Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Trip To Hong Kong 香港: Panda Hotel 悦来酒店


Photo By: Elin Chow
Official Website: Panda Hotel 悦来酒店
Address: 3 Tsuen Wah Street, Tsuen Wan, Hong Kong 香港荃湾荃华街3号

For our 3 days 2 nights company trip to Hong Kong last December, we were staying at Panda Hotel 悦来酒店, a four-star Panda-themed hotel located in Tsuen Wan 荃湾, New Territories 新界, Hong Kong.

Panda Hotel 悦来酒店


Panda Hotel (formerly known as Kowloon Panda Hotel) is located just a 25 minutes drive away from Hong Kong International Airport and Hong Kong Disneyland. With a total of 1,026 rooms, it is currently the largest hotel in Tsuen Wan District.

Hong Kong International Airport > Panda Hotel

Panda Hotel is located in the heart of Tsuen Wan, close to the Tsuen Wan and Tai Wo Hau MTR. There are many ways to reach the hotel from the airport, by rail or road.

Transportation
Charges
Approximate Time
Limousine
HKD 550 / Trip
25 Minutes
Airport Shuttle Bus
HKD 150 / Person
30 Minutes
Taxi
Around HKD 250 / Trip
28 Minutes
Airport Express to Tsing Yi Station and Taxi to Hotel
Airport Express – HKD 60 / Person
Taxi – Around HKD 30 / Trip
50 Minutes
Airport Bus A31 to Tsuen Wan (Chung On Street Bus Station)
HKD 19 / Person
60 Minues

Airport shuttle buses depart from the Hong Kong International Airport every hour from 7.00 am to 11.00 pm daily. To take the airport shuttle buses, simply walk through Arrival Hall and approach the airport shuttle counter at B01. For more information about the airport shuttle buses, please visit the Panda hotel's official website.


Surprisingly, the reception is not located at the ground floor of the building. We were dropped off at the side of the road by our tour buses. To reach the reception area, we have make our way through a shopping mall and take the lift up to the third floor. The shopping mall (known as the Panda Place 悦来访) is located the ground floor, second floor and three basement levels beneath Panda Hotel.


Taking the lift up to the third floor, we arrived at a spacious reception area decorated with various Panda related merchandises that is sure to delight any panda lover! Here you will find a variety of Panda plush dolls, bags, key rings, cups, pens and many more. If you are interested in buying any of the merchandises , please approach the hotel concierge at level 3 for assistance.





The spacious reception area offers plenty of comfortable seating for guests to relax. Some of the hotel facilities includes a well-equipped gym, steam and sauna room, swimming pool and a recreation room equipped for table tennis, billiards, air hockey and TV games. The recreation room is a comfortable place for guests to relax with their family and friends and enjoy various games together.

Apart from that, the hotel also offers self-service laundry facilities at an affordable rates. Token-operated wash machine and dryer are available at the laundry pantry. Please purchase token from reception in advance in order to use the wash machine and dryer.


In addition to that, there were also regular, free shuttle buses running from the hotel to Tsim Sha Tsui 尖沙咀 and Mong Kok 旺角 regularly. You may want to check out the shuttle buses schedule on the its official website.

After collecting our room key card, we proceeded straight to our room, which was located on the 12th floor of the building. Access to the room is via the lifts, which can only be accessed by your room card key.

Unfortunately, there are only 4 lifts serving the 1.026 rooms. Do expect short queue at the lifts, which can be very frustrating, especially when you arrived late and tired at the hotel.


Our deluxe room features two single beds with a private en-suite bathroom, a small working desk and a separate seating area. The entire room was warmly lit by yellowish lights, which was actually a little too dim for my liking.

The beds were very clean and comfortable. Between the beds, there was a small cabinet for us to store our belongings in an easy to reach place. However, the room was small, with minimal space to walk after putting our luggage.


Our room is equipped with a flat screen satellite TV, but the TV channel choices were a bit limited compared to many other hotels I have stayed. Furthermore, the hotel does not provide free in room WiFi, which was a big inconvenience for us. We were actually surprised that there are still hotels which does not offer free WiFi, especially in such a modern city like Hong Kong. It was incredibly frustrating to stay in a hotel that does not provide free internet access.

