A Travellerspoint blog

Last day in Marriot Hotel and return trip to Sydney.

May 28,29 and 30.

Out trip back from Macau to Sky City Marriot Hotel took more than 5 hours. It was something we could have done in less than three hours if we took taxis from the Hong Kong ferry terminal. We decided to do it the hard and cheap way. From the Ferry terminal in Hong Kong, we took the MTR and came to Kowloon. Then from Kowloon, we took the free shuttle bus to the Icon hotel. We collected our left over bags and took the free shuttle back to Kowloon station. Our MTR tickets, purchased on our arrival at the Hong Kong airport, on the first day, were valid to make a last trip to the airport. We used these tickets to travel from Kowloon to the airport. From the airport, we again took the free shuttle to the Marriot hotel.
Sky City Marriot hotel is just outside the airport. We have booked an executive suite with free lounge access and free breakfast. It was expensive, but we wanted to spend the last day in a good comfortable room and enjoy our stay. Our suite was better than what we expected. The service was fantastic. As soon as we checked in, we went into the executive Lounge and had some short eats and coffee. The lounge is open from 6:00PM to 8:00PM for snacks and drinks.

Skycity Marriot Reception

Skycity Marriot Reception

There were some factory outlets close to the hotel, but we were not interested in doing any more shopping. We decided to stay in the hotel room and relax. We packed our bags distributing the weight equally. I was carrying my think pad and the big camera with all the additional pieces. They had to be in two separate bags. We knew we had to remove the think pad for inspection at every security check point at the airports. This was very inconvenient, but there was no choice. In our future trips, We will think of carrying a smaller ipad and a small camera that fits into our pockets.

Plane from Hong Kong to Singapore

Plane from Hong Kong to Singapore

We checked out from the hotel around lunch time and took the shuttle to the airport which took only ten minutes. We got the best seats in both flights. The food and service in Singapore Airlines were excellent. We would not compromise on our air travels by using cheap air tickets. Our daughter was waiting for us at the Sydney airport. We had breakfast in the plane, but we again had coffee in a restaurant with our daughter before coming home to take a well deserved rest. Thank you for reading this blog.

Posted by fernando65 15:14 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Three days in Macau

May 25 to 28 in Venetian Hotel

sunny 32 °C

We checked out from the Icon Hotel in Hong Kong on May 25 around 11:30 AM. Our next destination was Macau which is known as the gambling capitol of the East. It is like a sister city of Las Vegas. We were going to take the Ferry to Macau. We realized it was inconvenient to carry all our bags on the ferry. So we left part of our luggage in the hotel to be collected on our way back and took only one big bag and a small bag. We could take the ferry either from Kowloon or Hong Kong. We talked to the hotel staff and found that the easy option was to take the ferry from the China Ferry Terminal in Kowloon. The ferries leave Kowloon less frequently, one in every thirty minutes. We took a taxi to the ferry terminal and then managed to buy ferry tickets for the 2:00PM trip on the Turbojet.

Mala near Ferry Ticket Counter

Mala near Ferry Ticket Counter

Tickets for the earlier trips have been sold out. After buying tickets for the 2:00PM trip from the official counter, I saw a person hanging out in the waiting area, selling tickets for the 1:30PM trip for a slightly higher price. Mala did some shopping in one of the shops in the ferry terminal while waiting for the checking counter to open. The checking counter opens only half an hour before the departure. Macau is considered a different country. They have their own money and jurisdiction. We had to go through the normal process of immigration before entering the Ferry.

We got good seats in the Turbojet. The turbojet travels very fast and the trip lasted only one hour. We got out at the Macau ferry terminal and joined the queue for the free shuttle that takes you to the Venetian Hotel. The longest queue was for the Venetian Hotel. It appeared that there were many tour groups taking large groups of people to the Venetian Hotel. There were several people in uniforms to monitor the progress of the queue and make sure you are on the right queue. Our queue kept moving fast as the shuttle buses came one after the other and took passengers away. When we got out of the shuttle at the hotel, the place was equally full of people and again there were people in uniforms helping you unload your baggage and directing you to the reception.

