“Friend, let’s go to Hong Kong,” said my good friend Mayose, who is an accomplished events and exhibits planner and coordinator. “There’s a gifts and toys fair there and I want to see it so that I can get ideas for my business. Of course, after business hours, we can have all the time to explore and gallivant! We’ll tour the city for four days. Sige na, the tickets are so cheap!”
With that kind of sales pitch delivered with eager and charming gravitas, how can I say no? So one day in late October of 2009, I packed my bags and together with my friends Mayose, her husband, Jay, Ajie and Erlyn, we all flew to Hong Kong.
This is my second time to set foot on the former British colony and my excitement still felt like it was the first time. Of course, part of the thrill was traveling with my close friends (I have always traveled alone).
The gifts and toys fair where we first went right after arriving at the airport was so overwhelming, I literally have to sigh, whistle in awe and constantly say wow! I’ve never seen so many toys, gift items, fashion accessories all gathered in more than 10 halls in what is probably the biggest exhibition building I have been to.
After a busy day, we rode a bus and hailed a cab that took us to the opposite part of Hong Kong where we were billeted in a hotel which I remembered was located in Hollywood road. Mayose and her husband obviously shared one room, while I have to squat with the girls in another. I don’t really mind this arrangement, except that we were surprised to see our toilet and bathroom had glass doors and walls! This meant all three of us can practically see each other in all our naked glory when we do our stuff there.
This threat to our individual privacy really freaked us out and also sent us into stitches of laughter, but we managed to solve the problem. We agreed that I would be out when the girls do their thing and so would they when I do mine. Nevertheless, every bathroom ritual for the past four days became a major “secret production” for all of us: waking up and taking a shower when the rest were asleep; turning off the lights; etc. This really added a humorous dimension to our trip that to this day, we still get to talk and laugh about it.
For the next three days, we dined and wined, walked, took the subway, shopped till we dropped and partied at night in the famous Lan Kwai Fong area, where people merrily drank and danced their woes away on the streets till dawn! It was on the first night, when Mayose met her high school classmate, Elmi , who manages Armani Bar, a very upscale, uppity and swanky restaurant and bar located right in the heart of Hong Kong. On the second night, Elmi invited us to this bar.
We had our pseudo “Sex in the City” episode in Armani bar where we sat in a couch close to three rich Chinese women who were drinking cosmopolitan and martinis while carrying shopping bags full of Manolo Blahniks and Jimmy Choos—move over Carrie Bradshaw! It was also in this trip where I got educated in mixing wines and relished the art of bar tending courtesy of Elmi, who taught us the secret of how to make an authentic mojito!
But what I really enjoyed doing was walking alone on the streets of Hong Kong and absorbing the rhythm and pulse of this modern and dynamic city. In the afternoons, all of us would separate for several hours so that we can individually do our stuff (shop, eat, etc.) and just meet in one spot just in time for dinner. While the girls went gaga over shoes and bags, I wandered alone, my camera in hand, and clicked whatever caught my attention.
If it were not for Jay’s intelligent sense of direction, we could have been lost several times. The only Boy Scout in our group, Jay diligently studied the city map, memorized our drop off points, train schedules and asked questions to strangers when he wasn’t sure if we took the right turn. Thank you, Jay for guiding our way and for being such a funny beer buddy!
Erlyn, the most organized among all of us, had planned this trip weeks before we flew by doing research on the internet and reading “The Lonely Planet.” She sent an e-mail to all of us suggesting a detailed itinerary of our trip which consisted of activities we can do from the time we wake up until the last centavo we will have to spend for a coffee or beer. But as all trips go, spontaneity still ruled our Hong Kong sojourn. Erlyn’s itinerary did not actually go to waste especially with her suggestions as to where we can find affordable restaurants which serve delicious Cantonese food.
Thank you, Erlyn for your exceptional research skills and for the memories of our funny and “creative” bathroom ritual episodes!
Mayose became my mentor in shopping for bargains and eating roasted Peking duck. My lovely friend is one woman who can both be comfortable inside an authentic Hermes store or an ukay-ukay stall in rowdy Mongkok (Hong Kong’s version of Divisoria). She can equally enjoy the goods whether they’re expensive or cheap, original or fake. “Wag yan ang bilhin mo, ito na lang,” (Don’t buy that, instead buy this) she would often tell me, and I will always love her for that. Thanks, my friend.
And the ever demure Ms. Ajie, the ethereal woman of grace—what can I say? You were always my companion when the going gets rough, and this Hong Kong adventure has once more sealed our friendship. I will never forget our very long breakfast in McDonald’s just before we headed for our own ukay-ukay hunt. And oh, thanks for tolerating your two roommates who are both pathetic smokers (and drinkers)! Twas fun being with you!
Yes, I was literally sleepless in Hong Kong because we partied every night and shopped and ate in the day. That’s why all of us didn’t talk to each other anymore during our flight back to Manila—everyone dozed off. Except for me. Even in my drowsy state, I still managed to call the stewardess and inquired about that Tommy Hilfiger perfume, which I bought as a gift to myself.
I practically slept for three days in our house after we arrived and intermittently dreamt about the following: the skyscrapers of Hong Kong; the endless array of underwear, fashion accessories and toys; Tsing Tao beer; Erlyn’s lighted plastic devil’s horn which Jay got from the garbage can (hahaha); Armani bar and those elegant women toasting martini glasses while clad in their Escadas and their Jimmy Choo stilettos.