The lack of free WiFi makes the hotel a bad choice for business travelers. I would usually avoid staying in hotels that does not provide WiFi for free.


Our room also features a small seating area with 2 chairs and a round coffee table. The seating area is just perfect for family and friends to gather and sit down together after a tiring day of sightseeing.

Other room amenities also includes individually controlled air-conditioning, in-room safe box and bathroom slippers.


Electric water boiler and basic coffee and tea making facilities are provided in the room as well. Other than that, the hotel also provides complimentary 2 bottles of mineral water (replenished daily) and a mini fridge for us to store our cold drinks and food in the room.

I was surprised that there was a microwave as well, which proved to be a real convenience as we had to heat up some food we brought with us that night. 


The bathroom was small but well furnished and spotlessly clean.


Basic toiletries such as cotton buds, shower cap, comb and disposable toothbrush and toothpaste are provided for guest use.


The bathroom also comes with a spacious bathtub where you can relax with a hot bath after a long and tiring day. There were sufficient towels provided for every guest as well. Each of them were rolled and placed neatly on a shelf above the bathtub.
Other than that, the bathroom is also well-equipped with soap and shampoo mounted on the wall in a dispenser.


A complimentary buffet breakfast served at Panda Cafe (located just next to the reception area) every morning from 6.00 am to 10.00 am.


The cafe was very busy during breakfast hours and it was hard to find a seat. Food were tasty but the choices was a bit limited. It was actually a little disappointing. But I do understand why there was not much choices for breakfast. There are simply too many guests staying at the hotel and there was not enough manpower to offer more choices for breakfast. All the staffs were busily clearing the tables, replenishing the empty dishes and it would be impossible for them to offer more.


Located right next to the Panda Cafe, visitors will find the Children's Playground. The Playground offers a fun and safe environment for children to play while parents can sit, relax and enjoy a cup of coffee in the cafe.


Panda Hotel is situated in the less touristy side of Hong Kong with plenty of convenience stores, local eateries, restaurants and shops located around the area. The area around the hotel is frequented mostly by local people and most likely, you will not see many foreign tourists around. This is where you will get the chance to experience the real Hong Kong culture and way of life.



For our last day in Hong Kong, we decided to enjoy breakfast in Hong Kong like a local. Comparing to many other large cities in Asia, eating in Hong Kong is much more expensive. But we managed to taste some of the delicious food in Hong Kong. I wish we have more time to explore.

Overall, it was a pleasant experience, but not awesome. The only reason why I was staying in this hotel was because this was what the travel agent have booked for our company trip. Certainly, I would not choose to stay in this hotel if I am visiting Hong Kong again. I would not recommend this hotel for business purposes too.

However, Panda Hotel is actually a good choice for budget travelers. I believe this is one of the cheapest 4-star hotels in Hong Kong. You might want to consider this hotel if you have budget constraints.

If you are interested to know more about our trip, you may want to check out our 3D2N Company Trip Summary + Itinerary for the list of attractions that we had visited during our 3 days in Hong Kong. Be sure to follow me on Facebook or Twitter  for the latest updates on my 3 days adventures in Hong Kong! You might also want to check My Wanderlust page for some of my other travel adventures.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Trip To Taiwan 台湾: New Taipei 新台北 - Tamsui Fisherman's Wharf 淡水渔人码头

Photo By: Elin Chow
Address: No. 135, Guanhai Rd, Tamsui District, New Taipei City, 251, Taiwan 新北市淡水区观海路135号

After a filling lunch, we left Jinshan Old Street / Jinbaoli Old Street 金山老街 / 金包里老街 and headed to the next stop of our day -  Tamsui Fisherman's Wharf 淡水渔人码头

Tamsui Fisherman's Wharf 淡水渔人码头

Tamsui (or Danshui) Fisherman's Wharf is located at the western tip of Tamsui district 淡水区, New Taipei City 新北市. It is named after Tamsui River, which means "fresh water".