Venetian Hotel Reception Desk

Venetian Hotel Reception Desk

I was wondering whether we made a mistake in selecting this busy hotel. Later we found that most of the tour groups have brought people only to see the hotel. The queue at the reception was not that long. The Venetian Resort Hotel is probably the biggest hotel in Macau. There are 3000 suites for the hotel guests and the hotel in itself a small city. We need a map to go around and find our way. You can easily get lost among all the walkways, passages and corridors.
Venetian Hotel Main Entrance

Venetian Hotel Main Entrance

We got a good suite on the 34th floor. We were upgraded to something called a Cotai suite on the South wing of the hotel. That was a special offer where those who stay more than two nights get automatically upgraded to these suites. Our hotel suite was nearly 70 Square metres in size.
We had a separate sitting area and a huge attached bathroom. The room window was facing the famous Galaxy Hotel which is quite big and presently under renovation. In the night, from our hotel window, we could see the changing lights in that hotel.

Galaxy Hotel Light show seen from Venetian Hotel room

Galaxy Hotel Light show seen from Venetian Hotel room



The first and third floors of the hotel have shops and restaurants spread along the corridors. There is a food court on the third floor with many small food outlets and a sitting area giving the option of cheap eating. There is a man made water way running between two long passages with bridges and arches over it to cross over. You can go for a paid gondola ride and take your group photo riding the gondola if you are in the mood.
There is an artificial sky over the roof of the building when you are on the third floor to give the impression that you are in an outdoor area.
The casino parlour is on the first floor, right in the middle of the hotel building. All the corridors and walkways from the hotel wings lead to the casino parlour. We visited the casino parlour to have a quick look. The place was full of people playing all different games. The minimum bet on most of the games was HK$500. We came out of the parlour hoping to visit again and look for a game which we could play for a small sum of money. We found that many people make short visits to the hotel only to play in the casino parlour and go back on the same day.
The hotel guests enjoy numerous benefits and special offers. We get special discounts at most of the shops within the hotel compound. We could have free breakfast or lunch in a few selected restaurants. When you join the Sands Rewards club, each member gets a free KH$100 voucher which can be used in any restaurant in the hotel. Later, you can collect club points by purchasing items in the hotel shops and playing in the casino that enables you to get up to HK$500 in free vouchers.
On the 26th morning, we had our breakfast in one of the nominated restaurants and then decided to join a group tour to explore the city of Macau. The tour takes you to most of the interesting places in the city. That way we could see everything in one day and relax on the third day.
It was a very hot day and the tour started at 2:00PM from the hotel. The tour guide was a lady who explained things in English and Chinese.

Andrew and Mala near Taipa Houses Library

Andrew and Mala near Taipa Houses Library

Our first stop was at the Taipa Houses Museum. The Museum consists of five buildings. They were houses built during Portuguese occupation period. They are normally open to the public, but closed on Mondays. We could not go inside, but we stopped near the museum and took some pictures. Newly married couples come her to take photographs. There was one Korean couple in their wedding suits taking photos, when we visited the place.

Entance to A Ma Temple

Entance to A Ma Temple

Our next stop was A Ma Temple . Local people come here for regular prayers and to make offerings. It was built in 1488. The temple is dedicated to Mazu, who is supposed to be the goddess of seafarers and fishermen. When the first Portuguese sailors laded close to the temple, they asked the locals for the name of the place. The locals misunderstood and told them the name of the temple. Portuguese made their own interpretation and named the place as Macau.

Macau Pedicab

Macau Pedicab

The temple is built over several levels. You could climb the steps to reach the higher levels. In one place, you could see all the prayer cards hung by the locals. The devotees who come to the temple also practice Incense Burning. I saw three types of Incense. One is the very thin
Jos sticks. I have seen them being used in other religious places. The second type is a thicker and longer stick. It is probably more expensive. The third type is the Incense Spiral. I saw some of them hanging from the temple roof, though no one was using them at the time of our visit.

