Hong Kong (Shopping Paradise)

Hong Kong the most visited city in the world by international tourists. A visa free city for many and a China getaway city. Though it’s technically part of China, Hong Kong has its own culture and personality. The cosmopolitan city is spread out over several small islands, many of which are very densely populated and full of incredible attractions, restaurants, and shops. Hong Kong is a shopping paradise which brings together all the world famous brands. Shopping malls, department stores, and boutiques cluster around the island. From gorgeous hiking trails in the mountains to bustling night markets, here are some of the real best things to do in Hong Kong.

1.) Getting around Hong Kong:

Few visitors will have problems getting around in Hong Kong, English is widely spoken and almost all the street signs are bilingual.

  • The Octopus card, is a prepaid debit card that can be used to pay public transportation, as well as for items in convenience stores, supermarkets, restaurant chains such as McDonald’s and many vending machines. Paying for public transport with an Octopus card usually results in a discounted fare. Additionally, some chain stores offer discounts for paying with Octopus card.
  • Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway (MTR) is the fastest way to get around, but i does not offer the views of buses and trams and is more expensive.
  • There are three types of bus available in Hong Kong, operated by a multitude of companies. While generally easy to use (especially with Octopus), signs in English can be sparse and finding your bus stop can get difficult. Timetable information for buses are heavily unreliable, especially those running in Kowloon and New Territories, buses rarely come as the timetable scheduled and you have to wait them for a long period. Buses are pretty much your only option for travelling around the south side of the island and Lantau.

2.) If there’s only one thing you must do in Hong Kong, is to take the funicular up to Victoria Peak, the highest mountain on Hong Kong island, arguably the city’s most famous attraction. Rising 1,805 feet above sea level, the summit affords breathtaking views of Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, Victoria Harbour, and, on very clear days, Kowloon’s eight mountains. The Peak Tower is one of the most stylish architectural Hong Kong attractions. Inside The Peak Tower, there is a dazzling array of restaurants, shops and entertainment venues set against the beautiful backdrop of the city. Moreover, The Peak Tower boasts the highest 360° viewing platform – The Sky Terrace which offers spectacular panoramic views of the vibrant city. There are several ways to reach the top, but the classic method is a seven-minute ride on the Peak Tram, the world’s steepest funicular railway. There’s an ongoing argument about whether the view is better during the day or at night—see both if you have the time and decide for yourself.

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3.) To pay tribute to outstanding professionals of Hong Kong’s film industry, HK$40 million was sponsored for the construction of the Avenue of Stars. Avenue of Stars is located along the Victoria Harbour waterfront in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong and is modeled on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. ( It is currently closed till 2018, it will be relocated).

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4.) Climb over 200 steps to view the bronze Tian Tian Big Buddha statue. West of the city center lies the mountainous terrain of Lantau Island, a 202-ton statue of the deity. Commonly referred to as the “Big Buddha,” the massive bronze statue is the main attraction here, but there are some other touristy attractions nearby that you can skip. The best way to get to the Big Buddha is to hop on the Ngong Ping 360 gondola, which offers impressive views of North Lantau Country Park, Hong Kong International Airport, the South China Sea, and the surrounding countryside.

5.) Visit historic temples. For all its fast-paced modernity, Hong Kong is still home to historic religious sites that pre-date the British occupation. Man Mo Temple is the oldest in the city, and it is dedicated to the Taoist gods of literature (Man) and war (Mo). Anyone is welcome to visit, but true believers come here to leave offerings and burn incense, while fortune tellers (who are highly regarded in Hong Kong) sit in front awaiting customers. If you want to be dazzled, head to the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery in the New Territories, where 500 life-size golden Buddhas sit on either side of the 400 steps you’ll climb to reach the temple. Inside the main temple, there are nearly 13,000 gilded ceramic statuettes, even more than the temple’s name promises.

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6.) The Symphony of Lights is the “World’s Largest Permanent Light and Sound Show” by Guinness World Records, has been further expanded to include more than 40 buildings on both sides of Victoria Harbour. A stunning, unforgettable spectacle synchronised to music and narration that celebrates the energy, spirit and diversity of Hong Kong or take the Star Ferry across the water from Hong Kong to Kowloon, particularly at night when you get to see the Symphony of Lights show.

7.) Hong Kong Disneyland is the first theme park inside the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort and is the fifth Magic Kingdom-style park. Located at Penny’s Bay, Lantau Island. Come & experience the wonderful magical moments with your special ones in Disneyland.

