Doc’s birthday was coming up and she set her sights on getting inked by Whang Od. The prospect of a two hour trek from jump-off point to Buscalan, the small village where Whang-od lives already made me cringe. Yes, it was a once in a life time opportunity to meet and photograph this 93 year-old mambabatok and living national treasure. Yes, the sight of the great Cordillera mountains will nothing be less than breathtaking. But a long hike passing through cliffs wasn’t really my idea of fun. So I called Doc and asked if she would settle for meeting Mickey Mouse instead.
Two months later, many hours of research, Hong Kong bound! We wanted to make sure we have a head start just in case we got caught in traffic so we headed to NAIA Terminal 3 quite early for our 7:00 pm flight. What do you know, there was very light traffic all the way to airport. We were even more happy when the lady from the check-in counter allowed us to change our seating assignment and gave us 1E and 1F. My jubilation was however short lived since Doc wouldn’t give up 1F. She said there is always a reason for everything. After paying for travel tax and checking-in, we had some snacks since the next meal we will be having will probably be very late in the evening. We still had a lot of time to spare before our flight. There was no rush in filling out the tourist cards and going through immigration.
Surprise! Surprise! Our flight was on time. I settled for the middle seat since someone refused to give up the window seat and was preparing to sleep for the two hour flight once we got in the plane. The passenger next to me was an elderly lady who asked whether I was going to Hong Kong for business (which I wasn’t). Then another question… then another. Before we knew it, we were almost in our destination and she still wasn’t done talking. She gave us a brief palm reading and even invited us to a meal at her place… if we get to be on the same flight again. Doc whispered to me, “You see, that is the reason why you got that seat.”
When they said Hong Kong International Airport was huge, now I know they weren’t exaggerating. I was too busy trying to focus on the signs where to go next that I didn’t get a chance to take photos. Plus the customs official had too many questions and even asked me if I had a camera with me. We also had a bit of confusion when he asked where we were staying and I told him we were booked in “Inn Hotel.” He asked again what it is the name of the hotel. I had to show him the voucher from Agoda that the name of the hotel was “Inn Hotel.”
This was my first trip abroad… kaya medyo hilo. After a few escalator rides and a short train ride, we got to the immigration counter where we were issued a “ticket-like” proof of entry instead of a stamp on my passport. Then a few minutes of walking (and wandering), we finally found the counter that sold tickets for the Airport Express. We paid 200HKD each for an AE and an Octopus card. We also got some brochures and maps in the tourism booths we passed by. Finding our way around the airport was an adventure in itself. Just follow the signs! Fortunately, they all had English translations.
By the time we reached the Airport Express Station, we were way past dinner and our tummies were protesting. I reviewed our route as we waited for our train: Airport to Tsing Yi, Tsing Yi to Lai King, then Lai King to Yau Ma Tei. The Airport Express and the MTR was indeed clean and extremely efficient. But upon reaching our third interchange in Lai King, we were counting down stations and was sooo looking forward to dinner. We emerged from B2 Exit of Yau Ma Tei Station a bit disoriented. We were guessing which way to Portland Street. One turn and a few steps we found Inn Hotel.
Checked-in. Fixed our stuff and headed out for dinner. There were a lot of small restaurants and convenience stores near our hotel. In fact, Mc Donalds and KFC was a few turns away. But as I always said, there’s no better way to learn local culture than trying local food.
Up the street, was this resto that had large pieces of meat hanging. Since roast meat, especially goose was on top of my list, I picked it immediately over the bigger place that had a sign the said Macau Food.
We were greeted by a friendly lady who ushered us in and showed us to the only vacant table. There were a few more tables that were also occupied at the back. The food must be good! I told myself. The place looked small from outside but was really a narrow space that had a see-through kitchen in the middle.
I asked the lady if they had an English menu since the one in the table was all in Chinese. “No,” she said. We asked what was their specialty. She pointed to the news clipping (which looked like a food review) with photos of (what we think) the food they specialize. Doc pointed to the noodles hoping it was beef and wanton noodles. We then asked if they had dimsun. The man from behind the counter joined in and said something like “wanton.” I assumed that they didn’t serve any dimsun only wanton.
The lady then pointed to the nearby table where a solo diner was eating a noodle dish on a plate. I told her we’ll have one of that. She then asked, “pig’s hands?” Somehow between the signing and the language limitation, I figured it was pig’s trotters. Doc wondered if the noodles was to be eaten by hands. It was a good thing we were seated near the refrigerator and only had to point to the Coke and Coke Zero.
From where we were seated, we could see the kitchen staff in action through the glass walled kitchen. Large pieces of meat hanging, herbs bundled in baskets, pots and pans here and there. I wanted to take a photo of the cook as he dumps noodles and ladles soup bowl after bowl. After trying to phrase how to ask for permission, I changed my mind.
The food wasn’t bad… but nothing excellent either. We paid more or less $75HKD. We could have ordered just one dish for the both of us. They had big portions and hardly I hardly finished it despite being hungry. Well, it was either that or I had difficulty eating with chopsticks. The pig’s “hands” was really challenging to eat. There was no way you can eat it with chopsticks. I guess, one should eat it with your hands.
Before retiring back to our hotel, we got local sim cards for calls, sms and data from Circle K. I also bought ice cream to wash away the after taste of dinner.
First lesson on our first day: make sure there are a lot of diners in the resto so you have a lot more selection of dishes to point to just in case the menu has no translation.