Monday, December 26, 2011

Hong Kong Trip : My First Passport Stamp

                   Since the cheapest tickets to Hongkong on our travel dates were the ones via Clark, being budget travelers we had no choice but to book the tickets and travel from Manila to Dau by bus just to catch our flight.The flight was at 7:15 AM. We were not sure though of the availability of buses in that route early in the morning ,so we thought the safest thing to do was to travel the night before our flight to ensure that we’d get to the airport on time.        I was with my officemate Anna on this trip. We left Manila around 10pm. I only had three hours of sleep that day after a night shit at work…wait , that one should have an “f” , night shift at work .Despite being sleep-deprived, I was still energetic and was really excited about my first  trip abroad.From a terminal in Cubao we boarded a bus bound for Dau. I had never been to Pampanga so that bus ride alone was already something to look forward to. On the bus they played the movie “Taken” starring Liam Neeson.  I asked the driver how long it would take to get to our destination and I didnt believe him when he said “just 45 minutes”, yeah right.
                 Just when the story of the movie was starting to unfold and I was getting interested already, I realized that we had arrived in Dau. We got off the bus while it was raining and I kept on wondering what would happen to Liam’s daughter in the movie who had been abducted ( I have to watch that movie again). In Dau we took a jeep  to get to another terminal and from there it’s another jeep ride to Diosdado Macapagal International Airport. When we got to the terminal we found out that the jeep bound for Clark wasn’t a 24-hour thing.There were some drivers who were willing to take us to the airport but they’d charge us P200, which I thought was too much considering that from what I had read its only a 15-minute ride.We decided to wait for other passengers so we could share the fare with them. After three hours a couple arrived and they agreed to share the fare with us.The jeep left around 3 AM.

                 It was so dark inside Clark, I could barely see the establishments and the former military facilities that we passed by.When we arrived at the airport I thought it was too small for an International Airport and to my surprise it was still closed. An airport employee told me that it would open at 5 am. We decided to just sleep on the seats at the waiting area outside.
                 When we woke up the first plane had arrived , it came from Macau. It’s the day that I had been anxiously waiting for in the past months. At around 6am we were already lining up at the immigration. I was worried the whole time that the officer might deny me for some reason so I really tried to compose myself. After the officer went through my passport  he gave me back  the departure form that we had filled out, oh boy! I thought I was in trouble. It turned out that he just wanted me to correct something because for the "date of birth" I had written down September 19, 2009 instead of September 19?? ( I will never reveal my age to the readers), a mistake I always make whenever I fill out forms , hahahaha. To my relief I corrected it right then and there and  the officer stamped it and let me in.
                 Whenever I go home to the province I always fly Cebupacific so this time I was expecting at least a 30 -minute delay but surprisingly we were asked to board the plane before 7:15am. WOW! I put on my mask ( this trip was made at the height of the birdflu outbreak in the world , something that wasn’t enough to stop us) and had my picture taken. I was hoping to get some sleep on the plane during the two-hour flight but I guess I was too excited that I stayed awake and was looking out the window of the plane the whole time. I remember seeing islets as we were approaching the Hong Kong International Airport and all of a sudden all I could see was just the ocean and the plane was flying so low. I didn’t know what was happening….I slightly (just slightly) panicked. I thought we’d crash into the ocean. I felt relieved later when I realized that we’re actually hitting the runway which is by the sea. When we stepped out of the plane we were greeted by two Chinese airport employees and upon hearing their accent it hit me that I was already in a foreign territory for the first time. I had dreamed of this since I was a kid.
                   Steps away from where the airport employees welcomed us was the toilet  (not the CR  as I’m used to calling it backhome) and when I went in I heard men speaking in different tongues. I didn’t understand a single word but I was thrilled. After clearing the immigration we had our US$ exchanged to HK$ (rate : US$1 = approx.  HK$ 6 ). We also picked a free map of Hong Kong from one corner of the airport.I remember the airport was so huge that we had to take a train to get to the other side. We then bought an Octopus card which is a stored value card that can be used to pay for a train ride from the airport to the Central area and unlimited ride of the MTR for three days. On our way to Central via the Airport Express ( a really nice train) we caught our first impressive glimpse of Hong Kong. Its topography is not so different from the Philippines’ , you can see mountains on one side and the ocean on the other , with islets scattered around the bigger islands. However, it’s noticeable how the modern structures all over the place compliment its topography. The sight of the high-rise buildings at the foot, on the sides and on top of the mountains was just breathtaking.
                 We hadn’t booked a hotel so from the airport we went straight to Central then to Ocean Park. From the Central MTR station we had to walk few meters to the bus terminal. It was such a welcome relief that their bus station was devoid of the noise, filth and chaos that are common in the ones backhome. After waiting for maybe fifteen minutes the bus arrived. It was a double-decker bus, yehey!. I wonder why we don’t have any of those in the Philippines. I relished the sights again this time as we were heading to the park. Hong Kong is a bustling city , its residents seemed to be always chasing someone, they walked really fast. There were huge billboards, modern glass buildings and a lot of skyscrapers way taller than the ones in Ayala and Ortigas. Few minutes later we passed by a residential area which was composed of high-rise apartments. This time it’s the not -so -glamorous part of Hong Kong. It’s cramped , we could see clothes hanging outside the windows of the buildings and even the plumbings were visible from the streets. It took around thirty minutes to reach Ocean Park from Central or maybe it took longer , I’m not sure because we’re having a blast already.

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