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8.) Ocean Park is a major attraction in Hong Kong, any visit to Hong Kong should include the world famous Ocean Park. The park has won several awards, including The World’s Seventh Most Popular Amusement Park and 33rd Most Visited Tourist Attractions in the World by Forbes. Ocean Park has now grown to about 40 attractions and rides.

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9.) Hong Kong’s a great city for an adventurous eater. Stop at a street vendor for fish balls on a stick or stinky tofu. Bakeries offer wife cake, pineapple buns and egg tarts. Or opt for as much dim sum as you can eat. Start your day with a dim sum feast of dumplings, buns, noodles and more.

10.) Haggle with a vendor at the Street Markets, a bustling market where you can buy clothes, jewelry and other wares or grab a late night bite at a food stand. Just about anything you could ever want to buy can be found in Hong Kong’s lively street markets. Ladies’ Market, home to more than 100 stalls selling clothing and accessories, and the Temple Street Night Market, where you can find everything from noodles to watches, are the most famous. Elsewhere, Cat Street is known for antiques, Apliu Street Market is the place for electronics, and Fa Yuen Street is known as  Sneakers Streets. There are also dedicated markets for flowers, goldfish, birds, jade, kitchenware, and more.

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11.) Shop ‘Til You Drop- There’s a reason mainland Chinese cross the border to visit Hong Kong, and it’s all about shopping. From the high-end designer stores crowding lower Kowloon and Central to the mazelike malls of Causeway Bay to the seedy environs of Chungking Mansions on Nathan Road, shopping is an important part of Hong Kong’s heartbeat. For one-stop shopping, make your way to Time Square, a gargantuan, twelve-story mall where stores are organized thematically. If time permits, a visit to one of Hong Kong’s tailors is worth buying a garment customized for your body.

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Universal Studios Japan

Universal Studios Japan is one of Japan’s most popular amusement parks. It has all the movie-themed rides that make it fun! It has a Snoopy waterslide, Spiderman, E.T., Jurassic Park, and Back to the Future rides. They also have daily shows and seasonal events, like the light-up parade. The park officially opens at 9am.

Universal Studios is next to the JR train station UniversalCity station. Take the Osaka Loop to Nishikujo station and wait for the JR Yumesaki line in the middle platform. If you are lucky, you may get to board the special Universal Studios decorated train. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to catch the decorated USJ theme train.

I went on the theme park during Spring break and there were just too many people. If you are a Harry Potter fan like me, then the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a can’t miss. I really recommend to go to Harry Potter World. An imaginary world that made into reality, starting with the Hogwarts Express, Hogsmeade Shop, Ford Anglia, Chocolate Frog, etc. To enjoy the park you must have patience, because before you enter the Harry Potter World you need to get a time pass (you need to get a pass to go back at a specific time to enter The Wizarding World of Harry Potter).

Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park – this is a brilliant area of the park. And as I expected the queue times for this attraction was very long (in my case was 4 hours in the morning and 2.5 hours in evening)! I guess every theme park has this issue. If you are visiting Wizarding World of Harry Potter, you must ride the Forbidden Journey though the queue is very long it’s worth it. Also don’t miss to get their famous butterbeer. Butterbeer is a popular wizarding beverage with a very slight alcohol content and a taste “a little bit like less-sickly butterscotch.” The Butterbeer served at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is amber-colored, non-alcoholic, and available in two forms—straight up or frozen. The Butterbeer tasted like cream soda with an extra thick layer of whipped cream on top. It was sweet, bubbly, refreshing, and well worth the fifteen minutes that I stood in line to buy it.

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If you are not an avid fan of Harry Potter you may try the Spider-Man ride which won best ride for 11 years or something only to be de-throned by Harry Potter. It’s a strong hydraulics ride, a mini-rollercoaster, a wraparound screen *and* 3D glasses as well. You’ll encounter an all-new kind of excitement!

Jurassic Park is a large scale log-flume, with some animatronic dinosaurs along the way. It looks quite high from the outside. It looks even higher on the inside and is in fact a 25.9 meter drop, which goes very fast. There is barely time for the swear word to leave your mouth before you’ve pretty much reached the bottom and got wet, but if you don’t like getting wet you might want to buy a poncho or try your best to get seats in the middle. I love the sudden drops and adrenaline rushes and the fear of getting soaking wet just makes it all the more enjoyable for me.

Jaws is an on-rails boat ride around Amity bay. There are some real flames and semi-artificial but real-looking explosions along the way, and some sharks as well. They speak in Japanese but it’s quite enjoyable ride.

I also tried the Terminator, I tried because on my research a lot really like it and seems they had fun but for me it’s quite boring. It’s a super-3D movie that makes you reflexively lean back comes up close, and suddenly the hero on screen appears on stage. I only like the ending part.

