Gooood morning! Despite sleeping late after Day 1, I got up the next day at 6 AM ahead of my friend who was still sleeping soundly. I fought my grogginess, washed my face, and grabbed my jacket.
I walked out to a quiet, dusky street, a speck of moon above me. The sun hadn’t taken over the morning sky.
I walked the empty streets until I found Kwun Tong Promenade not far from our hotel. I hung around and took in the freshness of the morning, with only a few joggers that went by. This is what I like about waking up and going out early – it feels like I have the world to myself.
A piece of gem on the corner of the street
Near Newton Place Hotel, I discovered a little gem called 41 Cafe. It was small and not especially striking, but this was exactly what I was looking for. A modest place that offers a genuine experience that represents Hong Kong living.
The menu was in Chinese, but after realizing I was a foreigner, the kind waitress offered to translate them. I ordered spicy meat noodles with toast, ham and egg, and of course a hot cup of coffee (36 HKD for the set). The coffee was smooth, not sweet, with enough milkiness. Having a sweet tooth, I added a packet of sugar, then it was perfect! I ate up my meal as I watched the waitress casually attend to local customers who came after me.
I enjoyed walking around for a few more minutes until I came back to my still sleeping friend.
[Update: This cafe is permanently closed.]
Breaking: Babyccinos are cream-based!
We checked out of the hotel around lunchtime and stopped over for lunch at a cafe beside Newton Place Hotel before setting off for Hong Kong Disneyland. Cafeholic apparently had a lot of patrons, even if the headwaiter seemed a bit grumpy. I, being a coffeeholic, ordered a caramel babyccino (38 HKD), and immediately after it was served, I regretted it. Most of the menu was in Chinese and I could only read “babyccino,” not knowing it was actually cream-based instead of coffee-based (did not even occur to me to examine the photo on the side). Unfortunately, I’m not a fan of cream-based drinks. I enjoyed Cafeholic’s prawns and scallops spaghetti with porcini sauce (92 HKD), though. Looking around, it seemed that their pasta dishes are the best sellers.
Googling and mingling the way
Getting around Hong Kong is not so hard, after all, as long as your mobile is connected to the Internet, that is. We used Google Maps to find our way and get directions here and there, although of course mingling with locals is a whole different human experience. Asking for directions was sometimes even more efficient.
Going to Hong Kong Disneyland, we opted to take a bus first (Kwun Tong to Mong Kok) instead of the MTR. While the trains are faster, a bus ride lets us enjoy sightseeing while getting to our destination.
Although it was already afternoon, we were not in a rush to go to Disneyland. We even stopped by Mong Kok to do a bit of shopping; there are lots of fashion stores on every street! Even if it was against my will, I bought a cute dress (50 HKD) and a coat (80 HKD, too cute, couldn’t help it!). It was my friend who did most of the shopping while I was also eyeing some street food. We found a snack store along the way and again bought my favorite egg puff (11 HKD), plus iced milk tea (11 HKD). We stopped by our second hotel in Mong Kok to drop off the stuff we bought before finally heading to Disneyland.
Fantasy in real life: Hong Kong Disneyland
We reached Disneyland at around 5 PM. We spent 20 minutes taking photos at the entrance and the park promenade before we actually entered the theme park. The park was pretty, giving off a vibe that’s just like in most Disney movies — dreamy and fantastical, perfect for kids and kids at heart.
We only got to try two attractions — Iron Man Experience and Toy Story Land. Iron Man was great. It reminded me of Universal Studios’ (Singapore) Transformers 4D ride, although personally, I was more thrilled with Transformers. Toy Story was enjoyable for kids, letting them shoot enemies with light guns.
For me, the three highlights of our visit to Hong Kong Disneyland were the shopping, the parade, and the fireworks. I enjoyed looking around Center Street Boutique on Main Street USA. There were a lot of cute Mickey Mouse items from key chains to watches to apparel and kitchenware. Of course, there were other Disney character items, such as Monsters Inc., Lilo & Stitch, and Disney princesses. There were also Avengers merchandise.
We took a break from shopping when the parade started. Everyone else went out of the gift shop to watch. Different Disney character mascots, floats, and performers took over Main Street USA. I especially cheered for Slinky Dog (Toy Story) and Lightning McQueen (Cars). Mickey Mouse and his gang were the finale of the parade.
The pyro-musical show was perhaps the best part. I enjoy fireworks in general. Fireworks burst and flickered in the sky in tune with famous Disney theme songs. Although I was recording the show with an iPhone, I made sure I was holding it aside so that I could watch the show instead of staring at the recording. Because what’s the point of being there if I was just watching through the screen?
Local eats, old streets, and kung fu hustlers
We left Hong Kong Disneyland at 9 PM. Our flight was in the morning the next day, so we wanted to make the most out of our final night. We stopped by a local restaurant near Mong Kok MTR Station, the name I couldn’t read. Again, I was impressed by how quick a local restaurant’s service was. A few minutes, maybe less than five, after we gave our orders, I got my “special sauce handmade noodle” (34 HKD) and iced milk tea. The noodle was like a Chinese version of spaghetti, with a taste of peanut butter or something. And then, just as how I loved the local coffee, I enjoyed my milk tea! It was milky and not too sweet. I was heartily satisfied.
We left the restaurant at half-past 10 but we refused to go back to our hotel. We walked around aimlessly while hoping to find a late-night cafe to pass time and chill. Walking around Hong Kong’s older streets at night, in Mong Kok at least, greatly reminded me of Jackie Chan movies. The kind of neighborhood in most of his films. Looking at the residential buildings with laundry hanging outside the windows, I imagined kung fu hustlers would burst out of the windows in combat. I was really amused by my surroundings. This was exactly the experience I wanted. I didn’t want to just go to theme parks or casinos or museums; I wanted to experience the streets, talk to locals, and get lost.
The hotel we transferred to in Mong Kok was not as classy as Newton Place Hotel in Kowloon, but it was also a good experience. Geo-Home Holiday Hotel is among many other hotels that share Kingland Apartment Building. This was another interesting discovery for me as I would expect a hotel to have its own building. Our “hotel” was on the 9th floor, and there were at least two other “hotels” that occupied the floor. Our room was small, with only one bed for us to share. At least, it had a shower and a heater, although the heater only worked for a few minutes after turning it on. But the temperature was tolerable. The man at the front desk, who looked like the owner, was hospitable.
We concluded the night with coffee at Mcdonald’s at 1 AM. Even Mcdonald’s coffee amazed me as it was slightly different than what we have back in Manila. The roast was different and coffee came with milk instead of powdered creamer.
A strange thing we noticed at that particular Mcdonald’s branch was that a couple of people were sleeping on some tables. One was even wrapped in a blanket, and we found a pair of shoes under our table. We’re not sure if they’re homeless or just burned-out overtime workers. They didn’t seem to be part of the crew nor students (there were older men). Anyway, it didn’t bother me that much, just got me curious if this was a common thing? Edit: Apparently, this has been an ongoing issue in recent years and a side of Hong Kong that is not so pleasant but is all too real. These people have been dubbed McRefugees — homeless people seeking shelter at 24-hour McDonald’s stores, who can sometimes only afford to ask for a cup of water. More recently, Hong Kong also hit the headlines for the growing trend of so-called coffin homes where people squeeze in because they can’t afford the increasing cost of housing. I hope for the best for these people and that someday Hong Kong will just only be full of more awesome discoveries.
I think we went back to our hotel at 2 or 3 AM. Once again, we lay on the bed with some Chinese TV show on, fiddling with our phones until we finally dozed off.
The next morning was going to be full of #sepanx. ✈️