Tag Archives: Asia

Except Surfing: A Retreat to La Union

We boarded the 11-pm bus, rain heavily sprinkling on one side of the bus while the other side was dry and shielded by the wide roof overhang of the bus station. I wasn’t worried about the rain or about not being able to surf on the waves of La Union. All I had in mind was finding a nice local café and great local grub.

Silly. People go to La Union to surf!

Big waves tryin to pull you in 🌊 #beach #launion #philippines #rainydays #travel

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To be at the beach, away from the metro, the central source of all that’s mundane and stressful, was the primary goal. Even if it was raining, I couldn’t say the weather was bad. It was unfortunate that we couldn’t go into the water and stand on a board with a shark fin underneath, but it wasn’t that bad. It was just different.

You face the rage of the ocean, stand right at its jaws. It taunts you to enter the water, and you taunt it back, your feet right where it can snatch you away. You think it can’t, but it can. The next wave pushes on your feet and pulls back harder, and you stagger and struggle to stay up on your feet. You know you can’t go into the water because then it’s never going to give you back to the land that once owned you.

It’s not a scary thought. Just exhilarating.

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There’s something about simply being by the beach, even when you’re not soaked and swimming in it—I didn’t have to. It was just the perfect environment that I needed. It was enough that I could dip my toes in the subsiding ripples of water and bury my feet in the soft and squishy black sand in every step, while listening to the sound of the waves and feeling the breeze that came with them. It was titillating.

We stayed at Puerto de San Juan on our first night. It was a little far from the surfing area, but that was okay. The beach at Puerto de San Juan was more secluded, so it let us have a long peaceful stretch of walk. The hotel is age-old and has maintained its retro interiors. It felt like we were in an old mansion. The facilities provided enough comfort for the duration of our stay.

That night, the hotel held an acoustic night at their restaurant, which redeemed me from the displeasure of the day’s indecision and bad choice of restaurant for lunch. Our dinner was great.

We had a mouth-watering serving of sinigang with kimchi in a big palayok (clay pot). It was the first time I encountered this concoction, and it was perfect. The kimchi contributed to the sourness of this sour Filipino delicacy and added a very mild spicy taste. I also enjoyed the grilled tuna, beautifully presented on a wooden plate, with vegetables and, of course, kimchi on the side.

I just sat there, on a table nearest to the swimming pool, watching rain pepper the pool. It was dark out there, in the ocean, but I could hear the waves from where I was seated. The waves were so strong  that, even if I couldn’t see them that night, it felt like they were thrashing on my chest.

The light of day let me find the waves.

In the morning, I left our room and went back to the restaurant for some brewed coffee and pancakes. Again, I took a seat near the pool. Beyond the pool, even if I couldn’t see the shoreline, I could hear and see the tall waves. I held my pen and wrote and doodled on my journal. It was a great time to be alone.

With the persistent and fitful downpour, we left Puerto de San Juan to get closer to the main surfing spot, Urbiztondo beach. We knew we couldn’t surf. We just wanted to be there.

We found and got settled in Sebay Surf Central hotel. The beach was just a few steps away from our room. But then again, I could only get as far as the shore, content with staring far into the horizon while breathing in the ocean breeze.

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Cafes and restaurants were also just a stone’s throw away from Sebay. The best part of the (second) day was finding The Coffee Library just across the road. It’s a two-storey Vietnamese restaurant and café with Asian-inspired rustic interiors. I was, once again, deeply satisfied with a spot in one corner of the café. I stationed myself at a small wooden table, unconsciously listening to crowd murmurs that served as background music to the local café scene while I reviewed my journal.

diz Pho Ga is purrrrfect for the bed weather‼️

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The pho ga of The Coffee Library served as a great complement to the chilly downpour outside. I was happy to be sheltered in a cozy restaurant enjoying a mildly flavored Vietnamese noodle soup.

I also enjoyed their pan grilled porkchop! It was, as far as I remember, the first time that I could actually do away with gravy and just enjoy the chops. Every bite was tender and flavorful.

Other restaurants that we tried that afternoon (what else could we do but to go on a food crawl!) were Surf Shack and Olas Banditos. In the rainy afternoon that we came, Surf Shack was a sleepy little food corner with a few diners, but this place is known as a chill and musically charged hangout for foodies and surfers alike. Olas Banditos meanwhile is an airy Mexican diner with colorful graffiti walls that serves mouth-filling burritos.

