Budget Travel to Hongkong

By June 08, 2013 ,


A DIY (do-it-yourself) tour!

Availing a tour package is always expensive and since we will be embarking on a budget travel, backpacking-sort-of-adventure, we decided to explore this former British colony on our own with no guide. It was very liberating. Having discovered some of HK’s most fascinating landmarks without a tour guide was such a memorable experience!

Months before our departure, I spent enormous time reading and researching information online how to embark into a leisure trip around Hongkong and Macau under a tight budget.

My goal was really to prepare a budget plan that would not exceed to Php 28,000 including airfare, hotel accommodation, food and pocket money. That’s my limit for this foreign trip because I don't want to be buried with debt or found my wallet empty when I return home. 

Important tip: When you are planning to embark on a budget travel, discipline is always the name of the game. Set your focus on how much you will just want to spend. Always set your budget limit when planning your foreign trip to work on a travel plan sensibly and not to get overboard with your expenses and don't cheat--meaning, don't attempt to restructure your budget plan at the last minute if you have no enough source where to obtain the added cost/additional amount, it will ruin your goal of a "budget travel".

Despite going there for the first time with no one to fetch us at the airport, I was not afraid at all, the idea of being lost never scared me, I was even more excited because of the experience and learning I would gain from this adventure.

OUR DIY (do-it-yourself) ITINERARY:

DAVAO TO CLARK
Departure: May 31, 2013, Friday, 4:35 pm

Arrival time: 6:10 pm

We were 11 in the group traveling for this trip but we had different flight schedule for Hongkong because we booked separately (9 of them have the same schedule). I had the same flight schedule with my friend, Bechay, so on the night of our arrival in Clark, we went to Angeles City to spend one night at Bluefields Hotel, but folks, I would never recommend this hotel for you, so untidy and undesirable.

CLARK TO HONGKONG
Departure: June 1, 2013, Saturday 6:25 pm
Arrival time: 8:10 pm

Amazed to discover that the air travel from Clark to Hongkong is similar to the distance of traveling from Davao to Clark or Manila!

The weather was fine when we took off so everything was calm and quiet up on air. The pilot of that flight was Captain Kintanar ( I memorized his name after hearing it over the radio cabin). We had a smooth landing!

The slight anxiety began upon our arrival at Hongkong International Airport, we were clueless what to do so we did lots of exploring around the area. We just followed the directions/signs posted.

We asked an officer how to get to the immigration, he directed us to the glass door with a waiting train, this will transport travelers across the street and to the next building where the immigration area is located.

After presenting our passport to the immigration, we proceeded to the exit door leading to the bus station, located on the level B exit 5. The city flier bus that will pass to Chungking mansion is A21, fare is HK$33.00. Take note: bus drivers in Hongkong never give change so prepare for an exact fare. Since we were not able to buy an Octopus card at the airport and we had no coins available, we paid HK$70.00 and we did not able to get the HK$4.00 change.

For an easy and practical travel around Hongkong, I will advise you to buy an Octopus card at the customer service upon arriving at the airport, it is a prepaid card that you can reload anytime, it costs HK$150.00 the consumable amount is HK$100.00 and there's a deposit of HK$50.00 which will be returned to you together with the remaining amount upon surrendering the card at any customer service outlets in MTR station before leaving Hongkong. Try to surrender it the night before you depart so that you can still use the money for shopping like what we did.

We booked for two nights at Delta Hotel, a transient inn located on the 16th floor of Chungking Mansion along Nathan road in Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. This building is just beside bus stop number 14 next to CKE department store with a huge TV screen outside. The number of every bus stop is reflected on the running screen inside the bus so don’t worry you will never lost, just enjoy the ride. The travel takes up to one hour at night.

Our room at Delta Hotel, rate is around Php627.00 per night or HK$118.00. Very clean and safe. 

FIRST DAY: JUNE 2, 2013, Sunday

Destinations: Nan Lian Garden and Chi Lin Nunnery
Address: Diamond Hill, Kowloon
Travel time via MTR: 35 minutes

We left Delta hotel at 9:30 in the morning, then proceeded to Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station just across Chungking Mansion.


Architecture Museum and Vegetarian restaurant at Nan Lian Garden

Relaxing scenery of nature at Nan Lian Garden


If you are into nature combining the fascination of a city life, you should never miss visiting Nan Lian Garden, it is a sprawling man-made landscape beautifully covered with Bonsai trees, winding paths, oriental trees, hillocks and running waters. There’s a brightly colored temple/pagoda in the middle of the garden leading to the pavilion but visitors are not allowed to enter the structure, so we just posed at the gate for photo souvenirs.


At last I found a shed to pose!