Chinese red prayer papers

Chinese red prayer papers

Incense Spirals for sale at the temple

Incense Spirals for sale at the temple

A Lady burning Incense at the Temple premises

A Lady burning Incense at the Temple premises

Outside the temple, we found a pedicab which was a well known mode of transport in the past, in Macau. We came out of the temple and walked along a small path to find a shop selling Chinese and Portuguese sweets. We bought a few items though we were not sure whether we could bring them back to Australia. We may have to eat all of them or leave them behind.

Ruins of St Pauls Church

Ruins of St Pauls Church

The next stop was the ruins of St Pauls church. This church was fully burnt down and now you could see only the front façade. It has become a major tourist attraction and a place that should be visited by all tourists. We had to leave the bus and walk along a steep passage to get to this place. We were informed that the bus would pick us up at another place in thirty minutes. The church was built by Jesuit priests during the period of 1582 to 1602. It was a cathedral and one of the largest in Asia at that time. It was destroyed by a fire during a typhoon in 1835. You can find more details about this church and it's history on the internet. I again found three newly married couples among visitors. They come here with their photographers to pose and take photos with the church façade as a background. I managed to take a few photographs of these couples while they were posing for their photographer.

Newly married couple near the church steps

Newly married couple near the church steps

We walked down the steps and walked along the paved walkways to reach another area which was historically important. Some of the old buildings are good examples of Portuguese architecture.

Busy walking passage in Macau town area

Busy walking passage in Macau town area

The sun was very harsh and we were sweating profusely after the long walk. We stopped near a busy shopping area and spent a few minutes buying and drinking soft drinks. In the mean time the tour guide tried to collect all the people into one place. A few of the people were missing, stopping over to buy things on the way. We walked up to our bus which was waiting for us on a street corner.

Soft Drink after a long walk on a hot day

Soft Drink after a long walk on a hot day

Our next and the last stop was the Macau Tower. The Macau Tower is one of the main landmarks in Macau.

Macau Tower from a distance

Macau Tower from a distance

The tower measures 338 m ( 1109 ft) in height from ground level to the highest point. There is an observation deck with panoramic views and restaurants. It offers the best view in Macau giving a 360 degree view. At 333m, on the upper deck they have skyjump and bungee jump. This is supposed to be the second highest commercial skyjump in the world just behind Vegas Stratosphere skyjump at 260 m. We saw two people doing the bungee jump, but could not take a photo. It happened so fast.

Our third day was a leisure day in the hotel. We walked around doing window shopping in the hotel shops and then had lunch in one of the nominated restaurants. We went around the hotel walkways and all the passages. On the third floor, there is a waterway through the passages of the buildings. There are arches and cross overs over this waterway to make it interesting. This is the water canal, if you can call it a canal, they use for Gondola rides. The Gondolas and the rides on this waterway are as enjoyable as the real Gondola rides in Venice.

Gondola rides on the clear water way.

Gondola rides on the clear water way.



In this area, the buildings are only three floors high. Initially, I thought it is an open area. You can see the sky over the buildings giving the impression of an open area.

Shopping Malls  on the third floor, You can see the clear sky above the building

Shopping Malls on the third floor, You can see the clear sky above the building

Then we realized the sky is not the real sky, but a faked one. The ceiling over the building has been built and painted to look like a real sky. They have done a very good job to make it look like the real sky.

Fake sky, See the nail marks  in the sky ceiling

Fake sky, See the nail marks in the sky ceiling

We went to the Concierge and booked our ferry tickets for the return journey. The hotel had a special offer to give free ferry tickets to hotel guests. We made use of this offer and booked the ferry journey from Macau to Hong Kong , not Kowloon. We had to go to a different ferry terminal called Taipa Ferry Terminal. After the Ferry journey, we went back to Icon hotel to collect our left over bags and then proceeded to Sky City Marriot hotel to spend the last day in Hong Kong.

