Thursday, April 22, 2010

HongKong Weekender 2

The nicest thing about working for a company with 50markets worldwide -- anywhere you go, you will always find a local Nu Skin office, where you can feel right at home. On our 2nd day, we visited the spanking new office of Nu Skin Enterprises, Hongkong. It's at Lee Gardens along Causeway Bay. Needless to say, the area is a throve of fabulous brands. The ground floor houses, the Mercedes Benz Showroom, and luxurious boutiques of Prada, Channel, Tods, Christian Dior, Gucci line the side streets. Exactly, the kind of market niche that we want to cater to.

Here's just some of my favorite spots in the center:

Touch Screen LCD TV to Read / Browse Stories of Successful Distributors in Two Languages, Chinese or English

The Wall of Fame

Free-standing Macs to Check your Volumes and Genealogy

Every girl's dream vanity.. all-laden with everything Nu Skin

As usual, we can’t help but compare their beautiful showroom to our humble Walk-in-Center in the Philippines. Sad, but then, we are a work-in-progress! NSE Hongkong has been in the business for more than 20years! They continue to grow double-digits year over year, despite being in the business for more than two decades. NSE Philippines is barely on its teens, we just celebrated our 12th year anniversary. So, much room to grow! I can't wait to see what NSE Philippines will be like, say 10years from now!

Our next stop was Ocean Park. I’ve always loved Ocean Park. I’ve been there twice but I still look forward to the experience every time! My impression of Ocean Park now – it’s more compact, more colorful, more child-like... there are several new attractions, and they have improved the old classic ones. Clearly, they are not taking the threat of Disneyland sitting down!

How to Tame Your Dragon

Artificial Island in Atoll Reef

One thing I love at Ocean Park, they try to make everything educational. They many interesting trivia in the exhibits for both kids and adults. My favorite -- hands-down is the Atoll Reef. Four stories of elliptical underground Aquarium, with an array of sea creatures from Sharks, Tortoises, Manta Rays, Sturgeons, Blow Fishes, etc. etc. they claim totals to more than 3,000 with 250 species. It’s really a sight to behold. Too bad they don't capture well on still cameras.

Sea Lions taking a Break from their Routines at the Pacific Pier

The Sea Lions never fail to capture my heart. They only have a few Sea Lions, and most of them are trained for the shows. Quite a far cry, from the Seals at Pier 39 in San Francisco. Those seals that flock to that area looks lazy, smelly, humongous and stupid. Sea Lions in ocean park are athletic, active, smart and they earn their keep. Hahahaha

Shh.. The Panda is taking a power nap.

Needless to say, the most pampered creatures in the park are the Pandas. If they sea lions and the dolphins have scheduled shows. The Pandas, earn their keep, by just doing the most natural things in the world -- poop, eat grass, or take their afternoon nap... in a perfectly temperature-controlled environment. They also have in their collection, the Red Pandas, who also look adorable.

Red Pandas which look like orange to me, but hey, who cares? Red brings luck to the Chinese, so Red it is.

Jelly Fish Galore

I've never seen sooo many jelly fishes, than the exhibit called Sea Jelly Spectacular. It's an awesome collection of more than 1,000 species of jelly fishes, from the tiniest speck to the bigger ones. The presentation is simply spectacular -- the room is dark, and the the flourescence of the jellies lit up the circular aquariums. The scene is overwhelming. Galing sobra! I don't take great photos, better go to if you want to see what I'm blabbering about.

Waa... Enough! Get me Outta here!

We didn't bother going to the portion of the park, where there are rides. Looking at them from afar is already making my knees weak. The only adventurous thing that we did was ride the cable car. I've only ridden cable cars in two other places in my entire life -- Great Wall of China, and the Olympic Park in Utah.. Nothing beats Ocean Parks' loooooooooooonngg cable ride. My heart would really skip a beat whenever the wind blows, or the cable reaches the posts, as it rattles.

Hongkong Weekender,3 ... next! If I still have the energy...

Friday, April 16, 2010

Hongkong Weekender Day 1

I'm writing this, in the lobby of our official residence, Royal Plaza Hotel, which claims to be a five-star, Michelin-rated "Most Comfortable" hotel, located right smack in the heart of the crazy shopping district of Mongkok East.

Our amazing company, rewarded all 30 of us employees with a 3days/2nights all-expense paid-trip to Hongkong, as reward for our hardwork, resulting to an excellent growth last 2009. (Last 2009, our trip was in Bangkok, Thailand) for the fantastic result of 2008, as well.

We left manila 8am. As practice, staff don't travel together in one plane for security reasons. I was in the group that took Hongkong Air, which was unfortunate since the service of that airline was blah.