Tamsui was the largest and one of the most important fishing port in Taiwan during the 19th century. However, due to accumulation of sediments in the river and increasing convenience of land transportation, the port fell into disuse. By the 20th century, most of the port operations in Tamsui had moved to Keelung and the local economy had switched primarily to agriculture.


Once a small fishing town, Tamsui Fisherman's Wharf is now a famous tourist attraction due to the completion of the Taipei Metro's Tamsui Line in 1997. Surrounded by river and mountains, Tamsui is well-known for its beautiful sunset and fantastic seafood. Besides sightseeing, the wharf still holds its functionality as a harbor for small fishing boats.


Due to its proximity to Taipei City, Tamsui Fisherman's Wharf is a favorite place of city dwellers to escape the hustle and bustle of the city life. We arrived at a spacious parking lot with plenty of parking spaces for vehicles of any size. 


Located next to the parking lot, you will find the Tamsui Fish Market 淡水鱼市. The first floor of the market is a fish products section selling a variety of dried seafood such as dried fish, fish fiber and Tamsui fish chips and many other local specialities. On the second floor, there is a seafood restaurant where you can enjoy a seafood feast. 


Walking further in, you will find the famous Love Sculpture - a fantastic spot to take some tourist photos. It was not a surprise to see lots of tourists gathering in front of the Love Sculpture, eager to snap some keepsake photos of their trip.


Just like any other tourists with a camera, we quickly took our typical tourist photo in front of the Love Sculpture. It was hard to get a nice photo without all the people in the way. We have to constantly wait for other people to walk pass before taking out our camera.


Despite being one of the major attraction in Taipei, the area is surprisingly not as crowded as we have expected.


There is a riverside scenery platform where art performance and concert are held frequently. Visitors can enjoy free live performances at the riverside scenery platform that could accommodate approximately 3,000 people.

Tamsui Fisherman's Wharf is known to be a popular filming location for Taiwanese drama series. If you are a big fan of Taiwanese drama series, you may be able to recognize some of the locations around the wharf!

Just behind the love sculpture, you will find the iconic Lover Bridge of Tamsui 淡水情人桥. Lover Bridge of Tamsui is a beautiful white, cable-stayed bridge modeled after a ship's mast and rigging. Completed on February 14, 2003 Valentine's Day, the bridge is a well-known landmark in Tamsui Fisherman's Wharf. 


At night, the bridge illuminates in a wide variety of colors, which created a romantic atmosphere for any romance. Couples and photographers would flock here every night just to enjoy and capture the beauty of the bridge. Unfortunately, we could not stay late enough to see the bridge light up in colors.


Walking further in, we proceeded to climb up a few flight of stairs to the top of the bridge. The climb is impossible for people in wheelchairs or with significant mobility problems.


The total length of the bridge is approximately 196 meters. It takes about 3 minutes for one to walk across the bridge at a comfortable pace. 

There was nothing much to do here except to walk around, enjoy the riverside view and take some keepsake photos. This is also a great place to relax and take a romantic walk with your significant half. You might want to visit one of the cafes located along the river and enjoy a cup of coffee. Sitting in a cafe and drinking a cup of coffee with the one you love makes every single day like Valentine's Day! 


From the top of the bridge, we get to enjoy a magnificent panoramic view of the harbor and surrounding mountains. It was picturesque, tranquil and calming. 


Hundreds of fishing boats lined the dock in the harbor, which is said to have the ability to accommodate up to 150 fishing boats. Occasionally, you will see fishing boats coming in with fresh catches of the day and fishermen unloading them at the docks.

Tamsui Fisherman's Wharf is also known to be a fantastic spot for watching sunset. Every evening, hundreds of visitors, both locals and tourists flock and gather at the wharf to watch the sun disappear below the horizon.  

It was relaxing to lean over the fence, enjoying the warm breeze and the beautiful view of the harbor. 

Overall, it was a great and beautiful experience. I would recommend anyone to visit Tamsui Fisherman's Wharf if you have spare time in Taipei. 

