My Heart Belongs to Hong Kong!

The first is always the most memorable. And in my first travel’s case, it wasn’t just unforgettable, I even left my heart there and made sure it stays just there.

Hong Kong skyscapers at night

Hong Kong skyscapers at night

I am lucky to once belong in a company where travelling abroad for event coverage was part of the job’s description. During my one year and four months with it, I was able to attend and write about two international trade fairs of Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC). The first, which coincidentally was also my first time abroad, was the Hong Kong Gifts and Premium Fair in April 2010, and the second was the Hong Kong Electronics Fair (Autumn Edition) in October of that same year. Among the two, the former has always been the one that’s on my mind.

Filipino Overseas Journalist at Hong Kong Gifts and Premium Fair 2010

Filipino Overseas Journalist (OJ) at Hong Kong Gifts and Premium Fair 2010

That first time opened my eyes to a dream that’s almost the only reason why I want to earn money nowadays. It made me realize how I want to travel the world and get to know other cultures and how their places look like. The best part of it was that the air fare, terminal fee, accommodation, and daily breakfasts were paid by HKTDC, it was only the other expenses that I had to take care of.

Solitary in An Unknown Place

The 22-year-old me, alone in HK. :)

The 22-year-old me, alone and busy working in HK. 🙂

HKTDC allows only one overseas journalist per media firm. And as a homebody who was a greenhorn to travelling even just around Metro Manila then, one would expect that I felt scared with going to a foreign country alone and it even made me want to back out, but no, it was the other way around. It was thrilling, just thinking about it. I consider myself as the independent type and I get excited over anything new, so I didn’t mind the solitary experience at all.

So with only my baggage, the company name, and myself to carry, I went to Hong Kong alone and full of anticipation.

Just a few walks at the Hong Kong International Airport, and it already made me realize that one of my favorite quotes which says, “Perfect arrival is not arriving at all,” is not always true. The airport is humongous, in fact, it has a train inside. And first timers won’t be anxious in Hong Kong since it is very tourist friendly.

HK map, my travel buddy.

HK map, my travel buddy.

In fact, maps in English, Chinese, and Japanese languages are in abundance at the airport and one can get as much as they want. They’re easy to use and comprehend, that’s why I always say to people that if they can’t understand it, I don’t know what else I’ll think of them. Those colorful papers are complete with information from street names to all the possible exits in subways. They’re perfect even for people like me who are not exactly good in reading maps, and geography in general.

Then there’s the weather. The whole time I was there, it was quite rainy and the temperature ranged from 19°C-21°C during daylight. I don’t get cold easily that’s why that temperature, cool enough to make me wear a jacket and just right to make me still feel comfortable, is what I loved most about my stay in Hong Kong. I could just walk endlessly on the streets (which are, mind you, don’t only look safe, but are also really safe), without feeling even the tiniest bit of exhaustion. It was even during those walks when I always thought that I finally found the right place for me.

But with my work as the priority of that trip, I only had time for leisure in the evenings and the morning of my last day–the fifth one. So I was only able to wander around Wan Chai, Central, and some parts of Tsim Sha Tsui, Jordan, and Mong Kok.

Lots of buildings in Central, Hong Kong Island.

Lots of buildings in Central, Hong Kong Island.

Central 2

Central 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, I wasn’t able to go as far as Lantau Island for Hong Kong Disneyland and Aberdeen for Hong Kong Ocean Park because:

1. Time constraint

Where to?

Where to?

2. I had limited resources, my salary then was just right for everyday living in my homeland

3. At 22, I still didn’t have enough guts to go that far

4. Besides, I couldn’t imagine myself being truly merry in an amusement park and oceanarium all by myself. For me, it’s a place where I need to have somebody with me whom I can instantly share my excitement with.

I also failed going to Victoria Peak, which entrance is just in Central, for the same reasons.

Up close with Bank of China Tower, one of the most noticeable skyscrapers in Central.

