In June 2009, it was my turn to tag along my friend Glenda, her husband, and her three boys. I’m practically part of the family because I used to sample Glenda’s culinary creations when we were in law school. I still do, in fact.
Irwin, Glenda’s husband, wanted to go to Hong Kong, too, because we told him about our trip and he was working in a middle-eastern country at that time. (I forgot which country.) When he came home for a holiday, he and Glenda booked us for a group tour to Hong Kong, which included Disneyland and Ocean Park and a day at Shenzhen, China. Glenda and I have been to Disneyland on our first HK visit but omitted a trip to Ocean Park at that time (even if the Filipina caretaker of Tom’s Guesthouse recommended it).
Let me tell you something about group tours — it’s like walking into a goddamn tourist trap. Sure, it’s more convenient to book because you coordinate with the travel agency and you don’t have to do anything but wait for the papers to present to the airline, the hotel and other destinations. But it’s much cheaper for a reason.
We were made to go to Ocean Park right after getting off the plane. I’m sure I speak for all air travelers when I say that even if we’re mostly just sitting there, when we get off, it still feels like we’ve walked a long road. Sightseeing right after a plane ride is a guarantee of diminished capacity for enjoying everything the place has to offer. And it’s just too bad, because Ocean Park is heavenly. It’s also huge, which means the pitiful few hours the tour gave us to go around is not nearly enough. And yes, nature put in its share — it rained.
We rode the cable car, watched the dolphin show, looked at the huge aquarium and ate pricey McDonald’s. When I visited Manila Ocean Park some months later, I would laugh out loud at the pathetic mermaid show that Filipinos think represents life at sea.
We were booked at the Dorsett Seaview Hotel (now Silka Seaview), which wasn’t too bad. But you already know that I’m easily impressed by hotels, so unless I’m raving about it (like I was with Wendy House in Bangkok, which I liked for reasons other than aesthetic impressiveness), it’s nothing to write home about.
Disneyland was the same and Glenda and I came to the conclusion that it’s mostly for younger kids because her bigger boys did not seem to be having much fun. Although it might have been because, before going to Disneyland, we were made to do a tour of Hong Kong including Avenue of Stars where we were photographed. That photograph, pasted on a china plate, would be later sold to us at an unconscionable price. (I can’t remember how much, but it might have been HKD 150.00) I refused to pay that much for a plate and the tour guide went on this whole guilt trip about how the photographer (Lucky Chan) was going to lose his job because of my refusal.
We also toured this jewelry place and I can’t remember what else, with their overpriced merchandise designed to make us part with the dollars.
Shenzhen was a load of rubbish. No, not the place. I’m sure it’s pretty enough but we didn’t really do anything there but order KFC from this Chinese girl who didn’t know much English. (Sorry, Miss Chinese girl. It’s not your fault.) I signed up to go to Windows of the World and was willing to pay the entrance fee but I was the only one and later, the tour guide decided that they won’t profit much from me.
Oh, did I say tourist trap? Crap.
My whining aside, it was a good experience if only for the fact that, boy, those Chinese can really walk!