If you are interested to know more about our trip, you may want to check out our 11D10N round island tour itinerary for the list of attractions that we had visited during our 11 days in Taiwan. Be sure to follow me on Facebook or Twitter  for the latest updates on my 11 days adventures in Taiwan! You might also want to check My Wanderlust page for some of my other travel adventures.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Trip To Hong Kong 香港: 3D2N Company Trip Summary + Itinerary

Photo By: Elin Chow

I went on an annual 3 days 2 nights company trip to Hong Kong last December. Being a company trip, all of the expenses were paid by the company and all of us enjoyed ourselves completely during the trip. It was great to see many of ourc olleagues brought their family along as well. Thus, I am excited to share some of our wonderful travel adventures with all of you. I have put together a summarized itinerary for easy reference. 

Transportation

Cathay Pacific

For our flight from Kuala Lumpur to Hong Kong, we decided to fly with Cathay Pacific, a Hong Kong's flag carrier airline.


The seats are very comfortable and clean, with plenty of legroom for one to stretch out and relax. There is an USB port to charge your mobile devices and a 110V AC power supply for laptops and other electronic devices at every seat.


The food taste fine and were served hot and nice. However, the portion sizes were a little too small for an extremely hungry stomach.

As for the in-flight entertainment, the selection was really good. I get to enjoy a wide selection of movies, TV series, video games throughout the 4 hours flight from Kuala Lumpur to Hong Kong.



However, on our return flight, at least half of the in-flight entertainment system were not working. An USD 50 shopping voucher was offered to all the affected passengers as compensation, which can be used to purchase duty free items on board the flight. The vouchers were only issued an hour before landing when a lot of the duty-free items have ran out of stock. Furthermore, there was not enough time for most of the passengers to browse through the shopping catalogue because the plane was landing soon. As a result, most of them ended up not able to utilize their vouchers at all.

Apart from that, I have to deal with a very rude and hostile counter staff during baggage check-in at Hong Kong International Airport. The lady at the counter staff yelled at me right at the moment I placed my luggage on the conveyor belt. It was a very unpleasant experience. I got to know later the reason of her displeasure. It was because she was rushing off from work and was annoyed that I walked to check in my luggage at her counter.

Overall, the flying experience was pleasant, but not awesome. Having flown with Cathay Pacific many years back, I was actually looking forward to flying with them again, but was disappointed. Cathay Pacific Airways certainly do not deserve the 'World Best Airline" title.

3D2N Tour Package

We booked a 3D2N group tour package directly with Sedunia Travel that include accommodations, attraction tickets, ground transportation, tour guides and meals.

Accommodation

Panda Hotel 悦来酒店

For our 2 nights in Hong Kong, we were staying at Panda Hotel, a 4-star hotel in Tsuen Wan 荃湾, New Territories 新界, Hong Kong. Conveniently located near to Hong Kong International Airport, the hotel is currently the largest hotel in Tsuen Wan District 荃湾区, with a total of 1,026 rooms.



3 Days 2 Night Summarized Itinerary

With only 2 days to spare, we only managed to visit a few of the popular tourist attractions in Hong Kong. The below shows the itinerary we have covered during the 3 days we spent in Hong Kong. 

Just like my 11 days 10 nights Taiwan Trip in May 2015, all the places on the itinerary below will slowly be linked to individual blog posts (except day 3) that will follow by in the next few months. So, be sure to follow me on Facebook or Twitter to get the latest updates on my trip to Hong Kong!

Day 1: Victoria Peak & Victoria Harbour

Kuala Lumpur International Airport 吉隆坡国际机场 > Hong Kong International Airport 香港国际机场 > Victoria Peak / The Peak 太平山 >  Madame Tussauds Hong Kong 香港杜莎夫人蜡像馆 > Victoria Harbour 维多利亚港 > Check in Panda Hotel 悦来酒店

Day 2: Hong Kong Disneyland

We spent our entire day 2 at Hong Kong Disneyland 香港迪斯尼乐园. Located on reclaimed land in Penny's Bay 竹篙灣, Lantau island 大嶼山, Disneyland was our main reason to visit Hong Kong this time.