Up close with Bank of China Tower, one of the most noticeable skyscrapers in Central.

The Golden Bauhinia Square, located just outside Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, is one of the popular spots in HK.

The Golden Bauhinia Square, located just outside Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, is one of the popular spots in HK.

Standin in Ave. of Stars in Tsim Sha Tsui, I was pointing to Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, where the fairs take place.

Standing in Avenue of Stars in Tsim Sha Tsui, I was pointing to Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, where the fairs take place.

Somewhere in Jordan Road, Kowloon, Hong Kong

Somewhere in Jordan Road, Kowloon, Hong Kong

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But though I missed what could have been three of the best in Hong Kong, the places I had been to were enough to make me fall in love with the region. Solitary walking is when I think and observe most so I was able to witness the beauty of Hong Kong and the discipline of the Hong Kongers. And I began admiring the place for those.

 

An old man playing a string instrument outside Wan Chai Station

An old man playing a string instrument outside Wan Chai Station

People

 

My Temporary Home Sweet Home

As I said above, HKTDC pays for the accommodation of its OJs. And maybe because it has a connecting path to Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC), but Renaissance Harbour View  Hotel Hong Kong is the chosen lovely abode for OJs during their stay in Hong Kong, and I felt really fortunate for it.

Located at the scenic Wan Chai Waterfront, Renaissance Harbour View Hotel Hong Kong is a four-star luxury hotel complete with landscaped pool, gym, restaurant, and amenities from cable TV, to iron for clothes.

Renaissance Harbour View Hotel Hong Kong (Photo grabbed from bookonline2save)

Renaissance Harbour View Hotel Hong Kong (Photo grabbed from bookonline2save)

I was given a room with two single beds, one for me and one for my messy stuff. It was nice and comfortable with almost everything I need already there.

Inside my hotel room

Inside my hotel room

My two beds

My two beds

This is how messy I can be. And I didn't bother tidying everything up since it was the housekeepers that did that for me around lunch break. hehehe. XD

This is how messy I can be. And I didn’t bother tidying everything up since it was the housekeepers that did that for me around lunch break. hehehe. XD

 

The hotel boasts of its harbour view, but my room was located at the other side so what I saw whenever I looked at the big glass window was the garden view. It was alright, though. It was still relaxing to stare at.

 

Renaissance Harbour View Hotel's garden view

Renaissance Harbour View Hotel’s garden view

 

Going to the hotel wasn’t without a flaw for me. Since the airport is two islands away from Hong Kong Island where the hotel is, HKTDC also pays for the shuttle service called Airport Hotelink Limousine to bring us OJs to Renaissance, and back to the airport on our last day.

What happened was because the staff of the shuttle had a Chinese accent, I didn’t understand him when he asked who would they be dropping off this hotel and that. And the thing is, I didn’t know that there is a Renaissance Harbour View Hotel and there’s also a hotel simply called Harbour View Hotel. I was dropped to the latter. Sheesh. So with my stroller with me, I walked from the latter to the former all while I was completely unsure if I was going the right direction. Good thing it isn’t at all that unusual to walk around Hong Kong with a stroller.

Vanity time inside my hotel room.

Vanity time inside my hotel room.

‘Cause No Man is An Island

I went to Hong Kong alone, but I met a few people during my stay. The first was the Concierge of Renaissance Harbour View Hotel, Dino Recile, who is one of the three Filipinos among the hotel employees. He was introduced to me by the (cute) male receptionist who took care of my checking-in in the hotel. (Confession time: I had an instant crush on the receptionist, and we had a short conversation that went:

Me: *busy looking at the floor*

Receptionist: We have the same birthday.

Me: Huh? What? *I looked at him*

Receptionist: The same birthday, month and day. *smiling and pointing at my birth date on my passport *

Me: Oh. *I smiled, too* How about the year?

Receptionist: No. 1983.