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All Attraction are using Japanese language because their biggest customers are domestic tourists, 90% locals. Arnold Schwarzenegger was speaking Japanese, Spiderman, Shrek, everyone! hehe I just wish they have an English version. If you can’t speak and understand Japanese, do not prioritize the shows.

Those were few that I managed to see, as I only chose those that I am really interested to try. There are also many other things to see there, a lot of which predictable involve places to shop or place to take photos.

Tips: Spring break really isn’t a time you should consider. Avoid holiday break for the students. It’s soooo crowded unless you’re like me and biting the bullet in exchange for the cherry blossoms, in that case, good luck! The best way to enjoy USJ is to get express passes.

Snow in Spring (Dynaland Ski Resort)

For many people especially Filipinos, climate is one of the biggest considerations in choosing a place to visit. Because the Philippines is a tropical country and is usually hot and humid, a lot of Filipinos want to experience or see snow. When I went to Japan it was early Spring and I wanted to experience snow for the first time. I am not so sure if still got snow but based on my research that there are few ski resorts that goes through until late March or early April. So visitors who wanted to experience snow in end of winter and early spring you may consider going to Dynaland Resort.

I planned to go ski resort close to Osaka that you can have ski or snowboard all day and be back in town at night, so I decided to look at options in Gifu. I ended up choosing Dynaland because that is the nearest from Osaka and it is one of the resort that opens till early April. Dynaland Ski Resort is located in Gujo City, Gifu Prefecture.The resort is located about 3km off Route 156 (also known as Hida Highway). Both the Takasu IC and Hirugano Kogen SA Smart IC (ETC card-equipped cars only) are the closest exits on the nearby Tokai Hokuriku Expressway. About 13km away is Hokuno Station on the Etsumi Nan line, and Dynaland is also about a 30 minutes bus journey from the larger Mino Shirotori Station on the same line.

I left the hotel at around 5:10 in the morning to catch the earliest train. On this journey I depended on google maps and gps. It helped but not accurate enough and so I ended up lost. I tried to asked locals of my destination but they aint got idea of what I am talking about. I went to a travel agency near the bus interchange and asked of how to get there but she gave me a way which is almost same of what I have researched. I am on doubt of the inforamtion she provided because the journey is quite long which based on what I have research it wont took so long to get there but I still go for it.

I reached Goju City at around 11 in the morning and sadly I missed the 8:30AM bus going to Dynaland. The next bus is 1:30 in the afternoon which I don’t want to wait because it will waste my time. So, I asked the lady inside the store near the bus stop if there is cab around the area and this time I am luckily that I can get a cab but need to walk about 15 minutes to the location where to get cab. As I went through the location I look around and the place is so pleasant and relaxing. There are small boutique stores.The place is largely consists of mountains and beautiful rivers.

When I reached on the location, in order to get the cab you have to booked for it. I asked how much will it cost because I am not to sure if my cash will be enough. It is quite expensive and to make sure I have enough cash I also asked if where I can withdraw money, they instruct me to go further down the store. I tried Lawson at first but they do not accept international card. I walk quite farther then I reached the Shell Station with ATM machine but still unfortunate as it only accepts local cards. I am hoping that when I reached the resort will have an ATM machine and since it’s a tourist attraction I believe that the resort maybe have ATM. So, I just go ahead and happily took the cab. The mountain view was so stunning and when you get nearer to the resort it is getting colder and colder. You can see along the way they have temperature check. After 15 minutes I reached at the resort and I immediately inquire if where I can able to withdraw cash and I didn’t expect there is none at all even money exchanger don’t have. I went up to the clothes and ski rental, since I don’t have enough cash I asked if they do accept credit card and luckily they are acccepting. It was a lesson learned, so those who would like to visit the resort you should not forget to bring enough cash. If you are also not driving make sure you know the last trip of the bus going to the station, because the area got limited cab and bus especially weekends, the bus operate at few timings only.

My expectations was pretty low at first because its end of winter. But I was amazed of the place, Dynaland resort is a decent place and its also connected to the nearby resort called Takasu snow park. On this particular day I boarded at Dynaland only. My purpose of visiting the resort is to play with snow but I felt so interested when I saw people skiing and so I also tried it. I am a beginner in skiing and let say it was my first time. I am kinda having hard time to balance and play with it so I kept falling down because of this I didn’t go further up with slope. I suggest to get an instructor and maybe it would help if you take a lesson for few days. It was quite tiring or maybe I wrongly do the proper way of skiing. Haha!

