Hong Kong trip planning references and craziness

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Aids and I are going to Hong Kong this October for our 5th anniversary (OMG 5 years?!) – it’ll be my 2nd trip (though the first time I went was way back in high school) and his first overseas trip ever. So yes, being the sort-of travel veteran compared to him, the trip planning was mostly done by me 😛

Some of the references I used:

“Hong Kong (Step by Step)” by Ruth Williams (Insight Guides)

Some of you may be asking “why buy a guidebook when everything is online for free?”. Three reasons: 1) I wanted something I could carry around, 2) this guide organized the interesting places into self-guided walking tours (I love walking tours – I try to walk everywhere whenever practical), and 3) this one includes a full-color map. I love maps. My sense of direction isn’t the greatest so having a map on-hand is important. Bonus: it has lots of pretty pictures that inspire me to take my own pretty pictures 🙂

Airbnb.com

Hotels in Hong Kong are super expensive in October owing to the trade fairs that bring lots of people to town but we didn’t want to stay in a hostel either. (Hey, it’s our anniversary. We wanted something nicer than the standard hostel.) The answer – getting a room via Airbnb! I’ll post photos of the room we booked when we get back. Location’s great (right in the middle of Tsim Sha Tsui), free use of the Wi-Fi, linens, kitchen, and roof deck, and reasonably priced (US$85 per night plus Airbnb’s $34 processing fee).

Hong Kong International Airport’s transportation page

Everything to need to know on how to travel to/from the airport is right here 😀

MTR travel planner

Most places you’re likely to visit on a short trip to Hong Kong can be reached via MTR. This website calculates the fare and approximate travel time between stations. Tip: get an Octopus card. It’s a reloadable card that you can use to pay for the MTR, Star Ferry, public buses, groceries, and fast-food. Aside from the convenience, you get a discount on the MTR if you pay via Octopus card 🙂 Mark P is lending us his Octopus cards while Jovan is lending us her HK SIM card. This reminds me: I must do a proper post on the “Brotherhood of the Traveling Octopus Cards”.

Whee I’m excited 😀 I’m even getting a new bag for the trip – will write about it soon. All I can say is that good things come to those who are persistent!

How to apply for a Chinese visa

Applying for a visa is potentially the most frustrating part of the travel experience. Being a Filipino citizen, I need a visa to travel to most countries (notable exceptions are ASEAN member states Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam). My trip to Sanya last month was my first time to apply for a Chinese visa. There are different visa categories but this entry focuses on the two most common visas: the tourist visa and the business visa.

As per the Chinese embassy in the Philippines:

The Tourist /Family visit Visa (class L)

L Visa is issued to a person who comes to China for sightseeing, visiting relatives, or private matters. Documents to be included with application:

1.    Applicant’s passport with blank pages and at least 6 months validity left before expiration.

2.    A completed application form affixed with one passport-size or 2×2 colored photo, with white background, full-face front view, and no hat.  Photo must be glued on the application form. Stapled pictures will not be accepted. Scanned photos will also not be accepted. U.S. passport holders must submit two application forms with two photos.

3.   Invitation letter with a copy of the inviter’s valid Chinese residence visa and passport information page of inviter’s or Chinese national identity card. (applicable to those who are visiting family in China)

4.  Previously used China visa in old or new passport (Only visa stickers will be accepted.  Those with stamped visas must submit additional documents for first-time China visa applicants. Please refer to the list below.)

5.   For first time applicants to China (Philippine passport holders, 18 years old and above), they are required to provide the following:

a) Original NBI clearance valid for travel abroad

b)  Original bank certificate with receipt or original passbook, updated within the month that you are applying or….

– If a company will sponsor the trip, provide the company’s bank certificate, sponsorship letter from the company and the company’s business registration.

– If an individual will sponsor the trip, provide his bank certificate, sponsorship and invitation letter, copy of sponsor’s valid residence visa and passport information page or Chinese national ID.

c) For employed persons, also provide an employment certificate; company ID, SSS ID and contributions, TIN ID, and latest ITR

d) For students, provide school ID

e) For businessmen, provide business registration of company, TIN ID and latest ITR

f)  Personal appearance is required for those who are 16-21 years old.

6.  The emergency contact information page in the applicant’s passport should be filled out and photocopied.

7. Other documents required by the visa officers if necessary.

Continue reading “How to apply for a Chinese visa”

Sanya, Hainan, China Day 1 (June 8)

My first time in China! Yahoo! Well technically, I’m here for school, not fun, as I’m attending the 2nd IOC/WESTPAC Training Course: Water Quality and Impact on Coral Reefs here in the Tropical Marine Biology Research Station of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Sanya, Hainan. One of my professors in MSI is part of the organizing committee and he encouraged me to apply to attend the conference. I was lucky enough to get accepted and have the organizers pay for my airfare, board, and lodgings for the conference. In exchange, I’ll have to prepare a poster and give a  5-10 minute presentation on my master’s thesis that will be scrutinized by coral reef experts from all over Asia (China, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Korea, and Vietnam). Gulp.