The rest of the night (our last night) was pretty much uneventful. I just went on strolling around nearby establishments before grabbing some beer from the hotel bar to serve as a finale to my mellow out-of-the-metro vacation. I spent a few more moments contemplating while looking out to the once again dark sea. All I could hear was the roar of the waves. They were fierce and relentless, but nothing could be more comforting.

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Fighting Fears: Canyoneering, College and Conquests

You’re standing above a vast landscape of the sea. Clear skies. Cool breeze. Sparkling ocean. And you’re standing at the edge of a cliff. Do you think you could jump?

Have you ever felt so scared that the hairs all over your body stand, butterflies turn into vultures in your stomach, and you feel like you’re going to poop? That’s how I feel every time.

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Heights is one of my worst fears. I don’t know how I got my fear of heights as I don’t recall any traumatic experience. I just found myself one day, around the age of 5, riding Enchanted Kingdom’s Jungle Log Jam and crying my intestines out, begging my father to just throw me over to the crew on the side of the river before reaching the upward rail.

Ironically, 2016 had been full of heights and high jumps for me.

This same month last year, I went canyoneering in Cebu with good fellows. Canyoneering’s main feature is, apparently, the canyons–which are really high FYI. And yet, my super-beginner self did not get any hint that it also involved a lot of cliff jumping!

So, I was there, at the edge of the cliff, and my fellows were already in the water screaming weee!, while I was still up there screaming MOM!!!

After a while, I started to feel jittery. It wasn’t because I was scared to jump though. I was worried that my friends were leaving me behind. They all looked so happy, and I certainly didn’t want to miss whatever fun they were having down there.

I was more scared of not getting a taste of that special experience.

1… 2… 3…? Uhm, okay, threeee!!! Then I finally plunged into the water. I overcame my fear of heights because I was more afraid of getting left behind. I was more scared of not getting a taste of that special experience. I don’t always get to visit canyons, and it was scary to miss this chance.

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Looking back to the good ol’ college life…

When I was in college, I stopped schooling for a while and got a job. I was young and totally hooked on earning and spending. A year later, I knew I had to go back and finish what I had started in college.

I walked into my university with the intent of taking the first step of readmission. And that’s when I saw her. She was behind Window 5 (if I remember well) for readmission applications. I approached her and asked with a kitten smile, “Ma’am, may I know the process for reinstatement?”

She responded with stuff like “Did you fill out these forms already? Did you write a letter to the College Dean? Do you have these documents? What, why not?”

I kept getting peevish answers from her that made me feel stupid and so embarrassed, and I got scared of asking anymore questions. She, along with the tedious lot of requirements, made me feel like reinstatement was going to be hell and it scared me.

It took me another year to go back and try again. At first I was hesitant, but I thought, this was already way overdue. I looked back on my freshman year and remembered my dreams after graduation. I thought of my parents who were excited for me to graduate.

At that point, I found a greater fear. The fear of not realizing my dreams and disappointing my parents. I held on to this fear as I walked back to my college and faced the grumpy lady again. She was still as scary as ever, but I held my position, politely and patiently until it was all over. It wasn’t so bad. I got reinstated! And two years later, I finally graduated.

There is nothing scarier than hurting  the ones that we love and not living the life that we want just because we let irrational, counterproductive fears hold us back.

I conquered my irrational fear of jumping into a tedious process of college readmission with a better kind of fear. There is nothing scarier than hurting  the ones that we love and not living the life that we want just because we let irrational, counterproductive fears hold us back.

***

Life is a vast, intimidating sea but it is also the most beautiful thing. We should not miss the chance of experiencing life just because we’re too afraid to jump out of our comfort zone.

I jumped off terrifying cliffs. I got one of the best experiences that nature has to offer.

I jumped at the tiresome readmission process. I graduated!

And then, I jumped at my first Toastmasters International Speech Contest. I joined the contest with the fear of messing up and not winning. But I fought it with a greater and more meaningful fear.

I was more afraid of letting the chance pass–the chance of learning and the chance of sharing my message to others.

We all have different kinds of fears. Whatever your fear is right now, take the time to think: is it a good fear or a bad fear?

There are fears that hold us back, keep us confined in our little comfort zone. And there are fears that push us to our limits so we can become better, and stronger.

