “That’s Php550. Would you buy that item for that amount in the Philippines?”  Yeah, I am frugal. I travel to see the sights and experience something new. Shopping takes a backseat.

Hong Kong is very tourist-friendly. Signs are everywhere so it is easy to get around the place. Their public transport system is very efficient.  Roads are well-paved so the more than 30-minute bus ride from the airport to the hostel in Tsim Sha Tsui was smooth.

Follow the arrow: To the city

In the middle of the busy streets like Nathan Road, there are still patches of green courtesy of the Kowloon Park.

Kowloon Park

There is also the Hong Kong Park just a train ride away from Tsim Sha Tsui area.

Two train rides away from Tsim Sha Tsui is the Nanlian Garden. It is worth the two train rides we took.  Plus, we had to go there twice because it rained the first time. All the hassle was obliterated once we set foot in the garden doors.

Nanlian garden

Since I traveled with a 65-year-old, walking can be difficult so I usually stick to the accessible  routes. This area could have been pretty at night but my aunt is too tired to experience the Symphony of Lights so we went to the Avenue of the Stars during the day.

Hong Kong Junk Boat: Here, it was used as a cruise boat for tourists.

The Avenue of the Stars is Hong Kong’s answer to Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. Notable Chinese celebrities have their stars in the boardwalk that stretched more than a kilometer, I guess. Hearing the whines from my aunt on how far we walked, I surmised that it was pretty far.  Of course, the most famous Chinese star gets a monument.

Bruce Lee

Almost every tourist  I saw who had their picture taken with the statue posed the same way. Haha! I had to restrain myself from doing the same.

HK Disneyland

Every kid I know wants to go to Disneyland. I am no exception. While my childhood was long over, my childhood dream is not. I just can’t go to Hong Kong and not visit Disneyland. So I allotted a day in Disneyland. Even if I read reviews that it is small and I can go to every nook and cranny of HK Disneyland in one afternoon, I needed one day in the park. At 9AM on the second day in HK,  my aunt and I are sitting on a bench near the entrance, holding our tickets, waiting for the gates to open at 10AM.  Excited much?

Disneyland is indeed the happiest place on earth! It is so hard to be sad inside the park.

I got to be a child again in Disneyland.

(Top) Train Station, Golden Mickeys Show (Bottom) The Festival of the Lion King Show, Sleeping Beauty’s castle


Since we got 4 days to spend in this part of the world, we might as well visit Macau which is only a 1-hour boat ride from Hong Kong.  It was already the 3rd day of the trip. The weather is fine so we took the earliest ferry schedule to Macau. There were only a few of us inside the ferry. I was already warned by a friend that I should take Bonamine because the sea is quite rough. True enough, the breakfast I ate that morning found its way inside the vomit bag.

I am no stranger to motion sickness. Land travel messes up my equilibrium and it is a rare occurrence when I do not throw up during out-of-town land trips.  I take medicine for such trips and it usually do not work. What works is keeping a plastic bag and tissue paper at arms reach. While land travel is a bane, boat rides are okay.  But there is always a first time and it happened in one boat ride to Macau.

Albeit hungry, I arrived at the Macau Ferry Terminal whole. On our way out from the Immigration counter,  we were approached by fellow Filipinos offering their services as tour guides. I declined. I did my research so I know I can reach Macau landmarks using the free shuttle buses of the different casinos. Macau is the Las Vegas of Asia. Different casinos offer free shuttle buses to tourists.

Since we took the earliest ferry ride, we arrived at Macau around 8:30 AM. Shuttle bus services start at 9:30AM. (That’s what the guide told me. Thanks for the free tip. ) This was our conversation.

Guide: We can guide you in Macau for only 200. ( In my mind, 200 dollars? That’s 1,100 pesos. No way!)
Me: No.
Guide: Is this your first time?
Me: Yes.
Guide: You have a  friend here?
Me: No. We’ll just take the free shuttle buses.
Guide: Shuttle buses will be available at 930.  You’re going to waste 1 hour.
Me: We’ll visit the ‘Fisherman’s Wharf’ first.

I think I have convinced him that I know my way around Macau.  So, he bid me goodbye. (Thanks to the Internet!)

Fisherman’s Wharf is an area next to the Ferry Terminal. It is a recreation spot filled with different shops, restaurants, coffee houses, event arena, hotel. Different establishments have different themes. In one area, you feel like you are in Egypt then a few steps away, Roman columns beckon.