The view from my window

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Singapore Day 4 – shopping in Sim Lin Square

Well this is embarrassing. I’ve already gone and left for China and I haven’t even blogged about my last day in Singapore yet. Gah. *facepalm*

Anyway, the pertinent parts of the story are:

  1. My parents and two youngest siblings’ flight back to Manila was at 10am while mine and Rob’s was at 5pm. Rob and I ate breakfast at the McDonald’s in Bugis Junction, went to Sim Lin Square, ate lunch at the McDonald’s in Bugis Junction, then caught a cab to the airport. The concierge at Ibis kept our bags after we checked out at 9am so that we could wander around.
  2. I bought a BlackBerry Curve 9300 in Sim Lin Square! Yahoo! Got it for around Php 4,000 less than what it usually sells for in Manila. Now the downside: we spent three hours going around the place and I lost my patience with two vendors. My infuriating experience prompted me to write an article detailing how I to get f*cked over while shopping in Sim Lin Square. Read it here.
  3. The departure area of Singapore’s Budget Terminal was a nice place to wait. But then again, I’m used to NAIA so an airport with comfy chairs, clean bathrooms, and decent food already passes with flying colors. LOL. My only complaint is that there were too few chairs. Bought siopao to eat on the way home.
  4. Dear Philippine Customs Officer, young man + young woman + traveling together DOES NOT EQUAL A ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIP. JFC the customs guy thought Rob was my husband. EWW EWW EWWWWW!!!

Singapore Day 3 – Singapore Zoo and the Singapore Flyer

We got a later start that day, having lunch at the Bugis Junction mall before my brother Jay and I separated from the rest of the family to go to the Singapore Zoo. I was the only one who hadn’t been to the zoo – they went there during the Singapore leg of their Asian cruise last 2008 – but Jay went with me anyway because he wanted to see the animals again.

The Singapore Zoo is out of the way compared to the other must-visit places in Singapore, requiring a 30-minute MRT ride from Bugis to Ang Mo Kio station and another 30 minutes on the 138 bus. What the guides don’t tell you is where the bus stop for the 138 bus is – it’s the big bus terminal across the street from the MRT station. We ended up taking a taxi to the zoo from the station (S$9. 40) after not finding the right bus stop after 15 minutes of looking.

We got there are around 1:30pm, leaving us 4.5 hours to look around (the zoo closes at 6pm). Basic entrance is S$20 per adult, though you can opt to get the Zoo-per Saver pass (S$27 for adults), which gives you admission + unlimited boat and tram rides, or the Park Hopper pass (S$58), which gives you admission to the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari, and Jurong Bird Park. If you’re going to be in the zoo for the entire day, I suggest getting the Zoo-per Saver pass. The tram saves you some walking time between exhibits and the boat ride takes you around the perimeter of the park (and it looked like a lot of fun too).

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Continue reading “Singapore Day 3 – Singapore Zoo and the Singapore Flyer”

How to shop in Sim Lin Square (Singapore) without getting f*cked over

Sim Lin Square in Singapore is a well-known gadget haven, boasting of six floors of stores selling nothing but the latest computers and consumer electronics, including laptops, tablets, mp3 players, mobile phones, audio equipment, and the like. While the vast array of shops leaves you spoilt for choice, this also leaves you open to unscrupulous sales personnel. Yes, even Singapore has its share of con artists. Based on my own shopping experience, here’s a short list of tips to avoid getting suckered in Sim Lin Square or any other shopping area in the world:

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Buddhist monks shopping in Sim Lin Square

Continue reading “How to shop in Sim Lin Square (Singapore) without getting f*cked over”

What’s in your bag?

The airline only allows you one purse in addition to one piece of handcarried luggage. This purse has to contain everything that will help you survive the next hours in transit to your destination. The ultimate question: what do you pack? My handbag breaks down like so:

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1 – Denman classic hairbrush with a rubber head (so no static electricity) and compact handle

2 – notepad for the writing ideas that suddenly come to you while in transit. I also used this to take notes from the inflight magazine.

3 – digital camera (only the case is shown because I used it to take this photo. LOL)

4 – mobile phone

5 – iPod nano (still in the case) for all my music needs

6 – ballpoint pen

7 – hoodie (we were flying Cebu Pacific so no comfy extras like blankets and such)

8 – tissues

9 – Kindle (gawd I love it so much. I finished a book while I was in Singapore.)

10 – face towel

11 – Pacsafe Toursafe handbag (on its 2nd trip overseas!)

Not shown are the travel wallet and passport that are in the outside pocket of my handbag.

What’s in your bag?