We should find the latter. When times get too difficult and too scary, let’s use the good fears to fight our bad fears away. Let’s fight fear with fear.

###

This was originally my contest piece for my first prepared speech contest. It was an opportunity for me to share a bit of my experience canyoneering in Badian, Cebu, and a bit of my struggles through college.

2 Broke Girls: Sassy in Nagsasa

Exactly one year ago, in the same month of April, I was in probably the most stressful job I’ve ever been in – in the field that is in fact notorious for high demands and long hours of work. Sleeping in at the office was the norm. We often went home past midnight or past the hour that I should’ve been eating dinner at home.

Without the time for a refreshing sight of family and friends, having companionable colleagues was a great solace. One in particular was even game for a bit of spontaneity and self-indulgence.

With the hopes of temporarily escaping all the work and heart-related stress, two broke girls went on an unplanned escape trip to Zambales in April last year.

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The 2 broke (but sassy) girls in Nagsasa Cove

I won’t go into detail about the itinerary or the expenses as this is not what it’s all about. This is about the best memories of two sassy girls and a proof that sometimes unplanned trips have a greater chance of materializing. All I can say is that it was supposedly a really cheap, budget-friendly trip to Nagsasa Cove, which two splurging girls couldn’t manage.

I remember well that it was a Saturday, and it was a national holiday. And we refused to answer any work call or any “request” to come in for weekend work. It was crazy right from the start. Since the trip was mostly unplanned, we came to the bus station without reserved tickets. Many buses were fully booked, which we didn’t expect, and we had to wait for about two hours to board. What was expected to be a 9 AM trip turned into a sun-struck 12 noon trip.

Since we were unfamiliar with the route, there were moments of panic when, for instance, we found out we were in Bataan and doubted if we rode the right bus because we thought Bataan was a place on the other side of the world (it’s not!).

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Seeking shade in Pundaquit while waiting for boat-mates
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A bonus: met a handsome new friend!

When we arrived at Pundaquit port, we were clueless about how to find a boat after failing to get a hold of our contact person. In our attempt to save money by splitting the boat fee, we made two new friends. We practiced our social skills and said hello to two newcomers and asked if they’d like to share their boat. They agreed—how could they say no to cost-cutting?

We got to the beautiful innocent beach of Nagsasa Cove late in the afternoon and immediately got ourselves busy with setting up our tent before going for a swim. There are no hotels or fancy amenities in Nagsasa Cove. Everybody goes by with a tent and a bonfire at night.

The time was perfect to get soaked in the water because it was already late in the afternoon; there was still light from the sun yet it wasn’t scorching anymore. I lay on the fine volcanic sand of Nagsasa Cove, a by-product of the Mt. Pinatubo eruption in the ‘90s, and relished the waves that rippled through my body.

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“Can’t believe someone left trash swimming around,” I uttered to my friend as we approached what looked like a plastic bag underwater. Another step closer and we shrieked and swam for our lives—it was a giant bluish jellyfish! And then we saw another one. Eeek! I was traumatized.

In the evening, we invited our boat-mates for a little drink and bonfire. A bonfire could be set up by the shore with a small fee, which again we divided among the four of us so it was much cheaper. Our two new friends, who were obviously awkward to us at first, got a bit more comfortable and spoke up more. I and my friend also learned more about each other. The night was lit up by bonfire and laughter.

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Resting on calm water

On the next day, I and my friend woke up early to catch the sunrise and take some pictures while the beach was still empty. It was also a perfect time to appreciate the place. It was a view surrounded by trees and mountains. The fine ashen sand sparkled as the first sunlight hit it. Fishing boats were resting on the shore while fish were wide awake.

We ate canned goods, which we bought prior to the trip, for breakfast. We packed them partly because we knew there were no restaurants in Nagsasa, partly because we didn’t want to carry a portable stove in our bags and partly because we were skimping. We were on a very tight budget that we seriously debated whether to buy two cups of halo-halo that only cost Php40 each. In the end, we thought screw this, it’s a hot day and we’re going to enjoy halo-halo by the beach.

There’s a small hill on one end of Nagsasa Cove where visitors could go on a hike to get a bigger view of the beach. I left my friend behind (she’s not in good terms with the sun) and went for a short hike with one of our boat-mates. It wasn’t really high; it was only steep and dusty on some parts. But once we got to the top, we could feel the wind and take panoramic photos of Nagsasa Cove. From above, the water looked perfectly blue, embraced by a crescent bay. This was not Boracay or Puerto Galera where people went for an exuberant vacation. This was a modest place, with scenery I could enjoy without it being tainted by banana boats and jet skis in the water or a bunch of people tanning on the sand.