Hongkong Air's planes are rather old and smelly. The food served is pitiful...corned-beef pan de sal and bland coffee. Good thing, I had tapsilog at the airport. Otherwise, I could've pinch the flight attendant dispensing the foil-wrapped pan de sal, as if it's Holy Grail.

My friends got to be in PAL, which they brag as airbus 777, with two levels! The food was hot, and there was a choice of noodles or rice. Hmm.. Pero walang miles! OK! (sour graping!) Well, at least we arrived in Hkg at the same time!

Our agenda for the first day was Disneyland in Lantau Island.

Hmm. What can I say? Since I had the chance to visit the huge Disneyland in Anaheim, CA... Indulge me, If I would constantly make it as a yardstick.

I guess, everywhere you go, Disneyland is the almost cardboard-cut copy of one and the other. Hongkong Disneyland is a smaller cut-out of the Anaheim original. Same Main Street USA, Tomorrowland, Adventureland and Fantasyland. Only, the streets are narrower, the structures are smaller in scale, the rides and the parades, and i guess, even the shows and the fireworks displays are shorter.

The unique and funny aspect, is that, the staffs, the mascots are all talking in Fluent Cantonese! I found it so funny to hear Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, the Princesses, even crustacean-singer Sebastian fluently speaking in Cantonese. Really Hilarious!

Disneyland is really for kids. Several times, I wish I can borrow some little girls loitering around in Disney Princess costumes. "Can I borrow your child for a day?!"
I didn't bring my little boys with me, since this is a company event. Mahirap, when travelling with kids, at hindi mo hawak ang oras. Besides, I want to spend time with my friends/ officemates without the hassle of lugging around my brood. Anway, I've scheduled another trip with them to Hongkong, next month.

My friend and roomie was Aissa, who like me, is scared of rides. Instead, we used the time to indulge our narcissitic tendencies, by taking all the photos we want of ourselves, in all the nice little places in Disneyland.

Don't you just hate it, when all the shows you want to watch are scheduled simultaneously? According to Connie, a friendly Disney staff, we befriended, we can miss all the shows, except The Golden Mickey's. It's the only unique show here in Hongkong, that is not found in any other Disneyland.

Indeed, The Golden Mickey's show was lovely and entertaining. Hosted by a local Chinese celebrity who speaks great Mandarin and excellent English. The show's theme is like an Oscar Show. They were looking to award the Mickey's (or Oscars) to the Best Disney Characters in variour roles.

All the famous Disney characters were there, and they sang their signature songs and dance numbers. I fell in love again, with the Hunchback of Notre Dame, who looks horrendous but his singing voice is sooo divine! The Disney heroes were there ---
The Incredibles, Tarzan, Mulan and the hunky Huns. I was teary-eyed and went hopelessly in-love with the song number of The Beauty and the Beast.

The costumes were beautiful and colorful, the choreography was impeccable and the familiar songs made the show really magical. We loved it. It's the best thing to see in Hongkong Disneyland! Oh, by the way, most of the actors, dancers are Filipinos, who were formerly from Repertory Philippies. That explains the talent!

Do we look similar? Of course, the foreheads are dead-giveways.

My friends and I, didn't stay for the fireworks. I invited them for dinner with my brother Edward. He's Civil Engineer, who's already more of a Chinese national than a Pinoy. He's been in China, for like 2 years right after college. He shuttles between Hongkong and China, like it's Makati-Ortigas. With all the construction boom in the mainland, my brother never lacks for jobs with foreign companies. He speaks fluent Mandarin, Hokkien, Cantonese, not to mention English. He's so Chinese, he married a Chinese lady who speaks Zero english. :)

I digress, a bit on that one! I think, I missed my brother too much.

Kuya Ed took me and 11 of my friends to a favorite hotspot among expats, the American Peking restaurant along Hennessy Road. Apparently, the restaurant has been in existence for more than 50 years. It is always fully-booked, he was lucky to have gotten a table that night. Judging from the crowd, who were mostly caucasians, we knew we were in for a treat. Yummy!

We had a fabulous lauriat banquet of authentic, mouth-watering Cantonese dishes that hongkong is famous for -- melts-in-your-mouth Salt and Pepper Cuttlefish, fresh fat Scallops in a bed of dark green Broccoli, sweet and salty Beef strips that you have to stuff in warm sesame-bread before stuffing them in your mouth. My friend Aissa whose braces normally stops her from indulging in red meat, had a filled-evening munching on the Tender Beef Tenderloin (it's a redundance, i know, i just need to emphasize).

There were some unfamiliar vegetables which looked liked long beansprouts, sauted with dark shitake mushrooms and abalone. We had pigeons, too. We just didn't get the chance to dessimate them ourselves. They were already minced, ready to be wrapped on cold crispy lettuce. Bite into the crispiness! The piece de resistance, of course, was the Peking Duck. After showing-off the whole roasted bird to us, the waiter brought it back to the kitchen to be stripped of its golden brown-perfectly roasted and caramelized skin.