Fisherman's Wharf

We took a shuttle bus to Grand Lisboa and walked towards Senado Square. Our goal was to see the Ruins of St. Paul.

Grand Lisboa is an old landmark in Macau. It was a setting in one of the 'Bourne" books by Robert Ludlum.

The instructions I got from the Internet is to just walk along the road to the right of Grand Lisboa. You will know when you reach Senado Square.

(top) City street from Grand Lisboa to Senado Square; narrow streets from Senado Square to the Ruins of St. Paul (bottom) Senado Square, Sto. Domingo Church

The Ruins of St Paul. This is Macau’s most famous landmark.

Ruins of St. Paul

My aunt was too tired to climb up the steps. I bet there are sights to see out there. I’ll check that out next time. This was not my last trip to Macau. I’ll go back when I can.  We retraced our steps and headed back to Grand Lisboa to avail of the free shuttle bus to the Ferry Terminal.  Thus, we started casino hopping.

The Venetian. We did not ride the gondola. I think we had enough boat riding for the day. 😀

The Venetian

We watch the Bubble Show at the City of Dreams. I had to convince my aunt because she was not too keen on watching. I told her, “It’s HKD30 now. The next time you want to watch this, this will cost more. Better watch now and get it over with.”  Then, we realized we had to stand inside the orb while the curved screen above us projects all these effects. Dragons would look like they were flying above us (or were they supposed to be swimming underwater?).

City of Dreams

By this time, my aunt was already tired. I convinced her that we drop by MGM Grand on the way to Ferry Terminal. She obliged.


We could have visited a lot more places but the senior citizen wanted to go home so I gave in. This trip was for her anyway. I will just visit the other sites next time.

From the ferry terminal, I took a photo of the Sands Casino.  Bye, Macau!

The next day, we went to Hong Kong Island. It was raining and we got lost looking for the Peak tram. When reached the top, we can’t see the view because of the fog.

Foggy peak

On our way down, this was all I was able to capture.

VIew from the Peak Tram

We were able to visit IKEA in Admiralty. It is the smaller store. There is a bigger store in other part of HK but we were not able to visit there. IKEA is <3. We were wishing IKEA will open in the Philippines. Food was also delicious and cheap. We got the Swedish meatballs, hotdog and chicken wings. We bought some goodies, too. We got chocolates, biscuits and candies.

On our last day, we packed our bags and headed for Tung Chung to visit Ngong Ping.  Tung Chung is just a short bus ride to the airport that why we brought our luggage so we do not have to go back to Tsim Sha Tsui. Near the MTR station is a Citygate outlet. In the basement level 2, there are self-service storage lockers. So,we left our luggage there. It is a learning experience how to operate the compartment. What a techie way to secure our belongings! I should have taken a photo of the facility.

Ngong Ping can be reached by cable car or bus from the Tung Chung area. When we were there, the cable cars are under maintenance so we had to ride the bus. It was a long bus ride to the top of the mountain. I had my ‘Are we there yet?‘ moment. Amazingly, I did not puke.

What to see in Ngong Ping:

Giant Buddha

Po Lin Monastery

Ngong Ping Village

With this, our trip to HK came to a close. We took the bus to Tung Chung. From Tung Chung, we took the bus to the airport.

What an experience! I will do this again.  I wish my cousins can come with me next time.

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.  Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.  ~Mark Twain

P.S. This blog post is still unedited.

Childhood recordings

I came across this blog post two weeks ago. We all know Sofia Coppola to be the daughter of Academy award-winning director, Francis Ford Coppola. She is now making a name for herself by being a filmmaker like her dad. In fact, she got an Academy-award nomination for best director for Lost in Translation. She collaborated with Louis Vuitton and came up with designs for their handbags.

In 1977, Sofia was 5 and Francis Ford Coppola was filming Apocalypse Now in the Philippines.  From the recording, Sofia learned to sing the Lupang Hinirang, the Philippine National Anthem, among other things. It is heartwarming to hear the conversation between Sofia and her father. Sofia was so adorable and  Francis Ford Coppola was such a doting dad. No wonder this photo from Louis Vuitton reflects the father-daughter bond.