Me: Oh. Okay. *And my instant crush on him was born*

Receptionist: Wait, I’ll introduce you to our Filipino co-worker. *Went somewhere*

Me: *Started counting our age gap*)

And it was then when Dino Recile and I met.

Dino Recile. Photo was originally taken for the profile article I would be writing about him

Dino Recile. Photo was originally taken for the profile article I was to write about him

Dino is a typical Filipino, hospitable, happy, and amiable. He served as my tour guide, in fact, he was responsible why I enjoyed my short stay in Hong Kong. All I had to do was go to him and ask him where best to go given my short time, and he would obligingly pull a map then tell me directions on how to get here and there. Then whenever I got bored and I needed someone to talk to, I just go to his location in the lobby and ask him about his experiences in Hong Kong, and in turn, I shared what was new in the Philippines then.

I also met two OJs at the fair’s Networking Reception. The first was Ms Kim SunJung from South Korea, and the other was Mr Rakesh Desai from India. I think I was the youngest among the OJs so I couldn’t help but be shy on everyone.

With Kim SunJung from South Korea

With Kim SunJung from South Korea

With Rakesh Desai from India

With Rakesh Desai from India

Then during my last day in Hong Kong, since it was also the day when I would be going back to the Philippines, I wasn’t required to roam around HKCEC anymore, so what I did was go to places I hadn’t been to, and it was when I met a few Filipinos.

There’s a Filipino restaurant in Wan Chai called Mang Ambo’s Filipino Restaurant, and the owner, Mang Ambo, is there during lunch time. He learned that I was in Hong Kong just for the fair and he told me that there are many Filipino journalists around the place who also eat in his restaurant, and that if I was interested in working in Hong Kong, maybe I could talk to some of them.

Then there was also an architect who has been living there with his family for already quite some time, and another, an unemployed woman on the look for a job there. It was nice talking in my native language in a foreign land.

After eating, I went straight to the Avenue of Stars located in Tsim Sha Tsui. While I was resting, I was spotted by a seaman in the name of Marny. He asked me if I was a Filipino and I said yes, and so we talked mostly about his family and girlfriend, who is now his wife, by the way. And they’re already expecting a baby soon! ^_^ Yes, we still have a connection until now.

 

Eats Time to Eat!

Of course, a travel experience isn’t complete without our palates tasting what the unknown place has to offer. So although I didn’t have a lot of money to burn, I still made it a point to eat some of the food in Hong Kong.

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On my first day, while looking for Mang Ambo’s Filipino Restaurant, I got lost so I ended up eating at Sun Thai Restaurant where I ordered Fried Noodle with Beef in Malaysian Sauce with free tea of my choice.

At first, the dish was really delicious, but as I consume those thick pasta, I felt like throwing everything up. At the end, I wasn’t able to finish it, and I didn’t feel good the entire day. I wasn’t able to eat dinner because of that, too. 😐

Lesson learned that day: Camille isn’t a noodle person, she still prefers rice all the way!

Besides, food servings in Hong Kong are bigger compared to those in the Philippines, so it was quite overwhelming to eat that much food.

"See? I wasn't able to finish this darn food. :| Thanks for making me lose my appetite, food."--My Facebook caption on this photo

“See? I wasn’t able to finish this darn food. 😐 Thanks for making me lose my appetite, food.”–My Facebook caption to this photo

The second cuisine I tried was at a Cantonese restaurant called Spicy Mama in Jordan, Kowloon with SunJung right after the Networking Reception. Its staff are pure Cantonese and cannot speak English, so its menu for foreigners are all photos, and its customers will have to rely on their sight’s judgment for the food they want to order.

We had the Deep Fried Spicy Crab and another vegetable dish. The crab was scrumptious, but the vegetable, well, I almost didn’t touch it when I saw it was full of onions.

So happy to eat the Deep Friend Spicy Crab! ^_^ I love crabs!