In between bites of the yummy fare, and gulps of cold Tsing Tao beer, we toasted and cheered to Good Health, Good Sales Revenues, Excellent Siblings, and promises of coming back..

Hongkong Weekender 2, next!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

beauty of bintan

Our company sent us over to Bintan Island, Indonesia, during the 1st week of February, to join the training with all the other account managers in the southeast asian region. Since it's my first time to visit the place, I wanted to note down the experience.

Bintan island, is one of the numerous island of the Indonesian archipelago. It's nearer to Singapore than Jakarta. Thus, it's proximity to Singapore,(just an hour ferry-ride away) makes it a playground for rich singaporeans.

To get to Bintan, Indonesian, it's more efficient to go via Singapore. Even my colleagues from Jakarta, flew out of their country, came to Singapore and took the ferry to Bintan. Otherwise, it will take them 4hours from jakarta to Batam airport (another island) and then take another hour of ferry-ride to reach Bintan. That's how huge Indonesia is.

From Changi airport, we rode a cab to Tanah Merrah Ferry Terminal (costs only about SGD$9.40) about 10minutes travel time. Don't you just love Singapore? Taxi drivers speak sensible english, clean taxi, clean surroundings, organized lanes. The weather though is a tad too hot for me.

Even it's just an hour ferry ride, bintan is another country. Passports, embarcation and disembarkation cards, immigration officials, luggage scanners are still SOP. The ferry terminal is clean and organized. It's like an airport, where there are different ferries and destinations (you can also go to other islands like batam, etc.) They also accept check-in luggages!

The ferry is big, pretty and clean. So, different from all the roros, i've ridden in Pier 12 and 14 from the Philippines. I've ridden Superkat before from Batangas to Calapan. But it's so-so compared to the ferry we rode in... spotless flooring, flat screen TVs, fully-airconditioned, and none of that rusty-seawater smell.. you know what i mean? Paminsan-paminsan, may masisinghot kang "european" at "bombay" na amoy, as some of the expats living in Singapore goes to Bintan for the weekends, as well. (now, i'm being a bigot -- that's why tina-tagalog ko.) Ferry ride is about SGD$30 for one-way.

When we landed in Bintan, we were fetched by our tour operator rep, and we hopped on a bus to take us to Bintan Lagoon Resort, our official residence for the 4days,3nights sojourn.

My first impression on Bintan, it's like entering jurassic park. Beautifully developed roads leading to the clubhouses/resorts, with huge electrical wirings and posts, but the by-ways are still uninhabited and lurks unknown creatures. As a matter of fact, it's called Komodo Island. My colleagues from the Phillipines watched the B-movie Snake vs. Komodo Dragon, and we had a laugh out it and now.. we're in Komodo island!

The resorts in Bintan are mostly 5star quality, very high-class resorts. They are not your ordinary huts and cottages. Think Club Med... and the like.

This is our welcoming committee:

Our resort, Bintan Lagoon Resort, despite its boring name has an 18hole golf course, several beachfront villas with its own private swimming pools, archery field, the grounds are huge they resemble like football fields in size...there are several swimming pools, restaurants, even a laser-game hall, etc. etc.

The place is so huge, that our team building game uses GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) handhelds. Our 7 teams run all over the place, and yet we rarely come across each other!

This is just one-wing of the main house:

This is just one-part of the huge swimming pool, which is also just part of several pools in different areas of the resort:

My very beautiful and elegant room, there's a space for a day bed, which we called a stage for bedroom performances. There's a lovely welcome letter and a tshirt from our company!

My very own, Flat Screen TV. Don't you just love the orange accent contrasting with the black TV monitor and the clean white walls?

I also have a veranda, overlooking the pool. But you know how it is with trainings, you are often cooped inside a room.. learning new things. A rare chance if one can have extra time to enjoy these little amenities.

Somewhere in the island, we also got a chance to visit another resort, unimaginatively called Bintan Resort which houses some species of deer.

In the evening, we went to the pasar oleh-oleh, a small village where had dinner and bought souvenirs to take home. My pinoy colleague calls it the Tiendesitas of Bintan, because of the native, cultural ambience. Prices are in SGD and quite expensive, which is not surprising, since this market is for tourists. I bought a lovely wooden figurine of a Balinese couple, and a native mask, which looks more african than indonesian, to add to my collection.

Shall i go to Bintan again with my family? only if it will be at the company's expense. Otherwise, if i have to spend my own money, I think there are many other equally nice but less expensive places to visit.

But if you're base in Singapore, and you've visited all the must-sees in the city, and you have the cash, by all means -- visit Bintan! A wonderful getaway to swim, hike, play golf, rest, pig-out on spicy indonesian food.. love it!