Posted by fernando65 16:55 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

In Hong Kong Icon Hotel

May 21 to 25

We left Singapore on May 21st Wednesday, and took out flight to Hong Kong in Singapore air lines. We booked all our flights on 380 s to make sure we have comfortable flights on all planes. Singapore Air lines does not charge extra for Economy class seats on the upper floor. We managed to book seats on the upper floor. The plane was half empty and there were many free seats near windows. The seats near the locked door, do not have any seats in front of them and have more leg room. If you go to on-line booking and try to reserve them, you have to pay $50 extra for each seat. We found some of these window seats unoccupied and moved to the closest window seats after the plane took off. The food and the service on the plane was quite good. We had a very comfortable plane ride and we arrived in Hong Kong around 5:30PM.

We had two options for transport. One easy way was to take a taxi. The other option was to take an MTR train. Mala talked to a lady at the Tourist Information desk to get more information. Her advice was to take the MTR. We could take a taxi, but due to the rush hour traffic, we would take nearly two hours to reach the hotel. On he train, it is only 25 minutes to reach the Kowloon station. From the station, there are free shuttles to all the hotels. We changed some money to Hong Kong dollars and then went to the train ticket counter. We were told that a return ticket to the hotel is HK$300 per person. You can use that ticket for three days for unlimited travel on the MTR and later use for the return trip to the airport within 30 days. We went for that option though we were not sure whether we would use it for our return trip.

We managed to find our way to the hotel without any problems. It was very easy to use the MTR for your transport. Later we used these tickets to travel around and visit most of the places. The Icon Hotel is supposed to be the second best hotel in Hong Kong according to Trip Advisor reviews. We have paid a premium price to book a room with breakfast and harbour view. We got a very good room on the 26th club floor with a good harbor view. The additional features of this room are the unlimited use of phone for local and international calls, free usage of the Internet, free usage of the minibar which is replenished every day.

Harbour View in the Night

Harbour View in the Night

The daily buffet breakfast on the second floor was excellent. After checking in, we came out of the hotel to make ourselves become familiar with the area. We walked around looking for a good restaurant to have dinner. The hotel is in a tourist area and we found many bus loads of tourists getting down from the buses and walking around. These tourists are not European, but mainly from main land China. Long ago, in 1983, I spent nearly three months in Hong Kong . External appearance wise, Hong Kong has not changed much, but I could see the cultural transformation it has undergone after becoming part of China.

Those days, every one we met could speak English. Now only a handful of people speak English. If you talk to a local person on the road to ask a question or find directions, they will just make a gesture to show they do not understand you. We found all the hotel staff can speak good English and we talked to them to get information about places to visit.

On our second day in Hong Kong, we decided to visit some shopping malls and become familiar with the area. There is a free shuttle at the hotel which takes you to some of the shopping areas and major MTR stations. We talked to the hotel reception and on their advice, took the shuttle to the Harbour City which is supposed to be one of the biggest shopping malls in Hong Kong. This place is a very upmarket shopping area, mainly for tourists. You can find all the major designer cloth shops and shops where they sell camera, watches, expensive perfumes, jewelry etc. We bought a few items of interest, but found nothing that captured our imagination.
In the late afternoon we took the free shuttle and got down near Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station. We then took the MTR to Mong Kok. We checked on the internet and found out about Ladies market and the Langham Place mall in Mong Kok . Ladies Market is more like a Flea market, full of cheap bargains. Again, we found a few items of interest to buy.

The next day happened to be a rainy day. We were planning to visit a few places, but realized it was difficult to engage in any outdoor activities. The History Museum and the Science Museum of Hong Kong are right next door to our hotel and we decided to visit the History Museum.
It helped us to understand how Hong Kong became a British colony and later merged again with the main land China. In one place, there were figures of prehistoric people who lived in Hong Kong.

Mala chatting to prehistoric figures

Mala chatting to prehistoric figures



The Wishing tree was another feature that was in the museum. You make a wish at the wishing tree and the believed it to come true. Mala wrote her wish and attached it to the tree.

Making a wish at the Wishing Tree

Making a wish at the Wishing Tree

On the fourth day, we went to visit Stanley Village. There is no train to go there. We had to take the Bus number 973 to get to Stanley Village. This is a well known beach resort in Hong Kong and there is a market which is full of small retail stores. Mainly tourists come here to buy things and it is a good place to spend some time and then have lunch at one of the restaurants.

