The idea was hatched over margaritas at Chili’s last October — five days and four nights in Hong Kong with one day reserved for Disneyland and the rest for enjoying the shopping and dining that Hong Kong has always been famous for. Four middle-aged lawyers with no kids in tow.
We agreed on the dates and, right there and then, a friend (let’s call her Ms. England) booked two rooms at the Disney Hollywood Hotel via Agoda.com. Before the country went on its Christmas break, we had plane tickets (Philippine Airlines) and were booked for two nights at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Kowloon.
The flight from Manila to Hong Kong was at 8.00 a.m. Since our hotel rooms would not be available until 3.00 p.m., I suggested that we check in early, leave our luggage with the front desk, do some shopping then go back to the hotel when our rooms were ready. I’ve done that before (in another hotel in another country) and it was a huge convenience — no need to wait around until the rooms were ready or, worse, go exploring with luggage in tow.
As it turned out, Disney Hollywood Hotel is used to early check-ins. There is a huge room for storing luggage — sort of a luggage parking lot — for guests whose flights arrive much too early for the usual 3.00 p.m. check-in. A friend (let’s call her Ms. Shopaholic) took charge of checking in our luggage while I explored to discover where the smoking areas were.
After the stubs for claiming our luggage later had been issued, we had coffee at Hollywood & Dine. We were really hungry by then (the food on the plane tasted like cardboard) but the plan was to eat at our shopping destination so coffee and some overpriced pastries had to suffice. Less than an hour later, off we went to relish our first day of shopping.
It is the shopping mall nearest to Disney Hollywood Hotel so it made sense to spend the afternoon at Citygate Outlets until our rooms were ready. But because the prices were so good, we were still shopping long after the 3.00 p.m. check-in time at the hotel.
Citygate Food Republic
Citygate is an outlet mall which, in modern usage, is a mall where manufacturers sell their goods (often, excess or damaged) at huge discounts all year ’round. Citygate, located just outside the Hong Kong International Airport, is huge with over 46,000 square meters of shopping and dining area. The shops include Armani Exchange, Bally, Rockport, Lacoste, Esprit, Crocs, Kipling, Ralph Lauren, Nautica and many others. There are several restaurants, a supermarket, bakeries and a branch of Food Republic, the food court chain operated by Singapore’s BreadTalk Group.
We arrived at Citygate at around 1.00 p.m. and we were starving. We went to Food Republic and there were so many people that I felt the entire Hong Kong population had congregated there. We jostled with the crowd while trying to find a table and, at the same time, giving the food stalls a quick lookover. I made a mental note of a stall selling Taiwanese food.
After we found a table, we took turns buying food. I went back to the Taiwanese food stall, saw the long queue and realized that my friends would probably be done with their meal before I even started on mine. So, never mind. I chose a stall where the queue looked manageable. I found one of my companions there (let’s call her Ms. Mathwiz). We perused the menu and decided to order just one item and share it.
Beef chow fun. The serving was so large that splitting it was the best idea. The noodles were okay (though nothing spectacular). The free fried dumplings (where was the darn filling?) and soup (so, so bland!) that came with the noodles were quite forgettable though.
The four of us split up after lunch and arranged to meet at 5.00 p.m. Time to shop. On top of my list were the socks I saw at Giordano. I chose 16 pairs for my girls, each with a different design, then started hunting for shoes. I love my Nike to pieces and it is still in good shape but it is nine years old and much deserving of a good rest. At Rockport, I found a pair that I immediately fell in love with. So soft, so light… perfect for walking all day at Disneyland. Ms. England found me there, she bought two pairs of shoes for herself then, together, we went to another section of the mall were the Crocs outlet was.
At 5.00 p.m., we joined Ms. Mathwiz and Ms. Shopaholic at the appointed rendezvous. Ms. Shopaholic said she was able to get a lot of stuff for her daughters from Ralph Lauren. Where was that, Ms. England and I asked. She gave the general directions and, as Ms. England and I started walking, Ms. Shopaholic called out and said, “Go past where it says ‘50% off’ and continue walking until you see the ‘Clearance Sale’ sign.” And so we did as we were told and I was able to find pretty shirts for Sam and Alex. Ms. England and I pooled our finds together to get an additional 20% discount. Oooohh, such a fun way to shop!
Happy with our purchases, we decided on having an early dinner before the rest of the shoppers trooped to the restaurants. This time, no more Food Republic for us. We were exhausted and we wanted a not-so-crowded place to eat where the food was good.
Dim sum, sweet and sour pork with pineapple and rice. Ms. Mathwiz commented that the chicken feet at Lam Tin Tea House on Banawe Street in Quezon City (which I brought to one of our potlucks) was better. I agree.
The duck was superb though especially the pancakes (soft tofu skins, I think, rather than the usual flour-and-water pancakes) that went with it.
Not quite done with food tripping, we went to the supermarket as a last stop before going back to the hotel. There was an initial discussion about what we’d do if the hotel charged corkage for food brought in but, in true “Bahala na si Batman” fashion, we bought wine, cheeses and chocolates anyway.
It was already dark when we got back to the hotel. We retrieved our luggage and had a porter bring the bags to our rooms along with our first day shopping loot. We were given rooms that were directly across each other. One room (Ms. Shopaholic’s and Ms. Mathwiz’s) overlooked Disneyland with a panoramic view of the fireworks. The other room (where Ms. England and I stayed) had a breathtaking view of the hotel’s garden, Discovery Bay, Discovery Beach and the hills rising majestically beyond them. What a glorious sight to wake up to the next morning!
But the luggage parking lot service and the marvelous view weren’t all that Disney Hollywood Hotel has to offer. By the time we were ready for wine, cheese and chocolates, we discovered that, instead of screw-type cap or a plastic stopper, the wine bottle had a cork embedded inside its mouth. And we didn’t have a corkscrew.
Ms. England: “Ooh, the kit that I just bought from Victorinox… there’s a small knife…”
She took it out, I looked at it and said, “Noooo… the cork will splinter and get mixed into the wine. Then, we’ll have to strain the wine.” And, in response to the unasked question that was written all over her face, “… it’s happened to me before.” Again, in true “Bahala na si Batman” fashion, we brought the wine over to the other room with no idea how we’d ever get it open. The image of a samurai sword slashing through the glass flashed inside my head for a moment but Ms. England’s tiny knife (as small as a nail file) was no samurai sword.
Ms. Mathwiz came to the rescue and, on her phone, showed us videos of how to open a wine bottle using a shoe or a towel. We tried both (well, they did — mostly, I rolled on the bed laughing hysterically) but the cork wouldn’t come out. Finally, Ms. Shopaholic called Front Desk.
Ms. Shopaholic (on the phone): “IF we brought a bottle of wine to our room, will you charge corkage?”
No, that was free, she was told and she relayed it to us.
Ms. Shopaholic (on the phone again): “Then, can we borrow a corkscrew please?”
I can’t remember anymore if Ms. Shopaholic asked for wineglasses as well or if they were offered by Front Desk but the hotel attendant that brought the corkscrew brought four wine glasses too. Oh, happiness!
So, while sipping wine and munching cheese and chocolates, we chatted. We were going to be in Hong Kong for five days and it was just the end of the first day, but there was already a serious discussion about how much additional baggage allowance we’d need, as a group or individually, because Ms. Shopaholic seemed to have bought everything she touched at Citygate Outlets and we had four more days of shopping ahead of us.
With the wine demolished, we called it a night. The next day was Disneyland day and we wanted to be bright and early for that.