The weather was intensely hot so we did not fully enjoy the place despite its gorgeous and scenic beauty. I think the most ideal time to visit this garden is in the afternoon and early evening. Opening time is at 7:00 in the morning and closing time is 9:00 in the evening. Entrance is free.

We went up to visit the Lotus Garden and Chi Lin Nunnery, it was more hot there my God! There was no shed to rest except on the lobby of the clustered buildings. Again, the most ideal time to explore this area is definitely in the afternoon. The view in fact is ultra-magnificent because you will be able to see the panoramic view of the Kowloon skyline and the lovely surrounding.  

There’s an organic restaurant inside Nan Lian Garden, a souvenir’s shop and an architectural museum. But the museum has a strict policy, as we entered the place, the guard sternly warned us not to take pictures. Okay, so we’d no souvenirs here.

With Epil and Bechay at the brightly colored Temple inside Nan Lian Garden
It's me and Bechay posing before Chi Lin Nunnery near the Lotus Garden

We left Diamond Hill at 11:30 and took an MTR ride again for Admiralty station.
We took lunch at Queensway at the Admiralty Centre then we hopped in at the double decker bus 629 (just located within the ground area of Queensway) for Ocean Park. We chose to sit at the top area of the bus in the front row to enjoy our journey. I'd learned from this trip that drivers in Hongkong obediently observed the speed limit, no overtaking, no screeching of tires! Amazing!

My lunch.  Rice with Hungarian sausage, salted egg, roasted chicken and vegetable. HK$32.00

As soon as we reached Ocean Park we knew we're in another trouble enduring the blistering summer heat. I already booked our ticket online so we just proceeded to the ticket booth to validate the receipt. 

We first visited the OP Aquarium, but it was not really impressive, nothing was extraordinary with the marine species featured, after few minutes we left the area and proceeded to the cable car station.

Cable car was the first thrilling ride we experienced at Ocean Park, the ride took us from the ground of the park to the summit where exciting rides await. The ride was almost nerve- wrecking, I barely looked beneath the cable because it felt like my stomach was tied into knots, the rugged cliff behind the placid sea was a spectacular view to behold but I did not care to look down, I was more concerned with my nervous system haha! But it was worth the thrill, yeah really so exciting!


Cable car ride from the ground of Ocean Park to its summit


It was extremely hot and we're already exposed to the sun so being drenched in water was no longer a fascinating idea, we might get ill and getting sick in a foreign land was the last thing to happen, so we did not mind climbing at the thrill mountain to try those exciting rides, we chose the Ocean Park Tower instead. It was equally thrilling. We entered in a cable-like box and whirled up high then moving down in a circling motion, the height was like 10,000 feet more or less! We did not try The Abyss, the Flying swing, the boat seesaw something and the Dragon ride even though at first we felt like trying hehe, it was so scary so we just convinced ourselves to choose the old-fashioned Ferris Wheel!

The old-fashioned amusement park ride, Ferris Wheel!

Another thrilling ride we tried

Finding a shed to rest after we concluded 
The Abyss ride was not for us

We left Ocean Park at 5:30 pm took the 629 bus again going back to Admiralty station to meet my friend, Epil. At 6:30 we walked to the Peak Tram Terminus to visit The Peak, this is just across St. John Cathedral,a walking distance from Admiralty. It was terrible standing in the queue! My feet began to sore and my toes seemed twisted, so many tourists packed the area to go to The Peak. We waited for, like two hours before we could get in at the Peak Tram. The ride was more thrilling because the tram climbed the rugged road almost vertically, I was not scared anyway, it was more exciting, more adventurous watching the buildings reclined before my sight.

We reached the Peak at 8:30 in the evening and climbed the stairs again to visit the Sky Terrace which offered a perfect view of the romantic skyline of Hongkong overseeing Victoria Harbor and the romantic city lights. But it was very windy atop, we're not able to get a good shot of the city lights as people fidgeted on the lobby to get good angle on the view deck. After 30 minutes, we decided to go downstairs, stopping at Madame Tussaud's museum for souvenir pictures then proceeded to 7 eleven to buy for our dinner.

We left the Peak at 9:30 and reached Delta hotel at 10:30 in the evening. Don’t expect too much about this spot. If you love the view of the skyline and breathed fresh air maybe this thing is for you but if you hate being on top of the deck and too lazy to endure the tedious elevator ride for like 7 storeys of the building, then skip going on top of the building and just stroll around the ground area. Within the Peak, you can visit Madam Tussaud’s museum which contains several wax figures of famous people.