Check out Julia’s blog for the recording: Bless my bag

After hearing this recording, I quickly scampered through my own recordings as a child. And laughed at the recording. Hearing my parents’ voices is comforting. The children today are luckier. With Youtube, Facebook and the likes, their life is documented and chronicled every step of the way.  Hopefully, when they are older, they will appreciate the wonderful memories each photo and video bring.

As much as I would like to share all of my recordings, it was in my first language, Bisaya. The funny parts might get lost in translation (incidentally, Sofia’s film!). So let me share a just a few seconds from the singing little Kat.

Kat, 6

I'd give all wealth that years have piled,
The slow result of Life's decay, 
To be once more a little child 
For one bright summer day. 
~Lewis Carroll, "Solitude" 

Before Ever After- The Movie

No, the movie is not in the works. Not that I know of. Not that I would know first. Come to think of it, that would be another awesome feat if the movie is being made just a little over a week after the book was released.

In my previous blog post, I wrote about asking Samantha who she thought would make a good Max and Shelley should the book be made into a movie. She said that she wants people to pick their cast.  Thus, I am writing this post.

Kat’s first picks: The Odd Bunch (but I will justify my picks!)

Sean Bean as Max. I know. He’s a bit older. He’s 52 while Max is 32.  I was watching ‘Game of Thrones’ while reading Samantha’s book so he came up first on my list. I do not even think Sean Bean has done a role where he is as funny as Max. He is always the serious type.  There is always a first. Who knows? He might say yes if I offer him the role. (Anything is possible in my fantasy world.) And the age? He played Eddard Stark in ‘Game of Thrones’ in his 50’s when the book states that Eddard is 35.  This is a make-believe world. Plus, Sean Bean is British!

Here’s a video of Sean Bean in an interview.


Paula Peralejo as Shelley. Shelley is 26. Paula is in her 20’s so age is not a problem. I do not remember how Shelley was described physically. All I know is that she has aquamarine eyes, dark lashes and beautiful. Paula can wear contact lenses. Filming the movie requires traveling to off-beaten paths, doing unique activities, diving, climbing, etc. Paula can do all those without hesitation. (Now I sound like Paula’s agent. Ha!)

I cannot find a youtube video of Paula so just google search and you will find plenty of photos of her on the web. If you’ve done your search, what do you think? Isn’t she lovely?

Patrick J. Adams as Paolo. I am guessing you would ask, “Who is Patrick J. Adams?” Like my choice for Max, I was watching ‘Suits’ when I thought of him as Paolo. ‘Suits’ is a new TV series about a very intelligent college dropout who ends up working as an associate in a law firm (pretending to be a real lawyer). I just like him to be a part of this fantasy movie. He’s got the right age. It is just that the book says Paolo looks like Max. Err.. he does not look like Sean Bean, my choice for Max. Hahaha!

Here’s a video of Patrick J. Adams being interviewed by Associated Press:

Second choices

From my first picks, it clearly shows I will never be a good casting director. (But in my fantasy world, I am the best there is! LOL! I rule in my own world, of course. ) I choose people based on my recent interaction with them through TV shows I watch and celebrities I tweet.

So let me think about other choices. Think, think, Kat! Max and Paolo look alike. The first look-a-likes that come to mind is Tobey Maguire and Topher Grace. (I am laughing at my choices right now.) I might as well get Kirsten Dunst as Shelley. What is this? Before Ever After- Spider-Man Edition? Max is not only immortal but he has superpowers. Haha! Samantha won’t be happy about the changes in my movie.

Here’s a video of Tobey Maguire and Topher Grace interviewing each other:

Third try

Like other casting directors, choices can change at some point. Top choices may be unavailable to film the movie so they look for other actors. If Wikipedia should be trusted as a source of information, Julia Roberts was not the first choice for the role of Vivian in Pretty Woman. So, these three actors should not be sad that they were not picked first.

Taking cues from the book, Paolo looks like Max. Max has amber eyes, brown hair and some hint of a cleft chin. Shelly has aquamarine eyes and dark lashes. Paolo and Max are 32 while Shelley is 26. Tada!! This is the best this lousy casting director can scout using google search and google images. I realize that it is hard to look for actors with amber eyes and brown hair.

Johnny Knoxville as Max. He is a comedian so I hope he can be as charming as Max. He can still look like a 32-year old man. Please try not to be a jackass (get it?), Johnny. Or I’ll fire you. LOL! As if!

