A BRISKWALK TO CHINA's SPECIAL ADMINISTRATIVE REGIONS

by - 11:21 PM

Article 31 of the Constitution of the People's Republic of China reads: "The state may establish special administrative regions when necessary. The systems to be instituted in special administrative regions shall be prescribed by law enacted by the National People's Congress in the light of the specific conditions. 

Today, there are two countries under this, namely Hongkong and Macau, formerly British and Portugese territories, respectively.  Under this set up, each territory enjoys a high degree of autonomy and has its own basic laws.  Enough for this trivia.  You can google this facts to confirm what I'm stating.

As a treat for passing the 2009 Bar Examinations where results came out last March 2010, me and my travel buddies Fate and Jaja visited these countries last June 2010.  It was unplanned and we have to make the most of it for three days...Yes! two countries in three days.  The experience in Macau is something to be learned while Hongkong is a time for strengthening the bonds of friendship.

Ruins of St. Paul, Macau
Macau

We arrived at Macau International Airport at around 9 in the evening.  At the airport, we couldn't find a map, which is our usual travel companion. Thus, this means we are on our own with pure intuition.  I apologize I could not be able to give the details after which due to the fast turn of events.  All I can remember is, we rode a coaster taking us to the so-called commercial center of Macau, walked with our luggages to find a place to stay and ended up staying in a lodging house where overseas Filipino workers are staying.  Mr. R and Ms. M, Filipino couple working in Macau, offered their services as our tour guide the following day for free and their apartments to rent for a minimal fee.  Since we were tired and left with no choice but to rest, we acceded to their offer.  I stayed at the couple's house at the ground floor of the building while my friends stayed at the last floor (with no elevator).  I was able to rest well as the room was airconditioned. I cannot speak for my friends' condition unless they comment on this blog.
at the Senado Square

And the longest and stressful day of our lives came.  Let me tell you that there was a condition for them being our tour guide...that is, to let us line up in casinos and give them our membership cards for activation.  Honestly, we don't have any idea how this would be favorable to them but to make the story short we agreed with the said condition the night before,  not that we are gullible but we had the innocent and pure intentions of lending them our help for whatever way this may be useful to them.  We woke up early and visited the Ruins of St. Paul, the Macau Museum and the Senado Square.  After which, the stressful casino membership started.  They were in a hurry and we don't know why.  We entered the Mocha Casino, the City of Dreams Casino and the Venetian.  Mr. R left us with his wife at the Venetian and afterwards, he could no longer be found.  I hate casinos! We were not able to visit other sites worthy of visit and the whole day was spent in casinos.  We are not gamblers.   Of all our travels, this was the worst one...they wasted our time and abused our trust.     We were also offered ferry tickets from Macau to Hongkong at a supposedly discounted price, which we accepted and paid, only to find out that these are free tickets for points earned of members at the Venetian Casino.  As a consolation, they did not accept my payment for the overnight stay, thus, I have free accommodations at Macau.

showcasing the interiors of the
Venetian Hotels/Casino, Macau


On a different perspective, the casino tour made us appreciate the architectural designs of the buildings and dream of staying overnight at the Venetian someday. 
  
The Venetian Macau is a hotel and casino resort within the Cotai Strip and is said to be the largest single structure hotel building in Asia.  That we can attest.

Hongkong

Wandering in Hongkong requires a long walk and a map.  Since this is not an English-speaking country and even if you try to ask them politely for directions or solicit information in English, there are some who answer you back in mandarin or their own native language.  And so, you have your intuition and a map if you're not part of a travel tour.  Accommodations in Hongkong is never a problem.  Regardless of social class and preferences, I recommend you stay at the Nathan Road in Kowloon, being the center of Hongkong's most prominent commercial, business and tourist areas.  For budget travellers, hostels in the Chungking Mansions offers a variety of choices. While negotiating, show them you're not gullible and don't freak out as negotiators (either Malay, Indians or Chinese) would be shouting with each other and even make up stories of one another for the sake of rental income.  I personally recommend you choose the hostel who has a Filipino caretaker to be safe.  The Kowloon Hotel and Novotel is also within the Nathan Road.

Victoria Harbor and Hongkong Island skyline
After settling our luggages and our accommodations in Hongkong, we walked to Tsim Sha Tsui hoping to be able to witness the symphony of lights showcasing a synchronized display of laser lights accompanied  by sounds/music.  Too bad we weren't able to catch the Symphony of Lights which is a must see in Hongkong, however, seeing the skyline itself is already enough.  Then we stroll at the Avenue of Stars, where sculpture of Bruce Lee and handprints of famous Hongkong stars are shown. Remember to take a photo at the Victoria Harbor and Hongkong Island skyline viewed from the Avenue of Stars.  A night view of Hongkong skyline is a must!  Your trip won't be complete without this.

To make up for the stressful tour in Macau, we relaxed and sat down for a cup of coffee in a coffee shop and went back to our hotel to prepare for the next day adventure...this time, back to our usual routine...traveling and experiencing the local culture and places all by ourselves without any "tour guide".

The following day started with a stroll to the Hongkong Museum of Art, Hongkong Space Museum, the Clock Tower and the Cultural Center on our way to the Star Ferry.  You know  you're near the star ferry terminal when you see the clock tower.  We boarded on the Star Ferry on our way to the the Hongkong Island, as we intend to experience the feeling at the top of the world...the Victoria's Peak.  Remember that the trip should be to the Central station, otherwise, you will arrive at the wrong destination, if it is the Victoria's Peak that you want to see.  When we arrived at the Hongkong Island, the very long walk begun.  Think of this as an exercise!  We walked passing through malls and looking at every signage displayed that would lead us to the Peak Tram.  We pass  through the St. John Cathedral and the Court of Final Appeal (equivalent to Supreme Court in the Phils) and following that long trail, we eventually arrived at the Peak Tram perspiring. yet fulfilled.  Then we bought tickets for a tram ride that would bring us to the peak of Hongkong Island.  An additional charge is incurred if you opt to visit the Sky Terraces, which we actually did.  Our ticket costs HK$56, without the sky terrace it would cost HK$36 (rates are for adults). 

Madame Tussauds version of the royal family
The Sky Terrace is the highest viewing platform in Hongkong offering a stunning 360-degree panoramic view across Hongkong.  After an experience with the sky terrace, we then visited Madame Tussauds wax museum of celebrities, which costs HK$160 (rates are for adults).  Honestly, it was quite expensive but for fun and for the sake of experience, why not try.  

Then it's 3PM.  We went back to MTR Hongkong station on our way to Sunny Bay for our next destination...the Hongkong Disneyland.  To get there take the Tung Chung Line, which is one of the seven lines of the MTR system in Hongkong, and disembark at Sunny Bay.

a surprise ride for me - try it!
















A day pass to Hongkong Disneyland costs HK$350 and is open from 10AM to 7PM extending until 9PM on holidays and weekends.  There are various special attractions inside the theme park and what is interesting in Hongkong Disneyland is its matchless sense of Chinese culture.  By the way, food inside the park is relatively expensive. This is basically a fulfillment of one our dreams...to experience Disneyland before we come of age and have our own respective families.

To Disneyland, we will come back!

*******************************************************************************

This ends the briskwalk at the Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China.  The next time around, I hope this would be a walk in the park.  Next is the travel on mainland china.

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