Restaurants near Stanley Village

Restaurants near Stanley Village

Long ago when Hong Kong was manufacturing garments for export, this place used to be a factory outlet. I came here with my colleagues and bought some denim garments such as Levi. Now the factory outlets have changed into small shops selling cheap clothes and souvenirs.

Beach near Stanley Village

Beach near Stanley Village



Mala found some clothes which were comparatively cheap and later we had lunch at one of the restaurants. We came back to the hotel using a different route and then had dinner in one of the restaurants near the hotel.
Our next part of the trip is to visit Macau. We had to do some planning on how we get to Macau using the ferry and then come back to Hong Kong to take the flight back. We will be spending three days in Macau. We found we could take the ferry from Kowloon or Hong Kong. Taking all the luggage with us is going to be a problem.

Posted by fernando65 14:40 Comments (0)

Singapore Flyer and the Botanical park

Second day in Singapore

We were quite happy with the hotel location and the service. But we found the room given to us was just a standard room. The big king bed occupies most of the room. We paid for an executive room with lounge access. It was definitely not an executive room. There was nothing special about the room, not even a good view. In the morning, we went back to the reception and asked them whether our room is an executive room. We told her that we were not happy with the room size and facilities in the room. She checked our reservation and agreed to give a bigger room, but that will happen only in the evening when the present occupiers check out in the afternoon. We were planning to go out any way and asked them to move our luggage to the new room when we were away. The new room was excellent with an additional couch to sit and relax.

Mala at Holiday Inn reception

Mala at Holiday Inn reception

Singapore is a city that keeps changing. We have visited Singapore many times, but each time we found new things to explore. The new and renovated buildings keep on changing the streetscape in many areas. We have been to Santhosa island twice, so we were not planning to go there again. We decided to visit the Botanical park and the Singapore Flyer. The Botanical park is well known for its Orchid garden which is one of the best tourist attractions in Singapore. We are orchid lovers and seeing all the tropical orchid varieties in full bloom in one place was very appealing to us. Entrance to the Botanical park is free, but you have to pay a small fee to enter the Orchid garden. We went around the orchid garden admiring the colourful orchids and taking photographs.

Mala near Orchid Garden Entrance

Mala near Orchid Garden Entrance

Andrew and Mala visiting Singapore Orchid Graden

Andrew and Mala visiting Singapore Orchid Graden

We came out of the garden and took a taxi to Singapore Flyer which is in the Marina Bay area. The Flyer was working, but there were not many people going in the Flyer. The Flyer does a full circle in about one hour and the tickets are fairly expensive to just get in and do one circle. We realized it was a mistake to go on the flyer during day time. You will simply look at the buildings from above and come down. The best time to take a ride on the Flyer is the night time around 7:30PM. We decided to go back and do some shopping and then come back later in the night to do the ride. We took a taxi and asked the taxi driver to take us to a shopping mall. He suggested we go to Mustafa, but we said no. Mustafa, long ago, started as a small shop and gradually acquired surrounding buildings to grow in size. Now the Mustafa shopping arcade is spread over a big area. They say it has become a one stop shop and you can buy everything you want from this place. We were not looking for any special items and all we wanted was to spend time in a proper department store looking for designer items.
The driver took us to the Raffles City department store which was one of the best shopping centres in Singapore. Mala went from shop to shop looking for nice clothes while I was following her just tagging along. In some places, I found a seat to sit and relax while Mala was inside the shops . It was pretty boring but a necessary job, but in some places I became the consultant to give my opinion about the item she was planning to buy.

We had early dinner in one of the small restaurants in the shopping arcade and then took a taxi back to the Singapore Flyer. You have to buy tickets and go up to the second floor to enter the Flyer. Each capsule can take about fifteen to twenty people. It moves up slowly as they fill the cars and send them up. It is something you should do once. The Singapore flyer is supposed to be the biggest one of its kind, bigger than the London Eye. When you reach the top, the scenery below is spectacular. You get a 360 degree view, only to be partially blocked by the people already in the car. Not too far away, we could see the Marina Bay Sands Hotel with its ship like structure on the top. We could also see some dome like structures on the ground changing colours making a spectacular display.

