As I had mentioned in an earlier post, we had an excellent mileage redemption lined up to take us from Japan to Namibia. The only problem was that we had to get from the Philippines to Japan on the cheap.
The first step was a short hop from Palawan back to Manila on ZestAir. They call themselves “Asia’s most refreshing airline.” Kind of a bold claim for an airline that doesn’t even provide complimentary beverages but they did get us to Manila mostly on schedule for the low price of US$51.
From Manila we took a bus to Clark Airfield about an hour’s drive to the north. Clark used to be a major US air force base but these days it is a commercial airport popular with the discount carriers. Cebu Pacific took us from Clark to Macau for the astoundingly low price of US$62. Certainly one of the cheaper international tickets I’ve flown.
Macau was more or less as expected. After grabbing a taxi from the airport to the Macau Westin Resort (another points redemption!) we took the hotel shuttle down to the strip. Huge casinos were all over the place with many more under construction. All the familiar brands were there (Venetian, MGM, etc) and they all seemed to be spot-on replicas of their American counterparts. Did you know that Macau’s casinos now bring in more money annually than Las Vegas? It is the gambling capital of the world.
After a night in Macau we boarded one of the high-speed ferries to Hong Kong. Despite all my travels I had yet to visit Hong Kong so I was very anxious to check out one of the world’s most iconic cities.
My friend Charles insisted that we stay at the infamous Chungking Mansions to get the full Hong Kong budget travel experience. The mansions didn’t disappoint. The massive complex of buildings are crammed full of everything from tiny guest houses to money changers to restaurants to laundry mats. It’s truly a city within a city.
Amy stayed with our bags in the comfort of the Holiday Inn lobby next door while I explored the labyrinth of guest houses for a place to crash. I was able to view 8 or 10 different places within a half hour and I have to say, it pays to shop around. They vary widely in cleanliness, room size and price. Haggling is of course a requirement. In the end, we got a small but perfectly acceptable room in the heart of Hong Kong for just over $20 per night. Here is a video showing the walk from the street to our guesthouse which was nestled back in “D block” on the third floor:
Sadly, I didn’t get to explore nearly as much as I had hoped during our two day stop. Our award ticket from Japan to Africa needed some tweaking so I spent many hours on the phone with United while Amy was out exploring. Charles arrived on our second day and led us around on a brief tour of the waterfront one evening and across to Hong Kong Island on the Star Ferry.
By our third morning it was time to head to the airport for our flight to Osaka. Amy and I have both spent considerable amounts of time in Japan so we didn’t have any must-dos on our list for our two night stop. This was just as well since Japan is extremely expensive with the strong yen. To keep costs down we burned some hotel points for a couple of excellent nights at the Sheraton Miyako and ate cheap convenience store food.
During our only full day in Osaka we headed up to the Umeda Sky Building so that Amy could check that out and then we wandered through some of the massive department stores and camera shops. All in all, we didn’t do all that much but that was fine by me since we had a busy week of flying ahead of us.