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After we got down, it was very hot so we soaked in the clear and cold water near the hill. I told our boat-mates about our scary encounter with jellyfish and they, too, got caught in the paranoia. We were moving around in the water so it caused some air bubbles to rise, and seeing a bubble startled us every time because we mistook it for a jellyfish ambush!

Our boat came back for us in the afternoon to take us back to Pundaquit. The sail back was another unforgettable memory for me. The waves were a bit fiercer now than it was the previous day. And one thing I realized was that it’s scary for the boat motor to die down and the boat to stop parallel with the waves because it felt like the water was going to knock us over. I love swimming but am not enthusiastic about swimming with big waves, so I didn’t want us to get knocked over.

I was thankful for reaching land alive, but the predicament didn’t end there. I and my friend were then confronted by the possibility of not getting home because we didn’t have enough money. At this point, we regretted buying that halo-halo at Nagsasa Cove. We failed to properly keep track of our spending.

We checked every corner of our wallets to no avail. Pant pockets—nope. Backpack compartments—nil. Kitty coin purse—nada. We looked at each other with awkward, panicked laugh. “You must be playing a joke.” “No, but you are. Take the money out now.” It was a few seconds later that nobody moved to take out money that we started freaking out.

So, we found an ATM to check each of our cards, knowing damn well they were empty. But who knows? She inserted her card—empty. I checked one of mine—hopeless. I desperately tried another card and, lo and behold, we squealed and jumped and it had money in it!

Two broke girls could miraculously go home.

Deeper Discoveries, Best(?) of Hong Kong

[DAY 2]

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.

Kwun Tong

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.

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First customer at 41 Cafe! (click for more pictures)

The menu was in Chinese, but after realizing I was a foreigner, the kind waitress offered to translate them. I ordered spicy meat noodle 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.

Breaking: Babyccinos are cream-based! (at Cafeholic, at least)

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. 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.

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Menu of Cafeholic, mostly in Chinese (photo from Cafeholic’s Facebook Page)
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My caramel babyccino (click for more pictures)

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.

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Afternoon snack c/o a beautiful lady seller (click for more pictures)

Although it was already afternoon, we were not in a rush to go to Disneyland. We even stopped over in 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.

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Ready to enter Hong Kong Disneyland! (click for more pictures)

For me, the three highlights of our visit in Hong Kong Disneyland were the shopping, the parade and the fireworks. I enjoyed looking around the 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.

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Sleeping Beauty Castle highlighted by fireworks (click for more pictures)

The pyromusical show was perhaps the best part. I enjoy fireworks in general. Fireworks bursted 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.

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A simple yet nice place to eat (click for more pictures)

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.

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Hong Kong street at daytime (click for more pictures)

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 one 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 the 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 who seek shelter at 24-hour McDonald’s, 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 be full of 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. ✈️

Discovering and Loving Hong Kong

[DAY 1]

Finally. After 5 years, I finally obtained a second stamp on my Philippine passport.

Last February 16, I boarded a plane bound to the original and a big contender of Singapore in being the Asia’s World City. Incidentally, the first country I ever went to was Singapore. But I won’t be going on comparing SG and HK, as both are, although similar in a lot of ways, boasting specially unique experiences.

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Touchdown Hong Kong!

Awe-inspiring discoveries

The eager tourists that we are, I and my friend excitedly hopped on the A22 bus going to our destination, Kwun Tong, and went straight for the front seat on the upper deck. It was a smooth and chill ride. The bus wasn’t going too fast.

The first thing that I noticed and that filled me with awe is the realization that Hong Kong is actually surrounded by mountains. Honestly, I didn’t know that! Did you? So, you can imagine how excited I was turning my head left and right, up and down, mouth agape the whole time, admiring the scenery unfolding before me. To add more to this childish newcomer excitement, we passed over at least three bridges that offered a wonderful view of the city, the water, and the mountains.