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I stayed 4 hours in the resort in order to catch the bus and yes it was really my day I missed the last bus again. So again and again I have to booked for a cab going to the station. But I don’t know how as the area is like nobody around and like no cars passing by and it was really cold. Few minutes standing in the bus station there was a car passed by and I suddenly approached and asked if how to get a cab, I am glad she was able to taught me how and gave me the contact details to booked. I called and as expected we couldn’t understand each other on our conversation but the driver managed to fetch me on the bus station where I am waiting.

He sent me to the nearest train station, and I was quite surprised the train station is so open. Though got waiting station but even you are inside it is still so cold. Waiting time of the train was 20 minutes so I went the store beside the train station and have some coffee, it was already closed but the lady was kind enough to served. When the train arrived I was even more surprised because it was so small and it’s like those old type of train but so cozy. I didn’t expect that Japan is still having those kind of train though they are really advance. It was amazing to see that they preserved this kind of things. While you are on train you will also amazed of the views. The houses, plants, all green surroundings and nature. It was around 10:00 in the evening when I reached Osaka. Bringing memorable memories and good experience.

Tips: Spring is one of the greatest times of the year to be introduced to skiing and snowboarding in Japan. There are less crowds in Spring time and no lines-ups at the lifts.The price nearly every resort open past April offers reduced-rate lift tickets for spring skiing. You’ll have great photo opportunities with glimmering 360 degree views of the beautiful white-blanketed mountains. The weather is a little warmer, fortunately, meaning you won’t have frozen fingers and toes.

Osaka Japan – Day 2 (Osaka Castle, Fushimi Shrine at Mount Inari, Bamboo Forest – Kyoto & Dōtonbori )

On my second day I visited the symbol of Osaka “Osaka Castle”. From the station, it was a long walk to the castle. The castle outside and by far is really wonderful. It’s quite a long walk but worth to see and impressive. One of the charms of this castle is the beauty of its stone walls.

First, get your tickets before going to the castle, about 600¥ each. If you don’t want to line up in the queue and can just proceed to the entrance instead. I suggest you to get the Osaka Amazing Pass.

When you enter to the castle you need to take the elevator going to the 5th floor (half way) only accommodates few people at a time, so there is a little wait going up. But you can opt to use stairs, like I did. There’s a very nice viewing platform on the top, so even if you’re not that interested in seeing all the historic artifacts and you might be a bit tired after all the stairs and possibly a warm day, the view is worth all the steps to top! If you are keen to know the history of the castle, you can walk to the lower floor by taking stairways. Each floor is captivating which you can check out the museums, showcasing the history and culture of ancient Japan (photo taking is prohibited). There is even a section for you to don a helmet or soldier’s warrior outfit and take a photo with a backdrop of Japanese garden (got fee). It’s amazing what they’ve been able to do with the exhibitions inside the castle in a very limited amount of space, although it’s on the heavy reading side of things.


Note that restrooms are only on the 2nd floor. Small gift shop on the top floor but a bigger one awaits in the ground floor. Try getting a memorabilia key chain with your names engraved on it. It’s on the ground floor and its a DIY ( instructions in Japanese but visuals are easy to follow). I visited the castle in the Spring and the cherry blossoms were beautiful in full bloom, it was great to walk through the park lands as the wonderful castle was surrounded by full bloom cherry blossom. Its not the best castle Japan has to offer but it’s still pretty good.

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After my Osaka Castle visit I went to see the important Shinto Shrine in southern Kyoto. It is famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates, which straddle a network of trails behind its main buildings. The trails lead into the wooded forest of the sacred Mount Inari, which stands at 233 meters and belongs to the shrine grounds “Fushimi Shrine at Mount Inari”. To get here from Kyoto station, take the JR Nara line to Inari.

Shrine's Entrance
Shrine’s Entrance

I went here to explore the mountain trails. The hike to the summit of the mountain and back takes about 2-3 hours, however, visitors are free to walk just as far as they wish before turning back. After about a 30-45 minute ascent and a gradual decrease in the density of torii gates, visitors will reach the Yotsutsuji Intersection roughly half way up the mountain, where some nice views over Kyoto can be enjoyed. As you climb higher, you will find out that there are fewer and fewer people, sometimes even no people at all.

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A little higher up, past a few smaller shrines, and you will have reached the summit of Mount Inari. A long, uphill walk on a narrow but colourful street with lots of vendors and restaurants, packed with tourists, takes you to the shrine which commands an impressive view of the city. So do not worry if you are thirsty or feeling slightly hungry as there are food and drink stalls at the higher parts. Once you have finished hiking, don’t forget to get some street food just beside the temple.