Panda Hotel 悦来酒店 > Hong Kong Disneyland 香港迪斯尼乐园

Day 3: Citygate Outlets

Before we board our flight back to Kuala Lumpur, we did some last-minute shopping at Citygate Premium Outlets Mall.

Located just 10 minutes away from Hong Kong International Airport, Citygate Outlets is the first and largest outlet mall in Hong Kong. Featuring more than 80 international brand names, the outlets offer year-round discounts of 30 to 70 percent on all merchandises.

There was a huge collections of designer brands such as Coach. Burberry, Kate Spade, Armani Exchange, Guess and many more. Great place to shop, especially for those who are on a tight travel schedule as it is located close to the airport.

The mall was overwhelmed by tourists from all over the world, who flocked here in search of good bargains for branded goods. There are good deals to be found, but not all items are cheap. Being a factory outlet, I expected the prices to be a lot more cheaper. I have a feeling that the mall is specially cater to rich Mainland China tourists, who are known for their extravagant spending habits.

I managed to get some great deal from Giordano and Esprit, both of which offered an amazing 50 percent discount on most of its merchandises. We were given an hour and a half to shop before we headed to the airport. The time given to us was not enough to visit all the stores.  Please allocate at least half a day if you wish to visit every store in the mall.

So, basically this is the summarized itinerary for our 3D2N Company Trip to Hong Kong. I am looking forward to our next company trip this year.

As mentioned earlier, I will be posting individual posts on the various tourist attractions we visited in Hong Kong soon. So, be sure to follow me on Facebook or Twitter to get the latest updates on my trip to Hong Kong! Also, please feel free to share my blog posts with your family and friends if you find them helpful. You might also want to check My Wanderlust page for some of my other travel adventures.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Trip To Taiwan 台湾: New Taipei 新台北 - Jinshan Old Street / Jinbaoli Old Street 金山老街 / 金包里老街


Photo By: Elin Chow
Address: Jinbaoli Street, Jinshan District, New Taipei City 208, Taiwan 新北市金山区大同里金包里街

Leaving Yehliu Geopark 野柳地质公园, we headed to Jinshan Old Street / Jinbaoli Old Street 金山老街 / 金包里老街 next for lunch.

Jinshan Old Street / Jinbaoli Old Street 金山老街 / 金包里老街

Jinshan Old Street, also known as Jinbaoli Old Street is located in Jinshan District of New Taipei, Taiwan. The area was originally a Ketagalan 凱達格蘭族 settlement called "Ki-ppare", which means "Land Of The Plentiful Harvest".

The Ketagalan were one of the 10 tribes of the Pingpu aborigines (also known as the Plains tribes) 平铺族. According to historical records, they were the earliest inhabitants of Jinshan area.

The population in the area has rapidly increased during the end of Qing Dynasty, due to the migration of Han Chinese from Fujian Province, China. With the arrival of Han Chinese, the Ketagalan were forced to live deep into the mountains, abandoning their homes and farmlands. The chinese name "Jinbaoli" is translated and derived from the Ketagalan name  "Ki-ppare". Today, the Ketagalan are close to extinction. Most of them are Hanised, speaking the languages of Han people fluently.

Surrounded by mountains on the three sides, the name "Jinbaoli" was later changed to "Jinshan" during the Japanese Occupation.  "Jinshan" means "gold mountains" in Chinese. The area is rumored to be rich in gold deposit, hence the name "Jinshan".


Before the arrival of immigrants, the Ketagalan have owned an extensive of land for agriculture. Most of the tribe people were farmers, growing mainly Taro and Yams. The Ketagalan were self-sufficient, producing just enough for their needs. 

The area is well known for its agricultural products such as sweet potatoes, asparagus and bamboo shoots. 

Today, Jinshan Old Street is a famous tourist attraction that retains its historical characteristics. The entire street is lined with historic old stone buildings and traditional shop houses. Apart from that, visitors will also find a traditional Chinese medicine shop and a rice shop that are at least a century old.