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Helpful mr. driver checking directions for us!
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Mountains unfolding (click for more pictures)

Avenue of Stars (almost)

We got off at Kwun Tong Town Centre. We got a business meeting over and done with before we dove for our hotel beds at Newton Place Hotel. We didn’t waste much time relaxing. After a few hours of refreshing, we set off for Tsim Sha Tsui to find the iconic Avenue of Stars and some good food. From Kwun Tong, we took the MTR to Tsim Sha Tsui.

We reached an esplanade and excitedly assumed it was the Avenue of Stars – hurray! Only later to find out that we were taking photos and selfies at Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade. It wasn’t bad. The view of the cityline was great, especially as the sun set and city lights gleamed.

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Beautiful Hong Kong cityline view (click for more pictures)

Discoveries on foot: shopping and good food

We walked to find Ashley Road and had a filling dinner at Delicious Kitchen. I was impressed with the crew’s quick and helpful service. Only a few minutes after we gave our orders, a big serving of sliced pork with garlic pepper cabbage (72 HKD) was served for me and a big plate of yang chow (45 HKD) for sharing. Ah, I got my stomach so full!

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Ashley Road, Tsim Sha Tsui (click for more pictures)

Still, I had space for a post-dinner snack of yummy egg puffs. We stopped at a snack shop on the side of the street, and there I found my favorite HK street snack. Egg puffs are like empty round cookies with a creamy surprise inside.

We rode the MTR from Tsim Sha Tsui Station to Mong Kok, and after that we were full force on foot! To burn some of the calories we consumed, we walked the long stretch of Ladies Market, filled with bargain items from clothing to accessories and lots of HK souvenirs! I thought “I ❤️ HK” shirts were cliche so I got “I ❤️ HK” bags (55 HKD for 2) instead!

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Walking at Ladies Market (click for more pictures)

An interesting thing I learned about Ladies Market is that the sellers are very! persistent. They drive a really hard bargain! At the first stall I stopped to look at chopsticks, the lady offered me a set of ten for 120 HKD and I thought, nah, it’s over my budget. As I began to walk away, the lady held on to me and offered it for 110 HKD, 100 HKD, until I finally gave in to 80 HKD thinking, wow, that’s a great deal from the original price! Only later for me to find out that there was another stall that offered the same set of chopsticks on sale for 20 HKD. Ugh! I’m not mad, though. The lady was good, and it was a funny learning experience. As you go farther, you’ll definitely meet a lot of the persistent lady. If you’re weak-hearted and poor at saying no, then you’re gonna have a hard a time. I knew I’m a bit softhearted, so it was really a struggle to look around. I just looked at items from a distance instead of entering the stalls just so I could avoid the sellers’ arm-twisting.

Late night coffee and sleepy kitties

After we got out of Ladies Market, we just walked around and along the streets of Mong Kok until we found a building that had a tiny poster that said “Cafe de Kitten ➡️” The building looked more like an old residential building than a commercial center. But the words kitten and cats rang in my ears, which compelled me to check it out. I and my friend took the elevator to the 7th floor where the cafe is located. What we found was a tiny piece of heaven for me and a loving little haven for cats.

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Entrance to Cafe de Kitten, Mong Kok (click for more pictures)

Cafe de Kitten is a small hole-in-the-wall that can accommodate no more than 20 people at once. When you enter the cafe, you will be greeted by sleepy and indifferent Garfields that will only stand up and approach you if you have cat food to offer. Their cuteness offsets their indifference. There were many cats in the cafe that I couldn’t count. All of them are healthy and well taken care of. The two owners are undeniably cat lovers and are also hospitable to their visitors. They even offered us a free taste of some of their cakes!

Cafe de Kitten lets coffee and cat lovers enjoy the place for a minimum order of 78 HKD per person. We came in at around 10 PM, and we were worried that it was closing, but thank feline gods they’re open late – until 1 AM. I sipped on my minty iced coffee while trying to lure the cats to walk to me.

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The only time it opened its eyes. Funny!
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This cat was like this for at least 3 minutes LOL

Getting home

At 11 PM, we bid goodbye to the cute kitties and the sweet owners of Cafe de Kitten and went out to the street with no idea how to return to our hotel. We walked around checking information at bus stops because we assumed MTR would be closed at that time. After asking a few helpful locals, we headed to Yau Ma Tei MTR station after being told that we can still catch the train.

We got back at Newton Place Hotel around midnight. We slept with an old Chinese series on the TV, which we enjoyed watching despite not understanding a word they said.

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View from our hotel room