Daylight is fading but my voyage didn’t end yet. I headed to Bamboo Forest in Kyoto, it’s a short walk from the train station. The place is accessible by JR train line – take the Sagano line from Kyoto Station then alight at Araishiyama Station. Seems so easy but I am really not good in direction and was confused how to get there. I managed to asked a local that pass by if which way should I take to easily get there but he never answer. I noticed he wanted to explain but having hard time to say it in english but I was surprised because he sent me there. All the while he just told me to follow him because he is on the way there (in action) but the truth he intentionally just sent me there and after awhile he left with a smile. Japanese are really so helpful and friendly.

Here I am at Kyoto’s top sights “Arashiyama Bamboo Grove/ Bamboo Forest”. The walking paths that cut through the bamboo groves make for a nice walk or bicycle ride. The groves are particularly attractive when there is a light wind and the tall bamboo stalks sway gently back and forth. This is just a beautiful rural area very close to Kyoto. Calm and picturesque. I didn’t manage to stay so long since its getting dark. I just snapped a photo and had to leave. If you are a nature lover, this place is a must see.

My last stop was Dōtonbori and was easy to find, I took the subway Hanshin Main Line towards Umeda then Midosuji Line towards Nakamozut and alight at Namba Station then walked 5mins to Dōtonbori.

Dōtonbori is one of the principal tourist destinations in Osaka, Japan, running along the Dōtonbori canal from Dōtonboribashi Bridge to Nipponbashi Bridge in the Namba district of the city’s Chuo ward. Historically a theater district, it is now a popular nightlife and entertainment area characterized by its eccentric atmosphere and large illuminated signboards. One of the area’s most prominent features, a billboard for confectionery company Glico displaying the image of a runner crossing a finishing line, is seen as an icon of Osaka within Japan.

If you are new to Osaka, this is definitely the place to go! One of the busiest shopping district may it be daytime or nighttime. Thousands of neon lights and a lot of shopping areas, restaurants, food vendors, and tourist shops/attractions. You can get nice shoes, heels, clothes at quite a reasonable price as compared to Tokyo. Walk further down there are also few departments store where you can get some branded stuffs like Burberry (Blue Label).

The street is just compact with good local Japanese food (love the ramen so much!). Every night I went Dōtonbori simply because I want to eat Ramen and there is so much to see! You must try the best local ramen rastaurant “Kamukura” & “Kinguemon”. Must eat takoyaki! The trip to Osaka would not be complete without a visit to Dōtonbori, so dont miss it!

Osaka Japan – Day 1 (Shinkansen Experience and Arrival at Osaka )

After 4 days in Tokyo, it’s time to explore another part of Japan. The Japan’s third largest and second most important city “Osaka”. Sayonara Tokyo, Konnichiwa Osaka!

From Tokyo I took Hikari Shinkansen since my JR Pass is not valid to take Nozomi Shinkansen. Hikari Shinkansen served the same routes even if they stop at more stations and take a little longer. However, there’s no very big difference. I think there is only a 20 minutes difference between a ‘Hikari’ and a ‘Nozomi’ Shinkansen. JR Pass holders can make seat reservations for JR trains for free. Travelling to Osaka from Tokyo will took 3 hours plus journey so I made a seat reservation (can be done at a JR ticket office).

The stations, platforms and lines in Tokyo are freaking messy and confusing, I went the wrong direction! Luckily, I noticed it earlier before taking the train. Five minutes to go and the train will leave, I am rushing and running in the station to catch it up as they are really on time and so punctual. When you are on the platform ensure you know which carriage you seat in as it has specific areas for each carriage. Fortunately, I made it!

The train is extremely clean which I immediately notice. Cabins are great and each row have power sockets on either side to charge your gadgets. There is a food cart lady, who will go down the carriage at least twice during the journey offering various snacks and ‘bentos’, as well as drinks and such. The ticket inspectors and the food cart ladies will without fail bow upon leaving and entering the carriage. Just another example of Japanese manners! The Shinkansen is the most convenient way to cover the country of Japan.

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Around 9:50pm I arrived at Amagasaki Station in Osaka but I alighted at the wrong station. If Tokyo stations and lines are messy and confusing, I think Osaka is more confusing because a lot of platforms. So, ended up I took taxi as I need to check in with my hotel before midnight or it will be no show.

Osaka is smaller than Tokyo and I found Osaka more relaxing. The closeness to Kyoto, Nara and Kobe is a plus. People in Osaka are much more relaxed and friendly. In my experience people in Tokyo almost never speak but in Osaka it is quite common for the locals to engage me in conversation. Osaka is reputed to be more outgoing and aggressive.

It was a long journey, so after I checked in and washed up. I recharged my self with a good sleep and get ready my self for next day.