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Published: March 18th 2007
When in Hong Kong...
...I'll only stay at the Conrad
The title of this entry is more than a little misleading. First, we will visit our friends Jean-Christophe, Tinna, and Gilles in the city of Taichung (Taiwan) before taking off from the capital Taipei to go home to Canada. So, we do have a brief visit in one more country before heading home.
Second, the Philippinnes is anything but a single stop destination. The tourism industry is the least developed that we've seen, and we have had to make several overnight stops in cities we would never choose to be in. That said, the title stands as this was the last place we had earmarked for touring. But let's take a step back to March 9th...
Jen and I left flew out of Hanoi on March 8th. We landed in Hong Kong for a 26 hour layover. Using up the last of Jen's Hilton Honors Reward Points, we checked ourselves in to the Conrad Hotel (the Hilton's richer, prettier, $400 per night sister) in downtown Hong Kong. We took hot baths and generally luxuriated for a couple of hours, and then we hit the town. I had picked up a "Walkiing Tours of Hong Kong" brochure at the airport,
Spoon-Feeding the Chicks
We came across the Hong Kong Bird Park, where bird owners take their treasured pets for a "walk" in their cages. There they can buy supplies from permanent shops, and trade bird-care tips with other enthusiasts.
and we used it to plan out attack. We had a blast. Right off, let me say that Hong Kong is a city I could live in. I loved it; easy to get around; English is, of course, widely spoken; it has a western feel, but you never forget that you are in Asia; and the best thing was that Jen and I regained our anonymity (is that spelled correctly?). It had been a very long time since we had walked the freely without drawing attention. In fact, I'd say we were deliberately ignored, if anything, with the exception of a few Indian tailor touts who strongly felt that I needed better clothes.
We visited the SoHo restaurant district, the flower, medicinal herbs, antiques, and other districts, we took a ferry across the harbour, we did some window shopping trhroughout Hong Kong (proper) and Kowloon (across the harbour). We hardly scratched the surface, but I think I speak for both of us when I say that we really enjoyed our time there.
From Hong Kong, we flew to Cebu (pronounced siboo, not seeboo) City, on Cebu Island, the capital of Cebu Province, in the Philippines. Admittedly, we
didn't give Cebu City much of a chance; we arrived in the evening, we took a room near what turned out to be the dodgier part of town (we think), and had one bad meal in what was a bar more than a restaurant (listed in the Lonely Planet Guide to the Philippines, I might add), and quickly noticed that all the tourists we saw were retired white males. Hmm... So, before we had even taken one bit of our mediocre (I'm being very kind) meal, Jen and I looked at each other and said, in near unison, "Let's get the hell out of this city!" So, less than 12 hours after we landed in Cebu City, we were on a ferry to Dumaguete, the capital of Negros Oriental province, on Negros Island.
Once again, we ended up in a city we quickly realized we did not want to be in, so we on hopped a bus early the next morning and headed fo Sipalay (Sip-ah-lie), a small town with an isolated beach on the far side of Negros Island. We spent the next 5 days and nights on secluded Sugar Beach, a short 20 minute fishing-boat ride from
The down sides were: 1) we had to share our 300 metres of perfect sandy beach with up to 10 other tourists at ant given time, though most of them were kind enough to remain hidden from view, hanging in their hamocs. 2) and, this actually did become tiresome, 4 of the 5 "resorts" (groupings of huts, really) were owned and oprated by German-Swiss. The Residency Regulations these people can come up with for a grass hut blows the mind; they give you a binder to study, and deviation from the rules will not be tolerated!!! Until Lonely Planet included Sipaly and its resorts in their latest edition of their guide to the Philippines, the German HostelKiepers only had German tourists to deal with, "und Life vas gut!" They know what to expect, and they know how to handle each other. Enter the North American tourist: Schiss! Zese people have not discipline! Zey have nein planification! How do zey getz anyssing done? We even overheard one exchange between a North American customer who said "I think I'll have the pizza", and the Swiss maid/waitress/Kommandant who responded, with a most stern expression,"You 'think' or you 'know'? There is a
Setting Up Market Street
The stalls go up every morning, down every night.
difference," and she stood and stared waiting for his response. The poor man, on holidays, was at a complete loss, so I had to (really, I couldn't help myself) jump in with a smile and said something like "It might be a little subtle, but in English one can say 'I think' when one means 'I know', if one is trying to be polite and not sound like one is pushing the help around." As you may well imagine, we got along really well with everyone after that.
Fortunately, we didn't have to deal much with anyone, except to order our meals, and we had a fine time interacting with the Philippino staff; they are such happy, good-natured people that it's hard not to fall for them. And, before long we were on our way back to Dumaguete to catch a ferry to Panglao Island, a slightly more touristy spot, where we are staying in a beachside house. We'll be here for 4 more days before we head to Padre Burgos, on Leyte Island. Please look at the map I have included if all these names and my description of our itinerary have you confused.
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