So happy to eat the Deep Friend Spicy Crab! ^_^ I love crabs!

With SunJung at Spicy Mama

With SunJung at Spicy Mama

Then because of what happened on my first day, I became skeptical of almost any unfamiliar food I saw. So to be safe, I ate at Mang Ambo’s Filipino Restaurant during lunch and sometimes, even during dinner for the remaining days.

Mang Ambo's Restaurant in Wan Chai

Mang Ambo’s Restaurant in Wan Chai

The restaurant is a turo-turo style like that in the Philippines, so if you’re a Filipino living in Hong Kong and you suddenly miss the atmosphere of your homeland, this restaurant is the place to be.

For only 23HKD, a customer is served with one rice and one viand of their choice of Filipino cuisine, and it’s 28HKD for two viands with one rice.

Photo of the wall of Mang Ambo's with dedications from people who ate at the restaurant.

Photo of the wall of Mang Ambo’s with dedications from people who ate at the restaurant.

Shopping Time!

Hong Kong is like a big shopping center with some of the richest people in the Philippines going there only to shop whenever they want. And although I was short on resources, I still bought some stuff for my family and myself.

The best place to go to in Hong Kong for affordable items is the night market in Tung Choi St, Mong Kok, Kowloon. I heard customers can haggle all they want until they get the price they desire there, so even if it was raining during that time, I braved the night and was satisfied with everything I bought when I got back to the hotel.

Shopping 1

Shopping 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Going Here and There

Hong Kong is just a three-island Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, but it’s still big enough for people not be able to stroll around on foot. So transportation is still essential to get from point A to point B. I was only able to ride on two, though (Aside from the shuttle).

A must-try in Hong Kong is the Star Ferry which operates in the Victoria Harbour. For the price of only 2.50HKD Mondays-Fridays and 3.40HKD Saturdays-Sundays and public holidays, a person can already cross from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon and vice versa by sea. Then from Central to Tsim Sha Tsui and vice versa, the lower deck costs 2.0HKD and the upper deck 2.50KD on Mondays-Fridays, and the lower deck 2.8HKD and upper deck 3.40HKD on Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays.

Star Ferry: 2.50HKD per ride

Star Ferry

Star Ferry 2

Star Ferry 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then my favorite is the MTR ,or the Mass Transit Railway, which serves the whole of Hong Kong. I find this really cool, especially the interchanging stations where I didn’t have to wait long for the next train to come.
Cool! MTR serves the whole of Hong Kong (Photo grabbed from Wikipedia)

Cool! MTR serves the whole of Hong Kong (Photo grabbed from Wikipedia)

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But what’s cooler than the MTR is the Octopus Card, a rechargeable smart card used in paying for all the transportation available in Hong Kong, except perhaps the taxi (Not sure). It can also be used in convenience stores, supermarkets, fast-food restaurants, parking meters, car parks, vending machines, and service stations. It’s an all-in-one card that doesn’t have an expiration date. Mine is actually still with me and it still has 48HKD, which I can use on my next visit to Hong Kong, whenever that may be. 🙂

 

 
And that was my whole first experience in travelling and Hong Kong. It was a marvelous experience and I’m looking forward to visiting more countries in the future.

Have you been to Hong Kong? Did you like it the same way I do? 🙂

 

 

 

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Wanted: Treasures in You

I am a proud treasure hunter. I always search for jewels in everyone I meet.

Without any safety gears except for a headlamp, I brave dark mines, anticipating to uncover loads of precious stones. I persistently dig and dig deeper in every surface I can reach and put my hands on, not minding the dirt I acquire all over my face and body in the process. Big or small, a lot or just a few, it doesn’t matter to me for they all yield the same rewarding feeling upon discovery.

What’s interesting is each mine is different. Some almost readily give me the stones I am looking for a few minutes after I enter and begin my work, some with proper timing, while there are those that take longer and are more frustrating to excavate.