The old street has been 200 years old since Qing Dynasty. While strolling down the streets, visitors can admire and appreciate the beauty of these historical architecture that might have to give way to modern development someday.




Hundreds of vendors and shops lined both sides of the 200 meter long street, offering a good selection of traditional local snacks, dried goods and souvenirs for visitors to choose from. Some of the local specialties include taro cakes, a number of sweet potatoes products and Jinshan shredded ice.


However, the most famous local specialty is Jinshan Duck Meat 金山鸭肉. According to Mr Tsai, this is a must-try dish when you are visiting the Jinshan Old Street. Lots of locals, as well as international of visitors flock here for the duck meat everyday. Thus, the entire street is always crowded with people, especially during lunch time.


After a morning of shopping, we headed for lunch at the famous 30-year old duck meat restaurant located at the gate of the Taoist Guang'an temple 廣安寺. Since we were here, we have to try the famous Jinshan Duck Meat.

The restaurant has no menu and no ordering. Visitors will have to pick out whatever dishes they would like to eat from the kitchen table located in front of the temple and carry them to their table for dining.

But first, you will have find a table at the seating area located two blocks away across the streets. However, the seating area was extremely crowded throughout the day; finding a vacant table to dine was absolutely not an easy task.

We waited for about 40 minutes to get a table for the 7 of us. Once we were seated, a few of us headed off to the kitchen area to pick up the dishes that we would like to try.

There will be a long queue of people waiting for their turn to pick up the dishes they want. Please note that the dishes are running out fast, so grab whatever you would like fast before they are gone. Of course, you can walk back to the kitchen area and pick out more dishes while eating. But I believe none of you would want to

Down the street, you will see lots of people carrying tray of food from the kitchen area to the dining area. It was a very interesting sight. Just like many others, we picked out a few dishes from the kitchen table and carry them across the street to the seating area for dining.


Steamed to perfection, the duck meat was tender, chewy and delightfully juicy. The taste was just right, savoury, but not too salty or greasy. Even without any garnishing, the meat was wonderfully flavorful on its own.

A trip to Jinshan Old Street is never complete without tasting the famous Jinshan Duck Meat. The duck meat are definitely a must try!


Besides duck meat, the restaurant also serve fried noodles, a variety of breaded seafood fritters and stir-fry seasonal vegetables and seafood. I really like the breaded seafood fritters too, They were crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. A very simple dish, but incredibly delicious to eat.


We picked out pig's intestines too. I did not eat this since I am never a fan of pig's intestines.


Another must try is the stir- fried noodles, which is also one of my favorites. The noodles were well-fried and very delicious. 


Stir-fried seasonal vegetables with pig's intestines. Yes, pig's intestines again. This was another dish which I did not eat at all.


We tried these deep fried whole little fish as well. You can actually eat the whole fish, including the fish bones. They were very crunchy to bite on. But I am never a fan of such deep fried fish. I hate eating fish bones, even when they can be eaten.


The food portions are large enough to be shared among a few people. To avoid any food wastage, it is best to visit with family or a group of friends. All of the drinks are self served in the fridge at the seating area.

Once you are done eating, signal the staffs to calculate your total bill and make your payment before leaving.


At the end of the Jinshan Old Street (at the intersection with Mingsheng Rd 民生路), you will find Cihu Temple 慈护宫 (also known as Jinshan Matsu Temple 金包里妈祖庙) Built in 1809, Cihu Temple is the largest temple in Jinshan. The temple is 200 years old and worship the Golden-faced Matsu 金面妈祖, Goddess of the Sea.


Most of the street vendors and shops at Jinshan Old Street opens from 10 am to 7 pm. I would suggest anyone to visit early on a weekday to avoid massive crowds.

Jinshan Old Street is a lovely small street to explore. So, do drop by if you have some time to spare.

If you are interested to know more about our trip, you may want to check out our 11D10N round island tour itinerary for the list of attractions that we had visited during our 11 days in Taiwan. Be sure to follow me on Facebook or Twitter  for the latest updates on my 11 days adventures in Taiwan! You might also want to check My Wanderlust page for some of my other travel adventures.