Marina Bay hotel from Singapore Flyer

Marina Bay hotel from Singapore Flyer

We took a taxi back to the hotel. By that time, they have moved us to our new room which was much better and bigger.

Posted by fernando65 15:57 Comments (0)

First stop in Singapore

Three days in Singapore to taste Chilli Crab

overcast 26 °C

We left Sydney on May 18 to do a short trip covering Singapore, Hong Kong and Macau. This time it is going to be only the two of us, I and Mala. Malisha cannot take leave and Amila and Sumali have just returned from their holiday trips. We were not planning to go anywhere, but suddenly, the opportunity arose to make a short trip to exotic Singapore and Hong Kong.
We booked the tickets from Singapore Air Lines and decided to spend three days in Singapore before going to Hong Kong.
For the Sydney/Singapore leg, we were lucky to get two good seats on the upper deck of the 380 which has more leg room. The flight was at 11:15AM on 18th Sunday. Malisha dropped us at the airport. The flight was on time, but it took unusually long to land in Singapore. When we came out of the airport and came to our Holiday Inn hotel, it was already 7:30PM. We were planning to go for dinner with Prasanna and his wife who live in Singapore. We cancelled it and decided to go with him for dinner on Tuesday. Our hotel booking included Executive lounge access in the hotel. We were eligible for short snacks from1:00 to 4:00PM, then evening cocktail from 6:00 to 8:00PM. We just had 30 minutes to have our cocktail. We sent out luggage to our room on the fifth floor and went straight to the executive lounge. The waiter who was serving cocktail was from Kandy, Sri Lanka. He is a young boy doing a hospitality course in Singapore. He made two Singapore Slings for us. Each one of us had a plate full of snacks and we did not have to go out for dinner. After going to our room and changing our clothes, we walked down to the Orchard road and had a short walk to get ourselves oriented to the new environment. It was getting close to 10:00PM and all the shopping malls were in the process of closing. We were not hungry to have any more food. We found that there was heavy rain during the day, and the air was hot and humid even at that time.
The hotel is in a central location conveniently located, just a short walk to the Orchard road and the shopping centres. The hotel staff were very friendly and helpful. Inside the hotel, with air conditioning, you feel quite comfortable, but the outside air is hot even in the evening. The humid was high making us sweaty. One good thing was the hotel laundry does two items of your clothes per day free. Our package also included free internet and breakfast.

Surrounded by Orchids

Surrounded by Orchids

I like to include some tips to first time travelers to Singapore. Take note of the following points:

1. Singapore is a great place for shopping. If you are looking for quality shopping, then the shopping malls in the Orchard road are the best places to shop.
2. If you are looking for comparatively cheap shopping options, then there are several places. One is the Bugis Street market. This place has cheaper clothes and cheap items suitable for presents etc. Second place is Mustafa Centre. Mustafa Centre started as a small shop and within several years has expanded to become a very big shopping centre. They have a huge range of items to suit your purse. They are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
3. There are many places you can visit while you are in Singapore. Santosa Island is a very popular place to visit. The other places of interest are: Singapore National park and Orchid garden, Singapore Flyer, Jurong Bird Park, Zingapore Zoo night Safari , Marina Bay Garden night light show.
4. While in Singapore, do not forget to eat Singapore Chilli crab and Pepper crab. Some of the big hotels have dinner menus with crabs. You can also get them in Singapore Hawker markets. The real authentic Chilli crabs are found in East Coast.
5. Singapore can be very hot during day time. Evenings are cooler and pleasant. Do your shopping during day time in air conditioned malls and visit places in the night or in the evening. Shops are normally open from 10:00AM to 10:00PM.
6. When you are in Singapore, it is fashionable to visit Raffles Hotel and have a Singapore Sling. This is a cocktail drink originally created in Raffles Hotel. If you are travelling in Singapore Airlines and want to try it free, ask for a Singapore Sling from the air hostess.

Posted by fernando65 16:08 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

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