Photo grabbed from Flickr / Color edited by yours truly

I dig and dig and dig. I find satisfaction in doing it. And with the latter type, concerned people oftentimes shout at me from the outside, advising me to stop ’cause they see how my quarrying is getting futile. But the stubborn optimist in me still go on.

Truth is, I become worn out in this kind of mines, yet conceding is not an option. I am already inside and I have started exerting efforts. I dig and find mere pebbles. I dig more and unearth rocks. Then I dig deeper with more force only to reveal useless boulders. And when I reach this point, I’m already close to tears, but my mind keeps on telling me that just a few more and I’ll finally see what I’m searching for. Because when I do, I’ll blissfully get out of the site and brag to everybody my interesting finds. Never mind how messy I am from all my hard work inside.

That’s the best part for me, when I persevere in times when others have already given up, then I luckily succeed. But there are depressing cases when no matter what I do, all I expose is filth.

Then when I realize I’ve done my best and I’ve already spent too much time inside the dark with no anything valuable yet, I start feeling stupid and wasted. I pity myself as I look at my blistered hands and it’s what I abhor most. So my temper rises, and there’s nothing else I can think of but plant bombs all over the site, go out, and blow it up.

A big explosion.

I watch as the fire eats up the place. And when nothing’s left but a ruin and black smokes, I silently leave without wiping the stains on me.

Sad and disappointing, but that’s how it is for me. So as much as possible, I avoid that moment.

 

It was only at the middle of this year when I realized that I’m this kind of person. Then recently, I remembered writing a profile article for the business magazine I worked at before about somebody like me, but he’s an expert and knows how to handle frustrating situations best.

My former boss and I met him during his company’s event. He was friendly and there was nothing on his aura that made me feel uncomfortable. Then the interview afterward, which was set right that very moment when we were introduced to him, was smooth and light that I instantly admired his interpersonal skills. I think he influenced me in becoming the treasure hunter that I am today.

He is a role model and he is the kind of boss I am yearning to have. If you also want to get to know him, I have posted my article about him below this entry. It was published in the September 2010 issue of China Business-Philippines magazine and was also posted online for the netizens to read.

Spare some time reading it and get inspired, too! 🙂

 

 

—————

All That Sparkles

Dell’s Varinderjit Singh is a treasure hunter. But he doesn’t go searching for gems in mines, he finds them in the people he works with

Dell’s South Asia developing markets managing director, Varinderjit Singh (Photo grabbed from China Business-Philippines site)

“I’ve always believed that everybody has a gem in them,” says Varinderjit Singh, or Varin, South Asia developing markets managing director for IT company Dell Inc. “It’s up to the leader to take this and pull it out.”

With two decades of experience working with people, he knows what he is saying. A gem himself, Varin is considered one of the most important and valued leaders in Dell South Asia for constantly receiving the highest employee feedback scores.

With such stature, he has been given the task of managing Dell offices in 21 developing countries in South Asia region in the past one and a half years. One of his roles is managing country managers and in-country teams to boost sales in enterprise and client service and solutions. He is also in charge of gathering distributors and partners “while developing partner strategies and skills in the region” for the company.

Varin got started in the computer industry after he graduating from New Hampshire College with a degree in Computer Information Systems in 1990. He moved to Malaysia to work with IBM, then back to the United States when he transferred to networking company 3COM Corporation as chief strategic marketing engineer for worldwide customer communications.

After six years of working in America, Varin decided to move back to Malaysia thinking Asia is the best place to be. “[The] US is very nice. [Its] worldwide market is very good,” he says. “But Malaysia is [a part of] Asia. This is the place where growth level [of the market] is fast proceeding.”

Once back in Malaysia, he worked for NEC Computers Asia Pacific as marketing director for a year. It was five years ago when he finally worked with Dell South Asia.