Here’s Johnny Knoxville on Jimmy Kimmel Live:


Josh Duhamel as Paolo. He looks like Johnny Knoxville. (And he can be funny! Hmm. Should I cast him as Max, instead?)

Alexis Bledel as Shelley. She is in her 20’s and beautiful. She has dark lashes and eyes with a shade of blue. I dunno if her eye color will qualify for aquamarine.  This movie can catapult her to super stardom like Julia Roberts did in ‘Pretty Woman’ so she should say yes to my offer. Ha!



This has been a fun exercise but casting people for a role is difficult when you just browse thru photos. My choices can be odd and serve only me. I should call for auditions next time. 😉

See you till the next casting call in my fantasy world!

Gana Vida’s Bangus Pâté

I got 3 jars of bangus pate from my friends two weeks ago.  I have been nagging them relentlessly on Facebook after learning about this product. Of course, they know why I have been so interested in the product. Lea Salonga loves it!

Lea Salonga has a weekly column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer called Backstory.  In her April 13, 2011 article, she wrote

“One seafood company talks about its sustainable practice by giving employment opportunities to poor people and educating them on the business. I feel this is something special. Plus, the pâté is really good.”

This sounded like the organization that 3 of my friends are a part of. I shared the link on Facebook and tagged my friend to ask if she was the one Lea talked to. To which my friend replied, “Yes!”. Incidentally, Lea Salonga is one of UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) goodwill ambassadors.

Lea even replied to my tweet about it:

After weeks of nagging, I finally got to taste the pâté.  Delicious. My friend has a degree in Food Technology from the University of the Philippines and her husband has a degree in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology from the same university. Both are part of the same organization.  Thus, we know that the product was developed by people who know what they are doing.

One test to determine if the product is safe is to check the ingredients. The ingredients used in their products are all natural (and easy to pronounce). The pâté has three flavors: Asian, Pinoy and Mediterranean. Each flavor has three variants: Regular, Chili, Lightly Salted. All in all, you have 9 choices.  If you look at the labels,  there are no chemical preservatives added.

Asian Style: with roasted nuts.

Pinoy Style: Malunggay is added!

Mediterranean: with eggplant

When my friend gave me my stash, I was told that the shelf life is 1 year. Once opened, you may keep it in the fridge and it will last more than a year.  Partly right. Nothing lasts in my fridge for more than year. My stomach takes over. In fact, I have no more pâté. 🙁  I have consumed them all. I did not even put it on a cracker and bread. I took a small spoon, scoop the pâté from the jar and off to my mouth it went. LOL!

What is most impressive about this product is that the organization is helping fisherfolks and farmers practice sustainable fishing and farming methods. In fact, when my friend brought me the pâté, he just came from a barrio near my city to educate farmers on cassava farming.

To know more about their organization, click here.

To get updates of their products, “Like” their Facebook page here. You can also shop for their products on this site.


Samantha Sotto’s “Before Ever After”

I first heard of Samantha Sotto from Chuvaness. Her story is inspiring. She is a mom who had three hours to spare while waiting for her son’s dismissal from school. In those three hours, she kept herself busy by writing a book. In the coffee shop, she conjured up stories with her vivid imagination by drawing inspiration from her travels. Her path to becoming a published writer sounded like a story of another favorite author.  Thus, it further piqued my interest but because I live in city with no decent bookstore, buying the book was not in my to-do list for the moment.

That was July 25, 2011. As I write this post, it is August 8, 2011 and I finished reading the book yesterday. I never thought I’d get my copy this soon. The book was released in August 2, 2011. When I started following Samantha Sotto on Twitter, I learned that there is a kindle version of the book. I did not think twice in downloading it. I got Amazon credits and I am amazed how easy it is to download. I do not have the Kindle device but there is a “Kindle for PC” application from Amazon that can be downloaded for free.

Tweeting Samantha

Like what I have experienced before, Twitter helps me connect with people, including authors I am interested in. When Samantha’s tweets showed up in my timeline before, I just read them like any other tweet- read and move to the next. It did not catch my fancy until Melissa Senate’s name was mentioned. That name sounds familiar. I think I have read her book before. A quick Google search told me that I did read her ‘See Jane Date’ book which was made into a TV movie starring Holly Marie Combs. I made a quick tweet about it and I got replies!!

Melissa Senate replied, too! This is just awesome!

Oh, Melissa has other books written after “See Jane Date”.  I must get copies of them.