Joining the long queue for a Peak Tram ride

THIRD DAY: JUNE 4, 2013

Destinations: Strolling around Nathan Road, sightseeing at the nearest department stores, visiting Victoria Harbor, Avenue of Stars, Hongkong Museum of Art and Space Museum. We just walked to the nearest subway from our hotel.

Because we decided not to proceed to Disneyland and Ngong Ping anymore, we just strolled around Nathan Road, bought souvenir items and explored nearby areas until we reached Victoria Harbor, just a walking distance from Chungking Mansion.

At the Victoria Harbor
Avenue of Stars at Victoria Harbor just beside
 Intercontinental Hotel. 
Weeeeh! After waiting for almost 40 minutes at last I was able to pose before the statue of Hongkong martial arts legend, Bruce Lee! 
This is one of the most visited areas in Avenue of Stars.

FOURTH DAY: JUNE 5, 2013, Wednesday

Left Delta Hotel at 7:00 in the morning, we're supposed to wake up at 5:00 but we had a good sleep and my cellphone's clock alarm did not ring so we're kinda nervous, afraid we might not able to catch our flight back to the Philippines.

We disembarked at Terminal 2 to check in then hurried to the boarding area (we had to ride the train again) as we had only 20 minutes left before closing time. The plane took off at 9:35. It was a beautiful sunny Wednesday morning, the flight back to Clark was relax and peaceful. We touched down at Diosdado Macapagal International Airport at 11:00 in the morning.


We left Clark for Davao at 2:00 in the afternoon.

Other useful tips for this travel:

If you are traveling to Hongkong on a tight budget and just want to stay in a transient room, I would recommend Delta Hotel, I could really vouch that the room is very clean and conducive for sleeping.


Delta Hotel is located at Chungking Mansion (on the 16th floor) along Nathan road of Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, just a walking distance from MTR station, bus station, HK China Ferry Terminal (for Macau), KFC and McDonalds, and just a 20-minute walk from Victoria Harbor and Avenue of the Stars!

Chungking Mansion is just beside CKE department store, there's also a money changer at the ground floor and Western Union. Tsim Sha Tsui is one of the most ideal places to stay in Hongkong because aside from closer to MTR and bus stations, it is nearer to shopping malls and stall markets for pasalubong.

Here’s the list of the total expenses I incurred (I used the exchange rate of HK$5.30 for this computation). The amount below is in Philippine peso.

1. Round trip ticket: Davao-Clark 3,990.00
2. Round trip ticket: Clark-Hongkong 4,000.00
3. Bluefields Hotel – Clark (one night) 520.00
5. Delta Hotel – Kowloon (4 nights) 2,550.00
6. Ocean Park (Online booking) 1,390.00
7. Octopus Card 795.00 (HK$150.00)
8. Round trip Peak Tram plus Sky Terrace 398.00 (HK$75.00)
9. Meals (4 days) 680.00 (I brought 3 sachets of nesvita and oatmeal plus a pack of biscuit)
10. Cotai Jet round trip (Macau) 1,805.00 (HK$340.00)
11. City Guide for one day (Macau) 265.00 (HK$50.00)
12. Pocket Money 7,200.00 (exchange rate given to us by Shayman at Aldevinco was HK$5.55)
13. Terminal Fee (Davao going to Clark) 200.00
14. Terminal Fee (Clark going to HK) 450.00
15. Terminal Fee (Clark to Davao) 200.00
*Travel Tax should have been P1,650.00 (we failed to pay this at the Clark airport, it was an honest mistake)

TOTAL EXPENSES: Php 26,093.00

We were not able to go to Disneyland and Ngong Ping 360 because of time constraint but if you plan to go there, the amount to prepare will rise to more or less P30,000.00 because Disneyland is HK$450.00 and Ngong Ping's round trip is HK$134.00 plus you have to reload your Octopus Card because the transportation from Tsim Sha Tsui to Lantau Island, where the two attractions are located, is around HK$90.00 more or less.

Lantau Island is far from our hotel so we did not bother to go there instead we just strolled around Tsim Sha Tsui, visiting Victoria Harbor and Avenue of Stars. I have no regret anyway because if we had really pushed through with it, we would never enjoy Disney because that day the weather in Hongkong was severely hot (we already experienced it at the Ocean Park and we did not dream to make a repeat performance) but towards 6:00 to 9:00 in the evening the environment turned gloomy with heavy downpour so the excitement of fireworks display, considered as the highlight of Disney experience, and all those itchy bitchy moment of fun, might be compromised and we will just be wasting our precious hard-earned money!


Anyway, without Disneyland, my experience of visiting Hongkong was still memorable and so much fun, I learned so many things during the trip. Asking if I would still want to go back there for a quick holiday trip, my answer is always YES!!


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