He was hired by Dell as software and peripherals manager. A year later, he was moved to managing the inside sales of the call center for same region. He describes managing a call center as ‘good times’ because he was given the opportunity to head a call center with 100 to 200 people. He was, after all, a people person. For about a year and a half, Varin has been with Dell as the managing director for the region’s developing market.

Mining Metaphorically
Varin has more or less worked in every aspect of the IT industry. From programming, technical networking, then product and PR marketing, to sales, and a management, he can confidently say he knows business in and out.

But when asked what he likes most in all those areas he has been, he confesses that he has no favorite. “What I like best is not really any of those areas,” he says, “It’s more working with people.” And this is the reason he describes managing a call center good times.

Varin is naturally a people person. In fact, he believes it’s one of his skills. “I like working with different kinds of people, different kinds of cultures, and getting the best out of everyone,” he says.

Having met all sorts of people has led him to believe that everyone has a gem or a strong point within them, and he says it’s up to the leader to dig it up for the world to see. As a person experienced in the business industry, he knows what can come out from people in the best way. “That’s something I’ve been very successful at,” he admits.

He says that it’s by managing people the right way and letting them shine that results will come. Once you succeed in doing that, everything will follow. “The marketing goes well, the sales go well, [you put] the right products in the market,” he says.

But digging for gems is not easy. Aside from seeking strengths, spotting people’s weaknesses is also vital in the process.

So what Varin does is to sit down with each person. “I really identify their weakness and strength, I actually have it documented,” he says, “It’s part of Dell’s internal development program.”

This is done because, he says, many people do not know their strength or they may be aware what it is but don’t spend time on developing it. But by learning what they’re good at through the results gathered by Varin, people will do something to leverage it. “I identify the one or two things that need to be done so that they can further develop,” he says.

The process of taking a strength to a higher level, he says, includes linking a person with someone weak in that area. Then one who has the skills becomes the mentor of the one lacking it. In the end, the ‘weaker’ employee learns, and the other learns more from sharing what he has.

Not Much Counting Backwards
Varin says he doesn’t lose many people in his team, and if he does lose some, it’s often because those people are moved to better roles. His secret: whenever there’s a problem, he tells it straight to the people involved. “I’m an open book,” he says, “And my entire team knows this.”

He gives everyone honest feedback. “If it’s good news, I tell them straight. I don’t hide things. So when there’s an issue, I’m direct,” he adds. What’s more, he doesn’t only tell the people what their problem is, he also tries to help them by giving them mentors. But there are times when his method just doesn’t work. And when that happens, he has no choice but to let the problem employee go.

He believes that not everyone that the company lets go is unskilled, it’s just that they’re not for the job. “I look at it [and ask myself], ‘Is it job fit’?” He says many see people who do not perform as problem employees but he says 70% of the time it’s job fit. According to him, out of 20 employees, only one in six who don’t perform may have to be let go. The other five can sometimes be moved to other roles to become stronger.

Being a gem himself means someone else dug that treasure within him too. And just like any leader who wouldn’t be able to get where they are without anyone to look up to, Varin also has his role models and he regards them as the “few people that really touched me in my life, definitely.”

Karl Hess, the global director for customer communications when Varin was still at 3COM Corporation is one of them. Aside from moving him to the US, Hess also helped to bring out the people-person aspect in him. “I definitely attribute a lot of things to him,” he says. Another is Paul-Henri Ferrand, Dell’s vice president for global marketing. Varin describes him as a superb and assertive man.

Sunny Side Up
In the 20 years he has been in the business, Varin has learned one thing: Enjoy life. And because he is a people person, he lets everyone get their share of enjoyment. “My philosophy is to make sure that everybody is enjoying what they do,” he says. Whenever he sees someone not having fun on the job, he turns the atmosphere around and tries to brighten the situation.

Though he may seem nice, he’s strict about his team’s performance. “You need to enjoy what you’re doing. But results must be there,” he says. It is, after all, a two way street. The miner digs the gems, in turn, the miner should also get something out of it.