Samantha sent me a link on Amazon where Melissa wrote her thoughts on “Before Ever After”. (Click this link if you want to read what she wrote. Buy the book, too!)

It was this tweet that got me to thinking that if it is on Amazon.com, there might be a Kindle version of this book. I need not wait before I’m in Manila in September! I have installed the Kindle-for-PC application and downloaded some free books from Amazon before.  And I still have Amazon credits so I quickly bought the kindle version of “Before Ever After”.  I am amazed how quick the process was. With a few clicks and less than 10 seconds later, the book is already in my Kindle application.

See my books list in case you might be interested in reading some of them. (Note: Ilustrado is not a free book. I bought that, too!)

I was too happy with my purchase that I tweeted:

Samantha was gracious with her replies. What a nice person!

And she’s funny, too!

Oh, I am sooo getting my post-it signed!

I love all the tweeting that I was so tempted to tweet her as I read the book. I controlled myself from doing such so as not to spoil the story to those who have not read the book yet. Like me, Frances Sales (editor of OK! Magazine in the Philippines) also had a lot of questions for Samantha. So I tweeted that I am writing down all my questions so I can post it in this blog once I am done with the book.  Samantha replied:

There’s nothing to be scared of, Ms. Sotto.

The Preview

Too bad I did not know that she had a blog before she became this big. I would have loved to be part of her campers. She had a blog which chronicled her journey to becoming an internationally-published writer.  It also showed snippets of her writing process.  That said, it is never too late to become a camper.  Her website is up and she updates her blog. When I have the time, I will retrace her steps in this wonderful writing journey.

Here are some of teasers to the book:

Baked eggs played an important part of the story.

The virtual tour of the book:

Boracay, Philippines

And to top all these:

You can read the first 30 pages of the book.

Click to read.

When she shared the excerpt, I already finished reading the book. I thought it was the excerpt for her 2nd book!  Haha Fan-girl mode!

My review (There might be spoilers. You have been warned.)

I posted my review on Amazon.

Read the other reviews here.

Since I tweeted Samantha that I created a document  for all my questions, I feel compelled to create a substantial review with coherent sentences which explore the book a lot more than what I have written on Amazon. I can’t. Words escape me.  So just allow me to just post the contents of that document.

—————Start of Document——————————-

1. How do you know all these places? That graveyard in France was not a regular tourist destination.
-Then, I found your old blog. You’ve been traveling a lot.
2.. Wow. Red roses =‘I love you.’ Pink carnations say ‘I’ll never forget you.’ And purple hyacinths, well, they say ‘please forgive me.’ How do think of these things? Nice touch on the the crumpled purple hyacinths.
3. Thank you for including the Philippines in your book!
4. I like the line: “Guilt left a fishy aftertaste.” Never heard nor read that line anywhere.
5. Where did you research all this “historical” stuff? Samantha, are you some kind of the history buff? You have an encyclopaedic knowledge. Historical is in quotation marks because I am too lazy to verify the itty-bitty details of the stories if they had parallel accounts in world history.
6. The vinegar and alum thing. Amazing. I might try that one day

If this was a real book (tangible, i mean, as opposed to a kindle version), I would have finished the book in one sitting. I bought a kindle version because I wanted to read the book immediately. However, I do not own a kindle, laptop or any portable devices that will  allow me to read the book while lying on the bed- the most comfiest position for reading. I own a desktop and had to sit upright staring at the computer screen. Add to that the distractions of twitter, facebook and tv shows. (I just start watching ‘Game of Thrones’ and it is a very engaging series. ) As much I would like to finish the book, my eyes can’t. It is good that the book is composed of different mini-stories meld together by a group tour which is a flashback. It is a series of flashbacks within a flashback. The mini-stories intricately woven to complete a puzzle. The book cover reflects such theme. It is a book cover in a book cover!

Photo credit: Not mine. This is a screencapture of the book cover on the Kindle application.

It is amazing how she conjured up all these stories. She has a way with words.They sound to like lullabies that sweetly lulls me to dreamland.

Back to Q1: I checked your new site. I now understand your vast knowledge on Europe.

—————End of Document——————————-

Haha! I am such a lazy blogger.

I asked Samantha another question and she replied:

That is something I should think about. Hmmm. ..who would I like to play Max and Shelley in a movie? This deserves another blog post.

You may get yourself an awesome Kindle!

Buy Samantha Sotto’s book here:

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